Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Journal Entry June 25 – June 29, 2005 First Week in Tahiti

Author: Pam

On Saturday we woke up and pondered the day ahead of us. We already knew you can accomplish very little business on Saturday in French Polynesia, so we had resolved ourselves to boat chores and exploring. Around midday our friend Tom from Medusa came by the boat to say hello, he had heard from Dan also on Medusa we were here (Dan had come by soon after we had arrived). Tom was aware of our engine problem from Nuku Hiva and he offered to show us where the industrial area of the island was, so on Monday we could hit the ground running. We set out for a hike to the northeast section of the island where all of the boat services reside. We scoped out Sopom, a company that had been recommended by Grasal while we were still on the crossing. All of the stores were already closed for Saturday afternoon, if they had been open at all. As we were leaving the parking lot of Sopom we asked a woman where the yacht club was and were the boats in the small marina next to Sopom part of the yacht club. The answer was no and the yacht club was miles away. We were interested in the possibility of moving the boat to the yacht club that we had read about in the cruising guide. As we started to leave the parking lot, she offered to give us a ride and the next thing we knew we were in her car with her two young children giggling about speaking English with me. We didn’t get much past hello and what is your name. They were very cute. After some confusion of where she was driving us, she finally dropped us and Tom off near the Internet cafĂ©, Tom needed to check his e-mail. We had already decided we would go for a beer and catch up on Medusa’s and Tournesol’s trip from Nuku Hiva…. We went to Le Retro, located on the waterfront, not far from the boat. We ordered beers and given the option of big that is always Scott’s preference. Well, of course when the bill came we found out the “big” beers cost $9.00. Welcome to Tahiti. What I can’t figure out is why beer that is supposedly Tahitian (Hinano) costs so much, even in Tahiti. It was one thing when it had to be brought by boat to Nuku Hiva, but this remains a mystery to me. We had a great time catching up and getting to know Tom better and our walk was a very helpful orientation to an important part of the Island.

On Sunday we spent most of the day on the boat, there is absolutely nothing open though it is a very touristy area. We did learn the Market is open until 0900 and it is suppose to be the best day to go, so we will check it out one Sunday while we are here. After walking around for a while we came back to find the wind had come up and was pushing Tournesol and several other boats into the quay. We were very concerned about the windvane and with the help of another cruiser we took a mooring line out to a buoy to hold Tournesol more forward. In the meantime, the German boat next to us took a big hit into the quay and unfortunately got a big scrape on the transom. Several cruisers, including Scott boarded their boat to move fenders aft to prevent more damage until they retuned. When they did return needless to say, he was very disappointed to find an ugly white scratch marring their beautiful blue gelcoat.

Monday of course brought the routine of checking in. Fortunately and unlike our experience in Mexico all of the officials are located in the same building. We went to the Gendarmerie first and filled out the necessary forms. Then a copy of that form is taken to Customs and then finally to the Port Captain. It went very smoothly and we met several other cruisers who were behind us during the entire process.

No surprise it was McDonald’s for lunch. I must say it is nice sometimes to have food that you know what it will taste like. I have eaten more McDonald’s on this trip then I have in my entire adult life. We headed off to the industrial Area during the afternoon with high hopes of finding a mechanic to look at the engine and the outboard. Long story short, everywhere we went they sent us somewhere else. Also, it was the strangest customer service experience. We would enter a store and no one would pay any attention to us, it felt as though they did not care if they had our business or not, this combined with when we finally did have or try to have a conversation they sent us somewhere else. We left the industrial area with hand drawn maps to the other places we should try. We were very discouraged and reminded how difficult it is to take care of business and problems in a foreign country.

The fun of seeing cruisers you have met in other ports continued when Gill from Last Call came by to say hello. She lived in Tahiti twenty years ago and speaks a little French. She offered to help in any way she could to find a mechanic to look at the engine. She is really friendly and it was nice to see her again.

As mentioned in Nuku Hiva food served from mobile trucks is very popular in French Polynesia. Well, in Tahiti there is a nightly event made out of the food trucks. Just at the end of the Quay approximately 15 trucks pull in and set up for business, each has a few tables, lights, signs… The primary food served is Chinese, especially Chow Mein. However, there is crepes, pizza, steak and ice cream… We decided to give the trucks a try, we had heard from some people it is the only place they eat. We had the Special Chow Mein, it was good, but a bit too greasy. I am sure we will give the trucks another try, it is a hot spot for the locals so there has to be something to it.

In Nuku Hiva we decided I would make a trip back to the US when we got to Tahiti. The Dr. in Mexico said I should get a check up within a few months and we wanted to try to get the engine parts we need. Tahiti seemed like the best option, since waiting until New Zealand would be too long. I bought a ticket on line, but unfortunately the only “reasonable” deal I could get was a paper ticket. Who gets paper tickets anymore? Well, tickets bought on-line that involve multiple carriers are paper. So, it meant the ticket was sent to my credit card billing address, which is currently my friend Dwayne’s address which of course is in the states. He had to send the ticket via DHL to Tahiti to be held at the DHL office. He did a great job working out the details, it was not easy to make happen. So, on Tuesday the day was all about figuring out where the DHL office was and retrieving my ticket. We hunted down the bus stop for Le Truck, the public transportation system and hopped on a “bus” that was going by the airport. It costs 130 cfp (approx. $1.30 per person) during the day and 200 cpf at night (apparently it is more expensive due to less people riding at night). The Le Trucks seem to be a husband and wife team, the husband driving and the wife hanging out of the window answering questions and taking the fare. They sit in the front cab and the passenger section has a low ceiling and benches to sit on. I think they are all a bit different from each other, but the one we rode to and from the airport had three benches. Once we arrived at the airport after difficult communication with the information desk we finally found out the DHL office was actually back out on the main road. We found the office and retrieved my ticket, much to our relief, I am leaving on Thursday.

We have not been able to plug the boat in, because though our boat is wired for 220 volts the outlet for the plug is of course different. We walked along the Quay to investigate how other boats were plugged in and while inspecting Red Sky’s plug ended up in a conversation with Charles. He told us he cut the end off his 30 amp cord and wired the plug he bought in the industrial area to the cord. We decided since we were desperate for power this sounded like the best solution. They don’t sell the 16 amp cords here unfortunately. So, off to the industrial area again in search of the plug. It turned out Red Sky had bought the last plug with rubber housing, so we settled for the one with plastic. When we retuned to the boat Charles came over and helped Scott perform surgery on our cord. Crossing our fingers we plugged in the cord and prayed for power. Nothing happened. We had the boat wired for 220 volts right before we left, but we had no way of testing it until we reached a foreign port. We called the Harbor Master to make sure our power was turned on and they sent a maintenance guy right over. He discovered Charles and Scott had one wire backwards and after he made that change, reset the breaker we had POWER for the first time in 46 days (other than what the sun produced).

As promised we dropped off the tinned (as they say in England) corned beef and some books to Novia. While visiting they invited us to dinner the following evening.

Wednesday we spent the day preparing for my trip to the US. We had to tear almost every inch of the boat apart so I could pack from the cockpit lazarette to the V-Berth. We found unfortunately the V-Berth had gotten wet on the passage from Nuku Hiva, not a big surprise since we took thousands of gallons of water over the bow. By the end of the day the boat was a disaster and we could hardly move. We did manage to get my suitcase packed finally and we were both exhausted and a bit testy by the end of the day. I think we were both thinking a short break after 24/7 on a small boat would be good for us. We finished the task at hand in time to get ready to go over to Novia for dinner. We have no access to a public shower here and bug showering in the cockpit is not an option with all of the foot traffic, car traffic and closeness of the other boats. Hmmm. We do have access to a tap and have a hose strung to the boat. I decided the best idea was to sit on the bow and shave my legs and wash my hair. Well, all of this happened in the daylight and during Splash Tango’s cocktail hour. I couldn’t see them, but I could hear they were out in their cockpit, I just went quickly about my business and figured I might be the cocktail hour entertainment. It was the best hair washing method outside of a conventional shower, I will miss the hose when we get back underway. It was a welcome break to head over to Novia for dinner. We had a very nice evening with Ann and James comparing stories of our crossings and plans for the upcoming future. They are surely going to be fun cruising friends throughout the South Pacific. We left their boat with the trade bag for the corned beef, canned chicken, tuna, crab and pate and some books. Works for us! We did keep five or six cans of corned beef to barter with in Tonga, we’ll see what happens there.

Gill stopped by that evening to say hello and wanted to know how I was getting to the airport. We wanted to take Le Truck, but we had been unsuccessful finding out how early it runs. She offered to hail a taxi and ask the driver to come at 0530 the next morning. This sounded like a good plan, especially since we know there are taxis, but they are so non-descript we have not actually seen one on the road that we know of. So, she set out to hail a taxi. One came by she thought, but it turned out to be the police. Well, since they had pulled over in response to her hail, she had to tell them why she had hailed them. Their response was to say they would go back down the street to the taxi stand and request a taxi for the morning and off they went. A few minutes later they came back to confirm they had made the request and we should expect a taxi at 5:30. I went to sleep feeling pretty confident that if the police put in the request a taxi surely would come and probably on time.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Journal Entry June 22 - 24, 2005 - Tahiti At Last!

