Monday, October 25, 2010

Was Our Pacific Crossing Typical?

So, you may be wondering if our trip across the big blue was typical, or if others had a much different experience. Prior to leaving Mexico, there was A LOT of discussion and speculation about an El Nino year, and the increased possibility of storms and higher winds. Although winds were said to be higher than usual, we didn't notice any adverse affects. Our crossing from the Galapagos Islands to the Marquesas in French Polynesia was a quick trip of 23 days, and we didn't hear of any boats who had trouble finding the wind on their way across. Most boats accomplished the crossing in fewer days, although in our defense, we are smaller than most boats! Of course, those who departed directly from Mexico, had to endure the ITCZ, referred to by some as the 'doldroms', but a few hundred miles of uncertain wind seems quite normal for that route also.
A summary was published in the Latitude 38 magazine, as they do each year. I find it interesting to look at the stats for a few of the boats and see how many days they were at sea, how many fish were caught, the types and sizes of boats, and what equipment broke! You can check out the summary of this year's fleet by downloading the September 2010 issue of the magazine here. Lat 38 also publishes profiles of the crews who are planning to make the crossing each here. Our profile was in the March 2010 issue, which can also be downloaded from the Lat 38 website.

You can also view the summaries from the past years on the Pacific Puddle Jump website here.

Our first sight of land after 23 days at sea. The Marquesas Archipelago, at last!! May 1, 2010.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ahhh....so that's why they call it viral...

It's been a while since I checked out the blog stats...how many people check out the blog, where they come from, what they look at, etc. An unexpected surprise. Lots of visitors have been coming to the site, thanks to links from fellow cruisers' blogs...especially our friends on Totem, Ceilydh, and Pisces. Thanks guys!! I've now put a list of friends blogs on the side of the page, so that while we're sitting at home with very little sailing news to report, our readers can check out the lives of our friends who have continued on their journeys!

And...this webpage is also sending a surprising number of web surfers our way...it has a long list of sailing related sites, including tons of sailing blogs...http://cruisenews.net/db/discoveries.php. Who would have guessed?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cruising Guidebooks - Mexico


Without a doubt, our favorite book while cruising in Mexico was the Sea of Cortez, A Cruiser's Guidebook - by Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer. We loved this book for many reasons, but primarily because of the fabulous chartlets. The charts for Mexico were terrible quality, so this guidebook made a big difference for us. When we were cruising in the Sea during the 2009/10 season, we heard that Heather and Shawn were cruising the mainland doing research for a guidebook for Mainland Mexico. I'm sure that will be equally good.

Of course, we also used Charlie's Charts for this area, and found it to be excellent also. It covered the west coast of the Baja Peninsula, which wasn't included in Heather and Shawn's book, and had some different information for some areas. Very useful.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cruising Guidebooks - French Polynesia

We had a hard time choosing cruising guidebooks before we left. We wanted to wait until we talked with other people to find out which guidebooks were really useful, but that wasn't always possible. Luckily, we managed to pick up a wide assortment of books along the way....and this is a summary of a few of our favorites:
Guide to Navigation and Tourism in French Polynesia 


This Guide to Navigation and Tourism in French Polynesia had fabulous little chartlets, and good information for some of the areas we saw. We found it to be the most useful of all our guidebooks for this area. It wasn't completely up to date, but no guidebook can be. It didn't cover all of the atolls in the Tuomotos (after all...there are hundreds of atolls), so we had to look elsewhere for some of the atolls that we wished to visit. It was a hard book to find, not available in many marine or online stores. We lucked out and got ours from a cruiser in Mexico whose plans had changed. 

We also used the Charlie's Charts Guidebook for this area, and between the two books, we felt we had as much information as we could handle. We had several other guidebooks, including many pdf documents given to us by other cruisers, but we rarely had time to reference ALL of our sources. These two were enough. (I can't find a link to Charlie's at either Amazon or West Marine, but we bought ours at West Marine). 

Landfalls of Paradise: Cruising Guide to the Pacific Islands (Latitude 20 Books)South Pacific Anchorages 2nd ed.
We also had the above two books that we had picked up on ebay, but we didn't use them very often. Both were outdated, and had very little specific information on the anchorages that we wished to visit. There was some general info that was good pre-departure reading.
 Tahiti & French Polynesia (Country Guide) 
Of course, we also picked up a copy of the Lonely Planet guide to Tahiti and French Polynesia. This gave us more background and history of the areas we visited, and more direction on what to do once we arrived at these beautiful islands.

If you have other favorite cruising guides for this area, let me know, I'd love to hear about them.

I'll compile a similar list for our favorite books during our time in Mexico.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I'm a bad blogger

OK...truth be told...I'm a bad blogger. It's been over a month since my last post. And that was a weak one. Sorry. If you must know, being at home and working full time, has really taken the fun out of playing on the computer!

But we have managed to be somewhat productive. I've FINALLY uploaded our favorite photos from the Galapagos and French Polynesia to our photo site. And I've uploaded a new post about our time in Raiatea below.

I've also got a couple blog posts up my sleeve...or tumbling around in my head...so I hope that those will make their way onto the screen soon. If you've got questions, please feel free to send them via email, or the comments section, and I'll take a stab at answering them, while we're home, and with great internet. 

As for boat stuff...the great folks at Garmin have replaced our well-loved GPS Map 76, even though it was slightly over the warranty period. It had started to spontaneously power off. Not a big deal, but somewhat inconvenient. What a great company.

We enjoyed a fabulous potluck dinner with our fellow yacht clubbers this week, and were thrilled to find out how many of them are following this blog - THANK YOU!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Photos - from Amy and Strahan

Amy and Strahan have posted photos from their trip to visit us in the Marquesas and Tuomotus. They have some incredible images! Click here to check it out.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Even though we were sad to be leaving French Polynesia earlier than we had hoped, we are still very happy to be home! We're not in our house, as it is rented out, but we've lucked out by staying in a beautiful waterfront suite with family. At least we don't have to be in withdrawal from not seeing the ocean each morning!

It's lovely to see friends and family after being away for a year, and finally sleep in a real bed. Delightful!! Grocery shopping is a treat...supplies are reliable, familiar and in a language that is easily understood! Hard to complain about BC cherries, peaches and blueberries!!

With all the last minute craziness of putting the boat away and coming home, I've become delinquent in my recent blog posts. I apologize. I hope to spend some time next week getting the blog up to date, and posting some pictures from our adventures! In addition, we'll continue to post about our boat-related adventures here at home. Of course, all of this in the midst of searching for a job (if you hear of anything, let me know). I hope you'll check back soon for more updates!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Disappointment in Raiatea

(Written on July 28)

We booked time in the boatyard at Raiatea Carinage some time ago and we've worked up quite a to do list while we sat on the hard. When we first pulled into the lagoon at Raiatea, we went straight to the yard, picked up a mooring, and investigated. My heart sunk. The yard was dirty, no washer-dryer in sight, and worse of all...it had only one toilet stall and a single shower. And both were beyond disgusting. I wasn't sure that I could withstand five days with such facilities. And I'm no princess. Mike and John were just a grossed out as I was. 

So, on Monday morning, when we were hauled out of the water, Mikey took a mop and a bucket of bleach to the facilities. Although it didn't look much better, at least we knew it was clean. Kind of. In any case, we were still very careful not to touch anything when being in there. EWWWWWWW....

The good news is that the stands they use to support the boat are pretty fabulous, and we feel quite secure about leaving the boat here. They've done a good job of hauling the boat, and the workers even swam below to boat, to place the straps exactly where they were needed. And the staff could not be nicer, or more helpful. Wow.

Our neighbors here in the yard have been great...Eric and Kris on SV Lady Meg are fellow Canadians and are finishing their trip around the world. They've been a great resource, as they've stored their boat in yards around the world several times to return home to Canada. There is a local family here, and the two girls, Leah and Daphine, are taking care of the litter of yard puppies...and have also been a hoot as we exchange language skills.
Our time at Raiatea went by in a blur of boat projects. Mike and John took a day off to dive a local wreck...John even saw the elusive Hammerhead Shark. I stayed on the boat, as I knew I'd want to do more diving here next year upon our return, and diving inside wrecks freak me out. Something about confined spaces, I guess! We also spent time with friends on Dillon and Escapade to check out some of the local eateries, share a few meals, and watch a local festival.

It was great having Mike here, although was probably not the most relaxing end to a dream holiday for him! He's promised to write a blog post about his time on the boat, so stayed tuned for his perspective! After a few days in Raiatea, we stuffed his duffel bag full of broken boat parts, and went to see him off at the airport. We'd be following in his footsteps in a few days as we make our own way home.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Huahine - Writing Resumes in Paradise

Huahine, Society Archipelago, French Polynesia

After an easy overnight sail from Moorea to Huahine, we found ourselves at a stunning island - perhaps one of the most beautiful islands we've seen yet in this Archipelago. It is so very lush and green here, with trees lining the mountain slopes, white sand beaches, and beautiful blue waters.

