Take a look at the updated gallery for cool underwater pics of octopi, Alyssa swimming, our best sunsets yet, Rina and Allan fighting with the Watermaker (again) and other assorted stuff.
Off to Papeete!
06/02/2009, Fakarava, Tuamoto Islands
Yes, we've been delinquent in our duties... We arrived in Rangiroa a week ago and got so distracted that we neglected to share....
Upon arrival, we enjoyed some of the best weather and snorkeling yet, with a vibrant reef and clear water. We anchored off the Kia Ora resort at Passe de Tiputa in a glassy calm, where the horizon within the lagoon blended seamlessly with the sky above. The scenery here is exotic, with high end resorts bungalows over the water, an inviting dock, multiple dive centers and a very cool but way-to-expensive bar.
On our first night, we took the dinghy in to enjoy the sumptuous Sunday night buffet, which was an oasis of taste the crew of Follow You had been craving for months, including sushi, oysters, crab and other recent rarities. We snorkeled twice a day, seeing a different variety of sealife, including dolphins, octopi, and those fish that swim in real tight schools, just like in "Finding Nemo", LOL.
The idyllic scene eventually changed however, as a significant front came through, dropping many inches of rain on us over a couple of days, clouding the waters and bringing 20-25 knot winds. Once again, our 69lb Rocna anchor proved its worth, spinning and resetting in the sand as the winds reversed direction.
We passed the time playing scrabble, watching movies, skyping with an increasingly excited Megan, who will join us shortly and completely disassembling and cleaning the high pressure pump for the watermaker. Our replacement parts await us in Papeete and we will depart today, assuming the winds decline enough to squash the 8 foot standing waves in the pass. Several boats tried to leave this morning, only to turn back in the face of the intimidating conditions.
05/24/2009, Rangiroa, Tuamoto Islands
Anchored off the many coral heads, sitting on the beach, taking it all in after yet another great snorkel adventure.
After dropping Stephanie and John at the Airport, Rina, Alyssa and I headed just down the inside coast of the atoll to anchor where there was rumors of good snorkeling and good internet access. We found both, although the winds made the anchorage very bumpy the first night. Luckily, we were rewarded the next two nights with a dead calm and glassy conditions. We also found a great restaurant, Teanuanua that we did both lunch and dinner at over a couple of days, enjoying the ambience and food. Check out the newly updated gallery for a bunch of new pictures of this restaurant, snorkeling and passage pictures taken by Carinthia.
We made an overnight passage to Rangiroa last night in calm seas and light winds. We did get 8 knots on the beam overnight though, which allowed us to sail in quiet comfort with a positive current. We arrived at high slack tide and had an easy entrance through the pass, which was filled with drift divers and snorkelers. Even at slack tide, we were doing 9.5 knots SOG while only 5 through the water. We'll hang out here for a couple of days, snorkeling the pass and catching up on some maintenance items before heading to Papeete next week.
Ps. LOTS of new pics in the gallery
05/18/2009, 16 03.6'S:145 37.2'W, Rotoava, Fakarava Atoll
On Friday we weighed anchor, taking only 30 minutes to extricate it from the coral heads, to sail the 12 miles inside the Fakarava lagoon to an anchorage at the midpoint of the atoll. Our electronic charts are amazingly accurate here; with coral motu's sighted within 20-30 feet of their chart position. Inside the confines of the atoll, which is 10 by 30 miles, there are well defined and marked channels which snake a path from north to south. After a 2.5 hour sail to a 2 mile crescent bay, we anchored 50 yards from a sandy beach buffered by small mushroom shaped motus that provided excellent snorkeling in 85 degree water. Winds had shifted to the east, providing a nice lee for our anchorage overnight. These idyllic conditions were only to last for another 12 hours, unfortunately.
On our second night, winds shifted to the north and the wind driven chop made for a moderately bumpy night. By mid morning the intensity increased and the wind waves grew to 4 feet. We decided to head to the north end of the island where there would be less fetch for the increasing winds. The 15 mile trip took several extra hours as we beat directly into the wind, sometimes making only 2 knots over ground. Our bow would rise slowly and fall into a large trough, shuddering in the process. We had not experienced this kind of slamming since summer afternoons on San Francisco Bay just south of San Francisco Airport, where the winds bounce off San Bruno mountain and kick up huge wind waves, creating similar conditions. And this was all INSIDE the lagoon.