Author: Scott

The evening of the 22nd turned out to be a small celebration of our eminent arrival in Papeete. First we were treated to a lovely bug shower before dinner. It always feels so nice to get the salt off your skin and to enjoy that squeaky clean feeling that comes from precious fresh water. Even though we had just made pasta with clams, we decided to repeat one of our favorite meals. The pasta was delicious and we even opened our last bottle of red wine that was tucked away under the nav seat. Dinner was eaten out of our big white non-skid bowls in the cockpit, with us each polishing off at least a pound of pasta covered in parmesan. The warm evening had a strangely calm feeling in the wind and as we finished up our celebratory meal the wind lulled to a whisper and the sails started to slat. Surely this was just a momentary lapse while the giant wind forces sighed and rested for a minute. We washed up and prepared for our watches and yet the wind never returned at any substantial force.

The winds grew to be so light and unpredictable we had to use the electric auto pilot to navigate while I slept. Normally we don’t have to fret about using the auto pilot, as it uses a very economic level of power, but now every amp counts. During my watch I hand steered Tournesol as we plodded along under full main and 80% jib. Our watches continued like this all night, with us making less than three knots an hour towards Tahiti.

The morning brought with it the beautiful island of Tahiti clearly in sight, but also came doubt of reaching Papeete before nightfall, we held our hopes high nonetheless. We spent the entire day taking turns hand steering and reading Pat Henry aloud. It began to feel exactly the same as it had when we were approaching Nuku Hiva. We were going to get close, but it soon became clear we would not arrive in Papeete today, so much for our dinner celebration the night before, but the pasta was yummy. As the sun started to set we mused about getting another dolphin visitation to consol us for languishing at sea just off of our destination. The dolphins never came but we were rewarded with the most spectacular sunset since the sky turned red off of Los Muertos. The sky turned a beautiful golden hue with dark clouds strung across the skyline and then the sky burst with reds and purples. We must have taken forty pictures of the beautiful sunset. When we finally complete this journey we are going to have millions of sunset photos.

We enjoyed the sunset but decided to skip dinner since nothing was going to come close to satisfying us as our pasta had the night before. As night approached we had only 21 miles to Papeete, normally a distance easily reached in a single night’s sail, but we had no expectations that could be jinxed, we were resigned to whatever the wind would offer up

Again we hand steered not wanting to sacrifice any progress with the wind vane and not using the power hungry auto pilot at all. Because we were hand steering our watches were two hours on and two off. When I came on for my second watch at midnight the wind suddenly kicked in with gusto. The moon with huge in the sky and the stars were out, I put on my headphones and the boat shot ahead. Unfortunately the wind was off our bow and we were going to have to tack our way into Papeete, but at least we were sailing again. The sails were illuminated from the moon and the wind was building to a steady twenty knots with water ripping along the hull and I was dancing in the cockpit listening to Billy Joel’s greatest hits blaring in my headphones while I enjoyed some of the best sailing of the entire voyage. When Pam’s watch came up I reluctantly gave her the wheel, a far cry from many other watches where desperate longing for sleep was the only thought on my mind. Pam continued the fun and hand steered to the headphones. We would tack at an angle taking us away from the island and out to sea, just to tack back with the island directly ahead with lights glistening on the black hills. It is unnerving to feel the water screaming by with land directly ahead staring down at you. Even with the GPS telling you that you have miles to spare it is a very spooky feeling. On Pam’s final watch she had me come up and assist her in changing course so she would not have to face the looming black hillside approach. As we sailed through the night we had a new sensation to contend with, huge jetliners were flying overhead and landing and departing Tahiti’s Faaa airport. On Pam’s watch a plane flew lower and closer to her than ever before. We were experiencing a little sensory overload as we had hardly heard a plane in the last month and a half and now we had them sounding as though they were about to land on top of Tournesol.

As the sun rose Tahiti was spread before us with sheer mountain peaks of brown and purple, steep and craggy. The mountains towered high and then plunged straight into the blue water. The island was absolutely beautiful. As we came even closer the landscape revealed lush green on hillsides and in the valleys. To our starboard was a flat section of the island and the Papeete harbor. Also to starboard was the wind and so we had to continually tack our way closer to the harbor entrance, gaining very gradual progress. It is funny how we can survive the monotony of a 31 day crossing but the last hours of a passage can drive us up the wall with anticipation. We read more Pat Henry while each minute crawled by. Finally we were a few miles from the harbor entrance ad we started to get the boat ready for our arrival. The entrance would bring us through a passage in the barrier reef and then into a busy foreign harbor. It amazes me every time we arrive to a destination that we will be looking for a spot on the earth we have never seen, with only a GPS and charts to assure us of the location of the bay or harbor. We were now less than two miles out and we could still see no sign of the entrance. This is normal for us but the tension always mounts. At one mile out we would start Tournesol’s sickly engine and dowse our sails, then bring the boat through the reef and hopefully to the quay. Once at the quay we would have to try our hand for the first time outside of sailing class at docking stern to or Med mooring the boat. Med mooring is a different strategy for docking boats where the boat is tied to a wharf from the stern and uses a bow anchor to stabilize the front of the boat. This tricky maneuver requires the crew to drop the hook and then back the boat up to the wharf. Tournesol does not like to back up, and she would be like a blind hippopotamus trying to back up and sit on a thimble, yikes! We reached the one mile point and I went below to start the engine. Now, we have existed for 43 days without any battery charging system to supply power other than our solar panels. When I turned the key the starter gave a great whine and shuttered but was just a hair to weak to turn over the engine. Each attempt to start the boat only weakened the batteries more and it became chillingly clear we were not going to have an engine to bring us at last into the harbor. We had the harbor entrance a mile away with only our sails to bring us through a reef in an unknown harbor. We considered our options and decided a tow was the only safe choice. I got on the radio and called the harbor master on VHF and quickly got a reply with a strong French accent. We explained we were visually impaired, on a boat with a disabled engine and would require a tow. You might think this would ruffle the feathers of most people, but the voice on the radio didn’t miss a beat and told us to come closer to the entrance and then standby for a tug. Neither Pam nor I wanted to get closer to a boat crunching coral reef but we followed instructions and carefully sailed closer, ready to tack away at any time. Sure enough as we approached the entrance we could finally see, a small tug came roaring up to us. There is nothing more disconcerting than having any boat bigger than yours come rushing up to you, but the crew of the Tahitian tug were real pros. They knew we could not see well and it became clear that language was going to be a barrier, but we managed to exchange lines, and get securely tied using very exaggerated hand signals. They then pulled us humbly into the Papeete harbor. When we reached the quay they side tied us to them without inflicting a single scratch on Tournesol and brought us near the quay. They instructed us to drop our anchor and they then backed us to the dock so we could tie off our stern lines. We reached Tahiti at 1330 local time. Our first Med mooring was not quite authentic, but we were tied off and could finally rest, get our engine sorted out, and experience all that the bustling city of Papeete had to offer. We were going to have to put on our brakes for a spell however, because the harbor master instructed us to stay on our boat and an official would be by to check us in, so we waited and then waited some more. While we cooled our jets we got the boat shipshape in the tropical heat and watched people meander by, with some pointing at our American flag or speaking in French with the occasional “San Francisco’ slipping out. It was a little like being at the zoo, but this time we were the lions in the cage. A German boat approached the quay to our port and though I was officially supposed to stay on the boat, I jumped on the quay to assist them with parking their 50 plus something beautiful blue hulled boat. At first their approach looked good, but they hesitated with their lines and success dwindled as they started to drift with a cross wind into innocent and tired little Tournesol. The husband was screaming in German at his wife, Pam was on the boat fending off the blue behemoth, and me and a growing group of sailors were trying to pull the brute off of Tournesol. Eventually they gave up and pulled away for a second attempt. In the end it took three attempts but our neighbor was finally tied to the quay, and Pam and I considered ourselves a little lucky for cheating on our arrival. We finally radioed the harbor master and they had apparently forgotten about us and it was now 1600. We were told we could check in later and we were finally given permission to leave the boat.

As we crawled onto the quay over our wind vane we were greeted by a couple from the boat Novia. Novia had been out in the Pacific with us during our crossing and we heard them almost daily on the Amego Net. We learned they were Ann and James and they told us we had come up and passed them on the crossing and they were shocked to learn we were also a 32’ boat and that they had envisioned us as a sleek 40’ something boat, and their egos were a little bruised. We confessed that we thought they were a big boat and that we were glad there were other little guys out crossing the Pacific with us. We agreed we should hook up later and Pam and I headed off to explore. Our first cultural shock occurred when we approached a crosswalk to cross the major highway running along the coastline and cars voluntarily and obediently stopped for us. If we were New Yorkers we would have instantly dropped dead from amazed shock. Apparently pedestrians have the right of way in Tahiti and it is effortless to cross busy intersections with no stop lights, a blind person’s paradise. I wanted to walk back across the street just to make the cars stop again, he-he. We wondered along the waterfront and explored, coming across a taxi stand. We decided that we would try to find Dragon Dor a Chinese food restraint that had been recommended to us in Nuku Hiva by our friend Antoni. The cab driver admitted the restaurant was walking distance and pointed us in the general direction. After a few more sets of directions we were seated in a dim and most importantly air-conditioned restaurant with yummy smells wafting from the kitchen. We ordered a ton of food with gusto. Then culture shock number two hit with all of the food arriving to the table at the same time in less than five minutes. Egg rolls, soup, and entries sat there smelling delicious competing for our attention. We ate until not a single grain of rice remained.