Our first stop in Huahine was the town of Fare. The largest town on this island of 4000+, all the amenities that you might need can be found here - an awesome grocery store, banks, post office, trinket shops, etc. Apparently, there is also a couple of world class surf waves here, and the forecast was that they should be running in a day or two, so we may get to see some action before we leave here. Early in the evening we joined cruisers from Escapade, Dignity (www.aboarddignity.com), Kamaya, Dillon, and others at the bar for happy hour. This is the first time we've seen pints this cheap since Mexico. Beer is definitely not cheap here!! Almost as good was the steak and frites we enjoyed at the roulettes (mobile food vans) afterwards!!

For our second day we rented bikes and decided to tour the island. Even though the bikes seemed to be brand new, we had a few problems. My crank wasn't tightened, and we had to stop every few minutes to hand tighten it, or I would end up one-footed! Mike taco'ed his front wheel on a tight corner, and although he managed to make it spin, it was a wobbly ride. Even so, we had a great tour of the north end of the island, met interesting people, toured a pearl farm, and generally enjoyed ourselves. But clearly, our bike-butts need reconditioning...we just aren't accustomed to bike seats anymore!

A cool part of the day was finding ourselves at a blessing ceremony for a traditional canoe that was leaving Huahine on its way to Shanghai. We were able to witness speeches, songs, dancing, and tears, as the sailors prepared to disembark. The boat had already had some technical difficulties on its journey from Tahiti, so we hope they arrive safely! Check it out at www.upootahitiexpedition.com.

We also spent one night at the southern end of the island - Baie Avea - and it was a gorgeous spot. Unfortunately, the snorkeling wasn't very exiting...kinda like swimming in a sea cucumber farm. Yuck. We did enjoy a walk ashore, and met up with Dignity for a drink. Although, we're continually shocked at how many large resorts are closed down here. Apparently, tourism is down 70% this year.

Since we'll be home in a couple weeks, we've started to think about what we'll do for work. French Polynesia is a crazy expensive place. Almost everything costs more than at home, and in some cases, much more. Considering that everything is imported, it makes sense...but still, it sure makes a dent in our cruising kitty. So...we've been thinking about work, and have spent time trying to get online, search for jobs, and write applications!

Our Position: 16°48.70'S and 150°59.54'W

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Swimming with Sting Rays in Moorea

Moorea, Society Islands, French Polynesia

One of the big attractions for all the honeymooners here on Moorea is to swim with the Sting Rays. Mike and I joined up with a few other cruising boats - Dignity, Scream, Sidewinder, Escapade - and took our dinghys to check it out. First, we stopped to snorkel around some tiki heads in the bay, then made our way to the 'big show'. Steve and Ben had the foresight to bring along some old tuna, and we had a great time swimming with the rays and sharks. Who would have guessed that their skin would be so silky smooth!?!?

At first, every time they came close, I was a bit jumpy (remember Steve Irwin?).... But soon enough we were enjoying the experience, and getting excited about these beautiful animals. Their skin really is as soft as the finest silk. And it was quite a surreal experience to be hanging out in waist deep water with these beauties. Just at the edge of the sand bar, the sharks lingered around, waiting for the fish head that the big tourism boats brought along. I've seen lots of reef sharks on our travels here, but it was Mike's first time and thought it was super cool.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Opunohu Bay - Moorea

Moorea, Society Archipelago, French Polynesia

Moorea is another beautiful island in the Windward Group of Islands. We arrived to the tall spires of a series of bold mountain tops, and two bays that push deep inland. We anchored in Opunohu Bay, reputed to be the more beautiful of the two, although somewhat more remote. We're on the outside edge of the bay, protected from the swell by the coral lagoon, but within reach of the winds that are howling by. Comfortingly, our anchor is set better than ever, dug deeply into the sand, and completely invisible!

There are about 8 other boats here, some that we've seen continually throughout our journey, and others that are new to us. Last night we enjoyed happy hour on the beach with a few other boats, and tonight we've organized a beach bbq. Luckily, SV Dignity offered to pick up some more beer for us at their last anchorage! We're down to our last few cans.

Yesterday, we hiked to a few archaeological ruins, and then to a stunning viewpoint. Although the marae were quite ancient and interesting, they were not as impressive as the ruins in the Marquesas. But...there were interpretive signs, in French, Tahitian, and English, so at least we were able to learn something of the activities that happened here. We also made our way to a more touristy area of the island, and poked through some of the shops. Although it was only 4:30 when we wanted to return, all the buses had stopped for the day, and it took forever to get a ride back to the bay where our dinghy was! We think that hitchhiking must be illegal here, as it is much more difficult to catch a ride with the locals.


Our Position: 17°29.35'S and 149°51.05'W

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Point Venus - Tahiti

Point Venus, Tahiti, Society Archipelago, French Polynesia

After fixing our bilge pumps, we said goodbye to our friends here, left the bustling metropolis of Papeete, and headed to Point Venus. Our friend Chris on Namaste had told us this was a great windsurf spot, and we were keen to check it out. There was a raging wind on the way up there, and once we set the hook, we still felt obliged for one of us to stay on the boat, to make sure we didn't find ourselves half way across the lagoon!

The boys checked out the black sand beach, went in search of the windsurfing spot, and chatted with a few of the competitors who are here for an world outrigger race.

FINALLY. I paddled a va'a!! For the last two months, since the Marquesas, we see outrigger canoes everywhere. There is one in every yard, every beach has several, and they are always being paddled through the anchorages. Their elegant lines as they glide through the water make me drool (to say nothing of the mostly fine looking Polynesian men at the helm)!! I've been dying to paddle in one. This morning, I had my chance. A New Zealand girl stopped by the boat to chat, and when she came aboard for a tour, she let me take out her canoe for a spin! It was awesome...not nearly as tippy as I had expected, but very fast. I'll need to practice to get my changes up to speed, but I can't wait to bring one of these home next year :O) Hmmm...logistics.

We discovered the windsurfing spot on the far side of the point, but with the wind raging, the swell was enormous. It would be impossible to get there by dinghy, and very uncomfortable with the big boat. Since there are other windsurf spots ahead of us and now that we'll be home in a few weeks, the intense desire to set up the gear has settled and we decided to save ourselves the bash, and head to Moorea.

Our Position: 17°29.89'S and 149°29.71'W

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sand Bar Sunday

So...picture this...

Crystal blue, warm water.
Standing up to your waist.
Tying the dinghy to the volleyball net.
One-handed volleyball (beer in the other hand).
Numerous floating tiki bars.
People EVERYWHERE on floaty toys.
Music radiating.

This is Sunday at the sand bar. Crazy. But true.

Alex and Kate picked us up, and we spent the afternoon lounging on the sand bar. It was a fabulous way to meet more cruisers and cool off. We had planned to leave that morning, but decided to spend one more night, as the bilge pump was giving us problems. Good decision!! Unfortunately, one night turned into two, as we needed to spend the next day in recovery mode. Sheesh.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dancing and Eclipse!

Tahiti, French Polynesia

Throughout the month of July is a large festival in Tahiti called Heiva. There are dancing and singing competitions, as well as sporting events. Some of the sporting events include outrigger canoe races, coconut husking, rock lifting, javelin, etc. We haven't seen any of the sport competitions, but we did get to take in one of the evenings of dance competitions. What an experience!!

There were about a hundred dancers on the stage performing routines involving a lot of hip-wiggling (women) and foot stamping (men). It was phenomenal. Unfortunately, taking photos of the performance was prohibited. So sad. The costumes were fabulous - lots of grass skirts, bikini tops and ornate headwear. Mike and John were continuously hoping for a wardrobe malfunction, and got lucky on a couple of occasions!

There are many people here in Tahiti who have come especially for the eclipse. From here, the sun is over 99% concealed by the moon. For an hour this morning, we enjoyed our morning tea and coffee in the cockpit with our fancy eclipse glasses, and watched as the moon covered all but the smallest sliver of the sun. Very cool.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Diving the Cessna

Yesterday had a great dive on the wreck of a Cessna airplane nearby. It was a shallow dive, so we shared equipment among 8 of us. Nice to get in the water, as it was smokin' hot. After our dive, we floated around, enjoying our cool beverages. It will be hard to leave here.

It's been great having Mike here - we're off today to explore the market, and take in some of the celebrations for Heiva - the month-long festival. Tonight we have tickets to see some of the dance and singing competitions!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Birthday Fun

We have been enjoying Papeete. I had a fun birthday lounging around, and enjoying a day without boat chores. We had a fun dinner with the hilarious Licorne crew at the marina restaurant and finished up with drinks in the bar. Tango gave us a fabulous mattress pad, so we're now happily sleeping in comfort for the first time in almost a year (hard to believe we've been living on this boat for a year already)!! What a birthday gift!!