We arrived at Rotoava, the main village on the island in the late afternoon and anchored in smooth white sand for a change. The anchorage, however, was like a washing machine due to the currents and wind. We prepared for a rough night. We made dinner reservations at Teanuanua, a very cool local restaurant and checked our snubbers for signs of chafe as seas continued to build. Late in the day we got word that the restaurant would not serve dinner due to the weather conditions, as they are right on the water. We quickly found an alternative further south at Havaiki, one of the resorts just out of town. Even better, they would send a bus to pick up our party, which had now grown to 10, with the addition of Carinthia and Wayward Wind. With very little grace given the heaving boat, we stumbled into the dinghy and headed for the dock. After a wet ride that all but negated the positive effects of the showers we had just taken, we met up with the rest of our party and jumped o n the rustic tourist bus for the 2 mile trip to the restaurant. Arriving at Havaiki we had one of those wonderful long meals with great food, great drink and great conversation.
After dinner we poured ourselves back in to the bus, headed to the dinghy dock to find the anchorage utterly transformed, and not by our blood/alcohol level. During our 3 hour venture, the winds shifted 180 degrees and turned to a whisper. Better yet, the anchorage was now a flat calm. We slept well and long that night, probably due to the aforementioned blood/alcohol level, and awoke to another idyllic scene. It's amazing how the sea state influences your impressions, as the prior day, the town and its surrounds looked foreboding, while today it was straight off a postcard. Restaurant Teanuanua was open for lunch today, so we dinghied back and had one of our best meals yet, in an amazing setting right on the water.
We will hang here for a couple of days awaiting the supply ship, which brings fresh veggies weekly from Papeete. Stephanie and John depart tomorrow afternoon after a month aboard Follow You. They have become competent cruisers, adapting well to the rhythms of life aboard and the compromises necessary for 5 people to coexist on a 46 foot boat, especially with our limited water supply while in the Marquesas. Next up is Rangeroa, 100 miles to the North. -allan
05/15/2009, Fakarava, Tuamoto Islands
As expected, Carinthia invited the entire anchorage over a Mexican potluck and jam session. Along with Hipnautical and Follow You, we were joined by Aaron and Lauren from Wayward Wind and Tim, Elizabeth and Seth from Honeymoon, for a total of 16. Rina and Alyssa made tamales and handmade wholewheat tortillas which were the hit of the party, along with Elizabeth's ceviche. We jammed until 2 hours past (cruisers) midnight, or until the tequila ran out. We had 3 guitarists, flute, and a variety of percussion. Roger and I, in the photo above, very much found a mutual wavelength, with a lot of great improve between us.
Our zinc's are changed, rudder and thruhulls inspected, knotmeter, depth sounder and fridg anodes cleaned and so were heading north to the middle of Fakarava lagoon to Motu Vahapiapia where there is supposed to be excellent snorkeling.
05/14/2009, 16 30.3'S:145 27.5'W, Fakarava, Tuamoto Islands
After more snorkeling at Makemo, Carinthia and Follow You pulled up anchor for the overnight passage to Fakarava. When we arrived, winds were from the West, but overnight piped up to 20 knots and shifted to the South, resulted in an anchor rode that had wound its way around several coral heads. The convoluted path of the chain was such that we had to draw it out on paper and discuss how we were going to work together to free it - not unlike laying out a football play. Rina was on the anchor windlass, with an assist by Alyssa to manage the trip line and Stephanie, to help cut away the chafed-through snubber line that had wrapped itself around the chain. I was at the helm and John was in the water with snorkel gear giving directions to all. Like a well executed end-around, we deftly maneuvered the boat in and out of the coral heads, slacking the rode, then pulling it up to unhook it from under several coral ledges. Alyssa gave the trip line a tug, which freed the anchor f rom the last obstacle and up the anchor came. Not bad for our first bout with coral.
We headed for the pass out of the atoll and got squirted out into the ocean by the outgoing tide. In building winds from the South, we headed the 90 miles to Fakarava. Our strategy was to average 5 knots to time our arrival for the 0630 slack tide. While not the best time to arrive at an atoll, we knew the channel to be well marked, minimizing the risk of not having the sun overhead to help us see the hazards through the pass. Ironically the winds built to 17 knots on the beam, making it very difficult to not sail the boat at its full potential. Before reefing, we were seeing 7-8 knots through the water. We eventually slowed down by triple reefing and putting a handkerchief on the forestay. Each watch had orders to manage boat speed to arrive at 0630, using the calculations from the chartplotter routing feature as a guide and tuning/detuning the sails as needed in the variable winds overnight.