We waddled back towards the boat and then we ran into Novia again. This time we stood on the quay and gabbed for at least a half hour. They told us of the local geography and important things like where to check in, where the store was, and most importantly that there was a Mc Donald’s only a block away! Somehow the conversation turned to the crossing and food and they boldly admitted their love for canned corned beef, gross. After I recovered from my repulsion we offered to bequeath some of our corned beef to them and they actually offered to repay us with other food, hallelujah, McDonalds and no more corned beef. We also leaned they had had engine trouble and they were towed in by the same tug, we wee starting a regular 32’ engine failure club. We eventually said goodnight and climbed aboard Tournesol for a well deserved sleep. When sleep came it was the deep sleep of nothingness for this tired dog.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Journal Entry June 22, 2005 The Tuamotu Pass and The Storm

Author: Scott

As I sit here writing this journal entry it is around 1400 local time, the sun is scorching down on us, and we are making a little over one knot of boat speed. I just asked out of nowhere where the ice cream was. Pam looked at me as though I was from Mars but now we can’t get the idea out of our heads. Pam will have the chocolate chip and I will have my old La Paz standby of coconut and chocolate please. How is it possible that we are traveling so slowly today when this entire trip has been such a wild high speed whirlwind?

Early yesterday morning we made the decision to “go for it”! We had originally planned to skirt the entire Tuomoto island group because of the many low atolls. Atolls are formed when volcanic activity that has produced an island or dome ceases and very slowly erosion breaks down the island structure back down to the sea. This process takes so long to occur that while the island thrives, above the surface reefs made from millions of sea creatures including coral polyps build to surround the island. As the island continues to decay and sink under the surface it leaves a lagoon in the middle of the reefs that had surrounded the island. This sometimes complete and often partial ring that is left behind is an island atoll. These atolls are often covered with rich soil and make a perfect home for the growth of the coconut palm tree. To a sighted sailor, waves crashing on the low lying reefs of the atoll and coconut trees rising out of the ocean are often the only signs to indicate they are approaching an atoll island, and neither of these visual signs are visible to us. Therefore, we are very cautions of atolls. After carefully assessing the charts and talking to cruisers in Nuku Hiva, I learned there was a twenty mile channel between the island atolls of Rangiroa and Arutua that would literally serve as a clear path through the center of the Tuamotu group and save us at least a day at sea and provide far superior winds on our way to Tahiti. Twenty miles sounds like a lot but when you are legally blind, have no local knowledge, and only hare charts and a few cruising guides to help direct your decision, you don’t make any decision lightly. Another factor to consider was the very limited use of our radar while we are on such a power budget due to our sick engine. On the positive side we have a great GPS plotter, and we could use our engine if it was absolutely necessary to continuously use radar or to avoid anything if we got too close. Taking all of this into consideration we decided it would be safe to take the twenty mile pass. The wind was blowing near twenty knots and we were sailing a close hulled under a single reefed main with our gennoa reefed down to about 60%. Almost immediately we started to wonder if we could endure the barrage of noises and pounding that would be necessary to navigate the pass up wind. I fell off the wind slightly after an hour and this minimized the noises and ruckus caused from beating into the wind. Most of the trip was sailed well over six knots with almost constant vigilance given to the GPS. The result was a perfect sail through the Tuamotu Archipelago under a blazing full moon without even a single tack needed to shoot the channel. We were thrilled. Even though this might be only a minor navigational accomplishment for most sailors, for us it was nail biting triumph. When and if we sail to Tonga or Fiji, our challenges will be far greater and require rock solid navigation, but for us our trip through the Tuamotus was a great confidence builder.

To crown our victory or maybe it was to quell our ego a bit Neptune then threw out our most challenging weather to date. As we came tearing through the pass our pace continued into morning. As dawn broke the surrounding clouds massed behind us in huge heaps of dreary murk, our boat speed increased with the signs usually associated with a squall, but this was no squall coming. We were already sailing under a conservative sail plan and did not feel a sail change would be necessary. Soon we were enveloped in rain, wind, and spookiness of all, large waves that were hammering against the port bow. We had checked the weather the prior day using software that allows us to see both a weather chart and gives us a textual weather report, and though I saw a stationary front, I saw nothing to indicate what we were currently having dished out to us. We had the good sense to move the computer from the nav station but since we had never had a good swamping we still left a number of other items sitting out in the open. Before we knew it we had waves breaking over the cap rails, and finally over the dog house and we had to close up our companionway with our hatch boards due to weather for the first time ever. A large wave hit on the port side and caused the wind vane to jibe the boat, which was mercifully minimized with our boom brake, but it was time to let Hans take a break and I suited up in PFD, tether, and harness to brave the wind and rain. No sooner had I come on deck and taken over the steering than we got our biggest swamping ever. A wall of warm green water hit me above the head and crashed down into the cockpit sending me sprawling forward. I managed to catch on the combing on the opposite side of the cockpit, and the emotion my body chose to serve up to handle this experience was a cackle. It hit me that I was both a little scared and having the time of my life at the same instant. Thank goodness for my tether. The next thirty minutes spent at the wheel felt like two hours with wave after wave breaking on the boat and water either sloshing in the cockpit or showering down over the dodger. Pam was down below providing water triage to the soaked interior of Tournesol. Eventually the weather subsided to a fresh and steady breeze and I was able to relinquish control back to the wind vane. Just prior to arrival of the storm, I had made a cup of tea that I was not able to bring outside with me. As I reentered the cabin I was treated to my warm and soothing drink that I had no way of knowing while I prepared it, just how wonderful it would eventually be.

The remainder of the day was spent under cloudy skies insulting our need to charge our batteries with our solar panels. I made an early dinner of clam chowder while Pam read out loud. When dinner and dishes were complete I headed to bed early, exhausted from our triumph of the Tuamotus and our stormy morning.

So here I am today at the computer amazed at how fickle the weather can be. All day it has been hot with teasingly little wind and flat seas. There is a bug shower in today’s future, though the name bug shower now creeps me out a little with Pam’s visit from our I’m sure one and only friend the other day. If anything our bug visitor has made us even more fanatical about keeping Tournesol clean, even if our friend originated as hitchhiker on a piece of fruit from Nuku Hiva. So I will sign off now with only 60 miles to go and hoping our next Journal entry will be from the exciting and unknown to us port of Pepeete Tahita.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Journal Entry June 20, 2005 Passage to Tahiti

Author: Pam

One mystery has been solved. In the early morning on Friday we passed another brightly lit stationary “city” in the middle of nowhere. We learned from Sally and Don after sharing our encounter on the crossing with the mysterious Atlantis like station that it was in fact a squid boat. Apparently they use bright lights to lure the squids into flying onto the boat or into nets. We are not sure how it works exactly, but it is strange to encounter one when you haven’t seen anything for days. Apparently they are very popular off the coast of Asia. We saw another one on Saturday night. We joked about stopping by to see if they had any ice to spare, since ours has melted.

It has been interesting being back to sea. We were both ready to leave Nuku Hiva and move on to the many other beautiful islands in the South Pacific. The weather has been a mixture of sun and clouds. The wind has been very good and we have averaged 6 to 7 knots of boat speed much of the time. We have also had the ever present waves to go with this wind. It was fairly calm on Sunday, but otherwise the boat has been rolling and bumping over, under and up against waves. We have once again spent a fair amount of time down below, it has either been too hot in the cockpit or too wet with the waves crashing over the rail.

We have both been fairly lethargic as well. We mulled this over on Sunday and decided though we had a nice time on Nuku Hiva it really wasn’t quite the relaxing landfall after 31 days at sea as we had expected, with the distraction of the engine, the outboard and of course our workout ferrying water. However, this does not mean we did not immensely enjoy our mini vacation on land. We have been reading ferociously, I read two books in four days, this may be a record for me. We also started reading “By the Grace of the Sea” by Pat Henry. We had the pleasure of meeting her in Puerto Vallarta. She was the first American woman to complete a solo circumnavigation via the canals. She left Acapulco, Mexico when she was 48 years old and completed her journey in eight years. It has been fun reading about her puddle jump and experience in the South Pacific. We have found we are having many parallel challenges and experiences and look forward to visiting the places she describes in the South Pacific and around the world.

