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.