Light Me Up!


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I had the 3am to 6am watch last night. At about 5.40am this morning, about 30 minutes before sunrise, i was looking up at the stars when something strange caught my eye to the south.
Two lights traveling in tandem, at first i thought it was a plane but quickly decided not, then a satellite but its rare to see them so close-  in fact i don’t think i have ever seen two together. I’m guessing the lights were some 700 meters apart but difficult to tell when judging distance with stars.
As i watched, I realized they were not traveling like satellites arcing high through the sky but were coming towards me from roughly 20 degrees above the horizon. This continued for about 7 to 10 seconds when they became intensely bright like car headlights. Just as i was thinking ‘what the and wow’ they appeared not exactly to stop but to retreat, moving
rapidly towards the west and gaining in altitude. I lost sight of them due west at about 60 degrees above the horizon and finally fading into the background of stars. The whole time remaining perfectly in tandem.The whole event took about twenty seconds.

And i was only saying just that morning amazing how we haven’t seen a
single ship this whole trip!

Mangareva

The sun is rising across the lagoon and the cocks crow, morning has broken on as calm an anchorage as there ever was. We arrived yesterday evening, dropped anchor drank one beer and went ashore. The combination of sea legs and the beer gave the impression that the three of us had been drinking all night swaying and lurching from side to side…We
decided to stop after a couple of hundred meters and lean against a fence…Only for it to be a gate, and to collapse backwards under us,

The three amigos then found ourselves on our backs staring at the sky….laughing…Found a lovely lady to make us Steak and chips and that was all, she wrote.

Mitch’s girl arrives in two days so we are likely to be here for 15 odd days…. (Haaaa Rhian and i said that two years ago and stayed for 7 weeks..) The plan then is one more stop 700nm west the island of Ravavi then direct to NZ..But for now the boat is still..

mid-ocean update


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24dg 16, 124dg 47

light and fickle airs all night followed by a huge southerly swell 6 to 7 meters but no breaking sea so quite tranquil.
this morning thunder and lightning started with an exceptional display
at dawn, a towering cumulus billowing bigger and higher a few miles to
the south of us which then started to light up in its entirety several
miles wide – cloud filled with lightning, both sheet and pulsing forks.
Continuing on for 2 to 3 hrs… I could only watch on with fascination
and deep delight at not being under it!!

We are now just passing Ducie, the first of the Pitcairn group. We have
spent the last three days dillying 20 miles from it with little or no
wind…  and not starting the engine!! 560 nm to the Gambiers, back in
time for tea and medals huzzah and huula huula to ya’ll…….

Bienvenido el Isla


View Baltazar in a larger map. Note – Easter island has been added as a point of reference, they’re not there yet!

‘Bienvenido el Isla’
The lithe fisherman called, there is nowhere I know where those three
words evoke such strong and heartfelt memories.
We had arrived at the bay of Juan batiste, Bahia Cumberland, Isla Juan
Fernandez.

Anchor down and to business a dive over the side into perfect
temperature water washing away the last days at sea.
As we sat drying on the deck I looked up at the mountains surrounding
the bay, cloud pouring down over the peaks with shafts of sunlight
burning through lighting up pockets of forest and the odd tin roof.
We made our way ashore and went for a short walk, followed by clearing
back into Chile at customs then time to stroll and absorb.
I took in the rebuilding the larger number of people than previous (the
new workforce) the remnants of the old structures, the still very
cleared and barren coastline.
Prominent is an area as you walk away from the jetty belonging to the
the Green family.

Ximena Green, is a fourth generation Islander from one of the original
family’s to inhabit the Island whom is also a lady who lost almost
everything during the Tsunami in 2010, her house, her business the town
bakery and a small backpackers; most painfully one of her grandson’s
Joachin or as I came to hear him called ‘Puntito’ meaning (little thing).
Jocahin was also the brother of Pablo the first of the young teens Rhian
and I pulled out of the water that night. (Ximena is also Pablo’s
grandmother)

I remained quiet as to whom I was and to the part I had played during
the Tsunami, until two days along I met with Marcelo Rossi very
abruptly, he asked me why the sailors all wanted to use the moorings and
not anchor, I replied that I could not speak for anyone else but had
personally tested that mooring and felt very happy with my boat on it.

He asked me how, and I replied that my wife and I where moored to it on
the night of the Tsunami, he looked up slowly and said
Zephyrus…..Pablo ..also another boy from the main land and the family
Alejandro Pena…i was stunned he knew it all, he then said you also
left your outboard motor here..
I said yes, we had left it behind as we were expecting another wave and
had to leave no time to unhook an outboard. But how do you know that I
asked, He replied its an Island everyone here  knows everything….Wow
errr who has the outboard now…Oh he said I don’t know that!! I laughed
saying I don’t want it back just to know.
Marcelo took it upon himself to introduce me around, first a man i
came to admire greatly, Jorge Palomino resident of Juan Fernandez for 32
years, he is both the island postman and the priest, as he said “siempre
con la noticia” always with the news..
His quiet demeanor and peaceful countenance speak first and volumes for
him.
We met daily and talked at length on subjects as far ranging as English
Football (a subject I’m hopeless at), ancient Polynesian navigational
techniques (I can wittle on about that a bit), and why south Americans
prefer to drink nescafe over real coffee (to me a mystery as deep as the
marina trench). Closer at heart the losses felt by the island and to how;
two years on the people of the island are.

