_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Marcy home Walvis Bay Angling Club club AFASyn Ushuaia Marcy and crew

Thursday, April 26, 2007

This is it! Tahuata 4/26/07 (Ginger)

We had been at Nuku Hiva long enough and it was time to haul the anchor and start heading south. We were not particularly looking forward to this passage as it was up wind and we had experienced a taste of our expected weather on our short excursion on Nuku Hiva. It could have been so nasty that we might have decided to forego the rest of the Marquesas and head west for the Tuamotus. That said we both want to see Fatu Hiva and were willing to be a little uncomfortable to get there. We left Nuku
Hiva at noon on Monday 4/23 for the 80 mile up wind trip to Tahuata. Leaving at noon allowed us to arrive any time Tuesday in daylight. Some of the boats who left Zihua with us were there and we were looking forward to seeing them for the first time since Mexico. All of a sudden we were back to the 4 hour watch schedule. We were a little punchy and now you all get to benefit from our Nuku Hiva haiku:

Sweat running down neck
Annoying, feels like a fly
Must go swimming now

Ahh, clear cool water!
Eeek, What's swimming below?
Large blue eyed eel - weird

Hungry, must eat now
Pamplemousse, baguette, cold beer
nap, cool breeze, life's good

There were more, but we won't torture you with the rest right now..
We arrived at Tahuata at 5AM. The boat did well and we made great time we were lucky the trade winds are more east than south east right now. We took quite a few waves over the bow but we were making 5.5-6 knots and it was fairly comfortable. No matter how hard we try to plan we still ended up arriving before sun rise. We'll have to time it better for the Tuamotus as we won't risk entering a coral atoll in the dark. We sat in the cockpit eating scrambled eggs and watched the sun come up. A quick
glance over the side before going below to take a nap and we were shocked to see the bottom 30 feet below! The water is the clearest we've seen yet. We napped for a couple of hours and spent the rest of the day snorkeling and catching up with "Volare", "Talerra" and "Magnum". There is also a single handed sailor from Japan here and another boat we knew only from the radio, "Surprise". It was a very social day. The next day was spent snorkeling again and doing some boat projects. We have 90'
of anchor chain out and we can see it from the bow. The bottom is white sand where we're anchored but off to the sides there are coral outcroppings with (of course) a healthy communities of tropical fish, sea urchins and we even saw a yellow spotted moray eel. This is the first clear, see the bottom water we've ever anchored in and we're feeling like we finally made it. It sounds as if this is an unusual bay for the Marquesas so we won't expect to see this clear water again until the Tuamotus
but it was a great taste of swimming to come. "Bold Spirit" is just around the corner at Atuona, Hiva Oa, so we're hauling the anchor today to go visit with them, see the Gauguin and Jacques Brel museums and stock up on more baguettes. It's a very shallow and crowded bay so we're not planning to stay very long. We've already heard some hair raising stories about large waves that came in there a couple of weeks ago from the cyclone south of here. Boats were damaged and some people abandoned their
stern anchors to run for safety after being swept. We'll keep a weather eye while we're there!


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Nuku Hiva - Peter

Our first impressions of Taiohae Bay were of the vivid green hills surrounding the anchorage. Beautiful clouds move past, and rain showers are common.

Taioa Bay sunset

The sounds of doves and the aroma of tropical flowers fill the air.

Nuku Hiva flower

Hibiscus maybe...

The anchorage was spacious. More boats were French than not, but we spotted a couple of fellow American boats. We rigged Marcy with the customary awning, appropriate flags, and after laundry added drying clothes to complete the “cruiser” look.

Marcy at Taiohae

Taiohae harbor view

Taiohae harbor view 1

We went ashore and absorbed the ambiance: friendly people conversing in French and Marquesan, Polynesian music on people’s radios, 4wheel drive vehicles driving slowly down narrow streets, dogs, horses, pigs, and chickens everywhere. We are in the biggest town in the Marquesas, and there is only one stop sign here.