We arrived right on schedule, lined up the channel on the well marked range and entered the pass in 1.5 knots of outgoing current. After curling around to the right in the lee of a palm filled island, we dropped anchor in 40' of dead coral and calm water. Being tucked up behind the island is important, as even inside the protected waters of the atoll, there is enough fetch easily get whitecaps across the 5-10 mile stretch of water. In what has become our normal routine, Stephanie christened the anchorage by immediately swimming around the boat before her gills dried up, John swam out to check the anchor, the rest of the crew tidied-up the boat before all took a nap. The boat stirred again around 1030 as we prepared for another snorkeling adventure on the inner pass.
Carinthia and Follow You were joined by Roger and Bobbie-Jo from Hipnautical in the dinghies, while their son Robin stayed on Carinthia to play Wii with Suzanne. We first met Hipnautical on dock 3 in La Cruz, where we jammed together late into the night. Bobbie-Jo is a talented singer, flautist, zitherist, drummer and harp player. And by harp, I mean HARP. She has a full-sized harp aboard their Morgan Out/Island 51. Roger is a great improvisational guitar player. The six snorkelers from the three boats floated down the inside of the South pass of Fakarava twice in 3-4 knots of current, passing the abandoned village, fish pens, deserted tourist bungalows on stilts over the water, and lightly populated dive center. While the quantity of sea life was not as we experienced in Makemo, the variety was similar, with the addition of many colorful oysters, which are farmed on many atolls for their pearls. White and black tip sharks were sighted now and then, but kept their dis tance. It was quite an experience drifting with the fast current, making sure that we didn't get snagged by a coral head while quickly scanning the sea floor for brightly colored fish. Kurt once again shot some fantastic underwater photography, which we will post once we reach the other end of Fakarava where there is a solid internet connection.
On the docket for today is more snorkeling, a little snuba action to change the zinc anodes on our prop-shaft, exploring the long beach in front of us, and a gala Mexican themed potluck and jam session on Carinthia tonight with all the boats in the anchorage. We'll probably get a nap in their sometime as I'm sure we'll need it. -allan
05/12/2009, Makemo, Tuamoto Islands
Our blog has been a wonderful way to stay connected to family, and 99% of the time it's all good. One of the rare topics of concerns from parental types is swimming in the ocean. specifically swimming with sharks. and it's not all Jaws hype. We closely followed the 10 minute rule swimming in the ocean, where the more predatory breeds of sharks can be found. Here in the atolls, there are LOTS of sharks, but mostly benign white tip, black tip and lemon sharks.
With that preface, a contingent from Carinthia and Follow You headed out to the pass during slack tide to float along the walls of the reef through the entrance in a modest current. Our strategy was to hang on to our dinghy so that if any aggressive sharks neared, we could jump in quickly. As we jumped into the water and began to float back through the pass, we were awed by the amount and variety of sea life populating the eastern coral wall in 30-40 feet of water. The skies above were somewhat overcast, which moderated the vividness of the colorful underwater environment, but it was more than made up by the sheer variety of life. We soon forgot about sharks and just took it all in.
We did not see our first shark for about 20 minutes, and it was a 3 foot white tip swimming lazily about 20 feet beneath us. After 45 minutes gently floating with the current, we got to the shallows in the lagoon where water clarity began to suffer. We got such a kick out of the trip we decided to do it again, jumping back into the dinghy and powering the half mile back to the entrance. We proceeded to repeat our floating itinerary, but this time, we had friends. First one, then two, then several white and black tip sharks came to check us out, but always keeping their distance, and showing no signs of aggression. Half way through our trip we saw a 7 foot lemon shark at about 40 feet, but again, he was on his own leisurely stroll than hunting for humans. By this time, we were almost comfortable with the idea of swimming with sharks. As we neared the end of our float, white tips began to swim closer to us. In some cases, they were 4-6 feet underneath us, but again, I r epeat, for clarity, for the grand-ma's out there. they were more interested in the sea floor than us, and never showed a hint of aggressiveness.
How do we know? Kurt from Carinthia has much experience swimming with sharks, so was able to give us first hand info. Most sharks and the species around us specifically, normally care little about humans, only acting aggressive when provoked. What provokes them? Being hungry, blood in the water, being cornered are common reasons. How do you know? Aggressive swimming, arched backs; fins pointed down at a 45 degree angle are all warning signs. We didn't see any of that.
We all commented on the high quality of the snorkeling, comparing the reef favorably with the best of those they had seen before. We were able to capture many underwater pictures and video of the sea life, the sharks, and us less than graceful snorkelers, but we'll need an internet connection to upload them. Until then, you grandma's can fret over the pictures above! -allan
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