06/01/2011, Heading South
We disconnected from the mooring ball about 1000 yesterday(May 31) and headed South along the East inside of the Fakarava Atoll. Winds were hitting us from the East at a good clip but I thought we should motor for a while since the area we were in isn't charted too well but is marked with red and green buoys along a safe course South. An hour or so later, we rolled out the Genoa and powered back on the engine and let the sails take over. We'd read in one of our books about an anchorage that another cruiser had used so we set our course for it and arrived about 1300 at 16 15.580S 145 32.875W for you Google Earth fans. We dropped the anchor in about 35 feet of water and by the time we powered in reverse to set it, we were in 55 feet of water. No problem as the anchor bit in nice and easy in a sandy bottom.
After a nice lunch, Tracy and I swam ashore at a deserted stretch of beach a good 12 miles South of Rotoava, the big city along the Northeast coast of Fakarava. As we waded ashore, suddenly we are greeted by a local dressed in a "Crocodile Dundee" hat and a short pareo held in place by a belt equipped with a nice sharp knife. His name--Inohae who has lived on the island all his life. We'd guess his age at about 38 to 40. He had just arrived at a small hut along the shore and had set up camp. Now the hut wasn't his but he was using it for the night. He was walking the East coast of Fakarava to the South shore. A long and rocky walk as the road stops and just lots of coral is left to walk on. He spoke a lot better English than we spoke French. He invited us to "his" hut for fresh coconut milk as well as the "meat" from a typical coconut. He also cut open a green coconut and spooned out some of the coconut meat Now this stuff is not like what you get in US stores. This a a very wet coconut meat not the normal dry stuff you get at the market. You can scoop it out with a spoon. He showed us how to get the husk off an old coconut to get at the "nut" which is what you can buy at grocery stores in the US. He sharpened a big stick and stuck it in the ground then took the coconut and just kept pounding it onto the point of the stick and peeling off the thick husk till he got down to the hard shelled nut. He gave us two to take back to Zephyr. He even showed us how to crack the nuts open when we are ready to eat it. Once we returned to Zephyr, we launch Puff and I took him in one of our tee shirts we had made with our logo and a picture on it as a gift for being so nice. I think he was embarrassed at getting something for just being a typical Tuomotan. They are all such nice people here in the islands.
This morning, we upped the anchor again and set out South again for another anchorage we had heard about and a couple of hours later we arrived at Kakego( 16 23.139S 145 25.615W) and dropped our anchor in about 45 feet of water. After a nice lunch of curried chicken on French bread, we put on our suits and fins and swam for shore. On our way in, Tracy passed a black tipped reef shark. Our first for here. There was coral everywhere and we had to search for a place where we could actually make shore with out hurting the coral. We try to never step on or even touch the coral as it can hurt it's growth. We finally climbed onto what we though was a nice sandy beach only to find it was actually made of old broken coral mounded high along the shoreline. We took off our fins and slowly made our way across the atoll to the sea side of the island where we walked up and down the shoreline gathering shells and purple spins from dead sea urchins. I came across an eel swimming along the shoreline. We even collected four buoys that the pearl farmers use to support their farms that had come loose at some time and washed ashore. Now the farms on on the inside of the atoll yet we found the buoys on the ocean side of the atoll. How they got there is any ones guess. We will be using the buoys to support our anchor chain where we anchor amongst coral heads to keep our chain from sliding along the bottom and wrapping itself around the heads. When this happens, you normally have to dive down and untangle the chain. I guess we will see how well this solution works in a few days when we will be back amongst the coral heads out here. Right now, we are anchoring on the sandy bottoms we have come across.
Tomorrow--who knows. Maybe another day here exploring or off farther South. We will see.
05/27/2011, Into the Tuomotus
We're still at Rotoava having spent the last four days getting some rest. I slept almost 12 straight hours the first night recovering from our 620 mile trip from Oa Pou in the Marquesas.
We spent Saturday refilling our water tanks having been lent 6 five gallon jugs from our friends Angus and Rolande on Periclees. We were stupid when we left Mexico and didn't purchase any water jugs to bring water back to Zephyr from shore. OK, yes we do have a water maker and yes, it will make 8 to 9 gallons per hour, but the kicker is that in order to use it, you better have a good battery bank or be prepared to run the engine or your generator to keep the power up as the first thing to cripple a water maker is the lack of juice it requires to run. So if we want to run the water maker, we have to run our generator. Now we charge up the batteries about every other day depending on our use but they only run about two hours. In two hours, we will make about 18 gallons of water. When you are ready to shut off the machine, you have to flush the system with some of the fresh water that you just made--about 5 gallons of it. So now you have made only 13 gallons. Not bad, but since we hold 265 gallons and we hadn't really made much water since we left La Cruz, we needed a bunch to bring our tanks back to a reasonable level. With the addition of 60 gallons from shore, we are now at about 85% if capacity. I'd rather have too much water than not enough. When we reach Tahiti in a few weeks, I plan on buying some tanks. After all, we have two extra diesel tanks as well as five tanks for gasoline.
