12//07/2010, Hana Noe Noa Bay, Tahuata Island, Marquesas
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
This bay is a great little place. Quite sheltered except from the 'williwaws' (the winds that blast down the valleys of the mountains across the water). When we arrived on Monday night, Michael and Liam readied the dingy for deploy on Tuesday so we could go snorkeling and explore the beach a bit. Well, this crew is not an 'up and at it' kind of crew, so it wasn't until the afternoon that we finally got into the dingy the next day to go. They didn't get the 'sleepy head' genes from me. I'm up every morning between 5 and 6! We snorkeled for about an hour and explored the north shore of the bay. We saw some beautiful fish but not much coral. The kids played in the surf for a while and then it was time to come back to Gromit and examine the jib sail which, while sailing, we saw was ripped.
It was now later in the afternoon and with only limited light left, we knew we had to get the sail down to see if we could get it sewn before dark.
Plans often change. Have I ever said that before?
Here's what happened:
We were going to be leaving here this morning - Wed- but when we went to take down our jib (most forward sail) because of the tears in it, we noticed that there were some set screws sticking out of the roller furling extrusion. We couldn't just lower the furler car (the 'car' is how the sail is raised and lowered), because it would have gotten stuck on the screws. So, up the mast I went to release the jib from the car by undoing the shackle. Then, some williwaws, and a hole bunch of rain came pelting down. I could hardly see what I was doing and Michael was at the bottom of the mast trying to hold on to the jib as the wind was making it flap wildly. There was so much pressure on the shackle at the top that I was having a problem pulling out the pin and then I was worried that, when I eventually did get the pin out, that the shackle would get flung into the water. I tied the shackle onto a line and when I got the pin out, the shackle went sailing down attached to the strapping of the jib. At least it was safe and not in the water. The whole time, I was rocking back and forth. I've worked at the top of the mast before, but usually it has been in a stable place with out waves or wind. Also, as I was going up the mast, I was checking out if there were any issues such as loose screws etc. At the top, I noticed that one of our cotter pins, that holds the whole furler cable, had almost completely backed out. With my pliers! I started hammering it back in. This took so long and in the end, I wasn't able to bend out the edges, because it was raining so hard and getting dark. At least the pin was back in, but another trip is required to bend out the ends and bring down the furler car so that when the sail is repaired it can be reattached and hoisted. Oh, such adventures! Nevertheless, the view from the top of the mast was beautiful and I even got a great fresh water shower!!!! Poor Michael, he was at the bass of the mast freezing while I was struggling with the pin. Zoe had hot chocolate made for us when we finally got back to the cockpit. WOW!
Today, Wednesday, the plan is.........right, the plan is to sew the sail in the morning and get it back up the furler. Tomorrow we hope to sail to Nuku Hiva to finally check in officially. We'll hopefully meet up with Artemo after our check in.
So, that was the plan, here is the reality.
Once we got a good look at the sail, we realized that it needed more work than we thought. I sewed all around the out side edge where the sail cloth had separated. Originally, I was going to sew on the front deck, but due to the unpredictable winds and rain from the mountains, Michael and I brought everything below to Gromit's sail loft, aka the main cabin. At 8 pm, I finally put the sewing machine away, with all sewn except the area around the clew, which is too thick. There are so many layers of sail cloth that hand sewing is required. I have a hand sewing tool meant specifically for this kind of work, only I didn't know how to use it. The next morning, Liam and I rowed over to another Canadian boat 'Tao 8' and asked them to help. They have been sailing for 12 years and have done a lot of sail repair. After a quick lesson and some yummy crepes, Liam and I headed back to Gromit, Michael and I wrestled the jib into the cockpit and I sat there from 10 am to about 4 pm sewing. For a break, we went snorkeling around the bay for about an hour and then I took one last run at a few seems with the machine to finish up. Just as the sun was setting, amidst the gusts of wind, we were finally able to reinstall the jib on the furler. Yahoo!
