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Friday, December 27, 2013

Kaunakakai Harbor, Molokai

Tuesday, December 24

We had a second enjoyable stay in Kaunakakai, though not as much fun as our first visit because we didn't have the loan of a friend's car this time. Exploring the island end to end was the highlight of our last visit. We were happy to be able to get back and forth to town on our bicycles but our days were mostly routine.

John began the chore of spiffing up the doors and brightwork outside the companionway, getting a few coats of varnish on everything while we had a little down time. I stuffed my backpack full of laundry and rode to the nearby Friendly Isle laundromat for a quick wash, bringing it all back to the boat for line drying. Splitting it up over a couple of days made it feel like less of a chore.

I hung out at the charming little library where the only drawback is the lack of electrical outlets for charging. A friendly librarian let me plug my computer into one of their power strips, but they have a posted policy of "no charging" and I didn't want to impose after the first time. Hilo is still my idea of the perfect library with an outlet at almost every table in the open air courtyard.

We thought we'd combine a night out with some "free" Wifi by going to Paddler's restaurant for their Thursday local music night. Our server bent over backward to get us seated where I could plug in (I swear I'm buying a new battery when we get to Honolulu!), and then it turned out that local music night had died over the slow summer and wouldn't start up again until after the holidays. But we ate a huge meal of shrimp and mahi mahi fettucine (complete with bread and a generous salad) for me and a hearty burger and fries for John.

After spending $4 on two soft serve ice cream cones from the pizza place we smartened up and bought pints of Dave's Hawaiian ice cream for $5 instead. The pre-packed pints were frozen solid and the clerk even wrapped it in newspaper for us so we could ride back and eat it on the boat. The Molokai Mud Pie was good and the chocolate Macadamia nut was a rich dark chocolate. Ono!

Our most ambitious outing was a bike ride on Saturday out to the Mile 16 marker at the east end of the island. The ride is mostly flat with several short uphill slopes and I only had to walk my bike one or two times. I love my rusty road bike from craigslist but it's an old 5-speed and I'm permanently stuck in second gear. This is great for getting me around on the flat parts of town, but is useless on hills that would normally be no problem for me. After Mile 16 we decided we'd had enough and turned around in front of a house with a beautiful shiny blue tile roof. We stopped in at Mana'e Goodz 'n' Grindz for drinks and took a beach break at Puko'o Harbor back at about Mile 13. The return ride was an easy downhill run with the breeze at our backs, which was a good thing because I was definitely done when we rolled into the Molokai Drive-In.

This is a great little local hangout with free Wifi in their air conditioned dining room. They also have covered outdoor seating at picnic tables and clean bathrooms. This place is so much better than any McDonald's or Burger King. We were also happy to notice that Subway is no longer in business in Kaunakakai. Molokai has done an excellent job of keeping out the generic chain stores you find everywhere else.

But one thing we don't really get is their opposition to small cruise ships like the Safari Explorer which docked at the pier while we were there. We saw many signs outside homes saying things along the line of "no cruise ships," and at one point a year or two ago the SE actually had to stop coming to Molokai for a time. I can understand wanting to keep out the mega ships - which wouldn't want to visit sleepy Molokai anyway. But with only 36 eco-minded passengers, the SE seems like the perfect fit for Molokai. People who take small ships are generally interested in more remote locations and are more sensitive to leaving small footprints in the first place. So where's the harm to the locals if these people spend a day touring Molokai? The Molokai Princess ferry can carry four times as many day-tripping tourists from Maui six days a week. What's the diff?!

The other thing that became a perplexing downer for us were all the No Trespassing, Keep Out, and Private Property signs seen posted everywhere. We not only saw these on the larger properties spread out along the highway (where it might be possible for a tourist to get confused looking for beach access or a hiking opportunity - maybe), but also in a densely populated local neighborhood where no tourist would normally venture. What's going on here? Do neighbors not know to stay out of each other's yards? It leads a visitor to think there's a significant petty theft problem on this island...

We attempted another bike ride out the west end of town but gave it up after only three miles. The hills were too steep and numerous for me, and the "ride" became a hot walk in the sun. Instead we explored some more neighborhoods, admired the very brand new looking fire station, and headed to the Drive-In for refueling.

After putting it off all week, I finally walked into the Kanemitsu Bakery the day before we left to ask about "night bread." But of course Monday is the only night they don't sell hot gooey sweet breads in the alley after 8 PM because the bakery is closed on Tuesdays. Look it up on yelp if you're curious - I can't write about it until we've done it. Next visit for sure!

{GMST}21|05.035|N|157|01.707|W|Molokai|Kaunakakai Harbor{GEND}

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Maui to Molokai

Tuesday, December 17

We were motoring along in the calm hours of the morning, anxious to cross the Pailolo channel between Maui and Molokai before it got too windy. About an hour before reaching Lahaina I saw something yellow floating in the distance. At last, we'd found a kayak! It was only a short, hard plastic, kid's kayak but maybe it could float me. John fished it out of the water and it fit perfectly on Nakia. I began to have visions of paddling around quiet anchorages when John made a call on the VHF radio in a half-hearted attempt to find the owner. A charter operator came back with the possibility that it had come from a nearby camp. John Googled the camp name on his phone and gave them a call. He was routed to their kayak guy who said it wasn't theirs but it might be his buddy Chris'. John called Chris who correctly identified the kayak and agreed to meet us at the Lahaina harbor entrance by paddling out on his SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard). While John stressed about being delayed an hour over the whole thing (and running into too much wind in the channel) I was excited about the happy ending of reuniting the wayward kayak with its anxious owner.

The wind did pick up and we had a good sail across with the added bonus of a pair a whales breaching and crashing back into the water with splashes you couldn't miss. We ended up sailing right out of the wind line and motored into the familiar waters of Kaunakakai Harbor. I was dismayed to find four tired looking sailboats (one dismasted) on permanent moorings plus a large orange mooring buoy reserved for the Molokai Princess ferry. But three of them were far back in shallow water and we managed to tuck into a spot between S/V Koa Kahiko and the MKP ferry buoy.

We took the bikes in to lock them up on shore and to check things out. The harbor master's office was already closed for the day but John took one of the self-pay envelopes back to the boat with us. One nice surprise was to find that anchoring at Molokai is still a bargain at .10/foot plus $2 per person per night, or about $2 less than it costs us to stay at Radio Bay. On the downside the public bathrooms are worse at Molokai and we obviously can't run water or electricity to the boat at anchor like we can at RB. When we got the seldom used checkbook out to pay we discovered that the last check we wrote was also to DNLR for anchoring at Molokai on 1/4/11! It has taken us seven years to write 24 checks...

{GMST}21|05.035|N|157|01.707|W|Molokai|Kaunakakai Harbor|{GEND}

Maui Lite

Monday, December 16

Well, Maui has never been high on our list of islands to visit by boat and this time was no exception. We pulled into La Perouse Bay just before sunrise and John found a patch of sand for the anchor. We didn't plan to go ashore but it looked like an interesting place with several people driving in to take a look at it. Unfortunately, after breakfast and a morning nap, conditions had deteriorated and we weren't comfortable rolling in the swell.

We left La Perouse at Noon and motored around the back side of Molokini for a look at that. The snorkeling side was already choppy so we gave it a pass and continued on to Point McGregor. We ended up too close to some rocks to the left on our first anchor set, but after a second try we were satisfied with our position directly below a ridge of wind turbines. This anchorage has absolutely nothing to recommend it. There is no place to go ashore and it's right under a busy highway. But John put up our Christmas lights and we probably made a lovely sight for people not used to seeing a sailboat anchored in the middle of nowhere. If you don't plan to visit Lahaina before continuing to Molokai, then this is probably a more protected spot to spend the night - but that's all I can say in its favor.

We saw several humpback whales throughout the day - spouts, a baby breaching clear out of the water, and lots of fin waving and tail fluking. Maui is great for whale watching this time of year, but I recommend taking one of the early morning tours. After the wind came up by late morning we overheard VHF radio chatter about passengers getting sick when one boat went looking for whales out in the rougher waters between the islands!

{GMST}20|35.425|N|156|24.998|W|Maui|La Perouse Bay{GEND}

{GMST}20|46.595|N|156|31.477|W|Maui|Point McGregor{GEND}

Hilo Wrap Up (on passage to Maui)

Sunday, December 15 - night watch

It's finally time to leave Hilo and we are midway into our overnight crossing to Maui. John found calm weather for us to transit the locally infamous Alanuihaha channel. Thus far the weather has been so calm that we've motored most of the way. But it's either that or a hairy sail in boisterous seas - no thanks!

