Sat Dec 22 3:00 2018 NZDT
33 54.570S 18 25.206E
Weather: Summertime in Cape Town -- does it get any better than this? Prob'ly not!

Gee, it's hard to believe we've been in Cape Town more than a month already! The weather is lovely and here, as in the other South African places we've visited, people are interesting, helpful and friendly.

We arrived in Cape Town with a long list of TTDs (things to do), and worked through them industriously for several weeks with the admirable but impossible goal of having all the boat projects behind us by December first and nothing to do after that but play!

We accomplished a great deal before the end of November, but today, as all the trades shut down for their Christmas holidays, we still wonder what the heck is wrong with the auto pilot. The course control computer has been pronounced fully operational, the rudder reference knows what the rudder is doing and faithfully reports such to the Raymarine network, the steering linkage is all in order. Suspicions now focus on the itty bitty electric motor that runs the Lewmar Mamba drive, and 2 replacements are on their way here from the UK. A project with which to begin the New Year.

The other holdover until 2019 will be completion of the 'what happened to the radar' project. This bothered us so little between Madagascar and Cape Town that I haven't even mentioned it, but we have no intention of departing Cape Town and sailing to the Med without radar. It's essential for squall avoidance in the tropics, for locating small fishing boats when we're cruising along the coast and for determining whether we're actually safe from hard things (rocks, reefs, coast, other boats) while anchoring. We've been plowing along through the radar troubleshooting flowchart, too, but have not quite reached the end of it. Robbie hauled down the heavy and bulky Raydome recently and lugged it to Hylton and Francois at MDM Services for bench testing, where they pronounced it fit and operable. A hundred different continuity checks have satisfied us that connectivity from the bottom of the mast to the Raymarine High Speed Switch works like a charm. On a second or third trip up the mast Robbie noticed that the connection up there into the back of the radar unit is looking pretty dodgy, so that's the new prime suspect, the cable that goes down inside the mast. Today I carried the business end of a new, borrowed, cable up the mast and hooked it up while Robbie passed the bottom end in a window and screwed it onto the back of the HS Switch, et voile! Radar again! That's the good news. We will have to add to our New Years resolutions the patience and stamina to find a way to fish the new 15m radar cable up the mast when it arrives, and this is a challenge about which we are not yet enthused. The holidays offer a welcome respite from the dreaded task and by the time that cable arrives we'll have clever ideas for accomplishing the seemingly impossible. I hope.

But! Our fire extinguishers are all recharged, even the automatic one that now waits to be reinstalled in the engine room. We have two new sails, a main and a genoa, and both are installed and ready to go. New furling lines, genoa sheets, staysail sheets, even a new mainsheet have been purchased, spliced, served and installed. We've sent all our VHF radio equipment out for bench testing and replaced those parts that didn't pass muster. Our PFDs are recharged with new CO2 cartridges and we've added small automatic lights that will turn on in the water and light up the entire life vest, making the person overboard, not that we've ever had one, easier to locate at night. Robbie repaired the power cord on our old faithful Garmin anchor watch GPS. We've applied to extend our South African visas and behaved admirably, I thought, at the interview appointment. Robbie even has new improved hearing aids to replace the ones that didn't manage to remain in his ears when he jumped into the sea, twice.

In addition to the boat stuff (what will we ever do with our time when we move back on land at the FRP?!) we've made a delightful new friend in Urmila Jithoo, a South African lady with a fascinating life story who has shared intimately with us her experiences as a well-educated colored woman before, during and after Apartheid. Mila and her family fled to New York in the 1970s, receiving asylum there, and returning to South Africa after nineteen years.

Yesterday Mila and I strolled the stunning Kirstenbosch Gardens together. I will have to go back at least once more, those Old World plants won my heart ages ago. And she gave us a grand tour two weeks ago, of the Stellenbosch wine region where we found vineyards, wineries, restaurants and cellar doors tucked in among soaring mountains and rolling valleys to be even more charming than those in California, France, New Zealand and Australia. On New Years Eve Urmila will move onto Mersoleil for the night so we can enjoy the festivities of the V & A Waterfront together and ring in the New Year watching the fireworks from the comfort of our own cockpit.

Knowing we'd return to Knysna, (NIGH znuh) a popular seaside town on the south coast, we sailed right past on the way to Cape Town. In our tiny Rentacheapie car we drove to Knysna early this month to spend ten days with Miki and Rowland Stanton, who have a beautiful hilltop home there with a striking view of the Knysna Lagoon and the famous Knysna Heads. Perfect hosts that they are, Rowland and Miki drove us on a day tour through the nearby ancient Knysna forest with its stands of indigenous trees and lush ferns, escorted us on hikes to their favourite spots, spread a picnic lunch of charcuterie and rustic breads under a shady tree and took us through the most recently burned areas where wisps of smoke and the smell of campfires still lingered. It has been extremely dry in South Africa this year and seasonal fires are more common than usual.

Robbie and Rowland bumped into our American cruising friends, David and Angela (Harmony) in downtown Knysna one morning and from this quick introduction sprang a dinner party for six where Rowland produced an impressive braai (Afrikaans for BBQ) of chicken, pork and braaibroodjies (small sandwiches of melted cheese, onion and tomato), showing us how it's really supposed to be done! We Americans are pikers compared to South Africans at the braai!

We've learned a few words of Afrikaans (difficult because we are not trained to make those phlegmy sounds at the back of the throat) and a little Xhosa (even more challenging - just try to speak a word that begins with K and produce a click sound with your tongue at the same time!)

One simply cannot leave South Africa without visiting a game park and we did this in style with Rowland at the wheel, driving for two days through Addo Elephant National Park. We were lucky enough to come upon a pride of lions feasting on a recent kill - stay in the car, keep the windows rolled up, but stop and watch as long as you like!) in addition to countless wonderful close-up sightings of zebra, elephants, warthogs, buffalo, kudu, tsessebes (large antelopes) and even a dung beetle that Rowland spotted crossing the road ahead of us. At dusk, still inside the park, we checked into side-by-side private lodges at Matyholweni Camp, deftly arranged by Miki (why did she ever become a lawyer when she's such an incredible travel planner) where we were greeted promptly upon arrival by an enterprising pair of vervet monkeys who scampered up to our wide open french doors in great (but fruitless) hopes of entering before we could stop them. Meals we'd planned and packed at home before the 6 hour drive to the park, dinner at Stanton's on the first day and breakfast the next morning at chez Collins. It was really a great way to see the African bush. No crowds of noisy tourists, no bumpy dusty rides in an open bus, just the four of us, nature and a few other cars that we began to recognize when we happened to stop on the road to exchange tips. "Did you see the big herd of elephants at the next water hole?"

Did you know a group of zebras is called a dazzle. I needed that info for a word game the other day.

There's still one more field trip in store before the year ends. Tomorrow morning we'll drive our little white rentacheapie to a friend's lodge on the Breede River to spend the Christmas week with an intimate group of twenty. Suzanne and Butcher, whom we met in New Zealand six years ago, tell us the 47km dirt road can be a bit difficult for the last 200m and if our puny little car can't make it, to call them on the phone and they'll carry us the rest of the way in their SUV. Advice is, further, to bring swimming costumes, a mosquito repellent wall outlet thingie, whatever adult beverages we like for the week and a good sense of humor for the traditional limericks and charades. I'm making lasagne for 22 on Boxing Day and we're looking forward to a laid back, resort-style Christmas this year at Tides River Lodge.

2018 has been a thrilling year for Robbie and me from Thailand to India, to the Cape of Good Hope, to the V & A Waterfront. We're still healthy and fit, fit enough anyway to keep sailing for a while, and we have loving new friends, outstanding new memories, and still an ample list of TTDs!

We wish you a Merry Christmas, health, harmony and prosperity in the New Year and an abundance of all the blessings in life that make you happy. Thank you for being with us in spirit!

Mila Took Me to Tea at Myatt
No Hipsters
4 Nobel Winners, 4 Gulls
Lively Dance at V & A
Damien, Butcher, Rob
Mila & Me
Merry Little Christmas on Mersoleil
Stellenbosch Vineyards
Tokara Winery
We Love Our Breadmaker
Beautiful South Africa
Knysna Lagoon View
Miki & Rowland Lunching at Freshline Fisheries
A Walk in the Woods
Knysna Forest View
Thirsty Elephants
Robbie Gets a Great Photo
Overnight at the Game Park
Overnight at the Game Park
This Lion Has Just Eaten His Fill
Gotta Love the Zebra
Come Hither
Warthog Has His Own Kind of Charm
Old World Plants
More Beautiful South Africa
Beautiful Kirstenbosch Garden
Kirstenbosch View
Ain't It the Truth
Agapanthus at Kirstenbosch
Old World Plants Are the BEST.... and Zebras
Kirstenbosch. Nature. Gift Shop. Restaurant. Wow.

Precious friends, wishing you joy and blessings for 2019. Love you so! Prissy

As usual my Sissy, very newsy and informative. Miss you both like crazy. Glad that 2018 was as good as it was for you both.

Thanks for the update Bev & Robbie :), Have a great Christmas & a new year! Best of luck with the TTD list. Take care, Apple & Jack
Fri Nov 16 3:00 2018 NZDT
Run: 413.7nm (748.8km)
Avg: 6.3knts
24hr: 152nm
33 54.570S 18 25.206E

Mersoleil has arrived in Cape Town! Believe me, excitement is ours!

We stopped en route from Madagascar only at Richards Bay and Port Elizabeth reaching Cape Town early on the morning Friday, 16 November, at the end of what can only be described at a DREAM passage! It cannot possibly always be this easy and we are truly grateful!

Our genius of a weather router suggested that, if we were willing to leave Port Elizabeth near the end of a southwesterly change, beating into 20kts winds from the west for the first day, then ahead there was a really nice window that would enable us to round both capes, Cape Agulhas and the Cape of Good Hope, under favourable conditions. If willing to brave the beat for a day, he recommended that we go, so depart we did, dropping all bazillion docklines with the help of three friends (!) at 0500 on Tuesday morning, the 13th. Thanks Jeff, Dale and Dave. After we were out of the port and in open water Mersoleil spent 12 hours in a ride-through, brushless carwash - just the ticket after two nights in grimy PE. Once through the carwash, conditions were absolutely perfect for Mersoleil in her handicapped state, no main, no auto pilot. We hand steered to Cape Town in quiet seas with little to no wind.which didn't matter at all - we weren't sailing.

Our little staysail flew all the way to Cape Town, adding stability to the ride, but we motored in flat calm water nearly the entire way. Dolphins came to entertain us, as many as 100 for a while on Robbie's watch, he up in the cockpit whooping and hollering and encouraging them in their acrobatic show. Funny little seals were everywhere, too, floating on their backs with all four gigantic flippers stuck up in the air.

The famous Agulhas Current that sweeps warm water from the tropical Indian Ocean down the east coast of Africa, finally drops away to the south at about the longitude of Cape Agulhas, 20E. Gradually the current fell to 1.0kts, but instead of falling further or going contrary, it actually increased as we made the turn and commenced our journey northward in the South Atlantic Ocean. All the way to Cape Town! 1.2 - 2.8kts of assisting current carried us northward so rapidly that we couldn't slow down enough to pace Mersoleil for the intended daylight arrival at Table Bay Harbour.

To waste the time until daylight, we stopped about 20nm from V & A Waterfront Marina at 0100 local and drifted for 3 hours to the tune of our foghorn before entering the traffic separation scheme. I had ample time to take some nice photos of the sunrise over Cape Town. See below. At about 0400, keeping our speed down to 4.5kts, we began making our way up into Table Bay Harbour, through the bridges, to arrive at the marina not before 9.

Another first. The sky was blue and sunny as we approached the Port, but arriving in tiny Victoria Basin just in front of the swing bridge, Mersoleil was enshrouded in fog so thick we couldn't see ANYthing, not even the concrete walls only a few hundred feet away on 3 sides. Robbie refused to proceed despite the bridge operator's coaxing, "Just keep coming I will open for you!", and we returned to open water and dropped the hook to await disipation of the fog. This took only a few minutes, then we entered the harbour again, passed through the swing bridge, took the center lane through the blue bascule bridge into V & A Waterfont Marina and here we are, the newest residents of Cape Town, South Africa! And, I might add, happy, happy, happy!

Opportunities to round the Cape of Good Hope under such favourable conditions are rare, we understand, and we feel incredibly lucky to have had ideal winds and calm seas. The horror stories are undoubtedly true, but we saw nothing worse than the carwash outside Port Elizabeth!

What a wonderful passage!!! And Mersoleil has dipped her keel in the Atlantic Ocean for the very first time!

Sunrise over Cape Town

OMGosh!!! I have never felt such pride as I now do having read this accomplishment! What a journey of life truly you two are the celebration!!! Congrats on this momumentous rounding. Does being in the realm of the Atlantic feel differently? Oh I can barely wait to get to visit. I am tracking you and thank you for sharing your whereabouts. Love you both!

Congratulations you guys! What a stroke of luck to have such conditions for what otherwise could have been a very challenging rounding of the Cape - especially with no main and no auto pilot? (guess we know what is on your agenda for Cape Town!). Thanks for the great updates - you are now our surrogate passagemakers! (Surprising how easy it is this way - all tied up in a quiet Marina with a cup of morning coffee in hand, and nothing pressing on the “to do” list!!) Enjoy your stay in Cape Town!

Congratulations guys!! We love being a part of your great adventure. Bev, you are such a good writer! Love your descriptions.

Looking forward to hearing about your adventures in the Atlantic Ocean!

So happy to see you made it safe to our Mother City! 😊


Tue Nov 13 9:40 2018 NZDT
Run: 131nm (237.1km)
33 58.026S 025 38.165E

We arrived in Port Elizabeth after dark on Saturday evening, the 10th, and, having no local knowledge, spent the night in General Anchorage No. 1 with the big ships. If it was lumpy out there we didn't notice - fell asleep the moment our heads hit the pillows and slept soundly all night.

The Algoa Bay Yacht Club has been closed, but its small marina is operated separately and still functions with a few berths available for visiting yachts. Sadly, the marina is constantly dusted with particulates from the manganese bulk carrier loading activities carried on very nearby, and is assaulted by the most phenomenal surge we've ever experienced in a marina. When we leave for Cape Town at o-dark-thirty in the morning we'll need to remove some eighteen docklines in order to free Mersoleil from her berth. Four lines have already performed this action - they snapped in the surge during the day today - we went out and bought four more, bigger, thicker, longer than those now deceased. Good heavens! We've been running chafe and breakage inspections every fifteen to thirty minutes all day!

So, departing tomorrow for Cape Town, at least that's the plan at the moment, as the winds from today's southwesterly change die down and the seas flatten out a bit.

Rounding Cape Agulhas and the Cape of Good Hope, both are featured on this next passage, cannot fail to be exciting and we hope we're are ready for the challenging conditions that we'll surely encounter. Stay tuned!

Your memories of PE won’t be too good sadly, sorry we couldn’t get to see you. What a dreadful day yesterday! Hopefully The Cape will treat you better! Will follow your progress and pray for safe ravels and better weather . Love and regards, Ros

No, Ros, our memories of PE are warmed by memories of you and Dale, and Liza, and the kind, generous people we met at Alcoa Bay Sailing Club. We're sorry we missed a fine dinner at Banneton Cafe and Bakery. Would love to have more of your incredible whole grain breads!
Sat Nov 10 18:57 2018 NZDT
Speed: 1knts
Run: 409.2nm (740.7km)
33 28S 27 50E
Weather: Beautiful

Oh what fun it has been to ride the Agulhas Current! We still have another nice day of moving water ahead of us and we're having a great time.

Winds have been slightly lighter than forecast, but the current and motorsailing have more than made up for that! We, and a bunch of friends -we are within 12nm of one another, have all found it necessary to motor in addition to the little velocity we can develop from our sails because the wind is dead astern. Mersoleil is difficult to move when the wind is directly on the butt. It's the hardest point of sail ('cept I suppose for wind straight on the nose when she'll actually go backward in full rebellion). Is it backward or backwards? I always wonder.... the nuns did not teach me this, toward or towards, backward or backwards.... Or if they did, I have forgotten.

So! The really good fun began yesterday at 18:30 local (31 54S 029 39E) when we sailed into currents approaching 4kts and our speed over the ground reached 10kts, something we almost never see. Yippee! Then it only got better and better! Top so far, and this record may endure as now the current has slowed somewhat, occurred during my 0200 - 0600 watch just completed when we screamed comfortably along at 11.7 over the ground in current running 5.5kts. Pretty exciting - and very manageable seas with the wind and current nearly aligned. Swells have been no higher than 2m, big and broad and rounded and going with us, so we barely notice them. Can we come here again sometime for another ride? There's a standing joke onboard Mersoleil that all the thrilling events happen on my watch. Don't know why, but we've observed this time and time again. Last night's moment to remember came a mere 10 minutes into my 2AM watch when, shining my torch up into the rigging for a quick ''s everything OK' scan, I saw a five foot vertical tear in the mainsail. No idea how that happened. Perhaps it's testament to all the horror stories about rounding the Cape of Storms. Robbie and I both make sail changes singlehanded, but in any crisis, we like to have all hands on deck, so he came up again after only 5 minutes of repose and we furled yet another reef in the main, leaving us now with a teeny ridiculous little bit of sail. We'll have this repaired in Cape Town (thank God we are in a land of resources) and will probably have a new main built there for immediate use. This sail will go into stowage as a backup. How we wish we could have Carol Hasse build our new sail. Alas, her lead time is a year and VAT/duty in South Africa are outrageous. We'll order a sail in Cape Town from somebody there.

When the sun greeted me this morning, 0355 UTC, 0555 local...

POS 33 15S 028 09E WIND NE 16- 0kts SOG 10.0kts COG 226T Set/Drift 223T/4.9kts Sea state very tolerable. Rolling a little due to the deeeeep wind angle, but huge flat-topped swell of not more than 2.5m and long period.

We've been downloading PredictWind current charts and are setting waypoints to keep us in the best the Agulhas Current has to offer. What a nice ride! But as far as boat records go, I doubt that we'll ever equal the 16.9kt SOG Mersoleil did in the NE Pacific in 2010 in a late March storm packing 49kt winds. Life is good on SY Mersoleil! We are in Africa!

Some wonderful sailing down that part of the world. We set Thinking od Dave’s 24 hour distance record under sail there; 223 nautical miles, top speed recorded at 13.8 knots from memory. Glad you’re going strong. TOD is in Marmaris Turkey for the winter and we arrived home last night for Christmas. Will go back to her in late March. Keep well. Let us know your plans for next year. We’ll be in Greece & Turkey mostly and are starting to entertain the thought of doing the Black Sea in 2020. Have a very safe and happy Christmas.
Thu Nov 8 17:26 2018 NZDT
No position sent.
Weather: Sunny and dry. Wind NE after several days of blustery southwesterlies.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our 4 week stay at Zululand Yacht Club, Richards Bay, South Africa. This morning we press on toward Cape Town, hoping to reach Port Elizabeth before SW winds make us duck for cover again. Several yachts are leaving RB on this window. We'll be in good company! Thank you ZYC!

Bon Voyage! Forecast looks good. Really pleased you’re getting closer to Greece :-)
Sun Oct 14 3:49 2018 NZDT
Run: 855.8nm (1549km)
Avg: 3.6knts
24hr: 85.3nm
28 47.583S 32 04.974E
Weather: Windy, Rainy and Cold!

Mersoleil crossed the Mozambique Channel from Morombe, Madagascar, to Richards Bay, South Africa, in 5 days 6 hours. It was a great passage, even though we sailed upwind most of the way and had some exciting moments when breaking waves punched out the port side window of our windscreen, and split quite in two the plank to which we tie four jerry cans, extra diesel, to the rail on the same side of the boat. No major damage. There's always a new plank at the lumber yard and the window can be re-stitched onto the canvas cover which was unhurt. The jerry cans wandered about on deck for a while, reminding us why we are cautious about loose cannons, but Robbie wrestled them into the cockpit where they remained for the last 3 days of the passage. We felt like birds in a nest with too many eggs.

After initially planning to head south beyond some east-flowing current, then ride the southeasterlies, which never materialized, direct to Richards Bay, we agreed upon a new plan, sailed directly west toward the African coast and then enjoyed a downwind sprint pushed ahead by E, NE, NNE and finally N , mostly 15-25kts. It was quite a ride! By the most direct route, we'd have sailed 767nm. In the end we covered 825nm at an average pace of better than 6.5kts over the ground, pretty good for an upwind run.

Approaching Richards Bay at 3AM local and knowing we didn't want to arrive before dawn, I tried to think of a way to slow down as we barreled along at 9.5kts. The edge of the south-flowing Agulhas Current, 25-30kts of N breeze (highest we saw was 35kts), and the tiny flag of mainsail, raised for stability and prevented out to port, would simply not permit us to reduce speed, so we did the ridiculous - turned around and furled the main, then motored in order to achieve a more sedate pace! Seemed silly to us, but it worked.

Clearing in to South Africa was an amusing experience, filled with confusion and misinformation, as happens upon arrival in many countries, but by noon Mersoleil was berthed at Zululand Yacht Club where four or five club members raced to catch dock lines and to welcome us to their home port.

Lunch at the ZYC dining room was wonderful, just the ticket to the 13 hour nap that followed beginning at 3PM!

Members and staff at ZYC are friendly and welcoming, not at all timid about approaching us and making friends - we're already sorry we'll be here only for a week or two.

South Africa! Hard to believe! We're learning to speak English all over again, 100%! And having a wonderful time.

Congrats, Bev and Robbie! Sorry we missed you at Zululand. Wakaya arrived Oct. 25 from Tanzania. Jan and Gary

Well done you two. Enjoy our country. Hope you stop at East London and Knysna. Hope to meet again before you leave. We should be in Knysna end November to end January. Keep in contact 🍷⛵️❤️

Following your travels. Sorry we weren’t able to connect on WhatsApp. You wished me happy birthday and I wished you on Sept 19.. Love you, miss you!

Quite the accomplishment! Well done. I am sure your first night’s sleep was heavenly!

So glad to hear from you and that you are safely in S.Africa. What a fascinating country it is and beautiful, too. I know you will enjoy your time there. I need to do an update from our end, but have not found (or MADE) the time as you well understand!


Thu Oct 4 3:00 2018 NZDT
Run: 458.6nm (830.1km)
21 44.267S 43 21.045E
Weather: Typical afternoon sea breeze, 12-15. Sunny, dry, clear as a bell. Baro dropping due to dissipating L in southern Mozambique Channel.

We've thoroughly enjoyed our short stay in Madagascar, but we're leaving tonight at midnight, actually 11:.50PM) for Richards Bay, South Africa. Now in Morombe, the intended jumping off point, we had such a lovely day here yesterday, despite being exhausted from the overnight sail, that we wish we could stay, but new lands and the change of seasons urge us forward and hence we go.

Noteworthy, we thought, was crossing Banc de Coelacanths on the way to shore at Morombe. This is the place - from East London, SA , in the south to the Cormoros in the north - where the ugly extinct fish you read about in school was first rediscovered in 1938. Coelacanths, imagine! In the 1990s several specimens were caught off the SW coast of Madagascar, apparently right here at Morombe.

Please enjoy these photographic memories of Madagascar.... the last one is a beautiful lobster that I bought this morning from a fisherman and his wife. We end up leaving every country with a little unspent local currency, often useful only in a place we'll never visit again. Having made up my mind to give the next fisherman all our remaining Ariary, I carefully negotiated a price with him for the langoustine, (to be truthful, I don't know how much it was as I speak no French and little Malagasy) then gave him all the money we had. He was delighted, thanked me, and then emboldened by the fact that he thought he had one on the line, asked for clothing for his wife who, he said, is cold, although she was sitting behind him in the canoe beaded with perspiration. Gotta give the guy credit for being enterprising! I dispatched the langoustine to the astral world with a chef's knife, divided him into legs, tail and carapace and put him in the freezer for the victory celebration in Richards Bay about a week from now.

The passage to Richards Bay is about 775nm across the boisterous Mozambique Channel. We'll try to keep you posted.

Ta ta Madagascar! Thanks for a great visit.

Happy Children
Malagasy Sailboat
Graceful Malagasy Sailboats
Off Komba Island
Local Boat
Sunset Over Nosy Be
Lunch at Cote Jardin
Love Gardens
Garden Textures
After Market, So to Speak
Malagasy Tuk Tuk
We Never Tire of Watching This
Local Boat Type 2, 'Grandma's Quilt'
Mamoko Village
Nosy Mamoko and Beyond
Mamoko Left, Mersoleil Right
Mamoko Village Homes
Friendly, Hospitable, Handsome
Pretty Malagasy Girls
Who ARE These Fish Who Swim on Their Sides?!
Fun with Lemurs
More Fun
The Reward After Climbing to the Top
Dinner When We Reach Richards Bay, South Africa!
Tue Sep 25 22:40 2018 NZST
Run: 211.1nm (382.1km)
15 42.900S 46 17.658E
Weather: Land breezes from 0300 till 1100, the sea breezes till 1900 every day. Dry. Sunny.

It doesn't seem fair that we've told you so little about Madagascar, one of the nicest cruising grounds we've seen since the South Pacific, but the news today is that we're leaving! (Internet speed is not Madagascar's strong suit.)

In an hour or two Mersoleil will begin a 400nm passage to Morombe on the SW coast and when a good weather window appears in early October we'll jump across the Mozambique Channel to South Africa.

Africa! Still can't believe it, but here we go!

Mon Aug 13 1:54 2018 NZST
Speed: 5.0knts
Run: 4.7nm (8.5km)
Avg: 16920knts
24hr: 406080nm
13 14.960s 048 09.322e
Weather: SW Wind 8-10kts at 26deg over the bow, sky clear as a bell, tiny ripples in the sea

August 11 2018 Sailing back from Nosy Mitsio to Sakatia

This has been the most fantastic sailing we have EVER enjoyed on Mersoleil! We've run nearly all the 40nm south to Sakatia with a SW 10-12kt wind just 25-30 degress off the starboard bow. Our speed through very flat water has been around 5-6kts, dropping as low as 2.5kts when the wind pinched to less than 25 degrees, then picking up again when it clocked back toward 30 degrees. In such calm constant conditions it feels as if we were at anchor, Mersoleil cutting alnog quiet as a whisper through the surface. We've never seen her do this before and it's a joy to experience such an idyllic sail!

Now, read on only if you're having trouble falling asleep....

The idle musings of a person on watch who hasn't enough to do, written early on this sail, before the wind increased to 10kts. It's a beautiful day with perfectly clear blue sky, calm sea, and only 5-6kts of breeze gently urging Mersoleil southward from Nosy Mitsio back toward Hellville, Madagascar. We'll stop at Sakatia tonight, if we ever get there going only 2.5 over the ground.

After procrastinating on a repair for three full months since receiving new brown dacron thread in April, I've finally started the dreaded task of re-stitching the leather cover on our grab rail. Dedicating three hours to project commencement yesterday I managed only to remove the leather, pick off most of the old double-sticky tape from the back side, pull out all the old ripped stitches, re-stretch the needle holes with a very sharp awl from my sail repair kit (thank you, Hasse) and reattach the leather temporarily to the rail with a billion little black zip ties. This commentary is about the zip ties, sort of. Idle minds, as I said.

Just before we lost my camera (dang) I shot a photo of the grab rail with the leather held temporarily in place with zip ties every few inches, looking like the Statue of Liberty. Or like the third floor of Chicago City Hall, where pigeons like to roost awaiting the arrival of the lady in two hats and three raincoats who comes with a shopping bag to Daley Plaza every day around eleven and sits under the Picasso doling out stale bread crumbs to the well-behaved birds, the ones she knows and likes best. If/when the camera turns up I'll post that photo....

Of course, all the zip ties will be nipped off one by one and discarded as I stitch across the leather, the third set of twenty zip ties that have been dedicated to this rail, for I've performed this work twice before. We purchase zip ties by the hundred and use them nearly every day on SY Mersoleil, usually for the obvious wire management applications, but also for odd and nutty purposes like this one. We simply could not get along without zip ties. Fortunately, they're available in electrical supply stores everywhere we've travelled, so while they're crucial to Mersoleil day to day operations, I'm not overly neurotic about zip ties.

Comedian Jeff Foxworthy was noted in the 1980s for his series of redneck jokes all beginning, 'You know you're a redneck if...' and including a large number that I find so amusing I've memorized them and could give you without rehearsal a thirty minute standup routine consisting of nothing but this low humor. One of my particular favourites is 'You know you're a redneck if you view duct tape as a capital improvement.' (Duct tape, not further addressed in this musing, is banned onboard Mersoleil. We do possess a roll of the stuff, but any yachtie will tell you blue tape is infinitely better for almost all uses and it doesn't leave that dreadful permanent gummy residue on everything it touches.) But we DO value our zip ties as capital improvements, or at the very least essential equipment so important that they must be inventoried. Over the past month, with Robbie's recent Maestro Electricidad miracles, and now the grab rail repair, we've used so many of the little things, yet another brilliant invention that I wish I'd thought of first, that I reorganized our remaining supply, sorting them by size into two containers and retiring a couple of Ziploc bags that were once full of zip ties but are now available for a new use.

Ziploc bags another inconceivably precious commodity. What would we do without zippered plastic food storage bags!? American zippered freezer bags are definitely on the list of capital assets around here and if you are lucky enough to be living in that land of plenty where you can buy Hefty and Glad products any time you want them, I suggest you drop immediately to your knees and utter a prayer of gratitude. Nowhere in the world, at least nowhere I've been yet, has a product to compare to the small high quality storage bags one can buy at every supermarket in America. One of the bags retired yesterday from zip tie duty still says on its little white patch 'GREEN BEANS W/BCN AUG 9 2012' having served multiple rounds of important uses, being repeatedly washed, checked for leaks, dried and put to use again. We reuse and recycle plastic bags until they are truly too weary to continue and then, with grave misgiving, place them respectfully in the trash bin.

I've shopped for plastic bags in every single country we've visited. The generally available substitute for the American zippered plastic bag does not have a zipper, is made of such thin plastic that one can smell the contents right through the bag, and has a press-together seal that never actually closes or stays closed. It's remarkable the number of disappointing bag products one can find (I've tried dozens of imposters), and a great testament to the quality of Glad, Hefty and Ziploc was Heather Stembridge's remark, 'Oh you ordered more American zippered bags! I wish I had known. I want some American bags!' You'd think high quality food storage bags would be available in New Zealand, but sadly for Hearther, they are not. Neither in Australia, except at the Costco where they sell pinch zipped Glad bags, deprived of the tabs.

So we treasure and reuse zippered bags many many times, gradually downgrading them from 'food quality,' to 'no longer holds liquid,' to 'use for fasteners or spare parts,' to 'mini garbage bag,' at which point they finally go into the rubbish containing fish skin or chicken drippings or stinky cheese trash that we wish to segregate from the fresh air in the galley.

There's a repurposed bag circulating right now that I've seen several times in the past month, a gallon size Hefty refrigerator bag, that says 'yoga pants.' Even clothing lives in plastic bags, my silk scarves that would slide all over the place and onto the floor if I open a locker while Mersoleil is heeled over; sweaters, fleece pullovers, wool socks and whatever else I'll need again when we reach Cape Town's higher latitudes; the dozens of colorful bangles that I bought in India to wear with saris. If it seems superfluous to write 'yoga pants' on the clear plastic bag containing guess what, consider this. The extra large bag we gather around a full canister of smelly saltwater in order to ferry it for cleaning from watermaker to the sink without spilling seawater on the rug looks exactly like the bag in which I keep fresh bakery items. After lunch when the croissants are all gone both these bags could easily be sitting on the counter next to the galley sink and I do not care to get them mixed up! We label bags not so one can tell what is ALREADY inside, something easily discerned without written clues, but so we know immediately what to return to each bag when they're sitting around EMPTY and it's time to put things away! I have purchased zippered bags online and had them shipped to us on other continents - you can buy them by the hundreds at a nice discount from Walmart; begged my sister, Gretchen, to bring them to me when she visits (thanks, Gret); and thus far have resisted the urge to write a whinging email to Target who offers a fine selection that is 'not available for online purchase.' Obviously Target just does not understand how we live. And like Microsoft, who fails to grasp that not everyone has all-you-can-eat Internet all the time, Target apparently can't conceive of anyone living more than fifteen minutes from their nearest retail outlet.

Does this bore you' Does it seem ridiculous' I suppose maybe not if you're still reading, but I wonder if I have conveyed my point, that since leaving shore we have grown to sincerely appreciate small and surprising conveniences that seemed trivial to us in the past, things that (unless you're another cruiser reading this and nodding in agreement) you possess in abundance in your own home and for which it has never even occurred to you to be deeply thankful. Cruising the world has changed us in many ways we did not expect.

Velcro. Yep, Velcro, accept no substitutes and continue using your little Velcro straps until they disintegrate in the sun or simply die of old age. Light in weight, tiny and easy to find at one's neighborhood Home Depot, brand name Velcro is another essential, conveniently schlepped to us by visiting friends. Can't live without it and we have proven sufficiently to ourselves that the Chinese hook-and-loop wannabees are so inferior to the real thing that they're not worth buying at any price. The boat hook and landing net hang outside, strapped to our rails by two Velcro straps each, and there they remain tolerant of frequent use, long passages, high seas and the blazing sun. Velcro maintains order among Mersoleil's shore power cords, coiled and stowed when we're not in a marina; holds down long narrow flaps over the zippers on our dodger windscreen, keeping many of the big waves from filling the cockpit; fastens the little protective vinyl cover around a glossy teak table that's folded down flat when not in use. We could not get along without Velcro, definitely another prized capital asset.

The neck-straining back-breaking fun of re-stitching the grab rail leather will begin as soon as we anchor. It's difficult, time consuming and quite as unforgiving as knitting, in that if I make a mistake I won't see it until several stitches later and I'll have to rip back to the error and resume more carefully from there. It will take about 16 hours and extravagant amounts of self-discipline to keep me on task until it's completed and all those zip ties go in the rubbish with the bag of chicken skin. The things that occupy my mind while I'm on watch. Honestly. One night I made a list on the back of the active sailing log page, the ragedy sheets we keep on a clipboard for recording position and sea conditions while sailing. I listed all the words I know ending in -ment, ornament, supplement, compliment, establishment, impediment, basement and some hundred and twenty more. Then I made a list of words ending in -mental to see how many of my -ment words could accept the further suffix 'al ornamental, sacramental, experimental. The 'mental list was shorted. I was amused. Words are fascinating.

Mon Aug 13 1:54 2018 NZST
Run: 40.7nm (73.7km)
Avg: 146520knts
24hr: 3516480nm
12 54.199s 048 34.502e

August 9th, Nosy Mitsio

Madagascar's west coast is characterized in winter by a reliable wind pattern of very light land breezes from early morning until noon followed by more robust sea breezes rushing back onto the land for the next twelve to fourteen hours as the earth heats up and draws cooler air off the sea. When we sail down the coast in early October to the point where we'll cross the Mozambique Channel to South Africa, we'll depend upon these alternating breezes to carry us south preserving fuel for the more difficult runs toward Cape Town. Deciding to practice this balance of tack-west-in-the-morning-and-east-in-the-afternoon, we departed Sakatia at dawn yesterday and have come north about 45nm to Nosy Mitsio from where we'll begin our experiment a few days from now. Nosy Mitsio reminds us both of the lightly inhabited islands of Fiji, Vanuatu and French Polynesia. The air is dry, the sky and water both turquoise blue, and during the night a young goat somewhere on shore bemoaned with repeated mournful baa-aaa-aa-a-a-as the fact that he'd misplace his mother. We saw him this morning grazing on the hillside of dry, but still green, grass and feel confident he'll find mom one of these days soon and not go hungry in the interim. There are cattle on this island, too, as we discovered by ear last evening and confirmed visually today over coffee.

