06/24/2012, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas
Grey Shark getting scraps at the dinghy dock
These should be called the Shark Islands-not the Marquesas Islands. I am not kidding! This place is not for the faint of heart! I am trying to remember the episodes of the TV show "Survivor Marquesas", once filmed here. Surely they didn't let the contestants swim in the water... or did they?
After a week and a half in Hiva Oa - sweating - the island of our first landfall - sweating - with meager (and I do mean meager) provisions from our daily 30 minute treks to town each way ( I have never felt like such a drowned rat from the heat and humidity before) sweating - 600 liters of diesel for the mere price of $950.00 that we begged for in my best French off the freight cruiser the Aranui lll (all hand carried and dinghied 22 five gallon jugs) sweating - a tattoo for me (a well earned Marquesan tradition) sweating (pain!) - my God are these hot flashes or what (?!) sweating, a now twelve year old son who celebrated a very fun birthday with his fellow cruising friends (thanks to all who were there - especially Boden Anna for the live re-mix of Proud Mary into Ben's" Lisa Kay" song!) sweating - we pulled up our anchor eager to travel the few hours to the island of Tahuata where there was supposedly clear blue water that you could jump in and swim with the manta rays that come by daily and perhaps see the sharks coming at you? Tahuata did not disappoint. The turquoise waters with visibility to 30 feet, white sand beach, and yes - jumping in the water and swimming with a manta ray was amazing. Sharing sunset drinks and food on our back deck with Local Talent, Sea Wings, Cat Weazel, Reine Margrit, and Boden Anna helped to provide the buoyancy we all needed to keep us emotionally afloat at this time. Screech (insert sound of car tires skidding across pavement)! I know for most of you, sitting on your comfortable couch with your high speed internet with your TV blaring with your car in your garage with your washer and dryer running with your cold yummy water and ice cubes from your jam packed full 'fridge door with your fancy take out dinner are probably sitting there shaking your head at me saying, "She sure sounds ungrateful." Let me assure you I am not...but this is hard...and there are only a few of us out here doing this...and we each have our own set of unique issues with our boat problems, and our own food and water limitations, and our own fears...which get me back to my opening topic of Sharks! Yikes! They are EVERYWHERE here! Now, don't get me wrong, Tahuata was great to jump in the water and snorkel and clean the bottom of your boat and everything but...okay...here is how one evening conversation went;
Eiliv: (a magnificent young studly blonde Swede who talks in the sing songy way they do, on the sailing vessel Boden Anna): "So, did you guys see the shark today?"
Me: "Huh?!" My eyes grow wide.
Eiliv: "Yeah, it was like 3 meters long." (Now that's like 9 feet for you Americans out there!)
Me: "Noooo...what time?" (This can't be happening...I was in the water this afternoon cleaning the bottom of our boat!)
Eilive: "Oh, around four. Yeah, I was real surprised how big he was."
Me: (Gulp...oh my God, this can't be happening!)
Margarit: (the sweet Swiss beautiful mother with a soft Frenchy kind of accent on the sailing vessel Reine Margrit): "Ah yes, I saw one...about 2 meters long I think."
Me: (I am now choking as I guzzle my wine as if it might be the last gulp I ever have!)
Lou: (our new sassy cute Aussie friend, mother of two boys around Ben's age): "Yeah, right mate, I sawr'em too! 'Bout 1.5 meters I reckon. Hey, pass another beeeeeeer here will 'ya?" (Okay Lou, I know you wear prescription glasses even stronger than me so I'm not buying the meter and a half thing!)
By now my jaw has come unhinged from the excessive weight of my mouth hanging open and there's Larry looking at me, "Yes Lisa, there are sharks in the ocean, where do you expect them to go?"
As I sat there nursing my wine and everyone else continued in their different conversations paying no more mind to the SHARKS(!), I started thinking - there weren't any manta rays around at that time...I bet the rays leave when the sharks come...yeah, that's it...I just won't get in the water to do more work on the bottom of the boat if there are no rays tomorrow. I cross my arms hugging myself thinking smugly, yeah, that's my plan.
Next day, the three of us jump back into the water to finish cleaning the city of barnacles, green grass, and slime that grows over time on any part of the boat that is in the water therefore slowing us down when we move. This is the only time I regret having a boat this large - it is a lot of work! We were lucky enough to have Sea Wings loan us their hookah, a scuba like re-breathing thing, therefore Ben could attach himself to the keel - usually upside down- and scrub away breathing sweet air under water. This child has no fear - he really is very funny. Needless to say, Ben saw a shark go by right away when he got in, came up told dad, at which time they decided they were just better off not telling me...until later when we were finished. Thanks guys! I cheated death again!
