Sailing The World's Oceans

Dream ~ Discover ~ Explore

Monday, June 13, 2011 - 09:00 Local Tahiti time.

We got the hook down Saturday morning about Noon. 
3 days and 3 hours.  Two days later and I’m still exhausted. 
The anchorage is beautiful.  We’re tucked up behind a palm
grove filled motu that protects us from the wind.  There isn’t
much here.  A small town we explored yesterday.  We saw
probably at least a half really wasted young men.  It was hard to
tell if they were drunk or had been doing some drugs. 
I’ve read they have an alcohol problem on some of these atolls.

There really isn’t much in town but some old homes, a school and
a store.  We’re very content staying here in the quiet anchorage
away from everything.   Jake, Jackie and I are going to explore the
motu and have a picnic over there this afternoon.  No buildings there
at all.  Just nature, at her best.  I’ll be sure to take some pictures. 
We are heading to Ahe tomorrow morning.  It’s only about 18 miles
away.  No long sail tomorrow.  Hooray.

Patrick, the owner of the pearl farm we visited 13 years ago is there
and knows we’re coming.  John touched base with them via e-mail a
few days ago.  We’re supper excited about reconnecting with them.

More later,

Much Aloha,


Friday June 10, 2011 - 12:12 Local Marquesean Time

With a 25 knot breeze and higher gusts on our port quarter we’ve got
125 nautical miles left to go to Manihi.  We’re charging onward.  Yesterday
put a double reef in the mainsail and this morning reefed the jib into not
much bigger than a large T-shirt.  Solstice is sailing comfortably and the
rig isn’t over stressed but we’re rolling a lot from rail to rail as big swells
move through and pass under the hull.  The seas have been building
since we left.  I’d say they’re big but that’s a relative term.  They’re big
for coastal swells but not big for normal mother ocean trade wind stuff. 
I’d say it’s a 10 -12 foot rolling seaway with swells coming from three
different directions.  They keep you tossing and rolling.  Yesterday the
forward stateroom books decided they hated being on the shelf and
wanted to explore.  I imagine they all counted one, two, three and all leapt
together from the shelf at the same time.  All I heard was a resounding
BOOM as they hit the floor.  I ran down below quickly afraid of what I might
find that made that noise.  I was relieved that it was just books that had
hurled themselves for the shelf.  Unfortunately, you can’t put them all back
together as they came off.  Instead you have to do it one by one, sort of.  You grab and put it on the shelf.  Now if you let go, it would just jump off the shelf again because you can’t put the rail up to hold the books up until you get all the books back on the shelf.  You have to hold the book up there while you reach for another one on the floor.  On you go one by one.  It’s like that 100 bottles of beer on the wall song only they’re 100 books on the floor and instead of taking one down and passing it around you pick one up, put it up on the shelf and reach for another and all the books are back on the floor.  It took me awhile to figure out how to do it.  In the end you end up trying to get a mass of them up there, then get the rail back in and then sort of sneak the smaller ones in that you can over the rail without having to remove the rail.  Anyway, eventually they got back on the shelf and so far, they’re still there.

So the challenges have presented themselves and last night was difficult to sleep as the seas increased.  Regular dustings of sea spray are no good when you’re trying to sleep in the cockpit.  I’ve heard most all single-handers sleep in the cockpit so I figured I’d trust their reasoning behind it and I followed suit.  About halfway into my second sleepless night I figured that was stupid.  What am I saving myself, 10 seconds of time between when I awake and when I get to the cockpit?  I couldn’t see staying up there and not sleeping and going below to where it was a lot more comfortable.  So I went below, with my handheld VHF close to my ear and crashed on the main salon satee.  I was able to grab some much-needed sleep while Solstice took over on watch.

This morning the deep blue of the south Pacific was windswept filled with white caps.  Another long day and a longer night still to go.  It would be easy right now for me to bitch about being out here alone, to complain about the big seaway or the 28 knot gusts but once you’ve been in 50 knots of breeze, well you don’t complain about 25 anymore.  Yes it’s inconvenient and uncomfortable but that’s how it is out here right now.  It could be a million times worse.  Sometimes when I start to feel this way or start to want to feel sorry for myself, I reach into my heart where the twelve-year old Billy Babington still lives and I pull him out for a while.  The rest of this log entry is best read while listening to the Pirate’s of the Caribbean Curse of the Black Pearl soundtrack.  The first movie, not the sequels.

I jumped up on deck and looked out across the deep blue of the vast open sea.  The tops of the swells were windblown bright white.  Look where you are?  I said to myself.  LOOK WHERE YOU ARE?  I said to Billy.  You’re in a boat, out here in the middle of the ocean.  Not just any boat, Solstice.  Your boat.  Look how awesome she’s sailing. 

Solstice climbed up a wave, skipped over the top of the white foam and wind and slid down the other side and gently into the next trough.A smile that’s been missing for some time now bubbled up from deep inside.  WOW!  I started to see everything through Billy’s eyes.A big sea hit the side of the boat hard.  The deck went awash and water rushed down both sides the deck and out through the gunnels.  AWESOME!!!

AAARRRGGGGHHHH!!!” I bellowed.

I ran below and quickly searched through the i-Pod and
found the Pirate’s Curse of the Black Pearl soundtrack and
turned it up full blast.  I hauled down the French and American
flag that you’re required to fly out here and hoisted the colours

(that’s how a pirate spells “colour”) or should I say colour –
Black is the one that suits me and Solstice best.  I rose the                          
Skull and Crossbones at the starboard spreader halyard and
the Blackbeard flag I had made years ago off the starboard
aft stay halyard.  For those who don’t know Edward Teach is
in my family tree so it’s really a family flag.