Rumor has it there are manta rays too, but it's a large bay and we're not sure where they hang out, so an exploratory dinghy survey is planned for this afternoon. I dropped in a fishing line on the way up here, but the afternoon's effort went three for the fish, naught for me. First, we landed a nice big fish, but he was a barracuda, not esteemed as a food fish and commonly known to be ciguatoxic. I held him up by the line while Robbie rolled out the hook with a pair of pliers and he went back into the drink. The next two hits were wahoos that we never even saw, but they both took signature wahoo snaps at the lure, a black and silver squid, biting off the skirt at an angle first short, then shorter. I did not lose the lure, though, and will keep fishing with it since they seem to like it so well. I've been using a six inch piece of no. 12 electrical wire, twisted first around the lower side rail then around the line, to hold my hand reel up above the deck. I suspend the reel by passing the handline between the ends of the wire, then twisting them once or twice, just tightly enough to retain the line loosely up near the rail. When a fish strikes he snaps the reel out of the twisted wire and it bangs on the deck alerting the helmsman that dinner is at the end of the line. As the Aussies would say, it works a treat!

Every now and then at the market I buy something that I don't especially favour just for the sake of variety and to expand my culinary expertise (read play with it). I haven't yet got as far as okra, which they call lady fingers in SE Asia, and don't aspire to, but a large oval eggplant came home with me the other day so I made an Andalusian eggplant frittata for dinner last night. It seemed odd slicing the eggplant thin and boiling it for half an hour, seasoning the frittata mixture with the unfamiliar combination of cinnamon and coriander seeds, but I must say the result was pronounced a big success by both Mr. and Mrs. Collins and I will write VVG next to the recipe in my Mediterranean cookbook. It was the sauce, really, that got us excited. A mixture even stranger than the frittata itself, with olive oil, honey, a raw garlic clove, vinegar, black pepper and uncooked ap flour, the sauce is blended smooth and drizzled over the frittata. We could have eaten it with a spoon it was so lucious!

I'll happily send you the recipe if you ask, but beware that delicious sauce, making sure everyone you will see tomorrow partakes. When I woke up this morning, I thought the little lost billy goat had died overnight in my mouth. It took a strong cup of coffee and a pastry from the bakery in Hellville to set me right. Robbie and I agreed the sauce would be better than the usual olive oil with balsamic vinegar for dipping french bread before dinner. Or drizzled over steamed green beans. Or on a salad with citrus, radishes and onions. Oooh! So many choices.

Immediately after our arrival yesterday afternoon, as commonly happens at remote island anchorages, a couple of guys in dugout outrigger canoes paddled up to Mersoleil and began calling for our attention. We were tired though, after departing Sakatia in the wee hours, and did not feel like playing the game of bartering for bananas we really didn't need, so we remained inside until they finally went away disappointed at sunset. We've had lots of experience with locals approaching our boat, sometimes even banging right into it with their rustic local craft, and we much prefer to meet local people on shore or in their villages. Approaching us the minute we have arrived is just a touch too assertive for our taste, and often the individuals who have enough chutzpah to do this have come with a list of demands for rope, milk, fishing equipment and other items, even money, they think we might be persuaded to hand over. We do carry gifts, especially toys for the kids, sewing kits, fishing line, laundry soap, inexpensive sunglasses, that we enjoy sharing with others, but, having seen a few aggressive and even nutty characters closely scrutinizing Mersoleil, we prefer to entertain islanders at our boat only after we have become acquainted and invited them there ourselves.

I wish we still had reading glasses from the Lions Club to share with the people here. We became so proficient at setting up and operating our little optical dispensary in South Pacific island villages that we could refract 45 people and fit them all with reading glasses in about two and a half hours. It gave us a marvelous chance to interact with locals, to do something really valuable for them, and our 'clients' were thrilled to find after years of poor near vision that they could suddenly see to read their Bibles, or tie lines onto fish hooks, or sew again. Mizzy mentioned yesterday doing this in French Polynesia if she can connect with the Lions Club in Hawai'i. Do it, Mizzy! It's fun for everybody and a lasting contribution to the village. Even young people in their twenties came to us wanting readers - probably not needing them at all but not wanting to be left out. To these, we gave the 1.00 and 1.25 lenses*, telling them to get them out in the future when they become necessary. To those who found 2.00, 2.25 and 2.50 lenses helpful, we suggested that they would eventually want stronger corrections and could give these old glasses to somebody five years younger. To those who said, 'my sixty-eight year old mother can't see, but she is not well and couldn't come,' we promptly handed over two pair, 3.25s and 3.50s, knowing that the most elderly locals would not be able to come to us and that they'd benefit from the strongest lenses we had, sharing the extra pair with an elderly friend. No one who actually needed those strong corrections ever came directly to us, being homebound with poor health or having already learned from experience that it's safer to remain close to home when you can no longer see where you're walking. While we don't respond very well to the begging of the boys in canoes, we clearly recognize that such possessions as the drugstore reading glasses we take for granted in developed societies are rare and precious gifts in poor, remote communities.

*We observed over and over again that neither does anyone who actually needs a correction as slight as 1.00 or 1.25 come to be fitted for readers. And concluded that either they haven't yet figured out that their near vision is beginning to deteriorate or that the old ego has still not given in to the admission that glasses are necessary. People are funny, aren't we'

Mon Aug 13 1:54 2018 NZST
Run: 39.8nm (72km)
13 19.0S 048 09.84E

August 7, Sakatia Island, Madagascar

The islands off NW Madagascar are lovely. It's dry, but not quite arid, and the waters are generally friendly and calm. We've stopped here for a couple of days while I recovered from a brief bout of not feeling well and Robbie made the social rounds at sundown, then hiked across the island (to another bay that looks exactly like this one) with Phil anf Karel (Tehani-Li) and Phil and Lesley (Pacifique). After I came out of hiding we dined in a group of ten at a beachfront... um.... Well... Restaurant is decidedley too grand a word for the facility, but the meal was fantastic. Have you seen the steeply tilted benches that some cities install at bus stops? They offer a place to lean your derriere so long as your feet are firmly planted on terra firma below and you'll never find one of these occupied by a snoozing homeless person because they're impossible to lie upon without rolling off. Wooden tabletops perch upon wood posts planted firmly in the sand and one or two narrow rough planks, tilted a la bus stop benches, make up the seating furniture. Larger posts support a loosely thatched gabled roof and the proprietors had thrown a lace cloth over the best of their four or five banquet tables. We arrived in the dark and I never figured out whence was produced the food but it was delivered in delicious abundance, a crispy salad of tomatoes, cucumber, grated carrots; two outdoor grilled whole fish, crunchy and flavourful; marinated and grilled chicken that was tasty and piquant; tender octopus in a savory sauce; generous quantities of hot rice; a sweet dessert that Robbie says was some kind of pastry; and plenty of THB, the local Malagasy lager, placed on the table in icy cold bottles. Another wonderful evening among friends and great food and drink, one of the important rituals of cruising life.

Not far from our anchor, but far enough to go by dinghy, we snorkelled the next day with sea turtles. Two hours in the water is a long time for us, but it's mesmerizing, watching these big animals lazily munching their way through the sea grass in just 3 meters of water, swimming to the surface for a gulp of air every fifteen or twenty minutes. They're quite accustomed to humans swimming along and one didn't hesitate to surface just inches away from my face, eyeing me with mild curiosity as he approached, took a big breath and returned to the seaweed. Finally, sufficiently chilled and shivering, Robbie and I returned to Doggie, anchored nearby, for the sometimes humbling experience of hauling our wet, heavy, flippered selves up out of the water and heaving our butts over the pontoon into the boat. This is accomplished, usually on the first try, by clutching the pontoon with both hands, plunging down deep into the water, then with a great kick of both fins, propelling oneself up and high enough to flop onto the boat like a fish that's made a grave mistake. I usually end up with my hips on the pontoon, weight evenly divided between the top of the boat and 'fall-back-in,' and by rolling onto one side, I can change the balance enough to gain victory and swing my legs over the side into the dink. Always humbling, even when successful.

One night while at Sakatia I created shrimp po' boys for us for dinner with fresh shrimp I'd discovered at the Hellville outdoor market. The nice little red plastic shrimp thing my mother gave me years ago does not seem to have made the cut, or I couldn't locate it anyway, but I found a hashi, a Japanese chopstick, proved a pretty good substitute for my slick shrimp sheller/deveiner and I had a billion small shrip peeled in ten or fifteen minutes. Fresh baguettes, shredded lettuce, sliced local tomatoes, homemade remoulade and a quick marinade and dusting with flour produced po' boys substantially equivalent to those I've had in New Orleans and they were a tasty treat for dinner that evening. I keep a list of "substitutes" in my recipe folder (how to make Bisquick when you don't have any, how to sour cream in a minute, etc.) but there was no entry for buttermilk, not too surprising I suppose since I never use buttermilk. I squeezed a half lemon into a cup of milk, it curdled right up, I called it buttermilk, threw in the spices then the shrimp, waited half an hour et voile. Po' Boys! We'll do that again! They were fantastic. All the shrimp shells and heads are now in the freezer waiting to flavour the cream in our next fish chowder. We eat well when near a good local market, and for ten days thereafter. Then it gets a little iffy and, well, I don't tell you about those meals.

Mon Aug 13 1:54 2018 NZST
Speed: at anchor 0.0knts
Run: 0.9nm (1.6km)
13 24.718s 048 16.288e
Weather: Warm, dry, wonderful

August 6 in Hellville, Nosy Be, Madagascar No idea who or why they call it Hellvile, the Malagasy name of the main town on Nosy Be is actually Andoany, Robbie and I spent five or six days resting up after the short bumpy trip from Mayotte and exploring the joys of the town, well suited to the needs of cruising sailors. That's not to suggest that there are any marine services of any kind, but we no longer expect the impossible and content ourselves with a selection of nice cafes, a sufficient supermarket, an excellent local produce market (large and bustling) and, praise the lord in this land of 3m tidal range, a floating dinghy dock connected by passarelle to the concrete wharf.

A local man named Jimmy, who speaks excellent English, works full time during cruising season (May to October), self-appointed concierge to all visiting yachties. He and his assistant, Kool, are down at the town wharf from 7 or 8 each morning until the last dinghy has gone home in the evening to its respective yacht. For a modest daily fee Jimmy greets new arrivals, takes each captain on the obligatory tour of Police (Immigration), Port Captain and ATM, pointing out along the way where one might stop for a coffee, teaching a few phrases of Malagasy and answering any specific questions of immediate interest. And he stables your dinghy while you're ashore, protecting it and keeping it from inconveniencing the many other boats constantly coming and going from the small wharf. One, usually Kool, remains at the busy wharf all day long, jockeying around as many as half a dozen inflatable boats, moving them on and off the dock as water taxis and larger ferries come and go, sometimes dangling several of our floating charges from the end of a ferry while the ferry disgorges passengers, locals coming in to town or tourists dragging all their rolling luggage, and loads the next group departing Nosy Be, before herding his all the little tenders back to the wharf. This service for the rough equivalent of a US dollar a day, a great value, hugely appreciated.

We left one of our two aluminium LPG tanks with Jimmy last week, along with a cash reward for finding any way he could to have our American tanks with American fittings filled with gas. A couple of days later when we and eight others returned from the Scicilian pizza place (pretty good) our filled LPG tank awaited us in the dinghy and I was grateful Robbie didn't have to schlep the heavy thing around town as he has done in other countries, buying little fittings and new regulators that break upon initial use and trying to gravity fill the tank himself. I delivered our second tank, nearly empty, on the following morning and told Jimmy we'd be gone for a week or so, asking him to attend to tank #2 at his convenience and return it to us next time we pull up in Hellville. Almost every country now offers the chain-link fenced LPG station with dozens of cooking fuel tanks available for easy swapping - drop off your empty tank and walk away with a different tank just for the price of the fuel, but that's not an option for us. Our solid aluminium tanks are very valuable, to begin with, and we have no desire to part with them in exchange for a rusty steel tank with a coat of new blue spray paint. Ours are fitted exactly to the locker in which they live, concealed below deck by a hinged lid near the galley, and they don't rust. We have resorted once or twice in desperation to the purchase of a local steel tank when fittings compatible with ours are completely unavailable and we have the rust rings in the bottom of our LPG locker to prove it. Would you like to buy a small grey 4.9l LPG tank that has a rusty bottom and says "Seychelles Gas SEYPEC"' Speak up soon or I'll give it to Jimmy next time we stop in Nosy Be. He'll find a good use for it and now that our own tanks are filled, I'm over it.

Three times on various errands in Hellville we walked past the Cote (caret over the o) Jardin restaurant before finally stopping there one day for lunch. Wooden tables and chairs, all painted distressed white, line the front of the building, and we'd noticed people there before at breakfast time. But the hostess who greeted us at 1PM invited us inside suggesting "you'd like to sit in the garden'" I'm not sure distressed white paint conveys quite the accurate image of Cote Jardin, and I was delighted to see snowy white linens on perfectly set tables as we walked through the indoor dining room, then was surprisingly and profoundly pleased with the garden, picturesque and tranquil with umbrellas to shade each wrought iron table, a separate outdoor building where wood-fired pizzas are prepared, tropical and old world flowers lovingly tended in beds around the few gnarled old trees that shelter the garden. My seafood salad was the most delicious composed salad I've seen since Seattle bearing a creamy honest-to-goodness French dressing, sweet baby shrimp and tender still-warm rings of squid that were perfectly cooked. Fine French dining, I want to try everything on the menu except the zebu. Already I have expressed an interest in celebrating my birthday there next month. I hope he remembers. Maybe Lisa will remind him - Lisa always reads this while His Robbiness does not.

Speaking of Lisa, she said to me the other night at the Scicilian pizza shindig, "There are PHOTOS with your postings!' I had no idea! I've always just read the text I get in the emails that tell me you've added something new!" If you've been making the same mistake, go look at the actual YIT page rather than reading the text-only messages subscribers receive when we post each entry. Those text posts are included for the benefit of cruisers, hampered by lack of Internet at sea, who receive our position reports via satellite email or SSB. If you're online, just click on the link that says where you'll see exactly where we are and where we've been on a Google Earth image, and you'll be able to look at the pictures I've uploaded for various postings. The YIT page is prettier and much more interesting! I can only add photographs when I have Internet access, so they usually come a bit AFTER the text is published. Scroll down to review everything posted in 2018. Select a different tab to review our adventures for previous years.

Sun Jul 29 19:02 2018 NZST
Run: 426.6nm (772.1km)
Avg: 2.7knts
24hr: 64.8nm
13 24.575S 048 17.058E
Weather: Very little wind on the protected W side of Madagascar. Dry season. Sunny mornings, clouds in the afternoon keep the temps down.

We sailed from Mayotte on July 25, arriving in the early morning of our wedding anniversary, the 27th. Another unexpectedly difficult passage with even Predictwind off by more than 10kts, so we plowed into 25-30kt headwinds and used more motor than sail after the first 50nm took us too far north. Alas, clouds obscured the once in a century long lunar eclipse, but we marveled at the blood red setting moon on the morning of the 27th.

We like the vibe of Madagascar which reminds us more of the South Pacific than anyplace we've been since New Caledonia three years ago.

We'll stay here puttering around the pretty anchorages of NW Madagascar until late September when it will be time to take on the challenging trip to Cape Town.

Mon Jul 23 5:06 2018 NZST
Run: 897.1nm (1623.8km)
12 46.7 S 45 14.0 E
Weather: It's winter here, the dry season, characterized by SE trade winds. Days are warm, even hot, but not beastly so. Nights are cool and we've hauled out a lightweight blanket to be put into service at about 3AM when we feel chilled. We are sleeping like babies for the first time in about 2 years! Let's hear it for dry temperate climates!

A Short Visit to the French insular department of Mayotte, not a country, not a territory, too complicated for me. But French, si vous plait.

After a couple of days at anchor off Dzaoudzi we've moved to the 'marina' at Mamoudzou on the Ile Gran Terre. Ferries come and go every twenty minutes during waking hours bouncing Mersoleil and Tehani-Li exhuberantly, but constant wind keeps us off the dock so nothing dreadful happens. Climbing on and off the yacht when it's held a meter and a half away from the dock is a challenge, though. My patented technique involves standing with one foot on the shortest dock line until my weight presses the line down toward the water and draws the boat close enough for me to reach the toe rail with the other foot (or to leap onto the dock). Then, if boarding, I haul myself quickly aboard before she drifts away. The trick is the same as boarding from a bouncing dinghy, really - invest all your weight on one point. Standing with weight evenly divided between left foot and right foot when the boat springs away from the pontoon is a recipe for a dangerous fall into the water between the boat and a hard place. So far so good.

All the reports were correct. I can't say Mayotte offers much for the cruising sailor beyond French wines and delicious cheeses. Happy to stock up on some lovely cheeses and an excellent well-priced merlot. We haven't seen good cheese since New Caledonia three years ago and, before that, French Polynesia in 2012! (F. P., I just learned is neither department nor territory, but a collectivity. Leave it to the French to cook up such funny names for their colonies.)

Another wonderful thing here is the people watching! The ladies of Mayotte fear neither color nor gigantic patterns. They parade billowy garments wrapped round and round their queen-sized bodies, something like a sari, but I'm told they consist of a great wide tube of fabric sewn together at the ends, draped according to the wearer's preference. (Whereas a sari must be installed according to strict rules that vary only slightly by region all across India.) A second piece of material, also colorful but not necessarily matching the gown, and as large as a tablecloth for ten or twelve, is wound fashionably over and about head and shoulders.

Mayotte is a Muslim country where the ladies generally cover fairly modestly, but they follow the rules loosely, preferring to create a strong fashion statement with a casual nod to the normally conservative Muslim practices. No berkas here. In addition to the gowns, splashed riotously with conventionalized sketches of foot-high pineapples or vibrant zigzags in blue, white and orange, a facial masque of yellow mud is conspicuous on dark brown skins. We haven't quite figured that out and it's hard to find an opportunity to inquire. We speak no French and the locals no English.

Our stay in Mayotte has become the stereotypical cruising opportunity to repair one's boat in exotic places. Robbie (with some commiseration from Phil Tenney - thanks Phil) has spent an entire week trying to understand and repair the electrical systems of the watermaker and the navigation instruments, both critical for passages of any length. As soon as the systems are fit for travel, and we can find a suitable weather window, we'll be off for Madagascar, making landfall at Andoany (aka Hellville) about 200nm away on the east side of the Mozambique Channel.

Hard to believe we are in Africa. Africa. Who'd'a thunk?

Mon Jul 23 5:06 2018 NZST
Speed: 6.0knts
Run: 30.8nm (55.7km)
12 20.0 S 45 15.0 E
Weather: WInd S at 8kts

July 10 2018 on the final run to the lagoon pass, Passe Mtsamboro, Mayotte

We've turned on the iron genny hoping we might anchor inside the lagoon at Mayotte before dark today. We could have pressed forward with tacking, but when the winds dropped below 10kts it wasn't much fun anymore. Closed hauled we can only get 2 or 3 kts over the ground out of an 8kt wind. In addition, we have a new problem with the instruments which makes dallying unattractive. Always something, you know.

Having an additional month to play with before crossing to South Africa, we have decided to add Madagascar to our itinerary, the area from the N tip down the west coast as far as our jumping off point for crossing the Mozambique Channel. We'll probably not remain in Mayotte more than a week or two, then will hop over to Madagascar and have a play there. We're hearing better reviews of Madagascar than of Mayotte.

This morning, Tuesday, 10th July, we are powering along direct toward the lagoon entrance. All is well on board except for the buggered instruments which cause concern. We suspect rebooting the Raymarine system might correct everything. Or that it will not come up at all after shutting down.... so we're living with limited data which seems a lot better than none at all!

Another great passage - this one for challenging sailing on the breezy side!

Mon Jul 23 5:06 2018 NZST
Speed: 4.0knts
Run: 165.7nm (299.9km)
09 57.0S 045 31.0E
Weather: Wind SE 8kts

July 9 2018

Last evening as we rounded Aldabra, a few miles off, NW of the atoll, the winds and sea both calmed down. It was such a pleasure! We continued on a course of about 235T, then 225T as the winds backed gradually toward the E, and are now seeing the winds die off and move more southerly again.

Robbie has just gone up to make sense of the sails, then we'll probably begin a series of tacks down toward Mayotte. Right now we have stays'l and genoa flying, and almost nothing of a main. I have a headache and selfishly decided to curl up in the cockpit and wait for reinforcements rather than free up winches by myself.

That was QUITE a ride from Mahe to Aldabra! I need a nap.

Mon Jul 23 5:06 2018 NZST
Speed: still averaging 7.3, still double reefed with main prevented way out to dump air and eep us stable. only the staysail forward.knts
Run: 181.2nm (328km)
08 35.0S 47 47.0E
Weather: Wind still 23-28kts, SE

Greetings from Rocket Ride Mersoleil, July 8, 2018

More of the same... that's all we have to report. Winds generally in the 23/28 range, but once in a while they pop up over 30 just to make sure we're paying attention. We haven't seen anything above 35kts. And, of course, it's a pretty boisterous ride so little sleep is happening between watches.

Mersoleil handles the pummeling from waves well. She's a tough boat. Her owners are a wee bit more fragile. We won't need to buy table salt for months. We can simply scrape it off our clothing and faces.

No rain showers in the past 18 hours, at least not fresh water ones. And we have closed within 100nm of our Aldabra waypoint. The wind is often aft of the beam now, but we can't even begin to turn south till we clear the island. Just as well, I'd like to see the winds drop, too, before we bring the it onto the beam.

Please send pizza. Galley is a mess and it's really too hard to accomplish a meal.

Mon Jul 23 5:06 2018 NZST
Speed: 6.2knts
Run: 197.1nm (356.8km)
07 38.0S 50 30.0E
Weather: Wind SE 20kts

Going the long way to Mayotte to avoid high winds

Our weather expert reports that the plume of enhanced winds bending around Madagascar has grown, reaching further north than usual, and he has recommended that we divert to the north to avoid gales. We'll pass north of Aldabra Island, one of the most important islands of the Republic of Seychelles. Aldabra is the largest coral atoll in the world. Seychelles takes great pride in husbanding her, proudly announcing a month or two ago that they had finally ridded the island of the 300 feral goats that used to tend it.

The extra few COG degrees to the north has removed all excitement from the boarding waves we took at 235T and either the seas have subsided by a full meter or we're taking the swell at a much more friendly angle. Mersoleil here, just mushing along at a respectable speed despite the tiny sail plan.

Mon Jul 23 5:06 2018 NZST
Speed: 6.4 ranging 4.5 - 8.5 depending on wind speedknts
Run: 234.6nm (424.6km)
06 41.0s 052 45.0e
Weather: Wind 24kts, ranging 22-30. Rains seem to have ended, now all the water coming down on this yacht is salty.

July 6, 2018

Yesterday when Mersoleil reached hull speed, 9.6kts, Robbie decided it was time for some more serious reefing. Now the genoa is furled away and we're sailing fast on only a double-reefed main and the staysail. Have had some good soaking rains, but after the rains we took some saltwater drenching in the cockpit and the rains have not returned to wash things down. Very lumpy out here and I'm going below at the end of this watch to shower off the salt before I can let me sit down.

Mon Jul 23 5:06 2018 NZST
Speed: 4.0knts
Run: 171.3nm (310.1km)
05 01.757S 054 36.330E
Weather: S winds 11kts, occasional showers

July 5 2018

As we departed Mahe the wind was decidedly SW, which we attributed to its bending around the island. But even 20nm away and further, we're getting no easterly component at all and now have wind from due S fluctuating only 10-15 degrees either way. Wind speeds have been constant 10-12, but no higher. Robbie said, "I'm only going 4.3, but I'm happy with that. I sailed from India!" (See earlier postings about drifting on glassy seas from Kochi all the way to Seychelles!)

A COG of 235T was completely impossible, so we muddled along at 5kts on a course of about 250, losing even more southing to leeway. We MUST pass south of 06 18S 52 12E to avoid some seriously baaaad water at Les Amirantes, so at 3AM local I tacked and we are now on the disappointing heading of 129T, locked on a waypoint so we'll not suffer any more leeway, but very pinched and making only 3.8-4.8 over the ground. Still, NOT headed for reefs, so pleased about that! Wind down a touch to 8-10kts.

Mon Jul 23 5:06 2018 NZST
Speed: 5.6knts
Run: 63.6nm (115.1km)
04 32.0s 55 23.0e
Weather: Wind South 15-20kts

Departing Seychelles for Mayotte on July 4 2018

Originally planning to remain in Seychelles until August, we've decided to move on a little earlier. Mersoleil was burglarized in early June during the night while we were asleep. Even though we lost only our phones before we awakened and scared off the intruders, this, together with the fact that we know of at least half a dozen other similar events occurring in the past month, has significantly dampened our enthusiasm for staying longer. Our visitor permits will expire on the 9th of this month. While the first 90-days was free, extending our stay will cost US$750.00 (not to mention the expense of replacing the cell phones). Besides, we both have admitted to not sleeping very well, constantly wondering 'what's that' at each little sound during the night. Moreover we'll be sailing toward Africa through well-developed trade winds, too, which are generally stronger during August than July. The coming passage will be easier now than next month.

Seychelles has some wonderful places and people and except as noted above we've really enjoyed our stay here. Spending time on La Digue with warm and friendly local, Marie Therese Julienne, visiting the Jai Alai purse seine vessel at dock in Port Victoria, petting and feeding giant land tortoises on Curieuse Island, basking in the sunny turquoise waters of Anse Lazio, Baie de Georgette and Baie Beau Vallon were wonderful experiences that we'll carry away with us. Still we are quite ready to go.

We completed the exit clearance process in a day and a half, made a quick grocery run and a last minute stop at the Taylor Smith Shipyard fuel dock, then motored across Victoria Harbour, beginning our passage in earnest at 5PM today when we turned to the southwest toward the Mozambique Channel 700nm away. It's always exciting to begin a new adventure, heading for a country we can't even picture in our minds and about which we know almost nothing - except that its inhabitants speak French and we do not.

Fri Jun 22 2:06 2018 NZST
Run: 28.3nm (51.2km)
04 37.523S 55 27.747E
Weather: Warm, humid, like summer everywhere on a warm day

A day aboard the Jai Alai, a Spanish deep-freezing tuna purse seiner.......

It's difficult to decide which to tell you, that we never give one another gifts anymore, there being nowhere to stow additional items on our boat, or that today was a verrry exciting day! Both, I guess, as they go together anyway and both are true.

Our younger son, Chris, is a fisheries scientist working on fishing boats in Alaska as a contract observer for the United States government. We don't really understand what he does. But we do see fishing boats of all kinds and sizes as we sail the high seas. The waters of the Republic of Seychelles are popular fishing grounds for the really big operations and half a dozen to ten huge purse seiners are at dock in Victoria Harbour or waiting at anchor for a berth at any one time. I thought it would be fun to see if we could arrange to visit one of these ships in celebration of Robbie's birthday. He'd understand better what Chris is doing out there, we'd have a much greater appreciation for what we're looking at when we pass these ships at sea, and there would be nothing to store but pictures and memories. The perfect gift!

Samantha Marie and Vincent, at the Port of Victoria, generously helped me arrange Robbie's birthday surprise and at 10:30 this morning Vincent escorted us aboard the two year old Spanish deep-freezing tuna vessel, Jai Alai. The Jai Alai is about 270 feet (89m) long and is equipped with state of the art flash freezing systems that immediately freeze the catch at -60C. (Yes, really. Celsius!)

Ander Bustinza, an English-speaking student at a Spanish marine college, now engaged in a summer internship on Jai Alai, joined Patron, Jose Ramon Cardoso, to give us a fascinating and detailed tour of the ship, describing life on board and introducing us to all the other officers. Coincidentally, both Ander and Robbie will celebrate their birthdays on June 27th, one turning twenty and the other I won't say who turning seventy three.

The entire crew of about forty hails from the picturesque seaside town of Bermeo, Spain, spending four months at sea in Seychelles then four months at home. Framed photos of Bermeo decorate the ship. It really does look lovely and we've placed Bermeo on our Mediterranean sailing agenda for 2019.

Chef, Manuel Fernandez, and his busy galley crew were delighted to to show off their outstanding kitchen filled with tempting aromas of today's meals and at the end of the tour we were invited to stay for luncheon in the officers' dining room. This provided ample opportunity to practice our Spanish during a lively conversation over white beans, sauteed pork chops, fried potatoes, roasted red peppers and fresh bread, accompanied by a salty peppery lime pickle that they like well enough to have it delivered to Seychelles from Madagascar. I discovered that I've ruined my Spanish studying Portuguese for the last year but we got by.

Not satisfied with sharing only their time and knowledge with us, Chef Fernandez presented Robbie with two enormous fish for his birthday, a yellowfin tuna and a wahoo, both rock hard at -60C and tied up after viewing in one of the white bags used to package the best of the catch. We are as thrilled as if we'd caught them ourselves! The fish were too heavy for us to carry more than a few steps, so while His Robbiness walked back to Seychelles Yacht Club to fetch our dinghy, I commandeered a fork lift whose operator conveyed our lovely fish to the edge of the wharf. Together, back at Mersoleil, Robbie and I heaved the bag up on deck, and it lies now in our own galley, taking up the entire length of the countertop, wrapped in many layers of plastic and fabric, looking a lot like a dead body, which I suppose it is. It will thaw gradually overnight, I'll butcher it in the morning, give some to everyone we know, and enjoy the rest ourselves over the next several weeks.

What an exciting day! Thank you, Port of Victoria. Thank you, Hartswater Ltd. Thank you, officers and crew of Jai Alai! What a day! Pictures, memories... and two enormous fish! Happy Birthday, Ander! Happy Birthday, Robbie!

Jai Alai SIstership pulling out
Jai Alai at dock, on the right
Patron, Robbie, Ander in the bridge
Definitely not on watch! Just visiting, in the bridge.
The Bridge. All the fishing is controlled right here.
Engine Control Room was terribly impressive!
And we thought WE had a lot of rigging!
Lots of fishing eqp on deck.
JaiAlai has one BIG engine.
And three 'little' engines like this one
The Panga hauls nets at sea and works at dock like a tug, then it's winched up onto the stern.
The Galley serves forty to fifty people each day.
Fish for dinner tonight
The Crew Dining Room
Robbie practices his Spanish at luncheon.
Our share of the catch, a yellow fin tuna and a wahoo.
Locals working 20 minute shifts, in the freezer, unloading 450 tons of fish.
We dined with the officers. Lunch was great!
Photos from home decorate the ship interiors. (Recognize the Game of Thrones?)
Bermeo, Spain, home port of Jai Alai, now on our bucket list.
Chef Fernandez checks the Spanish White Bean Stew.
Officers Quarters are spacious and comfortable.
Robbie says, "Yeah, make me an officer. I could live here!"
Jai Alai has a no-nonsense watermaker

Thanks for sharing! It's a long way from Bermeo to the Seychelles. I've never had freshly caught tuna like this.
Fri May 18 2:00 2018 NZST
Run: 28.6nm (51.8km)
04 17.488S 55 41.969E
Weather: See below. Holy Cow!

With the arrival of every issue of Flying Magazine, to which he subscribed when he started flying small planes, Robbie turned directly to "I Learned About Flying from This" and read with interest the stories of survivors: survivors of equipment failures; survivors of their own mistakes; survivors of freak accidents; survivors of extreme conditions. Here's our version.


Pulling into the anchorage at Anse Lazio, Praslin Island, Seychelles, we congratulated ourselves on selecting good shelter from the SE trades that are beginning to develop, bringing constant breezes from the southeast at 10-15 knots along with welcome relief from the oppressive tropical heat that's typical until early May. Scattered showers of short duration were coming and going around noon under mostly overcast skies. The sky was very dark downwind, to the west, and we were grateful not to be over there!

I dropped the anchor in about 10 meters of water, let out 55 meters of chain and tied on our 3-strand rope snubber which lengthens the chain by another 5 meters and takes strain off the windlass, the anchor winch. We prefer to use even longer anchor rodes, 7:1 rather than 5:1, but there were already 5 other boats anchored nearby with more arrivals anticipated before the end of the day. Nearly all the other sailing yachts in the Seychelles are rental catamarans and catamaran sailors are notorious for anchoring very close to shore on short chains (sorry, friends, but it's true.) They motor directly in to shore in very shallow water, right in front of Mersoleil, let out insufficient chain, and once we're surrounded by cats on short rodes our swing room is severely limited. So I settled for 5:1 scope.

Less than an hour after we settled in, it became obvious that the black sky was getting darker and, despite the winds still from the SE, the storm appeared to be moving east toward our location, not away. Not an hour after that, we were shocked by a sudden 15F degree drop in temperature accompanied by a powerful blast of 20kt winds from the west that spun us 180 degrees putting Mersoleil and all the other yachts close to the classic, dreaded, lee shore. The storm was already fully formed, and brought with it wind waves that rose rapidly to 2 meters, then 3, and higher. Winds rose to 35kts and remained there. This was a big storm, not a tropical squall, reporting a diameter on our radar of 20nm, and we were right in the middle of it! I sincerely wished we HAD set out more chain, and also that the snubber was longer because as the bow rose 3 or 4 meters with each rising wave then slammed back down into the following trough, our snubber was taking enormous shock loads.

One sailor, on a cat very close to us, thought he could better manage the storm by motoring into the wind and waves, thereby keeping his yacht from turning broadside to the danger and possibly broaching. Captains on the other cats did not try this technique and it was clear that the better choice was to hang without auxiliary power on the anchor rode. The driving yacht was all over the place, quite out of control, and sideways to the wind more than any other vessel in the bay. We worried that he might crash into Mersoleil, tried to hail him on the VHF, in fact we called to "any vessel at Anse Lazio," and received not a single reply. We were obviously the only vessel with a radio on.

In skies as dark as dusk, every yacht in the anchorage turned on its navigation lights.

All the vessels that had anchored close to the reef were now within striking distance of the rocks and because they were in such shallow water, where the huge waves were breaking, they bounced violently, both side to side and forward to aft. One by one the captains of these vessels realized they had to run from the lee shore out into the storm or to find themselves on the reef. At least two vessels dragged their anchors, sliding perilously close to rocky reefs before they made the decision to abandon the anchorage. A third dragged past an unused mooring buoy, fouling his anchor chain on the buoy's mooring chain and several people on that boat huddled at the bow for half an hour in outrageously dangerous conditions debating how to untangle from the mooring. We watched with binoculars - the storm was powerful, even though it had not reached it's height yet - and saw not a single person on any other boat wearing a life vest or tether, but many running around on deck unsure what to do. We could feel their panic. Remember, most of these people are not experienced sailors. They're nice German couples and South African families who've flown here for a one week sailing holiday on a crewed sailing cat. Most of the captains are locals, and we don't know how much sailing experience they have, but we do know from our own observations that they do not all anchor as cautiously and conservatively as we do.

Mersoleil remained solidly anchored, maintaining her position despite the incredible forces on her chain, snubber and hull. Doggie was tied behind the boat, about 15 meters away on a towing bridle that we had assembled before we left Seattle in 2011. See the photos below. I thought for certain that Doggie would break free and that we might have to drag him off the beach with a water-filled outboard when all the shouting was over, or lose him altogether, but remarkably he held his own out there, rising high on each wave and plummeting down to the bottom of each trough, getting jerked by his towing line first left, then right, then spinning 360 and snapping to a halt again with his bow toward Mersoleil's stern. I saw his entire underside more than once flying above the crest of a wave and was amazed he didn't capsize. We donned our life vests and tethered ourselves to padeyes installed in the cockpit, something we do as a rule on passage, but very rarely at anchor.

We had been seeing another monohull throughout the week, a smaller yacht, full of guys speaking French, laughing together late into the evening and having a grand time. Their boat was much too close to both beach and granite boulders and it was bucking wildly with, apparently, no one on board. They must have gone to the restaurant on shore for lunch. At one point, looking toward land through his binoculars, Robbie said, "There's something going on at the beach. I think there's a person in the water!" And then a few minutes later, "There are about six people now standing around on the beach." We didn't understand what was going on there, but we had our own fish to fry and returned our attention to Mersoleil.

