07/01/2012, Fakarava, Toumotus
So this is where black pearls come from!
Things That Have Recently Come To My Attention and Oh So Fabuloso Fakarava
Can you tell I had A LOT of time to think on our e x c r u c i a t i n g l y long four day passage? So here goes;
The farmers of America have been holding out on us Americans by not growing Pamplemousse - the MOST delicious grapefruit type fruit you have ever had in your entire life. (Even if you don't like grapefruit, which Larry doesn't, he swears you'll love these.)
The Food and Drug Administration might just be holding out on something also; we are not sure why but aspartame or Equal or whatever you call it is not available ANYWHERE in French Polynesia. Meaning, much to Larry's disappointment, Diet Coke and the like, is simply carbonated water with caramel food coloring (ooohhh - that's what "sans sucre´means). Seriously, it is the worst thing you have ever tasted. (Larry now makes his own secret concoction of half regular coke, mixed with the "sans sucre" coke and a packet of equal - which we are about out of because you CAN'T BUY IT ANYWHERE HERE!) Now, this can be a messy endeavor, especially on a moving boat, but alas - seeing Larry go through a diet soda withdrawal is far worse. Getting back to the no aspartame thing...is there something someone is not telling us? I haven't been watching Dr. Oz lately - which takes me to my next revelation -
I CAN live without TV! (Remember the Direct TV satellite dropped its signal half way to the Galapagos?) And so can my kid! (It just tickles me pink when Ben, in his spare time, picks up his guitar and jams away, then lies down with a good book and reads.)
I have also come to the realization that we probably are eating a lot more bugs then we have realized. And I don't just mean us...I mean ALL of us. We just happen to live in the exact right environment now for them to blossom in the sealed packages that we buy. Can I say, "Euuuwww"! I now look very closely when I open things to try and detect any sort of movement. I really don't want the extra protein, thank you.
So on to fabuloso Fakarava! Faka whata you say? Awwwwww...we have found paradise, people! This place looks just like the pictures in those glossy brochures you see in a travel agency, or a magazine, or a calendar - of blue sky, turquoise water, and palm trees. In three years this is the first place I have thought, this is it...I could possibly live here.
Our entry through the north pass was a piece of cake. It was so benign I, the one who was keeping an eye out on the bow looking for coral bombies which if hit can do serious damage to the bottom of your boat if not sink it, finally went back to Larry at the helm and asked, "When are we going through the pass?" He laughed as we had passed through awhile ago. It was that easy and mellow and wide. As someone has said, it is a pass into an atoll with training wheels. (Note for you cruisers: I don't mean to make light of any entrance to an atoll. You do want to take care to time all passes at slack, and do realize the conditions on the outside can make a difference as well.) Once inside...feel that?...Exactly! No more ocean swell. Flat calm. And this is when your eyes start to adjust, seeing new colors you have never seen in your whole life. Brilliant colors, (Crayola, you have missed out). Who knew there were so many shades of blue and turquoise in the water, enhanced by the white sand and lush tropical green of palm trees, and bougainvillea, and hibiscus. Who knew the sky could show so many different hues of purples and pinks at sunset? Who knew that when a white bird fly's over the lagoon it's underside turns turquoise from the reelection of the water. It is true eye candy. And who knew a rum punch could taste so good. When I say I wish we could share this with all of you, I sincerely mean it. Get here. Any way you can - if you like this sort of thing. If you like diving or snorkeling in water so clear it looks like you are staring in an aquarium window, this place is for you.
After a few days, a few snorkels off the boat to a reef nearby where Ben and I saw our first two sharks (no I didn't freak out), two giant rays, and a myriad of colorful fish and coral, a cheeseburger in Paradise for Ben and Larry, a shopping spree for me stocking up on black pearls, a movie and play date with some of the local kids from the island on our boat (they were wild), and a (finally) fantastic meal at a gorgeous tiki torch lit restaurant including mesclun salad and coconut profiteroles (are you kidding me?), we shoved off for the southern part of Fakarava - a much more secluded area of the atoll but famous for doing a drift snorkel or dive through the pass on an incoming tide, (therefore you are not at danger of getting sucked out to sea). We actually sailed the whole five hours in perfect wind and flat water. THIS is what sailing should be like all the time, (I could totally lose that ocean swell thing)! Well, little did we know, that every year on the first full moon of the first Tuesday of the first decade of the first century (okay I'm exaggerating a little) in the month July, the Grouper come here to spawn, therefore attracting the biggest, meanest, largest number of all types of sharks to be seen in the area. "Huh," says I trembling. Yeah, the gals shoot their eggs and the guys shoot their sperm and the water sort of looks milky and the sharks have some telepathic knowledge that this is going to occur ahead of time and they plan a convention here because supposedly after the female grouper has released her eggs she goes into this state of relaxed euphoria (yes ladies this is what you are supposed to feel after a great session of lovemaking) for approximately three minutes giving the sharks enough time to have quite a feast on the stupor'd fish...breathe. In other words, it's a total food fest. Yah, needless to say we opted to stay out of the water that day thinking it was a good idea to just let everybody calm down here.
Ben however, has had plenty of other things to do as we have been adopted into Manihi's family. Manihi, a man who seems bigger than life, who is a gracious host, father, and grandfather, who could be a Ricardo Montalban clone including the whole, "Welcome to Fantasy Island" thing, being the owner of the resort Motu Aito Paradise [email protected] - www.fakarava.org, a pension (bed and all three meals included instead of a bed and breakfast because there is nowhere else to go here for your other meals). Actually Manihi's line is, "With Manihi, ALL things are possible." Once again this is a cruiser known place, because Manihi is famous for his special fish pizza nights he puts on for cruisers. I know, fish pizza just sounds wrong, but cruisers seek out pizza of any kind, anywhere we travel in the world and I have to say this is really good. But what we didn't know was that Manihi's daughter, husband, and two grandchildren close to Ben's age were visiting here for the summer, and boy did they hit it off. What kid wouldn't have a great time in the coolest place in the world, water included? Swimming, snorkeling, trips to the local bird island, spear fishing, skurfing, a visit to a pink sand beach, movie nights on our boat, these are just some of the things that have occupied Ben's time here.
Well, after several days of the most incredible snorkeling, we will leave with all four limbs. Please enjoy our photos of this beautiful atoll (in the gallery titled "Fakarava") although they do not do it justice. Sometimes there are things in life that you just have to see for yourself, and this is definitely one of them.
06/29/2012, Fakarava, Toumotus
After what seems like an eternity we finished our 4 day crossing from Nuku Hiva, Marquesas to Fakarava Atoll in the Toumotus Islands. On shore Ben and I had a cheeseburger in paradise!!!
This is truly paradise! I will get busy taking pictures over the next couple of days and Lisa will start writing the next installment!
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.