Saturday, June 30, 2012

Superb snorkeling - Sharks

June 30, 2012
Anchorage position: 16°13.8546 S 142°27.4837 W

Snorkeling in the Tuamotus is superb. A balanced pristine marine environment unfettered by over-fishing and pollution is evident by an abundance of apex predators such as sharks. Getting in the water takes a bit of psyching up, and once in, a quick 360 degree sweep without seeing a huge shark helps take the edge off. The sharks are curious and one or two are pretty much always visible on the periphery. The bigger ones definitely get your attention as they swim right up for a closer look. An abundance of reef fish, a large variety of fancifully shaped corals, brightly colored giant clams, and wild black lipped oysters make the circling sharks well worth it.

After lunch we found a new anchorage in the southeast corner of the atoll. The prevailing wind and waves pound on the reef and provide a constant supply of crystal clear water making for the best snorkeling yet with visibility of at least one hundred feet. However the anchorage was tenuous with many coral heads to quickly snag the anchor chain if the wind were to shift. So after our second snorkel expedition of the day we shifted a bit back up the reef and anchored off the most southerly motu in 5 meters sand and isolated coral heads at 16°13.8546 S 142°27.4837 W between a sand bar and projecting shallow reef within the lagoon. It was another blissfully peaceful night far from civilization. It's been several days since we've heard or seen any indication that anyone else even exists on the planet. No planes, no boats, no distant lights, not even a peep on our VHF radio that we leave on 24 hours a day.

Kathy baked a loaf of rye bread and a loaf of banana bread and I worked on making a batch of fish jerky. The fish jerky recipe is in the development stages, since we don't have a receive aboard I'm making up my own. So far I've sliced 1 pound our Yellow fin Tuna into 1/4 inch strips and marinated the fish for about 1 hour in a combination of (3T pickling salt, 3T sugar, 3T soy sauce, 1/2t fresh ground pepper) then placed the slices on the solar drier.

SHARK ALERT! In the middle of eating our breakfast, Kathy just looked over the side of the boat and counted nine sharks. We took a few photos then tried an experiment where we splashed the water to see if the sharks would come closer. In short order we had fourteen sharks right on the stern of out boat circling in the beautiful clear waters! Ready for a swim? We hope the sharks have already had their breakfast.

Ok, so after our breakfast we put on our polarized glasses, stood on top of the pilot house endeavoring to accurately count the number of sharks circling the boat. We sort of got in to a shark induced fervor and our conversation went something like this: Kathy-"I'm going to do a systematic sweep from over here, one, two, three ...sixteen, no I got seventeen, eighteen, nineteen", Dave-"Wow a legit 19 and how about that one coming from over there?" Kathy excitedly-"Twenty!". Dave-"Simply amazing, I wonder why they're circling our boat? What did you throw in the water this morning?" Kathy-"Just some papaya peels and egg shells.... I'm not swimming from the boat. Do you think I'd be ok on the paddle board? What if the sharks rammed the board?" Dave-"That wouldn't be good."

Now that we have our dinghy patched up and the glue has dried 24 hours we'll put it back in the water and zip down the reef, then quickly get in the water before we have too much time to count all the sharks circling about.

That's it for now.

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Anchored in saphire waters on the edge of the earth

June 29, 2012
Raroia SE Reef Anchorage Position: 16°10.0137'S 142°24.8347'W

Looking at earth from space, there's this blue hue where the earth's atmosphere transitions to the infinity of space. Tucked up close to the reef on the edge of Raroia atoll, Tuamotu we're hovering in sapphire waters that seamlessly transition into the blue sky beyond. It really feels like we're anchored on the edge of the earth.

The 10 nautical mile journey across the lagoon to the Southeast edge required good light to avoid the many coral heads and innumerable pearl buoys. Black pearl farming is booming here in Raroia and the lagoon is strewn with strings of oyster shells suspended by buoys. With our shallow draft we found it quite easy to sail across the pearl lines, but many of the buoys were suspended just below the surface and they'd be just under the bows before we'd see them.

We dropped the anchor in 8 meters over sand with isolated small coral heads at: 16°10.0137'S 142°24.8347'W where we have the barrier reef protecting us from the east and a submerged reef protecting us from the South should wind chop develop inside the lagoon.

Beach combing the windward edge of the reef and nearby we found very little plastic trash, mostly fishing related items like plastic fish totes, floats, a construction hard hat, the normal number of orphaned flip flops and lots of glass items such as bottles, jars and a number of light bulbs, both globes and florescent tubes. On the inside of the reef there are a large number of abandoned pearl buoy floats the same type as we'd commonly find on the remote beaches of Alaska and British Columbia. The brightly colored red, green and blue buoys within the lagoon will undoubtedly be salvaged and pressed into additional service at the pearl farms, but just the same I can see over twenty of them on the nearby motu. I might gather them all up so our view is truly unfettered.

