Tuesday, May 8, 2018


The cruising life instills certain habits.  Every day begins with a check on weather.  Systems need checking, batteries need charging, water tanks need filling, is the fridge working? With Moonshadow secured aboard ship and all systems shut down, we stepped aboard our flight from Australia to San diego looking forward to being off-duty and reuniting with family and friends back home.

Off duty or not, we wanted to know how Moonshadow was doing everyday, so we rigged the satellite phone to transmit Moonshadow's track for the month long voyage across the Pacific.

When those track positions stopped 3 days out of Brisbane, we didn't know what to think.  Did the ship sink?  Was there some catastrophic electrical failure?  Maybe Moonshadow caught fire?  We could not know.  But there was more.  Yacht Express was sailing a course far north of the rhumb line to Auckland, steering almost directly for Noumea, New Caledonia.  Why?

Back on duty, we checked the weather and found the ship had good reason to steer so far northward.  It was something called Cyclone Fehi tracking from north to south after emerging from Papau, New Guinea.  The more northward course put the ship and Moonshadow further away from the storm off to the south.

 Not a huge storm, and weakening as it continued south, 
Fehi nevertheless caused US $4,500,000 damage when it made landfall 
in New Zealand.

Back in California, we got right into the swing of catching up with family and friends.

Meanwhile, friends with whom we'd cruised in the South Pacific let us know that Moonshadow had arrived safely in New Zealand.  Vladimir was loading his ketch Wave Dancer aboard the transport ship in Auckland, for delivery to Ensenada.

When the ship departed Auckland for her next stop in Papeete, we continued checking the weather along the route (so much for being off-duty!).  Just a day out of New Zealand, Yacht Express was encountering 35 knot headwinds and four meter seas, but we also noticed that she was diverting well south of the rhumb line.  A second cyclone "Gita" was threatening. 

Spending much more time monitoring our Moonshadow than originally planned, we were checking weather and GRIB files twice a day.  Gita built stronger as she veered south then west becoming a category 4 cyclone with 145 knot winds.  Gita became the strongest cyclone to hit Tonga in recorded history.  By then our ship was sailing north, well east of Gita, but found another patch of 35 knot winds and big seas near Tahiti.  We were finally relieved to find a web cam photo of Yacht Express tided to the wharf in Papeete, just a couple hundred meters from where we'd tied up Moonshadow when there almost two years before.

Relieved both vessels were apparently fine, we could better appreciate the surroundings at our interim quarters, the beautiful adult community in Carlsbad where Deb's Dad lives.

We celebrated John's Birthday at San Diego Yacht Club, now home for his Dad's beautiful ship binnacle.  Earlier this year, John and his brothers donated Dad's binnacle to San Diego Yacht Club.  The Board of Directors chose to use it as an annual perpetual award, to recognize members chosen by the board for their offshore cruising exploits.  After all these years, SDYC finally has a trophy to recognize it's voyager members! 

Nearby, on the Encinitas Ranch Golf Course, Deb's Dad celebrated his 
93rd birthday scoring less than his age. 
As usual.

Meanwhile, cyclone Gita, now well in the wake of Moonshadow and Yacht Express, was making herself felt in Fiji, New Caledonia and eventually across the south island of New Zealand.

This is why cruisers sail north or south, away from the tropics for cyclone season.

Soon, Yacht Express was back at sea bringing Moonshadow closer to home. No hurricanes threatened in the Northern Hemisphere this time of year, but the big ship still had to deviate well south to stay clear of large waves generated by a Pacific storm to the North.

When the ship was a couple days out, we bussed down to Ensenada, about four inches north of Deb's finger in the photo below.

We stayed at a hotel near the Cruiseport Marina in Ensenada where we could reacquaint ourselves with Mexico.

Ensenada has changed a lot from the days we raced sailboats down here in the sixties and seventies.  There is a cruise ship terminal where we used to drop anchor.

