If the Energizer bunny were a boater, it’d be aboard Furthur with Brian Calvert, who is still chasing the cruising dream more than six years after pointing his boat’s bow toward out there.
Brian Calvert and his Selene 48 Furthur left the friendly confines of Seattle more than six years ago. Since then, they’ve been to Mexico, French Polynesia, Australia, Fiji, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sumatra, Thailand and many other places. And Calvert has documented it all at furtheradventures.com. We’ve checked in with him a couple of times before, and we do so again now, with highlights from 2015.
Year Six: The Boat 10/18/15
Having completed some maintenance and added a few major goodies at the end of year five, this year I’ve only had to concern myself with small repairs and maintenance. The always-reliable Cummins engine now has 7,400 trouble-free hours. We put 750 hours on last year, a bit below our 1,000-hour-a-year average.
With the new solar panels, there were some charging issues to resolve. Once done, I added two more AGM batteries, which raised my capacity by 50 percent.
In two instances, I grossly misdiagnosed problems and spent a bunch of money and grief on things that turned out to be simple — all in the “lessons learned” department. On both malfunctions, a broken O-ring was the culprit, one in the generator’s Racor filter and one in the stabilizer ram.
After years of packing around piles of charts, I realized I had not opened one since I left, which was a harsh realization for an old-school paper-chart guy, but true. With four computer navigation systems on board, everything from my ship’s computer to my phone is nav and GPS equipped. I decided to pass the charts on. First, I tried the Selene Owners site and other cruising forums with no luck. Shipping costs were all I was asking for the complete set of charts from Seattle to Thailand — no takers. Then I tried to give them away locally; again, no takers. So it was, with great angst, that I dropped them in the dumpster. My old U.S. Power Squadron buddies would cringe. To add insult to the old salts, I put a new ice-maker where the charts once held domain. I now open that locker every day rather than never in six years.
So on the “things we love list” goes the solar panels and, yeah, the ice-maker. With the current rolling anchorages, the Forespar Rolex stabilizer system has risen to the top of that list. My cruising buddies have all been over peering at it in wonder. For another year, the sturdy Mercury 25 hp outboard has performed flawlessly, although the dinghy is getting tired and is on the replacement list next year.
Recently I had to tow a buddy’s boat after he picked up some bad fuel and had no fuel-polishing system, an oversight he will surely correct. That experience put the ESI fuel-polishing system high on the “don’t leave home without it” list.
My FCI water-maker is a jewel, and I found out that by adding another membrane I can increase the production by 50 percent: 75 gallons an hour! My friend ordered one like it, and they included my membrane in his shipment. If finances allow, I might replace my smaller water-maker, too, since it quit years ago and just takes up space. For my crew, a water-maker is essential, and having a backup — especially one small enough to run off the inverter while underway without the gen — would be good.
Ten years — six of rugged cruising — have taken their toll on the boat. I now have rebuilt all major pumps, the windlass, the stabilizer rams and many other things, none of which gave out early but rather succumbed to lots of wear. Eventually, I will give the interior woodwork a tune-up and repaint the blue hull, but not this year.
Down the Bumpy Path: 9/20/15
This is the time of year when the trade winds change from northeast to southwest. Until midseason when the winds settle, they are usually stronger, which we found out the hard way. The moorings at Sangihe were shaky at best and it was not going to be fun when the wind picked up or shifted, so at the first sign of change we made a hasty exit.
The path south is dotted with small islands, many with great anchorages, so we decided to day hop on down to Sulawesi. The first island looked good on paper, with a deep north-facing bay well protected from southerlies. Unfortunately, it was far too deep to set an anchor. I carry an exceptional 600 feet of chain, far more than most cruising boats, and yet I could not find a place to drop the hook. John on our companion boat, Restless, gave up as well and side-tied to a small tugboat tied to the cement pier, which we did with a local ferry.
Now snuggly secure next to the pier, we were visited by most of the tiny island village. We were the biggest news to hit this town, it seemed. All the folks were genuinely friendly, and we were soon surrounded by beaming, bright smiles. I broke out the balloons, the kids laughed, the adults watched and all was good.
With sketchy Internet, our weather information was limited, but it seemed the wind would stick for at least a week, which was much too long to hang off the broken tugboat. I consulted the local ferryboat captain, and through a combination of sign language, pantomime and a few common words, he advised we go that morning. The next island was only 35 miles away, so off we went. I have said before that there are days I envy the sailboats, slipping downwind silently in a nice breeze, but today was not one of them! It was a day designed for heavy displacement trawlers. The seas built as the wind hit the 40-knot mark, yet we remained comfortable for the most part.