The last few days have been a blur. We've been trying to make arrangements for flights home, doing brightwork, shopping, refilling propane, exploring Papeete, etc. Lots of boats here that we've seen along the way, and many more new faces, so it's been fun to hang out and get to know more people. Most are moving along, and heading to Australia or New Zealand for the cyclone season.

We also stopped into an internet cafe in town and had a chance to check out the blog. Thanks to everyone who has been leaving comments on the blog - we really enjoy reading them!!

Mikey's just arrived, so we're looking forward to lots more exploring and sightseeing, now that he's here.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Visa Denied - We're Coming Home

We were counting on being able to stay here for the standard 90 days, plus receive an etra 60 day extension. After all, that is what the yachtsman guide indicates...and it is published by the local authorities. But...we've been told that unless you have a veritable medical emergency or boat breakdown, there is no way to have your visa extended. So sad.

So we're coming home. At the end of the month.

We were looking forward to coming home in the fall to work for a few months, and returning to the boat here in polynesia in the new year. Now...we'll be coming home sooner, and staying longer. The upside is that we'll get to be home for some of the summer season, and hopefully get some time at the lake to windsurf, and maybe some camping.

We've got three weeks of cruising left. We'll have time to cruise to Moorea, maybe Huahine, before heading to Raiatea to put the boat in the yard, and prepare her for the season out of the water.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Arrived in Papeete

After a quick trip of just under 2 days, we've arrived in Papeete, Tahiti. It was a good passage - we sailed under genoa only, to keep our speed down so we didn't arrive before dawn. We had a few small squalls en route, but for the most part, it was an easy passage. There were large swells on our beam, so it was another rolly passage.

We've anchored a couple of miles south of the city, in front of Marina Taina. There are over 100 boats here - and it is absolutely crazy. Some boats are on moorings, and some are at anchor. So everyone moves differently, as the wind changes. We've heard that there have been plenty of instances where boats spin into each other, and so on. FUN. But, there is a HUGE grocery store nearby, and the marina has showers and water, and there are lots of boats here that we have been able to catch up with and spend time with.

Tonight we're heading out for a night on the town with our friends on Licorne - birthday celebrations!! And gearing up for tomorrow, when we will check in with authorities and plead to be able to stay in the country beyond the typical 90 days. Wish us luck.

And...Mike (my brother) has just decided to come for a visit, we're excited to see him and share this piece of paradise!!

Location: 17°34.84'S and 149°37.12'W

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy Canada Day - Leaving for Tahiti

Align Center

Well, we're off. Almost. Waiting for slack tide in the pass, so we can get out of the lagoon, then we're off to Papeete Harbour on the island of Tahiti. Hard to imagine that we're bored in paradise...but we're certainly having to think about how to keep busy. I've even polished and waxed our cockpit!

The picture above is from the church in the small village of Tiputa, on the other side of the pass. We jumped on a landing craft from a large freighter to get to the village, and took a little water taxi back. Wandering around the village was a nice way to spend a few hours.

Tahiti is 200 miles from here, so it will take us a day and a half or two days to get there. The seas will likely still be rolling, after all this crazy weather we've had, so it won't be too comfortable. But, it will be great to tie up to the dock, check out the city, and enjoy birthday celebrations!

To everyone at home...have a great Canada Day!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A New Look!!

Amy tells me that she has updated the blog to include a picture of Renova in the header. I'm sure it looks awesome! Hope you like it. We look forward to being able to log on in Tahiti to check it out. THANKS Amy!!! (Don't forget to blog about your impressions of your trip - I'm sure everyone would love to hear all about it)!

We continue to hang out in Rangiroa. We hitched a ride into the village of Atuona a couple days ago...had a good walk around the town. We watched the surfers on the point, and one of the big cargo ships unload. They brought six forklifts off this boat!! Four aussie guys came off the boat and were searching for the ideal surf spot. Also two Americans unloaded their 12 surf boards for their three month holiday. Yeow. We caught a ride back to the quay with a nice couple from French Guinea.They were also here on their boat, and had been here for two years already! French boats are free to stay much longer than us foreigners, and they are everywhere here.

Sadly...we've continued to have high winds for the last couple of days. We're getting bored, sitting on the boat, waiting for a weather window to leave. Can you believe...bored in paradise!! Well, let me paint you a picture of paradise...the boat is super rolly with all the swell; the town is small, so you can only do so much exploring; snorkeling isn't good with clouds and rain; but...we aren't working. We've been watching movies (we can tell you that the DUDE in the Big Lebowski has the same shoes as John), and reading books (just finished Les Miserables). But...with all the cloud, we can't be on the computer too long, as we don't have a lot of solar power to recharge our batteries!!

By the way...I'm practicing my french. It's coming back...albeit, very slowly. And painfully, at times!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Still in Rangiroa

We're still here in Rangiroa. The wind forecast was increased, so we decided to hang out here for a while. Neither of us have any desire to head out into 30 knot winds at the moment. Who knows...maybe it won't materialize. No worries. We're loving it here, so it doesn't really matter.

Above is a pic of John and I on our dive this week. Thanks to Taku, who gave us a copy of the photo. He did 11 dives while he was here!! WOW.

Our Position: 14°58.1'S and 147°38.2'W

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Rangiroa - cheeseburgers and diving

Rangiroa Atoll, Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia

Rangiroa is the largest coral atoll in the world. And the most populated island in the Tuamotus (2500 people). And still, slow internet!! But...we have managed to get email via wifi on the boat, so we can't complain too much. And, if you're willing to connect in odd hours, you might be able to do a bit of surfing. You may also notice that I've managed to figure out how to add an image to the blog posts finally. Hurray!!

Rangiroa has been awesome. On our first day here, after our nap, we met a great crew of sailors, and enjoyed drinks on the quay with them. Since then we've enjoyed drinks, diving, and a few meals with them - it's been a hoot. We're looking forward to running into them again in Tahiti!

The village is spread out among several motus, connected by a roadway, with the airport about 1/2 way between the two ends. We had heard that the local super hotel ($300-800 per night) offered a traditional Polynesian
performance, which we thought would be fun, but the hotel was closed for renos. With a combo of hitch-hiking and bike rentals we explored the 10 km or so to the other end of the road. There were a few stores, one even had veggies - green peppers and limes!! Too bad we couldn't carry more supplies on the bikes. We also stopped at a few trinket stores and pearl boutiques. It was a nice morning of exploring. Back at the quay, we treated ourselves to beer and fanta and cheeseburgers!! Hmmm....pomme frites!!

Yesterday, we went for a dive in Tiputa Pass, a drift dive that is highly recommneded. Although they warned us that it would not be as beautiful as the colourful coral of Fakarava, this is the place where we are more likely to see the large marine wildlife. Although it was fun to drift with the
current - feeling a bit like Peter Pan as we flew through the water effortlessly - we didn't see too much wildlife. We did see sharks and the largest Napolean Wrasse ever...as big as me, I swear. But no manta rays. And no hammerheads. Too bad. Another diver took a video and gave us a copy, so we hope to be able to put a snippet on the blog once we get to Tahiti.

We're getting geared up to leave for Tahiti. Today I fixed our spray cloth that was blown out in last week's storm, and John prepared our sails and filled up our fuel tank. We need to be in Tahiti in order to attempt to renew our visas; we'd like to stay longer than the standard three months that are issued upon arrival. Hopefully that won't be a problem, but we're getting many mixed messages. It will take us a couple days to get there, but we're looking forward to being in a marina with showers and laundry for the first time since Mexico - almost four months ago!


Our Position (Rangiroa): 14°58.1'S and 147°38.2'W

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Blown away by Apataki

We were blown away by the atoll of Apataki. Literally. But, I'll start at the beginning...

Our last day on Toau was spent at the northern end of the atoll, close to the pass, so we would have a shorter passage to Apataki - our next destination. We left Toau before slack tide, and had the excitement of dealing with the current opposing the winds as we exited the pass, creating large standing waves. The current was in our favour, so we were traveling quickly, but the large swell made it uncomfortable, even if only for a few minutes. We were soon out of the pass, hoisted our sails, and set our course to Apataki.

Although there is a small village on Apataki, there isn't a suitable anchorage at the village, so we anchored a few miles away, in front of a pearl farm with a few other sailboats. As it turns out, several of these boats had found paradise, and had stayed in the area for a couple of years! For the next four days, we wandered the beach, chatted with the locals, and tackled a few boat jobs. Pauline and Alfred live here with their parents and their children. They have a pearl farm business, and we were able to watch as they went about classifying the pearls into grades for sale and export. They've also started a boat yard, with a huge trailer and ramp. There were three boats in the yard while we were there, and one was pulled out on our last day. Although facilities were limited, it would be a great spot to haul out, if we just needed to paint the bottom! John's scraped foot was still a bit swollen (from one of his lobster 'hunting' expeditions with Strahan), so he chatted with a Doc on another boat and started a course of antibiotics, but is trying to keep it dry. Not easy.

