We left Rangiroa 2 days ago and arrived in Tahiti last evening. The trip, while only about 24 hrs, seemed to take more out of us than we had expected. Much of that is probably because in the last several days at Rangiroa our anchorage changed from calm to a mess of wind and surges. Dana vomited at least once and Mark felt a little queasy. This was all from the winds picking up and changing the direction to come a bit more from the south, causing wave action to bypass a point that was giving us some protection.
The last day or so in Rangiroa we didn't do too much other than clean up the Northfork. Mark cleaned the hull in expectation of waxing the boat, which didn't happen because the change in weather. Dana organized our bedroom, which meant that lots of stuff got pulled out and not necessarily all of it was replaced. Mark asked that Dana not improve the organization any further.
We pulled up anchor without any problems and made it out of the pass at Rangiroa. We were low on water, so we fired up the water maker as soon as we got to sea, but there is some kind of problem. When the high pressure pump starts, you can hear the generator struggling to provide the needed power. This is even when nothing else is turned on the generator. The water pump requires alot of power, so normally we only run the small battery charger when the water maker is on. In one of the attempts, the circuit breaker on the generator blew, which suggests the problem is with the water maker. We decided we had enough water, 150l out of 950l total, and we would look into this further in Tahiti.
We realized we might not have time to make the Papeete harbor with daylight. Given that the harbor can be quite busy and we were unfamiliar with it, we decide to anchor off Venus point, which had an easy entrance and was a little closer so we would have more light available. We anchored in 20ft of water and enjoyed watching a bunch of outrigger canoes practicing in the bay while we BBQ'd several more chicken breasts for dinner. Mark was able to find an open wifi connection to the internet and we took an early night to get some rest for the next day.
We arrived in Rangirao several days ago. Our overnight passage was mostly uneventful excepting some large freighters Dana had to keep a close eye on at night. Mark took over around 6am and navigated toward the entrance to the atoll, waking Dana as he was taking the sails in and preparing to enter. Dana stood on the bow looking for any obstructions and trying to give Mark an idea of currents we were running into. She was distracted, however, by some large dolphins gracefully loping alongside us. We went through and arced to the anchorage area in front of another one of the bungalow-hotels we've been running into.
Finally, we were in a calm anchorage with neither heavy winds nor surges. It was calm and peaceful, with occasional showers sweeping through. With our previous anchorage in mind, we looked for a nice sandy area to drop our hook into. Dana took a nap while Mark caught up on internet stuff and we headed out in our dinghy.
This is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, atolls in world. You can't see the other side of the atoll as it is well beyond the horizon, so this was like being in a sea within a sea.
We went to the west side of the entrance to find the gendarmerie so we could check in with them, as our guide book said to do. The community had a nicely enclosed public wharf with kids playing in the water. Unfortunately, the gendarmerie was not where our guide said it was. So we walked around and explored. The land forming the edge of the atoll was about 1/4 mile across with several blocks of houses and cement roads between them. It was around 2pm so the few stores were all closed except for a snack bar where we got a coke to share... the sun was merciless. Mark asked about the gendarmerie in his broken French and we got some vague directions to another part of the atoll.
We headed back toward the boat and motored into a dive shop to ask about the diving opportunities. Marco gave Mark a special deal and we signed up for a dive the next day. He also directed us to a restaurant further down the atoll which took us 15 minutes to get to. This was a smaller hotel with a snorkle area and small pier we tied our dinghy to. Unfortunately, the restaurant didn't open until 7pm, when it would be well past dark. That was a problem as there were coral patches that we needed daylight in order to avoid and we hadn't even brought our headlamps. They said we were near the gendarmerie, which wasn't really true as we found out after a 1/2 hour (each way).hike, but it was nice to get the check-in over with. We went back to the hotel and enjoyed a couple of drinks.
As with the hotel on the previous island, you ordered mixed drinks piecemeal which is still kind of strange to us. For a gin and tonic, you order a glass with a dash of gin in the bottom and a can of tonic you then mix in. While this system made some sense, it was getting a bit pricey as the gin might be $6 and the tonic might be $4. Mark was getting good at conserving his tonic cans so he would be able to stretch them across multiple drinks. We enjoyed a couple of drinks at this Hotel Mai Tai, though this had a distinctly different feel from the "honeymoon hotels" we had been at before on other islands. The clientele was distinctly older and not so well preserved. We reviewed the menu and were tempted to stay for dinner, if not for the nightmare dinghy ride that would have entailed. So it meant we had to resort to BBQ steaks back on the boat.
