Laura's Blog

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25-08-2011

I haven't had a chance to go to sleep yet and I feel like a whole lifetime of experiences has passed me by since I arrived in Darwin. I came in unscathed but I can't say as much for the sails... Sailing close hauled across the Van Dieman Gulf the mainsail just ripped to shreds too... Of course coming in I first had to clear customs as usual but this time I had to go to the pier to do so. And so I filled in form after form and answered the officer's questions, the letters just dancing in my head and unable to find their right places. It felt suddenly very warm inside the cabin, probably in part because I still had my sailing clothes on... Guppy lay quietly at the dock but for me it was not quite like that, the ground felt like it was moving!... Then the officer from the Quarantine office took one and a half hour inspecting the entire boat as I kept filling in the forms. In the end he left with what looked like a meat can and he took my trash with him too... I thought I would pass out from exhaustion as I sailed to anchor and should have stayed there and enjoy a shower before going to bed. But I felt like having a cold Cola with lots of ice cubes and having a chat. And so after the yachtclub owner and I took my dinghy to shore for easier assembling, it became evident that I should have gone to bed because, of course, I had forgotten the outboard engine which meant that I had to go back to Guppy... But then my outboard engine did strange things, my dinghy's buggy wheels - I use to run ashore - were deflated, and my folding bike was all tangled up on itself with its wheels deflated too... I tried to put everything in order but my body that had only half an hour of rest in the last 48 hours, strongly protested...and won. Tomorrow, tomorrow is another day kept on echoing through my head. Yes but this day today is not yet over I said to myself. But I also longed to sleep... a long sleep in one stretch.... A night without shredding sails, without islands, without reefs or sandbanks, without buoys or ships... How wonderful! But my brain was still running at full speed... then slowed down, slowed down until this most active part of myself fell asleep, fell asleep into a deep and long sleep…

Laura


24-08-2011

Unfortunately, I did not not sleep much last night... The wind had increased to almost 30 knots So I had to take down the mizzen sail and put another reef in the mainsail... Since yesterday I have been called twice by the Australian Customs and Border Protection airplane which I actually found was nice of them. Right now Guppy and I are sailing close hauled on a new course heading more to the South towards land! So Guppy is slowly pointing her nose into the Van Dieman Gulf with its strong currents, a place well knowned to be rough for sailors. Our speed has decreased from 6 to 5, then to 4 and finally 2 knots! Obviously that is because we are running against the currents so evidently it cannot be otherwise... I'll just have to be patient and wait for the tides to turn. Actually the Van Dieman Gulf is more like a large version of the Wadden Sea in the Netherlands.  But now I still have to sail for another night going between sandbanks and If all goes well I should be in Darwin tomorrow... I am really looking forward to it, and specially to the time I'll spend sleeping…

Laura


23-08-2011

Bam, splash, congratulations..!I know you can turn my life onboard upside down, but could you calm down a little? WHAM!... No go! The waves have grown from annoying to ultra annoying. They are taller and because the sea is very shallow it makes for a very choppy and short swell. Guppy repeatedly surfs down a wave and as soon as she gets to the bottom a side wave comes in to engulf the entire boat all the way up to half mast! Of course the cockpit gets a whole load of water too so I have to keep the entrance to the cabin closed which makes it stuffy and hot inside! But even as the water is running off Guppy from all sides she is still going at a good 7 knots. Remarkably the water looks quite strange today because of an odd brown substance floating on top of it... Fields of it which I guess would be sand or mud. Could that be sand coming from Australia? In any case this is as clean a sailing I can make of it without trying to go around which would be more than a little tricky... I still have 280 nautical miles left to go to Darwin, and so it will be another mega milestone on my journey which is still hard for me to believe... I was always so much focused on going across the Pacific Ocean, and now it is already behind me. Wow…

Laura


22-08-2011

Sitting in the cockpit near the entrance to the cabin I was monitoring the fishing ship that had been sailing for half a day 2 nautical miles behind me... The last time I took a look it was slowly moving off my radar screen. But then the alarm for ' zone 1' suddenly went off! How can that be? A boat has to go through 'zone 2' before this can happen and that alarm had not been activated... On the radar screen I could only see a long line disappearing then coming back on again, but then I knew the reason why... It was a low flying airplane from the Australian Customs and Border Protection. "Sailing ketch, sailing ketch" ... I could hear coming from the radio. That is me! ... This was the second time an Australian Customs airplane was flying over. But it is quite normal here as they come over to ask for your boat's name and some other information. To come in unseen into Australian waters must be almost impossible. Since I had already given all the necessary information back in Torres Strait I only needed to give my boat's name since they already knew all the rest. We had a nice chat and then they wished me a nice trip and as Guppy sailed into the night the plane flew away. I had a very good sleep last night since there is not much ship traffic around, so today I feel much better than yesterday. I had to have a good night's sleep anyway because I will need to be in shape to finish this crossing. The next obstacle en route is already waiting for me ... it is a 100 nautical miles run between sandbanks and heavy currents with a possible seven meter tide flow…

Laura


21-08-2011

Even after a good sleep last night I still feel tired but surely better. There is still heavy ship traffic around and six monsters have already passed me by... I fixed the Genoa roller and removed the torned Genoa. After that I just had to lighten up... I thought that the spare Genoa, that was a gift from another yacht sometime ago, would fit but then I learnt that its trim was too thick and so it jammed after only a few meters... But on the good side of things the weather gods are favorable to Guppy with good winds blowing now so that the Genoa is still useful and I am making good progress. Up to now I have done the dishes, I have cleaned the cupboard from the spilled juice, and Guppy is now smelling of fresh home-baked bread. Henk and Sogno d'Oro too have come through the Torres Strait and are now sailing 85 nautical miles behind me. The Torres Strait passage made me loose my usual sea-rhythm and it is always a bit difficult to get back into it again... The Arafura Sea is shallow which makes the swell very short and choppy so it feels like I am a bouncing ball... But then the last few days on the Pacific Ocean with the cross seas and all wasn't any better so what is there to do besides to shrug it off and then just enjoy bouncing along..