The music kept perfect rhythm with the sea and Solstice.  I stood up
high on the aft deck and watched as Solstice rose up and over the
seas.  She sailed gallantly towards Manihi.  Suddenly a man’s hand
slapped hard on the port cap rail, then the other.  A head then emerged as the man, pulled himself above the rail.  A bandana was wrapped about his head and a gold looped earring dangled from his left ear.  He held a dagger tightly in his teeth.  Another pirate, pulled himself from the starboard, rail.  That’s when I noticed the huge square rigger off my beam.  PIRATES!  How did they sneak up on me?  Pirates have a magical way of appearing.  Three more men climbed the rail and a cannon ball flew across the bow.  I pulled my sword from my sheath and readied for battle.  I ran over the deck barefoot and chased the attackers to the bow.  As I ran by the cannon I fired a shot towards the ship.  A perfect shot that brought the mainmast of the ship crashing to the deck.  HHHOOORRRAYYY!!!  Solstice and I let out a cheer.  Under the power of the wind, the ship couldn’t keep with up with us now.  I only had to take care of the pirates that had made it aboard.  The battle started on the foredeck.

CLINK, CLINK, CLANG!  Two blocks and a thrust later to the chest and BOOM I kicked the first pirate off my hilt overboard.  The other two ran towards the aft deck for safety.  I pulled my dagger from my belt, put it in my mouth, grabbed the spinnaker halyard and swung out over the ocean  SWISH…. THUNK!  The dagger hit the second thug in the chest.  He tried to pull it out and hurl it back at me but not before I swung into him with both feet knocking him over the aft rail and into the sea.  I upon the aft deck perfectly.

CLING, CLIING, CLUNK, CLANG!  I took up battle with the last pirate.  Obviously they didn’t know I was related to Blackbeard otherwise they would’ve never ventured to board Sosltice.  I should’ve raised the flag sooner.

ClINK, CLANK, SWISH!  He barely caught my cheek, the blood was warm that ran down my face.
AARRRRR!  I’M A PIRATE!  My rage took over I drove him towards the rail. 


Solstice then turned by herself towards a big sweeping swell.  She rose high up over the top.  Her bow glistening in the sun under the sea spray.

CLINK, CLANK!  Our swords were locked in a fury of swirling steel.

As we hit the crest of the wave Solstice leaned hard to port and rolled down the back side.  She released the mainsheet on cue and the boom came swinging over.  I ducked just in time and BOOM!

The boom hit the pirate square in the chest and SPLASH!  He hit the sea and vanished under a windswept wave and was gone as soon as he arrived.

“I’M A PIRATE!!!” I yelled to the empty sea.

And look where you are Bill?  You’re sailing around the world?  You finally left the slip.  You’re on your way.

Thanks Billy Babington.

Over my shoulder Hokule’a was in my wake.  I should grab the cannon, turn Solstice around and give them a broadside.

“AAARRRRR, LET’S DO IT.”  Well that would be a pain in the ass and we’d be off course and lose time and Jake and Jackie would wonder what the hell I was doing. 

COMMON!” Billy insisted. 

“Some other time,” Bill replied.

“Party Pooper.”

Then I had another idea.  When Hokule’a calls on the radio insist that you’re Blackbeard and that Bill isn’t aboard anymore.  That you tossed him to the sharks.  They’ll think it’s funny at first but don’t ever stop.  Just keep pretending to be Blackbeard the rest of this trip util we get there.  “Arrrr tis I Captain Teach, the swab you’re referring to is feeding the sharks, Arrrrr.”  Eventually they’ll think I went crazy if I don’t let up.  How fun would that be?  Wow there are a lot of possibilities out here.

In all the excitement of being a pirate my stopped up digestive system from the stress of the last few days started knocking on the door so I went below to the forward head.  I looked at the hatch right above the toilet.  It was dry.  I pushed it open and looked at the deck.  It was bone dry. 

I’ll leave the hatch open just for a minute. 

I wanted to get some fresh air into the boat and especially into the forward head.  I like a clean smelling boat, even when I’m alone.  The air rushed in and swept out the stale trapped air immediately.  Ahh, it felt good.  I promptly sat down there and grabbed a hold of the hand holds so that I wouldn’t slide off seat.  Solstice’s starboard rail rose slowly up, then her port rail fell quickly just as she had done to knock the Pirate overboard.

The wave hit the side of the boat hard and twenty gallons of seawater exploded up over the rail, awashed the foredeck and flowed down the hatch straight down on top of me.  The only thing more humiliating sitting there on the toilet would’ve been if a big fish had landed in my lap.  If I had jumped into the ocean I couldn’t have gotten much wetter.  The phrase “down the hatch” took on a whole new meaning.  I sat there on the toilet, my wet matted hair dripped salt water down my face.  Again, I was all alone, feeling sorry for myself when… HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!
Billy Babington was in the main salon rolling on the floor laughing his ass off.  And I laughed too.  Thanks Billy for breathing some life back into this 47 year old heart.

Much Love and Aloha,

Thursday June 9, 2011 - 10:29 Local Marquesas Time

Until now my longest solo crossing was 10 hours and 20 minutes from King Harbor in Redondo Beach to Santa Barbara Harbor.  I broke that record at about 21:00 last night.  This leg from Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas to Manihi is approximately 467 nautical miles.  We’ve had a steady 15 to 17 knot ESE breeze with gust up to 22 knots.  At least that’s what I’ve seen on the anemometer.  It’s supposed to pick up to 20-25 by sometime tomorrow.   So far, Solstice has handled beautifully.  In the beginning we were a bit overpowered.  I started with a single reef in the main and that seems to be fine for now.  I have taken in the headsail twice to balance her out and that has helped settle the boat down though we’re still cruising in the mid 7 knot range and sometimes into the low 8’s. 