On the critter front, it looks like there will be one for the duration of this trip. I have been nursing my many no-no bites. They found me quite tasty and they left nasty bites that takes quite a while to go away. There is no fish report, Scott has not thrown the line over yet. It looks like (though you hate to put it in writing) that we may finally have the dreaded coch roaches or coch roach in this case. I left the serving spoon for the rice on the counter and when I came back down below and turned on the light to wash the dishes something small, black and really fast scurried behind the stove. I would like to think it was a sun spot left over from the day, but it sure behaved like a shhhh don’t say it. Early on we learned there are two kinds of cruising boats, the ones that get bugs and the ones that lie and say they never have had any bugs. Perhaps I didn’t drown the coconuts for long enough. In any event we immediately put out four traps in our little galley, we figure more is definitely better and we have not seen another one since.

On the second night we ate our second and final fresh meal of the passage. I rubbed garlic, black pepper and olive oil on the four small pork chops and cooked them in a frying pan. They were really good, too bad it was too wild to BBQ. On the third night we had my favorite non fresh dinner, pasta with clams. I could eat that everyday, especially when it gets down to some of the other canned delicacies. Scott tackled one of the pamplemousse (note spelling correction) with gusto. He cut it in half and then cut around the edge to dislodge the giant portion of citrus. He basically dissected it in the end, but the pieces were large and very yummy. It is definitely sweeter than grapefruit in the states, I even thought it tasted a bit like blackberries. We are still uncertain of the proper way to eat this intriguing fruit, but it looks like we will enjoy the four we have left.

The nights have been absolutely beautiful, with a nearly full moon to guide us. Before leaving for the crossing I hadn’t given much thought to the terms “puddle jump” or crossing the “pond”. Now that I have experienced being out here I have become fascinated with feeling like we are always in the middle of a puddle, pond or a bowl as Pat Henry referred to it. You always feel like there is a perfect circle drawn around you. I wonder how much smaller our circle looks to us then someone with normal sight?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Journal Entry – June 16 – Departure Note

We left Nuku Hiva today for Papeete Tahiti, we may take a quick trip to Rangiroa in the Tuamotu Archipelago. Papeete is about 760 miles from Nuku Hiva. We will be posting position reports along the way. We will continue to post our Journal entries in chronological order; we should be caught up in a few days.

Journal Entry – June 15, 2005 – Last Full Day on Nuku Hiva

Author: Scott

Today was our last full day on Nuku Hiva. On prior days we had schlepped 70 gallons of rat water onto the boat and we now have 36 bottles of drinking water, so we are done with the water provisioning. Today we focused on acquiring fresh food provisions and completing all the necessary boat chores to depart. Our first order of business was to tidy up the boat for departing. On deck we disassembled and stowed the giant rain catcher, which never got a chance to be used for anything other than a sun shade. We moved the ice chest from its strapped down position in front of the mast, to be used in the cockpit until we ran out of ice. We cleaned down below and Pam stowed the water and fresh fruits.

With these chores complete we took the dinghy to the quay (without any major engine trouble). Once on land I immediately realized I had left my shoes on the boat, and not wanting to temp fate with the dinghy I decided when in Nuku Hiva do as the locals do and I carried on with bare feet. Our first stop on land was to return to the Gendarmerie to check out. Our checking out experience was much smoother than checking in. We simply gave our boat name, they verified that we only had two crew, and we were told we could leave. Wow! That was it, no other formalities necessary. Next we headed almost all the way around the bay to the little food truck we learned about on our tour with Don and Sally. We had gotten assistance from Marianne back at the hotel, and had a translated copy of their offerings. Unfortunately, they did not have any of the items we originally intended on purchasing but after a conversation in Frenqlish with the owner we managed to procure an already roasted chicken and four small uncooked frozen pork chops. The trip to the food truck was greatly improved with my order of a pineapple milkshake, it was divine! We then rushed over to the local store we visited a few days earlier so we could buy ice and onions before they closed for the lunch break. Most business on Nuku Hiva close between 1130 and 1430 for a lunch period similar to the Mexican siesta. We made it with time to spare only to find out that they did not have ice, but they still had Pam’s prize onions that she had been coveting since our last visit. What we did not realize is those all important onions were going to cause a big hole in our day. You see since we could not get ice at this store, we were going to have to kill three hours until we could visit the other stores after the lunch break. So, our fresh items would have to hold out until we could get some ice, but Pam had remembered to bring our insulated cooler bags along so our food items would make it without any loses.

We decided we would eat lunch at Moana Nui (the egg pizza place), but no pizza is served at lunchtime. Pam had citrus chicken and I had a chef salad, both meals were well prepared, but eating only took about forty five minutes so we were forced to languish in the warm tropical breeze with Hinano (Tahitian beer) to wet our whistles. We endured this torture until the real torture of the no-no’s drove Pam from the restaurant. We then walked across the road and settled on a big lava rock to watch the local kids surfing in the large breakers that spectacularly crash along the rock strewn shore. Just why weren’t these kids in school, and did their parents know they were surfing on a shore with perilous rocks just a few feet from where they were swimming? I thought to myself that this was just what I would have been doing when I was a boy living in Santa Monica. We sat and watched enjoying the lovely weather and energy of the kids surfing until we had finally eaten up most of our waiting period for the store to reopen so we could get our ice. We returned to the scene of the crime where I returned the exorbitant $60 case of beer. When I asked for ice the clerk slid open a cooler and pulled out bags of crushed ice that looked suspiciously as though they had been made of frozen tap water. I asked if the ice could be used for cooking and drinking and she replied that yes it was safe. We paid $6 for three little bags of ice, cooled off our other purchases, and returned to the dinghy.

Glad to be back on the water and off my feet in Polynesian training. We had no problems with our dinghy returning to the boat. We put our purchases away and made ready for a visit from Stephan and his girlfriend Gorete, who we had invited over for a little farewell get together. I noticed as I stowed the ice in the ice chest that our supposedly clean ice was not only made of tap water, but it was dirty water. There would be no using this ice for cooking or drinks, and it cold only be used for keeping things cold. We put together a few appetizers of chips and salsa, and we even sacrificed the one and only sacred jicama from Mexico. I mixed up some margaritas and we were soon joined by our new friends. Gorete is Brazilian and though she speaks French, Portuguese and Spanish fluently she knows very little English. Gorete managed the conversation with no problem and we all had a nice night under a nearly full moon. I was able to finally verify the shape and location of the Southern Cross and Stephan also showed us how to find the Scorpion constellation. Our guests left around 2000 and Pam and I had a snack and then hit the hay after a long day on Nuku Hiva.

Journal Entry – June 16, 2005 Goodbye Nuku Hiva

Author: Scott

We awoke ready to leave. We were a little sad to say goodbye to the place we had spent so much time anticipating on the crossing but it was time to move on now. It was interesting how this place that was such a mystery to us on our trip from Mexico felt so well know to us now. In twelve short days we had managed to meet a number of great people, pamper ourselves at the hotel, reacquaint ourselves with food that does not come out of a can and even find a temporary solution for our engine trouble. There will be much to remember on Nuku Hiva and unlike Mexico it is likely that neither of us will make it to this remote spot again, but I guess you never know for sure.

We made final preparations to depart, stowed the dinghy and outboard, lashed everything down, and put everything it its place. I had a little setback when checking the engine I noticed the new belt we had used to drive the alternator had twisted requiring me to completely remove it and then install it again. This was not the setback; the problem came when the boat rolled and all my tools and screws flew off the counter into the engine compartment and required a massive hunt that took nearly two hours.

It was now past noon and with a little trepidation we fired up the engine and proceeded to hoist the anchor. Pam steered us out of the bay with me giving directions from the bow and we emerged into a fresh fifteen knots of easterly wind. We made it out onto the sea with no problem and Stephan’s exterior pump worked like a charm. We will still only use the engine whenever it is absolutely necessary but we have much more confidence than we did upon arrival. We logged our actual departure time as 1350 local time.

As we settled into our life back on the sea we were immediately plunged back into the conditions we had become accustomed to on our crossing. The trades continued to blow an average of 14 knots with waves large enough to occasionally dowse the cockpit and one open hatch. We were sea creatures again! We settled into our respective books and read until the sun began to set. Dinner was our freshly roasted chicken purchased the prior day with rice and corn. After dinner we relaxed in the cockpit enjoying some “chill time” with our Puddle Jump CD that got so much play during our crossing. The moon was nearly full and all the stars were out in full force. The water was brilliantly lit with flashes of white water glowing from the moonlight. .