THE stop sign in town Taiohae

Downtown Taiohae

Taiohae is exactly like the descriptions that Peter’s mother gives of Hawaii in the ‘30’s – laid back, warm and friendly. Complete with the corrugated tin roofs and streams crossing roads.

main highway across Nuku Hiva

The check-in process was painless - we visited Polynesian Yacht Services and visited the gendarmes, and voila! We were legally in the country. Anne at PYS in her charming French accented English gave us good local shopping information, told us “don’t drink the water,” and suggested a visit to an archeological site in the hills.

This feels tropical! Nuku Hiva

All around there is evidence of the Marquesan existence before western contact – statues, stone platforms, and the distinctive patterns of woodcarving and tattoos. The stylized big eyed statues are everywhere – bank lobbies, front lawns, and street corners.

Taiohae statues

We were intrigued and hiked up the valley to visit Koueva, an ancient site that has rebuilt structures on the platforms.

Peter at Koueva

Ginger at Koueva

We heard of another ancient site in a bay to the north, so Marcy moved to Daniel’s Bay, notorious because the TV show “Survivor Marquesa” was filmed here. We had to laugh at the thought of having a tough time finding food. We dropped a lure over the side and pulled in fish after delicious little fish. It took no more than a minute or two before another fish was hooked.

Blonde Ginger

The hike into the hills reminded us of our travels in the Cascade Mountains in some ways. The air was rich with oxygen, and we forded rushing streams and scrambled across rock fields. Pig wallows and ominous grunting from the undergrowth, as well as the strange variety of plants and birds reminded us where we were. The site was amazing, with walls, platforms, and stone paths next to a beautiful mountain stream. The area was lit by dappled sunlight filtering through the trees. There were many fruit trees and coconuts. It must have been a wonderful place to live.

Peter crossing stream at Hakaui

Further up the trail is a pool at the foot of a tall waterfall. We eagerly stripped off our clothes and jumped in to cool off. Enormous blue-eyed eels came out of the depths to regard us curiously. Crawfish nibbled at our feet.

Waterfall pool Hakaui

Waterfall eel Hakaui

As we returned to the canoe and paddle out to Marcy, we felt lucky to have visited the ancient Marquesan valley of Hakaui.

back to Red Dogfish Hakaui

Daniel's Beach

Back onboard, we pulled out the charts to plan the next leg. We need to work our way south in the Marquesas, then a several day passage to the Tuamotu Islands.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

French Polynesia! Apr 14, 2007 Taiohae, Nuku Hiva (Peter and Ginger)

Since we arrived at Nuku Hiva we've checked in to the country, gotten our visas extended so we can stay 90 days, spoken a lot of french and met some cruisers in the anchorage. It would be wrong of us not to mention that we have gotten baguettes from the boulangerie and a number of pastries too. It's very humid here so everything wilts a little more than in France - myself included. We are struggling to adjust from the "4 on 4 off" watch schedule of our life at sea, to being awake in the day and
asleep at night. We are waking up with a start several times a night, thinking that the boat needs attention, and we seem to want to sleep much of the day. We guess the watch schedule agreed with us.

We are currently in the biggest town in the Marquesa's. We've never been to a town this small let alone the main business center for a large group of islands. There are reportedly 1500 residents here in Taohae and they all to a person attended the soccer tournament yesterday. If we'd known how long it was going to last we would have gotten in the dinghy and found the field. We could hear cheering all afternoon and it sounded as if a good time was had by all. The "Tahiti Nui" interisland ferry
took a couple of teams home late in the afternoon.

We have found internet access here and are working on updating photos and a photo posting about the passage. We were able to upload only 5 photos in an hour before we had low battery problems. As the power is 220v here we can only use our computer as long as the battery holds out. We'll go armed with a memory stick tomorrow so we can use one of their computers.

This morning we hiked up the valley to an archeological site, passing neighborhoods on the way. We were both struck that the scenery was similar to parts of Hawaii. We were reminded of a hike we took on Kauai. There are goats, pigs, horses, dogs, chickens, and fruit trees in people's yards. As the terrain became steeper, the vegetation thicker, and the houses sparse, we came to an ancient stone road disappearing in the jungle. We followed it and came to a ceremonial site that has been restored, with
stone platforms and thatched roofs and walls surrounding a small square. There were carved stone figures half hidden in the undergrowth. It was interesting to imagine life in the old days, and that Herman Melville might have walked down this very road.