Our friend Chris on SV Namaste had told us that the snorkeling in and near the pass at the north end of the island was fabulous, so after a few days, we moved up there to check it out. Only a couple hours after we dropped the hook, the wind started to pick up. Within only a half hour, the wind was howling. We checked our weather files, and saw a system was supposed to be developing near Tahiti, but wasn't really supposed to be this far north. Clearly the weather files were wrong. Because we were up against a lee shore, we didn't feel it was safe to remain here. So we upped anchor (with some difficulty, in the large waves that had instantly developed), and quickly made our way out of the pass into the safely of the open sea. We were sad to leave here without getting a chance to experience the snorkeling, but we looked forward to the Rangiroa, our next atoll...and the largest coral atoll in the world.

It was about 80 miles to Rangiroa, an overnight sail. Throughout the night, the winds continued to build. We don't have a wind meter on board, but we guessed it to be consistently 30 knots with gusts to 35 or so. It was the most wind that we'd seen while underway on our journey so far. It was definitely the only time that we'd had waves crash over the side of the boat and into the cockpit. We had our full BC rain slickers on! We had only a very, very, tiny bit of our genoa (head sail) out - and we still were going up to 8 knots in the gusts (3-4 knots in the lulls). And although we were worried that the furling system would buckle under the strain, we realized that our storm sails were even bigger than the tiny bit of canvas that we were flying. The boat handled the weather fine. And we made it to Rangiroa in time for the optimum tide. Although the tide was rising, and it should have been an incoming tide, we still had a couple knots of outgoing current.

As a note of interest, during times of heavy wind and waves, the current and tides in the atoll passes can change dramatically. Normally, there is an ingoing and outgoing current in the pass that roughly follows the tide. During heavy weather in some atolls, there is a lot of water pushed over and between the small motus (islets), filling up the lagoon. This can create a continual outgoing current in the passes, even when the tide should be rising!

Throughout the storm, there was chatter on the radio. Two other boats had decided to leave Apataki when we did, and there were at least three other boats en route to Rangiroa from elsewhere. It was great to know that other boats were nearby. And we also got to hear what their wind indicators were showing - winds of 30 to 35 with gusts up to 39. WOW.


Our Position (Apataki): 15°20.96'S and 146°11.66'W

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Cruisers' Party Line: VHF Radio

While out cruising, our main method of communicating with other cruisers is the VHF radio. It has a range of up to 25 miles, and all boats have one. Most boats have two or more. We have one main unit, with two microphones, and a handheld that we can take to shore.

So, for you landlubbers, the basic process is you call the boat you want to chat with on channel 16, which everyone monitors. Then you arrange to move your conversation to another channel. At this time, any number of boats may also move to that channel to get the scoop on whatever fascinating bit of info you might be chatting about. Most radios even have a 'dual-watch' feature, which enables you to monitor channel 16 and another channel at all times...the ultimate in eavesdropping convenience.

John and I have had our share of fun lurking on the VHF, and any boater who denies having listened in is absolutely fibbing!! But...we've gotten pretty tired of the constant chatter in the busier anchorages, and listening in to others talk about their dinner plans, or their next anchorage, gets a bit tiring, not to mention that you often need to physically drop whatever you are doing to go and change the channel, so we rarely have the energy or interest anymore to do much lurking.

But...for Amy and Strahan, this was a new phenomenon and the source of endless entertainment. As a result of constant listening and channel changing, Amy was in the know. She could tell you which boat was dining where, and with whom. And who was leaving the anchorage, and where they were heading. Who was going snorkeling and at what time. And so on.

Sure is quiet around here these days...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Toau - Lobster for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner!

After Amy and Strahan left us, we grabbed a few more provisions, loaded up at the bakery, and attempted to weigh anchor. Of course it was stuck among several coral heads, and I needed to dive down to investigate, and to direct John in the direction to steer the boat in order to untangle us! We were shocked that we had managed to get so ensnared, as we had only just dropped the hook the night before. Oh well. We managed to get ourselves free within about 45 minutes, we were on our way.

We had a calm day, and motor-sailed about 20 miles to Toau, a small atoll north-west of Fakarava. We headed to the south end, where we anchored with Capaz and IO. Once we arrived I did my usual snorkel to check on our anchor, and changed our zinc while I was there. This zinc only lasted two months...we sure go through them fast in these tropical waters.

After we had a chance to grab a bite to eat, we headed ashore to see if we could find lobster. Mike and Hyo (IO) were there, as well as Brad, Austin and Bryce from Capaz. As we headed in the direction of the reef, John and I chatted with two locals (they and their father are the only ones that live here), and they assured us that it was easy to find lobster on the outer reef. So we trudged off with our flashlights, and started looking through the ankle-deep water for the reflection of the lobster eyes. After trudging and searching with a success rate of nil, we found ourselves more engaged by Mike's awesome marine biology lessons, than the hunt for the invisible lobster. I'm sure we were almost as good as his students in Bamfield!!

We soon saw lights coming towards us, and our two friends, Martin and Jean, had donned their wetsuits, plastic go-anywhere shoes (I should write a separate blog post just about those shoes), Coleman lanterns, and big blue barrels strapped to their backs. When they caught up with us, they already had snagged several lobster and reef fish for the bottom of their barrel. The brothers tried to teach us how to spot the eyes of the lobster, but we were slow learners. I didn't spot one the entire evening. John spotted and caught a couple, but Jean took pity on him, and pointed him in the right direction several times. It would have been a bit of a comedy show to see all of us lurking through the waters of the reef, and then running after and trying to grab these lobster. We weren't nearly as good as the two pros, but at least we won't starve. In addition to lobster, they were also catching reef fish - mostly parrotfish. This was a new fishing technique...fishing with a machete! The guys could kill the fish with one slash of the machete. It was unbelievable. The only sad part about the evening is that my camera was out of batteries, and that Strahan missed out...he would have loved it! We arranged to meet the guys in the morning to go on a coconut crab hunt.

The next day, Mike and John went to the beach to hunt crab with the brothers at a remote motu (islet). After some time on the beach, they came out in the brothers launch to deliver lunch to us ladies who decided to sleep in and let the boys hunt. Fresh barbecued fish and lobster. WOW. Of course Hyo and I both ate ours immediately. We saved the rest to share later in the day.

Eventually, the boys returned with two coconut crabs, and we arranged a big feast aboard Capaz later that evening. What a night! Lobster, crab, and PJ even had fresh veggies!

Our Position: 15°57.8'S and 145°52.2'W

Friday, June 11, 2010

Fakarava North - Pearls, Sharks, and Alternators

After a morning snorkel at the reef beside our anchorage, we weighed anchor and headed north to the village of Rotoava at the North end of Fakarava. This was an excellent way to cap off Amy and Strahan's visit to Renova. We wandered the village and found ourselves giddy at the prospect of filling our cupboards once again. We arranged a visit to a pearl farm, and were able to see how the gorgeous "Tahitian Black Pearls" are made. It is a much more complex process than I expected, and was surprised to learn that only one percent of all pearls produced are "A" quality - round, without blemishes, and with a high luster. We also got to meet Mike and Kyo from IO, from Victoria!

I tried to get online and do a few internet jobs, but found that paying two bills and viewing our account took almost 2 hours. While I banged my head against a wall, Amy and Strahan went for a fabulous dive outside the reef and John worked on replacing our VHF, which has become problematic as it only wishes to work intermittently. Now, everyone in the anchorage knows that it is us calling, as they are now able to recognize the machine gun noise that we broadcast whenever we push the transmit button on our mike. Too bad. We loved that radio, and it was almost new when we left BC. Oh well...the 1980's model works well, even though it is a power pig, and doesn't have some of the common channels, nor the fancy features. At least the rest of the anchorage doesn't feel as though they are in a war zone.

On Amy and Strahan's last day, we three went for a dive through the Garuae Pass. It was fabulous, and well worth the accolades in all the travel guides. We drifted through the pass, pausing several times to hold onto the coral and watch all the sea life around us. We saw hundreds of reef sharks, and more fish that I had thought possible to inhabit such an area. It was absolutely stunning, and I'm glad that I decided to join them at the last minute. And we finally got to meet Mike and Sammi from SV Quartermoon, who we'd shared anchorages with a few times, but hadn't met yet.

We celebrated our last evening by dining out at the Blue Van. This van is parked in someone's front yard, has plastic patio furniture in front, and serves up the standard menu of burgers, steak frites, and chow mein. Kinda eclectic fare, although it seems to be the norm around here. It was a fabulous meal. And we were able to chat with other cruisers who had also come to enjoy the meal - Mike and Hyo from IO (Canada), Jackie and Gary from Inspiration Lady (Canada), and Jack from Anthem (USA).

