05/08/2009, Half Way to the Tuamoto Islands
With another long passage (hardly considering it only takes around 4 days) to the Tuamoto's, we've resumed our daily ritual of washing dishes off the back of the boat, 3 hour on/6 hours off crewing schedule, with lots of time to sit and contemplate the meaning of life when you aren't sleeping or reading. So, when we were about to throw some biodegradable trash overboard, John got the fun idea to make a sailboat out of the egg cartons. It was kind of a competition to see if Mom's or John's boats would do better. Mom launched first and hers quickly tipped over. her keel was the same density as her huge sail, so it all floated. John's boat had a similar design, but before launching he dipped his keel into the water so it would soak therefore becoming less likely to float and tip the boat. No luck; his tipped just as soon as Mom's did. There was only one carton left and Pep wanted to see how I would design a boat. Copying the common design of an outrigger canoe we've been seeing so often in the Marquesas, I designed my sailboat with a full mainsail, outrigger, keel, and stern cover. And before launching, surely we had to christen it and give it a name. Los Huevos! And guess what. it worked! We could see it sailing over the swells far behind us. What a success:)
Ps. I finished The Cove awhile ago. Well written, but like I said before. very twisted. I also finished Body Surfing by Anita Shreve. Oh my God was that a great book! A family love story with quite a lot of drama. Then I moved onto Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella. The Marina Yacht Services in Nuku Hiva had a wonderful book trade selection to choose from. It's a very quick read. I wanted to throw it overboard a few times just because of how repeatedly ridiculous Becky Bloomwood's spending habits and twisted logic got. Nonetheless, it had a cute and happy ending. Now I've just started The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain. It's a story about an unsolved murder, a missing child, and a twisted family secret. So far it's amazing and I'm only on page 56! I'll let you know how it goes! -Alyssa
05/07/2009, 10 49.6'S:141 05.3'W, West of Ua-Pou
We left Fatu Hiva yesterday with a brisk 18 knots of winds, running with small following seas, given that we were in the lee of both Nuku Hiva and Ua-Pou. This lasted well into the late night as John tried to coax every 10th of a knot of boatspeed from the falling winds during his 11-2am shift. We awoke today to less than 5 knots of wind, which is not enough to move our 30 thousand pounds along, even with our 1.5oz spinnaker. Buoyweather forecasted this, so we are prepared to motor or motorsail the entire way if necessary.
Given the flat seas, we will resume our prior routine of stopping the boat for a mid-ocean swim to cool off from the 90+ degree 80% humidity heat.
The picture above, which is probably too small to see, given the satellite upload, was stunning in real life. The sun setting behind us created light spires to the east over Ua-Pou. The clouds straddling the spires of the island looked positively primordial, with the surrounding skies a diverse mixture of textures. Had we seen this scene painted as art, we would have called it surrealist and not particularly life-like...it was that unique. It came and went quickly, lastingfor all of 5 minutes until the sun set below the horizon. The discussion about how special the scene was lasted longer....We'll be sure to put the high res version in the gallery when we have an internet connection again.
Scenes like this help me deal with the fatigue of our continuing watermaker problems, which have admittedly gotten under my skin. My normally positive outlook about solving problems aboard has been thoroughly tested by this episode, and made me a bit prickly. I feel bad for Stephanie and John, who are "on vacation", for not providing all the conveniences of home, but I guess I should get over it. Sailors have schlepped water jugs for generations, so why shouldn't we. The upside is that I now can disassemble and re-assemble the watermaker in minutes. Woohoo!
05/06/2009, Fatu Hiva, Marquesas
After 3 weeks in the Marquesas, Follow You is headed to the Tuamoto Islands, a vast expanse of 78 islands between the Marquesas and Tahiti. All but two are coral atolls, making for a very different experience from the Marquesas. While the Marquesas are tall volcanic islands with lush greenery, they have virtually no coral reefs that create hazards to navigation. Lots of rocks that can ruin your day, but very different from what we will experience in a few days. Coral atolls are old islands that have sunk in the middle, leaving *only* the reef. Most atolls are un-inhabited and the few that are inhabited are very sparse.
The challenges to navigation are reefs that are difficult to see until you are very close to them, 5-8 knot currents in and out of the atoll passes, and unmarked coral heads within the atolls. Of course the water is clear, blue and warm with lots of sea life, so it will be worth the effort. We will visit Makemo, Tahanea and Fakarava at a minimum and more as time allows.