The storm continued to intensify, showing, according to radar, no inclination to move or dissipate, and we decided to run the engine in case it was suddenly needed. Waves started coming over the bow, big green torrents rushing down the deck and shooting up over the dodger, our windscreen. We were both drenched, first by the torrential rains, now by saltwater, too. About this time, I put away my phone and camera. The pictures I took of the storm were all taken early in the event. As conditions worsened, it was necessary to give our complete attention to what was going on around us and to consider our options should action become necessary.

Someone was on the small monohull now, the French guys' boat, just one person though, not the entire gang. Dark curly hair and dark skin told us it was probably the local captain. He had started the engine and was trying to motor forward into the waves - without even raising his anchor! The boat lurched forward, then moved slowly until it was fairly close, dangerously so we thought, to Mersoleil at which point we saw him run to the bow (sans pfd and tether), struggle with the anchor, and run back to the helm to regain control of the vessel. After two or three of these excursions, we understood that he was alone on the boat, had no electric windlass with which to raise his anchor, and that he hoped to drag vessel and anchor far enough from shore to buy time to go forward alone and lift the anchor by hand. To our surprise and delight the tactic worked for him and we gave cheers and a big thumbs-up as he motored past and out of the bay. He was a great hero, we thought, but a hero who had swum to his boat from shore in extremely hazardous conditions. He was, we realized, the person in the water earlier. He had gone alone to climb aboard a tossing boat and save it from smashing to pieces on the rocks. Foolish to risk his life as he did, but greatly heroic in saving the sailboat. We're trying to find him now so we can buy him a beer!

Mersoleil was the only yacht left in the anchorage. We discussed again whether to run or to hold tight - it's a tough call under such conditions. Our anchor alarms indicated that Mersoleil hadn't budged an inch and the storm was still enormous and all around. There wasn't anywhere to run and surely this couldn't continue much longer, could it?

After two or three hours of intensifying winds, waves and downpouring rains something changed dramatically. One particularly high wave, it had to be 5 meters, rushed toward the bow. I was on watch tethered in the cockpit and saw it coming, thinking ,"oh, man, this is a big one," as it swamped Mersoleil's bow with several feet of green water that flew down the deck, up over the dodger, into the cockpit and over the top of the bimini above the helm. With all the bucking and tossing I was concerned about the chain and snubber and whether they were in position over the bow roller or lying in a mess on the deck, something we saw once before while beating in high seas. Holding tightly to the dodger grab rail, I stepped up on a seat in the cockpit in order to get a better look at the bow and I saw a rope, it could only be the snubber, draped loosely across the top of the primary bow roller in a completely unnatural position. Maybe the bow had dipped into the water and picked it up. In that case, now the fiberglass of the bow, instead of the steel backed snubber fitting, was going to sustain the huge forces of a twenty-three ton yacht being hurled in the air by high waves. That wasn't a good thing.

Robbie and I agreed that one of us must go forward to inspect the cause of this condition, and perhaps, the damage. Both willing to go, we decided it should be me because I have a smaller surface area, less weight, and I would be slightly less likely to be washed into the sea. Pound for pound I'm probably about as strong has he is, but as a smaller target, we thought I might have a better chance of staying on deck.

We have an excellent system of safety jacklines - specially purchased, cut and installed ropes that run from bow to stern along the centerline of the yacht. We clip multiple tethers onto these lines, allowing us to move the length of the boat, never for a single moment untethered; click one on, move forward, clip on the next before unclipping to first, move forward again to the next change point. It's a little cumbersome, but ensures that nobody falls of the boat when we have to go forward in exciting situations. But, you know, we have never NEEDed the safety jacklines at anchor before! They were carefully stowed in their mesh bag out of the UV and ready for our next sail or passage. So instead I clipped two tethers to the front of my pdf, securing the other end of one to the dodger grab rail, then inched forward to the point where I could clip the second onto the middle shroud, returning to retrieve tether number one so I could advance it to a padeye on the cabintop, retrieving number two and crawling forward to the next secure holding point. When I finally reached the bow a few minutes and several warm salty baths later, it was obvious that the snubber had parted. Its frayed end was dangling in the water like a bushy pony tail and all the weight of Mersoleil was now on the chain and the windlass. Not only that, but the chain had hopped completely out of the guides on the bow roller - this was a first! - and was straining over the port side of the bow eating up the protective Starboard pad that we had installed there to protect the bow from the anchor shank and taking big bites out of the fiberglass as well.

I returned tether-over-tether to the cockpit and explained to Robbie. "We're still hooked," I told him, "but now all the strain is on the chain." The yanking on the chain, now hanging over the side, was ferocious. It didn't look like the storm was going to end any time soon and our track on the anchor alarm began to extend into new territory further from the anchor where there had been no track before. When we lost the snubber the chain effectively became about ten feet longer as slack in the chain stretched out. But it was also possible that the weight and jerking of the boat was beginning to drag the anchor through the seabed. We couldn't tell which was the case, so we decided to abandon the anchorage immediately.

There being virtually no way to lift the anchor chain back into its proper path through the groove and over the bow roller, the only solution was to release the entire 100 meters of chain and the anchor and depart without them. This we did. It was our great good fortune to have pulled out from the anchor locker the bitter end of Mersoleil's anchor chain just two or three days earlier and to have removed the twists that build up in the chain over time. Chain links stack up next to one another in a tightly twisted chain, creating a mass too large to feed through the hawsepipe. In order to avoid this problem, which would render us completely unable to ditch the chain in an emergency, we check the last fifty feet or so of chain every so often to make sure it's untwisted and will run freely in a crisis. This was a crisis and mercifully our chain had no twists in its full length. I untied the small red rope inside the anchor locker that holds the bitter end of the chain to a U-bolt, wrenched loose the nut on top of the windlass and the last 40 meters of heavy chain shot off the bow into the sea in a matter of seconds - until it reached the very end! We had installed a swivel on the bitter end of our chain in the stupid hope that it would allow those twists to rectify themselves, working their way off the end of the chain down in the chain locker. The swivel never accomplished that, but it did catch on something on deck and stop the last two inches of the chain from flying off into the water. With Robbie's help from the helm, ... too noisy to yell to him, so tether over tether I crept back toward the cockpit to ask him to give the windass a nudge up... "What!? RAISE the anchor?"... "Yes, just DO it! I'll explain later!" His tap on the windlass button at the helm was just enough to release the swivel from the fitting against which it was jammed and suddenly the rattle of chains was completely gone along with all our primary ground tackle.

Departing the bay was easy, if uncomfortably bumpy, and we motored to the very spot about three miles away that we had departed on Friday morning. There, of course, we had to deploy the secondary anchor which has been ready and waiting for nearly ten years, but never been used. Well, actually, that's not true. We unintentionally used it once, more like a fender, in New Caledonia to spring off a wharf in a 30kt blow, and ever since then our Delta anchor sits on the bow bent and deformed, testament to the fact that it flicked along half a dozen pilings before we could back off that wharf. The Delta had never been on the bottom before, but it was there and ready and down it went at a calmer safer location with 15 meters of chain and 50 of rope rode and eventually we slept well Friday night.

During the night the winds returned to their benign southeasterly direction, and we rose Saturday morning to return to Anse Lazio to retrieve our Rocna and chain. Before departing the quiet anchorage, we checked on Doggie to see how waterlogged he was and found him completely dry inside! We were flabbergasted! It's a great testament to Walker Bay that their Genesis 310 RIB can sustain seas like that without shipping water. Look at him in the pictures!

A point in our favor, to our credit I might say, is that because we follow a very strict anchoring and record keeping protocol we knew the precise location of the primary anchor. Robbie found the end of the anchor chain on his very first dive, he tied a round white fender to one end of a long line and connected the other end to the (wretched) swivel at the bitter end of the chain. He returned to Mersoleil, we raised the temporary anchor, and I motored over to the float which he picked up with a boat hook exactly as if it were just any moorng pendant. It was a fairly simple matter then to wrap the rope around the windlass and haul it up carefully until there was chain on deck again. I snubbed off the chain to relieve the strain while we discarded the swivel, fed the last few meters of chain and its little security line back down the hawsepipe into the chain locker, re-tied the security line to its U-bolt, and begin to raise the anchor in the usual way.

We stopped raising chain with about 60 meters still in the water, knowing the Rocna was stuck well-enough to sustain a 35kt blow, and here we remain a day later telling you all about it! We need a new snubber, which I can prepare in the next few days, but other than that, some relatively minor fiberglass repairs and a few boat bites, all is very well indeed on sailing yacht Mersoleil.

We feel like we spent 24 hours anchoring!!!! And WE LEARNED ABOUT SAILING FROM THAT!!!

Things we did well:

1. Carried the Dog, our faithful dinghy, on a bridle, not on a single rope. Doggie's bridle was never intended to take a punishing like this, but it survived and protected both dinghy and motor. If we were towing him on a simple painter, he'd surely have been lost. The bridle was an excellent investment in planning and labour. It far exceeded our expectations. See photos.

2. We actively, assertively, firmly set the anchor in the seabed. Robbie hates to hear me say this, but we have never dragged anchor, not yet anyway. Inspection of the anchor on the bottom today confirms that it did not move during the storm. Our slightly enlarged track was apparently due entirely to the release of the slack chain that had been restrained by the snubber until the snubber parted.

3. We had accurate records of our anchor location. Our anchoring procedure has protected us in many situations in which others have fared poorly. We back down on our anchor at 2600 rpm for two minutes every single time we anchor and we record carefully the location of the anchor after it is set, not where it was dropped. Baie Chevalier is huge and has a featureless sand bottom. Robbie would have never found our equipment at all, let alone in five minutes, without accurate coordinates.

4 We maintained a constant anchor watch. We'd wanted to go ashore for lunch, but it is our habit to remain on board for as long as necessary to ensure the safety of the yacht. When we saw the storm growing closer, not farther away, we abandoned the idea of going to Bonbon Plume. In fact, there was no lunch on Friday. No dinner either if I recall.

5. When it became necessary, we made the right decision to dump the ground tackle and depart the bay and exceuted our escape in just a few minutes. Once the windlass assumed all the strain remaining at anchor was out of the question.

6. We know our knots and when we needed a rolling hitch, we produced one instantly without going to a book or a knot app.


Things we could have done better:

1. For the first time in months we failed to check the weather. There's no excuse for our not knowing that storm was moving from west to east. We could have been elsewhere! In some locations, the Indian Ocean being one of them, we have found it difficult to obtain synoptic weather charts and forecasts and we have allowed ourselves to become dependent on and PredictWind for local weather. They are excellent tools, but they are not meteorological forecasts.

2. We probably should have replaced our snubber before now. This snubber has been in use about 3 years and was beginning look a little weary. That said, there's a good chance a new snubber of the same rating would have chafed through, too, in those conditions. It broke at the rolling hitch, not at the thimble, not mid-line.

3. We did not have experience using the secondary anchor. It would have been a little easier if we had ever practiced with the Delta.

4. I allowed myself to be influenced by what other people do. If not surrounded by the less experienced sailors, I'd have let out more chain in the first place. Knowing the anchorage would become more crowded, I limited the scope of our chain as a matter of convenience. And if I had understood that the storm was headed toward us, not away, I would have lengthened the snubber, too. A longer 3-strand nylon rope will stretch more and may not have failed at all. Actually, if we'd known the direction the storm was traveling (and shame on us for not using MARPA radar tools to find out) we would have been elsewhere altogether.

Now (actually Monday 21st) we're helping the owners of a South African catamaran recover their anchor and chain. Their friends' yacht, just purchased a few months ago in Langkawi and on its voyage home to South Africa, lies stranded on the nearby reef nearly high and dry. Tides are minimal here and we're more than a week away from the next full moon that might bring hopes of lifting her off the rocks.

Yep, we learned about sailing from this.

Waves and spume early in the storm
Doggie takes a flying leap tossed by the next wave
Both chains back in place, only casualty the snubber at left
Waves still only about 2 meters
From one anchorage to another we tow Doggie on this simple bridle
Doggie's 12m tow line is tied to this thimble on a pendant with a bowline
At the other end of the pendant an asymmetrical snaphook clicks onto Doggie's bow
Returned to the scene next morning, anchored nearby, located the ditched anchor, tied a float to the end of the chain
Not everyone fared so well. This newly purchased monohull is still stranded on the reef at La Digue three days later

Ever the able captain!!! Impressive .... anse Lazio is such a spectacular place, but for sure you don’t want to end up on those boulders! Nice job, captain !!!

Lovely descriptive article Bev. Very similar experience we went through and much needed advice.
Fri May 4 0:40 2018 NZST
Run: 291.4nm (527.4km)
4 38.360S 055 28.437E

This is so typical of our visit to Rajasthan. I didn't even intend to write about this visit to a Thar Desert village homestay, but going to my February photos at random it was the first thing I saw and I couldn't resist!

February 23-24, 2018

Salawas Village, Kumharon-ki-Dhani, nr. Gosala, Jodhpur District, Rajasthan, India

(Block the line above and put it in Google Earth to see exact location.)

We stopped at Chhotaram Prajapat's Homestay for just one night on February 23rd, wishing as soon as we'd arrived that we could stay much longer. Robbie and I were welcomed with a colorful blessing daubed on our foreheads, guided to the tradition round desert hut that was our home for the night, introduced so rapidly to at least a dozen family members that we cannot remember anyone's names, and informed that we'd all dine together in the courtyard at around eight.

Chhotaram 's family belongs to the weavers caste, having created stunning hand woven dhurrie rugs for many centuries. but they realize that the market for handcrafted rugs like theirs is dwindling and new sources of income are essential to supporting their extended family. They've organized and operate a cooperative for the rug makers in Salawas village and maintain and sell from an inventory that includes their own hand-loomed rugs as well as those of their friends and neighbors.

In addition to the rug cooperative, the family has opened their home to tourists, building seven traditional round huts about twelve feet in diameter, each a bedroom with its own bath and a western toilet. The homestay business now provides sufficiently for the family's needs and everyone plays his or her role as a welcoming host. Guests range from touring travelers like us to the British writer who came for solitude and spent three months finishing his latest novel. Everyone cuddles the baby, this winter a twelve month old little girl, helps the little boys with their homework, carries limestone blocks for the new hand-paved driveway under construction, and moves the strap-woven beds under roof as the evening grows late and people feel sleepy. Before dinner younger brother, Om, treated us to a jeep tour of the village where we visited the local potter, who expertly spins his low concrete wheel with a wooden stick and crouches before it while throwing pots, met an older gentleman who engages in and demonstrated ancient unmentionable local rituals, and spotted wildlife in the bush as Om drove through the dust at speeds only a 17-year-old would think were fun until I told him bluntly to cut it out.

Yes, we bought a rug, how could we not? Someday perhaps we'll have a home in which to put it!

Chhotaram's dad
His beautiful mom
Everybody helps at dinnertime
Guest quarters
Our room
Our room too
Henna for the ladies, including me at the right
Making chapathi - fresh at every meal
Traditional Rajasthani kitchen
Help with homework
Spit polish - the same the world over
Rugs direct from the artisans
All hand thrown
Potter, his wheel, his studio
Throwing off the hump
Fri May 4 0:36 2018 NZST
No position sent.
Weather: Beastly hot. We rise at 5AM, sleep through the afternoon and get up again for a few hours when the fruit bats go to work!

I've thought long and hard about this posting, about what to say about our experiences in India. As you know, I'm not wont to post photos with such captions as 'here we are standing in front of the blah-de-blah.' Really, who cares about a bad picture of us, tiny in the distance, that doubles as a lousy image of the blah-de-blah, obscured by tourists? You'll never catch me doing that. I want YOU to experience India, to feel amazed when you realize sculptural arts you thought long extinct continue to be produced in 2018, to laugh in surprise with us at the cold shock we felt as an elephant hosed us with a 10-liter trunkful of pond water. I want you to sit down to dinner tonight, leaving all the flatware in the drawer, and eat with the fingers of only your right hand, and imagine eating this way every day for two months like I did. I want you to be moved right now to price that ticket to Jaipur and to ask Soni,, to plan a tour for YOU something like the one he arranged for us in February and March of 2018. It will change you. And you will be glad.

Blow-by-blow travelogues being as deadly dull as I believe them to be, I've chosen a few perceptions, experiences, observations and impressive moments to share with you. They are uniquely India, at least they are for me. We sailed away from the coast of Kerala on March 24th and, yes, we have arrived in the Seychelles, which surprised me by being in Africa, (what did I think?) Six weeks later India still monopolizes my thoughts.

In classic cruising fashion, this little missive to you was momentarily interrupted by a minor crisis when Robbie returned from a long hot morning at the boatyard. Tropical heat completely exhausts him and as I climbed sympathetically up to offer a cheery greeting in the cockpit, he stepped out of Doggie, threw a leg over the side rail, then turned around to see Doggie drifting away off leash. He looked at me with a weary "I can't do this" expression, asked, "do you mind?" and I stripped off my sarong, dove off the stern, swam out to our departing dinghy and hauled it back to Mersoleil, practicing for the first time in eons the lifesaving sidestroke I learned in Red Cross Water Safety Instructor classes, then rinsed off at the stern shower. I hope the two men installing floating docks nearby enjoyed the show. Honestly, there is never a dull moment around here. (Charlene, I guess it was my turn this time; Heather, you get it next time!)

These little India vignettes will be posted separately, each with its own supporting photographs. Here's the first one....

Robbie ran across a moving story on the Internet told by a young Asian man who remembered well a lesson he learned from his grandfather. This little story has completely changed how we negotiate and purchase in local markets.

The young man recalled, when he was a child, shopping in the wet markets with his grandfather, who, in the boy's opinion, always paid too much for his cabbage, or bananas, or tools, or boots. Other people, he knew, bargained for lower prices and routinely paid considerably less than originally asked. "Grandfather," the boy asked, "why do you pay two hundred rupees for the watermelon? You know it is only worth one hundred fifty."

The reply was simple. "This is dignified charity, son."

Dignified charity. How many times have I enjoyed an outrageously expensive meal, paying far more than the meal was actually worth and then left an additional fifteen or twenty percent gratuity - thinking nothing of it!? Yet, I go to the local wet market and haggle with the woman who rose before dawn to harvest her produce, has carried 20kg of it to the market balanced on a tray on her head in hopes of making enough money to buy her child a school book. And congratulated myself for paying only one hundred forty rupees instead of the two hundred she wanted.

There is so much - of great value - that one does not learn in first world cultures. This is what we came here for.

Thu Apr 5 5:16 2018 NZST
Speed: 3.7knts
Run: 1510.2nm (2733.5km)
03 01.339S 059 22.634E
Weather: SE 7kts, scattered tropical showers mostly at night,

There's much to report today, not the least of which is that Mersoleil is on passage and has been for nearly two weeks. The most unusual passage we've ever experienced, this one, with virtually no wind for days on end.

We're sailing from India, having reluctantly departed when our visas expired at midnight on 24 March, to the Seychelles, a distance we would normally cover in ten easy days. This season, characterized, Bruce Buckley tells us, by worldwide weather anomalies that have left the central Indian Ocean bereft of breezes, making the run from Kochi to Victoria is going to take about twice as long! Early on we resorted to running the engine when winds dipped below 7-8kts, our usual procedure. But realizing we'd covered a mere third of the distance and expended more than half our fuel, a come-to-Jesus meeting held in the cockpit resulted in the determination that rigorous fuel conservation tactics were required to avoid the two most dreaded outcomes of running out of fuel on this particular passage in low winds: drifting helplessly ashore in Somalia, volunteer participants in the local sailor for ransom program; and running aground on the reefy outer banks of the Seychelles.

It's been an incredible experience to learn what Mersoleil can do with 2-4 measely knots of wind and we've had ample opportunity to test the spinnaker and all combinations of main, genoa and whisker pole. Amazingly enough, this wonderful yacht rewards us with 4kts over the ground in only 5 of breeze when given a chance! Since the winds haven't often given us even 4kts to work with, our progress is slow, but leisurely and comfortable. We haven't even closed the windows yet!

India is now in the rearview mirror with its astounding palaces, temples and havelis, delicious cuisines, bustling bazaars, beautiful ladies in colorful sarees, and its warm, kind, charming people. Alas. When I wrote recently that my favourite country is the next one I intend to visit, I had not yet been to India. I promise to back date and post a smattering of photos and descriptions from our three week tour of Rajasthan, but both Robbie and I have come away totally gob-smacked in his words. Countless times I heard uttered from my own lips, "I have never seen ANYthing like this before," "I am aMAZed!" and the overused all-purpose, "Wow." I've always thought Europe held the architectural gems of the world, save for the pyramids and the Taj Mahal, but I was completely mistaken. India has artistic, architectural and sculptural masterpieces at every turn and each time I thought, 'another fort, gee, maybe I'll skip this one,' then climbed out of the car to tour it anyway, I was humbled again for my condescension and thrilled to yet another magical display of artstry and craftsmanship unlike anything else in the world. Visiting India was the most brilliant travel decision we have ever made. (I understand people take decisions these days. Being an old-fashioned grammarian, I still make them.) I will tell you more about India in future postings, after we reach the Seychelles, assuming we do, when I can post images for you.

Onward to the Seychelles, gently, slowly. Send beer and soft drinks. It's very hot and we're a little bit weary of water. Is it true they're decided to rename the Indian Ocean Lake Placid?

Glad to read up on you guys and your continuing voyage... India sounds great! After spending last season back in Tonga, spending this season based between California and Budapest. Heading back to NZ at the end of the year for more South Pacific sailing. Good luck out there and I hope you don't run out of your favorite things! Dean
Sun Feb 18 23:03 2018 NZDT
Run: 1.3nm (2.4km)
09 59.115n 76 16.100e

Kochi International Marina, Bolgatty Island, Kerala, India

Our charming and competent driver, Jeni, is now a treasured friend. He dropped us back at Kochi Marina at four this afternoon after a delightful week of fun, exploration and laughter. Thank you, Jeni. And thank you to Mr. Bhagwan Das Soni of India World Wide Travel who conceived and organized our wonderful week in Kerala.

Ah, just remembered that you are on yit. Loved reading your comments and pictures!
Sun Feb 18 23:03 2018 NZDT
Run: 36.6nm (66.2km)
09 27.863n 76 21.669e

Lakes and Lagoons, Allepey, Keral, India

See all those long rectangular shapes stacked along the edge of the canals? Each one is a traditional Kerala houseboat converted for use as a luxury touring boat with one or two or more bedrooms, and it plys the miles of Allepey backwaters at a leisurely pace while the lucky occupants sip tea and watch and listen to the village life of southern India, the slap slap slap of laundry on a stone, the laughter of kids on bicycles, the casual conversation of two fisherment on a long canoe or four guys standing on the bridge. We were ferried to our private one-bedroom houseboat at noon by water taxi, introduced to the crew of three: Arun, the helmsman; Sattish, the chef; and Manu, helper and asistant helmsman, then served a wonderful luncheon of local river fish, Kerala rice, curry, sambal and hot salty lime pickles. I ate with my right hand as I have done at each meal since we arrived in India. I'm getting pretty good at transporting food to my mouth without mishap. It takes practice, especially for a lefty like me.

Robbie spent the afternoon alternating between his current read, War and Peace, and exploring the passing world with his camera while I napped again in hopes of conquering a cold which has been plaguing me all week. When I appeared for a glass of wine before dinner he announced that this is definitely the life for him! Peaceful, leisurely to the point of decadence, and completely captivating. We never left the boat, stopping only to tie up for lunch and again at dusk for the night. Our houseboat was truly luxurious and we felt pampered and fortunate, watching the sunrise from bed as the world slipped slowly past our leaded glass windows.

Alas, this was only a one night tour. They seem to offer only half-day and full-day tours. We could have stayed a week! I think when it comes to relaxing we may have achieved a higher level of performance than most of the tourist population.

Sun Feb 18 23:03 2018 NZDT
Run: 3.2nm (5.8km)
09 26.857n 76 24.321e

Pamba Hertigae Villa, Nedumudy, Kerala, India

It was entirely my fault that we were four hours late for the home cooked lunch Rajeev Thomas' mother had lovingly prepared for us at Pamba Heritage Villa. After waiting for my 4 new cholis, we didn't even hit the road till lunchtime in Thekkady and it was a long, but scenic, drive back down to sea level. The Allepey area, south of Kochi, is the rice growing center of southern India and is riddled with backwaters, lakes and man-made canals as you can see on this GE image. We had only one night in Rajeev's gorgeous guest room with cozy balcony overlooking the canal, and we gazed eagerly from the balcony at each traditional houseboat passing by.

Tomorrow night we'll be on one of those! Rajeev conveyed our deepest apologies to his mom, he and Robbie solved all the political problems of the world while I took a nap, and we were sorry to depart after such a short stay. I'm just not one of those "if-it's-Tuesday-this-must-be-Belgium" travelers. Give me several nights in a row at my lodgings, please.

Wow guys you’re really getting about! Great pieces Bev, we’re loving them. Enjoy. Love Peter & Helen
Sun Feb 18 23:03 2018 NZDT
Run: 52.9nm (95.7km)
09 37.224n 77 09.726e

Kumily, Thekkady, Keraly, India

Three days seemed too short for our visit to Ferndale Home Stay where hostess, Debby Fernandez, introduced us to the all conveniences of local life. Finally, my questions were answered about the proper use of all the faucets and the ubiquitous plastic bucket and pitcher in the typical India bathroom! The showerheads installed on the walls in tourist accommodations do not exist in a real Indian bathroom. There's just a tub spout a few feet above the floor - not associated with any bathtub - a drain in the corner and the plastic bucket/pitcher combination. One mixes hot and cold water in the large bucket, scoops it up in the plastic pitcher and pours it over the soapy parts to wet the skin or get a good rinse. Perfectly effective, conserves water, why doesn't everyone do it this way? There's also the hand shower near the toilet, a fixture to which we neither of us has warmed, that everyone seems to use to drench the entire room, but most especially the toilet seat, before leaving.

I've written about toilet tissue before. In India, if you're partial to the use of TP, bring your own.

One night while in Thekkady we attended a double-feature cultural show, first an hour of martial arts demonstrations, then an hour of ancient Kerala Kathakali Traditional Dance. And followed it with another delicious dinner at a local hotel where we continued to plead for "spicy spicy spicy, INdian spicy" curries and were served moderately spicy, but wonderful food. They simply can't believe that we know what we're talking about.

I've heard that the cuisine of Kerala is perhaps not as highly spiced as that up in Rajasthan. We shall see.

Debby and her sister, Cheryl, were so complimentary of my Indian clothes, that I asked them to take me shopping for sarees. We three girls piled into Jeni's car and instructed him to deposit us at Debby's favourite saree shop, Mickey, as in the mouse, Tex. Shopping for sarees is not like buying a dress in size 10. One simply eyes a bolt of fabric on the shelves piled high with bright colors, the shop keeper pulls out the one he thinks you're pointing at from six feet away in front of the counter - or the one he wants you to buy - and it is unfurled luxuriously on the counter for inspection. Each saree is several meters long with the last meter or so being the portion intended to be cut off and sewn into a choli, the short sleeved short waisted blouse always worn with a saree. There is no fitting room required. You either like the fabric, the pattern, the price, or you don't. I selected four sarees and we rushed off to Debby and Cheryl's tailor to beg for overnight service.

I love my sarees, indeed all my Indian clothing, but it's going to take some doing to make me comfortable hanging my flabby white midriff out there for the world to appreciate. Nonethesless, when in Rome... so here are some pictures. My sarees are totally authentic, the real deal, donned in the traditional way with an underskirt and, thank God, two safety pins for security. Any time you see a woman wearing a saree who is NOT constantly fiddling with the pallu to keep it up on her shoulder, she is grateful for her safety pin. Those who fiddle are the rigid purists. Maybe I'll get there someday but not yet.

Typical India Bathroom... Finally My Questions Are Answered
It's Simple and It Makes Sense
Brownie, One of Cheryl's Nubian Goats
Sun Feb 18 23:03 2018 NZDT
No position sent.

Munnar, Kerala, India

Tata Beverage Corporation operates tea plantations in India in addition to its other business enterprises around the world. They make a dandy tuk tuk, too, and I might like riding in a tuk tuk better if I could ever get a lift in a Tata vehicle! The company provides a complete village to accommodate the tea workers and subsudizes rents, provisions, education and other necessities. In addition, Tata has implemented programs to educate and rehabilitate the differently-abled resident of the village, those whose bodies and minds reflect the results of a narrowly restricted gene pool.

Robbie and I toured the factory where they produce stunning handmade paper products (no trees sacrificed, all from recycled materials), vibrant natural dyes and sumptuous fabrics and garments. We bought a few items in the shop to support the efforts of the good people who labour there. No photos are permitted inside the factory, out of respect for the workers, but their website and these pictures tell the wonderful story.

The Tea Mfg Process Explained
Tea Seeds and Flowers
Plant it Just Like This
Starbucks Supports Athulya. Good for Starbucks!
Sun Feb 18 23:03 2018 NZDT
Run: 33.6nm (60.8km)
10 05.630n 77 03.058e

Tea Plantations, Munnar, Kerala, India

It takes an entire day to enjoy the tea plantations perched along the slopes of the Munnar Mountains and visit the Kanan Devan Hills Tea Museum.

Tea grows best on steep slopes of 35 to 70 degrees, allowing winter's occasional frosty air to move along down into the valleys at a good pace in early morning, sparing the tender plants damage that might result from a freeze. Of course, those slopes make hand picking a challenge for the ladies from the tea plantation village who walk amoung the bushes every ten days pinching or shearing off the top two leaf sets. Actually, the tea pickers walk amoung the bushes every day, returning to pick again when the new growth is ten days old. After visitng a tea factory and learning the entire arduous and heretofore unknown tea making process, Jeni drove us for hours through the beautiful hillside where we demanded photo stops by the dozen. Watching people picking tea is as addictive as watching Cleveland Demolition tear down a fifteen storey building. You just stand and stare, listening to the hypnotic music of the shears as they clip clip clip clip clip the young stems. Now I see why all those gaps exist amoung the bushes wherever tea is grown. They are pathways for tea workers, and for the odd passing elephant.

Young Lovers
Cutting Tea
Sun Feb 18 23:03 2018 NZDT
Run: 6.9nm (12.5km)
10 02.555n 76 57.800e
Weather: cooler at 980m above sea level, sunny days, a shower at night

Munnar, Kerala, India

Mersoleil securely tied to a dock in Kochi, we've decided to tour Kerala State for a few days. First stop, a three-day visit to Munnar, 125km from Kochi, with its mountainous tea plantations, lush forest and cooler temperatures. Warm and gracious hosts of Flower Valley Home Stay, Ancy and Joy, made us feel like long lost family amid their peaceful countryside gardens, bird song and home-cooked meals. Stunning scenery, a luxurious room with our own private veranda, flowers, birds, morning mists and Ancy's home cooking. Can it possibly get any better than this?

R n B Ready to Head Off for Kerala Adventure
Ancy and Bev
Ancy and Joy
Flower Valley Home Stay - Paradise
Flower Valley Home Stay
Mon Jan 29 22:40 2018 NZDT
No position sent.

Julian has just asked an excellent question.

Boat stamp, what is a boat stamp?

We found it hard to believe such a silly thing could be useful, but long before we left America I worked up this rubber stamp with a local stationer. Being able to smack a faint impression of this thing on clearance documents has established our incontrovertible legitimacy with the officials of many countries. They love rubber stamps, carbon paper and duplicates duplicates duplicates. If your ink pad is drying up, like ours is, and the impressions created by the stamp are very faint, so much the better! No one ever reads them anyway.

Ahhhh, bureaucracy.

Gotta have an official stamp, else the officials ... won't believe you have a boat.

Well we had a boat stamp for our first boat Runaway but no one seemed to want it and so we did not bother with Chameleon! Still got the pad though and it has been useful for other things! Good to read your reports. We are having a wonderful summer at long last but due to various health problems (David) our poor Chameleon is still at the dock. Have fun for us. Patricia

Ben and Robbie, Great to hear of your travels, you two are a beacon of civility in the untamed world! Love the stamp idea, plan to get one on my next trip home. Just finished my International Thespian debut in the annual "Hell hole of the Pacific!" I played the Constable, and made seveveral arrests for debauchery, Oh the sweet irony! Love, Michael
Mon Jan 29 20:46 2018 NZDT
Run: 1220.7nm (2209.5km)
Avg: 3.7knts
24hr: 88.1nm
09 58.272N 076 15.35E
Weather: hot with tropical haze every day

Mersoleil has arrived at Cochin, India

Spirit of Africa arriving in Cochin about ten days ahead of us, Miki Stanton had thoughtfully emailed general info on checking in to India, including ‘call Port Authority on VHF when approaching the channel.’ While Mersoleil was still 10nm away Port Authority called us, offered permission to anchor at Malabar Hotel and said they would send someone to us for temporary clearance. Should we call them upon arrival, I asked. Oh, no, we’ll be watching you. They will come. And indeed, five or six guys on a little flat boat that looked like a floating refrigerator with a big black fender (see photo) pulled up before we had even finished anchoring. Two of the men stepped aboard. After brief, pleasant formalities, they invited us to come to their offices by dinghy, tie up at their jetty ‘around the corner,’ which proved nearly impossible to find, and go to Immigration then Customs, all easy to find, big signs, to complete the clearance procedures.

Not easy to find at all, but everyone was kind and helpful, offering loads of erroneous information as we wandered about. Finally we found Immigration, completed our business with them including the aborted use of yet another new clever computer system that would not work (this one for taking biometrics), “all it does is take much more time,” they said. It took an hour to locate the correct Customs office among the many choices in a single building, nobody knew where we were to go, someone finally walked us through a long rabbit warren of hallways, courtyards, even through a construction site, to the department of Import and Bond.

Import and Bond sent us back out to Mersoleil with tall skinny uniformed Mr. Kumar where he had Robbie complete many pages of forms with carbon papers, stamp all over them with the boat stamp, stuck the Iridium Go! in the liquor cabinet then sealed it shut with a signed and rubber stamped paper to be removed when we exit the country. He accompanied us back to the Import and Bond Dept. (I left crumbs this time so we could find it again) and defended us against three men on the street who disapproved of our parking Doggie1 at their jetty, ‘where is your permission.’ They were from the Marine Department (Port Authority) and delayed us another half hour while they made many phone calls and insisted that we had to put Doggie somewhere else. Where??? Do you have a registration for this speedboat? That generated a burst of indignation from me and I informed them this was NOT a SPEEDboat, it was a BABYboat! Finally, we wandered away and they found something else to do. Back at Import and Bond, the manager was not satisfied with the way Robbie had completed the forms and he made him sign a new set all over again. Where is your stamp? I didn’t bring it. It’s on the boat. We can’t finish this. Bring it tomorrow.

The next morning we departed Mersoleil in time for RC to present himself at the Marine Department at 10AM. I dropped him off at the prohibited jetty and returned to Mersoleil and busied myself until time to go pick him up at 12:30 as agreed (for the lunch we missed yesterday). I left Doggie at the hotel in an effort to avoid another confrontation with the port police, walked at 12:15 to the prohibited pilot boat jetty and waited there until well past 4:00. No Robbie.

The curious details of this day would fill a small book. Suffice it to say that I think we are now officially admitted to India, we’ll plan plenty of time for the checking out procedure, Robbie will probably never go anywhere again without the boat stamp, and I received a gift from one of the Mooring Crew guys, a monkeys fist used on his heaving line. I’d explained to Francis that I used an American baseball to weight my heaving line, upon which disclosure he jabbed me with an elbow and told me, “I make mine with a cricket ball.” (see photos)

I started writing this with the intent to record my first impressions of India. They are these….

