Saturday, May 31, 2008

Underway to Tahiti

May 31, 2008--We are currently underway for Papeete, Tahiti, sailing wing-on-wing with light winds. On Wednesday we left Apataki around 8:30 a.m. We had had an uncomfortable evening as the winds had created fetch coming across the lagoon so that when it reached us, it caused the boat to buck in the waves. The tide was flooding so within the channel markers inside the lagoon, the water was riled up, but as soon as we got into the central channel it calmed down, and we headed out with no problems. We got the sail up outside the pass and sailed all the way to Toau. Unfortunately, we found ourselves again beating into the wind, but at least the winds were decent at 11 to 14 knots so it was not uncomfortable.

We arrived in Anse Amyot, which is on the northwest corner of Toau and joined three other cruising boats. Two families live here with Valentine and Gaston mainly involved with the cruisers. The homes are located just inside a short pass from the ocean. There is a lagoon; however, sailboats cannot go in any further. The locals have boats with outboards, but even they have to pick their way through all the coral heads. Mooring balls have been installed and Dick, who is Valentine's uncle, came out to help us. He then invited us to come ashore. We got the boat somewhat put away and then headed in where we met Valentine and Gaston. They served us homemade beer and a homemade liquor was made with anise in it that was actually quite good. We sat and visited for a couple of hours and then headed back to the boat.

The next morning Dick and Sergio, who is a cruiser from France, came by to invite us to go out to the motu to do pearl farming along with the other boats. We got into the family boats and headed out for a 30-minute ride. The waves were up, and we were soaked by the time we arrived. This was actually a working excursion so we helped to clean oysters after which Gaston drilled a hole through the shell. We were then served lunch, which consisted of Parrot fish that Gaston has just speared, fried rice, and coconut dumplings--it was all delicious. After lunch Valentine began grafting the oysters, which basically means that she extracts the pearl that is in the oyster and then implants a new seed that is made out of sea shell made in Louisiana. That process took several hours. When she was finished we got busy tying the oysters through the hole that was drilled to a line that was then tied inside a plastic cage. The guys took the finished cages out in the boat and Gaston tied them on the line in the water. We finished working around 4 o'clock that headed back to the village. Luckily, the ride back was not quite so wet. We had had a long day, but Valentine was cooking dinner for all of us that evening so we cleaned up and relaxed for awhile. Around 6:30 we went in and joined everyone for cocktails. Around 7:30 dinner was ready so we went inside the bungalow where two tables were beautifully set with flower centerpieces. The lights were low so the ambiance was wonderful. We enjoyed a fabulous dinner of lobster, fish fillets, rice, tomato salad, and coconut bread along with red wine to drink. It was one of the best meals we have had. Dessert was an amazing coconut cake. We were absolutely stuffed by the time we left.

The next day the three other boats took off for other destinations; however, we decided to stay one more day because of very light winds. We wanted to wait one more day for more wind to fill in. We spent the morning doing laundry, cleaning, and checking the rig, and then in the afternoon I baked bread. We went ashore around 4 o'clock to take a break and relax. Valentine gave us a tour of the facilities they have built. Dive groups come over from Fakarava, and the divers stay in lovely little bungalows. The family also fishes and ships the fish over to Fakarava to sell. It is quite an operation, and it requires a lot of hard work.

We went in this morning at 7:30 to settle up with Valentine and to pick up our 4 lobster and 2 fish that we had traded for. Gaston went out to the fish pen
and brought back Parrot fish, which he cleaned for us. Next he went to the lobster pen and picked out 4 very nice lobsters. We gave Valentine, Gaston, and Dick each a present and then returned to the boat and boiled the lobster so that we could put them in the freezer.

We got underway around 9:30 planning for a 48-hour trip to Tahiti if the forecast is accurate. We will see!

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cruising the Apataki Lagoon

May 27, 2008--Mid-afternoon today we completed our circumnavigation of the lagoon here at Apataki. On Friday, we departed from the main anchorage around 11 o'clock and slowly motored along the southern border of the atoll. The wind was, of course, on the nose, but we needed to charge the batteries and make some water so it was fine. There were several lovely motus filled with palm trees and sandy beaches that we passed by. Around 2 o'clock we arrived at Rau Vahine, which is a lovely motus very close to the fringing reef. We anchored in 25 feet of crystal-clear water and immediately put the dink in the water.