Minutes later, Artemo sailed into the bay and anchored behind us! They had left the bay at Hiva Oa - only 6 miles from where we were - to begin a night sail to Nuku Hiva, about 80 miles away. We radioed them that we were intending to leave our anchorage around 3 am to go to Nuku Hiva also, and would they like to come and sail with us. Once they were settled and organized they came over to BBQ with us - they don't have a BBQ on Artemo - and it was decided then that we would stay the night and leave the next afternoon to do an overnight sail together.
The next day, Artemo radioed us early to say that they were heading to the beach to set up a Survivor type of challenge and that we were all teamed up. The challenge included: running on the beach, skipping with a skipping rope in the soft sand, jumping over 6 rocks in the soft sand, writing our boats' names with rocks in the sand, swimming out to a buoy and back and then running all the way back to the finish line. Well, muscle tone we have, but stamina we don't. Our cardio is in poor shape!!!! The team of Alex and Zoe won the grand prize: a bag of M&Ms! It was great fun. A potluck had been planned by another boat for all the boats in the anchorage and the day was ended with a delightful potluck/social.
And then, the plan changed again. We are now not leaving for Nuku Hiva, but for Rangiroa in the Tuamotu chain of islands. It was going to be our next stop on the agenda after Nuku Hiva, but due to timing we decided to not stay in the Marquesas the extra days.
Instead of getting gas, propane and fresh foods in Nuku Hiva, we, Michael, Graham (Artemo) and I, zoomed off in the dingy early this morning to a village in a bay a couple of miles south of here. First off, we arrange with the 'gas' lady to go get our gas cans filled. Then we went to a little grocery store and bought fresh tomatoes and 7 baguettes! Next, it was to the propane store. The lady there didn't want to sell us the tank of propane when she saw our fibreglass tanks. We told her, that we wanted to transfer the propane using the adapter that Graham had. Finally, and I mean finally, she agreed but only if we would do it at the cement quay way out of town. Agreed. Off we went.
Transferring propane with an adapter is an easy thing to do, right?. Well, so said Nigel Calder! It took us hours. The propane didn't want to fill into our tanks. The idea is that gravity will do the job. Hold the large, full tank up higher than the small empty one and ta-da. We thought it would happen quickly, but it just trickled. Michael and Graham, tried all kinds of things to make it work and bit by bit, it finally did. At one point, we left Graham holding the tank while, Michael and I walked back to town. We had seen beautiful, large mangoes in a dry river bed, so we asked the owner of the tree if they would be eaten and she said no, so we asked to collect them. We ended up with a cloth grocery shopping bag half full. What a windfall!
Finally, the transfer of propane was done, but the store was closed. Siesta is between 11:30 and 1:30, so we had to wait a while for the propane place to open again. Meanwhile, we walked the village and as we were standing gazing at a huge, fruit laden mango tree, a plump, ripe mango dropped at our feet. What did this mean? I asked a village lady who was nearby, if it was alright to eat - didn't want to take without asking - and she said it was. There was fruit lying everywhere. I asked what happened to all the fruit that fell to the ground. She answered that the pigs eat it. We found another perfectly ripe one. So delicious. So fresh!!
Back at the propane/mini grocery store, we got our deposit back after returning the tank. Then we dropped by the bakery/mini grocery store to pick up our baguettes that we had bought that morning and schlepped everything back to the dingy.
Now the challenge was to get the dingy off the beach, hold it steady in the incoming surge and load all our goodies in. With team work and a bit of struggling, wet but refreshed, Michael and I got in and were on our way. Graham got a ride with the two 5 gallon gas cans in a dingy that had come from the same bay that we were in. It was a good thing too! We would have been pretty loaded down with all those baguettes!
So, the new plan is...... Sunday, July 11, 2010, we leave for Rangiroa Atoll in the Tuamotus chain of islands. It is a four to five day passage.
NOTE: It has come to my attention that the blog posts I sent from the 21 day passage from the Galapagos, didn't all appear. Some did, but were posted back among already existing posts. It all sounds very confusing. As I can't see what has been posted , I rely on feedback from family and friends. I'm going to post them all again, but together. I'm mentioning this here because I didn't want anyone to think that we are doing another long passage. The problem, I believe is with the way date is read by the system when I send the posts in remotely on our SSB radio. I'm going to leave the dates off and let the computer just post them to the date that they arrive, but for the most part, the correct date is within the body of the posts
7am, Tuesday, July 6, 2010 Hana Moe Noa Bay, Tahuata Island
We arrived here, just in the nick of 'light' yesterday after a beautiful sail from Fatu Hiva Island. Sun sets here around 6 pm and we put our anchor down at about 6:10.
