Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Taking Time to Play!

Aahhh! Feels so good!
Sailing is actually quite a bit of work. We are busy all of the time. So when we reach an anchorage, it is time to rest up and have some fun. This usually entails a swim off the stern of the boat – assuming we are in a clean water area and no sharks!

It feels so good to let your whole body cool down. I am not a fan of heat and sun so I am always too warm here in the tropics. I am sure it is going to get more uncomfortable for me when we get closer to the equator!

Just hanging out to cool off!
It doesn’t seem to matter how often one showers, the salt air and hot sun just causes you to bead up with perspiration. Then there is the slimy feel of the salt on your skin and everything you touch. 

Even though we wash the boat down regularly, the stainless steel and glass area are still covered with salt from the spray and the moist air. We can only give the boat a fresh water cleaning when we are in a marina. So we endure the salt crystals on the windshield and stainless steel. Even the cockpit cushions feel damp with the salt air. And the lines are stiff with salt.

Who couldn't relax here!
It is always nice to get to an anchorage where there is a beautiful sandy beach or a reef for snorkeling. Sometimes we just swim ashore and others we land the dinghy somewhere and go for a walk. I do wonder is after a while that all beaches will start to look alike. The water lapping on the sand is such a relaxing sound. I don't ever tire of it. So far the islands have been distinctively different. Time will tell.
Or here?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Back on Land – for a Short Stay

The coastline is rugged with few beaches. The mountain
drops into the sea and the anchorages are deep.
The landscape is interesting
throughout the island.
Hiva Oa was a welcome sight after 21 days at sea. It was a little surprising to see the island as it did not fit my mental image of the South Pacific Islands. Most of the tour literature shows beautiful white sand beaches, turquoise water and palm trees. What they don’t show is that most of these islands are very old dormant volcanoes that rise straight up out of the sea. Where there are beaches, the sand is black from the volcanic rock and coral. Since the coral lives in reefs, there are not many coral reefs due to the deep water off the islands.
John loves his FORD!

One of the rugged trails we hiked to see Tikis.
However, these islands are lusher and green than most of the islands in the Caribbean. There is an abundance of fruits growing on trees and root vegetables growing wherever they can take root in this harsh ground. The jungles are dense and very healthy with giant plants everywhere. It is truly awesome to look at some of the vistas before my eyes. And the view changes with every turn.
She is the Goddess protecting
the fishing fleet, but she is
hidden away in the jungle several
miles from the sea.

We had a wonderful – but rugged – tour with Marie Jo’s husband, John. He drives a 2008 extended cab Ford pickup and is very proud that it still has the original brakes after 100,000+ miles on them. That is pretty amazing considering the rough roads he drives on tours every day; he only changes the tires regularly. Ford should interview this guy as it would be a great ad! The truck bed has benches on each side and a canopy top for the passengers who ride there. Our crew tells me it was a really rough ride! I was given the front seat and based on my experience it must have been rough because mine was not exactly comfortable either.

A collection of Tikis are found in this location where
they are being preserved and maintained.

It has nothing to do with the vehicles. It is the roads. The infrastructure of these islands is a step above primitive. Some of the roads are impassable during the rainy season. And when you look at the changes in elevation, you wonder how they were even capable of building the roads. They literally hang on the sides of the mountains. Rough or not, we had some of the most breathtaking views in the world.
One of the few beaches. As you can see it is not
the beautiful white sand we expected in French Polynesia!
We also saw ancient Tikis and ate native foods on the tour. We walked in the jungle to find the Tiki protecting the fishing fleets of long ago. A stop at a beach and many stops with different vistas at various elevations showed us how beautiful the volcanic island really is.
A typical Marquesan lunch meal.

Part of the tour included a lunch stop for a typical Marquesan meal of goat, pork, breadfruit, mango, and rice. There were some tapioca type dishes, too. Of course, the beverage choice was Hinano beer or a watered down juice from some fruit. I wasn’t anticipating it to be as good as it was.

The taro plant leaves were the size of elephant ears. Coconut palms grow everywhere, as well as breadfruit. I have yet to cook with breadfruit, but have eaten it prepared several different ways. The favorite is breadfruit frites (as in French fries). It has to be boiled for 20 minutes, then cut into sticks and fried in oil. I don’t know if you peel it before or after boiling.

The Fruit Lady
People tie their horses and cows along the edge of the road to graze all day. The goats run free, but are all owned by someone. The chickens are wild and it is hard to find eggs in the store because people have their own chickens so no one raises chickens to sell eggs.

Since all of the trees are owned by someone, you don’t help yourself to the fruits. Individuals have fruit stands – more like tables – set up wherever people might pass by and stop. I ordered specific items from the fruit lady at the anchorage so she had it available when we were ready to head off to the next island. See – I am figuring out how to make life easier as I go!