The next day, Mark and Dana went to the dive shop. We were exactly sure about the timezone as some places are offset by 1/2 hour so we went a little early. Mark got set up for his dive while Dana waited for a van to come pick her up for a pearl farm tour she had signed up for. Mark went on his dive, the high point of which was sitting on bottom at 50ft with the other divers as 10-15ft sharks came in to check them out. They did not decide to eat us, however. The rest of the dive was only ok, however. Some trumpet fish and large schools of various other small fish came by. On returning, Mark found that Dana had never been picked up by the pearl farm tour; later, we found there was some confusion about which dive shop they were to pick her up at. Mark decided he had enough diving and didn't want to leave Dana to her own devices for another couple hours and backed out of the second dive he had signed up for.
Back on the Northfork, we took a chisel and mallet to the chicken in the freezer so we could separate several from the block. Dana set to work on the first of her banana-based baking operations, as we listened to happenings on the VHF. The Kittiwake was on its way into the atoll. However, on the way from Manihi, its engine had stopped working. So they had heaved to outside the atoll the previous night, waiting until the next day for the gendarmerie to assist an entrance into the atoll. While the winds were quite favorable at the entrance, they had sensibly decided it wasn't worth the risk trying to go through just under sail power and without any kind of backup. Another couple on the SV Quest was already near the entrance in their dinghy as additional assistance, we all we did was call Kittiwake and let them know we were ready to provide any additional help they might need.
Finally, we saw the Kittiwake coming into the atoll under full sail and curve around and tack into our anchorage. The gendarmerie boat and Quest's dinghy were nearby. Apparently, they had not been towed, although they had fenders on one side if the gendarmerie needed to pull up alongside and help them for some reason. Kittiwake was not having a good day, as they had lost the use of their generator earlier, so without their engine they didn't have anyway to recharge their batteries or run their freezer. Not good. We stopped by several times to check in with them, though somehow kept on missing them.
The next day, we spent much of the morning cleaning the hull and starting to wax the Northfork. It was about time to start this and the anchorage was ideally suited as there weren't too much wind/waves to interfere.
Afterward getting off to a good start, we set off to find a letter box Dana had read about on the internet. Letter boxing is something our friend Craig had put us onto. Basically, people have put boxes in all sorts of cool places and people find out about them and go to them. The box includes a book and a stamp and you come with your own book and stamp and mark the box's book with your stamp and stamp your book with the box's stamp. When we got to the letter boxes location, we were disappointed to find the site was very poorly chosen as there were a bunch of construction materials and it was close to the sea so there was a great deal of erosion. After a half hour of looking, we gave up on the box and decided it had been washed away in a storm.
Coming back, we stopped at a small bar for a beer and burgers. While eating lunch, we met the crew from the Magic Bus, who asked if we could tow their dinghy back to their boat for them. Their outboard had broken down and they were not looking forward to rowing back to their boat. Of course, we gave them a tow and they invited us to share a beer on their boat. As the Magic Bus itself had had problems with its engine on its Pacific crossing and the Kittiwake had helped organize some help at its first island, we decided to make another attempt to swing by the Kittiwake and see how things were going, but missed them again.
Back at the Northfork, Dana went to work on another banana concoction while Mark set about emptying all our diesel jerry cans into the tank. We decided we didn't need the full cans sittings on the deck any more and it was time to stow them into one of our lazarettes. We had only used 1/3 of the Northfork's diesel tank on the crossing and hadn't touched the jerry cans at all. With no further crossings of that size facing us, we figured there was no need having all this diesel sitting around and getting in our way. Then it was time to BBQ some more chicken and look forward to Dana's Banana Swirl Cake for desert.
A couple of days ago, we did make it to the Manihi Hotel for lunch. It was quite a dinghy ride, but worth the run to get a nice hamburger & fries, and enjoy some drinks at the hotel. The place was a classic island getaway. The rooms were all bungalows on stilts above the water. The bungalows were protected in their own coral lagoon and had a swimming pool with infinity edge.
The guests mostly seemed to be on their honeymoons. While a beautiful location, it is hard to imagine any other reason to come there as there wasn't too much else to do and apparently the flights to these islands are incredibly expensive... often the leg to the island from Tahiti is more expensive than the flight to Tahiti from the US/Europe. At any rate, we are now collecting pictures of nice places that we _didn't_ go on our honeymoon. This is in honor of Dana's sister Stephanie who asked where we were going on our REAL honeymoon since this boat stuff certainly didn't count. Stephanie would have approved of Hotel Manihi.
