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Cruising with HappyCat
Daniels Bay, Nuku Hiva
May/13/2012

It was decided that we would travel together to the Tuomotos, and our first stop would be Daniels Bay, just a few miles West, on Nuku Hiva. The walk to the water fall is probably the high light, though we did not do it. The anchorage is surrounded by spectacular cliffs. Black sandy beaches ashore. Good holding, as was Taiahoe.
Every day for the last week there have been some serious down pours. Generally, after about 1/2 hr. the warm sun shines again.
-Whipper Snapper anchored in Daniels Bay-

Anaho, Nuku Hiva
May/10/2012

We had read a lot nice things about this isolated, but inhabited bay, and left mid day for the 22nm trip. What a slog though, along the Eastern coast of Nuku Hiva. But the scenery made up for the discomfort, and when we arrived to the beautiful anchorage, calm and clear waters, we were happy to have come, to this isolated place, with no electricity or road access, largely unchanged for the last couple centuries
Took the dingy close to the shore and anchored in the shallow waters amongst the reef. So nice to walk the white sandy beach, the only one on the island. Even here the few locals, perhaps ~15 keep their grounds neat and tidy, the grass is cut and watered, the little church is nicely kept.

Taiohae, Nuku Hiva
May/09/2012

One thing we have never appreciated is that this island is where the NZ Maori's originate from. Its strange to see such likeness, yet they speak French and have a French cultural twist to them.
We have been very fortunate to have anchoreddnear us Des & Carol, from S. Africa, and Terry and Elaine from AU and Andy. We met them in Panama. A very different side of cruising is beginning to emerge, with sundowners and pot lucks and excursions together.
We hired a couple of drivers to give us a tour of this beautiful island. The well built narrow concrete roads take you wind their way through the valleys and ridges, precariously hugging the edge of the road, bringing you down to sparsely settled bays. Here we would alight, to view the catholic churches, with its rustic wood carvings, visit a stone carver, take water from a potable spigot, visit a vegetable grower, or simply take in the tidy hamlets, proud in their simplicity.
Lunch was in the bay of Hatiheu, at an ocean side restaurant. It seamed as though we were the only foreigners in the very quiet hamlet.
We visited an ancient Me'ae, an ancient Marquesan site, arranged for ceremonies and gatherings, with one of the largest banyon trees in the Marquesas. It was huge. Our guide gave us an example of one of the native hakas, the haka of the Pig. He certainly sounded like a honking pig!
Every where we went, everything was tidy, neat, well tended, even the road side seamed to have a regular striming!
The next day, as we went for our walk up the valley from town, beyond the pharmacy, we met an amazingly hospitable young man, called Morris, whose wife is related to the late Daniel, from Daniels Bay. He was tending to his crop of bananas and coconuts, , when we came across 4 barking dogs. Out came the owner, a strapping young man, who in his very little English, began offering us bananas and coconut water. After giving us several coconuts, he made us walk down with him to his house to meet his wife, and on the way hooked off some wild papaws giving us 3 to take home. So generous, happy and proud.
We all came away feeling the joy, the generosity the kindness of the Marquesan people. Unfortunately Nuku Hiva was the only island we visited, We were told Fatu Hiva is a mnd most cruisers go there first.
-Picture of the Catholic Church in Hatiheu-

Taiohae, Marquesas
Apr/30/2012

Our last couple days of sailing were one of our best ever!! All the conditions were perfect, flattened seas, wind on our beam, and again, a little help from the friendly current. We sun rose behind us as we approached Ua Huka. Immediately we could a pleasant, almost sweet scent in the air. A land unlike anything I have ever seen before. Green, yet raw, and dramatic.
And a few hours later at midday, we dropped anchor in the spectacular large bay on Taiohae, in Nuku Hiva. We were in the center of an ancient volcano.
3159n.m. since Galapagos 4014n.m. since Panama. Max. Speed 12.3kts. Average speed 6kts. It was a great crossing,
What we see already seams unique, its tidy, its clean, and their are a lot of smiling and happy faces. Our first landing was to witness right on the wharf, several long wooden tables laid out, and young men busily skinning and cleaning large tunas. Over 50, of which we were able to purchase half a side, for ~$10US! The quality was amazing, Sushi/sashimi, ceviche, a light pink. Next day their was a display of enormous grouper, caught in the deepest oceans, James claims he would struggle to lift one in one hand! At least a dozen of them. And the next day a variety of fish, maji maji, snapper... certainly no shortage of fish here. We believe it must all get flown over to Papeete, to the market.

