October 13th, 2009 · 7 Comments
After departing the Natty M in Bora Bora I (Kahlil) was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to sail aboard a 45ft Catamaran ‘Shimmi’ from Tahiti to Fiji, helping a South African couple, Gideon and Chantal, and their two sprogs, Josh and Indie. Gideon is a legend pioneer ex Indo surf charter captain and together we planned a bit of surf exploration in Fiji, and we managed to sniff out a few waves.
After a full on twelve days at sea, punctuated by a pit stop in Western Samoa to hide from strong winds (several days of line squalls under just a third reef main was quite enough for us, the result of a dreaded south pacific “squeeze zone”), we were nearing Fiji. Things got a little frightening for me when a small scratch on my hand turned into a full blown tropical infection with trails of red travelling up my arm at alarming rates. Oddly dying of infection hundreds of miles from medical help was second in my mind to the thought of arriving with the surf pumping and me boat bound. It was over a month for all of us since our last waves in Tahiti (for me an Teahupoo line-up with just me and Dizzy trading waves at dawn). Thankfully a strong dose of antibiotics got it under control and when we hit solid ground I was ready for anything. On arrival our bodies were drained but our froth was high. The fridge was full of yellow-fin tuna after a simultaneous five fish hook-up.
Kahlil and Gideon weightlifting
We were in a far flung corner of the islands and we had no idea where surf might be save for a digital image I saved from Google earth of a left-right combo reef-pass eighty miles away, the waves far offshore. With no other knowledge of the waves in the area it was a long shot, but the promise of empty perfection was enough to get us out there.
Captain Gideon getting some stress release
Looking for waves this way is no easy task. You have to get permission from the authorities, navigate to the area, weather permitting, and scope out a suitable anchorage without running aground, with poorly charted coral reefs all over the place, all before even considering getting a wave. We arrived late in the day and frantically zoomed about looking for an anchorage while I scaled the mast with a radio and used polarised sunglasses to spot dangers. The surf was flat when we arrived but the potential was obvious and with a forecast swell we were amping. In the end an anchorage was found but it was quite far from the waves.
Our warhorse Shimmi
The wait gave us the time to visit the local village chieftain and bring them a customary offering of Kava root called sevusevu, a requirement to anchor in their waters, walk their beaches, surf their waves, and fish in their waters. It was a solemn and powerful ceremony and the villagers kindly offered to guide us around the local area and bring us any fruit we desired.
Hanging with the Chief post sevusevu, Giedon, Josh, and Kahlil in the back.
The next day was spent tearing around in the dinghy with a chart and handheld GPS mapping the area so we could anchor the boat closer to the waves. We lucked out and found a small sandbar and moved the boat over. Spearfishing became the afternoon entertainment for the boys, and the added excitement of keeping the sharks at bay, but above water it soon became clear the swell was on the rise as racy 2ft peelers started reeling down the reef in front of us. Chantal and I went out for a super fun session all by ourselves while Gideon took a bullet and looked after the kids. That night I barely slept, knowing the swell was on the rise.
Alas! The morning revealed ugly onshores and we were forced to retreat to another anchorage far from the surf and wait for better winds and the next swell. We did not have all the time in the world and our days in this area were ticking down. The frustration was mounting and we all feared the whole expedition would be a failure. After another few excruciating lay days and we made our way back to the wave zone, but the swell was days away yet. I entertained myself by paddling 4 miles away with my surfboard and spear-fishing equipment in tow, but managed to lose the paddle and had to be rescued by Gideon. I felt a little sheepish after having been warned not to lose the paddle before I left. Thank god for VHF radios.
Kahlil snags a little peeler
The swell finally arrived! I was frothing like a brewery as we anchored the boat right in front of the piping righthander in the photos. It was such a release for all of us to snag a few tight barrels by ourselves in the warm water with the sun out. Chantal snapped the pics from the deck of the boat while Gideon and I traded waves. Even face-planting into my board and putting my front teeth through the deck failed to detract from my frenzied session. Satisfied, I returned home to NZ where my feet froze and the tops of my toes fell off, leaving me planning my next crazy boat expedition. Outer island Indo by clapped out fishing boat? North Papua in some rusty wreck? Maybe I’ll buy a barge and stick some sails on it, see where the currents take me. Till then, froth on.
A big thank you goes out to Gideon and Chantal, who have been scoring epic New Caledonia (without me!!!).
Photos by Kahlil Lawless and Chantal Wilkins, edited by Gus Lawless
Tags: Kahlil's Blog
All good El Skippo, but only coz we face a little bit of west and the wave was an east swell, we got so lucky…..I was running for the trees clutching surfboards sreaming for the guests to get outta bed (it hit at 7am) and we had waist to chest high surges, but the island of Upolo east of here took telegraph pole size sets, and Salanis resort and all others are gone, replaced by mud an dbodies. Its pretty messed up man, the bubble has burst dude. Its heavy here and the smell is rancid. Still troopin along tho bro, surviving and thankful.
All good mate, more soon Diz
Tags: Dizzy's Blog
September 25th, 2009 · 6 Comments
Dizzy checking in once again…
Talofa folks, Its been a short while since my departure from Natty M, and much has changed, and much has stayed the same.
French immigration were giving me the hard word about my extended bliss in their country and I needed to find a boat instantly, definitely the most horrible part of a travelling life. I had just enough time for a few more sessions at my favourite haunts in Tahiti with my lovely lady before dealing with departure.