Our watermaker has been giving us problems again, this time related to the seals inside the high pressure pump. We have rebuilt various parts around these seals, only to have the watermaker work for a period of time, but eventually fail again. We have plenty of water aboard for our 4 day crossing and new seals await us in Fakerava, so we are in good shape. The diagnosis is that the failed pump from our initial problem may have polluted the seals, which have degraded over time.
05/03/2009, Nuku Hiva
but never on a rocking sailboat in the wind! Knowing Allan likes to wear his short I offered to cut his hair today, he didn't hesitate. I have always enjoyed working outdoors but this was the ultimate challenge, as I got into the haircut I didn't even notice the gentle rocking. I do have a tendency to drop combs which would be a big oops being on the water. All dropped combs were retrieved and every hair was cut, then it was a jump in the water to rinse.
05/03/2009, Nuku Hiva
After visits to several Marqueses Islands, I've come to the conclusion that I've never seen so many lush, green islands. I feel like I'm lost in a movie of jungle cruises and still on a never ending adventure. The views are amazing, the waterfalls are fully worth the climbs, mud, tree climbing, and rain squalls. Many pictures to show the views in our albums. John's waterproof camera broke so he's been using mine and we are sharing taking shots along the way. It's great with more perspectives.
More to come from the Tuamoto's (and our 5 day crossing over there!). Off to re-provision for crossing tomorrow. We'll be visiting another few anchorages before we cross, but this will be our last stop for a week and we must have enough to get through the Tuamoto's since they don't have many places to re-stock.
Love to all, miss everyone, it's been awhile since we've been home...and I DO feel it, but am enjoying every step of this trip. Can't wait to be home to tell face to face stories...
05/02/2009, Between Ua-Pou and Nuku Hiva
Once again our boat was surrounded by dozens of dolphins as we left Ua-Pou for Nuku Hiva. About ten of them fight for the spot just forward of the bow as more play about the sides and more are seen on the horizon coming to join the fun. Just look at some of the pics John got... they're amazing!
Ps. I finally got confirmed that I'm registered for both Gavilan College during the summer and Cabrillo College for fall'09. Thanks for checking in on that Grandma Sue!
05/02/2009, Nuku Hiva
After a brief stayover at Hiva Oa to reprovision, Follow You left at 5am Friday, sailing the 60 miles northwest to Ua-Pou in 15-18 knot winds. We read in Charlie's Charts that there was a restaurant on the island called Rosalies that we could enjoy. After a 25 day crossing and two weeks cooking aboard, we have had exactly one meal off the boat, and that was our expensive lunch on Hiva Oa when we first arrived. The crew was commenting on how conditioned we have all become to balancing eating in with nights out within our normal routines, and certainly while vacationing, as Stephanie and John are. Cruisers also get used to eating out in Mexico, where the food was always fresh and inexpensive. While we expected the Marquesas to not be very tourist oriented, I think we have been surprised by the lack of off-boat options. Even the high end resorts on the islands rarely accept outside reservations for meals, as they tightly align their food purchases to the number of hotel guests... Makes sense given the low volumes here, and especially now given tourism, other than cruisers, has dramatically declined this year.
After walking for an hour and a half to look for a restaurant on Ua-Pou, we returned to the boat disappointed, yet ate well upon our return. The next day we motorsailed to Nuku Hiva in light winds, the largest of the Marquesian Islands, hoping for better luck. We arrived in an expansive bay, and noticed a much more developed coast side infrastructure for boating. The locals have build facilities for selling local artisan goods and there are a few storefronts.... Internet access, yacht services and a restaurant, right at the quay. Down the road that fronts the bay, there were a couple of market/hardware stores and low and behold; a pizza restaurant! After a long walk around the town exploring, we sat down at 4pm for a cold beer. (or 3) Through our muddled French, we first understood the restaurant would close at 6 or 630, only to find signs that said just the opposite. Food service started at 630. Hmmm, what to do for 2.5 hours? Well, the table was not rocking, and the beers were cold, so we just hung out waiting for food service to start.
Around 6pm we ordered pizza and wonderful fettuccine crevette (shrimp) as the patio started to fill up with locals and visitors. While we were trying to translate the menu a French-Canadian guy started to assist, and we struck up a conversation. As food started to arrive, he pulled his chair over and we heard the full story... We knew we were in for an interesting tale when he started off by explaining that he had purchased 12000 square kilometers of the great white north above Quebec, but the government had screwed him by *giving* it to the Inuit Tribes as part of a settlement. He was in French Polynesia looking for islands to purchase to start, get this, a "new society" based on eco-friendly concepts... The more John and I asked questions, the more it came clear that we were dining with a bit of an eccentric with some kooky ideas.
