Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Pacific Northwest Adventure Begins...

Olympic Mountains as seen from first run on First Light
Our Pacific Northwest adventure begins in Port Hadlock Marina, a small private marina seven miles south of Port Townsend,WA on the Olympic Peninsula. We bought the boat in Everette, but chose to move across the Puget Sound to Port Hadlock which is supposedly in a rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains and gets half the rain fall as the Seattle area does. We'll see about that. There sure is a lot of moss growing on trees and houses! Its very lush and green with ferns and rhododendrons growing everywhere!
Two Dogs on watch.

We are docked, learning how to drive a trawler, cleaning, staining and general move aboard kind of stuff and walking the dogs.... and walking the dogs, again! This marina is far off the shore and you walk a long dock to get to the boat slips. There are 250 steps to shore on this LONG gang plank several trips each day is a lot of the math!

Port Hadlock Marina, WA

Because of the ebb and flow of the tides in this area, a low tide sucks out the water is the bays and leaves a massive mud flat ...sometimes the low tide is a 15ft difference from high tide mark. This makes for huge mud flats during low tide.  Great for oyster farming and clamming. Many private oyster farm bags are scattered around. The beach becomes a big mud field, perfect for the dogs to run and get dirty! Ughh. Cruising around here is carefully planned by timing the ebb and flow of the tides.  Also,  there are strong currents flowing between land masses and islands that must be considered when planning any trip. On Captain John's ride over from Everette, he clocked 12 knots on a flow tide through the narrow Port Hadlock channel. That's flying!
The dock is 250 steps to the math!
The dogs are learning to live in a controlled environment. That means on a leash most of the time. They look forward to the trips to beach where they can run. Luckily, this area is super dog friendly and everyone lets their dogs off leash at certain beaches. With many State Parks in Washington that don't allow dogs at all, we are limited. This could be a problem when cruising...
Bella sporting her new life jacket!

Our home away from the boat is Port Townsend where we enjoy the many craft breweries, fresh seafood and spans of almost empty beaches. The weather is unusually warm in the 80 degrees! We do a lot of shopping at the local hardware and marine stores getting ready to cruise "the islands." Our biggest purchase is a new bank of batteries to replace the 16 year old set the boat came with! Everyone we meet is either "headed out" in the next week or just got back from a cruise or sail to the San Juan Islands or the Gulf Islands. We hear a lot of stories about the places "you just gotta go!" 
Relaxing in the Port Townsend Brewing Company beer garden.

I'll drink to that!
We've got the dingy ready, got the license and set up the crab pot and now we are catching Dungeness crab right off the marina.  Delicious! Oysters we buy on the next island over at the Marrowstone Island Oyster farm. Fish tacos at the Mexican restaurant in town and fresh Penn Cove mussels at the local market. We are in seafood heaven!
Dungeness crab is plentiful and delicious!
Home made fish tacos!

Oysters for $7 a doz at local farm!

New batteries are in, planned an itinerary and now it's time to go explore these islands! We are anxious to get going!
New bank of 6 V golf batteries!

Sunset over Port Hadlock

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Two Dog Boat

Two Dogs on a boat!
'Two Dog Boat' should be the name of this new to us trawler instead of First Light.  But, we like the name and what it represents, so we'll keep it.

We are embarking on another adventure with  two dogs and a "move to the dark side" with the purchase of our first motor vessel, a CHB 34 motor trawler. Our last travels were sailing on sailboat Wizard (the title of this blog)...we'll keep the blog name, too and continue our travels with another adventure on MV/ First Light.
1983 CHB 34ft Trawler

Our new adventure started in January of this year (2017) during the gloomy, rainy days of winter in Sonoma County, CA (our home port) and me looking at what I call comfortable boats. It had been 3 years since we returned from sailing to Mexico and the South Pacific and we were thinking up new adventures.
"Hey, look at this one! Its' roomy, dry and has lots of space!" I said to the other half.  Enough time had passed from my sailing memories in a 41ft racing sailboat with little living space,  a roomy pleasure trawler looked pretty good to me. Our new adventure envisioned exploring the Pacific Northwest, San Juan Islands, Gulf Islands and beyond. A trawler with an enclosed pilot house for weather protection seemed the way to go this time.. There are many trawlers to choose from, but the affordability of an older wooden CHB trawler caught my eye.
And so we bought one!
First Light, a 1983 CHB Trawler