Shortly after anchoring we spotted several Black tip reef sharks cruising around the boat. On our one minute trip to the reef we spotted many others in the two to four foot range. Wading near the literal edge of the reef the gentle ocean swells would rear up and crash heavily then spill the water toward lagoon. In knee deep water schools of bright blue/green Parrot fish would ebb and flow on the edge of the surf, sometimes within ten feet or less of our legs. Small reef sharks would also swim closely by within five feet. After our wading and beach combing we headed back to the dinghy which was high and dry, the tide having fallen. Dragging our aluminum bottomed dinghy across dead coral rubble made quite a racket. Apparently, the noise excited the sharks as they came in numbers from all quarters. One bigger guy ripped along close to the shore at high speed in water only half as deep as you'd expect with most of his body out of the water creating quite a stir. Others darted in close thrashing the water as we sort of freaked and jumped into the dinghy even though the dink wasn't even floating yet in shin deep water. Marveling at the number and curiosity of the sharks we kept a sharp lookout as we got the dinghy floating and instead of wading it to deeper water broke out the paddles. Sort of intimidating considering we came out here to do lots of snorkeling.

Our dinghy sprang a leak so we pulled the motor and hauled the dinghy up on the trampoline where we could flip it over to work on the hole. So while the glue is drying I guess we'll test the waters and do some swimming today.

That's it for now.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Raroia, Tuamotu

June 28, 2012
Village Anchorage Position: 16°02.4016'S 142°28.2771'W

Even though we anchored in a blinding rain squall, our anchorage selection near the town wharf is working out quite well. The wind has been nearly non-existent the last two days and the lagoon glassy smooth. The calm quiet on the boat is almost spooky. I don't think we've had an anchorage this calm since Alaska.

Yesterday we headed ashore to check out the village. Walking past the post office we met a local woman named Tatiana who speaks great English and happily answered a few of our questions. She asked if 'we'd like to get to know local people and of course we jumped at the opportunity. For much of our stay in French Polynesia we've been unable to make real connections with the locals due to our lack of French language skills. Making the short walk down to Tatianas home (located on the lagoon side near the end of the airstrip) we met Tatiana's husband Regis. The first thing he said is 'you're my savior' which had me wondering if these two were serious bible thumpers.

Quite to the contrary, Regis and Tatiana have a rule that Regis can't drink alone and so within seconds he was popping the top of a Hinano beer. It was maybe 9AM when they invited us in and we politely turned down the offer of a beer, but by 9:30 Kathy decided to split one with Tatiana...

We ended up hanging out at their beach front house until nearly dark and quite a few beer later. Regis and Tatiana are transplants to Raroia having moved to the atoll in 2007 from another atoll where they owned a motu and worked as pearl farmers. In such a small community it can be hard to fit in so these two especially enjoy entertaining visitors. Regis has lots of plans including starting another pearl farm, building bungalows and planting a huge garden. His existing small garden with tomatoes, bananas, and grapes shows it's a myth that nothing will grow on the atolls.

A few things we learned:

Fish near the village are ciguatoxic, but further from the village they are reportedly ok.
Regis thinks that the 'catalyst' (or maybe the additives) used in concrete is the reason certain areas become ciguatoxic which does seem to have some correlations. There is plenty of concrete in the water near the village, all the navigational aids have concrete bases, and the wharf and sea wall also have lots of concrete in contact with the water. Regis also thinks that when hundreds of concrete anchors used in the pearl farming industry are deployed in a lagoon it is only a mater of time until the fish will become ciguatoxic. Whatever the cause, it seems apparent that there is at least a link to the proximity of humans settlement.

And a few more facts:
..if you feed your pig more than 5 coconuts a day it will become too fat.
..if a shark circles you with interest, this is not good and you should move along.
..the Kon-Tiki raft crashed on to the windward side of Raroia. don't see too many chickens on the atoll because all the wild dogs eat the chickens.
..locals love dog and apparently it's delicious.
..internet is available for only 1000XPF a month with a year contract via the cellular network.
..palm trees lean into the prevailing wind, which everyone agrees is curious. beyond 6th grade requires a boarding school on Makemo atoll or Tahiti.
..many of the pearl farming jobs are being snapped up by hard working Chinese immigrants.
..a supply ship calls at Raroia every one and a half months.
..shipping is pretty inexpensive.
..a plane calls three times a month.
..air freight cost 400XPF a kilo ($2 a pound).
..the primary grocery store on Raroia is bankrupt, but a new one is springing up.
..until the new store gets licensed it's BYOB.
..tidal range in the lagoon is pretty minimal, maybe 2' on average.
..every home is off the grid with independent solar panel arrays and rain water catchment.
..slightly salty ground water is used for dish washing.
..water catchment is used for bathing.
..5 gallons bottles of water from Tahiti are for drinking and cooking.
..locals harvest sea cucumber which, boiled and dried, sells for $13 USD a kilo for export to China where it sells for $400+ USD a kilo. They asked us if we knew a sea cucumber direct buyer.