The renovated waterfront features a  huge dancing fountain set to music.  The local kids love to dare crossing fountain's huge array of nozzles
during a lull in the bursts of water.

A miscalculation could have dramatic results!

We enjoyed watching locals brave enough to venture across then Deb demonstrated how she had figured out how to safely navigate across the fountain floor.

Click to play video

Amid the emergence of infrastructure improvements along the waterfront and other evidence of a growing economy are reminders that change is a slow process here in Mexico.  Amid tacos at a sidewalk restaurant, John was reminded of a trip to Tijuana in 1959 and the sight of children his age selling Chiclets gum to gringo tourists.

Ensenada's waterfront park has the biggest flag we've ever seen.

That flag can be seen from anywhere in Ensenada, even across the harbor at the commercial wharf, where Yacht Express had finally arrived with her precious cargo.

Once aboard ship, we had hours to kill while the crew removed the massive stands welded to the deck which prevented the yachts from falling over even in the rough seas this voyage encountered.

Next, we learned it takes quiet a bit longer than the short video below to fill the yacht bay with seawater.

Finally Moonshadow was afloat and ready for her next adventure.
With daily freshwater wash-downs by the ship's crew,
Moonshadow was cleaner than we'd left her.

Well, we did have an adventure of sorts.  That night, just a mile outside the Ensenada breakwater, Moonshadow's engine temperature began to rise, so we shut down immediately and raised the mainsail.  The culprit turned out to be the salt water impeller, which is low on the list of favorite at-sea repair projects.  Fortunately, there was no wind and no sea, and no salty language.  

Back underway it wasn't long before the familiar Point Loma Lighthouse was pulling up into view, always a welcome sight.

A quick check of our Chartplotter's AIS display showed hundreds of boats had turned out to welcome Moonshadow back to San Diego Bay.!

Either that, or they were watching the start of San Diego Yacht Club's Puerto Vallarta Race near Shelter Island inside San Diego Bay.  

Not sure, really.

Moonshadow's new temporary home:  San Diego Yacht Club

For the first time in six years, we were able to attend the Opening Day Ceremonies at SDYC.

It was the best ever!

To our utter surprise, we were among the three members selected to be recognized by the first annual award of SDYC's newest perpetual trophy, the William W. Rogers Cruising Award, Dad's binnacle.  

As thrilled as we were, an even larger recognition occurred upon our return.  Earlier, while waiting aboard Yacht Express in Ensenada, we met Leslie and Paul Granger.  They were waiting to off-load their yacht, which they had loaded in Tahiti.

When Leslie learned Deb's Dad had just celebrated his 93rd birthday, she asked if Ed was a Veteran of WW II, (he is) then invited him to join a group of Veterans traveling to the WW II Memorial in Washington DC.  The group, "Honor Flight" raises money to make sure every surviving Veteran gets to see the Memorial.

The San Diego Honor Flight group included 81 Veterans and 81 "Guardians".  Guardians assist with wheel chairs and other needs of the vets whose average age is over 90.  John attended as Ed's Guardian.

The Honor Flight organization goes far beyond covering all the expenses for the Veterans.  In the photo below, we are traversing the otherwise awful DC traffic with a Police Escort, complete with lights and sirens.

Our first stop was the World War II Memorial. Dedicated in 2004, 
sadly too late for many survivors of the war, the memorial is located at the end of the reflecting pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.  Two semi-circular stone structures reflect the European and Pacific theaters of war.

On the Pacific side, Among the battles inscribed in granite, we found the tribute to the Battle of Tinian where Deb's Dad Ed (a Navy Corpsman) was among the Marines who invaded and took the island from the fortified Japanese.

Other stops included Arlington Cemetery...

...where we observed the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 

Some of the Veterans on this trip fought in the Korean War and all were impressed by the Korean War memorial, where hundreds of faces etched into the black granite wall look on as a platoon of ghostly, weary GIs sculpted of unpolished stainless steel emerge from a wooded area into the open field of juniper  shrubs.  

