Friday, September 23, 2011

To the Land of Oz(tralia)

Many nights we would get flying fish onboard. Our record was 11 but most were quite short and skinny. This is a different species that we only got a few times. They ended up in the frying pan for breakfast and were quite tasty.

We had a very good passage to Brisbane from Port Vila. It is about 1050 miles in total to the entrance to the shipping channel that leads to Brisbane (more on that later) and it took us 8 days so not too bad. The first seven days were beam reaching in 10 to 15 knots so it was just about ideal. The only problem was that it was really chilly, especially at night. I assumed that as we got closer to the coast of Australia the temps should go up as there is a south-flowing current along the coast – and, silly me, I thought this meant that warm water would be moved from the tropics to the north. Silly me! The closer we got the colder the water got until around the entrance to Moreton Bay where Brisbane is located, water temps were less than 20°C. At night June looked like the Michelin Man, except I don’t think he wears a toque.

And this was daytime. At night June really got dressed for the cold weather.

The last 30 hours or so, we had more wind, in the 20 to 30 knot range, but the direction was still good so it was not a problem. Then the wind quit – it was about 5 pm and we were 30 miles or so from the channel entrance. We thought, “Its been a good run, we’ll motor in”. Started the Westerbeke and the alarm sounded (it is a pretty feeble sound to be sure). Shut down and opened the engine compartment and there was smoke all over. Turned out that the pipe nipple that joins the engine flange to the exhaust elbow had failed and the exhaust was no longer connected to the engine. I knew that exhaust elbows were prone to failure but this nipple had looked pretty good. Another opportunity for problem solving (which is a critical part of cruising for sure). The solution was was fiberglass-reinforced JB Weld. The latter is a two part epoxy with metal filler that is quite wonderful for fixing metal things that are exposed to heat. I added a band of fiberglass tape and we waited for a few hours while it all hardened.

It worked beautifully (JB Weld is a very good thing to have onboard!) and we got to the shipping channel at midnight, just as two ships were arriving to make it interesting. The tide had also turned against us, it was raining and pitch-black. Other than that, just fine. This long, winding shipping channel has been dredged to allow ships to access the busy port of Brisbane through a large area of sand banks. I imagine they have to keep dredging because of the shape of the coast here and materials being carried into the bay from the Brisbane and other rivers.

We got to the Customs dock about 11 am and had to be cleared by Customs/Immigration and Quarantine officials. Aussie officials have a terrible reputation among cruisers for the strict rules they have, costly entry, and strict enforcement. We certainly cannot agree with this at all. We found them to be professional, knowledgeable, friendly (like all Aussies we have met), and helpful. They do have strict quarantine regs and will seize, meats, dairy, and fruits and vegetables. We knew about this beforehand and made sure not to have much of these things on board – and they do charge A$325 to take away your food and any garbage onboard. Customs is free although you must have visas arranged before arrival. The ones we got allow multiple entries for one year and cost A$105/person. So, altogether it was A$535 with the Australian dollar worth about 5 cents more than the US buck.

From the customs dock we were about 2 hours away from Scarborough Marina where Ainia will be staying for the next several months while the cyclone season passes to the north of us. This marina is very nice with excellent docks and showers, and good facilities on site (terrific marine store, stainless steel, refrigeration repairs, etc). It is a fair hike by bus/train into downtown Brisbane (which we have only done to get to the intercity train station).

Our first impressions of Australia are very positive. Scarborough and adjacent areas are very attractive and clean. The people are great and you can find basically everything you want – as you would expect in such an advanced country. The economy is going like gang-busters compared to North America and Europe with unemployment less than 5% and considerable inflation worries. Prices are very high for most things, especially at the grocery store. Worst example, bananas are more than A$11/kg and limes A$1.25 each. Even things like Coca-Cola are bad at A$3.50 for 2 litres. Almost nothing is as cheap as in Canada and apparently wages are similar here and there. Real estate in Brisbane is not too bad, perhaps a bit cheaper than Toronto but Sydney is much higher.

The marina is pricey, at least partially because of how it is structured financially. The waterlot (and perhaps the land) are owned by the Queensland department of transportation. They have leased it to the marina company until 2034. The docks are owned by individuals - either for their own use or for investment. The dock we are on would cost A$44,000 to buy today (there is a market for such things) plus A$2000 a year for a maintenance fee. So the money we are paying (around A$600 a month (there is also a liveaboard fee)) goes to the owner of the dock - minus some sort of management fee for the marina I assume. On top of this, you pay A$22/week/person for living aboard the boat. This goes to the marina and pays for electricity, washrooms, etc. In total, the cost is similar to what we were paying in Jersey City, within a mile or so of downtown Manhattan.

Oz seemed like an interesting hybrid of the US and England. As much as Aussies pretend to hate the ‘pommie bastards’ of their homeland, they seem very English in many ways, much more so than in English Canada. They also seem less global in their thinking than most Canadians. For example, when we talked about the high cost of fruits and vegetable, several people indicated that they had to support Aussie farmers even if prices were higher. People also said that they should be doing more processing of the mining products they send off to China, India, and elsewhere. These were the sort of sentiments you heard commonly in Canada 20 years ago, but not so much now as we have gotten used to how a globalized economy works. This is not to say that Australia is not globalized – their booming economy relies on the export of their abundant mining products to Asia. I checked and Australia ended the ‘White Australia Policy’ 40 years ago, but with the exception of Sydney, it still seems to be a very white country. (To be fair we have not seen that much of the country yet.)

We are now in Canada for a month or so (for Ian and Ariane’s wedding primarily). We took the train from Brisbane to Sydney to see something of the country. A pleasant 14 hours but even slower than Via Rail in Canada. From Sydney we flew on Air Canada back to the Great White North. From here June is going to go to Beijing to visit her parents so we booked tickets separately. Hers included a flight that went to Toronto with a stop in Vancouver. I tried to book the same flight and it was $200 more than taking the same plane to Vancouver and then transferring to a different Air Canada flight to Toronto. Being cheap I took the latter option of course and arrived in Toronto within 15 minutes of her flight. I will be returning to Brisbane on October 19th (going west you lose a day, so I will be leaving here on the 17th).

The weather here is not nearly as nice, but it is pleasant to experience a Canadian autumn which is the nicest time of the year in many ways. Bananas here are are C$1.47/kg – the only problem is that they lack the wonderful flavour of bananas eaten within a few miles of where they were grown. Similar problem with all tropical fruits and veg. You can buy them here, but they are not the same.


