Swimming with mantas
10 August 2022
Last night, after taking care of business in the big city of Atuona on Hiva Oa, we made the quick trip back to Hanamoenoe Bay on Tahuata Island, just south of Hiva Oa. We had been here before and were comfortable coming in at night and we anchored just outside of the other boats in a little bit deeper water to stay out of trouble. We were rewarded in the morning when a group of midsize manta rays, about 6 to 7 feet across, showed up and began feeding just behind our boat. We grabbed our masks and fins, one of us pausing long enough to put on a wetsuit against the bone chilling water, and jumped in. There must have been a lot of plankton in the water because we were immediately surrounded by anchovies whose jaws were working at top speed, gobbling up the invisible critters. Then the mantas appeared out of the blue, one, then two, then five, slowly flapping their wings with their head flaps funneling plankton into huge mouths. We were carefull not to approach them at first,
wanting to scare them off, but it became apparant that they couldnât care less and we became concerned about getting run over as they came close enough to touch. Looking down their gullets you realize that these things are mostly hollow, just a big tube with wings and when they were coming towards us you could look straight through from lips to sphincter. It may have been my imagination, but I thought I saw a tiny wink of light at the end of one.
Eventually they moved off but returned off and on during they day, then in the evening a couple treated us to an aerial display. Nobody knows why they jump. Some say itâs a mating thing or to dislodge parasites, but I suspect that sometimes it just feels good to be a fish and thatâs their way of letting the world to know it.
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08 August 2022
Almost every cruiser has experienced at least once the panic and sick feeling of looking off the back of the boat and seeing an empty space where there once was the dinghy. It was early morningÂ in Hanavave when we heard a shout from Erwen, our neighbor on S/V Vagabond, Our dingy is gone he hollered over in panic! We could feel his dispair. He had last seen the dinghy at 3:00 am and the wind had been blowing offshore towards the Tuamotus all night. Mike climbed up to the first spreader with binoculars and looked out to sea. After a few minutes, Mike called over to Erwin, I think I might see it, is it red? Yes, it is red, Erwin replied and immediately swam over to our boat to have a look himself. He agreed, with hope, that it could very well be the dinghy. As fast as they could the crew on Vagabond pulled anchor and headed in the direction of the red floating object about 2 miles offshore. As they got closer it became apparent that the object was not their dinghy, but a bu
Just then a fishing boat came arount the bend, towing a red dinghy! They had found it on itâs way out to sea and had been afraid that there had been sombody aboard and were as relieved as the crew of Vagabond to see it back home.Â Â
Two days later, after a beautiful, all day sail, we arrived in the crowed anchorage at Atuona. There were 16 boats in very tight quarters all swinging willy nilly around their anchore due to the flukey eddying winds.Â We only knew one boat there, Adam and Judy on S/V Vixen. We settled into the evening with dinner and a bit of TV.Â At appoximately 9:30 towards the end of our first show I spotted a flashlight blazing in through the back door and than all around the boat. Sensing something was up and not wanting to miss any action I poked my head outside and hear Rum Doxy, our dingy is gone! This time it was Vixenâs dinghy. We launched the dinghy and Mike went over and picked up Adam and went to look for the lost dinghy. Luckily, they quickly found it trapped behind a small breakwater. It was an easy rescue but nonetheless traumatic for those stranded on their boat. After retrieving the dinghy Adam mentioned that just the night before the same exact thing happened to S/V Sta
a Canadian boat we had met in Fatu Hiva. The next day another boat had itâs dinghy go walkabout in the bay.
There are any number of ways a dinghy can escape itâs attachment to a boat, a clip can pop open, an knot can come untied, a line can be chafed through etc., so we have learned the hard way just to always hoist it up on the davits.