On to Ua Pou, a different island with these green spectacular spires that shoot up into the sky. It was nice to see another island but being a small, tight, very rolly anchorage unless you can maneuver your boat behind the breakwater, personally I would skip this island if we were ever to come back although we met several other boaters who particularly loved this island and the relationships they built with some of the locals. Definitely no swimming here because of the..."you knows" we were told, yet the local children were swimming at the pier everyday in the green murky water.
Moving on to our last island Nuka Hiva, after a "Mr. Toads Wild Ride" passage (it can get very rough between the islands here) we first pulled into a secluded anchorage called, in our cruising guides, Daniel's Bay. This is where they filmed Survivor. I think a man named Daniel, a white dude who married a Marquesan chick, who was very welcoming to cruisers used to live there in a small home on the beach - hence the name. They had a son together. What we heard was that they had passed away within the past year or two - from what we don't know. Now cruiser's minds go crazy with information like that (mine thinking - surely they weren't all three eaten by sharks at once)! I think we all came to the joint conclusion that maybe it was a really bad case of ciguatera , another thing to worry about in these parts of the world, or maybe the producers of Survivor paid them so well for their gorgeous slice of paradise that they went off to find another but who knows. Yes folks, a good number of the fish in the South Pacific are poisoned with a neuro-toxin called ciguatera. And yes, a few cruisers have suffered from the poisoning by eating fish given to them by other well meaning cruisers. Definitely not a mistake we want to make.
Daniel's Bay is a beautiful, calm anchorage where Ben and Brian - Ben's new adult/kid friend - had a great time looking at and trying to catch a shark. Here we could drive our dinghy over the stunningly gorgeous corals in clear water (how I wish we could jump in!) and see the sharks, turtles, and colorful fish, as well as walk on the beach and see the baby sharks swimming in the shallows. Yes, just like baby everythings, they are even adorable. They finally succeeded in catching one from shore and after a great look at it, it was peacefully released. How many other 12 year olds can say they caught a shark?
The hike to the waterfall is what most cruisers come here for, the third highest waterfall in the world. This was truly the most gorgeous hike I have ever taken. It was like walking in a dream through the "jurassic type" setting - two hours up, two hours down, crossing several very fast moving streams along the way, passing many ancient tikis and archeological sites, and one freezing cold swim in the pool at the base of the waterfall punctuated by a falling rock now and then from the very high cliff above. Let's just say we didn't linger in the middle of the pool, thinking our families would not be very understanding if one of us died by getting hit in the head by said rock. It's a bit of work, but if you swim then crawl over a huge boulder and some rocks, there is another pool behind with an amazing cavern carved in the solid rock, making the cold, treacherous swim totally worth it. On our way back, we had been asked by a lovely local woman and her husband (and their dozen cats who crawled everywhere) to come in her home and share coffee and sweets she had prepared for us. What a beautiful experience and once again here I now struggled with my French (why are we Americans so inept at learning other languages when we are younger unlike so many of the other people we meet?). We were able to buy some fruit, picked fresh from their yard, and was gifted a huge bouquet of basil. Ooh-la-la! Another truly great day!
Our last stop in the Marquesas is the main anchorage on Nuka Hiva, to provision and to receive several boxes we have had shipped in. I have to give a huge shout out to my brother in law Steve, who patiently researched and shipped to us our life sustaining parts for our generator. Larry installed the new heat exchanger and now we can run it without spraying salt water all over our engine room. This was an extremely difficult task, in a very hot and humid environment, where after contorting himself in an uncomfortable position, the only way he could see to remove the old part and put in the new was in a small handheld mirror he held with one hand. Needless to say, for several days after he could hardly walk from terrible sciatic pain. Not a day goes by that he doesn't suffer from terrible back pain, but he knows he would be in the same pain if he was just lying on his couch at home (with the exception of this last stint) so he chooses to continue with cruising while he can.
Last repair to make is to install new membranes for our water maker, just shipped in yesterday. Our water has not been drinkable the last few weeks, due to shot membranes, and once again Rich Boren from Cruise RO has efficiently gotten us what we needed. Thank you Rich! One of these days when we meet I'm gonna give you a big hug! Water is a prized item here in these islands as the tap water is unpotable. Most cruisers don't have a water maker like we do (another words with such a high output), so we try to help out and supplement others when we can. I'm talking - some cruisers have not showered for months! We on the Lisa Kay are VERY spoiled.