Q and A

Richard asked about setting up to dump sewage overboard, starting with a boat setup for the Great Lakes i.e. holding tank only. We have a holding tank on our aft head only, but you could do the same for both. You need to have two Y-valves, a T fitting, and a bilge pump (Whale 10 or Henderson). One goes on the head discharge hose on the downhill side. This allows you to send stuff to the holding tank or directly overboard. The other goes on discharge hose from the holding tank and allows you to direct stuff to the deck fitting if you ever find a pumpout (haven't seen one since Chesapeake Bay) or to the overboard discharge, the one direct from the head, where you connect the T. The bilge pump goes on the discharge line from the holding tank Y-valve to the T fitting. Ours is attached to the bottom of the plywood that makes up the aft berth with a slot cut so that the handle sticks up above the berth for use. HINT: (which we have not followed as we should) Work these valves regularly, especially when you leave them in the position for direct discharge overboard (which is most of the time). Otherwise you will have to disassemble to switch them. Ask me how I know.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Questions about water and sewage

Some comments/questions from Rhys aka Marc are worth a reply.
  • Marc mentioned squalls in 2009. He crewed with us from the Chesapeake to the USVI in November and we had more than a week of strong winds and fast sailing. While our knockdown this year is unique in our experience we have had quite a few experiences with winds above 35 knots, but not for days on end. We had more than 30 knots for perhaps 8 hours just before our arrival here for example. We are leaving for Australia in a couple of days and who are brave enough to predict a week away are suggesting winds around 25 knots in a week’s time. The passage is more than 1000 miles so we will not be in before this particular system and it could be much stronger before we get there.
  • He also mentioned that he expects to have 3 tanks for potable water and 1 tank for utility water. A couple of thoughts about this … you have little control over the water quality you can get. Some times you will have 4 tanks of the good stuff; other times, the only drinking water you will have will give from your watermaker and you can make it as you need it so one tank for this purpose is ample and you can use the other three for lesser quality water. Also, of course, the amount of water you need for drinking and cooking is really not very much so be flexible in the allocation of tanks.
  • We have two water filters. One is a Home Depot GE unit and it is right after the pressure pump so all the water we use goes through it. The other is a Seagull filter which provides a high standard of filtration. It is mounted below the galley counter and only feeds one faucet there. This water we use for cooking and drinking. The Seagull filter is a great unit but ridiculously pricey. The smallest unit, which we have, is around $500 and the cartridges are almost $100 but it is worth it I think. We have a foot pump in the galley, along with a sea water pump, but never use either. With a watermaker and rainfall collection you don’t have to be as careful with the water as the Hiscocks were 30 years ago. In fact, one ongoing concern I have is that the water can sit too long in the tanks. I wonder how pristine it is after a month or so?
  • Overboard discharge – We have a holding tank on one toilet but not the other. In the Eastern Caribbean last year we tended to use one head for peeing and the other for more serious affairs. We would pump out when we left harbour to go somewhere but never had to make a special trip. The reality though is that almost no boats have holding tanks (I would guess less than 5%) and everyone just dumps. Makes one not want to go for a morning swim in many locales when people are just getting up. The worst case scenario is Georgetown in the Bahamas where there are as many as 600 boats anchored in mid-winter and you are told not to swim in the harbour. And this is in a very large harbour that is open at both ends and with a good tidal flow happening. In the Pacific no one seems to use or have holding tanks. Here the anchorages are not as crowded as in the Bahamas or Caribbean and are much deeper (most are >35’)


Vanuatu is a beautiful spot and very popular with Aussie and Kiwi tourists.

We went on a tour of Vanuatu and went to a 'kastom', as in traditional, village where the locals supplement their income by putting on a show and selling their handicrafts to tourists. These guys danced quite well before posing for pics with us. They look fierce and might even be so. The last instance of cannibalism (on one of the more remote islands) was in 1968.

June with a 'friendly' spider as the tour guide described him. From leg to leg he was close to 8 inches long.

People in Vanuatu were very friendly. This youngster just wanted to show us his pig.

Finally a really good tradewinds passage! We are now in Port Vila, Vanuatu after coming 580 miles from Suva, Fiji. This passage is more of what we expected. We had runs of 130, 138, 148, and 160 n.m. (just think how fast we would have gone if it was a 10 day passage) with just the poled-out genoa up and the wind behind us. About halfway through the trip we gybed from port to starboard and that was it. We also had only one rain shower, although June was lying on the cockpit seat one day when a perfectly-aimed wave slapped against the hull and dropped a gallon or so of water exactly on her body and nowhere else.

Vanuatu is a very interesting spot for a stop and it is unfortunate that we do not have more time here to explore. We knew virtually nothing about the country before arrival except some of the dated stuff in the Landfalls of Paradise cruising guide. It is a string of islands spread from north (13°S) to south (21°S) that used to be known as the New Hebrides in colonial times. These islands have a unique colonial history. For 80 years, until 1970 when they became independent, they had a ‘condominium’ (that was the official term) French-English government. This meant that there were parallel government systems operating at the same time in the same place, e.g. two police forces, two school systems, etc. It seemed to work OK and the result today is a country in which there are two cultures and three widely-used languages.

These are Melanesian, rather than Polynesian, islands and the Melanesians were not seafarers as were their neighbours to the east. The result was that Vanuatu had 115 languages (and a whole whack of anthropologists) plus French and English. The government worked to create a formalized version of pidgin English, called Bislama, which most people speak, although you also hear a lot of English and French in Port Vila, which is the capital and largest city. You see many signs in Bislama (although English is most common) and you can just about understand it. For example, ‘beer’ is ‘bia’ ‘how are you?’ is ‘yu oraet’, and and ‘excuse me’ is ‘skiusmi’. It is all pretty neat since I thought that pidgin English was a relic of the past and something found in the writings of Jack London.

And now for your Bislama quiz. Most of the buses and taxis (they look the same) have a sign on them that says, ‘Plis siam doah slo’. What does this tell you? The answer is at the end of this post.

It turns out that Vanuatu has experienced 26 earthquakes (according to the US Geological Survey) in the past week. We have felt nothing because they occurred at night but people in the city went into the streets. Magnitudes of these quakes is from 5.0 to 7.1. That means that we have had a volcanic eruption, a tsunami, and a swarm of earthquakes on this trip - cool, but we can do without the plague of locusts.