The sun rose above the volcanic peaks of the island of Tahuata this morning around 7. Now, just a few hours later, clouds encircle the tops of the mountains sending rain and 'williwaws' our way. A williwaw is a strong gust of wind that blasts down the mountain valleys and out across the water. We experienced some of those yesterday while coming into this anchorage. They were so strong we had to take down our jib and reef the main to its second reef point, making it quite small. At a guess, the gusts were between 30-40 knots!
The Polynesian word, Tahuata comes from Tahu=fire and ata=spirit. This anchorage is listed as one of the most popular on this island, but at present, we are here all alone. We hope to do some snorkelling today and have a walk on the beach - one of the few beaches in the Marquesas. Beaches a rare in the Marquesas, due to the fact that the islands are mostly volcanic. This island does have a beach and that is because it is one which has coral reefs nearby.
The best description of the make up of the 4 groups of islands that make up French Polynesia (Marquesas, Tuamotus, Society and Australe Islands), is from a guide book we have called 'Landfalls of Paradise'. The following is a direct quote:
The islands of French Polynesia (an overseas territory of France in the southeast corner of Oceania) contain a cross-section of the geologic history of Pacific landmasses. The Marquesas are high islands, young in age, too new to have developed any appreciable fringing coral growth. At the other extreme, the islands of the Tuamotu Archipelago are true atolls - lagoons ringed by coral reefs - that long ago swallowed up the remaining landmasses. Between these two geologic extremes are the volcanic, reef-fringed islands called the Society Islands, which have become the principal islands of French Polynesia. They have fertile coastal plains of volcanic ash for growing food, plus a protective barrier reef that shelters the inhabited shoreline, provides a haven for fish as well as local outrigger transportation, and now makes possible safe harbours for modern ships. Tahiti, in the Society Islands is a nearly perfect combination of mountain, coastal plain, shoreline and reef. It is not at all surprising, then, that Polynesian civilization concentrated there.
At Fatu Hiva, we were able to see the stunning, jagged peaks of the volcanic mountains. Surprisingly though, even in their incredible steepness, they are covered in green. At the tops, the vegetation is more sparse than in the lower parts and valleys. The contrast of the jagged, harsh mountain top profiles to the gentle, rich valleys, is breathtaking. We could clearly see and taste the fertility of the land. Along the side of the few roads that exist, there are noni, banana, lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, breadfruit, papaya and mango trees. Also, mostly in the valleys and along the rocky shores, there are coconut palms.
The currency used here is the Pacific Franc, but the villagers prefer to trade, especially with cruisers, who bring in things that they can not easily access. We were asked for clothes, makeup, shoes, ropes and candy. Back to Gromit we went and looked through our things. After a successful trading session, we returned to Gromit with limes, lemons, oranges, grapefruit - the sweetest we have ever tasted - about 40 bananas, still on the stock(called a bushel) and 3 coconuts. Right off the trees - you simply can't find fresher!
We trekked up the valley to see Vai'e'enui Falls. This hour and a half hike began on a cement road which then turned into dirt and eventually was nothing but a rugged dirt and stone path weaving quite steeply up the side of the mountain. Our guide books all give different heights, so I'll have to say that the waterfall is between 200-300 feet high. There hadn't been much rain so the water falling down was just a trickle. The pool at the bottom was very refreshing and we swam for about 1/2 hour.
As it was nearing the end of the day and being well refreshed, we began on our way down. Along the way, no matter where we looked, we saw stunning mountain peaks, green hills and lush valleys. Closer around us we saw fruit trees with limbs hanging full with ripe, delicious fruit.
When we arrived back at the village, we were told about the dancing and drumming that was going to take place. This was in preparation for a two week festival called Heiva I Tahiti.
