Saturday, May 29, 2010

Escape from the Fetch

16* 39.3' South
143* 23.6' West
East End of Makemo Atoll, Tuamotus, French Polynesia
May 29, 2010

A low pressure system to the southeast of our position in Makemo created some wind that, over its 10 miles or so from the opposite edge of the barrier reef that comprises the atoll, got some pretty good wave chop built up. We made the decision to seek shelter at the eastern edge of the atoll where our anchoring gear would not be in as much peril from the wind, waves and coral heads.
We spent the afternoon traversing the nine miles or so very slowly so that we could easily see the coral heads with the catamaran, Stray Kitty and Totem following behind us. We made our way to the other end of the atoll without mishap.

Once we arrived, we were greeted by beautiful turquoise blue flat water, white sand beaches and an impending squall approaching from the ocean side of the atoll. We were again lulled to sleep with the gentle lapping of our lake in the middle of the ocean.

 IMG_2197 IMG_2243 IMG_2268
This particular atoll does not have continuous motus or islets all the way around it. Most of the "land" on this atoll lies on the north side of the atoll. The remainder is formed by the ancient barrier reef that used to ring the volcanic island that once inhabited this location on the map. The reef is what keeps the water so relatively calm, no ocean swell. We are currently anchored where the more or less continuous motus give way to open stretches of reef only.
Our first morning here, a group walked out to end of the motu shelling as we went. The hermit crabs get the best shells which is a little frustrating. However, a local had taught one of our group that if you whistle the crab will poke out of his shell making it possible to evict him. After one successful eviction, I got way too much grief from Bryce and Austin, so my policy on shelling is only uninhabited shells.

Yesterday, after schoolwork was done we packed a lunch and headed into the beach for an afternoon on the beach. The made a hermit crab sanctuary and there were quite a few games of cards. The dads took the spear guns and went in search of dinner. They got a total of five fish and we decided on a potluck aboard Stray Kitty after using Capaz's swim step as a fish cleaning station.


DSC_0132  DSC_0099 DSC_0103


Today we went in search of some good coral heads for snorkeling. Unfortunately, the wind was up a bit which made the windward side of the each coral head we tried a little too rough. The dinghy ride upwind was not very much fun for the wet snorkelers. It is really beautiful here, but we will probably move back to Makemo tomorrow and then, continue on to Fakarava.


EastMak 009 EastMak 065 EastMak 019

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lake Amid the Ocean

16* 37.6' South
143* 34.7' West
Makemo Atoll, Tuamotus, French Polynesia
May 24, 2010


Again, apologies for not writing until today. When we arrive somewhere, blog entries are just not the top of the priority list. At least I've gotten some great material over the last 18 hours.
Our crossing from Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas was fantastic. We were able to sail for a good part of it, but did finally run out of wind and had to do some motoring. It important to time your arrival at an atoll as many of them you can only transit the pass at slack tide. We were aiming for about 1:00 pm and Brad and Jamie navigated us here at just about the right time. Our first big reef was well marked and since the sun was at our backs, we were able to get a good look at it.
The water here is incredibly clear. We are anchored off the town in about 45-50 feet of water and you can definitely see all the way to the bottom. There is another reef behind us and we checked it out yesterday as soon as we could. The coral is amazing - the dyed stuff that is sold as curios is really that color in the wild. We saw many different kinds of fish that we haven't seen before. I haven't laid eyes on a shark yet, but that is OK with me. They boys (all of them - big and small) were very excited about a ginormous moray eel that they spotted. It inspired Bryce's comic strip for this month's Capaz Chronicle.