Vanuatu is probably the poorest country we have visited but that does not mean it is cheap to be here. There are two parallel economies here with 80% of the people living in rural areas in something close to a traditional, subsistence agriculture way, while at the same time there is an urban economy linked to the tourist trade (lots of Aussies here). We had lunch in a lovely restaurant that was quite sophisticated and would be a hit in Toronto or any other major city. Right next door is the market, in a building constructed with French foreign aid that was quite good but had major sections selling firewood and charcoal. Apparently most people use these fuels rather than kerosene or gas. June found the shopping here to be quite good with a direct pipeline to the Chinese knockoff industry. For example, you could buy DVDs of all of the movies we saw in Fiji (new Planet of the Apes, Crazy, Stupid Love, and Captain America) that were released within the last month.

‘Plis siam doah slo’ translates to ‘Please slam the door slowly’. All over the world, the sliding doors on 15 passenger Toyota (and other) minivans seem to be a particular weak spot. I got a lecture in Lesotho once for closing the door there with too much vigour.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Questions ... and answers

Boat Maintenance Costs Accounting

Richard asked about how much we have been spending on boat maintenance. A few comments are in order.

  • We spent a small fortune (no make that a large fortune) getting Ainia ready to go and these costs are not included in our monthly expenditure summaries.
  • There are also valid questions to be asked about our accounting practices. We keep very close track of spending as we go, but have not considered the use of boat s paresin our costing. For example, we left Florida with something like a dozen oil filters for the Westerbeke (and comparable numbers of fuel filters along with filters for the genset) and perhaps a dozen gallons of diesel oil. When we do an oil change we have not included the cost of the oil and filters in the monthly charges but would add them on when we replace these items - which hasn't happened yet.
  • Very importantly, when you cruise you often cannot spend much on boat maintenance because there is nothing to buy that you might need. In some countries there are few boat parts to be had and you can get stuff sent in. Panama and the Bahamas are good examples of this. In some places, Ecuador is a good example, you could try to get stuff sent in but more often than not it will disappear somewhere along the way (likely in the infamous customs warehouse in Guayaquil). Or you will be asked to pay ‘handling charges’ that may be more than the value of the shipment. (In theory, shipments to a “Yacht in Transit” should be duty/sales tax free but this stipulation is often ignored.) A boat here had some engine parts shipped in and was required to pay Fiji$18/hr for a customs agent to accompany him from the post office to the boat to make sure the parts were going to a boat. The customs woman actually went out in the dinghy with him to see the box put onboard.
  • Some places have some yacht equipment available and most services you might need. Fiji and Tahiti would be good examples. Even in these places the selection is limited, prices high, and sizes generally metric, which does not help if you have an older North American boat. There are a few places where you can get anything and everything – New Zealand and Australia are the obvious examples, although even there you will be faced with marine industries focussed on 240v and metric measurements. It is a happy coincidence that most cruisers go to one or the other for cyclone season which provides a good opportunity to get your boat back in perfect shape after coming 10,000 miles or so and before heading off the next long stretch of a circumnavigation.
  • American Samoa is a unique place in the sense that it is part of the US postal system and recognizes the “Yacht in Transit” designation (they have a local sales tax on other imports apparently). In fact, West Marine offers $20 flat rate shipping to AS and does do price matching. There are a couple of complications though. Defender only sends order up to $500 (although they sent us an order that was almost $2000 (water heater and new instruments) because we were repeat customers). West Marine wanted a bank draft above $1000. In any case, a visit here does give you easy access to US boat stores and we spent quite a bit of money here that will be reflected in the monthly summary for July.
  • In terms of getting work done, you can usually find a diesel mechanic (parts are a different matter) and outboard mechanics, but you rarely will see an outboard in the South Pacific smaller than 20 hp (most are much bigger) so parts are a problem. Different brands of outboards dominate in different countries. Fiji, where we are now, is dominated by Mercury but elsewhere you would rarely see a Merc. Boat refrigeration and electricians are rare.
Tank Capacities
David asked what our tank capacities are and whether they are adequate. Our tankage is similar to your Gozzard. We have 140 gallons of water and 100 gallons of fuel. We actually have one additional water tank and and one additional fuel tank that have leaks and we do not use them (fixing them has proven a problem and there is no way to remove them short of taking apart the interior so we have left them for now.

Our tankage has proven perfectly adequate for our needs but the answer really is that it depends on lifestyle. If you like real showers like onshore you will need to use your watermaker or get water from shore often. Remember that water from the watermaker is really just diesel fuel in disguise. We have friends who run their genset a couple of times a day to charge batteries and make water (one a Little Harbor 44, Richard). We might run our genset once a week and then only if the sun has not been strong and the winds light in an anchorage.

You also have questions about fuel and water availability and quality. Diesel fuel has been available everywhere but often you have to go to a gas station with jerry cans to get it. we have a very nice folding cart for carrying jerry cans since you may have to go a few hundred meters with fuel. A few places like Panama and Tahiti have fuel docks but these are rare. Diesel quality has not been a problem. We started with pristine fuel tanks, lovingly cleaned and always use our West Marine copy of a Baja filter. Other than that, normalinterval fuel filter changes have done the trick.

Water is also available just about everywhere again by jerry cans. Quality varies though with water in some places being questionable for drinking but fine for laundry and showers. Makes one think that it would make sense to have dual water systems on the boat - one for potable and one for other water. Water quality is a bit unpredictable. At the marina in Papeete, the water was not very good in the day or so after a heavy rain (little organic bits floating around although it was chlorinated). In sleepy little Mangareva they had a well in the hills behind town where they got water that was then chlorinated before being sent to the town. In some harbours, Suva and Pago Pago come to mind, you can't use your watermaker because the harbour is quite polluted.

BTW, we have four diesel jerry cans and two water jerry cans and that seems to work well.

To the Eastern Hemisphere

When one leaves French Polynesia in Bora Bora you have a basic choice of two directions to go on the way to Fiji. You must pass through the Cook Islands but this group of 15 islands is spread over many hundreds of miles from north to south. You can go through the southern Cooks to Tonga, and then Fiji or through the northern Cooks to Suwarrow, American Samoa, and then Fiji. In either case there additional stops you can wake if your time and inclination allows them. We chose the northern route for two reasons: one is to allow us to get stuff sent to American Samoa through the US post office; the other is reduce the chances of getting really crappy weather. The reason for the bad weather is something called the South Pacific Convergence Zone which is an area between Australia and French Polynesia into which some of the Roaring 40s depressions move northward toward the trades. As it turned out, the northern route was better. Friends who went further south had a couple of gales with winds to 40 knots. We had occasion where we had to deal with winds in the low 30s. South Pacific weather is unique and you really have to pay attention to it.