Regarding our stay in Radio Bay, I forgot to mention that the Harbor office no longer accepts any form of payment other than a local check or a money order. Every cruising boat we spoke with, especially the foreign ones, were confounded by this archaic method of payment, especially since it requires a tedious bus trip to Walmart or the Post Office and then another visit back to the Harbor office. They are adamant about payment in advance which for us meant several trips to Walmart for money orders as we extended our stay from week to week.

I also didn't make it clear that Security will no longer escort you from your boat out to the main gate. Instead you are required to land your dinghy on the beach. We eventually found it easiest to land in the extreme right hand corner of the beach to avoid grumbling from the members of the private Palekai canoe club, none of whom seemed to know that we had no other option for landing.

In addition to the noises of the container terminal we also discovered that the Coast Guard ship Kiska often performed some sort of training drill at around 0430. They started the outboard motor on their tender mounted on the rear deck of the ship, ran it for a bit, and then shut it down. This was only mildly disturbing to our sleep because Ziggy is usually pestering us to wake up by then anyway.

One evening John was sitting in the cockpit after dark when he heard a screech and located an owl perched on a tall structure. From then on if I heard the screech, I ran out to see the owl flying across the sky, illuminated by the Harbor flood lights, either on its way out to hunt at night or returning to roost somewhere before sunrise. We identified it as a barn owl by its size, color, and its unique call.

This is one of those things you hate to admit, but we were enchanted by the nightly Coqui chorus. After a day trip to Costco and Kona with Fabio and Lisa of S/V Amandla we stepped out of the car in Hilo to the familiar sound that meant we were home. The Coqui frog is a non-native species that has overrun parts of Hawaii, and drives the locals absolutely bananas. Until just recently there was a government program attempting to control the problem, but it has been discontinued as a lost cause. You can hear them doing solos during daylight hours, but it's at night that they sing loudly and in unison. We apologize profusely for loving the happy sound of "ko kee'" repeated ad nauseum!

One day we rode our bikes to Uncle Billy's General Store to use their Wifi. As we were surfing the web a tsunami siren began wailing away. We immediately started to shut down our computers, ready to race back to the boat, when we realized that no one else appeared to be concerned. Hmmm. We asked a local about it and learned that the sirens are tested the first Monday of every month. Yup, it was 12/2. Having been through three tsunami evacuations we take the warnings very seriously no matter how far away from our location the quakes occur.

Ziggy and I began a new activity which I hope to resume in the calm waters of the Ala Wai Marina when we get to Honolulu. At the end of each day he waited for me to return from my shower, eager to jump into the dinghy and go for a row around the harbor. I used the opportunity to get in a few licks with the cat brush while he was otherwise distracted. He hates being brushed but whenever he became agitated by it I dropped the brush and began to row again. That immediately shifted his focus and averted any aggressive behavior. As we approached other boats he was brave and appeared ready to jump ship. But when we got too close to shore or any unfamiliar object he slunk down and crawled under my legs, yowling with concern. I'd row us back to Nakia where he could leap to the safety of home. I'm sure we were a source of amusement to at least a few of the cruise ship passengers I could see watching us from high above. It's not often you see a cat perched on the bow of an inflatable dinghy!

Late one afternoon we came home after a long day off the boat. I climbed down the steps to the salon and was puzzled by small grey bits of something on the carpets. What had Ziggy found to tear up? It wasn't until my eyes adjusted to the dimmer light down below and traveled up to the rug opposite the nav station that I saw the bird wings - which were all that remained of what had probably been a sparrow. That and some downy grey feathers tumbling in the breeze. We sprang into action rolling up the carpets and shaking the debris into the water. John saw what looked like vomit sink through the water so at least Ziggy had already gotten it out of his system and we didn't have to worry about him throwing up later.

For an "indoor" cat he really does get to enjoy more of the great outdoors than a true house cat, and without most of its hazards. We are hoping to find him a permanent land-based home here in Hawaii, and I thought it would be great to find a rural place far from cars where he could roam and hunt. We met a very kind man who is convinced that a boat is no place for a cat. He's read the same books I did when we first moved aboard in which some very famous cruisers lose cats over the side. But when I start thinking about Ziggy being "free" on land I think of him picking up fleas, getting abscesses from fighting other cats, being chased by vicious dogs, or getting hit by a car. On the other hand I can't imagine him being cooped up in a house without access to the sounds and smells of life outside. I think he actually has it pretty good with us, and it will be hard to let him go should that day ever arrive.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Tuned in to Radio Bay

We have obviously been enjoying our stay in Radio Bay on the Big Island of Hawaii very much since we've now been here for one month. It isn't for everyone - indeed, most cruisers seem to dislike it - but we're willing to put up with the negatives in exchange for the positives.

First of all, if you are noise sensitive, you will not like staying here for very long. We are tied up to a concrete wall with big wooden ladders mounted on the face of the wall. The wall is actually the edge of a large shipping container storage area/parking lot which is part of the Port of Hilo. We are separated from the semi-trucks and containers by a chain link fence, and harbor security will no longer escort us across the property to the gate through which cruise ship passengers transit. In addition to the rumble and back-up alarms beeping from trucks moving containers, there is a storage silo which periodically emits a startling burst of pressure, something like "ch!" or "pssst!" But after awhile all of this is only white noise for us. Besides which we spend most of our days off the boat and things are usually quiet at night. I actually get a vicarious thrill at the sight of a cruise ship docking just across the pier from us. It's fun to listen to their on-board announcements and watch the people on their cabin balconies looking down and perhaps wondering where our snug little boat has been. We share this moorage with the Kiska, a small Coast Guard ship home-ported here. Their daily ritual of "Call to Colors" before raising flags in the mornings brings back fond memories of living in Alameda, CA across from Coast Guard Island. The early morning arrival of the young men and women serving on the ship reminds me of my own youthful years served in the Air Force.

Our access to this part of the shore is confined to: one working electrical box, water faucets, and a bathroom/shower building adjacent to the parking lot for the Coasties. There used to be a second electrical box which would give hours of juice for a quarter. That may be why it has been dismantled. But $.25 for one hour at a time is fine for our basic needs. The covered picnic table, trash cans, and shelves for a trading book "library" are still next to the bathrooms. As with our previous visits the bathrooms do not get much attention beyond the emptying of trash and replenishment of paper products. But I appreciate knowing I can luxuriate in a long hot shower, just steps away from the boat, whenever I want, especially if we've been out riding our bicycles around Hilo.

Making my way from the boat to the ladder using a stern line

Climbing the ladder to the top of the wall

Made it! Now it's time for a shower.

Having a bicycle since we've been cruising is nothing new to John. He had a used bike to get around Mazatlan during his 2012 summer there when he was house-sitting and working on the boat every day. So he was very anxious to buy another one as soon as we arrived from French Polynesia. He found an inexpensive mountain bike at Walmart, and we bought a used road bike from an ad on craigslist for me. I am astounded by how much more flexibility we have with the bikes. They have freed us from the tyranny of the local bus system.

When we visited Hilo in 2009, 2010, and 2011 the buses were free. The route we use most often runs in a circle from the beach parks east of Radio Bay, past the Port of Hilo, along the waterfront to the downtown bus terminal, up through town with stops at colleges and high schools, to the Prince Kuhio shopping center, then down towards the bay, past the airport, past Radio Bay again, and terminating at the end of the beach parks road. It's a long circuitous route if all you want is to go to the grocery store. But we were content to put up with it when it was free to hop on and off as many times as we needed. In fact, we thought it was a pretty great deal.

But free rides don't usually last forever so we weren't surprised when friends wrote us that the bus was now $1. What shocked us was arriving in Hilo to find that the fare had doubled to $2 as of July 1, 2013. This still wouldn't be out of line if it allowed you to make multiple stops along your route, as I've experienced with most mass transit systems in the U.S. But many of the island bus routes run so infrequently that a 2-hour transfer is often not enough time. And that's assuming you can even get a transfer. Apparently you cannot use a transfer to reboard and continue on the same bus route. Instead you have to transfer to a different route (some of them cover the same territory). Transfers are one-use only and the date and time are laboriously handwritten as you wait to exit the bus. Seriously! On the plus side, the fare is $2 no matter how far you're traveling on a particular route.

So we are happy to have our bikes safely secured and waiting for us on shore. While most of Radio Bay is taken up by Port of Hilo operations, there is one small corner which is shared by the private Palekai paddle club and the park in which it resides. We row to this stony shore and lock our dinghy to an exposed tree root out of the way of the larger beach where the big canoes are launched. We wanted to keep our bikes locked to a post under the covered club picnic area to protect them from the rain. After some complaining from guys who hang out at the club drinking in the afternoons, John bought a truce with a six-pack and we moved the bikes over to the Port's fence.