Our Week in Hanavave
01 August 2022
We were so fortunate to spendÂ a week on Fatu Hiva. This outtermost island in the Marqueasan island group is known for the most dramatic in landscape, with itâs volcanic moai-looking spires, and razor edged ridges jutting out of palm covered hill sides, with a 5,000 foot mountian range providing the back drop. However, most cruisers miss it because, coming from the north as they do, it is a windward sail as the trades blow from the southeast.Â Fortunately for us, coming from the south as we were, it was, well, a windward sail as well as the trades had switched to the northeast, but it was well worth it.Â
The villiage of Hanavave is a quarter of the size of Rikitea, and barely visible from the anchorage as it is tucked beneath the trees and hidden behind volcanic narrows. There is absolutely no evidence of commercialism or tourism that we could see. There are no signs advertising stores or businesses as they are all part of peoples homes. The church, school and mayorâs office are the only public buildings. The locals we encountered at the concrete dock and along the main road greet us with a friendly bonjour and smile but alas that is about the extent of our limited French. We did have a couple of extended interactions. Once when we were approached by a man asking if we had any batteries to trade for fruit. We said yes then rowedÂ back to the boat and gathered a variety of different kinds not knowing exactly which ones he needed and what for. Mike returned to shore expectingÂ a quick exchange but was lead back to the mans house and learned that the batteries were for a hea
that was actually broken. Taking on the challenge, Mike offered to try and fix it and return it the next day at 10:00am. True to form, Mike-guiver fixed it and the next day the exchange was made with a few well chosen French words, hand gestures and lots of smiles.
Â We also were invited to a lunch put on by a local couple, Desire and Jaques, at their home for the cruisers in the anchorage. It was a traditional Marquesan Luau where locally hunted goat, pig and chicken are wrapped in banana leaves and placed in a pit over hot coals, covered with cloth tarps and more banana leaves then cooked for seven hours. In addition there was a variety of marinated fish in coconut, roasted bananas, baked breadfurit, rice with dried fruit, and salad from the garden. It was a delicious feast except for the bread fruit which tastes like wet cardboard no matter how you disguise it. Conversation with Jaques and Desire was in French through Isabel and Jeff who are from France, and in English between the German cruisers Adam and Judy and Mike and I. After lunchÂ and before naptime we had arts and crafts like in kindergaten, where Desire taught us how to weave palm serving platters, my souvenir from Fatu Hiva.
Getting off the boat was limited to a few trips into town and a couple of very steep hikes, with jaw dropping views which changed like a kaleidoscope as the rays of sunshine through the clouds spotlighted a different area. Snorkeling we found out wasnât such a good idea due to the number of sharks spotted hanging out around the rocky shores.Â Being anchored in Hanavave felt like being on the set of Jurassic Park and from Rum Doxy, anchored in the middle of the bay, we got the full sensurround experience, minus the dinosours which was a little disappointing, but with a little imaginationâ¦â¦
Welcome aboard RumDoxy
29 July 2022
Some of you who are reading our blog have never been aboard Rum Doxy and those of you who have itâs been a long time. So Iâll take you on a virtual tour.
But first a brief history. She was originally named Avalon, one of 3Â catamaran boats built in France by a designer named Coppelli in 1995. When Mike bought her in 2005Â sheâd been very neglected and pretty much abandoned in Phuket, Thailand. The intention was to do a few renovations, make some repairs and upgrade the navigation and electronics then weâd be off and sailing.Â 5 years later and all our money we had a totally redesigned boat, which Mike designed inspired by the famous, high performance, foreward cockpit Gunboats.Â When we finally launched and started sailing in 2010 she was basically brand new but an empty shell with two brand new motors, and a few old and worn out sails. There was no electricity, gas, plumbing or furniture. Instead we had buckets, a cooler, a camping stove, flashlights, a mattress on the floor, a compass, a portable GPS and hand radio. Over the next 3 years we built and installed all the basic necessities as we lived aboard and sailed a
South East Asia. By doing so we had a really good idea of where things should go and how things should be set up for safety, comfort and efficency. 12 years later and 42,000 nautical miles she has evolved and become our perfect boat and home even with all her little quirks, minor leaks and missing paint.Â
Now, welcome aboard and Iâll take you on the tour.