This little guy spent the night onboard midway to Suwarrow. He spend the entire night balancing on the front of the lifeline where it joins the pulpit. His balance improved dramatically with practice.

From Bora Bora we finally had some easy-going trade wind sailing. We found that the wind was so far aft we could not have main and genoa up since the main just blanketed the headsail so it was constantly collapsing. Accordingly we went with the genoa only supported by our spinnaker pole. The latter is a beast – I think 17’ feet long and 5” in diameter. It started life as a spin pole for racing and is actually about 2 feet shorter than a whisker pole might be. Generally we need to keep a couple of rolls in the genoa otherwise the sail will collapse a bit as the boat rolls downwind. Fortunately, the pole is permanently mounted on the mast so we never have to support its considerable weight. It is easiest to control with two people, one at the mast and one at the forward end, but one person can do it in stages going back and forth between mast and boat bow. To use the pole, we rig an uphaul (staysail halyard), foreguy (to bow) and afterguy (to midships cleat). We start with the genoa furled and put its sheet in the end of the pole. Then we lift the pole and pull it back as far as possible controlling it with the various lines mentioned previously. After it is in position we can unroll the sail and away we go with perfect control. The boat tends to roll from side to side a bit but in general it is a pretty comfortable ride, although not too fast in the kinds of winds we had from Bora Bora to Pago Pago (we were going to go to Savusavu in Fiji to keep the rhythm going but changed our mind).

A number of cruisers use a pole on either side and two sails to go downwind – this looks like a pretty good arrangement but you need a lot of extra gear (2 poles, 2 mast tracks, 2 sets of control lines). With a bigger crew we would be tempted to use our assymetric spinnaker more downwind, but we are not comfortable having it up at night (squalls are a reality here) and we would have to put it up and down for the days and then put up and take down the pole rig with the genoa for the nights. Setting up the pole can take as long as 45 minutes and taking it down half an hour, with spinnaker times not a lot less so it has been tempting to put up the pole and genoa and just leave it there days at a time with perhaps one gybe a day (which takes half an hour +/- each time).

We have had a lot of tradewind sailing like this from French Polynesia westward - winds pretty much behind and between 8 and 15 knots.

And we have had quite a bit of this too. Notice that we are still sailing in spite of winds of perhaps 5 to 7 knots behind us. Not bad for a heavy displacement boat- thanks Mr Hood.

Suwarrow - Anyway, the trip to Suwarrow was a very relaxed and easy one, with one important exception, with the poled-out genny up pretty much the whole time. The exception was that we had a steering cable break. This was more than a little annoying since I had inspected these cables little more than a month earlier, but the cable break occurred in a section of the cable that I could not access to inspect , above the aft cabin berth where one of the cables went from starboard to port. It was not too windy or rough (swells still about five feet though so we decided to replace the cable rather than trying to use the emergency tiller. Fortunately I had spare cable on board for both the steering system and the centerboard with an eye swaged on both ends for attaching to the steering chains inside the pedestal. The steering cable system on a center-cockpit boat is much more complex than with a rear cockpit. The cables go from the base of the pedestal forward to the galley along the boat centerline. They the go to the starboard side of the boat and then inside various lockers almost to the stern. One cable then is led to the steering quadrant of the rudder while the other goes across the boat to a pulley before returning to the quadrant. This meant that we had to empty lockers and remove various teak panels to get access to the system. We then had to disassemble the steering system inside the quadrant before running the new cables. Finally we had to tighten everything up. In fact we had to do it twice since we managed to get the cables crossed inside the bottom of the pedestal. In total the repair took 13 hours. We replaced the other cable later in Pago Pago to be on the safe side.

One nice feature of this was that we were part of an informal SSB radio net of boats that were going to Suwarrow, Tonga, or Niue from Bora Bora. We reported in with the problem we were having one day so at least some people knew we had stopped. The next day they wanted to know how things were going and we were happy to report we were back on route again.

We were looking forward very much to Suwarrow (also called Suvarov) as many cruisers had raved about it, but we had in the back of our minds that people had raved similarly about the San Blas islands in Panama and we found them to be a disappointment. Suwarrow is an isolated atoll in the Cook Islands that has been set aside as a national park – the populated Cook Islands lie some distance to the north and south of it. It has no permanent population, just two park rangers/wardens who are there for six months of the year.

To get to the point, we fell in love with the place. Other places may be more beautiful than Suwarrow but there is just something about the entire experience that is quite wonderful. Perhaps it is isolation of the place and its pristine beauty; perhaps it is the fact that it is just hard to get to – about 100 cruising boats a year visit and that is the only way to get there. The rangers, James and John, are dropped off with all their supplies (and a sat phone) at the beginning of the season and are picked up six months later. Highlights here were:

· James and John were very interesting and welcoming people. James, a Maori originally from New Zealand, was remarkably well read on almost any subject and well worth a chat or three. John was very quiet but equally friendly. He went out of his way to give June a parrot fish that he speared the previous night – these two eat a lot of fish and coconuts to supplement what they have brought with them and goodies that cruisers give them add some variety to their diets.

Here we are going through the always interesting check in procedures for Suwarrow (Cook Islands). John is on the left ad James in the middle. This was their outdoor 'dining room' where pot-lucks and socializing occur.

· J and J also organize pot luck dinners when there are new boats in the lagoon both for social reasons and to vary their diet. This was a most pleasant evening for about 12 people in total around their table using the various plates and utensils that the caretakers have accumulated over the years. It happened that our dinner was held on Tom Neale’s birthday. Who is TN do you say? He was a Kiwi who lived on the island by himself for 25 years after World War II. He became somewhat famous when a book he wrote about his experience became quite successful. Early in his time there he might get one cruising boat visiting every two years so he really was a kind of modern Robinson Crusoe. His house is still used for storage and there is a memorial stone. Interestingly, there is nothing there about an American family who lived on the island before WWII. They were removed by the US Navy after Pearl Harbor when there were fears that the Japanese might take the island – the lagoon is certainly suitable for anchoring large ships although the entrance might be a bit tricky for anything too big.