The motu has a very nice house on it; however, the guide book states that no one lives there full time. We went ashore and walked around the island. The house is well built with glass windows, which is rare here. Steve was interested in the shallow waters inside the lagoon behind the fringing reef. He read that at night you can stand in knee-deep water and catch lobsters so he wanted to check out the terrain for that evening. We found that the most entertaining thing on the motu was the hermit crabs. We would be walking along and shells of all sizes and shapes were moving in different directions in the sand. Steve spotted a fairly large hermit crab in a shell and was able to get a pretty good picture. After we returned to the boat, Steve worked on our spotlight, but could not get it to work, so we had no bright light to attract the lobster. I guess we will have to postpone that adventure. Instead we just sat in the cockpit in the late afternoon simply enjoying the sunset in this incredibly beautiful spot.

We left fairly early in the morning and continued around and began to go up the east side. This shore is very barren with no motus, just the fringing reef. There are two shipwrecks on this piece of the reef. You can still see some of the steel structure but much of them is gone. Steve and I were discussing what it must have been like to be in the ship when it hit the reef--how terrifying.

A little bit further up the east side we came to Mr Assam's Pearl Farm. We read about him in the guide book and wanted to stop by. We arrived on Sunday around noon so we just enjoyed the afternoon on the boat since we didn't want to interrupt their Sunday. Monday morning the workers were hard at it by 6 a.m., but we waited until 8 o'clock to go ashore. As soon as we pulled up, one of the young men asked if we wanted Mr. Assam, and we said that we did. He pointed to the house, so we walked up the beach and there we met Alfred Assam, the son. He greeted us warmly and took us to meet his mother. Mrs. Assam was a lovely woman who was so warm and friendly. She spoke limited English but smiled all the time and tried very hard to converse with us. Mr. Assam was working somewhere so Alfred got us drinks and we sat down at a table on the beach. We spent about an hour talking with him about the business and the history of how his family came to Apataki. He then invited us to tour the workshop. He explained every step of the process and took us inside where two young ladies from China were performing grafts and implanting the "seed." Then the oysters are tied inside a plastic mesh cylinder to protect them from fish--about 30 to a cylinder. They had loaded the boat with cylinders, and Alfred asked if we would like to go out in the boat with them. We were thrilled to join them.

We went out in a boat much like the pangas in Mexico. Alfred was driving and there were four young men (one of them was Alfred's son Tony) as well. Tony and another young man went into the water, and as they were handed two cylinders at a time, they would dive down and attach them to a line that runs under the water at a depth of about 6-10 feet. We believe they put in about 30 cylinders. After that, they began pulling other cylinders up from the lines. Obviously, these oysters were ready to harvest pearls. Alfred explained that it takes about five years for the oyster to fully mature to produce a pearl. We also learned that each pearl farm is very protective about the details of its business.

We returned to shore, and Alfred went and picked up coconuts. He then cut the tops off and brought them to the table. Mrs. Assam brought us straws, and we sat and enjoyed fresh coconut juice. We then met Mr. Assam. He took us to tour the chicken pens, the drying racks for coconuts and a seed that is used for body and facial oils, and their garden containers. They also had date palms, avocado trees, olive trees, pompelmoose, which are very much like grapefruits, as well as banana, mango, and papaya trees. Mrs. Assam had herbs growing in containers. Steve then went out back with Mr. Assam to help him husk coconuts to be shipped out of the village the next day. Steve really enjoyed that task. By now, Alfred had to get back to the oysters, and it was time for lunch so we thanked them for all their hospitality. Before we could leave, Alfred gave us three lovely fish for our lunch. We thanked him again and said goodbye.

We are our lunch and then pulled the anchor to head to the northeast corner of the lagoon for the night. We arrived around 4:30, which is getting a little late in the day to spot the coral heads in the water; however, we made it with no problems. We had had a full day and were tired, but we enjoyed every minute of this day.

We got underway around 8:30 this morning so that we could make it back to the village by afternoon, but we were able to sail despite winds that were running between 5 and 10 knots. We got out the spinnaker and had a lovely sail for about 2 hours. We then motored for awhile because the wind died way down. When we turned to head south again, the wind was on the beam, so we pulled out the jib and had a lovely beam reach the rest of the way back.

In the morning we will head to Toau atoll for a couple of days.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Apitaki Drift Diving

May 24, 2008-Yesterday, we had planned to begin our circumnavigation of Apataki lagoon; however, s/v Fearless anchored by us in the morning and s/v Chinook would arrive around one o'clock. We decided to stay one more day and do some drift snorkeling with them. Fearless got anchored and then we climbed in our dinghies and went to the pass. The current was on an ebb tide, which meant that we had to be careful not to get carried out too far through the pass. We entered the water in the channel with the dinghy tied to our hands so that it would be pulled along with us. The visibility was not great, but the tide carried us along a wall of coral, and we just floated by and looked at all the interesting fish.