I’m learning quickly that single-handing is different than with a
crew.  Besides the obvious I’M THE ONLY ONE OUT HERE,
aspect.  It’s cool you can yell that as loud as you can from your
heart and soul from the port rail to the ocean and beyond and it
doesn’t bother anybody else because I’M THE ONLY ONE
OUT HERE.  I sort of feel like that penguin in the Far Side
cartoon where he’s in the middle of the masses of thousands of          
other penguins and he shouts, “I’M SOMEBODY!”  When you
yell “I’M SOMEBODY!” out here as loud as you can it’s very
humbling because all there is is vast open ocean and the ocean
doesn’t really care.  I think she hears me but she’s so big and
I’m well… insignificant upon her. Getting back to what I’m
learning about single-handing being different for me than with
a crew aboard is I’m seeing that I’m much more patient with myself
and with the boat by myself.  I’ve taken words to heart from another
single-hander friends and close friends in general.  Here are a few of
their words of wisdom:

“Go slow.”

“Take your time.” 

“Think things through thoroughly before you do something.”

“When you have to do something go slow and be deliberate.”

“It’s not a race.”

“When you’re tired go to sleep.  Let the boat take care of herself.”

So far I’m been doing all these things and everything is much better aboard.  In the past I’ve always pushed the boat, myself and when I think of it, probably other crew members too.  I’ve always wanted to out sail the boat next to me.  I’m not a racer and never have been but to me that’s always been fun.  I love getting the most out of the boat and the wind.  But out here now it’s different.  I’m vulnerable.  I’m alone.  One mistake the boat pitches when you don’t realize it nobody’s turning the boat around to come get you.  I’m more careful and patient.  I’m starting to feel that that’s the way to always be.
There’s a rhythm to the sea, to the earth, to nature in general.  To put it in a time perspective, to me it’s the pace of the sun moving across the sky.  It’s the pace of the tidal change of the sea or the phases of the moon.  It’s the rhythm of waves landing upon the shore or the wind sweeping across plains and rustling fields of grain.  Things are always progressing and changing and are productive but at a slow almost controlled pace.  Nothing is rushed, nothing is forced, things move forward smoothly and without haste. When things are forced things break and people get hurt. 

I think the rhythm of the Earth is at the pace I need to be while single-handing.  More importantly, it’s at the pace I need live. I’ll have to remind myself of this the next time I’m chasing Hokule’a or when I’m trying to force something or change a situation and I find myself going against the flow of the Earth. 

As for this passage right now, I’ve got 24 hours under the belt with another 40 to go.  I didn’t get much sleep last night.  Maybe 2 ½ hours total.  I stayed awake until about 22:00.  Then I made a makeshift bunk in the cockpit and curled up there.  I told Solstice that she was on watch and to wake me up if she needed me.  Then I tried hard to close my eyes and sleep.  I’d dose for about 15 to 20 minutes before I’d leap up startled and anxious like I had overslept for a big final exam after pulling an all nighter studying.  Only when I awoke I didn’t have to run to a bus or anything; all around there was only a dark windswept sea, big swells and millions of stars scattered about the Pacific night sky.  I hear getting about 2 hours sleep the first night is about normal for a single-hander. Not getting sleep is definitely not at the pace of nature.  I have so much to learn.  Maybe I’ll sleep better tonight.  I doubt it but I’m hopeful. 

I must admit, Laura Dekker is a hero to me.  Anybody taking on this challenge all the way around the world alone is a hero.  But the 14 to 16 year old girls like Jessica Watson, Laura Dekker and Abby Sunderland, they have courage, strength and guts.  The fatigue factor alone is huge.  Not to mention the physical and emotional demands of having to do absolutely everything and relying only on themselves.  I’m only doing it right now for 467 miles, they’re doing it all the way around the globe.  Amazing.  They are really pushing the limits of themselves emotionally and physically.  I hope Laura remembers to go slow and continue at the correct pace.  If she does that, she’ll make it just fine.  And so will I. 

Okay,  I’ve been writing this down below in the main salon, I need to go back up to check on things.  Hokule’a was about 2.3 miles ahead of Solstice.  As long as we stay close for our own comfort level I don’t care about being out-sailed.  Solstice and I are going slow, taking our time.  It’s about the journey,
not the destination.

More later.  Until then,

Much Aloha,




Sunday June 19, 2011 - 18:47 Local Tahiti Time

We arrived safely at dawn in Rangiroa.  It was a long sleepless crossing from Ahe but we’re here, hook down and in a tropical flat harbor.  I have internet access here and I just learned that Clarence Clemens died.  For those that know me you know how huge an “E-Street Band” fan I am.  Tonight I’m hoisting a cold one in honor of the The Big Man, Clarence Clemens.

More later….

Much Aloha,


Saturday June 18, 2011 - 15:27 Local Tahiti Time

We left through the pass a couple of hours ago and are headed to Rangiroa.  The second largest coral atoll in the world; at least that’s what the books say that I’ve read.  I have no idea where the biggest atoll is.

I wish we could have stayed in Ahe longer.  I would’ve enjoyed sharing more time with Patrick and the new workers there.  One thing was exactly the same.  The warmth, sincerity, and generous nature of him and the people that worked there is exactly as I remember it.  Patrick has done more than build a business there; he’s built a special family.  They care about one another more than they do their business.  And they care about their business very, very much.