· The lagoon has terrific snorkelling with remarkably colourful fish along with large numbers of small sharks (black-tip reef sharks from 4 to 6 feet). Each cruising boat seemed to have a few nearby at any time. They would swim lazily around, but if you threw in some food scraps you could see how quickly and violently they could move. We did go swimming around the boat,, for example, replacing a prop shaft zinc anode, after being assured that these sharks were benign – and they seemed to be since they did not come near us when we were in the water.

· We even found a geocache on the island that a cruiser had setup in 2009. Geocaching is a hobby/sport that involves finding ‘buried treasure’ using a portable GPS. You can learn more about geocaching at

Your handheld GPS will get you close to a geocache but then you have to find it -in this case 12 feet up a tree where a limb had split away.

American Samoa - Finally it was time to leave Suwarrow, with considerable regret, and head to Pago, Pago, in American Samoa (AS). We had a relaxed downwind sail to AS, again not too fast. There are two Samoas, one (just called Samoa, although formerly Western Samoa) is an independent nation that used to be a British colony, while American Samoa has been US territory for more than 100 years after having been German colony. AS is quite a fascinating place both from physical geography and cultura/economic perspectives. It is a beautiful, mountainous island with by far the largest and best protected harbour in the South Pacific. You enter the harbour, turn left and the harbour extends for another two miles with deep waters surrounded by high mountains. It was an enormously important naval base in World War II when the number of navy personnel there was actually higher than the local population. It also has had more than its share of natural hazards with a cyclone (hurricane) last year and a tsunami in 2009 after an 8.0 earthquake under the sea to the south of the island. The latter devastated the low land at the head of the harbour where we were anchored and left much debris on the sea bottom that can make anchoring tricky as your anchor can get fouled easily.

Pago Pago harbour is close to 2 miles long, in a dogleg and protected by high hills on every side. All the islands residents live on the small amount of flat(tish) land near the water;

AS is famous for being a hotbed for the development of NFL football players. There are about 30 Samoans in the NFL (some brought up in the US). In fact, the chance of a Samoan playing in the NFL is 50 times greater than that of a non-Samoan. The result is that you see pickups and buses with various NFL team logos on them to make a connection with a friend or relative. The explanation for this is partly size – these are big folks, not necessarily all that tall but very solid looking, lots of men who are 6’ to 6’4” and 220 to 240 (not counting the people who are obese – of which there are many) and very athletic-looking. Pretty much fertile ground for finding linebackers and safeties. Many men in AS wear a traditional wraparound skirt, sometimes with a tie and jacket at the courthouse which makes we think of an old question – ‘what do you call a guy who is 6’3”, weighs 230, has a body fat content of 2%, and wears an attractive floral print skirt?’… ‘Sir’. AS has a couple of other sporting distinctions. Two locals have achieved the highest ranking in sumo wrestling in Japan and AS has the unfortunate record of having suffered the largest defeat in soccer world cup history, 38-0 to Australia.

AS has been both blessed and cursed by being linked to the US. The American government could not solve all its financial problems here but they could start. Local Samoans who do work, and many do not, have government jobs of which there are many. Other jobs are done by workers from Samoa (the other one), Tonga, and the Philippines. Stores and restaurants are owned by Chinese and Koreans. The busiest days in the latter are when the government cheques come in. There is one very large tuna cannery in Pago Pago (Starkist) and another (Chicken of the Sea) closed down in the last few years because the government tried to raise the minimum wage to $7.25/hr to encourage more American Samoans to work there. To give you an idea of the impact of this, the closed factory cost 2000 jobs while Starkist also cut 800 jobs – this on an island of only 60,000 people. Of course, most of the workers were from Samoa and went home, but local economy lost all the money that the plant generated.

For cruisers, American Samoa has the unique advantage of being part of the US postal system. You can order things from companies like West Marine and Defender and they are shipped via the post office cheaply and quickly, and with no duties, customs hassles and the like. All of the parcels come in on a plane on Friday and the back door of the large post office in Pago Pago is a very busy place as people come to collect their goodies. The system seems to work very well overall and is very handy. We bought a new water heater and instrument package here since it was the first chance we had had to make replacements since leaving Florida. (More on this in a later posting.)

American Samoa has many, many grand churches - this one is typical. These act as the main community centers and are kept in immaculate conditions. The churches do not have graveyards though - people are buried outside the family home, often in quite elaborate and costly tombs.

AS has a marvellous system of private buses built on pickup chassis. These are two of the newer, larger ones but many are built on 1/4 ton Toyota trucks. They are handbuilt and the bodies are often made of wood only.

Fiji – From American Samoa it was on to Fiji, a trip of almost 600 miles to the southwest. This meant moving further into the converge zone and the unsettled weather this might bring. In fact, we had a bit of everything – nice sailing, no wind (motored for almost 30 hours), and too much wind. The latter occurred as we were passing through islands at the eastern end of Fiji in the middle of the night. We had 30-35 knots while we were trying to point high enough to pass to windward of a particular island so we would have a better wind angle for our sail to Suva, the capital city. We managed this but had to hand steer as Morley, the Monitor, likes to swing up and down too much for this sort of sailing.

As we approached Fiji, we crossed the 180° meridian and entered the eastern hemisphere for the first time. We now have sailed in all four hemispheres on this trip. This is not the international dateline here as it is further east so that all of Fiji, along with Tonga, are in the eastern hemisphere with New Zealand and Australia which are the economic powers in this part of the world.

Western hemisphere

Eastern hemisphere

Fiji is an interesting place and much wealthier than we expected. The downtown is quite classy and sophisticated with excellent restaurants, fine stores, and even a movieplex with 3D flics (we all went to see Captain America since none of us had seen 3D – it was worth seeing and had a nice comic book sensibility).

Fiji has an Indian population that is almost as large as its native Fijian population. The Indians were brought here as indentured workers for the sugar cane plantations and have done very well in the last century or so. They are now more urbanized, better educated, richer, and more politically active than the Fijians and this has caused considerable unrest. In fact, there have been three coups des stats here in the last 15 years and democratic government will not be re-established until 2014 at the earliest. The background and events are far too complex to go into here, but basically it all involves relations between the two groups and how much the constitution should reflect the traditional chief-based government of the islands. I get the impression that, while things are perfectly safe and quiet now, the basic problems have not been addressed in any meaningful way. It is fascinating that all this discord has happened in a place where the people could not be nicer and seem particularly gentle.