Ferries run all directions in the harbor, old long flat, slightly decrepit boats that look exactly like the ones in movies about India….

No one hurries, it’s hot here, taking things easy is the norm. Not to imply that people are lazy, they just move at a languid pace out of practical necessity….

Offices in the old public buildings have high ceilings furnished abundantly with long-bladed ceiling fans. Every so often a paper is lifted from some surface, wafts gently through the air and settles at some other location, transferred there by the whim of the fan and there it remains.

The filing system in one department where we spent quite a long while was a classic example of colonial bureaucracy. They don’t use letter size paper here, nor A4, but something I’ve never seen before and it must measure something more like 10” x 18”. Piles of these large sheets are tucked into loose folios and stacked in lopsided heaps all about the room, some three or four feet high, on chairs, tables, desk and the floor, one side higher than the other and looking as if they could slide down at any moment like a deck of fanned playing cards on the casino table….

Everywhere are the marks of British imperialism. Gracious colonial architecture is prominent in all directions. High tea is served at the hotel every afternoon. Elderly couples who have never missed a meal in their lives stroll into the lobby bar, select their favoured nest from the many cozy seating arrangements for two or four or six placed about the space, then the matrons order gin and tonics and the men beers. The interiors of the hotel are clubby and elegant, very British, with warm deep wood finishes, pillows on every chair and sofa, arrangements of fresh flowers on all the tables…. (photos)

Government officials delight in completing their tasks as slowly as humanly possible while making the work appear arduous and far more important that it could possibly be. They actually discussed Robbie’s carbon papered documents for fifteen minutes, three Customs officials in a huddle speaking their local tongue, before asking him to complete a new set and then took additional time concluding that they’d better give him pages without carbon paper and make three copies of the finished documents with a copying machine presumably located somewhere in the building….

Things move slowly here, decidedly so, and one cannot but enjoy the contrast between the life we came from and what we observed yesterday and today. The difference is so outrageously dramatic it’s quaint, charming, amusing. Woeful disappointment is bound to accrue to the northern European or the American who expects or demands the bustling efficiency he remembers from home….

Charter tour boats and ferries ply the habour area all day long, many of them filled with exuberant young people shouting, squealing, cheering together in some unknown-to-us group activity and singing along to the same kind of music one hears from the boom boxes on sidewalks outside the shops of Little India. But, I remembered with delight, this is not Little India. This is BIG India!

Luxury at the Bar, Malabar Hotel
Ferries Busy Busy Busy in Cochin Hbr
Blaring Music, Exuberant Kids
Malabar Hotel Lobby Bar
Francis' Mooring Crew Delivers My Monkeys Fist!
No tethers, no PFDs... hard to believe they go out to open sea like this.
Note to self... try this
Francis' Heaving Line, the Real Thing
My monkeys fist... looks like it was made by a girl.

Another successful crossing. Bravo! Your arrival in India reminds me of my experiences of being there off a plane as a backpack traveler! It is a fascinating place, if as you said, you can suspend judgement about how things work. But, of course, that is true about all of one's world travels! As usual your observations are keen and delightfully reported. I have forwarded your update to friends who did a short Pacific sailboat cruise a few years ago and who happen to be in India for their first time--at this moment. I knew they would much enjoy what you have shared. They also went up to Buhtan and found it fascinating. And shared it also with a friend currently visiting us who cruised 3 years in the S Pacific, has been to India in earlier years still, and lived at Shilshole for several years on L dock.

So delighted to know you've arrived safely. Your blogs are always so entertaining. Got the all clear on The Captain's scans. South Africa here we come ⛵️
Tue Jan 16 0:12 2018 NZDT
Speed: 4.2knts
Run: 296.8nm (537.2km)
07 35.107n 093 57.983e
Weather: 7kts N, seas less than a meter, tropical haze

Mersoleil is leaving Southeast Asia behind and is headed for India! On passages I have time to think, too much time to think, perhaps, and I've been thinking about all the remarkable places Robbie and I have been. What is the most wonderful place in the world, I asked myself, and I was surprised by the answer. The most wonderful place is the place we are about to visit!!! A place we haven't been to yet. Not everyone will agree, I suppose. But for me, the unknown is so full of possibilities, so very exciting, that nothing I've ever seen or done before can quite compare to an opportunity that is still completely hidden from me. Today, in my book, India is the most wonderful place in the world. The possibilities are endless. And I simply cannot wait to discover what is real, so I can add India to my colorful mental collection of experiences that I know, and remember, and love. Robbie and I were talking recently about what an amazing life we have. This experience of living in one unfamiliar culture after another for years on end never ceases to amaze and humble us. We cannot imagine living in any other way and, if our dotage were not catching up with us, we'd continue this vagabond life indefinitely as indeed some people have. We are truly having the time of our lives and are continuously amazed at how fortunate we are. Now, I must take a moment to boast about my brilliant husband, another subject to which I have recently given thorough consideration.

You know, Robbie and I have very different personalities. We probably see one another more objectivbely than either of us is able to see ourselves and, spending all day together every day, we have ample opportunity to observe the other's personality. Among his many admirable qualities, I marvel at Robbie's tenacity. His ability to stick to a task until he conquers it, or understands it, or repairs it, or completes it, far exceeds mine. Thank heaven somebody on this boat doesn't give up on frustrating puzzles! Here's an example.

Last month we replaced Mersoleil's battery banks with lithium batteries. Most sailors are reluctant to substitute their lead acid or absorbed gel mat batteries with lithium, still of the opinion that it's bleeding edge technology or simply too expensive. Lithium batteries are more expensive than AGMs, but the price is coming down and it seemed like the right choice for us when our eleven month old AGMs died in November (so carefully installed by Robbie, Kevin Butcher and Brian Butcher on Christmas Eve 2016), we decided it was time to switch. Lithium batteries are supposed to have a long life span and are quite happy to be deeply cycled hundreds of times (listen to me!), so in the long run their slightly higher cost generates substantial savings. They weigh a great deal less than conventional batteries. They offer more useable amps per cell than conventional batteries, they occupy much less space than a comparable set of conventional batteries. They are much less inclined to start fires than they were a few years ago. The day of the lithium battery has probably arrived. Well, it has on sailing yacht Mersoleil, anyway.

Alas, there are so many ways in which a new lithium battery installation can go south that it's frightening to ponder! This, I think, is probably the reason so many of our cruising colleagues continue to resist them. The charging regimen is completely different for lithium batteries than for the older types, and the shunts and monitors that are needed to gauge and report their performance, their condition, their state of charge are generally different from anything already familiar. Making the leap to lithium is a daunting prospect. But not for His Robbiness.

He must have developed his excellent research practices in his legal career. Robbie doesn't read the'junk' on new techology, the forum article, for instance, in which one guy asks, "I just bought a new 4JH4TE and its doohicky leaks. Does anybody have experience with leaking doohickies?" And three or four other guys respond, "I don't have a 4JH4TE. I have a 772MRRP. And mine doesn't have any dookickies, but here's what I would do...." Nope. Robbie doesn't read those articles.

He finds the most authoritative technical research on the subject and reads it over and over and over. Eventually what was gibberish on readings one thruogh five begins to make sense to him and eventually he actually understands it. I know this because he uses me as his straight man. He explains it to me until we both understand. (If you really want to learn something, teach it.) Then he finally runs across an expert he knows of and respects, Stan Honey, for example, and he reads everything Stan Hoeny has written about lithium battery systems. "You know," he said to me last week, "Stan Honey refers constantly to two other resources, a guy named Rod Collins and a company called Nordkyne Design, (Go to Sea, Stay at Sea, Live at Sea.) I've already read both of those sources and I thought they were really good. It's reassuring that Stan Honey (who invented the on-field video graphics we see on televised football games, the video lay lines on America's Cup Races and other sporting events) uses them as his gurus." Robbie reads and he studies, I hesitate to use the word obsessively, but... well, enough to eventually gather a glimmering comprehension of yet another thing they did not teach him in law school. By the time he's managed to teach a rudimentary version of this to me, he's really got it mastered.

For three weeksd after our new batteries were installed, he obsessed. He read constantly. He asked me to consider impossible questions to which I said, "Let's call the installer" and to which he replied in the resounding negative. No! He has to figure all this out for himself! (I, on the other hand, think that's what experts are FOR, and I am happy to call for consultation at the drop of a hat.) Robbie must have memorized the entire Balmar 614 auxiliary alternator manual by now. I've seen it next to his coffee cup in the morning, at his desk when he's sitting there, next to his pillow at night, even in the smallest room on the boat! Know what? He's actually got it now! He feels confident that he understands our complicated expensive new battery system, and he has drawn a schematic of a number of small changes he wants to make so the State of Charge will read the same on all three monitors and the amps consumerd since last full charge will all jive, and so a number of other picayune details will meet with his rigorous standards. And it's not just a superficial understanding. I can tell the difference. Robbie really understands this amazing new technology, can tell from a moment's conversation with another litium owner whether the other person uderstand his system or just owns one, and has begun again to sleep soundly at night. Even I, having been only the sounding board, have a fairly comprehensive understanding of our lithum batteries, how they're connected, and their basic care and feeding. And I sleep better, too, knowing that we're not in jeopardy of killing the whole costly system with a single ignorant mistake.

Robbie's tanacity is absolutely amazing to me. It's a quality I completely lack, I can barely fathom it, and I don't even aspire to develop it in myself. But it's indispensible on this boat. And here's another reason I think he's brilliant. He fixed the depth sounder last week after three days of anchoring in waters of unknown depth, a very unnerving experience. We have a tendancy to name things that we consider irreplaceable, things for which we are so deeply appreciative that they're like members of the family. We had never named our depth sounder, though, and after approaching land a few times without one, we understood that not to have named the depth sounder was a matter of grevous oversight. He needed a month or more to master litium battery technology, but Robbie solved this one in a matter of seconds. Meet Johnny Deppth.

We're only 2 days out of Phuket, Thailand, about to sail through the Nicobar Islands. The winds are light, we're not in a hurry, the batteries are happy and we're beside ourselves with excitement about going to India! Life is good.

Bev! Robbie! Steve here, ex S/V Desolina. So great to reconnect with your journey. On my computer desktop I have a wonderful photo of S/V Mersoliel, taken from the deck of S/V Desolina, at anchor at Kalefesia Tonga. One of the hi lights of my Pacific crossing. I fondly recall a dinner of Mahi-mahi and wild rice pilaf. Robbie - I cannot look at a bottle of Bombay Sapphire without thinking of the many, very happy hours aboard! I have subscribed here for updates of your trip! Bon Voyage! Go! Go! Go! Mersoliel!!

Love your posts! Pleased to hear you are both keeping on keeping on. India has always seemed a step to far for me. Just the thought of the shear weight of humanity I guess. Maybe when I am (a bit more) mature. FYI our lithiums are going still going strong after 7 years hard work. And we don't even have full discharge protection. Anyway enjoy the next part of the adventure. Bruce & Dinah, Margarita.

Oh my gosh...this last article made me LOL! Johnny Deppth; way too funny, so apropro! Kudos to Sir Robbie for his deligence and 'tenacity' for being a pioneer with the lithium batts; be sure to write a follow-up to the company about their wear (perhaps even get a promotion fee!). A genius vagabond and un mais elevado tecnico! India! Am with you virtually! Enjoy!

Sail on....sail on. What port are you sailing to?
Mon Jan 8 17:42 2018 NZDT
Run: 16.5nm (29.9km)
7 46.20N 98 17.76E
Weather: Hot and sunny

Where is Mersoleil?

We're in Thailand, about to depart for a ten-day passage to India. Very excited about India! And, yes, we'll tell you all about it here. (I've been on strike since June, when we were dumped off the ferry on the banks of the Mekong River, waiting to hear from you. Please write!)

2017 was a wonderful year for Robbie and me, and for Mersoleil, too! Highlights, large and small, include:

Picking fresh green peppercorns right off the vines in Cambodia

Spending time in beautiful Funchal with my sister, Gretchen, and her friend, Charley

Selecting gorgeous silk scarves in the shops of Hanoi

Robbies brilliant step-down transformer -- air conditioning on 230A shore power!...

Exploring Chiang Mai with our son, Chris Collins

Late night Farkle with Charley and rolling six sixes

Making water kefir and pampering my little colonies

Converting Mersoleil to lithium batteries

Living in bustling, colorful Penang for nearly a year and surviving the heat of SE Asia

Getting over the flu, two or three times apiece

Time with Jody Streepy, who came to Mersoleil from Japan while we were in Europe

Homemade garlic salt, the search is over forever

Finally learning to bloom our coffee... it's all about the bloom

Land travels with friends, Rowland and Miki

Angor Wat, wow

New Years Eve is a fantastic holiday everywhere we go. Last week we bobbed at anchor in Patong Bay with Kevin and Mimi, watching the fireworks on shore and the sky lanterns rising and drifting overhead carrying away everyone's troubles . Next New Years Eve? Cape Town.

And you? (Please excuse the funky punctuation. I don't have a text editor dumb enough to insert an apostrophe. Alas.)

Dear Bev and Rob Thank you for your email and the list of activities that you both were involved for the last several months after I received your email. It seems like you were not on the boat sailing the oceans! It feels like you are on the beautiful counties visiting all kinds of sights and sounds! What a "Wonderful Life"! Spending time with your son, sister and friends is awesome! Only a few people on this earth like you can live such an adventurous life! I guess it is your dream. When I went through your list of activities, I see you are having a ball, Bev? Am I right in saying it? I do not know. I guess you have your own challenges going through some dangerous areas of the world. This world is full of joys and full of challenges. I tell you that you are both are gifted in dealing with these challenges with courage and tenacity. I wish I were traveling with you to India! I can be your cook and a cleaning boy so you can take a rest that you desperately need. I will look forward to hearing from you when you reach India (Kerala). Fondly, Raj
Tue Oct 31 15:30 2017 NZDT
Speed: 0.0 anchoredknts
Run: 6056.7nm (10962.6km)
Avg: 86.2knts
24hr: 2069.2nm
07 57.649N 098 26.450E
Weather: Wind NE @ 8kts; Temp 89F; 80% cloud cover.

Arrived at Ao Chalong Harbour close to Phuket Town, Thailand on 29 October amidst a blistering, sunny day leaden with humidity. The very heavy humidity should have been our first clue of things to come, but we weren't paying attention as we secured Mersoleil to her anchor in 7 meters on a mud and sand bottom. An hour later the sky to the northeast turned a foul, menacing grayish-black followed shortly by wind rising abruptly to 30 knots and, as they say in Iowa, "there come a gully washer". Torrential rain blotted out all visibility including the location of an unoccupied catamaran anchored about 400 meters away. We stretched out our full length of chain, but held securely and marveled at the enormous lightening display, cascades of rainwater and buffeting winds for about an hour. Then as quickly as it came it left. All good.

We cleared in to Thailand this morning and are now setting off for the Boat Lagoon in Phang Nha Bay where we'll stay for several weeks having some teak work done. Then we're off to explore the west side of Thailand.

where are your posts. I am still working like a dog and at least I get to live through you guys. I will be waiting by my computer. S/V Manuela hylas 56

So glad to see posts again! Been missing your updates! Love you! Prissy

I always enjoy the adventure your report. Typically with a glass of white wine as my imagination take hold. Keep them coming.

Thank goodness for having expertly learned the skill of mud anchoring; such a team you be! The journey continues opening yet more adventures to be lived. Thank you for posting as it continues to allow me to experience the cruising life vicariously. Onward!!

Good to hear you made it to Thailand. Looking forward to seeing more, love you both!!! gret
Sat Oct 28 17:15 2017 NZDT
Speed: 6.0 motr-sailingknts
Run: 6464.9nm (11701.5km)
06 49.798N 09 53.281E
Weather: Wind NNE at 9kts; swell less than 1 meter; temp 91; sky partly cloudy; baro 1014

Perhaps you thought the person on board Mersoleil with the responsibility of insuring that our two marine toilets are always open and ready to receive and dispose of whatever comes their way could not possibly fall any lower on the organizational chart of dreadful boat chores. You might have thought that, but you?d be wrong. Perhaps you?ve already sensed the whiff of a change afoot from the overly wordy introductory sentence, the use of an irritatingly ambiguous style marked by indirection and the complete absence of facts and details. Perhaps you?ve noted that Bev, lo these many years the sole author of the much-loved series ?Where is Mersoleil? has, in the literary sense, gone missing and not been heard from for months. It is perhaps dawning upon you now that the worst of all possible outcomes has occurre Over the next several weeks I?ll try and fill you in on ?the missing months?, particularly our land travels to Cambodia and Viet Nam.

For the moment I?ll stop here and simply report that we have left Malaysia, if not in the rearview mirror, then at least astern. We are presently under weigh having crossed over into Thailand waters last night and now motor-sailing in light air and sudden rains punctuated by searing sun and enervating humidity which robs one of any, and I repeat ANY, ambition more complicated than labored breathing. Our next anchorage is a lovely marine park called Koh Rok Nok still 30 nautical miles north where we will spend the night and then move on to Phuket, Thailand. And, because inquiring minds want to know, Phuket is pronounced Poo-ket, not Foo-ket.

Sun Jun 25 19:00 2017 NZST
Run: 20.6nm (37.3km)
11 33.240n 104 55.912e

June 25, Monsoon Bassac Hotel, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Disappointed to realize it was Sunday and that there was no possibility of pleading for corrected visas at the Vietnamese embassy, we were even more sorry to learn it was in fact Saturday and nothing could be done about getting to HCMC until at least Monday morning. We checked back into the hotel, showered and went out for a fantastic dinner at a nearby French bistro.

Now perhaps you understand why I have time to post these entries describing our adventures of the past two weeks. Read on for how we have ended up Cambodian refugees?.

No posts for over a month. Hope all is well!🤷‍♀️

Such adventures. Hope you got your Visa situation cleared up and are on your way. Love you Bevy!💞
Sat Jun 24 23:00 2017 NZST
Run: 156.2nm (282.7km)
Avg: 3.3knts
24hr: 78.1nm
11 25.656n 105 12.428e

June 24th, at the end of a very short boat ride, in the middle of nowhere.

We left Cambodia today by boat down the Mekong River bound for Ho Chi Minh City. Only thirty minutes into our journey, in one of those amusing twists of fate that make the simplest thing into an adventure and typify the cruising life, Robbie and I were put off the boat at a muddy river bank near a tiny village and handed our bags as we stood on the shore.

Our visas were among the first eVisas issued online by the government of Vietnam and the boat company didn't like the fact that they bore no rubber stamp or wet signature. We'd finally convinced the guy that they were indeed issued by the Vietnamese government, that we had paid money for them and that in an email the nice government people had instructed us to print two copies, one for entry to Vietnam and another for departure and to fold them up and carry them in our passports.

Unfortunately, among many other details we'd had to declare our points of entry to Vietnam, Port of Ho Chi Minh City, and departure, Hanoi Airport, at the time of application and we learned just yesterday of a small logistical error in our trip plan. The Mekong River boat ride does not go to Ho Chi Minh City, it goes only as far as the border at Chau Doc, about 5 hours by fast boat from Phnom Penh. Boat guy called the Vietnamese border police at Chau Doc who begrudgingly agreed that they'd had wind of some sort of online visa, but they were going to deny the Collinses entry to Vietnam based upon the declaration on the visa of the wrong point of entry.

We were offered the choice of getting off the boat here and now, in the middle of nowhere, but not terribly far from Phnom Penh, or being denied entry to Vietnam in the dark five hours from now, also in the middle of nowhere, but a long way from Phnom Penh, and having to figure out a way back to Phnom Penh from there by dark of night. We chose the here-and-now daylight option and were unceremoniously dumped off the bow as the little ferry motored slowly into the muddy river bank and our luggage was handed down to us as the boat backed away with Miki and Rowland still on board, proceeding merrily on the way to Vietnam.

It's a good damn thing we know how to jump off a boat, I thought.

The local villagers who had gathered around to enjoy the unusual sight of a ferry boat landing at their shore now turned their fascinated gaze upon these two elderly white people arriving with rolling bags and hauling them up toward the dirt road. They're probably still talking about it today.

We managed to negotiate a ride with a (the only) local tuk tuk driver who probably rarely sees the capital, stopped at his house so he could pick up his helmet (prudent on his part, but somewhat less than reassuring from our vantage point) and away we went, turning a few moments later onto the highway to Phnom Penh and learning, as we had suspected, that everyone in Cambodian honks their horns at slow tuk tuks on the highways as they shoot past, blasting the tuk tuk, its driver and its passengers with clouds of dirt and diesel exhaust.

If you are ever in this situation (don't laugh, you never know), do remember that it's wise to start out sitting on the narrow seat at the front of the tuk tuk with your back to the direction of travel, and your baggage on the larger softer seat opposite. That way, you won't have to rise and trade places with your luggage, as the tuk tuk bounces over ruts and bumps, when you finally realize why the driver's helmet has a full face guard, that you have none at all, and that you'll have an abundance of dirty grit in your teeth and your eyes long before you reach Phnom Penh. It helps to keep your feet up on the bags, too, reducing the likelihood that they will bounce out onto the highway.

OK, so that was fun. We couldn't help but laugh at this completely unexpected experience, and we arrived back at the Monsoon Bessac Hotel to the (unnecessary) chants of staff, "What are you doing here - you just left!" So that's how our day ended. The Stantons were supposed to arrive at the Vietnamese border station, without visas, around four hours after we were made to walk the plank. South Africans can apparently just present themselves at the border and beg admittance, not so Americans. They'll presumably find a hotel in that border town and make their way to Ho Chi Minh City tomorrow to the accommodations there that are lying empty tonight wondering where we all are.

On the way back to Phnom Penh

Bev, enjoying your journal - what an experience! Please keep writing, you are awesome.

What an odyssey. Am enjoying your travel log and looking forward to having your experiences sans visa and mosquito issues :-).
Thu Jun 22 23:00 2017 NZST
Run: 24.8nm (44.9km)
13 28.536n 104 13.727e

June 22nd, Prasat Beng Mealea, Svay Leu, Siem Reap Province, Cambodia.

Kamsan arrived quite early this morning, insisting that departure at 07:00 was important, as it would enable us to enjoy his favorite temple before the arrival of the first tour buses full of noisy groups. Prasat Beng Mealea and Koh Ker temple, despite their location some 85km from the Angkor Wat complex, are popular with visitors, breathtaking despite the fact that they are completely unrestored. The only way to see these temples, Beng Mealea, in particular, is to clamber over the toppled stones covered with moss and gripped relentlessly by roots of the strangler figs holding the walls and towers together today. One day the jungle will toss these last walls and towers onto the piles of rubble, but for now Indiana Jones' Temple of Doom stands as you remember it from the movie, filmed not here but on a set built from photos of the real thing.

Awed by the morning stillness, the luxuriant green of mossy stones whose carved surfaces hide behind cloaks of root and lichen, and the rich earthy fragrance of the jungle, we followed Kamsan through the labyrinth of Beng Mealea, taking his hand for assistance over the difficult or slippery bits, feeling what the first European explorers must have experienced when they came upon these temples in the 1860s. There are no plans to restore most of the Angkorian temples in Cambodia. They won't be here for us forever. To experience them now, deep in the jungle, is to glimpse the past and to feel somehow a part of it. It is deeply moving, every bit as moving as standing alongside the mass grave of "166 victims without heads". How can our human race produce both, such beauty, such horror?

Miki & Bev in "Asia Girl" Pose
Wed Jun 21 23:00 2017 NZST
Run: 146.1nm (264.4km)
Avg: 3knts
24hr: 73.1nm
13 24.750n 103 51.942e

June 21, Angkor Wat, Siem Reap Province, Cambodia.

After an eventful six hour drive through the Cambodian countryside in a Lexus SUV swarming with famished mosquitoes, ("I'm so sorry," said the driver, "I took it to the farm last night.") we arrived last evening in Siem Reap, tourism base camp for visitors to the nearby temple complex of Angkor Wat.

Siem Reap resident, Kamsan Sreng, collected us early this morning, indoctrinating us as we drove along (in his own mossie-free vehicle), to the history of the Khmer people, the empire and its kings, four in particular, who built more than 2,000 wats, temples, here between the 6th snd 12th centuries. Our tour began at Angkor Wat itself, the largest temple in the world.

Ankor Wat is surrounded by a moat as wide as most rivers. Originally there was only one causeway leading to the walled temple city from the west. A second causeway now exists on the east side of Angkor Wat, courtesy of the Japanese occupation during WWII, and Kamsan thoughtfully approached from the East, the better to take photos of Angkor Wat with the morning sun over our shoulders. The temple is so huge it's measured in kilometers, not meters or feet (1.5km x 1.3km), and the religious history of the Khmer people is imprinted throughout together with intricate bas relief carvings of the stories of Hindu gods, superimposed with smiling faces of the Buddha, which were later defaced in a resurgence of Hinduism.

Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Angkor Wat has been lost for millennia at a time, rediscovered, then lost again and recently wrestled back from the tropically jungle and substantially restored. Almost all the temples in this area are carved from sandstone, easy to sculpt, but susceptible to the elements. There's little to no earthquake activity here, but the invasive roots of trees like the banyan tree, Ficus watkinsiana, have forced the stones apart and toppled most of the temple structures. These photos show what "fully restored" looks like. Even so, millions of blocks and carvings still lie strewn about on the ground with handwritten identification numbers indicating where they're fully described in the archaeological catalogs, the tools of all the kings horses and all the kings men, who are still putting Angkor Wat together again.

The religious structures here reflect the priorities of the various kings who commanded their construction. Suryavarman II in the 12th century sought grandeur, constructing Hindu temples of the greatest magnitude including Angkor Wat. Built during the reign of King Rajendravarman in the 10th century, the fine and intricate detail of tiny Banteay Srei has earned it the reputation of Jewel of Angkor Wat. King Jayavarman II, a fervent Buddhist, embarked on an ambitious but slapdash construction program in the late 12th century, hurriedly adding more than 200 structures throughout the area, in a last major wave of Angkorian expansion.

Angor Wat
Angkor Wat
Kamsan & Robbie at Angkor Wat
Buddha Faces Carved at Angkor Wat
Cataloged, but not yet fitted into the puzzle...
Inside Angkor Wat
Banteay Srei, The Jewel of Angkor
Banteay Srei
Banteay Srei, known for its stunning carved detail
Mon Jun 19 23:00 2017 NZST
Run: 0.5nm (0.9km)
11 34.296n 104 55.797e

June 19th, Preah Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Along the Phnom Penh riverside, at the Tonle Sap River just before it joins the Mekong, there's a bustling neighborhood of restaurants, bars, shops and tourist attractions lining the water's edge promenade. We took a sunset walk up Preah Sisowath Quay, pausing to watch a happy group of locals engaged in their Sunday evening zumba class, stopped for a cold beer, then resumed our stroll in search of amusement and the Punjabi restaurant where we planned to dine.

A couple of curious little boys at the landscaped edge of the promenade were engaged in serious scrutiny of an irrigation sprinkler head, when one of them made the mistake of pulling the head off its PVC pipe. He leapt back and squealed in guilty amazement as a geyser suddenly shot twenty feet in the air, looked around to see that most of the fifty bystanders had noticed his sin, made a quick instinctive move to run for it, then realized that wasn't going to work, and concluded he really needed to try to put the thing back together. At about the same time, the culprit's mom instructed him to reinsert the sprinkler head, which proved more difficult than expected, he got totally drenched, she made him strip off his little britches (not sure why, they were already soaked), she came reluctantly to his aid and got drenched as well, and between them they were having a dickens of a time getting the city water supply back under control. We laughed till tears nearly filled our eyes, so did everybody around, as the poor little kid tried earnestly, repeatedly, but in vain, to remedy his mistake. After a dozen photos and a good long laugh we turned and continued our walk, unsure to this day if the valiant repair efforts ever met with success.

Sunday evening Zumba at Preah Sisowath Quay
Too late to keep those shorts dry...
I told you not to pull on that!
Tuk tuk, anyone?
Sun Jun 18 23:00 2017 NZST
Run: 5.8nm (10.5km)
11 33.835n 104 55.875e

June 18th, Royal Palace and Silver Temple, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Today Miki, Rowland, Robbie and I strolled the boulevards of Phnom Penh enjoying the happier sights of this bustling city. Signs all over town celebrate the 83rd birthday of the Queen Mum, who waves gaily from billboard sized portraits. For a small fee one can tour the walled grounds of the Royal Palace in the company of a knowledgeable guide explaining which buildings house the government offices, where the royal elephants were stabled and how high one must climb to achieve the saddle for a parade through the city, where the king actually lives, the waving blue flag indicating that he is in residence today, and whose royal cremains are interred in which royal stupa.

Unforgettable, for me, was a comment made by 'Rith, the nice gentleman who guided us through the grounds of the Royal Palace this morning. He was seven years old at the time of the Khmer Rouge and, forced to work in the rice fields, nearly died of starvation before a transfer to labor in the potato fields saved his life. There he could steal yams to eat. I had asked 'Rith if his home was still standing in 1979 when he and other surviving members of his family returned to Phnom Penh.

"Oh," he said, "I don?t know. We could live anywhere, pick any house we wanted. The city was empty. Everyone was dead." Today 'Rith proudly ushers tourists through the Royal Palace grounds and its stunning Silver Temple, where his king worships before a golden Buddha, one of hundreds of artistic masterpieces enshrined there. This life sized gold Maitreya Buddha is decorated with more than 9,000 diamonds, with one at the center of Buddha's crown weighing in at greater than 25 carats.

'Rith loves his country, says things are better now, though the government is still corrupt if no longer murderous, and is grateful that the Khmer Rouge did not destroy the Royal Palace compound. They preserved it for diplomatic purposes, even the temples, to demonstrate to the world their benign stewardship of the country, while secretly, at the killing fields, they "smashed" her people by the hundreds every day for four years.

After fleeing Cambodia in 1979, Pol Pot and his small band of Communists continued in exile to rule Cambodia for nearly twenty years, officially recognized by the West, even belonging to the UN, until the late 90s. It is beyond my comprehension how the United States, so quick to intrude in the affairs of other countries, could have turned a blind eye to the atrocious crimes of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia.

Queen Mum's portrait at the Moonlight Pavilion, Royal Palace
Cambodian Royal Palace
The Throne Hall
"We could pick any house we wanted."
At the Royal Temple
Stupa at the Royal Temple
The Silver Temple at the Royal Palace
Sat Jun 17 23:00 2017 NZST
Run: 532nm (962.9km)
11 29.063n 104 54.119e

June 17th, The Killing Fields, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Mersoleil is tucked safely into Straits Quay Marina while we visit Cambodia and Vietnam. Well, while we visit Cambodia, anyway, but more anon on that subject.

Four nights in Phnom Penh have given us a remarkable opportunity to appreciate the gentle resiliency of the Cambodian people. I'd heard about the Khmer Rouge, (they say "k'mai ROO") and I knew that atrocities had been committed in Cambodia during the days of the Vietnam War, but the scale and the horror of these events had completely escaped my grasp, as had the fact that they had nothing at all to do with the war. In fact, they were inflicted by Cambodians upon their fellow countrymen in the name of creating a national utopia.

During the latter half of the 1970s, at least 2 million Cambodians were imprisoned, tortured, then systematically murdered by a gang of Communist thugs who had the idea that only laborers and farmers should be allowed to live in the perfect Cambodian society - and everyone else should be eliminated. Educated people, those who lived in cities, the affluent, intellectuals, people who wore eyeglasses, dressed stylishly, or had soft hands, children, and those of any celebrity at all were forced into prisons across the country, trucked to the "killing fields" that we've all heard about, then beaten, stabbed or hacked to death with any tool at hand, bullets being too expensive, at the very edges of mass graves where they could conveniently topple in. By the millions.

The Killing Fields near Phnom Penh (just one of more than 80 sites around the country) and the associated Choeung Ek Genocidal Center museum provide sobering testament to the horrors committed in this country from 1975 to 1979, and our visit, afterwards, to just one of the prisons, S-21, a former Phnom Penh high school, was unbearably moving.

Exhibits at S-21 were so dreadfully explicit that I could not even bring myself to view them. I completely avoided the interrogation rooms where torture equipment remains in place, accompanied by instructive descriptions and photos of innocent, emaciated, dead Cambodians.

Monument to Victims at the Killing Fields
intellectuals, people who wore eyeglasses, who dressed stylishly, had soft hands, were religious, or educated, or lived in the city.....
Inside the Memorial Monument
Loud music to drown out the screams.....
Kill all the babies so there will be no one to take revenge....
Flying in memory of 2,000,000 victims across Cambodia
Sat May 6 17:34 2017 NZST
Run: 12.2nm (22.1km)
05 16.9321n 100 17.4470e

May 6 Limbongan Batu Maung Sdn. Bhd., Penang, Malaysia

With apologies for delayed reports of our adventures, and all the typos and volunteer characters that magically litter some postings, today we're giving you a summary of our activities all the way back to early February.

Since arriving in Penang on January 27th, we've been as busy as ever. What happened to the idea of cruising as a leisurely retirement? I think, as Humphrey Bogart said in Casablance, "I was mishinformed."

Four days ago we delivered Mersoleil to LBM Shipyard for bottom paint, repairs of several little gelcoat imperfections, repacking of the rudder post, refinishing of teak window frames that have taken about as much UV as they can tolerate and a few other odds and ends of skilled labour that they didn't teach Robbie in law school. The initial plan to live aboard the boat while on the hard fell victim to a sudden realization that we couldn't run the air conditioning while out of the water. We were game for the other inconveniences that go along with hauling a yacht for three or four weeks, not running water between 8AM and 5 PM, climbing up and down a twelve foot ladder, living with the inevitable dirt and chaos of projects underway, but no air conditioning, in this bloody hot climate, was a deal breaker. We've rented a nice little condo in Georgetown, and a small car, and I'm spending every day at the shipyard making decisions, answering questions and being a nudge while Robbie drives all over the island running the errands that have been piling up because they're so difficult to complete without a vehicle.

Clapping guy and the beagle are on their own for a few weeks. (See earlier postings.)

With a little luck, we'll be back in the water on May 18th, return Mersleil to Straits Quay, then return ourselves to our cool and spacious Georgetown digs for ten days of sightseeing and local exploring. Today, though, and six days per week until the work is finished, we're rising at 5:30, out the door by 7:00 and I'm sitting all day in a yacht that feels like a steam room, studying my Portuguese, approving gelcoat colour matches and writing to you.

Are we all right? We couldn't possibly be better! Life is good.

So Africa it is! Probable isn't going to be a 'better' time and it will only add to the book later to be written. Boat repairs are much more interesting than sitting int bumper to bumper rush hour traffic, listening to the jets roaring overhead contemplating tomorrow's back to meetings! I am hopeful to catch up with you two one day (sooner than later) as I have once again set myself free, reigned job and am on a road trip surmising potential life adventures. Am now in CO visiting friends, stuff in storage in San Diego. Thanks again for the prior referral; am always open to others as well :) ....Thank you for including me in your updates...Jodette

I'm so glad you posted pictures. Miss your smiling face Bevy. Love you to the moon and back!

I simply ADORE your updates, Bev. You paint such wonderful word pictures with your phrasing, but also of your experiences by what you choose to share with us. A travelogue but SO MUCH MORE. And your never ending optimism and delight in this world you are experiencing. Someone at Shilshole, who parked near our gate, had a bumper sticker on their car that I always smiled at: Cannot remember it exactly but the gist was "The difference between misery and adventure is attitude." You guys have got true grit AND mucho attitude correcto! If you do ever decide to settle down, though, remember to check out our particular adventure which is somewhat easier for an more aged body that you guys are currently sporting!
Sun Apr 23 16:34 2017 NZST
5 27.456n 100 18.839e

April 23 Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

On Saturday afternoons I volunteer with the local branch of a worldwide NGO at their Georgetown office and activity center. As the only native speaker assisting with their children's English Reading Group, it's hard for me to keep my mouth shut and not to apply my own cultural biases to the way the children are being taught. After Navire , for example, sounds out every word to me in a monotone, following her index finger across and down page 24, word by word, I ask her, "Now! Tell me, Navire. What story did you just read to yourself?"

