I have created this blog with the hopes that you, my friend, will follow me as I sail around the world (figuratively or literally, not sure yet) with my parents on their Contest 48. Whereas I hope to keep you updated with exciting adventures of exotic ports and epic waves, keep in mind that cruising - that is, traveling by boat in a leisurely fashion - tends to be filled with days of intense boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Please keep this in mind as you read these entries, for this platform will be just as much an attempt for me to maintain my sanity (and connection to the California-based world), as entertainment and reassurance for you. And so, follow me as I sail the world.

P.S. All material on this blog, words and photos alike, are copyrighted by me. Copyright 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. If you decide that this material is worth re-publishing, please give me credit and lots and lots of money.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The COOLidge

It is hot. And still. There is not a breath of wind and the air is heavy. The sun beats down mercilessly, even though it is still morning. The austral summer is creeping up on us, and summer in the tropics not particularly fun. As opposed to the 'go to the beach every day and BBQ every night' California kind of summer, the tropical summer is marked by torrential rain, malaria outbreaks, lightning storms, cyclones, oppressive heat and all sort of other fun things. Thus, we are leaving the tropics. Soon.

As a matter of fact it looks like we will head for OZ on Saturday - at least that was the consensus of this morning. In the meantime, I have been spending my last few days basking in the soggy heat and also trying to hide from it. I have found that the best way to hide from the heat is to hang out underwater, and the easiest way to hang out underwater is to scuba dive. Thus, I have been doing lots of diving.

A few days ago a group of us got a dive trip together to dive the SS Coolidge, which is considered to be one of the best wreck dives in the world. The Coolidge was an American luxury liner (think Titanic) that was converted into a troop carrier in WWII. As she was entering Luganville on October 26, 1942 to deliver troops, tanks, jeeps and other military stuff, she hit an American mine, due to lack of updated information (oops). The captain, realizing that the ship was going to sink, ran her up on the reef and called for all 4,000 troops to abandon ship. Amazingly only two people died, thanks to the quick thinking of the captain.

And now we have an awesome wreck to dive. The Coolidge is considered a technical wreck dive because it is so deep - the bow sits in 70 feet of water and the stern is in 250. It would take over 15 dives to see the whole thing, but I have no desire to dive to 250 feet, so we stuck with the intro dive which took us down to 103 feet.

After getting all our gear set, we all rolled off the dive boat and into the water. Because the wreck is so deep and because they do not want it pillaged, you have to go with a dive tour to dive the Coolidge. So we had a few local dive masters take us down. As I descended down the mooring line I saw the bow of the ship start to emerge from the depths of the gloom. It is absolutely huge so it was hard to tell what I was looking at, until I recognized the winches for hauling up the anchor.

At about 90 feet there is a hole in the side of the hull, and our guide led us into the cargo hold. Inside the hold there are still jeeps and tanks, lunch trays and cooking pots. It is so eerie to be swimming around in a pitch black cargo hold with only the beams of a few flashlights to illuminate ghostly relics of WWII, as well as the schools of fish that live in the wreck.

After leaving the cargo hold we swam down to 100 feet where, on the sun deck (or what used to be the sun deck) there are old corroded helmets and guns. The dive master tried to put one on my head, but it was so heavy I started to sink. It must have weighed 10 pounds. The thing that amazed me most about this dive is the fact that so much of the original stuff from the ship is still there - doorknobs, shoes, coke bottles, shells (as in bombs), guns - but I guess that is what happens when there is a lockdown on a dive site.

Because we were so deep we could not stay long, and after a few minutes at 100 feet we had to start our ascent. On the way up I saw some cool looking lionfish, a titan triggerfish (my new favorite fish) and some nice coral. The wreck disappeared back into the gloom and we headed back to the boat for our surface interval.

The next dive was a mellow dive on Cindy's reef, full of beautiful coral, an occasional shark and huge schools of fish. There were also a few clips of bullets strewn about the reef. I don't know if there was much actual fighting in Vanuatu during WWII, but there sure is a lot of junk leftover from it.

Speaking of junk and wrecks, Mark and I heard of a plane wreck that was supposed to be a good dive, so yesterday we went looking for it. Our only directions were, "look for the cattle fence that goes down into the water East of the resort, head off at a 45 degree angle, go down to 90 feet and it should be there." Unfortunately there was more than one cattle fence to the east of the resort, but we followed the directions to no avail. It was kind of fun anyway, and at least a good way to stay cool.

And so it is getting to be about that time where we say goodbye to people not going our direction, and talk incessantly about weather with those who are. Last night we had a goodbye party for our good friends on Sarah Jean, who are heading back to New Zealand. We couldn't convince them to come to Australia with us, which is too bad because they are good people. We spent the afternoon snorkeling and when we got tired of that, swam to Mark's boat for a beer. Then we all jumped in the water and swam to Rutea for a beer. Then we all swam to Riada for a beer, and so on, to complete our booze cruise/pub crawl-swim. Of course the sun was setting as we all swam back to our respective boats, made all the more exciting by the exclamation, "Last one to their boat is shark bait!" I have never seen everybody swim so fast.

Tonight Mark and I are heading back to Luganville (oh yeah, we left the Luganville anchorage for a few days to get into some nice water) to do a dive or two more on the Coolidge before we head out. A few more provisioning trips, a few more internet sessions, clean the bottom of the boat, check the rigging, check the fuel, check out and we are outta here!

P.S. I am absolutely gutted at the idea of leaving the South Pacific, but really excited about getting to OZ. As we say out here, it's all good!
At 10/23/2012 9:02 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 15°31.37'S 167°09.90'E

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