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

Thursday, May 31, 2007

North Fakarava 5/31/07 2:00PM (Ginger)

We left the south pass on the morning of Peter's birthday and sailed north. We anchored 14 miles up the lagoon off a couple of small coves over a sandy bottom. Though we could (barely) see the anchor at 35 feet the visibility was significantly reduced from the fantastically clear water at the south pass. In years past we've gone hiking or snow camping or something appropriately outdoorsey and fun for Peter's birthday. This year it was his choice to move anchorages or stay put but frankly it's
hard to beat a south pacific atoll for a birthday location. Peter got a fish dinner, the last carrots and a chocolate "wacky cake" for his birthday dinner. We heard from another boat that they had made a wacky cake and I looked up the recipe to find that it's an egg less cake. Since we were saving our last 2 eggs for bread it was nice to be able to make a cake without, and a fine cake it was. Peter opened his cards and his birthday emails and has reported that it was a great birthday.
We stayed at our half-way anchorage for a day exploring ashore and trying our luck at fishing for varo and looking for the wily coconut crab. We saw lots of holes in the sand which should indicate varo but the only creatures interested in our bait were the small black tip sharks circling our project. We gave the fish bait to the sharks and moved on to the beach to check out the coconut crab holes. We found a spot where there were about 20 holes in the ground, like a gopher city. We heard that
the locals reach into the hole and pull out the crabs as they can't open their claws inside the hole. Neither of us was interested in reaching up to our armpits into a hole with unknown residents (there are rats on these islands too!) so Peter tried a little digging which didn't go well as most of the "dirt" here is full of large coral chunks. All the creatures on the island were left safe and sound and we even fed a few mosquitos willing to brave the DEET repellant we were wearing.
This morning we had a great sail to the village of Rotoava at the north end of Fakarava. Fakarava is unusual because there is a marked channel running the entire length of the island. The navigating was extremely easy and all of the reefs were well marked. It was a great to be able to sail the whole way and watch the palm trees fly by at 5 knots. We've heard there's a great "snack" here which is actually a nice restaurant. We might check that out but our priorities are butane, diesel, veggies
and then restaurant. We are anchored near another boat who already sold us a dozen eggs so we're set for eggs now! The biggest news is that there is a garbage can on the dock. We haven't seen one of those since Hiva Oa, April 28th so we're going to take advantage of the "big city" amenities.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Fakarava 5/27/07 16deg 30'S 145deg 27'W (still) - Ginger

We've spent the last two mornings drift diving through the southern pass here at Fakarava. There are an incredible assortment of fish, coral, rays and sharks. We've seen more types of fish and coral than we can count. Luckily we can count the sharks!
The anchorage is beautiful, the type of place pictured in the tourist brochures. There is a pension here with small water's edge grass roofed huts, it's quiet and in the evening if the breeze is light the scent of tropical flowers wafts to the boat.
This is what we traveled all this way to experience. We've been looking ahead at our time in the South Pacific as it takes some planning to fit in all the countries along the way and still get out of the way of cyclone season. We're mapping out our course which currently hopefully includes Society Islands, Suwarrov Atoll (Cook Islands), American Samoa (for some items we need to order), Tonga, Fiji...not sure where to after that.
It's also been a time to reexamine storage on the boat and if ever there was a time to consider getting rid of clothes it's when the attire is mostly bikinis and paraus. The turtle necks are now in the get off the boat pile though the fleece is still on board for the higher latitudes.
We'll do one more swim through the pass in the morning and then start our trip to the north end of the island. We're looking forward to getting diesel, water and fresh veggies and eggs (same old story!)


Friday, May 25, 2007

This is it! Fakarava 5/25 3:15P 16deg30'S, 145deg27'W (Ginger)

