Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hiking in Vanuatu

Author: Mike
Location: Port Vila, Vanuatu
Today was another great, fun-filled day in Vanuatu. Today we had the option to go on shore, which many of us took advantage of. There was also an optional hike, which some went on and said it was awesome - some of the best sights they have seen yet. They day came and went very fast because time flies when you having fun. It was cool to see another culture in action, although it was time to say goodbye to Port Vila and pick up anchor and move to Hideaway Island - most likely another great spot in paradise.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Professional Skipper and Crew Training

Author: Jesse
Location: Port Vila, Vanuatu
I started my day as skipper off at 0300 to Dane waking me up for my hour of anchor watch. Since the wind and waves had picked up here in the bay of Vila, he awoke Boomer thinking that we were dragging anchor slightly. After Boomer checked the radar he told us we hadn't dragged and to wake him up if we suspected anything again. After an hour of watching boats spin around on their anchors I went to sleep. I woke up and ate banana bread with the crew and discussed dinghy rides for them to go ashore. While they were cruising the streets of "Vila" Becky and I prepared for our first of five PSCT tests. We studied our collision regulations and it felt good to have that portion of it out of the way. Only 8 more and we're ready for the practical exam!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Stand by to stand by

Author: Becky
Location: Fiji to Vanuatu
At 0300 hours watch team 2 struck the forward staysail and the jib in some solid wind hoping to bring us in to port in Vanuatu as we have on other islands. Argo finally anchored in Port Vila's bay at 0830 local time. Another successful, smooth passage, another beautiful volcanic island anchorage in the vast South Pacific. Cleared, provisioned and shore timed out we watched another episode of our favorite Blue Planet and fell fast asleep with tales of sharks, active volcanoes, dual colonialism and the best kava in the South Pacific. What we'll discover, we can only imagine.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lightning Storms

Author: Tessa
Location: Fiji to Vanuatu
Today was our fourth day on our passage to Vanuatu. We awoke to a beautiful day with rice krispies overflowing from our cereal bowls. After a night with some sail changes and excitement, we were all eager to start the day. After a brief spell of rain, it cleared and we enjoyed Chef MT's creations. After cleanup we jumped into Marine Bio, followed by some creepy deep-sea creatures in another Blue Planet video. Most of us enjoyed an invigorating shower up on the bow of the boat, and with some awesome weather, we enjoyed dinner. We are currently about 14 hours away from Vanuatu and we are excited to wake up to a new environment. Watch Team 2 and a few others enjoyed one of the best sunsets thus far, followed by some crazy lightning storms off our port side. That's all, stay classy San Diego!

July 28 Argo Update

Argo nears to her destination and we should get new photos and blog updates in the next day or two.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Smelly Shipmates

Author: Travis
Location: Fiji to Vanuatu
Day three of our passage started out this morning with a beautiful sunrise for Watch Team 2. This is always a good watch to start out the day because something about seeing the sun come up helps to lift the spirits. The most exciting part of my day as skipper was requiring that everyone shower because some of the shipmates were beginning to smell. Next to the smell was our amazing leadership class which consisted of playing name that tune to guess what leadership skills we would be discussing. Moshanda has quite an amazing mix on her i-pod so this made for a very interesting class. Other than that, the day was good. We ended the day as quickly as it came with another great sunset.

July 27 Argo Update

Travis brings us up to date on day three of an estimated five day passage to Vanuatu.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

2nd day of passage

Author: Oliver
Location: Fiji to Vanuatu
We sailed all day with little motoring until the night time. The classes were OCB and a Blue Planet video. It may sound like a dull day, but there is no such thing when you are on passage. All you have to do is look on the horizon and realize that there is nobody else around. Passage has allowed us to once again become strong and not have the firm ground beneath us. I thi8nk once out to sea, those of us that are under the weather will bounce back to their rightful states. Towards the end of the day we ran into an hour long squall. The wind was howling and made the rain sting my back and unfortunately my rain jacket didn't do much to keep me from getting drenched. I am sad to think that this trip is over half way done. I know I will remember it forever.