One for the road, always time for one more
Found my next boat very fast over the internet, and promptly was helping a complete stranger sail to Samoa who I met over the internet, all arranged in the space of a day and a half. Hmm. A little concerning going to sea for 1200 miles with a gent you don’t know from a bar of soap, but had little choice with immigration on my back so Western Samoa eventuated.
Eagle Wing in more happy and buoyant times at Samoa marina
The passage took a little under 2 weeks and the utter stranger that I shared it with is no longer that, but a very easy going American who has a few decisions to make.
Just the two of us sailing is a step into a firmer reality, and if you are not sleeping or cooking, then you are manning the helm. She is a big beast, concrete and filled full o home-living, and handles like a shopping trolley on a shattered footpath. Without the Captain Kyber or Kahlil and all other hands on deck my sailing has matured out here and the liability feels good, piloting a big ship across the worlds biggest ocean, making our way westwards, especially golden every evening as you push and fight towards the defining glow on the horizon of the lowering sun, strive and charge towards it, to catch its descending inferno and race to catch its point on the perpetually escaping horizon.
The prize over the horizon I went seeking for. Aganoa rights full steam ahead
We felt the violent rhythm of the world’s largest water mass rumbling and stirring in its mighty winter movements below us and all around us, and were buffered by corduroy arranged military ranks of grim grey waves which hold their domain with contempt to our lengthy intrude out here by constantly fighting against our bearing. But with diligence and weary strength (a broken autopilot and a concrete hull make for an exhausting two man passage) we made our course, and 1000s off miles have dissolved into singular victories into our wake behind us.
And every wave that mocks our pathetic ungainly motions and left our tiny boat spitefully behind, fluidly ghosted past towards its final destination ending as a breaking, roaring wave on the islands. And now, now in sweet revenge, I am there upon my boards gliding across their backs as they again try to shake me once more. Ah, but this time I can rip every wave’s head off, slash splash and disembowel and slaughter them with creative savagery. For out at sea these arranged military formations of mischief indomitably brush us to rolling, fumbling off their backs, but my new occupation is finding those waves that rushed ahead of me and savour their slaying hissing at my feet.
Such sweet sweet revenge at last, but not my personal victory dance (cuz its not me unfortunatly, a guest on Aganoa rights for the bars entertainment)
Every wave that tampers and taunts our heading knocks us to all sides and ruffles our sails above, and the rumble of a highly taut fighting fabric of a sail is an orchestra of galloping whips thundering across the decks, with only yourself to witness. Our bowsprit has been leading, thrusting like a drunk and sedated pigeon as seen from behind, bobbing and belligerently lunging us forward, slowly we make our way. Unfortunately the boat was terminally stopped by the eventual victory of the oceans might. Eagle Wing now rests on the seabed off Nukualofa, Tonga, brought to rest by cracking concrete in the hull during the final storms that pounded us into Samoa. Fortunately I Jumped ship in Samoa, ya gotta know when you hold and fold em, as the writing was on the wall with the condition of Eaglewing.
Always wanted to get shipwrecked on a distant island with waves, the clichéd scenario come to life, so be careful what you wish for. Things seems to be falling into a comfortable rhythm here as I have been given a home and regular feeding times in return for my services as a surf guide and server at Aganoa Beach Retreat, Savaii, Western Samoa. I got the job partly from connections made in my hitchhiking exploits (39 random cars in 2 weeks, haha yeah I got around).
Me in the back of ute number 22
The expat surfer crew here are pretty tight, and there’s about 30 surfers from Aus or New Zealand here sharing the waves so hitchhiking and being a thirsty, boozey, round buying sailor of an evening took care of the introductions. In less than a week I knew mostly all from a combination of buying the right guys beers and standing by the muddy rainforest trails with my thumb out, and with my boating and global wandering background it set me onto this current position.
Home sweet sandy home
My wooden hut is half onto the beach, the front balcony is in the sand, and the ocean side has no wall so I lie on my mat and diligently keep my eyes on my work, that being the waves.
The view from bed, no more excuses to be late for work!
Mornings we machete thwack a few papayas and coconuts for the guests breakfast and russle them out of bed. Every day here we have been able to surf the reefs within heckle of our bars balcony, or get the boat and mission for the outer reefs to fish or search for other waves. Finally summarized my last near decade of missioning to the far corners of the mosquito repellent canister lifestyle into a day to day occupation. The bars viewing balcony is 200 feet long and runs around the restaurant giving the diners a prime and centred view of the aquatic action, We limit our number of surfers at 15 max, but a crowd in the water is 6 people.
This keeps the surf a zen place to be and allows all participants to enjoy their time out there by catching more waves and avoiding frustration. Its actually kinda weird after working, striving, hitchhiking to the most remote lost corners of the world to have to surf with other people again (ewww, surfing solo is magic in its spell of self reliance and soul),not only that but my duty is to make sure complete strangers are aware of the secrets of the wave, which completely contradicts my nomadic, hitching wanderings of before, in which is the intrepid explorers learn their own damn secrets and its up to each surfer to interpret the coast with their knowledge to maximise their gains.
Me and the other samoan local surfer, ready to devour. Bananas fronds make easier laundry.