We're heading to town again today to check out the new grocery store, then heading down the lagoon to the Southeast corner for some snorkeling.

That's it for now.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Underway Tuamotus Day 4

June 26, 2012
Underway Position at 8AM local: 15°54'S 142°24'W

Yesterday we scouted out anchoring possibilities at Napuka atoll. At 10:30AM we dropped sail half a mile off the concrete wharf on the Westerly end of Napuka and headed closer for a look The wind was NE 15 with a NE swell of 1.5 meters and a long period SE swell of 2.5 meters. Due to the NE swell, surf was occasionally closing out the small basin next to the wharf. In calm conditions it might be possible for the very adventurous to attempt a med moor to the wharf or perhaps even go alongside with huge fenders. However, in these conditions even taking a powerful RIB into the basin would require careful timing of the sets and bravado to land on the concrete boat ramp. We circled around a few times just outside the surf to grab some soundings, which indicated the bottom shoaled quickly from 40 meters to about 10 meters. Swing room would be severely limited or non-existent with the hook in 10 meters. Locals began to congregated on the pier and were watching us with keen interest. We really wanted to stop for a visit, but the NE swell was blowing things out. So we ran close to the reef for 1/4 mile to the SW, arriving at the westerly most point of the atoll. A big SE swell was blowing up on the reef on the southern shore, but there was a small patch of water near the point that held a little promise. We cruised around scouting the bottom and when we'd found a 10 meter patch Kathy jumped in to snorkel around and check out the bottom type. It was mostly coral rubble and our attempt to get the anchor to hold was futile. I dropped the anchor on the 10 meter patch and by the time I had 35 meters of chain out the boat was already in 40 meters of water. The anchor quickly slid down the steep underwater slope and Kathy watching from the water gave me the hand slicing across the throat signal to tell me 'it's just not working'. By the time I began retrieving the anchor it was dangling below the boat far from even touching the bottom. Kathy clamored back aboard and said it was just not going to work. In the interim many locals had congregated and were motioning us to come ashore. Knowing Napuka probably has almost zero visitors we really wanted to land so I gave it one more try. This time I snuck into 8 meters (14°10.1163S 141°16.5830W) and let the anchor fly as the boat slipped into deeper water propelled by wind and current. It seemed to be holding so I donned my mask and fins and dove in for a look not wanting to miss a chance for at least a quick swim. The boat was sitting in 45 meters and as I followed the anchor chain I found the anchor with a very tenuous grip in some dead coral rubble and the chain suspended off the bottom out into the deep water. It was like anchoring on the top of a steep cliff, something that just wasn't going to work. A curious Black tip reef shark gave me a start when focused on the anchor I looked up to see him swimming in front of my face. I waved an arm in a futile effort to shoo him away and he just kept staring at me from a little over an arm length away. I usually swim with a spear and dive knife so I was feeling a little vulnerable as the standoff ensued for a few more seconds before he finally lazily swam away. I took a few free-dives into the depths to peer under some coral heads on the off chance that I might spot a lobster, but it would have been in vain without at least a pair of gloves to handle the spiky exoskeleton.

If we had calmer weather I might have tried dropping the anchor in 40-50 meters off the underwater 'cliff' and then backed toward the shoaling reef to drop a stern anchor in the shallow water. The idea being that with the anchor in deep water there would be no possibility of dragging it up hill and thus the yacht would be safe from grounding on the reef. We might have tried this if there was a better possibility of a safe dinghy landing.

The anchorage deemed untenable in these conditions so we gave the locals a big wave goodbye as they urgently waved for us to come ashore. We hoisted our medium size spinnaker and had a great 12 hour spinnaker run until a squall packing a 50 degree wind shift necessitated a wild nighttime, rain blowing sideways, spinnaker dousing.

This morning as I write we are closing with Raroia atoll about 12nm distant. Raroia has a decent pass, but with the 2 to 2.5 meter SE swell running the outflow current in the pass might be significant. I won't go into all the details here, but the simple version is; low lying atoll lagoons fill with water from waves spilling over the windward reefs and the water has no place to go save the rushing out the boat pass. At Raroia it's reported that the outflow can be 8 knots. And since we now have northwest winds and the boat pass is on the Northwest side of Raroia it's likely we'll have very unfavorable conditions to enter the pass as the outflow stacks up against NW wind and waves. It's also very squally so we'll have to wait at a minimum for the heavy visibility robbing rain to abate before we go in for a closer look.

Our watch schedule last night was Dave 9PM-3AM Kathy 3AM-7AM. Waking after 4 hours of sleep was made much easier by the welcoming aroma of freshly baked banana bread. According to the log book Kathy was busy baking on her watch and popped a loaf of banana bread in the oven at 3:20AM! Kathy and I both agree that double handed sailing is really pretty easy and more rewarding each new day underway. Compared to the Mexico-Marquesas voyage when we had two crew, I'm actually more rested and relaxed now than when I had twice the theoretical hands to run the ship.