It is so very nice to have only a short row over calm, protected water to come and go from Nakia. I don't have to stress out about getting salt spray splashed on my town clothes, John doesn't have to hassle with the outboard motor, and we're only steps away from a gorgeous walk or bike ride along one of the most interesting stretches of coastline in the area. There are half a dozen different beach parks connecting the shore, each with their own personality and facilities. Most of them are very kid friendly with natural or human assisted shallow wading pools. Some have outdoor showers and no bathroom; others have bathrooms complete with changing rooms and showers. Most provide picnic tables and one has thoughtfully placed each table under its own gazebo for shelter from the sun and rain. Based on our brief tours I would say each one of them offers the sight of green sea turtles feeding on "grass" covered rocks below the water's surface.

On a long day of riding, with multiple stops at various beach parks, we easily saw more than one turtle at each site. There were even turtles popping their heads up inshore of a crowded surf spot. We've also seen humpback whales outside the breakwater, and we sat and watched spinner dolphins swimming with snorkelers 150 yards off shore. Flocks of egrets fly west over the boat at sunrise, returning east at sunset. Colorful finches fly up out of the grasses. The foliage seems even more exotic and varied than that of Tahiti but, as John likes to point out to me, that's probably due to the many non-native species introduced here.

While we spend much of our time shopping, running errands, and making use of public places with free Wifi, we are definitely enjoying the natural beauty and refreshing climate of Hilo. We will eventually be moving on to Honolulu but, for now at least, we're in no hurry to leave Radio Bay!

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Passage Stats, Tuamotus to Hawaii

Well we arrived in Hilo yesterday just at Noon. We were tied up by 12:30 and by 12:31 I was drinking a cold beer thanks to Jon on Pura Vida. The crew on Pura Vida took us out to dinner at Cronies restaurant for huge burgers and beers. I have to say that is the nicest landfall welcome we have ever had!

Here are a few statistics on the passage we just completed. It took us 23 days 3 hours and 12 minutes to travel from Anse Amyot, Toau to Hilo, Hawaii. If we had been able to go directly, as in an airplane, it would have been 2195 miles. But this was impossible since there were some islands to go around, and we needed to follow a different route to ensure good wind. So our original plan was to sail a route of 2541 miles. How far we actually sailed is kind of a hard number to come at because each of our various tools (knot meter, GPS, navigation computer) have their own opinions of how far we had to go to sail those 2541 miles. But here's what the various opinions are:

The Navigation Computer says we went 2743 miles. This is error prone because the computer just adds up the distance between points that it lays down every 10 seconds. Sometimes the points, because of minor GPS errors, are farther apart than they should be. With almost 13000 points in the track from Toau to Hilo the errors add up.

The GPS says we went 2530 miles, but this is only adding up our day to day total mileages.

The knot meter says we went 2668 miles. I think this one is most accurate, though it's probably a little long.

So using the knot meter distance and our time we get an average speed of 4.8 knots.


{GMST}19|43.89|N|155|03.18|W|Arrived Radio Bay, Hilo, Hawaii|Radio Bay{GEND}

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Days 22&23 Tuamotus to Hawaii

We had good sailing for most of this time. Sunday night the wind lightened a bit but it was still keeping us moving above four knots. The seas were smoother as well. We had another good day on Monday, but soon after sunset the wind started backing off until we only averaged four knots in our 8-9 PM hour. By that time we'd had enough and were ready to motor on through to the finish, if that's what it was going to take. By the time I came on watch at 0400 this morning it had been raining steadily. At 0730 the overcast lifted her skirts just slightly enough for us to say, "Land Ho!" at the sight of waves crashing on the shore of a spit of dark volcanic coastline.

We have already reversed the berths, moving all the junk stored for the passage on our Pullman sleeping berth (with clean sheets!), and returning it all to its normal place in the quarter berth (our garage while at anchor and our sea berth for long passages). The laundry bags are bursting at the seams from our mantra of, "everything must go!" - to the laundromat that is. Pura Vida is renting a car for a day and we will pitch in on the cost so that we can get all the laundry done in one visit.

We only have a little while longer to turn the corner into Reed's Bay! I'll send an official arrival entry after we are tied up in Radio Bay.

Day 22 Stats
Course: 307 degrees True
Trip Mileage: 130 nm
Water Temp: 79.2 to 79.7 F
Engine Hours: 0

Day 23 Stats
Course: 310 degrees True
Trip Mileage: 125 nm
Water Temp: 79.5 to 80.2 F
Engine Hours: 13

{GMST}19|41.5|N|154|56.1|W|Tuamotus to Hawaii Day 23|Day 23{GEND}

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Days 20&21 Tuamotus to Hawaii

These were two of the most difficult days of the passage. For the most part we sailed with only the deeply reefed main and the staysail. Before I came on watch at Noon on Saturday I lay in the quarter berth listening to waves breaking on the side of the boat and splashing into the cockpit. When one of these sent a fine mist of salt spray through the aft facing porthole I decided it was time to close it up tight.

A couple of hours later I had just finished recording our hourly progress in the log and was standing in the galley with the open book. A bigger than usual wave came crashing into the cockpit and pouring into the galley, all over me, the steps, the fridge, the stove, and the sink. A few drops even made it as far as the counter top where our TV is stowed. John also discovered a few inches had made it into the lazarette. We spent the next hour cleaning up that salty mess, and I'm sure we'll be wiping up residue from hidden nooks and crannies for weeks to come. After that we closed the top slider and put one drop board in the hatch!

Then Ziggy began his usual routine at 4 PM of bugging me to feed him dinner. I normally manage to hold him off until at least 4:30, so I petted him some and then ignored him as he sat on the table watching me eat some canned peaches. Well, I guess the stress is getting to him too because, quick as lightning, he decided to viciously attack my right forearm. All four fangs sank deep into my skin with either additional teeth or a few claws also leaving their mark. My angry reaction was to swat him in return, which only sent peach juice everywhere as he beat a hasty retreat. I couldn't believe the degree to which my arm started throbbing and felt like it was on fire. I doused all the puncture wounds with alcohol and rubbed Mupirocin into them (an antibiotic ointment our vet recommended for just such events). John wrapped me up with gauze and tape so I wouldn't get blood on the sheets when I went off watch at 5 PM. Needless to say I asked John to feed Ziggy and I've been keeping my distance ever since. Anybody want a free cat?

The good news is that as of this writing (Sunday afternoon) we are still on track for a Tuesday arrival. We are pushing as hard as we can to make that happen before sunset so that we can get tied up to the wall in Radio Bay. Pura Vida arrived safely after sunrise this morning, and they report they are the only boat there! We are looking forward to joining them for some food and fun.

Day 20 Stats
Course: 308 degrees True
Trip Mileage: 132 nm
Water Temp: 81.7 to 80.6 F (trending down)
Engine Hours: 0

Day 21 Stats
Course: 307 degrees True
Trip Mileage: 131 nm
Water Temp: 81.0 to 79.2 F (trending down)
Engine Hours: 0

{GMST}17|02.6|N|151|27.6|W|Tuamotus to Hawaii Day 21|Day 21{GEND}

Friday, November 01, 2013

Days 18&19 Tuamotus to Hawaii

We've been sailing with the "second" reef in our main sail; the staysail; and a scrap of jib which gets trimmed in and out for squalls. Second reef is a misnomer because our main sail only has two reefs. The first is a reasonable reduction and we sail with it in often. But the second reef wasn't calculated correctly and it brings the main down to almost the size of a storm sail (itty bitty). John has been meaning to add another reef point in between the two to increase our options.

18-22 knot winds bring boisterous seas and we are now in the hard home stretch to Hawaii. If you've ever flown there from the mainland, these are the conditions you look down on from the comfort of your jumbo jet and say, "I sure wouldn't want to be in a sailboat out in that!" Nothing dangerous, just messy white caps and waves breaking on the side of the boat now and then (soaking the cockpit). Down below we keep a firm grip and/or brace ourselves against two opposing points with our legs/feet to keep from being thrown across the boat because we never know when one of those waves is going to hit. We can expect another day or two of this and then we're hoping it backs off a little.

Thanks to everyone who confirmed official reports of my comet/meteor sighting. Even though I thought it was spectacular, it's nice to know that it was significant enough to make the news.

I can't remember if I've mentioned this before. If you're interested in more details about our weather conditions and progress, go to http://www.pangolin.co.nz/yotreps_reporting_boat_list where the Pacific Seafarer's Net is tracking Nakia. John (HAM call sign KE6HUA) reports in with them by HF radio every evening with our daily stats and they post it for all of you to see. This is a HAM net run by dedicated volunteer amateur radio enthusiasts all over the Pacific. In case of an emergency, they are the best people we could hope to have watching our backs for us. We can't thank them enough for being there every night of the year!

