AIS Positon

Friday, April 30, 2010

on the move

16 41.7 S 143 11.3 W between Hao and Makemo in the Tuomotus

After almost a week in Hao ,our first stop in the Tuomotus, we are doing an overnight to Makemo, the next atoll on our itinerary. So far my impressions of the Tuomotus are varied. The passes to get in and out are scary and so I am a bit apprehensive about going to so many different places as we had picked out...but there is not that much to explore (at least on Hao) so we are wanting to move about . We arrived in Hao on Sat morning after a 3 day, 3 night passage from the Gambiers. We had a hard time getting the right info as to high, low and slack tide (Noaa where are you when we need you/that's the US national weather service for all you non sailors) So we went in without paying enough attention to what we could see with our eyes...Turbulence!!! It had been quite windy for days and so there were standing waves and a current against us which in the middle got to be up to 8 knots...at one point we were actually going backwards... I was terrified and hiding in the pilothouse when I saw a HUGE wave break over the back of the boat. We had not put up our hatchboard so water flooded into the boat. We did get thru thanks to this heavy duty, powerful John Deere engine of ours and did get the inside all clean and salt free(extra bonus I guess )but it was quite unnerving especially for moi. Our first day in town we found it incredibly friendly...were picked up and driven in, shown around and invited to dinner by a woman who teaches special ed there. Her name is Camillia and her husband Parua(we think). They made poisson cru of a different version and sushi as he had caught a big tuna that day. He fishes and helps his mother run one of the stores in town...she apparently is the "mayor" and they seem pretty well off. 2 cute kids and a very nice home and they made us feel incredibly welcome. Sun. we got out our bikes and headed most of the way down the atoll on an unpaved road. Didn't make it to the end as we had hoped because the road was a bit rough but found a nice beach for a swim and overall had a great outing.

Late that afternoon Gram was "dressing"..it's actually more like undressing the fish we had caught on our way in and put in the freezer to be dealt with later. We had invited Bar for dinner and I wanted to make fish tacos, He is quite an interesting 38 year old who is single handing around the world on a lovely 50' boat he had built in Holland...he is Dutch... and has been sailing her for 3-4 years including a bunch of time in Antartica!!! So back to Gram, who while scaling the fish put a deep gash into the joint of his left index finger. Bill, knowing the bad mix of fish bacteria and deep wounds needed to perform a fairly intensive flushing out, surgical procedure. So I became the scrub nurse(albeit a queasy one) and we set up our dining table as sterile as we could and did lots of cleaning and more flushing with sterile water and then a few stitches and a very large antbiotic shot. The next day we went to the navy (French from the nuclear testing days here and still on island) infirmerie and were seen by a very nice and very competent nurse practitioner named Pierre. He gave Gram an IV and a couple more does of antibiotics, checked the wound and replenished many of the supplies Bill had used(even resterilized all our instruments). They were so nice!!!! Had a few more hang out days to be sure all was well before venturing away from this great facility were Gram to need more medical attention. He's a bit bored and can't go in the water but this too shall pass...no pain and pretty lucky we had such good emergent care between Bill mostly but Pierre's backup a lucky break!

Leaving the pass today we had learned our lesson and anchored off it a few hours till it looked as calm as we could expect and had a much beter experience. Tonight is a beautiful full or nearly full moon night and we are motorsailing to Makemo, our next lagoon. We have heard there is some good diving there and hope that there is a little more to do than on Hao...tho' the friendliness of all the people there made it a great stop anyway. Plus more yummy baguettes were available!!! Caught a tuna right at dark tonite so we are packed to the gills(no pun intended) in our freezer...good thing as the food in French Polynesia is so so expensive. Cost us 15. for a 3 head pack of Romaine lettuce but we were so wanting a salad we splurged..last lettuce we had seen was in Easter Island! So, that's about all the news from our little world..more as we continue this journey and the adventures along the way...

on the move

17 14.7 S 142 18.2W between Hao and Makemo in the Tuomotus

After almost a week in Hao ,our first stop in the Tuomotus, we are doing an overnight to Makemo, the next atoll on our itinerary. So far my impressions of the Tuomotus are varied. The passes to get in and out are scary and so I am a bit apprehensive about going to so many different places as we had picked out...but there is not that much to explore (at least on Hao) so we are wanting to move about . We arrived in Hao on Sat morning after a 3 day, 3 night passage from the Gambiers. We had a hard time getting the right info as to high, low and slack tide (Noaa where are you when we need you/that's the US national weather service for all you non sailors) So we went in without paying enough attention to what we could see with our eyes...Turbulence!!! It had been quite windy for days and so there were standing waves and a current against us which in the middle got to be up to 8 knots...at one point we were actually going backwards... I was terrified and hiding in the pilothouse when I saw a HUGE wave break over the back of the boat. We had not put up our hatchboard so water flooded into the boat. We did get thru thanks to this heavy duty, powerful John Deere engine of ours and did get the inside all clean and salt free(extra bonus I guess )but it was quite unnerving especially for moi. Our first day in town we found it incredibly friendly...were picked up and driven in, shown around and invited to dinner by a woman who teaches special ed there. Her name is Camillia and her husband Parua(we think). They made poisson cru of a different version and sushi as he had caught a big tuna that day. He fishes and helps his mother run one of the stores in town...she apparently is the "mayor" and they seem pretty well off. 2 cute kids and a very nice home and they made us feel incredibly welcome. Sun. we got out our bikes and headed most of the way down the atoll on an unpaved road. Didn't make it to the end as we had hoped because the road was a bit rough but found a nice beach for a swim and overall had a great outing.