If we have one complaint with Fiji it is with the weather. It has been quite grey and most days have had some rain. This evening we would even say it is quite cool – for the first time since we left the US in November. And this is at 18°S – probably this is about the temperature too.

We may leave here in a few days (around August 17th) if we get a break in the weather to go to Vanuatu. This will be particularly interesting as I know virtually nothing about this small country.

Suva is the main commercial port of Fiji and demonstrates the large influence China has. On the left is one of the couple dozen Chinese fishing boats that call this home. They have interesting names like 'Lucky 9 Number 6' (as opposed to 'Lucky 9 Number 1' - they are both moored near us. On the right is the a 729 foot satellite monitoring ship whose name translates to 'Distant Looking Number 5', which suggests that there are at least four similar ships. June talked to some of the crew in the market to see if we could go get a tour but while they were friendly to her they had clearly been told not to talk about what they do. It had two immense satellite dishes and many smaller ones along with numerous communication domes. Is this my first spy ship?

BTW, occasionally something happens that reminds you that you are long way from home. The other night we went to the Royal Suva YC (not as fancy as it sounds, but very friendly) for a BBQ and to watch a rugby match on the big screen. There were about 100 people there with most cheering on either Australia or New Zealand (the All Blacks won convincingly). Made you realize that most of the visitors here (cruisers or otherwise) are from these countries both of which are not too far away. The yacht club was using this match as a test of their TV system before the rugby world cup which will be held in NZ in a month or so. This world cup is hugely important in this part of the world – up there with the soccer world cup in Brazil or Europe. The yacht club was handing out free jugs of beer (“How many would you like, sir?”) and the BBQ was Fiji$6 (or something less than US$4). These things also remind one that you are not at home.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bora and Bora - last stop in French Polynesia

We briefly stopped by a performance of local dancing by children from many schools on the island. Quite liked this picture of Mom and a little one. Wearing flowers in the hair is very common throughout FP.

Bora Bora – they liked it so much they named it twice (sorry!). BB is about 130 miles from Moorea, hence a morning departure makes sense. It took us about 25 hours and, wait for it, we finally had proper trade winds – about 15 knots with Ainia on a broad reach most of the time with only the genoa up and poled out with the spinnaker pole. It was a very pleasant and relaxing sail and hopefully will be only the first of many as we head west north of 20°S.

Along with Moorea, BB is the ‘face’ of French Polynesia in magazines, movies and the like. It is certainly beautiful with gorgeous water and a lovely crag in the center of the island, but to our mind it has been spoiled by tourism. The people seem to verge on surliness and you know things are not good when the woman in the tourist information office is not friendly and helpful. This is not to say that everyone is unpleasant, but there were enough people here were that it leaves a bad feeling. Perhaps it is because this is a place for very high end tourists with virtually all hotels having the over-the-water-bungalows that rent for $1000+ a night. The locals may just be tired of being nice to tourists that their natural friendliness is lost.

Bora Bora is like most of the Society Islands (western French Polynesia) - mountains in the middle, a reef and motus around the outside and a protected lagoon in between. Here we are entering the only pass into BB. It is deep and wide enough the cruise ships enter.

The full moon came up over the mountain at the anchorage at the BBYC.

We did not do much here. Went to a supposedly famous cruisers’ hangout for dinner. Bloody Mary’s is certainly not that at all. Eight of us went from the anchorage and we were the only sailors there. Everyone else was from the hotels (we shared our shuttle bus with folks from the Four Seasons. BM’s was very expensive (some entrees were more than $40) and very formulaic – perhaps the tipoff was that they sold many t-shirts advertising themselves. The food was OK at best and one of our may have had a touch of food poisoning.

Some of the famous people who have eaten at Bloody Mary's. They did not ask us our names - perhaps they already knew. Hope they get the spelling right.

Speaking of supposedly famous cruiser spots, we took a mooring at the Bora Bora Yacht Club which is not a YC at all but another restaurant. They are being remodelled for an opening with new management so the moorings were free which was nice since anchoring in BB is hard since the water is very deep in most spots.

Tomorrow (June 17th) we are leaving for Suvarov which is about 700 miles from here. We have been waiting for some wind for a few days but the pressure gradient was killed by a very deep low (965 mb – yikes!!) that is passing far to the south of us. There will be some wind building in the next days (to 20 knots) but also swells from the south that may be in the 17 foot range. We hope to do an end run around the worst of these but may have to motor tomorrow to get a good start.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


  • Here are a bunch of topics that I have missed along the way Spending – Our May spending was about $3700. Three things contributed to this large amount – we stayed in a marina in Papeete for more than two weeks. This was partly for convenience as we had many errands to run in town and partly because anchoring is not easy since most areas for anchoring have been filled with moorings. We also had to spend quite a bit of money on fixing things from our knockdown – a new solar panel, stanchion, and bimini repair. Finally, shopping was superb at the hypermarche, but it was not cheap.

Also, it has been brought to my attention that boat parts worth about $2000 that were brought to Ecuador by our friend Ian were not listed in the expense summary. I will try to update that when possible. We have ordered some things to be delivered to American Samoa because it is easy (no customs for stuff from the US) and cheap for shipping.

  • Peru election – Of course everyone has been following this with great anticipation, but just in case you have not, I learned that you cannot pick favourites based on how many signs they have. In the first round of the election, the leaders were Ollanta (a former general who is quite populist in his views) and Keiko (daughter of former president, and now convict, Alberto Fujimori). I am using first names here because that is how they ran for election. In the runoff election between these two, Ollanta won narrowly so Peru now continues the trend in South America toward populist leaders (see Bolivia, Ecuador, and Brazil). Ollanta says he is more like Lula da Silva in Brazil than Cesar Chavez who is the boogeyman who gets linked to all of these left-wing leaders.
  • Boil on my leg – A visit to the new and impressive hospital in Papeete gave me more information about what I had – a staph infection of the skin that got serious wherever there was a break in the skin e.g. insect bite or scratch. By the time I got to the hospital I had three lesions – the one that started it all coming from Easter Island and two others also on the same leg plus one on my arm that was just getting started. The very nice and competent doctors and nurse cleaned everything out (thanks for the nitrous to distract me from the digging) and sent me to the pharmacie with a long list of things to buy. The two smaller lesions healed within about 10 days but the original one is still thereafter 10 weeks although the opening now is quite tiny.

