Explore. Dream. Discover.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain

DCIM100GOPROG0471183.

There is saltwater coursing through my veins—literally.

There is saltwater in all of us. The salinity of our blood is nearly identical to the salinity of the ocean. This may be a biological explanation for why I feel compelled to set sail across thousands of miles of open ocean.

When I was 25 years old, I left Florida for Europe alone in a 23-foot sloop named Betelgeuse–eight days after I was married. It was a voyage of high risk and adventure and, remarkably, 34 years later I am still married. My life has been a blessing. Now, work has begun on a new boat, the sailing vessel Flying Fish. It is a 46-foot Island Packet cutter designed for transoceanic passages.

In the next 12 to 18 months, I will raise the halyards on Flying Fish and embark on a new journey across those miles of open ocean. Many of the passages will again be sailed single handed. There will be challenges and discovery. (At age 59, I am no longer bulletproof and this time I will chart my course though different oceans.) It will be voyage of memoir and a reaffirmation of life.

Capt. Jack Sparrow said it best: “Now… bring me that horizon.”

Follow the odyssey of Flying Fish by subscribing to this WordPress blog, or on Facebook at Jeffrey Cardenas. A portfolio of photography can be seen on Instagram @flyingfishsail Thanks for joining me on this voyage!

 

Indonesia: Part One

Tuti and Friend.sm

The daily burden of subsistence fishing to feed their families doesn’t diminish the welcome Indonesians offer to a stranger.  Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas

As Flying Fish continues its aquatic walkabout around the globe, I sense an acceleration of the calendar and de-acceleration of time spend under sail. It’s time to start moving again.

This week begins a new chapter in the passage of Flying Fish. My daughter Lilly joins me in Bali and we will spend a month together sharing the view of each new horizon. This is every father’s dream.

This shifting of gears also gives me an opportunity for reflection on the past 60 days in this unique and surprising country.

I had originally intended to bypass Indonesia completely. “You will hate it,” a sailor told me on the dock in New Zealand. “I just got back,” she said, “and every beach was knee-deep in garbage. You will suck up plastic into your boat engine intake as soon as you start it.” She continued: “Nothing you have is safe from theft. Indonesians will steal you blind.”

I wonder what Indonesia she visited.

Her exaggeration was unfair. Of course Indonesia is not as clean as New Zealand. Nowhere is. Indonesia is a developing country, and perhaps that is what makes this place stand apart. The Indonesia I have encountered is a country that shows its visitors no acrimony–regardless of differences in race, religion, nationality, economic disparity, or even awkward bad manners. I have never felt threatened. Nothing has gone missing aboard Flying Fish, not in the most remote anchorages or the busiest of ports.

No person is a societal expert of a foreign country after only a two-month visit. I have prayed in mosques and churches and temples where I was warmly welcomed regardless of which deity was in my thoughts. Indonesian Muslims and Christians and Hindus are not fighting each other over words and possessions. They co-exist in kindness.

That’s not to say this archipelago of 18,307 islands is Eden. There is more plastic in the ocean and on the beaches than in many other countries I have visited aboard Flying Fish. The coral reef is extraordinary but in some place locals still utilize blast fishing methods, stunning fish and destroying coral with homemade bombs in Coke bottles filled with layers of ammonium nitrate and kerosene. On some islands there are areas of poverty that are heartbreaking.

Nonetheless, whatever Indonesians have they are willing to share, even with those of us who come from the land of plenty.

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It will be nice to become reacquainted with Lilly. I haven’t seen her in more than a year–she’s a pilot now!–and an expert sailor. Lilly will help me guide Flying Fish through the wilds of Borneo. We will take river trips in search of wild orangutans. We will look for the primitive divers of Sulawesi who spearfish using only their lungs and a pair of wooden goggles. Our destination will be Singapore from where Lilly will return to her work in Lahaina and I will leave the boat for a month to visit family in Key West.

Going forward after the new year… who knows? Maybe Phuket and Sri Lanka. Africa for certain, either via the rough-water routing around the Cape of Good Hope, or the risky passage through the Red Sea to the Suez Canal and Eastern Mediterranean. There is only one shot at life and the acceleration of the calendar reminds me to live each day.

