Archive for August, 2009

Huahine Diving

Well, we finally broke out the air compressor and filled our own scuba tanks for the first time yesterday. It took about an hour (minus the pauses for rain) to fill two tanks for Dallas and myself (Wes and Tiff were exploring ashore), and once we figured out whose gear was  (it has been a long time), we were all set. We considered yesterday’s dive to be a simple test run of our new equipment, as it was late afternoon after a day of rain, but the visibility underwater was much better than we expected. We set off from our boat and swam over to where we had been snorkeling in the morning, near the mouth of the pass. Swimming with around 50 pounds of gear on my back was rather challenging, but as soon as we dropped down below the surface, it was magical. There were multitudes of fish of all colors and patterns feeding off the diverse coral heads. Most of the fish inside the shallow (50′ or less) reef were fairly small, but they ranged in size from around an inch to two feet. Some of the most impressive ones in my mind were those that completely blended in with their environment. Darwin (though not a diver himself) would have been impressed. Specifically, there were some that were the same shade of white as the lagoon floor that I could hardly see until they moved. There were others that were speckled brown and beige just like the coral heads. I tried several times to point them out to Dallas, but each time the elusive little suckers slipped back into hiding. Another noteworthy variety was the boxy-shaped little fish with yellow polka dots overlayed onto its purple sides and white polka dots on its black topside. We also saw a large eel menacingly peering out of its chosen territory. We were underwater for a mere 36 minutes so as to avoid being around for feeding time, but I think that both Dallas and I could have stayed there for hours.

DSC01834 The Max Air 35 in action

I would like to mention that Dallas was a very good dive-master, allowing me to explore at will while keeping me abreast of our course and timing using hand signals, which we are getting the hang of. He used a compass to track our position, and when we popped up, we were just about where he expected us to be, just a short distance from the boat. I was both impressed and relieved.

We decided to have another go at it this morning, this time using the dinghy to get out to the larger pass. Dallas maneuvered the dinghy around a landmine of coral heads in order to get close to our desired drop spot, we lodged the little mushroom anchor on the windward side of a large coral head, and set off to see what we were up against inside the pass. I have to admit that I was a little skeptical, as it was 10 minutes before high tide when currents could be strong–a risky situation when not accompanied by a dive-master who knows the site well. Dallas assured me that we would take it easy and return to shallow waters at the first sign of strong current, so off we went.

DSC01839 Dallas and dinghy are ready to go

When we came to the edge of the pass, there was an immense wall of coral that was covered with fish of every color imaginable. I would say the most common colors were black and white, but I saw many shades in between such a deep violet, iridescent periwinkle, and others only found in the very large Crayola boxes. Beyond the wall, we could see nothing but ocean. Both Dallas and I later described it as the “abyss”, and I still can’t think of a better word. At this point, instead of hand signals, Dallas and I gave each other the nonverbal “Oh my gosh” which, with a mask on your face and regulator in your mouth, can only be communicated by making one’s eyes REALLY big. We swam along the wall for a bit and came up to the busiest underwater intersection I have ever seen. (Think of downtown Manhattan at lunch hour when the crosswalk signal turns green.) There were schools of fish swimming up and down the wall simultaneously, and yet, it wasn’t chaotic at all. Quite the opposite. Everything down below feels incredibly peaceful. Anyway, after swimming almost the length of the pass, Dallas motioned for us to turn around, and we headed back over the wall and through the shallows that were dotted with large, diverse coral heads. Not only was the coral the most diverse I’d ever seen, but the organisms feeding on it were quite unique. For example, there were a couple of little yellow growths that looked like plastic trees from a Lego set. Many of the colorful coral feeders snapped shut as we swam past, reminding us that they were in fact alive. When we finally emerged from the other world of the sea, Dallas’ first words were “still skeptical?” Needless to say, I was pretty pleased that we had taken the plunge (pun intended).

DSC01844 . Back from another great dive

There are many other notable experiences from today (e.g., biking to the marae, finally finding some good pizza, hanging out with Germans on a monohull), but as it is almost 1 a.m., I think I’ll call it a night. The wind is currently gusting to 40 knots (thereabouts), so it could be a wild one!


Here are answers to some more good questions.  The first few are from Dawn and the last one is from Margo.

Q:  How do you dispose of your trash? How do you keep it from smelling if you have to store it?