WPC 021WPC 040WPC 027
Today we took the bikes into town and did a little exploring. There are nice, flat, well-maintained, cement roads here! Viva la French! Austin rode his scooter. It was a holiday here which seems to be the case every time we arrive somewhere. The bakery was only open for a couple of hours this morning and we just missed them. Fresh baguettes tomorrow - we are so addicted! There was a store open, so we picked up a few things and then, had our 9:45 am ice cream break! We rode a couple of miles out of town checking out the new school, the windmill farm and an ocean side beach. The wind turbines were actually our "land ho!" for this atoll. Quite a few of the homes especially as you get away from town have solar arrays. We are wondering if the French government has subsidies for them.

IMG_2174 Makemo1
I ended up riding toward the west end of the atoll while the boys headed back to town and the boat. The road mostly runs along the ocean side of the atoll, but in most places it is only about 100-200 yards to the lagoon edge. I didn't make it to the end of the road, but I think there must be another village because there were a few cars coming and going to somewhere. I also watched some boys spearfishing the outer reef with big pieces of re-bar. There are these little fingers of water coming in from the lagoon side that almost reach across to the ocean, maybe they do in certain weather, because many have little bridges across them. Many of these fingers have a house on them with a little dock or boathouse. I was surprised to see a 45ish foot powerboat moored in one of them.
None of us are quite able to wrap our brains around the lagoon part of this place. It is like a huge lake in the middle of the ocean. FLAT calm today, so calm I         made quiche for dinner (started it in the oven, put it in the solar oven and got the heck off the hot boat for another amazing snorkel of the reef right next the pass). If you look south, every once in awhile you can see waves break on the far reef (just reef to the south, no motus). The light on the water is pretty cool. At certain times of the day you can see in the water much better than others. The lagoon was so still this afternoon that it was hard to make out the horizon. The big squall clouds were reflected in the mirror of the lagoon making for a beautiful backdrop.
High ground, there really is none! That's why the wind turbines were the first thing we saw. I am surprised at how much growth there is. I was expecting one line of palms trees and broken coral! There are quite a few things that grow here - none of which you can eat except coconuts, but it still makes for a much greener place than I was envisioning.
I could keep going but I  don’t think that I could do this place justice. Besides that the genset just got turned off and I need battery power to send this out in the morning!

Beckel – the pearl carver


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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Squall Watch

   15* 46.5' South
143* 11.0' West
May 23, 2010


My watch last night was fascinating! As it got dark, we ran into three big squall lines. The first one, Brad helped me batten down the hatches and pull up all the cushions in the cockpit. He also went over how to set a bearing on our radar before he headed for bed.

Squall on the radar

WPC 011

The first big squall passed almost completely in front of us. Right before my eyes (on the radar screen) that part of the squall that was headed our way, broke up and disappeared from radar. (I called Jamie on the VHF just to make sure that my analysis was correct and he said they saw a lot of this kind of activity in the ITCZ - our time in the ITCZ was short and I was not feeling well enough to be examining the weather in depth!) With the moonlight, the actually clouds were still visible, but I thought we were clear and started putting the cockpit back together, when we got a couple of minutes of rain right along the edge. Luckily, I hadn't gotten very far in my resetting everything. The stars came back out and I opened all the hatches only to spot another squall forming to the east of us. This particular bunch of clouds and rain, looked like it was going to pass behind us which it did. It also weakened as it passed behind, but then broke into two cells once on the other side of us and they each began to grow. Then, a humongous squall began to show up on the radar. It was getting close to watch change so I started getting the cockpit stowed away for Brad after I set the bearing on the radar. This particular bunch of clouds was again heading in front of us, but more and more kept appearing on the edge of the radar. When I went off watch, the main cell along the leading edge had passed in front of us and had started to dissipate, but some of the parts of it that followed were actually gaining intensity. There must have been more activity while I was asleep, because Brad said that he and Bryce had gotten a little wet. The clouds are much higher and thinner as daybreaks. I must say that it is really nice to be able to feel better than I did on the big crossing and take more notice of the phenomena and surroundings out here!