Lilly JC Duke

“Out Of The Water I Am Nothing” — Duke Kahanamoku. Lilly and Jeffrey after a morning surf session together at Dreamland, Bali. Photograph: Ria Wahyuni / Drifter Surfshop

I hope you continue to follow to voyage of Flying Fish

For upcoming passages when I have no cell or WiFi signal, I have activated a satellite tracking link that shows the daily position, current weather, and includes a few personal thoughts from the daily log of Flying Fish. I will not be able to respond to messages via satellite but I love the idea that you are sailing along with me. If you would like to follow the daily progress of Flying Fish into Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean via satellite you can click this link: https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Flyingfish

Please subscribe at the bottom of this page so that you don’t miss a new update, and consider sharing this post with others who might enjoy following the voyage of Flying Fish.

To see where Flying Fish has sailed in the past year click here: https://cruisersat.net/track/Flying%20Fish

Instagram: FlyingFishSail

Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2019

Flying Underwater

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A purple Porite dome suddenly appears out of the underwater haze. It is a massive community of living coral polyps. Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas

During a drift dive the underwater world passes by as if in a dream.

Usually I search for clear and still water where I can free dive slowly to observe the minutiae of subsurface life. On this day, however, I am letting the wonders of the ocean unroll before me like a movie reel as I drift over the reef in a three-knot current. I am being towed along by a rope attached to my inflatable dinghy. The water is silty, stirred up from a large breaking swell, but I savor the muted detail and color as I am pulled swiftly past the underwater landscape. I like knowing that my propulsion today is powered solely by the gravitational pull of distant celestial bodies.

It is said that these large underwater boulders known as Purple Porites are the most unappreciated of all coral species on the reef. They wow me. I like how they suddenly appear out of the underwater haze—a massive community of living coral polyps that somehow has evolved to be colored purple when everything else around it is tan or green or brown. They are sometimes etched with the bite marks of parrotfish. Often the Porites will have colonies of Christmas Tree worms flowering in their substructure. I wiggle a finger at a worm as I drift past and its spiral of feather-like tentacles zips closed into the security of an inconspicuous exoskeleton.

A drift dive is like listening to soft music. The current carries me in a state of consciousness that seems just out of focus. It is meditative and relaxing. I have to remind myself not to become so complacent that I drop the line to the dinghy as I drift swiftly toward the Indian Ocean.

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Christmas Tree worms blossom on a mound of tan Porite coral. Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas

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For upcoming passages when I have no cell or WiFi signal, I have activated a satellite tracking link that shows the daily position, current weather, and includes a few personal thoughts from the daily log of Flying Fish. I will not be able to respond to messages via satellite but I love the idea that you are sailing along with me. If you would like to follow the daily progress of Flying Fish into Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean via satellite you can click this link: https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Flyingfish

Please subscribe at the bottom of this page so that you don’t miss a new update, and consider sharing this post with others who might enjoy following the voyage of Flying Fish.

To see where Flying Fish has sailed in the past year click here: https://cruisersat.net/track/Flying%20Fish

Instagram: FlyingFishSail

Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2019

 

It’s What’s For Dinner

Chicken dinner plucking

Fresh ingredients: From free-range chicken to dinner table, an Indonesian reminder of where our food originates. © Jeffrey Cardenas

I often forget about the process necessary to bring food to my mouth. Tonight that process is in my face.

I have ordered grilled chicken from the blackboard menu at Nusantara, a tiny, thatched roof Indonesian eatery on the water at Gili Gede. Casual restaurants like this are common everywhere in Indonesia but two things make Nusantara stand apart.

It begins with the restaurant’s proprietor. Fitriah Rahmadany is a 25-year old who has just embarked on her first entrepreneurial enterprise. She was born here. She is bright, happy, and optimistic. “Some days we don’t have any customers,” she says with a smile. “But we are always ready for them.”

Chicken dinner hug.sm Chicken dinner Fitri

Fitraih is always ready because the ingredients for items on her menu are walking around in the restaurant. There is no sentimentality about preparing them for supper.