A:  Good question.  First, there are regulations that allow us to throw some of it overboard when we’re offshore.  Less than 12 miles offshore, no garbage dumping is allowed.  Between 12 and 25 miles, you can dump some things if they’re ground to less than one inch.  We don’t have a trash grinder like a cruise ship would, so that really don’t apply to us.  More than 25 miles offshore, you can dump most things except plastic and synthetic materials.  When we’re that far offshore we toss things like paper, cardboard, organic waste, and tin cans (with holes punched in them so they don’t float) overboard.  Plastics and things that seem like they won’t decompose or aren’t metal go into a trashbag.  We keep the trashbags in the port bow locker and take them ashore for disposal when we reach land.  We don’t generate that much trash, so there are usually never more than a couple bags waiting to go ashore.  It’s free to take trash ashore in most places, but occasionally there’s a charge.

Q:  Do you vote on when your going to move on from a place?

A:  Yes.  We generally talk over what might be the next stop, how interested we are in spending time there given what we’ve learned about it, and how interested we are in staying put.  We learn things along the way from other cruisers, locals, the internet, and books.  We also have a loose overall itinerary that allows us to leave for New Zealand from Tonga before the hurricane season is over.

Q:  Some pics of the living quarters would be interesting to see.

A:  OK…  Here are a few inside pics…

DSC01818 Port side of the salon

DSC01827 Starboard side of the salon

DSC01830 Galley

DSC01831 Our cabin.  The bunk is to the right and there are some small shelves below it.

DSC01832 Queen size bunk (there are four).  Lauren and I are in the port forward cabin, Tiff & Wes have the starboard forward, tools, parts, and hardware are in the port aft, and dive gear, folding bikes, etc. are in the starboard aft.

Q:  I have been thinking about a lot about weather and perceptions of paradise both real and imagined and wondered if you could give me your thoughts. It started with a remembrance of a man I used to work with. He had spent several years as a youngster living on an island in the South Pacific. His father was in the US Navy and he was stationed there. He used to tell me about how much he hated living there. He said people think it’s paradise but they are so wrong. After walking around the island, which took him about 45 minutes, there was absolutely nothing to do. His big game was kicking an empty can of Spam around on the beach and wishing something would come up out of the ocean and attack him…or swim away with him or anything! Everyday was the same….same weather…same food..same people etc. He said it was dirty(waste of course is a big problem) and people were so bored that all they could do was drink to drown their sorrows. And why do people who live on an island surrounded by fish eat Spam and so much meat? Now obviously that was his view as a 10 year old.

A:  This is a another good question.  The book Sex Lives of Cannibals that we mentioned definitely addresses this.  A long question deserves a long answer, so here goes…

I really think the answer boils down to a matter of personal definition of the word paradise. I think paradise should be naturally beautiful and my concept of beauty includes the places we’ve been visiting recently.  I think paradise should be more warm than cold, but not too hot.  That fits the places we’ve been visiting recently as well, especially since we’re here during their winter (summer is a different story in some places).  I think paradise should give you some space and time to reflect, think, and create.  That requires you to not spend all your time working, and we have that covered right now, although aside from the lack of a dense population, it has nothing to do with where we’re at.  I think paradise should be capable of providing some intellectual stimulation and entertainment.  We’re finding that here by meeting people and learning the local culture and history, but that’s not to say we wouldn’t tire of a particular place if we were stuck there indefinitely.

In the specific case of some of these island "hells" in the South Pacific, there seem to be some common themes.  One is that Western culture has been heavily imported.  There’s nothing wrong with Western culture per se, and the locals certainly like things like air conditiong, Spam, etc.  The problem can be that Western culture was developed in areas that have things like lots of space for trash dumps, lots of fertile ground for high-productivity food development, easy access to large markets for selling goods profitably and buying goods cheaply, large tax bases to support complex governments, and large, skilled workforces to provide the highly specialized labor needed to produce the goods and wealth of "first world" economies.  An atoll really doesn’t have any of these things, and although living off of fish and coconuts sounds good, it takes a lot of work and isn’t quite as rich of an experience from a luxuries and consumer perspective.  Within the context of Western continents, they’re financially poor and resource poor, though we’re finding that they’re often rich in social skills, confidence, community, and generosity.