Totem at Sunrise


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Friday, May 21, 2010

Fish Toss

11* 40.4' South
141* 19.6' West
May 21, 2010

Ua Poa Ua Poa

I may have a new calling. I have impressive video in case I decide to interview for a job at the Pike Place Market throwing fish! Jamie could also use the same video to secure employment aas the "catcher". But, let me back up a bit.
We are en route between the Marquesan Island of Nuku Hiva and the Tuamotan atoll of Makemo. Yesterday afternoon,  as we passed to leeward of the last Marquesan island that we will see, Ua Poa, we got a fish on. Actually, two fish on our hand lines. Brad started to pull in one with some difficulty and it tangled in one of the other lines before shaking itself free. He immediately started pulling in the other fish which was a little easier. Who knows how big the first one was (the proverbial: "one that got away") as the "easier" one to pull in was a whomping 47-inch bull mahi-mahi. That is alot of fish and our freezer is pretty stocked. We knew that Totem had successfully done a fish transfer underway on the crossing, so we arranged to pull up to their starboard quarter. With half of Brad's freshly filleted mahi-mahi secured into two big ziplock bags (just to be sure that they got at least one in case that my pitching stats were closer to 50%), I tossed and Jamie made two beautiful catches and the rest is history!

The Fish                                             Here comes CAPAZ                                          Nice Catch!

IMG_2062 DSC_9498 DSC_9502
Besides all that excitement, the wind held for quite a while and we made over 150 miles toward Makemo. The seas have been so far mild. Both boys stood watches last night, Bryce with me and Austin with Brad in the middle of the night. Homework is done and we are looking forward to fresh mahi-mahi tonight!
Though I miss a morning latte, mocha, or frappacino from any of Seattle's fine and numerous coffee establishments, I have to say that a bowl of cold cereal on the bow accompanied by 15 dolphins playing around the boat isn't so bad either.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Au Revoir to the Marquesas

Leaving Taiohae, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia
08* 57.0' South
140* 06.5* West
May 20, 2010


After a couple of delays, we are fueled up and on our way from the Marquesas to the Tuamoto Archipeligo. The chart plotter gave us a straight line distance of 502 miles. We are sailing along in a little wind with relatively calm seas. This is a nice way to start out a passage after a month of basically gunkholing around the Marquesas.
A couple of the boats with whom we have been loosely traveling, Oso Blanco and Mulan are already exploring the atolls of the Tuamotos. We talked to the advance party this morning via the SSB and it sounds like we have fabulous adventures awaiting us there. Totem is currently sailing off our starboard beam and we hope to stay in line of sight so that we can maintain VHF contact with them and make any SSB relays through our radio since there has not been an answer found to their HF radio troubles. Tomorrow, a couple of other boats that we know will be following in our wakes.
It is very exciting to heading off to a new area to explore, but it is also a lil  ttle sad as we realize we are nearing the southwestern reach of our travels. We will just have to concentrate on really enjoying our last couple of months of adventure!!!! We truly enjoyed our time in the Marquesas!

Brad readies the meat lines


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Sunday Best

08* 52.8' South
140* 02.8' West
Controller Bay, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia
May 16, 2010

IMG_1990We, along the Totem family and the whole town of Taipivai, donned our Sunday best for church. The priest came up to us before the service began and found where we were from and then invited us to sit in the second row. The church had stone walls about three high and then a roof that was lined with woven mats. There is about a four foot open area on the side walls between the top of the wall and the overhang of t   he roof. This allows the air to flow through across the building. There were incredible cravings everywhere. pulpit was a really neat mix of Catholic and Marquesan symbolism.
There was alot of singing throughout the service, some of it accompanied by guitar, some a-cappella, some some solo, some the whole congregation. I was able to discreetly record a couple of clips with my camera. During the service, which was all in Marquesan, we recognized the priest introducing us "de Washington" and the song that repeated "hallelujah". There was also another call and response part of the service that at the very least was sung to the tune of "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore". The people were very welcoming and several of the older folks came up to us all after the service to shake our hands.
Brad and I had ventured into town the previous day and had been helped out by the woman who was running the store. We found her and the three kids we had met and befriended. We had brought an extra set of "Uno" cards to teach the kids how to play. One of the older kids already knew how to play a little and had a few English words. We had about seven kids playing. We left the deck of cards with the kids and they immediately started playing another round!