Laura  


20-08-2011

Guppy and I rushed through Torres Strait at 7,5 knots! There were reefs everywhere but I could hardly see anything because it was getting dark. But in the distance I could see the first island that I had to pass by. I ajusted my course so I would be sailing even closer to the wind, would this work? Guppy sliced right through the waves under Genoa and reefed mainsail.The Genoa had a hard time of it with its taped tears and holes- would it last through the night?...Rrrrrrippp! Without having to look I had my answer. Optimistically I grabbed my camera and as I was to take a photo the sail ripped further apart. I rolled in the Genoa and rolled out the storm-jib and so I kept sailing very close to the wind as we went between all the reefs. Our speed dropped a little but soon Guppy found her new rhythm and kept dashing forward at 6 knots. Like that we ran close hauled from island to island, from reef to reef and from light to light. Coming out of the darkness in the morning I saw islands all around me and the very light blue color of the water! That is because it was only 13 meters deep! I took out my old spare Genoa from the foresection locker. But then the shredded Genoa was all jammed in and would not roll out again. Well never mind I thought to myself and I hoisted the mizzen sail instead, and we kept going at a somewhat lower speed than our usual. But it didn't matter really... I had cleared the Torres Strait! I could see the Australian coast and I was in a new Ocean. This made my head spin and with the little bit of energy I had left after 48 hours without sleep, I did a dance of joy and asked Guppy how she felt. JUST GREAT! She said. So now I will go to sleep... and it really doesn't matter that the Genoa is all shredded to pieces, that the dishes are piled one meter high, that my bed is salty and wet,that the steering wheel is almost falling off, or that a juice pack is leaking in the cupboard... Tomorrow is another day…

Laura


19-08-2011

I am really surrounded by reefs, most of which I can't see... Guppy is now sailing very close to the wind and there are buckets of water washing over 'Gup' and me, and we will soon be heading further to the south... For the umpteenth time I have stitched the holes in the Genoa and I hope it will survive the 900 miles to Darwin... Last night we went past Sogno d'Oro and Henk is already 23 nautical miles behind me. Sadly it was dark when we passed him so we could only see each other's mast top lights. Right now I just wish to sail away from here to have the open sea in front of me again and, what is much more important, more water below Guppy's keel... In places the waterways were very narrow with large cargo ships sailing there too and some don't even speak a single word of English! That meant we could not communicate our navigation and intentions clearly to each other... The Pacific Ocean is now behind me, this large Ocean with all its beautiful islands, but I will surely come back again... I am now curious to see what the Arafura Sea and the Indian Ocean will be like…

Laura


18-08-2011

The wind is back and Guppy is galloping over the sea at a good 7 knots. There are only 50 nautical miles to go to the shipping lane and the very first reefs... From there it will be another 100 nautical miles to reach the 'real' Torres Strait that is about 170 nautical miles long. There I will have to be very watchfull and carefull too. Looking at the chart I see more reefs than water and many shipwrecks... On top of this there are very strong currents in that area which is often hit by heavy squalls. The wind is still blowing directly from behind, but Guppy is going pretty well with the poled out Genoa. Now I will try to sleep and take as much rest as possible since I won't have much chance for it in the next three days... After reading all the horror stories of other sailors about the Torres Strait I have become very curious as to how it will be... So I am eager to get there but at the same time I don't know what to expect…

Laura


17-08-2011

After a very quiet night daylight did not show up for work this morning... That is because of pitch-black clouds hanging over Guppy. The mega-squall I was expecting did not show up, but the 180° shifting winds coming from squalls a bit further away! So after a fight with the spinnaker pole and doing a sun dance on the foredeck, the clouds slowly disappeared and I could enjoy the sunrays again... The wind has shifted to my not very favorite direction and is now blowing directly from behind! It has also weakened too, so together those two things have cut Guppy's speed by 1,5 knots... But she is still sailing at a nice 5,5 knots so I really have no good reason for complaining. Gup is now only 75 nautical miles behind Sogno d'Oro [139 kilometres or 86 land miles], so chances are that I will have catched up on Henk by tomorrow night. I will also be closer to the shipping lane and the first reefs of the Torres Strait. I am very curious as to how it will be because of the many reefs and also because that is where two Oceans collide making for some strong currents... In any case, after the reefs I should be finished with cross seas and in no hurry to meet those again…

Laura

 


16-08-2011

Today the waves are higher and they are still coming from two different directions! Guppy is like a rocking horse gone wild and I, well I'm inside trying to do all the usual things like cooking, sleeping, navigating and the rest... And she is still sprinting ahead at 7 knots which to me looks like a good trade off. Slowly and steadily the ship traffic is getting busier, just this morning a big ship passed by and three more are now on my radar screen. So I am on the watchl! I am seriously catching up on Sogno d'Oro, already as much as 110 nautical miles [204 kilometres or 127 land miles]. Let's see if I can catch up to her before the Torres Strait...Looking inside the fridge I found a cucumber I didn't remember leaving there or I should say what's left of it. I always turn off the elctricity guzzler as I leave harbour so... That is because when I am at sea I want to be sure to have all the electric power I need to supply the navigation equipment. So things are going great - there is a little drizzling rain and from time to time the sun is shining - and the fresh air at sea is the best…

