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The Tuo-What? No, The Tuomotus!

Where in the South Pacific are we now?

Where in the South Pacific are we now?

The Tuomotu Archipelago.  76 atolls (including the second largest in the world- Rangiroa) form what is also known as “The Dangerous Archipelago”.  The largest group of low coral atolls in the world, there are 21 atolls with passes that allow entrance into the lagoons, ten that have two passes or entrances, and the remainder have no pass. A few remain impassable due to past French nuclear testing.  Super basic geology concept- volcanic action under the sea bed pushes upward creating mountains (like the Marqueses) and over time a reef forms around the nutrient rich mountain (like the Society’s) and then the mountains slowly slip back into the sea, leaving the continually growing reef with an inner lagoon (like the Tuomotus).  There you have it, a oversimplified geological explanation in one long run on sentence!  So, atolls are basically rings of land, with lagoons inside. The rings of land from the total atolls is the equivalent of 726 sq km and yet the protected lagoon waters inside the reef/land is the equivalent of 6,000 sq km.  The entire Tuomotus Archipelago lies within a 20,000 km2 area of the great Pacific Ocean. The land masses may only rise a few meters above sea level whereby they only become visible from about ten miles away in good lighting. Hence the nickname of “Dangerous Archipelago”.  Currents through the narrow passes at times can be 6-7kn speed in to or out of the pass.  This requires a strong engine and faith or patience and waiting until the couple times a day that the water is slack or the strong currents aren’t moving in or out of the narrow passes.  The currents and sudden storms can make travel very difficult between the atolls, and wreckages from times past can be visible on many atolls. The most famous wreck of course, is Kon Tiki, Thor Heyerdahl’s attempt to prove that Peruvian Indians could have done the same 7,000 km sail by raft several centuries before, which ran aground on Raroia atoll in 1947.  (There is a movie about his trip that you can look up on the internet or if you are old school- read about it!)  Atolls are sunken islands with a ring of reef remaining around the lagoon.  This reef can be only a few feet above water and sometimes hidden by tides making it very difficult to visualize and often accurate charts for the South Pacific aren’t complete. Or accurate.  Some are unbroken reefs, others appear as little islets known as motus.  Often these motus are named and individually/family owned and farmed for copra (dried coconut) from the coconut palms that are able to sustain life in this harsh sand and coral conditions with little soil and long periods of little to no rain. Including the Gambiers Archipelago which consists of five islands and 18 islets, the population was last noted at 16,880 persons.  The Tuomotans do not have the luxury of overflowing fruit trees or root vegetables like that of the neighboring Marquesas Archipelago. (Some entrepreneurial Tuomotans have started container gardens.) There are no mountains for wild pigs or goats to roam and be hunted for food. And yes, dogs will occasionally show up on the table here.  The Coconut Palm is a life source for the atolls as at maturity in eight years, it will produce 50 nuts per year for up to 60 years if not hurricane ravaged or overcrowded.  To the visitor, it has aesthetic value.  To the Tuomotan, it can provide shade, water of the green coconut and the white meat of the brown coconut for food.  The oldest nuts are removed of the hard meat, then dried to be sold as copra which will in turn be pressed to extract coconut oil for many other uses so the copra provides an income.  The nut’s hard inner shell can be made into useful cups or for firewood.  The smoke from the burning husks is an effective mosquito repellent.  The coconut tree leaves can be used to thatch roofs or woven into baskets.  Even the trunk can provide timber for building or furniture.  To the untrained eye, we see just the ethereal swaying palm tree that tells us we are living the ideal life!  The Tuomotus most recent notable lifestyle change came with the advent of the cultured black pearl industry (which then led to the over harvesting of the Pinctada margaritifera or giant blacklipped oyster) which thrived in the Tuomotu lagoons. Tahitian legend says that Te Ufi (the black lipped pearl oyster) was the daughter of the spirits of coral and of sand, having received a gift from each fish in the lagoon.  Te Ufi was presented to mankind by Oro, the god of peace and war, giving the iridescence of the Tahitian pearls. According to scientists however, the type of oyster and the water composition will determine the colors in the pearls. Pearl farming is typically done in the Tuomotus and Gambiers, with the Gambiers being the predominant producer now. Several of the Tuomotus atolls still farm the oysters and the desired pearls, the buoys often difficult to see in the waves until you come up on them.  The black buoys are the worst to visualize against any wave motion as they blend in, the bright pink, orange and red are easier to see.  Usually set out in deeper water, the sailor must take care to not get the prop (propeller) tangled in the semi floating nets or outstretching lines as well as the variant changes of water color indicating a shallow area or unsuspecting reef rising from the deep. UNESCO World Heritage site has classified several atolls as part of a Biosphere Reserve due to the significant diversities they represent.  These atolls are Fakarava, Kauehi, Niau, Raraka, Taou, and Taiaro.  SCUBA is often done with the correct current in the passes for experiences with the abundant shark and sea life.

Note: New in this blog- occasional yellow commentary are actual texts sent out using the Iridium Go.  

Video added (YouTube link) – Click where it says to “click here”.

Welcome to the Tuomotus!

KAUEHI Atoll (August 2018)

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!  It is our one year anniversary since we untied the lines at the docks of Tacoma!  At times, it doesn’t feel like the year has passed quickly at all.  The funny thing about sailing is without the daily grind and multitasking schedule it is much easier to sit back and enjoy the time more.  (It also means a bit of short term memory loss as every day we find ourselves asking what day is it? What time is it?)   I think I stopped wearing a watch soon after California.  Or was it Oregon? Gosh, it might have been the day after I left work!   Regardless, I am amazed it has been a year so maybe it has gone too quickly!  John still wears his watch so I just annoy him by asking what time is it frequently!  To say this adventure has been quite an experience is an understatement.  I have learned quite a bit and and have gained so much more confidence as I am sure John would agree that he has as well.  Sometimes it is still hard to imagine that we are here, like this, on a sailboat, like so many others are doing.  Cruising full time.  It’s not just for pirates anymore. Single handers, couples, and families, occasionally just groups of friends, from various nationalities, have common ground, or in this case, common water.  Families are cruising, making use of online or homeschool curriculums, augmenting their children’s education with travel.  Others have decided that less is more, and are willing to learn how to make the water their home.  No, it is not for everyone but for some, it is everything.

What do you mean Predictwind shows us stopped in the middle of the ocean?!? I can assure you, we are not just bobbing around in the middle of the Pacific! There is a Marine Traffic Site that may give a better location for us as I understand.  Technology, right?  We entered French Polynesia in the Marquesas Archipelago and spent almost two months in Hiva Oa, Fatu Hiva and Nuku Hiva, three of the six inhabited Marquesas islands.  The younger of the volcanic islands, green and lush like Jurassic Park, filled with uru (breadfruit), pamplemousse, mangoes, papaya and so much more. We had rain but we also had rolling anchorages as there was no reef system to break the waves.  Now, 400+ miles away, we have travelled to the Tuomotos Archipelago.  This archipelago is vastly different than the last. These are atolls and the very basic idea is that these are older volcanic islands that have sunk back into the sea as a part of the cycle.  The reef is left to surround the lagoon of crystalline water in every possible shade of blue, cutting the rolling action of the ocean.  So strange- you have this thin body of land that has little rise above sea level.  It is arid, dry and coconuts are the only trees to grow abundantly. There are no fruit trees as they need fresh water, a commodity that is hard to find here throughout the year.  The locals use cisterns for catching fresh rain water which doesn’t seem to happen very often. This is why having a water maker or a water catchment system is necessary for sailboats.  The Tuomotans don’t have an abundance of water to spare.  The trees grow in windswept pattern.  The land is somewhat circular,  some have false passes (you think you can go through but can’t as the reef really isn’t separated t allow passage through and sits below water level). Many of the most visited atolls have one or two actual passes that are best traversed during a slack tide as some are so narrow that with the wind against the current can be dangerous for a sailboat.  Once inside the atoll, it can still be very deep- 200 feet or more, but not like the 4000 feet depth we just came from, outside the atoll.  It is like a protected lake…inside the ocean.  Each atoll has some mass and trees that give better protection than others for wind or storms.  Sometimes it is a particular side of the atoll that gives protection, depending upon wind direction, you move to the lee side.  It can easily be thirty miles across the atoll to that protected side!  Inside the lagoon however, are the bommies.  These are coral reef-heads that come right up to the water surface, often just inches below the waterline making them difficult to see and dangerous to boats who might not see them and run into them. This could do serious damage to the keel or the hull of the boat. There are ideal times to move throughout the atolls, with the sun not completely overhead but rather at an angle, allowing the color variations in the water can be spotted a little easier. It is recommended to have someone out on the bow to keep a sharp look out for these bommies. Their color difference can be very subtle until you are close, perhaps, too close. Blues.  All of the variations of the color blue can be seen here.  With the white sand (or pink!) motus and green palm trees breaking up the colors, the intensity heightens.  I have never seen so many shades of blue in the water and sky.  I still can’t believe I am here!  

KAUEHI Atoll – Our passage to the Tuomotus was easy and we were joined by SV Nimbus (such a great family from Iowa!) that we met in Nuku Hiva and buddy boated with.  It took us around three to four days with one day of no wind and a sea that appeared like glass as it was so flat.  We stopped the boats a safe distance from each other as most everyone jumped in to swim in the deep blue sea.  Not a whisper of wind marred the ocean surface.  As we continued on, in the wee hours of the morning, we saw another sailboat directly ahead of us and recognized the German accent immediately!  SY Ocean Maiden (Silke) was off our bow. Our timing was good as we could just make out the distant atoll as the morning skies started to light up.Our first navigated atoll!( Kauehi), our first navigated pass (Arikitamiro), and our first anchorage in the Tuomotos (Tearavero) went well.  We knew from other cruisers reports and using charts that this would be a relatively easy pass and atoll.  In spite of its assumed easiness, we did our planning and was very surprised at how easy it was.  For any passage into lagoons, such as the Tuomotos, there is a program called “Current Guestimator”.  It helps to determine current in and out of a particular pass based on time of day and is a must for the yachties.  No standing waves present, our motor easily handled the pass with slightly north east cross current going out.  We crossed through to the other side of the lagoon where we would find the village.   Once there, we anchored near the village of Tearavero, in the middle anchorage.  The white sand bottoms and few coral heads easily viewed in 25ft depths.  We would eventually be joined by SV Ocean Maiden, single handed by Silke.  SV Nimbus- Matt and Molly, and their three great kids; Lilly, Henry, and Avery  joined us for a snorkel near the fisherman shack and later had us over for homemade pizza for dinner.  The kids were completely charming and there were lots of laughs that night.  They would be leaving the Tuomotus tomorrow as they worked their way to New Zealand, and we would be sad to see our new friends leave so soon.  

The village is so quiet.  Locals are around, busy doing stuff, occasionally a dog’s bark is heard.  The dogs here just lie around with the heat.  In the middle of the day, with the sun high in the sky, it feels like being in a frying pan and the aquamarine water beckons you to jump in to its protective coolness. We anchored the dinghy just off the wharf as we did not know what the supply ship schedule might be. The main road is paved and there is no trash visible!  The homes are sparse yet colorful.  The yards are trimmed and clean of debris.  Among all the single story homes along the road, a crisp white tall church stands out. 

Inside, it is bright and cheerfully painted, and welcoming.  Little adornments such as a large clamshell serving to hold the Holy Water upon entrance (Catholic) as well as chandeliers made of delicately laced seashells highly contrast against old world European churches.  We continued to walk along the road and walked by two small stores.  Everything must be brought in by supply ship or airplane.  Yes, there is a small airport landing on the far edge of the atoll.  One must wonder what it would be like to live as simply and depend so much on supplies brought in.  The stores have limited items, with basics such as flour, sugar, some canned goods similar to but less than Atuona or Nuku Hiva.  Nutella. (Thankfully! As this is my new chocolate fix as chocolate bars are expensive and don’t withstand the heat well!) We continued on and found the cemetery.  A small section that only held markers for children.  A not so new raised tile grave with new adornments of a shell rosary.  Surprisingly, weeds around the graves.  With the street so clean, each home so tidy outside, the cemetery weeds had me pondering. If only I had a rake at least. We worked our way back to the wharf and the beach with our dinghy.  A mom stood watching as her three children played by running off the end of the warm into the sparkling clear blue water, laughing and splashing before jumping out and repeating it.  The kids saw us as we slowly started to motor away and sheepishly waved to us.  We waved back with smiles and then it was on – they jumped on to the wharf, and holding hands, running together, the three lept into the water in unity- giving us a wonderfully scripted childhood show!  Bravo!

SV Ocean Maiden, Silke arrived a day later and we enjoyed another wonderful evening of story telling on SV Blue Spirit (Brigit and Rene- Holland) before they would take off to Fakarava. She and I walked the town again, with her increasing French vocabulary, she was able to communicate better with the store owner as he showed us his container garden allowing him to sell some fresh vegetables.  The mosquitos have found me.  Resigned to live a life covered in the nasty chemical formula known as DEET while on land, we continued on.  Workers on a house called out to us, asking if we spoke the dialect for the Tuomotus.  Silke answered ‘no’ in French and I asked if anyone ‘hablar Espanol?’, which was answered with a ’Si!’ , then we laughed with them as they gave in and said they didn’t, however did know how to say yes in Spanish. It was worth an attempt as my Spanish, as little as it is, is better than my French! 

always a treasure to see, this guy didn’t mind us watching!

We snorkeled the reef close to the village with Silke.  We had many colorful little fish and of some curious black tip reef shark as well as a grey shark.  It was near our boats however, that we had a few shy reef manta swim by daily.  The winds are forecasted to change enough so we will adjust our anchorage accordingly.  That’s what sailing entails.  Even if it means leaving these precious denizens of the reef.  There are only the three sailboats in the atoll as of now.  Looking at wind predictions, we will move to Fakarava on Saturday.  Until then, we will move to the southern most anchorage of this atoll as the palm trees will break some of the wind and there will be less fetch built up (waves).  We are learning the importance of what light is best to traverse the inner lagoon and having someone on the bow to watch for pearl buoys that signify pearl farming and the line and cage suspended under the waterline.  For us, the possibility of a pearl buoy line getting caught in the propeller is angst provoking.  The water is super protected and crystal clear. We are tucked into the corner for protection from the winds of the next couple days.

The water lies so flat and calm here.  The boat movement is hardly detectable in the lagoon as the roll was in the Marquesas without the reef to stop the ocean swell.  The brightness of the white sand under the water lights up the little coral heads. Uncountable numbers of Black Tip Reef Shark glide through the coral heads.  

Phyllidiella
Goniobranchus leopardus

Little soft bodied molluscs, as colorful as clowns, are always a fun find.  Kauehi gave me two different ones, on top of the bommies as I snorkeled.  I cannot find the pink phyllidiella in my identification book, should I consider submitting?  Possibly have a sea worm named after me?!?

The continuous maintenance (as opposed to “Oh shit” repairs) happens even in such exotic places.  With blue skies and perfect temperatures, John changed both filters and seems to think the ones purchased in Mexico were a better brand than those purchased in the states, and yet half the price.  John is always doing something on the boat, regular maintenance, modifying for more efficient functionality and performance, and imagining and designing greater comforts.  Again, in retrospect of our passage, his knowledge and capability as well this solid, well built sailboat, have made the passage safe and easy.

CLICK HERE for our Kauehi video

FAKARAVA Atoll (Ancient name- Havaiki)

Rotoava village

Hooray!  We arrived at the anchorage last night before dark.  A little too close for comfort (as seems to be our norm…) as but we did not want to try and anchor just inside the pass and our timing for the slack came late in the afternoon.  Remember, it’s a sailboat.  They don’t move fast. More like a jog.  We are jogging through the South Pacific!   We came through the North Pass (Garuae Pass- the largest pass in French Polynesia) with SY Ocean Maiden sailing in behind us.  We arrived at slack tide with an easy pass after a day sail that included wind on the nose and beating in at the end as we closed in to the pass.  We were happy to see our friends Lynn and Dave (Aussies) on SY Moggy, a mega catamaran that they are continually updating, maintaining and doing a professional and beautiful job.  What a great night sleep as again the water is so flat that movement is barely detectable.  There are many bommies around us and rather than ending up with an anchor chain wrapped around one or floating the chain, we will move to one of the mooring balls available.  If I haven’t said it before, bommies are small coral heads.  Floating your chain by use of extra buoys between the boat and the anchor at strategic spots protects the chain from undo stress and grinding as well as the coral head from damage as the boat sways and turns.  Fakarava is 30 miles from end to end making it the second largest atoll in French Polynesia and we sailed 30 miles from Kauehi to get here.  

Everything is closed on Sunday but we are interested in looking around the village tomorrow, possibly find some internet and possibly, even some laundry service! YAY!  We will spend the next few weeks moving around inside this atoll and explore it a little more thoroughly.  The water visibility  below the surface has declined somewhat, but from above, the blues are still as breathtaking.  The small stores (three that we found) carry mostly the same items. 

Check out the prices…100 cpf =$1 usd! and these are not the family size boxes!

A few brands look familiar but most do not.  We see brands imported primarily from New Zealand, Australia and China. They have all the basics such as flour, sugar, rice, some canned goods, butter, UHT and powdered milk, and some goodies too.  The stores are the size of a moderate 7-11 store.  They are called Magasin (phonetically: ma-ga-ZA’ah) and certain things fly off the shelf first such as fresh baguettes and eggs.  Baguettes.  A staple in everyone’s diet.  Light and fluffy, and typically around 50 cents a baguette!  One of the cheapest foods you can buy, IF they aren’t out of them!  Many foods are subsidized and those are noted with a red price label.  They are slightly cheaper but really only account for about 10-20% of what the store sells. It is typically your basics such as flour, sugar, etc. Thankfully, they do subsidize some of the meat from New Zealand but it is still expensive! Frozen solid, we will need a jig saw to make separate steaks.  Don’t worry, that can happen and it will.  And no, we don’t have a jig saw but he will come up with something!  Obviously imported items are expensive.  Here are some examples that you might be familiar with.  A medium size bag of Cheetos is $7.  A six pack of Hinano cans (Tahitian) beer is $17. The small cans, not the taller cans.  Bottles are more expensive due to glass but if you bring your bottles back, there is a return.  Some atoll villages are large enough to have a boulangerie (a bakery) and others (such as Kauehi) have baguettes brought in by cargo ship (and sometimes small cargo plane).   All of the village magasins depend upon the supply ships to bring in, well, bring in everything it seems.  Not all villages have a magasin, and may have to travel to the next village. We dropped $180 and didn’t even fill four average grocery bags. I still can’t figure out what we bought for that much!  Fuel isn’t always available for locals, let alone cruisers on the atolls. Not all villages have ATM’s, and often if they do (and it works or has money in it), it may well be in a Post Office.  We only saw a bank in Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa, and internet is often lacking in the islands.  This is evident when you begin to notice that people aren’t focused on the tiny screens in front of them.  

Fakarava is a larger atoll with more services.  Same small stores but now you have pearl shops, pearl farms, yacht services, an airport with regularly scheduled flights to/from Tahiti and SCUBA companies.  There are also now a few eateries.  Again, while tasty, eating out anywhere but especially here can be pricey so we consider it a treat and limit it as often as we can.  There is some wifi available, free if you buy a drink or a meal, but again, the wifi is very slow.  

Hirife (southeast end of atoll) (August 29, 2018)

We arrived at the southeast corner of Fakarava today.  There are to be strong winds from the SSW (south, southwest) for a few days.  We stopped one night at Pakokota where there are moorings maintained by Pokokota Yacht Services.  A motu with a building, moorings out front, and if you did not know any better, you wouldn’t know that this is a business or an important stopover for yacht services or those leaving their boats for extended periods of time such as cyclone season.  It is a nice stopover for the travel from Rotoava to Hirife.  All along the lagoon, in the distance and not necessarily along the contours of the motus, lie fields of pearl buoys. 

can you see the coral head?
Now we are practically on it!

Due diligence must be made with watchful eyes to not snag a pearl buoy or hit a just submerged coral head that rises up from the sea bed.  We reached Hirife and currently, there are about 12 other boats anchored here with us.  Nothing says “personality” more than a yachty anchoring!  From the relaxed anchored owner to the angst anchored owner.  A nearby catamaran with a French sailor has shown his disfavor of our anchoring near him, even though we weren’t even close and have moved twice to appease him.  Finally, after settling quite a distance away, John dove on our anchor and proceeded to snorkel through the anchorage, also noting that the French yachty’s anchor was not only NOT set, but was resting ON TOP of a bommie!  When John tried to share that information with them, the female on board the boat began yelling in French at John.  We understand the dynamics of monohull and multihull turning while at anchor (they do not always move in a synchronized fashion).  We certainly have no intentions of allowing any harm to our home either!   So, I suppose we can look at it as they were saving us from a potential problem – their poor anchoring!  We thought it through and even discussed moving farther away when another catamaran came in and anchored near the angry frenchman.  It wasn’t a few minutes before we could hear the angry frenchman chastising the new catamaran for anchoring so close!  He wasn’t even that close either! We can only wonder about the first catamaran and the angry frenchman.  We later met the 2nd catamaran owners and heard more detail about their later conversation with him and became quick allies as we realized that it was him, not us.  

 

Hirife (September 1-4, 2018) 

SY Ocean Maiden and SY Blue Spirit were the first to arrive a few days ago.  Since then, with the anticipated weather/winds from the south, the population has increased in this protected area of the South East corner of the atoll.  It is calm now but 26-30 kn winds are predicted.  The landscape around here reminds us of Gilligan’s Island!  On the Motu are the standing remains (outer walls and some parts of a roof, of what was the first Catholic Church built out of coral in 1874.  There are two above ground grave/vaults nearby.  In either direction, ten minutes either way, are newer traditional buildings.  One with an apparent resort/pension and the other with a possible local restaurant.  The sand is salmon pink in color and winds its way out to form a spit.  Even with other sailboats here, it is still quiet and peaceful.  What started with only a few solitary sailboats, the population grew with the anticipated weather report. At one point in time, there were 25-26 yachts (sailboats) in an area often described as being full with 12!  The little restaurant has not been open during our time here.  We met our new friends from SY Lumiel, on a lovely Fountaine Pajot Bahia Catamaran and who will eventually be on their way back to Oz.  We are building a growing community of friends from the land of Oz. For his birthday and Australian Father’s Day, they had us over for a wonderful Surf and Turf meal on the bar-b!  John (SY Lumiel) is humorous and certainly talented at the grill, Trish had us in stitches with her story telling and of course, with her also being a nurse, it gave us more common ground other than the fact that we might be outdone in the cooking department. Interesting to note, that they also knew our friends on SY Moggy!  Small cruising world.  There is Kite Tuomotos here teaching kite surfing for those interested. SY Blue Spirit will be taking lessons!  While it looked very interesting, we just couldn’t see the lessons cost as fitting with our cruising kitty.  (A cruising kitty is the money or budget you have to fund an adventure like this.)

My bright sunny yellow kayak sets so nicely in the azure blue water.  A postcard photo every time I jump in and paddle somewhere, whether to the beach or to a coral head to explore. I love my kayak.  Loaded with my snorkel gear, I paddle off to spend hours looking for fish, creatures, or shells.  On top of these bommies, or coral heads, I find pipefish and nudibranchs (super colorful flatworms) along with  a turtle here and there, and always, always a few curious Black Tip Reef Shark. With the water so clear, little things are easy to find.  I have a line from the kayak tied to me so it is always there when I am ready.  Even Silke has joined me with her kayak as we explore the coral head world. I have spent hours in the kayak and snorkeling the bommies and lagoon.  The Black Tip Shark are numerous but more curious than anything, apparently well fed.  One day, bored as could be, I thought I would snorkel back to the boat. Just one bommie, just in case there was something super cool. I can easily talk myself into “just one more” and as I passed through the narrow space between two bommies, at not more than five feet depth, this silly 5ft Black Tip Reef Shark glides through the same pass the opposite direction.  Thankfully it swam low and I swam high or we would have ran into each other nose to nose!  Needless to say, we both startled each other and I don’t know which of us swam away faster!   Nurse sharks are frequent with colors of tawny brown to grey.  I have not seen any Lemon shark as of yet, perhaps they join the grey reef shark at the South Pass.  Most of the bommies are covered with live coral, beautiful shades of yellow and purple, even some fluorescent orange.

Goniobranchus

Nudibranchs (colorful sea slugs) are easily spotted on the bommies of coral, as their bright colors of purple and yellow stand out.  Little nurseries abound everywhere. I have found some small Great Moray Eels and even the smallest Black Tip Reef Shark, no bigger than an angelfish. I had to look twice to make sure I was seeing correctly.  

South Pass or Tetamanu (September 5, 2018)

We attempted to moor (The first mooring was taken but had concerns that their large Catamaran was over bommies, too close to shore, uncertain of their own mooring lines as well as the mooring itself, 2nd mooring occupied by 38ft monohull who did not dive on mooring ball but felt it was adequate and not concerned at this time, 3rd mooring with plastic bottle noted “Bad Mooring”, we picked up but dropped after seeing this, and moved on, 4th mooring occupied by 40+ft monohull, the three remaining buoys located in front of the the restaurant/dive shop and pass have small lines, and line only, and appear to be around a bommie for use of small watercraft) at Southpass.  We motored out into 30-40ft depth and looked for sand patches to drop an anchor, even looking at area suggested to be part of UNESCO to avoid anchoring and trailing back towards the motu.  Seeing nothing at this time and forecast of winds from the north/northwest, we concluded we would return to Hirife and re-evaluate the weather over the next few days.  Our friends on SY Lumiel have already returned to Rotoava village, our plan was to do that AFTER  South Pass when we would make use of re-provisioning, laundry, possible internet. Remember, plans are made in the sand and determined by the weather, not schedules!

Hirife  (September 6, 2018)

The wind continues out of the west/north west bringing the fetch (waves) and rain storms.  We are not lacking for water catchment now!  Recent squalls are bringing in the rain.  The boat has been like a hobby horse for a few days now.  What happened to our blissful no movement condo on the water?!?  Thankfully, neither of us are prone to seasickness but it does start to wear on your nerves after a few days. At least it does me! I may have a tendency to get a bit grumpy if I can’t get into the water or do something different.  Our attempt to find a suitable mooring or anchorage near South Pass dismally failed, the disappointment lends to the melancholy of the constant boat motion.  John assisted Silke with her chain/bommie wrap today. She was a bit tangled up.   When the boat is on anchor, there is a lengthy amount of chain that leads from the boat to the anchor.  Much of it lays on the sand but as wind directions change, so can the chain somewhat.  In an area where small submerged coral heads (think of them as boulders of rock under the water with a lot of sand between) dot the sandy landscape, it can be easy for a chain that is held fast by an anchor, to move and wrap around a coral head.  Sailors do not want to damage the coral, but they also do not want to damage their chain by having it grate against the coral or rock, or limit the movement of the boat by the decreasing the scope of the chain.  Even with floating a chain by specifically spaced fenders or buoys that lift the chain above the coral heads, it is still possible.  With that activity complete, he has no other task pressing his attention.  Sailors these days travel with electronics.  It is a pleasure when getting to know other sailors, to borrow their movie hard drives.  The collection of movies adds to the evening comforts of home or during the day if he is bored.  He is likely on his fifth movie of the day!  At this rate, all the movies he has added to his collection will be out as quickly as his rum.  Our hope is tomorrow the winds will change to come out of the north and we can find an adequate mooring ball or anchorage.  We understand based on the latest compendium that the Southwest region (south west of the pass itself) is now all part of UNESCO.  At one point, it seemed the 20-25 knot winds had actually subsided, and the fetch had laid down quite a bit making tomorrow quite hopeful.  I say that now, as the the boat is rocking quite a bit again, the winds are howling through the rigging, and the hard patter of rain (again) is filling up our catchment system and putting fresh water in our tank. Oh, and the hatch over the bed is closed again.  As it became so warm today, with some breeze, I thought the boat was a bit smelly and a good breeze from bow to stern seemed helpful for the closed up humidity.  It is, and was, until the cloudburst hit and the small but fruitful hatch was forgotten, thus, once again, soaking the sheets.  At least this time, it is fresh water.  And it means fresh sheets as I will put on our other set, this one needing a good washing anyway.  The thirty miles of fetch has the the boat rocking and bow dipping deep into the water now, thus ending our rain catchment.  He remarked that it was similar to Banderas Bay days – without the rain.  Or the conflict of wind to waves. 