As we approached the Raroia boat pass, thick squalls ominously blanketed the atoll and greatly reduced visibility. Luckily, Raroia is well charted and the pass not too technical. We decided the weather was unlikely to improve, so we forged ahead. We chose to run the extreme left side of the pass to avoid the bulk of the outflow current and it's commensurate standing waves mid-channel. On the edge of the channel we still found 3 knots of head current, but also one very large dolphin riding our starboard bow, who kept pretty much glued to the hull, all the way through the pass. It looked like he was trying to rub off 2 remoras attached to him.

Once inside the pass the skies opened up and we had solid deluge of rain for the mile or so to the anchorage making it hard to read the navigation aids that toped the coral heads. Several of the marks we had to slowly approach, unable to determine their color from much distance and the preferred side of which to pass. Arriving in the vicinity of the anchorage near the wharf the deluge increased to a torrential deluge and we had to just make our best guess on where to anchor. With the water surface jumping with the huge rain drops and darkened skies there was little visual information available to identify hazards below. Kathy jumped in the water to survey the bottom for hazards. For the time being we'll just sit it out and enjoy the fact that we're quickly filling our water tanks with the abundance of rain. When the skies clear we'll likely move to a more desirable location.

That's it for now.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Underway for Tuamotos Day 3

June 25, 2012
Underway Position at 8AM local: 13°54'S 141°11'W

This morning we are sailing toward the Tuamotus at 7-9 knots under regular sail. Sailing catamaran LightSpeed is finally back on her lines and sailing properly now that we've eaten through hundreds of pounds of food and are no longer loaded down with the passage making crew we had from Mexico. We've still another day of sailing to Raroia atoll. The weather is pretty spectacular with North East winds 100% of the way so far! The predominant wind direction is E to SE, but we've timed the interaction of a huge 1036 High pressure system and are getting N to NE winds. This turns what is a normal beat into a downwind passage!!! All of our weather watching the last few weeks seems to be paying off very nicely.

We are about 2 hours from sailing between Napuka atoll and Tepoto atoll near a position of 14°08'S 141°21'W. From what we understand there is no pass into either lagoon and the only anchorage option is on the edge of the reef. Studying a detailed satellite image of Napuka atoll there appears to be a concrete wharf on the west end in very small basin where the coral has been blasted out. This basin looks super sketchy even for a dinghy landing. Our CM93 chart only vaguely depicts these atolls with a few polygons, so we'll be using the DMJ Quester 'Marine Plotter' software loaded with google satellite images and tied to our GPS as we get closer.

Since we're now running early on our approach to Raroia we might swing close to Napuka atoll and get a visual on the Wharf and scope out the edge of reef anchorage options. Ideally you only navigate around coral shoals during the hours of 10AM to 2PM when the sun is sufficiently overhead to avoid low angle sun glare off the water. If you follow this rule it's fairly easy to 'read the water' depths and avoid the shoal areas. This in mind it looks like perfect timing for a look at Napuka atoll today. We've just spotted the palm crowned atoll of Napuka bobbing in and out of the swell from 8 nautical miles.

That's it for now.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day 2--Underway for Tuamotus - Big Yellow Fin

June 24, 2012
Underway Position at 1PM local: 11°52'S 140°40'W

We had some great stars last night and very calm sea conditions. Once the moon set, the horizon was indistinguishable as the stars reflected off the glassy calm sea. I buffed up on my southern celestial bodies with the aid of Google Sky Maps, an App on Kathys' old Droid X smart phone. Kathy cooked a great fish dinner and hit the sack early. I was feeling pretty fresh so I stayed on watch until 4AM. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but when I woke up at 8AM I was not feeling so rested. Before I even had a sip of coffee to clear the cobwebs, we had a fish on the line. Kathy had waited until I woke up to deploy the fishing line and she hadn't even got half the normal line out when a big fish hit the lure. I jumped to action to slow the boat and get us 'hove to' (drifting slowly with the boat oriented perpendicular to the wind). Then the fight began with what we were thinking was a big shark based on the huge run of line that ripped off the reel. Sometimes sharks follow the boat, so it seemed likely. About a half hour later, dripping with sweat and with both arms burning from the battle, we spotted a silver blue flash of the fish below the boat. At this point we were pretty sure we had a Yellow fin Tuna and wrestling the fish closer to the boat, sure enough a big delicious Yellow fin emerged. We had a brief discussion about the size of the fish and whether we could fit it in the fridge. It was decided we'd try to land the Tuna and my first several attempts to sink the gaff were futile as the fish would revive a bit, dive deep and rip line off the reel. Eventually, I sunk the gaff, squirted some cheap Mexican Tequila down the gills and stuffed a rope through the gills and mouth and secured the fish to the boat. After the requisite steps to properly dispatch the fish as prescribed for high quality Sushi we took the fish forward to the trampoline for weighing, photos and filleting. The fish weighed in at 36lbs, making it one of the biggest Yellow fin we've landed. At this point our cat 'Shell' pretty much was out of her mind with the smell of fresh fish and was making quite a racket tearing around the boat emitting all sorts of excited happy sounds. She even climbed out back on top of the surfboards, where she is not allowed to go. Bad Kitty! Then strangely when offered some fresh fish to snack on she loses interest. I'm not sure what's in the kitty chow we feed her, but it's hard to imagine it could be better than fresh fish.