Tomorrow we head out to the Tuamotus, famously known as the "dangerous archipelago" (insert another "yikes" here!) due to a number of vessels that have run aground on reefs. We are going to try REALLY hard NOT to do this. These are the largest chain of atolls in the world spanning an area roughly the size of Western Europe. It will take us four days to reach our first stop. Our planned stops at this time are Fakarava, Anse Amyot on Toau, and Rangiroa, although this is not carved in stone.
We are praying Dory, our autopilot will cooperate as Larry has worked diligently on this "issue" as well. We have a new fluxgate compass awaiting us in Tahiti that will hopefully remedy the "situation" for good. Seems like part of the problem might be my fault, again, (I still will never live down the wine bottle in the fuel tank incident of 2011), but this at least gives Larry something new to ruminate over. It seems that this special compass lives under Ben's couch in his berth (who knew?), a perfect place for me to have stored toys such as Matchbox cars, an aluminum bat, and his wii balance board etc...made perfect sense to me... but lo and behold, apparently when you place such said metal items near things such as "special compass's" that help feed the proper information to your autopilot it screws it up. Sigh....
What is an atoll you ask? Quoting from my new favorite read, The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost, a coral atoll is the crest of a dying volcano. The coral replenishes itself by matching the rate of a sea volcano's dissolution. As the land far below the water surface steadily recedes into the depths, coral polyps grow from its slopes, seeking the sun, rising first to become a barrier reef, and then, as the volcano continues to disintegrate slowly inching towards its base, an atoll is formed, the living crest balanced atop layers of dead coral and far below is the volcano itself. This creates an aquarium like lagoon where we will seek anchorage once we have carefully navigated, only possible once daily at a specific time due to the tides, through the pass - a narrow channel through the coral - into what will be our shangri-la for a few weeks (yes, with lots of sharks but supposedly these are friendly sharks you can swim with!). Very exciting stuff!
The Marquesas are truly gorgeous and we have loved wandering the hills and small towns and the easy going nature of the people. We have loved going to the local festivities as they prepare for their big holiday next month. Witnessing the dancing and their music and singing in a non tourist performances felt like we were able to witness their day to day lives through the back door. So different from the Central American countries, here no one expects anything from you. Accepting a tip is unheard of. There is no pressure put on you of any kind. What a remarkable group of people, who were almost wiped out by white man's diseases, to still have a smile on their face and such positive attitudes. Maybe it's the fact that practically everything shuts down Mon - Sat from 11:30 - 2:30 for their afternoon break, and on Sundays they are just plain closed. Or maybe it's because, so we've heard but have not been able to confirm, the locals receive some sort of a pension from the French government assuring a comfortable life for them, or maybe it's because they can grow all the tropical fruit right in their back yard if they want. Whatever it is, it works. And despite, what I thought initially, was unbearable heat, we've just had to acclimatize to the humidity. Some days are warmer than others, some days are really pleasant if there is cloud cover, but all the evenings cool down perfectly so that we all sleep downstairs in our cabins comfortably without air conditioning. And despite what I initially thought was meager food for provisioning, once again I have not starved. One could live on baguettes and imported French cheese, crepes, and French wine forever, right? And I have adjusted to rising at four AM'ish to dinghy in (through the shark infested waters due to the local fisherman washing the blood and guts from their daily catch into the ocean RIGHT where we tie up our dinghy and hoist our bodies up the concrete wall praying that we don't accidentally slip and fall in) for the veggie market on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I actually have gotten used to the sharks now, admiring their sleek bodies and their sense of survival in knowing they will have an easy meal daily right off the dock. Even though we feel really ready to move on, the Marquesas Islands will truly be missed by us.
"Nana", which in Marquesan means goodbye. Next posting won't be until we reach the land of internet in Tahiti, so don't worry, it will probably be several weeks if not a month away. XO
Note: We should have photos posted in a gallery called "Marquesas" later today if there is enough bandwidth for us to send them. Also, to find us on google earth just click on the map on the right hand side of our website. It will take you to another page with a general map. Scroll down to the next map, which is google earth. These tiny islands are hard to find, so says the ships navigator!
05/24/2012, Hiva Oa, Marquesas
We Made It!!!