We've washed our clothes and hung them out to dry. Marcy looks like a real cruising boat now! We've provisioned with fresh fruit and baguettes, and are looking forward to sailing to the next bay.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Pacific crossing (Peter)

Our Pacific crossing adventure began with a bus ride with our “Puddle Jump” friends to the airport to clear out of Mexico.

westbound immigration visit at airport

Then it was off to sea!

We were lucky with wind and sailed right out to the NE Trades, and had a quick and bumpy two week ride west.

surfing with staysl

Most of this segment of the passage was spent under reefed (usually double reefed) main and jib on a broad reach. We had more wind than we could use one night, and ran under storm stays’l alone. It was exhilarating sailing, but wet and tiring.

cooking in a seaway

Cooking was difficult.

We were relieved to reach the first squalls of the doldrums, and turn south into dark, ominous looking cloud cover. We were again lucky with wind, and sailed right on south. We encountered several squalls of about 30 kts, and shifty winds, but nothing severe. We knew we were out of the zone when the skies cleared and a nice steady SE breeze sprang up.

Next goal: the equator and party time!

The equator party

pineapple rum punch

After the appropriate salute to Neptune, we changed from polliwogs to shellbacks. Ginger was just as pretty after her transformation.

radio time

As communications officer onboard Marcy, Ginger took her duties seriously. She handled the daily net, reporting position and weather info clearly and accurately. After relaying for weaker stations, she became a favorite of the net control operators. It was exciting and comforting to hear the other boats on passage, as well as the land stations concerned with our welfare.

bailing the bilge

The muffler hole

wind vane repair day

The strain of weeks at sea was beginning to show. A muffler repair, line chafe, rudderpost bearings, and a mysterious leak were all demanding attention at once. Our alternator failed, limiting radio time and requiring conservation measures for us.

The conditions were benign: sun, easy light breeze, small waves. Time to start fishing!

That's a big fish!

OK, time to stop fishing. Time for sushi, sashimi, baked wahoo, sauteed fish roe, steamed wahoo.

Ginger and spinnaker at sunset

Marcy now encountered two days of calm, barely making steerage way. A cyclonic disturbance south of us had sucked all the wind out of the area. We had to use the autopilot, unfortunately for power conservation, because there wasn’t enough wind for the wind vane. We watched our daily mileage dwindle from 180’s to 120’s, and there was a current that accounted for a lot of that. We found that the sail of choice in these conditions was spinnaker alone, as the main and jib wouldn’t fill, slamming and slatting in the swell incessantly. Here you can see the chute struggling to stay filled, the boat has rolled the wind out of the sail and will roll back in a second. The chute will fill with a bang and the cycle will start all over again.

waves and spinnaker

Thankfully the SE trades restarted with gusto, and we flew on to our destination.

Life on watch

hot days on watch

Land appeared, in the afternoon, and after an easy approach and radar-guided entry to Taiohae Bay, we dropped the hook at midnight! It seems that after most of our longer passages, we arrive in the dark.

Land ho! Ua Huka

ready the anchor 1

Ginger uncovers the windlass and readies the ground tackle.

We awoke the next day to the sound of doves, the heady smell of frangipani, and the sight of the glorious green of the Marquesas. Our passage had been a quick 19 days and 19 hours to cover 2963 nautical miles, and with only 9 hours on the motor.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Anchored! 4/11/07, 12:30AM local

We're anchored safely in Taiohea Bay, Nuku Hiva after a 2963 nautical mile and 19 day, 19 hr passage. We're cleaning up the boat, putting away sails and we'll send an update later.