There was one fish that looked like a unicorn. We saw a lion fish and a Morey eel. There were lots of angel fish, needle fish, neon tetras, parrot fish, and many more that I can't name. It was so much fun. We ended the snorkel at the other end of the pass and climbed back into the dinghy.

We had lunch and relaxed for a bit until Chinook came in and anchored beside us. Around 2:30 we all headed back to the pass for another snorkel. This time it would be on a flood tide so the water would push us back into the lagoon. We drove the dinghies out to the beginning of the pass and began the snorkel there. We were viewing the same coral wall but in the opposite direction. The current was light and the sun was out so we had very good visibility. We all drifted along thoroughly enjoying the experience. About half way through Steve spotted an oyster shell so he dove down to get it. We also found some top shells that are edible so we added those to our collection so that we could make some chowder for dinner.

We found that the further into the lagoon we went, the stronger the current became and the faster we went. At one point I felt as though I were on a flat escalator in an airport viewing art work as it went by. Now toward the end, we were really moving fast and before we knew it, we had washed into the wrong channel and were getting into very shallow water filled with coral. Steve quickly hopped into the dinghy and started the engine, but I couldn't get in with my flippers still on so I just hung on the front of the dinghy. Candy from Chinook was with us so she hung on the side. At one point I really believed that my backside was going to come into contact with all that beautiful, sharp coral. However, Steve kept going as fast as he could against the current and was able to get us out of the channel and across to the correct channel. It was an exciting ride!

We all retreated to our boats to clean up and rest up. Dave and Candy invited everyone over to Chinook for appetizers at 5 o'clock so we all enjoyed talking about all the wonderful things that we saw on this snorkel.

This morning Steve went to clean the shells, and when he opened the oyster, he found a pearl inside. It is a pistachio color and about 8 mm in size. What a wonderful memento of our visit here.

We went into the village around 9 o'clock to look for some bread and Cokes. We found the magazine, but the supplies were very low and had nothing that we wanted. We decided to walk around for awhile and every where we went the locals greeted us and smiled. One woman stopped us to ask if we needed help. She didn't speak English, and we don't speak French so it was an interesting conversation. We asked her about the other magazine, and she told us it closed down. Steve asked about Coca Cola, and she said there was none. She then asked us about baguettes, and we, of course, said yes. She told us to follow her, and she took us to her house and gave us two baguettes. We offered to pay her, but she refused. She said something regarding the magazine, so we thought that she wanted us to pay for it there. We thanked her and walked away but returned to confirm what we needed to do. She clarified that we did not need to pay for the bread at all. What a wonderful gesture of hospitality. She also invited us to the church service in the morning since they were celebrating Mother's Day. Unfortunately, we would have to leave but thanked her for the invitation. Our time in this village was wonderful, and the people were warm, friendly, and helpful. We will have good memories of our stay here.

Tomorrow we continue our trek around the lagoon.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Arriving in Apataki

May 22, 2008--Last Sunday we moved back up to the anchorage at Rotoava because we planned to get a few things on Monday morning and then leave to anchor close to the pass, which would make it faster for us to leave Fakarava on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, during the night on Sunday the winds picked up to 25 knots in the anchorage with gusts over 30. The lagoon was pretty unsettled making it a boisterous and worrisome night with little sleep. The rain squalls kept coming through in waves and around 4 in the morning Steve and I are up on deck, scantily clad, in the middle of a rain squall, trying to drain some of the rain water out of the dinghy. We hoist the dinghy up beside the boat at night for security and also to reduce the growth on its bottom. We looked like drowned rats by the time we were done.

We had planned to go to the bakery early; however, the wind and rain made that very difficult. We enjoyed our coffee and waited for things to calm down. Around 9 o'clock we got in the dinghy and headed to shore. We made a quick run to the bakery and then to the grocery, and then an even quicker stop at the Black Pearl shop. When we got back to the dock, we saw a huge rain squall moving up to the anchorage so we decided to take refuge by the government building until it blew over. After a few minutes we thought it was all done and decided to run for it. Just as we pulled away from the dock another wave of rain hit, and it continued until we got back to the boat. So we looked like drowned rats for a second time that day.

The weather had been unsettled for a few days, so we decided to let things calm down on the outside before we left. We worked on chores Tuesday and got some things done that had been put off for awhile. Tuesday afternoon we went back into town for an ice cream (they have great ice cream in French Polynesia), and then Dave and Candy from s/v Chinook invited us over for cocktails. That night we hoisted the dinghy on the deck and were ready to go.

