surf

Giddyup! ‘Back to Nature’ adventure revisited…

 

Long-awaited arrival at the legendary bay of Hanavave.

 

Lost in the stars, I lay huddled on the port side of the cockpit in my sleeping bag. The eastern horizon hinted the coming twilight, but my gaze was fixed skyward. Swell’s soft rhythmic lurch through the small upwind chop, told me I could relax. I didn’t want to jinx myself, but intuitively I anticipated a successful arrival. On two other occasions, I’d been forced to alter course and sail elsewhere. This time the wind was strong enough to be single-reefed, but Swell wasn’t fighting. The wind would pick up later, I knew, but I was optimistic with 17 miles to go at 4:40am. Intuitive notions aside, experience had trained me that no landfall should be celebrated until the anchor was firmly set!

 

As dawn haloed the island’s striking silhouette, I couldn’t help but mentally wander through the tales of Thor and Liv Heyerdahl’s romantic ‘back-to-nature’ adventure that took place on this very island in the 1930s…ancient carved petroglyphs, toppling waterfalls, brisk mountaintops, hidden caves, action-packed tidepools, abundant fruits, and resourceful locals swirled through my imagination…

 

A few hours later, the sails luffed indecisively as we moved into the swirling wind shadow of the island’s 3,500ft peaks. Despite little sleep, I was abuzz with excitement as we furled the sails and started the engine. Gusts swooped in at us from north, then south as we neared…adding to the mystique of the legendary bay where ominous stone cliffs, gravity-defying spires, swaying palms, and turning seabirds awaited!!

Change in altitude thanks to my courageous equine friend.

Mountain picnicking!!

 

 
We embarked on jungle forays to experience some of the sites that had impressed Thor and Liv.

A petroglyph carved in stone–one of many in this valley steeped in myth and tabu.

Ol cheveaux watching over the hard stone where rocks were once sharpened into weapons and tools.

 

Locals heading out with their hounds to hunt wild pigs a few bays to the south.

Proud Marquesan hunter’s home.

 

Today Marquesan lives meet somewhere between modern convenience and ancient tradition.

 

Twin Tikis watching over Swell and the wedging lefts.

Post-surf, barefoot architecture project…relaxing on my stone throne…

  Leaving it to the dolphins for a while…view from the beach shack.

Breadfruit lunch…giving new meaning to eating ‘whole foods’! Now it’s off to find Thor and Liv’s cave dwelling…

 

Healthy bees are the Earth’s (and our) best friends.

 

Beauty overload, I can’t hold my camera still! Goosebumps as the full moon rises over Omoa valley…Boundless gratitude!!

Lubed gears and New frontiers

I’m healing up and almost like new…so I figured I’d go back before neck breaks or speaking tours…to fill in where we left off after hat-making!

 

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New friends to lead the way…

 

I sat scooping papaya into my mouth in the cockpit, wondering if the package would arrive today. A moment later my phone rang. It was Isrin calling to tell us the windlass part had arrived and they’d drop it by later!

 

Several teeth on my Maxwell windlass had made their final anchor pull at the bay on the other side of the island. As I had pushed the button to raise the chain, a dreadful grinding sound screeched out and echoed off the surrounding stone cliffs .

 

“That can’t be good…” I surmised with a furrowed brow, but a wind shift had brought onshore conditions, and we had to get out of there before the wind chop got worse, so I  finished lifting the anchor despite wincing through every second of the awful noise.

 

Upon arriving in the next port, Raiarii and I disassembled the unit to reveal broken teeth on one of the main gears. Several Skype calls and two weeks of black sand beach breaks, murky water shark sightings, meals with the O’Connor’s, night fishing, abandoned puppy rescuing, and downhill skating later…the cardboard box arrived!! Freedom to sail on!

 

With the new part installed and the Windlass gears lubed like never before…we said final goodbyes and pointed the bow toward the island to the south…

 

Getting greasy as we take apart the broken windlass…it took a hammer, Kroil, some interesting leverage techniques, and a few bad words…but we freed all moving parts and waited for the new gear piece to arrive!

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The worn out teeth on the windlass gear…

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First stop…a mysto 3 foot a-frame that broke for over shallow reef for 3 hours and then never reappeared?!…followed by a mango binge :)

The glory of Nature is always near if we’re willing to pay attention…it yanks us out of our mind chatter and joins us to the Greatness that IS.

We are the creators of our reality…Swelly in Paradise!

 

With love all things RISE UP!!