Late that afternoon Gram was "dressing"..it's actually more like undressing the fish we had caught on our way in and put in the freezer to be dealt with later. We had invited Bar for dinner and I wanted to make fish tacos, He is quite an interesting 38 year old who is single handing around the world on a lovely 50' boat he had built in Holland...he is Dutch... and has been sailing her for 3-4 years including a bunch of time in Antartica!!! So back to Gram, who while scaling the fish put a deep gash into the joint of his left index finger. Bill, knowing the bad mix of fish bacteria and deep wounds needed to perform a fairly intensive flushing out, surgical procedure. So I became the scrub nurse(albeit a queasy one) and we set up our dining table as sterile as we could and did lots of cleaning and more flushing with sterile water and then a few stitches and a very large antbiotic shot. The next day we went to the navy (French from the nuclear testing days here and still on island) infirmerie and were seen by a very nice and very competent nurse practitioner named Pierre. He gave Gram an IV and a couple more does of antibiotics, checked the wound and replenished many of the supplies Bill had used(even resterilized all our instruments). They were so nice!!!! Had a few more hang out days to be sure all was well before venturing away from this great facility were Gram to need more medical attention. He's a bit bored and can't go in the water but this too shall pass...no pain and pretty lucky we had such good emergent care between Bill mostly but Pierre's backup a lucky break!

Leaving the pass today we had learned our lesson and anchored off it a few hours till it looked as calm as we could expect and had a much beter experience. Tonight is a beautiful full or nearly full moon night and we are motorsailing to Makemo, our next lagoon. We have heard there is some good diving there and hope that there is a little more to do than on Hao...tho' the friendliness of all the people there made it a great stop anyway. Plus more yummy baguettes were available!!! Caught a tuna right at dark tonite so we are packed to the gills(no pun intended) in our freezer...good thing as the food in French Polynesia is so so expensive. Cost us 15. for a 3 head pack of Romaine lettuce but we were so wanting a salad we splurged..last lettuce we had seen was in Easter Island! So, that's about all the news from our little world..more as we continue this journey and the adventures along the way...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bored, Nothing To Do

Hao, Tuamotus, French Polynesia

One of my favorite sayings when I was a child was "I'm Bored" and one of my favorite books was about some bored kids who build a plane out of parts in their barn with the same title as this post. Seeing as I usually judge the quality of my days by how much time I spend in the water, the inability to get my hand wet is putting a bit of a damper on my activities and I am heartily resisting the urge to resort to my 8 year old self, so I spent most of the day in the hamock, reading my kindle and trying to stay cool. We put up the awning this morning to help that and I did help Bill with a small project but I am feeling rather helpless and like quite the freeloader as I can't do much to help out.

Tonight we will have Sushi which will be Bill's chance to learn how to properly cut tuna and form rice balls. Hopefully we can get through it without killing each other! I know it will be frustrating for me as I won't be able to demonstrate very effectively. Still each day is progress to recovery and hopefully in another 10-14 days I can start to get back to my old self.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Surgery @ Sea

Hao Atoll, Tuamotu Archipeligo, French Polynesia, South Pacific

A bit too much excitement last night when I cut myself pretty badly while scaling a fish. Not having a fish scaler I was using the back of a knife which when it slipped, cut across my index finger knuckle, down into the joint, nicking the tendon and cutting into the cartilage a bit. Luckily we have our handy Orthopedic Surgeon onboard. The mini surgery went well. Bill cleaned out the wound and joint very well, then washed some more, then put a stitch ("couture" in french) in the tendon and then sewed the flap of skin down. I got a bit woozy in the middle (mostly from the sight of it and partially from some pain before Bill gave me a second shot of Novocaine to numb the area more. Scrub Nurse Jo had to lay down a few times as she was holding the flashlight and got a bit woozy from the sight as well. it took about 45 mins total, but all went well. The worry here is infection as the joint was opened up so we will be very careful and I will take lots of Antibiotics. The most painful part of the whole ordeal by far was the 20ml shot of antibiotic in my triceps that hurt like hell for an hour or so (got a bit woozy after that as well due to the pain) and still was quite sore this morning. If you have ever had a tetanus shot, multiply by about 10 and that is what the shot felt like. This morning we went in to the medical clinic on the old navy base here and were helped by a very nice nurse practitioner (or french equivalent) named Pierre. They changed my dressing and put an IV catheter in my arm so that I can get my daily antibiotic shots that way (much less painful on shot number two) and he restocked our supply of syringes, needles, dressing material and antibiotics. He is also re-sterilizing the surgical instruments we used last night which is a real bonus. We will go back in two days to change the dressing and it is nice knowing that if it starts to show any signs of infection we can go into the clinic where they have good supplies and a clean environment to reopen the wound and clean it.

We also got some interesting info on ciguaterra (fish toxin). Pierre said that most of the toxins are stored in the head (brain in particular) and guts, then the belly meat, then the lower loin, with the least toxin in the upper loin, so when in doubt you should just eat the meat from the midline (pin bones) up towards the back. This will reduce the amount of toxin you might ingest and limit your chance of getting sick. A good bit of advice we think.

All is well, nothing to worry about (fingers crossed though). Bill was excellent and I am being well cared for. The worst part is that I can't go in the water and it is quite warm here (91 degrees right now at 3pm). With this in mind we are going to stay here in Hao a bit longer than we had previously planned and will probably skip Amanu (next island 10 miles north) to save the lost time.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hao (How) was our First Pass?

SCARRY!!!!!


For a reason that I still don't fully understand, we transited our first ever Tuamotu pass into Hao with a very strong ebbing current and significant standing waves at the exit of the pass. The pics show the measured current (big red arrows) on the chart and a stripchart recorder (look at the bottom chart, labeled drift) to see that we had an average current of 7.4 knots against for almost 10 minutes. At that point it was hard to make much headway and we actually backing into two standing waves, flooding the cockpit and sending some water down the companionway as we hadn't thought to put the dropboard in place. Luckily we have a big boat with a very powerful motor. The water in the lagoon is apparently quite high today because of the 3 days of 15-20 knot easterlies which are creating waves big enough to crash over the reef, filling up the lagoon. We still don't know when low tide was, but are pretty sure that if we had waited a few hours it would have been a much more reasonable time to go through the pass.
In the end all was fine, we even caught a tarpon fish on our way in (we left only the hand line out knowing that if we caught a fish on that one, we could just ignore it unlike the rod and reel that would start paying out 100's of yards of line. We cleaned the bolon sole covers and the sole panels to get rid of all the salt and now have a very clean boat.