We're here! We left our anchorage at Makemo with every intention of heading to the pass at the west end and staying for a couple of days. We were anchored in 50' of water with big nasty coral heads everywhere. There were also reefs and shallow spots right where the designated anchorage was to be. We put down the hook, this involved a not so successful foray in the dinghy with radio communication that should have just been shouted rather than the captain having to go below at a critical moment
to converse. There was a close call with a coral head (the little paint scrape is on the keel to prove it) and much sweating from the Marcy crew. Once we got the anchor set it was immediately tangled on the coral making us nervous that we might have to swim to free it. OK, we were willing to wait that out but then the flies came! They came in hoards. Hopefully it's not a comment on our housekeeping. We swatted flies for a couple of hours as we got the boat really ready to go to sea and then
headed out the pass. It was great to be back at sea. We had an exciting pass exit with some current and heading into the sun (which obscures the view of the reefs and the bottom) but uneventful and smooth. Our passage was to be to Tahanea but we decided to head to Fakarava as we're low on fuel, propane, fresh food and ready for a more urban experience. Not that this will be urban but Tahanea is reported to be uninhabited and definitely has no services. Here, at Fakarava, we could catch a ride
to town for fuel or supplies if necessary. Anyway, we had a slow overnight passage to Fakarava but managed to eek out about 3 knots most of the way. We arrived just in time for slack tide to enter pass Tumakohua at the SW end. The swell was huge yesterday so it was exciting with 2 - 2.5 meter swells but completely uneventful. We're grateful for the two cruising guides on board because they assured us that though the pass looked shallow it was deep enough. The water is incredibly clear here and
so far it's living up to it's reputation as a fantastic snorkel site. We could see our anchor an hour AFTER sun set last night and the moon shadow of our boat on the bottom was impressive.
We went ashore this morning to see the old town of Tetamanu. This was at one time the capital for the entire Tumatou island group and though only about 10 people live here now there are lots of old buildings and two perfectly straight coral roads leading across the small motu. We met a man named Raymond who lives here and helps run a pension. He told us which fish are OK to eat here and then he gave us a bag of fish. The only problem with his generosity is that Peter won't be able to take advantage
of the knowledge and catch dinner until we eat what we've been given. We came back to the boat to cook fish for lunch. It's easiest to clean fish into the sink which drains directly overboard and the sharks were all whipped into a feeding frenzy by the time the fish were cleaned. We tossed the heads and guts in and 6 black tipped sharks came for the snacks. The largest ones were at least 6 feet long. Definitely the biggest sharks we've ever seen under our boat. Needless to say we aren't swimming
from the boat this afternoon.
Peter did invent a way to keep the sharksuckers (Remoras) away when swimming. As one gets into the water they approach ready to go for a swim. We've heard they don't try to attach to people but the one that brushed by stomach made me think it had other plans. Anyway, if you grab their tail they swim away and don't come back. So, Peter grabs their tail to get rid of them and I stick with Peter! We found out the other day that poking at them with a stick just gets them excited and they come back
for more.
We plan a drift dive through the pass tomorrow morning. We'll take the dinghy into town and then snorkel with the dinghy in tow as the current flows in and carries us back to our boat. We've heard some very large fish hang out by town and are used to being visited by swimmers. What we could see from the dinghy has us excited for tomorrow.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Makemo Atoll, May 21

Writing an update of our time at the lagoon of Makemo Atoll seems like writing an update on watching the grass grow.
It took us over 4 hours to sail the 15 miles to our current anchorage on the NW side of Makemo. We're anchored off a sandy beach, protected by an uncharted reef that extends 1/4 mile into the lagoon. There are no wind waves here and it's been a nice quiet anchorage. We've spent time cleaning up the boat and getting things organized below. Peter got a project done on the cockpit deck adding a no skid surface so we won't slip when it's wet. We've had all kinds of weather here, sunny and calm,
windy, cloudy with several impressive rain squalls. We've explored the ocean side beach including finding plastic purge puddles in all the garbage that washes up on the windward beach. Not many people would recognize a purge puddle but since that's a byproduct of injection molding we recognized them immediately after all those years of Peter working at VIP.
The snorkeling has been good. Peter speared a fine fish that fed us for a couple of dinners and we've seen some new reef fish here too. There are small black tipped reef sharks in the lagoon that are about 3 feet long. We're getting used to seeing them when we're out swimming now. The scariest fish here are the sharksuckers and remoras. They're very aggressive and they swim right at our faces. We haven't heard of a remora trying to attach itself to a person but we don't want to be the first
to find out they do! We're letting them know they're not welcome to swim with us. There are 3 of them attached to the bottom of our boat right now so even jumping in off Marcy we have to be ready to fend them off.
We did try to find some coconut crabs. They're very popular and slow growing to apparently they're not as abundant as they used to be here. I read in my cookbook that marine hermit crabs are also tasty. The drawing in my cookbook looks quite similar to the photo of the coconut crab so we picked up a couple of hermit crabs and brought them home to try them. Maybe if we were desperate and starving it would have worked out. However, we're not starving, so the hermit crabs, which are apparently
land hermit crabs who like to go to the edge of the water to scavenge, were deemed inedible. Actually, I believe the exclamation was "We just cooked spiders with shells!"
We did go on an expedition to find Varo but there was a lot of current and the wind wasn't perfect for seeing through the surface of the water. With all the current the bait and the catching string flowed around our quarry holes and no varo were ever spotted. We'll definitely try again! There are scallop shells on the bottom but we're not sure how one catches scallops.
So, short of spearing fish and maybe eating an oyster or two, we're not having a lot of luck with the foraging for protein here. We're convinced with a little local coaching we could be eating bouillabaisse every night but there are no locals where we're anchored right now.
Peter has another load of laundry drying on the life lines and the bread is cooling on top of the stove so we've had another successful day here at the lagoon.
We're planning to stay another couple of days and then move on to Tahanea Atoll.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Makemo Atoll 5/14/07 (Ginger)