At last the weather did calm and the winds abated. We were able to move to South Pass.  The mooring with a marker that stated “bad mooring” was the only one left again.  John picked it up, attached our boat, and promptly dove on the mooring.  Interestingly enough, there did not seem a be a problem with it.  It was solid from end to end.  Could someone have placed that on there to hold their mooring free of other boats?  Rumor has it that there are humpback whales just outside the pass and they have even cruised inside the pass.  Everyone seems to be getting nice video or views of them.  There seems to be an increase of black tip reef shark here.  Fakarava is part of the Unesco system with a protected reef area, and the shark dive of the pass is well known.  We are excited to finally be doing some diving! South Pass is well known for its shark dive.  Most of the dives in the Tuomotos are done in the passes.  Cruisers typically take their dinghies and with a long lead or painter (line) and dive while pulling their dinghy above on the surface.  It is important that passes are dove with the incoming current that brings clear ocean water but also so you do not drift out to sea!  There are some dive operations who operate on the major atolls, with dives costing 8000-9000cpf.  Current exchange rate is approximately 95-100cpf to $1usd.  After snorkeling the pass a couple times, we decided to dive the pass.  SY Skabenga would be our support crew, so we would not have to drag our dinghy. SY Blue Spirit (Holland) also has a diver on board – René would be joining us at depth while his lovely partner Brigit and our friends from SY Skabenga (South Africa) – Chris and Karen would snorkel above and provide our dinghy transport.  The very small resort/restaurant and dive facility  has protected and shallow quay where 20 or so black tip reef shark and a grouper anxiously awaiting scraps and handouts from the restaurant kitchen.  We brought our dinghy in to the quay and set up out equipment here. Imagine standing in thigh deep water and having sharks mill about your legs. Once set up, we went out and dropped off just outside the pass.  SY Blue Spirit joined with us and we dropped to around 70ft depth in the pass.  Here we could see the wall of sharks at eye level.  Sorta.  They were above us and below us as well. Behind us and in front of us.  Hundreds of sharks that seemed to delight in facing into the incoming current, swimming idly by, and eventually swimming back to rejoin the group and swimming outward again, making a great circle.  There were Gray Sharks, White Tips and Black Tips.  We had an Eagle Ray, and there was rumored Hammerhead, however we did not see one this time.  The coral was healthy, and the colorful fish plentiful.  While it was exciting to see all the hundreds of shark, grays, white tips, black tips, an eagle ray and assortments of fish including the Napoleon wrasses, it was seeing René’s face and excitement of diving with shark for the his first time, that made our dive!  (I made a simple commemorative video for him to mark the occasion.) Once inside the pass, the waters quickly carried the divers and snorkelers through and deposited them safely upon the UNESCO reef. Over the course of a few days, we snorkeled quite a bit of the UNESCO reef as well.  Huge Humphead wrasse, colorful fish and healthy coral.

CLICK HERE for video SV Bella Nave dives Shark Wall, South Pass, Fakarava

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Today finds us in dead calm conditions and a flat sea. We are sitting on crystal clear water with our own aquarium right underneath. Nice change to the past week and a half.

We moved to the SE corner of Fakarava to be protected from a weeks blow from the south. Then the last three days the wind shifted 180 deg to the west. That left us on a lee shore and 30 miles of fetch. Made for a hell of a rocking horse. Good thing winds were light and only 15-20 knots.

We are now at the south pass of Fakarava. Best know for drift diving and snorkeling. You take the dink out on a rising tide, jump over and drift back in. Also know for the sharks. Mainly black tip and grey reef. They leave you alone and are curious. We did two drifts yesterday and I know I say 50 different fish I’ve never seen before. All with fun crazy colors. Very LSD like.

Woke up at 6:00. The sun always comes in the large forward hatch and wakes me up. I don’t mind. Coffee on the deck to check weather and enjoy life. Plan the day “loosely”. Today beers at the restaurant deck at 11:00. (We are running low on food and no beers left) You have to get beers by 12 because the place closes from 12 to 2:30 for a break. We have linked up with people from three other boats and will then go for another snorkel drift and then maybe explore and couple lagoons. Back on one of the boats for dominoes and then Pizza ashore at 6:00. That’s a treat and you have to make reservations a day before so they have enough stuff brought from main village market.

I was thinking today I haven’t wore real shoes in over a year and can’t say as I miss them. It’s a rough life but I like it. John

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SY Blue Spirit (Brigit and Rene) is leaving for Tahiti to meet friends and SY Ocean Maiden (Silke) is leaving for Tahiti to seek repairs.  They will leave from here and we hope to meet up with them again.  Meanwhile, SY Skabenga (Chris and Karen) will join us to see Taou before they leave for Tahiti.

We enjoyed another beautiful sunset as a group until the time we would see each other again, most likely when we all are in the Society Islands.  The next day we would return to the village of Rotoava. Karen had shared with me her experience at the Havaiki Pearl farm so I was looking forward to hearing and seeing the famed Tahitian Black Pearls that the Tuomotos are known for and the buoys that we had to watch relentlessly for so as not to hit and foul our prop. We had a wonderful sail back to Roatava from South Pass, we had the colorful red/yellow A-sail up (asymmetrical sail)  and it was a dreamy sail. Until the pearl buoy fields. With a nice 5.5kn speed in our sail, we received a call from Blue Spirit over the VHS, saying they were passing some pearl buoys at the same time we saw buoys!  Hundreds of them. All around us. As John quickly rushed back from the bow, I turned hard to port.  We apparently were surrounded!  We dropped sail and motored slowly out of the area, the best we thought would be an exit.  Once safely out of the labyrinth, we resumed our course.  Back to the village we went.  Dang.  Up until that point, we had the Asymmetrical sail out (bright red and yellow) giving us a great sail with some wind off our stern.  Oh well, there will be more opportunities.

Rotoava Village

We re-provisioned in the village, filling our propane tank with butane as they don’t use propane here.  Six gallons of gas, beer, rum, and some food. Purchased hamburger patties and cheese to make burgers tonight with a French baguette.  There were also some chicken breasts available this time and ground beef.  Three medium sized bags of groceries- $175 again.  

 

my pearl, as it was opened.

The Pearl Farm at Havaiki – On Wednesdays and Fridays, the Pearl Farm at Havaiki offers free educational programs on the business of farming the famous Pinctada margaritifera or Pearl oyster – a total of two-three years are needed for a pearl to form in a seeded oyster (using a Mississippi River shell as a nucleus grafted into the mussel coat). Who knew?! The shells are grafted typically by expert Japanese grafters, and placed back in plastic cages under the water and floated by the buoys.  The cages protect the oysters from becoming food for turtles and other predators, but must be regularly cleaned of algae growth.  While I have always loved pearls, I never knew how timely the process could be. Now I know and have a greater appreciation of their cultivated beauty and cannot imagine one found without it.  Pearl oysters are brought to the session, and one is opened for the education session.  The oyster is offered raw with a lime to anyone who is interested.  If an attendee chooses, they can also pick a “lottery oyster” for $30 Euros.  Whatever pearl is in there, will be cleaned  and prepared as a simple cord necklace or a bracelet.  Of course I did, I had to take my chances!  One participant chose a shell that had no pearl.  He was allowed to choose another, which was his lucky day for he had a perfect small black pearl with no noticeable imperfections.  I chose one as well, and while not a perfect black pearl, my pearl is very large and I love it, especially now that I understand the work and science behind it.  

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Maeva to The Tomatoes- land of coconut palms and black tip reef shark nurseries!

Upon my arrival and anchoring in The Tomatoes, I was surprised to see actual shark hanging out near our boat! Not just one or two, but several! I immediately put on my “shark game face” and mentally prepared myself for battle- giving an aggressive sharkster a bop in the nose! Finally! Water that is turquoise blue and crystal clear as opposed to the darker water of most of the Marquesas. I placed my dive gloves ready for battle. I jumped in. Where did they go? Behind me. From the right. From the left. A great trick I have learned, is bring an underwater camera with you. It works like a charm for me- when I have it, I never see anything fun. But forget or leave the camera one time….  back to the sharks. They came up quickly but once they were close enough for me to focus on a great photo- they scattered! Silly black tip reef shark. As time goes on, you will find that the Atolls are actually just black tip reef shark nurseries. Period. They were novel in the beginning- I was going to make the first few into movie stars. Then the love affair ended. When I would find something else that piqued my interest, I would steady my camera for the shot only to find later a blur of a black tip body in the photo. Sometimes one would parallel me and I almost considered handing the camera over for it to have a look at what I was seeing. Whether it was close to the beach or near an inner motu, your will find a plethora of these curious and annoying creatures. The tawny nurse shark will also be there, but not in the vast numbers as compared to the black tip reef shark. I have seen all sizes of BTRS from 8 inches to 6 feet.  Fakarava South Pass has hundreds there, many that come to breakfast and lunch near the pass where a restaurant throws out food scraps. Even a grouper waits there for his meal, often chasing the little shark away.  Near the inner motus and the passes, we did notice more grey shark, in Fakarava they were on inner motus and in as far as Hirifa.  Debbie

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With a few more items from the store, we are ready to move on to our next atoll.

TOAU Atoll

Passe Otugi – Orepo then Teahuroa motus   Ugh.  An easy daysail, but the wind direction was not helpful as the NW wind had us slowly beating with a tack to enter in the pass.  Passe Otugi.  Outgoing current.  3 kn outgoing current and one meter seas made it a bit of an adventure, to say the least, for our entry.  Once inside however, another story as the water seemed even clearer than Fakarava.  Another fantastic weather day.  Most of the weather days are awesome.  Some rain is expected in the next couple of days but that will allow us to top off the water tank as we can also catch nature’s freshest water for our water tanks.  We don’t mind the quick and heavy rains to help fill the tanks. One day at the sound end of Fakarava, it rained for 30 minutes and we captured 40 gallons of fresh water for our 70 gallon tank.  Sitting in cockpit, coffee in hand listening to water gently slap on shore.  Watching clouds slide by and the day starting again.  Another movie and book reading day.  Wind usually lessens in the mid afternoon so we might get off boat and walk the beach.  John is frustrated and already done with snorkeling and diving here. Perhaps it is the time of year and the change of the ocean currents have changed the visibility.  This was to be his unicorn and nothing seems to compare to Belize for him so his interest has sadly waned.  I, however, enjoy snorkeling and shelling along the beach as often as I can.  I continue to make bread with the GoSun, and while the GoSun is fantastic for solar cooking (and we are getting lots of solar now, mores than the Marquesas), my recipes seem to be a bit lacking.  My bread recipes (I have tried several) do not come out light and airy like baguettes, instead they are rather dense like a pub bread or potato bread. Tasty, just not like a baguette!  What is the secret?!  Today is windy and overcast. Clouds and rain should leave today but wind stays for several more days.  Storms way south of us have been intense this year.  They spin off New Zealand and head east.  We are 1000 miles north and catch the edge of them.  When we have these windy days, we nestle inside and spend the time reading, watching movies, or little projects or maintenance.

Why yes, yes that is a frigate bird. Mumu is a fixture here, coming in almost daily when his catching isn’t doing well for the past 10 years. Gaston takes delight in his feathered friend.

Passe Tehere -Anse Amyot. 

In order to come to Passe Tehere, we had to depart Passe Otugi first and sail around the atoll to Passe Tehere.  This atoll has two passes but as Passe Tehere is a FALSE pass (meaning it does not open into the lagoon inside the atoll), we simply could not cross inside the atoll.  We have been at Anse Amyot for several days now.  The current yachties enjoyed an evening meal (pot luck) with Gaston and Valentine, owners of the motu at the popular anchorage and false pass.  We are here with SY Skabenga and few other sailboats.  The water clarity hasn’t been the best, maybe as the seasons are starting to change and the current direction and storms churn things up.  This false pass has been popular with sailing visitors for years.  Yet now, Valentine shared with us, she is getting tired of doing “cruiser meals” as there is a lot of work to be done when you don’t have the amenities that first worlds are used to and expectations might be high.  There is no store here, cisterns catch water to cook and clean with, and cooking and cleaning falls on to Valentine’s shoulders.  It is a little easier when lobster is in season, but it is a lot of work with cruiser’s expectations.  Gaston is more interested in his farming as he has others bring in soil as they cruise through and has even planted some pamplemousse and lemon trees. His focus is less about the moorings as “cruisers don’t want to pay money- they always want to trade”.  Trading with the locals seems to be more a thing of the past.  At one time, there was a guest house (pension) owned and ran by a sister to either Gaston or Valentine.  She left for another atoll and that is how Gaston and Valentine came to be known for the Cruisers Meals.  Their own pearl farm has been non-functioning for quite some time so they do not have that for an income.  They were open to having a potluck where all the cruisers would bring a side dish to share and Gaston would barbecue something from his

There is quite a bit of snorkeling here but it seems each bommie and rock has its own moray eel!  It is a bit daunting to snorkel down to look closer at something, holding your breath, turning your head and seeing two eyes and those sharp jagged teeth staring you down.  With so many areas with fish that are unsafe to eat due to ciguatera, I wondered if the populous eel could be eaten.  Nope.  It evidently it has very high levels of ciguatera!  Maybe that accounts for so many of them here.  A storm front is passing near by. It has been 20+kn winds for 3-4 days now.  

SY Skabenga has already left for Tahiti.  We met Alan and Odille after Skabenga left. They have been cruising French Polynesia for the past 20+ years and she, a former French surgeon, practices general medicine occasionally in the Marquesas.  They were a rich wealth of information and very enjoyable to converse with.  Odille was able to explain the French health services involvement (or at least starting to) with increasing breastfeeding in the islands, midwives, and c-section rates.  It was very enlightening. The wind direction is keeping us here longer, churning up the water making snorkeling even more difficult.  Is there such a thing as “Boat Fever”? We are very ready to move on!  Our plan is to go to Apataki Atoll with the next weather window.

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Good morning.

We are still on west side of Taou. Rained all night and looks like it’s going to do the same most of today and tomorrow. Water tank filled. So was the dink. Had to put it in the water this morning at 5:00 am and bail out. I didn’t pull the drain plug last night so had asmall swimming pool hip-tied to the side of the boat.

Waiting out weather to go to Apataki. Maybe Monday or Tuesday. Short crossing but bad wind angle.

Other than that we are good. Need to replace switch in water pump this morning. That might be after coffee and pancakes though. I have all day!  They put this non-marine grade micro switch at the bottom of the pump head. It collects moisture and corrodes. I have a spare head assembly and also two spare switches. So might switch heads and then rebuild other one with new switch so it’s ready as a back up.

Built a boat lift the other day for couple that runs the island. We also had nice BBQ there the other night. I also fixed on of the moorings they haven’t used in years. They are getting older and slower and there is a lot of work to this place. They have slowly been letting it get run down. Moorings are covered in corals and haven’t been upgraded in 20 years, I’m guessing, from the growth on the chain.  John

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CLICK HERE for our Toau atoll video


APATAKI Atoll.
(September 26, 2018)

CLICK HERE for our video to Apataki Atoll

Passe Pakaka- Niutahi  

We sailed here yesterday morning, timing through the pass perfect so no salty wild ride in.  Winds have calmed and we should have a week or more of sunny and warm to explore with.  Plan is to be here at this atoll a week or so and move to various places inside the atoll.  There are four wrecks charted on the reef.  Not sure how big or what kind of boats so John plans to change outboard drive and oil while it is so calm, and then we will go explore them today.  The details of the plan will be to move back to entrance and check out the village as well as snorkel the pass.  Then sail north to the north pass and explore it before heading that pass to next atoll.  Plans are always made in the sand.  Meaning, they can be erased with a wave, even multiple times a day.  Everything about sailing is dependent upon weather.  There is a cliche which holds true – “The worst thing to have on a boat is a schedule.”  Many mistakes have been made when sailors sailed in upcoming bad weather, just to be somewhere “at a scheduled time”.  

Motu Rua Vahine (southern part of atoll) 

Once the dingy was ready, we went to see the wreck. Must have been a good size ship at one time but the skeletal remains were not much more than an outline now.  I wonder what the water must have looked like, if it was night, or what prompted them to attempt to cross here, where there is no pass.  The usual black tip reef sharks are present.  We left for Passe Pakakak, the pass that we came in, close to the village of Niutahi.  We snorkeled the pass first before we would dive it in order to familiarize ourselves with it.  We timed it to take current out on  while snorkeling one side of it and then ride opposing current back from the other side.  It was a good snorkel, lots of coral and fish.  There was also rope, buoys and other man made crap from years of pearl farming.  The quay was quiet.  The village was quiet as we walked around the entire village.  It wasn’t even Sunday!  We went into the small magasin for John’s beer.  A few island dogs roamed about, one trying to walk into the magasin nonchalantly until it was shoo-ed out.  Many of the island dogs seem to be female and recently birthing pups.  A large pearl farm has its operation out of a building that looks like it could have once been a beautiful hotel over the water.  Some architecture of buildings still standing in the village is reminiscent of a different era and culture with curving archways. 

We were walking towards a bench under a tree when I suddenly found a three-four year old boy clinging to my leg and wanting to be picked up!  He didn’t beg or ask for anything other than to be picked up.  His mom smiled from a distance away as she and a friend were on an outing with their kids, ranging from under one year to six years old.  We shared some cookies we had and took some photos and then we all went our separate ways.  The water in the quay was still just as the town seemed to be.  As we moved into the end of the pass heading towards our boat, the water seemed to be swirling, no waves, but some bubbling however, mostly swirls as the current was obviously up to something.  John could feel the force and pressure of the current on the dinghy and the engine effort seemed to concur. There is a small motu that I will snorkel, a fair but swimmable distance from the boat.  We anticipate calm for the next couple days so we will up anchor tomorrow and head north to Passe Tehere and a motu called Roto Ava.

Roto Ava

We snorkeled Passe Tehere as well, John still not thinking it is worth the time, effort or wear and tear to gear up for SCUBA.  His disappointment of diving in the Tuomotos is evident.  Perhaps Rangiroa will spark his interest again.  We noticed another sailboat in the nearby area.  Interestingly enough, it is one of the 2018 Puddle Jumpers from Puerto Vallarta! SV Baloo!  We did not know them  back in PV but may have briefly met at a PPJ meeting, but I saw their photo in the PPJ guide.  We will swing by and say hello.  Sitting in the cockpit watching the sun go down on another lovely day, its amazing how each sunset is as lovely as the last and yet so very different.  It’s this time of evening that seems to provoke the deepest contemplations.

Things to contemplate:  How many people left conventional life to sail.  How much there is to know in order to sail (Safely).  How many shades of blue are in the ocean and sky. How colorful fish can be and why.   How people of island cultures can be happy with less (although increasing internet capabilities will change that for the younger generations as it already has).  Appreciation for doing this (sailing) now versus later.  The beauty of the sunset.  


Roto Ava
(October 1, 2018)

After snorkeling the pass again, we did a drive (dinghy) by to SV Baloo.  Jean René and Susie from California, along with their young son and another companion, are following Jean René’s dream of sailing.  They are planning on leaving Apataki atoll for Rangiroa tomorrow as well.  Weather is almost always the first item up for discussion. Next would be timing of the pass with the expected winds.  We would be in radio contact should anything arise for either of us.  

Doing an overnight to Rangiroa means we will leave at sunset,  during the slack tide again.  Rangiroa actually means “Endless Skies” and is the world’s second largest atoll at 77km long and consisting of 240 motus (islets).  The island of Tahiti would fit inside its lagoon.  It is also known for its marine life.   We watched spectacular sunset from cockpit as we motored out of the pass.  The water bubbled and churned. Outside the pass, we have 57 miles to go and …..wind died.  Really.  We are now motoring because when there is not enough wind to fill the sails and in this kind of sea state, they just bang back and forth.  That is hard on the rigging and sails.  It is also less comfortable. If you can imagine, close your eyes and think about the wave action moving the boat like being in a washing machine on gentle cycle. Hmm.. better open your eyes, I want you to enjoy reading the blog.  I don’t want you getting seasick and calling me.  Regardless, where is the wind that was predicted?? The boat really does well with 15 kn of wind. She just stands up and sails like a train on rails. Very smooth and comfortable.  Enjoyable really.  Now, if only we had the predicted wind.  

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 We need to get in the pass at slack tide, around 11am tomorrow.  If you mis-time these passes, the current pushes into the waves and stands them up making them difficult to push through.  Can get pretty ugly.  This next pass has a max current of 3.92kn so if you usually do 5kn, you can either be shut down to 1kn or rocket in at 9kn.  Neither is preferred because you have waves on one side or the other and won’t have control of the boat.  Best to hit at slack current of +/- 1.0 kn current.  

Moon is up at midnight and until then lots of stars and super cool Milky Way.  Sky down here is cool and better than the northern hemisphere.  Summer is coming.  It has been calm the last few days and hot.  We will get into the next atoll and cross to the south side, anchor and wait out three days of 20-25kn winds.  Reef and palm trees cut the wind down and it is pleasant.  Then hopefully back across to the pass to dive.  This atoll is supposed to be the premium diving and sharks again.     John 

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RANGIROA Atoll (Ancient name Rairo’a)

CLICK HERE for our video of Rangiroa

We had to sail around Arutua Atoll.  It looked interesting with a temple having been noted there but with the upcoming storm systems, we wanted to be somewhere that would be perhaps better protected.  Our timing was off..again.  We would actually be arriving at 0500! Not 1100!  Conversation between the two boats over the radio and all concurred and so it was decided that we could be able to safely pass.  There was some strong current but it was incoming so there were no standing waves on the outside of the pass. Wind was negligible. Except for the middle of the inside end of the pass, it was deep and we should be fine as long as we followed the north side of the pass.  

The sun was just starting to rise behind us as we entered Passe Tiputa.  We were barely to the entrance when we had five or six dolphin surfing off our bow wake.  What a nice welcoming committee!  The water was moving and so were we, there were less waves noticeable on the inside of the atoll as we quickly moved through the pass.  It is this incoming current that the dolphins are known to love, play, and feed in.    

We anchored off the village to spend a night and to get things sorted.  Of course, finding a magasin for a baguette would be nice as well.  Tiputa pass is famous for its diving and there are six dive operations in this village!  Just inside the atoll is a motu referred to as “The Aquarium” and is heralded to be quite the snorkeling and dive site as well.  This too would have to wait as we prepared ourselves for a trip across the atoll to The Blue Lagoon and the lava flats of Rofaaulti. 

The Blue Lagoon.  Would love to tell you more but we didn’t see it.  We sailed across the atoll to find ourselves in a large bommie field and as we slowly moved through, occasionally seeing 1.6ft under our keel (yes, I said 1.6ft!) we gave up looking for an anchorage and moved on to the lava flats. 

Sometimes plans change like that.  Remember earlier when I said plans were made in the sand?  We did find great holding by Rofaaulti.  We would spend the next few days here before the winds would be coming in.  It is quiet here.  We are the only sailboat around.  There appears to be a pension (a place that rents out) on one of the motus but we rarely see any people here.  The water is calm, the holding is sand and our anchor is set well.  I love having my kayak out in this crystalline water but I am also able to take it into some channels created by the lava flows. 

I can almost reach the ocean side via the water that helps feed the lagoon.  We have both taken time to walk to the beach on the “outside” of the Motu.  Ocean waves crash with a thunderous roar and epic momentum.  Here the reef seems to extend for several meters at a half to one meter of water.  I have found small eels poking their heads out as I slosh by in the water.  The beach is mountainous with bleached shells pummeled by the waves as they begin the process back down to sand.  It is so quiet here.  With nothing of note, just calm and warm days dotted with snorkeling, it truly is a respite above all.  Yes, even above the quiet villages.  Remember what I said about weather dictating our location?  We decided to move back to Tiputa Pass for the protection from the next weather system.  John went forward to the  hoist the anchor while I drove the boat forward and periodically stacked chain.  We had just started the process when I heard him yell something undetectable, and poking my head around the dodger, he came back and said there’s a manta. 

CLICK HERE for 11th hour Manta video!


Oh seriously? Now? When we are leaving? I gave a look that was the best puppy dog eyes I could make.  Yes, grab the mask/snorkel, grab the fins and don’t forget the camera.  I was off the boat in less than three minutes, kicking fast to where I anticipated he would be, seeing nothing.  Cursing into my snorkel, I heard the dinghy fast approaching.  “Over there”.  Well then, that helps!  I changed direction and kicked hard.  Finally I found myself above him as he swooped this way and that way.  Not the least bit concerned about my presence, certainly he had no idea how hard I kicked to find him in spite of my heavy breathing, he continued his graceful feeding dance.  John jumped in to have a look as well, as soon the ray decided it needed a new venue.  This ray looks somewhat different than the past rays.  After my 30 minute Ray (manta ray, that is) Delay, we returned to the boat and resumed lifting the anchor lifting process.  Delighted with our eleventh hour find, setting sails seemed much more fun.  This would prove to be a fantastic five to six hour sail as we crossed 24 miles back to the village. The wind was picking up and we held a lovely 15-18kn wind and sped back around 5.5-6kn. Set the sails once and that was it, the rest was a walk in the park as it was so easy.  This gave me a chance to look up and determine that the particular manta we saw was a Devil Ray.  One of the three types of manta rays.  

Passe de Tiputa – Otetou. (10/6/18)  We haven’t moved in awhile. Have you noticed on the PredictWind site?  We have been waiting out weather system and it just doesn’t want to leave.  We are in a protected anchorage, on a mooring, but it is still rolly.  We are tucked in a little closer to the village so it does not seem as bad for us but we do watch as some of the outer sailboats masts are swaying quite a bit.  Some rain this morning and caught some rainwater but  we need more rain to fill tanks.  Sure we can always make with water maker if we need to but it takes all day and uses power.  Why do that when we can make use of solar on sunny days and catching rain on rainy days.  Cloudy and cooler this morning, which is not at all unpleasant.  In fact, it is a nice change.  A dinghy ride to the other pass yesterday was rough and long, more so for John as he had to drive back in the dinghy, against the wind and waves.  He dropped me off at the quay and I walked through that end of the village and explored on land a bit.  There were a couple small stores and Gaugin Pearls is also here.  This is where they have a large pearl farm and advertise that they offer duty free pearls here at this store.   There were some incredibly magnificent pearls.  Loose pearls or beautiful settings. Some of the price tags indicated that they certainly have some of the most beautiful pearls and I would likely not be able to afford the duty on those, even if they weren’t duty free.  At the entrance is a 50ft ketch sitting perfectly upright on its keel on a motu.  It appears they had some issues and are quite likely stranded there as it is not a place to ground your boat intentionally.  Can you imagine, looking out at your home, lodged on coral and unable to move it?  Unless we can find out if this is the true story, we can only surmise.  Armchair sailing.  Of course, you know what happens when you assume, and I have learned quite a bit when playing that game.  We have spent almost two weeks here in Rangiroa alone.  Also advertised for its diving, the water visibility has been poor during our time here as reported by several divers.  We dinghied through the pass when the wind wasn’t whipping it up and John snorkeled it several times but just didn’t see it worthwhile to dive it.  With the dinghy during the incoming current, at least we could ride along side the dolphins as they played in the current.  Just inside the atoll, a shallow area rises up in the center and forces boats to either side to continue into the atoll.  This motu is known as “The Aquarium” and is noted for its snorkeling and diving.  Several buoys are located at the far end for dive boats or private dinghies to tie up to.  I have spent several various days snorkeling the area, noting a very large Gray shark below me.  There is also a Tiger shark that is known to come in and frequent the area as well.  I did not see that one.  I also learned the force of the current as I misjudged the time and as I was snorkeling too close to the pass end of the aquarium when the current was heading out.  Obviously, it ended well but that too, was a learned lesson!

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Saturday. With the exception of the ‘boom boom’ bass of the Polynesian music ashore, all is silent aboard SV Bella Nave. More quiet than usual. The weather system’s lasting effects of wind and fetch have abated. The previous night still held a determined swell, the kind that can catapult one from a sound peaceful sleep on to the cold wooden sole of the boat. Now the water is calm, movement of the boat is bare detectable.  The clock continues to tick.

Start the clock. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. It started 48 hours ago. Our ER friend would always say to to start the clock whenever he ate something adventurous that may carry a hint of digestive risk. Read Anthony Bourdain’s stories and one may never eat out again but where is the reality in that?  Whether it is raw oysters on the half shell, sushi, or ceviche and aguachile from the Latin American countries, to Poisson Cru or Tartare de Thon of the Pacific, there is always that one possibility. Within 24 hours, if you were still feeling great, you won. It’s part of the adventure to try cultural foods, and when makes your mouth and stomach sing out in harmony of the taste you offered, you do it again. And you restart the clock.