A couple of hours later, we were totally convinced he was on to something. His vision of a utopian society out here in paradise was that compelling. This morning, when we got wifi connectivity, we transferred the contents of all our bank accounts to him.... NOT!
Boat systems are all working well, although I am coming to the conclusion that the decision to size the major systems for the needs of two people rather than five was short-sighted. I could have easily selected the higher volume watermaker, for example as we have plenty of amps to run it with the solar panels... my concern for power usage on the watermaker has been a non-issue.
Our heightened awareness of water use and need for drinkable reserves means that we have split the tankage in half... 50 gallons of pristine drinking water that we use to fill 3 2.5 gallon jugs for daily drinking and cooking, and 50 gallons for toilets, showers, washing dishes, etc. We go through that pretty quickly, which means we are making water almost every day. The watermaker produces 8 gallons an hour and while working fairly reliably, is still finicky about the conditions in which it will produce potable water. The new motor seems more susceptible to voltage drops, which then lowers the pressure in the watermaker itself, which then stops making water until it adapts, sometimes taking an hour to start making water again... It's still much preferred over schlepping jerry jugs, but a hassle nonetheless to babysit.
We will hang out here through Monday to do our last re-provisioning before spending a few days at various anchorages on Nuku Hiva, and then leave for the Tuamoto Islands later in the week.
The Gallery has been updated with more pics for those who NEEEEEED them (luv u mom!)
04/29/2009, Hiva Oa
We're back on Hiva Oa for a day, reprovisioning and getting a bit of internet.... and hey Donna, we gotta get you a job after your arm mends... keeping the blog updated for you is getting tough with no good internet connections out here LOL.
The gallery has been updated with pictures from our last week on Tahuatu and Fatu Hiva, which is now in our top 3 exotic places we have ever been. Stunning scenery and great people.
Tomorrow we are off to another night on Tahuatu's sandy beaches before heading north to Nuku Hiva for a week. Then it's off on a 5 day passage to the Tuamoto Islands.
04/28/2009, Fatu Hiva, Marquesas
Leaving Tahuata, I thought it would be a good idea to fish, seeing as it was still morning, a prime time for fishing and I was dying for some fresh sushi for lunch. It must have only been ten minutes after I set trolling line out when I caught a fish. Mmmm it was a beautiful bonito. We decided not to douse the gills with vodka, so we could save the vodka, not a very good decision. The fish convulsed for a few minutes before finally dying while breaking the bucket we use on a regular basis and splattering blood all over the cockpit. Even worse, mom and I went down below to fillet the fish only to find that the fish had little pockets of parasites all over it. To finish it off, by the time we cleaned up the mess, I was so seasick I couldn't do anything but sleep and hang off the side of the boat. The afternoon when we finally arrived to our destination really made up for it. Pulling into the Bay of Virgins was extraordinary. The island seems only to be a mountainous cliff, volcanic rock, banyan trees and billy goats, until you enter the bay revealing a hidden cove and gigantic fertile valley. Early this morning we decided to take a hike behind the town to a 200 foot waterfall. With an accidental detour to the top of a cliff overlooking town and the valley, we could see the waterfall and turned back to find the correct, much cooler and less vertical route. The enormity of the valley is hard to describe. Our hike was wonderful after being so overheated going uphill with little wind and very hot gravel. We met a family along the road who does, from what I hear, amazing dinners for yachties who visit the island. Every other night they cook a Marquesian feast with fish, lobster, lamb, and chicken, taking orders from whoever they meet. They said it costs 1700fpf/adult and 1000fpf/child and they serve it right across from the market near the bay. It's n ot difficult to find considering there's only one little market and the rest are quaint little villas. The townspeople were very friendly always inviting us to see their handicrafts. I just bought a beautiful Marquesian art piece drawn on banyan tree bark and a Tahitian sarong. Anyways. back to the hike. We crossed the river a few times on our way. Just before reaching the waterfall, the trail became deeply covered by canopy and rocks jutted out over our heads. Even a few trees had fallen over forcing us to climb and weave through the dense branches. The waterfall just past that was well worth the effort. I was hesitant to get in, however, after what looked like a five inch spider was crawling up my leg in the water. It was quickly identified as a crawdad a few minutes later after I screamed and jumped out. The water was so refreshing, cool and salt-free. I climbed into a little cave at the bottom. Only after I got out of the water a second time did we find some freshwater e els swimming up the creek as well. I'm thankful I didn't find out until then. How could I say I've been here and NOT swam in the waterfall??? As we got back to the boat, we hardly took rest. Dad and John continued to fiddle with the dinghy engine, and Mom, Pep and I rowed the dinghy back to town to get more provisions. We got invited to see the store owners' sister's crafts and asked if there was anyway we could find bread. ours had molded on the sail to Fatu Hiva. She called to her father Daniel who lived just next to the bay, so we traded some cloth and perfume for 3 baguettes and more pompamous than we can handle. -Alyssa