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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bay Aglow

08* 52.8' South
140* 02.8' West
Controller Bay, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia
May 15, 2010

Capaz and Jarana in Controller  Bay IMG_2012

Bryce just alerted us to quite a fascinating experience. We were just cleaning up from dinner and it was probably about two hours after sunset. He came in from the deck exclaiming that the bio-luminescence was "out of control" (remember he is almost 12). We had noticed at dinner time that our anchor line was glowing and we are pretty used to seeing "sparklies" around the boat at night, but this is on a truly different plane.
First, we are anchored in between 15 and 20 feet of water. After turning off all of our boat lights (except the anchor light), we could then see that the entire bay had a light green glow to it. Right off, we could see that any lines in the water (our anchor bridle and the dinghy painter) were completely glowing like they were radio-active (at least in the movies) or had been dipped in glow-in-the-dark paint. As our eyes adjusted, we started to see the brighter flashes and glows as critters moved in the water. This more of a usual occurrence with the bio-luminescence phenomena. Then, we caught sight of two manta rays flapping their wings as the moved across our stern. These guys were probably six feet across at least. As we looked farther away from the boat, we would see very large flashes and then one was more steady and came towards CAPAZ. Again, it crossed the stern and Bryce and I are pretty sure that it was a large shark due to the way it was moving through the water and we both clearly saw its glowing dorsal fin.
We sat on bow for quite a while watching the little fish chase each other or get chased by bigger fish and hoping for the mantas to do another fly by. We saw several more big glows that were some distance away. It was pretty exciting and a little eerie to see just how much activity there is at any one time around our boat!

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Swimming Hole

08* 56.6' South
140* 09.8' West
Daniel's Bay, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia
May 12, 2010


After a great sail the rest of the way around the island, we are almost back to where we made landfall on Nuku Hiva. It took us so many tries to anchor here that our friends on Delos felt sorry for us and brought us a pitcher of gin and tonics. They seemed to do the trick as we are now securely anchored here.

IMG_1926 IMG_1931 Hike7

This morning we rallied the troops for a famed hike to the waterfall. A good portion of the hike was on an ancient road that is made of stacked stones. At first we were walking through a settlement of several homes with tons of fruit growing in all of the yards. We wound our way up the river crossing and re-crossing it and its tributaries mostly on rocks, but once even on a log. The last quarter mile was into a canyon that was about 50 feet wide with walls that went straight up what seemed like a thousand feet. At the end of the canyon, we were rewarded with completely clear pool of refreshingly cool water. The pool disappeared behind a couple of huge boulders where there was a narrow grotto into which the waterfall fell. There wasn't much water flowing over the falls, so we swam in and could look up the chimney-like chute to the top. Many people had told us how amazing this hike was, but we really were not prepared for how spectacular it was. After a quick snack at the pool, we hiked back to the dinghy and enjoyed our afternoon in Daniel's Bay.

Hike3 IMG_1954 Hike4


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Monday, May 10, 2010

Anaho Bay . . . . . Still

08* 49.2' South
140* 03.8 West
Anaho Bay, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia
May 10, 2010