Poisson Cru of the Pacific is typically made with raw tuna, a fish that is considered ‘safe’ from the menace of ciguatera toxins. The constantly changing species afflicted and variances from lagoon to lagoon make it challenging to determine ‘safe’. Relying on the word of a local is helpful but certainly no guarantee as they have to eat, often what s available, and as it can take time for the toxins to build up with successive ingestion of afflicted fish, one never knows when the “hit” may come. Tuna is typically pelagic or ocean going, meaning less risk. Poisson Cru uses the raw tuna, sometimes chemically cooked with the acids of lime juice similar to Ceviche. It then swims in a coconut milk pool with various vegetables making it cool and refreshing as it is served cold. 

They didn’t have Poisson Cru at Chez Lili 48 hours ago. They did have Tartare Thon au le mangue or Tuna Raw with mango. Very tasty, filling, fresh, light and not heavy the way beef steaks can be. Start the clock. John said he refused to eat anything raw unless there were a doctor or hospital close by. It was tasty! The next day, we took a dingy ride to the other pass where he would drop me off to wander the street, which actually consists of 12 km of road from one pass to the other. The village is very spread out. Using my right thumb, I found that it was useful in catching a couple rides, eventually to Chez Lili where there is internet (if you can be gracious enough to call it that) and John would pick me up. We decided we could either get a bottle of whiskey and a jar of Nutella or lunch at Chez Lili. The troop was divided as you already know who voted for which option. We had lunch at Chez Lili (I won or so I thought!) but alas, no Poisson Cru today either! Disappointed I fell back on the other tasty Tartare Thon agin. Restart the clock.

As I said earlier, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Within 3 hours, my hand was played and the cards not in my favor. I do not believe it is Ciguatera based on hallmark symptoms yet I suppose I could have had a light brush with it. Digestive nature symptoms are manageable now but oh so fatiguing. I have nursed the same cup of noodles all day. And slept. John asked me this afternoon when I was able to stay awake long enough to hold a four minute conversation if I wanted some raw tuna to eat. He is compassionate like that. If it is Poisson Cru, then yes, in a heartbeat. Well, maybe in a few days… to start the clock.                     Debbie

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As we wait out the heavy weather systems and look for favorable winds to continue our trip through the Tuomotos, we are privy to “Cruise Ship Fever”.  There are currently three large cruise ships anchored off of the anchorage where we are at.  We saw the first one when we sailed in from the other side of the atoll.  Then a Norwegian of some sort.  And a live aboard dive boat.  It is times like this (when the cruise ships arrive) that the sleepy little village festoons itself with colorful pop up event tents on the wharf, tables with colorful clothes host local merchandise from hand painted pareos, to pearl jewelry and items carved from bone.  The cruise ships send over people carrier after people carrier loaded with those ready to get off the ship, walk on land, visit an island village, and of course- offload some of that heavy cash in their wallet.  The wharf is now wall to wall people even though Gaugin Pearls vans shuttle potential customers off to their shop.  Remember, there are only a couple small stores that sell “touristy” items or handicrafts.  Yet the quay has ten or more tables, each of different vendors/crafters!  From pareos to pearls, and more pearls, this is the cruise ship dream.  There is music playing from a live group, traditional island music, and our favorite snack, Snack Lili is filled with customers.  Service is even slower than usual, and of course, internet speed is barely at a crawl as all the little screens light up.  Even in as remote places as this, we just can’t go without being connected.    

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Sorry, had to have The Poisson Cru one last time before leaving. That clock started was a win!  

We left (up at 0430) and in pass at 0520. John wanted to be in pass at 0530 so we were just barely there in time  to be ten minutes early (his German clock) but saw another beautiful sunrise as we cruised through. He is mastering this timing of the pass thing that is crucial in the Tuomotos.  All the difference between smart and stupid or safe and dangerous. 

38 miles to the next pass. Doesn’t seem far unless you are “walking quickly” as Sailing is often referred to! Our speed varies anywhere from 4-5.5 nautical miles per hour. So average 5 and we are looking at almost 8 hours of travel! The tricky part is that ‘timing of the passes’. The currents can rip through these tiny entrances up to 5kn, or even more.  Your journey must include the timing of the pass you are leaving as well as the next pass you plan on entering!  And passes can be on various sides of the atoll making the wind and waves another important factor. That is a very cursory explanation without boring you or Pops into the next nap.

We have heard that Tikehau is beautiful and has Manta Rays! It will also be out last atoll here in the Tuomotos Archipelago. The intention is to stay a few days and then we will passage for two overnights onward to Papeete, Tahiti. Preferably being there before the next storm system arrives. We are starting in their summer.  While the Tuomotos Atolls are interesting, they are losing our attention (someone in particular whose name I won’t mention as I wouldn’t say my own name) and the Society Islands are sounding very appealing by other cruising buddies already there. We also look forward to meeting up with our cruising buddies. 

Papeete is a necessary stopover instead of a desired destination for cruisers. It has a large grocery chain called Carrefour for re-provisioning as well as chandleries for necessary repairs. You know, “Sailing: fixing and repairing your boat in exotic places!”.  Without invoking Murphy’s Law,  in retrospect (and current!), John’s understanding of sailing and mechanics, preparation of our boat peppered with good karma has us being in much better shape/condition than other cruisers we have met.  That is important when you consider how harsh the sea environment can be under normal conditions?

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Tikehau Atoll

Click here for our Tikehau video!

Passe Tuheiava.  Our last atoll. The Pink Sand Atoll.  It is the atoll closest to Tahiti.  Named as the richest in fish world-wide by Jacques Cousteau, the pass here is known for its hammerheads  and grey sharks.  Tikehau is smaller and seems to have more marked rocks and shallow spots but…..they also have resident reef mantas!  It also cuts off another 8 hours from the trip to Tahiti rather than leaving from Rangiroa. Hmmm… it seems we have good reason to make the stop here!  We arrived to the pass in time for a very slight current in and immediately dropped anchor near another sailboat already anchored on the inside of the pass.  When it is light again tomorrow, we will move to the village to anchor and find locate the Motu we were told about, the one where the 3-5 reef mantas feed regularly.  This will also give us time to step off the boat and explore the village. The village seems smaller than Rangiroa but also more upscale by looks of homes, resorts an pensions.  Rather a boutique atoll.  Two small magasins, one boulangerie (closed), one airport, and 3-4 dive operations listing the three passes that they dive here. A few resorts.  Such is life in the atolls.  It is hot, but comfortable as we meandered the road that makes a large circle  around the village on the motu.  

Paaie motu– located approximately a mile from the village, towards the center of the lagoon- we snorkeled endlessly along one side of the motu which was rather oblong in shape and contained a vacant pearl farm.  Nothing.  As we snorkeled back to the dingy we saw dive/snorkel boat on the next buoy.  He pointed over the Motu from where we were.  Tired but anxious to see what we came here for, we snorkeled over the Motu shallows and saw other snorkelers in the water. 

As John swam towards them, I looked to my left to see the most beautiful black and white face and wide mouth of a Reef Manta.  Graceful. Gentle.  Clearly nonplussed about my presence.  Following behind it came another manta.  Larger, gliding effortlessly in its underwater flight, circling around.  This dance went on several times when the John and the other snorkelers manta swam over to join the other two mantas.  It was like Christmas at Macy’s as the crowd swept in around me.  John being a much better swimmer and free diver took the GoPro down and behind a bommie.  Then his keen eye with the camera caught the music in motion as the Reef Mantas swept over the bommie near by, uncaring of his presence.  This went on a few more times and when John was thoroughly winded from free diving and staying still as a mouse, we left as well.  It is experiences such as this that we enjoy so much and our love of the water.  As this would be our final atoll in the Tuomotos Archipelago, or the “Dangerous Archipelago” before moving on to the Societies.  What  a fabulous way to mark the ending of the Tuomotus.   

We are preparing to be underway again, now to Tahiti. Land of milk and honey.  Or land of large box grocery stores and faster internet (sort of).  Papeete.  Famous in songs such as Southern Cross by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. It will be a 36-48 hour underway, and we will be leaving at sunset when the pass is calm.  It is a bit of a mixed bag to be leaving the Tuomotu Archipelago.  We have enjoyed and experienced several but only a tenth of what is here.  While they generally have the same characteristics, we have had unique experiences at each and all have been enjoyable. While I hate to see this part end, knowing we will not likely pass this way again (never say never!) I am also feeling ready to move on.  

Zoom in on that SOG (Speed over ground!) Woot!

So much for timing again.  The wind in our favor, the outgoing tide and our engine power, had us shooting out of the pass around 8kn!  Woot!  Just outside the pass, one reef in the main sail and a full genoa went up.  The engine was cut.  The bliss of the silent motor and the perfect wind.  Our speed was still over 6-7kn!  Yeah, we will take that all day long. And we did.  As a matter of fact, all night long!   Sit back, kick back, and enjoy what would be our best sail to date.  In fact, the wind held so perfectly, we sailed through the night and through the next day, arriving early evening or more than six hours early from our anticipated time.  Too late and dark to traverse inside the lagoon to the anchorage.  Point Venus, Tahiti.  Society Islands.  We are here!

 

Marquesas Islands – continued

Where in the South Pacific are we now?

Luscious waterfalls of Nuku Hiva

Just a bit about the Marquesas.  Rugged, wild, steep cliffs and deep valleys describe the Marquesas Islands.  Reefs haven’t formed yet, possibly due to the colder south equatorial current.  The Marquesas are known for swelling anchorages due to exposure of ocean currents and yet typically visited by those on sailboats crossing the Pacific Ocean. The younger of the archipelagos, the volcanic mountains have not receded yet, remaining tall and auspicious.  Sharing the same latitude as the Solomon Islands, these mountainous, cliff bound islands are the farthest north of the high islands of the South Pacific.  Known as Te Fenua Enata (“The Land of Men”) by its Polynesian people, it suffered under the visits of explorers and missionaries  who inadvertently brought alcohol and diseases unknown to the indigenous people.  There are twelve islands, however only six are inhabited.  Nuku Hiva, Ua Pou, and Ua Huka lie in the northwest area and Hiva Oa, Tahuata, and Fatu Hiva lie in the south east area. While all speak the same language, dialectal differences can sometimes be confusing. Hiva Oa (Atuona) is well known as the home as well as burial site to Paul Gaugin in the early 1900’s.  While Gaugin’s paintings tell of a mystical beauty, his love of alcohol and debauchery kept him in constant conflict with the officials. The subtropical climate lends itself to an ubundance of fruits such as lemons, pamplemousse, bananas, mangoes, papayas.  More taro and breadfruit (Uru) grow than what can be consumed.  Marquesans of pre-European discovery, had houses built on high platforms known as paepae.  Many of these remnants can still be found, the black grey lava rocks appearing oddly unified in the forests.  There are ceremonial places called tohua where festivals of great importance took place, and stone temples or meae still hidden in the jungle terrain.  There are still a few tikis remaining in situ.   The Marquesans were seen as warriors, often noted historically with their war clubs as symbolic virtues.  And yes, there was known cannibalism.  Yet they were also known for their intricate carvings and designs, whether on wood, stone, or even tattoos although this practice was banned by the catholic missionaries. It is believed that both Hawaii and Easter Island were colonized from the sea faring Marquesans.  Fatu Hiva was the first island to be named by Alvaro de Mendana in his second voyage of exploration from Peru.  He named the southern group of islands Las Marquesas de Mendoza for the Spanish viceroy and then proceeded with a murdering spree in Tahuata that would leave over 200 dead Tahuatans/Polynesians.  The northern Marquesas Islands were “discovered” by Joseph Ingraham from the American vessel Hope almost 20 years later.  The decline of that  indigenous population came with disease, alcohol, and firearms as American whalers often called in to the islands.  The French took possession in the 1800s, but that didn’t stop some Peruvian slavers to kidnap many Marquesans slaves for work.  Some returned, bringing an epidemic of smallpox back with them.  Their numbers continued to decline. With numbers declining perilously close to extinction, they have survived and islands now become the hope and inspiration for a simpler life as many leave their first world problems behind them.

Tauhata, Marquesas

Tahuata Island

We left Fatu Hiva and Tahuata was our next island as we moved up the southern chain of the Marquesas Islands. The smallest of the six inhabited islands, it is only fifteen km long and nine km wide.  Tahu means fire and ata means spirit.  It is said that this was the island where the Marquesans would have their first experience with the hao’e (white man).  The main village, Vaitahu is on the west coast and the popular anchorage of Hanamoenoa is just north of Vaitahu.  The village is known for its bone carvers as well as wood carvers, it’s churches and it’s ruins. The water is usually clear as there are no rivers to run off into this bay.  However, in the typical fashion of “Captain Ron” (If you haven’t already, watch this classic comedy),  Hanamoenoa would be our stop on this island.  We were looking for a restful night before continuing on to the north side of Hiva Oa and then to Nuku Hiva (to begin our CDS Carte de Sejour process for our long stay visa ), we could not make out the island of Ua Pou in the distance, however, I am pleased to say after years of being teased regarding the Green Flash, John finally saw it.  We were on the boat, and multiple times in past evenings he would make some snarky comment about possibly seeing it, waiting for it, and maybe this would be the night, mocking me the entire time.  I suggested that he have another sundowner (drink) and that might help him focus and at the very least, stop the mockery.  Yet it would be here, that I made the comment that the sky looked right, and as we watched, we did experience the Green Flash (and without cocktails…) as the sun dropped from the horizon.  I am vindicated.  The water isn’t clear here, however, the Marquesas are not known for their clear diving water yet there is some diving with pelagics out deeper past the bays where the current is often strong.  The Marquesas are touted to be the youngest of the islands and therefore not many reefs surrounding them and are instead known for lush mountainous terrain, tikis, wood carvers (the abundance of trees in these lush islands) and the resurgence of their history with the art of tattoo. Oh, and their fruit, including the pamplemousse ( a tastier cousin to the grapefruit)…..I am having to pace myself with one a day and hope that I will find a way to replenish soon…. Thankfully, John does not like them (or fruit at all!). We have been traveling solo since have left Fatu Hiva.  The beaches are quiet and there has been no one else in the anchorages.  

These islands are captivating in every tropical sense.  The weather is delightful to the skin, the scenery is pleasing to the eye, and the desire to stay longer is easy to be lured into.  The coconut palms that seemingly cover every inch of ground make it challenging to believe that these islands used to have a population well over 80,000 people in the early 1800’s before more settlers arrived!  Even now the population isn’t near that but it is well over the 2,000 inhabitants that it had decreased to at its worst.  It is easy to see how one could wax poetic about the islands.

It was a semi restful night with some swell, as is normal with all of The Marquesas.  There simply is no protection from the open sea to the bays.  We are heading for the north side of Hiva Oa, the island we first made landfall but that was on the east side.  We will sail north along the west coast and tuck in at the top of the island.  Here we will find Baie de Hanamenu.  As these archipelagos are under a strategic location plan for France, the main language is French although the kids are learning their own Marquesan language as well as English.  School age kids attend the elementary grades in their respective island but will attend high school on the bigger islands and of course, university in Tahiti.  They can also live in France to study.  We haven’t seen as many kids as we anticipated by reading other sailors accounts in the compendium.  The compendium?  Have I not told you about The Compendium?  We printed off the Soggy Paws Compendium for the areas we planned to travel.  Soggy Paws is the originator, a sailing couple that began keeping excellent notes and coordinates of places they stopped in the areas.  They had other sailors contribute what they had found as well, and now you can imagine, as they have continued to update it, that it is almost a bible of resources for the new sailors in the area.  Everything from GPS coordinates, hazards in and out of the water, where to find fresh water for boat tank refills, fuel, groceries, and well, you name it.  The perfect wheel has been created.  If you get a chance, go to the internet and type in Soggy Paws Marquesas Compendium.  Even though you might not be sailing this way soon, you may find interesting accounts from various sailboats.

Hanamenu is beautiful, we had a lovely walk not to far into the jungle to see the paepae.  We were able to see the small, fresh spring waterfall called The Hollywood Pool. On our return, we saw a large mango and stopped to ask some guys sitting there if we might have it.  We are quite uncertain what they said, as I am sure they don’t know either as all four were glassy eyed and higher than a kite. Their dog seemed a bit anxious and the situation did not feel comfortable at all, so we thanked them and turned heels and walked away.  On the beach, a grandmotherly woman watched over a couple of young kids playing in the sand and water as she waved to us.  We stopped to say hello, her English minimal and our French equally little, we used the universal smile.   And we had a nice snorkel where the visibility was okay and in the distance we could make out the eagle ray but had to common sting rays to entertain us.  

Ua Huka

Unfortunately, the no-no’s also love the Marquesas.  No No’s. Noseeums. Sand Flies. Tiny, barely visible to the naked eye, these ravenous biting flies that avoid some, but delight in absolutely attacking other humans.  John is in the first category. I, sadly, am in the second as evidenced by the tiny round scars that vaguely resemble freckles.  Oh, we hear various reasons as to why some get bitten more than others, or how it is gender specific, and how you can build up a tolerance (seriously?!?!), but once bitten and what I mean is once bitten multiple times at any given time, the reaction is the same. Red welts with a painful stinging itch that is unconsolable with normal remedies.  My only alternative is Benadryl and that makes me sleepy but keeps me from scratching my hide of the bones. Trust me, I have tried things I dare not even admit, let alone put into print.  Let’s just say that any and all liquids you can find on a boat have been applied.  AfterBite, my favorite tube of burning liquid containing seven syllable chemical compounds has now resorted to sodium bicarb.  Yes, only five syllables and no satisfying sting that says “I got you covered” when applied to a bite or sting.  I became a pin cushion of welts on my legs (later, over a hundred could be counted!)  Reminiscent of Roatan, Honduras and my bites there, I sigh as I wake in the morning to cover myself with oily 98% DEET.  We had a white sand beach and thought it would be nice to snorkel.   Gentle swell of the beach made for an easy landing and take off.  Nothing left to do but scratch.

After a couple nights here in Hanamenu, we planned to visit the island of Ua Huka. We left Hanamenu with a motor and then soon, sails only.  As we neared the bay, we could see and feel the powerful swell and inside we could see masts bobbing back and forth like fast metronomes.  Nope. Not doing it.  We are looking for calm water, not rock and roll.  We were hoping to find somewhere, where the swell would be minimized so we didn’t have to hold on to something solid while we slept.  We had heard of a bay, well protected on all three sides anyway, where the swell was absent.  This would be Anaho Bay on the north side of Nuku Hiva.  We turned off to sail away and will sail through the night rather than sit in an anchorage that will beat us up. Our sail down to Fatu Hiva from Hiva Oa was a beat, however coming back up north should be a charm.  Most of it was a pleasant sail in fact,  but there were times of little to no wind and the iron sail (the engine) had to be used. The waves.  Oh those waves.  The wind and the waves just could not, would not synchronize.  There were a couple times when, off the stern, that one wave holding lots and lots of salty water would throw itself upon us.  

Nuku Hiva is the largest of the islands (339 sq km)and was originally annexed to the US in the early 1800’s by Capt. David Porter from the Essex.  Unfortunately the act was never ratified by congress.  Melville’s Typee was written after a one month stay in the Taipivai valley in the mid 1800’s and is still considered a classic narrative and even Robert Louis Stevenson (In The South Seas) penned his love for Hatiheu bay although Jack London (South Sea Tales) wrote of Taipivae as a wretched swamp , in a style that is Jack London’s, a product of his time.  

Nuku Hiva Island

Baie de Anaho.   Our sail was fine as we neared Nuku Hiva, the wind dying out the last hour or so.  Oddly enough, the overnight sail here or there now feels more like an annoyance as compared to the passage across the pacific where you get into a routine.  As we turned the corner and came into the bay, the calm serenity could be felt immediately.  There were already a few sailboats here.  We turned to the bay portion on our right, where the reef was tricky and quiet shallow at low tide.  We knew there was a small pension that offered a dinner if you arranged it in advance.  There is a farm in this valley that grows fruit to be carried over the mountains to Atouona.  Right now, we just wanted a still, non rolling boat.  We wanted to feel it’s non movement.  Even with other boats here, 6 in the area, it was serene and quiet.  Our neighbor boat informed us that there are reef manta that swim among the reef regularly, unafraid of human swimmers.  The visibility isn’t great as all the rich food in the water is what keeps the Reef Manta and others content to not leave.  Grab my snorkel! Where’s my mask?  Say no more, just hand me my fins and the GoPro.  And after a quiet sleep tonight, in a non-rolling bed, I will get up and snorkel again!  This is heaven.  The temperature is perfect!  We have heard others speak of Anaho bay and how they ended up staying up to six weeks, afraid to take the rolling again.  Look out, we may just stay as well!  It is well protected with high mountainous cliffs surrounding and except for the entrance.  On shore, there is a lovely little shower house and a tap of spring water that is potable.  A nearby home serves as a pension and yes, while not the original people noted in the compendium, they do serve Marquesan home made meals to those wishing to buy a meal off the boat. Roosters can be heard doing their cock-a-doodle-doo, the similar wild chickens often seen in Hawaii, sharing some of the same lineage as when they were brought by early explorations.  Baby goats could be heard, calling out to their moms on the mountain side as they foraged on the abundance of green.  We did not see or hear any wild pigs but an occasional crack from gunshot could be heard, suggesting someone had located one for the family meals.  John set up a dinner off the boat for us on the next evening.  The boat bottom was beginning to look a little like a science experiment as growth (normal process) was beginning to accumulate and would need to be scraped off.  SY Ocean Maiden (Silke, German) was here, as well as SV Cinderella (another Washington, U.S. boat), SY Blue Spirit (Holland), and a few others.  I recognized one of the sailboats as being a moderator for the Facebook Page ‘Women Who Sail’ originally from New York.  Quite often, our sailboat stands out and is recognized as a Passport 40, the most popular Robert Perry design, and I am amazed at those who recognize it here in such remote places.  We are hearing of another Passport 40 also sailing French Polynesia just ahead of us, as everyone asks if we know SV Little Wing.  We don’t…yet.  It seems boats are continually hop-scotching around the bays, some stay only a day here but a few days (or sometimes weeks such as Anaho Bay!) there, and it is only a matter of time before you meet up with the same cruisers.  The only exception being, those who have chosen to not jump through the bureaucratic hoops of a Long Stay Visa or Carte de Sejour. Those on a short visas must keep moving if they are to see as much as possible and be in New Zealand before the start of cyclone season of the Southern Hemisphere.  As we were late arrivals (per Mexico departures) and all the puddle jumpers had already moved through, now  we were smack in the middle of cruisers who crossed through the Panama Canal, some came from Galapagos.  Our cruising network seems to be mostly British, European, and Australian!

It is the evening of our date night. Our dinner out.  Dress is casual. Clean t-shirt and shorts.  We take the dinghy to shore, tie up and walk the path to the pension.  I am well oiled with DEET as I am still scratching miserably and not wanting to add more.  We see sweet little baby goats tied up along the path, keeping them close to home and their moms not far away.  We were taken around the house to the back yard where a table was set up, lighting hung from the trees and we had a view of our boat and the expanse of the bay before the final sunlight fell to night.  Do we like curry? Why yes, we do! Do we like goat? Well, we are open to trying!  Excellent.  And it was. Over rice, some mango, some salad.  It was a delightful meal.  We were leaving and stopped at the house to pay when a couple of young French men were speaking to the owner.  They translated for us, the meal was the equivalent of $15 usd and yes, dollars were fine.  Did we enjoy the goat? They killed it just that morning for us. What?!  Petting the baby goats on the way back, I wondered which one was missing.

Snorkel, snorkel, snorkel some more.  Indeed, there are a few reef Manta here.  So graceful, so elegant, and not at all scary even though they technically are part of the shark family.  I am loving being in the water more although the clarity is not wonderful, I am still able to get some video.  We added to our library of dive books when we were in the states, adding the Reef Fish and Reef Creatures of the Indo-pacific by Humann/DeLoach.  The fish are so much more colorful in the South Pacific as we go further west.  

There is a small school here, designed for a one or two week camp for young Marquesans to learn the arts and history of their ancestors.  At the end of their time here, they put on a show for whoever is anchored and chooses to come, there is no charge. We joined seven or eight other boats in watching the kids perform dances that spoke of their ancestors life.  The pig dance and the bird dance were big hits and they had audience participation which led to many laughs.  Returning to our boats after, the moon lit up the sky, what a magical place and how fortunate we are to be here.  We spent a week here before moving around the island to Taihoe Bay.  If it rains, we catch water and if it doesn’t, we make water.  

After spoiling ourselves with calm rest filled nights, we decided to go north, around the point and back int to Taihoe Bay.  We raised the main as we motored out of the entrance, the wind filled in and we let the jib out.  The wind petered out until we reached the corner. The wind filled back in and we were off to the races as a squall showed up at the same time we did.  With wind on the beam and waves over the bow, we sped along.  The rain came down and we were soaked from the salt water waves over the cabin and rinsed by the fresh rain falling from above. Over and over and over, this cycle repeated. 

The melon head dolphins enjoyed our passage as they bounce dangerously close to the bow and at the stern.  So graceful and quick, none ever seem to be in danger. We could have stopped in to Daniels Bay or Controller’s Bay.  Hoping to see them when we leave, made us think to pass them for now as well as the desire to stay in legal line with immigration and our CDS (Carte de Sejour).  

Marquesan Tattoos.  Known for the intricacy and quality, not only the written language and story telling, but as a practice of protection agains natural or supernatural threats, the Marquesas tattoos might well be considered the ultimate art.  Although for many centuries and nearly all civilizations, pigmented skin has been recognized. European explorers marveled in their interest of the tatau of the islanders.  Tatau had significance in every part of daily life for both male and females. The tattooer played an important role, in the development of the ancient civilization to the solidarity of daily life.  Banned by the missionaries, revered by the explorers.  While techniques and instruments have changed, the history has had a a resurgence.  

It rained. Actually, rain is a understatement.  It poured.  Buckets of water. We rounded the final point to enter the bay when the clouds opened up and sun shine on the bay and the village.  We entered like drowned rats.  We could see some cruising friends already here as SV Kokopelli was anchored.  Here we met Vicky and Jeff, of SY Wraith, enroute back to Australia where they hailed from.  

We had the opportunity meet a young man, Teiki Huukena in Taihoe Bay.  He is humble and gentle despite his almost bear like presence.  I had already expressed an interest in the tradition of tattoo with the crossing of the Pacific.  What I learned over the next several day however, impressed upon me the importance of patutiki or Marquesan tattoo.  In the end, what Teiki said to me and what he has written in his book,  a compendium of Marquesan patutiki dictionary and years of research, it is an example of his pride for his ancestry and his art.  “I have often heard it said and seen written on forums that Westerners did not have the right to have Polynesian tattoos (I am of course speaking about Marquesan tattoos), because “these tattoos belong to our families and ancestors…. So be reassured, for those who fear, there is no problem n having yourself tattooed with Marquesan symbols, even if you are not Polynesian. Quite to the contrary, it is a real pleasure that you wish to share our culture, insofar as your wishing to wear it permanently on your skin.  I find it more than honorable that you have such a high level of consideration for our culture and tupuna (ancestors).” 


I was the first to set under the care and artistry of Teiki.  Little did I know that John, who maintained a “not me” stance was planning similarly.  With our coffees in hand that morning, Teiki and I sat and talked of what was important to me and what the Marquesan symbols would look like.  The Haha’ua (Manta Ray) a protector animal, wisdom would be the focal symbol and within it would lie many more symbols of importance in my life.  With a couple of breaks to make sure we were of the same thoughts and of course, another cup of coffee, some laughs as I had been covered with no no bites that he could have played a connect the dot game, my ankle tatau was complete.  There was no pain for me, I actually relished in the needle against the bites as it felt better than scratching. Instructions for care and covering to prevent dirt or immediate germs to the skin, and I was as surprised as I was thrilled.  I had actually done it.  I have my tattoo with all the meaning attached.  With a lift in my step (more so because of the no no bites) I walked back to the Snack Vaeki (a small food service) where John and my friends would be waiting.  Also sitting there at the Snack Vaeki, was Henry.  Henry immediately noticed my new tattoo and that it was a Manta Ray.  Henry, a local Marquesan asked me if I knew why the Manta was so important to the Marquesans.  I knew something more would come of this, so I politely said no, why? Henry sat back on the bench and tole me how the Manta’s were a connection to our ancestors, and before the missionaries insisted they would go “up in the air after dying”, Marquesans believed they would go “down in to the ocean and become these important creatures, that Manta were their ancestors souls”.  In fact, on special occasion a chief would allow a manta to be harvested and that the entire village would share in the communal with their ancestor.  And, the fact that this protective creature with its wisdom had its tail wrapping around behind my achilles tendon and ending under the other ankle bone would protect me with every step.  Okay, cool factor just hit the top.  Henry then asked if I wanted to see his story.  He pulled back his shirt and took my on a family trip around his body that included his parents early demise and being raised by his sisters. I began to notice more and more of the delicate symbols that before appeared as simple design.  SV Kokopelli met up with us in Nuku Hiva and we laughed about continuing Brian’s birthday, calling as he likes to celebrate longer than a day, Bri-Fest.  When he thought he might consider a tattoo, it seemed only fitting that it would be here and he should be introduced to Teiki, starting with Teiki’s book.  The next day, John wanted to run some errands and asked if I wanted to go ashore. Always wanting internet as it is so sparse here still, I said yes but would stay at the Snack for wifi until the Magasin opened and I could get bread.  Off he went.  Soon, it was time for the magasin to open and wanting to have the bread ready when he returned, I set off.  Walking along the road, I looked up to the place where I received my tattoo and I blinked.  That body out front. Could it be?  I turned up the road and yes, yes indeed.  It was John. Waiting for Teiki. Hmmm…. On my return from the store, with some coffee for Teiki, I found John laying on the table as he too, was now in process of tatau.  Teiki does not have a photo album of his work.  You sit and talk with him and he creates.  While John wanted a Manta as well, he has many different aspects in his. Turtles, sharks, compass rose, 4 winds, tikis and more. And Brian? Yes, for Bri-Fest, he outdid all of us in size and detail, truly commemorating Bri-Fest in the Marquesas!