Another imporant factor is that colonial countries (US, western Europe, Japan, China, etc.) have historically run colonies and spheres of influence for their own benefit (they’re putting all the effort and money in, right?).  It doesn’t benefit a colonial power to "own" a bunch of islands where the people have a subsistence existence and don’t move money (unless you want to use an island or two for nuclear testing, which is another story).  In general, it’s in the colonial power’s interest to put the people to work producing goods that can be bought cheaply and then sold for a good price in the first world, and then to sell them first world products from home to spend their wages on.  Slaves or foreign workers were brought in to fill no-education-required jobs when the productivity of the local population wasn’t sufficient (Caribbean, Fiji, etc. to produce copra, sugarcane, tropical fruits & plants, phosphate, etc.).  I’m not saying at all that the locals don’t love Spam from a can instead of hard work catching yet another fish for dinner.  They do, but it’s not too hard to see how the interaction with "civilized" countries can leave an island nation as something less than a paradise.  Our understanding is that things are more pleasant here in French Polynesia primarily because the French spent a lot of money here when they were doing nuclear testing in the Tuamotus and are now continuing to pour very large amounts of money into the local government/economy as a sort of concession.

Pondering Papeete

I agree with Dallas that Papeete turned out to be not very charming, but it was a city nonetheless, and I was excited to see what it had to offer. In particular, I was hoping to find diverse and reasonably priced groceries, some interesting foods to eat that were prepared by someone other than me, cold coke and beer from the fountain and tap, respectively (for the first time since Panama), and some cultural exhibitions of some sort. I managed to experience most of these. The fountain drink was the first item to be checked off the list, and despite that it was 3x the price of a Coke from 7-11, it tasted just like it. Yum.

Next came the food. Wes, Tiff, and I went on a walking tour of the entire downtown area on Monday and picked up some fresh tuna at the large open-air market (just ignore the flies) that Tiff later seared to perfection. Later, in diligently doing our duty for all of you back home by exploring what the nightlife of Papeete has to offer (the short answer: nothing on a Monday night), Tiff and I not only got a cold draft beer from the local brewery but also found a caravan of trucks representing various restaurants set up near the cruise ship dock and treated ourselves to a delicious crepe with Nutella inside. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of sampling Nutella, it is a hazelnut-cocoa spread for pastries, bread, etc. that is popular in Europe and apparently, French Polynesia. I’m not sure why it never caught on in the U.S., but I guess it’s hard to compete with the flavor and protein of good ol’ PB&J. Sending kids to school with Nutella sandwiches for lunch would probably elicit envy from classmates and concern from lunchroom aides.

DSC_1118 Very fresh fish from Papeete market

While I’m digressing on the subject of international food, Dallas has declared that "baguettes are dumb." He expounded, "They are a nice curiosity or international experience, but as far as day to day, they get hard too quickly. Technology has moved beyond that. We can make soft bread now." Just FYI.

In terms of cultural experiences (beyond the baguette), Papeete is not the place. I drug Dallas to the "Maison de la Culture" Tuesday morning only to discover that it is simply a large theater for evening performances. However, when I asked the ticket agent about exhibits, she directed us to a nearby art gallery that had some really beautiful oil paintings, many of which portrayed Polynesians in traditional Polynesian activities (dancing) or dress. One of my favorites was called "The Tuamotu" and showed an older, rotund man standing on the beach of an atoll wearing a simple straw hat, a shirt half-way buttoned, and cotton pants. His face was fairly expressionless, and he was surrounded by three mangy dogs. It really encapsulated what we observed in terms of the simple life on the atolls of the Tuamotus.

The highlight of Wednesday morning is that we were able to pick up our package that Tim and Heather (Dallas and Wes’ brother and sister-in-law) sent via Fed Ex containing our two new Acer laptops–one to replace Tiff’s old Acer that I fried by plugging in the wrong adapter (yes, I continue to make more than my share of mistakes out here), and the other to replace Dallas’ Dell that succombed to the marine environment. They are the perfect computers for the cruising life given their very long battery life (~7 hours!) and compact size. Also included in the package were American magazines (so Brittney’s making another come-back?) and delicious snacks and drink mixes that, if we could find them here, would cost 5x as much. The cost of sending this wonderful package was outrageous, though, so you’ll will have to hold off on sending us that care package you’ve been planning!