We headed into town and were immediately picked up by a very nice lady named Cammile who is a special ed teacher at the school here. She gave us a tour, had us over for cold drinks, and then invited us to join her for dinner and internet usage at her house tonight which we can't refuse. Everyone here has been amazingly nice and friendly. There are quite a lot of people here and a ton of kids playing around town.

We aren't too sure how long we will stay, but may break out the bikes tomorrow morning to take a tour of the island and head to the southern end. The island is only about 3 blocks wide and flat as a board. Should be an enjoyable ride.

More soon, I promise.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Au revoir, Gambiers, and Bonjour Tuomotus

South Pacific Ocean
19 21.5S/13858.6W
314 nm NW of Gambiers

We are overdue on both the blog front and with stories about our stay in the Gambiers. We were quite busy here - working on the boat, and with exploration of some of the islands and anchorages around the lagoon.

In terms of boat projects, there were more than a few. We have fixed the gooseneck fitting which connects mast to boom, resewn/repaired the outer edge of our reacher sail (large, light air jib), sealed the leaking hole through which our propeller shaft exits, and tracked down a fresh water leak.

Replacing the gooseneck required redrilling to a larger size and retapping existing holes, as well as preparing new holes fpr the larger part. This was accomplished after removing the old bent gooseneck, a day long job onto itself. FInally, surfaces are coated to minimize reactions between different metals before screwing and bolting the new piece down and replacing the boom and vang which had to be removed in order to do the change-over. Luckiliy, we ordered all neccessary pieces and parts which were delivered from USA with the gooseneck, and all in all, it went smoothly.

The upper swivel of our furling unit is jammed, but we were able to drop our reacher headsail on deck by dropping the sail and halyard sans swivel. You need to keep an eye on weather and pick a "no wind" day for this, as the sail accordians along nearly 30 feet of side deck as it comes down. Jo already described what it looked like to have the three of us sitting around with the sail at our feet (or in our laps) as repair tape was placed and patches sewn with a borrowed sewing machine - another item we need to buy when we get to NZ.

A small amount of water accumulation in the engine room began to increase over the past month to six weeks or so. Every anticipated source (pumps, hose connections, fittings) in the engine room was reviewed, tightened, refastened, or redone as a dry engine room is a happy engine room. Over weeks, the problem became worse not better, and the source of the leak could not be found. It was frustrating but the lines to an old song kept popping in my head - something like "the diffficult is not a problem, but the impossible might take a little while". The area of interest kept being narrowed down to somewhere around the engine, and then the engine itself was deemed clear. Finally, the leak was tracked down to the (supposedly) water tight seal around the large SS tube that houses our propeller shaft. It was tightened and retightened, which was accomplished with a large amount of contortion and a small amount of bruising. A telephone call to Alan Mills of Evolution Shaft Systems, the Rockland, Maine based manufacturer, confirmed that it had a small O-ring and was to be installed with a copious amount of adhesive sealant. Alan had personally delivered and put the unit together at Morris Yachts, but did not do the final install. The difficulty was that with the boat in the water, removing the SS plate in order to reseal it risked a rather larger influx of water into the boat, and it very well might be removed only with difficulty. A two part solution was devised. Initially, to minimize water inflow, an underwater putty was placed outside the hull around the exit of the shaft tube. The next day, and with trepidation, the nuts were removed and the plate pried off. This last step was surprisingly easy, as the plate peeled right off the fiberglass bulkhead it was fastened to. It was then we noticed a complete lack of adhesive and we had been relying only on the O-ring all this time. We cannot explain why the sealant was not utilized, but this explained the past several years puddling and slow water accumulation we had experienced, always attributed to one piece of machinery or another. Water inflow did increase as the plate was prepared for resealing, but at a rate we could keep up with. A large rubber gasket was placed and sealant was slathered all about, a very messy process. We have now watched this over 10 days and initial success has been declared.

We were able to track down the fresh water leak rather quickly, and it was a "T" fitting with a small stress crack. We had been there before and knew in which places to look, but the process was quick and all in all, we were lucky to find it and fix it in 1/2 of a day. So these were our major jobs, jobs done in addition to our "normal" maintenance such as changing engines oil, maintaining refrigeration systems, cleaning interior after ocean passage, cleaning hull bottom, cleaning waterline, cleaning deck, polishing stainless steel, etc.

In the between work time, we did find time to explore a good deal of what the Gambiers has to offer. We have visually navigated through "uncharted" waters within the reef circled lagoon and found our way to some amazingly beautiful places and sights - vantages accentuated by the fact that they were located in greyed out zones marked "area non-hydrographie" on our French charts!

We first went north to an island at the northern rim of the atoll named Puaumu. We visited this secluded spot with several other boats including Soggy Paws, Infiny, and Pascal on the French catamaran Steel Band. Pascal is a hunter gatherer who spear fishes daily, forages for coconuts, fruits, etc. He speared a ray swimming by his boat, and taught us how to dress it and prepare it. It is quite tasty! We did some snorkeling and beach combing on isolated beaches along the rim of the atoll. It was enchanting.

We left there to return to Rikatea and stopped for a lunch and snorkel at the false pass just south of Tottogeggie (flat island with small airport). The water was clear with coral and the fish were innumerable - one of the nicer snorkels we have done this trip. While back in Rikitea we visited the Pearl farm of Benoit. Learning about black lipped oysters and observing the process of pearling was interesting.. In the village, we also we ordered baguettes and croissants (but the croissants are only avaialble weekends), and found some cucumbers. As for fruit, on the two mile walk to and from the pearl farm, locals would offer us pomplemousse from their front yards.