John’s tattoo

 

Collette, a lovely woman who runs the visitors center,set Mizzy up with a tour guide for the six of us.  We had another couple join us, to give us eight people, four would ride up front and the remaining four would ride in the benched bed with a covered roof.  We rode around the island of Nuku Hiva, well, most of it.  High up into the mountains where long waterfalls cascaded, ceremonial sites with actual remaining tiki’s, ancient banyan trees, and views into such bays that Melville and Robert Louis Stephenson wrote about.  It was a great way to explore and have a nice overview with our guide’s knowledge as well as pointing out simple things we could have missed.  Without a lot of export potential other than copra, tourism would make sense.  Something seems to be working in their favor as we saw many new vehicles zipping around the island.  

 

Nuku Hiva is known for nice magasins and a great place to provision for the Tuomotos.  We would be doing some provisioning here as well.  Collette also lives on a property where she has pamplemousse, mangoes, and avocados.  John almost had a heart attack when he saw the large burlap bag that I hoisted a few feet, then stopped, only to do this numerous times down to the quay.  I had ordered 50 pomplemousse for our provisioning trip.  He asked, I think the words were, “where in the hell are you going to put all those?”  I didn’t think I had better answer “eventually in my stomach” but the thought did cross my mind.  I would have to limit myself to one per day, when really I could eat two or three.  Yes, for whatever reason, they became my addiction.  I, of course, as if to remunerate myself, reminded him that our cruising friends (on a large catamaran) had just taken on board 150 pamplemousse!  Surely, my measly 50 must pale by comparison. I don’t think he bought it as I started sorting soonest to be eaten to can wait the longest.  I had nets hanging on either side of the stern, I had bags of ten stashed in corners and even the anchor locker!  I knew I should have purchased more.  

Not only did we meet SY Wraith (Vicky and Jeff) but we also met the family on SV Nimbus.  What a lovely family and we were going to be leaving about the same time for the Tuomotos and would consider buddy boating with.  They are just your normal average Iowa family with three great kids out to see the world by sailboat.  Soon we would be wrapping things up here and making a 400+ mile passage to the Tuomotos.  ]

Looking back, I am continually amazed that we are here.  The 2700 mile passage, 25 days on the Pacific Ocean, endless water didn’t seem as lonely as I would have anticipated. As we listened to stories of other cruisers and boat mishaps, we were really fortunate as we did not have the challenges of extreme weather, doldrums or breakage that others suffered. We could have sailed with just our wind monitor, rather than returning to Cabo San Lucas for the autopilot.  However, not knowing what would be available when we arrived and our desire to have it instead of hand steering everywhere, made a logical choice.  It wasn’t as critical as many things we have heard from other sailors.  Wind gusts over 50 kn and too much sail out caused one boat to lurch so and the sailing couple was frightened enough, they gave up their dream.  Another boat ran short of food as their intended passage of 4 weeks ran into almost 10 weeks.  Others reported torn sails or broken rigging.  I like to think that John’s attention to detail with all matters surrounding the boat, it’s functionality as well as comfort and safety, has been an integral part of our safe and easy passage.  Of course, there are things that happen outside of his control but we have been spared those as well.  We did not see all six of the inhabited islands but the three that we have seen will leave an indelible mark on our lives forever.  The feeling of seeing land appear close after three and a half weeks of rolling ocean.  Arriving at nightfall and only our sense of smell to begin sharing the delights that we would soon see in the morning.  The lush green mountains, the sent of the frangipani, and the tropical rain.  Then we had the Bay of Virgins of Fatu Hiva.  A golden, rich fertile valleys with spires tall and sharp.  Mountain faces which looked like tiki’s themselves.  Valleys rich with fruits and vegetables, streets that are clear of trash and well attended.  Lazy dogs that  sleep in the heat of the day, not even lifting a head at those passing by.  Locals who sing out a ready “Bon Jour”.  Pamplemousse. Breadfruit. Waterfalls. Melonhead dolphin.  Meeting new cruising friends. Learning to live without fast internet.  Boat life.  Yes, we spent eight weeks in the Marquesas.  What a tremendous life experience!

The Bay of Virgins on Fatu HIva, Marquesas

15 July 2018 

The Bay of Vierges. Fatu Hiva, Marquesas

We are off to Fatu Hiva!  We have heard many wonderful things about this lush island and have looked forward to visiting it immediately after checking in at Hiva Oa. French Polynesia has been under French influence for a little over one hundred years, and the islands themselves, geographically are younger than the Tuomotos or Societies.  In fact, like Venice, Italy, the French Polynesian islands created by volcanic forces are actually sinking back into the sea and one day will be atolls like the Tuomotos.  These islands receive a fair amount of rain and seem to have an abundance of clear water.  We are told that locals warn to not swim, snorkel or dive the black sand beaches.  I queried this rationale and it appears to be only local concern for not being able to see such things as shark easily in the water.  

We were up at 0630 to release the stern anchor and up the main anchor for our early start to Fatu Hiva; by 0730 or so we were off leaving Hiva Oa in our wake. It will be a beat into the wind (read: uncomfortable and wet sail) as it is  40nm south of us and we will be short hauled as much as possible (pointed into the wind as tight as we can and still maintain forward momentum) as we head into the the Southerlies.  We chose to play by the rules this time by checking into Hiva Oa.  Fatu Hiva is not a port of entry and as US citizens, we need to check into the country before  exploring.  They do not want to have cruisers come in unless they have checked in to the country officially first at either Hiva Oa (Atuona) or Nuku Hiva (Taiohae) Some have chosen to “chance it” and succeeded, others made the same choice with an end result of being asked to leave immediately, and rumor has it that some were even fined! It could leave a passport flagged with repercussions of future travel compromised and not worth the risk for many.   I think we have figured out a “work around” but I am not likely going to post it online. None the less, we followed the rules this time.

Another wonderful sunset, this time in the Bay of Virgins of Fatu Hiva.

It would be a likely six-seven hour sail and anticipating one tack to the island with 15-18kn winds on our port.  It was more like eight hours and variable wind speeds.  Pinched as tight as we could, we still ended up motoring the last hour or so back to the bay. As the sun began to set, the island took on a surreal glow and we arrived.  The lush green Jurassic Park we entered was bathed in the last of the sun’s golden rays.   There are two main villages. The larger is Omoa which reportedly does not have a good overnight anchorage. So we arrived at the smaller village of Hana Vave and the Bay of Virgins.  It is everything out of the Disney’s movie “Moana”.  Beautiful temperature of 74-80 degrees, occasional sprinkles of rain that clear up as quickly as they start, and a light breeze that keeps any little flies or gnats moving along.   The volcanic shores  rise up out of the bay and hold palm trees in their rocky clutches as the hills reach almost directly up to the sky.  It really feels like we are in the Polynesian islands now.  The distant drumming, its unmistakable resonance, called us in from the bay.  There were already twelve other sailboats in the anchorage anchored in anywhere from 30-90ft.  SV Kokopelli, (Brian and Mizzy) who we had met in Hiva Oa were already here!  How could that be?! They left after  us!  John could not figure out how that could be and finally it was answered when he found out they had motored the entire distance.  That helped the sting a bit as I believe he actually lost sleep over it!  They were still experiencing problems with their outboard even after having the mechanics in Hiva Oa boatyard work on it and John told them that once we found a less rolly anchorage, he would work on their outboard.  They have the exact same model as we do. Brian and Mizzy shared with us that there is a local dancing going on this evening and they would come by and pick us up if we would like.  Of course we would! We could make out the faint drumming coming from shore. Light breeze, enough be comfortable and keep bugs away, air temperature neither hot nor cold.  The dingies come up to the quay, and when the tide comes in and can be as much as a meter or more difference. At low tide, it can be a big step in and out of the dingy from the top of the wall. Some use a stern anchor to keep the dingies from knocking about on each other, which is an excellent idea.  We walked up the road and John found a young man who said his name was Cedric. He was heading towards the dancing and could give us directions.  With a little English, he gave John directions and also mentioned his uncle who is a wood carver and we should see his work.  Well! We had heard that Fatu Hiva was noted for their wood carvings!  I wondered how we would find them and little did I know….   We rounded a corner, and over a bridge, open window homes with curtains that were now waving outside in the breeze allowing airflow, the drumming became increasingly louder.  It was dark now and we came past a concrete building (most of the buildings seem to be concrete) which showed a menu.  We were now on a game field, such as soccer, and the very same one we could see from the bay!  We simply made an almost complete loop!  Before us sat families on chairs, on the grass, with little kids running around playing.  We walked through various different groups and settled on the ground of very short sparse grass.  The music began- ukuleles, guitar, and the drums.  Various sized traditional drums, with leather coverings. We were treated to a village display of their two dance troupes.  They have been practicing for a month or more, possible competing with each other or to be competing in Omoa next.  There is a large festival to take place in 2019 and the best of the villages dance troupes will be performing traditional dances in Tahiti. This festival occurs every four years as well as another that happens within the Marquesas itself, inter-island every two years.  

Part of the costumes of flowers and leaves sewn on to tapa cloth.

They wore traditional grass/flower headdresses, tops and skirts as well as the guys having accoutrements on their chest/calves.  All were made from real plants and painstakingly hand sewn on to belts that appeared to be tapa cloth. Tapa is the pounded bark from trees, a similar process to making paper pulp.There was a story teller that began each dance, telling a story in the Marquesan language that was almost as theatrical as the dance itself.  Each group had choreographed their own dances and songs. Families all sat out to watch with little kids running amok, and a few at the sidelines imitating the dancersThey sang and danced to various drums and slack strung guitar/ukulele as we watched for a couple hours before we made our way back to the boats in the bay.  There is a stiff breeze coming through the valley tonight but as I ready myself for bed, I  could still hear occasional hums of drums and singing in the distance..   

 Morning came with the sounds of waves slapping at the boat, birds in the air and baby goats bleeting for their moms on the steep hillsides surrounding the bay.  Again, John needing “John” time to work on their outboard, Mizzy and I took off for the village and to hike the waterfall.  John dropped us off at the quay with the dingy and asked us to estimate our time. Well, 45 minutes up and the same back, and an hour there.  Let’s say three hours.  What we didn’t plan on was that our hike time was shorter than others had reported… and we got lost.   Our intention  was to walk to the waterfall. (Understand that the word “intention”  is often used in cruiser lingo as “plans”  are rarely kept due to repeating changes!)  She had been to the  French Polynesian islands, but not this island, some years earlier and was familiar with some of the flora and fauna pointing it out as we chatted.  We stopped here and there, and met a few people along the way.  A gentleman tending some trees called out to us and asked us if we wanted some fruit.  Well, okay.  Then he asked if we would like to see his carvings, as he is one of the village carvers.  Sure.  He had us focus in on a time, difficult in a language we didn’t quite understand but thought we could make 3:00pm. The residents are a little more friendly here than Hiva Oa with a sing song “Bon Jour” and a smile offered a little more frequently.   Every house seemed to have an assortment of trees, many pomplemousse trees so laden with fruit that several lay on the ground having cracked from the fall, been gnawed by vermin or ants, and in various stages of rotting.  Pomplemousse is most similar to a grapefruit but is reportedly sweeter and often used for trade by the locals with visitors.  It is also only found in these islands and we would not likely find them in the Tuomotos or beyond.  There are also coconut,  lemon, orange, mango, guava, banana, plantain, noni, bread fruit and soursop trees. There is another that is used to make a chutney however, that name escapes me. In fact, there are more that I can’t think of as they did not pass my lips but I know they were discussed. What a wealth of fruit!  We were looking at a tree with the unusual fruit used for chutney when a man come out of his house to show us the fruit we were looking at on his tree, he picked one, peeled it and offered it to us to try.  Then, he began picking several to put in our bags.  We still aren’t quite sure what it was but was very appreciative of his enthusiasm!  Very sweet.  We continued walking, asking directions from everyone we met.  Mizzy reports her French is very rusty and I have none other than basic greetings.  We walked past the post office, the administrative office, copra stations (dried coconut) and up a winding road, crossing a creek (the same creek) at least a couple times.  We continued to ask directions for anyone we met and Mizzy translated.  We soon found ourselves at a gate.  The men behind it understood we were looking for the “cascade” and pointed and directed back across the last bridge we came from. Back to the road, at least it was downhill.  We cross back over the creek and voila! The fork in the road, the rock with all the little rocks (cairns) on it. To the right on the paved road? Or to the left, more or less a rutted roadway.  We took the left, on the rutted roadway when we came to yet another homestead and a few loudly barking dogs. Hmm…Not wanting to chance dogs, we went back to the road and proceeded to walk. Uphill. No, REALLY UPHILL.  While it was paved, it was really uphill, similar to a 45degree angle as it would traverse its way up the mountain and over to Omoa.  We went as far as the first hairpin curve and could see over the valley.  Enough.  We were tired and it would be getting dark even IF we were to find the waterfall.  Walking back into town was MUCH easier as all down hill.  We chatted merrily about all subjects, doing what cruisers do, finding out a lot about each other in a short period of time.  Everyone has a dog….. or three!  Short hair, non descript mutts.  On a line, they are quite noisy as they work their part.  The fortunate ones that aren’t bound by some sort of tether, meandered lazily about, not paying much attention to the humans.  A few cats are seen but not many.  Evidently neither of those two species hunt the black rats that are on the rampant on the island…there are also wild boar but we only saw domestic pigs.  Seems like many families have a pig.  There are free roaming chickens everywhere and occasionally a cow tied up.  After a wonderful walkabout, now an hour or so off target time, and no waterfall, we arrived back to where we thought Temo’s home was.  We yelled “Bon Jour” a few times and soon, Temo appeared at the door.  He has a table on his patio, covered with a colorful cloth. A television plays inside the house.  We enter the patio, leaving our shoes with all the others in front of the step.  He pulls back the cloth and shows us his work. Exquisitely carved wood tikis of different motifs and sizes, turtles, curved bowls- some with lids and some with handles, all wonderfully carved with Marquesan symbols. They are indeed so beautiful however, he had another object that caught my eye- he called it an U’u.  A head knocker. In the form of a weapon that was used by Polynesians in early times.  It had tiki faces carved on both sides as well as various other symbols.  His son, Diego, comes out to help with translation.  A young man in his early twenties, he has studied in France and speaks several languages. He assures us that the carvings are by hand and from wood on the island or the neighboring island.  They aren’t cheap and he isn’t interested in trades necessarily.  These can be sent on to Tahiti and they can make good money.  More and more, trading for money is the practice!  Even US dollars are acceptable.  Five years ago and longer, trading with the locals was a more common practice as they did not have access to things we have become accustomed to given the power of the internet and Amazon.com.  Now that they are becoming more online, access is still difficult but some trading can still be done, typically for alcohol which is very heavily taxed in the islands.  An example would be an inexpensive US wine of $7-10 might be $27 or more here.  One piece of Temo’s stood up for me, and all I could think of was the adage about if you see something you like to get it as you may not see it again.  Fatu Hiva wood carvers are well known for their detail and excellent carving.  I would need to think about this as it was not a small item.  We thanked Temo and Diego, who gave us several pomplemousse and asked to trade for a bottle of wine at least.  I assured them I would return to see the piece again.  Mizzy said they were beautiful but that we would need to return with our husbands. The floor still had the remains of a costume- from last evenings performance.  Indeed, Diego was one of the performers, first group.  He said they did well but they were only practicing and dancing for this island and would be heading to the bigger town of Omoa.  The costumes are all real leaves, picked from the yards and hand sewn onto a bark similar to the Tapas of which they women are known for.   Temo gave us more pomplemousse from his tree and with the promise of a return of wine, we would be back.  John’s mission with the outboard was a success, as expected.  Brian was happy as his motor now no longer died on him. 

Artist/Sculptor Temo and his son Diego

One of the mango seasons is over and another yet to begin, however they have pomplemousse trees everywhere that are bulging with fruit.  The boughs are heavily laden with fruit, fruit that simply falls to the ground to rot as they cannot consume it quickly enough. It seems each yard has at least one tree if not several. Let’s talk about this crazy fruit. The pomplemousse is large and round similar to the North American grapefruit varieties, except it remains greenish with a slight yellowish hue when ripe and ready.  It keeps easily, some say up to two months and others say six weeks.  It’s similar to the grapefruit only much sweeter (as long as you don’t eat the white membrane like a grapefruit).  I have never, and I repeat NEVER have liked grapefruit as much as I have tried to. Watching others spoon into its juiciness could never tempt me. I have tried it with sugar on top, with honey on top, as juice, as a sweetened juice, heck- even as a soda pop!  Nope. Any diet that had grapefruit as a basis was not on my list. “Here, try the pomplemousse”.  “No, I don’t like grapefruit.”  And then…I tried it.  Well now, this is a sweet surprise.  It doesn’t bite at my tongue, make my throat close and want to spit it like a watermelon seed.  It doesn’t leave the sting of antiseptic essence in my mouth.  Why, let me have another spoonful…wait, is that bitter I taste? Hmmm….careful of the membrane surrounding each section.  The skin seems thicker too.  They are large but split in half through the waist, they seem to go down quickly.  John tasted it, wrinkled up his nose and said it would taste better with tequila.  Of course he did.  He then began quickly to assess what alcohols would go with it and that I should extract the juice and try it.  Of course he did.  What I didn’t expect was the satisfying and refreshing vigor it would give in my day.  Or that I would begin to crave it.  I was hooked.  Oh those wicked Polynesians, what have they created?!  Was it the passage with the fruit gone within the first week that left me ravenous for fruit?  Was I dehydrated that I was using the pomplemousse for hydration?  I know the importance of maintaining good hydration even though I am sure I don’t drink near as much water as I should.  Nonetheless, I found myself eating not one, but two (and there was an occasional three!) per day.  Well this is awkward.  John would just stare at me over the glasses on his nose.  In my mind, I was sharing these with my dad who loved fruits of all types, sadly thinking he really would have loved these.

Just a small idea of the fruit market now on SV Bella Nave!

 John is interested in finding the waterfall as is Brian.  Mizzy an I are willing to attempt again, although we are pretty sore from yesterday’s trip.  Lesley and Bob (England) are going to join us today. They too, had traveled from Panama to French Polynesia like Brian and Mizzy.  Bob and Lesley have been living aboard their 34ft yacht for several years now too.  As we walked up the main road, we passed by another older gentleman working on a pipe.  I know this will surprise you…he said he was a carver and asked if we would  like to see his carvings!  We politely said we were heading to the falls but would stop on our return.  He tried to determine a time and John gave him the best we could estimate.  I now know that you don’t look for the carvers, they find you!  We made a lovely trek over the bridge and past the post office and administration building, to the dirt path off of the main cement road to Omoa.  As the road began its 45 degree ascent, the large cairns indicated the dirt path was indeed our path to the waterfall.  The foliage became denser, elephant ear leaves were almost human size.  Banyon trees and others came close together and only the rustle of ferns with occasional bird calls could be heard. Soon, there was the sound of trickling of water and just as soon it became the sound of rushing water signaling our close proximity. Before our eyes, we could see the cascade, water from several hundred feet above us into a pool in front of us.  The majority of the waterfall was surrounded by rocks on all three sides.  We scrambled over the boulders and before we knew it, the guys had quickly doffed their clothes to their swimsuits and dove in.  Brrrr…..it is refreshing, another adjective for cold.  As Bob coined it with his lovely accent – “it’s nutgrabbing”.  I am not sure what that translates into Celsius or Fahrenheit, so you will have to trust me on this one.  We enjoyed a lovely afternoon at the pool, temperature pleasant after a while, noting the back walls.  I had prepared with my swimsuit underneath, as had Mizzy.  Lesley was not going in past her knees no matter how much Bob and Brian goaded her into coming in to see the actual “falls” and “how amazing it was that you just have to come in to see it”.  It was with her final no that she slipped unhurt, but now quite wet higher than her bum.  So much for staying dry.  We eventually we need to work our way back, refreshed and clean of sweat and insect repellant, we would need to re-apply before heading down.  The wooded area was home to some mighty hungry “mozzies” (mosquitos).  

 We travelled the same path past the official building and the post office to the rock of Cairns.  Yes, indeed, we are to go past the parking dogs and continue on for the waterfall.  The trees that appear like hollowed out dugouts, with leaves larger than the elephant ears holding drops of water, vines hanging from the trees.  We could eventually hear the unmistakable sound of water falling.  A small pool set back in the rocks and the water falling high up from the cliff.  Of course we had to get in!  Fresh water, about seventy degrees – refreshing!  We soon reached the road back, passed the copra drying station, and while Mizzy and Brian went off with wine in hand to see Temo’s carvings, John and I visited with another carver.  He too, had lovely wood tiki’s, stone tiki’s and wooden bowls.  Starting to see the theme here.  We told him we would think about it and let him know yet in my mind, it would be Temo’s piece that I would have.  As we left his home, his wife called me back and offered me bread she had made and wrapped.  It was still almost warm.  How sweet! 

Tonight would be a dinner at Poi’s house with his wife doing all the cooking.  Poi is the unofficial “official” of the island.  For $25/per person, his wife would cook a traditional Polynesian dinner.  We were signed up as part of sixteen cruisers that evening, dining on Poisson Cru, fried meat (likely goat), breadfruit, various salads, deviled eggs, and a dessert of fresh fruit of the island served on a large leaf.  Star fruit, papaya, mango, banana, and small red fruit.  Breadfruit is really interesting. A starchy fruit, it has more of a texture of potato, flavor of almost a sweet potato, and is well known for its health benefits and ability to pass as more of a potato than a fruit.  Once a big staple in the Polynesian diet, it had declined during the French colonization as their interest was in coconut or copra as an export.  We made new friends and would be going diving tomorrow with a few of them.  We are the only folks from Mexico departure here, as this group is compromised of those coming from Galapagos and part of a different rally.  We have Polish/Italian, Swiss, English, French represented as well as Bryan and Mizzy/ and ourselves capturing the US division. Of course, our hosts are Marquesan.  Another pleasant evening and it was delightful to meet other cruisers as well.  Quite a nice ice breaker.  Cain and April are traveling on Spirit of Argo, a Peterson 44.  Quinn (their Irish terrier) has a blog about what his crazy owners are doing to him.  You might find it quite entertaining  at www.spiritofargo.com.  We also had an opportunity to get to know Wojtek, Elena, and baby Paul on S/Y Imagine.  While the catamaran is vision, their mission is even more amazing.  Once pro soccer player, an unfortunate circumstance led to his having an AKA or above knee amputation.  His and their experience with this, has led them to turn their catamaran to a sailing prosthetic station where they can actually manufacture prosthesis! They are sailing to those who are less fortunate to offer something that may otherwise never be obtained and change lives.  Absolutely amazing.  Look them up on the web at www.sailing4handicaps.de

The next day we decided to dive the point outside the Bay of Virgins.  Depths were deep along the rocky formation.  We had seven divers and one snorkeler visiting with the hopes of Manta Rays or sharks. We didn’t have anything large or super exciting but we did have two eels, a stingray and lots of colorful fish.  The water was blue and relatively clear.  Coral was alive and vibrant.  Everyone had a good time. Cane and April did not join us as Cane was pretty much under the weather with a head cold and April was certain she had caught whatever Cane had. I gathered up a few things that other documented visitors had taken for trade (information that was as recent as two years and up to 5 years old) and trekked up to Temo and Diego’s home.  Blown glassware, nicer jewelry and some electronics were not as exciting for trade.  Rum, wine, and very good fishing lures and line for Wahoo/Dorado are still preferred.  And of course, cash.  I laughed and said I would see what I could do, as we were careful to not bring too much alcohol in for fear of being taxed as per the “rumor”.  And I was willing to part with one of my larger lures that I was made fun of for the size. I would be back tomorrow.   That evening we had an invitation to join Wojtek and Elayna aboard SV Imagine.   Both the Swiss couples were there as well, lively conversation and the requisite boat tour of their incredible prosthetic building and beautiful boat ensued.  We look forward to diving in the Tuomotos with Wojtek and Elena.

 We are going to leave tomorrow morning so this is my last full day.  It would be my only chance to finalize my trading experience.  I was able to pull together a bottle of wine (Mexican) , a bottle of fruit beer (Belgium), a new and very large lure, approx. 300 yards of used but very good condition heavy duty line, and cash.  This would be it.  I arrived before Diego, so Temo showed me his work area.  A very simple lean to with a bench and his hand tools.  The only electric tool was a polish cloth on a hand drill.  Soon Diego returned and with Diego as our translator, and Temo and I using our best bargaining skills, we sat down with fresh pomplemousse juice and began dealing.  In the end, we both were happy and I would be able to take away an equisite Marquesan carved smaller version of an U’u, two small tikis of rosewood from the next island and two tapas made by his wife.  U’u’s are the “headknockers” or the clubs of ancestral Polynesians used in battle to beat their enemy.  Many early depictions of warriors show them carrying such clubs with a large bifurcated top with points on the end.  Tapas are cloth made from various barks of trees that is repetitively beaten much in the same way that paper is made.  The belts of the headdresses and skirts of the dancers used tapas to sew the leaves on to.  The tapas often made by the women of the village usually contain scenes or symbols from the Marquesan language.  

What a day already!  Oh, and Temo loaded me up with more pomplemousse and a stalk of bananas!  Then, he drove me to the quay!  He waited while I called John and had him pick me up before he left with his truck. Very thoughtful..  My Fatu Hiva experience was complete.  John wanted photos of the breakers and waves in the rocky outcroppings outside of the bay.  I stowed my goodies and we were off again.  No photo could ever show the massive power and energy of the waves that form and and crash against the volcanic walls outside the bay.  Years and years of water carving into the sides, creating blow holes.  We were coming back in with the dingy when it appeared there were some dolphin feeding at the side of the bay.  Except they looked a little different.  As we neared, they heard the sound of our engine and raced toward us!  The rounded faces of False Killer whales, a type of dolphin, and there had to be almost a hundred of them!  Before we knew it we were surrounded by them as they played in the wake of our movement.  I took the GoPro out and held it underwater as John stopped the dingy and began rowing.  I had no idea what kind of footage I might get but was hopeful for anything.  (I was pleasantly surprised and please with some of the footage!)  They stayed for a while and soon bored of us.  Another dingy came out to swim with them and they appeared bored with that too and began to leave the bay.  We started the engine and began our return when all of a sudden we were surrounded again!  They heard the motor and came back to surround us.  This went on for almost thirty minutes before they became bored and John determined we needed to get back to as the sun began to set.  We saw our snorkeler friend, referred to as the Russian.  He had been out snorkeling and saw a hammerhead in the bay!  Could this day be more exciting? I think not!  However, it is time for the adventure to continue and tomorrow will be a big day as we had north again, with southerly winds to take us to  Tahuata!

U’u or Headnocker

Welcome Shellbacks! It’s Landfall in the Marquesas

Welcome Shellbacks!