Laura


15-08-2011

Waves are still coming across from the side but Guppy just merrily cuts straight through them at 7 knots [13 kilometres or 8 land miles an hour]... In the morning my very first cargo ship of this leg came in sight, a reminder that the closer I get to the Torres Strait the more cargo ship traffic there will be... The weather is great, sunny with only a few scattered clouds in the sky and a pleasant 28° C [82,4° F]. Today I climbed up the mast to take a photo from up there just to discover that my feathered visitor of a few days ago had left more mess behind! It had also pooped all over the solar panel on the targa frame so that not even a little bit of a solar cell was visible... In any case this gave me something to do, otherwise the solar panels can not supply the electrical power my electronic equipment and lighting need. So as I kept my balance standing on the railing I scrubbed every square centimeter of the solar panel until it was all clean again. Just as I was finished with this work and turning around I spotted a buoy floating by... A buoy? ... With fishing net attached to it? Luckily, Guppy was going by the buoy 10 meters away from it [30 feet], and then it quickly disappeared over the horizon…

Laura

 


14-08-2011

Strong winds still blowing at an angle from side astern and I am still not sure if I should pole the Genoa out on the windward side.This has kept me busy for a while...That and the swell which is higher with waves coming across from the side. This morning a huge wave washed over us from the side which made the poled out Genoa flapping back and also flooded the lower part of the cockpit... There were things lying loose in the cockpit, a book, a towel, a cup and de rest a will miss coming week... I can only hope that Neptune have enjoy it! When it happened I was sitting inside the cabin and I slide to the lower side of the boat... The windvane had everything under control in no time flat and Gup sailed on as if nothing had happened at all... But I am still puzzling about what might have caused this huge wave... Otherwise everything is going great and Guppy is really flying. She is still doing 7 knots and so the Torres Strait is quickly getting closer. I have some mixed feelings about it since I will be leaving the beautiful Pacific Ocean which was an important part of my trip, and then start on a new chapter of my voyage. Since I have read so much about it, I am very curious to see what the Torres Strait will be like for real and I probably won't be able to sleep for some 48 hours then. Still 700 nautical miles to go before I reach the very first reef [1296 kilometres or 806 land miles], so I have a few days left to let my imagination run wild…

Laura

 


13-08-2011

Finally after five days of bobbing, the wind is back! Yesterday evening the threatening squalls that I could see all day on the western horizon, suddenly came rushing in at Gup... I quickly dropped down the mizzen sail and rolled in the Genoa but before I could do anything else a powerful wind gust hit us and all of a sudden we were going at almost 8 knots with only the mainsail up! [15 kilometres or 9 land miles an hour]. After five days spent sleeping the wind was obviously not focused for it came in turn from all directions, really from everywhere... Halfway trough the night it straigthened up and it is now blowing from the South South East. So now it is coming at an angle from astern and we are really moving with all the sails up... Guppy is going at 7 knots on a straight course so I had to adjust the windvane only twice. This kind of sailing is just mega fun! So for the first time on this leg I checked on distances covered and still to go. The entrance to the Torres Strait is less than 1000 nautical miles away now [1852 kilometres or 1151 land miles]! However it looks like there will be very little moonlight when I get there. Tonight the full moon was shining and even with a cloudy sky there was plenty of light.

Laura

 


12-08-2011

Bobbing and flapping... 2 knots, 2,5 knots and back to 2 knots speed... There is still no wind but the sky has turned a bit cloudier so I kept looking up all day to see if the clouds were moving – nothing ... The weather forecast said that I should have wind right ... Around noon I thought I would go crazy when Guppy started to drift because without wind the rudder is useless, and this happening after the little progress we had made... Apparently I still have to learn to be more patient... So with no winds and no water washing over the deck, I keep busy with small jobs on the boat. The steering wheel has too much sliding space on its axis and I tried everything to solve the problem but I feel it still is unreliable. Luckily, Guppy also has a tiller so I can steer her pretty well this way too. The bottom part of the Genoa is much worn out by the sun and now has small holes that I stitched or taped. After my bad experience with the spinnaker pole and tape back in Fiji -when everything became glued together- I came up with the idea to wrap rags around the sheets and to use the tape only for the ends. As far as I can tell this works much better. I still have 1873 nautical miles to go to Darwin [3469 kilometres or 2156 land miles] while Sogno d'Oro who is running ahead of me has good winds.... Well, I will have good winds at some point and then I will catch up on Henk before I sail into the Torres Strait.

Laura

 


11-08-2011

Wind is getting a little better. Last night I had to run the engine for a few hours but during the day we ran under sail at 3,5 knots speed... Again a bird came by for a visit, and this very lively specimen couldn't resist leaving his 'business card'... Yesterday he started on the foredeck and mainsail then finished the job last night with first covering the foredeck and mizzen and then going for the stern. Luckily because of the awning, the cockpit was spared the greetings. Guppy is not gaining sea over Henk and I'd rather not check on distance which I guess isn't much... But I am having good times here with reading and odd chores on the boat, not mentioning cleaning bird droppings that is. Yesterday night I watched a movie that I had swapped with another yacht sailor and of course I also talked with my equally unfortunate windless companions on SSB radio just like I do everyday. Most of my sailor friends are still somewhere in French Polynesia or Tonga. The closest yacht to me is Henk's Sogno d'Oro that is sailing about 260 nautical miles ahead [482 kilometres or 300 land miles], and he doesn't have much wind either... As much as I can say there should be good winds tomorrow. So, I should be covering a few miles closing on the notorious Torres Strait. The longer I study my charts with all the reefs and currents over there, the more I am eager to overcome this passage…