The process begins when a chicken is caught by the feet. A quiet prayer is said and the chicken’s head comes off with a swift cut of a knife. The body is dropped briefly into a pot of hot water which allows the feathers to be easily plucked. The organs are carefully removed and threaded onto a homemade bamboo skewer for later preparation. The whole chicken, feet included, is then lathered with a creamy coconut curry sauce. Ten minutes after the knife, the chicken is becoming food cooked over a fire of sweet-smelling coconut husks.

I am not being flippant about this process. It is a meaningful experience for me to watch an animal killed to feed me. The meal is delicious, but it is more than that. There is a life force that accompanies my grilled chicken supper tonight.

Chicken dinner.sm

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For upcoming passages when I have no cell or WiFi signal, I have activated a satellite tracking link that shows the daily position, current weather, and includes a few personal thoughts from the daily log of Flying Fish. I will not be able to respond to messages via satellite but I love the idea that you are sailing along with me. If you would like to follow the daily progress of Flying Fish into Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean via satellite you can click this link: https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Flyingfish

Please subscribe at the bottom of this page so that you don’t miss a new update, and consider sharing this post with others who might enjoy following the voyage of Flying Fish.

To see where Flying Fish has sailed in the past year click here: https://cruisersat.net/track/Flying%20Fish

Instagram: FlyingFishSail

Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2019

The Eternal Life of Medusa

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Some species of jellyfish have evolved to allow perpetual regeneration–the secret of eternal life. © Jeffrey Cardenas

This exotic Indonesian bell jellyfish first made its presence known to me this morning as a splash of fire against the side of my neck. The microscopic nematocysts—spring-loaded darts of toxin—got my attention as I snorkeled over a coral wall near Pulau Gililayar. The pain was not as intense as that of a Portuguese man-o-war, and nothing like the box jellyfish that can and has been fatal to some swimmers.

Once the sting subsided I took a few moments to observe my antagonist, and then later read up on it.

According to Dr. Lisa-Ann Gershwin, a jellyfish researcher based in Tasmania, when some species of medusa die they sink to the ocean floor and, amazingly, their cells then regenerate into polyps. From these polyps a new jellyfish will emerge. This means that when certain jellyfish become weakened either by age or illness they can call up this incredible survival mechanism and transform into an entirely new being.

Jellyfish have evolved to learn the secret of eternal life.

“This was a real mind blower for all of us,” said Dr. Gershwin in a recent BBC interview. “It’s one of the most amazing discoveries of our time.”

I’ll take a little shot of pain anytime to learn about something as fascinating as the life, death, and rebirth of jellyfish.

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For upcoming passages when I have no cell or WiFi signal, I have activated a satellite tracking link that shows the daily position, current weather, and includes a few personal thoughts from the daily log of Flying Fish. I will not be able to respond to messages via satellite but I love the idea that you are sailing along with me. If you would like to follow the daily progress of Flying Fish into Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean via satellite you can click this link: https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Flyingfish

Please subscribe at the bottom of this page so that you don’t miss a new update, and consider sharing this post with others who might enjoy following the voyage of Flying Fish.

To see where Flying Fish has sailed in the past year click here: https://cruisersat.net/track/Flying%20Fish

Instagram: FlyingFishSail

Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2019

The Colors of Tual, Indonesia

Tual City.med

On the Tual side of the archipelago of Kei Islands these homes–and a mosque–were painted to honor a visit by Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Photograph © Jeffrey Cardenas

In the Kei Islands of Dullah and Kecil a narrow wooden bridge seperates the cities of Tual and Langgur. One side is Muslim, the other side is Christian. Together they are one Indonesia.

Centuries ago, the islands were located on a key maritime route of the spice trade which extended from the Moluccas southwards towards the Lesser Sunda Islands and Java. By 1610, the Dutch East India Company had become the dominant power and Indonesian elders were replaced by Europeans.

During the Second World War, Japanese soldiers landed in the islands. The Dutch were unable–some say unwilling–to defend Indonesia, and two days after Hirohito surrendered in 1945, Indonesia began a bloody war of Independence with the Netherlands to gain their sovereignty.

