Archive for October, 2010

Opua, NZ

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Wetnose was waiting for us in Opua, flying their Gibraltar homeport flag. They arrived the day before, and seemed remarkably refreshed by their outing from Minerva and were ready to press further south.

ToNZ 202 

After being checked in by the NZ authorities, we anchored behind a well treed islet…

ToNZ 207

…next to some some Irish countryside…

ToNZ 204 

… among some brightly painted boats.

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Some were more traditional.

ToNZ 200

Some were brighter than others (any others, anywhere).

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Then we took a long nap.  But since the uniformed lads with NZ Quarantine had trashed a number of our important provisions it wasn’t long before we ambled off to town down a 4 km-long path along the shoreline.

NZPassageAndArrival 099

The flora of this place is a bizarre mix of temperate, tropical and Mediterranean plants. K was sure he heard a pterodactyl among the massive ferns.

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Then we stumbled on a tree full of delicious eskadenia that K knew from his youth.

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They have weird seeds and taste like a lemony pear.

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The unripe ones are more than a little lemony.

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K dug deep into his early memories as an orchard thief and soon we had pockets full of fruit and green almonds.   Any country with trailside fruit free for the picking is alright with us.

NZPassageAndArrival 122

After a long hike on sore seafeet we arrived at a supermarket where we were overwhelmed by the selection.  The skinny coconut-scraping island dogs we’ve met over the past few months would be lining up to apply for NZ citizenship if they saw this:

NZPassageAndArrival 125

K reflexively lingered in front of the corned beef and then realized he might have better dining with a fresh pack of Bow Wow, although the Champ looks like it might have less gristle and hide. Platinum definitely has the ring of quality with less coagulated fat and more good stringy meat bits. Hound Dog can’t be good….

35°18.00′S 174°06.57′E 30-Oct-10 01:55 UTC

Minerva Reef to Opua, NZ

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

We weren’t alone at Minerva.  A few days after we arrived we were fortunate to be joined by the three fine gentlemen, Jim, Steve, and Aaron, aboard Wetnose.  Besides being extremely enjoyable company, they generously fed us, entertained us with movies, and taxied us back and forth.

ToNZ 002

After several days when the forecast for continuing on to New Zealand looked promising, we shifted books, movies and homebrew between our vessels, then left the men of Wetnose making their own departure preparations as we sailed away, upwind, with a small head start.  We left Minerva as the tail end of a low passed and a high was easing its way in over New Zealand.

After the first day out, we were reaching with winds in the 15-25 knot range for most of the trip, which kept Khamseen sailing at a fast but endurable pace.   As a bonus there was a fantastic current that turned in our favor a couple days out and boosted us along by an extra knot the rest of the way in.

NZPassageAndArrival 076

We kept double reefs in the main and jib and a full staysail up for almost the entire 700 miles.  Twitchy, a hardworking but sensitive creature, dictates our sailplan when he has the helm, and seemed quite content with this arrangement.  The new steering oar worked perfectly.

NZPassageAndArrival 027

The weather was dramatic even inside the massive high pressure system that covered much of the south west pacific.  After five days we were within 100 miles of the coast and reefed down even more to slow the boat overnight so we could arrive at the entrance to the Bay of Islands just as the sky was lightening.

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On the morning of our sixth day out from Minerva we watched the rosy fingers of dawn spreading over Bird Rock and Cape Brett.

ToNZ 103

And then the sun made its appearance to light the channel into town.

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There was a sad but inevitable change in wardrobe over the course of this passage as we left the tropics behind us, but we were very happy to have made it to this far corner of the ocean in one piece. Actually, S was very happy and K was very sleepy to have made it to this far corner of the ocean.

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35°18.76′S 174°07.57′E 28-Oct-10 01:55 UTC

Minerva Pit Stop

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

We came to Minerva for repairs but it has been a very cool place to visit. At low tide on a calm day it looks like we are anchored the infinity pool at the Tahiti Intercontinental.