For those who are planning to go off cruising, I would suggest that you talk to your doctor about what to do about such infections. There was an American boat at the marina with a crew with similar infections – I think it may be a tropical thing. I used an oral antibiotic designed for skin infections, a topical antiseptic and a dermatological soap. BTW, the cost for the treatment at the hospital was less than $50 (and involved two doctors and a nurse, in total for more than an hour). Supplies at the pharmacy were something like $130. I shudder to think how much it would have been in the US.

· Hood-design – I had a question (sorry for the delay) about how our Hood-designed and Bristol-built boat has done so far. Overall I would give it an A rating. It is remarkably strong and resilient. I suspect that our knockdown might have been worse and damage much more with a lesser boat. I am very appreciative of the 17 tonnes+ of displacement we have. It makes the boat more comfortable both at sea and at anchor. We have been experiencing another maramu wind at Moorea for the past few days with winds gusting above 40 knots at time. There is a Saga 43 (nice boat, but fairly light) anchored here and it gets thrown around in the gusts and heels at least 15° at anchor.

The centerboard configuration has been helpful and it gives us three advantages I think. We can get into shallower spots (more of an issue in the Bahamas than here where anchorages can be 80 feet deep and more), on those rare occasions where you need to point it is great, and most often, when reaching it allows easy control of weather helm which is essential with vane steering.

Complaints? The bow could be a bit higher and fuller which might keep the deck drier. It is common to have lots of water on deck. Having to rely only on the deck drains means that more water comes before the previous wave has drained – the high toe rail (a very nice feature for putting your weight against) also does keep the water on board. I would like interior construction that would make it easier to access tanks, wiring, etc. Too much stuff is built-in and not easily accessible.

12 things about French Polynesia

  • French Polynesia is huge more than 1000 miles from Gambier Islands in the SE to Bora Bora in the NW. It is big enough for there to be significant differences from one area to another.
  • There is enormous variety, both of landforms and settlement here. The variety of landforms can attributed to the fact that FP has examples of all of the stages of atoll formation according to the theory developed by Charles Darwin (yes, he did study things other than evolution). According to his theory, which is generally accepted, you need two conditions to exist. The first is a volcanic eruption sufficiently powerful to reach the surface. This is not a trivial requirement since the water is typically something like 13,000’ feet deep. We passed one volcanic cone on the way to Tahiti from the Gambiers which was a perfect cone about 1400’ above the water, but almost 15,000’ high in total – sort of like Mt. Fuji set on the sea bed. Volcanic islands are not very good to visit by boat because they lack protected anchorages – Easter and Pitcairn being good examples.

The next stage in the process is the growth of coral in the shallower water along the edge of the volcanic mountain – which requires water shallow enough for the sun to penetrate and warm enough for coral. The result is the gradual creation of an outlying reef with a lagoon in between the reef and mountain. If there are navigable passes through the reef you have an ideal situation with a protected waterway behind the reef and many possibilities for anchoring. Tahiti and the other Society Islands of western FP are magnificent examples of this. The Gambier Islands and Moorea are slight variations on this stage since what is above water are edges of a huge volcanic crater rather than the entire volcano. In the Gambiers, the islands you see are parts of the entire crater. In Moorea you see only the southern edge of the crater (see photos)

As time passes, small islands called motus can develop along the reef. Motus will rarely be more than a couple of feet above sea level but do provide an alternative place to live (or to anchor behind).

Given enough time though, the volcano will erode away or subside below sea level leaving only the reef, the motus, and the lagoon. Again a navigable pass is needed before these islands, called atolls, are much use to cruisers. The Tuamotus are atolls, ranging in size from less than one mile to more than 70 miles across. The lagoons of atolls are often jammed with coral heads that come close to the surface meaning that navigation can be tricky..

Settlement patterns also vary greatly. Tahiti is very, very busy with quite serious traffic issues while Mangareva is so sleepy you have to keep checking your pulse to see if you are still alive. The only traffic issues were when half a dozen pickups and scooters would converge on the boulangerie to pick up hot baguettes at 5 pm. Moorea and most other large islands are somewhere in between.

This is the main (and almost only) street in Rikitea, the only town in the Gambiers with a permanent population. This might be rush hour or perhaps not ... it was very hard to tell

  • Great beauty – The photos of Moorea show this wonderfully. We never got tired of looking at the crag in the middle of the island. It looked different depending on the light and the weather.
Anchorages don't get much prettier than this one at Opunohu Bay, Moorea. The peak in the back looks different depending on the weather and time of day.

Could not see the pot of gold but I know it was there somewhere.

Sunsets are so spectacular it is too easy to take them for granted.

Bruce and our friend Marina at the Belevdere overlooking Opunohu Bay on the left and Cook's Bay on the right. We are anchored just behind the left edge of the mountain behind the reef in the lagoon - and yes, we did walk here. While the eastern bay is named after Captain Cook, he di dactually anchor in Opunohu.

Bruce and Marina (and June with the camera) enjoyed the special ice creams made at the FP agricultural college half way up the mountain in Moorea. They are made from fruits (and flowers) grown at the college. Vanilla, made from actual vanilla pods, was wonderful as were the others we tried. Unfortunately they were out of gardenia ice cream.

  • Weather – I now know the name of the kind of storm that knocked us down coming here. It is a maramu (like the model of Amel sailboat) or possibly a super maramu. We also had one of these pass over us at anchor in Moorea. It seems to start with an occluded front spinning north from one of the nasty lows in the Roaring 40s. This is accompanied by one of the very big highs that exist between the southern lows. These highs, often above 1035 mb extend quite far north (to 20°S or even a bit further north). The result is a very steep pressure gradient. The worst part of the system are the winds from the south but you can get winds from other directions as well. For someone from the continental part of the northern hemisphere it is a revelation to find that high pressure cells can generate very nasty winds – where we are from, highs bring settled weather and little wind.

  • This is such an expensive place in which to live. Other than baguettes, some cheeses, and solar panels we found no bargains here at all. The poverty rate is very high and it is easy to understand why. We walked down a back street in Moorea and found a large number of people living in shacks made of corrugated iron. At the same time the Porsche and BMW dealers seem healthy in Tahiti where there were people living on the street. You sense considerable resentment among poorer people and wonder how this might play out in the years to come.
Every evening in a park on the water in downtown Papeete, Tahiti about 20 rulottes (vans) pull in and set up tables, chairs, and cooking equipment. It is good place to have dinner ($12 to $20 for a large plate of seafood, steak, etc) on an island where restaurants are very expensive. It attracts many locals and some tourists.
  • Currency – The unit of currency here is the French Polynesian France (CFP) which is worth a bit more than one cent. The result is that you quickly get used to large numbers of francs for everything. Since the exchange rate is about 85 francs to the dollar and most people find it hard to divide by 85 in their heads, you tend to divide by 100 and then add a bit more than 10% to the result –e.g. the banana split costs 950 francs, divide by 100 is 9.50 and add a dollar – it costs about $10.50 – and June decided she did not really want it after all.