On departure day, we went ashore for last minute items, had one more swim, and then brought aboard the anchor and headed to the airport. There is a wharf directly in front of the airport, and we were able to tie up less than 100 feet from the airport check in counter. On the way over, the alternator wasn't charging the batteries, and none of the gauges on the engine panel were functioning, so while John and I did some troubleshooting and dug out the spare alternator, Amy prepared a lunch of fresh baguette and cheese in the cockpit. Turns out we had blown a fuse, so it wasn't long before we had replaced the fuse, and we were all enjoying lunch in the cockpit. After they checked in, we were able to return to the boat and enjoy a beer. I jumped in for a quick snorkel, and the fish life was fabulous.

Finally, the plane arrived and it was time to go. We said goodbye to Amy and Strahan and "ALLEZ". It was so great to have them aboard and we'll definitely miss their company. And their help. It was awesome having the extra hands to help with the anchor, the steering, the dinghy, the cooking, etc! And they were so generous with bringing down needed supplies and helping us to re-provision. We look forward to having them aboard again.

We waved to the departing plane as we made our way back to the anchorage.

We spent our last evening here enjoying sangria with Chris, Christine and the kids from Ottawa on their catamaran, SV Stray Kitty. Mike and Sammi from Quartermoon joined us, as did Jamie and Behan from Totem. What a fun night!!


Our Position: 16°03.7'S and 145°37.2'W

Monday, June 7, 2010

Fakarava South - Snorkeling with the Sharks

We left Kauehi atoll early in order to time our exit from the lagoon shortly before slack tide, and to be sure we arrived at the southern passage to Fakarava during the afternoon slack tide. Our passage was a nice day sail, with the exception of a short squall that piped up mid-way giving us a few minutes of excitement.
The hand line hanging behind the boat worked it's magic as we passed by an area of water that seemed to be of great interest to birds. Luckily, it was also of interest to tuna, and we had a nice tuna on the line which the boys brought on board, and then tied behind the boat for the remainder of the passage.

We timed our arrival perfectly, and entered the pass with a slight flood tide pushing into the lagoon. We had no problems avoiding several dinghies floating in the pass tied to their snorkeling owners. The anchorage inside the lagoon was easy to spot, as almost two dozen boat were nestled into this idyllic spot. We easily found a spot, and dropped our hook, avoiding the coral heads that were scattered throughout.

As we set the hook, Stuart and Shelia from SV Imagine popped by to say hello, and as we chatted, a large splash at the stern of the boat reminded us that we had forgotten to pull our tuna on board. To our dismay, the better half of our fresh sashimi dinner was taken in one bite by a black tipped reef shark. Hmpf. Suddenly, I didn't feel quite up to snorkeling to check on our anchor at the moment! Several other sharks were now circling the boat, in hopes of catching a few more bites. John managed to salvage the remains of the tuna, and we all watched in awe as the sharks fought over the remaining guts and head.

The anchorage faces a white coral beach, complete with palm trees and thatched huts. A small dive shop operates on the pass, and takes divers on drift dives through this area. There are a couple of pensions here, but not much else. A popular activity is to snorkel or dive the pass just before or after slack tide, allowing you to drift through the pass while you watch the incredible array of fish, sharks and coral unfold below you. This pass is reputed to be one of the better dives in the Tuamotus for its "profusion of small and large reef fish...dozens of reef sharks..." (Lonely Planet).

By the way, Fakarava atoll is considered a UNESCO protected area, due to the diversity of wildlife here. It is the second largest atoll in the Tuamotus, and we were surprised to be sailing in the lagoon, and not be able to see across to the other side.

The following morning, Amy and Strahan rowed to the pass and snorkeled through the pass, but found themselves rowing against a very strong current on the way back to the boat. The snorkel was incredible, as they were surrounded by black tip reef sharks, and amazing coral and reef fish. They were followed by a "huge, friendly-looking" fish, which may have been a Napoleon??

John and I snorkeled briefly in the pass later that morning, and were shocked by the fish. We had been spoiled by amazing snorkeling in Mexico, but we finally felt that we had found comparable or maybe even better snorkeling! It was stunning. Our trip back to the boat was just as challenging as Amy and Strahan's, as our little outboard couldn't keep up to the power of the tide. We were making forward progress, but barely. Eventually the motor just gave up, and we were forced to row. Thankfully, SV Dignity came along and offered us a tow!!

One more snorkel in the afternoon was just as incredible, and we saw many sharks, three moray eels, two lion fish, and schooling tuna, among tons of other reef fish and stunning coral formations.

During the night, the wind shifted, causing an uncomfortable swell in the anchorage, and we had a less than restful sleep. In the morning we chose to move, as more of this Northerly wind was in the forecast. By early afternoon, we were settled into a new anchorage with several other boats, and found ourselves snorkeling and spear fishing in the turquoise waters. Although there was no success with spear fishing or dragging the lines, the boys went to explore the reef, in hopes of finding lobster terrain for a hunt after dark. Instead, they managed to chase a green parrotfish up onto the beach, and wrestled it into submission. We enjoyed fish curry for dinner, which was a welcome treat, given that our fresh food supplies are seriously diminished these days.

After dinner, we enjoyed drinks and nibblies aboard SV Dignity, with Steve, Helen and John, who we first met in the Galapagos, but keep passing as we go in and out of anchorages. It was a lovely evening, and was a real treat for Amy and Strahan, who had not been on a catamaran. They were astonished with the amount of space that was available on board. Dignity is one of the first sailboats with hybrid electric engines, so it was interested to chat with them about their experience with the new technology.

This morning, we moved again and started towards the north end of Fakarava, where Amy and Strahan will fly out of at the end of this week. We stopped mid way up the atoll, where we are anchored next to SV IO, from Alberta, Canada! The boys are now out looking for dinner with Mike, who had just talked with the locals about which fish are safe from the ciguatera.

Tomorrow, we plan to head to the north end of the atoll, where we can't wait to do a bit of shopping and refill our cupboards. Maybe even enjoy a meal the local snack. Lately, we've been rationing everything from eggs and flour, to beer and cheese. Well, to be honest, we ran out of beer weeks ago. Life is tough.

Our Position: 16°17.1'S and 145°31.4'W

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Kauehi

Kauehi Atoll, Tuomotu Archipelago, French Polynesia

We had a fabulous stay at the village in Kauehi, Tearavero. Although every local we talk to has a different answer, we think about 200 people live here. All the literature we've read about French Polynesia has gushed about the exceptionally friendly Polynesian hospitality. So far, we have enjoyed meeting kind people, but we haven't found them any more or less hospitable than other places we have visited. Until now.

Everybody that we met in the village has invited us into their homes. We have shared coffee, tea, juice with a number of friendly locals. Sunday is clearly a day of rest and relaxation here, and everyone seemed to be out on their front stoop or on the patio relaxing. As John and Strahan explored the village, they were invited into two homes to sit and chat with the locals.

On our second day, we enjoyed 'Tahiti Delight', a yummy punch at Daniel's house, before he took us exploring into the coconut plantations in search of the large and elusive coconut crab. There were many stories and pantomimed descriptions about the dangers of thrusting one's arm down into the crab holes, in hopes of pulling out a crab that might have a pincher as big as your forearm. Unfortunately, we didn't find one this afternoon. The boys decided to return after dusk, when hunting is much easier.

As we wandered through town, we noticed flags lining the main street. Locals told us that there would be a parade to mark the last day of May, which is a month of celebration for the Virgin Mary in the Catholic Church here. Amy and I decided to join in the procession. Just before dusk, we joined a group of 40 villagers at the home of the priest, where a service was held in the shed in his yard. We were welcomed (kissed) by many villagers, and the children seemed to be especially fascinated, as they stared and giggled when we caught their eye! After the service, the group walked down main street, following the six white-robed priests, and the alter for Mary, which was carried by two young men. After several stops to switch alter-carriers, we arrived at the white Catholic Church that stood proud in the centre of town. The church was filled with shell-covered chandeliers, and shells were strung together and hung throughout as garland. The mass was long, and mostly conducted in Tahitian, although there was also French strewn throughout the service. Not being Catholic, we weren't really aware of what was going on, but our favorite part was the singing. Not that we were among the source of the hymns, the music was even more powerful and vibrant than the tunes that we'd heard drifting over to the anchorage during each weeknight service. As the service ended and we filed into the street with the rest of the congregation, Amy and I, once again, found our cheeks to be the beneficiaries of much kissing.