Tomorrow marks Indonesia’s Day of Independence.

Tual Indonesian Girl

A young Muslim girl wearing a hijab meets Flying Fish docking at the Tual Coast Guard wharf. Photograph © Jeffrey Cardenas

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For upcoming passages when I have no cell or WiFi signal, I have activated a satellite tracking link that shows the daily position, current weather, and includes a few personal thoughts from the daily log of Flying Fish. I will not be able to respond to messages via satellite but I love the idea that you are sailing along with me. If you would like to follow the daily progress of Flying Fish into Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean via satellite you can click this link: https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Flyingfish 

Please subscribe at the bottom of this page so that you don’t miss a new post, and consider sharing this post with others who might enjoy following the voyage of Flying Fish.

To see where Flying Fish has sailed in the past year click here: https://cruisersat.net/track/Flying%20Fish

Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2019

Goodbye Oceania, Hello Southeast Asia

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Flying Fish sailing westward, downwind, wing-on-wing. © Jeffrey Cardenas

I remember with vivid clarity the moment 20 months ago when Panama’s Miraflores Locks opened and Flying Fish was floating for the first time in the Pacific Ocean.

Tomorrow I begin my departure from this beautiful ocean–with so many memories–and sail onward toward the new and strange world of the Indian Ocean.

There is no mechanical demarkation between these two oceans as there was at the Panama Canal. Still, I sense the mingling of these ocean waters. I am leaving the Coral Sea to the east, transiting the Torres Strait, and crossing west into the Arafura and Timor Sea–from Oceania to Asia. I will linger for some time in Malaysia and Indonesia before deciding how, when, or if Flying Fish will make the nearly 5,000-mile passage across the Indian Ocean to South Africa.

It was suggested that better routing might be across the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea and into the eastern Mediterranean via the Suez Canal. If that happens, Flying Fish would be hitching a ride on the deck of a freighter in an armed convoy past Yemen, Somalia, and the Gulf of Aden. I’m no Rambo.

But those are thoughts for another day… Now, the focus is on tomorrow.

There are 18,307 islands in the Indonesian archipelago and I don’t want to touch any of them with the keel of Flying Fish. I am prepared and well-rested. My various body parts have healed completely from previous onboard dramas. The sailboat is tuned and ready for new water. Onward!

FF pano

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Today’s log entry and position of Flying Fish. 

As I mentioned in the last post I have activated a satellite tracking link that shows the daily position, current weather, and includes a few personal thoughts from my daily log. I will not be able to respond to messages via satellite but I love the idea that you are sailing along with me.  If you would like to follow the daily progress of Flying Fish into Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean you can click this link: https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Flyingfish 

Please subscribe at the bottom of this page so that you don’t miss a new post, and consider sharing this post with others who might enjoy following the voyage of Flying Fish.

To see where Flying Fish has sailed in the past year click here: https://cruisersat.net/track/Flying%20Fish

Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2019

 

Off the Edge of the Earth

Hope Islands

Flying Fish, alone at Hope Island on the Great Barrier Reef. Photograph © Jeffrey Cardenas

Off the edge of the earth, or so it seems…

Flying Fish continues onward into the Torres Strait and then to SE Asia. WiFi and cell signals are rare to non-existent (now being an exception).

If you are following the passage of Flying Fish, I have set up a new satellite link—Passage Post Notes—at https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Flyingfish. These notes are only a line or two from the daily log of Flying Fish but they show where I am, the current weather, they give a sense of the passage–and I can post without WiFi or cell.

I will continue to upload full-length posts here at FlyingFishSail.com when / if I have the bandwidth. Unfortunately, I cannot respond to your comments via satellite. Sailing singlehanded, I value communication with readers (it’s so much better than talking to myself). For now, however, the post notes are the best I can do.

Thanks for sailing with me as I navigate through this amazing world.