Kathy, true to form, cleaned the fish au'natural to avoid getting blood and guts on her clothes and I took the fillets down to the galley, sliced out the bloodline and packaged the tuna in meal size portions. We have our system worked out well and processed the fish quickly and were back underway and ready for showers in short order.

The wind is still super light and we're hoping for some wind or this 500+ nm passage is going to take a long while. We've made only 135nm in the first 24 hours.

That's it for now.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Underway for Tuamotus

June 23, 2012
Underway Position at 4PM local: 09°53.4811 S 140°10.4739 W

Pulled anchor this morning to take advantage of a decent weather window to the Tuamotu. We don't have a specific destination in mind aside from heading as far South in the archipelago as the prevailing SE trade winds will allow. Hoping for a few stopovers at the lesser traveled atolls. Of particular interest is Fangatau atoll near 15°50 S 140°52 W which appears to have a manmade small boat pass blasted through the reef on the South shore. The pass might be 30' wide and is of unknown depth. If we have the weather we might swing by to take a look. With another 4 months on our French Polynesian visa we'll linger in the Tuamotu before heading West.

That's it for now.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

A little closer to 'Sailng the farm'. Building a solar fruit drier

A big thanks to our Oregon sailing friends Jasmine and Shannon whose example of living off the grid has been an inspiration.  Lending us a rare out of print copy of Sailing the Farm: A Survival Guide to Homesteading on the Ocean by Ken Neumeyer was a real gift as it's helped us get to the next level of self sufficiency.  From pressure canning, sprouting, drying fish to our newest pursuit drying fruit in a solar fruit drier.
 Dave cutting the drying rack frames.
 Slicing mangos.
 Solar drier with 8 screened racks.
 Loading in the slices of mango.
 Mango madness in the galley.
 A peek inside the drier through a screened vent at the top.
Solar fruit drier in action aboard s/v LightSpeed at Ua Pou, Marquesas French Polynesia South Pacific.

Ua Pou locals are great

 It's mango season.  We bought a huge bag of 50 mangos and have been drying the fruit as well as canning 14 pints.   The locals are super nice and it's hard to walk by a Mango tree with out the owner offering some fruit for free. 

We were also invited to a BBQ on the beach by the local canoe builder, music composer, and paddling coach.  It was a fun evening hanging out with the paddling club.  Ua Pou is famous for paddlers and this year the top paddler from the Marquesas is again from Ua Pou.  He'll be padding in August in Tahiti against up to 800 other entrants. 
 Church in Ua Pou

 Fresh tuna anyone?  We bought a 3 kilo fillet for 1000 xpf or about $3 per pound.
Henrick (s/v Misty), Kathy and the fisherman's family at the dock in Baie d' Hakahau Ua Pou.

This wouldn't fly in most ports

 Local kids in Ua Pou straddle dock lines securing the supply ship Aranui 3.
 As the ocean surges the lines tighten and the games begin.
Good times...

Supply ship day in the islands

 Aranui 3 arriving in Ua Pou, Marquesas.  This supply ship calling about once a week,  is the lifeline of the islands.  Pretty much everything comes and goes does so on this ship.   There is sort of a festive atmosphere when the ship arrives and the town becomes very active.

 Bags of fruit headed to Tahiti
 Kathy and a whole lot of cargo in cardboard boxes.
Aranui 3 is a tight fit at the dock in Baie d' Hakahau, Marquesas French Polynesia

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Baie D' Hakahau, Ua Pou our favorite 'Town' anchorage in the Marquesas

We've been hanging out in Baie D' Hakahau on the island of  Ua Pou the last five days and having a great time.  The locals are super friendly, the bay nicely protected, if you can anchor behind the breakwater and not so many sharks that you can't swim.   The weather is dry in comparison to Nuka Hiva and to top it off we've only seen a few other boats here so we practically have the place to ourselves.   The community is very active lots of socializing and sports and swimming making it easy to meet lots of locals.   More on this soon.