We have to carry the dinghy up out of the water so the
tide does not take it while we are on land. The dinghy          
dock was too dangerous to leave it unattended.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Land Ho!

Hiva Oa is in view under the clouds in the west.
What a welcome site: Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia! Tom had been scanning the horizon for hours in search of the first site of land on our 20th day at sea. He was excite to see the island of Mohotani, which is uninhabited and charted as a restricted area. It lies about 15 miles southeast of Hiva Oa. You can usually spot land by looking at the clouds as they hover over the land masses.

The 3 Musketeers! No razors used on the crossing.
Our 40" long by 24" girth Yellow Fin Tuna!
Shortly after that, Tom saw Hiva Oa, the location of our anchorage and clearing in office. The sun was settling low in the west so you could only see an outline under the mass of clouds. We were still several hours away as we had less than four knots of wind, but the current was boasting our speed over ground so we continued under sail power. There is a penalty for motoring so we were determined to sail since we could not make landfall before sunset anyway.
This dinghy dock is dangerous!
Hiva Oa is one of two clearance locations in the Marquesas group. Since it is the most eastern, it is where most yachts enter after a 2900+ mile crossing from the Galapagos. Last year this tiny island saw over 700 visiting yachts. The real yachting season for them is April through July. This island rises straight out of the sea with no coral beds or sandy beaches. It is very deep right up to the edge of land until you reach the back of the harbor.

The World ARC "office" just off the dinghy dock.
We sailed right up to the last 24 miles when the wind died. It was in the middle of the night, too.
We continued on toward the finish line with several lookouts as we did not want to hit any fishing nets or small fishing boats, which are rarely lit. We crossed the finish line and went back out to sea to wait for daylight and to make water. Dennis had estimated it would take us 22 days and 14 hours and we were just under 21 days at sea. That was good time since the winds were light and variable all the way.

What to do now? It's always something
Unfortunately, our high pressure pump for the water maker kept kicking off the generator - so no fresh water! That was very disappointing since we all needed showers – badly! It also restricts how much water we can use each day. Dennis and I can live on a tank of water for two weeks, but it is different with five on board. Also, they keep doing their laundry with the fresh water so it is going to be a critical problem at some point. We have been cautioned that the water in the harbor should not be used for drinking. But there is an outdoor fresh water shower.

My new friend, The Fruit Lady!
The produce choice vary by day and from island to island.
The first thing I did even before we checked in was to seek information on a laundry service and get on the list! A very enterprising woman, Marie Jo, seems to have a lock on many services: laundry, which she washes and line dries, then folds it like a true professional; taxi service, tour guide (she leases out her husband Jon and his vehicle for all day tours; and she gives you tips on where to find things like fresh eggs! With 40 some boats arriving into their tiny town of Atuona, there are not enough eggs to reprovision. Of course, I admire her business strategy as a woman business owner! Not only was she efficient, but she understands customer service – something we did not see in the Galapagos.

Marie Jo has the market on
yachty services!
There is very expensive! Two bags of laundry was $6,000 cfp which is about $72 USD! A couple of bags of groceries with no meat and few fresh items were $15,000 cfp or about $182 USD. However, French bread can be had for very little and is available every day! So much for the gluten-free diet! I am on a French bread binge! I will pay, but for now I will enjoy.

A typical meal of goat, pork, breadfruit fries, rice and a
variety of unknown starches and fruits.
Atuona is locate at 090 48’ S and 1390 02’ W. The time zone is 9.5 UT (or Zulu). The region on French Polynesia shares two time zones. The anchorage is located in the northern corner of Taaoa Bay. It is rather rolly with the surge and tides. Stern anchors are a must here! Even the dinghy needs a stern anchor to keep it from beating against the rocks and the rugged cement dingy dock. There are no public restrooms anywhere.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

You Know When You Have Been At Sea Too Long!

Another beautiful sunrise - or is it a sunset?
Must be a sunset since it is front of the boat! 
We are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on what we estimate to be a 22-23 day passage from the Galapagos Islands to the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. The passage has varied from calm to rolly so far. The swells have increased as we continue south and the Equatorial Current moves us along toward the west even in lighter winds. However, it also moves us south when we are trying to stay somewhat north until later in the crossing. Several boats are very far south and we wonder if it is their “rally strategy” or if the current has them in its grip.

Washing dishes on deck in salt water because the
water maker is acting up. No showers for a while!
The sailing is beautiful to the point of boring! We are on a port tack and have been for days. There is not much to do except ride along. Of course, I have a lot of hungry “boys” to feed so I am busy in the galley. At least that gives me something to do. I am using my creative powers to come up with little surprises to keep it interesting.
We "caught" this little red fish in our anchor rode, so
we decided it needed to be on a Ritz!
A gift from the giant squid! It tossed a flying fish right
 into our head sink through an open porthole one night!
On a couple of days I popped corn so we could watch our two favorite movies: The Horizon and The Chart Plotter! Not much changes on either one of them so no reruns or sequels are needed! The smell of popcorn pepped up the crew and it disappeared quickly. The second time I made it, I made double so they could also have it on night watches. There the movie is: Stargazing! I had forgotten how easy it is to make popcorn in a pan on the stove. And it tasted so much better than any microwave brand. I think in the future on land I will make it on the stove.