Pacific Ocean, Voyage to Marquesas, 3200nm
Apr/18/2012

The rest of the journey was a mixture of serious hours of motoring for the first 3 days beyond the Galapagos, with a nice 1-11/2 kts current in our favor, a quick swim was allowed, followed by the rest of the journey with some very nice winds from our rear port quarter. Of course this brought some sloppy big seas, where we were knocked around a bit for a good 5 days. Not a lot of sightings of dolphins, just one group in the distance, and later finally a group came to visit us. One large sea turtle just floating along with the current. And once again a strike on the fishing line, none of us heard, until a while later. It turned out to be a baby marlin!!

San Cristobal, Galapagos
Apr/08/2012

Raised anchor at 5:00a.m. and set sail/motored to San Cristobal, some 45 nm away. Lovely flat seas, we just puddled along. When we were not moving more than 2.5kts. we started the engine. Saw lots of turtles floating about, half asleep.
Upon approaching San Cristobal, you immediately felt it was to be a friendlier place. We sent JD ashore on a water taxi, and made him focus on getting diesel. He came back an hour later, with all sorts of options. We chose a couple, take 4 of the 5gal. cans and go to the fuel station and buy diesel for $3.50pr gal.. Later, give 4 5gl. cans to a water taxi man who can buy you diesel from a fisherman for $4pr gal. 
First step was accomplished with out a glitch. 2nd step was in place when all of a sudden a fellow approached the boat in a water taxi. He turned out to be an agent, enquiring us if we had and agent. If we didn't we needed to have one, and we needed to report to the port police. Started to sound like the same old rigamarole. JD was on the boat at the time, and talked to him directly, at first saying that we did have an agent. I said, under my breadth, John don't lie! We don't have an agent. JD explained that we just wanted to be here a few hours, we were waiting for the weather, leaving tomorrow. Ah, but even if you stay the night you must report to the p.p. If not, you can be heavily fined, said the agent. If not they can even confiscate your boat!! Shoot! He sounded very convincing. Come with me, lets go now to the p.p. Bring along your papers, I will take you there if you want. We were gathering our papers, and JD said, listen let me go alone, and I will talk to him, I will sort this out. I know exactly how these things work. 
Oh Lordie, I knew exactly why I was so happy to leave Venezuela. I am not cut out for this corrupt mentality!! 
Sure enough JD returns an hour later, explaining with great enthusiasm what occurred. After a little chat, and a slipping of $5 to the agent whilst in the water taxi on the way to shore, and another sweet talking to the p.p. lady who is the sister of the 'big' man, he came back that we had assurance that we were able to stay the night, with no fees, and if we needed to buy fuel it would be at $6 p.gl. Ahhhh only in Latin America!!!
We all went ashore that night for a bite and some wifi, still trying to get these papers scanned to Marylinne in Papeete, to act as our agent in Marquesas. 
When we returned to the boat, a family of sea lions had made themselves at home through out the whole cockpit!!! A major hose down was needed, and through out the night, James kept on lurking out the bedroom window, shooing them off the boat. 
Lovely strong down pour, finished washing the boat down.


Sta. Cruz, Galapagos
Apr/07/2012

Awoke to the sight of land in the distance. Motored through out the night. Little wind and on the nose. Anxious now to get there before night fall. A baby red footed booby sat on the front rail all night, until early dawn, catching a ride. Later 3 gulls landed on the roof, happy to take a break from beating into the wind back to Galapagos. One even decided he preferred to prop himself on JJ's head!!! Great moment.!
Arrived to Sta. Cruz around 15:30, anchored and radioed in a water taxi, which is the only way to get ashore. No dinghy docks. Good system. We were informed that in order to buy fuel, one must get a permit from the port captain. HE in turn informs us that in order to get this permit it must be done via an agent. There are 4 here. Shall I call one up? Yes, the cheapest please. Young chap arrives and begins the long well rehearsed explanation of the different options that lay ahead of us. Though he spoke English he chose to stick to Spanish. Now before we fill in the formalities the port captain must visit your boat, to check the tanks, water, papers, blah blah blah, and how much tonnage are you? O.K. so that will cost $180 for him. Than I, the agent will have to fill in this and that paper, to request the fuel, and you will be charged the international price which is $7.10 pr. gallon!! $4.10 in Panama. And my fee for doing all this is $180, you know there is a lot of running around, its also Easter, and people charge double time, and the fuel service station is only open until midday. I will be going here and there, and I am going to have to expedite this as quick as possible, running all the time! 
Well, when I translated all this to JJ, he picked up immediately that it was high way robbery, a total scam, and said forget it. We go with out your fuel thank you. And we all walked off. I think they were quite shocked that we saw through their scheme, and denied there ripped off service! Though we were instructed by the uniformed port official, he who was collaborating with the agent, that if we left immediately we would be o.k., we decided to stay the night. 
Later that evening Shy and JD went ashore, and found out some scoop, how all the agents are from one family, and they control the whole fuel and port situation!! We set the alarm for 5:00 and left for the neighboring island, San Cristobal where we were told that purchasing fuel was a lot easier and friendlier. 
JD came back with a couple of bags of fruit and veg. a few onions, 1kg. tomatoes, some cucumbers, peppers and radishes, apples, lemons, a few pear's, tomatillos and a couple of avocados, all costing $75!