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A nautilus shell washed ashore on the sand flats at Forbes Island National Park on the Great Barrier Reef. Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas

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Please subscribe at the bottom of this page so that you don’t miss a new post, and consider sharing this post with others who might enjoy following the voyage of Flying Fish

To see where Flying Fish has sailed in the past year click here: https://cruisersat.net/track/Flying%20Fish

For current weather along the route click here: https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Flyingfish

Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2019

Cape Tribulation

“Because here begun all our troubles.”—Capt. James Cook / June 11, 1770

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Under a full moon, Flying Fish sails past Australia’s Cape Tribulation where just offshore Cook’s Endeavour nearly foundered on the Great Barrier Reef.  Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas

Actually, the trouble for Capt. James Cook had started several days earlier when “some Malicious persons” among the crew of Endeavour, unhappy about being served a continual diet of stingray soup, assaulted Cook’s clerk as he lay drunk in his berth. They cut off his clothing, and if that was not humiliating enough, they went back and “cut off a part of both of his Ears as he lay sleeping in his bed,” according to Cook’s journal. [Flying Fish footnote: And some wonder why I sail singlehanded.]

Things got worse for Cook and the crew of Endeavour. On a moonlit night, as they sailed past Cape Tribulation, Endeavour “struck and struck fast” against what is now known as the Great Barrier Reef.

As I read this account in The Explorations of Captain James Cook in the Pacific, I am in Flying Fish and also sailing past Cape Tribulation under a full moon. The narrative of Cook and the Endeavour raises the hair on the back of my neck as Flying Fish pushes onward along this hazardous coastline.

Cook had been asleep in his cabin when the ship impacted the reef. He raced to the Quarter deck, according to the diary of the ship’s botanist Joseph Banks, and in his underwear Cook began managing the crisis. He ordered sails reduced and lowered the ship’s longboats to carry kedging anchors offshore in an attempt to pull the ship off the reef. The Endeavour did not move.

Next Cook ordered the ship to be made lighter and guns, ballast, food, and water were jettisoned overboard. More than 50 tons of critical supplies were thrown into the sea. Still the ship remained hard aground.

The following day as the tide rose the ship was finally kedged off the reef and pulled into deeper water. Now, however, there was an even greater peril aboard Endeavour. The ship was flooding and four pumps could not keep up with the incoming sea water. “This was an alarming and I may say terrible Circumstance and threatened immediate destruction to us as soon as the Ship was afloat,” Cook wrote.

Then two amazing and fortuitous things occurred. First, a coral head had lodged in a hole in the hull. Had it dropped out, Endeavour would have sunk on the spot. Still, water was coming in faster than the pumps could remove it. A midshipman named Jonathan Monkhouse came up with a brilliant idea: He suggested wrapping a sail around the damaged hull like a diaper, a technique known as fothering. Cook gave the order to coat the sail was in oakum, wool, and “sheeps dung or other filth” to help it adhere to the hull. The temporary repair worked. Endeavour was severely wounded, but not lost.

Cook needed a secure place to careen his ship. He looked to the northwest and saw two small islands. He named them Hope. He and his crew looked longingly at Hope Islands but with an unfavorable wind they could not maneuver the damaged ship to safety there.

Cape Tribulation and the continent of Australia loomed only 15 miles to the west but it was a mountainous and unwelcoming shoreline. Endeavour struggled into Weary Bay but it was too shallow to bring the ship ashore. Cook was despondent. He named one local landmark Mount Misery, another Mount Sorrow. Cook wrote that the damaged ship “would not work.” After a week of being “entangled among shoals” a scouting party finally found a river mouth deep enough to accommodate Endeavour’s 12-foot draft. His ship and his crew were safe, but repairs would take nearly two months before they could sail once again.

Two and a half centuries of full moons have passed over Hope Islands where Flying Fish has dropped anchor in a pocket of deep water surrounded by an endless labyrinth of coral reef. It is a lonely and beautiful anchorage. A relentless wind blows from the southeast. In the falling darkness under a rising moon I dinghy ashore. At low tide I wade along a trail of rock and rubble that lays exposed for several hundred yards in the direction of Endeavour Reef. I feel the weight of history here, and it gives me strength.