After we got back to our boat we invited the folks from the Kittywake to play games that night. They hadn't put their dinghy in the water yet, so Mark went over to collect them. We enjoyed some games of UNO and Mexican Train. They were not up for our favorite, Boat Jenga, for some reason..
The next day we worked on various projects before getting the boat ready to head out. Dana sewed the most recent tear in the genoa and ran her sewing machine over seams in our US flag that had begun to come undone. We planned to hoist anchor in the afternoon and sail overnight to Rangiroa so we would arrive in the morning. This was because the was too long for a day trip but we didn't want to arrive in the nighttime, since we needed light to go through one of the entrances in the atoll.
We were a bit surprised when the anchor rode became taut almost immediately. We had let almost all of the chain out (220ft) and were in 60ft of water so were expecting to pull up alot of chain first. The chain was going straight down and the windlass made alot of noise and we had to let the chain back out as the tension in such situations is enough to damage the windlass. We realized the chain must be fouled on coral on the floor. We realized there wasn't going to be enough time to address the situation and still get out of the Manihi atoll in the remaining daylight, so we re-snubbed the anchor and made dinner.
The next morning we decided Mark would scuba down and check out what was going on after one more failed attempt to unfoul the chain in which the snubbing line got so much tension that it snapped off. We were too deep to free dive but 60ft was well within scuba depths. We decided Mark would bring down a nylon line to attach to the anchor, hoping we could attach that to our windlass to take the tension off the chain so it could be pulled off the coral. We also readied a buoy to attach to the anchor to help in identifying the anchor location in our further efforts. There were several problems with this. One was that we only have 2 scuba tanks on board, one of which was empty and the other was only 2/3 full from the last time it was used, so we didn't have alot of bottom time to work on the problem. Second was that Mark didn't have a buddy to dive with him, which is what your normally want when diving at non-trivial depths and especially when doing things such as messing with underwater chains and lines.
Luckily, just after we had gone over our plan for the 100th time and Mark was starting to put his scuba gear, a dinghy started to come over from the Amel nearby. Art had heard us trying to take our anchor up the day before and say us getting scuba gear out and realized Mark didn't have a buddy so he offered to dive with Mark and bring one of the other crew over to help Dana on the boat while we were in the water. Also, they had dived the day before around their boat and found it was also fouled and were able to describe what the formations looked like.
Mark and Art got their scuba gear on and went down. First, they looked for and found the metal portion of the snubber which was resting on some coral. This was great because it meant we only have to get some new nylon line to tie onto the device and not have to buy a whole new one, which probably wouldn't be possible until NZ. Then they swam along the chain to see what was going on. The problem was that there were two corral formations the chain had gone between and couldn't be pulled out of because one of the formations overhung the other. They to the anchor and pulled it away from corral so it was in a patch of sand and wouldn't snag anything.
Going back up, Art suggested having Dana pull up the anchor while using the bow thruster to turn hard to the right. This would guide the chain out of the formation causing the problem. Mark was skeptical about this working but we figured it was worth a shot and were pleased to find it worked like a charm.
After Mark got back on the Northfork, we motored behind the Helena (the boat Art was on and tied a mooring line from our bow to their stern, as we weren't quite ready to go and certainly didn't want to drop another anchor. Art assured us his anchor chain was much more fouled than ours and could hold both boats without dragging. As our boats were they same model, I'm sure it looked funny to have one tied behind another. Art had some comments about how their new dinghy was a bit on the largish side. We went over to the Helena for a bit to check out their dive compressor (which we don't have) and chat for a bit, before we cast off and headed on our way.
Our friends on the Kittywake told us as we passed them that they were heading out soon too. We let them know on the VHF that getting their anchor up may not be so straight forward.
Leaving the entrance to the Manihi atoll was exciting as there was quite a bit of current going with us, including some significant cross currents on either side. Dana was on the bow to keep an eye out for shallow spots and told Mark to lower the bow thruster to make sure we didn't lose control. Indeed, the cross currents pulled hard on the bow turning the Northfork back and forth and Mark needed the bow thruster at a couple points to keep us pointed in the right direction as the rudder might not have been enough.