Minerva 038

It’s hard to capture the flavor of a place defined by the lack of, well… everything. There’s no real dry land, no plants, no buildings, just 360 degrees of white breaking waves on a 1.5 nm radius with a shallow calm spot in the middle.

Minerva 043

The reefs were full of big fish. Schools of large snapper and hog-sized grouper milled around in the pass while other schools of yellowtail, tuna, jacks and, grey sharks sped past the reefy margins. The fish were all smarter than the people of Bint al Khamseen. All we caught after an honest best effort was a trumpet fish that we threw back (though we should have kept him for bait and traded up to a grouper or snapper).  A shark got our favorite “crippled herring” lure.

We’re getting low on good chow and a bit of fish would definitely improve the menu. NZ Agriculture is notorious for making people heave out all their provisions upon arrival, so we’ve been consciously whittling down our stocks in preparation, and our fresh food provisioning in Nuku’alofa was based on a 10-day transit. After an extra week in Minerva we are “getting down to grass hats” as they say in Nigeria. We’ve broken out the vacuum-packed Chinese barbecue pork that’s been in the fridge for 15 months (delicious! it makes good Canadian bacon), the fabulous smokey French dry salami from Papeete is nearly done, along with the 2.5lb brick of NZ cheddar. But most significant is that tonight was the night that we finally opened the ‘06-vintage canned chicken.

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It was way better than all the pacific island corned beef that K keeps thinking will improve if he can just find the right brand.  We wish we had a half dozen of these little canned sized birds.

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S was a little concerned that it might be past its expiration but K was sure that it was “best before for-EVER”. We put it in a Moroccan tagine and ate it over couscous. So, it’s pretty much beans and brown rice from here on out. It must be time to go.

23°38.50′S 178°54.90′W   21-Oct-10 01:55 UTC

It Done Fell Off (but we made a new one)

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

After a nap in North Minerva Reef’s calm lagoon, we got to work. S located the piece of 1/8-inch stainless steel plate we had stowed away, and K took the measurements and came up with a plan for bending it into a U to make the socket for our new windvane oar.

WindvaneOarBuild1 001

He pulled the 44 lb Bruce anchor out of the cockpit locker to use as an anvil (you can never have too many anchors). He thought about burying the anchor in the cockpit with sandbags to hold it steady, but all the sand was about 10 ft under the keel so he decided to perch S on the “anchvil” instead.   It didn’t work nearly as satisfactorily as 200 lbs of sand bags, but much less dredging using a snorkel and a stock pot was required.

We dug out all the clamps we could find and secured the plate to the anchor shaft (with a piece of aluminum plate on top to help guide the bend). 

WindvaneOarBuild1 002

Then K started giving the plate the business end of a 4 lb maul.  After quite a bit of beating, the plate began to bend.  Alas, there was some bloodletting, as K says there always must be.

WindvaneOarBuild1 007

When the plate started putting up a fight, we applied a little heat….

WindvaneOarBuild1 012

and “encouraged” it to bend with the clamps and a length of metal tubing.   S was happy to pitch in where lesser amounts of brawn and skill would suffice.  As ship’s safety officer, she felt compelled to set a good example, and kept her earplugs and goggles on because she could never be quite sure when the boy would set to wailing on the plate with his maul.

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By the end of the first day, the curve was taking shape nicely.

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K spent another morning worrying the stainless until we finally had the shape we needed.

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Next came the oar.  The original was a work of oar-ish art in teak and stainless, and the windvane manufacturer warned us the oar must be perfectly symmetrical in order to work.  The bar was set.   S dug out all our scrap wood and found we had piece of mahogany nearly perfect for the job (courtesy of the Shilshole dumpster).  We just needed to add a bit to the thickness at the top with some 1/8” plywood (courtesy of the bottom of the quarterberth locker) in order to get a nice taper along the sides. We cut the basic shapes using a circular saw (huzzah for the last-minute Ebay inverter purchase!).