Patrick had been gone for some time and only recently has returned to the farm after his son Josh had run it for several years.  I’m hopeful Patrick will rediscover that vibrant fire he has and the pearl farm will once again exude its former vitality.  My favorite time there this trip was when we first arrived.  It took a while but Patrick finally remembered us and we all shared beers and hugs.  Another pearl farm owner named Henri was also there.  He is a long time friend of Josh’s who had started his own farm several years ago.  He stopped by for a visit.  We soon learned that whenever Henri came to visit all work seized.  It is good to have Henri visit.  So instead of pouring through the monumental tasks that are involved in making pearls, beers were brought out and it was time to “talk story”.  There was much laughter and joy around the table though I was often “lost in translation” as I struggled to comprehend what was being said.  One thing about laughter at a table, if it’s happening you tend to join in.  Even if you have no idea what people are laughing at.  They could be laughing at me, I wouldn’t know but I laughed too.  And it was a genuine laugh from me.  Laughter is great that way.  It is infectious in all the right ways.  If you just listen to somebody laughing, well you’ll laugh too.  It’s just the way it is.

After much laughter, a ukulele made its appearance and the magic of Polynesia settled about the room.  Henri picked it up immediately.  A spark lit in his dark brown eyes and a big smile came across his face as he held the uke in his hands.  As if on cue, one of the other workers grabbed a large blue plastic barrel that looked like an empty trash can and drug it over to the table.  He turned it upside down and looked to Henri to begin.

“I am going to sing you a song of Bora, Bora,” he said with pride.

A rhythmic pounding was beaten upon the barrel.  And Henri began to play the sweetest melody upon his ukulele.  And then he began to sing in that most beautiful island song voice that every Polynesian seems to have.  I’ve forgotten how beautiful it is.  The music pulsed in his veins and his whole being vibrated in beauty as he sang.  He played the ukulele the exact same way my friend Jeep used to.  It brought his memory warm to my heart.  It was a magical moment and it was the highlight of my visit to Ahe.  I could’ve stayed there all night, talked story, listened to music, sing and enjoyed just being alive.

I do wish we could have stayed longer.  I think more of those moments would have arisen if we had.  Patick’s farm has a magic about it that I will always remember.  But for some reason it felt like it was time to go this time.  I did get myself a few pearls.  Last time he gave us each a pair.  This time I bought some.  I found special ones for my nieces and I also wanted to find a special keepsake for myself.  Patrick found it. 

“You will never find another pearl like this,” he said.  “I have worked in this business many, many, years and you find special pearls now and again, like this one.  It is unique.  If you find another pearl identical, I will give you your money back,” and he laughed.  That fire in his eyes had returned.

It is a large barrel shaped pearl with blues, greens, browns, reds and silvers all swirled together to form the beautiful smooth skin of a Ahe black pearl.

It was perfect and it will forever remind me the beautiful days I shared with these special people on this small atoll in the middle of the South Pacific both thirteen years ago and this past week.

Next stop, Rangiroa.  We’re some 65 nautical miles away and sailing slowly there.  We should make landfall at sunrise.

Until then,

I remain,

William A. Babington

Friday June 17, 2011 - 09:02 Local Tahiti Time

Back in Ahe.  We left Manihi Tuesday morning.  As planned with Hokule’a, we pulled anchor about 07:45 so that we could hit the pass at slack tide exiting the atoll.  Not planned was that my anchor fouled.  Solstice has all 3/8 high-test chain to protect against chafing on coral heads.  It is also great for snagging coral heads.  I began the morning with a good cup of Tahitian coffee and what I thought would be a leisure event of pulling anchor.  The first 50 feet came right up and then…


The chain tightened and pulled the bow of the boat back down hard.  ARRRGGGGHHH!!!  Like a good pirate I use Arrgghh whenever it’s appropriate.

I ran back and forth from the helm to the bow and tried pull the anchor and drive the boat around at the same time trying to free the chain.  Each time I’d steer the boat, run forward, pull the chain up and SNAG!  The bow would stiffen down.  Nothing would budge.  I saw two boats since we’ve arrived have fouled anchors.  Correction, three.  I don’t like this  anchorage now but that’s another story.

Jake and Jackie were able to get their anchor up with little problems.  I radioed them and told them of my problem.  Once Jake had Hokule’a ready to go he dove in the water and swam over to lend a hand.  He’s great that way.  Now with me driving and him at the bow, we still couldn’t free the chain.  In the end, I put on my dive gear and headed down to free it the best way, at the source.  My first dive of the trip on this world cruise and it’s to free the anchor.  I guess it could be worse, to clean the bottom of the boat.  Large coral heads were scattered about a stark white coral crushed bottom.  The chain wasn’t tangled around coral heads but instead would snag under a ledge whenever we tried to pull it up.  I picked the chain up and lifted it up and laid it on top of several coral heads.  Chain is heavy and awkward to deal with, especially underwater.  I freed it from the first ledge and laid it on top of the coral head.  I swam over to the second coral head and pulled the chain from under it and lifted it up over my head to place it on top of the coral. I had the chain at arms length atop my head when it pulled back over top my head and fell and started to snag on the top of my tank.  It jerked me back a bit and I started to fall backwards.  I watched streams of my bubbles drift upward towards the silvery surface of the sea.  I imagined Jake peering over the bow looking at all the bubbles hitting the surface wondering “Wow he’s been down there a long time.”  Fortunately before I fell too far back I was able to pull the chain back over my head and throw it down at my feet.  WOW!  That was close.  What a stupid way to go, trapped under your own anchor chain.”

I caught my breath, refocused and continued to work, laying the chain out so it could be pulled up easily.  I broke the surface, gave Jake the thumbs up and he pulled the anchor up without fouling.

Back aboard we headed off towards the pass.  We discovered quickly that the tied chart that we had was incorrect.  Instead of being a flowing tide nearing high tide we instead had an ebbing tide that seemed to be right at the peak of current speed.