Equator, Pacific Ocean
Apr/06/2012

Definitely calming weather, clearer skies. Had a clean up of the cockpit, and ready for the big event. At 11:19 we celebrated crossing the Equator! A nice bottle of Spanish Bubbles, clear skies. Still struggling to get to Galapagos, current against us, and wind and swell, is making e.t.a barely reachable by tomorrow, Sat. around 15:00! Already down to our last bits of fruit. Everything ripening so much faster here than on the Atlantic. Hopefully we are in luck, and something will be open over Easter w.e. We need fuel too, with all this motoring we are doing. 
Broccoli pasta for lunch. 
2 mangos left. 1 pineapple, 1 watermelon, 4 passion fruit, and 6 apples! 1 head romaine, some baby carrots and big carrots, 1 head broccoli, celery, 2 peppers, 2 cucumbers, and the frozen string beans I prepared before we left.

Isla Malpelo, Columbia
Apr/02/2012

Motored through the night, no wind. Dull sunrise, slate waters, but island in sight! Tall steep, very rocky island. Should be fun! John claims its popular with Columbians, and especially good for surfing.
As it turned out, not a blade of life, just solid rock, no life, other than a few birds. We did see one solitary shack perched mid way up the rock face. As we gently sailed alongside the island, a large fish struck. James worked on it for 45min. We finally got the fish on board a 1m. long red snapper! John made ceviche for lunch

Pacific Ocean
Apr/01/2012

Motored through the night. Still flat seas. The sea is also a dull brownish slate color. Hoping this changes as we leave the shores. Not much fish life, or bird life. 9:30 winds picked up, so sails back out, to a perfect sail. Flat seas, now with undulating small swells of 15sec. 6kts wind 6kts of speed at one point!! Beam reaching. 12:00, winds picked up and all of a sudden peaked at 31kts. Quick scramble to furl in Genaka and reef main. Back to calm around 13:00. By 15:00 we were back on engines for a couple of hours. Decided to make a stop at Isla Malpelo a tiny Columbian Island. To clean the hull of all the Panama scum that grew at an incredible rate!

Flamenco Marina Panama City
Mar/30/2012

We are joined by our new crew, Shyanne and John, at the fuel dock at Flamenco Marina. A marina primarily for sports fishing boats, its buzzing with restaurants, and lots of staff running around. We've checked out with the officials, and now we are ready to take off on our long voyage to Marquesas!

Panama
Mar/30/2012, We are off at last!

Finally the day has come to leave Panama!! We highly recommend that any one thinking of spending time on the Pacific side, to think again. If we did it again, we would totally provision at Shelter Bay, go through the canal, and keep moving. Other the the very friendly locals that we met, the taxi drivers in particular, it was so dirty and a hassle to do anything..
In the picture, this is how you negotiate getting to land!
We will be at sea approximately 27 days, arriving at Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands.
You can email us at
happy.cat@ mailasail.com
Until later...

La Playita, Panama City
Mar/12/2012

We are beginning a rather long stay in this not so pleasant anchorage of La Playita, in front of Panama City. The dhingy dock in the 'marina' area, is the most expensive, dangerous and the most inconsiderate to cruisers that we have ever experienced. As soon as we can we will move across the causeway to Las Brisas.
We have been whizzing around in taxi's getting a few boat parts and provisioning for our long journey. Whilst there is huge building boom, and betterment of infrastructure within the city, the disparity in the classes is so obvious. We are constantly reminded of how the other side lives, which seam to be more than 80%.

Panama Canal Transit
Mar/09/2012

Alex, from Centenarios (we highly would recommend him) was our agent in organizing everything for our transit, At 1:30, we left the docks of Shelter Bay, with our new crew who will be joining us across the Atlantic. (They live in Panama, and offered to help us with the lines, which was great to have them and meet them.) By 2:30 we were on our way towards our first docks.
The first part of the canal, is up three docks taking you into one of the largest man made damned lakes. After about 20nm you enter the hardest part of the building of the canal, which is cutting a canal through solid granite, and down the 3 locks. Its an amazing engineering project, which has been operating now 24/7 for the last 100 years, with not a day of closure!
This video released by PBS is really interesting and worth watching.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/panama/
8 hours later, 6 locks later, a delicious lasagna, and a meeting of new friends as we experienced the passage, we arrived on the Pacific side! You immediately could feel a difference in the air, and the sea temperature went from 25 to 17.5 degrees and a tidal difference of 3-4 mt.!