First we saw the youngest dancers practising outside on the volleyball court. Drummers were set up at one end of the court and the kids were in lines facing the drummers. Could those drummers pound out a rhythm!!! And could those kids dance! Their dance was simple yet the movements were intricate. The girls were very good at the hip movement which characterizes the Polynesian style of dance. Next we went over to the hall, where the men and women were dancing. Again the drummers were creating the beat and the dancers did their beautiful steps and arm and hip movements. Their style of dancing was very graceful and gentle. It was apparent that they were telling a story as they sang while they danced. How lucky we were to have had a chance to see this!
We are spending one full day here in this sheltered bay and then sailing to Nuku Hiva tomorrow, where we will officially check into the country. We belong to the Pacific Puddle Jump group, which arranges check in and a bond exemption for arriving cruisers. If you don't have a bond exemption or a European passport, you have to deposit an amount of money equal to a flight home, before they let you in. The kids and I all have European passports, so for us it wasn't an issue. But without the exemption, Michael would have had to have paid.
Artemo is currently in Hiva Oa doing their check in and will be heading to Nuku Hiva in a couple of days, where we will meet up with them again
Arriving at Fatu Hiva
7am Wednesday, June 30, 2010
What a tease. I can almost see the island. The 3/4 moon is lighting up the circle of clouds at the top of the volcano. I can make out the outline of the island, trying to imagine the lush vegetation that I've read about. It is 6:55 am Galapagos time and I have another hour or so before the sun comes up.
The winds are from the ESE at 15 - 20 knots and we are getting thrown around a bit because of our angle to the waves. As soon as we are in the lee of the island, the wind and waves will settle and I imagine that we will have to motor the 2.5 miles to the Bay of Vierges.
This is incredibly exciting. I'm excited because we are arriving at our first Pacific island. I'm excited because we spent so much time and energy planning and dreaming about this moment. I'm excited because, at the moment, I'm at the helm feeling completely comfortable and at ease about bringing our faithful Gromit into the Marquesas. What a moment
Friends Never Eat Friends
Kibble and Bebby, are small mice. They are neighbours and they scurry to each other's houses. About every hour, when they are hungry, they run out their back doors to grab some grass to eat. If they stay out too long, Silverwing the evil hawk, will swoop down and pick them up to make filets out of them. Kibble and Bebby, don't like not being safe outside. Before they go out, they have to look up through a glass domed window to see if the hawk is there. If he isn't there, they get their camouflaged umbrellas. These umbrellas, that they designed themselves, have grass growing on top of them. Kibble and Bebby want to get rid of evil Silverwing, so they go to Badger the Wise for help. There is a secret dirt coloured door in the floor of both of their houses. They connect to Badger's house through a tunnel that is shaped like a 'Y'. The two friends ask Badger what to do about the hawk. Badger suggests that they dig a hole the size of hawk's body so that he can't spread his wings to fly out. He then says to put sticks across this hole sideways and then stick grass pointing up so the hawk will land on the hole and fall into the trap. Kibble and Bebby, thank Badger, and tell him how much they appreciate this. Then they go back to their houses and do what Badger suggested. Bebby and Kibble try his idea and they catch Silverwing. Silverwing, really wants to be let out, so Bebby and Kibble make a deal with him. If he promises not to eat them, they will let him out. Silverwing, being an honest bird, agrees. Kibble and Bebby, say that they will capture him again and not let him out, if he tries to eat them. Silverwing builds a nest between their houses and they become really good friends.
The moral of the story is: Friends never eat friends!
12//07/2010, Somewhere between the Galapagos and the Marquesas!
Day 5 and 6
See-sawing in a washing machine! That's what we've been doing since yesterday morning. The winds picked up in the morning and haven't let off since. Yesterday, we were seeing 15-20 knots winds and then over night, they picked up to 25 knots. The good thing about that...we'll be in the Marquesas sooner! The bad thing about that..it is very hard to walk, cook or do just about anything when the boat is heeling and bouncing around.