We had an experienced marine surveyor working for us, John Baird from Anderson Island, WA. He looked at 3 boats for us. The last one, First Light, we saw online, sent surveyor to inspect and bought her sight unseen but with his recommendation. These older boats can have a lot of issues; leaking teak decks, corroded gas tanks and just being 30 yrs old. This one was lovingly cared for by engineer/owner of 21 years who maintained the engine, systems and replaced teak decks. Bonus!

Fast forward to July and here we are in Port Hadlock Marina, WA, three weeks getting to know the boat, replacing batteries, scrubbing, staining, shopping and getting ready for a few weeks cruising the San Juan Islands and beyond... we know nothing of cruising in the Pacific Northwest, only the lure of stories from the reference books we have read prepare us for our next adventure into the unknown.

Oh...and did I mention we have two dogs?! Buster and Bella are joining us on this boating adventure! Ha!  Our "children" of four legs. Numerous Potty trips to shore.
We'll let you know how that goes...
Captain John, Buster and Bella.

Bella found her spot on the boat.

Thursday, May 8, 2014


Learning to strum the Ukulele...
COUNTING down the days and looking forward to going home... we've been traveling for almost two years...that’s 611 days to be exact by the time we land back in the USA in Los Angeles on May 10th.   I am anxious to see my home and see how it's changed.. I know we have changed.  I’m nervous to slide back into the lives of family and there room for us again? We "dropped out" to travel and our places in those lives may have changed or maybe, not.

This has me reminiscing about our travels across the South Pacific by sailboat...

If you have followed our blog, Off to Sea the Wizard then you know our route.  We left home in September 2012, sailed down the California coast to Baja, then to mainland Mexico, Puerto Vallarta, for three months, then west across the Pacific Ocean to the Marquesas, Tahiti, Bora Bora, Huahine and Tahaa, then westing again to Cooks Islands, Niue, Tonga, Fiji, New Caledonia and finally…land fall in Brisbane, Australia, where we decided to sell our boat Wizard.

 In one season, we visited eight countries.. that's a fast track! Over 10,000 nautical miles! Most cruisers take a few years to stop and visit the South Pacific Islands but we had limited time and money.  We also made plans to go back to Tonga to experience island living for three months.  We've had a great time and met a lot of really cool people( and characters) sailing the South Pacific!

Now, back to us living in Tonga...and too much of a good thing…yeah, I know, poor us..

Hibiscus is ever blooming in Tonga
…We've been living in Tonga for the last three months as most readers know, care-taking a resort while the owners went a vacation.  And while it’s been a real adventure living on an island, I am starting to get bored.  Three months is a longtime to be idle...
Idyllic Reef Resort on Kapa Island, Vava'u
You've heard the expression, "Be careful what you wish for it may come true"?  That's us...we were thrilled early on, but now we're tired of snorkeling the clearest, most beautiful waters ever, tired of the same old beautiful skies, the pristine beaches and the warm tropical weather.  Can you believe it?!
Love snorkeling!

Another beautiful day in Tonga at the Reef Resort

 Don't get me wrong, Tonga is a nice place to visit .. but, its just time to go awaits...
Paisley is our happy new grand-daughter!
  I have a new grand daughter I haven't met. (Has it really been almost two years since we sailed away?)  A lot of life happens when you go away.  Traveling has made me appreciate my home and family more.  It doesn’t take long living in a third world country to make one appreciate what one has in the good ol' USA (read: abundance).  It's time to go home...
Thunder-cloud over Vava'u, Tonga

Thank you, Tonga for the memories!  Who knows...we may be back next year!

May 8,  2014

Friday, May 2, 2014

Tongan Ways...