 Kathy on a hike to the spires.
  looking down on Baie D' Hakahau, Ua Pou
Rainbow over Baie D' Hakahau, Ua Pou

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ua Pou, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia

 LightSpeed anchored in Baie D'Hakahau, Ua Pou Marquesas Islands.  Amazing rock spires formed by volcanic plugs.  Often shrouded in clouds, it's quite a treat to see the 4000 foot spires unadorned with the white fluffy stuff.
 Kathy enjoying the scenery on our way to town.
 Henrick  from s/v Misty

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dinghy Fishing Derby for beer - Dolphins -

 s/v Sea Turtle IV organized a dinghy fishing derby.  Entry fee was 2 beers per person with first prize taking 60% of the beers, second prize taking 20% and third place taking 10%.  The Derby ran from 8AM to 11AM and seven boats participated in the event.  In the outer bay a pod of dolphins provided entertainments as the fishing was slow.  In the end only one fish was caught by the entire fleet.  So back at the organizers boat we awarded first prize then everyone enjoyed sharing stories while consuming the 2nd and 3rd prize.
 Post-derby get together aboard s/v Sea Turtle IV. 
Dolphins spent plenty of time playing around our dinghy.  I suspect this is part of the reason we didn't catch anything.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Cost to fill a propane bottle in the Marquesas.

June 7, 2012
Nuka Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia, South Pacific

We carry three 20lb propane tanks aboard LightSpeed. One is dedicated to the BBQ and two to the galley stove/oven. It seems we've really gone through the propane fast these last months. Usually we get 45-60 days per bottle. So, running low we decided to bite the bullet and get a bottle filled here in the Marquesas before we head to the Tuamotu. I was looking at building a conversion hose and then buying a local bottle of Butane, but that would have required splicing a fitting into my brand new propane lines with hose clamps. Not ideal. So we had a bottle filled by the Yacht Services folks here on the pier in Taiohae Bay, Nuka Hiva. Ouch! 5000 French Pacific Franc (XPF) or $52 USD So, a full 20lb bottle of butane is pretty darn expensive. In contrast we could have bought a local bottle for 2650XPF, but then we'd need to jury rig the fittings. Advice to other boaters, bring a spare LPG pigtail with Northern America fitting on one end and a 1/4" fitting on the other. For here you could build a transfer hose with a quick trip to the hardware store here in the Marquesas.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Circumnavigationg Nuka Hiva. Daniel' Bay to Taiohae.

June 6, 2012
Taiohae Bay, Nuka Hiva, French Polynesia South Pacific

Anchorage Position: 08°54.95'S 140°06.15'W

We're back in Taiohae after checking out every single bay on Nuka Hiva. We didn't anchor in every bay, but we did cruise into each bay to take soundings, evaluate the possibilities of landing and the likely comfort at anchor. We wrapped the trip with a few days at Daniel's Bay where we hosted a beach bonfire one evening. As always we cooked our dinner on the fire including a breadfruit which turned out delicious. Just toss the breadfruit on some hot coals and rotate until all sides are charred then peel off the burned skin and enjoy.

We used our fire cooked breadfruit the next day in a egg scramble and even made potato salad using breadfruit in lieu of potatoes. Both are great substitutions and a nice way to go local with our meals.

We're getting our USA style propane bottled filled here in Taiohae, Nuka Hiva with a Butane via a arcane gravity fill procedure and it's not cheap! More on this later once we pick up our bottle.

It looks like we'll head to New Zealand for cyclone season this year. This is a departure from our idea to go WAY off the beaten path or stay long term in French Polynesia, but we think the new plan is lower risk and fits better into our overall long term plan. However, with 5 months until cyclone season we sure have plenty of time to change our plans a few more times.

That's it for now.

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Sunday, June 03, 2012

Exploring a uncharted bay. Meeting the locals. 30lbs of Fruit.

June 2, 2012
Anchorage Position: 08°47.3235 S 140°10.7403 W (8 meters sand)

Baie Hakaehu, Nuka Hiva, Marquesas, South Pacific

Looking for a new adventure we sailed from Baie D' Anaho in hopes of discovering a good anchorage along the mostly uncharted North coast of Nuka Hiva. Sailing South Pacific waters always provides adventure and we found plenty by poking into the many bays that have never been hydro-graphically surveyed. It takes good mid-day light, as you don't want a glare off the water, and attentive 'eyeball' navigation to avoid lurking hazards. After checking out a few bays we found a great anchorage at the head of Baie Hakaehu in 8 meters sand with excellent holding.

 Dugout canoe on the beach at Baie Hakaehu with LightSpeed at anchor in the bay beyond.

Heading ashore it was an easy surf landing on a fine sand beach with knee high waves. Pulling the dinghy up the beach was a bit of a struggle in the soft sand. Even if our dinghy wheels weren't broken they wouldn't have worked in this type of, sink when you step, soft sand.