The only surfers in Savaii that are local kids work at our camp, and his name is seabass (Sebastian, and yep, one local surfer for this island, the locals are much too lazy to go to the effort to learn something like surfing) and is welcoming into the samoan village life in every facet. The pioneer and owner of this place, Keith, ex Aussy who has spent his life much the same as how mine has begun. He used to be a gypsy like me, who was exploring the Fiji/Tongan/Samoan by sail power amongst the islands in the 1970s finding the waves to himself that have overcrowding pesky resorts and crowds plaguing them today. His travels rival mine for distance and countries roamed, and we have walked some similar footsteps. He was among the first guy to the famed spots that hold the world surfing tour now (Tavarua being one of em, bastard!!). The more I live the more I realise I was a generation late. Babyboomer buggers ate all the fish, petroleum products and property and got to the waves before surfing got so fashionable. Keith is a Complete pioneer and has completed the mission that I seem to be accidentally undertaking (global surf wanderer). He, like Kyber before him, are good libraries’ of information and Buenos hombres to have as bosses, and there’s is much to be studied as I envision my future being similar to his achievements in adventure surf tourism.
If the waves are less than desirable then I have been helping take tours around the island. Although it lacks the skyline deformities of Tahiti’s bizarre mountains, Samoa has its beauty in the details, and the fact you can drive for kilometres and find no cars, just people asleep everywhere. The locals have ‘fales’ which is a house essentially, but the local way is to have no walls, just timbers supporting a thatch roof, so anyone can wander in from any side and have a nap, before wandering to the neighbouring house. And having another nap. This seems to occupy their days for the most part here, leaving the waves for us foreigners (lovely). I have never met a more narcoleptic race before, and sleeping, working in the plantations, fishing, church and rugby pretty much fills their peaceful days.
The islands possess no shortage of geological bizarities to display for the guests, with blowholes, geological and volcanic formations dispersed through the jungle.
Another geyser-esque eruption dwarfs our guests that scurry about trying not to get canon launched
In much the same essence of the Natural Mystic mission, my current trajectory is still seeking waves and foreign culture. It’s a big ocean and much to explore, and it appears no end of secrets to find in the mighty Pacific. Looks like Ill be busy for a while. Thanks again for reading all, Peace.
Tags: Dizzy's Blog
Tags: Natural Mystic
Tina shooting me on an Island that supposedly has no waves.
We’re still just hanging out, surfing, fishing and having fun as always somewhere in French Polynesia, but its just two of us on Natural Mystic these days. After over a year of fateful service aboard Natty M the commonwealth kids went their separate ways. Kahlil back to New Zealand by first sailing to Fiji on a South African flagged catamaran Shimmi and Dizzy is currently sailing to Tonga on who knows what as the government here just would not let him stay, while Dom found a new line of work for a little while and so now its just Tina and myself. Enjoying each others company in paradise before our new crew arrives in mid October.
Kahlil's last ride in Red Rocket.
A big THANK YOU to all the boys for all their hard work, dedication and all the fun times we had together. I know the time we all shared together was probably some of the best times of my entire life and I will cherish the plentiful memories forever. Miss you guys!!!
Leaving Dizzy behind in Teahupoo.
I needed a little break from the Blog thing for a while, its a lot more work than you would think, so hopefully I’ll get back into it soon enough and maybe fill in our audience with a little more detail than this cursory entry. So until then enjoy life, cuz we sure are and all those photogs better watch out, cuz Tina is doing a good job with the camera these days. Cheers – Kyber
A Swell sunset with Natty M too at Chopo.
Tags: Natural Mystic
I’ve officially settled back into domestic life on land though a piece of me still remains at sea. A nomadic call from the road shouts so I abide. As the Natural Mystic rocks in lagoons w/ more drama than a primetime (Un)reality show, I sprawl out into the wild west. It’s a warzone out here on the road. My trusty steed propels me 6 times faster than the NastyM as I shed a salty skin so accustomed to constant motion.
As I ramble through the desert where the navajo spirit still burns in the air I come across Canyon De Chelly.
After spending the day exploring Indian lookout caves from generations of war in wind and water carved sandstone, I had reached a meditated sense of where and how. This place is truly inspiring. Unlike the Grand Canyon’s feeling of untouched vastness, Canyon De Chelly reaches out to you.
Thousands of years of erosion literally attack your skin. Sand blown from frigid pre-dawn winds are later sweat from your pours during the days solar assault.
This scrub-brushed tinderbox is a land where lightning ignights fires no one sees.
I arrive in Santa Barbara just in time for fire season. Poor SB has just been getting punished for Isla Vista’s kinky karma with a relentless firestorm
I’m fine with the wildfire and earthquake scene in SoCal so I know where to go…
Another familiar retreat I have lies in the rugged snowfields of the Eastern Sierra’s. The lure of high altitude has been a driving force in my life since I was a grom. Even while bronzing in the tropics last year, Mammoth’s call from thin air rang in my ears.
So without hesitation I returned to my stomping grounds to tempt gravity.
When all the freshly deposited powder was used and abused, it was time to head southward. Departing the majestic mountains is hard but the possibility of snowboarding and surfing in the same day motivates us. I am starting to miss my lil’ furball I had left behind in SB to guard the house. While I was exploring Arizona a feral desert dog found me and asked me for some jerky. After I showed her a taste of the good life that night in the Holiday Inn, she wouldn’t leave my side. I return to Casa Del Russ- the palatial estate perched on Santa Barbara’s Riviera but my time there is fleeting.
It’s high time I get to LA for some work.
The nightlife is still thriving in Hollywood but with strikes and other economic drama looming, the work in scant. So I head back on the road towards my family and my Southern Belle.
I make it back in time to join the muddy mayhem of the Iroquois Steeplechase.
Thousands of Southerners put their Sunday’s best on to go play in the mud.