We are still here. It is a hard place to leave, though provisioning is challenging and will force us to do just that tomorrow. After the massive amount of planning that went into our Puddle Jump Crossing, we were more than willing to do the bare minimum of planning to get up here to Ahaho Bay for our rendez-vous with Kelly and then just go with the flow. Alas, we have finally gotten to the spot (in time and location) where we needed to do a little more planning to figure out what our time here in French Polynesia will encompass before we make our jump north to Hawaii in mid-July.
The boats that we have met here in Anaho Bay have been the icing on the cake in a place that had offered us something new everyday. There were the super-friendly, French fluent Swiss couple with their 9-year-old grandson and the family from Australia with three kids who were always willing to play on the beach with us. There were also the family on the catamaran who met our business partner on their leg through the Caribbean last year and the Californian/French/Tahitian family with two boys on a boat that spent most of its life in Anacortes, Washington. Beyond that were four boats that we had already knew from Mexico and before.
The men folk have been providing for the anchorage in the fish way. On an excursion out to the point, they caught a skip jack tuna and a mahi-mahi which we transformed into a huge sushi feast! That led to a grand plan of taking the Norhavn 64 on a more far reaching fishing expedition which ended up circumnavigating the island and returning with a 24 pound yellow fin tuna which was barbequed at the beach as part of a giant potluck. The wildlife has not just been providing us with sustenance, but also plenty of entertainment: The snorkeling has been like jumping into an aquarium on an almost daily basis and swimming with manta rays is something that I am sure the kids will never forget. The beaches are pretty nice and there are some hikes for those who like to explore. We have also experienced a pig roast in the nearby town and then here in the bay we partook of the goat in coconut milk and excellent poisson cru (the Polynesian form of cerviche) at the little pension's restaurant!
I am sure that you can see why we have had trouble making plans to leave here, but we have. The next post should actually be from somewhere other than Anaho!

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Full Day

09* 49.2' South
140* 03.8' West
Anaho Bay, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia
May 5, 2010

The full day actually started the previous evening when we decided to have sundowners on CAPAZ. A sundowner refers to whatever drink you are holding when the sun goes down. Anyway, we invited the boats that we here: Oso Blanco, Totem, and Riga 2. Then, another boat that we had met in HIva Oa showed up so we invited them too.
That was a total 10 kids and 12 adults!
With that many people on board, plans were bound to be hatched. We wanted to get the kids to the beach that Tim and I had checked out on our first afternoon here. There was also a push to do an early morning snorkel session. Finally, before they headed into town earlier in the day, I had asked Annie and Behan to check out the restaurant for dinner possibilities and they came back with reservations for us for a pig roast! We had decided to take one of the boats to the other harbor and ferry people into the wharf.
OK, so the day went like this:
The sun wakes everyone up by 6:30 or 7:00, so the snorkeling was organized for just before 8:00. Brad, Kelly and Tim went and came back about an hour later so excited about swimming with manta rays. The boys had finished their schoolwork and wanted to go to the beach, so we had breakfast and packed up to head over. When we arrived at the beach, it was an easy landing, but it got progressively harder as the afternoon wore on. Mulan arrived and took a pass on going to the beach, but agreed to join us all for dinner (including the other two boats in the anchorage: Nika and Riga 2). After a couple of hours on the beach, it was time to get back to the boat to get cleaned up before meeting everyone on Oso Blanco which we would use to transport everyone to the next harbor where the restaurant was located. Once we were all (27 of us) assembled aboard Oso Blanco, the next thing to happen was to move everyone from the big boat at anchor to the quai in a dinghy where they could disembark to land. The men had it all planned out and it worked without a hitch, but our ferrying provided the locals with some Tuesday night entertainment. Everything had gone so well up to this point that we were a little early so we just did some walking around town. Since, we had added extra people to our group, the restaurant owners just added fresh fish to our feast. I don't know what kind it was, but it was soooo good. The operation of the pig coming out of the pit was a spectacle to behold! As well as the fish; the shrimp, the tapioca (with butter and garlic), several versions of breadfruit were all excellent. True test: the kids ate everything! The reverse process of getting everyone back to the Oso Blanco was a little more challenging in the dark with a higher tide, but all still went well.
We arrived back at Capaz wondering what Delos or Secret Agent Man would have thought if either of them had entered the anchorage only to find five sailboats abandoned with their dinghies tied to the backs. It might have been a little eerie!

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