The next island, Siau, has a massive volcano that erupted just as we approached, smoke billowing out of the top reminiscent of old “King Kong” movies. Also bringing movies of great peril to mind, just as the volcano erupted, the always loyal, perpetually babied Cummins engine stopped. With no power, the two- to three-meter seas tossed us about violently. Being so in tune with the engine, I felt the rpm drop before it died and had my hands on the key instantly, and, praise Allah, it started. After a bit of thinking and head-scratching as to why it stopped, we continued. A few minutes later, it stopped again. This time I took action, dropped fast into the engine room, switched the dual Racor filter and switched to the other fuel tank. After a few grinds, the loyal Cummins fired up and kept running. I had run on the starboard tank since fueling and that fuel had been polished, but when the tank got down to about half, the rough weather broke loose some crud on the very bottom and blocked the fuel. One of the things I truly, deeply and passionately love about the Cummins is it will start dry. Most diesel engines would have required some painful bleeding to restart, the Cummins just fired right up. Needless to say, at the next anchorage I ran all the fuel through the ESI polishing system twice!
We rounded the volcano and headed for what we hoped was a safe anchorage. This is the one on the leg that we had doubts about. As we approached the anchorage, those doubts vanished as we settled under the watchful eye of a 50-foot-tall sparkling white statue of Jesus Christ and dropped the hook in 40 feet of calm water. We laughed as we discovered the anchorage not only had the protection of our savior but great Internet thanks to a tower right behind the statue. So with the tower and Christ off our bow and an erupting volcano off our stern, we toasted the day’s fortune.
Our usual 5:30 a.m. departure time arrived and, bam, the 20-plus knot headwinds returned. Happily, as we left the island, the seas abated and we had a more pleasant ride to Biaro Island, which had a real promising anchorage deep into a bay. We settled in and enjoyed the calm.
With better Internet, I could get more weather information and I used my new favorite site, windyty.com, which seemed to load faster than the others. The almost psychedelic (neither I nor my spell check knows how to spell this, haha [Ed note: Fortunately, I do.]) wind display clearly showed we had picked the roughest path. Just 20 or 30 miles to the west, the winds calmed and bent toward the west. As we were the lead boat in the rally, I sent a group email advising the sailboats not to follow our path. Fact is most of them would have a hard time making any headway in the seas and headwinds. I advised they take the more westward route, even though it was a nonstop passage with no comfy anchorages. Most followed my advice and were glad.
We rejoiced as we neared Sulawesi Island and calm seas and sunshine. The main city is Manado, which has no facilities or anchorage for cruising boats. Last time we visited here, I found a nice bit of local knowhow and rafted to an old derelict passenger ferry inhabited by a great bunch of local characters. They seemed to remember me from three years ago. I guess not much changes in their world. As with last time, I needed fuel and, like last time, it was the police boat that sold it to me with the help of the good ol’ boys. Furthur took on 1,000 liters and Restless took on 1,400. The difference in volume was interesting, since we both left the last fuel stop full and had done the same distance at the same speed.
We reveled in civilization. The girls shopped and I found a four-story hardware store. All were happy. We hired a cosmic bug-like pedal car, complete with rocking sound system, and cruised the avenue. The next day we heard the oh-so-welcome and familiar call of Sidewinder on the VHF and learned they were anchored not far away, so off we went to find our friends and our next adventure!
Change of Plan: 6/20/15
Cruising is a constant making and changing of plans. I find when I fight the forces that be, I regret it, and now was one of those times the forces said, “Change your plan.” I had a great crew, all excited to enter into the wilds of Indonesia, but they had time limitations. We planned on being in Davao about two weeks then off we would go, but the entrance paperwork took longer than expected, so we had to make a decision. The two crewmembers had a finite time to be on the boat and the seasonal weather change was looming, both of which did not bode well for my plan.
We drew a line in the sand. If the paperwork did not arrive by a certain date, we would change the plan and regrettably, but understandably, the crew would move on. That day came and no paperwork. With a tear in our eyes, we bid Sandra and Chloe goodbye, and Donna and I settled into marina life. My real goal was to dive at Raja Amput, and we learned that most of the folks in the marina were joining a rally there in late August, a much better time weather-wise, so we decided to join in, which puts us in a small marina for a few months.
We have quickly bonded with the cruising community here. Some I have known before, many with similar experiences. I met a guy with a 2010 Puddle Jump shirt on and showed him the name Furthur on the back. The cruisers were all very welcoming and invited us to the weekly barbecue potluck. Some brought food, I brought a guitar.
I quickly organized a weekly dive. We hire the marina speedboat with a driver, take six divers and go to one of the local hotspots. There is some remarkable soft coral — some of the healthiest I have seen in a long time — clear, warm water and just enough current to make us happy we have a boat driver.