On Saturday night, we had Angus and Rolande over for a nice dinner. We've known them since last year when we were in Mexico and have stayed in touch over the last year. We had run into them when we reached Nuku Hiva and spent several days taking hikes and having some fun. Now we had caught up with them again. As they were leaving on Sunday morning, we wanted one more chance to get together. They were lucky enough to get the one mooring buoy here so when they took off, we upped our anchor and took their spot. Anchors and their chains have a way of wrapping themselves around coral heads out here and that we did not need. When that happens, the anchor won't come up and most times you have to dive on it to get it unwrapped. We were lucky this time and our anchor came up just fine though a boat that was leaving with Periclees got their anchor stuck and needed to dive on it to get it free. Now all we have to do is untied from the buoy and we will be off.
We toured through the local cemetery to see the history of the local people and found out that they do their cemeteries differently than we do in the US. Children, when they die have their own section of the cemetery. Men go in another and women another. Families are not buried together. Many of the plots do not have markers as to who is buried there. Some of the plots are surrounded by old 2 X 4 lumber while others have concrete or marble as their surrounds. Some have pictures of the loved one while some just have a small wooden cross as a marker. There was even on old crematorium on the property. I have no idea when it was used last but it had obviously been quite a while ago. The coralscape of the grounds(no dirt out here folks) is neatly raked and kept clean. All in all, there are only about a hundred plots in the entire cemetery so I'm not sure where they have buried the rest. Now, when you are born, well that's another matter. When you are within two weeks of birth, you get flown to Tahiti where you give birth and are then flown back. There are no doctors on Fakarava.
The Post Office here is open from 0730 to 1130 and then closed till 1300 when it opens till 1430. A total of 5 1/2 hours a day. It is the only place where cruisers can get internet. They also act as the local bank and will change US dollars for Francs at the normal conversion rate of 80 to the dollar. A two liter bottle of Coke runs $720 francs=$9.00. A box of Sugar Pops cereal is almost $10.00!!!! It's like I said, it's expensive out here. I know I said it was expensive when we stocked up in Mexico, but it's crazy out here!!!! I'm just glad Tracy stocked up so well before we took off.
Today, the Paul Gaugin cruise ship showed up. It steamed into the harbor just after 0700 and neatly dropped both it's anchors and started ferrying the folks on board to shore. Many left on dive trips as the water is amazing around here. You can see the entire town of Rotoava in about 20 minutes if you take your time. Many just hit the small beaches and went for swims. Others bought some black pearls to take home. We stopped in town at the local "Snack Shack" for lunch after finding the boulangerrie(bread store) closed. He close as do most of the stores from 1130 to 1500. They then open till 1700-- maybe. Now, at the Snack Shack, there is no menu so you really have no idea what is offered let alone what they charge for it. We did know that a can of coke runs $300 francs--about $3.75 US. Tracy ordered a hamburger with frites(fries). I opted for a "Steak Sandwich". Actually, it turned out to be maybe two small patties of hamburger with some fries all tucked inside a chunk of french bread with a sauce of mayonaise and ketchup mixed together. All totaled, it came to $1900 francs or about $24.00 for lunch. MacDonald's is looking pretty good right now--at least price wise. I've got to admit, I've never had a sandwich with the fries tucked inside the "bun".
We expect to be casting off tomorrow for the south end of Fakarava to do some more snorkeling and beach walking. A few days there and then off to another atoll farther south.
More to come folks so stay tuned.