When a boat moves through the water the water rushing past the hull and the rudder gives the boat the ability to steer.  If the boat doesn’t have any headway through the water you have no steerage.  With that in mind, if the boat is traveling at 6 knots and you put it into a current that is also moving at 6 knots in the same direction no water is going past the rudder and therefore you have no steerage.

was ahead of Solstice by a couple of hundred yards.  I always sort of get a kick going in and out of passes as they can be well… exciting.  I had the video camera out and was taking still pictures.
As we entered the pass the current flow seemed to move into a “V” shape and small rapids were right at the mouth.  Immediately I knew that this was no slack tide.  I had read too that this particular pass was mostly easily traversed.  No warnings were given about waiting for slack tide as they are in other more extreme places, like Ahe and Rangiroa. 

entered the pass.  I followed, snapping pictures.  Immediately the depth finder went from 25 feet to 15..  14… 10…. 9.  I hate single digit depth finder readings.  8.5… 7.7… Yikes 6.4.  Suddenly Hokule’a turned hard to starboard.  Immediately I thought they were avoiding a coral head in the pass as Jake was aloft telling Jackie at the helm which way to steer.  Then Hokule’a swung back to port and then to starboard again.  I throttled back to increase the distance between us.  As I slowed down Solstice matched the speed of the current and she also spun to starboard.  Yikes.  I throttled up.  I had enough power to regain steerage but not enough room to avoid Hokule’a if she spun sideways again. 

A group of locals had gathered along the wharf to watch us leave.  When the boats spun a cheer went up from the crowd.  “HHHOOORRRAAYYY!”  Ahh, I love the locals.  I could only imagine the talk.  “Look here come the two American boats going to brave the pass during the height of the tidal change.”  “Let’s go watch.”  “Maybe they’ll end up on the reef.”  “Ha, ha, ha.  Stupid Americans.”

Fortunately Jackie regained control and Hokule’a didn’t turn again.  We zipped through the pass and made it through.  An exciting exit.

When we arrived at Ahe the tide chart we had was wrong for there too.  We ended up waiting a couple of hours outside the pass for the current to lay down.  Our entrance into Ahe was uneventful though emotionally it was anxious in the wake of our exit from Manihi pass earlier. 

Ahe is as beautiful as I remember.  The motus are lush with palm groves and tropical forests.  There seems to be more homes built along various motus but other than that the atoll is the same.  A tranquil lagoon rimmed by a deep red coral reef.  The beaches are rough and rugged and there’s little sand but that keeps the waters pristine and clear. 

I was super excited upon our arrival to head over to the Kamoka Pearl Farm where Jake, John and I spent an incredible week 13 years ago.  Actually almost exactly 13 years and one month.  There is a lot of truth to the statement “You can never go home again” and that statement comes to mind in my visit to the pearl farm.  With the exception of a Patrick, the owner, and Timmy there were all new faces at the farm.  Also the amount of full time workers compared to 13 years ago was drastic.  In ’98 Patrick easily had 20 plus workers on the farm.  In its hayday over 30.  The economy along with a divorce that took half the value of his farm shows has had its impact.  There was a vitality and prosperity 13 years ago that seemed to be missing.  Patrick himself still had a fire in his eyes though it was dimmer than I remember.  When Patrick saw the Exuma at anchor and the extreme wealth it takes to maintain such a vessel he said “What’s his business to have such a vessel?  It must be one of three things; oil, drugs or war,” he then laughed but there was a serious tone to his laughter.


Saturday June 25, 2011 - 06:15 Local Tahiti Time

We’re leaving Rangiroa this morning bound for Pape’ete in Tahiti.  It’s 200 plus miles away.  Should be there in about 36 hours or so if King Neptune and Mother Ocean allow that.  I will send another update then which will include a sequel to the Rangiroa dive.  No tiger shark this time but in itself incredibly powerful.

Until then….

Much Aloha,


Monday June 20, 2011 - 15:58 Local Tahiti Time

Not quite thirteen years ago Jake and I were in the middle of our 15-month excursion that gave birth to this one.  One day back then we were Savusavu in Fiji and we had just said goodbye to our friend Bill C. who had gotten on a plane back to L.A.  after a visit.  We found ourselves at this small pizza restaurant that overlooked the waterway to the ocean and the anchorage where our then boat Far Niente was anchored.  As we sat there we started to hear all this commotion amongst the wait staff.  It reverberated around the restaurant and spread out into the neighboring streets.  It was all in Fijian and we couldn’t comprehend much except excitement.  All of a sudden islanders came running from every direction and began to line up along the embankment by the water. There was much laughter, jeering and even a nervousness hung in the air as the all looked out towards the pass towards the ocean.

Here’s what I wrote in my journal then:

October 23rd 1998

...Being a diver you hear a lot about sharks all the time.  The fierce, ferocious, maneaters that Mr. Spielberg and Co. made millions off of by telling horror stories about.  This inbred fear in our bones towards these creatures of the depth is deep seeded in our souls.  It was while eating lunch here with Jake that I had my first glimpse of one of the most feared of the shark species, a Tiger Shark.  The tiger is “blamed” for most shark attacks around the world and it seems that fatal attacks are mostly inflicted by the Tiger.  If it’s not number 1 it’s in the top 3.  As a diver, it’s the one shark you truly don’t want to encounter while underwater – It’s even more feared than the Great White.

I was eating pizza and drinking a diet coke and was enjoying food that brought me back to home in Redondo.  I began to notice a scurrying of people moving by our table towards the dock.  They were speaking excitedly in Fijian.  Jake and I exchanged looks, we shrugged our shoulders and went back to our pizza.  The man that ran the yacht club and restaurant along this waterway in this sleepy little town bustled by but not before shouting over his shoulder in his sophisticated New Zealand accent “Come quick fellas, you’re not gonna want to miss this.”