We finally got out of Papeete on Wednesday around noon after a few complications. The first was that when Dallas went to clear out with immigration and the port authority, he was told by the men at both windows that he needed to see them first. As Dallas stood there trying to figure out what to do (with a perplexed look on his face, I’m sure), the man at the immigration window threatened that he was leaving, and Dallas would have to return several hours later if he didn’t go there first. Despite the threat, the port captain must have looked more intimidating, as Dallas chose to see him first. Fortunately, it was a good choice, as the other man remained to help him before leaving.

DSC_1143 Dallas trying to figure out how to be two places at once

Another complication was that our anchor was stuck, tangled on a thick line. This was anticipated, so we had a very long dockline at the stern that was used to control the boat’s movement while dealing with the anchor so as to keep us from hitting other boats, slamming against the quay, or other such calamities. Dallas dove down to considerable depth to free the anchor and is still trying to get the hearing to come back and the ringing to stop in his left ear, but other than that, there was no harm done.

The final complication was having the oil pressure alarm sound yet again on the port engine. Dallas and Wes didn’t feel comfortable heading out on only the starboard engine with parts and supplies so close, so we ended up heading around the west side of Tahiti to Marina Taiina to spend a night at anchor and take care of the problem. Dallas fixed it relatively quickly with an adjustment to the pressure regulator valve that we purchased in Panama, and we headed ashore to grab a beer and take a gander at the gi-normous sailboats docked there. We thought about using the laundry facilities at the marina, but at $15 a load, we figured we’d just do it ourselves. It’s not like we don’t have the time!

DSC_1237 Finishing up in the engine room

DSC_1230 Mega-yachts at Marina Taiiina

Yesterday (Thursday) we sailed over to Huahine. We decided to skip Moorea since we spent an extra night in Tahiti, but we had a beautiful sail past its north shore and snapped some photos, so that’s almost like having been there. The island appeared to have a considerable reef around it, but we hear that the snorkeling is better in Bora Bora. Anyway, en route to Huahine, I read some English news (yay!) from a New Zealand newspaper that we got in Papeete. For the most part, it was similar to current issues and events in an American newspaper (e.g., government spending, social issues such as gay couples’ adoption rights), but there were a couple of stories that I have to share. For one, there was a brief article reminding residents that the voting on "smacking" was ending tomorrow. Whether or not corporal punishment of one’s children should be a criminal offense is being put to a national vote with the "no’s" winning 80% or so. The other story was about a man from Tonga (where we will be going soon) who had moved to NZ and was not aware that it was not OK to cook his dog in the backyard so that he could have it for supper! His response to the media attention was simply, "In Tonga, it is OK to eat the dog. The dog is very good."

DSC_0046 North coast of Moorea

My night watch was challenging. We have gotten used to easy tradewind sailing ("set it and forget it"), but the inter-island runs require a little more effort and skill. The light wind shifted around to the south and was coming from our aft quarter, and we were sailing under the main and jib. In these circumstances, it is apparently very typical on boats like ours for the mainsail to block the wind from the jib, which then flaps around begging for attention. Indeed, it received a couple of hours of my attention until Dallas relieved me on watch and informed me that there is not much you can do in these circumstances to appease the jib. We can’t extend the main out all the way because we have cap shrouds on either side of the boat extending up to the top of the mast (I’ll post a picture to show what I mean.). Anyway, sailing continues to be intriguing as I stumble up the learning curve.

We are now in Huahine, one of the leeward islands of the Society Island group. (I’m going to let Dallas explain the meaning behind the island’s name in his next blog, as it was obviously named by a man.) The pass into the channel around the island was fairly easy to transit, but you should see the size of the waves breaking on the reef! There are some pretty fearless surfers out there as we speak. Perhaps we will meet them, as we are hoping to spend a few days here exploring, snorkeling or diving, and posting pictures using the wi-fi they have here. There is also a resort here for $700/night (!), but we’ll probably skip that, as we have our own comfortable accomodations aboard Pura Vida.

DSC_0111 Fare village (pop. 650) in Huahine

Papeete, Tahiti

First we’ll answer some cultural questions of the greatest significance.  Is there a McDonald’s in Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia?  Yes.  Does it serve a "Royale with cheese"?  Yes.  Are the french fries served with mayonnaise?  Yes, the mayonnaise pump is next to the ketchup pump.

We made it to the island of Tahiti Sunday around midnight and instead of trying to negotiate the pass and enter the port and capital city of Papeete, we elected to anchor and get some sleep.  We dropped anchor in Matavai Bay, southwest of Venus Point, with the Venus Point lighthouse sweeping its light above us.  Venus Point is where Captain Cook came to observe the transit (solar eclipse) of Venus in 1769 for the Royal Society, which had sponsored his voyage (Cook recognized the Royal Society by naming this group the Society Islands).