Across the Capital Mall, walking past the Vietnam Memorial's 58,318 names organized from first to last killed is a sobering experience.

Seeing the stone reflection of the living visitors among the names of
those lost to war evokes thoughts many of our WW II veterans surely have:
Why them and not me?

Everywhere we went, total strangers approached the veterans to thank them for their service.  Our heroes were encouraged to see that Americans have not forgotten.

Every single student in this line of a dozen or more
waited their turn to shake Ed's hand.  

For some, Honor Flight was a reunion of buddies and friendships forged decades ago.  These four Marines are part of the "Chosin Few",  who were surrounded and vastly outnumbered for weeks in North Korea's mountainous Chosin Reservoir where they encountered brutal winter cold.  Battle casualties on both sides were nearly equaled by those that succumbed to the harsh frozen conditions.

John returned with renewed appreciation for the quiet, gentle men and women who enlisted, some as young as 17 (Ed was 18), and then proceeded to 
change the course of history.

The slogan on their tee shirts reads:

If you can read this... thank a teacher.
If you are reading it in English... thank a Veteran.


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Return to Sender

It was time to get Moonshadow up to Brisbane for her date with a big yacht carrier ship. As we took one last look at Sydney and Port Jackson's North Head in our wake, the weather was perfect - 15 knot southerlies with southerly seas measuring less than a meter.

But, as we know quite well by now, weather can change quickly.  So when we saw the sky looking like this later that afternoon, we threw in a reef and waited.

Ashore we heard thunder and saw lightning strikes, but it never ventured offshore to find Moonshadow.  

But the wind did increase and by the next day we had 25 knots with gusts in the low 30s all day.  Naturally by the end of the second day, bigger seas had developed, but with the wind still south, we were enjoying the ride.

There have been many times we've looked astern and thought "glad we're not headed that way"!

By sundown the wind had begun to ease off, but the seas were still up, so we had several sunsets.

That's right sunsets. Plural.  As Moonshadow rode up to the top of each wave, we could see the sun was still above the Australian mainland...

... then Moonshadow would find herself in the trough where the horizon was just a few dozen meters off and the sun had "set".

This passage was our last until we join the October 2018 Baja Ha Ha rally from San Diego down to Cabo San Lucas.  That's ten months away, so on this sail, we savored every moment...  

... and there was plenty to savor.  The voyage took 2 days 22 hours and covered 498 miles.

We arrived the third morning at the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron in Manly Harbor, near the mouth of the Brisbane River.  

Manly Harbor is the largest boat harbor in the southern hemisphere with storage for 3,000 boats.  RQYS manages all the berths on the East and South part of Manly Harbor, and all of the land adjoining the docks.  It is a huge expanse, so big we actually used the dinghy to get from Moonshadow to the club's shore facilities.  

At the Southeast corner of the yacht club a large grass area is reserved for visiting regatta sailors to set up tents and RVs.  RQYS was hosting the 2018 Australian Youth Championships in Laser, 420, 29er, 49er, Optimist, and Finn classes. Every day there were hundreds of boats and scores of coaches in RIB launches passing by our berth.

Somehow, it seems junior sailing programs are the same the world over.  Here are the parents sweating all the details while the kids are off doing what they do best - being kids.

A 25 minute walk from the dinghy dock at the yacht club is a station where every 30 minutes, a clean, air conditioned electric train arrived to whisk us to the city of Brisbane, about 30 minutes away.

We found Brisbane to be surprisingly vibrant, 
modern and beautiful.

Brisbane's new skyscrapers appear to have grown like weeds through the pavement of a 100 year old city.

Everywhere you look, there is a blend of well preserved historic buildings and ultra modern glass towers.

Queen's Mall is a square, about 2 city blocks on a side, with roadways converted to pedestrian walks.  Within this mall is every manor of shopping, coffee shops, dining, and bars.  

We confess, we haven't been to a lot of malls lately, but is this what you typically find there nowadays?  

This combination looks dangerous!