Nevertheless, the ocean is as beautiful as ever and I continue to enjoy sitting and looking across its endless expanse. Even in these boisterous conditions, I'm at ease with being here and, in part, I thank Gromit, for that! Another part of thanks goes to Michael, co-captain, sail trim and 'nothing-he-can't-fix' guy! Thanks also, go to our 3 incredible kids, who keep us hopping and entertain us with their ideas and antics! Thanks also to 'Artemo' whose constant presence, just a couple of miles off, makes us feel at ease.
Gromit has been sailing beautifully in these 25 knots winds. He/She (can't figure out which pronoun to use, as Gromit, the dog is a 'he' and, boats are traditionally 'she'), is strong, steadfast and reliable, just like he is in the Wallace and Gromit series.
We are coming up to our first 1000 mile milestone in our approximate 3100 mile journey. Sometime in the next 30-40 hours, we will get to our 1/3 mark. Party? Should I ask the kids if they want to have a party?!!?
Day 7, Tuesday, June 15 to Wednesday, June 16, 2010
We caught our first fish off the back of the boat this afternoon. Exciting! We tie the hand line to the winch and I noticed that it was turning ever so slightly. It makes a little ticking noise when it does so. I called out that we had one on the line. Everyone came running and Michael started reeling in. Next step,radio Artemo! We always radio the other boat as soon as we know we have one on the line and give them a play by play.
We were all amazed as Michael brought this beautiful fish closer and closer. Then, the big moment, he raised it out of the water. It was a dorado, AKA mahi mahi. The ironic thing was, that we caught this fish about 2 minutes after he had put our bought fish into a marinade. I left the back of the boat to get a pan and to throw the marinating fish back into the freezer. I don't do well when it comes time to finishing off a fish, or any animal for that matter. This one was pretty well dead by the time we got it on deck. Michael figured that it died by being pulled so quickly through the water and couldn't breath properly. Mahi mahi, rice, fried plantain and a Maia made coleslaw. What a feast!
Michael took the night shift and I woke to milder winds and grey skies. Not for long though. Soon after Michael went to bed I called him back up to assess whether we needed to reef the sails in light of the low lying clouds on the horizon in front of us. We turned on our radar and found squalls ahead. The best thing to do is to avoid them by sailing around them. That was our strategy and Michael went back to bed.
Now, changing course with a wind vane is more involved that doing so with an auto pilot. On the auto pilot you just press an arrow button to the left or right, the rudder angle changes and the boat turns. With a wind vane, you have to go to the back of the boat and manually adjust it. So, I clipped my tether onto my life jacket and then into the life line and headed to the back of the boat. Three things have to align to make a successful course change. The vane has to be turned either left of right and it is tricky to remember which way to turn it, because it is opposite to what you think. Then after adjusting the vane you look at the heading you are going to see if it has been adjusted in the right direction and to the correct heading. Finally, hoping with all your might, you look at the wind indicator at the top of the mast to see if the wind is still at a favourable angle for maximum speed and minimum sail adjustment. It's all a little daunting at first, but by the time I had done it 4 times this morning, remember is was dodging squalls, I kind of got the hang of it. Within a few hours, all the squalls had dissipated and we were back to clear, joyful sailing.
In the afternoon, we did a sail-by. We sailed about 50 metres off of Artemo's starboard side. We wanted to check to see if there were real people behind those voices we hear every day. Usually, we are between 1 and 2 miles apart, so it was a big thrill to be so close- within greeting distance! The kids were so funny. They were singing and shouting, giggling and jumping. And the great thing was that this coincided perfectly with two big moments. As we passed by, it was exactly 1 week that we had been underway and we were only 3 nautical miles short of having sailed 1000 miles! What a fantastic way to celebrate two milestones. Waves, smiles and happiness all around!
Day 9, Friday June 19, 2010 1310 nautical miles
OK, the washing machine we have been see-sawing in is on steroids! The winds have not let off and at times gust higher than before. The swell is between 10-12 feet plus the wind driven waves on top. The good thing is that we are making good time. We are a faster boat than Artemo, so to stay together, we have to reef our sails. Currently, we are sailing with a small storm sail and reefed main and mizzen and we are still doing an average of 7 knots. Thank goodness we aren't sailing into the wind and waves.