05/27/2011, Into the Tuomotus
We made it through the pass into Fakarava just about 1100 right on schedule. We'd gotten to within 20 miles of the pass at 0200 and had to put on the brakes to slow Zephyr down since we didn't want to get close to the atoll in the dark. We tried to put Zephyr into a "heave to" position where she basically stops in the water and very slowly backs up at about 1 knot per hour. Well we tried what the "experts" told us to do and the best we could do was to have her go forward at about 2 knots instead of backward. After about 3 hours, we reversed course until about 0700 and then we changed course again and headed toward the pass into the atoll. These atolls are unlike most "islands" in that you must pass through an pass to get inside the bid bay that is just about totally surrounded by coral and old volcanic rock. We were set to arrive about 1100 since the perfect time to come in is at "slack water" when little or no current is passing through the cut in the coral. We got there about 1045 and still faced a current that slowed us down to 3 knots, plus there was a stiff 20+ knot wind hitting us smack on the bow. We had waves coming up and over the bow. Once through, we turned to the port and headed in another 6 miles to get to the anchorage. With the wind coming from the East, we dropped anchor near the East side of the atoll and came to a stop in just about still water. We were still in winds close to 20 knots but with no space left for it to stir up the water. It was strange to have all that wind a clam water around us.
We headed ashore late in the afternoon to do some exploring with the help of our guide--Rolande off Periclees. She showed us the local stores and the main church of the island. A beautiful sight to behold. As to the shoreline, on the outside of the atoll, the waves crash against the huge coral and volcanic barrier that makes up the island chain. The inside is quite calm as long as you are on the up wind side. This being one of the largest atolls of the chain, there is no way to see across it. We're talking miles. It's an incredible place full of palm trees and beautiful flowers with very friendly people always willing to help out or give you a smile.
While there are no banks on the island, we did find that you can exchange dollars for francs at the local post office. Same exchange rate as the banks would give you. Things here are even more expensive that Nuku Hiva. A can of coke runs 300 francs. At 80 to the dollar, that works out to almost $3.75 per can if my math is any good. Thank goodness we stocked up so much before we left Mexico. Fresh veggies are available but again, at quite a high price.
So, now we've joined back up with Angus and Rolande off Periclees. If you have followed our posts, you will remember us being together back at Nuku Hiva several weeks ago. They have been exploring farther south from here since leaving Nuku Hiva and loved it. So, we expect to be heading South instead of North to explore some of the deserted atolls down there. Then on to Tahiti in a few weeks. Our friends on Gigi headed for Ragaroa, one of the northern most atolls and the biggest of the chain. They have some problems that need addressing before they make the final jump to Tahiti.
So here we are, nice and safe and sound exploring the incredible Tuamotus chain.
05/24/2011, On the way to the Tuomotus
We upped both anchors(bow and stern about 1000 on Sunday morning and took off for the Tuomotus chain of atolls. As we motored out of the anchorage, I saw that we were not making any where near the amount of volts was not where it should be with the engine going. Going below, I found that the fan belt for the house batteries had broken. No big deal. A simple fix once we were out of the harbor and the engine was off and the sails were up. I've changed them before so a easy 10 minute job and we were back in business.
We rounded the top of Ua Pou and headed southwest making great time--6 to 8 knots and have been doing that ever since we left. As we plowed ahead, we made plans as to where we would land. These are different kinds of islands an most are big circles with water in the middle caused by long extinct volcanos. We just have to find our way through the passes that have been cut in the rock and coral. It's got to be done at slack tide as the currents can get a bit stiff with all the water pouring in and out of the passes. We've covered 290 miles so far. Today should be our fasted day ever or darn close to it even though we reefed the main and took in the genoa sail last night. Even now, we only have a reefed main up and our forestaysail flying.
We expect to be at the eastern edge of the chain by late tomorrow night and then have to get to one of the islands we expect to visit. We think Fakarava may be our first but will have to see.
More to come.
05/21/2011, Ua Pou Island
A short hop today to another island to load up on fresh water. Our water maker is doing a great job but if I can get it for free and the faucet is on the dock, heck that's an easy plan. So we upped the anchor and took off and got in about 1600 only to find out that the water on the dock is non potable and if you want good water, you have to haul it about a half mile. I fired up our generator and the water maker is going as I'm typing this post.
But let's back up to yesterday. We sailed down from Anaho Bay. Paul and Karen on Gigi left about 0630 and we finally started upping our anchor at 0800 only to have the engine die just the anchor came to the top of the water. Down it went while I bled the fuel line. Start the engine and pull up the anchor. Again, the engine dies just as the anchor comes up. Down goes the anchor again. Bleed the fuel line again. Up comes the anchor and out we went only to have the engine die again. At least this time we got out far enough to put up the sails and get out of the bay. As we started down the east side of the island, I headed into the engine room to see if I could find the problem. I bled the fuel lines again and then looked in the engine room. I found the problem almost immediately. One of the fuel connections that Butch made in La Cruz had come loose and fuel was pouring into the engine room. When the engine died as we were leaving Daniels Bay a couple of days ago, I'd gone in and tightened all the hose clamps on the fuel line. Well one line has a fitting that is too big and the hose is too small so when I tightened it, it loosened instead of tightened the fitting and it just popped off. Once refitted, the engine now ran just fine.