July 26 Argo Update

Argo is on passage to Vanuatu from Fiji! This Podcast finds the vessel making 8kts and doing well.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Departing for Vanuatu

Author: Lisa
Location: Fiji to Vanuatu
Today has been an awesome day. We woke up excited and ready to leave for Vanuatu, even though Fiji treated us well. Boomer took several students in to see how to clear customs, so they could become familiar with the process. Becky took 2 students into town to provision while the rest of us got the boat ready for passage. We left Fiji after lunch and got right into the watch team schedule. It was perfect sailing, there was lots of wind and clear skies. If we kept going at this speed we might make it early to Vanuatu. We are all excited to be sailing under the stars once again and can't wait for what lies ahead on passage.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Last Day in Fiji

Author: Chantale
Location: Suva, Fiji
Soon after breakfast this morning we raised anchor and left Namuka island to head back to Suva for the day. This gave the crew a few more hours in town before we head out for our 700 nm passage to Vanuatu. Some made a visit to the clinic, others visited the Suva handicraft market, the largest of its kind in the South Pacific, while others went running to get some exercise before the passage. Many chose to have lunch on shore to enjoy the excellent Thai and Indian food that can be found in Suva. Back on board tonight we are having an oceanography quiz and CPR class.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rescue Diver Training

Author: Dangerous
Location: Namubuka Island, Fiji
Pizza! Pizza! Pizza! This was our code word for help in the water. Today, 7 if us continued our quest to becoming certified Rescue Divers. We went through a series of situations ranging from panicked diver on the surface of the water to rescuing an unconscious diver under the water. At the end of the day we performed an underwater search to find a "lost diver." Fortunately we were able to find the diver after 15 minutes of search patterns. After we obtain our Rescue Diver certification we will be able to go forward with Divemaster training if we choose to do so when we return home. Fiji has been awesome and after tomorrow we will be continuing on to Vanuatu, which is a 700 nm passage.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mystery Chief

Author: MT
Location: Fiji
Our first day outside of Suva! We awoke to more familiar sights and sounds for the crew of Argo; a small island in a sheltered bay, the noise and bustle of Suva far behind us. WE took the morning to do a Marine Biology lab - diving in the mangroves off the island and doing a scavenger hunt. While the mangroves were fascinating, the water was freezing making most us bolt for the boat as soon as possible. Then those of us going for Rescue diver met to review the first 3 knowledge reviews so we could start training as soon as possible. After lunch we all got ready to go meet with the local chief to ask permission to anchor where we were. Naturally, over an hour later our ride hadn't arrived so we abandoned that plan and instead began our Rescue Diver training. We managed to tow Monica and Chris several times and by the end Chris was exhausted and full of pizza (that being the code word for help). We finished off our day with dinner and MTE class where we watched an awesome movie about surfers.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cleared

Author: Chris
Location: Suva, Fiji
In the charthouse of Argo there are three books that the captain and crew regularly refer to prior to arrival in a new locale. They are: (1) South Pacific Anchorages, (2) Landfalls of Paradise, and (3) The Pacific Crossing Guide. Each are travel guides intended for the south pacific cruiser and their pages contain typical "information" that a traveler would want to know before making landfall (eg. weather, culture, entry requirements, location of anchorages, etc.). However, I use the term "information" loosely since it might unfairly convey a promise of accurately "informing" the reader which is not always the case. For example, on the topic of clearing Fijian customs one book says the process may take "hours to days" - a statement so vague that it merits nothing. As it turns out, if you arrive on a Friday you can expect the latter (we just cleared this morning - nearly 48 hours after our arrival). Yet another book states: "Fiji is unsophisticated, so even a city like Suva may lack supplies that you might expect in a small town." Again, true if you're looking to buy sour cream (apparently they don't have it on Fiji) but apocryphal when you're standing in the heart of Suva City in front of a three story, multi-screen cineplex featuring Christian Bale in "The Dark Knight" and Eddie Murphy in some movie I didn't even know was out (see July 19 blog for details).
The point here is that everything is unpredictable, regardless of how many books you have. And for most of us, whose lives contain a large dosage of daily monotony, it is deeply refreshing be in an environment where you literally never know what's around the next bend.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