Planning the entrances and exits through these passes is a guess at best. We read everything, downloaded tides, checked tide books, and we still came into Fakarava on a large flood tide. The entrance was riled up so we wanted our exit to be less exciting. We almost left with Chinook around 6 a.m. but decided it would be better to go out on a flood. Well, we did go out at noon right in the middle of a flood tide again. This time, however, the entrance was much calmer, so we had no problems. Unfortunately, this leg would mean an overnight sail.

We headed up the channel between Toau and Fakarava sailing to wind the whole way meaning the wind was just off the bow--not the most comfortable point of sail. Then we had to head west toward Apataki, and, of course, the wind shifted with us. The last few miles, the wind was right on the nose so we had to turn on the engine and motor to the entrance. When we got there at 6 a.m., we thought that we had timed it for slack tide but weren't sure. As soon as we had enough light, we headed through the pass and found that it was definitely slack tide (we got it right) so we had no problems at all. The scenery was breathtaking, and the beautiful sunrise in the background made it even better. We had to carefully follow the buoys through the channel, which is a challenge since red and green buoys are reversed here, and then find a place to anchor. There are pearl farms here and oyster beds are everywhere. We did find a nice spot off a sandy beach where you can see the ocean waves breaking on the other side. We put the anchor down, covered the sail, and picked up a few things. We crashed for a few hours of sleep since neither of us got much of it last night. Sailing through these atolls is a bit unnerving especially at night. The atolls generally have dangerous submerged reefs on their south sides. We enjoyed a refreshing swim and shower, and then we went in to see the village. We found a place to tie up the dinghy and then just walked around the village for 30 minutes. It is a small village, but it is very clean. All the homes have bright curtains in the windows and well manicured grounds with flowering plants of various kinds everywhere. The people here are the friendliest that we have encountered so far--they all smiled and said hello.

We plan to circumnavigate about two-thirds of the atoll beginning tomorrow so I will leave that for the next blog.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Exploring Fakarava

May 17, 2008--On Thursday, we pulled our anchor and headed about few miles farther down the motu to a place where there is a break in the vegetation. It looks much like a dry river bed, but it is made up completely of coral. You can tell that the ocean comes through here during bad weather. We went ashore because we wanted to hike to the other side to look for sea shells. The walk along the beach was a bit disappointing, because although we did find some small shells, the most remarkable thing was how much trash was strewn on shore. Most of it was plastic, of course, and I am sure that most of it was just ended up there by accident, but it was amazing how much we found. There were plenty of toothbrushes, single shoes, line of all sizes, fishing floats, fuel jugs, crates, and bottles.

When we returned to the boat, we decided that our anchorage would not be good for the night, so we took off headed back up the motu about a mile. There was a nice little bight where we would be protected from the north or northwest winds that were forecast. We anchored in 45 feet of water and just relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. Again, we were all by ourselves, which was wonderful.

Yesterday we decided to hike across the motu again. At this location there was thick vegetation covering the ground, and we had to trample our way through the growth. When we came out to the other side we saw a pretty nice stretch of beach. Most of the beaches here are covered with dead coral and some shells, but so far it is nothing like the Sea of Cortez. Perhaps at some of the other motus we will visit we will find more shells. After a couple of hours, we headed back across to the lagoon side and returned to the boat. We had some lunch and then cooled off by going "noodling" in the water. The long Styrofoam noodles are great for just floating beside the boat--a very relaxing experience.

We had planned to return to Rotoava this morning but decided that we would rather be here where it is more tranquil. We took the dinghy ashore and went snorkeling just off the beach. It looks as though a storm came through here in the last few years, as there is a lot of dead coral. The water is also a bit murky so it wasn't a great experience, but we did see some beautiful angel and parrot fish, and the small neon fish are always my favorite.

We will return tomorrow and get some chores done, and then on Monday morning we can pick up some bread (can't live without our baguettes) and a few other items. Steve had a crown come loose, but he has been able to put back on temporarily; however, he may stop in to see the dentist here just to have it checked.

So far we have enjoyed being here in Fakarava, but now we are trying to figure out which way to go next.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Solitude at Last

May 14, 2008--Yesterday we took a walk across the atoll to the ocean side, stopping at the magazine (grocery) to pick up some egg rolls, chips, and beer for lunch. We took a dirt road leading to the other side, and when we got to the beach, we saw a sailboat mast lying on the sand. Obviously, a boat had been dismasted. We sat down and ate our lunch while taking in the view of the ocean. Then we took a walk down the beach and collected a few shells.

Last night we had John and Mary from s/v Horizons over for dinner. In Nuku Hiva John worked a whole afternoon with Steve on our engine, and then they had us over for dinner in the evening since our boat was a wreck. We wanted to repay them for all their help, and we had a lovely evening together.