It looks just like the tour bureau pictures here. From Marcy's deck, we can see incredible blue water going from deep blue to electric blue to aquamarine. We're anchored off the town of Pouheva and have spent a couple of days exploring, working on boat things and swimming. One of our boat projects has been dealing with the aftermath of a couple of explosions. They were small, even unnoticed at the time. Two cans of mandarin oranges exploded and sprayed all over the other cans in their storage
area. There is a fine line between bringing enough cans for an emergency and bringing so many that they can't be eaten before they get weak. Every bin plus some were packed full when we left San Diego and more food was added in Mexico. French Polynesia is expensive for canned and fresh food but we'd rather eat fresh food when possible, so we haven't consumed as many as expected. As we cruise the South Pacific we'll be working hard to get through all the old cans before they give up the ghost.
Today we rode our pixie bikes out the road to the airport where the pavement ended and about a mile beyond. We finally stopped when a squall dumped so much rain on us it was hard to see. We took "shelter" under a tiare flower bush but after a snack we decided we might as well be out in the rain heading back and staying a little warmer with our effort. The snorkeling has been good here and we're looking forward to swimming at our next anchorage farther from town. Just behind where we anchored
is an abandoned operation with rebar structures scattered across the bottom looking like a series of buildings 50' under water. It was a surprise when we swam that way and saw them, and we were happy we had anchored well away from them.
Tomorrow we'll haul up the anchor and head toward the west end of the island. We're hoping to have some luck fishing, hunting varo and enjoying a quiet motu.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Our first atoll! 16 16S, 143 25W 5/10/07 2:15PM (Ginger)

We just spotted our first atoll off the port beam about 9 miles east of our course. We're 30 miles from Makemo and should arrive just in time to get in at slack tide before the sun is down. It's a deep well marked channel so hopefully we picked well for our first landfall in the Tuamotus. We've had absolutely no wind for the last day and a half so we took the opportunity to motor and give our batteries a good charge. We're (almost) all charged up and still no wind so it will be a relief to drop
the hook and shut off the engine.
As it was a relatively calm passage I pulled out Kon-Tiki to read during my off watch. (Thanks for the thoughtful gift Fran and Margie!) While it is a classic book any way, it was absolutely appropriate to read it as we were approaching the Tuamotus in the South Pacific. I consider myself lucky to have had such a fast passage by comparison, their raft averaged only 42.5 miles/day for the 101 day trip from Peru. It was equally great entertainment to read their ocean passage stories as well as their
landfall adventures. Peter, has just finished the book too and we're hoping for a better landing for Marcy than the Kon-Tiki reef landing.
We brought an unexpected passenger from Tahuata. There were some waspy mud dauber insects busily filling holes on our boat with green grubs presumably as food for the wasps they were going to deposit. Peter followed them and found two such projects in our main sleeping cabin and we covered them up. We did notice they were also working in the v-berth but couldn't locate any of their projects. One of the workers evidently stayed on board as well and I found it with the back of my hand the other
night. Just when it seemed we'd left all the malicious bugs behind!

Peter's been productive with bread baking and boat projects today so we enjoyed tomato and avocado sandwiches for lunch with fantastic avocados from Tahuata. We put the fishing line out yesterday at noon, inspired by the Kon-Tiki fishing success, but have had no luck. Of course they were a moving reef so they had fish living under their vessel the whole trip.