DSC_1023 Venus Point lighthouse

The calm anchorage awoke slowly, but early.  We could see and hear cars driving on the busy road by the beach.  Several people on the beach were working with an outrigger 100 yards or so off the shore to catch fish in a large net, and a morning soccer game was going strong in the small field near the lighthouse.  The healthy barking of the pet dogs here sounded noticeably different than the barks of the mongrel atoll dogs, and though there were are some roosters crowing, it was nothing like the morning din in a Marquesas village.

The mountain peaks were visible beneath the clouds on the way to the pass and we were able to see the diadem, a Tahiti mountain feature that resembles its namesake.  Entry formalities weren’t bad, and we even got a form that will allow us to by diesel duty-free when we leave from Bora Bora.  Yachts have traditionally moored "Tahitian-style" here in Papeete with their stern tied to bollards at the quay along Pomare Blvd (King Pomare was the first monarch to convert to Christianity) and an anchor set off of the bow. We had our chance to try this for the first time, and it’s definitely a challenge.  We had a strong wind at our stern, which is not a bad place for the wind, but we only learned after tying up that there are now bow lines tied to moorings and we didn’t need to anchor.  The only casualty was a helm/AIS VHF antenna that is mounted at deck level and was snapped off when it was caught in a dockline.  Hopefully, our anchor won’t be tangled up in all of the stuff on the bottom here.

DSC_1037 Diadem above the suburbs of Tahiti

Although tying up along Pomare Blvd used to be a tradition, most yachts now go to the large Marina Taina, about 10 miles away on the northern edge of the west coast.  We were headed there as it’s free to anchor out, but we’re waiting for a package from Fed Ex with replacement laptops to clear customs and are hoping that one more night here will allow us to leave a for Moorea a bit quicker.  In case you’re wondering, there are two reasons we didn’t shop here for laptops.  The first is that since we’re a yacht in transit and aren’t importing the good into Tahiti permanently, we’re able to avoid paying import and VAT/sales taxes.  The second reason is that the computers here run the French version of Windows.

DSC_1082 We tied up at the second dock, at the edge of Pomare Blvd.

DSC_1097Borrowed gangplank

Papeete itself is a moderate-sized city.  It’s not especially clean or beautiful, but there’s plenty of shopping.  Prices in general are high, but you can get almost anything you want here.  The grocery prices are definitely cheaper than in the more remote islands, but the restaurants are more expensive. The architecture is pretty plain and the people don’t seem as happy or relaxed.  After time in such quiet, beautiful places my preference is definitely to leave the big city as soon as we can and head back to more scenic and less populated places.

Our Brazilian friends on Matajusi came over for a visit yesterday evening and Silvio had a good story from their Panama-Galapagos crossing.  300 miles offshore, he spotted a speedboat, which seemed like an odd thing.  It made more sense when he noticed the next day that what he thought was a shark behind the boat was actually a fishing buoy, and there was quite a lot of very heavy offshore fishing line that had become caught on the boat’s underbody and was being towed behind him.  He was getting ready to jump in and try to free it when he looked down and saw a massive shark swimming behind the boat!  Apparently it had made its way along the long stretch of line, eating the fish that were hanging from the hooks embedded in it and was now at the end of the line, so to speak.  Ultimately, the shark left and Silvio was able to jump in and clear the line.

In a twist of good luck, I was able to buy the same model of VHF antenna at a local marine store at a reasonable price.  Carrying the 8-foot antenna tube while riding the folding bike back along the edge of Pomare Blvd. (Papeete’s non-bike-friendly main thoroughfare) and through round-abouts was a bit of an adventure.  As I neared the dock, a French guy on a bicycle behind me pedaled past and had a few things to say about my riding with the antenna that I didn’t entirely comprehend.  I’m sure he was complimenting my agility resourcefulness in avoiding a long walk or large cab fare.


Here are answers to some more good questions.  The one about the stars is from Derek in Texas, and the others are from Dave in Chicago. 

Q:  How much sailing experience did you all have before you set out?