We arrived outside the anchorage of Hiva Oa at 11 PM. Total time to get here - 19 days, 9 hours. Not bad, but boy were we tired. We made friends with a trimaran just pulling in from Mexico, several hours earlier when they hailed us on the VHF radio. We had noticed a strobe light off in the distant dark, immediately thinking (dreading) that it was a long line fishing vessel. Hearing a friendly voice that went with the light instead gave us a reassuring feeling for our last night on the open sea. We're not so alone now we thought. Both of us heaved to, which is a way to park your boat in the middle of the ocean, where you are almost stationary - hopefully bow into the swell - and you just slowly drift, passing time until it is time to continue. The Lisa Kay however does not like to heave to (or we just don't know what we're doing!) and somehow we always seem to end up beam to, meaning as the swell hits us on our side we roll violently back and forth, back and forth, back and forth...but anything was better than hand steering for a third night in a row and we definitely didn't have enough fuel to drive in a circle all night. At first light, Larry started up the engine and we steamed into the anchorage. Ahhh....It is GORGEOUS! STUNNING! BREATHTAKING! And yes, you can smell it! It smells...well, it smells green... like vegetation...in all forms. Like grass and old lawn clippings and flowery, and like trees in a forest, and wet wood. Steep, majestic, razor sharp spires reach up into the clouds that blanket the mountain tops. This is the greenest place on earth I have ever seen. Our first tropical paradise!
The Marquesan people are some of the most beautiful people I have ever seen. No wonder the famous French painter Paul Gauguin became so enchanted here and never left. They are equally warm and generous, whether they're giving us a lift when we hitchhike to and from town, or inviting us into their yard and picking us sweet fruit from their personal stash.
Being a holiday weekend - we're not sure what as the language barrier has been a little tough - we were treated last night to some traditional dance performances by the men in the town park. The men are large - especially by Central American standards - and quite muscular, with these amazing tattoos. Followed up by some sort of women's competition, playing various games such as tug-o-war, a sack race, arm wrestling (unbelievably I won my round!), a run with the cup of water to fill the bottle race, followed up by a Polynesian dance contest. Guess who got thrown in the pot to participate out of all the other boaters? You guessed correctly - moi (I'm so glad I get to provide the laughs for my family and friends)! Not speaking the Marquesan language or French, the ladies did the best they could and treated me like one of their sisters. Smoking pot seems to be the thing here as alcohol is outrageously expensive and hey - I guess when you can grow it organically and easily in your own back yard. Needless to say, I was the only sober participant.
Up early today, we wanted to go into to town and experience church Marquesas style, and they did not disappoint. The Polynesian Christian music nourished our souls, followed up by fresh baguettes nourishing our stomachs. Ahhh...you gotta love this place.
05/23/2012, Somewhere in the South Pacific
5/22/2012 - 19 days at sea
09 54.58'S; 138 14.34'W
PS: Are We There Yet?
Dory (the auto pilot) died. Well actually Larry just thinks she's in a coma, but we can't seem to revive her at this time. So yes folks, you are thinking correctly, we have been hand steering now for two days and two nights. The good news is that our biceps are getting really big and we're gonna look fantastic in our bikinis (insert laugh here). Of course this happened just after the sun went down, and not only could we not get the autopilot to work, our steering has this funny "loose" feel to it. Yikes! "This is not good," says Larry. No shit thinks I. Ben was asleep - Larry and I did one hour shifts through the night steering in the confused seas - this being a new form of torture (going to sleep for an hour, getting up, going to sleep for an hour, getting up, I think you get the picture now) until we figured out the miracle medicine of the ipod. Better than any caffeinated drink or pill - just drown yourself in music. Oh, and I do have to remind myself to breathe, because in great moments of fright I find I have a tendency to hold my breath. So, by the second night and all three of us taking shifts - with the added addition of tootsie roll pops - a two hour shift was a piece of cake! Poor Larry tried in vain to fix her (Dory), even going as far as replacing the motor with a re-built spare we have. This of course meant emptying the aft lazarette again (third time is a charm, right?) and contorting around all those moving parts. The steering unit all looks okay although the cables may be loose, but this is going to just have to wait until we stop. Oh well, on the bright side this could have happened our third day out (insert sigh here).
The good news is that we will pull into Hiva Oa tomorrow morning!! We'll actually arrive around ten this evening but as a rule we don't pull into an anchorage in the dark, especially an unfamiliar one. I don't know if I'm going to fall on my knees and kiss the ground when we get there, or if I'm going to puke but I cannot wait! The champagne is chillin in the 'fridge as we speak. This really is quite an accomplishment. Larry says it's the equivalent of driving from New York to Hawaii at about 7.5 mph. No rest stops, no greasy trucker diners, no playing tunes on the radio or listening to Dr. Laura or Rush Limbaugh - just us - plugging along.