Laura

 


10-08-2011

Still only little or no wind... Today I ran a lot to wrestle with the sails, put the pole on the Genoa rolling it in and out, hoist the halfwinder try the spinaker... I also had to reef the mainsail otherwise it would be flapping too much (which is bad for the sail), then I undid the reef again, starting the engine and turning it off again... All that, and I did not even averaged a speed of 2,5 knots... This morning the day looked promising with enough wind to reach a speed of 3,5 knots! Now the swell has increased and I need more wind to prevent the sails from flapping. It is annoying that the wind lacks just a few knots so I could go by sail only, the wonderfully quiet peace of sailing undisturbed by the hum of the engine... Well, I have no other choice but to accept it. When not busy with the sails I played a little guitar and did some reading. But there is consolation in all of this and that is that there will be wind again sometime... According to the weather forecast this should be in a little more than 24 hours…

Laura

 


09-08-2011

There is very little wind. I am trying to sail a bit further with every puff there is but the speed does not get over 3,5 knots. Weather wise today was great and I spent much time reading and trying to find the best trim for each sail so we could move forward as much we could. I remain a sailor ... travelling with the slowest vehicle in the world and I still trying to go as fast as possible with it... But it does look like the wind has now definitely given its last breath which might mean a night with the engine humming. But there is a good side to it because I can use the electric autopilot that is powered by the electricity produced when the engine is running. In small wind the windvane is not doing such a good job and then I have to regularly steer manually ... As long as the sails do not start flapping, that is if we keep going over 2,5 knots, I will peacefully keep bobbing along... Of course I won't gain much distance on Sogno d'Oro this way since she is 320 nautical miles ahead of me... Still, Guppy is much faster and for sure she will catch up before we get to the Torres Strait.

Laura

 


08-08-2011

At opening time this morning I was already standing in front of the Customs Office door and after running from one place to another I was all done and set by midday... I was sent from one end of the city to the other end. That is how I had to go pay at a building in one of the furthest part of the city and then walk back to the Customs Office again just before going to the Immigration Office. If you need a duty-free form for something, then you just have to go somewhere else again... After that I went to get some diesel fuel, they just realize that my bank card was not accepted even though I had asked it before! So it was back to town to get money from the automated teller machine. After I paid for the diesel they found it would be much too heavy for me to carry all the jerrycans back. but my jerrycans and I were offered a ride back to Guppy which was really nice. In the end it all went pretty well. Guppy and I are now back at sea. The weather forecast was for not too much wind but up to now sailing is good. But the wind has slowly started to weaken…

Laura

 


07-08-2011

On our last leg Guppy became slower due to marine growth on her hull below the waterline so I dived into the water to give Gup's belly a good cleaning. There was not much growth on her hull but removing it regularly will keep her faster by half a knot [1 kilometre 0,56 land miles an hour]... I already had done this cleaning back in Tonga, but in the warm tropical waters marine growth develops mega fast .. I plan to leave tomorrow even though the weather forecast predicts little wind in the coming days which I do not like much... Well, a little wind is better than no wind at all .. Since yesterday I have a small headache and a little sore throat, so after diving I took things slower and spent time playing my new guitar and reading a book. My throat is getting better and I hope it will be the same with my headache .. I am eager to get back at sea and feel the freedom of being just Guppy, I and nature .. It will be a large passage of some 2400 miles to Darwin [4445 kilometres or 2763 land miles],with the notorious Torres Strait on the way.. This also means that I am leaving the Pacific Ocean, which is another milestone on my journey..  

Laura


06-08-2011

During my time here in Vanuatu I have met many local people including a nice family who has been living here for many years. They asked if I would like to go with them on an island tour - yes, of course!.. It was really nice and one of the many things we did was to go up the mountain and enjoy the beautiful view from there. I could see Guppy at anchorage and all the different colours of the water, from light blue to the deepest blue. At their house in the evening I enjoyed a nice supper out on their terrace. This morning I continued to work onboard Guppy. The exhaust of the Yanmar engine is leaking again but at a different spot this time.. the stern light malfunctions but its bulb is intact... and I changed the steering cables of the Windvane. I also stowed away the dinghy which almost made me fall overboard.This is the big dinghy and I had forgotten that it is not so easy to lift it back on deck.The dinghy almost won the fight but I used the winch and so it lost the fight. Then there was the next problem - the stern section... that is where I store my junk for I don't go there too often. And so it is, err... a little bit messy and chaotic in there. No amount of pushing and pulling could make the dinghy fit in there which meant only one thing... clean up... Again! Is there no end to it?! While I was busy clearing things a journalist came by, waited for some time before being disappointed a won't talk. Also I emptied some jerrycans of diesel fuel into the engine's tank, so that I can refill them again before sailing out since I can buy the diesel duty-free here. After all that I treated myself to some home-baked cookies and I made some rice with chicken and vegetables for dinner. I still have to practice cooking the Vanuatu rice... Luckily I am the only one who has to eat mine...