Many have left for the mainland, Pablo and his parents are one of these
family’s.
Some have returned but the island has been fractured in more ways than
just a natural disaster, many people are still scared by what the what
ifs ‘what if another Tsunami’ a bigger another. “Its understandable” he
says “but there is always hope and there will always be community”.

So many story’s from such a short stay, piecing together people and
their tales, many hugs lots of tears and too many gracias.
Our final day i went spear fishing with two local boys, Attilo and
Hernan going deep down surrounded by fish a fur seal glides up and barks
bubbles at me I bubble back.
The ocean feels well again.
That evening our final, a bbq at Marcelos house as night fell a huge hot
tub was being heated, we ate fish then clambered up into a bath!!!! The
moon days away from being full lit the bay below.
I looked out and remembered another night much darker in all ways.
Marcelo told me his tale, his family all survived, his four year old
daughter trapped in a jeep filled with water finally he managed to open
a door, he tells me she was just sitting there holding her nose. He also
watched his wife get swept out to sea they did not find one another for
many hours.
It was Marcelo we could hear calling over and over just a hundred meters
behind our boat.
For his family it is real and they have chosen to remain and rebuild.
“Where would you go from here” he sais with a smile.

As we left Marcelo hugged me and said You and yours will always be
welcome on the Island.

What more is there to say!

In total we spent seven days at Juan Fernandez,
The days were mostly spent fixing things and having a well needed rest
also some time to put the ship in order before the next leg, one we are
now eight days and just over half way into along with some other
familiar waters the 1600 nm to Rapa nui ‘Easter Island’. 798 nm to go at
last look….

To the now the days are passing well, ship life is now an easy rhythm
3hrs on watch, 6hrs off (luxury!)
A steady round of putting in reefs shaking reefs maintaining the ship and
ourselves.
The boat is bigger than Zephyrus, so faster: we average 140 nautical miles
a day and around 7knts speed without pushing it and reefing early most
nights, these are easy miles.
Time also to enjoy simple things,salt water baths on deck followed with
a 1/2 ltr fresh water rinse (another luxury) being dried by the wind and
sun.
Watch the moon rise behind us; track across the sky, sun sets dead
ahead, moon climbs above lighting a path west,Scorpio behind Southern
cross to my left, orion ahead, the sunrises behind the boat splitting
the horizon awake, moon drops ahead. Night passes to day to night to..

Thinking of you all in these quiet times too …

Baltazar Visited


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From Andy, to his nieces (and other important women in his life):

Dearest girls

This morning at 6am before the sun rose or the birds had chirrped or the
fish had poked their heads up to say hello, I was laying in bed thinking
almost time to get up for my watch…Not the watch you wear on your
wrist but the type that means you sit in the cockpit of a boat telling
everyone that you are looking out for ships but really where you just go
to eat biscuits secretly!
But i was still lying in bed thinking about biscuits i mean ships…when
i heard this funny kinndofa bounce bounce rustle bounce bounce rustle……
Wel i didnt think anything more of it as there is often funny noises at
sea.. And then i had to get up and what did i find but the whole of the
boat inside and out coverd in chocolate eggs and chocolate rabbits and
chocolate chocolate and even more chocolate chocolate…As i sat in the
cockpit looking for ships (eating choclate! Id upgraded from biscuits) I
had time to think as i often do sitting looking at the sea and thinking
sometimes big clever thoughts like yesterday I had a clever thought
about melting cheese ‘ontop’ of my jacket potatoes in the oven so the
cheese was all runny and dripped everywhere when you ate it….And
sometimes little thoughts like I wonder if Millie and Lois have got as
big a full moon as i have out here in the ocean…….

Well you can tell me that after coz this story is about things that go
bounce rustle and leave chocolate all over boats……
And i sat munching and thinking i realised what it probably was….Do
you know where I almost am? well not almost! but nearly? well not even
nearly! but ever so close and not really that far away from ?yes ever so
close to and not really that far away from! an Island which has three
names imagine that; if your street or town had three names you would
only sometimes ever find your way there…
This Island is called Rapa Nui…. Isle de Pasqua…. and really the same
as the last but in English  ‘Easter Island’….

Do you suppose if you sit and think about it that, Easter Island is
probably somewhere where something that might go bounce bounce rustle
and leave chocolate eggs on peoples boats might live…….