Liam caught another fish yesterday, a tuna, but it was so small that we decided to throw it back in. It seems that the best time to catch fish is at about 7 pm, just when we turn on our SSB radio to check in with our position report on the Pacific Puddle Jump Network. Three times, Artemo, and twice we have had a bite right at the most inopportune time. So, all you fisher folk, if you want to catch a fish, turn on your SSB radio!
When the seas are boisterous, it is hard to cook. It will be canned soup and noodles for dinner tonight. I need to make bread, but can't find the energy. It is incredible how tiring this bouncing around is. Not for a moment does the motion stop. You are always correcting, repositioning and balancing. Even when you are sitting down. It is quite a challenge. It's not what I had envisioned. After all, I read all those cruising stories! Ah, yes, the 'Pacific'. What does Pacific mean if not calm and gentle! 10-15 knots winds with following seas. Really? I'm not meaning to complain. I like that we are moving along. Nothing is worse than being becalmed and rocking about with sails and rigging twapping (new verb?). A day of 10 knot winds to regroup and re-coop, that's what we would like!
12//07/2010, 2000 + miles
Day 14 June 23, 2010 , 5pm - two weeks and 1 ½ hours at sea!
We are now over the 2000 nautical mile mark, with less than 900 miles to go. If the winds persist, we might be there as early as 4 days from now! We've been having, generally speaking, a boisterous time of it. For about a week and a half now, the winds have been blowing no less than 15 knots (27km/hr - 17m/hr) and have for the last 36 hours been blowing about 25-35 knots (40-60km/hr - 25-40m/hr) sustained. The swell has grown from 10-12 feet to about 20 feet. Yet, our faithful Gromit is handling things beautifully! Are we worried, anxious or concerned? Surprisingly not. It is amazing how quickly we, not only adjust to new conditions, but don't even notice them anymore! The other morning, early, when I had just come on watch, I was facing the back of Gromit watching the swell run towards us. Here's what I wrote in my journal:
There is something enormously powerful about watching an enormous swell build at the rear of the boat. The swell rolls and builds and rolls and builds, until it completely obscures the horizon. There is nothing to be seen but a wall of water. And just as you think it is bound to spill onto the back deck of our faithful Gromit, under it slips - without really ever coming close enough for concern. I've said it before and I'm glad that I can continue to say it still, that I love being out here. I can honestly still say, that I feel no worry, no anxiety, just awe. The ocean is beautiful.
***Liam has caught his second fish. Another mahi-mahi. It was about 5 pounds and quite a tasty morsel for us. Our dinner plans can change in an instant around here. All we have to do is hear the zing of the line racing out behind the boat and we know that what we thought we were having for dinner might not be!
***On June 21, we all wished each other a happy beginning of winter (I made the mistake of wishing everyone a 'happy summer', but was quickly corrected, as we are in the southern hemisphere now!).
***The kids continue to work hard on school and are still hoping to finish most, if not all, of this term by the time we arrive.
***We celebrated Father's Day with spaghetti carbonara and cheesecake. Michael's favourites!
***The boat is a mess!!!!! It's like there is some psycho magnetic force whose main goal is to keep us unbalanced by pulling willy-nilly at us with every move we make. I marvel at the forces that are at play in this swaying, rocking, heeling, yawing and bouncing vessel. We all have bruises to prove this is true! And, don't leave anything lying around! A new moto perhaps: stow, or it will come back at you!!!!
***The Gromiteer kids talk and play on the VHF radio with the Arteman kids. It is amazing to hear them. They play battleship, guessing games like I Spy and 20 questions. They ask each other all kinds of 'what's your favourite..?' or 'If you could/had/..what would you..?' type of games. They exchange stories, info on what movies they've watched, what books they are reading, what they've baked or are going to bake. In fact, Amelia and Maia, baked bread together the other day. Amelia read the recipe and both girls, on their respective boats, baked the most yummy whole wheat bread I've ever tasted. Zoe and Amelia baked pies a few days after that. I marvel at the creativity! So, that's it for another few days. It is pretty exciting to know that we are now only, if the winds hold out, mere days away...