04/28/2009, 10 27.8'S:138 40.1'W, Fatu Hiva, Marquesas
Alyssa and I headed to the beach at Baei Hanamoenoa to join Farlyn and Tavish from Circadia for an evening bonfire. The 19 year old Canadian twins are crewing on a friend of the families J/120 for several months. We beached the dink, pulling the boat up a few feet above the waterline, but without our dinghy wheels, which make it easy to get the boat above the break, it was a compromise. I surveyed the waves in the small bay and came to the conclusion that the small waves lapping at the stern were no threat. Just to be sure, we pulled the anchor well above the waterline and buried it. Alyssa and I walked down the beach and enjoyed the bonfire with the twins, learning about their travels crewing on a variety of boats over the past years while homeschooling.a very cool teenage lifestyle.
After about 45 minutes, I asked Alyssa to check on the dink. I don't know why, but I thought it prudent. Alyssa walked down the beach about 50 yards to the dinghy with her LED headlamp and then I saw the light waving back and forth. I got up and jogged down the beach to find our 10 foot dinghy completely torn apart and upside down. The inflatable floor had come out, held close only by the fuel tank tiedown, which was held to the engine only by the fuel line. The poor engine was buried upside down in the sand, flailing in the now large waves, which if you haven't figured it out yet, had lulled me into a false sense of security. The force of the waves was sufficient to snap one of our oars in half. Luckily we had the working end of the oar, so Alyssa and I turned the boat over, pushed the floor back in place, gathered up the anchor, fuel tank, portable depth sounder and rowed back to the boat with our metaphorical tail between our legs.
Back on the boat the full extent of the damage became clear. While John cleaned out several pounds of sand from the dinghy, I started taking apart the engine to assess the full extent of the damage. The more I dug, the more depressed I became. There was sand everywhere. Each part I took off revealed the insidious ability of sand to work its way into the smallest of orifices. That night we got most sand out of the engine, carburetor and fuel system and waited for the light of day to take the next step.
The next day we mounted the engine to the center console in the middle of the cockpit and got our toothbrushes, compressed air and WD40 out to begin the arduous process of removing all the sand. The good news was that it did not get into the small orifices of the carbs or into the combustion chambers. The bad news was that it got into the magneto where the primary coil and points lived, and as hard as we tried, we could not pull the magneto, for lack of a crankshaft puller. John and I tried every Rube Goldberg device we could think of from my 3 boxes of spare parts to get the magneto pulled, including using an impeller puller with a variety of add-ons. While we could not get the magneto off, we could look inside and see the sand packed points, coil and magnets. We turned the engine upside down and shot water inside to get the sand out, while otherwise giving up hope that the engine would ever work again.
We then let the engine dry out after coating it with WD40 and BoShield T9. After 2 days we cleaned out the remaining sand from the pull-starter, pulled the carb to clean the small orifices, and then decided it was time to start it up. We hooked up the fuel, which had NO water in it, hooked up the hose from the bow faucet to the freshwater flush on the outdrive, installed fresh sparkplugs and gave a the pull start a tug. After 3 pulls and a little choke, the engine came to life and spit out a bunch of sand from the cooling system, but otherwise sounded normal. We went through one of our 4 tanks of water purging the remaining sand before we turned it off, but it was worth it, saving 2 thousand bucks on a new engine or 500 bucks on a rebuild.
After mounting the engine back on the dink and doing a test drive, the engine is stronger than it was, thanks to fresh plugs, but the idle is weak. Fresh points and a coil should take care of that when we get to Nuku Hiva in a week or so. Talk about dodging a bullet!
In other news, we hiked to the waterfall at the Bay of Virgins on Fatu Hiva today and had a great time. Alyssa writes about that next. -allan