Tuesday, July 11, 2018 -After the morning came again, we opened our less bleary eyes to the sound of crashing waves on a beach and the fresh morning air.  The humidity is very different than it was in Mexico and we feel, dare I say it for some- moist.  Not wet, not damp.  My skin feels plump and hydrated.  The temperature is neither hot nor cold.  Working our way through morning duties, whoever is not in the head first is in charge of starting the water for coffee.  Thank goodness for creamer as I like my coffee like my days – light and fair. When you don’t have a visual of land, being inside the boat and hearing the crash of waves as well as feeling the swaying, lifting motion as the boat moves in the swell is deceiving.  You feel  like you are seconds away from crashing on the rocks.  Move up to a visual of land, from say the cockpit and you find that you are well off and away from the beach or rocky points.  (Or you should beand if not then you better be taking quick action!).  A small township, a village of houses with a few cars along a road, is set into the hillside stretching down to the beach.  This would be Atuona.  The hills continue almost straight up and very tall into the puffy grey clouds surrounding the invisible tops.  The hint of woodsy and ever so slightly floral scent still graces the air. Everything is lush and vivid green.

Up anchor again, and we are moving into the anchorage of Taahuku Bay.  This is a small bay and there are still thirty some boats in here and the 2018 Puddle Jumpers have already come and gone! I can’t imagine what it looked like with an increase of even fifteen boats!  Coming in here at night would be risky, and in my humble opinion, irresponsible.  Not all boats have stern anchors although most do.  Those that don’t have a stern anchor need wide swing room due to the tidal change and swells and they are currently at the mouth of the entrance.  Wending our way deeper into the shallow bay, through boats and bobbing buoys, we pick out a spot to set our own stern anchor. There are mostly older boats, and from what we are picking up from others talking, several won’t be leaving or haven’t left for a while because of mechanical issues.

We anchored near a lovely Catana catamaran, near the cliffs across the bay from ship dock.  Evidently there is a ship that serves to bring tourists as well as supplies every 3 weeks and a “ghost ship” that brings supplies on an irregular basis but just shows up.  It is very tight in here, and with all the sailboats, I can’t imagine the ship maneuvering in here.  Some of the. Sailboats are aware of the schedule and move during that time only to move back to their spots when the ship leaves.  Well, it isn’t a marina but as always, once settled and it’s off to the races to get work done.  First, we need to check in.

There is always a plethora of discussions at any given time regarding the use of a bond company when visiting the French Polynesian Islands.  If you are an EU citizen, there is no issue for visiting.  If, however, you aren’t, then you have two choices. Use a bond company (which we did) or do it yourself without.  The Latitude 38 which organizes such rallies as the Coho Ho Ho ( Seattle to California), the Baja-Ha-Ha (California to Cabo San Lucas) as well as a few others along the pacific coast, has a loose Puddle Jump rally.  It is through them we learned of these “Bond agents” that we provide their requested paperwork including information of our Long Stay Visa, and $240 +/-.  The bond agent then covers us so we do not have to purchase a one way airline ticket per person, from Tahiti to the US. If you do not use a bond agent, you are required to pay a bond so they can repatriate you (typically $1,000 usd).  This prevents you from becoming a burden on the country resources. If you do this, you will have to present to the bank the day of your departing the country in hopes of getting your bond back IN US DOLLARS as opposed to Pacific Francs which will be useless anywhere else.  Or you can purchase your own airline ticket and provide that information that you are planning on not staying.  Often, if choosing to purchase the airline ticket, a one way refundableticket is purchases at a heavy cost, placed on the credit card until you are ready to exit the country and then cancel the refundable airline ticket back to your card.  We did not want to hassle with the airline ticket, interest on the credit card cancellation, or any other confusion that could potentially pop up. The bond agent also has another lovely feature.  A certificate for duty free fuel. A 30% discount on diesel. As we had to motor some, we needed to refuel and our discounted price was about $4/gallon instead of $5.20 or so. We took on 60 gallons so there was an automatic $70+ savings. We will be able to use this certificate throughout the islands and before we venture off to the next country. We also don’t have the issue of interest during the several months while here or that amount sitting idle on the cards.  As all of our information had been sent to the Bond Agent ( we used Tahiti Crew) and they contracted with Sandra at HIva O’a Yacht services, our check in was extremely fluid and painless.  We radioed in to Sandra who gave us an appointment time. We met her on the dock and she drove us in to Atuona (45-60 minute walk) where we went in to the Gendarmerie (Police) and she translated as well as completed the check in process for us.  A young couple ahead of us were on the “do it yourself” plan and appeared to be struggling a bit more.  We were in and out within 10 minutes.  Sandra is also a resource for other things a cruiser might be interested in.  You can purchase internet time from her and use her lovely benches under a protected awning on an outcropping immediately across from a visible cell tower. She can take your laundry and have it washed/dried/folded and back to you within a day or two for approximately 300pf/kilo.  And if you are interested in island tours, she knows someone who can do that to.  Of course, if you are fluent in French, you can easily find some of these resources yourself.  Most of the reading of other cruisers accounts in Hiva O’a seem to share. The same theme.  This is a place to get your initial check in, necessary re-provisions, fuel and move on. Hiva O’a has a few notable sights that sound interesting. If the roads are passable, then a tour or rental car to the islands tiki which is reported to be the largest in the world.  There is also the burial site of the famed Jacques Brel (who I am not familiar with) and painter Paul Gauguin (who I am familiar with). However, remember what I have said about ‘marina days’?  Once our check in was complete, it is back to the boat and work.  With the rains frequent here, their winter, we can anticipate being able to get much of the salt rinsed off that has accumulated for the past month at sea. (okay, 24 days). We were unable to work on the stainless (which I want to say for the record – is NOT stainless!) rust that was beginning to creep insidiously out from any joint or heavily wave sprayed area.  The cushions were mired in salt water and tiny patches of mold began to appear. We had just made water and could use that as well as the adjunctive rains. Out comes the vinegar and scotch brite pads, denture and tooth brushes, stainless wax and clean cloths.  John took the cushions to shore and used the tap water that is fresh but not potable to clean and rinse out the custom cushions. Various little stuff on the boat, a nice thorough cleaning and vacuuming inside the boat including opening up of all cabinets to allow fresh air throughout, were done. We had sent our laundry off with Sandra who promised to return it on Thursday or Friday.  Tuesday and Thursdays she goes to get the fuel certificates and ours would be ready on Thursday.  Our plan is to fuel up on Friday and leave Saturday.


Wednesday (July 12, 2018) we did more boat work, tidying up, replacing small things and soon John was muttering “Pizza, pizza”.  There is evidently a pizza restaurant/hostel at the beginning of town AND  they have internet!  So off we went.  We were able to hitch a ride into town with Christianne and Feliz.  Christianne’s brother is a doctor, a “female doctor” or a gynecologist but when he is working here, he is the ONLY doctor on the island. They were on their way to the hospital to pick him up.  Her broken English was enough for us to have a bit of conversation for the ten minute drive. We arrived at the hostel around 4:30-5pm.  They do not start serving until 6pm but would allow us to use their internet. Wow.  As slow as the internet is, and it is super slow at 2G (are we spoiled or what?!?), it was a breath of fresh air to catch up with posting photos and messages!  Well, more so for me than for John.  We moved to a table closer into the patio as the rain started in again, a virtual downpour lasting 5-10 minutes. Time passed quickly (or slowly for the internet) and soon we would be ordering a pizza “Royal” and two milk shakes. Our server was apologetic as she only spoke French but we were able to convey our order. I have to say, the vanilla milkshake I had was a piece of heaven!  I could have ordered two more and called it my meal. Cool, refreshing.  The pizza was okay, a soft dough pizza stacked almost an inch high with 4 cheeses!  There was evidence of some whole black olives, canned mushrooms (everything is imported here), and tiny little ham chunks. It was a change from what we have been having and we were only mildly surprised at the $35 bill.  Then the walk back to the marina, in the dark, and in the occasional rain.

Thursday (July 13, 2018) Our new friend on the Catana catamaran was having a problem with a broken hard top and came by to ask if we had any electric/battery drills and bits. It’s John. Of course we do.  John offered to help however the guy was certain he could do it with the right tools, he had the fix until the parts could be sent to him from Catana.  So John loaned him the tools and off he went. We would end up acquiring some of his fresh caught rainwater to use to top off our batteries in lieu of distilled water. We took the day off to go into town and see the cemetery up on the hill where the painter Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel are buried.  The sweet cemetery is used and it looked as  if some of the adornments were quite recent even if others with crosses and headstones were quite old, in the 1800-1900’s.  The resting places for Gauguin and Brel are simply a part of the mass, with a few fresh (plastic flowers) and trinkets, but not overpowering to the rest of the cemetery. In fact, if you did not know where to look, you could almost miss them.  We chose not to do the exhibits in town, small museums for each as Gauguin was 600CPF and I am not sure what Brel’s were.  We had walked all around the town, then up the hill to the cemetery and back and our calves/feet were tired from not having our usual five mile a day hikes in and around Mexico.  We stopped at a “hardware store” and raised our eyebrows at some prices before going on to the grocery store.  Here too, we saw prices that raised our eyebrows.  650CPF here and 600CPF there, with a 95CPF to $1usd, it was feeling like there was quite a few $6 items!  Everyone runs around with 3-5 baguettes sticking out of their bags so we picked up a few too (and yes, they are yummy) some eggs, a cucumber, cabbage, and tomatoes. We still have quite a bit of food, it’s really the snacks we are looking for.  However, a small snack size bag of Cheetos cheese puffs or doritos – you guessed it – 650 CPF. $6.50! Okay, I guess we will be eating a little healthier! We have heard and read that cholesterol and diabetes are big here. We picked up our tools on the way back to the boat, the gentleman had fixed his issue on his beautiful catamaran and repaid us with a bottle of chardonnay.

 

Friday (July 14, 2018) John used the dingy to haul diesel to and from the dock.  It took 6 trips and he was tired. While he did that, he sent me up to Sandra’s at the point, sign on to her internet and get caught up with the blogs so you all would know where we are, that we are doing fine, and to do what we intended which was share some of the beautiful things we are seeing with you. There is no snorkeling or diving here as there is black sand and according to the guides and the locals, it is dangerous and should not be done. We knew we would have more opportunity as we visit some of the other islands, and especially in the Tuomotos, so don’t be disappointed now.  French Polynesia has some of the best untapped diving in the world.  I have a friend looking into the black sand and what the rationale is for this.

 

Saturday (July 15, 2018) More sprucing up of the teak that was cleaned the other day, oil today.  We have decided once and for all to forgo the water pump for our water. So it came out.  We picked up our laundry today and it is fresh and clean. So nice!  John thinks it was 11kilos or around 23 pounds. Price came out to be $35 and honestly, I could not have done the bedding easily, so I was quite fine with the price. I doubt it would be much less in the states.  John also took a dingy spin with another cruiser we met (SV Kokopelli- Brian and Mizzy) as he was having outboard issues and had hoped that the guys on the dock had fixed his possible carburetor issue.  Today it didn’t seem as successful as yesterday. As the anchorage is super rolly for the past few days, and SV Kokopelli is heading to Fatu Hiva as well, if he is still having issues and the anchorage is calm, John has offered to take a look at it.  It is the same 15hp engine that we have.   This should surprise no one that he is finding more mechanical things to do than what we have…..

Our plans are to leave at sunrise Sunday morning, for the winds are from the E SE and we will be leaving for Fatu Hiva. Fatu Hiva is more remote (read – no internet) and is the southernmost of the Marquesas.  Less than a thousand people live on the island. This is considered a “MUST” stop for all cruisers.  Look it up on the internet.  And look for dinosaurs coming out of the lush green landscape! Waterfalls, white sand (where you can snorkel/dive) and on the cover of many magazines.

Au Revoir!

 

Extra stuff- for those who want a little more than day to day.

It seems very few locals speak English here, but those that do seem to enjoy practicing what they know. We don’t have the “buen dia” from everybody that we meet, the eye contact, or the smiles that we had in Mexico. We also don’t have the “almost free for you today Amigo”.  Sometimes it is hard to hear French and not want to respond in Spanish as we became more accustomed to hearing it.  Perhaps that will change too.  I did pull a couple of basics out from my junior high French.

Is this really “Paradise Lost”?  If so, we are also looking to find some things.

Firstly, a list of what we “lost”.  During the crossing, a sail flogging must have loosened a sheet (line)  enough to catch a dorad (those white or silver periscope looking thingies on the cabin tops- used for air flow into the boat), and when immediately tightened, flung said dorad off into the sea.  This was not noticed until the next morning. A gaff hook (big metal hook to help with catching a fish) on a boat pole that also did duty as part of the brush system for cleaning the boat.  It normally stayed hooked on the railing along the cabin. Again, during one of those crazy nights, how it did it we are not sure, but it too was gifted to Neptune.  Then, one night as John was on watch, he was turning off the hanging Luci light, a delightful invention of a blow up cylinder with a light inside and a tiny solar panel on the outside that recharged it, when he felt something unusual. The on/off button close is close the removable strip that allows you to move and hook the Luci light on to things- turning off the light and the light letting go in the darkness gave another gift to Neptune.  Then, while we were cleaning stainless stanchions around the boat, the two fenders we keep at the bow were hanging over the bow.  Not our normal practice but it wouldn’t hurt I guess, as boats are snugly packed in the anchorage. Again, a monsoon and some swell, and we were minus a fender. A search of the bay and the beach and the port area showed nothing.  As the tide was going out, perhaps our fender was riding the tide.  We even looked at other boats in the hopes that someone might have picked it up and we could plead our case over possession.  Then the credit card. Excuse me? That doesn’t seem like a “boaty” item to lose like the others.  (Actually- credit cards are very necessary in the boating world where everything seems to cost double for having the word “marine” on it!). This time, it was in the pocket of the captain who thought after hauling 12 gerry cans of diesel (6 trips) and he thought he would take a quick “dip in the pool”, forgetting his credit card was there.  Another search of the rocks, the bay, the beach following the tide showed nothing but a very odd fish creature struggling with food- either small shark or stingray wing was flipping and dancing in circles. Credit cards appear to sink in water and we have two for that account, his and mine. We are now down to one.

French Polynesia! or so we thought….. Socorro Islands!

Passage to French Polynesia (or so we thought) with a sail/dive by of Socorro Islands.

Day 0 (2018 May 21)

 

CT 54 Ketch
Dave & Allison

It’s odd to say day zero however, zero is a good descriptor of what happened.  We were up with the final touches on Sunday evening, Today, which should have been day one, is when we have the Port Captain (immigration) board, grant us our zarpe (Mexico exit papers), and we would be on our way.  Our appointment was for 0930.  John was finishing up some tasks while our friends made us breakfast. He would wait for the Port Captain on Bella Nave while I would have a lovely breakfast made by SV Epifania and wait for his call.  At 10am, there was still no Port Captain.  At 1030 there still was no Port Captain, so John went to the marina office.  There was some discussion back and forth, and the marina secretary called over to the port captain’s office.  Between the two offices, it would be a miscommunication that would translate into a one day departure for SV Bella Nave.  Ugh. Seriously?  It is frustrating when you have all the accoutrements of a major passage culminating in a thud of nothing. There is no use fretting as it would not change anything, and we would still have a good weather window by leaving tomorrow.  We had enjoyed dinner aboard with SV Epifania on the previous night (Sunday), a 54ft 1979 CT ketch with an interior so grand, it begs to have Scarlett O’Hara on its grand staircase.  In this case we have Allison, who is a perfect substitute! Our Southern belle hostess and host delighted us with a pasta dish and wine, stories and laughs.  While we would miss our new friends, we are anxious to finally be on this part of the journey.  Meeting other cruisers like Allison and Dave are part of the wonderful experience. To see more of SV Epifania, a 54ft CT Ketch (1979) and also a Robert Perry design as well as our wonderful hosts – Allison and Dave- go to SV Epifania on Facebook and Instagram.

The official “get the heck out of Mexico” or clearing out of Mexico- tarps, stamps and all!
Allison and Dave throwing us our lines! Thank you guys! Wish we could have had a longer goodbye!

 

Day 1 (2018 May 22)

0930- the Port Captain arrived by boat to where Bella Nave was docked.  Small in stature and usual Mexican politeness mixed with formality today. He spoke little but I heard him inquire “Passport?” regarding our boat model to John.  John confirmed that it was.  He boarded and declined our offer of coffee or the cookies we had set out. He was satisfied with a glass of ice water.   He and the boat driver/assistant (dressed in all white) chatted at length in Spanish.  While we are not fluent, it was obviously not business related and we understood enough that they were talking about wives/girlfriends and how long they were dating/married, where each other lived, and all laughter in between.  This added time to the paperwork process and we politely waited.  What could have taken only fifteen minutes was drawn out to forty-five minutes. Finally, it was time for the stamping of the papers.  The Port Captain stamped with his stamps and motioned for our boat stamp to also use. This would be the first time we have officially used ours.  He did not speak any English and his understanding seemed also minimal.  This was new for us as well.  Once the papers were signed and officially stamped, a young woman arrived in an almost hurried fashion.  Pleasant and smiling, something about “Agriculture” and boarding.  She quickly boarded and walked quickly from the companionway to the head and back, less than one minute total and she stepped off, conversed with the Port Captain and I am sure must have signed something. I asked if we may take a photo, since the pomp and circumstance and business appeared to be over.  They patiently stood next to Bella Nave before the Port Captain mentioned leaving. Him? No, us.  “Oh yes, we are leaving within the hour!”  We would return the keys to the marina, drop our final trash, say goodbye to our friends….. and yes, I was hoping to sneak up to the Starbucks, and be at the helm with my final coffee.  He made a stern face and furrowed tiny eyebrows.  Nope, their plan was as follows:  sign the papers, be cleared with Port Captain and Agriculture, we untie the lines AND LEAVE!  NOW! They would watch us leave.  Nowhere did we read that this would happen!  Our friends were not aboard their ketch for us to say “we are being kicked off the dock now” but they did find John as he ran up the dock to return the keys at the marina.  We gave a quick hug and he started up the engine, they undid our lines and threw over the lifelines and we motored out – with the Port Captain, Agriculture, the assistant/boat driver in the Port Captain’s boat just yards off our stern, photographing our leaving!  I would love to know what that was all about.

And just like that, we motored out of Paradise Village and into Banderas Bay.  We planned to meet other new friends from Paradise Village, Nic and Phil, who are aboard Paradigme 2.0 and on their way to Socorro Islands. I had met Phil originally while John was away to San Francisco picking up our visas.  It was 0230 in the morning and so terribly hot still, I had finished putting away our provisions before his return and felt I needed a shower before I could fully sleep well.  The showers were locked and I was frustrated to have made the trek for naught.  On my return, I saw the glow of a computer, the Apple insignia easily recognizable.  Not wanting to startle whoever was onboard as I was coming up, I said “Well, it looks like two of us are still up at this hour!”.  I spoke briefly to Phil that night, who is photographing/videoing/editing the YouTube video for his friend Nic.  Both are from the Quebec area.  We talked briefly of plans and he was thrilled to hear someone else would be visiting the Socorro islands and wanted to share information of dive sights.  Soon after this late night/early morning encounter, we would be conversing a few times with both guys as we did final preparations on Bella Nave.  As they left on Monday, the same day we originally planned to leave, they were a day ahead of us in travel.  Through their iridium and my cell phone while I had service and then through the Iridium only, they conveyed the current sea state and wind conditions they were encountering.  They had light winds in the beginning, motored some and then had a wonderful sail. We were looking forward to the same.

Through the Iridium Go, we were able to maintain contact with Paradigm 2.0.  They were having a lovely sail and heading for San Benedicto of the Socorro Islands.  We shared gps coordinates to meet.  Bella Nave is fully provisioned with fuel and food for us to spend a week or two at Socorro Islands before sailing on to French Polynesia.  Our water line is setting pretty heavy and she isn’t built for speed regardless, the extra weight slows our travel a bit more.  We motored out of Banderas Bay.  We sailed with light winds and did motor some through most of the night and into the next day, there were no whales to be sighted as the humpbacks have migrated north.  We didn’t have the pleasure of dolphins for me to count.  We had a line thrown in the water with a squid like lure that everyone else seems to be raving about.  This was probably the most non-descript beginning of a trip, except I had this unnerving feeling in my gut.  No explanation, everything was going as planned.  For whatever reason, I just couldn’t shake being anxious and having to talk myself through it.  Everything will be fine, we have planned intensely for this day.

 

Day 2 (2018 May 23)

Day 2 found us sailing more and motoring less.  This is a good thing when you are a sailboat!  Our intention is not to motor to the Socorro Islands or to French Polynesia. Captain John follows the weather patterns daily, not only for what is currently happening but also for predicted wind patterns.  We have a couple of primary wind models that we use, PredictWind for offshore and Windy for closer to shore as it takes in to account the land effect on wind.  Both have served us well and it is always a matter of timing, hence the adage “you can have location or time, but you can’t always have both” when having friends visit for sailing. He also pulls down the GRIBS for weather patterns offshore.  The wind is becoming more consistent and we are still trying to figure out a schedule of shifts or “watch” that suits both of our needs.  3 hour shifts never panned out. 6 hour shifts are wonderful for sleep but can be taxing and we never would consider it in rough weather. Perhaps a combination of all of these would be our design. To this writing, we still have not found the perfect combination but I bet we will by the time we get to French Polynesia!

While John was off watch and napping, I was in the cockpit when I noted a rather large airplane off the stern.  It caught my attention as I could see it was flying low and I knew we were far enough off Puerto Vallarta  that a commercial airline would be at a much higher cruising altitude.  This seemed much larger than a private airplane.  I turned my attention back to the instruments in front of me when I heard our VHF calling out in Spanish (there is constant chatter from the Mexican Navy, ships,  fishing vessels in Spanish- late at night they get bored and can be heard whistling or singing on channel 16!) that went something like this…” blah blah blah Bay-ya na-vay”. I second guessed myself that I heard what I thought was our boat name in Spanish.  We have become accustomed to hearing it pronounced correctly in Spanish as opposed to our English version.  When I heard it again, I was sure that I was not hearing things and as I jumped down into the cockpit to head into the navigational area of the boat, it came across in English!  John must have heard it too as he was already with radio in hand and responding.  The Mexican Navy!  They wanted to know our captain’s name, boat registration number, last port of call and our intended designation.  We did NOT tell them Soccoro Islands or Las Isla Revillagigedos as the islands are considered Mexico territory and technically we could not go to the islands as we officially cleared out of Mexico. We told them French Polynesia as this was true.  (It was me however, who just could not stand the thought of being so close, passing so close by to the Socorro Islands and not diving!  After all, we even had the waypoints for the best dive sites given to us from our friends on SV Scuba Ninja, who were so lucky to spend a month out here diving!)  From a diving perspective, Soccoro Islands is “big animal” dives.  There is some macrophotography of little nudibranchs etc. but divers go for the Giant Pacific Manta Rays, the variety of sharks including Galapagos, Silky, and Hammerheads.  Whale shark and Humpback Whales, and even Orca have been encountered there.  Not to mention, playful and inquisitive wild dolphins.  If we didn’t do it now, I can’t imagine when we would ever have a chance again.  Liveaboards are the only way to dive the area if you aren’t on your own boat, and liveaboards can be expensive (but worth it!). The Mexican Navy seemed happy with our answers and flew on their way.  For what it is worth, the largest of the Revillagigedos or Socorros Islands has a naval installation.  Again, I found this very interesting.  I can understand Immigration not allowing me my last Starbucks so I don’t float anything illegal away, or run away and hide in Mexico.  But could they have called out the Mexican Navy for a follow up with the fly by?  Was it just coincidence?  They had our boat name from the first circle around us, I am assuming.  Were they comparing records to see if we gave them different information?   Was I a bit paranoid and it was all just coincidence?  Soon they were gone, my questions unanswered and gone, and only the seagulls were left.  Seagulls that flew awkwardly close, circling several times but never landing, peering in the cockpit and holding our gaze for periods of time that seemed longer than they should.  Were they that brazen? Desperate? Soon, they were off too and we were left with the waves swishing off the side of the boat.  It is very peaceful.  The rocking of the boat does not raise my stomach as it does some.  Instead, I find myself lulled into a peaceful nap with the warmth of the sun gracing my skin, the wave sounds teasing my ears with continuous repetition.  Yawn. I am feeling it again!  The winds are now settling in and we are sailing the dream finally.

Day 3 (2018 May 25)

For whatever reason, it appears the shift in our watches have me seeing sunrises.  I have found that they look much like the sunsets only they happen much earlier in the day.  And they sneak up from behind the wheel.  They are quite lovely but do not quite compare to the sunsets.  The sunsets captured out on the ocean are simply spectacular.  Why are they so different than land? Perhaps more open canvas and it is up to the ever changing clouds that paint a different picture nightly.  Excitement abounds!  I heard some strange noises last night, something I wasn’t accustomed to hearing lately.  The loud exhale was evidence that we had some guests, and in the moonlight (not quite full), I could see sleek black but very large bodies alongside the cockpit.  Were they very large dolphins?  What else could they have been?  One was close enough that I could almost touch with a ten foot arm.  Oh how I wish I had longer arms!  The seagulls still  follow us, still coming in so close it appears they plan to land in the cockpit with us, they search us with their eyes and then take off, only to circle us several times.  With each time, they peer in through the stainless railing, perhaps seeing if we have left yet. The water has become the most perfect and beautiful cobalt blue.  It mirrors the cloudless sky. We have another day of sailing, up wind so it is a bit of a bash.  We have been told by several cruising friends that the diving is amazing and we have seen their videos and know it to be true.  If you have a few minutes at the computer now and have access to Facebook or YouTube, look up  SV Scuba Ninja or SV Liahona.  Both have excellent videos including drone footage of where we are heading.

Day 4 (2018 May 26)

In hopes of catching a tasty Wahoo or a beautiful Dorado, I have our trusty fishing rod and line out. No, per tradition, I did not kiss the lure before throwing it out there.  Maybe that was the problem.  No bites. None.  Well sorta. You see, those seagulls….. yeah, one of them must be a little nearsighted.  Let’s say it is a he.  He saw the lure, went in for the dive, realized at the last second it was fake, tried to pull out of the dive, hit the water in front of the lure, and somehow caught the line instead.  That’s when it started.  I heard the line go zip zip zip…and could see a seagull flapping in the water!  It wouldn’t fly away, and now I would have to pull him through the water, something I am sure is considered to be tortuous like waterboarding, but I had not choice.  I called for John and he jumped up and grabbled the rod and quickly began reeling in the water logged bird.  Not wanting to drown the bird, we didn’t want to lose the lure either. Now, that having been said – we know from friends past experience of catching pelicans this way (we still laugh about the Pelican Whisperer, who caught not one but TWO pelicans in in the same season!) that if you get them on board, likely they will understand you are trying to help (or be so exhausted they sit there) and if you cover their head (which this bird hated) then you can do what you need to do.  The silly gull did attempt to hold on to a a line with his beak but John would still need to do a lot more gull aerobics to get the line unwound from his feathery body.  Eventually, the deed was done, he sat there a moment (the seagull, not John) and then took to flight.  He made three circles around the boat and then flew off into the distance.  He was probably getting a good look at this thing called a boat that carried the thing that ensnared him to make a mental note of not making that mistake again.  Sadly, no fish and no seagull.  I heard they do not taste good anyway.

Still sailing, the islands are off of Mexico, I think our hope of three days was to grand.  SV Paradigme 2.0 is still a day ahead of us but have not reached the island yet.  They are reporting good winds.  We are “beating” into the wind, the boat is pointed into the wind as close as it can go and still keep the sails filled, not flapping wildly, and yet still giving us forward momentum.  Even as we point up towards the island, the currents of the water have us drifting slightly sideways from our direct course.  At some point we may need to tack, backtrack a bit, tack again to be on course with our destination.  John has noticed that our autopilot steering at certain points is jerking in such a way that it causes him concern.  He often heads below, leaving me on watch, so he can “fix” things.  I trust him with all things that are boat related, his ability to assess and diagnose as well as repair, and even underway which always makes me nervous. I have noticed that I still have moments however, where I just want to be off the boat.  I noticed these first when we were leaving Banderas Bay.  Even I can’t describe them, but it was similar to “I just want to get off the boat.  I want to stand on land”. I have no idea where these thoughts came from and found myself having to quiet my mind, redirecting my thoughts and reframing my words. It finally seemed to have passed by today, maybe when we heard from SV Paradigme 2.0 that they had arrived to San Benedicto.  Nic, the captain is a free diver and said the water is pretty amazing.  I can feel the excitement increasing, drowning out any worry of the autopilot and whatever those silly other thoughts were.  One more night passage!  This will have been our longest passage to date.  Four nights.