Laura

 


05-08-2011

The wind was whistling in the rigging when I awoke and it was cold - just 22° C [71,6° F]. Here at anchorage the yachts are coming and going and some have definitely left - among them Sogno d'Oro. This is giving Henk a head start of a few days over me ... I am thinking of clearing out next Monday and sail away. Strong winds are blowing today, around 35 knots [65 kilometres or 40 land miles an hour; force 7 on the Beaufort scale], and I have internet problems again... As far as I can tell my experience with Internet access has always been a catastrophe and up to now it has not been favorably inclined towards me. Maybe internet and yachts just don't go together... Most of the time the connection breaks down or is so slow that it is unworkable... Well, there is a solution to everything... and even the internet cannot stand up against 'Guppy-power'... So I went to a cafe not too far away that I knew for sure has internet access. They had just opened when I came in and had forgotten to activate the internet which I found out half and hour later after checking and changing some settings on the computer, but... in the end it is the result that matters... I now have a spokesman (click 'Contact') who will handle the media contacts because as a fact I cannot constantly be available to the journalists since I have lots to organize just for my journey. Things like maintenance work to 'Gup', stocking on food provisions, refilling with diesel fuel and fresh water, charting the route for the next leg, studying the weather charts and much more. This way I can better focus on my journey and the really important things.

Laura

 


04-08-2011

photo,s look at; www.lauradekker.nl
or last pictures.


03-08-2011

Back at the beach party I saw a really beautiful music instrument, it is like a twelve strings guitar... A boy was playing it and I asked him if I could try to play a piece on it. The sound of this guitar is so incredibly beautiful, it goes deep inside of your heart and that really captivated me. Then as I was visiting around the city I saw the same guitar in a small shop and after two days of dithering, I finally bought it today... Of course I spent the rest of the day playing it... It takes getting used to but its sound is so beautiful that I just could not stop playing... Yesterday Guppy and I have moved from the anchorage to one of the best places at the pier. I no longer need my dinghy to go ashore so I stowed it away... The people here in Vanuatu are very kind, and I have met many sailors who will be heading for Darwin too. This is very nice since we will meet there again for sure. I am still waiting for good weather conditions to make the big jump through the Torres Strait heading for Darwin...

Laura

 


01-08-2011

photo's

photo's ( see dutch weblog or hyves)

http://www.lauradekker.nl/Basis.aspx?Tid=2&Lid=12&Lit=VIEW


01-08-2011

Today started with a bright sunshine. I give a call to the customs office on vhf early in the morning and since I had catched lots of water last night I had already done my laundry before going. The Customs, Immigration and Quarantine procedures went like clockwork except for the part where I had to pay for each and every rubber stamp and slip of paper... This always makes me a little bit grumpy but maybe it was because while I was doing this it had started to rain... And my laundry was hanging out there to get all wet again and I was busy in town. But I am sure there will be another dry and sunny day sometime... After Customs I walked around the city and in the evening I enjoyed some more fun at the beach with the local people and many other sailors drinking Kava. This time I dragged Henk over with me, but he still is not sure what to think about Kava... Myself I don't really like Kava, but then it was a mega easy-going party and it just came with it... I also have found an internet access, and had much trouble uploading the pictures to my website. But in the end... I won the fight. So please enjoy the pictures of 'Messy', a beautiful sunset and leaving Fiji just between the reefs with Sogno d'Oro in the distance.

Laura

 


31-07-2011

After my night at sea sailing through squalls and thunderstorms I thought that I would have a very good sleep the following night when I took an early dive into my salty and humid bed... Not so for I was still wide awake two hours later and I just had to get up again... Then I spent the evening guitar playing with the sound of the breaking waves on the beach in the background.. At one point I had found a nice little tune that I have now forgotten, darn... In the end I fell asleep just to wake up early in the morning to find that 'Messy' had flown away... In the afternoon with other sailors I went to a beach party where I met many new people. Of course I had to taste the original Vanuatu Kava which is much stronger and even more repulsive than the one I tasted back in Fiji! From the beach I spotted Sogno d'Oro in the distance, coming in to anchorage. When I came back on board a while later, I thought that Henk would rather have a rest or sleep than a visit. Tomorrow is another day and with it the customs-clearance-festival …

Laura

 


30-07-2011

Unlike yesterday, I did not sleep much last night. We were hit by heavy squalls with some thunderstorms that made for a mega-spectacular show. At one time when I came in the cockpit to correct course in preparation for the next squall blow, I almost stumbled over a bird! He quietly sat there in the cockpit, did not fly away but kept sitting in my way... He refused to eat and drink, not even opening his beak for herring in tomato sauce... Because he is in the habit of pooping a lot, I baptized him 'Messy'. Now many squalls later, I am anchored in Vanuatu and 'Messy' is still there. As expected, I cannot clear customs before Monday, so I will enjoy a quiet evening aboard with calm winds and a great view of Port Vila.

Laura

 


29-07-2011

I enjoyed a very good sleep last night, the radar alarm did not go off once, not even the device that detects ships at more than 40 nautical miles! Still, I had to go outside six times only to correct our course a little bit. The high swell has weakened today and the wind is now blowing at a better angle from astern, so Guppy is going under full sails again. Sadly the sun faded earlier today just to be replaced by grey and boring rainy clouds unwilling to do their work but for a few annoying light showers that are quite useless for catching water… As usual every day I enjoyed talking on the SSB radio with other sailors in Tahiti or Tonga, and talking with Henk who in his small sailboat is some 100 nautical miles behind me... Meanwhile I started reading a new book, 'The long way' by Bernard Moitessier, who competed in a non-stop around the world sailing race [the so called 'Golden Globe Race' 1968 - 1969], but after rounding the globe, he decided to abandon the race and sail directly to Tahiti. It was given to me by someone who thinks that this was the right book for me, maybe believing I might do the same... Still 115 nautical miles left to go to Port Vila, Vanuatu, so chances that I am to arrive by daylight are getting better. However, it's unlikely that I will do all the clearance procedures this weekend because I would have to pay some high extra charges, so I will wait until Monday before I go ashore. But Guppy and I are very good friends so this should be fine…

Laura

 