This morning Steve and I got up at 5:45, grabbed a quick cup of coffee, and headed into town to the bakery. It opens at 6 a.m. and the bread goes fast. We tied the dinghy up at the quay and then walked about a 1/4 mile to the bakery. Cars, bikes, motorcycles, and people on foot were all headed there. We ordered 2 baguettes and 2 croissants. We went back to the boat and fixed a lovely breakfast of eggs and cheese on a croissant--it was delicious.

We pulled our anchor around 11 a.m. and headed east in the lagoon. Buoys are in place to guide you through a one-kilometer channel around the perimeter of the lagoon. We motor sailed about 10 miles and found a very nice spot, so we dropped our anchor and settled in. The landscape is beautiful, but the best part is that we are all by ourselves. This is more of what we had been looking for.

We took a walk ashore this afternoon to try to cross the atoll to the ocean side; however, the growth was too heavy to hike through. We were walking along and suddenly heard strange sounds. There were large crabs in the trees and the brush, and they were making a lot of noise. We found one in its hole and got a pretty good picture of it. We then tried going a bit farther up the beach where there is a fish camp. This spot was more open, but we still couldn't find a way through to the ocean. We did, however, find coconuts so we picked up three of them and took them back to the boat. Steve succeeded in getting one open, but it left a real mess on the deck. The meat from the coconut was pretty good, and we saved some to use later. Now to find my coconut recipes.

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Arriving at a South Pacific Atoll

We planned to arrive at the northern pass (Passe Garue) into the lagoon at Fakarava just after dawn. The trade winds had been so steady that by nightfall we only had 40 miles to go, and we were just going too fast so we put a second reef in the main sail and partially furled the jib. We were still going too fast so we triple reefed the main and deeply furled the jib. We thought about throwing an old tire overboard to drag and to slow us down even more but didn't have an old tire. During the night we followed the Fakarava Chanel (Chenal de Fakarava) and wound our way through the outlying eastern island atolls of Iles Du Roi Georges and Isle Tikei and then the atolls of Arataki, Toau, and Kauehi. At times when passing between two atolls we were no more than five miles off, and after midnight it was a moonless night. While our GPS gave us a precise position, we were not sure how accurate the charts might be as many were done in the last century. We were anxious to get a radar fix and then compare that to the charted position so that we could determine how accurate the charts are. Since the atolls are not more than eight to ten feet above sea level, you must get pretty close to an atoll before you can get a radar return. Eventually we got a fix on both Kauehi and Toau, and the indication was that the charts were very accurate.

Knowing that we relaxed a bit and turned our attention to determining the time to enter the lagoon at Fakarava and to the significant number of squalls all around us. The lagoons are protected waters bounded on their perimeter by a semi-continuous palm tree covered strip of land called a motus. In harmony with the tides, water flows into and out of the lagoons through the few passes where boats can traverse. Depending on weather and tide conditions these passes can have currents up to eight knots, and as that current interacts with wind, ocean currents, and sea swell in the pass, large standing waves, whirlpools, and short breaking seas can occur. Therefore, one tries to traverse the passes at slack water, which is the point where the current changes from ebb to flood or the reverse. The key to this is knowing when the tides are. Unfortunately, of the 78 atolls in the Tuamotus, there are published tides for only 6 atolls, and you guessed it, Fakarava is not one of the six. In fact, of the 3 or 4 atolls we plan to visit, none have published tide tables. All one can do is try to find a published tide for an atoll to the east and one to the west and interpolate. This will usually get you within a couple of hours of the actually time of slack, and you can wait until the sea conditions appear satisfactory and press through. We completed this procedure for Garue Pass and determined slack water to be at 0741. We arrived at the pass very close to this time, but obviously slack had been some time earlier as the current was clearly flooding (current into the lagoon from sea), and we could see the standing waves. We pressed on and conditions were not too bad, but with our only partially functional engine, we were moving very slowly, so we set the sails and took off like a rocket in the 20+ knots of wind. We made our way 12 miles east to a lovely beach just off the town of Rotoava where we anchored in 45 feet. With the white sand, coral heads, dense palm coverage ashore, comfortable 15 knot trade winds, numerous and colorful reef fish, 84 degree water, and even a few black tip sharks, we definitely feel like we are in the South Pacific!

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Approaching Fakarava, Tuamotus

May 11, 2008--So far this passage has been a very nice one. The weather has been stable and the winds have been consistent. We are experiencing days with temperatures in the mid-80s, which is nice, but we have quite a bit of humidity and that makes it seem hotter.