She-pirate on commute…

With this back drop, I had to nose Swelly in for a closer look…what beauty!!

Ask and you shall receive!! Swell found some swell! Went over the falls on the way in to the beach wearing my Stormproof Patagonia backpack with all my camera gear inside…dry as could be! This exposed anchorage wasn’t safe to stay overnight, so we put in a quick surf after a long day of sailing…and an evening of beachcombing while wild horses grazed on the hillside. At 10:30pm, despite blazing fatigue, we could take no more of the sharps rolls and jarring yanks of the chain…so out to sea we sailed under starlit heavens…

What makes freedom so beautiful?

A pamplemousse giving me a morning reminder never to judge people or things by their outward appearance!

Regardless of superficial differences, we are so much more the same–sharing our Earthly ride in sorrow or joy, in glory or humility, in gain or in loss, in wonder or in doubt…so show Love to your fellow human–each of us a tiny spark in a great Fire!! Burn brighter and those around you will too…

 

P.S. I updated the ‘Reading Page’ to give book descriptions and I’m slowly adding short videos from this trip on my YouTube page. To view them, the YouTube button on the top right corner of this webpage will take you directly there…Enjoy :)

Bait for Breakfast

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Bait for breakky! What does it mean when the fish jump right on deck!?

Back in the islands, the cyclone season dwindled to a thankfully uneventful close. Swell had sprouted sea ‘roots’ after nearly 2 months in the same rolly bay. Algae swayed on Swell’s waterline, while resident bait fish circled below. Mornings would begin with the sound of thrashing water near the hull–a tuna or the likes–chasing the baitball into a frenzy such that a dozen or so would leap upon Swell’s deck! First to rise would chase down our flapping-flopping little bait buddies, thank them for their lives, gut them and toss them into the pan with a spoonful of butter. Breakfast!! YUM! Lower food chain delicacy!

But the time had come to cast our thoughts toward the next horizon. It took three days of algae scrubbing to free Swell, Miti Miti, and her anchor gear from the extraneous greenery.  The crabs and mini shrimp crawled in our ears and pinched when they got stuck under my swimsuit. Our bait friends and the teenage jacks scored an easy meal, darting amongst the newly freed algae clouds. I dove down the anchor line…down, down, down to 50 feet and hovered there in the sand…the sounds of the seabed crackled and hummed in my equalized eardrums. I was gonna miss this place.

We made rounds of goodbyes through the valley over a few days–always proportionally more difficult the longer the stay. We loaded up the mountain of fruit and parting gifts, but no treasure was greater than the friendships and love we’d been given there. I would miss the kids too much…their purity was my daily refuge.

On the morning of departure, they waved madly from the rocks on the shoreline. I paraded Swell a few times round the bay, blared the fog horn, then pointed the bow to sea behind watery eyes…

Not too far away–and yet a world apart–we pulled Swell into a narrow, silty bay. A rivermouth cut through the west end of a blacksand beach and rocky cliffs climbed skyward on both sides. Astonished, we watched waves peel down both sides of  the cliffs! The roaring NE trades were making waves…A leap from Swell and a short paddle found us looking over the ledges of a ledgy little right hander…

I’d harvested enough watercress for a few more precious salads–a bonus on top of the unexpected surf. The valley was wild and empty, except for a few wild goats and horses we spotted wandering around the rugged rocky slopes. Raiarii learned to splice 3-strand rope and fixed our chaffed stern anchor rode. Subtly, the voyage transformed into its next phase, and the newness of getting underway again felt as good as it had two months prior, to toss the anchor and get settled…A time for everything I suppose.

 

Finding Sea Rhythm… … … …

Crystal rippin the rewards of a successful Swell passage on her single fin!

After rising to our great challenge, the sea rewarded us with smooth sailing through the afternoon until the wind dropped off entirely and we motored on into the calmest, starriest night I could ever remember in this wind-worn belt of the Pacific.

Rotating on 3-hour watches, I relieved Crystal just after 3 am. Swell plowed on into the moonless galaxy of twinkling starlight and bubbling phosphorescence. I felt Barry there with me…He surely wouldn’t have missed out on a night so spectacular…Oh the shooting stars!

At 5:02 am, Venus, the morning star, rose out of the sea. Light followed her. I woke Crystal, but couldn’t resist watching the sunrise before I laid down to rest. We turned off the motor and let Swell drift in the succulent silence. We curled up against the wad of broken sail, tucked under our blankets, and dissolved into the Peace…the ubiquitous, all-encompassing Peace…that was floating on that miraculously calm, open sea…

As we entered the deep, easy entrance to the next atoll destination a few hours later, our timing appeared flawless. The sea surface began to wrinkle as the trades gusted from the east, and the swell was most certainly filling in! We watched it move north along the atoll’s coral rim where it peeled off along the shallows of a long, flat lay of reef…thus, Crystal’s last 36 hours became a salty blur.

