Fatu Hiva Friends
15 May 2018
In a rare moment of ethnic stereotyping, I asked my Polynesian friend, Sopi, “Jouez ukulele?”
He replied, “Mais, oui!” I handed him mine and soon he, Lea, his wife and Jordanier, son age 9, were singing and playing. Jordanier was banging a beat on the table until Lisa handed him her bongo drums. We were treated to sweet, happy songs in both Polynesian and French.
We made our first landfall in Fatu Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia, May 10th. An hour after we were settled at anchor, a boat with a man and his son putted up to us, “Speak French?” “Un petite peu.” “Fruit?” “Oui!” I grabbed a bag and jumped into their boat. There was no more English, good think I can speak French at a four year old level.
Sopi and Jordanier brought me to the tiny harbor where the work boats were moored. I followed Sopi up one of the two streets in the village. We cut through some brush and were among low trees with huge grapefruits hanging and covering the ground. “Pamplemouse, tres sucre.” I stood under a huge, yellow fruit while Sopi nudged it with a long stick. It was so heavy it went right through my hands, Sopi laughed. We gathered five more Pamplemouse which made the sack almost too heavy.
We walked back to the water front and waded through a shallow stream to the other side of the village. The local soccer team was practicing. We walked by the field and soon reached Sopi's house. Lea, his wife was cooking in the covered area outside and we were introduced. Their house was surrounded by trees, heavy with fruit. Gardens, a dog, four cats, two pigs and numerous chickens. A small stream on one side was planted with Taro.
Sopi asked me if I wanted aubergine, eggplant. He cut four beauties and put them in the sack. The sack was full, Lea produced a plastic bag that Sopi filled with limes from their prolific lime tree.
We walked back to the harbor and motored back to Uproar. I asked, “Combien? (how much)” Sopi asked for wine. We were told not to trade with alcohol as the husbands would get drunk and wives very mad at cruisers. I asked, “OK, Lea?” He said, “Oui, for cuising.” Lisa produced the bottle of wine.
Sopi invited us to visit the next day. He explained to me that he is a carver and I told him I also work with wood. Lisa and I visited the next day, got the tour of his shop, his beautiful work and another sack full of fruit. We invited them to join us for dinner on Uproar.
They arrived with their sons, Jordanier, age 9 and Francois, age 16. The evening was filled with stories about how they met, their families, their farming, hunting for goats, and fishing. About the only English was Jordanier, who was proud of his command of our language and me translating to Lisa. But communication among friends is seldom a challenge.
Sopi brought a large bottle of honey he produces. Lea brought a bag full of the most fragrant leaves and flowers and put them in a bowl on our table. We spread them throughout Uproar. The heavenly scent matched well with the delightful evening we spent with our new Polynesian family.
Galapagos to Marquesas, we made it!
15 May 2018
The days ran together, all 18 of them. But my impression of our passage from Galapagos to Marquesas is that we didn't sail this passage, we rode there. Uproar did the work, we just set her up for fast sailing and she did the rest. Lisa and I spent our days reading, watching “Breaking Bad,” cooking, eating, watching the horizon, watching the stars, and riding Uproar swiftly west toward Marquesas.
The start from Galapagos took us through the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone) or doldrums. We expected long swells of glassy seas, no wind, and hot sun. This does not describe the doldrums. Two air masses converge, causing vertical air movement or convection. Convection equals squalls, gray skies and mixed winds from varying directions. Sailing directions are to motor/sail SW for two or more days until in the trade winds fill in.
We did fill the tank and extra cans of fuel in anticipation of having to motor through the doldrums. But Uproar is a sailboat and does not like to motor. We gave her, her own way and only motored 18 hours during the first three days. Ahhhh, the trade winds. Our weather prediction programs said we would have ESE winds around 15 knots the entire way. The wind was predicted to back to east for the last few days. For once weather predictions were right on the money. There were times when we had under 10 knots of wind but Uproar sailed well in those winds too. We encountered a few squalls but these were very mild compared to the Caribbean squalls and did not cause us any concern.
Since we were sailing west, the wind gave us a broad reach. This means the wind direction was over our port, stern quarter. This is ideal sailing. There was plenty of pressure in the sails, minimal heeling over and good speed. Uproar was a happy girl indeed. For days on end, we made no changes to sail trim or steering. The autopilot was our friend. But after the first week, I noticed Uproar was wandering around the prescribed heading. The autopilot should be able to steer a tighter course. There was also a curious sound in the steering gear area. An inspection revealed the autopilot steering arm was working loose on the rudder shaft. I spent all night devising a solution.