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Journal Entry June 14, 2005 Limes, Coconuts and Pomplumousse

Author: Pam

As planned we rowed out and back and checked out of the hotel. When we were leaving the hotel we ran into Marianne, she is the head waitress and had been very nice to us. We had brought some stickers and bubble gum to give to her for her five daughters and we were planning to look for her on our way back down the hill (her house is on the way). Before leaving the hotel she gave us a big bag of ice and said she would meet us at our dinghy with some fruit she wanted to give to us. We waited a little while and she hadn’t come yet, so Scott rowed out to the boat again with the last of the water (we schlepped 70 gallons in total) and to meet Stephan who was coming by to start the engine to see if the pump was going to work. On his way out Stephan came by and gave him a tow to the boat. They tried the pump and found only one small leak that Stephan said would be no problem to fix. In the meantime, Marianne came down to the beach carrying a bucket of limes from the tree in her yard, two coconuts (Scott is anxious to try the juice of a young coconut, I don’t care for it) and five pomplumousse. What is pomplumousse? It is a large green grapefruit about the size of a soccer ball. They are sweeter, but still taste like grapefruit. They are huge and I have not figured out how two people eat one. The pomplumousse is our first new fruit or vegetable experience. While chatting with Marianne she asked how we were doing for drinking water. I told her we needed to buy some and asked which store she recommended. She said she had twenty four extra bottles of water we could have, she just needed to find someone with a car to get it down to the beach. I was stunned, but we have read you should not decline an offer it is considered rude. It was also going to be a huge help, because we really hadn’t figured out how we were going to get the water from the store to the dinghy, there are no taxis. We made arrangements to meet again at the beach at 17:00 to pick up the water. So, back to the boat with the fruit and to figure out the rest of our day. While Scott and Stephan finished up with the engine I sat in the dinghy and held all of the fruit in the water in a net back for bug control. This took a while, you can only put so many pomplumousse in one net bag. At 15:00 we headed into shore with Stephan following to make sure the outboard made it to go to the bank and the store to buy a few more waters to go with what we would later get from Marianne. After getting cash from the bank we paid Stephan and headed off to the store. We bought twelve more waters, two sodas and a case of beer. When we got outside Scott realized with horror the beer had cost $60.00. Yikes! This beer we did not need, they were very nice and refunded our money. Lesson learned, ask first. When we had so much to carry we were offered a ride by one of the guys who worked at the store. He pulled up in the most beat up vehicle I have ever ridden in. Scott being the gentleman sat in the back of this small jeep like creature, honestly he got the better deal. The seats were practically down to the springs and the driver wore his seatbelt pulled across him, but not attached to anything, so I did the same. They are apparently very strict about seatbelts on Nuku Hiva. We made it back to the dinghy and back to the boat with our bottled water in time to row over to the beach again to meet Marianne to pick up the water. As promised she was there with two cases of 1.5 liter bottles of drinking water. We still couldn’t believe our good fortune and her heartfelt generosity. She will be leaving Nuku Hiva on June 22nd, the hotel has transferred she and her husband to the property on Raiatea. We will probably stop by Raiatea so we can say hello to Marianne, we like the idea of already knowing someone there. Once back on the boat we rushed around to make some soup and change to go to shore again to watch the dancing and drumming. It was our first taste of the local culture and art of music and dance. They were practicing for the upcoming festival and competition in July, they were really great, even without traditional costumes. The men do one dance where they are calling the pig and apparently this is something all boys learn to do as a rite of passage into manhood. They eat the leaves of bread fruit and the bitterness causes something in there vocal cords to break so they can make a very low and husky noise to imitate the pig. It was quite impressive. If you are exhausted after reading this journal entry, you can only imagine how we felt as we fell into bed.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Journal Entry June 13, 2005 Preparing to Leave Nuku Hiva

Author: Pam

The day started with the plan to leave on Tuesday, but the day got away from us and we did not get to shore to do the errands we needed to do. When we arrived at the boat (with more water) we discovered the solar panels were not charging to their full capacity. Scott the detective got out wire and a meter and went about testing all of the connections. He finally found the culprit, a connection that lives in the cat walk and though the electrician had water proofed it, it did not withstand all of the water we took over the side on the crossing. He was able to fix it and we were back in the power making business. In between holding the red and yellow wire to the points on the regulator I worked on cleaning and preparing the interior of the boat for our move back aboard tomorrow. It was pretty dirty from the sand brought home from the beach and all of the fires on land, they burn leaves and probably trash on a daily basis. When we got into the dinghy to head back to shore I was astounded to discover it was 15:30, where did the time go we had arrived at the boat at 10:15? Well, there went the plan to go the bank, the Gendarmerie and the store to prepare for leaving, well just like that it became a Wednesday departure. We went back to the hotel to enjoy our last night on land. We decided to eat at the hotel again, it isn’t a difficult choice when there are only two other restaurants. We watched another movie (Ice Storm) on the computer, it has been nice to have unlimited power for such luxuries. We will get up early tomorrow and make a trip out to the boat with more water and some of our stuff and then come back to the hotel to end our stay with one more I am sure you can guess what.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Journal Entry – June 9 – 12 , 2005 Our Ordinary Life on Nuku Hiva

Author: Scott

Thursday and Friday were all about getting acclimated to Nuku Hiva. For one thing since we set-up our awesome rain catcher the weather has proceeded to get warmer and more humid with of course not a drop of rain. The island is very lush with many beautiful tropical plants and flowers growing freely. Coconut trees are bursting with fruit, and every now and then you see a discarded coconut on the road which has fueled a lively discussion about being in the wrong place and the wrong time… The roads are a mixture of concrete and dirt with all of the roads chalk full of potholes, it is no wonder there are so many four wheel drive vehicles here. There are many animals around and about. There are chickens and dogs everywhere, including the dreaded evil rooster creature that has chosen 0500 to be a good time to set about waking the island. We have also seen some goats and horses tied up along the side of the road to graze and we have learned horseback is still the best way of getting about the island in the more remote regions. We are also starting to be bitten by the local no-no flies we had read about. I have been faring better than Pam which is a surprise since I was so completely chewed up by the insects in Mexico.

On Thursday we had a number of errands to complete around town. We had to return to the Gendarmerie to show them our official receipt from the bond we paid at the bank, and then we headed over to the Post Office to send off a letter to Papeete that also verifies we have posted a bond. At the Post Office we managed to unload almost all of our change that was piling up, but this took a ten minute consultation in front of the Post Office while we tried to determine what each coins denomination was. Then we were off to the local hospital to see about getting two prescriptions for Elephantitis a disease that blocks blood flow into your appendages causing swelling of your arms legs and other unmentionable regions. Apparently this condition is caused by the growth of small worms that are transmitted via mosquito bites. The prescription consists of four pills all taken simultaneously that protects you for a year. We had originally read it would only be necessary to take the medicine if you were staying in French Polynesia for over six months, but Gill from Last Call who is a nurse suggested we get the prescription just to be safe. Unfortunately, the hospital had just ran out of the medicine so we will have to wait until we reach Tahiti. Worms you better stay clear of me!

After the errands were complete we went down to the quay to deal with our stubborn dinghy and it continued to give us grief. We decided this was as good a time as any to go find the local mechanic we had heard about. We went to the small boat services building, where you can use the Internet, get laundry done, have sail repairs made, and sometimes find a mechanic. We learned the mechanic was ill with a foot infection and he had just checked into the hospital. However, there was another cruiser there who said he could give our outboard and boat engine a look and he just happened to be anchored near us. We tried a few things with the outboard while we were at the quay but soon gave up and got a tow out to Tournesol. Once back at the boat Stephan had a quick look at the boat engine and said he would ponder the problem and meet us on Friday. We removed our engine from the dinghy and headed into the nearby beach with just our paddles. Thursday night we laid low and ate at the hotel.

Friday continued to be mostly mundane and non eventful we paddled back out to the boat to meet with Stephan. He was right on time and suggested an interim solution to the boat engine dilemma. He had spoken with the mechanic who was still ill and together they suggested bypassing the old fresh water pump, removing the pully, then mounting an exterior pump to pump fresh water through the heat exchanger. Stephan believed he could scrounge up the parts and so we agreed this was a good course of action. We agreed to meet again the next day to check in on Stephan’s progress. The rest of the day was spent working on the journal and hanging out at the hotel.

Saturday was the start of the great water migration. The only way we were going to get water to our boat was to carry it in jerry cans. The quay has a few hoses but there is no easy way to pull your boat up close enough to fill the tanks, at least we don’t feel comfortable enough to try it. We also learned none of the tap water was safe to drink on Nuku Hiva, and the only safe water came from way atop the mountains or in a plastic water bottle. Apparently the local rat population, (one of the only indigenous animals) pollutes the drinking water. With rats and no-no flies, and crazy psycho roosters it is no wonder the fourth season of “Survivor” was filmed on Nuku Hiva. So, we filled up two jerry cans of rat water and paddled out to the boat. We will use the water only for showers and dishes which is supposed to be sanitary and safe. Once at the boat we met with Stephan who gave us an update on the parts and he was feeling confident about the water pump bypass idea. He then spent some time working with us on the outboard engine, and we managed to get it running but sporadically. We did learn that the engine was still under warranty and it will have a date with the Mercury dealership in Papeete. Although these mechanical issues are a real pain as we cruise, each new challenge brings with it a lesson in engine repair and I am feeling more confident all the time.

