Saturday, May 31, 2014

We are here!! - Tuamotus

This little atoll is a great start. It has an easy pass with only 2' to 3' breaking waves at the entrance.

We rigged up some rat lines going up to the first spreader, so it is super easy to just climb up to the first spreader.  From there you can stand or sit on the palatial spreader.

The snorkeling is super, with very clear water, lovely fish, and just fantastic coral. The water temperature is just perfect for swimming, and I already saw my first shark here in the Tuamotus, (Within less than an hour of exploring).  My understanding is that the sharks inside the lagoon are not thought of as killers, just nibblers!!! I guess the trick is not to have blood in the water when you are in the water. The locals actually swim with a bucket that they put everything they catch into. For us I think we just will not be fishing when we are diving.

There is a road on the shore, so it looks like a motorcycle ride is coming soon!
The beach is crushed coral, but the shallow water has lots of sugar like soft sand.  So as long as you stay in waist deep water, there is plenty of sand.  The local coconut crab population has opened most of the coconuts that are on the shore.  Maybe a night foray is in order.


Friday, May 30, 2014

Safely Anchored -

We are snugly anchored inside the perfect atoll. We are anchored in about 31' with Boomie's scattered around.

What a crossing! Somebody (who shall remain nameless - we will just call him Bigfoot) said that the wind and waves were going to just lay right down by the time we reached the Tuamotos. 39.5 knots of wind is 'not' considered calm! And waves actually breaking on the cabin are not considered small. Now in Bigfoot's defense he did not define what light wind and small waves were defined as. Next time I'll be sure to ask.

We ended up sailing the last two days with only the Genoa as the main would pop out of the track within a couple of hours raising it. The last time it popped out it was just two rough to go back up and repair it. There were also many, many squalls with rain, and plenty of wind.

Now it is time for some incredible diving and beach time.


May 28, 2014

That was Paje on the horizon yesterday and we blew past them with our main and Genoa up.  Then last night we had a huge squall come through which whited (OK it was green) out most of our radar.  Winds hit up to almost 40 knots.  The main sail was reefed with 2 reefs in it and had been holding up nicely throughout the day with the modified pulley system that Courage had put up that morning.  Well, these gusty winds in the squall finished it off.  Another couple of cars jumped the track at about 1:00 or 2:00 am.  So, the mainsail stowed itself again.  We continued to sail on with our Genoa, doing nicely and it seemed smoother (but slower).   So we got some better sleep anyway, but I think Paje is going to beat now.

Today the winds continued to be 20-25 knots of wind with waves about 8-10 foot waves, and the occasional 12-foot wave.  These aren't huge, we've seen bigger seas, but Courage indicated that the period was short which was why we were noticing it so much.  We kept the hatches closed because waves would come and hit the side of the boat and splash up over.  A couple big waves splashed over our salon roof and over our metal cockpit roof.  We're going to need a squall now to wash off all this salt we have everywhere!  Today has been sunny and clear without any rain, so that part's been nice.  We've been shaken around a fair amount though.  We are spoiled on a catamaran, so we have things sitting on shelves, etc.  Quite a few of those things have been thrown to the ground.  The few things I picked up just got thrown right back down, so I'm done.  I'll do it when we're anchored.  It's unusual for us to get jostled like this.  But we haven't had much "pounding" like we had in the middle of our Pacific crossing where the waves slap into the bottom of the boat with a loud bang and jumping of the salon floor and furniture.

Courage was ambitious today, continuously talking about getting the mainsail back up.  But we are rocking too much to go up the mast and put the cars back in the track.  He's saying how we aren't moving fast enough, but we've had 18-25 knots of wind all day, so even with only our Genoa we've been moving from 5-7 knots most of the day.  I remember people talking on the net about how they were motoring the last part of the Puddle Jump and Courage saying we're moving at 3-4 knots, the motor would only slightly increase our speed, so we were moving fine at that point.  Funny how perception changes.  Here, he wants to get in during daylight so we can see all of the reefs.  And, I think since we're rocking so much, he doesn't want to spend another night heaving to.  So he's in a race against daylight to arrive tomorrow.  And don't get me wrong, I'd like to arrive tomorrow, but I'm also good sailing with only our Genoa at a slightly gentler pace.