They say you are supposed to be able to smell land after you have been out to sea for so long. I'll get back to you on that one. At fifty miles out my sniffer is yet to detect anything except the fishy smell of the dead flying fish on our deck. They are practically the only form of life we have seen this entire crossing. It really has been quite boring. Another boat we chat with on the SSB has a kitty cat that is in seventh heaven as these live treats are literally delivered at its paws! I've been asking the boys what they are craving and they both said, "Hamburgers!" Larry though is also dying for ice cream. Me - fresh fruit and juice! Mmmmm...Silly me thought we would be living off the fruit of the sea, fish, but sadly no. Ben hasn't really been in his "deadliest catch" mood which was fine by me seeing as most of the days have been too dangerous to step out of the cockpit, but we're getting pretty hungry - only having had one serving of chicken in the past 3 weeks.
Well, as I close this posting I feel weirdly anxious. Can't quite put my finger on it - this is going to be a long night. We send our love out to everyone. I cannot thank you enough for all your kind words, support, and prayer. We feel it to the core of our beings. XO
05/19/2012, THE PACIFIC OCEAN
Day fifteen on the high seas - and high seas they have been. Today is the first day in the last eight or nine that we have not been in 18 - 20 knot winds with 2-3 meter seas, and then all the wind chop and cross seas that go with the squalls that have 30 knot winds - and you get the picture - or so I thought. I kept thinking, what is wrong with me? Why am I so nauseous? Why is my head pounding? Why are my legs shaking and I feel so weak? Yeesh, what good am I if I can't cook and take care of my boys? I'm not cut out for this at all...But then, by day three of this nonsense I realized - I'm sick you dummy! So, after four days I am back to my somewhat perky self (it's hard to be perky when you are in perpetual motion ALL the time, and really are only getting an average of 6 hours of sleep per day and that is broken up in 2 or 3 attempts).
With 700 miles to go we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have to say though that with the calmer seas, wind, and weather today, if the whole trip had been like this it would be a breeze. But alas, one never knows for sure what the ocean might cook up. This truly is not for the faint of heart. Now that I've finished reading my 50 Shades of Grey trilogy I've started on a book called Swept: Love With A Chance Of Drowning, by Torre DeRoche. It is a true story and it really is hysterical. Larry says I remind him of the author, because of the way she tells her story of taking off on a sailboat with her boyfriend. Anyway, I had to laugh when I read her line in the book about doing night watches; "I'm learning that night watch is a blend of deep meditative relaxation, punctuated by surprise defibrillator zaps."
Yesterday we began to experience a "rudder failure" warning on our autopilot. Hmmm...I know people used to actually steer their ship 24/7 but somehow that just doesn't sound appealing to me at all. "Is it the large waves overpowering the autopilot," Larry and I silently ask each other with our eyes? Trying not to show fear, what we're really saying in the backs of our minds is, "Oh shit!" (Yes, I'm starting to talk like a sailor again only this time I've earned it!) So, with two hours of daylight left (go figure) and Larry thinking he'd really like to get a good look at the steering system we drop the sails and start up our trusty motor thinking that would be a kinder and gentler on our steering system. Larry has now affectionately named our autopilot Dory, because it sounds like the way Dory was trying to communicate with the whales in the movie Nemo, if you remember. Okay, then we had to pull everything out of our aft lazarette - which basically is our garage -and try to place the items on deck so they wouldn't roll off as the boat swayed back and forth side to side in the huge swell (that was my job). Are 'ya with me so far? Now that Larry has pulled the floor out of the compartment, in order to get to the steering unit, he has contorted himself through a 25X25 inch hatch and is precariously balancing between the constantly moving hydraulic steering quadrant and cables. Ei-yi-yi! He pretty quickly figures out what the problem is, the pin on one of the wheel units is working itself out allowing the wheel to tweek and probably freeze up when the boat is trying to turn. In English this means, really bad. "You mean we could totally lose our steering?" I really try to not sound too panicked. So, while Larry lays down in this compartment on his right side, knees pulled practically up to his chest (ah yes, the fetal position because THAT IS WHERE YOU WISH YOU WERE AGAIN!), twisting and bending forward down into this small hole with a flashlight in his mouth, a mirror in his left hand and a hammer in his right, he patiently beats away on this pin - trying to not get a finger, or hand, or arm cut off by the moving hydraulic unit - while the boat goes heave ho, heave ho. I pray, and pray, and pray, as the foreboding blackness of night envelops us. "Okay," says Larry, "this is not working so tomorrow morning - Plan B." We patiently re-stuff the lazarette, exhausted. We nurture the steering through the night and miraculously we don't have one failure. Thank you Lord! Gazing at the amazing plethora of stars that night during my watch I see the biggest, brightest falling star ever! And I make a wish...