Captain James Cook (1728-1779) *oil on canvas  *127 x 101.6 cm  *1775-1776

Portrait of Capt. James Cook by Nathaniel Dance-Holland / National Maritime Museum, United Kingdom. Image in Public Domain

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Please subscribe at the bottom of this page so that you don’t miss a new post, and consider sharing this post with others who might enjoy following the voyage of Flying Fish

To see where Flying Fish has sailed in the past year click here: https://cruisersat.net/track/Flying%20Fish

For current weather along the route click here: https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Flyingfish

Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2019

 

The Rhythm of a Passage

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Flying Fish running hard before the wind on passage from Vanuatu to Australia. © Jeffrey Cardenas

There is a peculiar rhythm to a sailing passage. It often takes a few days for a sailor to become completely in synch with the boat. The ocean is a foreign environment for human beings, but that is exactly why some of us go to sea. We want unpredictability, to break out of routine, to be surprised. Be careful what you wish for.

Log Entry / 22 June 2019–Underway!

Flying Fish is departing Mele Bay, Vanuatu for Cairns, Australia 1,326 nautical miles west. I am making a rare sunset departure on this passage but weather conditions are perfect–a clear sky and 15 knots of tradewinds from the east. I am rested and eager to sail. As the light fades there is a bright but waning moon over the island of Efate. Low tide and an offshore breeze fill the air with the fecund aroma of Vanuatu’s rich volcanic earth.

Log Entry / 23 June–A quick nap on the first night offshore and erratic dreams crowd my subconscious. Why can’t they be erotic dreams instead? I wake with a shutter convinced that there is an oversized wharf rat scuttling across the cabin floor of Flying Fish. Of course there is no rat, but the dream was so vivid. Why a rat dream? Where is that coming from? This passage feels different. There is a sense of foreboding. Careful, careful, careful…

Despite the bizarre dreams, there is a sublime reality to the beginning of this passage. I love the feeling of all three sails on this cutter pulling tightly together on a broad reach over an easy sea. Flying Fish moves through the water like music; there is the pitch of the wind, the tempo of the boat’s motion among the waves. When all the sails are trimmed correctly Flying Fish sings along in the key of the sea.

Log Entry / 24 JuneThere is a change in the weather. It is expected but not welcomed. Wind gusts push over 30 knots and are combined with increasing sea conditions. The course to Australia is due west but a strong swell is developing from the south. Waves are hitting the boat broadside.

The concern is not the strength of the wind, or the size of the seas. At issue is swell direction. The tops of some waves are breaking. I cannot push out of my mind the freak wave that knocked down Flying Fish–mast horizontal to the water–on her passage north from New Zealand in April. I understand now that wave was an aberration. But it is like being bitten by a friendly dog–you know it’s (probably) never going to happen again but the memory of it leaves you wary.

Log Entry / 25 JuneProximity alarms integrated into my electronics alert me to a 1,000-foot merchant vessel on an intercepting course with Flying Fish.  The massive ship with the decidedly unromantic name of FPML B 104, en route to Taiwan, diverts to pass several hundred meters astern of Flying Fish . I make radio contact with FPML B 104 but our communication is lost in translation. 

I am fully into the rhythm of the passage now. The boat is pitching and rolling but my body is moving with the sea instead of against it. It is a bizarre dance, a dance that always leaves one hand free for the boat. Despite the rough sea conditions I manage to take a much needed shower. Inspired to achieve even greater things, I bake three loaves of banana bread in the wildly swinging gimbaled stove. It is a triumph, considering I don’t know how to cook. I feel like a Renaissance Man.

Aus passage banana bread

Log Entry / 26 June 2019I awaken from a short nap to the screeching sounds of birds. Birds? Seven hundred miles from land? Clearing my eyes I look into the ocean and it is teeming with life. Gannets are diving on whorls of sardines that are being driven to the surface by hundreds of ravenous yellowfin tuna. As far as my eyes can see there is a predatory maelstrom. It seems at first as if this must be another dream… but no, a blast of spume from a beaching humpback whale reinforces reality in the ocean surrounding me.

Let there be life! Acres of tuna boil on the surface devouring sardines in a spectacle worthy of the Roman Coliseum. My automatic reflex is to drop back the fishing lines. I hesitate. These fish have somehow avoided the commercial factory boats scouring this part of the Pacific Ocean. I let the tuna enjoy their meal of sardines unmolested. I already have enough food onboard.