Since it was windy with water coming over our bow and side, and it was a relatively nauseating day, and Integrity and Innocence are a little sick with a cough, the kids spent much of their day indoors watching a "Magic School Bus" marathon.  They sure didn't mind it.  I spoke to my friend on the catamaran Field Trip and it sounded like they were having much the same day.  She was surviving, kids were playing on iPod, and they were "just bumping along" as she perfectly described it.  She was saying they were at a second reef due to the cars of their mainsail jumping the track, but I think they would be there anyway in this weather.  They are moving a bit faster than us since they have a mainsail and Genoa, but they are going to a farther island.  Hopefully they make it in also.  They have 2 windows of opportunity tomorrow to enter at slack tides, 11:00am and 6:00pm, so they need to be there ready to go at one of those times.  Hope they make it.  If you try to go during incoming or outgoing tides, the water from the center of the atoll rushes strongly through the narrow entrance/exit and you can have up to an 8-knot current pushing/pulling you, which is not ideal.  We are going to one of the closest islands with an easy entrance to start.  Then we can island hop at slack tide and time our arrival from a much shorter passage.

There is a reef out here that is partially in and partially out of the water.  It's charted and known, but along our path.  Courage has it marked on our GPS and is giving it a wide berth.  Unfortunately it appears we'll be passing it tonight, but since it's marked and known, it's not really as much of a hazard as those not marked on charts.  But this area is pretty well traveled, so I think we are OK.  We just passed "Disappointment Islands".  Bummer of a name!  I don't know much about them, but sure doesn't inspire tourism now does it?

We've been great for power - solar, wind and hydro generators all producing nicely, so I ran the fridge for at least half of today.  We haven't even been trying to fish; we're just trying to stand upright (or find a seat quickly).  One wave hit this evening while I was sitting in a folding chair in the cockpit and I almost fell right over out of it.  I grabbed the table, but it's a folding table with plywood on it, so it was on the go also.  Wild ride!!  Probably as we approach the island we'll put our lines out.  But apparently they have the highest rate of ciguatera here in French Polynesia, making fishing a more selective game.  When we left, we had 4 bundles of bananas hanging in the cockpit.  The ripe ones fell all over the floor in the squall last night as well as an entire green bundle fell down.  Nothing like ripe bananas on the cockpit floor in wavy seas to expedite hitting the deck!!


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Day 2 Toward the Tuamutos

The good news is, the winds have been great and we've been moving.  Winds have been 20-25 knots.  I think we were on track for our 200-mile day, but I guess it was too good to be true.  We had a couple of squalls through the night.  At 4:00am in the morning, the squall brought some strong winds that shifted to our nose. 

Somehow, the pulley at the top of the mast had broken, the cars have jumped the track, and the rope has chaffed through.  Hard to say which happened first, but the mast nicely lowered and self stacked into the cover. So we sailed with the Genoa for a few hours waiting for daylight.

At daylight, Cassidy went up the mast.  We turned downwind, started a motor, to try to smooth it out a little for her.  But we were still moving!  We hoisted her up and she slipped the cars back into the mast.  Courage came up with the plan to use the boom lift to raise the main, so once the cars were in, we hoisted the main.  Courage laid down for a nap after a long night.  Another squall was coming and I'd turned up to 40 degrees downwind (totally off course) to keep the wind at about 90 degrees to the boat.  It was only about an hour since we'd raised the main when BOOM!  The boom hit the aluminum cockpit cover and the main was raveling its way down the lazy jacks back into the sail cover again.  So I woke Courage to let him know.  Apparently the boom lift line had chaffed all the way through.  There was another spot that was chaffing also, so it was going to give one way or another.  I was glad we had the cockpit cover or the boom would have come down another 2 feet and hit our roof.

Fortunately we had one more line coming up out of the top of the mast.  So this time we hoisted Courage up.  He had rigged up a new pulley from one that was designed to be deck mounted.  He ran an external rope up so that it would not chafe on the mast. During this we were pointed downwind, but we were rocking.
Our 33 gallon drum that we collect rainwater in was about 2/3 full and slipped and fell from in front of the steering wheel to the cockpit floor causing a loud crash and water splashing all over, including up to the bananas.  It landed upright fortunately, but everything was wet and our table was displaced.  That was a lot of weight to knock down.  We then hoisted the main back up, but this time with a reef.