The money here is also very large. The photo shows the largest FP bill – 10,000 francs or something over $110 compared in size to a US bill. It is too big for a standard North American wallet for sure. The silver coin (actually made of aluminum) is 50 francs – get a few of those in your pocket and you walk with a list.

  • The economy is in very bad shape in FP. The two significant foreign exchange earners are tourism and cultured pearl production, both of which are dependent on a healthy world economy since no one really ‘needs’ a pearl necklace or a costly holiday in a distant spot. And holidays here can be very costly indeed. The specialty here are the resorts with individual bungalows over the water. Very nice, but very expensive with prices starting at about 80,000 francs a night, not including meals. This works out to almost US$1000/night and there are some that are much pricier – one on Taha’a is listed in Lonely Planet as starting at 104,000 francs (about $1200/night). With meals, the cost could be well over $1500 a night for a couple and FP’s traditional markets – Western Europe, US, and Japan all have bad economies.

Even if tourism and pearl farming were healthy one wonders how much FP would depend on subsidies from France. I suspect that there are more than a few folks in Paris who would love it if FP did go ahead with full independence (there is quite a bit support for the idea).


Pearls before they reach the world market. These were being sold by a man in Mangareva who buys them from the pearl growers and sells them to foreign buyers. He had a bucket full of pearls in the kitchen he uses to prepare food for the air flights that come to Managareva three times in every two weeks. The pearls vary enormously in quality, shape, colour and size - and price. His pearls ranged from about $10 to one large (17 mm), golden one at close to $2000. There are lots of poor quality pearls to be had very cheaply (a bottle of rum for a cup full). These ones will never be sold commercially. If they do not meet minimum quality standards they are ground to powder.

Pearls are a luxury good to be sure. The pendant in the front here was 225,000 francs or about $2600. In Japan or France it would be much more. A necklace of large pearls could be more than $10,000

Sorry for the poor quality of the picture, megayachts tied up at the marina in Tahiti. To give you a sense of scale, the 'small' sailboat furthest to the right is 118' long. The problem for Tahiti's economy is that there are not enough rich tourists - in yachts or coming in by plane to support the tourism infrastructure.

  • Moorea is the first place we have visited where not everyone is friendly. We have run into people who ranged from unhelpful to, in one case, holding in a lot of anger. Don’t know the source of this (economic problems?) but it came as a shock after visiting so many places and finding so many friendly, helpful people.
  • Polynesian people seem to fall into two categories – enormous or not. Most men and women over 30 are very big (not necessarily tall). In Mangareva where I visited the clinic every second day, there were many people who were much overweight and had troubles walking and even amputations (related to diabetes?). What is starting to happen with younger people though is a desire to keep their weight under control. The result is that there are lot of men and women who are remarkably fit and healthy looking and attractive – pretty much what you see in movies about the south seas. Whether these folks will put on 60 pounds when they turn 30 I don’t know, but I suspect not.
  • You see beautiful flowers growing everywhere and they are used to replace jewellery and even hats in everyday use. It is not unusual to see half a dozen women on the bus going to work with a flower stuck behind their ear. Some older women wear a sort of wreath of flowers on their head like a hat.
  • Pronouncing Polynesia words is easy, as long as you are good with vowels. I was given the advice that you need to pronounce every vowel separately so, for example, the airport in Tahiti, Faa’a, sounds sort of like you are singing a Christmas carol but have a mild speech impediment. The marina we stayed at was in a suburb called Punaauia, which is tricky enough to say when sober. When we were looking for the new hospital in Papeete, the man who gave us directions was not sure if it is was in Taone or Taaone – and finally decided it was the latter. We never learned if there also was a place called Taone.
  • They have very interesting motorboats here. They range from around 18’ to 24’ with a good-sized outboard. The interesting feature is that the driver sits at the very front of the boat, where the boat is only 3’ or so wide. They steer using a vertical tiller from this position. I surmise that this design became popular because it gives the operator the best possible view of the water and the coral heads that are so common inside the lagoons.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cost overview for 6 months

Thought I better do this before we look at May in Tahiti where we have spent quite a bit of money. Our spending from Florida to Polynesia has been (significant expenditures in brackets) Everything in $US:

November $1033 (Customs and other govt fees - $555)

December $1030 (Panama Canal costs (not including refundable deposit) - $610)

January (until we went exploring on land in Ecuador and Peru) $1558 (Food - $558 to take advantage of low prices in Panama)

On shore travel costs in late January and Early February (almost a month) $2458

Second half of February $1212 (Government fees (Galapagos) - $676; Mooring rental in Ecuador -$330 for one month)

March $2023 (Sightseeing (4 day tour in Galapagos mainly) - $913)

April $547 (Internet for the entire area of French Polynesia - $217); note that it is hard to spend money at sea or in harbours where there is not much to buy.

Categories of spending (for 6 months)

Boat maintenance - $528

Boat capital improvements - $40

Dockage, moorings - $588

Government fees - $1773! (Panama, Ecuador and Galapagos are very pricey; Gambier Islands was less than $2 (for two stamps)

Sightseeing and souvenirs - $3548 (money well spent we think for mainland tour in Ecuador and Peru and tour of Galapagos)

Food - $982 (remember the boat started off in Florida well-provisioned)

Fuel - $589

Water, garbage disposal - $36

Shore travel - $103 (local buses and, in a few place,s taxis)

Entertainment Ashore - $528 (meals and drinks ashore – you could spend a fortune on this if you wanted to)

Internet - $252 (free to cheap in many places except French Polynesia)

Miscellaneous - $761 (mainly Panama Canal fees)

Total - $9708

The only thing I resent in all this are the government fees and associated costs for mandatory agents. In Panama and Ecuador, it is a bit of a lottery who will hit you for money and how much it will be. Probably Panama is the worst with charges for customs, immigration, port captain, agriculture dept, buoys and lights, mariners’ visas, fines for not having mariners’ visas (that were not offered in the first place). These countries’ hurt themselves by making it unattractive for cruisers to visit.