Swiss Winter Wonderland

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Author:  Pete
Location:  Europe

Past the chilly months in a winter wonderland that is the Alps.  Coaching the school’s ski team kept me happily on the slopes and learning the best places to find powder.  The school has its own chalet in Wengen, so we were there often, as well as other little mountain villages like Zermatt under the Matterhorn.

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Miranda looks more and more like a real pregnant lady every week.  Maybe it’s good that we ease into parenthood.  It still doesn’t seem real yet.  It’s all fun and games until someone’s water breaks.  We do get a lot of nods from passerbys.  Everyone seems to smile at us knowingly.

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Miranda and I feel well loved.  We’ve had a small army of family and friends make the pilgrimage from all over to come and see us.  I think everyone is worried we’ll drop off the radar again once there’s an infant in our midst.  Miranda’s brother Casey and his buddies Mike and Stacy came for a week of rowdy fun.  We drove up to Munich for some historical tavern-crawling.  In the Munich Hofbrauhaus they only serve liters of beer!  Let me reiterate, beer is served only in liters!  Back in the Alps we went night tobogganing down kilometers of tooth-chattering, unlit trails.

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Miranda’s other sibs, Adam and Becky, came to see us too.  We piled in the car and drove over the mountains to Italy.  Venice during Carnival was full of energy.  The gloomy weather made the ambiance even better, swirling around the plague masks and the elaborate costumes.  Back Swiss-side we jumped on the slopes and spent a day battling gravity.

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Not to be outdone, Liza, Felix, and Jovia came down from Frankfurt a couple of weekends this winter.  The idea was to hit the slopes together, and although we never hit great snow, but we did have a great time with them.

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My folks came in on a European baby-flyby trip.  We went up hiking in Engelberg as the spring thaw relinquished the slopes to the grass.  Paragliders soared like clouds of bees.  I’m salivating to get my kit over here.

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Also our climbing buddies Ben and Elizabeth came from Abu Dhabi to see us.  We used to climb twice a week when we were teaching in Chile.  It’s been three years since we last climbed together and it was so great to be back on the crag with them!

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So that was our flood of friends and family!  It’s so wonderful to spend time with everyone, especially after being off radar for several years.  Although it’s sad to part ways at then end, Winnie the Pooh’s words give me comfort.  “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”  How lucky we are indeed.

 

 

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Great Barrier Island and Auckland

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Author:  Pete
Location: Great Barrier Island and Auckland, NZ

After a few rainy days in Kiarara Bay we sailed north, out of Port Fitzroy around a jutting headland to Katherine Bay.  Ashore, just inland of a quiet, sandy beach we found a parthenon of massive tree trunks arching out of the ground, thick branches full of air rooting plants.  A dozen rope swings fabricated from heavy ship line hung like .  Didn’t take much coercion to get us launching off branches, stretching climbing muscles that have been dormant for some time.

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Katherine Bay was beautiful but rolled all night, and not in the good way.  The next morning we sailed fast under twenty knots of wind back around the headland, returning to Kiarara.  The short, costal hops between bays and islands have been enjoyable.  Most sailors start their sailing careers in costal waters.  We missed that part and went straight offshore.  I’m seeing the error in our ways.   The next day we hiked Mt. Hobson, a six hundred meter peak, four hours uphill BOTH WAYS!  At least that’s how it felt to our coddled legs.  The trail was stunning, crossing rivers and gorgeous, and winding through rain forests where the few remaining Kauri behemoths strained to seed offspring and repopulate the area after the huge logging boom of the 1800’s.  The view from the top was breathtaking.  We could even see our little boat!  Sometimes that’s disconcerting; if you see it floating away there’s a four-hour downhill slog to go get it.

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Sailing south along Great Barrier Island, we staged for our jump back to Auckland and were escorted by a pod of dolphins.  Later, anchored in Bowling Alley Bay, another pod showed up, cavorting and jumping.  We donned wetsuits and joined them.  The cloudy water made for a spooky experience with our streamline mammalian cousins.  They were obscured in the occluding murk until they were close enough to almost touch, then they’d veer off, laughing at our aquatic immobility.  Let’s see who’s laughing when you’re on the beach, Flipper!

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Sailed eight hours back across the Hauraki Gulf.  Miranda and I wrestled a Kingfish aboard part way through the trip.  I already had some fillets in the refrigerator from spearfishing in Bowling Alley Bay, so we let him go.  