Later we went south and were anchored off the island of Taravai. We did not go to the "main" anchorage in front of the old village, but we anchored to the south of the island, once again in one of those a greyed out and "uncharted" zones. We do not navigate these waters indiscriminately, but will carefully explore after speaking with boats (such as Steel Band) that have already been this way. Note - you will find little about any of these areas in cruising guides; even detailed S Pacific cruising guidebooks tend only to have a page or two at most on this entire archipeligo. Navigation is done by reading the color of the water, and your travel between islands is limited to 10 AM to 3 PM or so, moving with the sun behind your back in order for you to properly "read" the bottom. Dark blue is friendly and light blue is fine. Tourquise can be tricky as depth depends on water clarity. The water is getting thin as tourquise turns green and then to tan/yellow in sand, or brown over a reef. You don't go there!

Taravai is a beautiful island. There are high hills that have serial ridges streaming down to the water. Each ridge is capped with a rocky pyramid and there are groupings of vertically oriented evergreens and areas of low flat horizontally oriented tree tops dispersed throughout.. These are differing shades of blue/green, and when you add a carpet of yellow grass and palm trees along the shoreline - well, too hard to describe. We'll post some pictures.

A lovely couple named Eduard and Denise live at the head of the bay, and Denise told us that we were the first American boat to anchor and land in their harbor. We suppose that this was possible, as it seemed that inside knowledge about safe to navigate areas in the uncharted regions tended to be passed along from French boat to boat. We had befriended Pascal and his wife Martine when I assisted Martine with an ankle problem and later Pascal showed us several places where it was safe to travel. This south bay of Taravai was on his list, and we spent several days there. On Taravai we were able to find potatoes, cucumbers (more taste and less seeds than those in USA), a bit of greens and avocados. Pascal also came to join us on Saturday and brought us the croissants we ordered- just like Pizza Hut!. Aside from visiting the centuries old church by the main village and meeting more locals, the highlight of our stay was surely a shoreside Sunday brunch at the home of Eduard and Denise. Denise prepared a wonderful potted duck as well as "poisson cru", a famous French Polynesian dish prepared with raw fish, coconut milk, lime, onions, and chopped vegetables. It was sublime, and I won't even begin to describe the duck.

We ended our stay on Taravai with a group fishing expedition, but came up empty handed. We then spent 2 nights on Rikitea getting the boat ready to head towards the Tuomotus, and Jo and Gram even squeezed in 1 more dive. We left Rikitea noon on the 21st, but just as we exited the pass out of the lagoon, we first went north to the best fishing area along the surrounding reef.This time our luck was better, and we landed a 3 foot 30 pound yellow fin tuna before heading NW to the Tuomotu atoll named Hao. We have been underway nearly 48 hours, and should arrive Hao early Saturday morning. Sailing has been pleasant, and a three night passage seems short!

We will let you know as soon as we arrive. 138 nm to go.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hao (How) Goes It

South Pacific Ocean 20 46.9S 136 53.9W
En Route Gambiers to Hao in Tuamotus

We left Rikitea around 11:30 and by 1:00 or so we had a nice 30ish pound 36" long Yelowfin Tuna on the sugar scoop being cleaned and broken down into 8 half loins (each a decent sized dinner). Last night was beautiful and today has been nice though the seas are a little rolly and it is quite hot unless you can get out of the sun and stay in the wind (hard as we are broad reaching which keeps the apparent wind kind of low). We are making about 7 kts in 15 kts of breeze at 140 degrees true wind angle with the reacher out on the pole and a double reefed main behind it (reefing the main helps the reacher get more breeze, keeps it more stable, and doesn't seem to slow us down any).

I continue to work on my french, but it is slow going (language was never my forte and it is hard to avoid speaking spanish to people after 9 months of doing so). Today we caught two small barracudas within seconds of each other, but we were able to clear them off the hooks (we don't really like eating baracudda) and hope to catch a wahoo or something to round out our meal options. I made Poison Crue this morning for dinner (including opening up a coconut and making coconut milk in the blender) leaving just enough tuna from the loin I opened up for a small sushimi & Avacado lunch mmm-mmm-good.

All for now, we should get into Hao fairly early on the 24th and I think they even have wifi there so maybe we can keep updating pictures. If you havne't looked lately, click on the web albums link to the right (======>) and take a look at the beautiful scenery we are sailing through.

Back on watch

21 58.4 S 135 51.8 W enroute Gambiers to Tuomotus

Just about 2 weeks in the Gambiers and we are back out for a 3 day, 3 night 440 mile passage to the first stop in the Tuomotu archipelago. These are a group of atolls, all with lagoons and most with narrow passes in..should be a bit excting as we get used to this type of navigation. Must be timed with slack water and tides so we'll see how well we do. Having the powerful engine we have will surely make it alot easier and we are impressed with the charts that we have access to so hopefully the notion of going to the "Dangerous Archipelago" will be just a myth. so far French Polynesia gets a thumbs up. Weather has been delightful..not too hot and breezy enough for comfortable sleeping. The people are very friendly and generous. We have been given much fruit (bananas, pampelmousse and papayas) , lots of pleasant advice, and always bonjours.