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Out came the epoxy and the clamps.

WindvaneOarBuild1 034

After the glue dried, K went to work shaping the vertical taper and rounding the leading edge using his great-grandfather’s plane.

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The cockpit was soon covered with a thick blanket of shavings, but the oar was taking shape.

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Before long he had the right taper along the length…

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then he started feathering the trailing edge.  This involved putting several “gage cuts” along the trailing edge, which he then shaved off to make the fore-and-aft taper (clever! S thought).

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The shavings were up to our ankles by this time, but we had ourselves a fine-looking oar.

K then drilled out bolt holes in the metal plate…

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and sealed the wood with a couple coats of epoxy.

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He added a few bolts, lock washers, and nylock nuts, and we had ourselves a new windvane oar that looked remarkably like the original.

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And it works as well too!

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After a look through some of our pics we were able to answer the question of why “it done fell off.” Notice the hole in the oar plate, which should be filled with a bolt….

Flags&Fish 035 

It all came down to a single bolt that backed out of the threaded plate, and our failure to notice it.   We now realize that the windvane had steered hundreds of mile with that bolt hanging on by a thread.  Luckily for us, it let go before we’d passed our last chance for an anchorage on this crossing.

So in the end, while her people were feeling amputated by the loss of the windvane oar, Bint al Khamseen took it like a little Arabian filly who threw a shoe on the first turn and just needed a few hours with the blacksmith to set things right.

23°37.90′S 178°55.90′W   21-Oct-10 01:55 UTC

Minerva Update

Monday, October 18th, 2010

All’s well! The new steering oar is done and ready to go. Now we’re just waiting for a good forecast to continue on to New Zealand.

23°38.55′S 178°56.20′W 13-Oct-10 21:18 UTC

Not Nervous in Minerva

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

The very thought of it made my eyes pop open as I lay in bed one night several months ago: that the windvane oar would somehow come off its post and float away – or worse yet, sink. Both our self-steering systems, the windvane (“Twitchy”) and the tiller pilot (“Fritz”), use the windvane oar to steer the boat, so while it’s not critical to the boat itself, it’s a pretty essential piece of equipment for improving the comfort factor of life aboard during passages, freeing us from the drudgery and weariness of steering by hand for hundreds or thousands of miles. We had a spare vane but not a spare oar, so we had to be sure that it stayed with us. While at anchor in the Tuamotus we tested the oar to see if it would float. It did, but just barely. And I made sure to check the safety line that tethered the oar to the boat in case it did come off its mount. It was tied to the vane shaft, but to make myself feel better I retied the bowline around one of the struts bracing the vane shaft against the transom.

So how was it that I found myself, a few nights ago, staring in absolute horror and disbelief at the oar as it disappeared behind us into the darkness? I admit, I was likely the initial cause of the unfortunate chain of events that lead to this dismal sight. But first, to forestall any pooh-poohing of the Cape Horn windvane by our boatie readership, I want to be clear that we are very happy with our windvane. It’s not as if the oar was prone to coming off its mount, but this night it kicked up while I was adjusting it (a normal response to too much stress – or an impact with a sunning sunfish), then shortly after that it came completely off its post, perhaps due to the boat’s motion. But even with the oar off its post it should’ve stayed tied to the boat because of its tether. We’ll never know how it slipped its moorings, but we do know we still have the safety tether with intact bowlines on both ends. Somehow the bolt that the tether was tied to came free. But it remains a mystery.

We searched for hours on a calm but very dark sea. I had hit the “man overboard” button on the GPS after the oar came free, and we ran a radial search pattern from that waypoint out to a range of 600 ft. K drove the search lines while I scanned the sea from the side deck with a million candle power Q-beam, which seemed to delight and/or dazzle the night-hunting squids who live in the Tonga Trench. We saw hundreds of their eyes shining red and unblinking in our search beam.

