Back Home! 10 Dec 19 Part 1

Let's see – where were we? Oh yes, after a lovely weekend with Richard and Kate, we decamped to Plymouth, home of Nicola, Ian and little Charlotte, along with Pepper the tabby cat and Licorice the black Labrador pup. Ian is a professional superyacht captain that we've sailed with numerous times, Nicola Isabel's bestie from university. As always, driving around London was a bit of an adventure, but once in the beautiful English countryside all was well and Plymouth appeared in the windscreen well before dark.
We enjoyed several fun-filled days, getting our dog and cat fix along with Mark losing a tug of war with Licorice which resulted in an impressive injury to the forehead. Never mind, it'll heal and just another reminder of my fun filled life. Onwards to Gweek where we rallied with Isabel's sister, her partner and dad Paul. They've moved to a lovely little estate in beautiful Cornwall, what we reckon is a great upgrade over the frenetic London environment. During the course of the visit we hiked the coast trail at The Lizard where we visited a Royal National Lifeboat Institute station, an impressive facility complete with rescue vessel and a full staff of volunteers. English people have a big nautical culture and they're serious about looking after their mariners. At the end of the hike we treated ourselves to a delicious and totally decadent Cornish cream tea, completely different from a Devon cream tea. You see, in Cornwall the jam goes on before the clotted cream, which as Isabel's pal Dave observed "allows the consumer to continually add more clotted cream to reach the optimal condition". I think that condition is something resembling a near heart attack, as the delicious goo is aptly named and left me thinking about the pushups our hearts must be doing to keep the blood moving around the clots. We should have ordered just one to share, but greed and hunger ruled and we left knowing we would be wearing that snack on our waistlines.
In the course of the next 10 days we enjoyed such classics as fish 'n chips, Cornish pasties, a killer curry, a roast dinner, plenty of marmite on buttered toast, crumpets drenched in butter and jam, and other fattening delights too numerous to recall. Completely disappointed with the beer on tap at the pubs, Mark surveyed bottles and cans of London Porter and Irish Stout available at such reliable venues as Tesco's, Sainsbury's, Waitrose, and Mark's and Spencer's, known to locals as Marks and Sparks. Some excellent examples were found and will get their own post.
Mid-visit Isabel met up for a weekend retreat at a country cottage with Lucy and Cecilia, besties since the age of 8 years old. This provided Mark with the opportunity to drive on tiny country roads barely wide enough for a small car, proving that "it's easier in the dark". Kind of like "it's easier with your eyes closed". Another short visit to Plymouth with a trip to a good chandlery (always looking for boat parts) and a Saturday afternoon at Dynamite Brewing near Falmouth, then finally collecting Isabel at the train station in Penzance.
One of our day trips with Paul found us at Lands End, the Southwestern tip of England. It was a cold but sunny clear day and we could see the Scilly Isles in the distance. A treacherous coastline indeed, and we were left thinking how impressive the scene would be during a Southwesterly gale, with giant waves crashing on the rocks.
Altogether we found Cornwall to be a beautiful place with friendly people. It's not at all multi-ethnic like the larger population centers, but it seems that folks referring to "deepest, darkest Cornwall" is a bit unfair. There are plenty of nice towns with everything one could need, great local seafood and craft beer, and boats boats boats in every small port! The train will get one from Penzance to London and beyond when necessary. The scenery and walking trails are outstanding and a testament to why the countryside is jammed with tourists during the season. Praa Sands is a great beach and Saint Michael's Mount is a heck of a sight.
Our visit to Cornwall finally complete, we made the beautiful drive up to Lymington where we caught the ferry to the Isle of Wight. We drove from Cornwall back through Devon, then Dorset and finally Hampshire. Wow is Dorset beautiful with big terrain, and our drive through the New Forest was lovely. Isabel remembered Lymington from her younger sailing days and as the ferry left the harbor she point out places she had walked and where the family boat had been moored. Arriving at Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, we enjoyed a leisurely drive up to East Cowes where old sailing pals Roger and Carole had moved from San Diego. Thanksgiving dinner was a killer meal at a tiny Italian restaurant a short walk away, then the following day we toured a nautical museum, made a complete circuit of the island complete with pub lunch and a great view of The Needles, ending the day with a visit to Cowes on the chain bridge ferry. The density of nautical gear shops in Cowes reminds one of what a huge sailing culture exists in England.
Departing Saturday morning on the Southhampton ferry, we soon found ourselves visiting The Elephant, the boat yard and marina Isabel's family had kept their boat for many years. A trip to a Force 4 chandlery for more boat parts (is there a recurring theme here?) and tea at the Jolly Sailor pub rounded out the morning. Upon exiting we made a pass through Burlesdon to verify that sailing friends Andrew and Julia's home was still standing, then an hour later we were in the Winchester home of Rob, Emma and dog Pickle. Three of their children are close to leaving home for university and the occasional random teenage offspring appeared (generally at mealtimes) for a visit. Rob and Emma win our award of "parents of the decade". A great weekend in Winchester included a visit to the Christmas market for a mooch around, a cup of warm mead and a great walk along the Chichester coastline. We found the local pub full of Sunday lunch patrons and took our lunch on the patio in a rather chilly and windy environment, a very English thing to do. Stiff upper lip, shut up and eat your sandwich before it blows away. At least the Guinness and Shandies weren't getting hot. Thawing our hands in front of the fireplace was a major upside, and we returned to Winchester feeling victorious!