28-07-2011

Once again the wind has weakened and is blowing directly from behind. As a result Guppy is heavily rolling back and forth and everything that was not nailed down is now lying on the floor. It wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for my bowl of cornflakes landing on top of it all... I changed the jib for the poled out Genoa and undid the reef on the mainsail. It is great that I can keep the hatches open so the sun can come in for occasional visits ... This really makes me feel good and I really hope the wind won't weaken some more. If Guppy keeps going at 6 knots there is a good chance that I will arrive in Vanuatu by daylight. Besides a cargo ship last night, there hasn't been much to see over here, no birds no fishes, and the last dolphins I have seen were when I was on my big crossing from the Galápagos to the Marquesas Islands – that's sad really. I now have gone by New Zealand. I still find it very annoying that I just sailed past it at 1200 nautical miles only... But I told Guppy that for sure we go there in the near future…

Laura

 


27-07-2011

After a somewhat longer than expected stop in Fiji, Guppy and I are back at sea. Back home I studied the weather charts and they showed a five days window stretch with good conditions for my crossing to Vanuatu, and so I wanted to set sail as soon as possible. The forecast is for strong winds blowing directly from behind, and then calm winds again ... And I need exactly five days for the crossing to Vanuatu... And then naturally for me, it looked like the clearing out procedures would never end but half a day and many rubber stamps later everything was done and I was ready to go. It is rainy with cloudy skies, but more importantly there is a good wind blowing... As we rounded an island on our way, Guppy asked for a reef in her mainsail as she bravely heaved close to the wind, meaning I had to ease off some sheet. A fishing boat that was sailing behind me has turned back, obviously heading for safe harbour. Of course Guppy now sails more under than on top of the water so I was baptized many times and everything is becoming salty again... Since the wind is blowing at an angle from behind and the sea is rough, reading or sitting outside in the cockpit is not possible. Instead I am trying to catch up on some of the sleep I missed during my exhausting past days and nights. But then 'Gup' and I are quite happy with the strong winds…

Laura

 


26-07-2011

I am back from my adventure aboard the three mast schooner 'Alvei', and it was super! Sadly there was just a little wind so we could not go under sails... But then, the 'Alvei' is equipped with a superb and mega-big twin cylinder SABB engine whose sound you can enjoy listening to all day. On the first day we headed for a small island to the north of Fiji and that was my chance to get to know the crew. We had planned to go scuba diving but because I have a bit of a cold, all my attempts at clearing my ears caused me earaches... So instead I decided to go snorkelling in the crystal clear waters and it was just as beautiful. I also had my first taste of the traditional drink called 'Kava' [made from the roots of the kava plant], and I came to the conclusion that I won't ever try it again... Blegh! It tasted like dishwater - as far as I can tell what dishwater tastes like. Yesterday morning I was to board a local boat for the 10 nautical miles back to the Fiji mainland while the 'Alvei' sailed further away with the tourists. But soon it became clear that the boat was not leaving on that day which meant that I was stranded on the island... So with three crewmembers from the 'Alvei' we went for a long tour all over the island including looking for a waterfall that we found in the end... we then followed the river down its path. That is easier said than done because the river ran between high rock walls and we sometimes had to climb down waterfalls. Soaking wet and back at the beach I spotted a local boat with they were loading. I immediately ran over to it and asked if they were heading for the main island - they were. After my farewells to all the ‘Alvei’ crewmembers, I quickly grabbed my duffle bag and jumped aboard...Then after a long bus trip, with usual too loud music included, I finally arrived in Suva where I was happy to find Guppy at anchor, just as nice and calm as ever.It was great to be back aboard my own little home after having been away for a while... As far as I can tell there should be good winds in the coming days and so I will try to clear out early tomorrow morning... I will lift anchor and head for Vanuatu.

Laura

 


25-07-2011

photo's


22-07-2011

My life is really full of surprises .. As of tomorrow and for a few days I won't have much opportunity to send in a new blog because I'm invited onboard a big square-rigged schooner that was at anchor next to Guppy. She is on her way to the northern part of Fiji and I have been offered to join in for a diving tour. Well of course I was not to say no .. The north side of Fiji sounds like a wonderful diving paradise and something that I really want to see .. So I will be away for a few days during which time I might not be in contact with the outside world. But … I'll probably have more to say when I come back. Henk will watch over Guppy while I am away and I have added a little more anchor chain so she is safe .. I spent the rest of the day enjoying a swim and doing small chores aboard Gup. "That's the good life"... When I'm back I should be good and ready to put on my hat and coat and be on my way .. And so again Gup and I will be on the move, the changing seasons not waiting for me …

Laura

 


21-07-2011

Icom America has sent me a brand new SSB radio directly to Fiji. It came in yesterday afternoon, and with some help from Henk of the Sogno d'Oro, we installed it right away. It works perfectly well, so much so that my friends in Tonga had to ask me to turn the power down because my signal was coming in too loud... Then I went to and back across the city streets several times to make purchases, and I even found the place where my mother and I had our picture taken some fourteen years ago. It hasn't changed at all over the years. There is a lot of coming and going with all the car traffic here and it is obvious that I am not used to it anymore...The people over here drive like madmen and driving on the wrong side of the road.. A trip by bus is an adventure of its own too, with loud music playing, the bus' suspension making you jump up and down as the driver keeps pushing the accelerator pedal to the floor. This is quite a contrast for someone like me that is usually travelling at 5 knots only…

Laura

 


20-07-2011

Look a the dutch weblog for pictures from me in Fiji 14 years ago and now.

www.lauradekker.nl 

 