After the service, a local couple invited us to their home for a barbeque on the following day. Even though we had planned to leave, we accepted their invitation eagerly, and decided to delay our departure to later in the afternoon, so we could enjoy a mid-day meal. Even though it was rainy and windy on the following day, our hosts insisted on a barbeque, and we arrived at their large home, to discover fish cooking on the backyard barrel and fresh, young coconuts cut and ready for us to drink. We were treated to a fabulous meal with coconut rice and poisson cru mounded on the table, alongside the barbequed fish and coconuts. Throughout our meal, Joanna took a special interest in John and tried to teach him both french and some of the local language. Tahitian is a very difficult language to learn and we're all struggling with even the basic phrases. We were also shown the beautiful shells that they cut, polish and fashion into various pieces of jewelry and artwork. Amy and I were each gifted with a very beautiful necklace.

We've now moved to a new anchorage. We're still within Kauehi atoll, yet we're now on the south side of the lagoon, which is completely remote. There is one other boat here, Mojombo (from Comox - www.mojomboexpedition.blogspot.com), but they are at least a half mile away from us. Yesterday, the boys practiced their newfound hunter and gatherer skills on the beach. They came back to the boat with a freshly speared fish. Because we'd heard that there is ciguatera (toxic) in this lagoon, we hummed and haaa'ed about whether to eat it, but since we have very little fresh food aboard, and no meat, we decided to give it a try. (The store at the village just happened to be closed all this week as he shop keeper had left town!) We built a bonfire on the beach, made a foil pouch of potatoes and butter, and cooked our dinner over the roaring fire. We tested the fish on our lips, waiting to see if they turned numb, but without any immediate noticeable effects, we all enjoyed our fish and potatoes. It's now the next day, and we can safely say that disaster has been averted yet again.

Well...must sign off for today. John has just dropped a wrench overboard, and all of us crew are now going free diving. We plan to leave tomorrow for Faka Rava...so our next post will be from a new coral atoll.

Position: 15°56.9'S and 145°03.8'W

Labels: visitors, French Polynesia, Tuomotu, fishing, food

Sunday, May 30, 2010

We've Arrived!

We had fabulous wind conditions for our passage from the Marquesas to the Tuomotus. The wind was steady from the East or East-South-East for the entire passage, at 12-18 knots. Swell was manageable, between one and two meters for most of the trip. It was enough that cooking was interesting, but possible. The difference made by having Amy and Strahan aboard was huge! We were able to get so much more sleep, and share the various tasks, making life so much easier. We did our night watches in pairs, and one person on watch was able to sleep in the cockpit, on standby mode, so the two off-watch crew got in a solid stretch of undisturbed time, during which they hopefully could ignore the rocking of the boat enough to get some rest. And they handled the crossing fabulously - no one was sick!

Bursts of activity kept us on our toes in between long periods of lounging. Barely outside of the harbour, we hit a big wave and discovered the weaknesses of our over-loaded fruit hammock. We all shrieked, as the majority of our fruit bounty went flying into the clutches of Neptune...blobs of yellow, orange, and green floating in our wake. Luckily, we saved a few pamplemousse, mangoes and lemons, and our bananas were tied separately, but there were four sad faces aboard Renova.

Later that day we had a big fish hit the line, and almost spooled us, but he managed to spit the lure and swim away with his freedom. Unfortunately, the next day, another fish finished the job, and took our lure and all our line with him. Now we had to get serious with our hand lines.

Soon after, Strahan hooked a fabulous tuna on the hand line, which we ate for the following three days. Our largest yet. And it was delicious. We had tons of sashimi, sushi rolls, spicy tuna and ceviche on crackers, seared tuna with ginger sauce, and so on. It was enough tuna that we had to stop fishing, as we couldn't handle any more fish!! There goes one of our chief pastimes. Back to napping.

Interestingly, we all had small appetites, and were most happy with bland foods. The butter chicken was a total flop, virtually untouched, yet the Mr. Noodles was by far, the most popular meal. Who'da guessed?

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. We listened to the SSB and the positions of our fellow cruisers as they made the crossing with us. We managed to complete the five hundred miles in four and a half days, arriving at the pass just after noon.

To the Tuomotus

We had fabulous wind conditions for our passage from the Marquesas to the Tuomotus. The wind was steady from the East or East-South-East for the entire passage, at 12-18 knots. Swell was manageable, between one and two meters for most of the trip. It was enough that cooking was interesting, but possible. The difference made by having Amy and Strahan aboard was huge! We were able to get so much more sleep, and share the various tasks, making life so much easier. We did our night watches in pairs, and one person on watch was able to sleep in the cockpit, on standby mode, so the two off-watch crew got in a solid stretch of undisturbed time, during which they hopefully could ignore the rocking of the boat enough to get some rest. And they handled the crossing fabulously - no one was sick!

Bursts of activity kept us on our toes in between long periods of lounging. Barely outside of the harbour, we hit a big wave and discovered the weaknesses of our over-loaded fruit hammock. We all shrieked, as the majority of our fruit bounty went flying into the clutches of Neptune...blobs of yellow, orange, and green floating in our wake. Luckily, we saved a few pamplemousse, mangoes and lemons, and our bananas were tied separately, but there were four sad faces aboard Renova.

Later that day we had a big fish hit the line, and almost spooled us, but he managed to spit the lure and swim away with his freedom. Unfortunately, the next day, another fish finished the job, and took our lure and all our line with him. Now we had to get serious with our hand lines.

Soon after, Strahan hooked a fabulous tuna on the hand line, which we ate for the following three days. Our largest yet. And it was delicious. We had tons of sashimi, sushi rolls, spicy tuna and ceviche on crackers, seared tuna with ginger sauce, and so on. It was enough tuna that we had to stop fishing, as we couldn't handle any more fish!! There goes one of our chief pastimes. Back to napping.

Interestingly, we all had small appetites, and were most happy with bland foods. The butter chicken was a total flop, virtually untouched, yet the Mr. Noodles was by far, the most popular meal. Who'da guessed?

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. We listened to the SSB and the positions of our fellow cruisers as they made the crossing with us. We managed to complete the five hundred miles in four and a half days, arriving at the pass just after noon.

Controleur and Daniels (Taioa) Bays

[May 24]

We had a great day in Controller bay. We got up early, to hunt out another archeological site, and after a quick stop to listen to the singing from the church, found our way up the hill to the site. It wasn't very big, but had some of the best tikis we have seen yet. During our ice cream stop in the village, we were offered free mangoes from the trees in the park, and we learned that a local carver lived 'just up the road'. After knocking down a few mangoes, the boys headed back to the boat and the gals checked out the hunky outrigger men on the beach. The races were definitely on island time, and we lingered in hopes of watching the action, but all-too-soon, the boys were back at the beach, and ready to ferry us across the river toward the road to the carver. Once the local kids swimming near by, saw what they were trying to do, they laughed at us, and swam our dinghy across the river, with us ladies able to keep our feet dry. If only we had a parasol! Luckily we had a few Canada pencils, to thank them for their efforts.

We walked for an almost eternity in search of the carvers home. Clearly, this was not 'just up the road'. Although eventually a passer-by took pity on us, and we hopped in their truck for the final push. What we found was extraordinary. He had a dedicated room of his home with carvings, including tikis, bowls, drums, figurines, etc. They were beautiful, and exactly what we had been hoping to find. Decisions were difficult, but we eventually decided on our purchases, and walked away very pleased with the results of our efforts. Luckily, we caught a lift in the school teacher's small car for the ride back to the dinghy. All kids over 15 go to Tahiti for high school, which explains the lack of teenagers running around any of these islands. We also learned there is a small university in Tahiti, but many students go to France for their post-secondary education.

We had heard great things from other cruisers about the anchorage in Daniel's Bay, so we pulled up anchor from Controller Bay, and with a solo outrigger escorting us out, headed back towards to south end of Niku Hiva.

John's lucky green lure proved it's worth yet again and we hooked another Dorado on the way into the bay. It is a sure way to make new friends by entering an anchorage with a fresh fish trailing behind the boat!

There were at least a dozen boats in the anchorage, yet we enjoyed a quiet evening and leisurely morning about Renova. During the afternoon, the crew went ashore to check out the small village, and hike up the Hakaui Valley to the Vaipo waterfall that is the third highest in the world. (I had just received some work via email, so stayed aboard to get in a few hours of quiet time on the computer).

[These two paragraphs written by Amy:]

The hike was incredible, walking along ancient roadways, through streams and steep canyons. Although the waterfall was only a trickle in this unusually dry year, it was still awe-inspiring, with its sheer cliffs rising up hundreds of meters above. The pool at the base was perfect for a refreshing dip, even though we were warned against swimming, due to the possibility of rocks falling from above.

As we returned to the dinghy, we passed through a small village where we met a local woman willing to sell us some of the fruit from her trees. We loaded up with pamplemousse, pineapple, bananas, mangoes, papaya, oranges, lemons, limes, a breadfruit, and some strange apple-like fruit. We got more fruit than we could carry for a few francs and a tube of lipstick. The dinghy was overloaded and riding low to the water when we returned to Renova. (I couldn't believe the bounty that they arrived with!!)