The next morning we feel refreshed. The wind and seas have calmed down considerably - ahhh. Hear that..? Exactly! We unpack the lazarette again. Larry's new plan is to remove the steering cable off the quadrant (he says theoretically, we should be able to steer the boat just with the control dial on the autopilot but I don't get it but I don't question him either), then remove the problem wheelie thingy, take off another good wheelie thingy that is easier to get at and replace that where the bad one is, fix the bad one then replace it where he removed the good one. "Sounds like a plan, dear", says I. A few minutes later he pops his head out of the hole and says, "You're never gonna believe this but I fixed it! There is no logical reason as to how I just did that." Thank you Lord I say again, only I shout it this time!
Now in the meantime, I have forgotten to mention that we suddenly had a flood of water in our engine room, right around the time the steering was going to shit (oops, there's that word again). Hmmm...tastes like salt water (yes, this is what you do on a boat to determine the nature of your problem sometimes, you taste them). So, now in the Bikram type setting, meaning the steamy, 120 degree engine room (remember we were running our engine the whole night in order to take it easy on our steering) MacGyver/Larry patiently gets to work on figuring out where in the world is all this water coming from. You guessed it - it's our generator AGAIN, only this time the heat exchanger actually has a hole in it. Ba dum! This translates in English to no water maker, no air conditioning, and no wii. I think we'll live this time. Our still very sweet 11 year old says, "Mom, I think there's a reason why God doesn't want our generator to not work right now and we'll be just fine." And in that moment I thought, you know what kid - you're gonna be just fine in life. Sometimes things just are what they are in life and if you can figure that out by eleven...wow. But!!! Hold on folks!!! Larry/MacGyver comes up with a fix and so far it's holding...well sort of...we'll see.
625 miles to go! Ben asks each one of us everyday at least ten times (I'm gonna kill him) are you excited? He really has been great - not complaining - well maybe just little yesterday when he couldn't play his wii! He has faithfully been doing his night watches, usually the 3 - 6 AM shift, which has helped us old folks out immensely. It has been the hardest thing in the world for me to wake him up at 3. A mother just doesn't wake up a sleeping baby! But I do, and then I crawl into bed with my adoring, talented, oh so capable husband and we blissfully snooze together for a few hours.
05/12/2012, THE PACIFIC OCEAN
The Wild Wild West
You know the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, the one where you're strapped into a jeep and go for a bumpy, rolly, out of control ride, where your body lurches one way and your stomach lurches another? Well that's about the best description I can give you of our ride right now, minus the screaming and laughing and giggling. What was I thinking?! I guess the titles of this crossing like; the puddle jump, crossing the pond, or the ever famous "coconut milk run" enticed me into thinking we would be sailing along in these beautiful trade winds with this long period sea swell gently lifting us over the azure blue water with dolphins and whales frolicking about. Ha...hardly! Now there are moments of great pleasure don't get me wrong, and Larry keeps reminding us that you have to have the lows in order to experience the highs...ya de yada de yada.
Holy sh__ (insert beep here)! I think I'm dying. I would have died for sure on the Mayflower. My kinfolk would've had to go on without me. This is a slow form of torture. It's like having morning sickness, the flu, and a really bad hangover all at the same time! I'm gonna personally write Cheney a letter and tell him to forget the water boarding! Take a terrorist, put him on a little boat in big seas 24/7, getting none to very little sleep, minimal food (because it's just plain 'ol too hard to get it) and I guarantee you he will tell you whatever you want to know within a week. My body feels like jello. Sometimes my legs feel like they can hardly hold me up any longer.
How is Ben you ask? Oh he's great! He wakes up every morning (well sometimes it's almost noon) and we ask him, "How did you sleep?" And do you know he ALWAYS answers, "Amazing!" Gah! He loves it out here. He can watch movies and play wii for hours and be just fine, and then ask me, "Mom, when's dinner?" I Snap back, "Dinner?!" Needless to say, we aren't exactly eating as I had planned. I did manage to make potato salad and an apple pie late yesterday afternoon, much to my peril. My butcher knife was bouncing off the counter and landing at my bare feet, the peeled hard boiled eggs were landing and splitting on the floor, the pot of boiling water with the potatoes were sliding across the stovetop, Larry almost fell overboard throwing the apple peels in the ocean, and the apple pie juices were spilling in the oven creating a burning black haze throughout the salon. But it was so good when I was done! Luckily I did prepare quite a few meals before we left, but just heating them up in the micro is no easy feat. Maybe we could turn this into the newest detox fad diet. Most days we cannot even stomach a cup of coffee and for those of you who know me - the thought of a glass of wine makes me gag. Wait... did I just really say that?!