Day 5 (2018 May 27)

WOW!  Just wow!  John saw it before I did.  His eyesight is more keen than mine and it is a trait I wish I had.  However, when my eyes granted me the image of the difference between land and sea, my excitement grew tenfold!  Out in the middle of miles and miles of ocean.  Amazing variations of blue between the sea and sky, now we have tan and grey.  Slowly, its rounded contours come into focus as the colors change to rust, grey, and black. It is time to start preparing the boat for the motoring in to the anchorage area.  It is late morning.  John is anxious to take apart the autopilot.  I am anxious to get in the water.  We see Paradigme 2.0 anchored.  We tuck in as close as we can, drop anchor in approximately 30ft and Bella settled in nicely. There is some swell but not uncomfortable.  The water is in the 84F degree range. We hail Nic and Phil on the VHF and suggest we are called something else, should the Mexican Navy happen to hear our name and pay us a friendly visit.  John starts processing the problem with the autopilot.  This old volcano system, isolated in the vast blue, sits stoic. The water can be heard crashing behind us as it hits the iron shoal and further inland, a small beach.  Nic has already free dove the point and has seen Manta and shark there.  That is one of the dive sites.  I can’t wait for tomorrow.

Day 6

Day 6- Everyone who knows John often wondered if he would get bored on the boat.  He is a machine of spreadsheets of projects.  His life is about checklists and satisfaction comes from checking things off.  A sailboat is actually therapeutic for him in that there is an endless supply of things that need to be done such as maintenance and upkeep as well as modifications.  Occasionally, there is the “pop quiz” and today’s pop quiz is electronics and sensors. Or known as the autopilot sensor. After he had checked from steerage to electronics, it was the only piece left.  A pod unit.  It would require opening, if for no other reason, to see what or why it failed.

Sometimes he needs his “alone time” to work through these things.  He is mindful that my sitting like a puppy waiting to be played with does not help with his thought process even if my handing him tools does.  I understand this and am thankful for his offer to get off the boat and into the water.  Nic has already free dove some areas and is ready to head back in for some video.  Phil will be the support boat in the dingy.  I would snorkel while Nic free dives.  John had all my  gear ready to go and if that isn’t an invite to get off the boat, I am not sure what is! The guys came by and we were off to the eastern point of the island.  Nic anchored and went in, I shortly after.  Immediately there was a shark below us who meandered off into the midst. I snorkeled closer into the shore line as the swell was pretty strong and there was some current.  Turtle. Fish. Rocks. Further up towards the point- a shadow.  The shadow was coming closer, a horizontal line, not like a diver. Again, like the island that began to form when my sight first allowed it, now my eyes were gifting me with what I longed to see.  I could not believe them at first but soon realized they were not lying to me.  This beautiful and enormous Giant Pacific Manta Ray glided towards and under me. Its underwater flight so graceful as it glided effortlessly below me, in a dance that only it can perform.  Giant Mantas are in a class with Mobula Rays, known as Devil Rays because of the appendages off their face that bring food into their mouths.  I see nothing devilish in appearance of these most gorgeous creatures, instead I see angels in flight, guardians of the deep.  My heart is beating forcefully in my chest and I know the Manta Ray must be able to hear it.  Is it my thrill of seeing it or was it the energy I exerted going up the current in an effort to drift back to the dingy.  I am not sure, for the sight of this Giant Manta has made me forget everything around me. Lost in its dance, I need to sight in the dingy as I do not want to lose my ride back!  I can’t wait to tell John of my prize and hope that his afternoon has been as successful.

John is gifted with anything mechanical.  He reads manuals like others read novels.  He is able to use his mind to construct anything.  Except today.  He has full understanding of our autopilot, down to the tiny pod sealed by the manufacturer and why it doesn’t work.  There is no possible way of fixing it, it simply needs replaced. This sentence carries with it hours of discussing pros and cons to our course.  We have  options. (1) We could continue on to French Polynesia, using the wind vane for downwind sailing, which much of it should be especially after the ITCZ.  Until then, if we did not have the right wind, we would be hand steering again.  In French Polynesia, we would not have the luxury of the autopilot to use while remote island hopping for a few months before finding Tahiti where we would possibly be able obtain parts, if we could even find that specific pod or we would have to locate and have it sent/imported to us.  That holds a large unknown and regulations suggest that any repair part must be done after  you clear out of French Polynesia.  (2) We could go back to Cabo San Lucas where we have an importer already set up to receive things in Mexico, if we can find the pod and order the needed part, refuel and jump off from CSL, almost due southwest to start catching the trade winds. Of course, we would be taking a chance on our weather window closing down as it would now be the first of June  when hurricane season kicks up action.  We would very carefully watch the weather and even make use of  people on land to also watch weather patterns. (3) Of course, we could also set the boat up in a marina of a generally protected area such as Mazatlan for the season. That would be an expensive option and what would we do? Would we come back to the states and work to fill the kitty again, and not melt in the heat of the Mexican summer? We have friends and family who would gladly open their homes to us and we know this and so appreciate it.  Would John stay with the boat, work remotely and I would return to work in the states? What would become of our Long Stay Visas that have an expiry date and we put time and money into obtaining for this season? We can make the best plans but now we have an opportunity to adjust our plans.  There is a saying  “you can’t change the wind, but you can adjust your sails”.  That is what we will do.  Time to adjust our sails and it will be to return to Cabo San Lucas.  Option number one is off the table.

Day 7

Day 7 The swells are increasing on this side of San Benedicto, so we decided to move to the southern anchorage.  Tucked in closely, we are protected from the swell but not the dust blown by the wind. We can feel the grit everywhere.  It is covering the rigging, the boat and finding its way inside open ports and hatches.  However, this side provides an even more spectacular view of the one of the two volcanic cones and places the lava flow to our starboard as we face the island.  Grand, harsh, ominous are all words that flash before me. There is another large privately owned 90 foot boat also diving here.  We anchored well inside of them as is Paradigme 2.0.

Now that we have decided that we will return to Cabo San Lucas for the needed part. John will coordinate with a friend back home to locate and order the part, have it shipped to the importer and delivered to Cabo San Lucas.  For us, it will be approximately two days (two overnights) travel. We will go into the very expensive marina for one night, allowing us to fix the sensor as well as remove the ancient ash and dirt combination from our already salt encrusted rigging and boat, cleaning both inside and out of the boat, laundry, refuel before turning around and heading back out into the anchorage.  Remember, I am not a fan of ‘marina days’ as the workload increases! There is a small force building in the south but it is not projected to be weather issue as of yet.  With our decision made, we can focus on why we wanted to stop here in the first place.  In the back of my mind, I am aware that stopping for a “dive” trip was actually a blessing in disguise, even if it cost us time to continue our journey to French Polynesia.  Still, the Manta are calling me.  Our first dive was less eventful than my snorkel because the water clarity had decreased tremendously. Algae was prominent and filling water space while we looked into the now greenish hue of water.  I am happy with all of our dives, yet I do tend to rate them based on clarity, comfort, and of course what we find in the water.  So while the water wasn’t as clear, we did see a turtle who really was about his business and not hanging out to greet  the newcomers.  There was a few sleeping White Tip Reef shark which are nice but not wanting to interrupt their sleep, we took a few photos and moved on.  There were two large Green Moray Eels sitting nicely in the rocks. These are all the usual suspects we see and I was hoping for more.  There was an octopus- now I am happy.  Octopus, like Giant Pacific Manta Rays are often seen feeding at night.  I am not a fan of night dives.  I have done enough but have grown lazy in the desire to “accumulate dives” that I dive every dive possible.  I dive for my quality and not quantity.  This is not to say others who choose to log as many dives as possible do not end up with quality dives. For me, I prefer my own quality of diving which includes being able to see well.  So to find this octopus feeding out in the open was a quality marker for me. Our dive was closing in to the end, a few other interesting fish, when off in a distance I saw a Manta coming in closer.  Closer, closer then it  veered off into the blue green murky water.  This was not the dive I envisioned to help take John’s mind off the podded sensor and our autopilot.  No matter what he says, I know it is always there  in his mind and he is always turning it over in 3-D and attempting to fix it even silently.

We are enjoying Nic and Phil’s company more and more.  Both are well spoken Quebecois, and we are learning so much more about their culture and them personally. They are intelligent and animated and they make us laugh.  Nic is starting up a YouTube channel and his friend Phil is the talented photojournalist to help with covering the photo aspect.  Phil has never been on a boat before and this shows more courage to me as he has readily jumped onboard and sailed up the coast and off to Socorros with Nic! Phil doesn’t particularly want to get in the water, especially when we come up squealing about all the shark we saw.  He makes excellent support crew!  He patiently waits in the dingy and motors to wherever we are or need.  We get together in the evening and review what photos or video we might have, tell stories and laugh.

Shark shadows

It was around midnight when John awoke and jumped out of bed. The sound of a generator hummed quietly. That’s not a problem.  Except that we don’t have a generator. Our forward head (toilet) in the bow end of the boat was lit up – yet we hadn’t turned on any lights.  He turned on the spreader lights which are located halfway up the mast and light up our deck,  as he jumped on deck and ran to the bow.  We had the large boat’s dingy wrapped around the our bow of our boat and the large boat was only yards from our boat!  Did we drift with an anchor not set?  Did we catch a rock with our chain not allowing our boat to swing freely? Was the large boat in danger of running into our boat? Their underwater lights cast an icy blue glow outlining the shark that were now in feeding on the smaller fish mesmerized by the lights.  He grabbed his mask, snorkel, fins and dive jacket and light.  He had to see if it was an issue with our anchor.  Our hand held gps showed that indeed, our anchor did not drag, nor did we.  If we weren’t held by a rock, then it was the large boat’s length of chain and lack of keel that would allow the large boat to act differently than the two smaller sailboats in this small anchorage. As you read, John gathered his gear and prepared himself to dive into the darker water where our anchor lay…and any shark on the way.  White tip reef shark – remember the sleeping shark?  They sleep during the day and at night their behavior changes to a feeding behavior.  While he was in, I stood on the bow watching the shark shadows move back and forth through the water.  Occasionally one would dart quickly, a little motion as the unsuspecting fish became a meal in the circle of life, then just as quickly return to the easy gliding motion. I wondered what I would do if he were bit.  Soon, I could see him at the swim platform of the other boat as he called out to the captain. The captain had already pulled their dingy in tight but didn’t feel their boat would move any further as John contemplated upping anchor and moving in the dark of night.  By morning, all the boats aligned back up as if nothing ever happened, and john was left with yet another night of broken sleep.

Day 8

Philipe Olivier-Contant
Nic Authier
San Benedicto

Day 8 – we have two dives planned for today.  The Boiler and depending upon current and swell, off the back of the anchorage or back around to where I first snorkeled after arriving.

Everyone who comes here is here to dive The Boiler.  Famed for San Benedicto as a premiere dive site, schooling shark can be seen here as well as the Giant Pacific Manta who come in to the cleaning stations near the rocks.  We rolled in to the water from  the dingy and I could barely contain myself.  Yes, another shark went by below us – furthering Phil’s rationale of why he preferred to remain in the dingy- but there was also a Manta just off our dingy and we were about to meet face to face!  I still had to get my equipment on and the hooks and latches just didn’t want to cooperate as quickly as I so wanted. So eager in my excitement to swim right off.  With GoPro in hand, I shot quick footage and then thought the best of it as it wouldn’t be as good as what I was sure to come.  I quickly erased it to make sure I had room for better footage later.  I would not be disappointed.  Sure, I know the guys were hoping for the Great Hammerhead sharks to come through, and yes, I would be excited too.  As a side note, the rays are considered part of the shark family, so I console myself that I am seeing shark when I see them too. But these Manta, these graceful, sweeping angels of the deep seemed to be called in by the boat engines.  Could a fish be so curious?  It is believed that they may enjoy the bubbles from the diver’s gear but there is something else when this 12-20ft creature glides by so close that it can touch you, looking at you directly with its eyes, studying you unafraid. At one point, we had four of these giants swimming circles around us, allowing us the gift of their presence.  One, appearing to play with John, came straight at him from behind where he was, unware of it, before it swooped straight up and over his head, leaving only a shadow for him to know what had happened.  As many dives require a night diving to see these sensual creatures, here I am, suspended in time and space with their choreographed dance as sunlight cascades around them. At one point, we had four huge Manta Rays circling us like a parade.  Absolutely magical.  For that dive alone, it was well worth stopping off here.  Now the greedy side of me, wishes we had come out here earlier and stay longer.  None the less, I am ecstatic for what I have seen.  We saw more of the usual suspects, including a Galapagos shark.  Our second dive would be off the back of the anchorage when we probably should have gone back to the point.  This dive gave us a few white tip shark and it was obvious the currents had changes for the water now had poorer visibility.  Either dive was not more than 80-90ft.  Nic did not free dive but instead also SCUBA’d with us. We carry enough equipment for four divers and that was a basic premise in planning of this boat.  Besides dive equipment, we also have a compressor.   Nic is a certified instructor and Phil would be our dingy support.    Our evening ritual of watching our video footage on the big flat screen tv and sharing of video and photos, stories and laughs continued that evening.

Nic and Phil only planned to spend a few days here in the Socorros before heading back to Cabo San Lucas and then back up the Sea of Cortez where Paradigme 2.0, a Bavaria 40, would be put up on the hard for the season and they returned to Quebec. We discussed buddy boating back and while we did not feel it would be an issue, it is nice to know there is someone not that far ahead.  We would be hand steering back and would plan for two and a half days travel. We would look forward to seeing them again in Cabo San Lucas.

Glimpses of dolphins and sunsets
Leaving Socorros Islands, heading back to Cabo San Lucas
The brilliance of our final sunset at the island

Paradigme 2.0 will be uploading some very professional video on YouTube.  You may even see us in one of the videos!  They are doing some beautiful videography and I encourage you to look them up.  Facebook, Instagram, and of course- YouTube and Patreon!

 

2018 Pacific Crossing! Woot! Let’s make some noise!!

Could the storms look more magical?
Seriously! These sunsets can’t be made up. Now I know what the famous painters saw.
And just like that. We have crossed to the Southern Hemisphere. 125W was our plan. Not bad at 126W.
We were used to 1-4 flying fish that made their way onto our deck at night. However, we had some crazy waves that broke over the bow and this guy came with one. Squid are crazy looking things. And I am happy to report that our lures look just like him! (or her)

You have a few choices! The longer narrative version or for those who look at something as “TLDR” (Too Long Didn’t Read) theory, the ship’s log is at the end! Enjoy!

Narrative Blog:

We finally left Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to begin our own “Puddle Jump” to French Polynesia and the Marquesas Islands and here it is, middle of June!

With all of the other 2018 Pacific Puddle Jumpers having left in March and April, we plannedon bringing up the rear by leaving in May from Puerto Vallarta. Even back then we had dealt with all the quizzical looks from others when we spoke of our departure date.  “That’s kind of late, isn’t it?  Isn’t that hurricane season? Everyone leaves in the spring, don’t they? Are you going to wait and go next year? “  We realized that our window of weather opportunity was closing with each week, however, our research of weather patterns and discussion with those either lived or sailed with a tremendous understanding of weather in the Pacific, assured us that leaving in the spring was not a guarantee of an easy passage either, that wind patterns such as Highs and Lows really don’t settle in until later months.  With the right amount of diligence it could be done. The ITCZ is a constantly changing band of lack of winds (Doldrums) that could be encountered in March, April or May.  It is really the storms that become hurricanes that we need to watch carefully.  With our paperwork for immigration and the approval of a Long Stay Visa secured a month ago, all that remained was us getting to French Polynesia.  We thought the challenge of our delayed appointments to San Francisco would be our biggest issue.  It would still be May, before the hurricanes really start ripping up the Pacific coast of Central and North America and we could carefully pick our weather window for departure.  We allowed time to spend a few days or a week at the Soccoro Islands, a bucket list item (and it would not disappoint) that was huge on my list.  Finally some worthy diving experiences which in essence was a big reason for being aboard our own sailboat after all. The Revillagigedo (Socorro) Islands would be a teaser of what was to be in our future.  We did not anticipateleaving San Benedicto with the return to Cabo San Lucas.  We did not planon having the autopilot fail. Most of all, we were thankful that it provided the red herring that would lead us to a bigger problem with the masthead pin. Having it fail on a downwind sail , our genoa, would be a huge detriment to our sailing.  We also knew that while we had the initial loss of a month in the islands, that we were not planning on whisking through the islands to get to New Zealand as many others would be doing.  Some planned to spend as little as a few days in each of the archipelagos! This was certainly not our plan. Neither was leaving in the middle of June.  John, the ever supply chain manager, worked his magic and procured the needed parts with shipment to Cabo San Lucas. We found that we had connections through other sailing friends should we need it. We weathered through Hurricane Bud and what our “escape” plan would be if needed. Every day was weather day and every day involved planning and decisions. Every day was a new plan. Plans are merely intentions, ideas made in the sand.

Now we were off!  A hot sunny day in the anchorage of Cabo San Lucas!  We said goodbye to the “boom boom” of the best of 70’s, 80’s, and current rap music aboard the tourist pirate ships, the day trippers, and the jet skis.  We hoisted the sails and turned toward the southwest.  Flying at 6.5-8kn, we were seeking to get west as a soon to be named tropical storm “C” and “D” were starting to form and begin their trek north up the coast.  We were fortunate that Hurricane Bud was downgraded and we didn’t receive more than a fresh water rinse of the boat and rigging.  We were hoping these swirling masses of weather would clean up the scattered winds and give us the southbound winds from their backside to help us fly south until we hit the trades..  We were flying at a 6.5kn on a port tack for the first few days.  The excitement of finally being underway.  John frequently scoffed that Bella Nave could be faster, could be more efficient if we weren’t so “heavy”.  The weight of being fully fueled, fully tanked with water, and the provisions for two months (wisely recommended is 2.5 times the food you would need for the time you are planning on being offshore), had him frequently commenting on the state of the boat’s sailing efficiency.  This is where he and I differ, I prefer to have as much as possible just in case and he is an absolute minimalist. He also eats three times as much and twice as fast. Fuel and water also weigh quite a bit, and although he won’t argue that we “need” the tanks to be full as we take off on this excursion, it doesn’t stop the frequent commenting.  Poor boat. So many expectations.

A few days in, after a couple of days chewing up the miles, over 130 per day, the wind fell.  We were able to set the sail pattern to wing on wing, where one sail leads off to one side of the boat and the other leads off to the other side. From behind or in front, you would see the appearance of two wings.  When the wind shifted direction but still light, we pulled out the A sail.  The A sail stands for asymmetrical sail. A light wind sail, it is similar to the brightly colored spinnakers that often are seen ballooning out in front of sailboats. Ours is red and yellow rectangles. I love the A sail our friend Tony inherited with his sailboat, SV Magic – a striking purple with a large hummingbird! Our A sail is pretty to look at, fun to sail, and very efficient in lighter winds. Sailing is about different sail plans (configurations) similar to the right tool for the right job- or in this case, the right sail for the right wind.  At a few days out and a few hundred miles into our almost 3,000 mile journey, we aren’t close to but we are adjacent to the Socorro islands where we were just a short time ago.  If only we could divert and spend more time there, however, that door has closed and we must continue on. More tropical storms are setting up and we still have an ITCZ to look forward to.

The rich frequent visits of sea life that we were used to in the Bay of Banderas isn’t here.  It wasn’t until four days out or so that we finally had a superpod of dolphins, more than 50 dolphins came up from every angle behind our sailboat, to surf beside us, diving in and around the bow so quickly that it almost appears we would run over one.  Their speed and agility guarantee that that will not happen. Our visit was almost an hour as they appeared to feed while playing off our bow.

We have never quite found a watch schedule that suited our needs.  This would be our test.  Typically watches are divided groups of time where one person is in charge of the boat while the other rests.  Sailing seems to be so easy, you just sit there, right?  Between monitoring the wind and current as well as sea state, managing the sail plan and navigation, watching out for obstructions and looking at future weather, well it isn’t just sitting in the cockpit getting a tan.  In fact, the weather can also have its effect from being hot, windburn, getting splashed as not all cockpit enclosures are the same.  I think you get the idea.  So three hours can seem like an eternity when you are “on watch”.  Three hours seems barely enough time to fall asleep, actually get REM sleep, before being back up on deck.  Then there are the “other” things such as cooking, eating, showers, and of course ‘fixing things’.  We have met others with the same dilemma and they have chosen to lengthen the watches to four, five and even six hours.  We thought we would try a combination of various hour combinations -with five or six hour stretches for sleep, and then dividing up the remainder in three to four hour blocks.  The goal would be to be consistent.  As anyone who has worked a night shift knows, you understand how changing the body’s time clock can be complex as well as challenging.  It is no wonder that we are becoming super tired and find ourselves frequently sleeping throughout the day…

Over the next few days we would be treated to another visit of a superpod of dolphins.  Again feeding, these super quick, extremely agile swimmers cover ground and seem to enjoy all the moments along the way.  We have not seen any other sea life other than an occasional sea gull.  We were fortunate that the wind has picked up, more southerly than we would like, southwest would be preferred.  I had in my mind that patterns of winds during the day and receding at night as it seems the sea’s would lay down.  That, however, is not the case.  The days seem super easy and as soon as darkness falls, let the madness begin.

Fishing has been minimal. We did have a bite and we could see the jump of a fish with a very long projection – a marlin!  It was approximately five or so feet and way more than we could eat and freeze.  We did not attempt to set the hook and thankfully, it coughed up the lure so it was a win-win for both of us.  We are fully stocked with meat and we do not “need” to catch a fish.  We planned to fish responsibly in that we would fish for something tasty but small that we could handle and make into a couple meals without waste.

We are both fastidious about our little floating “tiny house”.  I have made it a matter of personal pride to see that the bed is made every day, that the head (toilet) does not have any smell-able hint of what happens in there, and the rest of the boat is comfortably clean.  I am not opposed to using chemicals that make me feel that I have done my job well.  Especially since Pinol (Mexican version of Pine-sol) now comes in a wonderfully fresh flowery sent.  (Why, they even dressed their bottle so beautifully that after provisioning, John thought I had brought him some sort of juice to drink.  I often wondered if I need an MDS manual aboard!)  We are good about air flow and we are good about closing off that airflow if water may be moving across the cabin top. How many times had we heard stories from friends or read that “someone” (usually the husband) left a hatch open while underway, and then one opportunistic wave crashed into the boat and landed on the bed!  It was only a matter of time.  “Someone” forgot to check all of our hatches, and yes, we took some waves over the bow. Albeit a small hatch, but an open hatch none the less, and now our bed had become, initially unbeknownst to us, a swimming pool.  While bouncing like the original Atari game “Pong” as I moved forward in the boat towards the head, I was thrown into the direction of the bed (a Pullman berth) where I landed squarely in a very cold squishy quilt.  My spirit sank at that moment.  Never mind the fact that we haven’t been sleeping in the bed due to the port tack we were on.  Wait. If we aren’t sleeping in the bed, where are we sleeping? John made himself a nest on the port (left side of the boat) and what used to be my side of the saloon, now became his due to the view to the big screen.  I took the starboard (right) settee.  As we were on a starboard tack for a while, we pulled out the lee cloth so I wouldn’t roll off the settee.  This makes for a bit of a tunnel.  Now, add the fan right above me and I was very quiet about my little oasis!

It is hard to believe that we are two weeks (14 days) into this pacific trek.  We are getting into more of a rhythm and less is getting done. It is impossible to keep up with the stainless steel cleaning.  The Port tack we are currently on, our 6-7nm speed and cutting through waves make the task look unappealing as well as unsafe.  It will have to wait until we either have doldrums or our next port. As two plus meter waves continue to jump over the side and over the boat about every 15 minutes or so, it also seems a useless task at this point.  It is impossible to get a good feel for the wave sets as there is that one odd wave… it happens about every 10-15 minutes, from an odd angle that it literally comes sweeping the stern in a counter rocking position before twisting back countering itself, and haplessly tossing the inhabitants about inside.  This is the wave that we wait for and brace for. The windless days we had in the beginning are no longer.

So what do we do? Besides all the work involved with sailing, and sailing an older boat, we read.  I have currently read eight books and have 2 more left!  We will watch movies, both on the big screen as well as our computers. We are quickly running out of books.  We nap. Working on the computers down below? Blogs? Video? Nope.  We should. It is difficult to be down in the cabin, in rolling seas, looking at a tiny screen when it is so beautiful outside. We spend much time napping or reading.  Cooking is a sport as opposed to an art, and is not looked forward to.  We typically have one larger meal – evening or late afternoon – and snacking the rest of the day.  This really isn’t too much different than what we have become used to since having left Washington.  We chat, and the subject of the future came up. We have been discussing what options might be over the next couple years. Neither of us seem to have an interest in going around the world, yet there are parts of Indonesia/Micronesia that we would like to see and dive.  Do we sail there, see what we want to see, dive what we want to dive and then see if we can work our way back? We have no interest whatsoever in heading north to end up in Alaska to come back down the west coast.  That was not a pleasant run for us.  Do we try the horse latitudes? Again, watching the timing ever so carefully? That route would be 5200 miles. I can’t say that my heart is in that.  We would like to see Chile, Peru, transit the Panama Canal and into the Caribbean waters, but how would we do that and what might that look like? Sailing gives one time to think.

Next up is the crossing of the equator.  This pomp and circumstance event is surrounded by many ways of celebrating, I am not sure if some are just an excuse for hazing on the open sea but there does seem to be a few requirements.  First and foremost is asking Neptune for blessing to become sons and daughters of the sea and the tradition of becoming a “shellback” (think sea turtle) and sharing of a toast with expensive libation.  We planned to use tequila from the country we just came from and wine to symbolize the French who oversee the Polynesian islands.  We planned to swim a lap around the boat- sans clothing.  As far as eating something out of the garbage…..ick.  However, I did happen to save two lovely Starbucks cookies decorated like mermaid tails! Some might consider that garbage but it was something I would put in my mouth!  As it turned out, our crossing would appear right at sundown.  With the sea still full of rolling waves, and good wind, we were making decent, if not great speed.  It would not be safe or prudent to stop for a swim lap around the boat. So the event of stopping would have to be simplified and while our plan was to be somewhat grandiose, we hope that King Neptune would understand.  Watch for a video to come out soon, that will show what we did.  Meanwhile, I did take a selfie- with our GPS showing 0 degrees North and also 0 degrees South.  How crazy is this? I have just crossed the equator. On the Pacific Ocean. On a sailboat. Twenty years ago, if you would have told me that I would be doing this…..

King Neptune must have been okay with our ceremony as he sent a gift.  The next day, rather than seeing the usual flying fish – either in the water by the hundreds of a couple in our drain from the night sailing, John and I were sitting in the cockpit reading.  I looked up and off to the horizon as we were chatting about something when out of the water jumps a Manta Ray.  If it hadn’t cleared the water and waves, I might have second guessed myself. Instead, I knew it immediately but it happened so quickly that I couldn’t direct John to see it. Nor did it repeat itself.

We are about two and a half weeks into this passage.  Nights are still difficult. Everything seems different at night. Sounds are magnified. The waves feel larger. The sea seems more confused.  The days are pleasant, albeit confused seas and huge rolling waves in the cockpit do not seem to be as concerning as opposed to  trying to maneuver below with the boat pitching. For whatever reason, Port tack is more difficult than starboard for me.  John takes the brunt of the sail workload by choice. He straps on the harness to the jacklines and goes out on deck for the mainsail. No one goes out on deck without the other being there, regardless of who is on watch.  And we try not to make big sail plan changes at night but sometimes it happens.   During my watch, I try not to be a chicken little and cry wolf, however the management of sails seems to be brutal and I swear the wind waits until I am on watch as a cruel joke. We have been fortunate that our travel has been well timed with the phases of the moon so we have had great moonlight to travel with.  At night, on watch, the stars! Oh my the stars!  There are more twinkling lights in the sky than you can imagine.  What’s out there?  Who is out there?  Seeing the Southern Cross, seeing the Milky Way so clearly, you feel so small in this world.  The night’s beauty however, is paralleled with the color inspiring palettes of the sunrises, and even more so- the sunsets!  Each one different but each so beautiful.