Friday, April 06, 2007

THE SOUTH PACIFIC, 4/5/07 4:40 AM 01 44S, 131 17W (Ginger)

Thursday was a big day for us. Peter went up the mast at first light - or at least as soon as I'd had a couple hours of sleep. He attached a new block at the head of the mast for the spinnaker halyard and ran the halyard up the outside of the mast. We'll re-run a halyard through the mast at anchor somewhere. We had the spinnaker set and breakfast under way as we crossed the equator at about 9:00AM local time. We changed the clocks at 130 west so we're now an hour ahead of current Seattle time.
After a shot of rum punch all around - including one for Neptune, we enjoyed breakfast and then set about the business of the day. Watches, off watches and small projects. When they talk about equatorial heat they mean it. It was a sweltering 92 degrees with very high humidity and it was a relief to have some decent wind to sit in the shade of the umbrella and cool off with a great spinnaker run all day. Peter checked into the Pacific Maritime net in the afternoon and got lots of advice from
Roger on fishing. We'd been dragging a line for the last couple of days with no takers. Roger said to drag a spoon so Peter set the rod with a spoon in addition to the hand line we'd been using. I think the spoon was the teaser and the squid was the tasty morsel that caught the attention of the wahoo. We were sitting in the cockpit about 5P when a wahoo hit our line and the rest of the evening was devoted to this fish. Neptune must like pineapple rum more than Peter does! It was a big fish
and made me wish we were headed in to anchor tomorrow as we'll have trouble eating all of it. There was another wahoo swimming with it until we pulled it in. Almost made me want to let it go, though by the time we got it aboard that wasn't an option for the fish. Anyway, fish aboard, crew exhausted we slopped around in some big waves and light wind while I checked us in to the Seafarer's net. Peter had to turn the autopilot off to keep radio interference down so he hand steered for the hour that
the net was on. After the net we fired up the engine as the motion sitting here with no wind was fairly violent. Neptune giveth (the wahoo) and the sailboat gods taketh away, an hour and a half of motoring and the alternator light came on. It's dead and the spare we have on board needs a special bracket. We're changing course for Nuku Hiva (we were going to hang out at Fatu Hiva for a week before checking in) and we'll be able to get a new one or a repair there. We have about 650 miles to go
so that should take less than a week. The forecast is for light to no wind all weekend so it may be a very slow trip. We will try to update our position via email but there will be no blog updates and no radio check in until we make landfall and get our alternator working again. Life just got a lot more basic aboard Marcy! We're going to save our power for emergency radio use and the refrigerator. We still have one tank of water so luckily we won't need to make any water this week. We shut
the engine down and have been making about 6 kts in light wind with large swell the rest of the night. The moon is out and we can see different stars in this hemisphere. We'll be sitting out here enjoying all that fantastic fish, and we'll check in next week!


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Almost to the South Pacific 3:45AM 4/5/07 00 34N, 130 30 W (Ginger)

We had a fantastic spinnaker run yesterday. We set the chute at 9AM and floated at 7 knots most of the day. It all came to a crashing halt as the halyard chafed through at 4:30PM and the sail splashed into the ocean. Fortunately we didn't run it over. It was an "all hands on deck" moment. We hauled it back up on deck and besides being a little bit saltier than everything else on the boat it's fine. We've had trouble with that halyard since day one and this was the latest attempt to run the halyard
so it wouldn't bind at the mast head. Obviously it didn't work well. We only lost about a foot of halyard so if it's calm enough in a few hours I'll haul Peter up the mast to put up another block and run the halyard up the outside of the mast for the rest of this passage. In general things are great aboard. The seas have been fairly calm since the ITCZ and the wind has been pleasant. We have had inconsistent wind at night the last 2 nights and are currently motor sailing (I know an oxymoron
- but really we are) motoring at idle to keep the sails full as the larger swell waves roll the boat. Without the motor we were sailing at 5.5 knots until the waves would roll through completely emptying the sails and slamming the boom across the boat. That's too hard on the rig. As a bonus it's a little chilly tonight for sitting in the cockpit in my parau and t-shirt so the engine exhaust fan is a great heater. We enjoyed a beautifully sunny day yesterday and the batteries got some charge but
they're still a little low from last week and running the motor is good for the engine as well as the batteries. Our radio got a good workout again last night and we used the auto pilot much of our spinnaker sail.