We put down our pizza and made our way to the waterfront where the crowd had gathered.  I followed the eyes of the spectators towards the pass to the lagoon.  There an old white rust colored fishing boat was making its way towards us.  A stream of black smoke billowed from the hard stack on the deckhouse and was a stark contrast to the tropical blue sky.  “They caught him just off the lighthouseby the reef. No more than a mile from here,” a man said above the crowd.

The boat came closer and a new image began to take form.  The rust color was deep dark brown and obscured what used to be a white hull.  It was as if the boat had been attacked by a rust plague that was slowly consuming the vessel, making her old and decrepit looking. 

But something else began to emerge.  Something large was hanging over the starboard rail and a glistened black in the sun.  The rust bucket chugged along at a good pace.  The object hanging off the side of the boat dragged in the water and created a roostertail of water that shot high into the sky.  “Ohhs” and “Ahhs” began to reverberate through the salivating crowd.  As the drone of the boats engine grew louder a pain began to emanate from deep in the core of my chest.  It was then that I comprehended the horror of what I was looking at.

The tail of the creature jetted up towards the sky and flopped back and forth with the motion of the boat.  It was almost as if it was waving at the jeering and leering crowd.  Its body was long and sleek and ran down along the side of boat and its head disappeared into the water as if he was making one final attempt to escape and get back home.  His colors were magnificent.  Deep charcoal grey intertwined with dark black lines that curved in unison and with the individuality of the rings of a fingerprint.  They were the undeniable markings of a tiger shark.  Measured against the length of the rust bucket he was 10-12 feet long – His head being dragged underwater to ensure a drowning death if he was still alive made an exact measurement hard to guess.

As the boat chugged by the pain in my chest swelled and hurt.  “Indigestion”, I thought, “No.  It was something much deeper,” I knew.  The crowd began to disperse and chase after the boat as it past. When he was closest to me the pain filled my whole core from chest to gut.  I felt like I was going to throw up.  The gloating fisherman with a brown beer belly that hung over his belt chewed on the end of a syrupy cigar.  All I could think about was what a waste of such a beautiful animal.  It wasn’t caught for sustenance of any kind or for any good reason.  He’s a trophy fish.  His jaws will be cut out and they will be mounted on the wall of the nearest bar where drunken tourist can stare at them with bloodshot eyes and gawk and wonder “What type of shark do you supposed that’s from?” “I don’t know but I’m glad it’s up thar on the wall and not out thar where I’m swimmin’.” Or maybe the whole carcass will be stuffed and hung up in some seafood restaurant and it’s features will be accentuated to make it look ferocious like it was attacking and it’ll successfully frighten the little children who’ll cuddle next to their parents for comfort.  Parents who’ll marvel “Wow, look at the size of that.  Hate to run into one of them.”

Such a magnificent misunderstood animal that used to move through the water with grace and power and who was destroyed for no other reason than for being a shark.  Destroyed by an ignorant animal who rids everything it fears on earth from other animals to its own species.  It rids not for want of food or necessity or for survival, it rids for greed, for money which all rise as the fear and misunderstanding rises.  A fear that is not only taught but encouraged.

Yes, it is here in this café along the waterfront while eating pizza with Jake that I first saw a tiger shark in the wild.  And I can’t help but wonder how few of these beautiful animals are still out there alive and well swimming and thriving in the depths of the ocean and will I ever see one like that in such a rare environment.

I remain,

Bill Babington

I wrote that almost thirteen years ago.  I needed to share that story to tell this next one to today.  June 20, 2011, Rangiroa, in French Polynesia.  Jake and I decided to dive today.  We also decided to use local knowledge and dive with a dive boat charter instead of wasting time trying to find the right spot to go on our own.  We tried that in Ahe and wound up having to snorkel instead.  We wanted to dive the pass in Rangi, as the locals call it.  It’s a rare opportunity to do a controlled drift dive out through incredibly clear water in a diverse and rich sea environment that surrounds this coral atoll.

By 0800 we were at the dive shop.  We met with our divemaster and guide Moana.  She is an islander and her name means “Ocean” in Tahitian.  A great sign already.  Immediately we were informed that because of weather conditions; we weren’t going to be able to do a dive through the pass.  Instead we’d dive along the reef outside the pass on the ocean side where the atoll meets the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean.  Well not what we had hoped for but okay.

The wind has blown hard the last few days and the sea has been quite stirred up.  I had concerns about visibility so something in deeper water sounded promising.  Moana spoke broken English with a Tahitian/French accent.  She is about 5’4” skinny, strong and radiates a powerful aura for such a little girl.  She is self-assured and passionate about the sea.  She loved what she did.

She told Jake and I the details of our dive this morning.  And she began with something I’ve never heard a charter guide say.  “We are not in a hurry”.  We let the ocean take us and her animals will come.  You can hurry but the ocean doesn’t and we won’t see anything.  You must just let the ocean carry you.”  In my experience most charters want you in and out of the water as quickly as possible so they can get more turnover or get home.  It’s about making money.  Not with Moana.  It was all about the ocean.  I halfway listened to her because I was looking at the dive gear they gave me to use.  I hate using unfamiliar gear.  I knew I should’ve brought my own reg. with me, I said to myself.

There was no break in the price for using your own gear so at the last minute I opted to not bring my regulator or BC.  I only brought my mask, snorkel and fins.  Moana told me that I’d be using a heavy steel tank so I wouldn’t need a weight belt.  I’ve been diving for 18 years, I’ve always had a weight belt.  Hmmm….?  Well they do this everyday. She must know.  I told myself. 