Ben has caught 3 dorado - 2 were too small so we released them and the other was a female so we released her too so she could sustainably go on and make more babies. Flying fish are everywhere! We actually have to walk around the boat and throw all their little dead bodies back into the ocean so our boat doesn't start to smell. They are entertaining to watch though, as hundreds fly out of the water for quite a distance as our boat slices through.
Our first night or two out, Larry spotted a fishing vessel with long lines out with the all familiar faint flashing lights on the flags that mark where the line is. As we approached however, the ship went totally black. Hmmm...why would he do that? Fortunately we've had the pleasure of the biggest full moon of the year and it has been incredible. Moon rises and moon sets are by far my favorite! The moon really does help you see the outline of things in the dark so we were in no danger of hitting this vessel. The next day Larry and Ben spot off in the distance a bright orange canister, like a 55 gallon steel drum, floating by. At first thinking it may have been a life raft they drove closer. Then in the afternoon we suddenly hear the rhythmic thump of helicopter blades. Huh?! The helicopter flyes right at us, circles us, and then hovers and reads the name of our vessel. Larry signals to the pilot with our VHF radio to call us, he signals back that he does not have VHF. Hmmm...My immediate thought was that they were looking for someone in distress and that was some floating debris that went by earlier. I started to cry. The thought of someone like us in trouble made me lose it. Then logic started to take over; that wasn't a rescue helicopter, no helicopter could fly 900 some odd miles from land, and last but not least if they were rescue they would certainly have a marine radio. We slowly start to realize, that the canister emits some sort of sound wave that attracts fish, the helicopter then flyes out from the mother ship to spot the canister to see if the fish are there, then goes back to the ship and reports its' location. Ta dum! That's some high tech fishing there, and probably where your chicken of the sea comes from. We have actually seen some tuna riding the wave of our bow lately, and the occasional dolphin, which are always at risk of getting caught in the tuna nets, as they love to eat the tuna too. (Can you tell I've had a lot of time on my hands to think 'cause I CAN'T DO ANYTHING ELSE?!)
Larry has been running the morning and evening net on the single side band radio, for all of us boats that are heading to the same place. He does a great job and I am really proud of him for doing this. It is a great comfort to us all, to check in, give our latest coordinates, make sure all is well on board, and just to hear another friendly voice. This is an enduro and a lot of it is just mind over matter, as with most things in life.
Two days ago we were almost able to check one of Larry's "bucket list" items off, that being making a 200 mile day on the Lisa Kay. We had 197 nautical miles! So close! Currently we're traveling at 8.5 knots, in 20 knot winds, and the seas are 2-3 meters with the occasional 10 foot swell, and then all the wind chop that goes with the higher winds. Ughh! (Oops, I just heard a huge crash downstairs as Larry is trying to do the dishes!) Do you feel my pain?! I know all of you are smugly shaking your heads back at home saying, "I told her she was nuts." I wonder if this is like having a baby, when a few months later and you are holding your cooing bundle of joy (hence making landfall in one of the most gorgeous places on earth) and think - , hmmm...could I do that again?
05/05/2012, THE PACIFIC OCEAN
Our last twelve days, here on Isabella, have been glorious. Santa Cruz Island was a bit of a disappointment and to any of you cruisers coming here in the future don't feel too bad if you skip it entirely. The town of Puerto Ayora (where you anchor on Santa Cruz) is cute and definitely more touristy than the other islands. We thought the provisioning would be the better here though, but I didn't think it really warranted the stop. The torture of the rolly anchorage almost made it unbearable, not to mention that someday someone is going to get seriously hurt trying to get on or off their boat from the water taxi. The good news however, was that we were able to meet up with our new Australian friends on Cat Weasel. With their two boys, both around Ben's age, it makes the experience for Ben that much richer and more fun.
Because there seems to be some misinformation about coming to the Galapagos Islands or total lack of, here it is a brief summary for you fellow cruisers:
Option 1: You can choose to make just one stop at one of the three main islands; San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, or Isabella, for a twenty day stay maximum - being your least expensive option to visit the Galapagos. It really is best that you make arrangements ahead of time with an agent on that island, rather than just show up. According to our agent on Isabella, JC Soto, 2/3 of the boats that showed up this year were unannounced. As of this week, the Parks Service and government officials are involved, which in turn may involve the police and they may start having people return to a port of entry ie: San Cristobal or Santa Cruz with their passports to officially clear into the country.