July 9, 2018 – Day 24. The morning began with banging of sails and booms and rocking of the boat as during the night the wind angle shifted and the wind speed varied between 2kn to gusts of 20kn, but ultimately not enough to move the boat.  While we did not want to motor, if we wanted to get to where we were going and we didn’t want to swim/pull the boat then we would have to.  Ahh, the joys of an old diesel engine.  The revving of the engine sound without human assistance always brings the eyelids to close in the for of ‘what now’ form. It would result in the engine then slowing down and turning off.  No wind, bobbing in a thankfully calmer sea state than previous, the fuel lines are once again a culprit.  New fuel filters in place, and soon we are off again.  I make it sound so easy, but you really don’t want to hear the details. John queried if my fatalistic sense meant that we should not be arriving to our destination after dark.  No wind, engine issues…maybe.  It is never a good idea to enter an unknown anchorage after dark. He felt assured that we would be fine. In the afternoon however, that odd revving sound? Yes, it happened again.  And with another check and another fuel filter added, this time surely, we will make it.  As the night falls on the quiet pacific, we finish our trek with the iron sails. Land Ho! said I to no one around. john was still down working on the engine or something. It was 5:10pm and I could barely make out the shadow of an island against the clouds.  The sun going down made sure that we would have the final inspiration to go on.   It has been a long journey.  I immediately take account of things I could have completed during this 24 day trek across the Pacific Ocean.  Honestly, most days it was all we could do to read a book.  24 days really isn’t that long when you think about it on land. Just over three weeks.  However, in a constantly in motion, rolling either side to side or up and down such as riding a horse, it tends to take some of your energy.  At least it did for me.  I anxiously look forward to the morning, after a restful night’s slumber, to the sight of Hiva O’a and the green spires of the island.  Only 2500nm from Cabo San Lucas, MX and 2800nm from Puerto Vallarta, MX, I like to think that our trip was over 3000 as we initiated from Puerto Vallarta.  Cabo San Lucas was merely a stopover.  An out of the way stopover.

We arrived at night (again, I hate it when we do this practice) and even with his better than most night vision, the anchorage we planned to go in at Hiva O’a was black except for the swinging of anchor lights on top of the mast.  It looked rather like an evening Bob Dillan concert with lighters swaying.  We knew there is a practice of stern anchors and honestly, there were way more masts than we anticipated.  Too big of a risk to go in, So we dug in outside of Atuona in Baie Tahauku.  Yes, it was rolly with swells, however, it was 6-7 uninterrupted hours of sleep and that counted for something.  While my visual acuity was diminished by the darkness, my sense of smell was heightened.  I could smell land, the island, even when I couldn’t make out land lines.  I could hear the breakers crashing, roaring, loud and almost with a bang, however it was the scent of perhaps something burning, like leaves? Woodsy? But it wasn’t pine tree woodsy.  Was there a hint of floral notes?  I spent several minutes taking note of the aroma, the aroma that I would not want to forget.  I couldn’t wait until morning. Wait, I could. If it meant sleep! I have so many thoughts going on, however I think I need a day or two to process everything.

 

Summary list of TOP 3’s

Top 3 things I enjoyed –          1.         Weather.  Regardless of the wind/sea/weather, the attire did not require more than a swimsuit.

  1. Time to read.  At the end of this passage, I will have read 10 books and viewed a PBS mini series on the Viet Nam war.
  2. The colors of the sunset, the ocean, the gentle rocking.

 

Top 3 things I did not enjoy    1.         Attempting to cook  when especially rolly, but those extra weird waves. .

  1. Loud noises, especially at night when John was sleeping
  2. An opportunistic wave that would sneak it and cover areas leaving a wet calling card on my bed

Top 3 things I would haveDone differently

1.         Invested time and effort into making frozen, prepared passage foods maybe

  1. More fans in the boat?
  2. Taken more photos/video

Top 3 things I did not Expect

1.         How many countless stars are out there

  1. To see very little sea life – what a wonderful treat it is when you do
  2. How much we would be “heeling” underway and wonder why I prefer one tack over another.

 

For those who want a “shorter version”

Ships log:

Day 1-Left Cabo San Lucas, Mexico- Here we go- flying at 6.5-8kn! Heading south, after Hurricane Bud but also avoiding Hurricane C.  All of the 2018 Pacific Puddle Jumper have left more than a month ago.

Day2-Still flying at 6.5kn. Woot!

Day 3-Where did the wind go? Wing on Wing and A-sail plans.      Passing Socorro Islands- what a wonderful treat. Deb wishes we had more time there. Light winds, four sail changes by end of 24 hours. Going with A sail tonight. 12 knots true wind, heading of 250 degrees, crew tired but getting into a groove.

Day 4– Superpod (50-75+) of dolphins, wind frustration. A-Sail again and inconsistent winds. Garmin shows us going past some seamount of note.

Day 5– The marlin that would not be caught. Thankfully. 5 ft Marlin jumped and would have been way too much fish for us to handle or eat. Fish responsibly. Are we lucky enough to have wind again? South, not southwest. A-sail and 5-6kn. Deb super tired. (think Zombie) John sleeps during day. Clear, warmer.  Super blue ocean. Cobalt blue. Sailing south and looking at crossing ITCZ around 121 West now.

Day 6– Another superpod of dolphins. No whale sightings. I anticipated patterns of winds dying at night as the sea would lay down. This has not happened.

Day 7-cloudy, had first brief rainstorm and it cooled everything down to about 82degrees F.  Both crew are zombies now, thank God for monitor windvane.  Best crew next to the electric autopilot.  Wind changed last night and did not get good sail combinations for wind and sea state, so not much sleep had by either person.  We fixed that at first light and have been cruising along nicely all day. Super clear blue water, seagulls and a few dolphins.

Day 8– “somebody” forgot to check all the hatches before we took large waves over the bow.  A small hatch, but an opening none the less, allowed our bed to become a swimming pool! On my way forward to the head, bouncing like “Pong” the original Atari video game, my hand landed in a very squishy soaked spot on our bed.  If that doesn’t sink one’s spirits, I’m not sure what would.  Never mind that we haven’t been sleeping in the bed due to the port tack and that it is easier for watch to be closer to the electronics. Sailing wing on wing downwind all day. Heading into a large rain storm.

Day 9– made it past whatever the next named storm was to be. We sailed the outer rain band most of yesterday afternoon, last night and this morning.  Now working south and west in what is to be starting in the doldrums. Problem is we still have 2 meter seas and light wind. Bouncing. Crew is good.

Day 10- Bashing through the waves… still have wind.  We have been sailing close hauled for a day and a half.  Where are those trade winds we were promised.  We did find a good hole to short cut through an ever crazy and changing ITCZ.  Saw some sun for the first time in three days and we “think” the last of the big storms are behind us.

Day 11– What a difference a day makes.  We are in the ITCZ but still have wind.  We are making south as much as we can but have 2.4 knots of current/drift pushing us east.  We decided to take the easting to get south and pick up the south trades when we get there. I think every 10 knots south makes it 1 degree hotter.  93F outside in the shade.  Water temp 84F.  Everything dried out inside and out. Crew showered.  Big gentle rolling seas.  Full sails out and 8.2 knots true wind. Big cottonball clouds sprinkled about. Ghosting along.

Day 12– We had a textbook preventer system set up.  Just not a text book sail change to handle the 38knot storm winds. Lessons learned and will use an acetylene torch to straighten out the bent stanchion.  We started into the ITCZ last night and wind died about 9pm.  we dropped sails and drifted all night and slept.  Ahh sleep.  Today we motored and motor/sailed all day.  Made water, charged batteries, cleaned the inside of the boat.  Made cookies in the GoSun.  John did arts and crafts (boat repair).  A full day of reading.  Plan is to motor through the night and assess weather in the morning. Trying to get through the doldrums and stay south of the. larger dead zone that’s growing behind us.

Day 13-John posting updates daily on Facebook through Iridium.  We are unable to see facebook so we do not know if people are responding to our posts. We are at 6.47n 116.55w.  French Polynesia is 1400 SW in front of us, 1100N, Panama is 1400W. we are on the south edge of the ITCZ.

Day 14– Port tack, more frustrating for Deb, especially with galley on port. Wind and direction correct. 2 meter waves that every 15 minutes or so, rise up and sends  water sweeping over cabin , followed by a stern swaying maneuver. Not fun.  John now having read 2ndbook of Tim Dorsey.  He liked the first better, and quite often refers to it. Since passage started, I have read 8 books. Just finished “And the sea will tell” by Bugliosi.  Take Palmyra off my list of places to visit! Continuing on 6-7kn speed with winds of 12-20kn.

Day 16– Crossing the equator – appears to be right at sundown. Sea is still full with rolling waves, wind and we are making decent speed. This means the event of stopping for usual and customary pomp and circumstance for King Neptune will have to be simplified in spite of best attempts to be grandiose.  Cloudy, several rain showers that were welcomed. Had good wind then not, then wind, then not.

Day 17– A rare occurrence of seeing something other than flying fish, which we have on deck every day, was a jumping Manta Ray, narrowly caught behind us as we were having a conversation and I happened to be looking up from my book. We spend much time napping or reading.  Cooking is a sport as opposed to an art, and is not looked forward to.  We typically have one larger meal – evening or late afternoon – and snacking the rest of the day.  This really isn’t too much different than what we have become used to since having left Washington.  Woot! 786 miles to go. We figure on landfall Sunday.  Total trip is 2603 miles as a crow flies but boats aren’t crows and we have already sailed 2023 miles.  So there are a few zigs and zags in there.  17kn of wind and sunshine.

Day 18– Nights are still difficult.  Pleasant days, albeit confused seas and huge rolling waves in the cockpit do not seem to be as concerning as when trying to maneuver below with the boat pitching.  For whatever reason, Port tack is more difficult than starboard for me.  John takes the brunt of the sail workload,  by choice.  During my watch, I try not to be a chicken little and cry wolf, however the management of sails seems to be physically brutal. We have been discussing what options might be over the next couple years. 4 days to go.  Both are pretty tired today.  Last night had really confused seas.  Oh nd for all our fellow “Cooking on a boat” folks. Shouldn’t count at anchorages any more. Try this for three weeks in 2 meter seas going 6.5 nots.

Day 19– minimal rest, up every hour, boat sounds like it is coming apart, especially at night. We have been fortunate to have most of the moonlight we have had so far.  I have almost exhausted novels brought onboard.  I have now finished “Dead Wake” a historical narrative of the Lusitania sinking.  Typically not in my repertoire of reading, it was well written and I found myself looking forward to picking up the book.  I have saved one for after the crossing- one I have looked forward to since I found it in the La Cruz collection.  A reason for hope- Jane Goodall’s memoir.  Took a good rounding out of galley with a swell that turns the boat every 10 minutes or so.  Pan of rice/corn that I was going to save was the casualty.

Day 20– Finished Vietnam War -10 episode series by Ken Burns. Being on a boat gives lots of time to think. Better nights rest last night.  Best accounts are arrival on Monday or Day 24.  Typical days of Pacific travel from Mexico are day 19-24, so we are average. This will be to Hiva O’a, our check in for French Polynesia and the Marquesas.

Day 21– Spoke to soon. Deep swells engulfing boat in trough, waves crashing into cockpit, running with small amount of jib. We are both giving energy to being extra patient, which makes tolerating this constant pitching and rolling easier as sometimes it is sooo damn frustrating. The days seem so much nicer, even if overcast. The only time the engine is run, is when batteries need some level of charging and solar has not been able to do its job due to cloud cover. Not giving any interest in cooking. Three more days! Woot! Make some noise! Everything seems damp. We have found a few little leaks but also in areas that get pounded by the waves, primarily on the Port side. Do not like surfing down waves with hair on fire at 1am!  For whatever reason the waves get confused at night.  All day they are fine.  Night comes and the idiot zombie waves show up.  Sledge hammer here, plunge anchor in wave there.  Sounds like a boat beat down.  Inside the boat always sounds way worse and since most of the day is spent in the cockpit, it makes sense.  495 miles to go.

Day 22– The only thing consistent about sailing, is there is nothing consistent! The wind, the waves, the current.  Just when you have researched, and even on the move and you have everything dialed in, it changes.  The tack we are on hasn’t changed but the sea state has. The wind has increased, decreased, gusted and stopped, changed angle enough that speed was lost.  There is a constant attempt to “balance the boat” for maximum comfort and speed.  Our spirits are getting better, I think, mostly due to the fact that we are at end, not the beginning of this passage.

Day 23– Less than 200 miles to go.  Doesn’t seem like much. 4 hours if you were driving a car on the highway. By wind and sail however, we are still looking at a day and a half. Still, we are on the final stretch when you consider it has been over 2500 miles!!! It’s hard to fathom.  I did not know how long time would feel at the beginning of this trip.  Excitement can blur the realities of a vision. When everything is settled and things are moving along smoothly, it almost becomes mundane. This mostly due to the lack of sea life we saw. The frustrations of lack of wind, wind direction anticipated, unsettled sea state have now been pushed to the back. We are picking up on our reading of what to expect with arrival and destination. Now, in retrospect, it doesn’t seem like it was that long.  When people would ask how long it would take, I would give the standard 21-30 days. Some have done it in 19 days, others have taken over 30.  In my mind, I settled for the outside time frame so I am okay with 25 days.  I know John would have preferred the 20-21 day frame. I would say that the extra 4 days did not make a difference, however, there were 4 really uncomfortable days that I could have done without.

Day 24– Final day.  We will be seeing land today!  The wind – has died. The sails began to flog in the wee hours.  Batteries need a charge anyway. Making water today to be filled and ready for anchorage. No potable water available in anchorage and no marina to speak of.  Engine revving. Engine issues. No wind and changing not one, but two fuel filters! Really.  Tiny spaces, bobbing like a cork, John is not having fun. He even said so. With different words. Thankfully, he can fix this.  Task completed and we are underway again. A mere few hours later and the engine revs up and dies again. This would be the 2ndof the fuel filters.  Back on track again. 1710. 5:10pm. Land Ho!!!  A faint outline due to the clouds but there are the mounts of Hiva O’a! We will have arrived.

Off the path and……

behind the beauty.

We have been on this sailing journey since August, 2017.  Almost seven full months.  I have had a few texts and emails asking me about the trip thus far. I have had some opportunity to explore these experiences and feelings with a few of the new friends I have met along the way.  While each has a different story, I find comfort that many have felt like I have at some point.  I find it difficult from day to day to solidify where I stand.  Like the water under me, each day, each thought and where I think I stand, is fluid.

“I would love to hear your perspective on how the trip has been compared to what you prepared for or expected.”  Like a huge tree, each leaf represents a thought and they scatter like leaves in a brisk fall wind of my mind. I am sure in a year from now this will look very different.  How do I feel about the boat was prepared for our trip so far? My skills? Living a cruising lifestyle? What would I say versus what John would say? Sitting outside of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, I can say this – we prepared the boat well for most of the trip and the trip has been better than I imagined AFTER we made it past Santa Barbara and into warmer weather.  My mood is much better in warmer climes. So about the trip so far.  It still has that feeling of being surreal.  People describe cruising as a lifestyle.  I still feel like I am on vacation. More like a sabbatical.  Take my non sailing friends out of the equation, most of my sailing friends have years of experience on me.   I wonder if I will ever feel that level of confidence.  I have to laugh when occasionally I hear someone comment on how much I know about sailing.  I will refer to one of the notable nursing theorists on learning, Patricia Benner and her book ‘From Novice to Expert’, where I would place myself on the continuum of “just breaking even for the employer”.  I had theory before but now I have some application.  Sometimes your action in theory is not the same as you did in application, and you have to come to terms with that.  I still see myself as novice.  I haven’t reached the stage where I instinctively know how to act or can even teach.  I have so much to learn and sometimes it whelms me. I am more uncomfortable with my lack of confidence and yet confidence and ability aren’t always congruent. How long will it take to get there I am not even sure.  A few sailing friends have shared that they still do not feel confident and even dislike the discomforts of some sailing which leaves them feeling as if it impacts their ability.  I do feel I have a better understanding overall of how our boat sails and mostly, trust.  I have a trust in this boat that I did not realize until this trip. I look forward to a greater trust in myself.

I anticipated the sail from Seattle to, let’s say, San Francisco to be more sailing and warmer than what it was.  I thought we would have more consistent wind and have more sailing than we did. It seemed we motored a lot.  The winds were playful. Not consistent. Originally we planned on going further off shore than we did as we planned for 100 miles, however we were usually less than 30 miles offshore. I didn’t realize how many lobster or crab pots we would have to be watching for on the trip down. We settled in to watching our depth and staying just into the ranges of depth that pots shouldn’t be an issue.  Of course I then was thankful that US regulations are brightly colored floats instead of dodging clear soda pop bottles loosely strung as found in Mexican waters.  More than once, I thought I had everything sighted only to sit comfortably and turn to see a view and have a damn bottle go by.  Thank you Poseidon, we never caught any lines as we certainly could have.  I wondered what the trip would have been like had we gone further offshore, such as the 100 miles.  We found a couple of sailboats who did just that and they shared that they had ferocious winds of 30-40nm, 20-30ft seas, and made the entire coast from Canada to Ensenada in seven days! One boat shared that it was the scariest of times.  I no longer wondered if we should have gone offshore further.  I am sure I would have hitch hiked back from Ensenada.

We spent more money than what we would have liked on foulies (heavy waterproof outerwear) and yet I was so thankful we did. We do not have a fully enclosed cockpit.  We have a great dodger, a bimini with a connecting bridge to the dodger, and even some slight “wingurtains” but the rest is open to the night, the waves, the dampness, and the outside temperature.  Coming down the coast we experienced more fog, cold, damp than I thought and was so thankful to be warm.  Now, we have vacuum sealed most of our cold weather gear.  I was very happy to have it and happy to not have to use it now, even though it is taking space and was expensive.  It was more expensive in other ways than we planned as we came down the coast.  The marinas are truly a treat as we try to manage a very tight and limited sailing kitty (budget).  Eating out is easy but can be expensive – even in Mexico. It is easy to talk myself into eating out.  I hoped I would have hit the Mexican border being able to cook up a swarthy 4 course meal while heeling at a 25 degree angle and look like I just stepped off of a Vogue magazine cover.  Well, I can tell you THAT never happened! Neither cooking a great meal OR looking like a Vogue cover girl!  Obviously we spent more in fuel than we planned due to the winds and our time frame. Of course the upgrades or fixes for the boat that weren’t planned are always costly, even with someone who know how to fix things. This boat is solid and strong. A blue water sailboat.  There were a couple things that made me wonder how it was done thirty five years ago on this boat or was it just me being accustomed to the advantages of living on land.  One important item that required a fix was our freezer. It worked great in the PNW, where the boat was in 55 degree water…. Now in 85 degree water, it could barely put a frost on the fish we caught. Boat fixes cost and that bites hard into our sailing kitty. The old adage of a “boat buck” being a $100 or even $1000, or the acronym “BOAT” meaning Bring On Another Thousand rings pretty true.  It is true in the marine world, that add “marine” in the description is akin to adding an extra zero on to any price tag.  So we added a stand alone Engel freezer as well as insulating our current fridge/freezer box to prevent cold loss.  We added more solar as we really have sun now and it makes sense on our boat.  Those two necessary advances bit the kitty again. A different outboard for the dingy.  We wrestled with this expenditure, however in the end, we were able to justify it not just in comfort but safety as well.  In Mexico, we are finding that we need more shade covering for the boat.  That is our next project as well as chaps for the dingy.  I don’t want to live so cheaply that I cannot enjoy things.  Sometimes it is just reframing my thoughts of how I enjoy what I have.  Isn’t that part of what this adventure was about?  Could I have saved more money before leaving? Sure, but how much is enough? One of the biggest surprises was time, in that I really thought I would have a lot more down time. I haven’t really.  The guitar that I thought I would be playing back up for the Avett brothers by now? Not even close.  Those books on my shelf? Still waiting for me to open them.  My Spanish skills? Still only able to order a beer. Great, I don’t drink beer.  No, it seems that during the passage down the coast, if I wasn’t sleeping, then there is always something that needs to be done on or with the boat. My time seemed even more divided.  I am hoping this will align more to my original plans as boat projects lessen.

Here are a few more questions.

“How do you feel about your adventure now as opposed to before you set sail.”  I am still excited but maybe less outwardly so.  I prefer being at anchor for the peacefulness and privacy but being at the dock is often more social.  I love looking at boats and am thrilled to be invited on other boats.  You would think that all sailboats are pretty much the same.  Quite the opposite.  I have had the opportunity to visit other Passport 40’s (same as our sailboat) and to see the differences between the years of design changes as well as customization by owners.  Yet I notice that after a period of a week, I start to get impatient or antsy.  Part of me doesn’t want to rush through this journey but the other part says I am starting to settle in or become sedentary. There are parts of this sweet country (Mexico) where I think I could settle but not right now.  Before I left, it felt as if I was just telling a story to everyone as opposed to now, where I am living the story. It is definitely a lot more work to live the story. I even thought that maybe spending a year in the Sea of Cortez, exploring the pacific coast down through Mexico, Costa Rica etc. would be fun as I don’t anticipate we will ever be this way again like this.  I feel like I missed some of the adventure during the time I returned to see family and yet I would not have traded that time for the world however.  I feel like we spent a lot of on the move and yet at the same time, I did not want to become part of the “rubber band that pulls people back” to La Paz or La Cruz.

“How is your health, mental and physical, then to now?”  Let me start by saying this – no Starbucks!  Well, yes, I have seen a Starbucks in Puerto Vallarta. And there was one minor indiscretion in Cabo San Lucas.  I am sure my daily ‘frothy million calorie hot beverage poorly disguised as a coffee’ habit wasn’t ideal.  I am sure I shed a few pounds simply by removing myself from the country where they line the streets like fire hydrants. So physically, that’s great!  Financially it is superior! What does that do for me mentally might not agree! Seriously however, my eating habits have changed.  I am eating better foods for me, fresher foods and no junk foods to speak of.  Totopos? (Chips) Sure. But only loaded with fresh salsa or guacamole. More fish in my diet, especially if you count coconut shrimp dinners!  My coffee in the morning is harsher but I still use a creamer. We typically eat one large meal a day, preferably around noonish but often around dinner time. I still have my same eating habits in that respect.  It seems to work well with this lifestyle.  If you are underway, three big meals feels like a lot of work.  At anchor, snacking seems to feel better especially in the heat. I feel better about what I am eating and I have to put more effort into cooking.  It is challenging as I don’t have the storage capacity that a house affords you and in the heat, food can go ripe to bad pretty quickly. I want it noted for the record- my chocolate consumption has dramatically declined!  I know, that will shock a few people.  Give this a moment to settle in.  IF  we go to a large market for provisioning, I might sneak a snickers bar into the total purchase. This might happen once every 2-4 weeks! (I usually have to share it with someone who doesn’t like chocolate and that annoys me.)  I, myself, savor every melting bite.  My go to for a chocolate fix is Nutella, which now comes in a 950gm jar, thank you Ferraro!

Physically I feel soft. Less in shape than I ever was really. We walk wherever we go as much as possible.  We actually finally sold the bikes that we didn’t use.  Between my fitbit and my phone app, I usually log walking 5-7.5 miles every couple of days, more if we are anchored, less if on passage.  I need to find a way to do more weight bearing exercises on the boat or with use of resistance bands.  So physically, I feel “soft” but overall fine. I do have a couple of resistance bands on the boat but have yet to use them or turn the boat into my outdoor gym.  I use my kayak when I can.  I will say that I have lost at least 10-15 pounds.

“Is life on the hook what you thought it would be?”  Sort of? It reminds me of how we used to sail on the weekends with the 26 foot sailboat.  A lot of quiet time.  There seems to be more intention with any activity, maybe even more planning.  I think it has been easier for me than it has been for John, who is used to filling up his day with a checklist of things to do.  I am quite content not doing that.  The difference from before, again, is it was short term.  Being on the small sailboat for the weekend, for the week as a vacation was more similar to living on this sailboat at the dock and continuing to work. It was a gentle preparation but in reality, nothing really compares to once you are doing it.

“What do you miss most?” Family and friends without a doubt. The ease of ringing them up, meeting somewhere. I feel like I am missing out on the day to day stuff and when I come back, it will be a lot that I have missed.  Having cell service and access to social media helps heaps, but the cell service along the way has been poor, which makes me appreciate when I do get cell service and even wi-fi.  I miss having a steady income but I don’t miss what it requires to have it.  I think there has to be a balance.

“What do you enjoy the most now on the hook?”  I like the quiet time really.  It has been forever that I made reading an option and look forward to doing that now.  There were always “other things” that I needed to be doing. I enjoy being on the water with the sights and sounds. I enjoy my mornings with coffee and seeing activity in the water. In La Paz, it was the dolphins on their morning feeding ritual. In La Cruz, it was watching for whales.  I do enjoy the nature sounds.  I have enjoyed going on to desolate beaches and always hopeful for finding a sweet shell or a taking a great photo.  I love going into the small towns and exploring as well as people watching.  Many lead very harsh lives and without the comforts of 4G internet, smart phones, or even family having left the village.  I wonder if they truly are the lucky ones.  I enjoy being away from politics.  Doesn’t matter which side. Enough said.

”We are in more contact now than ever before, is that the same with most of your close contacts?”  Time has a way of passing quickly without a calendar or schedule in front of me.  Often, a text from someone is a welcome reminder that I should probably be in better contact.  Some are always in my heart even if I don’t text frequently.  There are a few however, that I am in more contact than ever because of shared interests.

morning landfall at Isla Isabel

“What would you like to have most that you do not have now?”  The winning lottery numbers.  Financial freedom.  Me, and everyone else, right?  I love what I have now, I would love to be able to share more of it with family and friends. And a good chocolate bar.

 

 

 

Let’s get outta here! Left Cabo San Lucas and what did we see?

 

View of SV Bella from the top

 

Bahia Frailes or Bay of Friars. November 7-9, 2017

This is a popular anchorage for those heading towards La Paz from Cabo.  SV Lorien (Chris and Julie) and SV Bella Nave have been partnering along this path since Cabo San Lucas.  They are an easy travel couple and we have shared tons of laughter.  They are in a Garcia 48, a pretty amazing aluminum hull vessel that gives us storage envy.  They are a bit quicker than us so often we are catching up when it comes to an anchorage.  We are fortunate that we have the bay almost to ourselves with exception of another sailboat.  We see a few pangas as there is a marine park called Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park north of us.  At the tip of the cape is a dive site however the water is currently poor with visibility and pretty windy at the point.  A call to the three dive operations confirm that they are not doing dives there for those reasons.  In the national parks like this, you are required to go with a company so we aren’t just putting in like we are able.  That’s disappointing as we haven’t put tanks in since Catalina Island. But that doesn’t stop us from enjoying the fruits of our travel!

The waves were incredible and we rolled around like little pebbles.

It’s a Beach day! Snorkeling!  There is a dive spot noted on the maps however the visibility today appears to be worse than previous day.  We snorkeled along the perimeter and found if you were too close to the edge, the surf would really push through you!  Before you know it, you would be on the rocks and the waves keep bashing you into the rocks. Below the water, it was surge and green visibility.  There were a few eels, Moorish idols and the expected fish.  Some coral is re-growing but it is mostly rocks and sand.

The wanted prize saguaro.
My cohort in crime, Julie
Cactus blooms
We made it!

Chris from S/V Lorien talks about Julie as always accompanying him on his risky adventures but he always offers her an opportunity to opt out.  I wanted to see a perfectly formed saguaro cactus off the pinnacle of the Frailes (Friars) and would have to hike to get there. Using Chris’s MO (Method of Operendi) “Hey Julie, you don’t have to go but I would like to hike up Cerros los Frailes.” It worked and off we went.  That was easy!  We followed what we “thought’ was the trail.  There are a few cairns but it appeared that we had lost site about half way up and were destined to turn this hike into a rock hopping and crawling expedition.  Hmmm….. we split our options and found neither of us had a good trail but neither of us were ready to call the end to this hike.  So up we went, further and further.  Lo and behold, we found a beautiful lookout view….but not the cactus.  It was a photographic dream and not only did I capture her in a few photos but the beautiful bay and our sailboats.  A few of the cacti had blooms even as we were in November.  As we returned, John reminded us that we neglected to tell him where we were going.  Chris smiled and knew that we would be okay.  And the cactus? We obviously didn’t mark our sites well as we hiked far above where the perfect cactus grew!

Like something from the moon, these rocks strewn throughout the sand.

 

Somebody’s lunch.
It’s not that we “have the option”. We made some choices.
SV Bella Nave’s was washed away but this was still cool.
Sea turtle nesting site – protected.

The palapas seem, well a bit lonely.  A few appear to be upside down, and well they just seem somewhat unattended.  A larger shaded palapa rests behind and cordoned off area of several nests.  A park ranger is there and offers quite good information and answering lots of questions.  The fish camp on Bahia Frailes evidently has had a history of not fishing out where they should be, and not removing their trash as they should have been.  As part of their fine, they have to perform community service by cleaning up all the debris (they have backhoes made available to them but we are unsure by who) and will burn off the dried limbs etc.  This area has been hit by two tropical depressions that have brought down the debris from “the hills”.

It is a pretty cool site to look out there at your very own sailboat.