Stuart and Shelia on SV Imagine (http://shelia-sailingwest.blogspot.com) made our afternoon, by offering to fill our water jugs with their watermaker as they had observed that we had been shut down on our attempts to find water nearby. They also treated us a sample of Shelia's delicious Thai Fish Cakes. We now have a new recipe for use onboard Renova.

Kyemaya was here in the anchorage, and wanted to take advantage of John's firemaking skills, and the graham crackers we donated for their s'mores, so we organized a bonfire on the beach and several of the cruising boats joined in the fun. Amy rested on the boat for some R&R (fruit-bartering is exhausting, you know), yet John and Strahan were in fine form as they got a raging fire started without the aid of matches or lighter to the delight of the kids. I think the older boys had more fun than the kids, as they proceeded to hunt, kill, and cook land crabs they found, and dug into fresh coconut and pamplemousse with the ever-useful machete. The other kids were pleased with their s'mores, as were the Euro cruisers who hadn't enjoyed this campfire delight before.

Finally, after accumulating a host of fabulous experiences in the Marquesas, and with a favorable weather forecast, we decided to head back out to sea towards the Tuomotus, a trip of approximately 500 miles. This archipelago, famous for its coral atolls, is vastly different from the high, lush peaks of the Marquesas, and we can't wait to see it. We're looking forward to swimming in the lagoons, and snorkeling and diving at a top notch diving locations!!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Baie de Controleur

Time is flying in paradise. It is almost been one week since Amy and Strahan arrived. We had a nice relaxing day yesterday with a lazy sleep in, pancakes for breakfast, and took a few loads of laundry to the beach to make use of a freshwater tap on the beach. While our laundry dried, we went for a snorkel among the mushroom coral that inhabit this anchorage. John fixed the outboard motor, so we can once again use the pull cord, and don't have to continue to start it by using a length of string wrapped around the head.

This morning we spent some time planning our passage to the Tuomotus, which route we will take, and which atolls we would like to visit once there. We made plans with A Small Nest to see them in a few days, and we upped anchor and moved to Baie du Controleur. After a short motor-sail, we set our anchor in the bay - all by ourselves. It certainly isn't as picturesque as many of the other anchorages we've been in, but we heard that we may find a store ashore, and we did. While on a provisioning run, the boys discovered that there is an outrigger canoe regatta here tomorrow. There are paddlers practicing on the bay, and we're trying to decide if we'd like to linger here another day to take in the races.

For those who are curious, the boys bought a bit of flour, tuna, yogurt, meat and a couple of donuts. All of this fit into two small grocery bags, and totaled almost $70. All of the food is flown into these islands, and everything is very pricey. We wish we had the space to have bought more supplies in Mexico. Fruit is hard to come by in the stores, even though it is everywhere. It is possible to trade for fruit, and while we don't have any 22 cartridges on board, which is their preferred trading item, we have been able to trade for wine. Next we'll start trying to trade with our supply of lipsticks, pencils, balloons, playdoh and t-shirts.

This bay is also the setting for Typee, Herman Melville's book, after he deserted from a whaling ship in 1842.

We plan to stay in this area for a couple more days, before heading South on a 400 mile passage to the Tuomotus...a three or four day sail. Suddenly we will switch from steep, lush, mountainous terrain here in the Marquesas, to the low-lying, coral atolls of the Tuomotu Archipelago. We can't wait.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Nuku Hiva - Guests Arrive

Amy and Strahan have now arrived, bringing with them a duffle bag full of treats for us from home. Once again, we celebrate Christmas on Renova!! Lots of boat parts were among their luggage, as well as tasty treats from home, and THREE pairs of shoes. Wohoo....

They have settled in nicely to their berth in the main cabin. They threaten that they might not leave. Our first adventure was with Denis and Holly on Tango, who took us to an ancient Polynesian ceremonial site. We were lucky to meet work crew who were restoring the site for a large celebration in 2012, where Polynesians from all around (French Polynesia, Easter Island, Hawaii, etc) will come to enjoy a week long celebration. The workers were kind enough to explain to us about the site, the upcoming celebration, their weekend hunting techniques, the various plants and trees nearby, and they cut open a few coconuts and send us home with a hand of bananas.

John immediately decided he needed a machete of his own, and it has turned out the be the most useful culinary tool in the galley. It is good for flipping burgers, cutting cantelope, cracking coconuts and opening scallops. Don't be surprised if this tool takes a prominent place in our kitchen at home!

After a couple days of exploring and provisioning in Taiohae, we set sail sail in the company of "A Small Nest", and headed to "one of the best kept secrets - the sublime village of Anaho" (source: Lonely Planet). We're now sitting amongst 20 other boats in this secretive anchorage. We've been enjoying this idyllic bay for a couple days of swimming, and have been hiking to the neighboring bays.

On the way here, of course, we put out a line in hopes of winning the perpetual fishing derby...and win we did!! Strahan caught a beautiful, big, Mahi Mahi (dorado). It was too big for us, so we shared it with "Mojombo" and "A Small Nest" once we arrived at Anaho Bay.

Yesterday we hiked to a neighboring bay with a white sand beach, wild (but emacipated) horses, melon farm, and lots of evidence of ancient inhabitants. We spent the evening on the beach with several other boats, where John started a great fire and amazed the kids with his new fire-stick/knife (thanks Mikey). Kids always love starting fire without matches.

Today we hiked over a mountain pass to the next bay and village of Hatiheu, where we explored the fantastic archeaological sites of Hikokoa, Kamuihei and Tahakia. We have heard that 3-6000 people once lived here, from about 300 AD and the site was in use until European contact in the 1800's. European disease decimated populations throughout the Marquesas, which were once estimated at least 80,000 to as msny as 150,000 people.

Our group of 13 sought out lunch at Chez Yvonne, which we had read was an excellent restarurant. The boys were finally able to enjoy the goat meal that they had been yearning for...and no machete was required!! Amy and I shared the Gastronomic de Jour, a delightful platter of various seafood treats, with breadfruit and taro on the side.

Unfortunately with all this activity, we have missed our pattern of regular sieta-ing. We plan to chill-out tomorrow, take in some snorkeling in the bay, and catch up on our siestas!

The nonos and mosquitos haven't been as bad as we expected...until today. We're now covered in bites. Apparently, elephantitis is on the rise here, and is spread by mosquitos. Or so the rumour goes. We'll be on the lookout for fat ankles. And wheelbarrows.

We tell you about these things so you don't become disillusioned about our life in paradise. The locals laugh at our dinghy, especially now when we try to put 4 people in it, and it barely floats...and now that our pull cord is broken, we are using a piece of string around the head in order to start it. We are a floating entertainment delight for those around us.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Busy in Paradise...

[May 12]
It really is difficult to find the discipline to sit in front of a computer when one is anchored in paradise. Since our last blog post, we've left the pristine anchorage of Tahuata Island, and have ventured back to Hiva Oa - the island where we started. Along with A Small Nest (www.stellamans.be) and Elena (www.elenaopreis.nl), we are now exploring the less populated Northern coastline. We first anchored at Hana Menu - and although it was windy and rolly, our spirits were soon buoyed when we found an idyllic fresh water pool that was crystal clear and icy cold - what a refreshing place to take a dip!! There were a few houses here, but it didn't seem like anyone was living here at the moment. There were a few men working on a cement foundation, that was to be a new house for a growing family, but they were very kind, allowing us to use the pool, and telling us a little about this place.

It was a tricky dinghy landing, and we got quite soaked on our way back out to the boats...even though we took advantage of catching a lift in the inflatables of the other two boats, instead of trying our luck with our small dinghy. This was definitely a beach where a 15+ hp engine was a huge assett!!

That afternoon, we decided to continue to the next bay, in search of a less rolly and windy anchorage. It took some determination to get there in the strong headwinds, and John and I were both soaked from waves coming over the deck and into the cockpit. We arrived at Hana Iapa, shortly before dark, and
quickly prepared a few spicy tuna rolls, and lovely tuna sashimi to share with our friends upon arrival. We were gifted with a huge piece of tuna from a 56 foot Nordhaven power boat from Hawaii as we left our anchorage that morning - they had caught a 35 lb tuna earlier that morning. We enjoyed a fun night aboard A Small Nest, feasting on fresh tuna, bananas, and delightful wine.

We spent today exploring Hana Iapa - a small village of about 100 people. Imagine our surprise when we saw a sign for a Yacht Club, in the house next to the church! Of course we investigated. William welcomes visiting yachts to his home, provides wonderful fruit and a cool drink, and allows you to sign and peruse his guest book. He has comments from so many yachts in his book. Unfortunately, he lost his original book with over 300 yacht signatures when his house caught fire some years ago. We snorkeled along the rocky shore, but found there was limited visibility and few exciting fish.
Certainly no lobster, and no manta rays!

Tonight...hamburgers for 11 people onboard Renova. I think this will be a record!