We paddled back to shore with our empty jerry cans. Once on land we hurried to the nearest store to purchase some water and sodas, since the sodas at the hotel were around five US dollars. The little store we visited is the third and smallest of the stores on Nuku Hiva, but we decided it was our favorite. The staff was friendly but spoke absolutely NO ENGLISH! Pam found onions and we think the prices might be slightly less expensive than the other two competitors. We then returned to the hotel to take our exquisite showers for the day. We then set off for Moana Nui for dinner and as we were exiting the hotel they offered us a ride! Dinner was pizza again (still no egg on our pizza), and I finished off my meal again with the awesome coconut ice cream and cappuccino. Back at the hotel we watched the movie “Trainspotting”, a strange portrayal of the life of a heroine junkie. We found the movie to be very strange but also quite interesting.

If you read our journal closely, then right about now you are wondering what those two cruisers are still doing at the cushy hotel in Nuku Hiva, well okay you caught us, we liked the cozy comfort of the hotel so much we decided to extend our stay! So, on Sunday morning we made good use of the hotel. We slept in until the rooster torture, and then managed to fall back asleep. Why hasn’t anyone figured out how to remove the cock-a-doodle-dooer from a rooster? We ate the breakfast buffet at the hotel and then headed out to continue the water migration. We brought another ten gallons of rat water to the boat and then stayed aboard to work on boat chores.

Later that afternoon we returned to the hotel and Pam made good use of the plateful water in the hotel. We were both fed up with the cost of doing laundry and we wanted to have clean laundry for our trip to Papeete, so Pam set about the chore of hand washing laundry in the bathroom sink. We must have looked like real vagabond cruisers with our laundry strewn around our deck outside. I completed some much needed work on the computer, and though this sounds like a lot of chores we were able to complete them while sipping icy Coca Colas with the air conditioning working overtime.

We decided we would stay in, so we ate at the hotel again. We both had steaks, Pam’s with garlic butter and mine with Roquefort sauce. To top off the evening we watched “The Incredibles” and we both loved it. I only wish I had seen it on the big screen.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Journal Entry – June 8, 2005 Last Call

Author: Scott

Today started our vacation from the boat, and like all vacations nothing goes quite as planned. We made arrangements to be met by the hotel at the quay. They were right on time and Pam departed with the staff from the hotel with our luggage. My job was to take the dinghy to the nearby beach so our dinghy did not have to live at the quay for three days and nights (the length of our stay). I headed off for the beach, and probably about the time Pam was pulling out of the driveway, the dinghy decided to sputter to a halt. I tried for a good fifteen minutes, working all my outboard voodoo and yet there was no starting the little beast. I paddled most of the way back to the quay, and was given a tow the last hundred yards. I tied up the dinghy hoping it was just flooded and would start up later. I then walked quickly all the way around the bay to the designated spot on the beach. Pam had been there for quite some time and was playing with the local dogs. She figured something was amiss when I did not arrive at the beach on time. We walked up to the hotel and started our mini vacation.

All of the rooms at the hotel are independent little bungalows and ours has a coconut palm growing right in front of our front door. If you went around it on the right side you had to duck under to enter the room. Each bungalow is decorated in modern Tiki with woven bamboo walls, only screens and plantation shutters covering the windows, and a great deck with Adirondack chairs for gazing at the bay. Most importantly there is air-conditioning and a refrigerator! The bathroom is large with a huge walk-in shower. All of the fixtures are made of wood and there are a number of sculptures around the room and also carved into the walls. The room is a delight and a nice departure from our palatial 32’ floating home.

We immediately settled in and I headed straight for the shower and took a record long hot and luxurious shower. We then headed to the main building for lunch, and yes I finally got my cheeseburger, and it was pretty darn good too (it should be for $14)! As we were eating overlooking the bay we were approached by a couple who introduced themselves as Gill and Trevor from the boat Last Call. We had briefly met Gill the day before at the food truck by the Catholic Church. They sat down and joined us for a cold drink and we learned that Trevor was the owner of the boat and Gill had been crewing since Panama, and they were both from New Zealand, though Gill lives in Utah. There are also two more crew aboard, Richard and Trevor’s granddaughter Haley. Trevor purchased the boat and started his sail in Boston and will eventually sail to New Zealand, but Gill and Richard are getting off in Tahiti. We ended up chatting for a few hours and during our conversation we told them about the places we had found in Nuku Hiva, and we made loose plans to possibly meet up at Moana Nui for dinner. We spent the remainder of the day trying to switch gears from cruising to lounging, but we had trouble since we had unlimited access to the computer (not the internet though)…

We did decide to eat dinner at Moana Nui and when we walked in we were greeted by the entire crew of Last Call. Pizza is only served in the evening and so most everyone ordered pizza! Pam and I had the Pizza Blanche, which is served with mozzarella, bacon, olives, onions, mushroom and creme freshe. There were a number of pizzas that come with egg on them, and we learned this is a common way of eating pizza in the Caribbean, we decided to pass on the egg pizza. I topped off my Moana Nui feast with my now trademark order of coconut ice-cream and cappuccino. As we were finishing up Gill discretely mentioned to us our waitress was a man, and cross dressing is very common in the islands, which only seemed odd to us because the population is so small and seemingly conservative and family oriented. We really enjoyed the company of Last Call. We exchanged contact information, and made plans to meet again in Tahiti or New Zealand.

Pam and I were given a ride back to the hotel from the owner of the restaurant who spoke about one word of English to compliment our few words of French. It was a quiet ride back to the hotel with lots of smiling. It was then off to bed for us where I proceeded to sleep like the biggest, fattest, laziest dog you ever done seen! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Journal Entry – June 7, 2005 Goodbye to Sally and Don

Author: Scott

Tuesday started with a Zone Bar on Tournesol and then we were off to the bank to pay our bond, so that we could stay in French Polynesia. Americans are required to post a bond equivalent to $1,250 US dollars. The bond is held to insure the French government can return you to your home country if you become ill or need to be deported for any other reason. Now I can understand the rationale for posting a bond in a foreign country, but upon closer inspection it became clear the bond process was also a mechanism for gouging travel dollars from foreign tourists. Here is how it works; first, you post the bond at the local bank in cash or with a credit card. You are then given a receipt to show the Gendarmerie that proves you paid the bond, and then you keep that same paper receipt (and you better not loose it) to get your refund. You pay the bank a fee for their effort equal to about $60. Finally, when you are ready to leave French Polynesia you go to the local bank for a refund, but (and this is where they really get you) your refund can not be paid in US currency or as a refund to your credit card. They pay you in French Polynesian Francs and of course you are then required to leave the country, so you must then convert your unwanted francs into another currency and the bank gets yet another commission. It just irritates me to know I am paying a fee for no other reason than to generate fees, and all the time it is in the disguise of a legitimate process. Grrrrrrrrrr!

At the bank we met up with Don and Sally who had offered to explore the island with us and be our eyes for the day. They showed us where all of the stores and restaurants were located. We even found three different lunch trucks that serve food to passers by. We learned the quality of the food on the trucks is very high, and many locals use the trucks as a way of eating reasonably priced food, though even the food on the trucks is expensive. Near the Catholic Church we found a truck that also sold frozen meat milkshakes, both a luxury for cruisers. The owner was a French cruiser who now lives permanently on her boat in Nuku Hiva and knows what cruisers are looking for. You can even order your meat cooked if you come one day in advance.

Our next stop was the Catholic Church. The church was beautifully, designed in lush tropical woods with many carvings. Outside was an interesting stature depicting a Pope, but carved in a traditional Marquesan motif. There was a hive of bees living in the foot of the stature, so you could not approach too closely. After the church visit we walked along the waterfront to the original tribal Marae site. This sacred spot was where the village would gather and the chief would preside. There was a large platform built out of lava boulders with a central ceremonial bowl. Surrounding the platform are a number of very old statues cared in lava rock. We found the entire Marae site to be both fascinating and stunning, you could almost visualize the village gathering together to celebrate or conduct common business.

By now our stomachs were growling and we set off to Moana Nui for lunch. The restaurant is on the ground floor of the less grand of the two local hotels. Most of the seating is on the open air front porch, and the unique feature of this restaurant is their wood burning pizza oven. Don and Sally had already tried the restaurant and they recommended the salad with bacon, which I ordered, and Pam had the mussels and curry sauce. I topped off my lunch with a big bowl of coconut ice-cream and a cappuccino (my first coffee in weeks). Everything was fresh and very tasty.

After lunch Don and Sally invited us to use their shower again, and after a seconds hesitation we agreed. Normally it would seem odd to use a friend’s hotel room shower, but cruisers share a common appreciation for the simple yet sometimes complex luxuries, and their invitation was both genuine and deeply appreciated. Ahh, a lovely shower! After our shower we all headed out to the poolside for a glass of wine. Though we had plans to go back to the boat, conversation evolved into dinner again. We knew Don and Sally had dinner plans with Rose (the owner of the hotel) but they graciously invited for us to join them. Dinner was wonderful, and we had a chance to learn about the history of the hotel from Rose. We were also able to establish an affordable rate at the hotel and we made plans for a vacation away from the boat that would start the next day. After dinner we said our goodbyes to Don and Sally with plans of meeting up in New Zealand (where they are from). Rose offered us a ride back to the quay and our dinghy. We ended the day with thoughts of our upcoming visit to the hotel with a big squishy bed and all the showers you could stand!

