About Us

Welcome to our blog, describing our voyage aboard Bravo, a Kelly Peterson 46 sailboat with homeport in Seattle, Washington. We headed south in 2010, destined for Mexico and beyond. Cheers, Adam and Cindi


"As for me, I am tormented by an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts." -Herman Melville, 1844


Monday, October 16, 2017

Passage to Australia - Chesterfield Reef

We had a terrific 3-1/2 day sail from Luganville to Chesterfield Reef. Seas were a bit rolly at first with about 2 meter seas on the beam, but died down after the first day. The only challenge then became trying to slow down in the 15-20 knot broad reach to allow for a daylight entry into the reef. Actually, scratch that.....there was another challenge.....Bravo became an official Booby Transport Vessel. Each night, we had from 2-5 large booby birds stowing away for a several hour ride toward Chesterfield. We thought it was pretty funny to watch them make landings on the flat glass solar panels.....sort of like watching Top Gun fighters try carrier landings without a tail hook!!! They'd usually skid right off, and keep at it until they settled in for the ride. But the challenge came in the morning, when we found that, like all animals, birds are what they eat. And they eat fish, and show their gratitude for a nice night sail with a leave behind of piles of stinky fish crap.....thick enough to nearly shut off our solar panels!!!

Chesterfield reef itself is extraordinary. Actually part of a few reefs joined together over a distance of nearly 60 miles, Chesterfield is a series of low sand bars and rocky shoals surrounded by ocean depths of over 10,000 feet, all hundreds of miles away from any other land, with occasional entries into a beautiful blue inner lagoon. While the low sandy shoals offer nearly no protection from the wind, they break the swell nicely, allowing for a terrific interlude in the passage to Australia.

The reef is a major sea bird rookery, with various boobies, noddies, shearwaters and terns all nesting in the low scrub or right on the sand. Young hatchlings are learning to fly (the beach is littered with the carcasses of the slow learners!!!), and the area where we've anchored has continual fly bys of parents out fishing. Walking on the beaches is amazing. You can literally walk right up to the birds, as they have zero fear of humans here in this remote outpost. We remain a respectful distance, and save the occasional feisty booby parent, all seem fine with our quiet presence.

The sand also serves as a nesting beach for loggerhead turtles, which we frequently see swimming near the boat. Although we've seen many tracks on shore, as well as the big holes indicating their nests, we have yet to find a turtle laying her eggs, even when we stayed ashore after dark one evening.

The big issue now is the weather. We've now been here at Chesterfield for 5 days, and are ready to head on to Australia. Unfortunately there is a very large high pressure system south of us, creating winds of 30-35 knots on the passage route, with higher gusts in the squalls. The winds will likely reach us here at Chesterfield in about two days, and hopefully after they pass, in 5 days or so, we'll be on our way again to Oz in a nice weather window. In the meantime, the sun is shining in this beautiful spot, and it may be time to head back to the island for some more photos!!!

We also plan on some snorkeling or diving while here, as the coral looks promising. The 3 meter tiger shark that swam by does give a bit of pause, though!!!

Sorry for the lack of photos. We obviously have no internet here (how refreshing!!!), so this blog post is made via ham radio Pactor email, which is extremely slow...text only. Photos will have to wait until we arrive in Australia, hopefully in 1-2 more weeks.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Getting wet in Vanuatu

We've been having a great time underwater here in Vanuatu.  Both diving and snorkeling, there's a lot to see.  Most known for its wreck dives, mostly from WWII, we've also found a fair variety of fish, and great underwater topography thanks to the volcanic origin of the islands.  The coral may not be as vibrant as we've found in Fiji or French Polynesia, but its fairly good in many places, especially where protected from the ravages of recent cyclones.

Wrecks
SS President Coolidge when launched
The big attraction in Vanuatu is the wreck of the ship SS President Coolidge.  It is an enormous luxury liner which was in use during WWII as a troop transport ship for allied forces.



With Vanuatu (then New Hebrides) used as a major allied base during the war providing bomber support for the Guadalcanal theatre in the Solomons (the largest base in the Pacific except for Pearl Harbor), the ports of Espiritu Santo and Port Vila saw enormous buildups of ships and troops.  It seems that the Coolidge was entering the port at Santo, which was heavily mined to defend against Japanese submarines.  She was given the secret coordinates of the safe course to navigate, but was not advised that the course was set through a mine field.  The captain, thinking the course was a bit close to a reef, and unaware of the danger of a deviation from the recommendation, made a change, and hit a mine.  The captain, knowing he was about to lose his ship, tried to run her up on a beach, but she hit a coral reef near the shore instead, sank, and gradually slid down to her current resting place.

Abandoning ship

The "Coolidge" is a big ship (653 feet in length, compared to the 883 foot Titanic).  She is also very accessible, as she sank close to shore, and as such is a very popular recreational dive destination.  (Most guidebooks and articles rate her as one of the top 10 wreck dives in the world).  There's a lot to see, both from the early days as a luxury ship, and her later days as a naval vessel.



The diving is quite deep.  She lies on her side on the sloping bottom, with depths ranging from 35m to 60m.  Dives at this depth have short bottom times, with some decompression likely required.  The payback is lots to see.  We found old military hardware, guns, and ammunition, medical supplies in the sick bay, a barbers chair anchored to the "wall", actually the floor, but the ship is on her side, which can be a bit disorientating, and other bits and pieces.  We only did two dives on the ship (a minimum of 6 are recommended to see it all, including the swimming pools, china closets, Japanese baths, engines, etc., but we felt we got a great intro to this amazing wreck.  Here are a few images from the Coolidge dives...

Descent to ship bow
 


Trying on a gas mask found in a locker on deck









Supplies in sick bay





 Another unique dive in Santo harbor is what is known as "Million Dollar Point".  When WWII ended, the Americans were preparing to abandon the base as they pulled the troops out.  New Hebrides was governed as a sort of joint colony of the British and French governments at the time.  The story goes that the Americans offered the huge quantity of military hardware to both the Brits and French for pennies on the dollar.  Hardware included trucks, tanks, jeeps, bull dozers, cranes, spare parts, etc.all in tremendous quantities.  Both governments declined the offer.  They knew that the Americans would not ship the hardware back to the States, and felt that if they waited until the yanks pulled out, they could get the goods for free.  The Americans didn't like these terms, and instead decided to drive all of the equipment into the sea.  A huge waste, and testament to pig headed leadership even among allies around the world.

But there it all lies, perhaps the worlds largest underwater military wrecking yard.  Makes for fascinating if not overly scenic diving, as you can make your away around and into the old equipment.  There's even an old naval boat wreck to check out while down there.










Cindi tries to start an old truck, while a little scuba gremlin jumps on her back!!!

Just to add to the variety, there are also plane wrecks to explore around Vanuatu.  Here are the remains of an old Dauntless dive bomber which went down, broke into three major sections and sank next to Aore Island, right near our current mooring position.  We went over with the crew of Legacy in our dinghies one morning.....made for a fun dive in about 75 feet of water..






Finally here are just some random shots from other dives we've been doing in Vanuatu.  This country just continues to amaze us with the variety of species and often great water clarity!!!


Arc eye hawkfish


Great camouflage of black striped goatfish



Dorid nudibranch



Granular sea star



Lionfish, highly venemous






Gorgonian fans










Snowflake moray eel



Mantis shrimp