After two hours of searching we had covered all the likely sectors of the compass and were idling near the waypoint when a huge whale surfaced 15 meters from the boat with a blast of whale breath that sounded like a steam plant relief valve. Soon there was a whole pod of them on the surface near the boat and they gently pointed out that it was very late to be lighting up the Tonga Trench and that we didn’t have a prayer of finding our cricket-bat-sized oar when we couldn’t even see a pod of whales a boat length away. K picked up on their message. I was too depressed to pay attention, beyond just hoping they wouldn’t get angry at us and our light and ram our hull (at the time, that seemed to be the way my luck was running). So we agreed with them, and sadly turned off our beam and putted in silent darkness away to the southwest.

Giving up our search for the lost oar, which the manufacturer later told us was a waste of time anyway as the oar didn’t float, meant our options were to: continue on our way, hand-steering for the remaining 900 miles to New Zealand (ugh); return to Tonga to order another oar, which would take an unknown but guaranteed long time to arrive; or build one ourselves. K was confident he could build one. He also likes Napoleon’s philosophy of, “Onward ever, backward never, to rest is not to conquer.” Neither of us really wanted to turn around. We were half-way between Tonga and Minerva Reef, so we opted to continue on to Minerva and take a whack (literally, it turns out) at building an oar with the materials we had onboard.

We had a day and a half of hand-steering through a windy, rainy cold front, each taking 3-hour shifts. The good news is it wasn’t as bad as we (or at least, I) thought it’d be. K queued up his heavy-weather Gatecrasher on the Ipod during his watch and was no worse-natured than usual when it’s cool and damp enough to wear threads. We found that the road from Tonga to Minerva is full of potholes and at least once an hour we’d unexpectedly plant the bow of the boat into these ocean holes, sluicing the deck with sheets of saltwater and waking the offwatch with the alarmingly loud report. But the rain and wind eased as night came on, and early the next morning a squad of crusty, battle-scarred dolphins escorted us into the new day and around the north end of the submerged atoll. There’s only one pass into North Minerva, and it’s deep and wide. We soon had our anchor plopped down into nice sand on the south rim of the lagoon.

There’s an old blacksmith saying, “By hammer and hand all arts do stand,” which is a good thing because hammers and hands are nearly the complete repertoire of our floating machine shop. Oar construction is moving at an Iron Age pace, we spent a day and half beating a stainless plate into submission. Hopefully we’ll finish the new oar tomorrow, and it will steer like a champ. Then we’ll go back to weather standby, waiting for a slot to dash across the traffic of subtropical lows and highs that need to be avoided for a pleasant crossing to New Zealand.

23°38.55′S 178°56.20′W 13-Oct-10 21:18 UTC

Not Nervous in Minerva

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

The very thought of it made my eyes pop open as I lay in bed one night several months ago: that the windvane oar would somehow come off its post and float away – or worse yet, sink.  Both our self-steering systems, the windvane ("Twitchy") and the tiller pilot ("Fritz"), use the windvane oar to steer the boat, so while it’s not critical to the boat itself, it’s a pretty essential piece of equipment for improving the comfort factor of life aboard during passages, freeing us from the drudgery and weariness of steering by hand for hundreds or thousands of miles.  We had a spare vane but not a spare oar, so we had to be sure that it stayed with us.  While at anchor in the Tuamotus we tested the oar to see if it would float.  It did, but just barely.  And I made sure to check the safety line that tethered the oar to the boat in case it did come off its mount.   It was tied to the vane shaft, but to make myself feel better I retied the bowline around one of the struts bracing the vane shaft against the transom. 

So how was it that I found myself, a few nights ago, staring in absolute horror and disbelief at the oar as it disappeared behind us into the darkness?   I admit, I was likely the initial cause of the unfortunate chain of events that lead to this dismal sight.  But first, to forestall any pooh-poohing of the Cape Horn windvane by our boatie readership, I want to be clear that we are very happy with our windvane.  It’s not as if the oar was prone to coming off its mount, but this night it kicked up while I was adjusting it (a normal response to too much stress – or an impact with a sunning sunfish), then shortly after that it came completely off its post, perhaps due to the boat’s motion.   But even with the oar off its post it should’ve stayed tied to the boat because of its tether.  We’ll never know how it slipped its moorings, but we do know we still have the safety tether with intact bowlines on both ends.  Somehow the bolt that the tether was tied to came free.  But it remains a mystery.