A:  The first time I sailed a boat was on a sea trial to buy a 1977 Catalina 30 in Houston.   I was 20 and had decided to take some time off of college.  Wes joined me, and we lived aboard together and learned about sailboat repair and sailing for a year or so.  After that I went back to school but made occasional visits to our boat Moonwind, where Wes lived aboard for several more years, sailing Galveston Bay and maintaining the boat.

When we were getting ready to sell the boat in 2000, we met a guy in the boatyard who was headed for the Bahamas on a catamaran, and we ended up spending a week or so with him in Nassau and the Exumas.  After that, Wes would organize bareboat charter trips once or twice a year in Florida that either went to the Keys or across the Gulfstream to the Bahamas for 10 days or so.

Wes and Tiff met in Houston, so she’s been along for a lot of the sailing on Moonwind and the charter trips.

Lauren was out for a daysail on Moonwind a long time ago, but other than that, her only chance to get a taste of things was on two charter trips — one from Miami to the Keys and one from Florida to Grand Bahama and Bimini in the Bahamas.


Q:  Are you learning how to fix/patch/repair stuff on the fly or do you have some sort of background that is helpful? 

A:  Lauren and Tiff probably have the most useful educational backgrounds.  Lauren has a Ph.D. in psychology and Tiff is a nurse, so that helps in terms of repairing the crew.  Wes and I have degrees in electrical engineering but designing modern microelectronics isn’t really an extremely useful background for working on a boat.  The engineering work experience and process is somewhat useful, but the most useful background by far is the time we spent fixing up and sailing on Moonwind in Houston.  It was an old boat and almost everything needed attention, so we learned a lot.  That said, when Lauren and I lived aboard Pura Vida for 5 months getting her ready to sail, we had to spend a lot of time online researching nearly every purchase and repair.  There were many, many things we did for the first time, only “getting the hang of it” when completing the job.  Because the marine environment results in people having to do endless maintenance on boats, there are some excellent books on repair that really help.  As you can also infer from my response, sailors are more than happy to share what they’ve learned in the many hours they’ve spent sweating on their boat, so other sailors are also a good resource, both online (Cruisers Forum, etc.) and in person.


Q:  What is one thing you each would have brought with you if you’d known?


(Tiff): Cases of Dr. Pepper, more shorts, ravioli. Pints of cheap whiskey and cigarettes to trade.

(Wes): Kayak.

(Lauren): More cheap food and wine from Panama.

(Dallas): Veggie food.  Island life and vegetarianism don’t mix well. (I do need to mention that Mom sent us off with 12 cases, but it’s a long way from Florida to New Zealand)


Q: What’s the biggest hassle or annoyance for you so far?


(Dallas): Customs/immigration/port officials and processes in Panama.

(Wes): French (the language, not the people).

(Lauren): Cooking in extreme conditions (seas, heat, etc.).

(Tiff): Showering.  Lugging water jugs.


Q: Do you plan on keeping in touch with people you meet (Moana/other cruisers/etc)?

A: Yes.  We keep in touch with other cruisers right now via the magic of e-mail.  Some are headed to New Zealand, and some we may never see again.  I don’t think we’ve met any locals that we’re keeping in touch with.  Moana is a funny example.  He doesn’t use e-mail and when we got his address and said we’d send him something when we get back to the states in a couple of years, he laughed and said don’t bother.  He probably will have moved.  His address, by the way, didn’t have a house number or street, just a name, city, and country.


Q: I realize that you are IN paradise and everywhere has something special/unique to offer, but is there a specific port any of you are particularly excited for?


(Dallas, Tiffany, & Wes): Marquesas.  It’s a beautiful, fascinating place and the end of the longest offshore passage.

(Lauren): Marquesas and New Zealand.  New Zealand also looks really interesting and will be at the end of a potentially rough passage.


Q: Do you see the same night sky where you are that we see in Texas?

A: We see some of the same stars, like the Big Dipper (although it’s partially on the horizon for us now), but we also see ones you don’t see (the Southern Cross), and can’t see some that you can (the North Star).  Think of the earth as a baseball inside a clear beachball with the stars painted on it.  The North Star is above the north pole.  Ignoring horizon effects, rotation of the earth, and seasons you can see about half of the stars on the beachball at any one time, with the center of half you can see being directly above where you’re at on the earth.  We’re about 45 degreees of latitude farther south than Dallas, TX, the half of the beachball we see is moved farther south by the same amount.  The website Your Sky will let you punch in a lat and long and see what the sky looks like there, which is a good way to help with identifying stars.