There’s a lot going on in Nashville. It’s a thriving city but it’s doesn’t take long before your out-there surrounded by wildlife.
As I adjust to another locale I strive to shoot as much as I can while transitioning my business to this region.
I’ve made the full transition back to a land-lubber. I have tasted the fruits from far off lands but now I enjoy the local produce here in the South. I’ve been all over the country since leaving my mates in Tahiti, yet the Natural Mystic seems to be a permanent fixture in French Polynesia. I can only hope Kyber is still there when I get the urge to be submerged under the best waves in the world.
Tags: Ben's blog
Ru's lovley daughter
We arrived at the unique island store, looking for a refreshing beer or two after briefly visiting Ru’s family full of curious children and a couple of lethargic grandparents who never rose from their lounging positions.
We mingled with all of them in their quaint open air home, which everyone shared. It was conveniently located near the enclosed dingy harbor and after warm greetings all around and some explanations about local customs and misconceptions, like the large wooden cross we saw on the boat entering the harbor is actually a mount for a deep sea tuna fishing reel and not a tribute to God. I found, I’d promised we’d all go mackerel fishing with the little wooden poles I inquisitively inquired about, later that afternoon. But more on that in a bit.
We're on a Beer Run
Let’s focus on the beer for a second. Dom and myself climbed into the back of Ru’s little black Japanese pickup truck, seated ourselves comfortably facing aft on plastic picnic chairs, while I’m sure Dizzy jabbered Ru’s ear off in the cab and slowly we journeyed down the dirt road, proudly on display for all the islanders to marvel at. After a longer than expected parade route, past cute little homes, obvious government buildings all in various states of disrepair we came to the store or more accurately. Someone’s home with containers full of stuff in their lagoon-front yard they would open up for your inspection upon arrival and sell.
Main Drag Through Town
And wouldn’t you know it, most stuff that was available her, was cheaper then in Tahiti. The beer, Aussie VB, at a little less than a buck a beer was over half as cheap as Tahitian Hinano and so was most of the other tasty stuff, like New Zealand honey, jams and Weet-bix cereal. Its hard to believe, almost incredulous that on an island with no real modern infrastructure, sporting a coral airstrip built during WWII, by American GIs, with no scheduled flights ever and a supply ship that comes once every four to six months, if the islanders are lucky, most goods are much cheaper here than in civilized Tahiti, with its modern port and transportation infrastructure. That just seems more than a little backwards to me, but hey there must be some reason for it’s occurrence and I’m just hazarding a guess, but maybe it has something to do with the ludicrous amount of French bureaucracy and stifling taxes of French Polynesia.
The ultra nice store lady, speaking in a thickly charming New Zealand accent could only sell us on the beer, as we were still quite well stocked-up and was quite impressed we had New Zealand dollars in our possessions to pay with, as her husband runs the only money changing operation on the island and had yet to ever meet prepared cruisers coming from FP, armed with native currency. Leave it to us young bucks set the cruising preparedness bar a bit higher. So, with a case of VB in hand and most our change going to pay our reasonable Cook Island entry fees we bailed back to Natty M, to chill the tropical temperature beer in our growing roomier, post-passage fridge. So, after the onslaught of a rapid 740 NM, 3 day passage, straight into multiple immigration officials (we had to meet with the health official too, but I think we would all like to keep that confidential), a pile of paperwork, then a mission to get change and beer, we had a solid 20 minutes to rest up before we were suppose to return and pick up Ru. Just minutes before sunset for our mackerel fishing mission.
While visiting Ru’s home, I discovered these maybe 3 foot long little fishing poles stored in the head bangingly low rafters and inquired about their use, as I had seen nothing like them before and love fishing. Beige in color, they are made from a slim native tree branch, which is stripped of it’s bark, then sun cured and it’s tip outfitted with a 6 inch peace of line, tied to a swivel, then attached to a custom fabricated, ultra thin diameter, ultra long shanked, tiny, sharp as hell hook, with a white piece of cotton lint permanently adorning its tip. Ru informed us they were made to catch the local mackerel, which he swore were absolutely delicious and invited us to go fishing with him and find out how. Even with thoughts of mackerel back home in California being a shit fish swimming through my head, how could I pass up such a nice offer and quickly accepted his invitation.
Ru's and his little fishing poles
Dom was feeling a little worn out (equals no photos of the hot action) after his first ocean passage and volunteered to stay behind, rest up and guard our yacht, but Kahlil and Dizzy were game and we picked up an equipped with a pole for each of us, Ru from the beach. Who promptly asked where our masks and fins were? I must have missed the part where you bring your mask and fins fishing, but apparently these tiny poles are meant to be used under the water. We jammed back to the mother ship, grabbed our snorkel gear and headed out the pass we came in through earlier that day. Traveling north to an inconspicuous spot just off the awash reef where Ru told us to stop. There was a short, maybe 200 foot wide bench, about 25 feet deep of the lushest coral garden you have ever seen, which we instructedly chucked our dink hook into, that dramatically just ends and plunges straight down into inky darkness. The consistent offshore winds hold your boat off the reef and we quickly snorkeled-up, as all around us flocks of Boobies and Terns dove at their prey and squadrons of flying fish burst forth from the sea, skillfully evading the yet unseen predators lurking all around us. My senses were overwhelmed. I’m thinking, the Sky is alive! The ocean is alive! I feel, for the first real time in my life I’m truly in a wild place, a place where man’s influence hasn’t overrun and obscured nature yet, and I absolutely love it.
