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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Anchors Aweigh!

November 4th, Tuesday morning, we left Tonga with an armada of friends; Morning Light (ML), The Dorothy Marie (TDM), Orca III, Baraka, Warm Rain, Tokete and Elusive. Charimsa, Syren, Malachi, O'Vive, Mamacocha, Upps, Bebe, Don Pedro and Morning Star had left within 48 hours prior to our departure. Many of us had subscribed to a fee based personalized routing service which, depending on your boat size, hull configuration and average speed, spits out a recommended departure date and a customized
route with waypoints and arrival times for each. The report is very detailed and can also give projected sea states including wave heights and intervals, wind direction and speed and forecasted weather patterns. Many of us got together to share and compare reports, to set up SSB Nets (on air check-ins) and times for communications so that everyone is accountable and will be accounted for along the way. We are armed for battle at sea! And we pray that we are over prepared.

Tuesday's journey was very smooth with little wind but we had plenty of fuel for motor-sailing. Early in the day (our Tuesday, USA's Monday), we phoned Mary, Frank's sis to wish her Happy Birthday. We also called our parents to let them know we were headed out. I phoned my daughter and sis, but all we got were voicemail machines so we quit calling and got down to business. We threw out a hand line for some fishing and in the early afternoon, hooked a 53.5" Mahi Mahi. Frank actually strained under
its weight as he hefted it for me to snap a photo of our fine catch. These fish are truly magnificent, and as they die their skin transforms into a myriad of colors, which is sadly beautiful to watch. We thought of the pre-prepared meals in the freezer and happily opted to forego my prior efforts in favor of a fresh fish feast this night. We managed to freeze a large portion of the remainder which may be disposed of by NZ officials. We'll see what happens when we get there.

Wednesday was a perfect sailing day. We had giant, gentle rollers and fair winds with crystal clear blue skies, occasionally dusted with clouds. The temperature is cooling down as we head further south giving us a nice crisp Colorado Springtime kind of day. During mid-day we had a flyover from the NZ Air Force. We had heard them hailing one of the other boats over the VHF earlier. Now it was our turn. They have camera equipment on board that I wish I had because the jet approached us from behind
and after swiftly passing over head, called us by name on channel "16", asking us to go to channel "06". Frank answered various questions, such as last port of departure, intended destination, name of the Captain, # of persons on board, boat registration, do we have any weapons on board?, do we have any pets on board? When do we plan to arrive? Have we filed arrival notice paperwork with NZ authorities, etc…? Then they wished us safe passage and disappeared as in a flash (just as they had arrived).
Some 5 minutes later we heard them hailing Morning Light, and so on until they had contacted probably each boat out here. We felt comforted knowing that they were watching out for us. In the afternoon we got news via the Yachtie Grapevine that Obama had won the Presidential election.
Wednesday evening thunderheads began building as we reefed in sails and braced ourselves for a rocky, squally night. The discomfort of the rolling and pitching wasn't as bad as the fear of a lightning strike. During my watches I had difficulty enjoying the light show, thinking of the others we know who had gone before us, sustaining either direct hits or strikes into the ocean nearby, causing no small amount of damage to electronics on board. My mind raced to the laptop, the Sat Phone, the I-Pod
and all of our radio equipment as I prayed for safe passage. We made it through safely.

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