Before I knew it Jake, Moana, a French couple, our boat operator and myself were flying out through the pass in an 22 foot hard-bottom inflatable.  An exiting current along with strong SE winds and swell made for an incredible mess of the pass.  3-4 foot high standing waves spread across the entire mouth of the pass.  Not a good day to try and enter or exit and sailboat.  At least not at this tidal hour, I thought. 

Our operator sped across the pass and went right up along the side only a few feet from where the coral reef jumps up to about 2 feet deep.  The water was calmest right here and he knew perfectly how to navigate the pass.  A short moment later and we were at the dive spot.  Moana hurried us into the water.  For a girl who wasn’t in a hurry she sure couldn’t get us in the water fast enough.  Well maybe this is like other charters after all.

She helped lift my tank and get it on.  Geez, I remembered why I don’t use a steel tank.  It’s heavy.  Moana went to help the other divers while I buttoned up my BC.  I then realized that I had forgotten to pull the top of my wetsuit up. 

Dumb, Bill.

I pulled my tank back off.  Moana glanced over and saw what I was doing and noticed what I had done.  She came back over laughing and held up a finger in front of my face.  “No hurry, okay?  See what happens when you hurry?  We have all day.”

“Okay, okay,” I said and laughed.  Stupid American, I said to myself.

Once we all had our gear on she explained she wanted us all to roll off the dinghy backwards into the water, Jacques Cousteau style all at the same time.  I’ve always got a kick entering the water that way.  As a boy, I thought it was so cool watching divers do that.  I still do.

As soon as we hit the water everything slowed down, especially Moana.  The water was warm and crystal clear.  The visibility was easy 150 feet or more.  It simply faded into the deep deep blue of the Pacific.  We were right on the fringe of the coral reef and deep blue.  That blue water where it’s very easy to lose your sense of where you are and how deep you are.  The water is a vast void of blue space.  When you have just blue around there’s nothing to give you reference or to ground you.  Everything looks the same.  It’s easy to be sinking to the bottom without realizing it.  All the while you think that you’re only a few feet underwater in reality your sinking fast without knowing it.  It’s disorienting.

Fortunately the reef was just behind us and I used that as a grounding tool.  I floated on the surface, got my bearing and realized everybody was gone.  I was the only one left on the surface.  A quick glance down I saw everybody descending. 

Are we in a hurry or not?

Moana came up from underneath and pulled down on my fin for me to follow.

I guess we are.

I released the air from my BC to descend.  I started to sink but stopped.

I knew I needed a weight belt.

Moana popped up on the surface next to me and lauged.  She grabbed the BC tugged on it an let more air out.

“Okay, Okay, let’s go,” she went back under, pulled on my fin and down we went.

The only part of the reg I really got to look at before entering the water was the air-guage that is not in psi, I guess it’s metric. 

“200 is a full tank. 100 is half tank.  You tell me when you are at half tank,” that’s what Moana said.

As I started my descent I searched for the depth-gauge.  I found the octopus (spare regulator) air-gauge, my regulator and


GREAT!  Alright, relax, Bill.  No worries.  Charters dive well within tables.  You’ll be fine.  Watch your depth.  Take note of the surface, note of the reef.  And…. STAY CLOSE TO MOANA.

I checked my watch.  At least I had the waterproof watch that Taylor had brought me.  I started the stopwatch on that to mark my time and off we went.

The visibility was spectacular.  The reef was alive and there were tropical fish everywhere. Bright aqua-green parrotfish, trigger fish with drippings of bright blues, reds  oranges against a yellow background as if they were painted by Jackson Pollock.  Black durgons withtheir spotted snouts of green and blue and black, white and yellow banded angel fish.  The reef was alive and vibrant.

Jeep would love it here.  Hey Jeep.

Every now and again, I feel like Jeep’s here with me.  He was there then.
The reef slopped down steeply to about 200 feet to the bottom.  Then fell deeper fast away from the reef.  All the divers were falling away deep.  I was falling too.

I hate not knowing how deep I am.


I looked in the direction of the loud metallic sound.  Moana was hanging out on the fringe of the deep blue.  She had a climbing carabineer in her hand and smacked it against her tank.


Does she want us to follow her?


She was looking out to the blue. 

No she’s trying to call something… dolphins.  COOL!

Dolphins frequent the pass area here.  Divers see them a lot. 

That would be great.  She’s not calling us, but stay close to her Bill.

She was on the fringe of that abyss of blue where it’s easy to lose your depth.

I hated not having my depth-guage.  But I didn’t have it.  I had to adapt. 

Feel the ocean, I told myself.  Feel it.  Let your whole being feel everything. Know how deep you are without a gauge.

So I did.  I opened up myself to all sensations.  I felt the surge pulling me back and forth.  I felt the current and noticed where I was drifting.  I became more awake in the environment.  More connected. And… SHARKS! 

HOLY CRAP!  Look at all the sharks on the bottom.

By not connecting I hadn’t noticed all the sharks deep down.  Black tip reef sharks and Grey reef sharks.  They swam right along the bottom and swirled around one another.  A smaller grey swam towards the nose of a larger maybe 4 foot grey.  The larger grey snarled and bared its teeth like a dog, arched its back and swayed his dorsal fins back and forth.  Jake, John and I had one do this to us years back.  I knew it was an aggressive behavior.  Supposedly it is right before they charge.  Instantly my heart rate went up.

Stay away from that.


Moana was still trying to attract dolphins.  But I began to swim out towards the bigger blue to her.  Jake was just ahead.  As we moved out to deeper water a form emerged.  A large school of barracuda.  Each 2-3 feet long, slender and narrow, like a missile.  They hung, suspended about 35 feet from the surface.  Hundreds of them.  Beautiful.  We swam right under them.