But, when in Rome...

There was no singing for us this time.

Like so many of the world's great cities, Brisbane is built on a river.  The water gives a place so much personality.

With a river, you get bridges...

...and ferryboats.  
We're partial to both.

Of course, nothing gives a city personality like a beach, 
right in the middle of town...

... or, if you prefer, a rainforest walk.

How about a walk through a bougainvillea tunnel?

Just so you don't forget, you're still in the city.

Or is it really just a big playground?

To find out, we had to take a ride on The Wheel of Brisbane and see the surroundings from aloft, 200 feet up in an air conditioned gondola.

Yep, it's a big playground.  What city has a huge pool, on the river, surrounded by restaurants and bars?

Near all this, we visited the MOMA, Brisbane's Museum of Modern Art.

This may be the only place where you'll see a spiral of silver plated spoons, knives and forks paired with a spiral of chili peppers.  On the floor.  Imagine the hours to set this all out, arranging chili peppers by size and color.

Very thought provoking.  Is the artist always on hand to restore things for the occasion when some absent minded old fool walks across the display scattering spoons and crushing chili peppers;  or curious children escaping their parent's grasp... maybe a runaway wheel chair?  Can't we get one of those deep purple velvet ropes with the chrome stands...?  This just all seems so risky.

But that's modern art for ya...

... and so is this.  Our favorite art is art we can become part of.

Our own personal masterpiece. 
One of a kind.  
With two heads...

... or two of a kind.

At the end of our first day in Brisbane, we took time to reflect on all we'd seen...

... and done.  Holy cow, we walked a lot!

Another day, we took the train back to Brisbane to visit the doctor.  No, we didn't contract flesh eating bacteria from eating raw oysters (we don't think), we were here doing our very best to stay out of jail.  It's kind of a long story but we had to apply for a new visa to extend our stay in Australia long enough to be here for the Jan 28 loading of Moonshadow onto the ship.  After paying $750 to apply for the visa, we were advised we would each have to undergo a complete physical and get chest Xrays.  Net cost for three weeks extension: $1,400!!

But, hey, we got these cool matching crew shirts!  

After our two hour exams, we found serenity on a long stroll through the Brisbane Botanic Garden.

This is a beautiful place.

No bureaucracy here, and it's free!

We decided we'll hide here if we end up in more trouble with Customs or Immigration.  Can you find Deb?

Another outing was our trip to the Koala Sanctuary. What trip to Australia is complete without a Koala or a Kangaroo? The thing is, it's January here.  And were at 27.5 degrees South latitude, so it's the middle of Summer and HOT!  The animals, especially those wearing fur coats, were not keen for lots of activity.

But when we found the exhibit with newborns, we remembered,  the little ones always have lots of energy.   

Mom is sound asleep here, but little kiddo is wide awake.

Next it was time to meet the Kangaroos.  You have to see them hopping about to realize, they are like no other species.

Like the Koalas, these Kangaroos liked the shade on a hot day.

We don't know all that many Kangaroos,  but the ones we met were all very polite, and had the kindest eyes.  

You can tell the tourists - they're the ones with the little paper bags of 'roo food.  But the Kangaroos don't beg.  If offered, they'll usually take it, very gently, leaving you with a slobbery hand.

But they're just as likely to chill with you, and let you pet them and scratch them behind the ears.  Like dogs, they love those scratches behind the ears and if you stop, they'll give you a look like:

Hey! I'm still here, don't stop!

Otherwise the Kangaroos prefer to remain contemplative, introspective, stoic.  They have a lot on their minds.  

The whole experience reminded us of pictures Dusty sent from a similar park in Adelaide years ago.

We had time to kill so we took Moonshadow across Moreton Bay to Moreton Island and an anchorage near the Resort of Tangalooma, about 20 miles away.

Like Fraser Island, to the north, where we had visited in November, Moreton Island is a huge sand island.  Comprising 72 square miles, it is the third largest sand island in the world (Fraser Island is the largest).  The western shore has several sections with very steep sand blows, probably all excellent for sand tobogganing but that's prohibited on the cliffs we saw for erosion and safety concerns.