Monday, June 06, 2005

Journal Entry – June 6, 2005 – Check-In Bureaucracy

Author: Pam

The day started once again with boat chores. We couldn’t believe the state of the boat’s bottom and hull the first time we got into the dinghy. It is amazing what grows in these warm waters, including the green slime that grows when you are one tack for a while. I started to clean the hull from the dinghy, but Scott dawned fins, mask and snorkel and went to town. He spent two hours scrubbing and scraping. There is a lot of satisfaction when you make a swipe and knock off a bunch of barnacles, the problem is there is 32’ of swiping. He did a great job.

Once on shore we dropped off our laundry. It is very expensive, but it was the most disgusting bag of laundry I have ever had in my life and there is no way hand washing was going to work. They apparently line dry everything, which should be somewhat challenging considering how humid it is. Anything will be better than the shape it was in when we dropped it off.

The priority for the day was to check at the Gendarmerie (the police station). Our check-in was simplified slightly since we got a three month visa for French Polynesia when we were in San Francisco. The process involved filling out a form, copies of our passports and visas and a copy of the boat document. We had to take one of the copies of the form to the post office to mail it to Papeete, Tahiti where the check-in process to French Polynesia will be completed. When we got to the post office at 3:20 they were already closed for the day. Next stop was the bank. The final step in the process is to pay a bond or purchase a one way ticket to your home country. They want to make sure if there is a problem you can leave. We waited a half hour at the bank and when it was our turn, it was 4:00, closing time. We were asked to come back tomorrow. We did exchange some money into Pacific Francs, the money is beautiful. The bills and coins are all different sizes and very colorful.

There is only one woman living on the island originally from America. Her name is Rose Corsier and she came here more than thirty years ago with her husband on their boat. After several visits they decided to move here and open an inn. Their original inn was located on the property of the hotel. She now owns 25% of the Keikahnui Hotel, which is apparently struggling to stay in business. She also runs a small boutique and gallery and is very connected to the cruising community. She seemed like the person to meet to answer our million questions. She is a very delightful woman, we had a lovely chat and learned more about the island. We look forward to visiting her gallery again and spending more time learning about the Marquesan art.

We had been invited to Medusa for lamb roast for dinner, but Sally wisely decided it was too hot to have the oven on for three hours to cook a roast. They invited us to go to Moana Nui , one of the other restaurants for pizza. We made a plan to meet them at the hotel and then we would all walk over together. Once the gang was all there from Medusa and the guys had their turn at the shower, we all decided we were too comfortable to head out, so we ate at the hotel restaurant again. It was a very silly evening, they are all really nice people and we will miss them.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Journal Entry - June 5, 2005 Nuku Hiva, So What’s Here?

Author: Pam

On Sunday we were eager to go to shore again to explore, however we didn’t get off the boat until about 3:00. There were still a few chores to do, including rigging up our huge rain catcher. It seems to rain at least four times a day, we are hoping to start filling our tanks. Our friend Sparky gave us the rain catcher in Zihautanejo. It is a funnel ten feet across made of turquoise parachute material. We still need to work out some details with keeping the hose attached to the funnel and the hose in the tank, but if we can make all of that work it should catch significant rain when it pours. Right now the wind causes it to turn into a huge inverted umbrella, it is quite a site on the bow of Tournesol.

We knew there is nothing open on Sunday, in the islands it is frowned upon to do any work at all. We decided it was a good day to hike around and see what we could find. It is very difficult to distinguish the businesses from the houses or something that doesn’t even look inhabited. Most of the businesses don’t have a sign, so you really need to find out where and what things are. For us in particular, we don’t want to approach someone’s home. However, other people we have talked to so far are having the same problem finding out what is here. The island is small, the population is 2500 people. There is a small airport, three stores that sell some groceries (almost nothing fresh), one hardware store, a hospital, two small hotels, three restaurants (two of them are associated with the hotels), two places you can connect to the internet, one place that will do your laundry (no self service), and one mechanic. There is no dentist, he apparently recently left because there was no vet for his dog.

As we walked around on Sunday the island had the feeling everyone was relaxing and enjoying their day. We observed at least four games of bacci ball, lots of kids playing in the surf and many people hanging out on the beach. There was almost no traffic, but all of the vehicles we saw where 4-wheel drive, we saw only one car.

We hiked up one road looking for the hardware store, we never found it. We turned around when we reached the area where the river runs across the road, hence one of the needs for 4-wheel drive. The roads are a combination of dirt and concrete, it gets quite muddy when it rains.

We ended up at the hotel and met up with Sally and Don. They were staying at the hotel and asked if we would like to take a shower. Well, after 32 days if someone offers you the use of a shower, you hesitate politely and then accept with gratitude. It was such an unexpected treat and talk about really feeling human again. We had dinner with Sally and Don and then headed back to the dinghy dock in the dark. No problem, there is only one road that winds along by the water. After a while Scott asked, “do you remember that wall?” No and nor do I remember that fence. Meanwhile it had started to rain, our second shower of the evening. After a few moments of hesitation we determined we were going the right way and found our dinghy no problem. We are looking forward to coming back to shore tomorrow to explore on a weekday.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Journal Entry June 4, 2005 –Pacific Puddle Jump Day 30 and 31 – Landfall Finally!!!

Author: Scott

Our arrivals and departure seem to always contain an element of random. When we departed from Nuevo Vallarta we were coerced by our friends Kenneth and Sylvia to stay in Puerto Vallarta one more night for a delicious dinner and great company. Well it seems like we time our arrivals with the same degree of precision. We woke on the morning of June third with the excitement of landfall. After thirty days at sea we were going to walk on terra firma again, eat something that does not come from a can, and sleep a full night without a watch schedule! Our entire day was filled with chores preparing for our arrival. We cleaned the boat, created a crew list document for checking in, and we pulled out our paddles and accessories for the dinghy. I even had to climb the mast to the spreaders to untangle our flag halyard, so we could fly the French courtesy flag. But as the day progressed we became more fixated on the GPS and number of miles until we reach land.

You see at 0700 we had only 36 miles to go, plenty of time with the pace we had been keeping. At 1130 (when we post our daily position) we only had 17 miles left to go, no problemo! This must have been about the time that Neptune, Poseidon, and Nemo got together and decided to squelch the excitement of these landsick sailors. They had spent the past thirty days sharing all the beauty and tranquility the sea had to offer, and now we just wanted to get to land and eat cheeseburgers, well not so fast buster you need a little longer in the big blue to top off your ocean adventure! As we sat in the cockpit, eyes glued to the instruments we watched our speed and wind, continually drop, and with each decrease our arrival time grew later and later. Its funny how you hold on to the possibility of reaching land until the bitter end then you look at each other when the reality dawns on you that there is just no way you are going to get that cheeseburger today. For us that time came around 1300 and we still had 15 miles to go with a boat speed wallowing around one knot and the sun setting at a very early 1700. No walk on land, no uninterrupted night of sleep, and one more night of scrumptious boat food lay ahead of us! We were momentarily crushed with our elation deflated, and we both got a good case of the grouchies. Now we are only talking about arriving twelve hours later, but for us it felt like it would take weeks. We were so geared up with our first sighting of land, and now we were going to get to bob around and look at that land all the rest of the day and night.

It was about this time when despair was running rampant on Tournesol when we sighted our first boat in weeks coming up behind us at fierce pace. She was a beautiful 53’ racing cruiser. Pam got on the radio and hailed the boat off our starboard beam. It turns out their boat name was Medusa II and they were also headed to Nuku Hiva. They were motoring along and asked if we needed anything. We told them our engine situation. They were full of sympathies but did not offer us a tow. Not that we could have taken a tow since we were independently crossing an ocean as visually impaired people. How would that look, we sail 2,800 miles to be towed the last 10. They wished us luck and told us to have a good night. We watched in disgust as they rounded the corner of the island, somebody was going to get a cheeseburger today just not us! About this time, there was some serious whining heard aboard Tournesol.

Resigned to our situation we crept along unaware that we were about to experience the most incredible aspect of the entire journey. I was at the wheel since the wind vane was floundering in the light air and because we did not want to spare the power that our auto pilot would consume, when I heard the breathing noise that announces the presence of dolphins or whales. First there was one, and then two and then we were completely surrounded by dolphins. They were magnificent! The slapped their tails on the water, darted under the boat and played in our wake. They would race along in groups of two or three and roll over then dive down. We tried to count how many there were and lost count. There could easily have been 50 maybe even 100. They posed for pictures and squeaked back at us as we called to them. It was absolutely incredible, like having our own private marine amusement park to ourselves. Shamoo eat your heart out! There we were fretting about a few more hours on the water when we were enveloped in dolphins with Nuku Hiva silhouetted by the setting sun. I guess Neptue and friends really did want us to take a few more minutes to experience just how spectacular the ocean can be. If we had been able to move along faster and make our landfall we would have missed this awesome moment that I would not trade for a hundred cheeseburgers.