It's 102 deg F on deck right now and we're looking forward to that first lagoon swim.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

On passage again, Wed, 5/9 11:00AM 13 41 S, 141 46W (Ginger)

It took us a couple of extra days to get moving again but we're on our way to the Tuamotus. We had a great hike up a valley on Saturday 5/5. Our friend, Teii gave us a tour of the valley and showed us a number of tikis and other petroglyphs. It also happens that his family has some fruit trees up in the valley so by the end of our trip he had filled our packs with mangoes, oranges and pamplemousse plus a coconut in each hand. We were with our new friends from "Paddy West's" and their 6 year old
son was well entertained by Teii and all the fruit. Fortunately we brought some mosquito repellant because there were swarms of mosquitos and even with our deet repellant we ended up with a lot of bites. On our way out from the hike we passed a man with 6 dogs and an 8 inch knife heading up the valley to hunt wild pig. He seemed confident but we decided we wouldn't want to face pig tusks with 6 scrawny dogs and a small knife.
We were lucky to be in the bay on Sunday morning to watch the "Aranui 3" unload supplies at Vaitahu. It's a dicey process at best there though we heard lots of "no problem" before the boat came. They load all the pallets of supplies on smaller boats called "lighters". One lighter appeared to be made out of a surplus bridge section. The lighters head to the quay, this is no ordinary substantial quay. This is a cement road that's built over some rocks at one end of the bay. As they bring the
boat in the bulldozer meets them at a 90 degree angle to the boat and they strap chains from the bulldozer to the pallet. Some of the pallets were large stacks of cement block so they were quite unwieldy. As they watch the waves they connect the last chain and yell "vite, vite" the bulldozer jerks the pallet off the boat and tries to clear the other pallets as the surge moves the boat forward and back. With the heavy pallets the back hoe end of the dozer came way off the ground, the pallet would
lift but sometimes they weren't quite fast enough for the waves which resulted in a few broken blocks left on the quay. As the pallets come off with supplies for the stores and the rest of the island, people descend on the pallet and clear it into waiting pickup trucks. The empty containers are then filled with copra and noni fruit to go back to Tahiti. Though we found out most of the garbage is burned and then buried here they do recycle glass bottles so flats of those are loaded back aboard
the boat as well. They also load empty fuel drums aboard and take on full ones. In the middle of the pallet loading the passengers head ashore and then get loaded back on board as well. They have managed to turn their supply ship into a cruise ship and there are about 100 passengers aboard. It looks so deluxe I was trying to figure out how to stow away for a night or two. They took 2 loads of people ashore. Most went to the catholic church and then went to the 5 tables set up to sell carved
bone, vanilla beans and dried bananas. Within 2 hours the passengers were all back aboard, the outgoing pallets were aboard and the "Aranui 3" hauled anchor and headed south. All that was left on the quay as they departed was a few pallets of cement block.
The quay is a hub of activity in town as it is the loading place for small boats that go to other islands as well. Typically a boat would nose close to the quay and luggage would be tossed at the peak of a wave as the boat hovers. Then it's time for the passenger(s) to jump and off the boat goes. For us the quay was our landing spot. There are 2 choices there. There are narrow stairs which go straight down to the water or there's a flat shelf. We've been using "red dogfish" our inflatable kayak
lately so the boat was a little tippy to try for the stairs. The platform was just about big enough to fit the whole kayak on top. The tricky part, of course, were the waves and the tide. If the tide was perfect and the waves small we could ride a wave on to the platform, jump out and hold the boat as the wave receded. We'd be left holding the boat high and dry and then we'd negotiate the stairs rounded by years of surf and put the boat somewhere out of the way on the other side of the road.
If the waves were big they would crash over the platform and then recede leaving a 2 foot drop-off between the launch platform and the water. If we were half on, half off the boat would have capsized. To complicate matters the whole platform is nicely covered with slime and the kids like to swim there in the afternoon. Though we were there for over a week we never swam accidentally at the quay (it was a great place to snorkel) and were glad we had a light boat to carry up the stairs.
We're now surrounded by blue again. We've just passed our first islands in the Tuamotus though we can't see them because they're 30 miles south of us. We still have 200 miles to go so we may not be able to enter the lagoon until the day after tomorrow. Lagoon negotiation must be done in daylight to avoid coral heads.