In the Gambiers we spent much of our time in Riketea(the village in the populated island of Mangareva) but we also visited a couple of not or nearly not inhabited islands that were lovely. At the south end of the pass were the very low islands with crystal clear waters...swimming was delightful and we loved the scenic palm tress and white sand beaches. We also went to Taravai which was very beautiful. Steep mountains and very green with rather odd vegetaion made it drop dead gorgeous. We met an amazing totally self sufficiient couple there who were like the Helen and Scott Nearing of the Pacific ( the Nearings were the older couple who came to Maine and lived off the land before all the hippies). They had us over for Sunday lunch and made the most awesome food we have eaten on this trip. Homegrown canard(duck), slow cooked in aubegine(eggplant) and flavored with some kind of magic herbs and spices. Also were treated to the poisson cru that Polynesia is known for...tuna which is marinated and served in coconut milk with tomatoes, lettuce and peppers...ceviche of a whole new variety and it will become an alltime favorite of mine for sure. We started drinking wine at noon with this meal and needless to say by the time we got back to the boat about 4 that was all she wrote...Tuesday Gram and I caught up with our friends Sherry and Dave and went to the pass by the airport and had a lovely dive. The water was warm, clear and coral very alive. One shark, a bunch of colorful Pacific fish and little to no current or surge made it my most comfortable dive so far. I just might get the hang of this yet...would be so nice to just be able to gear up and not go thru my nervous anticipation dance first!

We left Mangareve with 10 baguettes in the freezer so all is good in our near future. Once at the pass out we had put our lfishing lines out and shortly thereafter the whir of the rod spooling out...FISH ON and into action for all three of us to land and board the fish. This time it was another good sized yellow fin tuna so we had to take all the bread out of the freezer to make room for 7-8 meals of sushi or tuna whatever. Think we will have to try our hand at poisson cru!!! Hopefully the bread will last in the fridge...
Yesterday we were able to download some more trip pics so check out the blog for a look at more of Easter Island and our time in Pitcairn. We may have put on a few of the Gambiers...thank god for digital photograpy...can you even imagine film and developing and that whole way we used to have to do things...we would need another whole boat to carry the photos!!! Time to wake Gram up and catch the second 1/2 of my night's sleep. No engine, not much rolling and hardly any swells. Quite pleasant(for a change)..."Happy sails until we meet again!!"
.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Baguettes rock and pampelmousse is awesome

23 09.7 S 135 02.3 W Taravai, Gambier Archipelago, French Polynesia

The jury is out and hot baguettes definitely are the best thing we have had since we left the US food wise...too good and when you add the camembert cheese we still have from the Galapagos we could almost be in France...family joke tho' is that we are missing the tablecloths as when we were in France a good ten years ago and 8 or 9 year old Zak proclaimed that his family was OBSESSED with tablecloths as we daily scouted each town's markets in search of the perfect table linens and came back with a slew of them for us and for gifts. Another new discovery is pampelmousse...it is a HUGE grapefruit like fruit that has no seeds, is more juicy and sweeter than grapefruit and grows in abundance here. Yesterday we were given about 10-12 of them which now hang in a hammock in the cockpit waiting to ripen. The free fruit that the locals have bestowed on us is really helping offset the outrageous cost of vegetables (of which there are very few varieties) and food in general. The people are all very nice and we are enjoying all the Bonjours and Bonsoirs we hear...again the generosity is overwhelming.

Two days ago Bill and I hiked Mt. Duff, the 1400 ft mountain on Mangareva. It was quite steep but the view from the top were breathtaking. We could see 360 degrees and basically could view the entire reef that encircles this archipelago of islands. Bet we were looking out at least 20 miles in every direction. The colors of the water, in varying shades of cobalt, turquoise and coral head mustards was gorgeous and so striking from above. Yesterday we went with the other 3 boats that we have been hanging out with to a pearl farm in Rikitea and then all pulled anchors and headed across the lagoon to a new anchorage off an island called Taravai. Very scenic (again) and today we will dinghy to see an old abandoned church on the other side of the island. We had a potluck desert here and movie night to watch "Into the Wild".(true story adapted from a Jon Krakuer book) Delicious and my weeks quota of deserts with fresh pumpkin (from Pitcairn pumpkins) pie, peach and blueberry crisp,chocolate chip cookies, and pnut butter cookies. I am realizing that it is beginning to sound like all we do is think about and eat food...it certainly has become a focus. So it was a bit crowded with 9 people around our very small TV screen but lots of fun and quite a good movie. Fabulous cinematography and great character portrayals... a very sad story of a young man who lost his life too young tho' as he struggled to make sense of his world by setting out across the country and into the wilderness of Alaska. When it was over I commented to Bill that at least that is one type trip I do not have to worry about Zak taking. He is not my wilderness boy at all!!!

We have finished up a few more of the boat repairs and can now add sailmakers of sorts to our resumes. Quite a site to see the 3 of us with a borrowed sewing machine stitching up our VERY large reacher on our foredeck. Good news is we think we fixed it enough to be able to use it until we get to Tahiti and can have a real sailmaker make a new suncover and do a bit more patching. So we are happily now a 4 sail boat, ready and raring to move on in the next week I would guess. Next stop will be Hao, one of the atolls in the Tuomotus and a 3 day,2 night passage hopefully (about 300+ miles from here). We hear it is as green as May in Maine and that a real spring is being had over much of the East. Be it from the El Nino year we are in or global warming it is a treat for all of you in the north I am sure. Adieu to all and a note here or there would be very welcomed.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

French Polynesia at last

23 01.3S 134 55.2W Motu Puaumu, Gambiers (enough vowels for ya..would be great for scrabble me thinks)

Hello all...Been here in the lovely, luscious Gambiers a week now. Don't know how the days just tick off as it doesn't seem like we have done that much. More boat projects(of course), some exploring, a whole lot of laundry (which is quite challenging to hang out when the wind is clocking 15-20 knots), and some fun as well. Within 2 days of when we arrived here there were a total of 15 boats in the harbor. Many French sailors and some nice new people to meet. They are very helpful as many of them(more particularly the men) speak enough English to help us out with some of the translation we need. We are having a hard time not speaking in Spanish and so we are introducing a new language we call SpaFraGlish. We were in Spanish speaking countries from Cartegena in May all the way until Pitcairn end of March so had actually gotten not fluent but perhaps you could say proficient. Bill is the only one of the three of us with any French background so we are doing lots of pantomine and alot goes over our heads for sure. Gram and I had the lucky experience on Tuesday to get to visit one of the Pearl farms while Bill went to the airport on a nearby island to pick up the Gooseneck part we had coming in. We had been asked to go with three of the French boat crews so had interpreters there to make it a much more interesting experience. The cultivation of these black pearls is quite a process and involves alot of steps and alot of people to make it all work. This area produces over a million pearls a year. They have established a consortium which sells about 700 thousand of these. They are the most coveted of the black pearls...more so than the ones from Tahiti. Apparently they mostly are exported to Japan but I still hope to be able to find a few to buy before we leave here.