Island living in Vava'u, Tonga
We’ve lived on Kapa island in the Vava'u group of Tonga for three months.  I 'd like to share a few insights and observations.. .  We've found Tongans to be friendly and welcoming to visitors, but they are a proud, complex people and I'm sure there's more to know about their ways. We’ve experienced a blend of traditional island culture mixed with Western influences as this isolated Pacific island plays "catch -up" with the rest of the world.
 A village shares a boat ride into town
Tongans are tribal and communal ruled by an ancient hierarchical system that still exists ( King and commoners) fused with strong Christian morals.  In villages, they live communally in houses made of cement blocks with tin roofs, open doors and louvered glass windows (gone are the thatched roofs)  Some homes are simple one room others are more elaborate two story (higher ranking family) with many rooms.  The village centers usually around a school and a church or two (most popular Mormon or Free Wesleyan) a common area, for gatherings and communal weaving.   Tongans seem to be related to everyone in a village with large extended families all living under one roof.

Otea Village house
 Everyone knows everything about everybody. Even in the next village. Their daily lives center around subsistence farming, fishing, family commitments and church obligations.  Family comes first with church second in importance.  Gatherings seem to be around funerals and weddings when entire villages pause to honor the deceased (a quiet event) or celebrate a wedding (a noisy event).
Colorful grave memorial quilts

A two-story house of an important ranking family
The villages are swept clean and neat with gardens and fenced yards to keep out the many pigs and dogs that roam free.  Land is owned by the King. The right to use the land is passed down to each family to first born son and must be planted to feed the family in produce; coconut, mango, taro and manioc.  Most labor is by hand, though there are a few tractors and heavy equipment about the islands. Copra (dried coconut meat) is still harvested and another lucrative export is Kava.  The roads are paved though poorly maintained in the bigger towns and mostly dirt trails in the villages on the outer islands.  A village community may share a car and a boat for commutes to the main town of Neiafu.
Typical village home
   In the larger towns of Nuku'Alofa and Neiafu, there are more modern opportunities with many Tongans employed in banking, retail, government and tourism.  The village houses blend from one into another and a city is born with more reliance on food and goods purchased from the local markets and income realized working in these more populated areas.
House and garden in village of Otea

I’ve read the informative guide of Tongan customs ‘Making Sense of Tonga’ * that certainly helped me understand the Tongan way of life.
Two story house  in village of Talihua
 Here’s a good passage from the Visitors Guide to Tonga:

” In traveling from one part of the world to another, we (palangi, or foreigner) tend to project the cultural expectations we are used to onto the inhabitants of the new location, forgetting that the ground rules in the new locale may be different; 2+2 might not equal 4 in the new location.” Funny, but true.
Dust to old tourist bus goes by the way side
I myself have been guilty of imposing my western expectations onto this island culture.  I might think there is a lack material goods or modernization, but maybe, not?  There is an interesting blend of cultures, slow paced and just different than mine that is attractive.
A village church
There are churches everywhere!  Every village has at least two churches (most popular are the Mormon and Wesleyan)  and they are the grandest structures in a village with clean fenced grounds.  Even though Christianity is strong in Tonga with church ministries holding a very strong influence over their congregations, many Tongans still believe in traditional mythologies and spirits, too.  Most Tongans attend church several days a week with Sunday having several services.
Catholic church in Neiafu
The wake-up bell peals loudly at 5:00am.  The church is a vital part of the social structure that holds everything together, governs education and guides social behavior.   There are many church rules, such as no alcohol or caffeine drinking,  dressing modestly and a required tithe to the church. The traditional kava drinking ceremony is still allowed before or after church.

A little about Kava...

Kava is a widely consumed drink of the Pacific Islands made from the ground powdered roots of a pepper tree with mildly anaesthetic  effects like alcohol.  The kava bowl is shared at most gatherings, village meeting and is mostly a male activity, but it depends on the event.  It is a communal group experience like "smoking a peace pipe"...and quite fun to attend, but is usually a formal gathering.
A Kava circle we were invited to in Fiji.
Back to the church...this is my opinion, but it's hard to understand how the church can extort (my words) money from people who barely have enough of the basics.   Most homes don’t have flush toilets or a modern convenience like a washing machine or even a car, but the church members still manage to contribute the required tithe even thought it might be a hardship.
Mormon school in Otea Village; both English and Tongan languages are taught 
  But, the church positives for the village far exceeds the negatives. There is opportunity and education for the children.   The Tongans seem to have everything they need. Everyone is taken care of by someone be it a family or church member.  No one goes hungry.   It’s tribal and communal.

