Thursday, April 30, 2015

Tahuata Island

We pulled into Hanamoenoe bay on the west side of Tahuata Island to find quintessential Polynesia. Green, rugged, volcanic mountain peninsulas are on either side of the entrance to the bay. The water is clear and the waves land on a beautiful white sand beach lined with palm trees. Further back from the beach are grapefruit, lemon, mango and banana trees.

We met Stephen, a local who lives on the beach. He hunts wild pigs and spearfishes. He offered us fresh coconut and grapefruit from his "garden". The day we were leaving, Stephen's dogs caught the scent of a wild pig. He found it, shot it and dragged it to the cliff edge near the beach. Franck, from the catamaran Funambule, and another Frenchman from the catamaran, Jambon et Buerre, took a dinghy to the rocks and Stephen dropped the pig. As the men hauled it to the dinghy, Stephen climbed down and they all took it to Stephen's house on the beach. We know they had a wonderful dinner that night!

We went to Hapatoni bay, a bit further south along the west coast of Tahuata. Spinner dolphins met us at the bay entrance and entertained us each morning and evening that we were anchored in the bay.

We anchored near to the lush, steep shore where we had our own little waterfall running into the sea. The mountains are very high and the top is often covered in cloud. One day it rained. It rained so hard we got a bucket out and washed laundry. It kept raining and we showered outside. We put out pitchers and pots and caught rainwater. After a while, the deck was so clean, we opened the lid to one of our water tanks and let the fresh water flow into it. The best part was the appearance of beautiful high waterfalls that flowed from the top of the mountain for about two days.

The village of Hapatoni is arranged along the edge of the southern bay. There is one road and it follows the curve of the bay. The road is lined with solar street lights, flowers and plants. The houses all have colourful flower gardens and fruit trees. There also seemed to be a lot of curious piglets in the village. We saw the products of two carvers who work with cow bone, wood and the spears from spearfish. They carve intricate tikis, Marquesan crosses, turtles, manta rays, oars, etc.

We had planned to sail further southeast to Fatu Hiva. Unfortunately, after checking the weather for a couple of days and seeing that the winds and swell would be against us, we decided to sail northwest to the island of Ua Poa.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Arrival in Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia

After 22 days of sailing (with only 4 hours of motoring!), we arrived at the island of Hiva Oa, part of the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia! The island is incredibly green and rugged, with an impressive volcanic stone plug peak almost always covered in cloud. Pictures to follow once we get strong internet.

The anchorage in Atuona was a bit crowded and as we were not prepared to set our stern anchor (we had just re-attached our bow anchor after the crossing), we anchored outside the breakwater with two other boats. Then, after 22 days, we both went to sleep, at the same time, in the same bed, and for longer than 4 hours!

In the morning we went into town and officially checked into French Polynesia. We had a wonderful breakfast of eggs, cheese, and fresh baguette. As we walked back to the marina we noticed the majority of vehicles are Defenders, one of Dina's favourite vehicles. We also noticed there were many horses and they all trotted over to be petted.

We started to meet other cruisers. Many American boats whose voices we heard on the Pacific Puddle Jump radio net, but also French, Norwegian, Dutch, British, Austrian, and German boats.

We visited the Paul Gaughin museum and walked up the hill to the local cementary where he is buried. We also tried some great local pizza, a couple of local beers, and some delicious local ice cream!

After about 5 days, we left Hiva Oa and went south to the island of Tahuata.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Pacific Ocean Crossing.- Day 20

After 11 wonderful days sailing, we entered the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) or The Doldrums. This is a band near the Equator that is infamous for squalls and funky weather. During the squalls, the wind picks up suddenly, at times going from 15 knots to 30 knots in seconds. There is also a sudden burst of an indescribable amount of rain.

The sudden squalls were usually too much for the autohelm (self-steering mechanism) to handle, or it was unable to adjust quickly enough, so we usually hand-steered through them. Depending on the strength of the gusts, steering can be quite a battle. Fortunately, the squalls don't last long.