Pura Vida is way out ahead of us and hopes to be in Hilo by Noon on Sunday. If we can keep up our current rate of progress we're looking forward to making landfall sometime late Tuesday night.

Day 18 Stats
Course: 310 degrees True
Trip Mileage: 127 nm
Water Temp: 81.0 to 82.0 F (trending down)
Engine Hours: 0

Day 19 Stats
Course: 309 degrees True
Trip Mileage: 127 nm
Water Temp: 81.0 to 81.5 F
Engine Hours: 0

{GMST}14|18.8|N|147|53.8|W|Tuamotus to Hawaii Day 19|Day 19{GEND}

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Days 16&17 Tuamotus to Hawaii

A whole lot of motorin' goin' on! At least it seemed that way. Looking back at the stats I guess there was more light air sailing in the mix, including one brief attempt at using the spinnaker to keep us moving. The good news is that in the dark hours of this morning John turned off the engine and we started romping in the bigger seas and white caps of a stiff breeze. We still have a hot sun, warm sea temps, and big clouds with lots of overcast (which somehow don't do a thing to help dampen the intense heat), but hopefully we are finished with any lingering effects of the ITCZ and are in the home stretch now.

We are definitely there in terms of time. There's something reassuring about being able to say, "We'll be arriving in Hilo one week from today." And after that to be counting down days that make up less than a week! Actually it's the night countdown which is most significant because those are the hardest to get through when you're tired. Although at least there's some relief in the cooler temps of the night.

We've seen lots of birds most days. Shearwaters, a petrel here and there, terns, and even a dedraggled looking Masked Booby yesterday. But the coolest thing so far happened last night at 11:35. I was out in the cockpit doing my horizon scan and looking forward. A flash of light made me turn my head to the West where I'd watched the sun set earlier. I didn't even think "shooting star" initially because the thing was like a yellow ball of fire, at least twice the size of a planet, and diving left to right just above the clouds on the horizon before it burned out. I don't recall seeing a tail so I wouldn't call it a comet. Let me know if you hear of any satellite flame outs in the news...


Day 16 Stats
Course: 321 degrees True
Trip Mileage: 97 nm
Water Temp: 83.5 to 81.3 F (trending down)
Engine Hours: 7.8

Day 17 Stats
Course: 319 degrees True
Trip Mileage: 118 nm
Water Temp: 84.9 to 81.5 F (trending up then down)
Engine Hours: 13.6

{GMST}11|35.1|N|144|34.4|W|Tuamotus to Hawaii Day 17|Day 17{GEND}

Monday, October 28, 2013

Days 14&15 Tuamotus to Hawaii

By the end of week two of our passage we were still firmly in the grasp of the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone) and an East setting current. We began motoring after sunset on Saturday and didn't shut the engine down until dawn on Monday. During that time we had hours of rain, some of it a light drizzle and some of it a good soaking, though none of it was enough to wash the encrusted salt off of the life lines, as hard as that is to believe.

We typically have sea birds following the boat at night, and we assume they are fishing in the glow of our running lights. We can't see them but we can hear their hideous squawking which at times sounds exactly like a cat screaming. Near midnight on Saturday the clamor of a few birds was especially loud but I ignored it until John woke up to say it sounded like the loudest cries were coming from the side deck above where he was in the quarter berth. As I collected my wits and a flashlight, Ziggy shot past me out the companionway. I followed him on to the side deck where I caught him in the beam of the light with a large bird in his mouth. I scruffed him by the neck to make him release the bird, which then fell to the deck on its back, wings spread open, unmoving. Moving quickly so that Ziggy wouldn't have a chance to regain control of his trophy, I gingerly grasped a wing between my thumb and forefinger and flung it over the side, and, I'm sorry to say, most likely to a watery grave. Usually Ziggy's prey flies up and away the second he releases his grip. But because this one didn't make a move when it was freed, or again when I picked it up, I suspect it was already seriously injured before Ziggy got to it. Perhaps it misjudged the motion of the boat and accidentally flew into the rigging, falling to the side deck, and doing more injury trying to get out of the maze of life lines. Or Ziggy might have been the last straw to finish it off. I looked for it in our Seabirds book and, based on the brief look I had of it, it appears to have been a juvenile Sooty Tern. It deeply saddens me that our mere presence in a speck of vast ocean is enough to inadvertently threaten the lives of wild creatures.

Day 14 Stats
Course: 006 degrees True
Trip Mileage: 123 nm
Water Temp: 81.5 to 82.9 F
Engine Hours: 14.2

Day 15 Stats
Course: 356 degrees True
Trip Mileage: 104 nm
Water Temp: 82.6 to 83.5 F
Engine Hours: 18.0

{GMST}08|49.7|N|142|17|W|Tuamotus to Hawaii Day 15|Day 15{GEND}

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Days 12&13 Tuamotus to Hawaii

Wow, talk about feast or famine. Our 10 AM Wednesday to 10 AM Thursday run was crystal clear with a fair wind for fast sailing. This may have been a 24-hour distance record for Nakia. But by 9 PM Thursday night we had lost the wind and had to motor the rest of the night.

I saw dolphins off in the distance both days. They must have been concentrating on feeding as they didn't approach the boat. Although it looked like some of them were goofing off by jumping clear out of the water. Thursday's sunset was on a very clear horizon and I got a good look at a green flash while John was talking to Pura Vida on the HF radio. Friday afternoon the seas were so calm that I noticed we were sailing through a large patch of what John calls Sailor by the Wind jellies. These look like solid, small, opaque bubbles floating on the surface with some dangly bit of animal underneath; though not with tentacles like the blue Agua Males in Mexico. I was amazed at how many appeared, seemingly all of a sudden, and at how they were gone after about 10-15 minutes.

These were two very good days in spite of the motoring!

And I owe an apology to all you hard working, 9-5 people reading our blog. After getting an email from a good friend in which she described all the personal projects they are juggling on top of their careers I realized that I'm the one with too much time on my hands! Maybe it's time to get a real life...


Day 12 Stats
Course: 000 degrees True
Trip Mileage: 149 nm
Water Temp: 76.3 to 78.6 F (up and down)
Engine Hours: 0

Day 13 Stats
Course: 003 degrees True
Trip Mileage: 129 nm
Water Temp: 77.9 to 79.0 F (up and down)
Engine Hours: 10.2

{GMST}05|03|N|142|25|W|Tuamotus to Hawaii Day 13|Day 13{GEND}

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Days 10&11 Tuamotus to Hawaii

Neptune sent dolphins to escort us up out of the Southern Hemisphere! No sooner had we signed off with Pura Vida after our 0700 radio sked with them yesterday than we were surrounded by a nice big pod of dolphins. We weren't sailing particularly fast but they swam with us for quite awhile, showing off their babies as they zig-zagged across our bow. Last night they joined us again on both our night watches. We can always hear them squeaking and whistling through the hull down below before we actually see them outside in the dark. I think Ziggy hears them but since he doesn't look over the cap rail to see them, he isn't very interested. We were hoping they might escort us right over the Equator but they must have decided to return to the warmer waters behind us.

We took our second salt water bath of the passage while it was fairly calm at Noon yesterday. John turned the boat downwind for a smoother ride and ran a short length of hose from the cockpit wash down "faucet" out on to the leeward side deck. We turned on the salt water pump and lathered up with our trusty Head & Shoulders shampoo. The cold water was a bit of a shock at first but soon turned refreshing as we scrubbed off a few days of salt and sweat. Then we took turns getting a fresh water rinse from the sun shower which John sets up to hang from the dodger back in the safety of the cockpit.

In between baths we rely on pre-moistened wipes to take the edge off. Unfortunately, as I try different brands, I'm never certain how effective these are going to be until we actually use them. After one of our first passages using a wipe with a sickening "baby powder" aroma, I've tried to find unscented brands. The best ones were an adult sport wipe by, I believe, Nivea, which we found in Tahiti in 2010 and haven't seen since. Second best were the citrus scented Big Ones by Wet Ones, but at only 35 to a pack (and opened earlier in the season), we've already managed to finish them on this passage. So now we are left with 80 unscented Huggies Natural Care wipes which are baby-sized, roll under your hand as you use them, and tear to pieces after only a few brisk strokes. What a provisioning miscalculation that was.

Speaking of provisioning, we just finished off a roll of foil wrap that we opened in August, 2010 (we track things like this). I guess I thought it would last forever at the rate it was going because we don't have another roll on hand. It's a good thing we don't use it often!

