05/12/2009, 16 26.5'S:143 57.0'W, Makemo, Tuamoto Islands
What a difference 15 minutes makes. We spent the last 24 hours in tumultuous seas approaching Makemo, a 10 by 40 mile atoll in the middle of this chain of 78 islands. Having plenty of wind overnight, we had to reef main and jib to slow the boat down so as to not arrive before tides would allow us to safely traverse the pass into the protected lagoon at noon. We saw the outline of palm trees about 6 miles out. so different than the towering volcanic mountains of the Marquesas, which could be seen from 15-20 miles away. We were hailed by Dietmar on Carinthia as we approached, who offered to send Kurt out to the pass to reconnoiter the situation for us.
All written and oral guidance on traversing passes is consistent; go only at slack tide, with the sun behind you, complimentary winds, with a crew member on the first spreader to look for coral heads that can ruin your day in the fast moving currents. Even at slack tides, currents can run 5-10 knots, depending on conditions and the atoll. Over the past several days, I obsessively prepared for our first entrance, concerned about the Tuamoto's reputation as "the deadly archipelago", with lots of recent news about cruisers washing up on dangerous reefs. So what did we have? Overcast skies, winds from the west, which are almost 180 degrees away from the normal southeasterly trades and huge squalls approaching. The good news is that it was a wide pass, and we had Kurt the superman running interference for us.
As we approached, the squall beat us to the pass, so we turned upwind and waited for it to pass. The seas turned into a 6-8 foot high potato patch, which made it even more challenging to line up for our desired 131 course into the pass after the rains abated. We were concerned with the potential for standing waves at the entrance, so we motored at 6 knots to ensure a responsive helm when needed. As we moved through the pass, the seas calmed and we steered a mid-channel course through swirling currents, with coral walls one foot below the waters surface not 30 feet from us on both sides. Kurt guided us through the well marked channel, around several obstacles where we anchored in 30 feet of coral infested water near Carinthia and Kaumoana, Richard and Susan's Hunter 49, who we spent time with in La Cruz. Just as we turned off the instruments, a huge squall proceeded to bombard the anchorage with blinding rain and 35 knot winds. If we had dawdled even a bit, we would have been hating life trying to anchor in those conditions. Instead we were awed by the power of the wind and rain as it pelted us for 20 minutes, nearly filling our water tanks in the process. We also benefited from anchoring in the lee of a palm stand to the west, which limited the fetch, therefore the height of the wind waves approaching us. You can see the effect of the wind and rain on Kaumoana in the picture above, as she heels over in the intense wind and rain.
The next day Kaumoana left at 1030am, during mid-flood tide, again with Kurt guiding, and hit those standing waves at the entrance to the pass, where he got air. We listened on the radio as Kurt said "I wish I had a camera, because you are about to..WOW, I just saw your keel!" as Kaumoana launched off a wave and slammed through the waves and out into the ocean, heading for Papeete to fix his generator. While the boat was never in danger, it just goes to show you how quickly conditions change in these passes why good research and lots of caution are the rule of the day. -allan
05/08/2009, 13 32.9'S:142 30.7'W, Half Way to the Tuamoto Islands
I've been in some big rooms. Notre Dame, Candlestick Park, Soldiers Field. The view from our porch at the 3000 foot elevation in Volcano in the Sierra Foothills, looking 150 miles distant to Mount Diablo across the Sacramento Valley also comes to mind. Some rooms just *feel* big. Flint Center in Cupertino, the first time as a performer when I was 14. Live Oak High Gym in front of my peers in my first performance as a Blue Devil. Performing from the 50 yard line of Mile High Stadium..Nothing comes close to what I experienced yesterday.
I came off my 3 hour shift at 5pm and was looking for some space. 5 people on a 46' boat on a passage requires a creative mind to find places for solitude. We have a rule that anybody "before the mast" is looking for some alone time. (Name that book reference all you corporate lurkers at Encover, Quantum Technologies and Georg Fischer Signet) I mixed up a stiff Tanq/Tonic and headed up to the foredeck with a good book. in this case a little light reading of "A Pirate Looks at 50", which I'm sure my fly-boy brother has or should have read by now, given the heavy concentration of aviation content. I sit down and start to read, but soon get distracted by the sights and sounds around me. I'm sure Jimmy won't be offended that the sky and sea around me diverted my attention from his prose. He gets it.
So let me see if I can describe this adequately.I've thought about this all day, and how (my furtive) words rarely can describe what your eyes drink in out here. Consider this: looking 100 miles in any direction, I see crystal clear sky, but then huge thunderheads wallpapering the horizon all around us, reaching 40-60 thousand feet in the air. Between the horizon and the clouds is a mixture of bright sun and violent rain bursts. As the sun sets, the room gets bigger and bigger as the light plays off the undersides and the walls of the massive cloud formations. I'm in awe. I set the book down and just let the view wash over me. The seas are flat calm and from the bow I can just barely hear the hum of the Yanmar moving us forward at 5 knots and the gentle clip of water being carved by the bow. Flying fish sporadically flee our intrusion into their world, flittering on top of the water for 30-50 feet unless they have misjudged a swell, in which case their journey ends ab ruptly, slamming head first in a splat of seawater.
The human eye is an amazing instrument, and as much as we try to capture the depth, light and grandeur of what we see with a camera, or my words, it does not quite do it justice. You're going to have to take my word for it or get your ass out here to experience it yourself. -allan
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.