They current carried us all but they swam slowly into it and we were carried away from them slowly.  I looked back to the reef, we were away from it but Moana seemed comfortable.  We hung in the abyss, carried by the sea.  Moana was off to my left, Jake I think beneath me, I sensed something to my right and turned.

I looked to the abyss.  The sunlight spiraled in straight shafts that all seemed to come together.  There was something dark in the blue.  And big.  It came closer.  It moved slow and deliberate.  The form started to take shape.  The girth of the animal was apparent.  It was large.  Like a large oak tree.   The head took form first.  It was short and blunt but huge in circumference.  It was coming straight for me and just as I could see it better it turned sideways and swam along side.  I saw the head clearly from the side.

Oh my God that’s a hammerhead.

Only seeing his side of his head that’s what I thought.  Then I saw the markings along . 
his bodyA deep charcoal grey with darker stripes.  All down his body.  I had seen this

That’s not a hammerhead, THAT’S A FREAKING TIGER SHARK!! 

Strangely I wasn’t scared at all.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  I
relaxed.  He was right there.  And he came closer.  He moved slow and
deliberate.  He moved through the water with complete command, grace and
power.  I was overwhelmed and humbled to be in his presence.  Moana
began to swim towards him.  So did I.  She started pumping her fist up and
down.  Bubbles were emanating vibrantly from her regulator.  She was so
happy and excited.  We were about 25 feet from him and the three of us,
Jake, Moana and I swam along together with this incredible animal.  I have
no idea where the French couple was.  

Maybe he just ate ‘em, I thought and laughed out loud.  Bubbles erupted from my reg.

I took in the beauty of it all.  His markings were magnificent.  Beautiful dark charcoal grey stripes ran along the paler grey of his back and down along his sides until they abruptly stopped at the stark white of his underbody.  His presence dwarfed everything in the sea around him.  He was in control.  And he knew it.  As we slowly ventured closer he turned his head a little and he looked right at me.  I stopped.  Our eyes locked.  My whole being filled up with his energy.  Grace, command, gentleness, magnificence, beauty and extreme power is what I felt.  I was raptured in complete awe.  Humbled to be before him.  He then turned and swam away and disappeared into the deep blue abyss.


I let out the loudest rebel yell I’ve hollered in a very long time.

Moana looked at me.  The excitement behind our masks said it all.  Incredible.

The current carried us closer to the reef and we swam back towards the reef as we moved closer to the pass.  The beauty of the reef was alive and the tropical fish all were abound.  I noticed the French couple in the shallows and was happy they had not been lunch.  The five us moved into the pass where the silvery surface undulated and pulsed with the swells and waves that were constant in the pass.  Underwater we moved back and forth with the swell.  Moana was staring back towards the blue when she started gesturing with her arms to get to the bottom.  She hit hunched down to the bottom and told us all to do the same.  I looked out past her and that darkness in the abyss was back. 

That tiger shark’s coming back.  Maybe he’s gonna eat the French couple afterall.

I crouched down on the bottom.  The darkness took form.  The head and sides all came into view together.  Huge wings lifted up high and came down with in a smooth downward thrush.  It wasn’t the tiger shark.  I was relieved and disappointed at the same time.  It was a manta ray.  He moved through the water an elegance all his own.  He flew right towards us and soared right above me.  I could’ve touched his belly with the palm of my hand if I wanted to.  I didn’t.  He simply soared in and around us.  He opened his mouth to filter water and feed on the plankton swirling amongst the commotion of the windswept sea.  He then snapped his mouth closed.  Banked to the right in a slow arc like a glider and turned back around us for another fly by and then disappeared into the blue. 


I was in a dream.  I was halfway expecting Ariel to swim out and start singing songs. 
Joined by the tiger shark and the manta ray.  Instead a sea turtle swam in. 
He moved back and forth with the current and swayed with the surge as he
nibbled and picked at the coral.  He came right up to us. The French girl
petted him.  I ust watched.  I looked to my right and was happy to see a
humuhumunukunukuapua'a.  It’s hard to say what fish is your favorite
but if I had to pick one, it would be the humuhumunukunukuapua'a.  They
have a beauty all their own.  A small trigger fish that looks like it was painted
by Picasso.  In fact, they are often referred to as the Picasso fish.  They are
the state fish of Hawaii.  Each one is different from the other.  Their fins swirl
in different directions as the move through the water.  They are completely
unaffected by the surge and move in any direction they want almost like a
hovercraft moving around. 

Wow there you are too to say hello.  Hello back, I told him. We talk to each

Moana soon gave us the thumbs up to rise to the surface where our boat was waiting to pick us up.

On the ride back smiles filled each of our faces and the light in our spirits was undeniable.  We all knew how special that dive just was.  The dinghy bounced and skimmed over the sea at full throttle.  The sea spray and wind felt fantastic on my face.  I was alive and happy.  And my thoughts drifted back to thirteen years ago when I first saw a tiger shark in the wild.  And I thought about that fisherman in Fiji.  I wish he could’ve been on this dive with us.  I wish he could’ve seen the beauty and magnificence of that animal alive and underwater.  I don’t think he’d ever kill one again.  And I thought too of Jeep.  A man of the sea, a man who loved all of her creatures and everything about the ocean.  His “cathedral” he used to call her.  He would have loved that dive so much.  But some how I know he knows.  And he was right there with us.  Finally, I said a special thank you to Mother Ocean for sharing the gifts of her cathedral with us on this day.  June 20, 2011.  Right at the Summer Solstice.  A truly magnificent gift.  Everything was perfect.  I am a lucky man.


Solstice Log