I've been thinking about sailing as a sport lately. We've enjoyed a lot of different sports over the years and they all have their specific jargon, skills and levels of effort. For me this ocean passage most closely relates to mountain climbing. The only difference is the elevation and the fact that you can bring the kitchen sink, and toilet. There have been quiet times where we're just making good mileage and there have been challenging times where we're just hanging on. We have to be roped
in, in case of falls. The angle under foot is constantly changing and sure footedness is paramount. The weather conditions can change at a moments notice and you have to be prepared for whatever is coming. You're all alone and need to be completely self sufficient. Contact with the world is only possible with some fancy equipment and even with that it's limited by propagation, distance and some chance. There are specific skills and knowledge that make a trip like this possible and even more
comfortable but you don't need any of them to come out here on a boat. And finally, if you don't have the skills and knowledge to be self sufficient, there's no real safety net so it'll help if your just lucky. It's been as challenging as mountain climbing and as rewarding too. It's definitely and endurance sport and a great team effort. The views are stunning and on a rough sunny day it looks like a vast dark glacier around the boat. On our roughest days with large following seas I had trouble
shaking the perception that the sea was angled. It sounds odd, and Peter didn't get it but it appeared that we were on a down hill slope, like the bunny hill skiing. Even the horizon appeared to slope to me. Maybe it was the angle of the boat combined with the angle of the waves. It was a relief when it appeared normal to me again. I think it's like the picture of the young woman and the old woman. Sometimes you can see one and once you see the other it's hard to get the first perspective again.
Or, maybe I was just tired. No wonder Peter was extra quiet for a couple of days during my off watch!

There are some specific terms related to sports. Here's one I learned in Mexico from our daughter that's not just a sailing term. "Swampass" It's a term used by her frisbee team as they have long drives to hot locations for tournaments. When I learned this technical term we were on a local bus in Melaque sitting on plastic seats on a hot day. Peter and I now completely understand the term as when we went through the squalls in in the ITCZ we were living in wet shorts for about 24 hours. We've
discovered that the best treatment is something I bought because I saw the inventor interviewed and I liked his story. It's called Boudreaux's Butt Paste. He's a compounding pharmacist from a small town who made up this salve for his customers' babies. His customers started coming to him asking for more as it's a great all around salve (not to mention the sun screen properties of zinc oxide ointment) and they were using it for themselves. We've found it to be invaluable and only wish we'd brought
a case instead of one small tube.

Those are my random 4AM, drank a Mexican Coca Cola at 2AM thoughts. (I've been assured by an expert source that the recipe is different in Mexico and far superior) There's still almost a full moon, calm (sort of) seas, almost no clouds and incredible visibility this morning. Today we'll tip some rum to Neptune, and maybe offer a Tequila chocolate to Poseidon.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The SE trades 10:00AM 4/4 - 02 09N, 129 21W (Ginger)

So far the South East trades have been kind to us. We have less wind and waves than we did up north and yet we're making the same mileage as the roughest weather days last week. Unfortunately, the forecast is for the winds to completely die right about when we reach 05 degrees South. There's a cyclone south of Tahiti and it's going to suck all our wind away for a couple of days. We won't be complaining though. We may get that ocean swim after all. I was afraid we'd be blown all the way to the
Marquesas without even one calm sea day. We're thoroughly enjoying calm seas and light winds and making great time with the sun out, the spinnaker up and lots of solar energy going into our batteries. The boat repairs are holding well and the plug in the muffler seems to have swelled as planned and made our leak a tiny drip for now. The waves are so much smaller we might be able to see more marine mammals now so we're keeping our eyes peeled for whales.
We got an email from another boat just a couple of days behind us. They've had to sew the entire foot of their jib back on and their boom vang sheered off the base of the mast. Sounds as if everyone has had something to deal with. Too bad there isn't a floating marine supply store out here in the middle!
We discovered there's a strong current here setting us west so we're keeping our course more south and letting the water push us toward the islands. Don't want to get blown right past them!
Today, life is great aboard Marcy.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Keeping us on our toes! Day 12 (Ginger) 05 03N 125 41W 1:00PM