Our speed is back up and we are off again for the day.  We shall see.  We have 2 friends on catamarans in radio range of us, so we are in good shape.  One boat, Paje, is running a double reef.  They can't run a jib when they are reefed, I don't understand quite why, but they were keeping pace with us when we had our main sail down and only the Genoa up.  We could see them on the horizon.  Field Trip has an AIS signal, so we could see them on the GPS.  They are about 11 miles away.  They shredded their light wind sail yesterday they said, and their mainsail had issues on the passage to the Marquesas with their cars and bearings.  So they too are reefed at a double reef.  We have been tracking along side them most of today.  When our main is down, they take the lead; when it's up, we catch up slowly.  Currently we appear to be side by side on the GPS, but I can't see them.  We lost Paje on our last sail repair and they don't transmit AIS, but they are likely still in radio range somewhere.  We've chatted with both of them today, but there's not much we can do for each other's sail issues. We will all limp along and likely have a sail improvement party upon our arrival in the Tuamutos.

The Tuamutos are a little tricky in that the islands are reefs.  There can be strong currents and narrow entrances.  We are heading to the one with the easiest entrance, thinking this is a great time and place to arrive.  After this, we can become familiar with the tides and time our arrival to slack tide at the next island easier.  Harder to time the arrival after a 500 mile passage, especially with strong winds, but sail issues.  Hard to anticipate when you'll arrive.  All 3 of us catamarans were heading to different islands, but are up in the air a little bit depending on our time of arrival, if it's morning, we can make our way, but if it's evening, we either heave to (drift and wait at a safe distance from the islands until morning) or get into the nearest island and go where we'd like later.

We are moving nicely for now, so hopefully we arrive in the morning of Intrepid's birthday, May 29.  Not sure how the Delorme path looks, but we were looking at our GPS track and it's not so straight.  Lots of turning downwind to go up the mast and sail adjustments, etc.  Also, turning to go along with a squall to minimize its impact (without complete success).

For now, the seas seem to calm in the afternoon, yesterday and today, so we are at 15-18 knots of wind and moving at 7-8 knots which is nice without being rough.  I think we should just stick with this.

I just spotted a boat on the horizon!!  Paje??  They should be long gone.  I'm heading out with binoculars . . .


Day 1 Toward the Tuamutos

And we are off! From the start the winds have been blowing pretty good! Mainly around 20 knots.  Last night after I went to sleep, I awoke to the sound of us moving fast through the water, no longer does the water sound like a river outside, but rather a waterfall with big rapids!  As I came into the living room I found Cassidy had turned us an additional 40 degrees down wind, to reduce the wind load, and we were still humming along at 12 knots! The apparent wind was tickling 30 knots, so the actual wind was over that.  I took a look into the darkness outside, and the rain that welcomed me let me know that we were in a squall. All appeared well so I crawled off to bed.  The third squall hit us a little after 4am but this time there was a loud snap, and the sound of flapping sails. (Which is never good when you are heading down wind).  Again Cassidy was on top of it and had us aiming downwind, so I headed outside again. The rain was coming down much harder, and I could make out the white mass of the mainsail about 2/3's of the way down, carefully self stowing itself into the sail-covers. 

It was too dark to try getting the sail up again, so I set to coming up with a plan. The reason the sail came down is the pulley at the top of the sail lost its sheave and chafed right through the halyard.  Additionally the head of the sail had jumped out of the track.  When the sun came up we pulled Cassidy up with the boom lift (it did not look comfortable up there!) had her drop the cars back into the sail track, and with the boom lift we had the sail back up and we were off again.

Less than an hour later the top cars had jumped out of the track again, the boom lift halyard had chafed through again, and the mainsail was back down! Rough!  Ultimately I ended up going up the mast, and it was like "off roading with Shannon driving", I was barely able to hang on.  Fortunately I was able to tie myself to the mast, and with my legs wrapped around the mast, managed not to get shaken free!  I hung a block from the top of the mast and now the mainsail is up with a jury rigged external halyard with a monkeyed footblock at the top.

Feeling good though, as we are back up to 7 knots!!  I am going to try for some sleep now!


Tuamutos - Day 1, May 26, 2014

We set sail this morning.  It was quite a calm bay we were in; we raised the main with a single reef since the winds were reported to be 15-20 knots.  When we rounded the corner, there were some waves and whitecaps.  We got bounced around a fair amount as we departed.  I threw all the laundry down and tried to get everything stabilized for a lot of wind.  Quite different from our calm bay!