Friday, May 04, 2007

Tahuata, Viahatu Bay Friday, May 4, 2007 Ginger

It's been over a week since we sent an update, so here's what we've been up to.
We headed to the town of Atuona on Hiva Oa last Thursday. It was a long 10 miles up wind beating into the waves through a narrow, shallow pass. We had heard about boats having problems with waves breaking over them in this shallow anchorage so we were anxious about the conditions in the bay. When we arrived there were already 14 boats anchored with bow and stern anchors and it appeared there just wasn't much room for another boat unless everyone put our fenders. We anchored just behind Kathi
and Jeff on Bold Spirit and enjoyed a nice dinner with them. We last saw them in Zihuatanejo and it was a good reunion. When we anchored we were in 12 feet of water at high tide. That's not much when you consider that we stick down 7.5 feet with our keel. There was a 3 foot tide range there (hmmm!) so doing the math that left just 1.5 feet of clearance for our keel at low tide. We were OK but it was not comfortable keeping an eye on the depth as the tide went out in the evening. The second
low tide was a little lower than the first but worse the swell was coming up and we actually bumped bottom as a set of larger waves came through. That was enough for us, we abandoned our stern anchor and spool of line in our kayak Red Dogfish and hauled in our bow anchor to move. This happened to involve Peter swimming back to the boat which wouldn't have been so bad but they're dredging in the bay and the water is very murky. Later I read in Charlie's Charts that they don't recommend swimming
in the bay because of all the sharks. Anyway, Peter swam back to the boat and we moved closer to shore behind the break water with a few more feet under our keel. Then Peter swam back across the bay to retrieve the stern anchor and the kayak and we set that too. Peter spent the morning filling our water tanks while I went into town to get some groceries and check in with the gendarmes. We got into town just about 45 minutes before the gendarme and the grocery stores were closing for lunch. I
had not received a customs form in Nuku Hiva so I spend about 20 minutes standing there while the gendarme tried to call Nuku Hiva to no avail. After unsuccessfully checking in (she asked me to come back Sat. AM) Kathi and I dashed up the block to get some veggies and groceries before everyone closed for lunch. It was not exactly what I had pictured for my big provisioning trip before heading to the Tuamotus but I also hadn't planned on the 3+ mile trip from the anchorage to town. The only way
to get there is to walk on the main road or hitch hike. We were lucky to get a ride back with my heavy bags of veggies, meat and rice. Meanwhile, Peter and Jeff filled water tanks all morning and we spent over an hour in the afternoon getting diesel to top off our tank. After that a quick shower ashore - fantastic! and then we enjoyed a movie and popcorn on Bold Spirit. (The movie was Second Hand Lions and is highly recommended)
The person who brought us back to the boat from town was the agriculture agent. He said there was large swell forecast for Sunday and since we had no radio reception for email in the bay we decided it was time to leave Saturday morning. We started to head south to meet another Zihua boat "Katie Lee" but the reports of an overcrowded anchorage at Fatu Hiva deterred us. It's a very deep anchorage 90+ feet and a small narrow bay. After an hour of beating into the wind we headed west and to the
town of Vathu on Tahuata. We were the only boat anchored in front of town and it's a peaceful bay. Sunday morning a young Marqusan paddled out to out boat, introduced himself as Teii and asked if we wanted fruit. We said sure and he said to come with him and he'd get some for us and show us the town. We failed to bring my camera and it's too bad because we'll probably never get a tour like that again! As we got into town he started climbing trees and picking fruit from random yards. We'd say
"Is this your house?" and he would reply that it was an aunt or cousin or sibling. Then he took us to his parent's house where he gave us some fantastic dried bananas, fresh coconut, and vanilla. Surprisingly, throughout all of this his mother was standing on the poarch yelling at him in Marquesan. I kept asking what she was saying and said we should meet her. He said it was too hard. Turns out (as Peter suspected) his mother was afraid we were going to give him whiskey for the vanilla. So
the tour continued and he took us on small paths through back yards, past small pig pens over cliffs and to an ancient gathering place by the water in the next cove. It was quite a tour and thoroughly enjoyable. Then he came out to the boat and I gave him some banana squares I'd made that morning and Fresca. A far cry from whiskey but it sure kept us out of trouble!
Monday Katie Lee arrived and we had yet another Zihua reunion dinner. It was great to see them again. We're lucky that while they were here they noticed our bow roller was loose and about to fall into the water. We've had some very strong winds here and the large swell that we avoided in Atuona materialized while we were here. Clearly it was too much stress for the bow roller as it sheared the bolts. We found some larger bolts and reattached the bow roller just in time for the rain and wind
that kept us on board all day yesterday. We're now getting ready to head west and the trip to the Tuamotus is about 500 miles so we're resting up for the passage. We'll go ashore and try to find Teii to give him a gift, get some more meat for Peter and we'll be off. It was a good visit here.