**Tip: If you'd like to check out the blogs our our frinds on A Small Nest and Elena, you may find a tool like Google Translater useful!**

Swinging Free

[May 13]

Last night became quite exciting when our boat started swinging, shortly after serving dinner to "Elena" and "A Small Nest". Since we are lying with both a bow and stern anchor here, we don't normally move more than a few feet, so swinging side-to-side is definitely cause for concern. We quickly discovered that our bow anchor rode had parted, as a result of rubbing on a patch of coral on the bottom. With the help of our dinner guests, we were able to set up our spare chain and our third anchor, and we were back in business.

The other two boats were planning to leave after dinner to do an over night crossing to Niku Hiva. As a result of our anchor on the bottom of the drink, "A Small Nest" decided to stay behind to help us dive for the anchor in the morning. Adam and Leonie lent us their dive tank, in case we needed a spare, and decided to continue on to Niku Hiva, in order to guide A Small Nest into the anchorage if they arrive after dark. What a great team! I guess next time, we'll have to serve these guys fancy steaks or something more than hamburgers! :O)

Shortly after first light, Willem arrived with his scuba gear, and he and John began the process of searching for the lost anchor. The anchor still had about 40 ft of chain attached to it, so we were hoping that it would not be too difficult to find, but you never know. Within the first 20 minutes, Willem spotted the anchor at 11 meters deep, and the two of them were able to tie a float to it, allowing us to pull it up shortly after. What a relief. We quickly pulled all three anchors on board, and reanchored further out in the bay.

After we catch up on some lost sleep this afternoon, we'll make our way to Nuku Hiva overnight. We're really excited about this stop, as this is where Amy and Strahan will join us for a few weeks of cruising in paradise. We know they will love it here, and we can't wait to have them onboard. This last week has also been distinguished by the abundance of fabulous wine consumed as a result of Elena's bottomless wine cellar. I don't expect my rate of consumption to decrease as Amy and Strahan come on board. Watch out liver...here they come!!

Monday, May 10, 2010

We've found paradise!!

This is it. This is why people cruise. This place is a veritable paradise.

Yesterday, we awoke in this spectacular bay - Baie Hanamoenoa on Tahuatu, which cruiser/author Eric Hiscock rates as one of the three most beautiful anchorages in Polynesia - and could not believe our luck. Who could ask for better scenery for taking apart the heat exchanger!! John spent the morning removing and cleaning the heat exchanger, which is always a fun job. But when we got it reinstalled and went for a few laps of the anchorage, and nearby bays, we were pleased that we were back to normal operating temperatures.

After a quick dip, and a scrub of the bottom of the boat, we made our way to the beach, and went exploring the hillsides. There were no trails, and we were pretty scratched up after scrambling through the brush, but we managed to climb to a nice vantage point above the anchorage to snap a few photos, before making our way back down to the beach.

Back at the beach, John busied himself cracking open coconuts, while I took a dip in the refreshing water. Soon "A Small Nest" and "Elena" joined us for a swim, and we all enjoyed the cool water, and tried desperately to see the green flash as the sun dipped under the horizon. No luck tonight.

Today, we got an early start, and headed to the nearby village of Vaitauhu. "A Small Nest" and "Elena" joined us and we were able to buy fresh baquettes and a few provisions, and tour the local museum and townsite. It was a lovely town, and we recognised several of the women who were dancing in the festival earlier in the week at Hiva Oa!

By afternoon, we were back at Baie Hanamoenoa, enjoying the crystal clear water and white sandy beach. Once again, we plan to enjoy cocktails on the beach this afternoon, and tonight we've been invited to share in a lasagna feast aboard "Elena", with Alan and Leoni and their two kids from Holland.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I DO like coconuts!

[May 8]

We stayed at Hiva Oa one more night to take in the local festivities happening in town last night. It seemed the whole town was there, as well as many visitors. Musicians and dancers came from the surrounding islands to play in a large show at the school gym. Also...we were treated to a beauty pageant, with contestants again coming from nearby islands, and strutting their stuff in the bikinis, Polynesian dresses and giving us a glimpse of their dance skills. In fact, we were able to hitch a ride on the school bus that was taking a drum band and their gear to the party.

The dancing was fabulous - there was an amazing male troupe that had an aggressive dance with lots of stomping and beating their hands on their chest, legs and the floor. Sepke (from S/Y A Small Nest) was sitting beside me and couldn't believe how red their chests were getting...it looked like it would hurt!! In another group, all the women and girls of all ages from a nearby village were dancing, and it was absolutely amazing to see the way these women are able to move their hips - most of us yachties need a bit of practice!!

Today, we moved on to a new island - Tahuata. We're only a couple of hours away from Hiva Oa, but it is a world of difference!! The sand beach is beautiful and water is crystal clear blue, so we could see our anchor from the deck in 30 feet of water!! Of course, we jumped into the water, as soon as we had dropped the hook, as it feels like it's been ages since we've been able to swim from the boat.

We spent the afternoon exploring the beach. There is a seasonal shelter here, perhaps it is a small coconut plantation, and we had a great time rooting around and gathering lemons, pamplemousse (like sweet grapefruit), and coconuts. Although I don't like coconut at home...fresh coconut tastes entirely different, and it is DELICIOUS!! It is a bit challenging to get to the meat, but well worth it.

By late afternoon, all the boats had joined us on the shore, and we had a fun cocktail hour or two on the beach getting to know everyone. Most people here at the moment are around our age. Very unusual!! Of course, the retired segment is represented also - at least three or four boats, but surprising that most of the boats have crew in their 30's and 40's. And there is a boat here, S/V Passages with Pat and John, that are from Maple Bay - only a couple hours from our home in Campbell River! In fact, they used to keep their boat very close to Hard Drive, the boat that I was crewing on for
Sunday races! Small world!!

We enjoyed a yummy spaghetti dinner aboard "A Small Nest" [www.stellamans.be], with Willem, Heike, Sepka, Ward and Flor from Belgium! The kids entertained us with their stories and excellent card tricks on their gorgeous Beneteau. They are from the Flemish side of Belgium and are teaching us some new words - Hallo...Da!! Luckily, it is pretty close to German, and many years ago Pete and Christina taught me a few words on a visit to Germany and John speaks a bit of German, but still...we are very
rusty!!

Lat/Long: 09°54'S / 139°06'W

Friday, May 7, 2010

Another day...or two

Still here in Hiva Oa. Not going far or fast. We're happy to be able to slow down and take things a bit slower. We've decided to stay another day or two to take in some local festivities.

We have found internet here, but it is very slow, and expensive, so for now, we're still limited to text updates. We'll keep an eye out for faster internet, when we can bring you some local images. I'm sure you're on the edge of your seats!!

Shopping day tomorrow...which is always fun. Everyone has fruit growing in their yard here, so there isn't fruit in the stores, so we must chat with the locals in an effort to trade for the yummy local bananas, starfruit, guananana (??), papaya, etc. Veggies are also a rarity out here, and we're quickly learning that if we see something we like, we should snap it up, instead of waiting for another day, when it will surely be gone. But...the stores are incredibly well stocked here, if expensive, so we have no doubt
we'll be able to survive a few more weeks!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

More boats

Although we never thought it possible, even more boats have slipped into the anchorage. We're packed in like sardines, but everyone is friendly, and with our bow and stern anchors out, there is little movement, so not much to worry about, as long as the conditions remain mild...

John and I discussed our crossing over our morning tea and coffee on the terrace (read: cockpit), and tried to summarize the passage. Surprisingly, the 3000 miles took only 23 days, less time than our last passage from Mexico to the Galapagos which took 25 days for 1700 miles. Crazy. We were also pleased that we didn't suffer any major breakdowns or difficulties. Although we had lots of chafe, where lines and sails wore through due to the constant friction. Here's a summary:

1. Monitor Self-Steering lines had major chafe, and one of the blocks needs to be replaced. This was our hardest working crew member, and steered for the entire 3000 miles.

2. Steering pedestal bearings wore out, as evidenced by new squeaking noises.

3. Genoa furling drum broke - for the last few days of our passage, we could not sail with a partially furled sail - it was all or nothing. No big deal. Winds had calmed down, and we were happy with the full sail.

4. Engine overheating - the engine was running a bit hotter than usual (190 degrees). We ran at a lower RPM to compensate. We checked our cooling system to be sure we didn't have a blockage. We now need to dive to make sure that there isn't growth on the intake, and check our (new) heat exchanger, to be sure it is operating correctly.

5. Mold - the front v-berth is converted to storage on a big passage, and it is not very well ventilated. As a result, mold and mildew formed with
abandon. Thankfully, I was able to scrub the mattress cushions, and they have come out ok. Not sure if we'll be so lucky with the comforter...although we don't need it down here anyway.

6. Fishing gear - well, we lost several lures, and one fish ran away with an entire set of line and lure. Oh well.

Not bad at all. Nothing debilitating!