Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fishing bliss

April 30, 2013
Time 6:20 PM local (GMT-10)
Underway Position: 16°38'S 147°28'W
Sailing for Tahiti with 127nm remaining to Point Venus anchorage.

Today we raised the anchor at Niau atoll and got underway well before sunrise. Drinking in the delicious early morning cool while sipping on coffee is south pacific bliss. Every wink of lost sleep was soon forgotten as the pre-dawn sky transformed into a magical kaleidoscope of color.

As Kathy whipped up a batch of baguette style French toast topped with honey, I gearing up for some early morning fishing as we navigated toward deeper waters. Despite frequently changing lures and altering course to sail over a seamount, our early morning fishing was unproductive. Visions of fresh sashimi for lunch faded into fish tacos from a long forgotten slab of fish from the back of the fridge. The tacos were great, but the fishing was unexpectedly slow. The next feature on the boundless ocean floor was a deep canyon that offered some promise.

And then we hit the magic mile.

A solid strike on my newest homemade lure was quite a rush, made all the better for the super calm clear waters to watch fight unfold as we landed a 25 pound tuna. Getting underway again it was just moments before aerial acrobatics ensued blue marlin gangman style. The spool winding low we were treated to one last show before a parting of line down below. Next on stage was a aerial performer of a different stripe, flashing green and blue like a flashing strobe light. A mahi leaping and a lunging she did fight, but we short distance released loosing the fight. Then the final act, another blue marlin gave a tiny purple lure a real whack. Mob hit or not we gave immediate chase as line stripped off with alarming pace. Reel and muscles screamed in pain as sweat filled visions of trophy fish reigned. Line cranked in and whipped out with haste, but could Dave's arm could keep pace? On went the battle under blazing sun until the fish was released all in good fun.

We hope to arrive at Point Venus anchorage on the north side of Tahiti on Wednesday evening.

That's it for now.

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Monday, April 29, 2013

off the beaten path Anchorage at Niau Atoll, Tuamotu

April 29, 2013

Anchor Position: 16°07.5099'S 146°22.8949' W
Water depth: 42' Coral rubble with poor holding

Off the beaten path anchoring at Niau Atoll, Tuamotu, French Polynesia

 Near Niau atoll anchorage
Niau atoll wharf landing

Yesterday we stopped at Anse Amyot on the north side of Toau atoll. The water was clear and the snorkeling around the anchorage quite nice. We would have gone for another snorkel expedition outside the pass, but are seriously low on dinghy gasoline, since I've been fishing so much lately. If our friends on Patriot are reading this, we're 2 for 2 on yellow fin from LightSpeed and 0 for 1 on Marlin. I'm 3 for 4 for live baiting for yellow fin from the dinghy one of which I caught on a lightweight salmon trolling rod with 14# line. The blue marlin was hooked just off the coast of Fatu Hiva and after a big run and a few head shakes our sorry old Penn reel was out of line... spooled.

Weather GRIB's suggest we may not have any good sailing wind for almost a week. With super settled conditions we decided to try anchoring off the passless Niau atoll, something that wouldn't be possible with regular tradewinds and seas. From Anse Amyot it was a leisurely 23 nm motor to the wharf on the east side of Niau atoll. I wanted to try a med moor inside the very tiny basin, but Kathy's better judgment prevailed and we opted to anchor off the NW side of Niau atoll instead. Niau's topography is unique from most of the other Tuamotu atolls as it seems a bit raised with some sheer coral cliff abutting the waters edge and a steep drop off below. We motored just a few boat lengths off the shore for several miles around the island and found depths greater than our ability to measure as our sounder functions to only 300'. Near the west end of the airstrip, that can be identified from sea by the wind sock, we dropped anchor in a shallow area of only 42' but the bottom quickly drops away to the abyss just off our stern. From the boat it was a short swim to shore where we enjoyed a walk along the beach then jumped off the coral and snorkeled back to the boat. Kathy spotted a new to us variety of fish which is quite unusual given the huge number of hours we've spent snorkeling.

It looks like we'll have a lovely calm night here at Niau atoll unless a wind shifting squall upends our tenuously set anchor. I'll be running the SailSafe anchor alarm app on my android tablet, the piercing alarm will definitely wake you up if the boat moves outside the preset parameters.

Tomorrow we may need to do some motor sailing for the remaining 200nm to Tahiti where Kathy is excited to go shopping at the Carrefour supermarket.

That's it for now.