The dolphin show over, we did have to come up with a plan for the evening. Since we do not anchor after dark, we would have to spend the night off the coast of Nuku Hiva. We decided to sail to a position two miles outside of Taiohae Baie where we would heave to, and assess where the current would take us. This plan worked fine, once hove to we had a .5 knot drift angling away from the land. We reluctantly heated up and ate a couple of cans of soup and settled in for a long night of watches.

Around 0345 the following morning we were both down below transitioning the watch when Pam thought she heard voices outside. We rushed up on deck and there was a light off the stern. What could anyone want with us I thought to myself? Again they called over to us in French. Now what was I going to do, my French skills are nonexistent and my first attempt at communicating is in the middle of the night with a mysterious boat calling to us. I did my best saying hello, and that I don’t speech French, at least that’s what I think I said, I could have said that his mother looked like a 400 pound poodle for all I knew. I then pointed to the harbor and said “tomorrow morning” in English. I said “hello” again, since this was about the only word I was sure was correct in French, and he called back in English that it was okay. They did not motor off but just floated in the darkness, and we believe they began to fish. What an odd experience to have happen in the middle of a dark night, and even stranger to have it happen in a distant land in a foreign tongue.

We decided that with our drift and the sun coming up at 0500, we could start sailing back towards the anchorage and pull in just as the sun was climbing high in the sky. We battled flukey winds for the next four hours and had to tack a number of times to reach the correct angle to enter the bay, but around 10:00 we sailed into Taiohae Baie. The anchorage was breathtaking with steep cliffs covered in lush green. There is a town climbing up the step face of the hillsides. We saw two fires burning from the settlement and at least thirty sailboats lolling about in the crystal clear jade green water. We were here! We did it! We sailed 2,870 miles across the Pacific Ocean, and it felt great! We had successfully completed our first major accomplishment of the voyage with the longest ocean passage to date completed by legally blind people unassisted!

We dropped the hook at 1020 local time. For the first time in just over 31 days our sails were dowsed and we were no longer moving. There was lots to do in preparation of our dinghy ride to shore. We stowed, tidied and organized in the blazing sun. At first our outboard protested but then eventually started up, can you imagine if it had not started, I think we would have just abandoned ship and swam to shore. We sent our final position report for the crossing proclaiming our arrival, although most people probably thought we arrived the prior night. Finally, we tried to clean up our sweaty selves and make ourselves presentable for other human beings who have not been at sea for weeks.

When we reached the quay it turned out to be a cement dock with the distance to the water determined by the tide. We tied up and slithered over the cement ledge like a couple of salamanders. We were on land! My first impression was how abruptly everything stopped moving, and it was disorienting to say the least. There was a group of children playing and laughing and all speaking French. Now what? We had no real plan and we didn’t know if we knew any of the other cruisers, though we had heard a few friendly voices over the VHF. So, we set off to walk around the bay towards a hotel that was mentioned in the cruising guide. The entire waterfront is covered in grass with lush trees and tall palms. Many of the locals were spending their Saturday at the waterfront swimming and enjoying each others company. We came across what appeared to be a store and ventured in with white canes in hand. All I could think of is what the locals must be thinking when they saw us ragtag blind cruisers walk into the store. The store was darkly lit and had the same feel of many of the stores we encountered in Mexico. It felt more like we were shopping in someone’s garage. After looking around, pleased by many familiar items, I asked the cashier if we could use American currency and I managed to learn that she would take my dollars with an exchange rate of 85 Pacific Francs to one dollar. We bought two cold Oranginas and two icy Cokes. Heaven!!! We sat out front on the stoop drinking our nectars from the gods and watched the comings and goings of the locals. I tried to pet a stray dog and it jumped up and growled at me, so much for the local friendly pets. After our break we continued around the bay and while I was looking at the water Pam had boldly introduced herself to a very nice woman named Kiki. Kiki was here on a boat with her husband and they had sailed all the way from Connecticut aboard Endelig. We asked a million questions and learned a little about the area and what was available. She suggested we continue on to the hotel, and have a drink, and get acclimated. We climbed a hill and found ourselves at the beautiful Keikahanui Inn overlooking the bay. They have an outside patio bar and we were quickly brought ice cold drinks, and in a few mere seconds we were transformed from ratty and tired cruisers, to world travelers enjoying the sweet life. We sat on the lovely patio under a small canvas pagoda and sipped our drinks as we watched a squall empty its load progressively as it crossed the bay. With a monocular we could even see the rain as it advanced across the water. This was a sight that you dream of when you consider sailing a boat to a tropical paradise. As we watched we could see Tournesol get a much needed bath from the rainfall. We just kept saying to each other, can you believe we are actually here!

We were just talking about how we would have to figure out a way to find and meet the other cruisers when five English speaking people walked up to the patio for drinks. They asked us if we were Americans and we said we were. We asked if they were here on a boat and they said that indeed they were and their boat was named Medusa II. “We know you” I said, “we spoke on the radio yesterday when we were trying to get into Nuku Hiva”. It turns out they were the boat we watched motor around the island while we sluggled along with sails drooping and feeling sorry for ourselves. They joined us at our table and we quickly learned their group was made up of Ken the owner of the yacht and Sally and Don who had delivered the boat with Tom who is a good friend of Ken’s. There was also Dan who is from the Bay of Islands in New Zealand and will be traveling with Tom and Ken to New Zealand. We fell into a friendly chat and soon you would have thought we were good friend who hadn’t seen each other in a while, as so often happens when cruisers meet up. Drinks lasted until dinner was served at 1900, so we all decided to stay for a bite. I had the grilled Wahoo with buttery rice and fresh vegetables, and I was in bliss. Pam had the filet mignon which was also very tasty. We both chickened out on the local goat stew, but got to taste Sally’s and we will probably order it next time. We shared many a yarn and we learned that Tom and Ken would be sailing a similar route as us to New Zealand, and that Sally and Don had delivered boats for many years, and that Don has over 200,000 miles of sailing under his belt. Before we knew it was after 2100 and we had a long walk ahead of all of us back to the quay. As we walked home we were treated to a tropical shower (island speak for we got soaked). When we reached the quay the tide had dropped and our dinghy lay out of reach far below us. Dan helped us maneuver our dinghy to the boat ramp so we could board and after we all said our goodbyes Pam and I headed off in the darkness to find Tournesol. Once back on the boat I fell off into immediate sleep, content with the satisfaction of achieving our goal. What will tomorrow bring?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Journal Entry – June 1, 2005 Pacific Puddle Jump Days 28 & 29 The Home Stretch

Author: Pam

Day 28 started with the feeling we are really in the home stretch with 291 miles to go. We have continued to make an average of 150 miles a day since crossing the equator. What a gift near the end of an ocean crossing. The days have been very hot and during the day there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, we anxiously wait for the sun to go down when the temperature cools slightly. At times our course leaves the cockpit in complete sunshine and there is nowhere to be but down below. It isn’t really any cooler, just sheltered from the sun. The seas finally calmed down on Thursday and so did the wind. We only made 126 miles in 24 hours, still very respectable. Neither one of us has focused on when we might get there during the crossing, but as we get closer we have both acknowledged our focus is changing. I think it would be a miserable trip if you spent all of your time focused on getting there. As mentioned early on we set twelve waypoints as the course we would follow and this combined with getting in and out of the ITCZ and crossing the equator, we had plenty to keep us occupied. We have been reading a lot, working on finishing up the various books we are respectively reading. We also finished “The Incredible Journey”, nice story, but I wasn’t crazy about the author’s style. We are feeling less creative when it comes to cooking and eating. Perhaps it is the prospect of something fresh and cold on the horizon. We have resorted to simple and out of a can. Well, except we did have one of Scott’s all time favorites, Mac & Cheese. I did not like it as a kid and I am not really warming up to it as an adult. This delicacy (in Scott’s mind) was accompanied with perhaps the last of the potted meat options, Vienna Sausages. Finally something Scott didn’t like. I think they are ok, but really they were a vehicle for mustard, which I really do like a great deal. Spinney lobster here I come. Speaking of lobsters, I am dying to find out if how we have heard they catch them is really true. Now keep in mind this is a girl from Maine and a lobster fishing family. They apparently go “hunting” for them at night around the rocks, shine lights and when one is spotted they catch it by stepping on it. No fuss no muss with traps, buoys, warps, bait, boats (well maybe a boat)… More soon I hope on the finer details of catching lobsters in the South Pacific, especially after I get to eat one.
We woke up on Thursday morning feeling reasonably confident we could make landfall on Friday. Of course that will depend if the wind continues to be our best friend. We spent a good part of the day cleaning the inside of the boat and the cockpit. We hadn’t had a squall in a while and with all of the waves the salt layer was pretty thick. Several times today we wished for a good downpour so Tournesol could have a bath. Just as I was finishing the last bit of cleaning the sky opened up and our wish was granted. We took advantage of the rain and used it to get our last shower of the crossing started and then moved onto the infamous bug shower. The boat is shipshape, the food is getting boring and we are more than excited to make landfall, hopefully tomorrow.