We searched for hours on a calm but very dark sea.  I had hit the "man overboard" button on the GPS after the oar came free, and we ran a radial search pattern from that waypoint out to a range of 600 ft.  K drove the search lines while I scanned the sea from the side deck with a million candle power Q-beam, which seemed to delight and/or dazzle the night-hunting squids who live in the Tonga Trench.  We saw hundreds of their eyes shining red and unblinking in our search beam. 

After two hours of searching we had covered all the likely sectors of the compass and were idling near the waypoint when a huge whale surfaced 15 meters from the boat with a blast of whale breath that sounded like a steam plant relief valve.  Soon there was a whole pod of them on the surface near the boat and they gently pointed out that it was very late to be lighting up the Tonga Trench and that we didn’t have a prayer of finding our cricket-bat-sized oar when we couldn’t even see a pod of whales a boat length away.  K picked up on their message.  I was too depressed to pay attention, beyond just hoping they wouldn’t get angry at us and our light and ram our hull (at the time, that seemed to be the way my luck was running).  So we agreed with them, and sadly turned off our beam and putted in silent darkness away to the southwest.
Giving up our search for the lost oar, which the manufacturer later told us was a waste of time anyway as the oar didn’t float, meant our options were to: continue on our way, hand-steering for the remaining 900 miles to New Zealand (ugh); return to Tonga to order another oar, which would take an unknown but guaranteed long time to arrive; or build one ourselves.   K was confident he could build one.  He also likes Napoleon’s philosophy of, "Onward ever, backward never, to rest is not to conquer."  Neither of us really wanted to turn around.  We were half-way between Tonga and Minerva Reef, so we opted to continue on to Minerva and take a whack (literally, it turns out) at building an oar with the materials we had onboard.  

We had a day and a half of hand-steering through a windy, rainy cold front, each taking 3-hour shifts.  The good news is it wasn’t as bad as we (or at least, I) thought it’d be.  K queued up his heavy-weather Gatecrasher on the Ipod during his watch and was no worse-natured than usual when it’s cool and damp enough to wear threads.  We found that the road from Tonga to Minerva is full of potholes and at least once an hour we’d unexpectedly plant the bow of the boat into these ocean holes, sluicing the deck with sheets of saltwater and waking the offwatch with the alarmingly loud report.  But the rain and wind eased as night came on, and early the next morning a squad of crusty, battle-scarred dolphins escorted us into the new day and around the north end of the submerged atoll.  There’s only one pass into North Minerva, and it’s deep and wide.  We soon had our anchor plopped down into nice sand on the south rim of the lagoon.

There’s an old blacksmith saying, "By hammer and hand all arts do stand," which is a good thing because hammers and hands are nearly the complete repertoire of our floating machine shop. Oar construction is moving at an Iron Age pace, we spent a day and half beating a stainless plate into submission. Hopefully we’ll finish the new oar tomorrow, and it will steer like a champ. Then we’ll go back to weather standby, waiting for a slot to dash across the traffic of subtropical lows and highs that need to be avoided for a pleasant crossing to New Zealand.

23°38.55′S 178°56.20′W   13-Oct-10 21:18 UTC

Polynesia Redux

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

We are about to migrate out of the Polynesian waters we’ve enjoyed for the last 6 months. This load of pictures, for one reason or another, never got posted but they help capture the flavor of our trip through the islands.

