Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Next Big Leap of Rutea

Querida Familia-

We just received the thumbs up from our ace weather router, Bob McDavitt (a NZ character) to jump off from Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu to Bundaberg, Australia this Saturday (the 27th of October)! This is a big deal because not only is it our last blue water passage for 2012 but we will no longer be sailing in the Pacific Ocean! After 11,505 miles of sailing through the north and south Pacific Ocean, we will jump off and head across the Coral Sea which is bordered by Vanuatu, Northern Australia, Soloman Islands and Papua New Guinea! The Coral Sea contains the Great Barrier Reef and is the spawning grounds of the cyclones that terrorize the tiny island nations of the south pacific. The sea temp (at least where we are now) is 85 degrees but nobody swims in the western Coral Sea north of the Great Barrier Reef because its inhabitants include LOTS of great white sharks, Box Jelly Fish, Salt Water Crocodiles and Sea Snakes! Queensland, where we are headed, and south to the Gold Coast, boasts some of the best surfing, snorkeling and diving in the world and we are excited about exploring this new-to-us part of the world! We plan to stop along the way at Chesterfield Reef, a teeny, tiny reef/atoll about half way from where we are to Oz (as they call it) for a rest, diving and snorkeling. We will be traveling with three other boats: Merkava (Canadian), Geramar (Dutch) and Dilligaf (American).

Vanuatu has been a fascinating, National Geographic experience. To see people living the way their ancestors did has been such an eye opener- and lots of people here live that way. Almost everyone who does not live in the capital, Port Vila, or the former capital, Luganville lives very, very simply. The national dish, Lap-lap, is taro with coconut milk poured over it, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked under dirt and hot stones in the ground. Giant bamboo is still used for cooking over wood fires or for dishes or for clothes pins. Coconut Palms provide thatch for roofs, water for refreshment, milk for essential recipes, and shells for kava. Kava. That is a whole story in and of itself. I'm sure we have told you of kava in bits and pieces, but suffice it to be described as chugging muddy water, without breathing, feeling your tongue and teeth go numb as you try not to throw up, and then trying to relax into a state of indepth star gazing. Villages are known for special talents. Some villages perform traditional dance and singing. Some villages host the island school. Some villages specialize in magic (black magic and white magic). All villages have a church and most people are dressed in raggedy, missionary provided hand me downs. All kids have runny noses which their moms wipe off with their fingers. Most kids have a cough. The poverty is staggering. BUT, everyone has been more than kind, friendly, eager to share what they have and CURIOUS! I have had more than one kid rub my arm up and down to see if the white comes off and our hair has been a source of hours of entertainment! Of course people are very interested in Neal's hair because it looks like theirs does! They love it when he tells them that he is part Ni-Van!

Yesterday we endured one of the hardest parts of the cruising experience. We had to say good-bye to our dearest friends on Sarah Jean II as we parted ways. We have sailed with SJ2 since we left Mexico in 2011 and shared anchorages, dinners, hikes, boat problems, boat projects, snorkels and new countries for the past year and a half. We have encouraged each other onward in hard times, analyzed weather patterns, traded boat parts, felt safety in our numbers, talked about kids and parents and made memories to last a lifetime. SJ2 headed south for New Zealand for this cyclone season and will head back to Canada via Hawaii next cruising season, as we head west to Oz, Indonesia and Thailand. Making new and dear friends is one of the best parts of cruising, but saying good-bye to them is one of the hardest. That would be true of course, anywhere. You never want to let a kindred spirit go!

Back to Passage Preparation! The list is long but Neal has climbed the mast and checked the rigging. Jack lines are run. Genoa is patched. Tri-light is rewired. Nav lights are tested. Hand-held radios are charged. Bilge pumps are tested. Tri Sail is bent to the mast. Ditch Bag is updated. Boat bottom and prop are clean. Water and fuel tanks are full. Visas for Oz have been printed out. Steering is inspected. We have frozen bananas, banana cookies and banana muffins! Passage meals are being prepared and frozen. Our course has been plotted and we are studying our weather grib files. Just a couple more provisions to buy, a visit to Immigration and Customs to check out of the country, a visit to the duty free liquor store and we will be ready!

We will miss a couple of BIG dates while we are en route! The first is Ian's 30th Birthday on November 3rd! OMG! Please wish him well on his next decade! The second is the election.... YES, we have voted but we are still on pins and needles.... And of course, we miss YOU! Hopefully cell phone calls to the US won't be as expensive in Australia as they have been in Vanuatu! Airline tickets are also reasonable and we will be there for quite a while, so if you want to come visit, book your cabin now!

As always, we wish you Fair Winds and Calm Seas wherever you may be and whatever you may be doing.

R of Rutea and Crew
15.34.37 South
167.12.30 East
At 10/24/2012 8:37 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 15°31.37'S 167°09.90'E

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