IN SAUDI ARABIA

I am in Saudi Arabia for a short job, inspecting a couple of ships.  Its quite warm and everything is covered in sand, not really my type of place but I should be able to top up the boat fund and carry on preparing for next summer.

Anyway, I went offshore yesterday and got marooned on a ship overnight.  With not much to do I started flicking back on the laptop through old photos.  I was surprised to see that I was in Pelican, Alaska on this date – TWO years ago!

Main Street Pelican. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce
Main Street Pelican. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce

Pelican was an interesting place, the sort of place not many people get to as it’s off the beaten track.  I remember interesting and friendly people, a library with good WiFi, fresh salmon and good beer.  Very enjoyable.

Fresh Salmon. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce
Fresh Salmon. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce

Flicking forward in time to one year ago I found a photo of the underside of the mast where it exits the coach roof, with bits of wood smashed up to make makeshift mast wedges.  At the time I was on my way from San Francisco to Hawaii, it was a bit disconcerting when some mast wedges dropped out and creaks started emanating from the mast.  I think the change of climate may have caused the wooden wedges to shrink a bit as we headed south.  I was happy to have fixed the problem and arrived in Hawaii where I made a more permanent fix once in port.

Makeshift Mast Wedge. Sailing Yacht Truce.
Makeshift Mast Wedge. Sailing Yacht Truce.

This year I find myself offshore Saudi Arabia.  I haven’t been in these waters since I was a young man working on a pioneering SBM project to service the super-tankers of the day.  We managed to achieve amazing things with very little equipment – maybe because we didn’t understand we could fail.  There are far more platforms, barges, rigs and workboats around than the old days – it’s a very busy place now.

Work Barge Offshore Saudi Arabia. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce.
Work Barge Offshore Saudi Arabia. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce.

By this evening I should be back onshore and writing up my reports.  Then its back on the plane in a couple of days, back to New Zealand and the winter weather.

10,000 MILES WITH TRUCE

Banging to windward all last night and today on starboard tack.  Getting to New Zealand is a battle, every mile must be won.  I am not complaining – some are still in the north waiting for a break in the weather and one yachtsman is sheltering at Raoul Island.

The daybreak this morning was beautiful and the day is sparkling but the wind is cool from the south west.  I am seeing more birdlife today, this morning we were visited by an albatross.  The bird circled a couple of times before flying alongside, looking us over with the beady eye of the ancient mariner.  What majestic animals.

This morning I was completing our voyage records and discovered that today Truce and I have just completed 10,000 miles together today.  We did 2,700 plus miles last year between Canoe Cove and Glacier Bay in Alaska.  This year we have done over 7,200 miles across the Pacific, from Canada to New Zealand.  I would say we know each other quite well although I still have much to learn.

Now less than 300 miles to Opua.  But we still have a calm patch and a gale to get through.  The maximum forecast winds for Tuesday have just increased from thirty-nine to forty-two knots.  Oh boy – I don’t fancy that.  I will hank on the storm staysail tomorrow.

RAIN ON SUNDAY, SUN ON MONDAY

Yesterday was a damp squid.  Rain all Saturday night and Sunday morning.  Sunday was overcast, wet and showery, cool all day.  Onshore it was very quiet, hardly anyone about, shops all shut.  I suppose everyone has gone to church and retreated home, the sort of day you want to have a nice fire and stay put.

Today is sunny with a nice cool breeze.  I walked over to the customs office and enquired about clearing out – particularly if I could clear out and anchor out for a day or two.  The first customs guy said no problem, I could have 24 hours after clearing out.  Then his boss with four stripes came and said no.  I would only have an hour to leave after clearing out and I could not go to anchor.  He said he had problems with other yachts clearing out and then anchoring for days and it must stop.

I would like to go out and anchor for a couple of days.  But if I need to come back into port for clearance its not worth the trouble.  I will hang around in Nuku’alofa until it’s time to depart.

The passing of the rain has unleashed a plague of Mosquitoes.  These are serious insects, cunning and tenacious.  I have the mosquito screens in place buy still they find a way in.  On board I have some mosquito and fly spray from Alaska, it worked fine in Alaska – stopping deer fly without any problems.  But – it doesn’t seem to worry the Tongan Mosquitos, they just keep coming.  One of the disadvantages of being tied up in port.

Later I wandered into town.  Everybody is very friendly and after being here for a few days people are recognising me (and me them) and the greeting are turning into conversations.  So many of the people I speak with have been to, lived in or have relatives in New Zealand.  It seems the remittances from family members in New Zealand plays a big part bin the economy here.

Previously I have extolled the qualities of Tonga bacon.  When walking about outside the main town you can see pigs and piglets running around, foraging all over the place.  They look happy, contented and plump.  Good bacon must be the result of such a life.