Day 10 Stats
Course: 020 degrees True
Trip Mileage: 116 nm
Water Temp: 80.8 down to 78.6 F as we sailed North
Engine Hours: 0

Day 11 Stats
Course: 012 degrees True
Trip Mileage: 129 nm
Water Temp: 79.0 down to 77.0 F as we sailed North
Engine Hours: 0

{GMST}00|29.1|N|142|34.2|W|Tuamotus to Hawaii Day 11|Day 11{GEND}

8th Equator crossing!

On October 24, 2013
At 1519 GMT or 0519 Local (Tahiti time zone)
At 00 degrees, 00.0 minutes latitude
At 142 degrees, 39.279 minutes longitude

S/V NAKIA sailed from the Southern Hemisphere across the Equator into the Northern Hemisphere! John poured a tot of whiskey over the side for Neptune, and then had one out of the bottle for himself. We thanked Neptune for seeing us safely across the Equator once again, and then we wished Holly in San Diego a very Happy Birthday today!

This makes our eighth crossing of the Equator:

05/12/2008 Mexico to Ecuador
11/07/2008 Ecuador to Panama
05/24/2009 Panama to Ecuador
11/20/2009 Marquesas (French Polynesia) to Hawaii
04/19/2010 Hawaii to Marquesas
10/15/2010 Society Islands (FP) to Hawaii
05/08/2013 Mexico to Marquesas
10/24/2013 Tuamotus (FP) to Hawaii

Ziggy hopes we find him a permanent land home in Hawaii so that he can retire his Neptune costume!

{GMST}000|00.000|N|142|39.279|W|Tuamotus to Hawaii|Equator Crossing{GEND}

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Days 8&9 Tuamotus to Hawaii

Tuesday afternoon

We finally seem to have reached some wind we can think of as not completely on the nose! This is very comforting, even though it sounds kind of like, "Now that I've hit my thumb with a hammer, I barely notice my toothache." But it is truly a relief to be sailing slightly off the wind. We don't pound so much and we can make much better speed. The strategy now is to just head north. Theoretically we want to arrive in the NE trade winds around 142 West Longitude, but if it's 142.25 or even 142.5 that will have to be good enough. We are looking for that to happen in about nine days.

As an example of how nasty sailing hard on the wind is, I (John) would like to relate an even that occurred night before last. First some background. Since we are sailing on Starboard Tack the boat heels with the port side down. This is not so good because our natural place to sit while on watch, the Starboard Settee is constantly on a downhill slope. Every once in a while a wave comes along that increases the slope drastically. Not only in angle but in position. Basically the waves try to throw you out of your seat. To counter this, we sit with one (or both) legs braced against the saloon table. That's fine, except it's kind of like a long boring workout. Like doing one half of a deep knee bend for 15 minutes at a time, 12 hours a day. In an attempt to make the Port Settee a place where you can sit or lie down without having to brace yourself, I came up with the patented 'Bean Bag Lee Bolster.' I took a beach towel, folded it in half, placed our tubular bean bag pillow in the fold and then wrapped the towel around the settee cushion. The pressure of your body prevents the towel from slipping and the bean bag prevents you from rolling off the settee. (Note, normal sailors use something called a lee cloth which is basically a canvas wall holding you on the cushion). The patented 'Bean Bag Lee Bolster' was working pretty good. Over time the towel would slip a little but it was easy enough to put back in position and we both felt very secure laying down on the Port Settee.

Then it got rough. I have trouble sleeping in the Quarter Berth when it's rough so Linda suggested I lie down on the Port Settee. I stayed secure behind the Bolster for about 45 minutes until a big wave came by. As NAKIA leapt off the wave, my body weight was no longer sufficient to hold the towel in place. The bean bag rolled off the cushion and I landed on the floor. Thankfully it's only a 20-inch drop and my head was well padded with pillows. Now the Bolster is secured with a bed sheet that wraps all the way around the cushion instead of down only one side. The re-design has yet to fail.

Last night I (now Linda) was absentmindedly staring at the GPS and AIS displays watching the longitude hundredths tick down as we slowly regain our Easting. It was almost time to log the 0100 position report when an unfamiliar icon popped up on the AIS. Although I know it defeats the whole purpose of alerting you to ships before you can see them, I was glad the alarm wasn't activated because it can be quite alarming! John came on watch and pulled up the icon list to learn that it was a vessel "Engaged in Fishing." When I "saw" it on the AIS the boat was 12-14 miles off our bow and not yet visible on the horizon. Sure enough John saw its lights later on in his watch when we passed it.

John was dozing a bit later and missed the tell tale flopping sound of a flying fish hitting the side deck. Instead, the first thing he heard was the familiar sound of crunching and a very rank fishy smell coming from the galley. Ziggy had managed to eat the head before John threw the rest out. Later on John had to clean up another round of upset tummy from Ziggy (at least John saw what was happening and got Ziggy off the carpet in time). I guess instead of catch and release Ziggy is on a regimen of gorge and toss! That may have been the cause (albeit far more delayed) of his last round of bulimia. (Why, oh why, do the pet food companies insist on putting so much dye in their kibble? Do we humans really care what color the food is, because the cats certainly don't, and it just leaves an orange stain in the carpet when it happens to come back up.) Not an hour later, after eating his breakfast, I heard a flying fish and found Ziggy on the side deck just watching it. Either it was still flopping around too much for him to grab it, or he finally realized he'd had enough. I didn't find out which was the case before tossing it (back into the ocean) myself.

Day 8 Stats
Course: 353 degrees True
Trip Mileage: 95 nm
Water Temp: 80.8 to 81.5 F
Engine Hours: 0

Day 9 Stats
Course: 011 degrees True
Trip Mileage: 107 nm
Water Temp: 80.4 to 81.3 F
Engine Hours: 0

{GMST}03|27|S|143|42|W|Tuamotus to Hawaii Day 9|Day 9{GEND}

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Days 6&7 Tuamotus to Hawaii

Sunday afternoon

Well for a day there it looked like we were headed to the Marquesas for a stop to catch up on our sleep and load up on fresh pamplemousse! I'll let John explain the technical reasons behind that:

It's been a tough couple of days for sailorizing. The wind, never what you would call 'fair,' has turned to NE, pretty much the exact direction we want to travel (i.e., a headwind). So we were faced with a choice. Head West (or North West) and give up all the Easting we'd already fought so hard for, or go South East and conserve our Easting but make absolutely no progress towards Hawaii.

Our initial choice was to head NW, but then the wind shifted even more and NW became more like W. So we tacked onto Port Tack and sailed slowly to the ESE, basically just waiting for the wind to shift back into the E.

Last night it finally did, and we set as much sail as we can handle to go North - as fast as possible. It looks like the trough that caused the NE winds is going to spawn another low pressure system to our South, which will bring more NE winds to the area we are in now. Hopefully by then we will be 300 miles North of here and it won't have as bad an effect on us.

Got all that?! I know...

We've seen mostly Tropic Birds and Booby Birds, Shearwaters, and one Frigate Bird this first week. The adult Masked Boobies are easiest to identify with their distinct black and white markings. I think a Red-footed Booby was checking us out one morning. They have several color "morphs" and this one was all dark grey-brown with a dark grey beak (which makes it a Juvenile according to our Seabirds book). Unfortunately they all keep their legs tucked up tight when they're flying and I can never see what color the feet are. I also caught a brief glimpse of a lone dolphin surfing down a couple of wave faces before it disappeared. And John says he had dolphins swimming on our bow last night.

It was getting a bit discouraging to think of having to start our trip all over again from the Marquesas, but now we're romping towards our real destination (Hawaii!) and spirits are up again.

Linda and John

Day 6 Stats
Course: 339 degrees True
Trip Mileage: 37 nm
Water Temp: 81.3 to 81.7 F
Engine Hours: 1.7

Day 7 Stats
Course: 008 degrees True
Trip Mileage: 57 nm
Water Temp: 81.7 to 82.4 F
Engine Hours: 0

{GMST}06|42|S|143|53|W|Tuamotus to Hawaii Day 7|Day 7{GEND}

Friday, October 18, 2013

Days 4&5 Tuamotus to Hawaii

0400 Watch on Friday

It's been very slow going the past two days. Not only have we had the usual small rain squalls at night but there were also a few during the day on Thursday. John is kept busy putting out a scrap of jib in the light periods in between squalls and then cranking it all back in when one of those heavy, wind filled clouds goes over us.

On top of this we've been "headed" and the wind is taking us back to the west eating up all that nice Port cross track error we so carefully built up over the first few days. John is appalled at how quickly those miles are eaten up after taking so long to build them.