19-07-2011

Since my arrival in Fiji I have done lots and I have met many new people. As I was inflating my dingy people form a closer yacht informed me that I should not leave my boat before the immigration and customs representatives had come aboard for an inspection. So I stayed on my boat the first day and waited for the immigration officers who showed up late in the afternoon. They were very kind and waited patiently while I very conscientiously completed the forms – just an incredible mountain of paperwork they had brought with them. As my papers were getting fatly rubber stamped, the Sogno d'Oro (the Midget 26') came chugging in to anchorage. The customs officers did not want to start the clearance procedure for Sogno d'Oro right away on the same day, so I couldn't go aboard her. However, I had earlier promised to Henk that I would treat him to some homemade pancakes upon his arrival and so I brought some over to him anyway...I know too well that it is not much fun to have to cook right after a crossing. Today I went to Suva along with a local resident. We went to watch a movie at a cinema... My last visit to a cinema goes way back in time. Suva is really a big and busy city which takes getting used to again, but then it is very nice. Although...only for now of course, until 'Gup' and I feel like setting sail again.

Laura

 


17-07-2011

Guppy and I have come through unscathed from the reefs, and around midnight we dropped anchor off the city of Suva, Fiji - then I enjoyed a good night sleep, all in one stretch. As far as I can tell Suva is a big city, cloudy for now, and with lots of large cargo ships traffic … Very soon I'll have to inflate my dinghy and start with the obligatory customs clearance procedures. It would seem that this is not so easily done here in Fiji, so I guess it will keep me busy for quite a few hours ...

Laura

 


16-07-2011

Yesterday Guppy and I sailed between the first islands, atolls and reefs. I was really surprised to see a mountain rising out of the water where I was expecting an atoll in its place... Obviously I had not carefully studied the obstacles on my map... But it really does not matter whether it was a mountain or an atoll ... neither will give way! I still have to go by an island, a reef and several fishing boats before I can head directly to Fiji. We sailed past the 180° longitude line so 'Gup' and I are now in the eastern hemisphere. Unfortunately the wind weakened again and Guppy is only going at 4,5 knots so I will most probably arrive in the dark. But that is not so bad because there will be a full moon shining and according to the map the approach should not be too difficult. So I am going to take a chance…

Laura

 


15-07-2011

After calm winds for the past several hours there is now a good sidewind blowing so 'Gup' and I are heading for the atolls at 6,5 knots... And it looks like it will be another very hot day. But I'm having a wonderful time here opening and eating down my stockpile of coconuts and reading – did I mention the banana regime slimming down too? hihi. Nice to be busy with that, the SSB is not working anymore.. But! Icom America came up with some super good news for me - they are sponsoring me with a brand new SSB radio! I am really super happy about this because it means that for the coming legs of my journey I won't have to try and guess where my fellow sailor friends are.

Laura

 


14-07-2011

Guppy and I are en Route again. At first the wind seemed to cooperate but later in the day it weakened and now it is blowing straight from behind... So Guppy is rolling and swaying quite a bit which doesn't make my life aboard any easier. Yesterday Henk's Midget yacht was out of sight just after a few hours of sailing and he is now out of my VHF-radio range. This means I can't be in contact with other sailors - so all is quiet onboard and I went back to reading my book... There are only 340 nautical miles left to go to the Fiji Islands [630 kilometres or 391 land miles], with many atolls and islands on the way. This means tomorow I have to keep a close watch and have just a little time for sleep …

Laura

 


13-07-2011

 

 Pictures:

http://solozeilster.hyves.nl/fotos/?ga_campaign=photoAlbumEntry_HUBPhotoBox_Header


13-07-2011

Today I am setting sail heading for the Fiji Islands. Yesterday I made all the last preparations. There was a mega-pile of laundry waiting for me... but more importantly I had to fix everything aboard so Guppy would be perfectly seaworthy again. Unfortunately I could not get the port clearing papers from the customs' officer yesterday so I had to go back there this morning. But then yes, it gave me another opportunity for a nice breakfast at the terrace overlooking the bay - and soon after to sail out. The 'Sogno d' Oro' (the Midget 26') will also leave for Fiji today but she will be sailing much slower than Guppy... Since my SSB radio isn't working I won't be staying in touch with Henk or with any other yacht more than 25 nautical miles from me or so [46 kilometres or 29 land miles] because it is about the range of a VHF radio... But this does have advantages: it will make it easier for me to fall back into my sea rhythm and sooner enjoy the quiet peace of the vastness surrounding me…

Laura

 


12-07-2011

There was no wind at all last night and mosquitoes came en masse to visit. So at 3 AM I was awake and I just couldn't fall asleep again... In the morning I could hear a lot of grumbling coming from the other boats nearby, so it seems that I was not the only one who didn't sleep too good. The shops are back to their regular opening hours and so I got down to work early today. I went for a visit at the health office to complete the customs clearance procedure and then I had to send a form to the Fiji Islands. As I stood there waiting, I realized that I had forgotten the ship's papers so I had to go back to Guppy. Back at the health office I learned that I had to pay 100 Tonga-Dollars [ 58 US $ or 39 Euro ] which I did not have with me. Why couldn't they say so before?... So I went to find an automatic teller machine to get the money just so I could get another dull paper slip in return. On my way back to Guppy the bags with all my purchases started to rip apart so, grumbling, I tried to walk a little faster to bring my stuff safely to my dinghy... And so it went on and on with my day's tasks... In the evening aboard Guppy I realized that I had lost the starter key for the dinghy... It really was a day full of pitfalls... hihi. But in the end everything worked out fine and I have done lots.