Log Entry / 27 June 2019–I am euphoric. I am 63 years old, in the prime of my life, alone in the Coral Sea, driving a magnificent sailboat toward Terra Australis. I am abashed to admit that the phrase King of the World enters my consciousness. It is a privilege and a blessing to be here now.

And then I am bleeding badly.

I am in the galley of Flying Fish at midnight celebrating my good progress and making a cup of hot chocolate when the sudden roll and lurch of the boat causes a heavy hatch board to become dislodged from the companionway and it flies with great velocity, edge first, onto my bare right foot, nearly severing a toe.

I switch on a light and I am astounded by the amount of blood pooling under my foot. I don’t like the sight of my blood. In 30 knots of wind and 12-foot seas the boat is twisting and turning and jumping like a bad carnival ride. The pain in my foot is mind-numbing. I’ve got to stop the blood flow. I grab a wad of paper towels and press them between my toes. Ouch! Then I am on my back on the floor of the cabin looking at the ceiling and seeing stars. I reach for my satellite phone. In Key West my wife Ginny is drinking coffee and reading the newspaper. “How much blood does a person have in their body?” I ask, as I explain the injury. Compassionately, and without hesitation from 12,000 miles away, she says, “Get your foot up. Now. Over your head.” 

My friend and surgeon, Dr. Byron Bailey, helped me outfit a medical emergency kit for Flying Fish. He provided a surgical staple gun for times like this. We practiced with it on a skinless chicken breast in his kitchen.  I know I need to close this wound but the thought of powering staples into my toe right now is nauseating. I change out the wad of paper towels instead and stare at the spinning ceiling of the cabin while the boat races forward on autopilot, through the night.

Aus Passage Injury Aus passage bandaged toes.sm

Log Entry / 28 JuneFuck my foot hurts!

Morning. I am still on my back on the floor of the cabin with my bloody foot resting on the companionway steps above my head when my eyes open to first light. The cabin sole looks like the floor of a slaughterhouse. I hobble upright. The boat is still on course but I am in the shipping lanes and there is traffic–the AIS signature of three merchant ships light up the chart plotter. The wind is still 30 knots. And Flying Fish is tearing across the open ocean like an ambulance on its way to the hospital. I am still more than 500 miles from shore.

Log Entry / 29 June–I must focus now. Oxycodone is calling me from my surgical kit but I cannot succumb. The shipping traffic is skirting an area of reefs to the west that I must  sail through in the next 24 hours. Got to keep it together, got to stay sharp…

The Coral Sea is a patchwork of reefs. There is a dangerous spot called Atoll de la Surprise. The chart also marks numerous areas along my route as “Unsurveyed.” Another shallow patch is titled “Presumed Position of Sandy Island.” I do not want the presumed position of Sandy Island, I need to know the exact position of Sandy Island. The moon is waning now. The nights are darker.

Log Entry / 30 June–All night I hear breaking waves. My mind tells me to believe the instruments–I am in deep water–but my senses tell me that waves are breaking, just ahead, on jagged patches of coral.

Daylight reveals that the seas have increased to 15 feet and the wind remains gusting at 30 knots behind me. I am flying a triple reefed mainsail and the tiny shred of jib set wing-and-wing. Each swell lifts Flying Fish to the top of its crest and then sends her heavy hull with a traditional keel surfing down the face of the wave. The ensuing roar of 22 tons of sailboat exceeding hull speed sounds exactly like waves breaking on a reef.

Then at mid-day do I see waves breaking over coral. I cannot see any land but I know that these waves are breaking over one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Earth. I have arrived at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Australian Passage whole numbers2

Whole Numbers–10 knots of boat speed surfing downwind in 30 knots made for a fast passage to Oz. © Jeffrey Cardenas

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Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2019

 

Send in the Clowns

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A Fire clownfish is hiding in plain sight on the Pango Point Reef in Vanuatu. These remarkable fish have developed a symbiotic relationship with anemone and an immunity to their toxic sting. Photograph © Jeffrey Cardenas

How can a person not smile when in the company of clownfish?