You can board from either stern and step down into our expansive aft cockpit. The entire area is coveredÂ with the cabin top which provides a cool place in the shade and a relatively dry place from the rain. There are storage bins on both the left and right side which also serve as seating platforms, but other than that the space is free of obstuction. There is plenty of room to hang a hammock, open the teak dining table, set up a construction table or rig up the big propane burner and 8 gallon kettle for brewing beer.Â
From the center of the cockpit you enter forward through the door into the main cabin.
Standing inside youâll notice the 360 degree view through full size tinted windows. This was my number one requirement if I was to go cruising. Itâs like living outside with the comfort and protection of being inside. The tinted windows give us complete privacy while also really cutting the heat and glare in the tropics.Â We have the views of a 5 star resort and the exotic feel of an open air bungalow on the water.
The other thing you will notice when you first walk into the main cabin is that you can walk straight through another door to a forward cockpit. This is the design Mike borrowed from the Gunboat. It is brilliant in itâs efficiency and safety in sail handling. All the sail handling is done from a deep well in the center of the boat right next to the helm which is located directly behind the cockpit inside the cabin where it is warm, dry and out of the wind. Unlike the majority of catamaran designs weâre not standing out in the elements while steering, or slipping and sliding on the decks in order to trim the sails. It gives us great peace of mind to know when one of us is down below sleeping the other isnât going over boardÂ while reefing the mainsail.
Looking around the cabin the galley and a 4 seater bar is on the aft port side and the navigation station, all the electronics, radioÂ and controls are on the forward port side with steps going down into the port hull in between. On the srarboard side lookng forward, where most catamarns have a settee that seats 6-8 we have a large, deep platform covering 6 large, easily accessable storage bins that is perfect base for my Japanese swivel recliner chair. In the aft starboard corner we haveÂ a day bed covering the refrigerator and freezer and on top of the daybed we have his and hers bean bag chairs where we spend most of our time, watchingÂ the world go by around us like a 360 degree movie theater.
You step down into the hulls on either side from the center of the main cabin. At the bottom of the steps on both sides there is a Dickinson diesal heater. These amazing little stoves kept us toasty, warm and dry while we were hunkered down in front of the glaciers in Chile. There are 60 gallon water tanks on both sides as well.Â The port hull is the master cabin with a seating/storage area, a library, shelves made of netting for clothes and the head. In the starboard hull there is the guest bunk, the brewery and Mikes workshop where he has every tool, scew or spare known to man.Â
Topside,Â Rum Doxyâs decks are flat and easy to walk around on with handholds where needed. There are 11 storage bins in the forward crossbeam and a large trampoline area between the hulls. On the cabin top there are 8 solar panels with still plenty of room for bean bag chairs or yoga mats.Â
The sails we use are a main which has 2 reef points, a small jib on a boom, a genny, a drifter and 2 spinnakers.
The 12 foot sailing dinghy lives in davits on the stern with SUPs and surfboards above and the 14 foot Hobie pedal kayak lives on the starboard deck.Â
So thatâs pretty much it in a nutshell, our floating island, our home and one way ticket to the next destination.
Landfall Nuku Hiva
26 July 2022
After a very easy and mellow passage, apart from the first day, we made landfall at Hanaveve Bay in Fatu Hiva yesterday morning. We had been slowing the boat to less than 3 knots to avoid a nightime approach. Our first sight of the island was at dawn as the eastern sky was turning bright orange and a crescent moon hung over the scene. Hanaveve Bay is as breathtaking as they say with 5,600 foot mountains surrounding the bay and volcanic spires lining the valley where the small village lies. The bay is rimmed with steep, volcanic cliffs covered with coconut palms and the occasional goat. There are 4 other boats in the bay, including our French friends from Uinte Vas who left the Gambiers the day before us. The water is 79 degrees, but not as clear as the Gambiers, although reports are that giant mantas have been seen in the bay the past few days so we are looking forward to that. We took a walk through the village yesterday afternoon and immediately noticed that there are a
land birds here, something that was missing in the Gambiers, and the birdsong as we walked was a nice change from the squawking of tropic birds. Lots of fruit trees lining the road and Annette managed to scrounge up some windfall mangos. There is no pearl farming here but a lot of the yards had copra drying platforms and everybody seems to have an aluminum skiff and outboard, with some folks getting around on small horses.