Ru explains he uses shaved coconut for bait and promptly shoves a great wad of the stuff into his large mouth and disappears over the side with a pole. Quickly we all follow suit and are memorized by what we see underwater. Even in the dying light, multitudes of brilliantly hued corals radiate mesmerizing colors and large schools of fish are everywhere. Jack fish, reef fish, bait fish, tuna fish, shark fish; all appear and soon to, do our targeted schools of mackerel. Ru swims down a few times and spews some of the coconut out of his mouth, gradually doing this closer and closer to the boat and soon a cloud of coconut crazy mackerel surround us, greedily devouring what I never imagined would have been tasty to a fish. Everyone hung on to the side of the boat and took turns spiting out their mouthfuls of coconut, while plunging hooks, baited with coconut imitating white lint on the hook tip into the eagerly attacked coconut cloud and wham! Its fish on, then another and another! These mackerel are not too big, maybe 10 inches long, but plump, with fluorescent light blue and yellow stripes that run down their sides and they are just flying into our boat’s bucket about as well as Shaq shoots free throws, for we are catching them at quite a furious pace. With one hand clinging to the boat’s rail, you watch up close, underwater, as they strike the little coconut imitating hook, on your little pole, while you quickly set the hook in their tiny mouth and hopefully, in one fluid motion, dexterously fling them out of the water and into the boat, trying to catch as many as you can before the coconut cloud disappears into the mackerel’s stomachs and they quickly stop biting. Lets just say we didn’t find all the ones that missed the bucket, but a couple, nauseatingly found their way between my toes two days later.
In maybe 15 minutes of fishing, we filled half of a five-gallon bucket with fish and were feeling quite proud of ourselves, even though Ru informed us we didn’t quite perform to island standards. What ever, we killed it! No one got bit by the numerous, highly inquisitive sharks (something we are all very use to now), everyone had a super fun time, while learning something completely new and now we had some tasty fresh fish to go with our beer.
Tasty Treats from the sea
With the faintest of light left in the southern sky and millions of stars starting to twinkle, we dropped Ru off on the beach, gave him half the fish and headed home for a little fish fry celebration. The well-deserved beers were cold, hugely refreshing and the fish cooked-up something wonderful. Fried whole in a little extra-virgin olive oil, with a dash of salt and pepper, they were totally unlike any mackerel I had ever tried before. A white meat easily separated from the bones, but super rich, oily and extremely well flavored. I have to say, I love to put copious amounts of sauce on almost everything, but all this fish needed was a squirt of lemon and it was deliciously perfect.
What a wonderful end to a great little journey and a terrific start to a new adventure in an unknown land. Our diet of fresh fish was now well under way and everyone toasted VBs, to a job merrily and well done, over an entirely new species of super tasty fish none of us had ever tried before, in a place where none of us had ever been before and as the evening wound down, with everyone drifting off into their passage, beer and food induced much needed catch up sleep. The entire crew of Natural Mystic had the feeling, this island was really going to be something special. Cheers – Kyber
Our first Cook Island Sunset
Tags: Natural Mystic
The journey was worth the reward.
After lounging around in Bora Bora for a couple bonus days, re-stocking our ship’s stores and re-fueling Natural Mystic we were finally ready to depart French Polynesia, eight months, two visa extensions and 10 unique islands later. We were headed for the Cook Islands, but unfortunately for our readership I’m not inclined to say exactly which one, as the Internet makes it way too easy to search for surf spots, that deserve to stay off the radar.
Only half of the $.04 Lamb Chops, F-Yea!
It all started Thursday evening after a tasty little dinner of the cheapest lamb chops you could possibly purchase at 3 francs or 4 cents for a giant bag of about 30 of the eventually BBQ’ed tasty treats. Some wonderful employee forgot to weigh more than just the bag when packaging them up, they scanned at the register just fine and we all enjoyed what had to be the best meal deal ever in friggin expensive FP and couldn’t help, but think about how my good friend Pete back home would have been so proud, as previously, he as far as I knew, held the record for the best meat deal ever. When he fortuitously scored 10 pounds of grade “Prime” hamburger meat from Costco for a whopping 13 cents if I recall correctly. But there was still one problem that didn’t sit well with me, and it wasn’t my scrumptious dinner. Everything was ready for us to leave the next morning, but it was a Friday.
Teiva and Jessica in Action at BBYC
I’m not the most superstitious person in the world, but still there must be good reasons behind hundreds and hundreds of years of seafaring lore and superstition and one little bit of sailing superstition says, to never leave port for a voyage on a Friday. This superstition goes back for ages and thus far on our journey we have never left on a Friday and I just wasn’t feeling comfortable about bucking that trend and when Jessica said the Bora Bora Yacht Club kind of goes off on Friday, with live music and dancing, well my decision was easy knowing that seafarers of old must have reserved Friday for partying, reveling and all kinds of shindiggery, as there are no Fridays out on the high seas. So, prudently we hung out for one more day in Bora Bora and partied the night away, with Kahlil even borrowing a guitar and jamming with the band for a couple of crunchy tunes, that had the place rockin’ and rollin’! What a fun time and as the night wrapped up, we all said our good byes to Teiva and Jessica, the wondiferous proprietors and rested up or more aptly passed out, for the 700NM passage to the fabled Cook Islands.