City LIfe

Author: George
Location: Suva
It is Sunday in the South Pacific, and that means that most of the city is a ghost town. The islanders are devout and as a result everyone goes to church all day on Sunday. Like home, this also means that the banks are closed so I found it hard to exchange my money. After roaming around downtown Suva for a few hours, I was ready to head back to Argo until something caught my eye - it was a movie theater. Not just a small one-screen place either, but a full blown movie theater, and better yet, they took American Express. Three hours later, after some food (movie theaters here serve fried chicken) and watching the new batman movie, I returned to Argo happy and content.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Clearance

Author: Tyler
Location: Fiji
In Fiji, gaining clearance with the authorities is a matter requiring great patience and an ability to read between the lines. A straight answer is hard found and we have temporary clearance to remain in Suva. We are not fully cleared until Monday when the office is open again after the weekend off. Arrival and anchoring in a Fiji bay on weekends probably doesn't happen often. However, we are here and it is beautiful. We are "cleared" to go ashore and the crew spends lunch and part of the afternoon cruising the industrial Suva by foot. Suva is a significant change from the small towns we have visiting since Tahiti. The market is located next to a bus stop with more buses than a city Greyhound station. The food is amazing, from restaurants to street vendors. Some of us ate in an Indian restaurant with a variety of dishes from duck curry, sweet rice, and roti. There is a significant Indian and Chinese population here. The evening was spent at the Royal Suva Yacht Club. The dress code is formal and we all go from board shorts and t-shirts to looking like we are going to the prom; an amazing feat in a place where nice clothes don't last. We all got out on the dance floor after dinner and everyone shows us they know how to move with style. Today was a great day in the South Pacific.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Early arrival

Author: Graham
Location: Fiji
Argo arrived in Suva Harbor at 0400 this morning. As we dropped anchor we had no idea what Fiji looked like; all we could see where the lights of the commercial docks and city. After some much needed rest, the crew of Argo ate a good breakfast of cereal and all the fresh fruit we could handle since we are not allowed to bring any into the country. The rest of the day was spent waiting for customs to arrive at our boat and giving Argo a little appreciation. With the boat as clean as ever we are ready for a big dinner, class, and our bunks. We are all looking forward to tomorrow and some shore time in the town of Suva.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Goodbye Western hemisphere

Author: Monica
Location: Tonga to Fiji
As I am writing this, we are making our final approach into Suva on the island of Viti Levu in Fiji. We should arrive in the next few hours and will be anchoring in the early hours of the morning. We officially left the Western hemisphere around 11:30 this morning as we crossed over the Prime Meridian. A bunch of us gathered around the GPS display to watch the screen switch from West to East. After lunch, we had a guest speaker (Boomer) come to our Student Leadership Development course to talk about his personal leadership philosophy and style followed by an oceanography class. My watch team had the 6 to 9 shift this evening and got to witness another amazing sunset over the Pacific. I think everyone is looking forward to Fiji.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

On the high seas

Author: Maximus
Location: Tonga to Fiji
Today was another good day of sailing, although it was mostly uneventful. Everyone is pretty comfortable with the daily routine of passage and transition easily from watch team to watch team. Marine Bio students had a class on coral reefs today then everyone enjoyed the episode of Blue Planet about coral reefs. The sailing looks like it will continue to be good and we should be arriving in Fiji in no time.

July 16 Argo Update

Captain Boomer and Skipper of the Day Mike from Argo as she approaches Suva Fiji.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

First day of passage

Author: Anne
Location: Tonga to Fiji
We started the day off early, pulling both anchors at 6:30. Jesse and Travis volunteered to go in the freezing water to get the stern anchor before the sun came up. We cleared out of Tonga and picked up our Argo dirt shirts and were sailing out before lunchtime. We had a full meal of fried chicken and biscuits, which are still believed to be the cause of certain people's frequent visits to the head. We started our passage watch schedule and my watch team saw a "ghost rainbow," a white rainbow at around 4 a.m. Weather was good and we've been averaging a fast 8.5 kts.