Checking in from England 9 Nov 19

Finally remembered to post this one. . .
Well, we made it to the old country and now we're in the English countryside. After a freezing cold visit to Denver to get our medical checkups, we escaped to New Mexico to chill with close friends Mike and Tami, eating our way through Albuquerque and enjoying biking along the river or hiking under sunny skies. In my own humble opinion and limited experience, the best food in the USA is found in Louisiana and New Mexico. Green chilis and tasty craft beer drive my own taste buds to proclaim New Mexico the clear winner.
Having conquered Albuquerque, we decamped to the airport where after finally fixing their Boeing 737-800's navigation system (only took 6 hours), Southwest airlines finally returned us to Denver where my old skydiving pal Eric, also a Captain for Southwest, collected us for a short visit. While Isabel yukked it up with Eric's wife Christine, Eric took me out for a night flight in a Cessna 120 and in no time I had 3 landings and was current. Last visit we flew Eric's Cessna 180, a real workhorse ranch plane, and a bit more of a handful to manage but we survived. We hung out at their place for a couple of days and I got to help Eric prep their giant remodel project for a huge $4000 sheetrock job. Wow – it reminded us of our last home which we bought in a complete shambles, then rebuilt with the help of a brilliant young architect into a complete showpiece. Neither Isabel nor I think we're quite ready for that kind of life again.
British Airways got us to London Heathrow on an aging but nicely refurbished 747-400. They've upped their game a bit, and even sitting in the back of the bus we enjoyed a nice level of hospitality and a nicely upgraded entertainment system. So in the space of 3 weeks we'd flown 8 hours on a brand new Airbus A350 with French Bee (a fine discount airline experience), 1 ½ hours on a comfortable Airbus A319 with American Airlines (just fine), 1 hour on a SAFE Boeing 737-800 (always fun and great hospitality on Southwest) and another 8 hours on a quite long in the tooth but properly maintained and upgraded Boeing 747-400 with British Airways, which always feels a bit classy. Two Airbus products and 2 Boeing products. A great experience on a brand new A350 and a rather old 747. Breakdowns on newer and well-maintained smaller workhorse Airbus A319 and Boeing 737 aircraft. Air travel is just a commodity these days, but at least we were traveling on first world airlines with recognized safety records and excellent crew training. A we continue to travel throughout the world it's important to consider any airline's international safety reputation before committing to fly with them. Lion Air in particular has a terrible reputation for aircrew training and experience level and isn't allowed to conduct flight operations to the US.
We began our jet lag recovery program with our dear cruising friend Stas' and his lovely girl Ewa. Among his many amazing talents, Stas' is a serious IT wizard and sorted Isabel out on our new iPad Air, a recent addition to our navigation system redundancy. Should lightning strike JollyDogs and smite our fancy B&G chart plotter and laptops running OpenCPN, we'll hopefully still have the iPad Air with iNavix software running our highly accurate Navionics chart data for French Polynesia. After 2 days of seriously wonderful Polish / American / English hospitality, we've now found ourselves in the village of Barkway catching up with friends Richard and Kate, folks that Isabel has known for nearly 30 years. We got here without smashing up the car, pretty amazing given the recency of our wrong side of the road driving experience. Isabel is a great navigator and coached me through several rather nuanced roundabouts, a superior intersection design that keeps traffic flowing, but they do take a bit of getting used to. The weather is beautiful today and a killer air museum awaits Richard and me while Isabel and Kate will do lady things, as oddly enough they don't fancy an airplane / war museum visit. Monday we'll move on to Plymouth, then Gweek, Exeter, Yeoville, the Isle of Wight, then finally Winchester, catching up with various friends and family members along the way.
As we wander around French Polynesia, America, and England, we experience magnificent natural scenery and stunning terrain as well as tremendously varied weather conditions. It's all different, interesting, and sometimes exciting, but what life is really about for us is those people who form our sense of community. We've got our tribes in America and England, and we're discovering our tribal connections in the vast cruising community. At the end of the day, it's the people rather than the places that matter the most.