Saturday dawned with gorgeous sunny weather and breezy trade winds in the low to mid 20’s from the South East, absolutely perfect sailing conditions. We cast off our mooring, headed out the pass, fully hoisting our main sail as we skittered along, then unfurling our screecher from the bowsprit and soon we were smoking along, on a perfect broad reach, with jamming reggae music pumping on the stereo, doing a steady 10-12 knots and surfing into the high teens constantly on the 6 to 8 foot trade wind swells. At those speeds it was only a matter of hours before the mountain peaks of Bora Bora, and then Maupiti disappeared below the horizon behind us and it was just ocean, ocean and more ocean once again for, as far as one’s eye could see.
Buh Bye Bora Bora, Hello Fishies!
It had been quite a while since any of us aboard Natural Mystic had undertaken a real open ocean passage of more than a few hundred miles and everyone seemed to feel a sense of refreshment blow over and wash through them, no doubt arising from salty breeze, the intense sound of water whooshing rapidly bye our two hulls and the feeling of unknown lands lurking just over the horizon growing closer. For me this passage somehow felt different from all the ones before it, even though the vistas of an endless ocean full of white caps and tropical puffy clouds reaching into the blue sky were identical to almost every other passage I have ever undertaken. I had a feeling like I knew this sea and our ocean with just a bit more familiarly than I use to, like I was visiting with an old friend once again and somehow anywhere in the world I could wish to go, seemed only just over the horizon, merely a short sail away with my friend. My life felt in rhythm with the sea and the wind, and joyfully I and all that is Natty M, blew on, downwind.
A speedy sunset in the low teens.
Well the good breeze kept up for a day and a half, and we busted out 250NM or so in 24 hours with barely any effort. Dom was now further away from any land then he had ever ventured in his life and feeling fine on his first ocean passage and just taking it all in. As time wore on and everyone’s watches went bye, the wind grew calmer and gradually it seemed the sea birds were changing, signaling just that. Darker Tahitian Boobies started to be replaced with new lighter colored Boobies and even white Boobies started to appear every now and then, rarely ever glimpsed in the Society Islands. And the further away we got from Tahiti the better and better the fishing got. Wahoo and Tuna started biting and finding their way aboard and into our stomachs. We were into the fishy waters once again and loving it.
Water and clouds are what you see at sea.
By Monday morning the wind was now light, but still providing a good angle and we ghosted along making a steady 5 knots towards our destination until Tuesday dawned with no real wind to speak of and enthusiastically we throttled up both engines and charged the last 30 miles at full speed untill “Land Ho!” Was yelled. For, we were trying to make it to the pass by noon and by our calculations, estimated slack water at the reef pass.
Before noon on a blue skied, windless Tuesday we spotted the low-lying atoll from about 8 miles out. The highest point of land is maybe 8 feet above sea level on the entire island and the tallest thing anointing the sky are palm trees, so eight miles out is about as far as you can spot it due to the curvature of the earth. The atoll’s motus are completely surrounded by boat destroying reef and one such unlucky vessel even bestowed it’s namesake to the island.
With atolls, there's not to much to see before you run aground on reef.
Coming across the sight of land where it is suppose to be after three days at sea, while you never once saw another ship or any sign of human life even is always a welcome relief. Enthusiastically, birds flood the sky by the thousands, there are bait balls of fish boiling everywhere and as we approach the palm forested motus, the reef precipitously drops off to 6,000 feet deep, just feet from the barrier reef, crazy! Then Yellow Fin Tuna break the surface all around us, flying out of the water like stubby rockets, guided by their intense, high aspect golden fins. We try to capture them with our cameras and lines, but they prove almost elusive, however the joy of just seeing hundreds of 40 to 100 pound tuna jumping all around you is way better than even catching one.
As we cruised along the atoll’s pristine coastline, marveling at the beauty and unbridled nature all around us, we soon came upon the village and the pass into the lagoon beyond. Looking at the village from the sea, the village’s church is by far the most distinct man made feature of the island and a big clue the island is inhabited by some seriously devout Christians. I don’t think I will ever understand why these people so devoutly, even rigorously worship a religion, that was more or less forced upon them by a foreign culture, that tried to wipe out their own native culture and people and did so to an extent, but whatever they do and the result is a unique blend of ancient Cook Island Maori and Christian traditions the islanders keep fervently alive to this day.
The atoll looking a little more fun closer up.
There is very little swell running and the semi-narrow, shallow pass is found and navigated quite easily. We arrived with impeccable timing, just after slack water and with the sun high over head, illuminating the various bottom depths in their unique tell tail shades of blues and greens and the lethargically ebbing current just visible and distinctly marking the prominent coral features of the pass. Once in the lagoon we search for a suitable sandy spot to throw the hook near the pass, in the hopes of being closer to surf potential, but no such luck would have it. Coral and hundred foot depths everywhere around the pass and no nearby suitable anchorage. So, we embark on a self-guided lagoon tour that reveals just more of the same, absolutely no-good place to anchor. I spot a small fishing type open boat coming in the pass and it is sporting a big wooden cross mounted right in the middle of the boat. I can’t help, but wonder how crazy religious these people must be, but the boat guided by the power of god, weaves its way into the anchorage in front of the village, exactly what we were trying to avoid, but anyway we reluctantly trace the small boats holy path and chuck the hook in a more coral than sand bottom in 40 feet of water, after an exhausted Kahlil swimming down to the murky depths below multiple times proclaimed the bottom basically shitty anchoring everywhere.
I have gone to this church more than any other in the world now.