We were moving nicely, sometimes 8-10 knots, but it was a bit bouncy.  All the kids were in lifejackets due to the bigger seas.   We had 4 bundles of bananas hanging in the cockpit that were really bouncing around with the ripe bananas flying everywhere.  I gathered them up and will make bread with them later, when it's smoother.

The kids had a blast on deck with the splashes and waves coming up.  After awhile, it smoothed out and we took the reef out of our sail.   We are moving nicely on our roughly 500-mile/3-day journey.

We are towing the hydro-generator, making great power.  We ran the fridge because we had so much power from the solar, wind and air.  That was nice.  Courage was saying that maybe he wouldn't get a hydro-generator again because you can only use it occasionally.  I love when we do use it what we get from it.  And it works at night when the solar doesn't.  And we got it used, $100, so I'm happy to try with the power we've gotten from it and it continues to produce.

I'm still happy with our provisioning.  We've gotten extra pamplemousse to share/trade in the Tuamotus.  We got 4 bundles of bananas since there were not a lot of durable fruit options.  We tried to get some super green ones, but my first bunches were ripening, so we got another.  Now we are flush with ripe bananas!!  Eating 2-3 per day per person at least.  But we have 2 green bundles still.  

In the Tuamutos, they are made from reefs, not tall volcanic mountains.  In the Marquesas, the tall mountains condense the clouds and cause the local rain.  You can almost pick out each island when you're out at sea by looking at bundles of clouds.  There isn't as much rainfall as I can tell in the Tuamutos, 
I'm not sure what their source of freshwater is.   So, I think there's also less growth of gardens and fresh stuff.  We shall see.  But, the carrots, potatoes and onions we have been buying are shipped in from New Zealand.  Since we are getting closer to NZ, I would imagine those items would still be available at similar prices, right??  We have offered a couple of friends without water makers that we can give them fresh water if needed.  So far, they have been OK with shore water, lots of public taps in the Marquesas, but they said maybe in the Tuamutos.

Nobody knows what to expect next, but I'm still hearing from people that they wish they had brought more, they were told prices were high, but wish someone told them how high, etc.

Maybe I'll compile a list of French Polynesian prices one day.  Subsidized things (so I'm willing to buy them) include an average smallish tub of margarine for $3., 1 liter irradiated milk for $1.25, and baguette $0.80.  Other things I remember 1 kg. brown rice (only seen once) was $2.50, 1 kg carrots $2.50, 4 small apples for $5., 12 ounce can fruit $3.- $4., 4 slices of 'turkey' $4.20, small pack bacon $9., 4 chicken franks $2.00, $1.15 for a single grapefruit (huge) or a mango.  $3.50 for a head of cabbage.  Cake mix is $6.  Medium box of pancake mix was $7.  The Russian cruising woman told me she found oats and they were $12/kg.  We were lucky we bought carrots fresh in Oa Pou because there weren't any in Nuka Hiva.  Other cruisers were desperate for some eggs, walked to all 3 stores in town and couldn't find any.  They were told maybe after 9 am, but waited and returned, and nothing.  Maybe tomorrow?  Now there are chickens and roosters around in town, so it's a bit confusing.  At $8 per 12 pack, I'd be raising and selling eggs!!!  Even under the table if need be.  Our understanding is that there is a 100% tax on imported items.  I'm not sure if/why they can't sell local eggs at a reasonable price.  But with this strange market values of everything, which I believe is based on a tax system, I can see why people are horse trading and would rather have a rope for pamplemousse, which is a win-win deal, than sell them in a store that reports them as a profit and everyone jacks up prices.  We'd have paid almost $15 for the pamplemousse and I think they'd have paid that or more for the rope.

So, I'm enjoying meeting and trying to understand what drives cultures.  The people are very friendly and generous and seem quite happy.  Looking forward to the Tuamutos . . .

We anticipate arrival on Intrepid's birthday, May 29th!  He's pretty excited and counting down.


Daniel's Bay

We left Nuka Hiva's main bay (a long word starting with an H) and headed around the corner to Daniel's bay.  How it got the easy English name, I'm not sure.  Three boats did that jump, so Cassidy went on a mono-hull, Carpe Diem, for a different experience.  We took 2 of Carpe Diem's kids in exchange so the kids could play.  We motored, as did the other catamaran, but Carpe Diem sailed.  It was a little choppy, but good.  We saw dolphins twice during the passage.  Little Valiant was on the pulpit watching dolphins, then watching the waves hit the rocky shore, then he fell asleep up there.  It was super cute.  Poor little guy was wiped out!