In response, Navire raises her sweet brown black eyes to me in a totally blank stare. And she can 'read' fairly well, if with a bit of a sing song, rattling off the words about Peter and Jane and their dog, Pat, and Daddy and the tree house as if she actually knows what information those words impart. But she does not comprehend the words and it hasn't even occurred to her that there is meaning behind them. Malaysian schools teach strictly by rote. If the child can successfully utter the words printed on the page, the faster the better, the task has been completed successfully. Comprehension? Education? Nah, just a performance!

When it's up to me to create a game, or teach a song, or organize an activity, I try to make English fun for the kids, no mean feat since they range in age from 5 to 13 and have a diverse range of English skills. I've taught them to play My Father Owns a Grocery Store, which they loved, except the father had to own a wet market instead of a grocery store. I had trouble guessing what he sold there. The two-word vegetable beginning with L, for instance, turned out to be lady fingers, which I'd have never guessed. I thought that was okra, and it begins with O.

On the Saturday before Labor Day when our topics were Labor Day and Occupations, I played the alphabet game with them, inviting them to help fill in a blank line on the white board for each letter of the alphabet. "Who can think of an occupation that begins with the letter K?" Somebody shouted out a suggestion, but I declined to accept "killer," insisting that we could find a better K profession than that and another child helpfully suggested "king." Much better. King lead us nicely to an occupation for the dreaded Q and we were off! The game evolved into the stretching up and enthusiastic waving of arms amid cries of "Oooh! Teacher! I have one!" O was problematic so I acted out an O profession for them to guess, or I tried to. My wailing vibrato failed to elicit the occupation of opera singer, but they got a huge kick out of my wandering high note. I have no talent for song, but I am convinced that if you're willing to make an ass of yourself in front of kids, they'll love it and will respond by growing more comfortable and more interested in the lesson.

By the time we'd listed 26 occupations on the board, we had a nice collection of literary careers - writer, author, journalist, poet - and some medical ones as well - doctor, nurse, x-ray technician and radiologist. I admit that radiologist was my contribution after I'd had to reject "rabbit" three times. At least one child did not seem to get the drift of this occupation business.

Having become accustomed through my own travels to a wide variety of English accents, so many that I actually rarely notice them anymore, except for the harsh American "err" in mother, brother, other. We haven't been seeing many Americans lately, and we're now aware of how much the American accent grates on the ears of many other English speakers. I can accept a lot of different English pronunciations, for the letter R, for example. But I hear the kids mimicking strange and new pronunciations exactly as vocalized by their well-intentioned SE Asian teachers and wonder how far they're going to get, with such strong accents, in conversation with a fluent English speaker. I suppose my Spanish is mangled in the very same way, my high school Spanish teacher having been an American man.

I'm studying Portuguese right now using the Michel Thomas CDs, in which a British woman instructs two presumably-British students, and a man from Lisboa, his the unimpeachable example of correct Portuguese diction and inflection, repeats each response after the student. On visits to Portugal in the past Robbie and I found that we could read the newspapers but, to our great surprise, we could understand not a single word of spoken Portuguese, not one! Now I understand. And I'm trying hard to listen carefully and get my 'oo's and 'uush's right so the Portuguese will understand me.

Fri Apr 7 16:34 2017 NZST
Run: 0.4nm (0.7km)
05 27.4557n 100 18.8460e

April 7 Straits Quay, Penang, Malaysia

We continue to revel in the people-watching at Straits Quay. Eastern & Oriental Corporation wisely, thoughtfully, constructed a 3km waterfront promenade passing through the marina and along the rest of their Penang development at Tanjung Tokong, still in process after some twenty years of continued development. The lovely walk attracts joggers, early morning walking enthusiasts, lovers, teens taking selfies and families with children learning to ride their bicycles or scooters, skates or Segways.

Slugs that we are, Robbie and I sit in the cockpit early in the morning staring, as others burn off calories on their daily constitutionals. There's the exercise guy who makes a daily stop in front of Mersoleil to perform twenty each of dozens of creative moves. He kicks back into the air behind his butt, shadow boxes, swings his arms in many different directions, marches in place, and more, and we remark upon what great ideas he has, we'd have never thought of that one, as we continue to sit unmoving but for chinning our coffee mugs.

There's the cute beagle whose passage by Mersoleil inspires Robbie to announce daily that he wants a dog, a beagle. He, the beagle, is always quiet and adorable early in the morning, but this does not fool me. (Well, so is Robbie, and neither does that.) I know he's just not awake yet. And every Wednesday we hear the approaching drone of a far off gas-powered fogging machine that pollutes the air with pesticide, protects us from malaria and Dengue fever, and instantly induces in me childhood memories of my dad fogging the yard with our lawn mower before we held outdoor parties.

We flee indoors early on Wednesdays as his fog begins to roll across the marina.

"Clapping guy" was initially the only person who clapped his hands as he walked along, swinging both arms in time to his brisk step, first before him, clap, then behind, clap, then forward again. This clapping business must have been featured on the good-for-your-health spot on the morning news or something, because in our brief tenure at berth S7 we have observed not only clapping guy, a white-haired Chinese gentleman, tall and lanky for his race, but also a young dark-haired clapping guy who has elected to clap only in front, and a few clapping ladies whose aerobic behavior is less devoted. They only clap sporadically when they are not busy chatting with their friends. Unmoved be their exuberance, we only sit and sip, sit and sip, and revisit each morning the question of whether to sail next year through the Red Sea or around the Cape of Good Hope.

Mon Mar 20 17:34 2017 NZDT
Run: 926.2nm (1676.4km)
Avg: 5.5knts
24hr: 133.1nm
05 27.523n 100 18.514e

March 20 Straits Quay, Penang, Malaysia (Pulau Pinang to the locals, Beetle nut island.)

Chickens seem to provide us a source of endless amusement. Years ago we wondered why thighs and legs were available everywhere in Tonga, huge bags of them, frozen and fresh, but whole chickens were hard to come by and chicken breasts nowhere to be found. We'd observed the same in French Polynesia, and Fiji and Vanuatu. Despite supposing that the breasts were sold at higher profit to first world countries like New Zealand, that being the only plausible explanation we could imagine, we joked that there must be a lot of breastless chickens running around the South Pacific.

Soraya, my favourite taxi driver in Phuket, drives me from Phuket Yacht Haven to the Tesco supermarket where, rather than waiting for me in the car park or grabbing another fare while I shop, she comes into the store with me, helps me find the items on my list, interprets labels that I cannot read and asks dumb questions on my behalf in fluent Thai, thus improving my chances of obtaining an answer.

Standing next to me as I stared one afternoon at an industrial-sized bin of pink and yellow chicken feet on ice, Soraya said to me, "You know, sometimes they sell the heads and feet together. We call those walkie talkies."

Every once in a while I ask Robbie if he wants walkie talkies for dinner. So far, no orders.

Not to be outdone by the Thai walkie talkies, I've noticed that my preferred market in Malaysia sells Bishop's noses. Bishop's noses. These were altogether new to me. I took a picture of them with my phone and, per subsequent Internet research, learned that they are that thing that I feared they might be, the thing that I always throw away, that hangs down.... Well, your research will provide you, too, with more than you need to know.

Bishop's noses, or Pope's noses as they are sometimes known in higher ecclesiastical circles, are not going on the menu any time soon, certainly not before walkie talkies, anyway.

Bishop's Noses! Good Lord, what next?
Mon Mar 13 18:34 2017 NZDT
Run: 926.3nm (1676.6km)
18 47.83933n 98 59.1168e

March 13, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Founded in 1296 as the ruling center of the Lanna Kingdom, Chiang Mai, grew to become the religious and artistic capital of Thailand's Northern mountains, enjoying a deep sense of its unique 700 year old identity. Still isolated today by its distance from Bangkok, Chiang Mai proudly maintains her rich cultural heritage and, at 1,000 feet above sea level, the town offers a refreshing escape from the tropical heat of the coasts and the central plains. We flew there with Chris Collins for several days, leaving Mersoleil at Phuket.

Thanks to the efforts of 90,000 13th century labourers, Chiang Mai's old town is still enclosed today by thick sepia brown brick walls with imposing city gates. Inside one finds shops, restaurants, temples, museums, homes, parks and all, much of it very very old.

We were lucky enough to reserve a week's stay at an AirBnB just a stone's throw from the North Gate, from whence we could explore the City and its dozens of carved wood temples, museums, government buildings, markets and hawker stalls with ease. Lucky not only because the house was comfortable and well-located, but because the owners are amoung the most charming people we've ever met, they have become dear friends and we're looking forward to visiting them again at their 'real home' before we leave SE Asia next year.

"Apple" and "Jack" prepared meals for us, arranged private tours to visit the gardens of the Northern Thai Royal Palace and steep mountainside villages of the hill tribes, and reserved a private Thai cooking class for me at an organic rice farm some thirty minutes by train outside of Chiang Mai. They feted us at their own favourite local restaurant, introduced us to the best street food in town, told me about - nay delivered me to a market stall where the luscious silk shawls I wanted were available in twice the colours at half the price I'd seen elsewhere, and they most genially invited us to call them Apple and Jack rather than Patcharaporn Yawong and Suranjith Ariyapperuma, names which I still cannot utter fluently. Our expectations were so far exceeded on this delightful field trip inland that we can't imagine how the next excursion could possibly measure up to our March visit to Chiang Mai.

Robbieand Chris together again!
Beatiful Chiang Mai on a Saturday night
Bev, the Thai Chef
Mon Feb 27 18:34 2017 NZDT

February 27 Phuket, Thailand We sailed back up to Thailand in late February to meet son, Chris Collins, who came from America with his friend Nick to see Thailand and, we like to think, to visit us. We took a quick tour of scenic Phang Nga Bay's most stunning karst islands, and after two islands, Chris confided that he wanted to see Thailand, "after all I've come all this way to see Thailand, I really ought to see Thailand." Of course, what he meant was, "take me to the touristy places where I can meet girls from all over the world." We complied, resisting the urge to say, "but this IS Thailand!" How much we change in the years between thirty and seventy....

It was a pleasure to spend time with Chris. He's fun and interesting, things you often fail to notice in your kid until he grows up and you have finally accepted him as an adult, and he's involved in a really fascinating profession. As a marine biologist, Chris accompanies Alaskan fishing boats for months at a time, doing research on their catch and logging statistical data on fishing practices and fish populations. Great stories.

Fri Feb 3 22:25 2017 NZDT
5 27.456N 100 18.839E

Robbie and I send our very best Happy Birthday wishes to our precious friends, Koji Nakao in the United States, Derek Stembridge in New Zealand, and Kevin Pool in Thailand!

Yesterday, in celebration of your birthdays, we visited the Kek Lok Si Hokkien Chinese Buddhist Temple nestled at the base of Penang Hill in Air Itam, a close-in suburb of Georgetown. Neither of us actually thought we'd make it to the top, but we managed to climb the 500 stairs and were rewarded by a fantastic temple complex decorated in all its Chinese New Year regalia and featuring not hundreds or thousands, but millions of figures and images of the Buddha. Construction continues today, one hundred and twenty five years after the completion of the first temple hall.

From the top of the pagoda

Dreamed about you two nights ago. We were back at KU. 😊 You're always in my thoughts sweet friend. Hope all is well!

Beautiful! Sounds like all is well and you are certainly having wonderful adventures. Miss you, love you. Weezie

Love your pictures Bev, I am glad you and Rob are enjoy yourselves
Thu Jan 26 3:00 2017 NZDT
Run: 189nm (342.1km)
5 27.456N 100 18.839E

Filling the next ten months with boat projects, land travel to other parts of SE Asia and devouring the delights of Penang and its colonial heart, Georgetown, we've taken a berth at Straits Quay Marina and expect to remain here most of the time until November.

With so much to see and do in Penang, fantastic dining, shopping, and cultural opportunities such as we haven't seen in years, this seems like the perfect spot to relax for a while.


Robbie won a great victory shortly after our arrival with the huge, heavy, black, scary looking step-down transformer he had ordered from America. Not even certain that it would work, he has magically assembled new cords and plugs and connected it in such a way that the 230A/50Hz power at the dock comes out of Mersoleil's electrical outlets at 110A/60Hz. We have air conditioning now without running the generator, we can wash and dry a load of clothes, and run the water heater, perhaps not all at the same time, but, hey, one needn't have everything.

Delighted to be in Penang, enjoying the fireworks every night (Chinese New Year goes on well into its first month!) we have found the place to feather our nest for the next several months and we love it here.

Penang, Malaysia's Second City
Straits Quay Retail/Condo/Marina development with the red tile roofs, top notch facilities
Fri Jan 20 3:00 2017 NZDT
Run: 23.8nm (43.1km)
7 43.413n 98 46.368e

Koh Phi Phi Don is the most popular tourist hotspot in the entire Phuket area, so we went there just to find out why none of our friends like it. Now we understand.

If we were 22 years old, carrying everything we own on our backs, wanted to dine on $4 per day and preferred loud music and late hours to bird calls and a good night's snooze.... why, then Phi Phi Don would be just the ticket! One night there was sufficient, we loitered for two, and then, rather than stopping at nearby Maya Bay under grey skies, we began to make our way south back to Malaysia.  Maya Bay will still be there next time we sail up to Thailand.

We'll collect a package waiting for us at the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club and have lunch with Kevin Pool, then we'll make straight for Penang and Chinese New Year on the 27th.

Wed Jan 18 3:00 2017 NZDT
Run: 25.8nm (46.7km)
8 00.727N 98 57.702E

With an eye toward our preparations for the jump to Sri Lanka next northern winter, we're interviewing marinas in Thailand. We've stopped at Krabi Boat Lagoon on the Thai mainland for provisions and to check out the area. It's a beautiful marina with a spacious concrete paved hardstand, two excellent restaurants, pool, Thai massage service, potable water and rental cars available, a good thing since the nearest Tesco supermarket is 30 minutes away. The manager, Ben Macrory, will do anything to make his customers happy. The water on the east side of Phang Nga Bay is cleaner, clearer, bluer than that on the west side, but really, it's not crystal clear and this alone is not enough to get us to spend two months there toward the end of the year. We have a reservation at Phuket Yacht Haven and watch this space eight months from now. We'll probably choose to prepare for the Indian Ocean passages over at Phuket.

Sun Jan 15 3:00 2017 NZDT
Run: 11.6nm (21km)
8 11.843n 98 38.109e
Weather: Gorgeous. Dry (sort of) and sunny.

Several years ago an Indie Film Festival was staged inside the hong at Koh Kudu Yai. They constructed floating platforms right on the water and projected the movies on a screen with the cliffs as backdrops. We're not sure they're doing this anymore, the construction and removal of the structure being such an elaborate venture, but we had to come have a look. We're considering being back up here in mid-March, the time they'll hold the festival, if at all, and thought we'd scope out the location.

Honestly, this is the last time we're taking Mersoleil across water that's only seven or eight feet deep. It's simply too hard on the nerves! But now, having crossed the shallowest parts of the navigable Bay, and I use that term loosely, we'll be able to ride deeper channels back south over the next several days. Most cruisers never come up here, so high into the Bay, but we took the challenge and, whew, we made it!

A highlight of visiting the Kudu Yai anchorage was that we happened to stop to greet the crews of the other two cruising yachts anchored there, something that's always fun, though we don't always make the effort. The first boat was a rental catamaran occupied by seven young Americans who travel together once each year, always to someplace interesting. They were interesting, themselves, two young women working in Kenya for a waste management company, a long-haired guy in sunnies who looks more like a rock musician than a man who's just completed his PhD in robotics and is celebrating his accomplishment, and a captain (the only one on board who knew how to sail) whose curly black hair was very recently spruced up with a wide bright red mohawk plus a couple of patches in yellow and electric blue. And they thought what WE are doing is unusual! The second yacht contained Aussie cruisers Chris and Phil, good friends with Peter and Cheryl Ainsworth, whom we met in 2012 in French Polynesia while they were still cruising their Hylas 49, Stolen Kiss.

Mersoleil and company at Koh Kudu Yai
A low tide beach inside the hong
Hong entrance guarded by a lone sentinal
Fri Jan 13 3:00 2017 NZDT
Run: 3.9nm (7.1km)
8 16.714N 98 29.192E
Weather: Lovely, still an occasional cloud and a shower

Only a short run from the village of Pan Yi, Koh Deang Yai provides another scenic overnight stop. The distance is short, but it's an unnerving route crossing such shallow waters that we probably dredged a little furrow with the keel as we passed by James Bond Island, named for the filming there of The Man with the Golden Gun.

An afternoon dinghy exploration gave us some remarkable close-up views of the island and further demonstrated how shallow are the northern waters of Phang Nga Bay. Doggie's outboard only draws about 18" and we got stuck on the sandbar numerous times trying to enjoy the island from all sides. Still, it's a beautiful spot and we had it all to ourselves.

Location of filming The Man with the Golden Gun
Approaching Deang Yai anchorage
Kind of makes you want to see the movie, doesn't it?
Thu Jan 12 3:00 2017 NZDT
Run: 7.2nm (13km)
8 19.868N 98 30.463E
Weather: absolutely gorgeous

At the head of Phang Nga Bay the waters shallow very gradually to muddy flats and mangrove forests surrounding the karst sea mountains that jut impressively into the sky. One of these sea mountains, named Koh Pan Yi, has virtually no level ground, nothing even remotley useable, but a thriving fishing village of 1.500 has grown up there anyway. The community of Pan Yi is populated by Sunni Muslim fishermen and their families and they've overcome the absence of terrain by building their entire village on stilts above the water. Pan Yi has its own school, a health clinis, a floating football pitch, a mosque, a few restaurants and lots of souvenir kiosks, tourism having surpassed fishing as the major income source for the village. We arrived on the morning high tide, anchored east of the village, lunched at one of the restaurants and wandered for two or three hours exchanging warm greetings with the friendly peopleand declining over and over again to buy pearls and elephant pants. Sitting in the cockpit at sundown, mesmerized by the erie sound of the call to prayer echoing once, twice, thrice against the mountain before it wafted out across the water, Robbie and I agreed Pan Yi is indeed unique and remarkable. We've never seen anything like it. Glad we came. Bev

The village of Pan Yi on stilts
No beer, but fruit juice of every kind imaginable!
Simple, but comfortable homes
Pan Yi football pitch - out of bounds balls are recovered by boat
Mosque reigns beautifully over the village
Happy great grandma, lucky little boy
Tue Jan 10 3:00 2017 NZDT
Run: 2.9nm (5.2km)
8 13.623N 98 30.152E
Weather: clearing, occasional showers

Only a couple of miles from last night's anchorage, Koh Hong has such a spectacular enclosed room (the hong) that the island is named for it. In mid-afternoon, despite the fact that tour boats were still dropping people off by the score, we paddled Doggie into the hong through a cave opening into a lagoon on one side and out into the open Bay on the other. Inside the cave is a pool about 35 meters in diameter whose ceiling opens through a natural chimney to the sky. Stalactites cling to the ceiling of the cave and we had to dodge them as we paddled Doggie through the caves and into the hong on a low, but rising, tide. We're both pitiful at paddling Doggie. It's an inflatible dinghy with a rigid bottom and has oars, such as they are, and even oarlocks. Actually we should be rowing, but in a place as small as the hong, there's no room for error and going backwards would have just created a game of bumper cars with the kayaks. Instead, we both took an oar and used them like canoe paddles to propel Doggie forward, punting when necessary in the shallowest spots, and both facing forward so we could enjoy the amazing scene. No bats in these caves, we noted with disappointment.

The anchorage we selected was tucked into the curve of a high sheer rock face, sheltered on the other side by another towering sea mountain. We took a vote and have declared this spot the most beautiful place we have ever seen, knocking the Moorea Belvidere and the view from our home in West Seattle to numbers 2 and 3. Between us Robbie and I must have uttered the word "wow" at least twenty times today. It's so incredible that we've decided to stay two nights just to soak in the beauty.

This place inspired me to get out the instructions for my new camera again and figure out how to download photos so I can show it to you. If you're a Mersoleil subscriber reading these postings in the email sent to you by the YIT system, next time you must click on the link and go directly to the Mersoleil page where you can see the photos and the satellite image of our position.

Lucky Mersoleil to spend a few days here
Inside the hong
Exploring on Doggie1
Mon Jan 9 3:00 2017 NZDT
Run: 130.6nm (236.4km)
8 11.390N 098 29.017E
Weather: still raining, sometimes in great torrents, but we left the marina anyway

This is our first anchorage in Phang Nga Bay and we're nestled up to the west side of Koh Phanak near the hong (Chinese for room), busy with tourists paddling in and out on kayaks. As we prepared to lower Doggie into the water the rains returned in full measure and we bailed on the idea of exploring. There will be other koh and other hongs for us.

We've decided to do something we usually avoid, visit several different spots around the Bay, spending only a single night in each. Some cruisers do this habitually. For us it's exhausting and denies us the opportunity to grow familiar with a place, to meet the people, to know if that bird sings every night, to learn the rhythm of the tides and currents. But in this case, we're interviewing Thailand, trying to gauge how much time to save for our return visits here later in the year. That and it's so unbelievably beautiful here that we can't resist running from one spot to another cooing and exclaiming, "Ooh! Look at that!"

Koh Phanak, Phang Nga Bay, near Phuket
Just like in the brochure! We are amazed!
Closing in on the anchorage at Koh Phanak
Fri Jan 6 1:57 2017 NZDT
No position sent.
Weather: 5knts SE, slight seas, no clouds, 1022 baro

Koh Lipe (I resist the temptation to add the word island, since Koh already says that) exceeded our hopes and there we remained for three nights, checking into the country at the beachfront Customs and Immigration office and finding beach landings with Doggie1 not too onerous if one plans for the tides and doesn’t end up with 400 lbs. of small boat and outboard motor high and dry a long haul from water’s edge.

Waiting till late afternoon diminished the heat of the sun, we went ashore yesterday, strolling down the ‘walking street,’ its blue and white painted pavement friendly to bare feet and scattered with powdery sand tracked up from the beach by the hundreds of visitors enjoying the island this week. Packed with shops, restaurants, bars, tourist information kiosks, money changers and travel agents, the walking street was an event unto itself, barely a mile long, but crowded with people from all over the world and filled with just about anything they might wish to eat, drink, smear on their sunburn or take home to family. Even with all this retail splendor, the businesses named above were all outshone in number and probably in sales as well, by the Thai Massage shops, each strategically located within 20 meters of the next, so that the call of a woman’s voice, often two or even three at once, hawking ”mah saaaahhj?” seemed to set the beat for the music of the island.

Robbie and I wandered up and down enjoying the people watching as much as the menus and colorful stores till we paused at a place where the call “massage?” was heard at the same time from both sides of the street and he said to me, “You should have a foot massage.” What a great idea, I thought! “Where?” And he guided me to the shop on our right open to the street, decorated with a small garden, the relaxing sounds of water dribbling over stones and where two knock-off Eames lounge chairs with ottomans sat on a platform facing the street. One chair was occupied by a lady having a pedicure and, in my opinion, wasting her time on the Internet with her hand phone, and I was invited after washing the beach sand off my feet to take the other. I discovered happily that the chair reclined and as I pressed it back, the proprietor placed a sarong over me, covering me from neck to knee. To keep me warm, I wondered? Lord knows I didn’t need that. But I accepted the courtesy, figured there must be some reason for it, and just allowed things to go along as they may.

After only a few minutes massaging my right foot, the therapist, a tiny skinny brown woman with the strongest hands in the universe, moved to my left and I thought with some disappointment, ‘Gee, this isn’t going to last very long.’ Not so. She spent so much time on my left foot, stroking, kneading, pressing, squeezing and smoothing ounce after ounce of tea tree oil into the skin of that foot that I feared I would walk lopsided for the remained of my life. It seemed like an hour. Then she oiled and massaged my calf, and I began to wonder if this therapist knew that I was having only a foot massage because nowhere else have my feet gone all the way up to my hips. After giving my entire left leg a thorough going over, she moved back to the right, allayed my fears that it was going to be neglected, and gave another lengthy full leg massage, using the sarong to cover me and to protect my own skirt from her oils and creams. Oooh! It was wonderful and I stopped worrying whether she knew I had asked only for the foot massage, figuring I’d be delighted to pay whatever they asked at the end.

But that was not the end. It was at least another thirty minutes before she’d fully softened all the muscles in my hands, arms, shoulders, neck, upper back and my skull and toweled away some of the oils, leaving me slippery, wobbly and seriously relaxed. Was that a two hour foot massage that went all the way up to my skull? How soon can I go to this woman again? Or maybe I should try a different shop and see what they do there. Yes, I could begin to collect Thai massages, that’s it, having one every day while we’re in Thailand. It was heavenly.

Robbie stepped up to the little reception table, ready to fork over vast sums for the amazing service I’d received and was told the cost for the foot massage was THB300, exactly as originally promised on the signboard in front. We’re having difficulty getting our minds around the Thai baht, but we believe the charge was about ten dollars US. I am completely hooked. In other places we have visited I have searched devotedly for the perfect Negroni, or the perfect Margharita pizza, or the best goat curry. I shall make it my business in Thailand to sample the skills of every massage therapist I can find. Lucky me.

Dinner at the King Crab, our first restaurant meal in Thailand, was fantastic. My spicy green vegetable curry was one of the best I’ve ever tasted, and Robbie spoke lovingly of his spicy red curry pork. I was distracted throughout dinner by the fact that I couldn’t keep my legs comfortably crossed, one leg still saturated with creams and oils repeatedly slipping off the opposite knee. But I bore that hardship bravely and we had a marvelous evening, even getting Doggie back into the water and motoring away into the night without embarrassing incident.

Up early this morning in the still dark, we dropped the mooring at Koh Lipe and sailed 52nm to Koh Rok Nok, closing half the distance to Phuket where we expect to arrive tomorrow. It was a fantastic sail, easy and quiet with both sails up. The idea that sailing back to Penang late this month could be accomplished in a single two-day-two-night passage was banished by the presence of twenty-one, we counted, FADs or fish traps on our course between Koh Lipe and Rok Nok. We were already hoping to extend our stay in Thailand as long as possible while still making Penang in time for Chinese New Year.

Robbie and I are not inclined to love at first sight with the countries we visit and, as mentioned before, it’s beastly hot here, but the Thai people have a sweet and gentle vibration, their country is stunning, the food incredible, the massage out of this world, and he asked me in the cockpit this afternoon, ”Do you think we could live here?” I’d been resisting the temptation to say that very thing to him.

Have you seen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel with Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Judy Dench and others? We watched and loved it a few nights ago.

I do not expect to learn to speak much Thai. I’ll try, but we learned today that tone in the Thai language is as important as pronunciation, each word being able to be spoken at a low, medium, high, ascending or descending tone – and meaning five completely different things depending upon the tone in which it is uttered. I’m not sure the tone thing is in my skill set. Maybe an app on my phone will help. I’ll need to find time for that, but definitely not while I’m having a massage. Bev

Wed Jan 4 19:39 2017 NZDT
Run: 32.7nm (59.2km)
06 29.044N 99 18.187E

Slowly but surely, we're moving in the direction of Phuket and the stunning islands of Phang Nga Bay. We've stopped at tiny Koh Lipe, koh meaning island, and checked into Thailand here. Will take a walk around the island today and confirm our suspicion that Koh Lipe is cousin to Indonesian Gili Air, a cute, happening little tourist hotspot full of small resorts, beachfront restaurants and bars, and twenty-somethings. I'm in search of my first authentic local Thai curry with lots of chillies. I ask the waiter to have them take enough chillies to make me cough, then dial back a notch. If we fail to ask for spicy food, emphasizing the word spicy, we get a bland flavourless version of the local cuisine. - Looking like Aussies and waiters being unable to distinguish amoung English accents, they automatically assume we can tolerate nothing stronger than coconut milk.

Heading next for Koh Rok Nok, then Phuket Yacht Haven marina for one night where we'll wash clay off the bow and anchor chain, do some laundry and fill our water tanks again. Watermaker is on the fritz despite our best efforts to treat it reverently. It was the project of the year for 2016. May win that ribbon again in 2017.

Sun Jan 1 15:27 2017 NZDT
Run: 8.6nm (15.6km)
6 16.170N 99 43.691E

Happy New Year!

Taking New Year's Eve as the perfect opportunity to escape yet another marina, we made a quick grocery run, checked out of the country of Malaysia, enjoyed a tasty Malaysian lunch with grieving friend, Kevin Pool, then sailed away from Royal Langkawi Yacht Club.

Sailed! Sailed, I said. The winter months bring northeasterly monsoons to the Andaman Sea along with drier cooler air. Unfurling the genoa in a 10kt breeze, we let it pull us gently along at 5kts from Kuah Town to Port Chenang where we anchored and celebrated New Year's Eve, just the two of us. We'd heard that the place to see NYE fireworks is Port Chenang, really just a long white beach lined with the resorts for which Langkawi is famous.

Not knowing where exactly the fireworks might originate we employed the popular technique used by many sailors, dropping the hook between Pulau Tepor and Langkawi near other yachts who'd arrived earlier. Awakened, we confess, by the first cracks and explosions of the midnight show then climbing up to the cockpit sans champagne and caviar Robbie and I were delighted by a lengthy display of red and gold sprays and sparkles originating from not one but many spots running north along the shore for almost two miles. The fireworks, quite spectacular in breadth and scale, backed up by the whooping, squealing and shouting of uninhibited revelers on shore, proved a stunning and satisfying inauguration for the year of 2017.

We had planned to spend two full months at RLYC, taking enormous pains since September to obtain commitment from marina management that they'd allow Mersoleil to occupy her berth continuously even through the mid-January Regatta, one of SE Asia's premier sailing events. But the sudden death of Lisa Pool three days ago left Kevin, alone at anchor offshore, in a horrible position. Returning their yacht to RLYC he was told that it could remain no longer than two days. Hence our speedy departure from the yacht club yesterday after signing over Mersoleil's berthing agreement to Aguabago, relieving Kevin of at least one stressor. Robbie and I begin this new year more aware and more grateful than ever for our many blessings and grieving along with Kevin, whose life was changed completely in a brief moment on Wednesday.

When we weigh the anchor in an hour or two our destination will be Thailand. How very exciting to begin the year in a new country! As we say, "Cruisers' plans are written in sand... at low tide."

May this be one of your best years ever! Happy New Year Sir Robbie and Ms., Jod

Hope you have a happy and safe 2017. Your lovely nesting dolls made an appearance during the holiday and they are again resting, getting ready for next Christmas. Life in Lawrence is routine and pleasant, but on Thursday, I depart for a few days in South America, visiting Iguassu Falls and taking a small ship to Cape Horn and Magdelena Island, debarking at Punta Arenas for Santiago before heading home. Should be an adventure. Wish I had a travel buddy, but going alone is normal.

You will have travel buddies when we get to the Med anyway. Your reservation for the Adriatic is still in good standing. Do tell us all about Tierra del Fuego.  Mersoleil and crew being disinclined to latitudes higher than 40, I do not envision us rounding that Cape. Much love, Happy New Year, Bev and Robbie P.S. I can'tdo anything about those extra characters... sorry.

Happy New Year. So good of you to give up your marina berth. Heroes both!
Tue Dec 13 21:41 2016 NZDT
Run: 8.8nm (15.9km)
6 18.152N 99 50.972E

Already in Langkawi for a week and a half, we've settled in for a stay at Royal Langkawi Yacht Club. Later this afternoon we'll be inundated by boxes, the big DHL shipment from the US scheduled to arrive today, and I decided I'd better post a quick position report before the chaos descends.

We made a couple of interesting observations of late, notably that even if we could tolerate the heat at single digit latitudes, which we cannot, we'd never get anything done living too close to the equator. Regardless of the season, days and nights are generally twelve hours long at this latitude and I'm noticing that we sleep much more here than at higher latitudes. Living at sea has made both Robbie and me into decidedly diurnal creatures, going to sleep when the sun sets and rising again with it on the following morning. I don't believe I need twelve hours of sleep each day, but if it remains dark I tend to snooze on until daylight shakes my eyelids open.

I'm trying to find a good list online of Malaysian fruits and vegetables, but so far no luck. I had such an animal in Indonesia and it was immensely helpful in separating for me the yams from the sweet potatoes from the kumera from the spuds whose taste we would recognize, and it saved a great deal of marketing and cooking trial and error. So far, I've not found such a list in Malaysia and it took me many long thoughtful moments at the store the other day to select what I thought was a cucumber (victory} and to distinguish between firm pale green heads of something that all looked like cabbage, heaped in nine separate bins under nine different names. More research is required on this one. It is my suspicion that several of them are cabbage and the differences among the many varieties may elude me for the rest of my days.

Last week when we arrived at the rally farewell dinner, held at the rice paddy museum, we walked to the museum and pavillion across an elevated boardwalk, thoughtfully constructed several feet above the swampy paddies of lush green rice plants. It struck me at the time that this was the closest I've ever been to a rice paddy, having driven past them on many occasions, but never having actually walked through one, listening to the rustle of the plants, smelling their fresh woodsy fragrance. A water buffalo had been standing nearby, too, chewing on whatever it was that was in his mouth (I hesitate to guess), dragging his tether through the muddy water, posing for pictures. As the final applause died down after dinner and at the end of the traditional dance performance, I suggested to Robbie that we make a quick exit before others left their seats. I'd noted upon arrival that it was going to be difficult with my low vision to traverse the open boardwalk later after dark and, rather than slow down the entire procession, I thought it a good idea to leave by ourselves a moment or two before everybody else. A man stepped in front of us as we started down the boardwalk. "You can't go this way!" he said.

"But it's the way we arrived. Why not?"

"The water buffalo is on the path now and he will not let you go by."

Sufficient reason to divert, we agreed. Robbie and I obediently turned around and allowed him to lead us back to the parking area via a safer path.

You know, this is something that never happened to me before. I was so enamoured of the fact that I'd sashayed through a rice paddy that it was days before I realized this was also the very first time I've had to cross the street to avoid a water buffalo.

As we settle in at Langkawi, we're beginnning to turn to the some of mundane tasks of daily living. I've placed an order with the local purveyor of imported foods who serves hotels and restaurants. He's also willing to deliver to me whatever I want of the nice impossible-to-find items he sells, like cheese, caviar and taco sauce. I try hard to listen carefully when I speak with locals on the phone, hopeful that I can avoid asking them to repeat themselves too many times, but I hung up after placing my order with Amir, not entirely sure what POK Brothers is going to deliver to me tomorrow. I sincerely hope I don't get another order of 72 cartons of UHT whipping cream. That happened in Fiji two years ago when I had ordered "3 250ml cartons of Anchor UHT whipping cream." One of the two boxes delivered to us at a remote island was decidedly heavier than I thought it ought to be. Inside I found not three little individual cartons of cream but three cases! Seventy-two cartons of whipping cream, all needing immediate refrigeration! I went around the anchorage like a local fisherman, peddling whipping cream to all the other yachts, filling our own fridge with all that I could squeeze in, then selling the remainder to the local resort at a loss. They don't buy little tiny containers like that, I was informed by the manager who offered me the price they wold pay their regular provider for liter containers of cream. No idea what surprise is in store for me tomorrow when the delivery arrives. If it's amusing, you'll hear about it.

I signed up for Medicare this morning, not that it's going to do me a bit of good in Malaysia. I've been 65 for three months now and I keep forgetting to sign up. I suppose there's a joke there.

Unless something very exciting and newsworthy occurs in the next ten days, this will be the last YIT posting before Christmas. Robbie and I wish you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Channukah, Happy New Year! May 2017 bring you joy, laughter, good health and all the best experiences of life. Bev

great to hear ya! inspiration for us, thanks.