So, with little fan fare from the island, I couldn’t even see a person and the small boat had long since disappeared, we were anchored in what I shall refer to warmly as Polynesian North Korea, for reasons I will explain later. I try channel 16 on the VHF and an English speaking voice with basically a strong Kiwi accent replied and said a friendly hello, whoo hoo no more French! The friendly voice proclaiming he would tell the immigration official we had arrived and in no time at all immigration was on the VHF, asking if we could pick them up in our boat, as theirs was out of commission. “Operation, go go engine dink mount,” was quickly executed by all able hands and soon we were on shore and I was meeting my first Cook Islander ever.
A friendly Ru checking us in.
Ru was his name, not too dark a complexion, square features and solidly built, he was in charge of customs and immigration and was super friendly, happily smiling all the time and in no hurry to do his job what so ever. We ferried him out to our boat and we’re informed, we are the first boat of the season, they’ve had no visitors for the previous 6 months and are happy to finally see some fresh faces and what did those fresh faces have to offer? Questions of “Can I see your DVD’s and Fishing Lures?” and “Do you want to sell this or that were asked” and typically were replied with, “No, we need that.” So, with the cursory introductions, chit chat and promises to see “What we can do,” out of the way, it was on to the business of immigration paperwork.
This was the first time an immigration official ever processed the paperwork aboard Natural Mystic and it was basically standard. You fill the same shit out about you, everyone else aboard and the boat like four separate times, on forms that are basically the same, just formatted differently and BAM! The passports are stamped and fees paid, but wait no change for $100 New Zealand bills, so we’re informed we need to visit the island store to break the bill. Wait, your island has a store. What, your store sells beer, I think Kahlil, Dom, Dizzy and myself all deserve one of those for a job well done, so lets go!
I'm on a mission from God, for beer!
And while Kahlil ardently stayed behind on anchor watch guarding our floating home from unseen peril, Dom, Dizzy and myself set off with Ru to explore and mingle with the island’s inhabitants for our first adventure ever in the Cook Islands. On a distinguished mission to buy a much-deserved beer. For the passage went smoothly, with no problems, no one sick or injured, never once having to reef or shorten sail, Dom popped his open ocean cherry and for the first time ever in the history of Natural Mystic we didn’t break a single thing during a passage, I knew there was something to that not leaving on a Friday thing. Cheers – Kyber
Holy yellow Cook Island sunsets almighty!
Tags: Natural Mystic
Its a long story, but I’ll keep it short for now. After spending three or so weeks in the Northern Cook Islands and having an absolute blast, hanging with the locals, surfing fun undiscovered waves like the one above, spear-fishing our brains out and going to church more than I ever have in my entire life, somehow our prayers were answered and we made it back to French Polynesia. With no internet available for weather forecasts when we left, we were trying to sail to the Southern Cook Islands, but got caught in a rare wind pattern for the South Pacific. Where the trade winds die out, caused by a spinning low south of us and a high to the north and blow completely the opposite direction. So with no pre-knowledge of this weather pattern occurring, we sailed towards the Southern Cooks for two days before the wind switched and blew us downwind for, four stormy days, all the way back to beautiful Bora Bora. So, if we can get some new visas and the government lets us stay, its most likely down to Teahupoo for the ASP contest in a week, to root on Santa Barbara surf star, Bobby Martinez and see all our Tahitian friends once again. Thats it for now, but keep checking back and I’ll have a recount of our adventures in the Cook Islands published shortly and if anyone wants to get ahold of us, our Tahiti cell phone or as its know here, our Vini is working again, 689-24-31-37. Cheers – Kyber
Tags: Natural Mystic
Bora Bora, beauty every where you look!
Tranquil times trickle by for the “Natural Mystic” crew in Bora Bora these days. With the departure of our female friends back to their lives on the city island, we pulled up the hook and headed for the Bora Bora Yacht Club. Our new anchorage to re-water, de-trash, re-supply and explore the island. We were planning on just getting those chores done, maybe seeing a last sight or two and then sailing to the Cook Islands, but a low pressure system with potential for cyclonic development headed towards the Cooks, putting the brakes on our departure indefinitely, darn.
Quaint Bora Bora Yacht Club a perfect place to loiter in paradise.
Bora Bora Yacht Club, is located just to the north from the entrance of Passe Teavanui and has deep water moorings for you to pick up for the unbelievable price of just $50 a week, or maybe no charge if you patronize the restaurant and bar a few times.
The owners, a super rad Tahitian/American couple Teiva and Jessica make you feel right at home and are happy to provide you with water, BBQ’s to use (they ask you just buy beverages from their bar), a place to dispose of your trash and they operate one hell of a fine restaurant.
Thanks a million for the fun times Teiva and Jessica!
The food is some of the best on the island, quite reasonably priced for Bora Bora and the portions, much larger than typical French sized meals. These facts are evidenced by the numerous locals who frequent the restaurant and mix with the yacht crews staying on the club’s moorings, all while everyone noshes on tuna tar tare and sips fancy cocktails or the cold beer, and Kahlil jams on the guitar, rocking the house with the Friday night band. Fun times for sure and I highly recommend the fish burger, it a absolute gourmet tasty treat!
Some fish Kahlil speared are huge Lakers fans out here, all the way Baby! GO LAKERS!
Flat surf here, means decent spear fishing action and fun island tripping. Bike rides around the island reveal friendly locals and dramatic vistas. Fruit is abundant if you look and ask around and the locals all seem a little wealthier here, compared with other outer islands, as they have extracted money off tourists for years and years now.