Return to America 27 Oct 19

8º 55.005s 140º 06.017w

Sun Oct 27 2019

Upon arriving at Nuku Hiva we anchored at beautiful Daniel’s Bay where Shawnee and I hiked to the waterfall while Isabel enjoyed some hammock time. In the anchorage were turtles and giant manta rays, and occasionally the sound of baby goats calling to their mommas. Eventually we motored around the headland to Taiohae Bay where we commenced to putting JollyDogs to bed for a few weeks. Shutting down refrigeration and other power draining systems, adjusting the solar charger output to the batteries, cleaning the boat up thoroughly, and finally briefing Kevin of Yacht Services Nuku Hiva on how to care for our girl while we’re away – it was a busy few days. We’ll return December 5th, so that’s a long time to leave JollyDogs alone anchored in Taiohae Bay, but that’s what needed to be done.
Our cab ride across Nuku Hiva to the airport revealed spectacular valleys and scenic vistas of the terrain with blue ocean in the distance. There’s a lot of ranching and farming on the island interior with various livestock and plenty of fresh vegetables. I didn’t note the elevation of the mountain pass we crossed, but it was mighty cool up! We had circumnavigated the island back in May, but this inland trip opened up another dimension entirely. Back when we owned and operated a tiny airplane (Van’s RV-6), we saw much of the United States from the air, but it’s entirely different and equally satisfying to drive through the terrain, stopping and hiking through the terrain. Adds another dimension entirely.
Air Tahiti carried us to Papeete in an ATR 72, a twin-engine turboprop plane that held 68 passengers. We got lucky with part of the flight over the Tuamotus, enjoying spectacular views of several atolls. Arrival in Tahiti was followed by an overnight stay at the Tahiti Airport Motel just across the street from the terminal building. A visit to a food truck and a short night’s sleep, and early the next morning we were on French Bee’s shiny new Airbus A350. A nice 8 hour ride to San Francisco, landing there feeling less fatigued and fresher than I recall other long haul trips. Must be true what they claim about lower cabin pressure altitudes and higher humidity atmosphere on these new jets.
On to the airport Hyatt for another night’s sleep before the last leg to Phoenix. Shawnee elected to relax in the room while Isabel and I elected to hit the bar/restaurant for a couple of wonderful craft beers and some chowder. Just can’t beat a good craft beer! Early Friday morning we were at the airport again, kicking back by a Peet’s coffee and enjoying free internet. American Airlines struggled to get their Airbus A321 electric airplane to behave itself, but eventually we launched for Phoenix where Jack was happy to collect us and reunite us with our mighty Honda CR-V, the best 2006 model car on the planet. We bought that jewel in 2016, and now with over 190,000 miles it would seem that it’s worth darn near as much now as when we bought it. Go figure.
Off to Brad’s lakeside condo guest bedroom in Tempe, then shift into “visit with old friends mode” while we schedule routine maintenance for our own bodies. Eye and dental checkups, annual physical exams etc., and in between enjoy the wonders of Costco and Trader Joes. Isabel actually got teary eyed at the veritable cornucopia of choices available in wine, liquor, cheese – you name it.
It’s a bit of a shock to our systems to return to the land of plenty. We’ve gotten so used to visiting tiny shops on the islands, and even the Carrefour supermarkets on Tahiti don’t offer the myriad of choices available back here in the states, but we’re powering through.
After a nice and highly productive 8 day visit to the “Valley of the Sun” complete with fabulous weather we’re now in Denver, Colorado where yesterday the temperature plummeted 50 degrees F and it’s currently snowing. Tucked into a cozy room at the Hyatt, we’ll just have to let Uber get us around, then Wednesday it’s off to Albuquerque to spend a few days with close friends before returning to Denver to do the same before British Airways and their trusty 747-400 takes us to London. Time to catch up with Isabel’s family and friends before returning to Nuku Hiva in December.
There was a time when air travel seemed exciting and exotic, but no longer the case. Now it’s dragging luggage around, dealing with long security lines, hoping we don’t miss a connection, and trying for a seat assignment next to someone who can contain their own body within the confines of their accommodation.
We left JollyDogs with 82 F temperatures wearing shorts, T-shirts and flip flops. We’re now equipped with (and lugging around) all the clothing that we’ll need to survive about 5 weeks of cold, rainy climes. It’s such a contrast, and a wakeup call that we’re both much better suited to the tropics. If home is where your hat is and you hang your hat on JollyDogs, I guess home for us is Nuku Hiva, at least for right now.
Looks like the British will keep floundering around with Brexit a while longer, while the politicians in America will keep arguing about exactly what kind of president “The Donald” is. Better not to read the news at all. Time to go find a nice pub with a warm fire place, comfort food and a pint of dark beer and “fuggedaboutit”. . .