Walking through a grove of lime trees we entered a horse pasture and picked up an ancient stone lined road that led inshore. A Marquesan home sat a few hundred yards from the beach. Then up ahead a car appeared from the jungle and cruising friends from s/v Miss Goodnight piled out. It's a small island, but this was a bit of a surprise. Apparently, they were on a self guided island tour and had made a few turns off the main road and were now a little lost. A short time later the property owner arrived home with a slight look of concern on seeing 6 foreigners standing in his yard. His concern was short lived and he happily offered driving directions.

We said hello (M.) 'Kaoha Nui' and asked permission take a walk (M.) 'hee taha' around the property that was brimming with ancient Marquesan stone house foundations (M.) 'Paepae' and stone walls and walks. The property is really quite spectacular and chock full of fruit trees heavy with Mangos, limes, lemons and several other fruits of unknown name, bread fruit trees abound. A fresh water spring wells out of the ground into an ancient stone lined rectangular pool. The locals were super friendly, inviting us into their home they filled our bags with over 15 lbs of fruit and then encouraged us to pick anything we like on the property. In the end we had 30 pounds (as measured by our fish scale back on the boat) of limes, breadfruit, lemons, mangos, bananas, pompelmouse and some other weird looking tasty fruits.

We asked all the usual questions, like how's the fishing in the bay, is it ok to swim, etc. They advised the fishing was good, but that there are sharks. We discussed the shark attack of the young boy of which they were well aware. Launching the dinghy we had a shark cruise by with his fins out the water in a very 'Jaws' like fashion. Not sure if we're going to be doing much more swimming in the Marqueses.

That's it for now.

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Saturday, June 02, 2012

Connecting with a Marquesasan friend from a 2006 Goat hunt. Laundry

June 1, 2012
Anchorage position: 08°49.3236'S 140°03.8678'W

Baie D' Anaho, Nuka Hiva, Marqueses, French Polynesia, South Pacific

On my last visit to Baie D' Anaho in May of 2006 with crew Karl, Kitty and Julie aboard my old mono-hull s/v La Vie we slipped into the bay just after sunset and dropped anchor. Seeing a small bonfire on the beach we launched the dinghy and headed to shore and met some local guys. Teheke, David and Leopold were cooking chunks of goat over an open fire and sipping the local beer Hinano Tahiti Biere de Luxe. Within in minutes these generous locals offered us all a Hinano. Considering that these guys collect copra for a living and a beer might represent a days work, their generosity was nothing short of enormous. We reciprocated by heading back to the boat and whipping up some side dishes to go with the goat and returned with a bottle of rum as well. Despite a nearly complete language barrier we made fast friends. I attribute much of this to Karl who is one of the most energetic, animated and positive guys you'll ever meet. Before the end of the night Karl had arranged a plan to go goat hunting the next day. Teheke led the hunt with an old rusty 22 and David carried other essential goat hunting equipment. For our all day effort of scaling the high ridges around Baie D' Anaho, Teheke shot three goats and made some priceless memories for the rest of us. I especially recall Karl with a goat slung over his shoulders and the well endowed Billy goat balls slapping Karl in the cheek as he made his way across the uneven terrain. Priceless!

I was really looking forward to my second visit to the Marquesas, French Polynesia as I wanted to catch up with the locals here in Baie D' Anaho. Shortly after we arrived I started to ask around for the guys, but as far as we could decipher with our broken French, no one was around. Several days passed as we explore the area around the Baie D' Anaho and then I spotted my friend David. We agreed to meet up after he was done working and share a beer on the beach. In the interim I wanted to deliver some fresh Mahi Mahi and Tuna to David's house, but I was digging pretty deep to find the right path after six years. We thought we'd found his house and gave the fish to an old woman who was working in the yard. Later we found out it wasn't the right home, but it was all 'C'est Bon' (very good) as he got the fish anyway. So we met up for a beer later on the beach and caught up. Of course David wanted to know where Karl was at! This time I was buying the Hinanos and brought a few ice cold beers from the boat. So, we found out that Teheke and Leopold now both live in Baie D' Hatiheu. We talked hunting, coconuts, fishing and about other interesting archeological sites we might visit. I was most interested in caves that might be burial caves. David warned that climbing up to the caves would be Marquesasan 'mea hauhau' and French 'dangereux' (very dangerous) as the prolific goats M. 'Keukeu' or Fr.'Chevre' that roam the hills are always kicking stones loose from above that could kill you as you scale the cliffs. This seemed like good advice so we'll pass on the burial caves.

The most interesting story was one of a spear fishing expedition that occurred two Sundays ago. David, Teheke and Teheke's younger brother, a little boy, were all spear fishing off Motu Poiku which is the next point to the East outside of Baie D' Anaho. They had just entered the water and had not yet speared a fish when the little boy was attacked unprovoked by what we translated as a bronze colored shark. The shark bit the boys head with razor sharp teeth cutting his scalp on the top of his head and his lower jaw. The boys dive mask took a good deal of the blow and the glass mask shattered and was carried by the shark. The boy, was taken to the hospital and stitched up, the wounds being fairly minimal given the fact that a shark bit his head. Kathy and I listened with interest and several times confirmed the location of the attack by drawing maps in the beach sand. Yikes! This was less than a mile from where we'd spent several hours the previous day snorkeling for lobster. This makes for two confirmed shark attacks since we've been in the Marquesas. The other was a local school teacher who was seriously bit in the forearm while swimming with her students in Daniel's Bay.