All this made for a long day. We are now sailing south of Ahi to Rangiroa. We are running before fairly light 10-12kt winds (what happened to the 15-20kt winds we've been suffering the last several days at anchor?) making 5-6kts. Hopefully we should get in sometime around noon tomorrow.
We left Manihi, albeit a day late because of problems getting our anchor up.
We arrived in Manihi yesterday. The entrance to the atoll was a little sketchy, there being a current and a bunch of shallow areas on either side, though apparently this is one of the easier atolls to get in and out of. Manihi isn't one of the larger atolls, but is nonetheless impressive in its size, being miles and miles across... hard to imagine this is the coral remnant of such a large island. We also noticed that our ship's chart plotter maps did have detailed information on the atoll so we had to pull out our iPad and use that for navigating in the atoll. While the water is generally 50-100ft deep, there are all sorts of shallow areas you can identify by the light color of the water and sometime with a buoy. Interestingly, there are a number of houses built on stilts in some of the shallow areas that we still haven't figured out the purpose of.
We dinghied into the town and walked around yesterday. We are about 1nm from the town's boat area and had a nice ride in with the wind at our back. We walked around the town... probably several hundred inhabitants... but it was quiet the day being Sunday. We found a food shack with a cold Cragmont brand cola (that is the Lucky Supermarket's generic... they still make that? funny the generics that make their way down here b/c of course there isn't a Lucky Supermarket here). The dinghy ride back was miserable as the winds where whipping up tall (for a dinghy) waves that we had to slow down for but then when we would go slow the winds would blow lots of water onto us. We had pulled out our last set of fresh clothes only to be drenched in salt water.
The Kttywake was in the anchorage. Tim and Rebecca had been running the Pacific Net on our crossing from the Galapagos and had been the ones to hand the running of the net to us. They invited us over for a glass of wine with them and their kids that had just joined them. We felt bad that all we had left was box wine and brought a bag of pretzels, only to find box wine was what they had on the Kittywake as well which lets us know our box wine is ok for entertaining purposes. They had just made a similar crossing to our own from the Marquesas, but had lost their autopilot on the way. Luckily, they had 4 people to rotate the steering between, but the kids were not happy to have their sailing adventure begin in this fashion.
Dana woke up today finding the bunches of bananas we had been given in Hiva Oa were now ripe enough to eat. She informed Mark that she had plowed through 6 of them already. She had been eyeing them for several days, coming up will all sorts of plans for what to cook with them when they were ready.
We have some repair work to do today. We'll probably go snorkling this afternoon. There is a hotel with a nice restaurant on the far side of the atoll that we would like to go for dinner, but we can't do that in our dinghy under these conditions, to say nothing of all the shallow areas we would not be able to identify at night. We may try go have lunch lunch there.
We're just coming into the island of Manihi in the Tuamotos. We sighted land a few minutes ago, several miles out. Unlike the Marquesas, these are low lying atolls and appear just as small hills on the horizon.
The 2.5 day passage has been very good. We made 8-10kts the entire time, with 15-25kts wind off our port quarter. Mostly, we've had our genoa and reefed main out and have been running at almost hull speed. Dana's repairs to the genoa have held up well.
We are curving around to the south west of the atoll, where the most navigable entrance and are looking forward to a day resting and exploring the atoll.
We spent several days in Fatu Hiva before heading to nearby Hiva Oa, where we had to clear in to French Polynesia.
After we sorted out the outboard, we went into the town adjacent to our anchorage. It was surprisingly large (>200 people) after having only seen a few buildings peek around a corner of a valley from where we were anchored. We saw our first copra huts, where coconut shells were being dried for further processing into coconut oils and other products. Copra used to be the big business in the Pacific Islands, but apparently is not as important anymore. We hiked to a waterfall about a mile out of the town, but first got lost and hiked a mile or so on the main road out of the village where we got good views of the surrounding mountains. Eventually, we sorted out where we had missed our turn and found the waterfall, which was quite pretty. Mark, in attempting to get to the base of the falls slipped on the wet rocks and got some nasty cuts in his ankle. The village kids fishing off the small wharf had a good laugh at all the blood, when we returned to the village.
We spent several days in Fatu Hiva, mostly doing boat maintenance. We finished servicing the 12 winches on the boat, which was the bulk of the work. Unfortunately, Dana got some of the mineral spirits in her eye and had a sore eye and blurry vision until we got some eye wash and antiseptic drops at a pharmacy on the next island. We visited some of the nearby inlets in our outboard with our new friends from the Larabeck that we had met on the Pacific Net on the way over, and did some snorkling near where we were anchored. One of the nights we heard another boat announce the village had some drummers and traditional dancing in the village field and we dinghied in for that... probably 50 male and female dancers in various yellow outfits dancing with most of the other villagers out to watch. Afterwards, Dana and some of the women from the other boats joined the village kids for some disco.