I love reading your life's' narrative, giving full attention to each chapter! Your total enthusiasm mixed with that sense of humor about the adventures in food, fisherman and the and animals at hand has been great fun. Sleeping for hours no doubt must be like hibernating, allowing for extended time in your 70s! I was a bit surprised about the desire to find that sweet little farm. I love it and when you do, I want to come there as well! I am still looking at yachting opportunities. Also hope you continue to practice those brainy card games to keep you sharp when negotiating those future meal deals. Merry Christmas to you both; peace and well being be with you. Take good care, Jodette
Sun Dec 4 3:00 2016 NZDT
Run: 62.5nm (113.1km)
6 11.617N 99 46.915E

Finally! After months spent in marinas and crowded anchorages we feel like we're cruising again! We've arrived at Langkawi Island near the Malaysia/Thailand border where the islands are high and scenic, covered with forests and sheer rock faces rising out of the sea to elevations that protect us from the chop and swell of the developing NE monsoons. Our first stop was here, together with 6 or 7 other yachts, but none of us was within a quarter mile of anybody else, as good as being alone.

We don't know what the fishermen are fishing for here, but they're out at night in droves shining brilliant green lights on the horizon. It looks like Christmas, but I don't imagine they've chosen green just for my amusement. It must attract their quarry and nearly everyone seems to be fishing for the same thing. Must ask about this in town once we get settled.

We're particularly delighted that Langkawi is so scenic because we'll probably be here for a while. The farewell dinner for the Sail Malaysia Rally group will be held at Rebak Marina on December 8th and we've booked a berth at Royal Langkawi Yacht Club for several months beginning on the 10th. We'll cruise this charming area for the next while, receive dozens of parts and supplies from the United States, already on their way, install new batteries, and sort a few repairs while in Langkawi. And we'll fly to other parts of SE Asia to visit places we dare not miss while in this neck of the woods. We'll study over the seasons, and the sailing routes to Europe and make a plan for moving on late next year. Except for periodic cruising between here and Phuket, Thailand, Mersoleil will probably stay put at RLYC for the next twelve months. How thrilled we are to be amongst such gorgeous surroundings! Bev

Fri Dec 2 3:00 2016 NZDT
Run: 10.8nm (19.5km)
5 27.801N 100 19.129E

Home to about 1.2 million people, Penang is an island state just off the west coast of Malaysia, it’s skyline dominated by highrise condominium buildings, all constructed in the last thirty years. Georgetown, charming, historic, filled with British colonial architecture, forms the city core, flanked north and south by those highrises and the ubiquitous stylish retail shopping malls that dominate the CBD of many large SE Asian cities. Penang is Malaysia’s second largest city after KL and you’ll find it on every list of “best places to retire” either because of its affordability or its interesting multi-cultural lifestyle.

Despite our inability to tolerate this hot humid equatorial climate, we felt we had to have a look around. The FRP, you know. How can we rule out Penang, near the top of the ex-pat retiree preference list, without giving it a look? Newly wealthy Chinese buyers have swept into Penang, as they have dozens of other attractive Asean cities, purchased property and driven up prices. Still, a lovely condo with ocean and city view is quite affordable from our point of view. We asked the real estate agent about landed property outside the city (must have my garden) and were referred to a 4400 sq. ft. stucco tract home, 5 bedrooms, 2 storeys, in a developer-special neighborhood one hour outside the city. No view, no charm, no thank you. Might as well buy in Ahwatukee.

One evening we attended a movie about urban planning, followed by a group discussion, at the Penang Institute, a local government sponsored think tank dedicated to keeping Penang at the top rung of the cultural and livability ladders. Of the 50 people in attendance, we being the only tourists, most were young and committed to protecting Penang’s traditional charm, but powerless to do so and unclear how to act. They expressed their views nonetheless, all fearful that Penang is on the road to becoming another Singapore, certainly a valid observation. There are worse fates for a thriving city, we think, but they do have a point.

Change is occurring here at a fast past. South of town around the airport exists a high tech corridor filled with groomed campuses and new lowrise office and manufacturing buildings whose signs read like a list of the technology stocks. There is lots of money here, great talent, and still a low cost of living.

We spent the week at anchor outside Straits Quay Marina, a handsome complex with hotel, restaurant and a retail mall where one can buy gold-stamped wine glasses at high prices or choose one of a dozen spas for one’s next pedicure. Plenty of retail spaces are available for rent and shoppers seem to appear on weekends only.

We liked Penang very much, even though it holds no long term appeal for us. The Rich Wives Market, a traditional open air meat, fish and produce market, so named because prices are a little higher than at the dirty smelly old wet markets and in the old days only the well-to-do shopped there, is the most wonderful wet market we’ve seen anywhere. I found some gorgeous thick-cut pork chops for US$3.00 apiece, quite a prize in a Halal country. I would be delighted to be able to do all my grocery shopping there.

Still, the charming little farmhouse we have in mind for ourselves does not seem to exist in Penang, and, as mentioned before, it’s hotter than heck, so the Final Resting Place will not be here. We’ll keep looking. Bev

Sat Nov 26 22:20 2016 NZDT
Run: 78.6nm (142.3km)
5 18.465N 100 18.067E

I’m feeling a little better, but was no help on the water today and left Robbie to negotiate the hundreds of fishing boats nearly alone this morning before dawn. Each time we experience one of these fishing vessel crises it’s different! Today’s twist was that at 6AM, still in inky darkness, there were more boats going OUT to the fishing grounds than there were fishing or coming back to port. Passing through busy traffic in the dark, traffic that fails to appear on AIS, that sometimes shows the tiniest blip on radar or even none at all, traffic moving both left and right across Mersoleil’s bow, is memorable and exciting to say the least. Our little green laser rescue light enjoyed an extensive workout this morning, notifying approaching fishermen our presence, tapping them on the shoulder in case they weren’t expecting a sailboat to be crossing their path back to the barn, generating an occasional green flash in reply from a well-kitted fisherman who has his own green laser flare, using it for the same purpose we do.

Anchorage here is a very temporary stop for Mersoleil and Doggie1 won’t even come down into the water. We’ll remain on board, catch up on Internet activity, having had poor connectivity at Pangkor, I’ll get a bit more rest, and we’ll be ready to resume planned activities on Monday when we reach Straits Quay. Bev

Fri Nov 25 3:00 2016 NZDT
Run: 146.7nm (265.5km)
4 12.644N 100 36.246E

What happened to the update from Pangkor, where we were treated royally by James Khoo and his Pangkor Island Marina operations? I fell ill after only the first day of tours and festivities, spent the entire remainder of our visit in bed, except for a quick trip to the local klinik, was dismayed there to learn it was not dengue fever, only the flu. At least, if it had been dengue fever, I’d be enjoying the lasting souvenir of immunity. As it is, I am recovering gradually and have completed the whole of Vanity Fair by Thackery, another classic I’d not read before. Bev

Glad you have some good books to get you through. Feel better soon Bev!
Thu Nov 17 19:34 2016 NZDT
Run: 69.6nm (126km)
2 28.776N 101 50.099E

We've stopped for a few days at Port Dickson and have remained at anchor outside the marina to enjoy the privacy and a better breeze. Took a bus tour into Kuala Lampur yesterday, the capital of Malaysia. I wonder if I will ever grasp the reality that the world is such a big place... KL, with a metropolitan population of around 7 million people, is a stunning Asian city, justifiably proud of its glass and stainless steel Petronas Twin Towers, designed by Argentine architect Cesar Pelli. The complex held the distinction of highest building in the world from 1998 till 2004 and is still the highest twin tower structure in the world. The thing that wonders me is how this could all be going on completely escaping my awareness until yesterday.... and how much more is out there of which I am totally unaware. It's certainly humbling to get yet another brilliant glimpse of the obvious, how much there is to know in this world, and how very little of it I know! We enjoyed a brief visit to the National Mosque, too, where English copies of the Quoran were distributed to foreign visitors and I thought it interesting that Malaysia has a national mosque at all. Then I remembered the beautiful national cathedral in Washington D.C. and realized yet again how provincial is my point of view. Tomorrow we'll shove off for points north and we'll day hop up to Pangkor Island about 140nm away. No, we were not in Africa again for a couple of days. YIT is interested to know whether Mersoleil is at 102 degrees east or 102 degrees west. Since I failed to share that bit of pertinent information in my last position report, I guess it just dropped us at the proper latitude right on the Greenwich meridian, right Mike? It's hot and humid with exciting T-storms once or twice each day. Phenomenal lightning!! Bev

Each time you have written about being entangled in a fishing fleet, it has sent my thoughts back to my one night' experience when the lower coast of Vancouver Island and the entire mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca blocked all shipping traffic because of the thousands of tiny fishing boats with nets strung along the coast and across that entrance. A harrowing experience, BUT NOTHING COMPARED to what you describe here. At least, all "my boats" were settled into their "spots" for the night when we came upon them about 11:00 at night and pretty much sedentary waiting for the salmon to swim into the nets during the several hours we threaded out way through. We were further lucky in that they spoke English and one of the earliest boats we encountered told us all the nets were lined up perpendicular to the shore and boats kept about 75 yards between them starting on the 35 fathom line running parallel to shore. So with out radar, we could almost see a black highway going straight toward shore until we intersected the open water/highway just past the 35 fathom line. We were able then to safely navigate the shoreline highway all the way around and into the strait until Victoria. I thought that was harrowing. Your description above makes me think it must feel as if you are entangled in a chaotic movement of boats! Congratulations to you, Robbie, for threading your way through with your trusty electronic help. So sorry that you, Bev, were still sick and out of commission. I know it made you feel worse to not be able to help Robbie. Still, I am glad you did not have dengue--even if it does confer immunity. Getting through it is very painful from people I have talked to who experienced it. There is a new vaccine for it--just arrived in Costa Rica. However, it is not available to children or to people over 45 years old. Not sure if that is due to limited supplies or to lack of safety data for the younger and older population or the presence of data saying it is unsafe for these two groups. We had been wondering what is next after your Indonesian sojourn. You have laid out the several options you are contemplating including staying put in Thailand for some time. Lots of decisions ahead for you--and big ones, too. You are often in our hearts and minds.....
Sat Nov 12 22:12 2016 NZDT
Speed: 8.2knts
Run: 78.3nm (141.7km)
01 50.795n 102 37.083e
Weather: 1012.9 sunshine, occasional sumatras in the afternoon

Singapore is in the rearview mirror now and stopping there for two weeks was a marvelous choice! It's a not-to-be-missed destination and we marvel at the gutsy architecture, the kindness of the people, the cleanliness of every square inch of their country, and the rampant consumerism that exceeds even that of the United States. How a country of only 5.6 million people - even adding in the tourists - can support so many multi-storey high end retail malls, each only six blocks from the next, is incomprehensible to us.

We're motoring up the Malacca Strait this afternoon on our way to Port Dickson Malaysia and are accompanied by twenty or thirty tugs, barges, cargo ships, tankers and cruise ships, with an occasional small fishing boat thrown in for good measure, all in sight of Mersoleil. Busy traffic, not as busy as the Singapore Strait, but there's lots of standing right at the helm going on during watch today. We rarely use radar during daylight except to watch the weather, but it's on now just to catch the vessels that don't send an AIS image. A few vessels appear on neither radar nor AIS, and they alone are enough to make interesting the task of figuring out who's anchored, who's coming straight at us or crossing our bow, and who's traveling in the same direction as Mersoleil.

I've begun researching the currents, weather and geography that will take us around the Cape of Good Hope and up through the Atlantic Ocean. So far, I've learned, I think, that the time to jump off for this journey seems to be December, so it looks like we'll have twelve months to enjoy more of SE Asia. Malaysia is a great base for land travel and we may leave Mersoleil in Langkawi while we fly to other Asian destinations. They'll never be closer than they are now! Lisa and Fabio, you'll be very happy with Keppel Marina. New, attractive, well located, staff is very helpful. Diesel was S$0.79/L, the lowest price we've paid anywhere, equivalent to US$ 2.12/Gal.

Don't miss Singapore! Two weeks at Raffles Marina costs no more than two nights in a hotel in the Singapore CBD. And that was worth every penny! Bev.

Hi Bevy and Robbie! I see you have made it back to the Congo, lol, fast trip. love Gret

How lucky did we feel to receive a shout out in your latest post! Feeling the love. We look forward to seeing you somewhere sooner rather than later and are definitely thinking about the Indian Ocean in 2018. Enjoy your journey to Langkawi.
Tue Nov 8 15:53 2016 NZDT
Run: 16.3nm (29.5km)
1 20.617N 103 38.056E

We are loving Singapore. Arrived at Raffles Marina on 25th October and have been on the run nonstop. You know, we could sit on the boat and do emails and the other stuff of daily life.... but if we were going to do only that we could have more wisely chosen the less expensive Malaysian marinas on the other side of the channel! So we've run ourselves ragged, and gotten a lot of necessary boat things done, but disappeared from the cyber radar while we did it. Something had to give way!

Bought two new computers, identical ones this time, so we can have critical navigation software on two identical platforms. Robbie's laptop was old and the sound quit working long ago. Mine was not so old and I forget actually what was wrong with it, but something wasn't right..... And I bought a new camera. Our old teeny one from 2012 was also on its last legs, it had quit zooming, and had begun to think its little batteries were not charged. It may have been right about the batteries - they were old, too. Robbie bought a camera at Costco last December, but it's too big and we frequently don't carry it, then find ourselves wanting a photo of something. So I found a very small Sony Cybershot DSC-HX90V, and will eventually - soon - make effort to learn to use it!

I've been feeling guilty about not even getting a YIT post saying that we've arrived in Singapore. But.... geesh.

Had Doggie1, the dinghy, repaired. He had, it turns out, six holes and needed all 4 valves replaced in the hypalon tubes.

Our wind instrument has been on the blink so we went up and down the mast at least half a dozen times testing and trying to fix it. Finally bought a new instrument, found it didn't work either, so we pulled the cable out of the mast and replaced it, one of the more onerous tasks on a boat. That didn't do the trick so RC spent an entire day while I went shopping with Cheri Slotta replacing the cable from the bottom of the mast to the display head at the companionway, an even bigger task than replacing the mast cable. That involved emptying every single hatch, bin and locker along the route of the cable, just to find and pull out the old cable and the boat was quite a disaster for a day and a half till we got it all reorganized. But the result was an unqualified success and now we know the wind speed and direction, information that we've been denied for the past few months! It's good data to have on a yacht.

We've also had guests for two and a half days, visited the Asian Civilizations Museum, gone to the Singapore River Festival, taken a day long private driving tour of Singapore and I've seen a glaucoma specialist who found my condition stable, very good news. I found a post office, too, so my sister's October 2nd birthday gift will arrive before Christmas! And we went with a group of 14 to the grand old Fullerton Hotel (originally the Singapore post office) for drinks and watched sunset the other night from the Skypark at the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. (Be sure to see an image of the hotel exterior!):

...then walked to the Gardens by the Bay to watch the lightshow on the supertrees. Of course, I wanted to get into the two conservatories there, but I was the only gardener in the group and it didn't happen.

We've dedicated a substantial number of hours in the past week to the task of ordering things from the United States to be shipped to us in Malaysia before December; Crocs and floating rope, a new microwave, spare parts, hose clamps, shirts, a rainjacket, LED lamps for our light fixtures, even new undergarments, a crazy assortment of things we can't buy in SE Asia. They're piling up now, filling our "mailbox" at in Sarasota and will be air freighted to Langkawi when we press the button.

The train system in Singapore is great, simply tap on and tap off with a prepaid card that buys travel on both trains and buses (exactly like the systems in Sydney and other big cities) and, despite Singapore's rep for having the highest cost of living in the world, we can travel from Raffles Marina at the farthest west point of the island to the CBD for about US$2.00. Trains run never more than five minutes apart so there's no schedule to study. We've been all over the place, using the MRT nearly every day. Taxis are very inexpensive, too, and a free shuttle bus runs from Raffles to the nearest MRT station. It 's remarkably easy to get around Singapore.

I've had no time to port all my files to the new computer. Are you surprised? There's an awful lot going on! And we're leaving the day after tomorrow!

Love Singapore. We could happily spend a month or two here as visitors, but would not care to live here. Too many people, all living in highrises. Where would I garden???

Next, up the west coast of Malaysia to Langkawi and then Thailand. We've put a tremendous number of miles on Mersoleil this year, from Sydney on New Years Eve, to Hobart, to the Great Barrier Reef and Darwin, then through much of Indonesia. Probably more than 6,000nm! It will be nice to relax in Langkawi for a while. Posted by Bev.

Mon Oct 24 19:48 2016 NZDT
Speed: at anchorknts
Run: 17.8nm (32.2km)
Avg: 89knts
24hr: 2136nm
01 13.897n 103 50.53e
Weather: hot,still, occasional T-storms

One could run across a busy freeway. Or simply enter Singapore from the south as we did this morning. It would be much the same experience.

With Manjit Singh preparing the paperwork and emailing it to us in advance, this was the easiest entry procedure we've ever experienced! No traipsing dusty roads from one district office to another then waiting three days for rubber stamps on a cruising permit. Mersoleil simply entered the Singapore Quarantine Anchorage, called Immigration on VHF 74, "wait a few minutes, please, you are vessel number two," then moments later they invited us to motor to a specific waypoint. As we approached, a law enforcement boat pulled up alongside, one of the officers reached out a landing net at the end of a 2 meter pole, and I deposited our passports and paperwork in the net. The immigration boat dropped back momentarily, then returned with our approved documents and passed them back to Mersoleil in the outstretched landing net. Welcome to Singapore! Raffles Marina doesn't have a berth for us until tomorrow so we've anchored at the location shown on the image above and will enjoy a spectacular city lights view tonight. Atlantis is anchored a hundred meters away and Robbie and Stedem have just taken Doggie1, our faithful dinghy, ashore where they hope to score some Singaporean dollars, telephone SIM cards and cellular Internet access.

There's a long list of boat tasks awaiting our attention in Singapore. In addition, I have a doctor's appointment on the 2nd and the exciting Singapore River Festival (see is scheduled for the 4th and 5th November. Gee, I hope two weeks will give us enough time to sample the delights of this fantastic country! How very exciting. We've never visited Singapore before. My dad once told me this was my parents' favorite country. We can't wait to find out why! Posted by Bev.

Mon Oct 24 19:36 2016 NZDT
Speed: berthedknts
Run: 358.8nm (649.4km)
Avg: 3588knts
24hr: 86112nm
01 11.80n 104 05.85e
Weather: hot, still, T-storms at lunchtime, rain at night

It's a treat to be at Nongsa Point Marina. Several of our friends (but only a fraction of the rally group, a manageable number!) are here with us and we are enjoying shore power, delicious cuisine at the resort/marina restaurant, showers with unlimited water and quiet evenings as we prepare to say goodbye to Indonesia. The marina will handle our exit procedures for a modest fee and all we need to do is hand them passports, crew list and the document received when we cleared into Indonesia at Kupang, gee was it three months ago? We've only stayed four nights at Nongsa Point, Batam, but Singapore, currently shrouded in mists to the north, is so close and so enticing! And, of course, we passed up the opportunity to extend for another 30 days in Indonesia, so must make ourselves scarce by the 25th October. That's OK. As the stay here dwindles from days to hours to minutes, our sights set upon Singapore, and Malaysia and even Thailand... and the itch to move on becomes irresistible. New countries, new weather patterns, even new seasons! The excitement continues. We are healthy, happy, deeply grateful... thank you Indonesia. And ready for new adventures! Posted by Bev.

Mon Oct 24 19:30 2016 NZDT
Speed: atm, telomsel top up, lunch, and a slab of bintang.knts
Run: 278.1nm (503.4km)
02 33.15s 107 41.36e
Weather: no sailing... no wind

After passing up an opportunity to stop overnight at the mouth of the Kumai River, Mersoleil turned right and sailed straight for Belitung, Teleg Kelayang, where amazing granite boulders decorate the anchorage and the beaches. Hard to picture a glacier grinding through here, but... I guess times have changed.

Our intent was to extend our Indonesian visas once more, a process that takes a few days, but after a three or four day visit we made the quick decision to skip the visa extension and make straight for Singapore, making our stop there two weeks instead of one.

Highlights of Belitung were the people. People on every Indonesian island clearly demonstrate their various cultures, tribes and ethnic personalities, but they all seem to have in common that gentle, loving, welcoming manner that we will always remember from Indonesia. Harun, whose name and phone number I found in a cruising guide, has moved to the city, opened a hardware store and passed off his yacht support activities to Ervan. Nonetheless, Harun drove out to the cape to meet me and spent half a day escorting Cheri Slotta and me to town for the usual need A mechanical engineer who obtained his education in Germany, Harun is a fascinating conversationalist, and we decided it would be fun to get together for dinner with his entire family before we sailed away. Harun met us at a beachfront Indonesian restaurant at seven one evening. He had made the reservation and ordered the meal beforehand and we spent a pleasant evening chatting with him, his wife Jenni and their three beautiful daughters.

Aside from the lively and interesting conversation, I came away with two impressions from our evening together. First, and our recent visit to Tanjung Puting National Park confirmed this, Harun told us, no, he and his family have not traveled much to other Indonesian islands. Most Indonesians never see their native orangutans! We encouraged them to go there and give the girls the memorable experience of watching oragutans swinging above them from branch to branch.

I was also deeply impressed by the fact that two of Harun's three girls wear eyeglasses. This doesn't sound like a big thing to a westerner, I know, but optical care is completely unavailable throughout much of the third world and prohibitively expensive where it's available at all. At first I thought that the peoples of the South Pacific Islands were blessed with excellent eyesight, weren't they lucky. Gradually I came to realize that, no, many of them can't see. They just go without eye care, the same as they go without dental care and other personal luxuries that I have taken for granted all my life. It's the rare and privileged parent, in Indonesia or elsewhere in the southern hemisphere archipelagos, who is able and makes the effort to protect his children's eyesight. Harun and Jenni want their girls to excel in a challenging and changing world - and these girls are wearing glasses.

We enjoyed meeting Abdul, too, a Brit formerly known as Rodney who has settled in Belitung, adopted the Muslim faith, and enjoys the company of yachties who appear at Ervan's restaurant near the Tg. Kelayang jetty. Abdul generously offered us a lift into town anytime we needed one and we arranged a reprovisioning run just before our departure. That little trip was far more interesting than anticipated for Stedem and me when we arrived at shore as planned and learned that Abdul's engine had blown up the night before. Thus he accompanied us on the ride to town in Ervan's car, waited with us at Terry's house (another Brit living in Indonesia for the past twenty years, a retired Boeing engineer) while we watched Russian satellite news TV, "they won't tell you these things in America!", and eventually were delivered to the traditional market.

While at the market, an emergency call from Terry's wife put a hurried end to our fruit and veg browsing and after a few minutes of speed-provisioning we rushed back to Terry's house where a 60-minute search failed to produce the required documents regarding their 21-year-old heart-throb son who continues to star in an Indonesian TV show thanks to the privileges of some work release program. Nor could the lawyer produce them as he was rushing himself to the hospital for painkillers, his back, I believe, and Terry drove us back to Kelayang at a speed that made the trip remarkably exciting.

Really, it's absolutely amazing how quickly one can meld into the daily life of the people one meets! Will I remember these things for the rest of my life? Yeah, probably. How can you forget watching the news from Russia telling you what your own government is (possibly) doing behind your back!? Posted by Bev.

Sun Oct 16 21:03 2016 NZDT
No position sent.

Thu Oct 6 3:00 2016 NZDT
Run: 1.2nm (2.2km)
02 44.978S 111 42.715E

This posting was delayed by a computer crash, another passage, watermaker failure and repair, and lack of Internet access..... Sorry for the wait.

Well! The River tour up the Kumai and Sekonyer Rivers to see orangutans was definitely a lifer! At least two in our traveling group, Mark and Robbie, declared it possibly the best cruising experience yet.

Nature and wildlife viewing aside, just weaving lazily up and down these tiny little rivers, banks so close in places that the pandanus leaves scraped the sides of our 4m wide boat, was so peaceful and relaxing that our little group of six was merry and mellow. There are dozens of these small narrow vessels, klotoks, Indonesian riverboats, available to carry tourists from the town of Kumai into Tanjung Puting National Park, one passenger or two (lots of honeymooners, it seemed) at a time or a group as large as fifteen, and the boats crowd cozily together at various points of interest, rafting up three or four deep, jockeying in the narrow streams to turn around or to move off a dock so the next boat can come alongside and its curious visitors can step off and disappear into the rainforest in search of memorable sights, sounds and experiences.

We were a group of six, all in agreement this is the perfect number for an intimate short trip with friends, and spent most of our time on the covered upper deck of our handbuilt ironwood klotok, named "72," Sekumpul in bahasa Indonesia. There's a table for six, plenty of room for two mattresses constantly ready to indulge the urge for a kip (Aussie vocabulary for what we used to call a nap, now we're partial to having a short kip ourselves), our bags and duffles lying in an occasionally orderly row somewhere out of the way and low rails that make one move about carefully in the dark but are exactly the right height for resting outstretched legs while gazing at the passing scenery and scouring treetops for swinging primates. At the forward end of the klotok, an open deck overlooks the bow and is furnished with two chaise lounges and a coffee table. We made good use of these when the sun wasn't too hot, squeezing two or even three of us onto each chaise and cluttering the tabletop with beverages, binoculars, hats and the Birds of Borneo book, thoughtfully provided by our lovely and knowledgeable guide, Rini.

Further aft, the poop deck was elevated several steps and open to the sky and stars. Delicious Indonesian dinners magically appeared up there each evening and we remained around the dinner table enjoying the sounds of the rainforest going to sleep until our own sleepiness drove us below. While we dined up above, the crew transformed the main deck into multiple double bedrooms, each fully enclosed with mosquito netting. A little effort to avert one's gaze provided everyone with sufficient privacy and, mercifully, no one snored at night (unless it was me and nobody told me so).

It was such a pleasure to cruise with Rini that I found it difficult to remember she was our paid tour guide and not just another fun and adventurous sailor. She's young and pretty, always smiling, quick and witty, fun loving and delightful company. We might have forgotten entirely that Rini was a professional guide were it not for her extensive knowledge about the Park, the animals, the ecological challenges facing Borneo, and her ability to translate and communicate our every desire to the chef and crew. Being with Rini for three days was a great privilege and we will long remember her as a special friend.

Daus captained the klotok with calm, good humour and expertise that belied his age, proudly installing the trophy we awarded him on the bow of 72, removing it each time we came into close bumper-car quarters with other vessels. The prize, acquired by the "Longest Couple on a Yach" at a previous rally stop, had already become a travelling trophy, and has now come to rest, the new figurehead at the bow of 72.

Daus' wife, Waritas, created fantastic Indonesian meals. She makes the best fried whole fish I've ever tasted, and served us so generously that we begged her after day one to reduce quantities by 30%. We didn't want to waste a single morsel and simply couldn't eat enough to complete the task! Everything was marvelous, the fresh veggies were crisp and spicy, mie goreng platter was heaped with savory noodles cooked in a rich broth and seasoned with finely chopped herbs, spices and vegetables, boiled eggs swam in a rich red sauce, a chicken soup steamed with noodles and minced chicken meatballs, a platter of deep green 'water spinach' tasted very much like the spinach I remember from America, tender chicken hind quarters were served stewed in a rich brown gravy, and wedges of pink or yellow, light green or deep red fresh fruit rounded out every meal. These luscious mealtime offerings and snacks served twice or thrice daily along with cold Bintangs and iced tea protected everyone from the slightest notion of hunger. Pampered. We were definitely pampered, and everyone responded well to it.

Now, about the animals! The animals were the big event for sure! Making our way slowly up the river we passed huge clumps of pandanus hanging over the river's edge leaf tips dipping into the brackish water. At first there were no trees, but as we motored deeper into the rainforest our klotok climbed imperceptibly to higher elevation and gradually fresh water replaced the salty seawater. Broadleaf trees appeared, tall and lanky with small leaves and loose leafy tops where monkeys were readily visible. First, we'd notice a quivering treetop or branch, sometimes the slender branch would bend slowly to one side or the other and a greyish brown proboscis monkey with his huge nose and funny face would leap to a different tree, leaving his branch to spring back upright with a rush and a noisy rustle. More examination, "Oh! Look over there!" would reveal half a dozen monkeys together in their afternoon perch, snoozing, looking at us with curiosity, swinging from limb to limb or bickering about whose branch was whose. We saw macaques, too, quite commonly seen on Borneo although I am not yet prepared to call the sighting of any monkey a commonplace occurrence.

Three times we stopped near research stations where the real work goes on at the orangutan sanctuary and hiked a short distance, only a kilometer or two, to a nearby feeding station. Orangutans are extremely endangered, their existence is threatened by habitat destruction (gold mining, the palm oil industry, and other human activities encroach on their natural home) and scientists from around the world come here to Borneo to study the great apes and to support their population with mild intervention. Once each day at several different feeding stations throughout the Park, food is provided, bananas, sugar cane, milk, and the rangers loud hooting calls advise the orangutans, "it's feeding time, come right this way." The orangutans are not fed enough to live upon and they must forage in the natural way for the remainder of their food, mostly fruit and young leaves.

Ropes erected around the feeding stations keep observers a safe distance from the animals, about 15 meters, and wooden platforms elevated a meter or two above the earth protect both the food and the orangutans from ever present, always hungry, wild boars who prowl around beneath the platforms hoping for falling bananas or a baby monkey. Signs in English and Bahasa Indonesia remind observers to practice "silence please" and "respect the orangutan."

Rangers climbed up to the platform and dumped huge sacks of bananas onto the wooden planks. Then they walked away hooting and making loud calls announcing 'dinner is served.' We watched, waiting expectantly, looking through the rainforest treetops for the signs of brachiating locomotion, the shaking of leaves, snapping of twigs, breaking of branches.

And then they came. Females, one at a time, with babies clinging to their hair, would look carefully to make sure the platform was safe, hesitate, then drop down onto the wooden floor, continuing to grip the last branch for several moments, ready to beat a hasty retreat if a superior animal should be there unnoticed or if some other danger was present. Then, eventually, both feet would come down, the branch was released and both hands became involved in grabbing bananas. One strip of banana peel was carefully pulled off by hand, just the way I do it, then (unlike me) she would bite the banana lengthwise in the middle and using only her teeth, lips and tongue slip the rest of the fruit into her mouth allowing only the peel to fall to the ground. Neat trick. I don't think I can do it. Borneo bananas are smaller than we're accustomed to in American markets, only about one third the size, but they are sweet and tasty and orangutans have perfected a quick and effective peeling technique that leaves both hands free to grab more bananas lest a bigger ape should appear and drive one away before his or her appetite is satisfied. While mom grabs and eats as rapidly as she can, babies grab mom's hair in a tighter grasp with one hand, stretch out the other and take whatever bananas they can reach, too, and even the little ones already know which part tastes best and how to get it out of that bitter husk.

Usually only one animal, perhaps with a juvenile attached, occupies the feeding platform. Others watch from nearby trees, some close, some high up or further off. But when the alpha male arrives lumbering onto the scene, serious hierarchical rules spring immediately into effect! Unless the orangutan already on the platform is his latest favourite squeeze, the orangutan currently eating scrambles up the nearest tree and keeps a respectful distance, perhaps hoping to return and finish lunch later if anything is left.

The King, as Rini refers to him, came crashing onto the first feeding platform we visited. It was obvious from his size, easily twice as large as the females, his deep and loud vocalizations, the enormous fully developed cheekpads and his generally self-important demeanor that he's firmly in charge and he'll have what he wants when he wants it thank you very much. Accordingly, he grabbed the nearby lady, one presumably attractive to him and without a baby in tow, pushed her onto her back and proceeded to have his way with her face to face and with a fair amount of satisfied grunting. Everyone gathered around the crowd control line was quite astonished. These animals are so human in their behaviours and facial expressions... it was a bit hard to believe he had such a weak sense of decorum. Of course, that's human thinking, human convention, my value judgment. I saw no indication that the female had volunteered for this duty, but she did not resist, submitted quite readily, in fact, and we were further astonished when after relieving his tension, the male looked tenderly into her eyes and stroked her hair gently and affectionately. It was really amazing to see such human like behaviour and such animal behaviour in the same individual at the same time.

On day two of our tour, at another feeding station, the king dropped in, stuffed his mouth with bananas, then lept to the ground, grabbed another female by the ankle and dragged her off into the bushes. The snapping of twigs was followed by grunting of the type mentioned above, then he climbed back up to the feeding platform and continued his meal. Definitely a guy with varying tastes and moods.

Another highlight of our observation at the feeding stations was the visit of a mischievous gibbon who knew he shouldn't be there. He made a quick and sudden dive to grab a handful of bananas and then scampered back up to safety, pleased with his catch, and departed with his prize swinging happily through the trees hand over hand in great looping arcs with a bunch of bananas hanging from his mouth.

I could go on and on. I already have. It was great fun, wonderful company, nature is amazing, and tomorrow we'll move on to a new place, grateful for these wonderful memorable experiences.

Look here for orangutan photos, but also further below for other new pics, finally posted. Bev

Rini, our guide from
Sekumpul, home for 3 days
Orangutan King gets all the bananas he wants
Mom and little one in the sunshine
Yes, I see you watching me
King gets his way - yes, this is x-rated
Traveling with baby
Traveling with friends
Gibbons are hilarious

Love all the postings. Keep them coming, stay safe, have fun!

Oh my! What an adventure you are having! Thanks so much for sharing. Your story telling skills are becoming out right publishable type material! My heroes!
Sat Oct 1 19:38 2016 NZDT
Run: 232.4nm (420.6km)
Avg: 3.4knts
24hr: 81.5nm
02 44.978S 111 43.715E

Motoring up the Kumai River through Tanjung Puting National Park we just couldn't help feeling like we were part of a National Geographic filming session. I swear I could hear David Attenborough off in the corner speaking in hushed tones, "... and if you watch carefully, there, just there, through the bush, you might catch a glimpse of the mother brachiating through the trees, swinging from tree limb to tree limb using only her arms, with a young offspring clinging to her stomach. The infant will travel with its mother this way until its five years old..." There's something unique about motoring into the rain forest up a muddy river through the swamps, knowing that orangutans, bearded pigs, snakes, two kinds of crocodiles, proboscis monkeys and other equatorial exotics are peering at you from the river's edge! This is definitely nothing like a bluewater passage and we're very excited about our stay here.

Seven of us will begin a 3 day tour on Monday in a klotok, a local wooden boat, to see the wildlife, visit the orangutan sanctuary, trek through the jungle both by day and at night to see what's there and to learn about life in the Park. I'm already planning long pants with the cuffs stuffed into my socks, a hat (I never wear hats), a long sleeved shirt and serious doses of Bushman 80% DEET, that to save me from being eaten alive by the mosquitoes, the rest to save what little blood remains from going to the leeches.

Although I grew up on the Mississippi River and spent summertime on the water with my friends, anchoring in those days was never my responsibility and I now see that I under estimated the skill required. The village of Kumai where some 20 Rally yachts have gathered, is home to a large and active port, large by Borneo jungle standards anyway, and there are tugs hauling barges up and down and anchoring them in the channel. Barges swing in the currents and tides to their own beat, not as the nearby yacht swings. In fact, yachts in the current of the channel don't behave the same as other yachts less impacted by the river's flow, and there have been some exciting moments for several of our group. We moved this morning, ourselves, having spent two anxious nights watching the 100m Barawit, behind Mersoleil, swing too close for comfort. Now we're off by ourselves, well downstream of the rest of the group, still with barges nearby, but not dangerously so, and we'll feel able to leave Mersoleil for a few nights with a hired hand on board to sleep in the cockpit shooing away anyone who comes too close.

Borneo. Here we are in Borneo! Never ever thought I'd hear me say that! Wow. Bev

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Gret! We love you! You are the best sister in the world!