School girls in Neiafu
As a visitor its interesting to see the traditional ways mix with the modern influences.  For example, everyone in Tonga has a cell phone and access to  the internet.

Thanks to the Trans-Pacific Internet cable under the ocean connecting Australia (2013), New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga to the outside world.  Access to far away families as well as the world has changed Tonga forever..  In the towns, the new generation wears “hip” clothing, the baseball caps and low hung shorts like many modern youth influenced by You Tube videos, while yakking on their cell phones.  The dichotomy is these same kids return home to a village that still fishes at night for the next day’s meal or to sell at the market.

The blend of a traditional culture melding into the modern world is the charm of visiting a developing country like Tonga.
Pigs on the beach...eating fish, jellyfish..anything they can!
But, some Tongans feel their tranquil lifestyle is disappearing and the islands are suffering from tourism, pollution and the influence of American culture at the expense of Tongan traditions. *  It's probably true.  There's no stopping evolution...and change...
Women in funeral black attire topped with a ta'ovala, a woven mat 
The ever busy Tongan women dress in colorful tops and long pants prefer modest clothing but dress more formally for church in long skirts with fancy shoes, while the men dress in white shirts, traditional lava lavas (long skirts) and ties.  It’s a mix of traditional and modern styles.
Line-up for USA  t-shirt give away
As visitors, we brought T-shirts to give away to the children of a village, thinking (our world) that this might be a treat, but it seems they have plenty of clothes to pass around. The kids were most impressed if an athletic sport shirt was offered.  Sports and sporting events at the schools are very big with most villages attending.

Until just last year, the Tongan outer islands had no electricity or lights.  They used gas or battery lanterns. Thanks to the Japanese government who installed solar panels for each home in exchange for fishing rights in Tongan waters. (The Tongan government charges a monthly rental fee to each family) Now villages have power to run lights, watch TV and recharge cell phones. A step into the modern world...
Typical outer island home with rain water catchment
Island home with solar power unit
 Tourism income is slowly replacing subsistence  fishing and farming as many people leave the village to work at a resort.  Many young Tongans leave the islands altogether to find work in America, New Zealand or Australia and send home money to the village.
Ana and her family, live in Otea Village and both work at a resort
Our Tongan neighbor, Ana in Otea village on Kapa Island lives a traditional village life raising four kids and caring for her aging parents all under one roof.  She and her husband, Sione are one of the families making the transition from communal living within a village group to working "outside” at a resort to earn income. Sione still fishes at night for food for the family.  She still must participate in the communal weaving and other village sharing, then home to clean and care for her own household.

Otea Village women weaving
 How she keeps up is a wonder!  She wants to buy a washing machine to help with her workload.  She must apply for a loan from the town bank.  It must be hard to stretch her income for the modern appliance and still willingly give to the church.  This is where outside help is needed? I put a request out to the International Rotary Groups for help to Otea Village for reading books for the school and a washing machine or two for the women?  There are many other needs that might be addressed if we just ask?

Ana and her family are happy living in the village she grew up in.  And she'll get by.  Still she needs a washing machine.

Lapi Island sells their  handicrafts to tourists 
  Some of the islands are surviving financially by selling handicrafts to the seasonal tourists. Tourism is the future of Tonga.   Change happens slowly in Tonga. That is one of the reasons we like Tonga.  We like the slower pace.  The culture is years behind our busy material consumed lives of the western world.  We chose to visit Tonga because it has kept it’s traditional, Polynesian life style in spite of the western influences.
But, it won’t take long before this culture is absorbed and disappears.  Try to visit these Pacific islands before it's too late.  We are glad we did.  Thanks for the memories!
Visiting sailing school schooner in Port Refuge, Neiafu

Malo Aupito, Tonga!
April 20, 2014

* A Visitor’s Guide to the Kingdom’s Rich Polynesian Culture, by McCoy & Havea
* The Lonely Planet's Guide to Samoan Islands & Tonga