Back to a familiar stomping ground 14 Oct 19

8º 54.898s 140º 05.947w

Mon Oct 14 2019

Well our lovely overnight sail was exactly that – an opportunity to let JollyDogs run fast, as Isabel saw up to 10 knots speed over ground as we blasted along with full main sail and screecher. Around about 0530 Isabel tugged on my feet, rousing me from a deep sleep as she noted it might be time to begin preparing for our imminent arrival at Daniel’s Bay. A bit later we were on the hook with about 7 other boats in the bay, admiring just how amazing the enormous craggy cliffs are. So far I’d rate Daniel’s Bay as #2 on on the spectacular scale, with Fatu Hiva’s Bay of Virgins at a smashing #1. Of course Cook’s Bay at Moorea ain’t too shabby, but there’s something really special about the Marquesas, including a lot less tourist traffic, no jet ski silliness, and seldom a superyacht.
There were a pair of giant manta rays tooling around the bay along with numerous turtles, but the water was so nutrient rich that visibility was poor and they had to be right near the surface to observe. Never mind, plenty of goats wandering the cliff sides and surrounding ridgelines provided entertainment. Shawnee and I took the hike to the waterfall, an absolutely lovely walk through tropical forest with a little creek stompin’ thrown in, while Isabel kicked back on JollyDogs and enjoyed a little “hammock time”.
We returned with a husked meat coconut (as opposed to a green coconut more useful for the water) and a “3 days until it’s ready” avocado from the organic farm along the path. Score. Isabel reported on her excellent yoga workout and nap, Shawnee raved about the beautiful hike, and I turned off my brain for a bit. Another great day in paradise, followed by a lovely dinner of pan seared duck breast and grilled brussel sprouts along with our last bottle of chilled white wine.
Now we’re anchored back in Taiohae Bay, perfectly centered amongst several other boats, a few of which are unoccupied and likely being looked after by Kevin at Yacht Services Nuku Hiva. We’ll visit with him this morning to finalize all arrangements including a checklist for what he needs to inspect on JollyDogs, and a ride to the airport on Wednesday morning. That should be quite interesting as we’ve not had an opportunity to visit the interior of the island and the airport is all the way on the other side. Should be a nice trip through the mountains.
We joined David Frost and Kris Adams, an Aussie couple on SV Taipan for sundowners last night, and a very jolly time was had by all! Taipan is a great big monohulls that they’ve been circumnavigating on for the past 15 years, and they had some great stories about their travels. They also had a big world map on the wall that had their route traced upon it – something we need to do as it’s just a great idea and conversation piece. David and Kris are from Western Australia, and are a complete hoot – and they’re friends with our pals Eric and Patti (met them in Panama) on SV Shearwater, a great big Formosa 51, the same model boat used in the movie “Captain Ron”. Darn thing feels like a ship when you’re on it, it’s so large. Eric actually looked at the boat used for the movie when he was shopping for Shearwater, but the owner apparently wanted a premium for the boat since it had been a movie prop, and Eric reported it to be in about as bad a shape as depicted in the movie, so no deal there.
While aboard we enjoyed the evening SSB net, hearing from Graham on SV Leela about how the slog from the Tuamotus towards Nuku Hiva was just so awful that they had hove-to for a few hours to dry themselves out, have a shower, and watch a couple of movies just to improve crew morale. Leela is a 40’ monohull; she points and goes to windward a lot better than JollyDogs but we were remined last night just how miserable going to windward on a high performance monohull can be. We’ve done it, and while standing watch in the cockpit during strong conditions you can count on getting soaking wet and remaining so for several hours at a time. The boat motion is difficult to cope with, and the pounding and creaking noises are there to help you not sleep so well. JollyDogs may not point too high and the boat motion and pounding are different, but by golly we stay dry and feel very protected in our cockpit. I think even Isabel finally believes there’s just no going back to a monohull. Wow.
Today we’ll be scrambling to get refrigeration systems turned off, fridges and freezers mucked out, pickle the water maker, and have another look at the port engine alternator which seems to be giving us no end of grief. We need to know if we’ll be wanting to fetch parts from the US. As well I’ll be hiking to the hardware store to see if they can sell me a couple little bits and pieces to help with JollyDogs being put to bed, and there’s refueling to do while our duty free fuel purchase certificate is still valid.
By tomorrow afternoon JollyDogs will be ready for a nap, we’ll have our traveling clothes out and packed, and someone else will be cooking dinner and washing the dishes. Time to shut her down for a bit, mentally prepare ourselves to re-enter the world of “noise and stuff”, sit on lots of airplanes, and spend time with dear friends in Phoenix, Albuquerque, Denver, San Francisco, and all over the United Kingdom. We’ll show them pictures and tell them stories but there’s simply no way to adequately communicate what our lives are like.