The bay was gorgeous, again, enclosed in these steep volcanic walls with lush green vegetation on them.  As soon as we rounded the corner, the seas calmed from whitecaps to absolutely still.  This looks like a good place to anchor and sleep. Also a nice place to swim, we didn't swim in the first bay.  The fishermen throw all their fish parts into the murky water and sharks come from nowhere to fight for it.  Great show, not great swimming.  There were about 5 boats there when we arrived, including one with an 8-year-old girl that we've met before.  When we arrived, we sent the girls to shore with the kayak.  Innocence, 5 years old, was in charge.  Her passengers were Vitality 4 and Sadie from Carpe Diem, 4 also.  Courage towed them close to shore, and then they rowed in, landed it, and pulled it up and tied it off.  They had a great time on shore!!  

That evening we had a potluck type dinner, on our boat of course.  They were suggesting we meet onshore, but really, it's easier to set and eat and not get sandy on our boat, so we offered and they took us up on it.  We had over 5 from Carpe Diem and 3 from Paje for a fun and enjoyable dinner party.  Boaters are very easy going, don't require a seat at the table, bring their own plates and utensils, etc.  It's very easy to host.  We do our best to seat adults at the table, provide any needed cups, drinks, food, etc., but they are so familiar with the limitations of space and dishware on a boat that they are adaptable to the conditions provided.

The next morning all 3 boats went to hike a waterfall.  We had to kayak and dinghy over to the shore around a rocky corner.  There were breaking waves going in to the beach.  It was less just up against the rocks because there was a freshwater river coming out, so we went in that direction.  We all made it through successfully, and then pulled our vehicles up very high for high tide since it was very flat, so a little tide could go a long way!  The hike was gorgeous, through a town, then up through a forest, across the river (in it, not a bridge or anything fancy), then up to the waterfall.  It is the third highest in the world from what I hear.  Apparently the trail becomes difficult and obscure, but you can hike to the base of the falls and swim.  We made it to where you can see the falls, and then turned around.  We had many little people with us who were done hiking.  We went back to the river crossing, did some swimming in the pretty crisp cool water, had a snack and a rest, saw a couple of eels, then carried on back to town refreshed and happy.  Mosquito bitten from the fresh water area, but that was the only bad part.  Walking through the town is like walking through a buffet!!  They were growing so many fruits there!  Courage found a house with a person in it and worked out a trade of some rope for about 10 pamplemousse (grapefruit).  I saw some mango trees, but she said no mangos and no one was home at the mango houses.  I would have loved some mangos too.

We went back to our boat and there were lots of new boats that had come in.  There were about 16 boats in the harbor now, 4 of them were kid boats.  We invited some of the kids over to play.  There was total chaos, but it was fun!  Cassidy had a 14 and 8 year old doing nails and listening to music.  Intrepid and Integrity had 7-year-old and 9-year-old boys over.  The girls had a 3-year-old over.  I got to chat with Amber, the mom on Rockstar, a new kid boat to us with a mutual friend they met in Costa Rica.

Many of the boats in this harbor are ready to jump to the Tuamutos and are waiting for a weather window.  We saw one leaving during dinner in the evening.  They are heading to the same place we are, so we told them save us a spot, we are about 12 hours behind them.  They asked for a photo we have from the big group potluck in Tahuata, so we told them we'd bring it (they were already under sail)!

In the morning, we made an early shore run to the beach with the freshwater stream and waves.  Rockstar came to join us.  Coming through the waves, they took a big wave over the back of their dinghy.  But they made it.  The kids played for hours, saw a few more eels, Intrepid pet one, they swam in the fresh water river, and they built a fort in the rocks with branches, and dug in the sand.  They could have played longer, but it was time for us to get underway.  We headed home to get ready for our passage to the Tuamutos.  Courage had lined up a house-call for me to go check out a 10 month old with a red, goopy eye.  I went and checked her out.  We'd met them in Tahuata also swimming with the mantas.  I'd taken a few pictures of him diving with the mantas, but we didn't really see them or chat with them since then.  I mentioned it and he was super excited.  They don't have an underwater camera, so those pictures are rare.  So he came over and we copied them to a drive for him.  It's nice when these little gifts mean so much to people.

Then we headed out.  Goodbye Marquesas, here come the Tuamutos!