Yesterday was pretty uneventful except for a mishap with a Boobie. A group of three came flying by the boat, circling a few times to check out our wind generator. The generator is on an 8-foot pole at the stern of the boat. It has three rotating blades. Well, one Boobie that was not too bright decided to try to land on the wind generator. Steve was on the side deck of the boat, and I was saying something to him when all of a sudden the generator just stopped dead. It makes a slight whine when it is running so I knew it had stopped rotating. Both of us looked up to see the Boobie trying to recover from its encounter with the machine. We thought that maybe the hit had broken the generator, but it started whirring once again. When we looked out over the water to see the Boobie, it was no where in sight so we are not sure if it survived.

That leads me to another Boobie story. Back at Nuku Hiva Steve was fishing when the black tip sharks were feeding around our boat. Well, he cast his lure and was reeling it in when all of a sudden a Boobie swooped down and bit his lure. In the process the bird hooked his wing. I think that you are beginning to understand that these are not the brightest of creatures. Steve asked me to get a towel (to cover its head) and the needle-nose pliers to pull out the lure. Well a cruiser, one from a European country, started yelling from his boat that was anchored next to us. He jumped into his dinghy, zoomed over to our boat, grabbed the fishing line, cut it with his very large knife, took the bird, and zoomed back to his boat. Steve and I just sat there speechless. He came back in a few minutes with Steve's lure, minus a barb, hands it to Steve and tells us that we shouldn't be fishing when there is a Boobie around. Steve responds that he never saw it, made a few other remarks, and put away his fishing gear for awhile. The cruiser left the next day so Steve pulled out his fishing gear again and got back to work.

Last night was again a beautiful evening. There was a crescent moon, as there has been for the past few nights, that cast a beautiful beam of light across the ocean waters to our starboard. Unfortunately, the moon is rising around noon so it sets around midnight. The rest of the night is pretty black except for a few stars or planets that are bright enough to shed light on the waves as well.

Today the color of the water was even more spectacular than before. It was still a cobalt blue, but this time it was a bright blue not a deep blue.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Day at Sea

May 10, 2008--Yesterday was a very good day as we averaged 7 knots all day. Last night things calmed down a bit, but we still made pretty good time. The sky last night was spectacular, with millions of stars visible. Steve's favorite is the Southern Cross. The Big Dipper is visible to the north, but it is very low in the sky. We are working to identify others.

A rain cloud passed quickly over us last night and dropped a small amount of rain. Other than that, the seas were calm and the winds fairly stable. We had a spectacular sunrise this morning with rays from the sun shooting up through one of many cumulonimbus clouds in the sky. Steve got some good pictures of it. Today we noticed that the color of the water had turned from a dark, almost oil color, to the most beautiful cobalt blue. Late in the morning we had more rain showers, and these gave us more fresh water to help wash off the boat.

I was looking out at the sea when I saw a large gray shape in the water off our port beam, but I didn't see a dorsal fin so I knew it wasn't a shark. It turned out to be dolphins; however, these dolphins were different in that they rarely came up for air. Most of the time that they were swimming around the boat, they stayed just below the surface.

We are running the engine now to charge the batteries a bit. Actually, with the sunny days and the wind over the past two days, we have done very well charging with the solar panels and the wind generator.

We hope to arrive at Fakarava in the Tuamotus early on Monday if the current weather conditions hold. We have definitely learned that schedules don't mean much out here--the weather does what it wants to, not what we want it to.

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Friday, May 9, 2008


May 9, 2008--First of all my May 7 blog did not go out so I am positing it with this one. Secondly, we left Nuku Hiva on the 7th planning to head straight to the Tuamotus. When we got out of the bay, we noticed that the knot meter was not working on our new instrument, and the depth meter on our GPS was not working either. We decided to tuck into Daniel's Bay at the southwest end of Nuku Hiva. We had wanted to go there any way.

The entrance to Daniel's Bay is a bit of a challenge. It is a narrow entrance, and there is a rough sea at the entrance and the surf breaks on the eastern point. The west side has sheer cliffs. However, once you get into the bay, it is very protected and calm with spectacular scenery. A deep green valley comes down to the shore, and this is where you can pick up a trail to hike to a waterfall. We anchored among seven other boats and immediately took a swim to cool off. Steve then pulled the speed transducer and took a dental pick to it. All the growth, barnacles and such, was just amazing. Next he pulled the transducer for our GPS and did the same thing. His technique was quite good, and I told him that in his next life he could become a dental hygienist. When he finished that job, we just sat in the cockpit and enjoyed our wonderful surroundings.

We planned to hike to the waterfall the next morning, but when we got up, the valley was surrounded by rain clouds, and it was already sprinkling a bit. We decided to skip the hike, probably a good thing as the beach has a lot of noseeums that bite, and just head on south. The winds looked pretty good for the next three days, so we got ready to leave.