Thank you for coming to Tanjung Puting National Park dear! I hope you will return one day so we can enjoy more of the park with you. XXX

Thank you for coming to Tanjung Puting National Park dear! I hope you will return one day so we can enjoy more of the park with you. XXX

Hi. How are you two? How can I see the pictures because I'm so excited to read your update. Love Yodi
Wed Sep 28 23:12 2016 NZDT
Speed: 7.4 motoringknts
Run: 15.6nm (28.2km)
05 45.785s 110 13.907e
Weather: squalls till noon, now sunny, humid, cirrus, 1008.3

Yesterday we departed Karimunjawa after a wonderful, but brief, visit. More on that below. We sneaked off, only 15nm, to the NW to anchor off tiny uninhabited Pulau Kumbang and enjoy an evening of splendid isolation. We thought we might stay another night at Kumbang, but 92F with 65% humidity and deathly still air yesterday discouraged that plan and we departed around noon today just to feel the breeze from the apparent wind as we motor to Borneo! Karimunjawa offers less in terms of scenic beauty than many of the places we've visited, and the official Sail Indonesia Rally events consumed only a single day. But what a day it was! Very early in the morning all the local boats, meaning some twenty or thirty of them, had motored away from the island out of sight. This isn't unusual, as they often go out fishing just before dawn, but this time each boat was overflowing with people. The town must have been nearly deserted! Suddenly an hour or two later, one of our yachties called on the VHF radio, "Here they come, everybody! Racing through the anchorage! Come up and greet Karimunjawa!" We hurried up on deck, as did everyone in the anchorage, and watched and jumped up and down, waving and cheering as they raced through the anchorage to the town wharf. like kids running an obstacle course, yelling greetings and all waving their arms in the air to welcome the us to Karimunjawa. We responded in kind, tooting our horns and waving and greeting them in return as they sped past! Local boat owners had spent days painting and decorating their boats with flags and banners and, crowded with happy shouting villagers, they created quite a spectacle! It was very exciting! They tied up at the end of the wharf, rafting up the way they do in Indonesia, as many as six boats deep, in long colorful rows, hulls bright red, blue, green, white, purple, pink in the morning sunshine with red and white Indonesian flags flapping proudly in the breeze and vertical multi-coloured festival banners swaying with the movement of the boats. (Photo coming when we get Internet access.) Robbie and I had agreed to attend a focus meeting (some things are the same in every country) organized by the Central Java Tourism Department and we appeared as promised at the wharf at 11:30 together with three other couples. Yodi and Arul, smiling and handsome, picked us up in an SUV and delivered us to the Karimunjawa Inn where a traditional Javanese orchestra and dancers were waiting for us. After a wonderful presentation of Javanese music and dance (yes, photo, as soon as we can) we stepped inside for a delicious buffet luncheon of fish, fried squid, white rice and nasi goreng, chicken, green vegetables (the spiciest dish of all!), people crackers and that pink coconut drink that accompanies all festive occasions here. It's made with very young coconut, so young it's usually gelatinous, coconut water, coconut milk, sugar, ice and don't ask me what makes it pink but it's a colour that does not appear in nature and I usually make it a practice not to eat things in colours that do not occur in nature. This pink drink is impossibly refreshing despite its colour and I enjoy it every time it's offered! After luncheon was finished, the meeting was called to order, the dignitaries were introduced and for about fifteen minutes not a single word was spoken in English and I suspected that we had been duped into attending a political photo opp, a group of white people apparently incomprehensively hanging on every word uttered by the officials sitting before us on late 19th century Dutch sofas and gentleman's chairs. But I was mistaken. After lengthy opening remarks, we received a synopsis in translation, and then we were asked to fill out a form, "Is this your first visit to Indonesia?" "How do you find the beach?" "What infrastructure could be added that would make your visit more pleasant?" "How likely are you to visit Karimunjawa again?" What beach? I didn't see a beach.

Then, the nice people from the Central Java Tourism Department took notes, furiously copying down our comments, as each one of us thanked them for their warm hospitality and made a few suggestions as to how Indonesia might attract more yachting tourists.

Karel Dimitri had the very best suggestion for infrastructure improvements. She said that we really need a dinghy dock in order to make it easy to get ashore from our yachts, and every yachtie present 'hear-heared' Karel's recommendation. Our greatest horror stories are not about trouble with Mersoleil, but about getting the dinghy to and from shore, or about getting in or out of it in difficult conditions! I still have a big bump on my left shin where I went down on one knee on the expanded metal dock at Gili Air three weeks ago. And I laugh till tears come to my eyes every time I recall how one night in Fiji another woman made a diving leap into her dinghy and then disappeared altogether as it bobbed up and down in the surf. Ben, the Fijian bartender, and I had tried to help them hold the dinghy still in the waves so she could make that leap, we looked at one another in disbelief wondering where she had gone! We'd seen her take flight over the inflated port tube and both felt sure she did not have enough momentum to carry her right over the dinghy and past it to the sea on the other side. We looked at one another, then at the dinghy, then at one another again in horror. What happened to Barbara?! The next time we looked back at the dinghy, Ben and I dissolved into peals of laughter, weak in the knees and leaning on one another in an effort to remain standing. Barbara's legs, pointing upwards from the knee to the foot, were performing a rapid scissors kick above the center of the dinghy as she lay on her back in the middle, wedged between the two seats and unable to get up. Gosh, I hope Barbara never reads this. It may have been the funniest thing I've ever seen in my life! For Ben and me. Barbara probably was not amused.

Sometimes we have to beach the dinghy, pulling it up onto the sand and tying the painter to a nearby tree. This is never a good solution for us - our dink is too heavy to lift and, with its outboard on the transom, moving it around on the beach is out of the question. Once while we enjoyed a long evening at a beachside pizza bar, the tide turned, waves slapped the stern of our dinghy and filled it with sand, building our own personal little beach right inside. It took an hour to get the dink cleared out and off the beach, back into water deep enough to put the propeller down.

And more than once we've tied our dinghy to a fixed pier, climbed up onto the wooden deck and returned two or three hours later to find that nothing short of a death defying leap or a graceful swan dive was going to enable us to board again before the next high tide. (I've made the death defying leap so many times it doesn't alarm me anymore. Have yet to try the swan dive, but that always seems high risk at low tide.) Anyway, Karel is absolutely right. Cruisers love to visit places where it's safe and easy to go ashore and a floating pontoon with cleats for tying dinghies is the answer to that need.

All eight of our group made good suggestions, I thought, and it was gratifying to see the officials scribbling down notes as we spoke. This did, however, make me wonder why we were translated after our comments. Maybe it was more culturally acceptable for us to speak through an intermediary.

My suggestion was that, after the dinghy dock and a spacious anchorage with proper depth, expensive infrastructure was not necessary at all, that it's the people of the local community who make our visits to new places special, enjoyable, memorable. Our fondest memories are of the people who have invited us into their homes, taken us fishing, shown us how they weave a basket, shared a meal with us or laughed late at night at the beach while launching dinghies in the dark. I told the tourism people that if they would just assign a family to each yacht and have that family help us top up our phones (something we NEVER get right without help) or show us around the local produce market, that we would never ever forget our visit to their village.

At the completion of the 'what do the yachties want' session, the same SUV whisked us back to town again in air conditioned comfort. We arrived for the end of the 'dress up in traditional Javanese clothing' fashion show and, to be truthful, did not understand exactly what was going on. But after I was dolled up in a sari with pleated front and contrasting jacket tied around the middle with a long sash, and Robbie in black pajamas and a headscarf tied like a skullcap, we proceeded across the stage and down the steps to take our seats amoung the group. I stopped at the top of the steps suddenly when hooting and hilarious laughter erupted amoung the crowd, yachties and locals alike, and turned to see Robbie hastily pulling his pajama bottoms back up over the cargo shorts underneath (thank God). The nice ladies who tied and pinned and buttoned him into his Javanese costume must have overestimated the girth of his skinny little butt, to the amusement of all.

We returned to Mersoleil for a little midday nap, then picked up Stedem from his yacht and returned to the wharf for the Sunset Jazz performance. Karimunjawa had spent two days setting up a stage, professional lighting and an impressive sound system at the outer end of the wharf. We toured past the local boats still rafted together in a riot of color, streamers and banners fluttering over the stage and the crowd, then rather than going ashore, we drifted in the shallows fifty meters away along with Fabio and Lisa (clever enough to bring their dinghy anchor!) and enjoyed the concert from there. This was serious jazz, too, top quality music like that you'd expect at an international jazz festival, and we bobbed happily in the water as the sun went down, sipping scotch and enjoying the sound.

Ashore after the jazz, we wandered the night market. Karimunjawa boasts only a couple of restaurants, but every evening as it grows dark pop up food vendors gather around the grassy football pitch in the center of the village. They spread tarps on the grass, place sturdy low tables on the tarps, and sell Indonesian delicacies from their carts for diners to carry to the tables and eat in the company of others. When the food runs out, someone just gets up and goes out for something more, marinated quails eggs on a skewer, or deep fried tofu stuffed with meat and spices, or vegetable fritters with a hot dipping sauce, or satay. Serious main dishes are available, too, at every stop. You choose your fish or squid and it will be barbequed to perfection over hot coals then delivered to your table.

We ran into our friends Arul and Yodi, again, the young men from Tourism, and Yodi used incomprehensible magic and his own Telkomsel account to top up our phone. We gave him the money and we are now able to make phone calls again and send SMS messages, something we'd been mysteriously unable to accomplish in forty five minutes at the Telkomsel shop on the previous day.

Before returning to Mersoleil late, in the dark, we made a plan for Yodi and Arul to come out to Mersoleil for coffee the next morning before they returned to Semarang by fast ferry. Robbie collected them from the wharf between raindrops the following morning (scrambling from a tiny sharp-edged concrete promontory, over a frayed wire of unknown voltage, down into the dinghy - see why we appreciate dinghy pontoons?) and we spent an hour or two together touring Mersoleil, comparing cultures, restringing Arul's jade pendant with whipping twine so it wouldn't choke him to death and agreeing that we should all remain friends by email even if we might never get face time together again. Both Yodi and Arul have subscribed to Mersoleil in YIT (they blush as they read this, I know) and will be following our travels here on this website, even as we travel away from them to other parts of the world.

How wonderful it is to know that we have loving friends in Indonesia. Yes, this is what we came here for!

I blushed as you mentioned me and mr arul. luckily you didn't mention about my plan of wedding. lol. But it's very happy to got your update and hope everything done well for your next sail. Keep be careful wherever you are.

I blushed as you mentioned me and mr arul. luckily you didn't mention about my plan of wedding. lol. But it's very happy to got your update and hope everything done well for your next sail. Keep be careful wherever you are.
Wed Sep 21 14:40 2016 NZST
Run: 336.6nm (609.2km)
Avg: 4.8knts
24hr: 115.4nm
5 52.491S 110 25.736E

21 September 2016

We passed a time zone, two days, two nights and about two hundred fishing boats between Kangean Island and Karimunjawa, where we arrived at 7:30 this morning. Actually, 6:30, as we discovered when we recognized the time change. Eventually, we'll explore the island, and enjoy some Sail Indonesia Rally activities scheduled to begin in a few days. Today, however, a nap will be the big event.

At one point during last night's 02:00-06:00 watch, I had 10 MARPA targets on my radar screen at once (and those were just the important ones, I didn't bother to acquire targets on the nonthreatening blips) showing boats (presumably) scurrying in all directions, some right at us, some away, some crossing our path. At the same time I had visual contact with more than 15 boats with bright lights shining on their catch and I knew they couldn't see me, not that they were looking. they were too busy fishing. Both of the last two nights were like this and we've never had such challenging nighttime sailing before. None of these vessels, we learned ages ago, responds to a radio call, so there's no point trying to hail them, one just has to assume all the responsibility for dodging them all. Imagine being the ball in a pin ball machine, trying to get through the maze without scoring any points or , God forbid, tilting the machine! Today's nap has been well-earned.

Sun Sep 18 16:41 2016 NZST
Run: 90.9nm (164.5km)
6 51.512S 115 13.736E

OK, I was mistaken about the early morning departure, but we did leave Bali yesterday at 4PM. It made more sense to clear the coast in late afternoon daylight, sail open deep water all night, and approach a new and unknown island by daylight today, which we did, arriving at Ketapang Bay, Kangean Island at nine this morning.

Last night's sail was true bliss! We had to go slowly in order to avoid approaching hard surfaces before daylight, so in flat seas with 8-10kts of easterly breeze we glided along all night at less than 6kts, sometimes as slowly as 3.5. It was quiet, the moon shimmered above and sprinkled the sea with welcome illumination, and Mersoleil stole silently through the water from island B to island K.

Yes, there were the ubiquitous obstacles, the fish traps, and those continued to appear out of the darkness until about 3AM keeping us constantly on our toes. It's especially challenging for me, my low vision requires me to learn and use all the nav technology resources available to us. Without radar, AIS, digital nautical charts, and a GPS image of Mersoleil superimposed directly on a Google Earth satellite photo of the area we are sailing, I would not be safe at the helm at night or in busy harbours. I still watch for the obvious visual cues as well, use my binoculars more than most people, and have to find the little fishing boats the hard way when they fail to appear on radar. Last night I learned that the bamboo fish traps, lashed together with coconut fronds and usually flying a ragged flag visible only by day, all seem to have some sort of radar reflector, a fact for which I am exceedingly grateful. We must have passed fifty fish traps last night, after dark and up to 18 miles offshore, some in more than 3,000 feet of water! And didn't hit a single one!

After careful consideration we headed east, out of our way, to avoid the military practice areas, "firing danger,' it says on the charts, and the minefields and ordinance dumping areas. Then we turned north and were rewarded with the most delightful sail in recent memory!

We've just had lunch - I HAD to puff up some people crackers, of course! (See yesterday's posting.) They are amazing! And when I get better Internet access, I'm going to show you some photos of these hysterical things! Honestly, little fingernail sized bits of mysterious papery flakes, spring to life in hot oil and transform themselves in about 5 seconds into delicious 3" salted snacks! Robbie and I were so entertained we puffed up batch after batch of them, more than we really wanted to eat, in just a few tablespoons of oil. "Amazing," we kept saying to one another. "Let's do that again!" There was an egg salad involved, too, avocado, tomato and the first lettuce we've had since Australia. But all I remember are the krupuk, the crackers! They only last about 5 minutes before they begin to go soggy, but just fried they melt on the tongue and are, well, amazing! And really, it requires only a matter of moments to puff a batch. Added plus, we find it highly amusing! (I think they were shrimp flavoured. Next we'll try the onion/garlic.)

Tomorrow we'll move on, either to Karimunjawa, the next scheduled destination, or to Besar Bawean, halfway there. More fish traps certainly, but we'll stay north of Java altogether to avoid those nasty minefields. Tune in again in a couple of days to see where we stopped.

Happy Birthday, Cyn. Can't wait to see you and Terry!


Happy, Happy birthday sweetest friend. I love reading your stories and am so grateful to keep track of you through them. Your little puff crackers sound like so much fun! Let me know your proposed return to US. Know I can't join you on your travels but really want a hug when you hit Northern Pacific! I'm singing Happy Birthday to you...hope you can hear it! 🎉🎂💞
Fri Sep 16 20:12 2016 NZST
08 09.494S 115 01.396E

Mersoleil will depart Lovina , Bali tomorrow morning at o-dark-thirty. We'll head for Ketapang Bay, some 70nm N of here. Ketapang is not in our intended direction of travel but the charts show a huge "military practice area" with "firing danger" between here and our destination to the NW and since further information is not available to us, we thought it wise to avoid that area. Don't worry. Ever cautions, we also intend to refrain from anchoring in the areas marked minefield. We avoid underwater cables, too, but that's not nearly as exciting.

We hired a car and went to nearby Singaraja today to the big supermarket, a Carrefour, a French chain. Yes, they had cheese, but we didn't buy any. A 4 oz. wedge of edam, or cheddar, or havarti with caraway was $15-20 US! You just can't want cheese that much!

I took an Indonesia cooking class the other day where I learned that the yummy shrimp crackers they serve with every meal in Indonesia are actually made on the spot from wee little flat chips that look something like potato chips (or crisps if you're British). The cook heats some palm oil sizzling hot and tosses in a small handful of the crisps which immediately puff up to twenty times their size and take on that suspicious texture of Cheetos that makes you think Cheetos must be an industrial byproduct. I can't wait to try it.

Have you ever considered how long it must take to shop in a store where every product is labeled in a language you do not understand. Shopping consists of a great deal of picking something up, looking at it, trying to peer through the packaging at the contents and saying to yourself, "I wonder what this is."

We needed coffee, know the name - here it's kopi, but had to pinch every package to figure out which ones had beans inside, then deal with the question of light or dark roast. Why is coffee so hideously expensive here? Isn't Java just the next island over?

We bought lots of cookies, too. Robbie likes cookies and if we chose well, he'll be in good shape for weeks. You buy those by the picture. I tried to buy some crackers, too, and I think I may have done so. The word 'asin' is on the package, that means 'salt' and the little picture that, on an American product, disclaims itself as a 'serving suggestion' because the cucumbers are not inside this package, shows cheese and meat and veggies stacked on these little bickies. But I've gone this route before and been surprised, like the time I bought salted crackers with a sugary lemon cream filling. There was only this one product that said 'asin' and showed meat and veggies perched on top and I hope I guessed right because we have eight packages of the things.

Robbie spent the entire time - while I was stowing bickies, dipping capsicums in the bleach dilution, and stuffing packs of dried noodles in every small space I could find (who cares if you break them?) - putting Google translate to work on the crisps. We have some that are either onion or garlic flavoured (it translates as onion, but the picture is of a garlic head); shrimp flavoured ones (glad about that, that's what I wanted); a bag of cassava crisps, most unfortunate but maybe with enough salt or if we get desperate enough...; one package that he couldn't figure out the flavour,he thought 'Space Shuttle' was probably the name of the company and not the flavour, but the picture of a space shuttle on the pkg does indeed confirm his translation; and another unidentified flavour that can't possibly be people crackers, can it? Anyway, I now have enough ready-to-puff crispy things to fill many enormous bags once they are puffed, and I'm happy about the fact that I don't have to stow them in puffed form.

We'll let you know when we arrive somewhere after having dodged the minefields and fishtraps, which, being right on the surface, are actually the far bigger hazard. We've had a grand time in Lovina, have stayed here long enough to get to know some of the locals, to try many of the tempting restaurants (it's too darned hot to cook on the boat and things are so inexpensive here it's actually more affordable to eat out!), and to enjoy the four-day Lovina Festival just finished with much singing, dancing and speechifying.                                                                             

Wed Sep 7 22:03 2016 NZST
Run: 73.8nm (133.6km)
8 09.494S 115 01.396E

7 September 2016

We arrived this afternoon at Lovina Beach on the NW coast of Bali. Bali is a gorgeous island, stunning really, with its mountains, many of which are clearly volcanoes, rising straight up from the shore to peaks nearly 10,000 feet above sea level. Why no photos? Because as beautiful as Indonesia is, she is also an equatorial country, perched at the very top of the SE trade winds where both temperatures and humidity soar in the bright sunshinne. Today the air temp was nearly 100F and the humidity hung very close to 70%. With so much moisture hanging suspended in the air, there is little incentive for more to evaporate from the skin, so we perspire and we feel it! Then we perspire some more! I remember when, living in Phoenix, Arizona, the dog days of summer, beginning in early August, really slowed me down. I've never been a napper, but I could honestly see why the siesta cultures developed their habit of napping through the hottest hours of the day and then resuming their activities with new vigor and carrying on into the cooler wee hours of the morning. I wonder if I could divide my day into two periods of sleep and two periods of activity, but I can see that if I'm ever to reside permanently in a climate like this I would have to find a way to adjust to it. That didn't explain why no photos, did it? See? My equatorial mind wanders languidly from the point, eventually returning to the moisture hanging in the air, whose tiny particles reflect the sunshine resulting in a visible haze over everything. I'm sure there must be some clear days when the air is drier and the landscape sharply outlined against the sky, but neither we nor our camera have seen such a day in the five weeks we've been in Indonesia. I can tell you she's lovely, and the pictures wouldn't do her justice. It's true.

Mersoleil is a Hyals yacht, built for Hylas by a boutique yachtbuilder, Queen Long Marine, in Taiwan. Queen Long builds only a few yachts each year, 2 or 3 of each Hylas model, of which there are now 5. Mersoleil is an H46, a 46 foot monohull, the smallest yacht Hylas offers. You can see Hylas yachts at and if you click on the H46 you'll see a lovely deep blue H46 with teak decks, Gaviota of Cowes, now sailed by Brits Syd and Lisa Payne. Gaviota, Hylas' featured H46, is here with us tonight. She pulled up next to us about an hour after Mersoleil anchored this afternoon. What's more, Bella Vita is here, too, a 1996 H45.5, the model that preceded Gaviota and Mersoleil, with our Seattle friends Brett and Stacey on board. And right behind is, Wakaya, a 1994 H49, owned by Gary and Jan Macie. All four Hylases are anchored together and I'm going out tomorrow morning to capture a family photo, all four yachts together at the island of Bali to memorialize our being here together. At five, we've all agreed to go ashore together for sundowners and to find dinner somewhere and to hold the International Hylas Owners Association Meeting at Bali, Indonesia. We'll take pictures to send to our dear friends at Hylas and at QL who have taken such wonderful care of us over the years and who have bent over backwards to explain how things work, where to get parts - or even provided them themselves - and have shown a genuine and enduring interest in us and in our yachts, their babies. I'm enthused at the thought of sending pictures of all our yachts anchored together in Bali. I know Jane and Joseph of QL and Dick and Kyle of Hylas will be thrilled to see them and to enjoy the moment with us, even if only vicariously.

We came from Gili Air to Lovina Beach in two hops, stopping last night in a rolly anchorage whose name I am blotting from my memory. I will never need it again! Rather than return last week to bumpy windy Medana Bay, we hung at Gili Air which was much more amusing and a group of nearly thirty of us hired a local water taxi to ferry us to the official rally events five miles away. (See previous post about abandoning plan to anchor at Medana Bay.)

It's been another fantastic week aboard SY Mersoleil and we hope you are as happy and having as much fun as we are. We'll be here for perhaps 10 days, till visas are renewed, passports returned, fuel replenished, provisions obtained and all the festivities are, what is it they do in Oz, done and dusted. Bev

Sun Aug 28 19:02 2016 NZST
Run: 29.2nm (52.9km)
08 22.027S 116 04.924E

We'd like to be reporting to you that we arrived in Medana Bay and reunited with Sail Indonesia rally colleagues. but that's simply not how it happened. The trip to Medana Bay, sneaking up the west coast of Lombok, went precisely as planned. It was perfectly effective for avoiding the southbound current, in fact we enjoyed a little help along the way from a countercurrent that boosted us along. Until we arrived at the pass between Lombok and Gili Air. There, at about one o'clock in the afternoon we were blasted on the nose by 20-25kts from the north and we remembered something we'd read last week about a little weather microcosm created by the 14,000 foot high Mt. Rinjani volcano which towers over Medana Bay on the island of Lombok. It's not unusual for the sunny N side of the volcano to warm up in the afternoon sunshine and as the resulting warm air lifts into the upper atmosphere cooler sea breezes rush in to fill the void - hence brisk winds from the north are not uncommon in the afternoon. Those stiff breezes created a nasty chop on the sea surface and we looked longingly at the Medana Bay anchorage, filled with our friends - there were some 15 yachts already there - and we dared not enter. SY Site, a sizable catamaran, entered just ahead of us and we watched Beth and Mitch bounce around like a bath toy in ways to which cats are most unaccustomed, and we decided not to follow. A radio call to Site went unanswered (they were probably busy anchoring) but we got a reply from Bob who owns the little marina in Medana Bay. "This wind just came up this afternoon," he said. "I don't recommend that you come in now. Why don't you drop the hook and wait for it to calm down around 4PM." We did that, but in 85 feet of water with a reef right behind us we could only let out 2.5:1 scope (6:1 would have been better) and we did not anticipate a leisurely afternoon. After about twenty minutes, we agreed to pull the hook, abandon the outskirts of Medana Bay and to go back, just 4 miles, to cute little Gili Air which we'd enjoyed so much ten days ago and which has protection from northerlies. Friends are here, Bamboozle, Det Gode Liv and Gaviota of Cowes and the island has lots of good restaurants. Yeah. This is much better than sitting in a bumpy anchorage, stuck on the boat! We'll mosey on over to Medana Bay in a few days when the weather behaves, but for now, we are happy residents of Gili Air!

Sounds harrowing. Glad to know you are safe in Gilli Air. Have been following your posts but with limited internet this is the first chance I have had to respond. Best to Robbie. Glad to know the dental work was a success.
Sat Aug 27 0:18 2016 NZST
Run: 33.2nm (60.1km)
Avg: 4.9knts
24hr: 117.9nm
8 45.746S 115 55.780E

As expected Mersoleil picked up speed on the downhill side after rounding the top of Lembongan. A breeze came along, too, and contributed to a 7-8kt run across the rest of Selat Lombok and we arrived at Gili Gede setting the anchor well before dark. Dinner in the cockpit consisted of snake beans, chicken satay (no, I don't have the lemongrass yet) and a tossed salad, Mersoleil surrounded by lush green islands, heavy grey clouds overhead (it's been raining at night the past few days) and a luxurious silence. Now a quick note to you and we're off to bed. It was a long day! Bev.

Fri Aug 26 17:33 2016 NZST
Speed: 2.3 motoringknts
Run: 17.9nm (32.4km)
08 38.85s 115 27.45e
Weather: 1011.6hPa 90F Wind N2-4kts

Motoring back from Bali to Lombok across the Selat Lombok against a 5kt current... There's been no wind to help us and the south setting current is a constant here regardless of what the tides might be doing. We're grateful not to be fighting the 8 kts that sometimes flows through here! Egad, I've just measured our progress and discovered that we've made only 18 miles over the ground in the five and a half hours since departing Bali Marina this morning at Benoa Harbour. We knew this would be the case, and have just made the turn over the top of Lembongan Island which should soon put us in favourable current for the balance of the trip to Gili Gede. Still, and I haven't told His Robbiness this yet, I don't see us anchoring before dusk. Dusk if we're lucky. So many of you have asked, so I will report here that Robbie survived the dental work at Bali 911 Dental Clinic in Denpasar and he was pleased with the clinic, the professionals and their services. How they can do so much work for USD$200 is beyond me, but they run a nice, clean, organized operation and they are busy busy busy working on Australians who come to Bali with dental tourism on the itinerary. On Wednesday we hired a car and young driver and made our way up into the mountains to the village of Ubud, the arts capital of Bali, and to nearby Batuan, particularly known for its paintings. 24 year old Tio drove expertly, weaving in and out among the motor scooters, autos and pedestrians, delivering us first to a huge Denpasar batik factory where one can stop on the huge covered tile portico at the entrance and watch the artists, all ladies as far as I could see, drawing their wax resist designs on new fabric, then enter the store to admire and purchase the finished product. I was happy to pick up a few new sarongs in soft blues, greens, purples, my tropical garment of choice ever since we were in Mexico, and I am now at liberty to discard a few old ones that are reduced to tatters from constant use and catching on the refrigerator door. The village of Batuan is similar in character to Mata Ortiz, the famous arts community in Chihuahua, Mexico, where everyone is an accomplished potter, but the artists in Batuan are painters all. Dutch painter Arie Smit spent time in Batuan in the 1930s and encouraged the gifted local painters. even teaching youngsters to paint in a simple naive style that has become known as the Young Artists School. We purchased an acrylic on canvas, "Rice Harvest," by I Ketut Soki, now in his eighties, reputed to be the most accomplished of Smit's original young artists. Finally, something to hang on the only wall in the boat, the space above the dining settee. It's been vacant now for six years. About time. As soon as we have Internet access, I'll show you a photo which, though it doesn't do the painting justice, gives a glimpse of the interesting, colorful, intricate style. We visited at least eight galleries, several in Batuan and a few in Ubud itself (Oooo boood). Each village has several schools of painting with unique styles, Ubud artists produce jewelry and sculpture in addition to paintings, and we saw some fantastic art, resisting additional purchases only by applying a healthy measure of disciplined restraint. Luncheon at Swept Away riverside restaurant tucked in a scenic mountain valley at The Samaya Resort was leisurely and delicious - next time I make satay I'm going to skewer them with lemongrass stems, what a great idea. The Sacred Monkey Forest was another obligatory and highly amusing stop near Ubud and I regret not having allowed the monkeys to climb on me. I was so tempted, decided to act like an adult and keep back from the monkeys, and I've been sorry ever since. Next time I see wild monkeys who are accustomed to humans I'm going to have fun. Don't even bother to lecture me, it will fall upon deaf ears. IAnd if I ever return to southern Bali I shall make straight for Batuan and Ubud, hole up in a mountainside villa or boutique hotel with fresh air and cool breezes, eat great Indonesian food, buy more paintings and give Denpasar a pass. Will reunite tomorrow with Sail Indonesia Rally friends in Medana Bay. Bev.

Mon Aug 22 12:35 2016 NZST
Run: 64.8nm (117.3km)
8 44.472S 115 12.777E

Selat Lombok, separating Bali from Lombok, is a busy place! Tankers and cargo ships pass north and south through here, ferries run constantly back and forth, this being the center of Indonesian tourism, and local boats are out as well fishing, sailing and going about their own business. The cargo ships run like a freight train up and down the traffic lane in the center of the selat one after another after another. We took advantage of the constantly south flowing current for the sail down to Benoa Harbour at Denpasar, Bali's capital, and made the 55nm trip in less than seven hours, arriving Saturday afternoon at 4:00. The return trip to Medana Bay next week is going to be a much longer haul during which we'll hide in a counter current, if we can find it, along the west coast of Lombok. We'll pay for Saturday's speed by taking two days for the return. Bali Marina is a bit isolated and we've hired a car to drive us into Denpasar for the big dental appointment this afternoon, Monday. I've memorized the map of the CBD, or if I haven't I'll be in trouble, and find that several things I wish to see in Denpasar can be found within a 2k walk from Bali Dental Clinic. This will be an interesting day! Bev

How did Robbie's dental appt go? Mouth pain is the pits so I hope the implant is fixed!!! Love reading your updates. I'm in the midst of applesauce prep. I've canned about 90 quarts off of one Gravenstein tree. Now it's on to our Bartlett pear tree! It's loaded too. Good year for fruit! Miss you. Heading to Colorado next week to visit Megan and family. Excited to play with Ava and Evan. She's in second grade and Evan is in pre kindergarten. Growing up so fast! Love you!
Fri Aug 19 15:07 2016 NZST
Run: 43.1nm (78km)
Avg: 6.1knts
24hr: 147.4nm
8 21.935S 116 04.921E

While it would have been my preference to anchor at Gili Air, we trust our own ground tackle more than anybody else's, this anchorage is so crowded that we picked up a mooring instead and settled in at 9:30AM. The plan for the rest of the day is simple. A nap, the siesta lifestyle is a must in these hot humid climes, followed by a trip to shore around three o'clock. We'll take a walk, stretch our legs, then find dinner among the fine restaurants reputed to cover the island.

Fri Aug 19 8:06 2016 NZST
Speed: 7.2knts
Run: 199.9nm (361.8km)
Avg: 6.3knts
24hr: 150.9nm
07 57.330s 116 33.400e
Weather: 1009, SE 20-25kts

We've just turned SW from a course of 270 and have had fine sailing for the past many hours. Nice to have the engine off for a change! The only sail is a double reefed genoa and even that's a bit too much in this fresh breeze - don't want to get too close to land before daylight and a boat speed of 6kts would be preferable to 7.5. The moon is still high and bright, also a welcome condition for night passage! Winds will probably die at 05:30 and Mersoleil will arrive at Gili Air mid-morning. A little traffic every night: cargo ships, fishing boats, passenger ferries and the occasional dive boat (fewer here than back at Komodo National Park). It's all good! Bev

I think the map is a little askew. Unless you have made it to the DR of the Congo. Love to you both. Gret
Thu Aug 18 0:18 2016 NZST
Speed: preparing to departknts
Run: 23.7nm (42.9km)
08 26.770S 119 26.16E

Yesterday we enjoyed three wonderful dives at Siapa Besar, just 8nm from Rinca Island. The dive boat picked us up at Mersoleil and we had a delightful day with private dive guide Stefano, who sees everything down there and makes sure we see it too! Thus we saw sea turtles in abundance, green and hawksbills, colorful eels, a lovely jouvenile stingray about a foot across,seahorses and not just seahorses, mind you, but mating seahorses! Also a couple of very cute little white flounders, how did he see those in the white coral sand, and a flamboyant cuttlefish. The flamboyant cuttlefish caused much enthusiasm among the marine biologists on board. Frankly it was lost on me, I've seen cigar butts sticking up out of the sand in ash urns that looked exactly like that, and no one ever calls those flamboyant. Some Internet research is clearly in order so the next time I spy a flamboyant cigar butt I can get as excited as the others This morning we moved some twenty miles to Loh Serau, a deep bay on the NW tip of Komodo Island surrounded by high steep hills, still green despite the dry season, and with water supporting abundant coral and fishes. We came here on the tails of Bamboozle and Soudade, Vision rolled in a bit later. After an hour long snorkel right off the boat, we rinsed off the salt and spent the evening with Jamie and Lucy (Bamboozle) and Jimmy (Vison) in the cockpit of Mersoleil. Now its 8PM and we'll pick up the hook and depart at 9PM for Gili Air at the west end of Lombok Island. That's a 36 hour sail and we must always consider where we are during dark and approach land only during daylight. The evening departure (from this isolated location where there are no villages and presumably no fish traps near shore) puts us closing in on Gili Air as day breaks on Friday. It's Independence Day in Indonesia. We didn't see very many Indonesians today, only Frenchmen, Brits and an Irishman, but we're flying a bigger than normal Indonesian courtesy flag and we wish everyone here a happy Independence Day! Now, up to the cockpit. I'll be on watch for the first few hours.