July 15 Argo Update

Kiernan calls in from on passage to Fiji

Monday, July 14, 2008

Diving paradise

Author: Troy
Location: Tonga
We began the day with some great food and moved on to equally promising diving. We had 3 dives today, and most people went on 2. The morning and afternoon dives explored a small island near our anchorage. The weather was sunny and clear. The crew initiated a night dive that resulted in some great sights of crazy looking worms and massive coral heads. Another beautiful day in Tonga!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Stern to the beach

Author: Boomer
Location: Tonga
Today we started with an OCE class and then promptly moved Argo to a different anchorage. With the waters of Tonga being very deep there are very few places to anchor. We found a nice sheltered beach and went stern to, dropping our danforth anchor up on the beach. Everyone went diving in the crystal clear water and enjoyed the beautiful beach. We ended the day with another OCE class and watched the few charter boats try to anchor in the difficult conditions. Although the weather has been less than ideal we are all enjoying Tonga and her many glorious islands!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Boat dive and exploring the island

Author: Mike
Location: Tonga
Today was a good day. We got back into diving and completed our boat dive, which made us all Advanced Open Water divers. This is another great accomplishment made on Argo. Although I did not go onto land, a handful of the crew did and said it was awesome. They found an abandoned village and said it was kind of creepy! They also brought back a bunch of coconuts which are awesome. I am looking forward to some good weather. Peace!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Cave swimming in paradise

Author: Jesse
Location: Tonga
Today was a good day. After our usual morning breakfast routine, we started a new way of living aboard Argo. With our much gained knowledge and leadership skills, today was the day we started working the boat's many systems alone with the captain coming along for the ride. We picked up anchor and headed out of our bay. PSCT students plotted the course and led the helmsman towards our next stop. On the way we came across a cave we had heard about that you can swim into. We stopped the boat and went for swim. The water was so clear and warm. After having our fun, we headed back to the boat and started making way. The remainder of the day was spent enjoying our newly discovered bay in the Kingdom of Tonga. We are all eager to go to our bunks as we are going to complete our last Advanced Open Water dive tomorrow.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ofatu Argo!

Author: Becky
Location: Tonga
Today was epic; a day that could easily have been three days. Breakfast was accompanied by the realization that we had dragged our anchor slightly during the night. After re-anchoring, all shipmates took a hike to further explore and understand marine biology and the rest of the day was spent between shore and the boat. For those who stayed aboard, the anchor drama continued with re-anchoring at lunch and a third time to a new location with a new strategy in the afternoon. Somehow we snuck in a provisioning run which has proven the flexibility and creativity of the crew. Our options are spaghetti or learn ho to cook Tongan. To the surprise of the women at the open air market, we're cooking Tongan, complete with taro, tapioca, coconut, pineapple, papaya, breadfruit, soko (another root vegetable), star fruit, soursop, and our favorite spicy peppers. We're buying fresh marlin and whole 6 kg snappers, and we're understanding the meaning of a local sustainable diet. For dinner plans, our middle man Aloufi, arranged a Tongan feast complete with music and ceremonial kava. We went to his home, sat around the feast that had been laid out on the floor and marinated in the Tongan atmosphere; pigs ear, tuna-fried eggs, sweet bananas, taro, four young Tongan men playing guitar, children, and kava. When we left Aloufi's, fully and cultured, we carried our stalk of bananas and a woven leaf basket of papaya to a local bar to pass a few hours. Vava'u, Tonga has charmed us. Ofatu (Cheers!)!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Getting our land legs back

Author: Tessa
Location: Tonga
After an amazing first full night of sleep, we all awoke ready for some exploring. During breakfast clean-up we had a visitor offering some nice local crafts. After our marine bio class we had the chance to see Tonga ourselves. Some of us checked out the local caf for a caffeine fix, others toured the marked and saw an array of carvings, jewelry, local fresh fruit, and so much more. Once back on the boat, we had the chance to get back in the water! M.T. and Boomer made some seriously amazing dinner of fresh tuna, pineapple salsa, coconut rice, and fried plantains. We definitely enjoyed the change from canned chicken! We ended the day with another Blue Planet video about intertidal zones. WE are all awaiting tomorrow for some good ol' Tongan hospitality at the traditional Tongan feast some locals are preparing just for us. One lesson learned today: Don't give us coffee!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tonga