The anchorage there is protected by a dozen wrecks, deliberately put there in the 1960's to create an artificial reef.

Placed on the shallow sand bar just off the beach, these rusting iron wrecks are a popular snorkel and fishing destination.

We anchored just inside the wrecks for protection from the wind and waves.

A vehicle ferry appears each morning bringing dozens of 4wd trucks which are allowed on the beach and inland sand roads.

Aussies come just to have a day on the unique beach, to swim, fish, or... row?  This is how great new ideas are hatched:  One guy, facing aft has an oar, while the other guy, facing forward, is using a paddle.  We would never have thought of this solution, but watching these two we realized they have found the best way to spin a tinnie in circles.  (tinnie:  Aussie for aluminum boat).

We had time to kill because the specialized FOFO 
(Float On - Float Off) ship had just left 
Tahiti on its way to Brisbane.

Time enough to reflect back on our adventures.  Here is what six years cruising looks like by the numbers:
  • 31,000   nautical miles travelled
  • 22          countries visited
  • 389        ports of call
  • 315        places anchored for 733 nights
  • 74          marinas berthed for 948 nights
  • 29          moorings taken for 83 nights
  • 4            ship yards - on the hard for 239 nights
  • 4,287     hours underway
  • 10%       time underway - 90% enjoying destinations
  • 126        days/nights on 24 hour passages - 19,434 miles
  • 19          24 hour passages over 200 miles (39 over 190)
  • 233        highest distance covered in 24 hours
  • 7.23       average speed underway
  • 7.66       average speed on 24 hour passages
  • 29,900   photographs taken
  • 153        blog posts

But cruising is most definitely not a numbers game.  It's the places, cultures, and the people we meet that make lifelong memories.

Just about 5 miles north of our berth is a long container ship dock at the entrance to the Brisbane River, where we were expected to load Moonshadow onto the Dockwise Yacht Transport ship Yacht Express.  This part is definitely a numbers game.  Show up late and the shipping company can charge $25,000 for demurrage.  So we had our route to the dock all planned.  All 14.9 miles of it.  Three alarm clocks were deployed for the Sunday morning appointment with the ship! 

We showed up early and steamed in circles in the channel for an hour as other yachts exited the ship. Finally it was our turn and we nosed Moonshadow into the open stern of the flooded ship.  What a feat of engineering this vessel is.  The whole thing sinks to allow yachts to enter and tie up, then, in an operation that takes 12 hours, they pump all the water out and sail to the next destination.

So this will be home for  our home, Moonshadow, for the next month.  The mother ship Yacht Express heads first to Auckland, New Zealand where they will discharge some of these yachts and pick up some others, including friends we'd sailed the South Pacific with, Vlad and Galena, aboard Wind Dancer.  From there it's on to Ensenada Mexico.

Good news:  We were pleased to learn from the friendly crew that Moonshadow will be washed down every day with fresh water, to keep the sooty exhaust from damaging her exposed surfaces.  Awesome!

More good news:
Moonshadow has been cleared out of Australia.  Evidently the Border Force wasn't interested in revisiting to see how their  tamper-proof seal stickers did on Moonshadow's secure stash of liquor and wine.  

Good thing as all the stickers were broken when both of us inadvertently opened the lockers, forgetting all about the seals!

Fantastic News:

As we were checking off some of the last items on the lengthy check-list prior to loading Moonshadow onto the ship, we received a letter from San Diego Yacht Club .

Moonshadow's new home on C dock
It was from the dockmaster's office offering congratulations on the fact we've been assigned a permanent slip at the club for Moonshadow!

So all that's left for us now is to fly back to San Diego and wait about a month for Moonshadow to arrive in Ensenada Mexico, then sail home.  After that, it'll be back to never missing a sunset.  Too bad Australia won't be in any of them for a while!