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sailing from Fatu Hiva, Marquesas to Toau, Tuamotu

April 28, 2013
Underway Position: 15°23'S 145°50'W at 2000UTC

After 72 hours underway we've averaged 7.2 knots without even raising the mainsail. Spinnaker during daylight and jib only at night to easily manage the squalls. For the first time ever we are going without a preset watch schedule and it's working out fairly well, but not something I'm entirely sure we'll adopt long term.

We're approaching Anse Amyot on the northern side of Toau atoll, Tuamotu. It a familiar anchorage with great snorkeling and close to our rhumb line to Tahiti. The wind is going light so we'll wait a few days for things to fill back in before continuing the 225nm to Tahiti where we need to by cat litter and a few other specialty items.

Like we mentioned in a recent post we're backtracking through the South Pacific with the aim of arriving in the Northern Solomon Islands at the onset of South Pacific cyclone season in November. From there we'll traverse the outer islands of Papua making our way to Indoneisa where we hope to spend at least 6 months. It's 5000 nautical miles of sailing to reach the border of Indonesia, but surprisingly the longest legs of the voyage will be 500'ish nautical miles and we'll only have 3 or 4 of these long legs. The voyage we're wrapping up today will be one of the longest of the season at 550nm and at our average speed of 7.2 that's only 3 days and 4 hours.

That's it for now.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Day 2: Sailing from Fatu Hiva toward Tahiti

April 26, 2013

Day 2: Sailing from Fatu Hiva toward Tahiti

Yesterday, we motored about 4 miles from Baie Hanavae down to Baie Omoa to charge the batteries and make water. We had a few fellow sailors aboard whom we were dropping off at Omoa where we planned to pick up some baguettes for our passage. The hikers were taking the scenic hike over between the bays, about the only hike we've missed in the Marquesas. Landing the dinghy at Omoa was exciting with a 1-2 meter surge at the wharf and we walked nearly a mile through the village before we found our baguettes all the while worried our dinghy was getting mauled by the surge at the wharf. Underway by 9AM we had the spinnaker pulling nicely well into the evening. A few big squalls looming on the radar squashed our plan to run the chute through the night, so we rolled out the jib and enjoyed a nice low key dinner of spicy pumpkin and coconut rice. Our call to just run the jib turned out to be spot on as squalls materialized and unloaded a deluge of rain and wind, but all that lazy sailing resulted in just 6.4 knots average speed overnight.

This morning we enjoyed the relative cool of the early morning hours and sipped on coffee as the tropical sun began it's daily assault of fiery rays. Fortified with coffee we hoisted our medium size spinnaker and our speed jumped up to a solid 9's with frequent surfing in the 12-15 knot range. So far today the seas are running 2.5 meters and the wind is pretty steady at 18-22 out of the southeast. On a extra big wave we caught a huge surf and hit a top speed of 18.5 knots! That sort of acceleration on a sailboat can induce a legitimate adrenaline rush and it had me jumping to the helm to ensure the autopilot held a steady course.

It's been about 2000 nautical miles since we enjoyed downwind sailing and it's a good reminder of how effortless sailing can be. The surfs are coming easy as LightSpeed is light for a ocean passage. We've pretty well burned through our cache of long term provisions and have have been subsisting mainly on locally available foods. Quite a contrast from all the boats just arriving to French Polynesia whom are stuffed full of cheap and delicious stores from Panama and Mexico. With only with few provisions aboard, 30 gallons of water and 48 gallons of fuel, 1 bottle of wine and 12 beers we'll keep enjoying the regular surfs into the mid-teens at least until our next stop Tahiti where we plan to load up on provisions.

That's it for now.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sailing towards a new adventure

April 25, 2013
Underway Position: 10°57'S 139°27'W
Course 240°T
Speed 8.4 knots

Today we're underway. But, not in the direction you might expect! Our new plan is to scrap the existing plan, even though it'll mean back tracking the 2000 nautical miles we just sailed to position ourselves for the sail to Hawaii, Alaska and ultimately San Francisco where we planned to go back to work. When we hatched the San Francisco plan we were feeling a little burned out on our cruising lifestyle and were feeling ready for a more domestic life ashore. Thankfully those feelings have passed and we're all charged up and diving headlong into a new adventure. We've always wanted to sail SE Asia and explore some of the 17,000 Indonesian islands. So, despite a critically low cruising kitty we've decided to go for broke and hope the lower cost of cruising in SE Asia will help us stretch our dwindling cash reserves into another 1-2 years of sailing. Kathy thinks Singapore might hold some job opportunities in Bio-tech and some boat updates might be accomplished in Thailand.