Tue Aug 16 0:09 2016 NZST
Speed: at anchorknts
Run: 14.8nm (26.8km)
08 39.134S 119 42.792E

Komodo National Parks encompasses several islands, 5 I think, and Komodo Dragons populate most of them. We've come to Rinca Island, much smaller than Komodo where nearly half, more than 1300, of all the lizards are found. Mersoleil is anchored just 100 meters from the jetty at the ranger station at Loh Buaya. We tied the dinghy to the jetty along with about a dozen local boats who bring tourists from nearby towns to visit the park. Signs on the jetty warned of crocodiles, a macaque played on the jetty and its railings, and even hopped onto one of the boats which excited the crew into shooing him away with the universal back-of-the-hand gesture. We walked, unescorted, from the jetty up a long crushed granite path wondering if we had missed something. Where is the guide? We thought this was dangerous. Should we go back and wait for someone to issue an engraved invitation to enter the dragons' domain? But a five or ten minute stroll delivered us to the ranger station itself, the admissions office where it takes two or three people to sell a ticket, and much discussion seems to ensue with each purchase because the price never seems to be what was expected. We had purchased our tickets yesterday in Labuan Bajo, so our transaction was simple, but still there was the request for local tax, 210 Rupiah, which amounts to 21 cents and I was happy to hand it over with a big smile. The cashier deserved the big smile after the grumpy reception he received from the couple before us who had presented tickets for Komodo Island and not Rinca and were convinced they were being unfairly required to pay twice. Silly. Robbie and I were assigned a naturalist guide named Bony whose English was excellent and who has worked at the park for five years, ten days on and ten days off when he goes home to his family on Flores Island. He took us on a 2 hour walking tour of the island whose flora and fauna, except perhaps the largest lizard in the world, reminded us very much of Mexico. He even talked abut the trees being mesquite and ironwood, and mentioned that the forked stick all the rangers carry is from the ironwood tree. Immediately next to the office two eight foot Komodo Dragons were... um.... laying there like slugs on the ground. They move slowly most of the time and seem to require good reason to muster up the energy to go anywhere or, God forbid, to hurry. Many people are afraid of them, but I don't get it. I mean, I didn't see one jump out at me in ambush, as they are wont to do when hungry, and that certainly might have changed my assessment, but we both had the distinct feeling that the dragons are quite happy to tolerate our presence, pose for photos and if we don't bother them they're not motivated to bother us. Up the track we saw a female on her nest incubating a clutch of eggs, and we treated her with due respect. Our walk included other dragons, too, and a pair of scrub fowl pecking in the forest undergrowth, more monkeys, highly amusing to watch, a few Timor deer and another nest guarded by the female and surrounded by her decoy nests, extra holes dug in the vicinity of the real thing in order to confuse and mislead predators. Komodo dragons are definitely big, and interesting, and dirt-colored, so they're not easy to see in the dry grass or the bare rocky soil. Bony, our guide, thumped the ground with his stick as he walked along and I asked him about that. No, it's not just play, he's doing it to alert the snakes that someone is coming so they can slither off without confrontation, a grand idea in my book, and whenever he stopped thumping I felt a twinge of concern. The green viper lives on this island, So does the hissing python, which sounds treacherous to us, and one or two other poisonous snakes. It was our pleasure to encounter none of them. After our lovely walk we stopped at the handsome concession pavilion, all the buildings including this one are built up about 4 feet above the ground so the dragons can't enter easily, where we were able to resist the carved dragon statues and tee shirts but not the cold beverages and we sat for a bit watching monkeys playing on the ground and in the trees and a deer cutting the grass around the welcome center. Water buffalo were not in evidence except for the enormous piles of buffalo doo strategically placed here and there on the pathways, nor did we see any wild horses. Returning to the jetty we found at least a dozen local boats rafted together, fanning out on either side of the jetty, all hung from only two berths, a common docking practice throughout Indonesia, Hopping down onto Doggie1, fortunately it had been an easy step up when we arrived at higher tide, we motored back out to Mersoleil, raised the hook and moved about 8 miles to our dive site for tomorrow morning. More about that anon. Komodo dragons, hmmm. Very interesting. But not particularly scary. It's hard to get my head around the fact that this is the wild, this is nature, not a zoo. Yes, we have pictures. But no Internet. Pictures will come later. Biggest impression for me? I love the plants, the trees, the smell of the forest, even the dry smell of an arid environment. I miss the earth and the trees in this life at sea and each time I have a chance to wander on land I'm thrilled.


Sat Aug 13 14:39 2016 NZST
Speed: at anchorknts
Run: 16.3nm (29.5km)
Avg: 3.7knts
24hr: 89.9nm
08 29.993s 119 51.919e
Weather: 2kts

Just arrived at Labuan Bajo. Busy place, filled with activity and local boats, all of whose outboards make the put-put-put noise we remember from cartoons. We'll go ashore shortly with the French family from Soudade, a yacht with whom we sailed last night, five miles apart, and all night long. We'll explore together, have lunch, find the Komodo Nat'l Park ticket office and see what's doing in Labuan Bajo, clearly a happening place! Hot here, and dry, arid. Feels a bit like Mexico. Bev

Sat Aug 13 10:18 2016 NZST
Speed: 6.5 motoringknts
Run: 241.1nm (436.4km)
Avg: 6.9knts
24hr: 164.6nm
08 16.379s 119 47.993e
Weather: l & V

Approaching land just as the sun rises and will stop at Labuan Bajo for fel, tickets to Komodo National Park and, if we're lucky, we'll find some fruit and veggies. Passed through a big squall line for the first time in eons just about an hour ago. More rain would have been better for our dirty decks. Then the wind returned to an uncooperative 7-10 directly on the stern, so we continue by motor. Can't wait to see those dragons. Never did get a look at any crocs... except the ones on our feet.


Thu Aug 11 23:09 2016 NZST
Speed: at anchorknts
Run: 59.9nm (108.4km)
08 14.701s 123 19.479e
Weather: 5-7kts variable

Even on the way to the dentist, Robbie's first appointment in Bali is on 22 August, there's a little time to play. We day-hopped to Kroko Atoll, nestled beneath a towering, and smoking, volcano, and have spent two fine days here socializing with the five yachts who were already anchored when we arrived. This afternoon we enjoyed an exploration of the reefs by dinghy, then jumped into the water for a nice leisurely drift-snorkel, an hour and a half floating with the current, painter in hand to keep the dinghy nearby. Several corals were new to us, especially an interesting selection of black and yellow strappy ones, maybe they're plants and not corals at all, that look like they were designed by the safety equipment company. When we pulled our dripping faces out of the water and looked around, there were eleven boats in the anchorage, described in our cruising guide as accommodating five. Inspired by the crowd, we weighed anchor at 16:00 and made a dash for the sea in an effort tog et all the fish traps behind us before they are consumed by darkness. Next stop, Labuan Baju, 235nm away, where we'll make arrangements to visit Komodo National Park. Komodo Dragons! Only discovered (by Europeans, anyway) in 1904, these animals were the original inspiration for the 1934 movie, King Kong. Can't miss the Dragons! Biggest lizards in the world. Yikes! Bev.

Hey Robbie and Bev don't make any dragons pets. Fair winds for you. Miss you lots. Love Gret
Tue Aug 9 1:57 2016 NZST
Speed: at anchorknts
Run: 21.1nm (38.2km)
08 16.455s 124 11.975e
Weather: 5knts SE, slight seas, no clouds, 1022 baro

We've taken a detour! Rally festivities begin at Kalabahi, Alor, in the morning, but we're on the fast track to Bali for some unplanned dental tourism. Robbie has an appointment on the 22nd, so we have time to stop at Komodo National Park and ogle at the Dragons. Will rejoin the Sail Indonesia Rally on August 28th at Medana Bay. We moved only a short distance today, might stop tomorrow at Kroko Atoll, renown for its great snorkeling, then we'll press on to Bali in earnest.

Glad to find this site since I can read your updates. Hope the dentist appointments go well. Dragons will be cool. Hope you can post pictures of the three different colored beaches. Continued blessings in your travels dearest friend. Love you bunches!

Love to read about your adventure. Soon we will be back in the ocean. We will be chasing you around. We have our new boat build in Saith Africa. The plan is to cross the Attlantic December or January. Saludos. Fer and Geo

Thu Aug 4 16:41 2016 NZST
8 13.386S 124 30.229E

Mersoleil arrived yesterday morning in Kalabahi, Alor, Indonesia, after a wonderful sail from Kupang, Timor. Once we reached 124 degrees East and turned due north, the winds filled in at 10-12kts and we enjoyed a beam reach over calm waters all the way up to Selat Pangar (selat means strait) which separates Alor from islands to the west. We're anchored with other Sail Indonesia Rally yachts right off the town of Kalabahi, up a deep fjord-like inlet with steep hills, deep water right up to shore and very still air. Smoke from cooking fires on shore rises lazily straight up to the sky. Mosquito net went up over our berth yesterday and we're applying Bushman 80% DEET in earnest now. Party on board Atlantis last evening was crowded and great fun even though we were a bit weary from the overnight sail. Now it's time to go ashore and familiarize ourselves with the town and its people. We can already tell three months isn't going to be a long enough time to stay in Indonesia! While Fiji will probably always hold the prize for 'Happiest People,' it looks as if Indonesia is going to win the Love Award. (Just like Elizabeth Gilbert said.) The warmth and affection demonstrated by the Indonesian people we've met is sincere and remarkable. Whereas the Fijian "Bula!" is accompanied by an enthusiastic slap on the back and a wide grin, The Indonesian "Senang bertemu denangmu" usually includes a handshake, a look direct into your eyes and the greeter's other hand pressed to his or her heart, implying this is not just a superficial greeting, but a greeting with love. Life is good, all's well on board, and the dream continues. Bev.

Hey you two, Really look forward to reading your posts about your "indo" adventures , keep em coming and take care John & Leanne

Wow! Thanks for sharing your "adventures". I have told many of my friends about meeting you in Hobart, one of the highlights of my visit to Tasmania! I wish you continued enjoyment. Gary
Thu Aug 4 16:41 2016 NZST
Run: 33.6nm (60.8km)
8 13.386S 124 30.229E

Mersoleil arrived yesterday morning in Kalabahi, Alor, Indonesia, after a wonderful sail from Kupang, Timor. Once we reached 124 degrees East and turned due north, the winds filled in at 10-12kts and we enjoyed a beam reach over calm waters all the way up to Selat Pangar (selat means strait) which separates Alor from islands to the west. We're anchored with other Sail Indonesia Rally yachts right off the town of Kalabahi, up a deep fjord-like inlet with steep hills, deep water right up to shore and very still air. Smoke from cooking fires on shore rises lazily straight up to the sky. Mosquito net went up over our berth yesterday and we're applying Bushman 80% DEET in earnest now. Party on board Atlantis last evening was crowded and great fun even though we were a bit weary from the overnight sail. Now it's time to go ashore and familiarize ourselves with the town and its people. We can already tell three months isn't going to be a long enough time to stay in Indonesia! While Fiji will probably always hold the prize for 'Happiest People,' it looks as if Indonesia is going to win the Love Award. (Just like Elizabeth Gilbert said.) The warmth and affection demonstrated by the Indonesian people we've met is sincere and remarkable. Whereas the Fijian "Bula!" is accompanied by an enthusiastic slap on the back and a wide grin, The Indonesian "Senang bertemu denangmu" usually includes a handshake, a look direct into your eyes and the greeter's other hand pressed to his or her heart, implying this is not just a superficial greeting, but a greeting with love. Life is good, all's well on board, and the dream continues.

Wed Aug 3 10:51 2016 NZST
Speed: 6.1knts
Run: 114.9nm (208km)
08 37.715s 124 14.010e
Weather: SE 4.0 1010.3 95% cover, Cu, haze over the water at sunrise

We motored the first 12 hours out of Kupang en route to Alor, 130nm to the NE. At 124 degrees east the wind filled in and gave us a fantastic sail overnight, so fast we had to dump some air to hold our speed down below 9kts. Fishermen in small unlighted boats are a nighttime hazard in Indonesia and Mystic Moon, just behind us, saw one with weak little lights at 2AM 20 miles offshore. Dawn brought us in view of Alor and her neighboring islands, high peaked beauties in the rosy morning light. And it stole away our nice 10-12 knots of wind, too, so we've revved up the iron genny again. we could call this motor sailing, I suppose, because we haven't taken down the main. But, really, we're motoring along. Will drop the hook at Kalabahi Bay at midday, give or take a few hours for the south seting current we anticipate in Selat Aor. We are loving Indonesia for her people. Open, warm and loving. More about that in the next post. Bev.

Wed Jul 27 19:09 2016 NZST
Speed: at anchorknts
Run: 30.8nm (55.7km)
10 09.507s 123 34.355e
Weather: NE 25-30kts, 96F, 1010.2,

Mersoleil arrived in Kupang, Timor and dropped the anchor at 09:30 this morning. There was no wind on Saturday. We motored. There was no wind on Sunday, but we sailed anyway, lazing our way quietly through the water and it was good. There was no wind on Monday, ditto Tuesday and we motored again. We tried a few clever sail combinations, but realized fairly speedily that when there isn't any wind, there's really nothing you can do with sails to change things. For example, we could have set the spinnaker which weighs nothing and fills with the tiniest amount of wind, with a pole to hold it out in the breeze. But with wind speeds as low as 5kts, if the spinnaker did, perchance, fill with air and press Mersoleil forward at 6kts, the apparent wind would be higher from the bow than the true wind would be from the stern... and the spinnaker would back and just slow us down or impale itself on the rigging. And so we motored some more. But we slept well, and were able to enjoy meals, something one can't always do on passage, and miraculously (as often happens for us, thank you God) we arrived at the Roti Strait just as day was dawning this morning. We wouldn't have negotiated this strait in the dark and were very glad we didn't. Daylight enabled s to miss the pearl farms, fishing traps and bobbing floats marking who knows what, and we passed through uneventfully to the anchorage at Kupang. Then two interesting things happened, at least we think they were interesting. Things that make one wonder why one ever bothers to make plans. First, as we were setting the anchor and snubber the wind picked up, and not just a little. It's been blowing about 25kts since we anchored, Mersoleil is bouncing around more than she usually does in 2m seas and people on several other rally boats are reporting seasickness at anchor. One boat, behind us fortunately, has already dragged off into distant deep water and was rescued by other cruisers who boarded, unfouled the anchor, started the engine and brought her back to the flock. The foresail of another yacht at anchor unfurled by itself and tried to flog itself to death on the bow, the expensive price one pays for leaving that cute but purposeless little triangle of sail exposed rather than furling the sail completely and wrapping it with its sheets to keep it secure. (We'll never understand this practice, we wrap the sheets a full six times around the completely furled sail and secure the sheets in clutches so they can't escape and destroy our sails.) We can barely walk around inside the cabins - it's just like being on a boisterous passage! All this after four days of windless calms. To tell the truth, we admit to being very glad we're not out sailing in this wind. It's a bit too brisk to be fun, and it is exhausting. The other interesting thing, and one we kind of expected, but we did not expect to be the lucky recipients of the perfect arrangements, is the folly enacted by the officials here as they run around trying to clear all the yachts, more than forty, into the country. Kupang is not accustomed to serving great numbers of vessels at one time, nor are they accustomed to dashing out into the anchorage in high winds and three to four foot wind waves, Not fifteen minutes after we had secured the anchor a black inflatable with six officials on board pulled up at Mersoleil's starboard side and announce that they were ready to board our yacht. We weren't ready for them - I was still wearing shorts (a huge no no in these Muslim lands) and I know Robbie wanted a nap at that moment far more than he wanted to visit Indonesia, here they were and it's always wise to respond in the affirmative. I've been rehearsing my meager bahasa Indonesia on the passage, so was able to spout off a cheery ,"Halo, apa kabar! Nama saya Bev," which pleased them enormously and suddenly we had seven laughing and chattering people below and I was frantically searching for paperwork that I hadn't even thought about yet. These bright smiling uniformed officials were young, not a one over thirty five, and they are having a ball today. While those on Mersoleil signed and stamped and printed legibly, the remaining two played in the waves with their rigid inflatable and refused to return to collect their colleagues after the paperwork was finished. They circled Mersoleil, sending splashing fans of water through the air as they cut curves at high speed. Finally, after another half hour of hide and seek, and several photographs of us with them, them with each other, and many chants of happy anniversary (yes, 14 years) the tender returned, collected our officials and they were off. Rather than clearing another yacht, and there are still several who arrived here yesterday and are awaiting their initial visit from customs and practique, they took a few breakneck spins through the anchorage, followed the dragging vessel out to sea for a while before apparently deciding that rendering aid in this case did not fall within their job descriptions, stopped at Bella Vita and announced to Brett and Stacey that they were going to lunch and would come back later. This was followed by some excited conversation on the VHF among vessels who feel imposed upon and ill-served. This is not the way government functions in "our country," and you may substitute nearly any Northern hemisphere country for the "our country," but it is Indonesia, quirky and sweet, well-intentioned but relaxed. There are about twenty vessels who arrived here long before Mersoleil who are still in the holding pattern and we, for no good reason, are now free as birds to leave the boat, stop by Immigration (who wisely elected to meet visitors on land) and then explore our first Indonesian city. Tain't right, tain't just, tain't fair, tain't even logical! But this is Indonesia. Our turn will come to be inconvenienced and I hope we'll accept it with poise and good humor! BTW, just for the record, the engine block chicken was delicious and we have not seen a single croc yet! Although the health guy, surely he couldn't be a physician at his age, told us not to swim here. A couple of crocodiles have been seen in the anchorage today. And so begins our Indonesian odyssey! Bev

Crocs! no way, not going there, OZ is bad enough with the bazillion things that will get you. Crazy intro to Asia!
Wed Jul 27 4:51 2016 NZST
Speed: 6.0knts
Run: 216.2nm (391.3km)
Avg: 13.4knts
24hr: 321.3nm
10 27.041s 123 54.883e
Weather: E 7-10E 7-10

It's been a funny passage. Predictwind didn't do such a good job as we're accustomed to, so we went to all the trouble to head far off to the north, taking a long route with two tacks in order to enjoy a nice point of sail, but the wind never materialized, at least it never stayed above 9kts for more than a few minutes at a time. We sailed, no, we motored an extra 30nm for no reason! Oh well. The weather has been beautiful. the seas flat or nearly so and it was a wonderful few days on the water. I was inspired to generate a little spreadsheet to analyze our fuel consumption and find that with the Gori prop in overdrive we actually do consume about 30% less diesel. Mersoleil's motoring range in overdrive is better than 1100nm, as opposed to the 800 we can motor in regular drive, or now that think about it, the 800 we used to get from the Maxprop, now stored in a sarcophagus in the sail locker. Good choice, that Gori. I'll have to run the numbers some day on the Gori prop in regular drive. Maybe we get better mileage with that, too. We're approaching the coast of Timor in company with Jenni D, another rally yacht headed for Kupang. Robbie tells me, now, as part of my 2AM pre-watch briefing, that Gucci is closing in from behind. We haven't met the Guccis yet. We'll be anchored in Kupang, well, 5 hours after we reach that pass. We haven't quite figured out what time it is in Timor, but they run +8 on GMT and are probably not observing a daylight savings time. Oh boy! Indonesia! And saya bisa bicara bahasa Indonesia seditkit! I've been studying a little app on my phone while on passage and that said I can speak a little Indonesian. Bev.

Tue Jul 26 12:42 2016 NZST
Speed: 6.8 motor-sailingknts
Run: 293.6nm (531.4km)
Avg: 4.2knts
24hr: 100.1nm
10 17.726s 127 5.428e
Weather: Light & Variable. Swell E

Wind, apparently, is prohibited in the Timor Sea between July 23 and July 26. We've been motor sailing much more than sailing....welcome to equatorial Indonesia. Right onschedule, just as we spend our last 24 hours on passage, we have adjusted our sleep cycles and are feeling pretty good on our watch schedule. I've spent my watches, reading Lonely Planet: Indonesia and "300 Great Bread Machine Recipes". No traffic at all last night. I got a little excited when I saw a distant light, but it appeared not to be moving. Fishing boat? Boat adrift? Nope. Oil platform. Oil platforms rarely move. It will be hot today, a cloudless day like the past three. All well on board. Robbie

Sat Jul 23 14:18 2016 NZST
12 27.120S 130 49.435E

Ta ta, wonderful Australia! It's been a most excellent nine months! The Sail Indonesia Rally is blasting off today, well, in fact it would be more accurate to say we're drifting off, or even motoring, in winds below 5 knots. But everybody is excited and we look forward to the new and unknown! The official start was at 11AM, but Mersoleil will lock out of Cullen Bay Marina at 13:00, then find a place to sit at anchor till 9PM tonight. This we think, will bring us to the coast of Timor at dawn on Wednesday morning, giving us an opportunity to navigate safely the rest of the way along the coast and through the channel to Kupang in daylight. It would be such bad form to run down an unlit Indonesian fishing canoe in the dark before we've even checked into the country! Very excited, filled to the gills with provisions we don't expect to see again in stores in the next year, cheese, olive oil, capers, salsa, pickles, crackers, and more. Plus enough mosquito coils to permanently infuse our bodies with the faint aroma of incense. Thank you to all our new and old friends in Oz. We mourn our departure even through the excitement of the next adventure! We'll try harder to update YIT daily on the way up to Kupang, but those of you who are inclined to worry and imagine the worst, A) cut it out, and B) give us some leeway, c'mon! There's no wind and we want to conserve fuel! Maybe we'll just float around out there on the sea for a while. It's a marvelous way to relax after two busy weeks of preparations. Indonesia in the headlights! Woohoo! Bev

Wish you happy and safe sailing. It was a pleasure to meet you and spent some time in Tassie with you. Meet you in the Med!

Dear Robbie & Bev, Just a quick THANKYOU for your friendship, your support , your encouragement and your continued efforts to provide us with helpful input based on your Down Under experience all of these have have been invaluable to us It has been a pleasure getting to know you both and each country you visit should think themselves lucky to have you as their guest . Fair Winds freinds and may all your adventures and experiences be worthy of being added to the highlight reel of your lives ,, as we often say about those of whom we are fond ,, you're good eggs :)
Tue Jul 19 20:09 2016 NZST
Run: 587.1nm (1062.7km)
12 27.120S 130 49.435E

Darwin, Australia. OK, I'm sorry. I wrote this nice newsy posting just after we arrived in Darwin, last Saturday, but while I was writing it, unbeknownst to me, somebody took the system down for maintenance.... and my witty tale of sailing the last 775 miles to Darwin was wasted in the ethers. Suffice it to say we arrived after a nice passage and I no longer remember a thing about that. It has been a crazy whirlwind of a week preparing to depart Australia, applying for Indonesian visas and preparing the paperwork for entering Indonesia according to their bureaucratic whims, taking care of a couple of important business matters at home (before that becomes nearly impossible), and performing those boat tasks that are best done in a marina with first world services - provisioning, replacing the freezer evaporator plate, gauging the compression on the genset, renewing medical prescriptions, cleaning Mersoleil inside and out with an endless supply of city water, laundering everything we own, applying lock and chain to everything on deck (so we will still own those things after sailing through Indonesia), filling tanks (diesel, scuba and LPG) and, of course, socializing with friends old and new. It's Tuesday in Darwin, we're sailing on Saturday and Friday is a holiday (no idea what we're celebrating) so perhaps we can catch our breath on Friday. I'll buy provisions on Friday while they're installing the new freezer plate and pray that it works so I can stow our groceries! I plan to buy pork - may never see it again! First stop in Indonesia will be Kupang, West Timor, about 500nm from Darwin. It will probably take us about 3 1/2 days to reach Kupang where, with the brand new visitor visa regulations loosely in place and fully understood by virtually no one, it may take us another three days to get checked in to the country! We've already learned that the visas we went to great lengths to obtain at the Indonesian Consulate in Darwin will be invalid by the time we arrive in Kupang, it turns out they have a seven day shelf life, so I guess we'll have the privilege of applying all over again when we arrive. Welcome to Indonesia, where the solution to everything is to put on a big smile, go with the flow and don't be in a hurry. Organization is simply not their priority and flexibility will be important to maintaining the sanity of European, Canadian and American cruisers. We think it's going to be wonderful! Do you know any elderly people who've become so set in their ways that they get grumpy when the expected fails to occur on schedule? Well. I don't believe there's going to be room for any of that behaviour in Indonesia. We're very excited! And pleased to report that four Hylas yachts will be among the group - that's a gold mine in spare parts! Hurray! Bev.

Tue Jul 5 23:30 2016 NZST
Speed: 7.1 under main and genoa, both with a single reefknts
Run: 197.9nm (358.2km)
Avg: 3.2knts
24hr: 75.9nm
10 43.268S 139 18.800E
Weather: SE wind @ 15-19 knts. Swell SE @ 1.0m. Clear, starry night. Temp: 78 F

On passage from Thursday Island, Queensland to Darwin, Northern Territory, crossing the Arafura Sea. We departed Thursday Island July 4th (Happy Independence Day America!) in the late afternoon after having spent a fair portion of the day repairing our boom. The repair was accomplished only by the superb help offered by our friend Stedham Wood (mv Atlantis) for which we are very grateful. Thursday Island was quite interesting and worth the stop. The tiny community is at the very tip top of northeastern Australia and has a certain "feel" to it which reminds you that you are very far from anywhere else. The community is composed predominately of Torres Strait Islanders, ancient seafaring Melenesians who first came here thousands of years ago. They are not to be confused with Aboriginal Australians, who also live here in Thursday Island. Like Aborigines, Torres Strait people were dispossessed of their homelands by European colonists and only within the past several years has legislation been passed to right this terrible wrong. The community has a small tourist industry and Australians drive or fly in to holiday in what seems like the very end of the earth. The weather is gorgeous and the islands here are verdant rolling hills and craggy cliffs. The passage thus far has been perfect...a lovely downwind sailing delight with 15-20 knot winds and sunshine. All well on board. Robbie

Sun Jul 3 8:57 2016 NZST
Run: 279.6nm (506.1km)
Avg: 3knts
24hr: 72.9nm
10 35.204S 142 13.463E

No more going North for Mersoleil! Now it's time to turn West! We've reached the Top of Down Under and are anchored at Thursday Island in the Torres Strait. The winds are constant, the 'developed trades' as they are called, and currents through the shallow constricted waters are quite impressive, 4-7kts. Not wanting to approach Mt. Adolphus Island in the dark, we spent one night recently at Bushy Islet, 40nm south of here. Alan Lucas considers it "abysmal" protection, but we were quite happy there and slept like babies while Mersoleil wiggled in the current but did not roll or snap on the snubber. I think if Mr. Lucas had sailed the Marquesas he might upgrade his choice of words for Aussie anchorages. Mt. Adolphus Island provided wonderful protection, too, the following night with flat water and high hills that made for beautiful scenery. Yesterday morning we passed Cape York on a short run, just 20nm, to Thursday Island where we hoped to score a tool that we need and some fresh bananas. I sat anchor watch in 20-25kt winds and rushing currents, at the helm creating the route from here to Darwin, while Robbie made a fast and wet dinghy ride to shore. No joy with the tool, but he came back with groceries including a cabbage the size of the State of Ohio. There's something iconically thrilling about completing the sail from the southern tip of Tasmania to the tip of Cape York! We have enjoyed every inch of the Australian East Coast and are sorry to see our visit here drawing to a close. This season in Oz has been the best cruising season yet. You must, MUST come visit Australia! Still no crocs, at least none that we could see. Tomorrow morning we'll push off for a downwind run across the Gulf of Carpentaria. Next come new waters altogether... the Arafura Sea... the Timor Sea. New peoples, too, and cultures about which we know not a thing. How very exciting! Charlene Butler just informed me that we are elderly. She read some definition that slaps that label on people at age 65. Well, actually, I still have till September. But if this is what old age is about, I say bring it on! We're having a wonderful time in our dotage! Yes, you MUST come see Australia. We're beginning to read books about Indonesia. Posted by Bev.

Yay! You finally get to turn left. Can't believe you haven't seen a croc yet. Once you get to Darwin, get out to the Mary River for the 'Jumping Croc' tour. Love following your journey, Bev and Robbie. miss you!

wonderfull carefull in Indonesia time have changed.
Wed Jun 29 12:52 2016 NZST
Speed: 7.3 under genoa aloneknts
Run: 116.7nm (211.2km)
14 12.4S 144 4.5E
Weather: SE wind @ 25knts. Swell SE @ 1.5m. Mostly Sunny, 10% cloud cover. Baro: 1018. Temp: 82 F

We departed Lizard Island ... a lovely stop by the way ... in train with Amandla and Atlantis all bound for the Torres Strait. Whether we stop at Thursday Island to provision is still an open question and of course picking a decent weather window to make the passage to Darwin may require a layover at Thursday as well. That said, we are rather keen to just get it done and spend a little shore time in Darwin before setting off for Indonesia. The weather yesterday and today is, in a word, windy. A steady 25 kts from the SE set in early yesterday afternoon and rose during Bevy's early evening watch to very boisterous 40 kts for a while. We elected to tuck in to Princess Charlotte Bay for the night which is reputed to be well protected in trades. By our lights, this reputation was not deserved the bay being somewhat akin to an open roadstead. The low headland and very shallow bay water weren't quite what we'd hoped for, but we apparently slept through it all and awoke to a bright sun and a SE wind of, you guessed it, 20-25 kts. And now we are sailing generally northward inside the Great Barrier Reef dodging this reef and that shoal and that other small island or sand spit as we make our way to the tip top of Australia's Cape York Peninsula. All well on board. Robbie

Hello Robie and Bev, good to get all your updates from YIT, keep them coming. Do you have Fabio's boat email, I only have his Gmail address. Keep smiling Stefano
Sat Jun 25 22:53 2016 NZST
Run: 155.7nm (281.8km)
Avg: 2.6knts
24hr: 63.2nm
15 27.840s 145 14.427e

We arrived at Cooktown yesterday morning and dredged a wee channel across the muddy Endeavour River bar into the anchorage area. Pretty area, still hilly as we move north. This is the place where James Cook beached the Endeavour after nearly losing her on nearby Endeavour Reef. In an effort to lighten the ship and float her off the reef, Cook jettisoned all cannons, his anchor and everything else he thought he could spare. In the 1960s a research group using magnetometry located the cannons and anchor and they were recovered from the reef after nearly 200 years. One cannon and the enormous anchor are on exhibit at the local museum along with artifacts of early Cooktown, it's gold mining days and early settlers. Kind of hard to imagine this sleepy little town actually needed 168 brothels in the 1860s. There were 30,000 people here then, but... I mean, really? We spent the afternoon today at a local pub celebrating Stedem Wood's birthday and have packed up for dawn departure. We'll go at least as far as Lizard Island and depending on weather forecasts, may decide to stop for the night. Still no crocodiles. We understand they are here, but haven't seen any. I think Debbie wins the certificate suitable for framing with June 4. Did anybody guess later? Reminds me of something Mayor Richard J. Daley said when irritated by criticism from unnamed sources. "Oh, people make allegations," he said. "But where are they? Where ARE the allegators!" Loved da mayor. Another great quote from Mayor Daley was his blooper on the occasion of the dedication of the new Polish cultural center in Chicago. He was crediting the great accomplishments of Polish people, including "Pernicious, the great Polish astrologer," after whom the center was named. Good old Mayor Daley. And the certificate goes to Debbie. Congratulations, Debbie! (This post by Bev)

Thanks Bev, quite the honor! Really want you to see one soon. Just keep your hands in the boat. Love!
Thu Jun 23 11:46 2016 NZST
Speed: 6.1 motoringknts
Run: 119.2nm (215.8km)
Avg: 6.9knts
24hr: 165.4nm
17 30.199S 146 14.216E
Weather: S wind @ 7knts. Swell < 1m. Cloudy. Baro: 1014. Temp: 82 F

Pleasant night with very light wind and an enormous, nearly full moon. Calm seas. The charted shipping lanes inside the Grteat Barrier Reef are well used....Cargo ships and numerous fishing boat coming to and from the reef . Wind has stayed to low even to motor sail. Light rain this morning; the rain cleared, but still overcast...looks like this will breakup later in the day. 80% humidity. Iridium Go working flawlessly after installation. I vote to have Great Britain stay in the EU. This will annoy my very good friend Peter Stokes, but as I can't really vote I don't think he'll care much. All well on board.

Hello, Wakaya is currently in Noumea. May join sail Indonesia if not too late. We saw where your boat in the list. What are your sailing plans through Torres Strait. We are considering Grafton passage to Cairns and heading north through the shipping channel or going through Raine Passage and checking in at Thursday Island. Safe travels. Jan and Gary

I was annoyed when Obama was 'put up' to say that, but when the Great Robbie says it then I take notice. Not a lot in this case, but I do. Great Britain's day of Independence!
Wed Jun 22 18:28 2016 NZST
Speed: 6.2 motoringknts
Run: 2nm (3.6km)
19 06.780S 146 53.365E
Weather: Fluky wind @ 10-12knts. No swell. Sunny to partly cloudy, 30% cloudcover. Baro: 1013. Temp: 83 F

Departed Townsville last hour bound for Cooktown to pay homage to The Great Mariner. Sunny day, calm seas, wind SE @ 10-12. There will be a nearly full moon tonight. All in all, very nice. Townsville was lovely. Breakwater Marina was superb. Good groceries at Coles and Woolies plus several really great fresh veggie places. Had our fuel injection pump replaced on our genset with no drama. (Shop rate was $110/hour). Installed Iridium Go whioch was fairly straight forward. Sort of buddy boating with Amandla who has had myriad problems and needs someone relatively close by. We're happy to be of help. Recived a wonderful note from Christopher (The Younger) on Fathers Day. All well on board.

Tue Jun 14 21:35 2016 NZST
Run: 0.4nm (0.7km)
19 06.584s 146 51.554e

We are mourning the death of yacht builder Nick Saull who was killed in an offshore storm yesterday north of New Zealand. What a wonderful man. What a tragic loss.

Oh Bev - I'm so sorry to hear this - I hadn't made the connection until now on who he was. I'm so sorry for all his friends and family. Our condolences as I know you were close.

I also read yesterday about the yachties kidnapped for ransom by a terrorist group about 9 months ago when stopped in Philippines. Two have been beheaded in the last week.
Thu Jun 9 18:18 2016 NZST
Run: 150.1nm (271.7km)
19 06.905s 146 51.477e

Motored overnight from Butterfly Bay to Magnetic Island, Horseshoe Bay. What a wonderful place! 2500 people live on Mag Island, just 3 miles off Townsville, Queensland. It's served by a ferry that shuttles back and forth from Island to mainland, and there's just enough commercial life in the litle village on shore at Horseshoe Bay that six of us (from Mersoleil, Exit Strategy, and Mystic Moon) were able to beach dinghies and walk across the street to a delicious lunch at The Marlin. The wind never topped 6kts on our little passage from Hook Island, so we steamed the entire 137nm without ever even thinking about unfurling a sail. Sailing is quieter and nicer, more appealing to the purist sailor in us, but.... there's something to be said for driving the boat across calm glassy waters! Still not a cloud in the sky, nights are cool enough to be very comfortable and days are hot, dry and sunny. The stars at night after the new moon has set, early, well before the witching hour, are clear and brilliant, some set off against a cloud of galaxy in the far far distance. Could it be the Megellanic Cloud? The new fuel injector pump for our generator will not arrive, sayeth DHL, until the 20th, so we'll have ample time to bask in the luxury of Magnetic Island. Will probably hop the ferry one day and go to Townsville for a few fresh veggies, but not today. Today we want a nap more than just about anything else! You'll get it all finished, Jules. And it will have been well worth the years and effort. Fly to us for a visit when you want a little 'simply sailing!'

Getting there Bev, 3 weeks to go and ye well worth while. She is coming up a treat!

Hi we knew you guys would love the Queensland coast the best playground ⛵️Keep on enjoying ❤️️Joanie & David (we had a wonderful holiday)

Saw a report of the terrible storm south of you. Apparently you are far enough north to not have experienced anything at all from it. Thank goodness. Sounds like it was really bad.
Mon Jun 6 12:02 2016 NZST
Run: 18.4nm (33.3km)
20 04.583s 148 55.503e
Weather: Winds L & V, cool nights, warm days, sunny sunny sunny.

We've had a glorious time exploring the beautiful Whitsunday Islands and have been at anchor on Hook Island (Nara Inlet), Whitsunday Cid Harbour, now on the way to Hook Island's Butterfly Bay. We don't remember seeing the turquoise of coral reef waters amongst hilly forested islands before. It's a stunning combination of blue and green! The plan du jour is to spend a day or two at Butterfly Bay then run overnight North to Magnetic Island and Townsville. We'll need a provisioning run by that time and hope to receive and install a new fuel injector pump on the generator. (It's always something!) A little computer crash has kept us offline for several days, well, that and the isolation of our chosen hiding holes. Trying to resolve the technology glitch then northing, again.) Weather is fantastic, still loving Oz, moving on toward Darwin!

You lucky people! We are still alongside at Beauty Point finishing the refurbishment. A month behind buy hey.......... Looking forward to catching up somewhere soon... Jules & Mat
Mon May 30 13:09 2016 NZST
Run: 115.7nm (209.4km)
Avg: 325.7knts
24hr: 7815.9nm
20 15.442s 148 42.986e

Mersoleil and Amandla had a wonderful overnight sail from Curlew Island to Airlie Beach. It was painful to pass by so many beautiful islands - we would have loved to stop and spend a day or two at each anchorage we passed! But after we find the supermarket Whitsunday Island is next on the agenda and we're all excited about that! Doing a little online homework now, like trying to find a new satphone and responding to business email, which follows me wherever I go. Then we'll be off again to the palms, the pines and, soon, I suppose, to the crocodiles. No crocs yet.