It's hard to simulate 12 days of raucous ocean travel in a shake down cruise. So, there are a few items that have come to our attention in the last couple of days which have been taking up all of our time. Of course, in addition to keeping the boat afloat and moving keeping the crew rested and fed are extremely important. We've had so many projects in the last few days our sleep was suffering a little but we're eating well. (Thanks for the email Dan, tomato soup and cheese quesadillas hit the
spot during our stormy day!) We've now changed our course heading from north west (more west than north) to south west. When we reached the ITCZ - the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone - where the weather from the North Pacific meets the weather from the South Pacific - we altered course and headed due south. We spent almost 24 hours crossing that zone of light wind, rain and squalls. It was fantastic to finally get a great rain shower. We haven't seen that much rain since Seattle except for one
short cloud burst in San Diego.
We check in regularly with the other boats who left Zihua just after us and they're having some system problems commensurate with ocean sailing in the tropics. Two of the boats are having trouble with their auto pilots, one intermittent, one completely dead and hand steering the rest of the way unless they can fix it. The third boat had to rewire some connections to get his alternator back up and running. Marcy has had our share of challenges as well. Here are the systems that have kept us busy:
1. Hole in the water lift muffler 1" X 1/2" needed plug to run engine (I like this one - water in the bilge and all!)
2. Chafe on the self steering gear line -caught minutes before breaking (Thanks to Grasal we had a spare high-tech line - that would have been tough to fake!)
3. Low power due to cloud cover and item #1 (no engine for 4 days)
4. Alternator wiring corrosion (everything is affected by the sea air)
5. Rudder post lag screw working out and post coming somewhat loose at deck (My personal favorite)
6. New tack so item #1 can't be as efficiently handled by the bilge pump - used deck wash pump to drain stbd bilge
7. Uppity IPOD, not vital but sorely missed 2A - 6A watch
8. Chafe repair on preventer and spin pole lines, washer replace on boom (now we're getting back to stuff even I can do!)
When listed by number it hardly seems like much has been going on. The items were listed in order of appearance. The muffler repair was well under way when the other items appeared all in a 24 hour period. All have been patched, bolted, greased and handled. It was a busy time.
Leaving Zihua I expected trade winds 15-20 knots and pleasant travel. After several days of big winds and seas I feel like we went out for a drive, got sucked into the Indy 500 and escaped after lap 200. The trip to the ITCZ was an endurance test for all of us, Marcy included.
Our crossing of the ITCZ was almost uneventful. We got to 7N and 125W and were in a squall. That was our sign to turn left and get through as quickly as possible. We had fluky light winds and 5 squalls. The light winds were actually appreciated as we were hove to for 4 hours to fix the rudder post. Soon we were on our way and within 24 hours back in trade winds - this time the SE trades.
Pacific Seafarer's Net: We've been giving our position report and sea conditions to a Ham radio net daily. This information is forwarded by them to the Yotreps site where our position is updated for your viewing pleasure. Last night it was as if we were all sitting around a table talking and there were 6 land based relay stations and controllers. Tonight there was only one audible net controller to take positions for the Pacific Seafarer's Net and he couldn't hear most of the other boats well.
It's fascinating how radio conditions change from night to night. We have been able to communicate well with our radio and in fact I had to take the position of the boat Nereida the last 2 nights because I was the only one who could hear her. The net controller from Hawaii asked me to take check-ins from boats and relay much of the information to him for the position reports. This is a huge power draw so we're lucky to have the engine back for battery charging. The net is just like being at
the office and so satisfying to have a spreadsheet to fill in! I call the daily report my science project. Even though Peter is the licensed HAM radio operator on board the Net is during my watch so I get to check in under his call sign (KD7OKO). It's been really fun to talk with such professional net operators, definitely a highlight.
We're sailing at about 7 knots again and headed on a course of 220 true. If this wind holds at 15 to 20 knots we should be at the Marquesas in 8-9 days. It's great to be on port tack after 11+ days on starboard. It's a big change to get used to walking at these new angles. As all the old support spots are now down hill.