The biggest downside of the anchorage was the extremely gusty winds that were coming across the island and racing through the anchorage. It felt like the trade winds were piling up on the other side of the island, reaching some kind of threshold, and then bursting all at once down the valley and past the boats.
We were waiting for our friend Chris on the Mooneshine to arrive in Fatu Hiva where we were going to celebrate our passage. This was mostly for Chris as he had come from Galapagos alone after his crew member had to fly home: it was quite an accomplishment for him to sail alone the better part of a month. We were exhausted with 2 people being able to trade off sleep and it is hard to imagine trying to sneak quick naps in and wake up to wind shifts etc. Chris was delayed a couple of days so we decided to head on to Hiva Oa and catch up with Chris later, leaving the bottle of champagne we were saving in the fridge.
It was a day sail to HIva Oa which we made in good time with mostly a beam wind. We still had not repaired the genoa tears properly because of the winds in Fatu Hiva, so we were keeping a close watch on those tears. The anchorage at Hiva Oa didn't have the winds of Fatu Hiva, but was a quite rolly and, because of the shifty light winds and number of sailboats required setting out a stern anchor to keep all the boats in a fixed orientation. Dana had made the mistake of saying she did not know how to row the dinghy, so we put her in the dinghy with one of our spare anchors to row behind us and drop our stern anchor.
The next morning we walked about an hour into the nearby town. We needed to check in, but we were using an agent who still needed scanned copies of our passports and boat registration. It gets complicated... but by using an agent, we could avoid paying the $2000 bond that was otherwise required to ensure we didn't leave any crew behind in French Polynesia. We did get the info to the agent but it took 3 days to clear in because, amongst other things, the Gendarmerie had decided to only accept check-ins between 7-10am without telling anyone.
We met a couple of Spanish guys also on a boat and went to lunch at one of the few restaurants in town. We bumped into them a bunch of times during our stay. They were quite funny and always up to no good. The last day we were on the island, one of them got a rather large tattoo on his shoulder. Mark was jealous, but Dana refused to allow Mark to get a tattoo.
After the first day, we pulled out our bikes when going into town, which made the trip much more manageable. We did a few touristy things such as visit the Gaugin museum on the island and hike into a rock with some petroglyphs on it. For Gaugin, apparently he spent a number of years on the island and died there. At the time, he was quite a problem being a pedophile, but the island had come around to seeing how marketable the association was, since his death. One night, we went to a nice restaurant up on one of the hills around the town and had a good meal. The restaurant was associated with a hotel composed of high end bungalows. We met a group from National Geographic on the island to film some kind of documentary about it. We asked if they could use a couple extra hands to help out, but apparently they were already overstaffed as everyone at NG had already tried to glom onto this trip. We'll keep an eye out for the video. Interestingly, other than the NG folk, everyone else at the hotel were French. These islands must be some kind of secret the frogs keep to themselves.
The last day we were on the island we had intended to rent a car to tour the island (it was much too mountainous to bike around), but had not been able to find the nearby Cost & Co rental guys around until that morning and then they didn't have any cars available. That was when we went to the petroglyphs and decided to head out in the afternoon. We got back to the boat and did all the things needed to get underway. The genoa was still tied down on the deck from Dana finishing the repairs the day before, so we had to hoist it up in order to roll it up on the furler. We deflated the dinghy and bagged it on our rear deck as we were going to be on a multi-day passage. It was after spending a half hour getting both of our anchors hauled up and a few miles out of the bay that our friends on the Larabeck and Mooneshine hailed us on the radio saying they were coming in. As much as we wanted to meet up with them, we decided it had been too much work getting underway and it didn't make sense going back in, setting both our anchors, re-inflating our dinghy, etc to spend another night. Too bad the car rental had not worked out.
Now we are on a 600nm passage to the Rangiroa in next chain of islands, the Tuamotos, though we may stop at one of smaller islands on the way. These islands will be quite a change from the Marquesas: the Marquesas are high volcanic islands, while the Tuamotos are mostly low-lying atolls. We have been getting good winds off our beam and have made an impressive 8-10nm on our first day, so this may only be 3 or 4 days for this passage.