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Late Night Chat
24 July 2022
Late Night Chat
Itâs 12:30 am Mike is down below sleeping and I just finished yet another Hugh Grant chick flick. Same character different love interest, all disgustingly sappy. When I switch the computor back to the electronic chart to check on our position, I am startled to see a bright red AIS tracking line headed right in our direction. Itâs a cargo ship from Vietnam the HoChiMinh City, 17 miles southeast of us, traveling at 19.3 knots, with a CPA of 5 miles in 55 minutes.Â All of the sudden I felt like we were a sitting duck. We were under full sails, poking along at 3-4 knots sailing with the wind angle of 90 degrees. The true wind angle was fluttering between 100 and 120 drgrees making our course to look like a drunken sailor walking the plank. What if our AIS signal wasnât broadcasting? What if the captian of the ship was sleeping or playing video games? These are the first thoughts that come to my mind.Â I turned on our bright foredeck light to illuminate the boat and make i
visible. I turned on our radar to make sure the AIS was accurate and I turned on the VHF radio in case I needed to call and wake them up. I could see the ship light up behind us, the green running light was where it should be indicating it would pass from the starboard side behind us.Â
As I watched and waited the ship seemed to be moving a lot faster then the CPA calculated. With in 15 minutes it was 7nm away but remaining steady on itâs course.Â
Then a call comes in on the radio. Rum Doxy, this is HoChiMinh City on channel 16, do you copy? This is Rum Doxy on Channel 16 I answer back. Switch to channel 06, he says. So we meet on channel 06.Â Rum Doxy, This is HoChiMinh City how are you doing tonight, he asked in a very heavy accent. Weâre doing really well, thank you for asking, over, I reply. You are a sailing boat on a Pacific Adventure, he asks. I answer, Yes we are a sailing boat heading to the Marquesas from Chile, over. You are very brave, he replies. You are from America, where in America, he asks? Santa Barbara, California, I say. Iâve been to California many times, he replies. Then abruptly he announces he is switching back to channel 16. I sign out, then 5 minutes later the radio soundsâ¦.Rum Doxy,Â this is HoChiMinh City, I have question, he asks How do you have food and water on boat for long time? I tell him we have a water maker to desalinate salt water for drinking water, that we have a freezer
refrigerator for fresh food and lots of storage for canned and dry goods. I tell him we haveÂ plenty of Oreoâs, avocados and beer and that we are doing fine. Very good, he responds, HoChiMinh City back to channel 16, copy? Copy I reply, but before you sign off I just want to tell you that it was a pleasure to talk with you, and as a small sailing vessel we really appreciate you making contact with us so we know that you have us in your sight. I also want to tell you that you speak English really well. Have a good night, Rum Doxy back to channel 16, over.
I get really nervous talking on the radio. Iâm always at a loss for words and forget radio etiquette but last night with no one else around,Â talking with the on watch officer of the ship, who was genuinely interested in us, was a lot of fun. And, knowing that he saw us on AIS took all my stress away. After the ship passed I turned off the foredeck light and the radar, then checked our course. While we were having our little chat the wind angle switched again, so I turned the foredeck light back on to trim the sails.Â Off in the distance I saw the ship light up like a cruise ship. His signal, Good Night, and Farewell. I trimmed the sails then turned off the deck light, the ship went dark. In the middle of the night, out in the open ocean I made a new friend and it touched my heart.
Later, after all that excitement Iâm wide awake and ponder what to do in the last hour of my shift, then I hear a Slap, Skidder, Flop, Flop, Flop on the cabin floor. What the heck? I turn on the lights and find that a flying fish has managed to slip through a 2 inch opening in the cabin top hatch. What are the chances? Using a dish towel I grab itâs spastic little body and threw it back overboard. No need to ponder any longer, the last hour of my shift I spent washing the floor and vacuuming all the fish scales off the cushions and rugs.Â