We have found a great swimming hole, a series of waterfalls in a nice park. What a treat on a 90-degree day! I hired a motorbike, and we have explored the island already. I have also found an entertaining gambling game, at which I won 150 pesos ($3) the first time out.
Samal Island sits a 10-minute ferry ride from a major city, Davao, complete with several malls and tons of shops. We walk on the ferry and catch a cab. Pretty much anything you need is there, even a branch of Costco.
There are things we take for granted that will amaze the folks back home. Donna gets a weekly mani/pedi with wild colors for 40 pesos (80 cents). We go out to a scrumptious dinner with beer and my standard pitcher of iced tea for four bucks apiece. A taxi ride in the city is a couple of bucks. Moorage here is about $10 a day. Life is good!
Holy Week in the Land of the Faithful: 4/27/15
I think it pointless to travel the world and not immerse in the different cultures. This is one of the benefits of cruising vs. more mundane travel options. If you really want to experience a culture, take part in its religious celebrations — really take part. This is the way to know the hearts of those we visit. I always try to learn all I can and then jump right in.
In Mexico, it was the Virgin of Guadalupe Day procession. I bought a small statue, read all I could, donned the traditional garb and walked along with the ladies in long colorful skirts and men in big hats. In Tahiti, we went to Catholic mass often and heard the voice of angels in those choirs. In Fiji, we visited a church that had its roots in the Old South and gladly accepted the pastor’s offer to come out and bless our boat.
Then we left the somewhat familiar world of Christian faiths and entered Indonesia, one of the largest Islamic countries in the world. Although I was intrigued, the traditions are more private. Ramadan is not for the tourist, so I respectfully watched but did not partake. Then we hit the celebrating capital of the world, Thailand. I did the two seasonal changing holidays. Loy Krathonis is where they set adrift ornately decorated and candle-lit tiny boats in the sea. I was accompanied by miniskirted, high-heeled bar girls who had spent days building the tiny vessels. Watching the tiny boats drift to sea by the hundreds was quite a sight. The other end of the year, the beginning of the rainy season, is celebrated as no other. I can honestly say I have never had so much fun as a day of Sangran. In this celebration, the entire country enthusiastically participates in the world’s largest squirt-gun fight. Everyone throws water on everyone for 12 belly-laughing hours. Thailand also hosts the most bizarre commemoration, Vegetarian Week: wild parades with havoc-raising fireworks blasting in all directions, ear-piercing drums, and the nightly parade of those who mutilate themselves as a demonstration of their faith. One must see it to believe it.
The Philippines is a Christian-dominated culture but not like I have ever seen. The country still shows the evidence of 400 years of Spanish rule and is 81 percent Catholic — and I mean really Catholic, not the watered-down kind we see in the U.S. It is common for even the meager tricycle driver to cross himself when we pass a church. These people live the faith.
Holy Week, the week preceding Easter, is the most significant week of the year. All week long we saw celebrations and ceremonies of all kinds. Maudry Thursday, the day of the Last Supper, is observed with a mass and the reenactment of the event, complete with “the Washing of the Feet,” where Christ washed his disciples’ feet. I went to the church to see this but could not get in due to the huge crowd.
Unlike in the West, Good Friday, or Black Friday as it is called here, is the most significant day. All business stops; hospitals, banks and even the girly bars close. Many who work in the cities return to the providences to join their families for this holy day.
We returned to the oldest Catholic church in town for the Good Friday procession. Through a little research, I found this church had stood through a great deal. It was used to house prisoners by the Japanese during World War II.
Today, it was brightly decorated and well attended. We joined about 500 local people as we lit our candles and followed the ornately decorated floats. Each float depicted a significant character from the original event: Saint Peter, Mary Magdalen, the Holy Mother and, of course, the suffering Jesus. The solemn marchers recited prayers.“Hail Mary, full of grace” was chanted repeatedly and with bone-chilling resolve, which made me take note. One could feel the sincerity and deep, deep faith of the walkers. It was powerful.
In my quest to grasp the soul of the Filipinos, I have also been studying the history of the Philippines, especially the recent move to close the huge U.S. military bases. After centuries of colonization — Chinese, Spanish, American — for the first time in 1992, the Philippines were truly independent. The vote to not renew the treaty was taken seriously and was not without conflict. Subic Bay alone provided 20,000 good-paying jobs, not to mention a level of security.
I recently visited a monument to the 12 senators who voted against the treaty, where you can read the speeches they made. They are still honored today. This was not an anti-American move. Their sincere desire was to maintain a strong bond with the U.S. and be an ally, but not a colony. I had read about the vote, but not until I stood under the monument did I feel the essence of the Filipino heart.
My travels have taught me many wonderful things, but the most important is to know the people. Immerse oneself in the religious ceremonies, read the history, visit the historical monuments and play with the children. Then and only then will you know the hearts of the people you visit.