Sealing the deal, we hoisted the spinnaker this morning and aimed the boat west toward Tahiti.

Our extremely changeable plan:

May- Cooks/Nuie
June- Tonga
July/August- Fiji
September/October- Vanuatu
November- Solomons
December- Papua New Guinea

January- Papua New Guinea
February/June- Indonesia
July- Malaysia
August/September- Thailand
October- Singapore

We're flying a medium size spinnaker and enjoying an average boat speed of 8.4 knots since leaving Fatu Hiva about 55 nm distant... a good start to our new adventure.

That's it for now.

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Nuku Hiva expats, Best Marquesas anchorages

April 20, 2013
Position: 09°54.45'S 139°06.19'W
Baie Hanamoenoa, Tahauta, Marquesas, French Polynesia, South Pacific

After a month in the wonderful bays around Nuku Niva, we were beginning to feel like expat locals. Henri at the end of the quay makes the best 'possion cru' (raw tuna with coconut cream, lime juice, tomatoes and cucumbers), Mahina loves to belt out songs on his Ukelle and serves up some mean 'steak frite', early mornings on Wednesday and Saturday are the only times to get fresh lettuce at the vegetable market and for those staying a while, Sedrik at Magasin Larson can special order almost anything. It's not often we stay anywhere long enough to 'do it all', but after hiking every trail, viewing every waterfall, riding horses on the beach, watching numerous dance practices and performances, eating at every restaurant and shopping at every shop, swimming with mantas, circumnavigating the island by car and under sail we've come pretty close to doing it all on Nuku Hiva. Icing on the cake came in the form of fishing aboard an 80' sport fisher with our friends Terry, Bonnie and Paul and wonderful meals with the whole crew including our Philippine friends Renee, Bong and Nap. Another 'a la mode' moment was Dave catching a 46 pound yellow fin tuna from the dinghy in Taiohae bay.

After a few false starts we tore ourselves away from Nuku Hiva and sailed down to Hiva Oa to rendezvous with a few friends whom had just arrived from Mexico and Darwin's Galapagos islands. We pulled off the 80nm inter-island sail in daylight with some vigorous 8-10 knots sailing to weather in boisterous trade wind conditions. After an overnight in Hanamenu we sailed for Atuona catching a beautiful and tasty 15 pound yellow fin tuna which made for some great sushi and sashimi to share with our friends. Anchoring at Atuona on Hiva Oa perfectly defines the term 'over crowded anchorage', so we caught up with friends, went for a 9 mile hike, bought some baguettes and then immediately sailed for Tahauta. Baie Hanamonena, Tahuata with it's white sand beach and clear waters is definitely one of the top five best anchorages in the Marquesas and since every one's been asking here are our top picks.

Fatu Hiva
-Hanavave (bay of Virgens) - Great scenery, hikes and clear waters for diving, but the rocky, tight, deep anchorage is subject to gusty winds).
-Baie Hanamoenoa - white sand beach, clear waters, palm trees, great holding.... paradise found.

Ua Pou
-Hakahau -Disney land skyline, easy access to town, few cruisers, hikes, but stern anchor required.

Nuku Hiva
-Taiohae - Easy access to town shops and restaurants and great hikes to archeological sites.
-Hakatea (Daniel's Bay)- Unforgettable waterfall hike, white sand beach, friendly inhabitants like tatu covered Teheke.
-Anaho - White sand, tons of hikes, remote, coral, calm anchorage, clear water, our #1 favorite.

That's it for now.

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Major course correction, a new plan written in wet sand...

A yearning for a sense of place has been slowly displacing our wanderlust this past year.  The allure of a garden full of green vegetables, proximity to family and friends, professional achievement and more permanent neighbors has been taking root.  These are things we both want and need at some point, but this past week our wanderlust has been making a strong showing.

We are now on the brink of an 'ALL IN' course correction.  Despite many months of staging for a sail to Hawaii, Alaska and San Francisco we're ready to write it off and set sail for Indonesia.  Kathy is super excited to explore SE Asia and Dave is dreaming of a follow up circumnavigation.

So the plan for 2013 written in wet sand at low tide is...

To quickly transit the South Pacific spending a little time in Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, PNG, and then slowing down for a three month cruise of Indonesia, arriving in Singapore around mid- November.  Job leads, paying crew and private charters referrals would all be welcome.   Help us keep the dream alive.

Daniel's Bay waterfall hike

 A view from the waterfall looking out the slot canyon at the Hakaui waterfall hike Daniel's Bay, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas French Polynesia.
Patriot crew rendezvous with LightSpeed in Daniels bay for a hike to the waterfall.