The next day I had tools and materials at hand. Lisa hand steered while I crawled down into the compartment, loosened the steering arm, shimmed it with Mylar shims, and tightened the bolts back down. This took only a few minutes and Lisa easily steered while I facilitated the repairs. There were no further mechanical or other problems the entire way.
Prior to departure we purchased an IridiumGo, satellite link. This enables us to make phone calls, send and receive simple emails, text messages, and emergency communication service. A group of boats leaving Galapagos arranged to keep in touch via email. The M (Marquesas) Fleet was organized with Panache as the fleet captain. They received daily reports from about 15 yachts' positions and sent a report to the entire fleet. They even devised a spreadsheet to plot everyone's position. The report also had highlights from boats who had caught fish, had whale sightings, and mechanical problems. One boat lost their rudder with 800 miles to go to Marquesas another M Fleet boat towed them the entire way!
When Panache arrived in Marquesas, they turned M Fleet over to Lungta, a boat we knew well from Panama. Lungta is the name for Buddhist prayer flags. The perfect boat to watch over the fleet. We are still monitoring M Fleet to see where our virtual friends end up. It will be fun meeting them in person.
Speaking of fishing, Lisa caught a 10 pound Yellowfin Tuna the first day. We caught a pair of Mahi-Mahi and 3 more tunas. We could have relied on fishing alone for our protein but of course we had a freezer full before we left. It was just as full when we arrived in Marquesas. We lost three big fish too with snapped line or leaders. One fish hit hard and was taking out line. Lisa grabbed the rod and said, “We lost it.” I told her to keep hanging on. The fish was swimming hard at the boat. Then it took another dive and the rod bent double. Unfortunately the line had become twisted around the end of the rod. It couldn't pay out the drag so the line snapped. It was good adrenaline rush. Must have been a Marlin.
With just the two of us on board, watches had to be kept throughout the night. On other passages we set loose watches, 3 to 4 hours long. On this passage we again kept watches loose but they tended to be 5 or 6 hours long. OK, we did watch some episodes of “Breaking Bad” together with Uproar tending herself. When visibility is 20 miles or more and AIS warns of commercial ships up to 50 miles, we are pretty safe to spend 45 minutes below together. The routine comes naturally, I would take the watch after dinner until midnight or 1:00 am. Lisa would let me sleep until dawn. Then she would nap until a big breakfast a few hours later. I would nap in the afternoon. We ate only two meals/day and small portions. Riding a boat is not that physical taxing so we don't need much food. But with Uproar rolling in the waves, my upper body sways with each wave. My core muscles became sore after the first week. When we arrived, I had definition between my lats and abs but certainly no six pack.
The most difficult part of the passage were the waves. We expected long, slow swells. But there was a wind chop along with the swells. This made for a rolly ride. At times it was uncomfortable to do any cooking or moving around on the boat. But uncomfortable is easily overcome when you get used to it. The last week became flatter and quite comfortable. Wind during the last week veered to the east. We were now sailing dead downwind. This required us to fly the spinnaker or put the jib out to weather, wing-on-wing. Steering became a bit more critical and speed dropped some. But we were able to surf on the waves and achieved 11.8 knots a few times. That is an Uproar record.
With two days to go, it appeared we would land in Nuku Hiva after dark. We started motoring to try to arrive in daylight. But it just didn't feel right. After a few hours of motoring we made the decision to make landfall at Fatu Hiva, an island closer and further south. Uproar was broad reaching again, fast and with glee. She certainly approved of our change of plan.
We pulled into Fatu Hiva after 18 days and 1 hour of sailing from Galapagos. Lisa dropped the anchor in one of the most beautiful bays we have ever seen. We literally pinched each other and opened the traditional anchor beer. We arrived!
We covered over 3,200 miles at an average speed of 7.33 knots. This was one of our fastest passages to date. We could not have asked for more ideal sailing conditions. Sure we could have done with flatter seas but we sure had a great ride and more importantly, we arrived in the South Pacific, our ultimate destination when we planned our cruise years ago.
Some say it's the journey, not the destination. I say, both!
Galapagos Final Thoughts
21 April 2018
I asked Lisa, “Are you glad we came here?” Her reply is different from mine, “Yes, I'm glad we came.” I asked “why?”
“Well, it's Galapagos, it was on my bucket list. If we didn't stop, we would regret it.” She couldn't point out to anything that spectacular we enjoyed here. Neither can I.