Flying Fish is on the island of Efate in Vanuatu making final preparations for a departure to Australia and points west. I like to make my goodbyes not only to those I have met onshore but also to my friends living underwater.

As I make a final dive on the Pango Point reef, clownfish blossom all around me in their beds of anemone. These clownfish are not here because of baited handouts, as in many tourist-oriented dive sites. They are here because they are survivors having lived through a series of destructive cyclones and the fallout from a Hollywood cartoon character.

All anemone fish, including clownfish, are hermaphrodites. They are born male until the most assertive fish transforms sexually to become female. They make their nests in clusters of anemones existing in a symbiotic relationship that is both practical and sensual. Clownfish acclimate to the venom of anemones after a gentle and prolonged period of touching the sinuous tentacles of the beautiful but predatory anemone. The touch of the anemone generates a protective mucus layer on clownfish that shields them from nematocysts, the harpoon-like stingers on the anemone’s tentacles.

Anemone protect clownfish from all underwater predators, except for those that wear dive gear and net them in the wild for captivity in aquariums.

A surviving population of Vanuatu’s clownfish. All images © Jeffrey Cardenas

After the Academy Award winning blockbuster Finding Nemo was released in 2003 (with, ironically, a pro-conservation message) the worldwide aquarium demand for wild clownfish tripled. Vanuatu was at the epicenter of an out-of-control harvest of clownfish.

By 2006, according to a report by the Vanuatu Department of Fisheries, some 200,000 fish and other marine creatures were being annually exported from the country. The four species of anenome fish in Vanuatu were classified within the archipelago’s top 10 most exported species

At the time, a US-owned company, Sustainable Reef Suppliers Ltd, was fishing the waters around Vanuatu’s main island of Efate for the aquarium market. They were shipping nearly “8,000 wild animals a month from the capital, Port Vila,” according to David Fickling, reporting in the international edition of The Guardian. Clownfish were selling in US and Australian wholesale markets for more than $10 each. According to the report, Vanuatu dive operators said that aquarium firms had over-fished several popular scuba sites, including Eretoka Island where they claim 38,000 fish were taken within one month.

Recognizing that their resource was being ravaged by foreigners, the Vanuatu Department of Fisheries in 2008 set up the Marine Aquarium Trade Management Plan. The Plan limits exporters to only four operators, two of which must be Ni-Vanuatu residents. A total annual catch quota allocation of 12,250 fish was established for Efate. The Plan, however, rewarded Sustainable Reef Suppliers, Ltd with 80% of that allocation.

Not much can be found about the tropical fish exporting company Sustainable Reef Suppliers. There are no business or phone listings for the company in Port Vila directories. Their last Facebook post was two years ago saying, “We suffered through 2 cyclones… This has left us unsettled for potential conditions years forward. We are looking forward to getting caught up and back better than ever.”

According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the global value of the marine ornamental trade is $330 million USD a year and it supplies an estimated 2 million people worldwide keeping marine aquaria. Clownfish make up 43% of the global marine ornamental trade. Some 25% of those clownfish are bred in captivity–a positive step–but the majority are still captured from the wild, decreasing clownfish densities in exploited areas like Vanuatu.

Sadly, according to the Aquarium Welfare Association (AWA), many people buy clownfish without knowing how to properly care for them. According to the AWA, hundreds of children, after seeing Finding Nemo and inspired by a line in the movie, flushed their clownfish down the toilet in the hope of setting them free.

Nemo’s cartoon friend Dory, a blue tang, probably said it best: “When life gets you down, do you wanna know what you’ve gotta do? Just keep swimming.”

An Orange-Fin clownfish in Vanuatu tenatiously leaves her nest to confront a diver with a camera. Photo: © Jeffrey Cardenas

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Please subscribe at the bottom of this page so that you don’t miss a new post, and consider sharing this post with others who might enjoy following the voyage of Flying Fish

To see where Flying Fish has sailed in the past year click here: https://cruisersat.net/track/Flying%20Fish

For current weather along the route click here: https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Flyingfish

Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2019