19 September 2014

Cruiser Eyes


There was a time when I would have looked at this picture and only seen a vision of tropical paradise. It has the key elements, sandy beach, lovely water, palm trees, blue skies.

I still see that, but I catch myself immediately also cataloguing the negatives, from a cruiser perspective:

  • At low tide, that is a rocky landing beach, hard on the dinghy, feet and the outboard propeller.
  • If I’m coming into or leaving the beach at night there are reefs just off the beach to worry about.
  • That beach clearly disappears at high tide so I better not plan my beach fire for then.

Weird huh?

This is filed under cruiser problems a.k.a. high class problems…don’t worry, none of those stopped us from thoroughly enjoying ourselves.

17 September 2014

Sailing with the Humpbacks

IMG_7880 (2)

IMG_7882 (2)One of the delights of sailing in Vava’u Tonga this time of year is that we have
seen whales about half of the time we are out sailing. Sometimes far away, sometimes close, sometimes just a few blows on the horizon, once a whale that came nearly alongside, very often breaching, tail flukes arching and fins slapping.

We run around exclaiming, trying not to run into any reefs, fall overboard or jibe/tack while we ogle the whales.
Mostly we just enjoy them with our own eyes, rather than staring at a camera screen, but one time I took a moment to grab the long lens camera and snapped a couple of shots.

We’ve had a lot of whale encounters in Canada, near California and off the tip of the Baja peninsula but never so regularly as we have had here.

The whales have come to Tonga to have babies and make babies at this time of year and so they are everywhere.

15 September 2014

Liquid Motivation: More burgers and beer

Burgers in Tonga

I know, it is like we are obsessed right? The moment we get back to “town” we want burgers (or something similarly heavy and meaty) and beer. As you can see by Carol’s three burger coated fingers in this photo, we don’t even slow down for the social niceties ;)

These burgers and beers were wolfed down at the Aquarium CafĂ© in Neiafu, Vava’u, Tonga, after two weeks of excessive kiteboarding with great enjoyment courtesy of Karen.

Thank you, thank you Karen!

12 September 2014

Video: Cruising Moments of Zen - Part 2


While I was making the first "Cruising Moments of Zen" video I decided I didn't want the video to be too long. I settled on about 5 minutes as a reasonable length and ended up with 10 minutes of video which I tried to distribute intelligently between two movies. I hope you enjoy.

If blogger's embedded player doesn't work, or you prefer different viewing settings, you can go here to watch this video directly on youtube.

10 September 2014

The Best Sailing Gloves We’ve Owned Aren’t


Pictured above are three examples of sailing gloves we have thoroughly product tested* on a cruising boat.

Two pairs are a little over a year old and are our second sets of the same brands since we started cruising. One pair is almost 10 years old. All have been used for sailing and also for anything else in our cruising life that we would like gloves for. The oldest pair has been used the most, in the most varied conditions, including years on the rock wall. The only pair that hasn’t disintegrated under hard use is also the cheapest pair. Can you guess which?

Tip: Yep, as the title suggests, our favorite sailing gloves are not sailing gloves; they are Metolius rock climbing belay gloves.

Slightly less sensitive than a sailing glove, our climbing gloves are a gazillion times more durable. You can buy cheaper leather gloves (such as for construction) but these climbing gloves are made from great leather which (important in my mind) form fits to the shape of your hand over time, using high end construction with stitching that doesn’t fail, and made with extra leather right where ropes slide through your hands.

The sailing gloves we’ve owned have some durable leather in the high use areas but also have a lot of soft leather of some wimpy type which rots. There is enough of this soft leather that when it rots there is nothing holding the palm of the glove onto your hand, rendering the glove useless. As far as we can tell, this soft leather rots when subjected to salt water and abrasion…which is exactly what the gloves are supposed to be protecting our hands from.