The little town of Rikitea is very clean and pretty. It has 4-5 small stores selling food which is ridiculously expensive(eggs are .85 ea, Orangina 7.00/bottle,and meat is virtually out of the question). One of the supply ships has come in so we were able to get some canned vegies but there is a real lack of fresh ones in these parts...killing us. The biggest surprise is the bakery which makes fresh daily the most amazing baguettes imaginable. The flour is subsidized by the French government so they are the bargain of the day going for .70 for a really long, really delicious loaf. We are waiting for the croissants to appear but so far they have not been available...soon!!! Bill and I have gone on a few nice runs(there is a road which goes around the island) and we plan on bringing the bikes out one of these days to all be able to circumnavigate Mangareva. We spent 2 days working on getting the gooseneck on and are happy with the results...so now we are a sailboat again complete with working mainsail. Still need to tackle the Reacher repair but that may need to be done by professionals in Tahiti.

On Friday we decided to come across the lagoon to the very end of the reef that surrounds this archipelago of atolls It is drop dead gorgeous and uninhabited as well as uncharted here. Beautiful turquoise water with lots of coral heads to be avoided but good enough visibility to make it seem comfortable. We are anchored in front of a palm tree lined island with white sandy beach. Did a little beachcombing yesterday and last nite tried the French Polynesian version of lobstering which was to go out at dark with flashlights and wade out to where the breakers are washing over the coral, looking for the lobsters to be walking on the bottom in search of food. We managed to catch(with your hands as they don't have claws) 3 and a huge crab so tonite it looks like we will have lobster risotto...MMMM!!
We did a little snorkeling and have found lots of new species and colors of fish now that we are in such different waters. The coral is absolutely breathtaking and the clarity of the water stupendous...so lots more snorkeling will be a must! Plan for tonite is a potluck dinner on the beach with a few of the other boats that have come over to this side with us. Wind scheduled to pick up and change direction by Tues so we will head back to Rikitea on Mon. afternoon. Gram did get a chance to download(or upload?) some of our pics so check out the Visions Web album on the vofj.blogspot site.(upper right corner of home page). More to come once we are back in town with intenet again. Hear that Maine is getting green and that winter is way over with a nice, early spring this year. NICE...Keep in touch. I continue to covet news of any sort from all of you so far away. Lots of love Jo

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Mmmmmmm.....Baguettes

Rikitea - Gambiers - French Polynesia

It has been a crazy and exhausting 3 days, but at least the nights have been restful in this very calm anchorage (our first since we left the Galapagos and when we leave tomorrow our first two consecutive calm anchorages since the San Blas).

We got here on Easter Sunday and went ashore in the afternoon to have a look. Monday was also a holiday here, but we got started on fixing the gooseneck. While the rents where ashore looking for any info or goodies to be had I got started and removed the vang from the boom and the boom from the mast, holding it up with halyards. We all joined in to remove the sail from the boom, which was complicated by the bent gooseneck that was impinging on the roll. Once on deck we could remove the mandrel from the mast and then take out the remaining bolts. One was a real bear as it was bent and needed to be cut down to free itself up. By 4:00 or 5:00 we were done and had a nice evening.

Tuesday Mom and I went to visit a pearl farm while Bill checked us in with the Gendarmarie and took the ferry to the airport to pick up our new parts. In the afternoon we dry fit the new gooseneck, took it to town to use a drill press to drill out the holes we needed to fit large bolts through, and finally got some internet time. In the evening we went to Soggy Paws for drinks to welcome them here.

Wednesday we got to work fitting the new gooseneck. The holes were all very close to lining up, but not quite perfect, so it was a time consuming process of enlarging holes as need be to get them all to fit. Around 2:00 it was finally attached and we could start replacing the boom, mandrel, gooseneck, and finally load the sail back into the boom. We discovered a broken batten that we will need to deal with, but all in all, the new gooseneck looks much better and we are once again a sailboat. As an aside, we need to give a huge thanks to Forespar for being an excellent company to work with. They supplied the new gooseneck free of charge after they heard how ours failed without an extreme gibe (without a sail actually flying). They also did it in a real rush and delivered the part to LAX where it was easier for Scott to pickup. I would whole-heartedly suggest them to any boat owner. In the meantime, we purchased 6 drums of fuel together with Soggy Paws and Infini from the ship that had come in and they spent the afternoon transferring that fuel to their boats. We would have to wait till the next morning.

Today we got started at 7:00 transferring fuel, but were done by 11:00 which was nice. We took 120 gallons and are almost full again (maybe room for 20 more gallons in the tanks). Meanwhile, mom went shopping and found some cucumbers, carrots, and a bunch of tinned goods. We still need to find someone with excess pompelmouse (think HUGE grapefruit). In the afternoon I went back with her for more tinned goods, and our first round of Baguettes (they had been out of flour till the ship came in). We had brie sandwiches for lunch which were AWESOME! This is what we came to FP for and it was nice to finally get some nice fresh bread.