Author: Travis
Location: Tonga
At first light this morning we were in view of Tonga although the night was a long one for most of the crew. A few shipmates slept well, but the majority didn't sleep at all. At midnight, Watch Team 2 had to do some sail handling in the rain. Just after midnight we had a Watch Team change so Watch Team's 2 and 3 handled the main sail together. Our arrival into Tonga was one of excitement, but also some tired eyes coupled with coffee. We spent the rest of the day checking into the country. After getting squared away with check-in, we were able to move off the dock and get Argo anchored off and away from the crowds where she likes it the most.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

6th day of passage

Author: Oliver
Location: The open ocean
Today we continued over rotation schedule of 3 hours on and 6 hours off. For the first half of the day there was nothing spectacular to report. Right after lunch we hooked a fish and in a matter of seconds it spooled the line, actually causing it to smoke a little. With the realization that the fish must have been huge came the thought that we are over the second deepest trench in any ocean - the Tonga Trench. The Tonga Trench is over 6 miles deep! Around 1835 a single humpback whale came to the surface, took a few breaths, and disappeared. It is amazing the things one sees in the middle of the ocean.

July 6 Argo Update

Lisa calls on for the daily Argo update.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

the 5th day

Author: Lisa
Location: On passage to Tonga
Today was our 5th day of passage and it was hard to believe that time was flying by so quickly. It was another perfectly clear and sunny day with calm seas. Even though there wasn't much wind it was still a great sail. We had a great day of classes with MTE and SLD. In MTE we worked on our navigation skills, learning how to set a course to steer and how to take a bearing. In SLD was an atypical class up on deck with a team building, fun filled exercise. The deck became "covered in a flesh eating disease" and we all had to work together to get from the stern to the bow of the boat without touching the deck or spilling a full glass of water. At the end of the exercise we realized a) how great of a team we are and b) how each of us was an integral part of getting the task done. As the sun set, most of us could only think about how much we were going to miss passage when we reach Tonga.


Friday, July 4, 2008

Boats, planes, and marine science

Author: Chantale
Location: Passage to Tonga
Today we had some unusual excitement as we continue on our passage to Tonga. Not only did we spot a ship this morning (the first since we left Rarotonga), but we then were circled by a military plane from the New Zealand Navy which called to ask for our identification and details. In the afternoon we had an oceanography class where we finished the geological oceanography section and reviewed the geological features of the area we are sailing over. This was followed by a Professional Skipper and Crew Training class that involved a hands-on inspection of the rig for chafe and other potential problems. We are enjoying our passage to Tonga with light winds that keep us sailing around 5 knots in a relatively calm sea.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

3rd day of passage to Tonga

Author: Dangerous
Location: Somewhere in the Pacific
The skies were clear and the seas cooperative. Today we continued our passage to Tonga. We have yet to see another vessel in the ocean while crossing. It seems that everyone has gotten over their seasickness and the clear skies and calm seas are beautiful. Today in MTE class we went over basic navigational tools and started to become familiar with charting. A few of us spotted a whale cruising along side the boat about 20 meters off the stern. We have an estimated four more days until we reach the Kingdom of Tonga.

July 3 Argo Update

Clear skies prevail abaord Argo as she makes her way west.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

On our way...

Author: Maria Tereza
Location: Passage to Tonga
Today was another excellent day of passage. We got over our rolling start and everyone has recovered from their seasickness. In Basic Seamanship we watched a movie about some boaters who lost their ship which was sobering but also made us realize how much more we know now and it has only been a month! Here's to another month and a half of learning!

July 2 Argo Update

MT calls in from on passage abaord Argo.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Comings and goings

Author: Chris
Location: Rarotonga/Underway
Rarotonga is a hard place to leave. As far as islands go it seems to be one that has struck a balance well suited for travelers like ourselves; small enough that the scooter is the preferred mode of transportation but big enough to get lost on a hike; natural enough to see whales offshore and a beach all to yourself but developed enough to find a Laundromat; culturally authentic enough to feel like you are observing something rare and exotic but still left with the indelible marks of colonization that keep English a common language. But such is the nature of our voyage.

July 1 Argo Update

Chris calls in for the "Canada Day" update from Argo