Just a little thought thinking of you too xx

 

From Andy, to Rhian:

All is well aboard amor we are sailing downwind main and genoa wing on
wing or bears ears…Aries doing the work…Angus tying knots in cockpit
Mitch prepparing our first fishing trawl line…
ps woke this morning to find Easter Island Bunny had been onboard not
sure who let him on but when i came on deck and said to Mitch “he’s
been” he smiled like a ten yr old… Angus on the other hand got up and
said why is there chocolate balls and chickens everywhere….??? Thoses
would be eggs and Rabbits Angus nice try now clean your glasses and get
on watch….How i love him …

 

 

Introducing Baltazar

There’s something I haven’t told you. While I’ve been enjoying my lettuces, juicer, farmers market, and solid foundations in general, Andy has been enjoying the high seas again. On a boat, of course. But more – on our boat. Our new boat, that is. She’s called Baltazar and she’s very beautiful (I am told) and strong (I am hoping) and is currently making her way here (New Zealand) from Puerto Montt (sound familiar?) under the trusted steerage of Andy, Angus, and Mitch. You can follow their progress here:


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This is what she looks like –  old pics but I don’t suppose she’s changed that much since she was first up for sale..

As and when I get updates, I’ll post them here. In the mean-time, I’ll get back to my lettuces.

Conkers (and mice)

I’m so enjoying domestication I can’t tell you. Today, between flexible work hours, I mowed the lawn and watered my lettuces, but I also went out to the commercial part of town, spent a reasonable sum of money, and came back with absolutely nothing. Except, apparently, peace of mind (contents insurance), the right to drive legally (a NZ drivers license), and the ability to phone my Mum affordably (a new phone plan).

But I had nothing new in my hands- and better yet, that didn’t upset me. No, indeed, with my newfound roots (one week into my lease), I have discovered a deep urge to sign up for things – not because I can, but because it proves I exist. Yes please, send me an electricity bill, verify my address, show me my monthly bank balance on paper.

Do you know how hard it is to explain to authorities that you’re a regular, reasonable, (qualified even, though by that they read certified), upstanding member of society when you appear to have had no bills, no debt, no proof of residency, no joint possessions, and no dependencies, or dependency for that matter, for [insert timeframe here].

So, for these sweet six months I have slapped Andy and my name on every bill I can come up with, have redirected mail, have applied for a credit card, have sought to tick every box that immigration requires, and have generally willingly sacrificed myself to The System. And I’m loving it.

There are other aspects of domesticity that I’m also loving. First and foremost the wonderfully healthy horse chestnut tree in my garden. Yes- you read right, “my” garden. And, more to the point, the slippery, glistening, fresh-out-of-their-shells conkers that appear every day. One enormous wooden salad bowl is already almost full to brimming with them- the centrepiece of my living room.

I love conkers. I really, really love conkers. I love them on the ground, in my pocket, fresh, shrinkled, on bits of string, in bowls, on trees. I once almost got evicted from Australia (and seriously fined) for trying to smuggle a conker from the UK to my dying aunt. Two were found but I got a third in (admittedly, by mistake). She loved it. But I felt so guilty that I took it back out with me afterwards again. (I’m not sure if that’s true. Let’s pretend it is.)

That incident must have had a lasting effect on me. That, and my new found respect for the New Zealand ecowarriers, ecosystem, and the hatred that folk here have for introduced species. I would never, never, never, consider bringing in either a conker, or a shamrock, to these lands.

What joy then, to discover both in my very own garden. The shamrock here is even a weed!

I’ll be arrested for writing that. My kiwi friends will never speak to me again. It’s wrong, I tell you. Wrong wrong wrong. These things should not be here and are evil. This is NOT joyful or good. Like mice. Also like rats and stoats and possums (those, at least, are not from the UK but were probably still brought here by Brits) and rabbits and weasels and pine trees and daisies. And cats.

But I want to talk about mice.

My latest adventure took me back to Antarctica – it made me want to sing. I love that place. The light, the ice, the air, the space, the place, the magic, the everything about it. It made me want to cry as well. Anyway, on the way back (travelling on a ship), we visited some of the NZ sub-Antarctic islands, a different kind of paradise.

The one which is pest-free, Campbell Island, is also home to an albatross colony. I lay on my back for hours watching them swoop across my vision.

There is another set of islands, the Antipodes, which only have one pest on them: mice. And we’re going to kill them all. One million NZ dollars, of which one third needs to come from the public, and five days of good weather helicopter time, and that island can be set on its way to whichever way pest-free evolution takes it. Pretty simple really.

Warning lights went off for me when the project was first thought of – it was almost too easy, and if we succeeded then it would also be too easy to be self-congratulatory. To think the whole trip had been worth it and justified. No. There are far more complex, larger, harder, problems facing that area. Climate change, stress on ecosystems, fishing, resource management….  but what do you want to hear more about, genuinely?

Given that choice, let’s exterminate mice!

And you know what, sometimes it’s good just to do something achievable. It’s still a big ask – a million dollars and a rigorous campaign involving ships, helicopters, bait, ground staff, air staff, logistics, on-going monitoring…. but it’s do-able. And how great is that? In the light of so many unfathomable problems, riddled like a nest of squirming worms with difficulties and repercussions, let’s kill some mice and save some penguins and albatrosses.

You know, even if a family has huge financial and relationship issues, it’s still a good thing to bake a birthday cake for the kid. Or, better, teach him to swim, or ski, or dance, or fly. He’ll carry that with him forever. Like the Antipodes.