But, like everywhere we seem to go, tourism is drastically down these days. Multiple hotels on the island have already boarded up their doors and we hear accounts of the supposed nicest resort on the island having not one single paying customer a midweek night, last week. A dingy trip around the lagoon reveals the extensive amount of resorts Bora Bora’s lagoon holds, over 15 and all look like ghost towns. Nary a towel hangs to dry from any of the over the water bungalow railings and sunburned sunbathers on the white sand beaches are completely missing. With the financial crisis in full swing around the word, its easy to understand how one of the most expensive vacation spots in the entire world must be taking a hard hit.
Just one of Bora Bora's seemingly empty resorts.
A trip to Robert Wan’s flagship black pearl store, known for having some of the biggest and best pearls in the business didn’t disappoint. I have grown quite fond of the shimmering spherical rainbows and enjoy checking out the different producers and increasing my knowledge of pearls every chance I get. Like most tourist businesses the store was devoid customers, but the friendly staff had me trying on some lengthy pearl necklaces and let me marvel at what had to be some of the most marvelous pearl jewelry I have seen yet.
Just a few of Robert Wan's gorgeous choker collection.
Chokers made of matched “A” quality, 16mm pearls (its hard to even imagine how many oysters you would have to go through to get matched sets like these) sparkled under the showroom lights for just a bit over $100,000 and a flawless 18mm unset giant is waiting for someone to pick it up for a bargain $40,000. Indeed Robert Wan seems to have the biggest black pearls of any producer, but you can’t help but notice how, as the pearl’s size increases, the colors of the pearls get less and less intense and personally I judge the smaller more intensely lustrously hued pearls make for more eye appealing jewelry and as another plus, are just a bit less expensive than the gargantuan perfect ones.
The word expensive is synonymous with Tahiti. As food, gas, clothes and basically everything costs exorbitantly more than even in pricey Santa Barbara. So, I thought I might provide the readership dreaming of journeying here with a few French Polynesian money saving tips/cautions, as there are a few things cheaper here than in the United States. If you’re on a budget expect to live off of crusty French baguettes $.60 apiece and fine French cheese around $5 a pound, together a match made in heaven. Tyson frozen chicken quarters from the USA are the single best meat deal going, BBQ up great and are a true testament to modern industrialized chicken production, as 1 kilo or a 2.2 lb. box, costs a scant $5, hormones included I’m sure and easily feeds six hungry sailors. Foie Grais is also a great deal, as well a French sauciasse (salami), both bargains compared to America, as well as French Dijon mustard for all those sandwiches you’ll be eating (I swear after bleeding occasionally at first, your gums develop calluses due to eating so much crusty bread). What isn’t a bargain here is any produce except, garlic, onions and potatoes, which are mostly imported. Expect to pay high prices to eat healthy vegetables and fruits and only in Tahiti is it more expensive to by produce from the Farmer’s type markets.
The not so cheap Papeete Marketplace.
With locally farmed produce claiming some of the most ridiculous prices of anything. Local cabbage is approximately $8 to $10 a head, one melon at a road side stand was priced at over $30. Local cucumbers are cheap, tomatoes and peppers crazy expensive, but at least locally caught, fresh Tuna is quite reasonably priced, but still a bit costlier than Hawaii. For eating out the local roulettes, basically congregations of road side stands are the best deal going and my personal favorite.
Tasty food from the Roulettes is the way to go.
Where a tasty BBQ’ed steak, thin-crust pizza or plate of possion cru can be had for around $10, when an entrée at an average local restaurant is usually around $30 or more, even an un-super-sized McDonald’s Big Mac meal costs over $10. Unlike America, some of the high cost of a restaurant meal is displaced by the fact you don’t really tip here, which also means people might not serve you so attentively, just have patience, you’re on island time.
Stock up on booze before you come to FP.
And remember to bring all the booze you can legally carry into the country (and cigarettes for that matter, $10 a pack), as one cocktail at a bar is never less than $10 more like $12 and hot tip, whiskey is the easiest to trade for what ever your little heart desires, not rum, its worth the extra cost. And the most important rule, always have an exit strategy if you start drinking the booze you just gave away. I hope these hot tips might help make a future travelers trip here a little more affordable and enjoyable.
Newborn baby Kyla
Luckily for us the Bora Bora Yacht Club has great Wi-Fi service, so we have been able to actively keep a sharp eye on the weather and effectively use Skype to affordably call home and catch up on how missed friends and family are doing. Which is great, as I fortuitously called my brother just minutes after the birth of his first child, a gorgeous girl named Kyla and got to hear, her maybe not so soft cry in her first few minutes on our amazing planet; Super cool bro, way to go Trav and Lara, congratulations!!!
In the South Pacific sailing season, its still a bit early to be heading further south and west, as cyclones can still form in April (TC Len just formed over Tonga and is strengthening) with a higher percentage chance the further you move in those directions, but weather forecasts are starting to look less dicey. So, with some luck and a bit of work we should be well out of here by the time you’re reading this, but then again knowing us maybe not, I know the Las Vegas odds makers would not be kind with a track record like ours. The Cook Islands beckon from a scant 700 NM across the sea and the one in our sights, filters us stories of the most far flung perfect pearl outpost in the word and fish in an abundance not known in modern times, except you just have to land them before countless sharks devour them while they still struggle on your hook or spear. We’re headed to find out if these mythical stories really are true and we’ll let you know eventually, but please have some patience, as our very likely route of choice keeps us out of inhabited lands for quite some time, possibly months. Cheers – Kyber
A Tahitian sunrise points us west.
Tags: Natural Mystic