Just enough for after surf sushi!! Thanks for your life lil buddy...

We wondered where and when we’d meet again as she stepped up into the tiny prop plane, leaving me with more waves than I knew what to do with! Thanks to Patagonia again and GoPro Cameras for providing the gear to document our adventures!!

Bye Crystal!!! Swell and I miss you!! xoxoxo

All Part of the Miracle

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And then one afternoon, when my faith in the male gender had plummeted to an abysmal low, I turned in and saw Bali talking to a guy on the inside. He was the best surfer in the water. He took his waves but wasn’t greedy. He looked at me as he paddled by and said, “Hey, you need a few good ones? If you see me paddling, just go. I’ll pull out.”

For a moment I thought I heard him wrong. “Huh?” I asked.

“Yeah, come up here and get a set from the peak,” he said. “I’m Eric.”

I followed him up the reef through the pack. Anything was worth a try at this point”¦ so I waited close to Eric until a beautiful line of water rose up from the deep blue, shifting right and about to wrap the reef flawlessly.

“Go!” He called… so of course I went!

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Limited Resources and the Human Predicament

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At some point during the last few years of empty or mannered line-ups and my endless surf blessings, I’d lost the drive to fight this type of crowd. It ruins surfing for me. Here we were in this drop-dead gorgeous place where dreams linger on after you open your eyes”¦ where the giving spirit of the Polynesians will humble the wealthiest”¦ here in this blessed paradise, these guys had to drag their ugly greed and selfishness. I was disgusted; downright ashamed and at every one of their despicable beings. Had it been any other circumstance, I would never have subjected myself to such ridiculousness (not true”¦ I paddled out at Rincon more than once when I was in Cali), but anyway, at this point it wasn’t really an option. We had limited time. Not enough to make another passage. I wasn’t asking for ALL the waves-just one or two, here and there!? Poor Bali tread water on the inside with a look of helplessness, equally horrified at the circus he was beholding.

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"The Test Never Ends"-Bali Strickland

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Bali Strickland arrived from Oz smiling and in full form, ready for anything Swell and I could throw at him. As chance would have it the surf was up, the anchorage was a sandy 25 feet, and the sun was shining between puffy white clouds that burst with rainbows over the stunning black-green backdrop of the island’s towering crater peaks. On our first afternoon, despite a royal flogging right out of the starting gates, I caught a few solid bombs and we already felt like the surf footage was in the bag. The swell was supposed to stick around all week and the wind forecast looked mellow. But before we went praising our destination choice, life quickly reminded us that “the test never ends,” as Bali perfectly put it. It could never be THAT easy, even on the third round with a filmer!

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Reef Smooch

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To my own disbelief, I had correctly wired in the wind generator and watched with glee the next morning as the ammeter on the board showed amps coming in with each gust! Without further celebration, I got back to work to remount and rewire the solar panels. My ‘albatross’, arrived in timely fashion with my solar charge controller and I spent that blazingly hot, long day climbing in and out of the back lazerette and port torpedo tube with wire ties, my new multimeter (Thanks Dad!!), and the side cutters, crimper, and torch. As I hooked up the last wire to the charge controller, the little green LED light on its face beamed up at me as if to say”¦

“You did it!!!!!!!!!!!!! The list is finished!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

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K.O. In Round Two

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Round two started off all wrong. I mistimed the paddle out, taking 3 or four in the impact zone and found myself way down at the ‘first crack’. I caught a fat, walled right and then paddled against the current down to the reef. Only just arriving to the peak, my arms already burned. I snuck into a wide closeout, straightened out and tossed about in the ensuing whitewash explosion. Just barely back to the line-up, a mega-set marched in. I watched Anna barely make it over the first and knew I was doomed. The first one broke 20 feet in front of me. I ditched my board and thanks to the 10-foot leash, I dove as deep as I could before it reached me. After a laundering in the ‘heavily soiled’ cycle, I surfaced with just enough time to see another unstoppable parade of ‘white horses’ approaching yet again. Another 2 beatings, and draggings and I was nearly at the beach. But I caught my breath, realized I was fine, saw a gap in sets, and foolishly paddled out back out for more.

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