The Hunt Begins…

001

First Taste of the Marquesas

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Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’ in a Marquesan Mass

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A partial green flash

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Downtown Ua Pou

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Ua Pou Paddlers

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Ua Pou Church

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Nuku Hiva Chapel

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The Calm Atoll

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A Tuamotuan Reef

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A Fakaravan Manta (with video)

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Fakaravan Sun Fire

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Tahiti Landfall at sunset

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Tahitian Night Paddlers

Tahiti 053

A Tahitian Splash

Tahiti 092

The Famous Papeete Market

Tahiti 130

Purple Mango Money Man

Tahiti 226

The Blue Diver

Tahiti 241

Spires of God and Spires of Man

 

LeavingFP 057   

The Last Baguette

LeavingFP 043  

A Flag is Born

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The Off Watch

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The Niue Boat Swing

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A Niuean Eel

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The Joy of Neiafu

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Rare Good Nature

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Tongan Jellies

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Nieafu Catholic Girl

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It’s green like a lime on the outside, orange like an orange on the inside, but it tastes like a lemon:  Tongan mystery fruit (on left).

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What the – ?? Is that an Aussie A-Roy on the stern of the coastal freighter? How many of you can there possibly be?

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The Left Relaxes (but remains vigilant)

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Young Leftists in Love

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A Call to the PA Pack

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The Mermaid Chariot

 204 

The Tohatsu Turn 

211

In Search of Mariner’s Cave

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Gathering Lofangan C-nuts for Lofangan Pigs

 LofangaMonday 008  

The Shady Piggery

Lofanga 125

Hmmm….Roasted Coconut Papaya

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Hmmm… Roasted Yams

Lofanga 138

Hmmm…. Chicken Lu

Lofanga 144

Lunch With Dogs

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Good Old Dog

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Smiles in the Man Cave

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Small Man, Big Blade

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The Sitka Springs Off

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The Sitka Unloads

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Matuku Sunday

 MatukuSunday 122-1

Bula Bula!

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21°10.00′S 175°09.07′W   09-Oct-10 01:55 UTC

Candid Nuku’alofa

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Let us quickly manage your expectations: Nuku’alofa is no Papeete. The streets are not crawling with full head tattoos, beauty queens, or flamboyant purple mangomen, but we love the Tongans and are always on the lookout for a frame that says “I’m a Tongan.”

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The sun was hot, and everybody had a plan. Youngsters were wading in the urban shallows…

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grandpas were fishing…

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hip young couples were lounging in the shady park…

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and not-so-hip middle aged ladies were wrapping extra ta’ovala mats around their heads.

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Other hip young couples were hanging out in the upscale cafe.

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A few hard workers were soaking pandanus leaves for future weaving.

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Lots of people were spending the mid-day hours in the bingo shack,

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or watching a competition-grade checkers match in the covered market.

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There was also some shady texting and de-lousing.

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The smallest shade loving Tongans wanted to be anywhere but the family vegetable concession.

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By the time she’s eight she could be running the whole business (including the coconut bladesmanship) by herself.

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The park was full of dishing office ladies,

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and young moms.

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The bus stops were full of hot people but no one seemed bothered.

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By 1230 the streets were crowded with people loitering around on lunch break.

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There were a few Tongans on the move: busy matriarchs…

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serious schoolboys…

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giggling girls…

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pesky younger sisters…

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kiekie skirt models…

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and visa babies.

Nukualofa 069.aJPG

21°08.00′S 175°10.00′W   07-Oct-10 01:45 UTC

The Quilts of the Dead

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

There’s a young saying “The dead need no quilts” (it’s young because K just made it up). But this is not the case in Tonga, where the dead receive a constant supply of quilts.

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These all-weather quilts are made by the family and put on permanent display out in the graveyard.

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They display geometric patterns…

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… heraldry

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… or even portraits of the dear departed.

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When they are worn out by the elements the family gets busy with the needle and sets up a new one. It’s a whole new level of grave care to us and our old friends the Tuamotians, who might or might not straighten out your cross periodically.

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21°08.00′S 175°09.75′W   06-Oct-10 01:55 UTC