Laundry day went well as we were invited to use the water and laundry lines at the small pension (small family run hotel). The propiters were even so kind to share a batch of deep fried bananas which were delicious. We reciprocated with a gift of several kitchen knifes.

We've been getting lots of inquires about sailing in French Polynesia, South Pacific the last few days. I guess my frequent blog posts must be increasing our Goggle search results.

That's it for now.

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Friday, June 01, 2012

Hike to Hatiheu, Ruins No-No Bites and Curried Goat

June 1, 2012
Anchorage position: 08°49.3236'S 140°03.8678'W

Baie D' Anaho, Nuka Hiva, Marqueses, French Polynesia, South Pacific

Filling our backpacks with our normal assortment of gear (water, snacks, knife, machete, camera, 100% deet bug spray and money) we prepared for the trek toward Baie d' Hatiheu. Heading for the beach we easily negotiated the break in the coral reef and dropped our dinghy anchor in thigh deep water. Since the beach is long at low tide it's far simpler to just anchor the dinghy that pull it up the beach. Slipping on our walking shoes we headed up the trail to a pass at 217 meters. Much of the hike is shaded on a well defined path with switchbacks up the hill. With several short breaks to enjoy the scenery we hit the pass in 40 minutes and enjoyed the sweeping view of Baie D' Anaho and further east to Baie D' Haatuatua. The cool breeze at the pass was welcome and we drained our 1.5 liter water bottles in record time. Making the descent into Hatiheu the trail was mostly shady and lined with a tantalizing number of mango trees each heavy with fruit that was always just out of reach. We did manage to salvage a few freshly fallen fruits from the ground which were delicious. Far below in the bay we spotted a sailboat which turned out to be our friends Bill, Keene and Shanti Anna on s/v Shanti Anna sailing a classic 39' Columbia. Thirty minutes from the saddle we were on the beach in Baie D' Hatiheu for a total travel time including breaks of 90 minutes. It wasn't long before we ran into the crew of s/v Shanti Anna and headed off to find and explore the many ancient ruins. Luckily Shanti had written down the names of the various sites so despite a circuitous route up and down several rutted roads and through numerous yards asking directions along the way we finally made it to each of the sites. In the end we determined that walking down the waterfront in a westerly direction, turning left on the street that goes to the post office and then continue on the main road about a half a mile up the hills is the simplest way to the ruins which are very obvious and well marked. Of all the Marquesan archeological sites we've visited this large complex covering many many acres was by far the most interesting. Several banyan trees of incredible scale are alone worth the visit. Tikis, petroglyphs, pits, platforms and more conjure up exotic images of past human sacrifice, dancing and feasts.

Thinking about feasting we headed back toward the waterfront to enjoy an authentic Marquesan meal at the restaurant 'Chez Yvonne'. The crew of s/v Shanti Anna joined us as well as crew Hans from s/v Miss Goodnight. Kathy ordered curried goat and I goat in coconut cream, each dish was accompanied with rice, friend breadfruti and mashed manioc. The lunch was delicious as it should be for 1900XPF for the entrees and 600XPF for a beer for a total of 5000XPF for just us two! Thats more than $55 USD! This was our one big hurrah for the Marqueses and maybe for all of French Polynesia. With our stomaches full we were ready for a nap, yet we still had to make the trek back over the hill to Baie d' Anaho and back to the boat. Our return trip took a speedy 70 minutes.

Counting up my nono (sand fly) bites I came up with 46 on my stomach, 104 on my left leg, 83 on my right leg and 53 on my neck and a bunch on my arms. These tiny bugs are sneaky and you don't notice that you're getting bitten until it's too late. This is what happens when you don't use deet. Given the excruciating itchiness that lasts for several days, I highly recommend taking precautions to avoid these itchy bites that will pull you right out of a deep sleep with a tantalizing need to scratch. John and Tiffany from s/v Michaela, we now understand your torment in San Blas where we were immune.

This morning we met up with Franz the owner of s/v Miss Goodnight to swap some weather info. Crew Hans was nice enough to share his photographs of the ruins since our camera battery died early in the day. I expect some of the photos will be spectacular and look forward to posting a few next next time we have internet.

Today is laundry day where we'll take all of our laundry to shore, track down a water tap and painstakingly hand launder each garment and three set of queen size sheets. The last few times we've done laundry the tap water was pretty murky with silt and it definitely wasn't a good time to try to get anything white whiter. Since it hasn't rained in days we expect the water to be nice and clean here in Anaho.

That's it for now.