Bahia de los Muertos 10 November 2017

Sunrises and sunsets – the keepers of the gold

“Deb, set the alarm for 4am.”.  So knowing John, I set the alarm for 0345.  He was up at 0330 anyway.  For whatever odd reason, I too, was awake.  At 0300! It was really warm inside, and at some point he mustered his way to bed.  I, however, remained fast asleep from my after dinner nap the previous night on the settee.  0400 didn’t hurt as bad as I anticipated.  So here I am again, making coffee and watching the sun rise at 0500.  We are fast underway as we had planned to not take a beating from the short but steep waves that have picked up several hundred miles of fetch as we did getting to Bahia Frailes.  Today we are heading to Bahia de los Muertos, or Bay of the Dead.  The developers are trying to encourage a new resort here and have changed the name for obvious purposes to “Bahia de los Suenos” or Bay of Dreams.  Frankly, I find the Bay of the Dead far more interesting.  We arrived to find 86 degree water (this is seriously the warmest water we have been in) and we watch the blues change from deep navy to aquamarine and then turquoise.  There are some rocks below and we come to rest in 16 feet under the keel to set the anchor.  SV Lorien is already here even though we left at the same time.  Two other sailboats are here as well.  We don’t recognize them from other ports, however S/V Lorien believed they were at Tortuga Bay.

Bahia de los Muertos

Anchors set, we have a bit of lunch while Chris and Julie swing by on their dingy.  The plan will be 1400 beach day and dinner at the restaurant tonight.  They are off to see what the restaurant is like and we are off to take a nap.  At 1400 Chris and Julie arrive promptly and after a few minutes we decide to take a snorkel off the beach by the northern point.  Chris is able to anchor the dingy in sand and we have much better visibility today.  Another Moorish Idol  YAY!! I do like the mystique of the Moorish Idol.  John and his eagle eyes however, finds the gold nugget.  Seriously, a bright yellow puffer which is the guineafowl puffer in a juvenile stage. Almost like a gold nugget!  Yes, we do like to find unusual fish on our snorkels/dives and this one is a gem.  Of course we have no photography equipment on us.  We find a few green Moray Eels.  The Giant Damsel Fish here are truly giant.  Being that they can be territorial, and having been nipped at by a tiny one who drew blood, I would think twice about this one.  However, these seem more skittish than the little guys.  The coral is starting to regrow.

The nest on the hill
Tiny little skeletons remain.
The one that didn’t make it

We head off to the beach.  This sand is brown but soft and flour like.  The dunes sweep steeply up from the beech and we see a few turtle nests that are surrounded by caution tape and have wire mesh over the top.  One large hole sits way up the steep ridge.  John looks in it and finds that is was a nest.  The dried carcasses of tiny sea turtles that never made it are mummified.  Cracked shell fragments are bleaching in the sun.  This would have been quite the trip for the little sea turtles but more amazingly, the mama turtle who hoisted her 100+ pound body with flippers almost straight up the hill to lay her nest.  She certainly was the most ambitious turtle.  Knowing that they have the most sophisticated GPS system of all, I wonder if her original plan was there and as there have been a couple tropical depressions that may have moved the sand around, made her positioning increasingly more difficult.  After a nice walk, and a few shells I found they were ready to go and back to the boats we went.  Shower and clean up for dinner.

The delightful restaurant.
The crew

The restaurant is quite charming.  Large, open air.  Very Mexicanesque.  The food and company was great and up until halfway through the meal, we were the only patrons in there.  A second set of three men came in, they seemed to have some familiarity with restaurant.  Perhaps someday, this will be “Bahia de los Suenos”.    For what it’s worth, we have crossed the Tropic of Cancer and tomorrow it will be on to Balandra and La Paz!  SV Lorien is off to Cerralvo and will join us at Balandra.  We have so enjoyed traveling with them.

Isla Isabel! You have to see this one!

Isla Isabela National Park, Nayarit MX

A panoramic view of Isla Isabel.

We were looking at sixteen hours of travel.  Keeping in mind what our friend Ivan had said, we would be “walking a leisurely pace” down the coast….. It made sense to leave Mazatlan in the afternoon and to arrive to Isla (Isla Maria Isabela- full name) Isabela around morning in order to anchor in daylight.  Too many accidents have occurred when sailors try to anchor in new locations, in the dark.  The darkness can be very deceiving and there are a noted navigational hazards such as rocks just under the waterline. These can be challenging to see in daylight, let alone at night.  Captain John did the 1900-0000 watch and I relieved him for the 0000-0400.  We had discussed doing longer shifts before, however, we just can’t seem to get complete it.  His watch included sailing most of the way and around 2300 giving in to the engine as there was following seas and less than 5nm of wind that couldn’t make up its mind what direction to come from.  I took over with the engine running at 5.5kn that would make our arrival around 0640.  I remember going to sleep at 0400 as he was awake and could no longer sleep, then being awakened at 0600 to “I have some whales out here frolicking, do you want to meet them?”  Sunrise in the Sea of Cortez.  I could barely see the spouts and the tiny pectoral fins that merrily slapped about.  “There must be four or five of them”.  We hoped they were coming our way but as we sadly realized they weren’t, he noted there were a few way behind where we had just come from.  Ugh.  On to the island.

morning landfall at Isla Isabel
Los Monas

We could see the two large rock fortresses known as Los Monas.  The upcoming sun gave them a slight orange color.  We saw a sailboat anchored behind one and decided that it was too open to the swells and we would look at the other cove or the South Cove near the fishing camp.  As we rounded it, there was another sailboat anchored there.  There were also some swells that crashed violently into the rocky outcroppings that line the cove.  Tucking in as far as we dared, with depths ranging from 10-18 feet, the clear water gave visibility to the large and irregular size rocks below us. Some of the guidebooks have referred to this area as fouled meaning many left anchors and chains remain and new anchors should be wary.  Large rocks that can lodge anchors sometimes fail to release them.  Trip lines and floats marking the actual anchor site are recommended.  This is an excellent reason to not anchor here at night.  We are approximately 40 miles northeast of San Blas, our next stop.  However right now, today, we focus on the island I have been longing to come too, especially since I missed some of the travel from La Paz to Loreto.

South Cove, waves crashing where we are tucked in with SV Bella Nave

We met Christian and Lindsey, he is from Bellingham and she from Montana but guides in Alaska, on an Erickson 35.  Very nice couple, came over to say hello shortly after we anchored.  There really is only room for two boats to snuggle and sit nicely in this water.  We will be neighbors for the day and night.  Christian has been here several times before.  One of the last researchers here that he knew, was studying the Boobies (Bobos) and mating habits.  Apparently the more yellow green feet are a fashion and those females are getting all the attention.  He told us where the trail was.  Captain John suggested going now before he chose to nap and there would lose a few hours.  The dingy came down and off we went.

Boobies!  I have seen other cruisers photos of these unique shoed fowl and wanted my own.

The fishing camp.

We landed at the fishing camp, without mishap, having to row in the last several yards due to shallow rocks.  The beach is small gravel that while annoying in the Keen sandals, isn’t the flour like sand that finds its way into everything, even that that it does not touch.  We anchored the dingy and pulled out the cameras.  Obviously, we didn’t prepare as we should. With the lens cover off and my first attempt, there wasn’t the anticipated shutter release.  The battery was dead. (insert 5 curse words here)  As John always pokes at me that I always have my “phone” with me, I did and it would be my only photos of this island.  I am again, thankful that he switched out our phones so that I would have more room for video and photos.  Up the path we went.

Iguanas of all sizes – this was a smaller guy around 16 inch body.
Another lizard- captivating green.

Jacque Cousteau was lured here several decades ago where he filmed footage of the bird life, relatively free of natural predators due to its isolation.  This volcanic island is known as the “Galapagos of Mexico”.  The island is known for its Frigate rookeries and occasional research station set up in a vacant cement building.  The building they use is vacant now but occasionally houses researchers, students from the Guadalajara University, and regular students.  Resident iguanas of every size imaginable litter the pathway and are found prolifically scattered on the floors, walls and every conceivable warm spot.  Including the trees.  My eyeglasses are for distance and my eyes were struggling adjusting to the constantly changing bright sun to shade.  Numerous times I went to place my foot down only to have the ground rustle and a well camouflaged iguana dart away.  I am not afraid of lizards and thankful they aren’t snakes, but it can be a bit disconcerting that I might step on a tail.  Of course, not all iguanas are on the ground…….

The uninflated gulag sack of the male frigate bird.
Inflated gular sack allows the male to construct a mating noise that a female would find suggestive. Similar to a rapid drum beat.
Awww, but the baby frigate bird….
Who couldn’t love this fuzzy white headed someday thief? This one has a rather cocky expression, don’t you think?

The mighty Frigate bird.  Also known as the man-o-war bird.   Constantly in flight and never diving into water, their incredible wing span of 7.5ft or more while reported as weighing in around 3 pounds, they are one of the most efficient fishers of the sea.  In one of the largest Frigate colonies, they rest in the low-lying tree tops and even on lower driftwoods with their wings outstretched drying themselves.  Their nests overhead show white fuzzy heads sticking out as their eggs have hatched into the babies now watching us.  Both the male and female Frigate stay near the nest and both take over feeding duties.  In fact, they can remain with the young for up to two years teaching them. The male Frigate has a gular pouch (neck sack) that is bright and beautiful red. He inflates it and then beats it with his beak in order to attract a female, a female that is only fertile every other year. The sounds vary from the higher more shrill calls to the mating male whose tenor sounds more like a rapid drum beat as he uses his gular sack.  While several hundreds of males, females and babies sit and look out from nests, even more can be seen in the skies.  Not only do they fish but they will opportunistically feed off of the unguarded booby nests that sit higher in the trail.

I am in love!
These fabulous fashion footed birds with their breathy voice just make you want to croon. Okay, maybe just me.
And the Brown Boobie. Whose feet can come in various shades of green, yellow or chartreuse. Evidently, a study is underway considering that this might be the preferred color of feet for mating. Who knew!
Brown Boobie

Up, up, up we went.  I am not sure if I should be happy that we did not climb the steps to El Cero (lighthouse) in Mazatlan.  We would either have super sore legs or our legs could be stronger.  This path seemingly went straight up.  We did make it to the top, and following what the map below had stated, the trail was often littered with a sitting and occasionally nesting Boobie.  We did not want to disrupt them, leaving their eggs vulnerable to the Frigate birds.  These delightful birds with their beautiful colored webbed feet and speckled attire of feathers also have a sound that made us giggle.  They sound like a whistle that is broken in such a way that a faint high pitch can barely be heard through the breathy-ness.  We stayed to the path but that didn’t stop one blue-footed Boobie from taking issue with the captain.  Scolding him in the way only a Boobie can do, and followed up for several feet chatting at him.  Now we are noticing the coloration of the Boobies.  Their feathers indicate differences as well as their colored feet.  As we peer at the feet of each that we pass, we have only noted a cornflower blue and lime green that sometimes looks more chartreuse.  Obviously, the Blue-footed Boobie speaks for itself.  However the yellow-green foot is actually a Brown Boobie.  Not wanting to intrude more than we have, and keeping an eye out for a reported red footed Boobie, we made our way back down.  This was not any easier than going up as the grasses slid under the weight on our feet. Back at the beginning, we moved through the fishing camp to see the crater to this once volcano and either to the isthmus or to Las Monas.

Welcome to Jurassic Park.  The thick canopy around ten to fifteen feet is thick with limbs and leaves, and the breeze that occasionally flows comfortable, almost, almost has a humid feel to it.  I can imagine in the rainy months that it is like a thick jungle. The paths seem to be fairly well marked.  Either by cairns or by signage, we are able to go to the isthmus, the crater, or Las Monas.  We arrived first at the crater or what might have once been the center to this volcanic island.  The crater water does not appear to be fresh, it doesn’t appear to have much wildlife surrounding or in it.  Perhaps leftover from previous storm season, we decided to take the path around it to Las Monas.  Under a ten foot canopy, it is a caucaphony of sounds, mostly the Frigates.  We did see a red footed bird however it was not a Booby.  There are some loons that also reside here as well.  Up and over, around and under we went.  Little lizards making a getaway sounding like tiny leaves rustling and often difficult to see. I hear Captain John up ahead exclaim something and saw an iguana with a six foot length come out of no where, jump the path, hit the leaves, jump the tree and continued running.  It sounded similar to human feet and grunting.  I think I would have passed out had it ran in front of me. As we continued toward the coastline, the trees thinned and more boobies began appearing in nests along the pathway.  They did not seem to be bothered enough to move, even those nesting right on the pathway, but they all certainly had something to chatter about.  Again, their delightful but funny broken whistle sound.  As we came around to Los Monas, two young Mexican women wearing vests and carrying clipboards stuck a large stick under a Booby.  Indignant, it voiced its complaint but did not leave its nest.  They counted off the eggs, marked it down and went on.  Many nests had a stick with a number nearby.  We met Mabel and spoke briefly, she doesn’t speak English and my Spanish is barely passable.  However, we learned she is a Biology student and they are here for months studying these birds.  They have a tent camp set up with solar.  We sat for a few minutes before continuing our trek back.  My feet will be sore but it was well worth it.  We met another group of people from the now two sailboats anchored near Los Monas.  SV Cinderella is from Seattle on a 37ft Erickson that is all solar powered to be on sustainable energy.  (We did not ask how they did from Seattle through San Francisco!) It is interesting how many people we have met from the Washington area where we were.  All getting away from the rain, no doubt.  The path is well marked, and although the island is less than a mile, we did walk almost five miles with traversing and returning.

Back at the dingy we toured the southern most end of the island, the sea caves and then back around to Los Monas.  We looked upon SV Liohana with flopper stopper envy as their boat sat motionless in the swells.  I mentioned it a couple times to the Captain while we were in Washington.  It didn’t seem like a necessity then…….

Christian and Lindsey (SV Molokai?) came by and asked if we could use some fish.  They were planning on spear fishing and wanted to share as they would have too much for just them.  Happily, we would take any fresh fish they offered.  He returned without a snapper but did manage a nice Trigger fish which he took back to his boat and cleaned and filetted for us! He also shared that they swam with about 3-4 large Manta Ray!  Close enough to touch but the visibility wasn’t great.

The swells are coming in again.  That flopper stopper is sounding like a great idea.

Tomorrow is San Blas!

 

Cabo San Lucas! Land’s End! We made it!

Our last sunset before we would reach Cabo San Lucas. Red Sky at night, sailors delight.

WE MADE IT!!  Okay, we are not exactly concluding our adventure in the rocky fortress of Cabo San Lucas (CSL) but it feels like a place to celebrate.  Except CSL is party central!  Every night on the waterfront is a celebration and this week is no different.  In fact, I think they held the annual Tuna Fishing Tournament in our honor!  (No, they really didn’t…)  I was so hoping to stand up there, photographed with our tuna, however, they might be envious of our forty pounds of prize tuna!  (They would scoff and brush us off the stand as the prize winning tuna was 338# !!).   There were various ways to win portions of the pot each day, however we tip our reel and line to North Star, taking home the ultimate win of $252,425! North Star not only took the top prize but is also noted to be the only two time winner of the tournament. I am still pleased with our tuna though.  See the previous post for that photo!

I would like to think that this serves as our “shakedown cruise” of learning to handle various conditions in this sailboat that we have lovingly called home for the past two years. As Captain Ron says in the movie “It’s time to light the fires and kick the tires.  If it’s going to happen, it will happen out there!”.  Yes, it certainly did “happen out there”!  While there is so much more to learn, we spent time with the sails as well as the “Iron Ginny”.  We did this in day time as well as night time.  We travelled in fog so thick it was hard to tell what time of day it was and in lightening so fierce, that it changed the night sky to daylight.  We did it on short sleep intervals and at times no sleep intervals.  Each day had its marvels and its challenges. I suspect there are a few people out there that did not think we would do it, and more that did not think I could do it.  There were times when I wondered if I could do it or even wanted to do it.  As the days became warmer and the landscape changed, even when the language changed, it felt easier. More comfortable.  Then there were the dolphins.  Sailing lore is that dolphins on your journey assure you of good luck.  It seemed that whether it was whales or dolphins, we were certain to be successful with good fortune as we were accompanied almost daily. Things did break along the way, not work the way we had hoped or intended.  It is similar to life – most of it is good, there just are some storms and sometimes stuff breaks.   You weather the storms and you fix what breaks.  The dolphins did not have anything to do with what broke, but they did remind us daily of what was good about the trip. We have met some great people along the way.  All in all, it has been an interesting two and a half months!  Sometimes it is hard to believe that we have been traveling that long while other times it seems like forever.  Why am I rattling on about this?  Through tired eyes, the last push, having dolphin at our bow in the evening prior – jumping six, eight, even ten feet into the air and entertaining us with flips and pirrouettic twists and causing us to squeal with delight just like the Jacques Cousteau footage, forging through the night, and in the sun’s rising, to see Land’s End over the bow of our very own boat!  We did it.  Two people. Us.  On a sailboat. 2200nm!  Almost the entire North Pacific coastline of the US and now the Baja of Mexico.  No, we are not the first to do this but it is our first time doing this.  This felt like a badge of honor.  In sailors tradition, a tattoo of a sparrow is done at 5,000nm to remind the sailor to find their way home.  It remains to be seen if I acquire that particular badge when the time comes.  Right now I am having a reality check.  I don’t know how many photos I took, as if I had never seen Land’s End, the arch formation, or Cabo San Lucas before.  I have been to Cabo before, though it has been couple decades prior to this visit and a very different type of visit as two single girls traveling on a land adventure.  This was seeing it through new eyes.  Tired eyes. Saged eyes.  Now over the bow of the our sailboat.  We rounded the point and aimed for the IGY Marina.  Anxiously, we looked forward to a slip for a night or two to relax and to cleaning a very salty boat!

WOW! View from our own boat. WE DID IT!
From inside the bay looking out to the Pacific Ocean.
IGY Marina

Welcome to Cabo San Lucas!  Our diesel price dropped back to a more normal $3.50/gallon, but did not include the use of the fuel dock fee (which was slightly less as we were staying in the marina). The marina slip fee was $81/night!  What?!?! Okay, well we need to make the most of our time in the slip as this will not work with our “sailing kitty”.  We were given J11.  J dock, slip 11.  A sixty foot long and thirty foot wide, single slip that gave us so much room that we looked like a small boat swimming in the enormous slip.  Our boat is forty feet in length and around twelve and a half feet beam (width).  We were docked in the middle of four sport fishing boats that were in the neighborhood of a million dollars each.  Hmmm….. okay, we looked a little out of place. (I’m smirking now).  At almost 10:30am it was already hot here.  Hot temperature but also made even hotter as there is no wind or air movement.  Because we are blocked from any potential wind by the sport fishing boats size, even if the wind were to come in the right direction to hit out open hatches, we would still be sweltering.  Sailboats do best when on anchor, they turn into the direction of the wind and allow the hatches to catch the wind to flow freely throughout the length of the boat.  With use of a few strategically placed fans, the boat can be quite comfortable.   Here on the windless dock, I gaze toward the sport fishing boats with their pneumatic closing doors and running air-conditioning with no one inside.  Using the hose on the dock, we start the fresh water rinse and bath of the exterior of the boat.  Salt water crystals begin to dissolve as we spray every possible inch of her.  Then the stainless gets polished of all the tell tale signs of rust beginning from the continual dousing of salty sea water.  It is disheartening to have had everything polished and sparkling less than a week ago only to find it looks like it has never been touched.  It is like laundry.  Never done.  Speaking of laundry, the marina has washer and dryer availability!  Nothing says home comfort like fresh clean sheets.  We really don’t have as much laundry as you might think, especially given that our last coin operated laundry was, wait now, when was it?  I am going to have to think hard about this one as I can’t honestly remember.  San Diego? Well, while I continue to research this, just know that we don’t have to worry about impressing the neighbors, we just have to make sure we don’t smell more than the fish do.  We typically wear the same pair of shorts and shirt for several days unless it is able to stand on its own accord.  Now that the water has warmed up substantially, and we are “cruisers”, when at anchor we do the whole saltwater bath (yes, jump in, jump out, lather up, jump back in) followed with a nice fresh water rinse in the cockpit.  Some people do it with their swimsuits on and others do it the way we are born – without a stitch on.  We have a fresh water hook up/shower in the cockpit of the boat.  As fresh water is a precious commodity, even though we have the capacity to make it, we have learned to use it mindfully.  Raw water with our water maker takes sea water and de-salinates it thereby making it potable and fresh.  For washing, you don’t really have to have fresh water.  Saltwater will do just fine except that your typical bath soap and shampoo may not lather into clouds of suds and bubbles like we are use to.  Whenever possible, the use of  a biodegradable product is always recommended.  Some soaps are even designed for use in saltwater, and will even lather up to almost land life expectations.  Finish off with a fresh water rinse and hang dry.  Voila!  When we are docked at a marina, we will use their shower facilities.  So, within two to three hours, we had the boat all rinsed, boat soap, rinsed again for all the spots and salt crystals to be eradicated.  The stainless was polished all around again, before a Mexican gentleman came by with some general inquiries regarding our boat. His English was very broken as was our Spanish.  Then he offered his and his crew service of cleaning the boats including the stainless.  Umm…okay.  How much?  $45. Seriously.  I understood that loud and clear, without any broken language barrier.  We just spent a few hours, sweating profusely, dancing around each other, in each other’s way, pulling hose, pushing a soap brush, cleaning and polishing stainless.  I would have happily paid that!  Even John would have opened the wallet for that.  Oh well, there is always next time, right?

Pool side at the Grand Solmar- Thank you Dan and Jamie!
Nope, Sunsets never get old. Especially across and infinity pool!

Social media is a double edge sword.  On one hand, it allows you to keep in touch with family and friends on a regular basis , especially with a lifestyle such as ours.   My hat is tipped to those who keep blogs, videos, maintain various and every outlet of social media as it is challenging to find the time to put together classy as well as fun or informative information.  On the other, social media can be a time stealing mechanism that we slowly become lured into its capture of our time.   Through Facebook, a message came from a previous neighbor/friend who had moved to California.  She was with her family and happened to be vacationing in Cabo San Lucas.  We missed meeting up with them in California, but what are the chances now that they would be here?  Now less than half a mile away!  We are both only going to be here one more night and they are in a the Grand Solmar, one of the premiere resorts in CSL.   Once all of our chores were done, we set off to find a chandlery in order to find some line (or rope).  Then we would be off in their direction for some serious pool time.  What a treat!

Ahhh, the chandlery,  I hope John takes this in the spirit that it is intended…to be seriously funny.  The Spanish word for clothes is “Ropa”.  One of the items we needed at the chandlery was line.  Or by another name, rope.  Rope is actually “cuerda” in Spanish.  John is not bilingual and went with the word that made the most sense to him.  “Donde es Ropa?”   followed with “Can I see your Ropa?”  Imagine John in the Mexican chandlery, asking to see the salesperson’s “clothes”!  Fortunately many Spanish speakers in Cabo understand the English words to their trade and the salesman was able to show John the “rope” (or line once it is on the boat).  Cabo is as one Mexican explained to me, an extension of North America and there is little Mexican culture left to be found in CSL.  “When the popular places include a Starbucks, a hot dog stand, and a McDonalds”, it doesn’t seem so culturally different.  Cabo is a mecca for sport fishing.  Incredible resorts line the waterfronts, each bigger, bolder and more beautiful than the previous one.

Having completed our quest and returning empty handed, we walked to the other side of town and up the steep hill to the Grand Solmar fortress.  It is hot. It is dusty. We could have taken a taxi but walking is normal for cruisers.  We texted our friends that we were on our way!  Passing store fronts, we hear the calls of “come in, good price for you today, but it has the volume of passing by someone and saying good day.  There is no harassment. Farmacias and restaurants line the waterfront. Multiple stores selling the same items are on the street behind that.  As most of the stores sell the same items, it becomes almost a bidding war between them.  Some stores are large enough and probably have rent that doesn’t allow them to negotiate.  There is nothing there I can’t live without.  Again, living on a boat changes how you live.  Once I had a house where  I had material things that reminded me of those trips every time I dusted them, now I have little room and if things do set out, have to be affixed while sailing or at least able to safely take a tumble when at anchor.  It was also those items that when it came time to downsize, was difficult to let go but was almost freeing after I had done so.  On a boat, it has to have a use or it will need to be given careful thought if it makes it on there.  That being said, I will have a few items that will remind me of those I love and feel comfortable in my tiny floating home.  One small item, however,  did find its way to its new home on the boat and sits near me as I write.  It makes me happy to gaze upon it.  On the hot dusty walk with the promise of a pool and umbrella drinks at the end, I noted how the sidewalks are clean.  Almost too clean.  Then I see an elderly Mexican gentleman and gentlewoman covered entirely with clothing.  Only their faces and hands are visible. She is sweeping the sidewalk which is barren of anything, she appears to be brushing air.  A large black plastic trash bag lays limp near her broom.  Above her are bushes that overhang the eight foot stone privacy fence marking a resorts property.  Only a few of those errant leaves may have scattered to the sidewalk where she has captured them.  The gentleman is working the gutter with his broom.  Little whisks here and there, again there is nothing but an occasional wafting of dust but nothing more.  We arrived at the top of the cobbled road to fin a beautiful new building just days from opening.  The open vestibule with its polished stone floor and ceiling fans turning for no one yet, seems large and museum like.  The grounds have been manicured and are awaiting approval from guests to be assured that they are arriving at a quality resort.  We move on to the next resort, the Grand Solmar.  Grand is an understatement. Our friend Jamie meets us in the lobby and guides through pool after pool.  These are only a few among the many.  We meet up with Dan and the Jamie’s parents and siblings.  We have heard so many wonderful things about her family and they were very welcoming of us.  Ahh, the pool.  The infinity pool with the million dollar view of the beach, the waves, and yes the soon to be setting sun over the Pacific Ocean.  Pool drinks around and we await the green flash!  We enjoyed several hours with Jamie, Dan, and her family and cannot begin to thank them enough for allowing us to crash their party and give us respite from our work and the heat of the dock.  A perfect way to celebrate- a Welcome Party with endless drinks all around!  As the night wore on, Jamie and her family went off to dinner and we were claimed by some new people in the hot tub.  By eight o’clock, our bodies cried out in fatigue, begging for sleep.

It’s crazy that as soon as the sun goes down, we are ready for bed.  It is almost as if our internal clocks are shut down.  Likewise, when it becomes light, it is difficult to remain asleep.  Trusty me, I will try.  We have afforded ourselves the extravagance of the dock but we need to move out to anchor.  The heat, if for no other reason.  We won’t move far, just to the bay.  Our friends on SV Lorien are coming in behind us by a day or so and will take a slip for a few days while they rinse and recover. We found an initial spot with great 360 degree views  and should be protected.  There was a strange object in the water that we finally snorkeled over after we set anchor.  It appeared to be some sort of post set for pangas or other type boats to moor up.  We upped anchor and relocated a little further away as that would not be a good thing to swing around to.

Life is good on the hook.  The boat swings into any breeze for airflow, and the water is sparkling clear to jump in.  It is only around 16 feet deep where we are at.  The bottom is sand.  SV Lorien is on their way in and we will meet up in a bit.

The next couple days were filled with exploring the beaches by dingy, looking for more great tacos, and story telling.  We had so much to catch up on.  I found a delightful alebrije from Oaxaca!  Of course, it was something the boat needed….. now if I could only convince John that it has a purpose. I have been fortunate to have spent some time in Mexico prior to this experience, and there are certain things that always bring wonderful memories and smiles.  Alelbrijes do that.  These typically wood carved whimsically painted mythical creatures explode with color so vibrant and deep.  A perfect alebrije octopus!  Why, it could not be more perfect for the boat!  Not large in size but giant in color, it would be perfect!  Let the bargaining begin.  I had searched many of the stores on the back streets as well, and this was the only octopus to be found.  It would be the one.  It made sense.  The charming salesman and I would go back and forth, and ended with him speaking to his boss for the final say.  In the end, I had my octopus and he had a sale.

 

A great way to celebrate our “Shakedown” cruise!

CSL is an interesting place.  As one Mexican stated, there is no Mexican culture left when the popular eateries are McDonald’s and Starbucks (yes, both just off of the marinas but on a Main Street). There is a lot of money passing through CSL, sort of a Mexican Las Vegas.  It is busy, busy, busy.  There has been some US media of recent cartel shootings but we were not near any of it and would not anticipate having any issues related to it.  After a couple of days, the traffic, the amount of people gives us the readiness to continue on.  Nice to visit but…. we have many more places to see on this journey!  Next up will be some more remote beaches!