The highlight of the days is watching the sunrise and sunset. Always spectacular and even more so when there are clouds around reflecting the pink and orange colors. Thank goodness for digital photograph since I entertain myself with taking hundreds of photos and then screening them for the ones I want to keep. Other than sun and clouds there is little else to capture except our crew in action – or inaction.
Our medium air asymmetrical
To humor ourselves, we have a list of things one does when one has been at sea too long. So here it is:

You Know You Have Been At Sea Too Long When:

·         You change sails a couple of times a day for something to do!

·         You are dreaming of a Chick-fil-a milkshake and start looking for a drive-through.

·         You try to speak in French, Spanish or any other language you make up.

·         Men are reading my cookbooks.

·         You start saying: if you don’t stop doing that, I am going to have to stop this boat (car) …

·         Taking in a 40” yellow fin tuna for 2 hours isn’t boring.

·         You start calling yourself by other boat names (as in Mojumbo, Tom) and you scream it out in the middle of the night
Our light air asymmetrical

·         You start telling scary cockpit stories about the giant squid lurking behind the boat during night watches. It throws little flying fish onto the deck to lure the watchman into its grip!

·         You start speaking with every accent you have heard among the foreign fleet and the local populations.

·         You try baking something at a 15 degree angle and have to turn the pan every few minutes. (I hate using the oven because it produces so much heat in the cabin.)

 And there were some more that should not be in print!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Kicker Rock Tour and More!

Of course, here in the Galapagos, snorkeling with the sea life is the biggest attraction. The World Cruising Club arranged for a full day tour of several key places on the island of San Cristobal. First we went to a beach known as a sea lion sanctuary and breeding ground. There were a number of baby sea lions on the beach while the mommies were hunting for food. The Alpha male sea lion made his presence know with his loud calls. We were warned not to come between mother and child and not to swim on the side of the bay were the Alpha male had taken his position. The rule here is not to get any closer to the wild life than 3 meters. Of course, there are some who ignore the rules and irritate the animals.
We had an hour of snorkeling with the sea turtles, sea lions, rays and various species of fish. We literally had to swim through schools of fish, that took no notice of us. It was like crossing the street in a busy city: you just made your move and tried not to bump into anything. I am getting much braver about swimming with the underwater creatures. Dennis bought me a snorkeling vest that helps my confidence level and I don’t get as tired. I had been wearing my water aerobics swim belt, but that does not allow me to adjust the buoyancy. As of yet, we have not done any scuba diving.

We next boarded a power boat that took us to Kicker Rock to snorkel with the deep water fish and sharks. I have to admit that I was a little concerned about the word “shark” and not real excited about jumping into the deep water. We circled the rock formation on the boat while the naturalist explained things and pointed out the different species of birds living there and who preys on whom. Then the tour boat drops you off on the east side of Kicker Rock and the current carries you through the passage between the two rocks. The boat is on the other side to pick you up when you are finished.

It was more difficult to see the fish and sharks near the bottom of the area, and my camera had fogged up from the temperature changes from the cold water, to the hot sun and back to cold water so I didn’t get any good shots here. We saw beautiful schools of fish of many types and colors. And we saw hammerhead sharks. The visibility was a little cloudy so I had trouble spotting the sharks at first. Then just as I was about to finish my swim, three huge (5’ long) hammerheads swam about three feet under me. I thought I was going to panic, but I manage to stay quiet and breathe!

What is this?
Following the Kicker Rock swim, we boarded the boat and headed to a beach. Since we are not allowed to take food on shore, we lunched on the boat before jumping in to swim ashore. Here we saw the marine iguanas up close and saw their interesting tracks in the sand. We saw several small puffer fish riding the waves in and out right at the shore line and a hermit crab. Back at Kicker Rock we had seen the little black crabs that grow up into the big red crabs. Not as big as the Alaskan King Crab, though.

It was a long, but fun day in the sun and water so everyone was tired by the time we got back to the boat. Dennis and I were going to have a dinner alone on shore after doing some work on the internet (which was not working). Jack stayed on the boat. Larry went off on his own. Nick and Daphne went off on their own. And we all ended up at the same restaurant! In the end, Nick and Daphne joined us for dinner. So much for date night! I guess it is “married with children.”
Next we will be sailing over to the island of Isabella and then onto Santa Cruz where Jack, Nick and Daphne will head home. Tom and Tony will be joining us for the longest leg of the whole rally.

Due to Internet challenges, this blog will be continued! See a few more photos below.