Out of all the boats we have talked with here, if they had chosen the option of only one island, Isabella would be the place to stop at hands down. It is beautiful, with crystal clear turquoise waters and powdery white sand beaches. The small town is safe, cute, and oh so peaceful. They have all the animals here, from sea lions, penguins, giant tortoises, marine iguanas, sea turtles, sharks, giant manta rays, flamingos, and blue footed boobies. (I'm sure there are many more creatures but these seem to be the main attractions.) Provisioning is minimal, but you can get by. I was delighted on Wednesday, the day before we departed, by a sudden delivery of all kinds of veggies in the markets. We definitely won't starve now during our 3000 mile crossing! THERE IS NO ATM OR FUEL ON THE ISLAND. Isabella is also home to Sierra Negra, the volcano with the second largest caldera in the world.
Option 2: You can get an autographo, which allows you to visit all three islands, with a maximum stay in the Galapagos of three months. As I had stated earlier, for the three of us, the cost was $1198. Now, it will vary by the length of your vessel and the number of persons on board of course. We are very happy that we have chosen this option as we have felt unhurried and are glad that we have been able to check out the main three islands.
Option 3: This one is purely for emergency status, and that would be if you were by passing the Galapagos completely but suddenly fall upon some kind illness or a mechanical failure on your vessel. I believe they will give you a 72 hour reprieve as you scramble to fix your vessel. However, you are not allowed to book any tours or explore the island.
With the exception of option 3, as I said earlier, the use of an agent really is mandatory. We used Bolivar Pesantes in San Cristobal where we cleared into the country, who took excellent care of us. He had representatives on each of the other islands making our stops there seamless. The officials are well versed with vessels that try to take advantage of the system. Let's hope they don't put the officials in a position to eliminate access by private vessel to the islands. Let's just say, the Ecuadorian government takes their role as stewards to the Galapagos very seriously.
Now all of what I have stated is open to change each year, I'm sure. It makes us sad that once again, because of a few cruisers that stop here and try to outsmart the rules or are basically just too cheap to pay to visit this beautiful place, will only hurt it for all of us in the long run.
For you landlubbers, I would imagine taking one of the many luxury cruise/tour boats would be the way to go, albeit this is not a cheap option by any means I'm sure. I would recommend however, that you follow up the cruise by spending several days to a week on Isabella, whether it be in one of the very inexpensive hostels or a nicer hotel such as the Iguana Hotel. You will really then get a sense of the people, and be able to enjoy the animals personally and at your own pace. It's also an opportunity for you to contribute a little to the local economy as the people who eat and sleep on the tour boats contribute very little to the locals.
No one, in their lifetime, should miss this place.
So, back to Isabella...aaahhh...it has been heaven. Like I said earlier, the water is gorgeous and as I write this there are three adorable sea lions sleeping peacefully on our swim step. Now their poop isn't so adorable and they are quite messy creatures, but it's nothing that doesn't easily wash off so we don't mind. The island of Isabella is the largest in the chain. It's about 100 miles long and is shaped like a sea horse. There are several volcanoes, with the last eruption taking place in 2005 on Sierra Negra. Well, of course we had to do a tour of this volcano! Just a mere 20 kilometer walk (the last half being in the pouring rain and two foot thick mud), but the volcano was cool and we had fun and knew how much we would appreciate this later when we are stuck on the boat for 20-30 days sailing to the Marquesas. Not a bad idea to wear long pants stuffed into your socks and a long shirt on this hike as there are ticks and wasps, and people were bitten. Once again the snorkel trips here are fantastic including swimming through lava tubes and looking in caves for the sleeping sharks. Larry, Ben, and two others on one of our tours even jumped in the ocean to have a short swim with a giant manta ray (see video and pictures previously posted on our blog)!
We weighed anchor yesterday afternoon with a painfully heavy heart. We have really, really loved our time here. As we sailed out of the anchorage another boater let us know we still had a sea lion asleep on our back swim step. We woke him up and he was able to stay in the Galapagos.
Now we have completed our first 24 hours of our long journey to the Marquesas. We've traveled 159 miles so far, 2840 more to go! Our conditions so far have been quite pleasant. The Lisa Kay has sailed beautifully in 8-11 knot winds at 6.5 - 7.5 knots of speed, motor sailing through the night when the winds got lighter. We haven't quite settled into our routine and are quite tired, but we're relaxed and know that in another day or two we will have adapted. We are grateful everyday for this opportunity and for the seaworthiness and creature comforts our vessel has to offer.
Special thanks to our daughter Jessica who has agreed to post all of our writings as we make this crossing. We will continue to send SPOT messages as we cross knowing that it doesn't work in the middle third of the ocean. So don't worry if you don't hear from us!