We did see some very cool wildlife. We saw giant tortoises, Pacific sea turtles, white tip and black tip sharks, sea lions and rays. All were quite close and seemed not to notice us in their world. There were a plethora of birds of different and rare species. The lava terrain was interesting, especially the Tunnels on Isabella. But the setting for these animals is not beautiful. These are desolate islands with sparse growth. The sea is not clear in most of the areas we snorkeled. Worst of all was the way we were treated by the bureaucracy, cost and red tape on entering Galapagos. We paid about $1,800 just to drop anchor here! At one inspection we had nine officers on Uproar all with clipboards and stern looks. We were forced to sail 40 miles out to clean a few spots of green off our bottom with a toothbrush and return for another $100 inspection. Galapagos clearly does not want cruisers here!
Lisa and I are extremely fortunate that our travels have taken us to places of breathtaking beauty. We have seen a lot of wildlife throughout the Caribbean in more beautiful settings. We have snorkeled in some of the most amazing reefs in the world. So for us, Galapagos was a lot of hype and hassle to see some admittedly rare and unusual animals and the shrine of Charles Darwin. But for visitors who have not had our years of traveling in the tropics, this is a very special place.
P.S. Galapagos treats cruisers like the tortoise on the bottom.
Galapagos Serious, Khaki People
21 April 2018
The South Pacific has the Society Islands and the Friendly Islands. I have come up with a name for the Galapagos archipelago, the Serious Islands. Tourists here don't smile. They are on a serious, eco-tourism mission.
We have anchored in the three major ports for Galapagos. These ports are stops for the myriad of small, cruise ships that ply these waters. Each of these cruise ships has large RIBs (rigid bottom inflatables, like Navy Seals use) to take the tourists ashore. They are constantly going back and forth past Uproar. Now it is an absolute rule that people on boats wave to each other. Not so for these tourists. We wave and occasionally get a reluctant wave in return. The boat driver is more apt to wave to us, the tourists just stare.
But how do I know they are staring? They are all wearing the uniform: khaki Tilly style hat, Columbia SPF 70 shirt, Khaki pants with zip-off legs and sturdy, tropical hiking shoes. With those hats and sunglasses, who knows where they are looking. Even in the resorty towns with fun restaurants, the uniform must be worn and don't dare smile! In the Caribbean Islands, we dub the tourists “Pink People” due to sunburn on their mostly exposed skin. They are dancing and drinking like crazy on the excursion boats they are packed into. In Galapagos we have the “Khaki People.”
The locals more than make up for it. As usual for places we visit, the local people are warm, friendly and generous. We especially like the water taxi guys. But who wouldn't be happy with a job driving a boat all day?
I'm sure the Khaki People are enjoying their Galapagos tour. But why can't they just smile a bit and put on a “Love the Boobies” t-shirt?
20 April 2018
I'm not proud of this one but I promised to write about the good and the bad. Galapagos is reputed to be the pristine environment preserved for its unique species and the birthplace of Darwin's “Origin of the Species.” Cruisers are committed to leaving a clean wake and in the Galapagos, we become quite fanatical about it. That's why I'm not proud of dumping partially cured Urethane foam into the bay at Isla Isabele.
We bought a used Avon RIB (rigid bottom inflatable) dinghy in Michigan on our way out of the Great Lakes. Avon makes a high end dinghy and we love ours. It has a “V” shaped bottom but a flat floor inside. There is a void between the flat floor and the “V” bottom that is supposed to be watertight. Would be great if it was. Occasionally that space fills up with water making the dinghy quite heavy. We can tell we are carrying the extra weight, especially when dragging it up a sandy beach.
I have tried and tried to find out where that water is coming in and have not pinpointed the leak. When we pull the dinghy on a beach, I remove the plug and water pours out. Several days later it is full again. Arggghh! I have read about two part Urethane foam kits. You mix it together and it expands like a cream colored volcano. I happened to ask about the stuff in a shop in Panama. The owner said, I have some of that stuff I will never use, He gave me two gallon jugs of the stuff, half full.
Lisa and I decided to do a science experiment before committing it to our Avon. I poured just a drip from each jug into a can. With a Bamboo skewer I stirred the two chemicals. Voila! Within a minute it started erupting. It was the perfect muffin shape. Just a teaspoon of the stuff filled the can to overflowing. And it hardened within 10 minutes. We weighted the can, foam and all in a bucket overnight to see if it absorbed any water. It was light as a feather the next morning.
