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The Red and The Black

I’m so excited about our new favorite summer cocktail, it wouldn’t do to just snap a pic and post it on social media with a “Yum!” comment and a fun emoji. I have to actually make a blog post about it, because you need the recipe. You should get out there while there are good fresh strawberries, and make this wonderful celebration of sweet berries, fresh lime and blanco tequila, with a pop of black pepper.


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Buffalo Nickel on the Market

Buffalo Nickel is an FPB 64, the seventh of an innovative range of power boats designed to make both long distance passages and leisurely intervals at anchor in safety and comfort. There are only eleven of them on the water.

Since her initial splash in 2013, she has taken us from New Zealand to Thailand, via Fiji, Vanuatu, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. She is extremely comfortable at sea, averaging 235 miles per day on passage.

Her most recent passage brought her from Phuket, Thailand back to her birthplace at Circa Marine in Whangarei, North Island, New Zealand. The voyage took a total of 47 days, with 623 hours underway. We put 6,289 miles under her keel during the trip, making our average speed 9.5 knots.



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Our Big News

It’s not new-news, because it’s a choice we made last spring, while we were aboard our boat in Thailand. But the decision did cause us to jettison our plan of making our way to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, via Japan’s inland sea followed by a passage to the Aleutians. Instead, we turned about, scooted down the west coast of Malaysia, past Singapore, eastward through Indonesia, down the Queensland coast against the Trades, and across the Tasman Sea back to Whangarei, New Zealand, the very waters that birthed her in 2013.

And from there, in January of 2018, we sailed her onto the flooded deck of a Dockwise Yacht Transport vessel for passage to Ensenada, MX. We met her there and sailed her to the Point Loma Marina in San Diego, CA. Where we put our beloved Buffalo Nickel on the market for sale.

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Power Management

We’ve had quite a few requests over these several years, both public and private, to talk about power management aboard Buffalo Nickel.

Every boat has its own inherent logic in this area. Between the goals of its systems designers and the capacities and limitations of the component hardware, there emerges a pathway where, if we don’t stray too far from it, we can live hassle-free lives that require little forethought about use of appliances, whether at anchor or underway. As cruisers, we learn the pathways over time that work for our particular boats, and then they become second nature. Until we get a new boat, at which point we are overwhelmed all over again. We struggle to make sense of the new-to-us system for a while, wondering if we’ll be able to get hot showers in sequence and dinner prepared, without blowing up an inverter.

My aim in this post is a minimum of discussion about the logic of our electrical generation and distribution, focusing instead to how we live our typical day-to-day in various situations. But you’ll still need a basic picture of the set-up.

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The Spice Islands! And Buffalo Soldier Goes AWOL.

Some of the rally sailboats opted out of the passage north across the Banda Sea to the Spice Islands, a cluster of about half a dozen small islands in eastern Indonesia. This was primarily because it would necessitate beating back south later, with no help from the tradewinds blowing from the southeast. We didn’t have to worry about that aboard the Buffalo, though, and we wouldn’t have missed our visit to Banda.


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Hello Mister!

That’s what we heard shouted in our direction, in every town and village, in every anchorage in Indonesia. By grinning kids canoeing up to Buffalo Nickel in their outriggers, by adults walking, or zipping by on motorbikes in the busy market streets. Once in awhile someone with better English would wave and say “Hello Missus” to me. And we heard a lot of “I love you!” as well. But mostly, it was a face-splitting smile and “Hello Mister!”

We thought people could be no more welcoming than the Fijians. But that was before we made landfall in Indonesia. Folks there are simply overflowing with warm welcome and frank curiosity about us. I think “Hello Mister!” will be my free-association thought when Indonesia comes up, for the rest of my days. That, and the pervasive scent of kretek, the clove cigarettes everyone smokes there.

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Australia – The Short Version

The 1,300-mile passage from Vanuatu to Cairns, Australia took us nearly six days, but was one of our most comfortable and uneventful crossings to date. Seas were 2.5 meters for the first couple of days, but all well aft of our beam, making for decent surfing conditions. We hit 15 knots with regularity, and had to slow way down our last 24 hours in order to ensure a daylight arrival.

We worked into a comfortable rhythm with the boat and our own four-hour watch schedules. And for the first time ever, the Admiral wasn’t sleep-deprived, even in those notorious first 24 hours. A milestone!

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Buffalo Nickel in Vanuatu

Our first week was spent in Port Vila, making reconnaissance and loading up. The three of us (Brian and Sue of British sailboat Darramy, Brian and Sandie of American sailboat Persephone, and ourselves) were impatient to get out to the islands, but the groundwork was important. We met with what seemed like everybody: World Health Organization (WHO,) Peace Corps, Save the Children, National Disaster Management Office (NDMO,) District Administrators for the various islands we were to visit, Minister of Education, and a variety of other non-governmental organizations (NGO.)

With plans and protocols in place at last, we packed our boats. Some of our supplies we purchased with personal and donated funds: roofing nails, building tools, a chainsaw, calico fabric, fuel and engine oil. Other items were donated: seeds to replant crops, clothing, food, schoolbooks and supplies, tents and sleeping bags, tarps.

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On Giving Well


In this second of three posts about our time spent helping with cyclone relief efforts in the Shepherd Islands of Vanuatu, I’m going to get on a bit of a soapbox about offering assistance in the event of a large-scale disaster: specifically, things one can do to be most, and least, helpful to a disaster relief effort. We learned some valuable lessons during our time interacting with Vanuatu government officials, NGO’s (non-government organizations) both large and small, health care providers, and the victims of Tropical Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu. We feel compelled to pass along information that could be useful to you, as donors wanting to give what you can to help with a disaster relief effort in the future.

But afterwards, we’ll lighten things up by giving you a brand new cocktail recipe! Sound like a deal?    I thought so.

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Steaming West from Fiji. But Not Without the Persian Fetta!


The second week of March this year found us avidly following developing weather in the South Pacific from the comfort of our cozy Seattle digs. For the cyclone season, we had left Buffalo Nickel once again hauled out into a protective ‘pit’ in Vuda Point Marina, Fiji, while we visited the States. An intense tropical storm was threatening not only to up its game to Category 5, but also to hit Fiji, so we fretted about our boat.

That storm did up its game, becoming Cyclone Pam, but instead of Fiji it went for the island nation of Vanuatu to the west. With 155 mph sustained winds (highest sustained winds of any storm in the southern hemisphere) and gusts to 200 mph, it wiped out power and communications in this poor nation of 82 islands. 90% of buildings were damaged, and thousands of people displaced. With few airstrips, most local boats damaged and storm season still ongoing, many of the islands and their villagers were cut off from all contact or aid even four days after the storm passed. Some islands were completely without fresh water or shade during that time.

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