We put up our main sail while still in the bay, the engine was running just fine, and we headed out through the entrance. The ocean waves were coming right at our bow this time, and the boat was struggling to take the waves head on. Then the engine begins oscillating again. Darn, we were sure we had it running pretty well. To make a long story short, we backed off the rpms a bit and just held our breaths while she lumbered slowly out the pass. Finally we were clear of the entrance and could get our head sail out. The winds were gusting, and we had some pretty large seas, but once we cleared the island a bit, every thing settled down.

All day yesterday we enjoyed from 15 to 19 knots right off the beam, which is our fastest point of sail. The seas were big during the morning, but they calmed down by afternoon and remained that way during the night. We had no squalls or sightings of ships last night. There was some lightening off in the distance, but it never came close to us. Right now we are looking at a 155 mile 24-hour period, which is very good. We planned for a five-day passage; however, we hope to make it in four days.

Steve snagged another fish, but it got off the line. When he pulled his lure in to check it, the hook was about half way straightened out--must have been a big fish. He changed lures and will continue trying.

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Departing Nuku Hiva

May 7, 2008--Steve has been working on the fuel injection pump timing for almost two days, and after using 6 beer cans for shims, 1 file folder for a gasket, and 1 rubber seal from our head rebuild kit to temporarily replace the forward main engine seal (that broke during disassembly),we agree that it is running well enough to get us to the Tuamotus and on to Tahiti. We will have it checked out by a mechanic when we get to Tahiti.

We think that we really are underway this time. We have decided to go directly to the Fakarava in the Tuamotus without any more stops here in the Marquesas. We don't have enough time to really enjoy any one place so we would rather get south and enjoy a new area. It is unfortunate that we saw just one island here; however, we are both more than ready to leave.

I went to town with Mary from s/v Horizons this morning to get my hair cut. I figured that I might as well get it cut short so that it will last awhile. It was only $30 (oh I do miss Mexico), but that is pretty cheap for French Polynesia. Yesterday we paid $7 for 2 Cokes--now there's a deal. The beer here costs about $3.50 a can, so the shim from a can of beer costs the same as a shim from the factory. It is just so amazing. We heard the term bleeding red ink in French Polynesia, and it is definitely the truth.

We will update our Yotreps position today and then continue every day, and it should take us about five days to reach the Tuamotus--weather permitting.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Hotel California

May 5, 2008--Well, we checked out but we couldn't leave. Actually, we chose not to leave. Let me backtrack just a bit. On Saturday, we began preparing the boat to leave. We pulled our stern anchor, and it was an awful mess. After 3 1/2 weeks under water there was growth all over it, and it was muddy and slimy. It took Steve an hour to hose off most of the crud. When the anchor came up (a Danforth) he actually had to take the dinghy oar to it to break huge chunks of mud off it. It was a total mess. Then after the deck was cleaned off and everything was put away, we went to turn on the engine, and the alternator alarm was screaming. The alternator had gone bad. Luckily for us, we had a spare, so Steve replaced it. To make a long story short, we spent the rest of Saturday just mulling everything over and trying to figure out where we should go, and Steve continued tinkering on the engine.

Sunday morning, we turned on the engine and found that the starter battery was dead (the good times just keep on coming). We switched over to the house bank and started the engine. It still didn't seem perfect, but we decided to head over to Oa Poa and see how it did during that 4-hour trip. Steve pulled the anchor, which was also a complete mess. He cleaned the chain as best as he could with the boat brush. We headed out of the bay with the engine at 1500 rpms just moving along nicely; however, when we tried to accelerate past that point, the engine started struggling again. It just couldn't get past that point. Running out of ideas, Steve said that perhaps it was the governor (he is definitely running out of options), and we decided that it would be better to work on that here than at Oa Poa, which is a smaller town. So, we turned around and anchored back in the bay.

I have to take a minute to discuss why we made this decision. Steve had his heart set on seeing the Tuamotus, and I agree. We have come all this way, and they are supposed to be really wonderful. If we bypass them and go to Tahiti, it is very difficult to return to them especially this season. We could go ahead and go there, but you really should have an engine that you can count on when navigating the passes into the lagoons. That is why we keep trying to get this engine problem fixed.

John from s/v Horizons came over and offered to help Steve work on the engine, so they spent the whole afternoon yesterday tearing it apart and inspecting everything they could think of. They checked the governor and it looked fine. So it's back to square one. The boat is torn apart literally. There are tools everywhere. After taking the engine apart, the engine gasket was trashed, so we ended up making a new gasket out of a file folder. Thankfully John and his wife Mary had us over for dinner last night so I did not have to cook and add to the mess.