This brings us to a flat calm morning in the Isabela anchorage. We hoisted the dinghy bow down beside Uproar. Lisa and I mixed a batch thoroughly and began to pour it through a funnel to fill that void under the dinghy floor. Oh no! The volcano erupted just as I started pouring. Here I had a funnel clogged and overflowing and a can erupting with hot, creamy goo all over my hand and into the water. My instinct was to keep it over the water so we didn't foul Uproar's deck with the mess.
Lisa and I looked in horror at the moulten mess floating beside Uproar. She quickly retrieved our trout landing net. Glyn and Laura bought it for us when we were fishing for Blue Crab in the Chesapeake. I dove in and netted the offending lumps. The fine mesh net was the perfect tool for the job. There was no wind or current so I was easily able to coral the stuff. I'm pretty sure I retrieved 95% of it. Sure, there were some small bits that got away. We dumped the mess into a garbage bag.
Ten more batches were mixed but for only 10 seconds. We got it all in the dinghy before the eruption. With just a bit left in the jugs, the cavity in the dinghy was full. Project completed and dinghy back on deck, Lisa and I hung our heads in shame. We had bespoiled the Galapagos. We were satisfied with our clean-up efforts but knew the port captain had cameras trained on the anchorage.
An hour later a panga approached with two women in uniform. Gulp! They asked if we spoke Espanol. Poquito. They explained in broken English that there was an epidemic of a disease on the island and mimed it as a skin disorder. They even had large posters they showed us. We believe it was Chicken Pox or Measles. Lisa and I explained that we did not have the affliction and they were satisfied. Strangely, we were the only boat out of eight in the anchorage approached. I'm writing this as a free man, sailing from Isabela to Santa Cruz, another Galapagos island. Guess we and the waters of Galapagos made a clean getaway.
The Medical Teams and The Wanker
08 April 2018
(Channel 14 VHF, San Cristobal, Galapagos, April 7, 7:00 PM)
“Heritage, Heritage, this is Uproar”
“Uproar, this is Heritage.”
“This is Lisa, we are ready for the medical team, rum punch is ready.”
“Roger that Uproar, we will take a water taxi over right away.”
I knew well what awaited me when the medical team arrived, filled with dread. But they arrived with smiles and “Yes please” to rum punch. Adam and Alyssa have a beautiful, traditional, Bruce Roberts design ketch and presently had three crew from Germany. Caroline, one of the crew, is a doctor. They all celebrated their equator crossing as did we on Uproar. Caroline's was most extreme, she shaved her long hair off. Alyssa is a nurse and Lisa as administrator filled out The Medical Team.
I read years ago that sailors who crossed the equator under sail would get a gold earring as a signal to other sailors of their accomplishment. Hmmmm.
During Antigua Classics week, I was fortunate enough to get a crewing spot on Iris J, a 5.5 meter sloop. Patrick Aguillard was also in the crew and had the coolest, gold shackle as an earring. There were times when the waves were filling up Iris J. Patrick became the wanker to keep us from sinking. Perhaps I should explain. Old sailing ships had a bildge pump that had an arm to be pumped up and down. The wanker was one of the lowest positions aboard so became a derogatory term. The motion of the wanker gave it its modern connotation. Nothing personal Patrick, just admired your earring. That and we sure had a great time racing.
Lisa took the hint and ordered an 18K gold shackle. I said I would try but didn't promise anything. I have a strong phobia of needles and medical procedures. If someone starts to describe an operation they had or similar, I have to leave the room. Fortunately, I have had very few illnesses or conditions requiring medical care. Perhaps it is because this phobia keeps me healthy. It would suffice to say that when I am confronted with a shot or blood test, I shake like an old dog shitting razor blades....then the room starts to spin.
The Medical Team was well aware of my condition and my conflicting desire to wear the shackle in my ear. Lisa coordinated the procedure and sheltered me from any details. Three rum punches later, I was lead to our cabin and laid out comfortably on our bed. Lisa held a powerful flashlight and Alyssa went to work. I don't even want to write about the details. They had Lydocaine cream, a sharp needle and a potato. The toughest part was screwing the screw in the tiny hole left by the needle. Nurse and Doctor took turns working the screw through my ear and holding my hand. Lisa even took a turn with the final tightening of the shackle screw. They all shared in the fun.
Somehow it actually worked. OK, I was freaked out a bit but this compassionate team could not have been more kind and gentle. Thanks to The Medical Team, the patient survived!