Ziggy chose one of the calmest periods yesterday afternoon to throw up his mostly digested breakfast. Give me mostly UNdigested please because it's much easier to clean up. For the first time in his life he's been showing signs of needing to cough up a hairball so I had already fed him some petroleum jelly (per instructions in our cat medical book) to induce it to pass out the other end (as has been his normal history up to now). The bad news is I did not find signs of a hairball in yesterday's mess. Stay tuned for further updates...

At 1 PM Wednesday I saw a small white ship crossing Nakia's bow from west to east. At first I assumed it was a supply ship headed for the Marquesas. It was moving so slowly that I figured it must be hanging back to get a closer look at us. But after it was well clear of us it slowly turned a bit south and then appeared to heave to into the wind. Pura Vida reported having seen the same thing when they passed through the area. I suspect it was some kind of fishing vessel "resting" until their work began at nightfall. And this is the second ship without an AIS transponder signal to give us advance notice of its presence. Keeps us on our toes.

We were excited to hear Carrie on S/V Dazzler checking in to the Pacific Seafarers Net last night. They just left Raiatea bound for Honolulu. We last sailed that route with them in 2010. As I recall they were residents of the Hawaii Yacht Club at that time and Carrie was kind enough to take us to Costco with her for - what else - cat litter! Dazzler is a big fast boat and will no doubt be passing us shortly.

Day 4 Stats
Course: 020 degrees True
Trip Mileage: 100 nm
Water Temp: 82.6 to 83.1 F
Engine Hours: 0

Day 5 Stats
Course: 342 degrees True
Trip Mileage: 75 nm
Water Temp: 81.3 to 82.9 F
Engine Hours: 0

{GMST}08|18|S|143|48|W|Tuamotus to Hawaii Day 5|Day 5{GEND}

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Days 2&3 Tuamotus to Hawaii

0400 Watch on Wednesday, 10/16

We are back in the groove of our usual watch schedule. For those who don't remember/know how we work it:

0700-1200 John
1200-1700 Linda
1700-2100 John
2100-0100 Linda
0100-0400 John
0400-0700 Linda

This way John gets the sunset watch and I get the sunrise watch, which is how we both prefer it. The long five hour watches during the day give us a chance to catch up on any sleep we missed during the night, and to do chores.

We are deliberately sailing more slowly than we could be. Although Nakia is built to take a pounding neither of us likes crashing and bashing. So we've been running under a reefed main, with the staysail, and occasionally a scrap of jib out. The jib usually gets rolled up or at least shortened at night when we are most likely to have rain squalls pass over us. With the good moon light we have now we can see these clouds coming far in the distance. They usually bring us increased winds and hopefully a boat wash, and only last for about 15-30 minutes at a time. We can definitely use a nightly wash with all the salt spray we are taking over the foredeck.

John here: Early Wednesday morning (about 0300) we were hit by yet another squall. It has been very unsettled the last 36 hours. This squall lasted a lot longer and seemed a bit stronger then the ones before. After about 15 minutes of very high wind I heard (and felt) a loud BANG! I quickly turned on all the deck lights to see what had broken but didn't find anything out of the ordinary. All the sails were still set and pulling and the boat was still on course. I waited another half hour before it calmed down enough to brave a trip on deck when I found that three out of four of the 5/16" bolts that hold the staysail had broken. The last was bent at an extreme angle and looked like it could go at any time. I quickly dropped the staysail and decided to wait for daylight to take a closer look. 0500 found me on deck with a length of 1/4" Spectra rope which I used to build an emergency attachment point for the staysail stay and the sail itself. It took over two hours, but seems to be holding for now. We should only need the staysail for another 10 days or so, hopefully by then the wind will come aft and the jib can take over. In the meantime, I'll be checking the Spectra rope for signs of failure four times a day.

We also had a couple of visiting squid last night. These are particularly annoying because even though we can neither see them when they land or smell them after they've sat around and dried on deck, Ziggy can smell them as soon as they stop wriggling. Of course any fresh seafood is Mana for Z, so he immediately wants to go for a walk on deck to slurp them up. Not such a good idea when it's blowing 20 kts and water is constantly flying over the deck. We do our best, but he eventually gets out on deck, and comes back when he gets tired of being splashed by waves.

Day 2 Stats
Course: 23 degrees True
Trip Mileage: 110 nm
Water Temp: 81.7 to 82.6 F
Engine Hours: 0

Day 3 Stats
Course: 17 degrees True
Trip Mileage: 92 nm
Water Temp: 82.4 to 82.9 F
Engine Hours: 0

{GMST}11|06|S|144|02|W|Tuamotus to Hawaii Day 3|Day 3{GEND}

Monday, October 14, 2013

Day 1, Tuamotus to Hawaii

Afternoon of Monday, October 14

Here we go again!

We departed Anse Amyot, Toau atoll in the Tuamotus at 0915 on Sunday, October 13. Tearful goodbyes were exchanged with Valentine and Gaston that morning, and "Hawaii or Bust" and "Meet you at Dairy Queen" were shouted to the crew of Pura Vida as they prepared for their departure a few hours later (and who left us in the dust sometime last night!). Conditions were not perfect for our first day out of the box after being at anchor for almost a month, but neither could they be called bad. We've had a good sailing breeze and, while the seas are steep and choppy, they are also very short. So for us on Nakia it's a bouncy ride with the occasional (and highly irregular) salt water spray splashing across the windward side of the boat into the cockpit.

Other than our regular horizon checks for traffic, squalls, course, etc. every 15 minutes we mostly stay dry below. Although "dry" is a relative term when all hatches and portholes are closed up against the elements. Things get rather steamy during the day, even when it's mostly cloudy out. But with the tow generator working 24/7 we're able to run fans to keep us cool, and the refrigerator cranks out cold drinks to keep us hydrated.

We were both feeling a little queasy to start out with but we have our sea legs now. I might not be reporting on our passage diet in too much detail because I know some people who will be alarmed by the apparent disregard we have for our health. On the other hand maybe it will be entertaining to those of you who enjoy rolling your eyes and thinking OMG.

Finally, my apologies for not tending to the blog for our third cruising season in French Polynesia. After the first time around exploring a new cruising ground there doesn't seem to be anything new and exciting to report. Frankly another reason is that for the (albeit minor in comparison to other things) amount of work involved in writing a blog there wasn't much in the way of a payoff. We know several people were following the blog, but for the most part we only ever received news from my family on a regular basis. So I switched back to keeping a record of our activities through private email. If you want to hear from us, let us hear from you!

Day 1 Stats
Course: 30 degrees True
Trip Mileage: 104 nm
Water Temp: 80.6 to 81.7 F
Engine Hours: 0.9

I'll be posting 24-hour position reports based on our 0900 departure time. You can also refer to the YOTREPS/Pangolin web site for Nakia's 0300 Zulu nightly position reports to the Pacific Seafarers Net. Search for John's HAM call sign: KE6HUA.


{GMST}14|16|S|145|17|W|Tuamotus to Hawaii Day 1|Day 1{GEND}

Friday, August 23, 2013

Tahiti to Tahanea

We departed Baie Phaeton, at the isthmus between Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti, at first light on Tuesday. John had specifically looked for a weather window of next to no wind to get us back to the Tuamotus. In the usual prevailing wind pattern it would be a salty wet bash - which Nakia and her crew do not particularly like. After motoring out of the protective lee of the island the seas were short but close together and we knew we were back on open ocean again.

We got what we wished for and this may have been the most expensive passage, relatively speaking, that we've ever had. John had gone to the gas station and filled one 6.5 gallon jerry jug full of diesel fuel to top our tanks and it cost him about $45 US! Although we tried to sail when we could - even when it meant doing one knot of boat speed - we ended up motoring most of the way here. But when we sailed it was absolutely beautiful, especially at night with the boat gliding along in the moonlight reflecting on the flat surface of the water.

How calm was it, you ask? It was so calm that:

We set our coffee cups down on the table or counter and they didn't tip over (well, John still held on to his out of force of habit; I seized the day and felt like I was living on the edge)...

I sat in one of our plastic patio chairs in the cockpit to watch the sunrise...

We saw a fish swim under the boat..

John saw his reflection in the water as he leaned over to take a...hmmm, uh, you know...

The silence was deafening each time we pulled the kill switch and got some relief from the noise, heat, and vibration of the engine. It made for lots of tippy-toeing around by the on-watch person at night while the off-watch tried to sleep in all that quiet. Woe to the crew who opened a new packet of crackers for a midnight snack. Those plastic wrappers are noisy!