We got up this morning, and Steve immediately set to work getting the last of the engine put back together. We discussed all the options and possibilities. Ron from s/v Island Time came by and said that s/v Orca III will probably be coming in here in the next day or two and the skipper is a diesel mechanic. We will try to contact them on VHF to see what their plans are, and we feel that it would probably be worth staying until they come in if it is only a few days.

Wednesday will make it four weeks that we have been here. It seems that every year one boat experiences a major problem, and I guess that we drew the unlucky card this year.

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Life is Good

May 2, 2008--Our engine is now fixed and running beautifully. We couldn't have asked for a better anniversary present. Polynesian Yacht Services put the order on a plane yesterday morning; however, since it was a holiday, the package wasn't brought to town from the airport until today. At nine o'clock this morning, Moetai told Steve to check back at 2:30. When Steve got back, Moetai said he couldn't pick it up until 4:30 so Steve said that he would pick it up personally. It was about a 3/4 of a mile walk through town, and Steve said that he kept looking at the package but didn't want to open it until he got to the boat. We were a little worried that it might the wrong pump. We unpacked the items--the injector fuel pump, a raw water pump, and a heat exchanger--and Steve proceeded to install the pump without any problems. After we pumped fuel through to fill the lines, she started right up and sounded sooooo good. Some people thought that we would have a problem with the timing, but on our engine, it was really quite simple.

When we arrived here from Mexico, Steve noticed a drip from the raw water pump, and after the injector fuel pump problems, he ordered the two additional spare parts. This turned out to be a good thing because when he installed the injectr fuel pump, the raw water pump leak had become worse so he also installed that pump as well. We started the engine again and ran it for about an hour, and she didn't miss a beat.

I cannot express what a relief it is to have this problem fixed. We were beginning to get a little stir crazy just sitting in this anchorage since there is only so much you can do to pass the time. It was difficult watching all the cruising boats coming in and then leaving for points south. This morning we worked to get the boat ready to leave because we decided that if the pump was not right, we would leave any way and just sail to Tahiti. We have a few things to do in the morning (more baguettes), and then we will head to the southwest side of this island to anchor in Daniel's Bay (a Survivor season was shot there). There is a nice hike to a waterfall that we want to take. We are not sure where we will go after that--we are still trying to decide.

Rose had another Friday night Happy Hour at her restaurant. She was serving beer and wine, and she was also serving a chef's salad or a raw tuna dish. We both enjoyed the fresh salad, and it was, of course, accompanied by fresh baguettes. We had a chance to meet some different cruisers this week and had a very nice evening.

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Treat for Us

April 30, 2008--We decided that, since our anniversary is on Friday, we would spent an evening at the Pearl Resort. So Monday at noon we checked into our bungalow, which had a large window that overlooked the bay. The bungalow is built on stilts and the exterior is all wood. The main room had a very comfortable bed that faced the window. There was a long shelf that served as a table that ran the width of the room and was mounted right under the window. The bathroom had a large walk-in shower. There were wooden louvered windows by the sink and in the shower. There was a small deck out to one side with a sliding glass door. There was also a small refrigerator and a small TV; unfortunately, all the programs were in French. The first thing I did was take a very long, very cool shower. Steve was next. The best part was that the room was air conditioned!

We went to the restaurant to have lunch, and then we headed to the infinity pool to relax for a few hours. The pool is built on the side of the hill so when you are in it, you are again looking out over the bay. We could even see our boat at anchor just off the beach. We returned to our room and took another shower, of course, and then just sat on the deck reading our books. Around 7 p.m. we had a delicious dinner--Steve had Mahi Mahi and I had pesto pasta. We topped it all off with Creme Brulee that had a hint of coconut, a scoop of ice cream, and whipped cream with a cherry. It was the best we have ever had. We waddled back to the room and read for the rest of the evening.

We slept in the next day in order to take advantage of the comfortable bed and the cool room. During the night Steve actually had to ask me to turn down the temperature on the AC a little--he was cold! We slowly got around to packing up our things, and we checked out around 11 a.m. We met some other cruisers in the lobby, so we stopped and had a drink and caught up with their experience on the crossing. We got back to the boat around noon. It is very interesting that while we loved being in the air conditioned room, sleeping on a regular bed, and swimming in a pool, it did feel good to be back on the boat--it is our home.

The internet connection has been down for two days so we weren't able to track our engine parts. We finally got on today and FedEx reported that they were in route to Tahiti. They sat in New Zealand for three days. Tomorrow is Labour Day here, so everything will be closed. If we are really lucky, we might have them by Friday although they had to clear customs in Tahiti, so who knows. We will continue to keep our fingers crossed.

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