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Parked the boat in front of Auckland.  The anchorage is exposed and a little choppy from the ferry wakes, but it’s got the best view in town.  On the rainy days in Port Fitzroy, I designed a part for the engine control panels on SketchUp and 3D printed them at the public library.  They worked out so well and cost nothing to print that my brain has been constantly thinking up new things to design and build for the boat!  They created a monster!

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Found a safe spot up river to leave our baby for a couple days when we go to the job fair.  Had one last good sail to stretch her legs before a week of lounging on a mooring off the Beach Haven wharf.  Sit, stay, good Tayrona!  No parties while we’re away!

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Fatu Hiva

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Author: Pete
Location: Fatu Hiva, Marquesas
Date: April 28 – May 2

 

Sailed a relatively pleasant 45 miles from our cozy anchorage on Tahuata to the southernmost island in the Marquesas, Fatu Hiva. It is yet another spiny high island, visible from Tahuata. I wrote ‘sailed’ colloquially. It was upwind, directly upwind, and for the first time since the Bahamas, we plugged along right into the waves and wind.

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Pulled into the Baie Hanavave (Baie des Vierges)on the sheltered northwest side of the island and picked a spot to drop anchor. There were about ten boats in the little bay, which went from 15 feet very close to shore, to 300 feet just offshore, to 3000 feet about a mile from shore. The bottom consisted of large stones which the anchor wasn’t pleased about biting into. I wouldn’t be either. I went down and set the anchor by hand while Miranda back Tayrona up to tension the chain and help it dig in, the water silty and dark.

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The spectacular part of the anchorage was the view up a canyon carved into the island. Tall spires of exposed rock poked out of the foliage like incisors through green gums. Ah, to come back with a full rack of climbing gear! Through the valley a stiff wind whipped most of the time, sending the boats swinging perplexingly wide on their moorings.

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We went in to the tiny town. Kids ran around us and laughed, laden trees dripped fruit, and life itself seemed to creep along without hurry. Most of the days we were in town were weekdays, but all the kids seemed to be outside the school. A guy asked Felix how many papayas he wanted for his shoes. It was impressive what a trading culture the island has. We gave some colored pencils and notebooks to a couple of kiddos for some oranges. Met a man named Christian, a wood and stone carver, who had a pretty wicked cut on his leg from his work. We traded him one of my big squid lures as well as gauze, bandages, and antibiotic ointment and a big squid lure. In return he gave us five big grapefruit and five papayas, and told us the way to the fabled waterfall.

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The reason for most cruisers to journey to Fatu Hiva is waterfall set back into the jungled hills and the great approach hike. The morning after a quiet night on anchor we followed the breadcrumbs into the hills. The road turns to dirt, turns to two track with waist high grasses bordered by hibiscus, turn to single track footpath through jungle along a steep hillside with stone pile terraces that have enough overgrown moss to be original to an old native ceremonial site. Cairns dotted the way. It really felt like something out of Indiana Jones.

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Then the trail spit us out under a 100 meter waterfall, lazily spraying and bouncing water down into a deep, cold pool at the bottom. We had the place to ourselves. We swam, and jumped off the rocks into the pool. A strange sensation of cold returned to our tactile repertoire. We sat on the rocks and ate cheese, crackers, grapefruit, and bananas before the hike home.

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That night the wind howled and the boats pinballed around the anchorage like something out of the exorcist. I didn’t sleep much, being ready in most moments to fend off boats or shoals should our anchor cut loose which felt immanent. I don’t give that thing enough credit. The anchor is bomber, but in the morning we decided it was time to roll out. For some strange reason we decided to sail overnight back to Tahuata, so we hung around for the day, which generally has calmer winds than at night.

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Took the dinghy out to a nearby point to do some snorkeling. The cliffs rising 300 feet vertically out of the water should have given us a clue that there was no safe haven to anchor, or even anything to snorkel on. We jumped in the water, leaving one boat tender. The rock underwater followed the surface topography. It plummeted away from the surface. In two fin kicks from where the cliff fell into the water, the bottom was out of sight in a formidable, deep deep blue. We chickened out and got out of there. Invited ourselves later on land to the island’s celebration of May Day, a curious mix of Catholic prayers mixed with flowers and native chanting.

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Pulled anchor at 10PM and motored out of the windy harbor heading back to Tahuata. Put up some sail but reduced it several times over the next hour. A series of squalls swept over us, kicking winds up to 30+ knots. The full moon helped with the visibility though. Who’s idea was it to night sail there? Bah!

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