Even though we were paralleling the atoll of Tahanea before dawn when we could see the palm covered motus along the coral reef, we still had another four and a half hours of following the reef to the main pass entrance. As we closed with the pass we watched as huge rain clouds began to form. We had missed the beginning of an ebb tide after high slack by about three hours, and the current was already churning up the far side of the entrance. John wanted to know if I wanted to stay outside the pass and wipe down the boat in the rain but I didn't want to give the current a chance to get any stronger so we headed in. Of course at that moment the clouds converged to block the sun and it started to rain. Fortunately it wasn't so heavy that visibility was impaired, and it was still calm. John hugged the SE side of the pass on our port side to stay out of the current while I stood on the bow making sure we weren't going to hit anything. I glanced up occasionally to watch a rock on shore 120 yards away as we passed at a snail's pace with as much as four knots of counter-current slowing us down. But after only 15 minutes we were through the worst of it and I was wiping the salt and grime off the boat with the fresh rain water.

We finally killed the engine and had the best sail of the whole passage. Unfortunately it was backtracking two hours across the lagoon to the far SE end where we had started - only this time we were inside the reef. We had counted four boats at anchor as we went by outside after sunrise and now we could see two more. The boats are spread out among a handful of atolls for privacy and we split the difference between two of them. I was a bit frantic as John directed me forward out of deep water and over the sand to drop the anchor in seven feet of water (plus two that the depth sounder doesn't know about). That just goes to show how long it's been since we've been in clear water (I'm out of practice). And I thought Tahiti was pretty great - this is way mo' betta! We already have a male Napoleon (Humphead) wrasse in residence who was happy to come to the surface for our fish scraps (see dinner plans below).

Here are the stats, plus or minus a bit since I haven't slept much in three nights:

Motored 42 hours for a total of 222 nautical miles.
Sailed 36 hours for a total of 102 miles.
Average speed over total of 78 hours and 324 miles was 4.1 knots.
Fuel consumed: 25 gallons at $177? We're hoping for around six tenths of a gallon per hour since John kept the RPMs at 1400 which is not much above forward idle speed.
Fish caught: A 20 lb skipjack tuna, the one and only time John put out a line. While the meat looks a disgusting dark blood red, John marinated it in soy sauce, sugar, and garlic chili sauce, and pan fried it. Tonight it goes over cous cous cooked with a sauteed onion and a can of Veg-all.

Ziggy's already had several laps around the boat enjoying our new found calm and quiet (not to mention all the fresh fish). Now it's time for us to get in this beautiful clear lagoon and go for a swim!


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tahiti waypoints

Here are some of the places we've stopped during our stay in Tahiti from our July 29 arrival until now. Until we left Papeete our focus was mostly around restocking the boat and buying supplies for our friends on Toau. Because we only buy what we can carry back to the boat it took several trips to complete our lists.

Point Venus: We arrived here at sunrise with Chris and Lila of Privateer after sailing within sight of them during our entire two day/night sail from Toau. We spent most of our time here grocery shopping, with one trip by bus to Papeete for pearl shopping with Privateer.

Marina Taina anchorage: Here we continued our provisioning which was made very easy with access to a free dinghy dock and a full-sized Carrefour shopping center only a 10 minute walk away. We also made use of the marina's laundry facilities at a very reasonable 800 CFP for a 10 kg washing machine.

Papeete Quay: Located in downtown Papeete we were able to make several visits to marine and hardware stores, order our duty-free alcohol, walk almost daily to the grocery store, buy inexpensive lunches in the open-air Market, eat one night at the Roulottes, do more laundry (this time by hand) on the quay, and replenish our supplies of gasoline and propane. On the fun side of things we also managed to take a hike up through Fautaua Valley to a waterfall and spend an afternoon at the nearby waterfront park. I highly recommend the pearl shopping at Mihiarii Pearls, especially if you can work with the very helpful (and English) Jessica at their outlet upstairs in the Marche (Market). They have loose, undrilled pearls for every budget.

Maraa Grotto: From Papeete we made another short stop at the Marina Taina anchorage. We took the local bus down to visit the Maraa Grottos and a few beach parks. The next day we motored to an anchor spot out in front of the grottos to make our way towards Port Phaeton. The grottos are not really worth making a special trip for, but the beach parks were nice.

Baie Phaeton: Another easy shopping stop with a place to tie up the dinghy for a short walk to another huge Carrefour. A Hyper Champion and a Super U are a farther walk through town.

{GMST}17|30.210|S|149|29.844|W|Tahiti|Point Venus{GEND}
{GMST}17|34.832|S|149|37.104|W|Tahiti|Marina Taina anchorage{GEND}
{GMST}17|33.425|S|149|34.224|W|Tahiti|Papeete Quay{GEND}
{GMST}17|44.775|S|149|34.434|W|Tahiti|Maraa Grotto{GEND}
{GMST}17|43.809|S|149|19.542|W|Tahiti|Baie Phaeton{GEND}

Friday, August 16, 2013

Tuamotus waypoints

Some of you have missed "seeing" where we've been in French Polynesia this season so I'll do a brief rundown on our stops in the Tuamotus from June 17 to July 27.

Fakarava South Pass (West): This was a favorite of ours in 2010 when we were one of a handful of boats who ventured over to this side of the pass. Most cruisers opt to anchor in deeper water to the east of the pass in front of Manihi's lovely pension/restaurant amidst the fir trees he and his wife planted on their motu. But this season we found many more boats were anchoring on the west side in spite of the longer dinghy ride for snorkeling/diving the pass. Neville and Catherine of Dream Time, along with help from several other cruisers, created the Fakarava Yacht Club beach "bar" on a sandy motu. We enjoyed many bonfire evenings there and we hope it survives cyclone season to open in time for next season's visitors.

Fakarava lagoon: On our first day of lagoon transit from the South Pass to the North we hit a period of incredibly calm weather. We anchored in 70' in mirror flat water. This is not a tenable stop in anything but perfect conditions. The reward here is a fantastic low tide reef walk. Two kinds of live cowries were in abundance along with many other interesting forms of marine life to observe (but not touch).

Fakarava near Tonae: This was a nice stop to stretch our legs and explore on the coral "road" which is more like a track. We chose to hike north where we found spurs leading to the outer reef for a nice beach walk at low tide.

Anse Amyot, Toau: This was a favorite stop of ours in 2010 when we had calm and settled weather. Unfortunately this year there was much more wind and we were hunkered down for almost 10 of the 28 days we spent here. Instead of daily snorkeling we escaped the wind out on the boat by going ashore. John was drafted to build Valentine a chicken coop. This is not the kind of thing he normally enjoys doing (give him a piece of electronics to fix and he's a happy camper), but it turned out great and it let Gaston get on with the jobs that are more important to him like clearing more of Motu Kai for planting palm trees for producing copra. A by-product of clearing the land of brush is turning up old garbage burn piles. I helped sift through these to separate out (broken) glass and aluminum. We think (hope) the latter is sent to Papeete for recycling. Gaston asked John and Chris of Privateer to help dig a pit in which to bury the glass. This was a difficult job and we all agreed that it might be better to bury the glass out at sea... As a reward for everyone's hard work, Gaston and Valentine took us out to Motu Pagnoi in their go-fast boat for a picnic. This turned out to be the calmest day of our stay there.


{GMST}16|31.244|S|145|28.368|W|Tuamotus|Fakarava South Pass (West){GEND}
{GMST}16|22.678|S|145|26.368|W|Tuamotus|Fakarava lagoon{GEND}
{GMST}16|15.583|S|145|32.837|W|Tuamotus|Fakarava near Tonae{GEND}
{GMST}16|03.552|S|145|37.248|W|Tuamotus|Fakarava North Pass{GEND}
{GMST}15|48.221|S|146|09.141|W|Tuamotus|Anse Amyot, Toau{GEND}

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Raroia, Tuamotus

John threaded the needle perfectly and navigated us here to arrive just after dawn. Unfortunately we missed the morning slack after the high, and slack after the ebb wasn't technically until around 1 PM. We slowly tacked back and forth outside the lagoon entrance with only the reefed main, admiring the view of palm trees and motus from outside the atoll. At 12:30 we decided to give it a shot and had an easy 15 minute motor to the range inside the lagoon. From there it was another hour plus of motoring straight across to the East (weather side) of the lagoon.

We're anchored in 40' off of a motu to the north of the local pearl farm. We jumped in for a snorkel towards the beach but, gasp, the water is only 82 degrees. All I could think as we drifted from one coral head to the next was OMG. It is so beautiful here - above and below the water.

We ended the day with sundowners made of blended fresh mango, 7-Up, lime, and vodka over ice and we enjoyed them sitting in perfectly flat calm water. We figure the last calm anchorage we were in must have been Barra de Navidad in the 2011/12 season. And the last anchorage we were alone in might have been Carrizal, near Manzanillo this past winter. Ziggy is loving the stable platform as well and has been zooming around the decks and racing down below to start it all again.