I understand that as cruisers** we put many more hours on the water than most sailboat owners, that we no longer work for money, and for both reasons we care a lot more about durability and cost than aesthetic and a slight improvement in sensitivity. With that said, we’ve wasted enough money and we won’t be buying sailing gloves for cruising again.

*We paid for all of these over the years out of our own pockets – not that we wouldn’t take freebies, we would be delighted to, but these weren’t.
**Well, there are cruisers and there are cruisers. So, I guess I should say “cruisers who are actively moving their boat around”.

08 September 2014

3 Dreamy Kite Spots in Vava’u (Kingdom of Tonga)


In a stroke of luck we arrived in Vava'u with two weeks of on and off good kiting wind so we were able to kite at all three locations.

Background: We kited in August-September 2014 and were using 3mm wetsuits. On grey days when the wind was up we even brought a thermos of hot tea to the beach. Of course, we’ve been living in the tropics for years and are acclimated to more heat than when we left Canada! While we usually use Google’s cache of satellite imagery to pull from for offline use with SAS Planet, but we used SAS to pull from BIng here because the pictures were better and so that is where the following links will take you. All locations are the launch spot not the anchorage.

GOPR6301Sandbar near Kenutu (S18°42'35.04" W173°56'32.36"). This was by far our favorite kite spot in Vava’u for a number of reasons. A small sand island and bar covered at high tide but otherwise usable with a great, relatively obstacle free line in almost any wind directions and plenty of room to get blown downwind for learners. A little choppier near high tide if the winds are honking and if the ocean swell is up it can add a bit to the chop only at high tide. The sand bar is a mile from land and so has unobstructed wind from almost any direction. Plus, the anchorage at nearby Kenutu Island is excellent in strong trade conditions. It can be a little gusty but it stays fairly flat, no fetch can build, and the island has a great beach and a great hike to the ocean side views.

The only downside is that the kite island is about 1nm from the anchorage. Depending on your dinghy/outboard combination this could be a deal breaker. We found it wet but doable and well worth it. One day we saw a resort boat bring a kiter to this island for a downwinder somewhere so that might be an option for fly in visitors.

Taunga sandbar (S18°45'12.89" W174°00'37.19"). Taunga’s sandbar connects to the island south of it. If the wind is too far South there is a wind shadow at the launch spot which you have to fight out of but it is short and then you are in unobstructed wind even in SSE winds. P1040153In ESE conditions the upwind side of the bar is excellent – no shadow, no coral, good wind and a huge section of water to play in. It can be a bit lumpy here but wasn’t as lumpy as what we experienced at Mounu (below). We haven’t kited in solid E or ENE conditions which are what you would need for unobstructed wind on the flat water side. Looking forward to trying that because that side of the bar looks excellent.

The most beautiful anchorage in Taunga is on the windy side which is unfortunate because in non windy conditions it is idyllic. Great sand, great holding and nice depths for anchoring. During strong trades the fetch becomes quite uncomfortable (we can vouch for that) and if we go again for kiting wind we’ll try anchoring on the marked anchorage on the W side of the island.

Mounu Island  (S18°45'07.05" W174°04'06.69"). This is a resort so if you were flying into Tonga this would be an attractive option. It looked fancy, so pocket book dependent. P1040118The daughter of the owners is a kiteboarder but wasn’t at home when we were there. We introduced ourselves to the owners and asked permission to launch from the southwest side of their beach which they granted right away. There is some reef downwind of the launch spot but after that it is obstacle free and a good spot for learners as it starts shallow enough to stand in but eventually becomes deep and clear downwind of the main kite area.

Lots of good reasons to come here and we will probably stop by again if nearby but we found the spot to be quite choppy and the anchorage to also be in the line of the fetch and so can’t say that it is our favorite. The anchorage around the corner at Avalau (sometimes Ovalau depending on the chart) was gorgeous so you could move back around there for the evening and have a small beach fire below the high tide line (so they sea can wash away the traces of it).

We were first tipped off to these three kite spots by SV Starship.  Thanks guys!