Of course the first one was probably the worst. Just before dawn, a squall hit and the wind went from about 15 knots to over 30 knots in seconds. I called for Malcolm and he dashed into the cockpit as the wind went to 50+ knots and the rain dumped on us. The noise was horrendous and the rain so thick we couldn't see the sails. We let the main out, got the steering under control and as the rain started to ease we saw that the genoa (the sail up front) was shredded. The entire blue UV panel we just had sewn on in La Paz was flapping in the wind. We furled (rolled) it up and sailed with just one sail until morning. In the light of day we set up the solent sail (a smaller inner head sail) and brought down the ruined genoa.

Passage days 12 to 18 were full of squalls, especially at night. During one squall, I tacked to go behind it, but it seemed to surround us. In the next few minutes we had the steering cable jump off the sprocket (so no steering) and we accidentally gybed breaking the shackle on the main sheet. While the boat maintained itself on a balanced close-hauled (into the wind) course, Malcolm got it all straighten out.

It was about the 14th day when we finally turned the engine on. The wind reports looked like we were going to be stuck with no wind at all for days, but there was wind just south of us so we motored for about 4 hours to get back into the wind. It sort of felt like failure. We hadn't used the motor since we were in open ocean past Cabo San Lucas. We had hoped not to motor at all.

On day 15 we crossed the Equator a little after dawn and close to a regular watch changeover. We, sharing with Neptune, had champagne, peach mimosas and chocolate to celebrate.

We are now back in sunny, squall-free, consistent wind and enjoying the downwind sailing. Dolphins have swam along with us a couple of times. We are making great time, even though we are still sailing with our smaller solent sail. It looks like we will make landfall in Hiva Oa, Iles Marquesas, in two days!

- Dina

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Pacific Ocean Passage Day 11 - Still enjoying it!

We would like to say we are halfway, but we are not always sailing a straight line. We are often sailing more westerly to avoid small areas of little or no wind that are south of us. Soon we will be aiming straight for the Marquesas - either Nuka Hiva or Hiva Oa, we haven't decided which island yet.

It has been much warmer. It is usually 27-28° during the day and 26° at night. We have had a few grey days with rain clouds all around. There has been lightening in the distance, so we have scrambled to put our satellite connection, the Iridium Go, the phone, tablet, and handheld GPS and VHF in the oven - our own Faraday Box - to protect them in case of a lightening strike. We have gone through a couple of rain squalls, but no storms or lightening. During one downpour, Malcolm sat in the cockpit and washed his hair using the water pouring off the bimini.

We have had wonderful downwind sailing. Until yesterday, our average speed was almost 7 knots per hour. Our maximum recorded speed has been a surprising 14 knots! We must have surfed down a swell. Most days we have sailed about 160 nautical miles. However, we did have a "slow" day yesterday. We have been looking forward to a slow day thinking we could take a swim (not at the same time), put on the new genoa sheets we have been carrying around for months (a year?), put up the hammock, etc. Unfortunately, although the wind was light yesterday, we were still sailing at 4-5 knots. That is too fast to swim off the boat. The headsail was fully in use so the new lines are still new and, with the wind behind us, the boom was swung way out so we couldn't attach the hammock to it. We are still waiting for a slow day.

The other night, the moon was out, I was watching the lightening off in the distance and looking at the phosphorescent in the water when I realised there were dolphins all around! Way out here! We have also seen birds occasionally, mainly brown and blue-footed boobies. One morning we found the two brown-footed boobies that had been flying around the boat the previous day. They were sitting on the solar panels! No wonder our electricity input dropped! We had the wind generator going and were surprised the birds had settled right next to it! One raised it's head to look at me and it's beak was hit by a blade of the generator. It merely shook it's head and looked away! They proceeded to fly around, fish and return to the solar panels throughout the day. At one point there were three hitching a ride. Then later... one came down on the back deck with a thud. It's head had met the wind generator blade. We think it's death was quick. We are not sure if it was an accident or if one of the
others pushed it... Malcolm gave it a burial at sea, washed the blood off the deck and scared the other two birds away.

A daily task is to collect the dead flying fish from around the deck. They come in all sizes, from 1/2" to 6" and have beautiful, large wings.

We are getting into the thick of the infamous Internet Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). It is a band of latitude we must cross from the NE trade winds to reach the SE trade winds. It is known for sudden and intense squalls with high winds and a deluge of rain, or no wind at all. We haven't motored yet and hopefully we can cross the ITCZ with minimal motoring.