Laura

 


11-07-2011

Thank you very much for all the e-mails and advices about my SSB radio. I was given a small handheld transmitter by another sailor, so if the other ships are not too far away I can listen in to the radio traffic. I had planned to scrape off the growth from the underwater hull of my boat but it is too rainy and dark over here, and so I better wait until the sun shines again... I am now so used to the warm weather that I much prefer to swim on sunny days only – at 28°C [82,4 °F] the water temperature seems pretty chilly to me... hihi. Instead I 'dived' down to the engine room to check...the engines again. I refilled the Yanmar with oil  because it uses so much oil, unlike the Volvo engine that doesn't. I found another dead cockroach in the bilge and I immediately sent it to a watery grave. I think that all the cockroaches must be dead by now - I haven't seen a single live one for the last few months. Because it was raining all day, I decided to make a real rain catcher from an old piece of sail that I found during my clean up. Of course, when I had finished working on it, the heavy rain had stopped so I could only catch five litres of rainwater [1,3 US Gallons]. Well, it is better than nothing. Tomorrow everything will be back to the usual opening hours here, and then I will see if I can find some diesel fuel and where to go for groceries.

Laura

 


10-07-2011

With Henk we tried to reanimate my ICOM 700 Pro SSB radio. He has exactly the same, and as a test we installed it in place of mine - and it worked just fine! So what is not working is not my antenna tuner or anything with my installation... But with my radio installed it still kept blowing its internal fuse, so there really is something wrong with it. So I had to give up my repair attempt and I will have to wait until I am in Darwin to get a new one... Still I enjoyed my Sunday tthat happens to be Saturday for most of the world. I went all around the bay in my dinghy, which brought me to a beautiful reef where I hurt my foot again... Taking shoes with me obviously seems to be the only thing I will never learn. But I am getting used to it by now, haha. Then later in the day it rained and I tried to catch some water. Tomorrow is a holiday here in Vava'u and probably that all the shops will be closed. This means that I will have to wait until Tuesday to make my purchases and food provisions for my next leg.

Laura

 


09-07-2011

I kept busy all day mostly doing small things aboard, like cleaning the boat again, inflating the dinghy and with one mega-task...Lately my SSB radio was doing weird things and today it fell completely silent. I checked around on everything so Guppy became a huge mess from bow to stern and I still have not solved the problem. In the end I figured that there must be a failure somewhere inside the SSB radio electronics that I most probably cannot repair. The fuse inside the radio had blown, and the same happened with the replacement one right away... And so I spent all day finding things I was not searching for. But in turning everything upside down in the boat I found many other things that had gone missing for some time - and I learned everything there is to know about my SSB-radio. Well, it might come to be useful!.. After all that I decided not to cook dinner for myself, so with Henk from the Midget sailboat, I went to eat a big Burrito at a small restaurant overlooking the whole anchorage in Vava'u. I still have the radio problem but I try not to think too much about it for now - however, I am very sad that my black talking box that has come to mean so much to me has died. It was a sad day in the life of a young solo sailor.

Laura

      


08-07-2011


08-07-2011

I am moored in Tonga. Last night I tried to sail very slowly, but I still was too fast even after replacing the Genoa by the storm-jib, Guppy was still doing 3 knots! At dawn, the very much slower Midget 26' sailboat had catched up with me and we sailed in together behind a large cruise ship, following in its wake – going in between all the rocks and small islands towards the anchorage. This really was the best approach I ever did. The islands and the rocks looked so magical and beautiful in the morning light, with the palm trees standing out of all the greenery, and the whole scene shrouded in a soft light mist. Tonga is very beautiful. I spent most of the day clearing customs, which is not that easy to do over here, even though everybody is very kind about it all. I had to do a bunch of paperwork for the immigration office, the customs, the quarantine office and much more until everyone was happy.. Oh well, I have plenty of time. Then I enjoyed an ice-cold Cola on a terrace, satisfied to see Guppy lying at anchor between many other yachts - this was an exhausting trip and I should have been taking a rest instead. But oddly enough, I was not really tired even though I had not slept at all the night before. I wanted to enjoy my very first day in Tonga, and that went well. I guess tonight I'll sleep pretty good... As for tomorrow, we'll see…

Laura

 


07-07-2011

There is a pretty wind blowing again, but at this time I don't really want it. Guppy is now going too fast! I have 35 nautical miles left to go but because of all the reefs around Tonga, I just don't want to get there by night... So for now 'Gup' is sailing under Genoa alone at 3,5 knots. I hope that I won't have to sail along the reefs for too many hours before sunrise... I keep busy watching for the International Date Line because I believe I am sailing right over it right now or so I think... hihi. As for the announced Tsunami I din't expect that it would become a problem -Tsunamis only occur in shallow water near coastlines and it is 3,5 kilometres deep under my current position [11500 feet]! I hope to I catch up on some sleep tonight, and then early tomorrow morning I will move in my new destination.

Laura

 


06-07-2011

After many hours on a close course that felt like being on a rocking horse the winds slowly faded. Guppy made good progress and from going too far South she is gradually heading back to West. We sailed all night before the wind started teasing us again .. Guppy was smoothly moving so I had a good sleep and I cooked something tasty for dinner. I now feel reborn .. From my daily SSB radio chats, I learned that Guppy and I were getting very close to another yacht we had already made contact with a few days ago. We kept in touch via VHF radio and in the afternoon it appeared on the horizon. It is Dutch! A solo sailor on a small Midget 26 sailboat. We got closer and the middle aged man played some songs on his accordion as we quietly bobbed alongside for a while. I tried to throw a chocolate bar over to him but after landing on his yacht it bounced into Neptune's kingdom .. He too is on his way to Tonga so we will see each other there again .. Still 140 nautical miles to go [259 kilometres or 161 land miles], and I think I will arrive within two days.

Laura

 


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