 Henrick, Bonnie, Terry, Paul and Kathy heading toward the Hakaui (Daniel's Bay) waterfall.
 One of the many river crossings that are perfect for Keens.
Terry always the gentleman helps Kathy across a improvised balance beam bridge.
At Taheke's home near the start of the waterfall hike.  Taheke has some sweet tatus including half of his face.  He loves to greet visitors so if you planning on the hike be sure to stop at the home closest to the Telephone booth for a visit.  This is also a great place to purchase some fruit on you way back to the boat.
 Paul from f/v Patriot in Hakaui Bay on the way to the waterfall.
 Kathy with her hard hat and ready for the final stage of the waterfall hike into the slot canyon.
 Terry and Bonnie of f/v Patriot
 Pool at the waterfall.  Due to drought the actual waterfall was dry, but luckily the pool was still good for a cool swim.

 Dave and Henrik standing where the waterfall should be pounding into the pool.  The last time I swam here in 2006 I almost drowned myself swimming too close to the powerful flow of cascading water.
 Terry chatting with a local as Paul picks some wild water cress for a salad.
 One of the many stops along the way to the water fall where the friendly locals love to invite you in for lemonade and fried bananas.
 Looking out from Hakaui Bay (Daniel's Bay) Nuku Hiva Marquesas French Polynesia South Pacific.
 Beginning of the beautiful walk up the valley to the falls.
 Daniels old property in Hakaui Bay,  I was lucky to meet the legendary Daniel in 2006 before he passed.
 Another view of Hakaui Bay
 Daniel's old home can be seen in the back nestled among the palms.
Tropical paradise found.   Yachts looking for safe drinking water can bring their dinghy up the small river and fill jugs at a spout near this location.  Water in Taiohae Bay is not safe to drink so this is the closest and easiest place to fill jugs, but it's still not easy.

Another great evening with our sport fishing friends.

 Cocktail hour with Paul, Kathy, Bonnie, Rene, Kahai and Dave aboard the TB.
 80' sport fisher Patriot alongside the mother ship TB.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

46 pound Tuna Sushi feast and drive around Nuku Hiva

 Dressed up for Easter at the Catholic Notre Dame cathedral in Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas.  The service was in Marquesasan and a unique cultural experience.
 Sushi feast from a 46 pound Yellow fin tuna I caught in the bay from our dinghy.
 Kahty's Poisson Cru (raw fish, coconut cream tomatoes and cucumber)
 Lightly seared sesame crusted Yellow fin tuna.  The trick is to really briefly sear each side then quickly get the fish back in the fridge to stop the cooking.  Delicious.
 Scenes from our drive around Nuku Hiva.  This is the birds eye view of Hatiheu Bay.
 This photo
 Wild goats lounge along the road.  On the North coast very little of the road is paved and if it's rained lately the road becomes impassable even in a 4 wheel drive.
 Nuku Hiva's rugged coastline
 Wild pigs rooting in some soft mud.
 Million dollar views in all directions and not a single home can be spotted on the north coast.
 Yet another incredible vista with more crags.
 Hidden bays abound.
 Towering cliffs shrouded in a mysterious veil of cloud.
 A outcrop of Carins is one of the few reminders that any human has touch this forgotten North coast.
 The road turns into a goat trail on the North Coast and eventually the brush grows clear across teh road.  Our average speed for our round the island tour was 10mph, but many hours was sub 5 mph as we creaped along in 4 wheel LOW range crawling through mud and over boulders.  Again, don't evn think about this drive if it's been raining or may rain.   You need a full day and plenty of provisions in case you get stranded which could easily happen.
 The only sign of the day indicated we should turn left and fjord a river.
 Yes, these are pine trees in the cool cloud laced mountains of Nuku Hiva
 Wild horses abound, we saw hundreds in the course of our drive.
 Another vista with another waterfall to enjoy as we climb into the mountains.
 Cloud forest to Desert Nuku Hiva has it all.
 Near the 4000+ summit a round rainbow circles us as we shoot this photo of the valley below.  See the shape in the circular rainbow.  That's me waving.  We definitely found our pot of gold on this great outing.
Our rental Suzuki was tested to the limit on this drive.

 Cowboy with a wild looking horse in tow.
 Ever changing scenery and a incredible breadth of plants and environments made a car tour of Nuku Hiva  a highlight of our visit.

Carved map of the Nuku Hiva
Shell looking perturbed after a swim lesson to hone her skills of climbing rope ladders we dangle off the boat.