Tomorrow we head off to another island within the outer reef that surrounds the Gambiers for a few days. I am uploading photos of Easter island as we speak and will get to Pitcairn as soon as I have a chance. Go see the Picasa web albums (link on the right) and finally see what we have been talking about.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Pitcairn to Gambier Archipeligo

0700 report/11600 GMT
South Pacific Ocean
23 28.2S/134 24.4W
41 nm east of Mangareva Island

What little wind there has been was astern most of the night, and we have been motoring at low RPM and a boat speeed of about 6.2 - 6.5 knots. Even at low RPM burning about 1.5 GPH, we will have used over 60 gallons of diesel to get here, which tranlates into 12 jerry jugs, all transported via dinghy. Overall, we can bunker nearly 200 gallons, and refilling our tanks will take the better part of a day or more - if we can find enough fuel.

Swells are now beginning to size up, and are 8 -10 feet from the SW, and 4 feet from the ENE. They are still developing and not yet consistent however. We will be safely inside the reef surrounding the Gambier Archipeligo by noon today and they will not be much of a nuisance.

Sea conditions precluded fishing most of the way to Pitcairn, but we put lines out yesterday. We hooked a large fish, but it lost the hook and got away. This was probably a good thing as the fish jumped once and was clearly large. The singing of the line also suggested that it was quite strong too, and would have been a handfull to land and bring on board. It was too far to see whether it was a bill fish or not...all I know is that it was large, silver, and could high jump with the best of them. I put out the lines again with sun up this morning, as we would like to catch a few more meals before we go inside the reef for a few weeks.

We have either been out at sea in bouncy conditions, or anchored in exposed "harbors" for much of the last 6 weeks or so. We all look forward to Mangareva, with it's sheltered lagoon and quiet harbor. A sense of stillness and calm will feel very good.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Pitcairn Island to Gambiers

0800 report/1600 GMT
South Pacific oOcean
24 15.1S/131 47.4W
104 nm WNW of Pitcairn Island
Winds 8 - 12 Kn ENE, Seas 4' south swell

Calm and easy night, although swells are first beginning to make themselves apparent right now. There has been light rain on and off, but overall this is lazy man's sailing as there is not enough wind to even hoist a sail. So with that in mind...

here is a bit about Pitcairn and Pitcairners. The islands of Polynesia are emerged (underwater) volcanic islands, and Pitcairn, and the Marquesas, are young ones which have not yet developed fringing reefs. As islands mature, they slowly drift and subside. The Galapagos (and Marquesas) are middle aged islands and eventually over millenia an atoll will be formed. First the central crater fills and forms a high island lagoon surrounded by a fringing reef, and finally, an atoll will be created as the island sinks further and only the fringing reef prutrudes above sea level.

Pitcairn and other high islands have fertile volcanic soil, although finding a flattish plot is not easy. The islanders are, out of necessity, independant and most have their own gardens, raise goats, some chickens, and are avid fisher people. The local "economy" is based very much on this self suffuciency and many local rules/laws are involved with ownership or allowance to farm or pick "bounty" (ha ha) from differnt areas on island. There is a fair amount of bartering and cash is used some as well, but more I suspect for off island dealings. Quite a few islanders have government positions, but still, the island is relatively poor - at least by a dollar measure. The Pitcairners however are self sufficient and lack for little, as far as they are concerned. They have the lifestyle they enjoy.

This of course, comes with the "relative price" of isolation, and may not be something easily understood by what we in Maine might call "come from aways". The population is aging and their is a paucity of young adult Pitcairners moving back to the island once schooling has been completed and the outside world has been explored. The island remains a British dependancy, with NZ administration. I believe that 45 Pitcairners currently live on island, and there are 10 additional administrative people there, including pastor, doctor, constable, (social worker??), and others such as an on site ambassador! I understand that the island is seen to be of significant strategic import to the UK, as it is their only remaining territorial presence in the S Pacific. They value it immensely and provide much financial support for that reason. For instance, the gov't provides an on island physician; I spent some time with Dr. Bruce, a very talented family/general (in the older sense) practioner from the Bushland in Australia. He took time to show us around and we had lunch with Bruce and his lovely wife Jillian, at their home. In very short order we seemed to have met many people and as the island is so small, all the "yachties" seem to meet and mix with many Pitcairners during their stay. It is between growing seasons right now, but after the call went out for fruits and veggies, gifts of fruits and a home baked loaf of bread were delivered to us by Brenda and Mike, and Bruce and his wife gave us herbs and fruits as well as a Pizza (that Jo was craving). Thank you to all on the island.

The Pitcairners and their islands remind of very intensified Maine out islands, struggling to retain their year round population and identity in a changing world. Brenda in many ways remainds me of Jenny, the lighthouse keepers daughter of Nash Island off South Addison. Outdoor capable and comfortable, they are the kind that you can take from the island, but could not take the island from the girl. Six years ago the island was rocked by multiple arrests (I do not know details or outcomes) and revelations of inappropriate adult/child interactions. Apparently they are first now getting back on their feet again and I hope that these issues are behind them. I wish them well.

190 nm to go.

back on watch

24 24.6South , 131 08.8 West / on a rhumbline between Pitcairn Island and the Gambiers

It's 1:00 am and I am back on watch...We left Pitcairn Island today at 4pm headed for the Gambiers and what will be our first real introduction to French Polynesia...new language, different money, and very different topography...Decided to leave at end of the day today as the passage was likely to be calmer than the anchorage anyway and leaving these 16-18 hrs earlier will give us less time on the water as the end of the weekend approaches and t he seas pick up again. Right now we are motoring as there is no wind and it is pretty calm. Probably will have these conditions until midnite Sat. and then we will only have 8-10 hrs to go. We are fine with the motoring concept as until we get the new parts we can't use our mainsail and our big reacher (light wind) sail needs repair as well. We have lucked out on the parts we need and a friend who was in Calif and returning to his boat in Tahiti is able to get them there and then put them on a plane to Gambiers for us...what a stroke of luck and we are very thankful to both the company who rushed to replace the part and to Scott who is delivering it this far for us...Have sure seen what a differnce in customer service can make between these guys at Leisure Furl and the Prop manufacturer who really screwed us over on their share of responsibility for the defective propeller we dealt with in the Galapagos.