Porto Bello, Panama
Mar/05/2012

The weather has finally calmed a bit, and mericully so had the seas, when we made our sail back to Porto Bello.
Not so the next morning though. 6a.m. we are alerted by a fellow yacht owner, that we were slowly dragging back. We raised the anchor and tried 7 times again, before giving up and heading straight back to Shelter Bay, Colon. Just as well we did, for the hours and days following were gusting to 30 + ! We were very happy to be in Shelter Bay....

Robsons, Gerti, San Blas
Mar/02/2012

Justino, a native Kuna from the Robsons group was our guide. At 8:30 we all gently piled into a large ulu dug out and motored down to the river mouth. The river, is more of a dredged creek created by the American banana co. some 80 years ago, Along the sides are the remains of pillions that used to support large wharfs.
Shortly we came to the end of the creek, and began our gentle 5km. walk to the Kuna village, walking through native bush , with surprisingly little wild life.
It was really interesting to see how the Kunas live, in their palms houses. We were also fortunate to sit through a christening ceremony, which was a very haphazard 'organized' affair, of drinking 'chicha', a crushed fermented sugar cane and coffee drink, smoking cigarettes and another herb, and... sucking on lollipops!

Robsons, Gerti Island, San Blas
Feb/29/2012

The atolls of the Robsons are completely inhabited, with neat and tidy palm houses hugging the edges of the atoll. Dead coral is used as infill, to protect the atolls, and maximize the small parameter of space.
The first few hours of our arrival was entertained with one ulu after another of primarily children, 2-3 to an ulu, rowing to the boat, just to say hello, beaming with smiles. in hopes, of course that we might give them something. We came prepared with crayons and pencils and a few lollies. When we thought we had seen the last, another lot came! We were really amazed how these young girls and boys 4-7ys old, would row around with their brothers and sisters and nephews, in an unstable dug out, and with quite a task to get back against the wind!
Met Monty and Chris and heard about the arrangements for the river trip we were lucky to join.
The dug out in the foreground has 3 children, ranging between 3-5 years old, in total balance, and what strength to row against the winds!

Mar/21/2012 | Christine
Hi, hope all is well and looking forward to an update ....seems a while and we are wondering how the river trip went xxx
Mar/21/2012 | Christine (Jims sister)
Hi, has anyone heard from Jim and Marina since their last blog 29 Feb???
Mar/21/2012 | Christine
Just had an email and they are both fine!
Green Island, San Blas
Feb/28/2012

Great sail over to Green Island! A tight reach with 18-22kts of wind, and a sea of gentle rolling waves. Now we are starting to see the appeal of San Blas. And Green Island anchorage was great, well sheltered from swell, and o.k. on wind.
Had a walk around the small atoll, no houses, just coconut trees, and at the end, met Jerry and Terry, Canadians, who kindly gave us a few tips, and even arranged for us to join their friends on a river trip from Robsons Islands. (Thank you, for it turned out to be a wonderful experience.)
Pic. shows a typical cluster of palms of a tiny atoll, and yes a family live there!

Lemon Cays, San Blas
Feb/26/2012

So, on we went, in search for shelter, and Venancio suggested we head here. Whilst the coral surrounding these islands protects one from the swell, there is not much to protect one from the incessant winds.
The atolls have a scattering of houses, made of different palm leaves. The walls, and the roofs. Sand for floors, and hammocks, and thats about it!
There were quite a few boats in the lagoon, feeling the grunt of the wind, but our anchorage was on the South side of the atolls, tucked as close to the palm trees as we could.

Mar/14/2012 | Lynn
That is quite some wind!
Chichimay, San Blas
Feb/25/2012

Now why is it that no one warned us to make sure you pick your time when heading to San Blas from the West? As predicted the winds were rising, but we had no idea that the swell could truly be as large as forecasted, 3-4mts! At least the winds were never over 22kts. The skies were hazy and on one occasion a volumous amount of water poured on us, which we welcomed to wash away the dust of Colon. A bumpy unsettled 9 hr. ride, got us to the isloated island of Chichmay. We found as much shelter as we could from the howling winds, the coconut trees struggling against the winds. Stayed on the the outer side of the leeward island.
San Blas is home to the indigenous Kuna Indians, which are one of the few remaining authentic indians in the Americas. They are short, and slender, extremely friendly and happy, beaming immaculate white sets of teeth. The ladies generally dress in their original colorful garments of various molas. They arrive to your yacht rowing their dug out 'ulu's' selling you these applique swatches of fabric, made by sewing and cutting different layers of cloth.
We were very lucky that Venancio, the master 'mola' maker, who is gay, (Being gay, or even a transvestite, is totally accepted in the Kuna culture) came by our boat, with his young driver, and showed us over 50 of his molas. He carries the higher prices, but his craftsmanship is unparalleled. It was tough to decide which to buy.

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