We got into to the main harbor at Nuku Hiva and launched Puff and picked up Paul and Karen and headed to the Gendarmerie to get check out of the Marquesas. Supposedly, they only do it till 1130 but did it for us anyway as we were checking out not in. All that took was a click of the computer mouse and we were both checked out of the Marquesas. Having gotten used to a nice tranquil harbor like Anaho, this place was a mess with lots of swell pouring into the inlet. It's amazing that when we first pulled in here two weeks ago, it felt like we were becalmed. Now, it like being out in the ocean again. We all agreed to take of this morning.
As we got back in Puff to come back to the boat, Tracy dropped her sunglasses into the water. We went back to Zephyr and I grabbed my mask and fins and we headed back so I could go in and get them. In I went and promptly stepped on a sea urchin driving his spikes into my heal(I did find her glasses) Back to Zephyr where I soaked my foot in Vinegar and then hot water and then back to Vinegar. That is supposed to be the remedy for these nasty things. Tracy tried cutting them out but that didn't work. They were in a good 1/4 inch and kept breaking every time Tracy got close to getting one out. We soaked a big bandage in Vinegar and we went to bed. This morning we decided to go up to the hospital to see what they could suggest. Gigi, meanwhile upped their anchor and took off. Up the hill we went and proper paperwork was filled out. I saw a doctor about 30 minutes later and he poked and prodded them. No real problem. He put on some anti bacterial stuff along with a nice bandage and sent me on my way. Get this==it was all free!!!! No Charge. The joys of socialized medicine.
So back to Zephyr we went and up the anchor came and off we set for Ua Pou, about 26 miles due South. It took us till 1600 to get in and we needed to set a stern anchor since there were so many boats in here but we had help from Chris off Britannia. A great guy we first met back in La Cruz before we left so long ago.
We've checked the weather forecast as it looks good for the next three days and then a big storm is due in with winds in the high teens but the waves are about 13 feet at 8 seconds. Not nice at all so we will probably take off tomorrow morning for the Tuamotus chain of islands about 500 miles southwest of here. Stay tuned and we will let you know how it goes.
05/16/2011, Anaho Bay
Yesterday was a on again off again soggy day. Rain came over the eastern shoreline and dumped a bit of rain about every 90 minutes. Not lots mind you, but enough that you understand why the mountains are green around here. It rains then has time to soak in before it rains again. This went on and on all through the day and into the night. It was raining at 0230 this morning. Add in a smidgeon of wind--15-20 knots and it was an interesting day at anchor. Bobbing up and down and swinging on the end of the anchor chain. It's going to be interesting when it comes time to haul up the anchor chain. We're in a coral filled bay where the bottom is covered in lots of sand and towers of coral. With the amount of swinging that we have been doing, we are probably wrapped around one of the coral towers (also known as "bombes"). It's going to be fun to get unwound from when we are ready to leave.
As to leaving, we sat down with Paul and Karen off Gigi and decided to spend one more day here to try and get in some snorkeling if the weather permits. Karen went yesterday between showers and had a good time. Tracy and I figure to do so this afternoon. I'll let you know what we see.
Other than that, we have been sitting around reading books and taking in the Sun and wind. The four of us descended on Zephyr's hull two days ago cleaning off the green goo that has attached itself to the paint we had applied back in San Carlos late last year. I headed down to the propeller and shaft and started banging on the barnacles that had grown on the fittings. Where we had covered the prop with Lanocote, it was almost clean of any barnacles. The shaft didn't get covered and it was loaded with the little critters all stuck fast. With a nice heavy gauge steel scrapper and some lungs full of air, they finally came off one at a time. Now she looks nice an clean and should allow us to make better time when we use the engine. Those little buggers can really screw up the action of the prop as it cuts through the water.
Meanwhile, it looks like we may get some more rain today and I'll be firing up the generator in a short time to recharge the batteries and make more water. Tracy did a couple of loads of wash this morning so that's a good ten gallons that will need to be replaced. At about 8 gallons per hours, it will take some time to get it all back and still add more to our tanks. We haven't been able to find the water source that is supposed to be on shore. I think I'll tray again this afternoon and see if I can find it.