So, impressions of Pitcairn...It was a fabulous stop and we were lucky that it was calm enough to give us 2 days and 2 nights there (a rare occurence apparently) The island itself was abolutely stunning and very dramatic( who would have thunk). But the more remarkable thing was the graciousness and generosity of the people who live there. There are only about 50 inhabitants...most of them being descendants of the Bounty mutineers. Over 1/2 of them seemed to have the last name of Chrisitian so I assume almost every one is related. There are only 8 people between the age of 20 and 40 so it is a pretty weird lifestyle I am sure . They are a British protectorate and fully subsidized by the English government. The only way for them to get in and out is on a supply boat that comes from either New Zealand or Tahiti, does that run only every 3 months and is prohibitively expensive...like 8000-20,000.roundtrip depending on if you take the boat the whole way or fly fo Tahiti and to Gambiers and then take the boat only from there(that being the more expensive way). So needless to say these folks are really out here, completely self sufficient and very very isolated. At this point at least they have satellite TV and internet and I am sure this has changed their lives. What struck us tho' was how proud of their island they are and how very generous they all were. We were given 100 bananas and about 50 passion fruit, a pizza, loaf of bread, some fresh herbs and 3 eggplant as we were leaving...they are very poor and yet gave us so much food it was kind of amazing!!! Yesterday we did some hiking and saw most of the sights, a smal museum included.. Today Bill and I were taken on an ATV tour to the further away places by the Doc who runs their clinic( he is there for a year/from Australia). His wife made us lunch and Bill saw one of his patients in the clinic. Gram got to go with some other people and dive one of the wrecks there. Many of the islanders are Seventh Day Adventists( and that means they are vegetarians...a fact I was not aware of) and the church plays a very important part of island life.

The island is high volcanic and verdant greenery abounds. The coolest thing I thought was to see the palm tress right next to these grand Norfolk Pines. The soil is very red where there is soil and there are steep cliffs of rock elsewhere. The water is unbelievably clear...we could see sand ripples under the boat which was 64 ft under!!!We had perfect weather tho it was very warm and intense sun got the best of us today. But the drama of the landscape was unsurpassed (so far that is ) and we are really glad we were able to stop there. Oh yeah..they spoke English which in itself was so relaxing and a treat for us to be able to so easily communicate with our hosts!!! Will quit now and wake Gram up to take over watch. Goodnight all ..(.Goodnight moon to Emma...one of my favorite kids books and my very favorite girl!!!)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Scuba Dive on the Bounty...kind-of

South 0Pacific Ocean - 25 miles NE of Pitcairn Island - 24 48.5S 130 28.7W

Today while mom and Bill went to town to get some veggies, see a patient, and tour the island I went on a dive. First stop was a wrech just around the corner from Bounty Bay, about 200m west of the small point at the western edge of the harbour. The wrech is apparently 130ish years old and I think they said it was a 3 masted steel sailing vessel, though I only saw the remains of one spar. The ship apparently was in the business of transporting anchors as there are at least 4 or 5 identifiable at the bow. The ship was clearly had riveted frames, though I was unable to see how the plating was secured due to too much growth, but I would assume that was hot riveted as well based on the age. A decent wreck, though not a ton of structure left with everything laid flat on the bottom. The wreck lays in water from 20' to 40' deep, so the surge was pretty significant this close to shore, making viewing under the panels a bit difficult. Still, there was a TON of fish living emong
st the wreckage, some of them quite colorful. I only used 1000psi for a 25 min dive, but it was reasonably enjoyable and nice to spend some time in the water. After that we headed to the site of the bounty, at least where they said it was. This was only about 10 feet of water and quite a lot of surge so we didn't stay long, plus there wasn't really anything to see. There were some 4x4's or something that looked like that that could have been the bounty.....I suppose. Anyway...I got back to the boat, broke down my gear, rinsed it, hauled anchor and we are now peacefully on our way to French Polynesia. Should be about 42-45 hours passage, mostling motoring, which is fine as we are basically a motorboat right now without a main or reacher available. wind is about 10 knots just aft of the beam, which translates to about 5 knots on the beam apparent. Just enough to fill the jib (mostly) and give us an extra half to quarter of a knot push and steady the boat out a bit. Qu
ite pleasant and relaxing really. It will most likely be calmer out here tonight than it would have been at anchor in Bounty Bay.

Underway 1600 and Headed for Rikitea, Mangareva Island in Gambier Group

1730 local/0130 GMT
South Pacific Ocean
25 00.1S/130 15.2W
Winds ENE 9 kn, Swells 3-4 ft SSE

We hated to leave and look forward to soon reporting to you about our stay at Pitcairn Island, but this is a proper time to depart as large southern ocean swells will arrive here in 36 hours. By heading out at this time, we will be further west, and the swells will have a lesser and shorter lived impact upon us. Winds are light however, and we will do much motoring on this leg.

We met very generous and giving people on Pitcairn, hiked, explored and Gram even went diving on the shipwreck Cornwallis and snorkled the Bounty remains as well. Jo and I spent the mid-day today touring with the resident physician. We also toured the medical clinic where I did a consult.

This should be a 46 hour run to Mangareva, and we expect to arrive Rikitea (the populated town on Mangareva Island) Sunday afterrnoon. Our friend (and how can we ever thank him) Scott Stolnitz will be underway tomorrow, carrying our new gooseneck and parts par avion to Papeete, Tahiti...and our gooseneck will arrive in Magareva Tuesday! Fantastic.

All is well with calm seas. We will have internet (and hopefully WIFI) in Rikitea and we look forward to posting pictures.