Fortunately it all turned out well even though John was horrified when he realized we'd left the Marquesas on a Friday! We are thrilled beyond belief to be in this stunning place. How can it get even better than the Marquesas?



Friday, June 07, 2013

Marquesan Wrap-up

Friday afternoon, underway

As we depart the Marquesas today bound for the Tuamotus I'll take this opportunity to summarize the last days of our visit here.

A week ago we were warned of a large swell that could possibly affect SW facing anchorages. We were ready to move on from Tahuata and decided to try the north side of Hiva Oa. We considered Hanamenu but we just haven't been able to convince ourselves to spend any time there. We tried it in 2009, but we ended up turning around to go back to Tahuata after a brief stop for lunch. We were disenchanted with the brown water and the onshore wind howling into the anchorage. Other cruisers seem to enjoy it, so we'll have to try again someday.

Instead we went eight miles past Hanamenu to the bay and village of Hanaiapa. The other three boats in the bay had put stern anchors out but there was plenty of room for us to swing, and our rocker stopper was up to the job of keeping us from rolling too terribly. This is where we made a lunch stop at the beach during our 2009 touring day in a rental car with Quixotic. It's a pretty bay and we enjoyed walking along the well manicured road out of town to stretch our legs.

After our long walk we were ready to cool off with a dinghy ride to the blowhole. As we explored the bay's perimeter and the rock spire just off the point we came across a school of manta rays. We put on our snorkel gear and jumped in the water with 10 rays feeding back and forth in our patch of water. John kicked himself for not bringing his camera to get a shot of me with one particularly large manta. We floated next to the dinghy and just watched them swim towards us and then turn away or dive down to pass us. So magical.

Monday we returned to Hanamoenoa on our favorite Marquesan island of Tahuata. It was a bit of a zoo as 19 boats crowded into the anchorage (during our 2009 trip we were alone in this beautiful spot) , but we still managed to sight a couple of mantas and even a turtle from the dinghy.

Tuesday we made a round trip to Vaitahu, the main village a couple of miles south, where we stocked up on baguettes and fruit, possibly our last for awhile. We bought 10 pamplemousse, 10 large mangos, and a stalk of bananas for about $30. The mangos are ripening faster than we can eat them, as are the bananas. The stalk hanging under the solar panel on the stern has eight "hands" each of which has at least 15 bananas. It's a good thing these are the small "apple" style banana so we can each eat four at a time without overdoing it too much. They are so delicious and sweet, it's like eating candy.

We managed to fill our water tanks and do some laundry as it mostly rained on Thursday. That afternoon we went looking for a change of scene at the little sandy beach just to the north. But we weren't comfortable with the set of the bow anchor in 30' of water over rocks. Instead of setting a stern anchor as we'd planned, we pulled it all up and returned to Hanamoenoa for our last night in the Marquesas.

As we look out over Nakia's stern we can see Tahuata in the foreground, with Hiva Oa stretched out behind it to the left, and Fatu Hiva way off in the distance to the right. We spent far more time in the Marquesas than we had initially intended, but it still wasn't enough. We're very sorry that our time constraints are pushing us on before we're ready to leave, and we vow to get the long-stay visas for French Polynesia for our next visit (whenever that may be...).


{GMST}09|42.894|S|139|00.884|W|Hanaiapa, Hiva Oa|Marquesas{GEND}

Friday, May 31, 2013

Rays and Rainbows, Tahuata

And rain. Lots of rain. Of course the day we left Fatu Hiva it stopped raining - for one day at least. Before that the bay at Hanavave was often a brown river complete with coconuts and other debris floating past the anchored boats. Waterfalls flowed and disappeared as rain clouds came and went.

A week ago Friday we managed to make the trip to Omoa by boat where we learned that the most elaborately carved ukuleles really do come from Ua-Huka. There is only one woman making them in Omoa and she is still somewhat of a beginner. John admired a different one being played for the Aranui 3 passengers. The owner really wanted to trade John for his pretty maple Kala (a Hawaiian style uke) but he came to cash terms in the end. On Saturday John spent the morning fishing with a local man (who's washing machine John managed to repair) to see what tips he could pick up, but they only came back with one tuna after hours spent out in the rain. Sunday we attended a church service in Marquesan and enjoyed the beautiful singing. It was their Mother's Day and the children performed an emotional song about mothers. A few of the younger girls ended up in tears over missing their mothers who were away at a special exposition in Papeete.

Monday we motored back to Atuona for more fuel, cash, and groceries. Wednesday morning we did three "loads" of laundry and pulled anchors by Noon for the two hour motor trip to Tahuata. We took advantage of the "free" electricity being provided by the engine to run our handy dandy electric laundry spinner (courtesy of Quixotic who we send thanks to every time we use it!). As soon as we set the hook here in Hanamoenoa the laundry lines went up and we had rapidly drying clean clothes and sheets hanging in the first sunny, breezy day in ages.

We are thrilled to be back in clear blue water again! We've already spent hours snorkeling and I'm happy to see all the familiar fish faces again, although I'm going to have to relearn most of their names. Yesterday it rained off and on all day, and rainbows materialized everywhere we looked over land and sea. This morning I spotted a school of manta rays feeding outside our bay. We took the dinghy out to them and hopped in with our snorkel gear to watch them feeding on small shrimp with their mouths wide open. It's a little unnerving to see that big open (toothless) mouth headed straight for you, but we know from experience that they will always veer off when they are a few feet away from us. We then took the dinghy over to a little used sandy beach for some snorkeling. In a space of about two feet we counted 10 big Marquesan cowries. They were tucked in with pencil sea urchins and we don't take the live animals, we just like admiring them. Yesterday John managed to find three newly emptied shells (recently eaten by some other creature and still very bright and shiny) of three different kinds of cowries. A small black-tip reef shark cruised by us which was a surprise as that's the first shark we've seen snorkeling in the Marquesas.

It's great to be back among such stunning scenery above and below the water! We'll probably remain at Tahuata until we get a good weather window for the short passage to the Tuamotus.


{GMST}09|54.438|S|139|06.306|W|Hanamoenoa, Tahuata|Rays and Rainbows{GEND}

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Hanavave, Fatu Hiva

On Sunday we traveled 45 miles from Hiva Oa to Fatu Hiva. There have been up to 25 other boats anchored here with us which is a little tight for this deep bay. But yesterday the French Customs boat arrived and boarded every boat to check their papers. Because we had already checked into French Polynesia at Hiva Oa our paperwork is in order. But most of the boats made landfall here first (many from the Galapagos) and Customs has given them 24-48 hours to do their proper check-in elsewhere. So we are expecting to have the anchorage mostly to ourselves by tonight, although there are a few other boats who have also checked in to the country.

Last night around 30 cruisers "went out" to dinner at a local's house. Philip and Danielle of S/V Sweet Surrender arranged to have a meal served for 1,700 CFP per person (the CFP is about 92 to one dollar at the moment, so the dinner was $38 for two). We ate bite-sized pieces of very tender chicken (complete with splintery bones), bite-sized pieces of leathery beef, and melt in your mouth pieces of raw tuna, all of which were prepared in coconut milk. These were served with spaghetti pasta and rice, and on the tables were plates of whole steamed bananas, breadfruit, a shredded white vegetable with dressing to accompany it, and dried bananas sprinkled with coconut for dessert. We appear to be the only U.S. flagged boat in the anchorage so the evening was full of broken English, which we find ourselves speaking as well, as we try to "dumb down" our very complicated language for non-native speakers. John took his ukulele and sat in with our host after dinner for a mini jam session. Along with a six-string tenor uke, Serge brought out his Marquesan ukuleles from Ua Huka. He says he has too many ukes and he wanted to sell the 10-string, beautifully carved one (complete with mermaids), but at 40,000 CFP ($435 USD) his price is too steep for us.

We enjoyed our stay in Atuona (Hiva Oa) where we mostly caught up on the chores of reorganizing the boat for living aboard (as opposed to passage making), cleaning, laundry, refueling, and walking into town every day for cash at the one bank in town and to buy baguettes, New Zealand canned butter, pate, and our favorite Sao water crackers. We met cruisers on a few boats while we were there and took breaks from the chores to do some socializing with them. Since we had toured the island so thoroughly in 2009, we opted to save our sightseeing money for another island. We may make a trip by truck from Hanavave to Omoa. We made the trip by boat last time, but I would really like to see what the views are like from land. Several people have made the four and a half hour walk one-way, but John and I both know our limits and we are not up to that just yet!


{GMST}10|28.908|S|138|40.071|W|Fatu Hiva|Hanavave{GEND}

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Day 25, Arrival Hiva Oa

Noon Tuesday

These last couple of days have been pretty trying. A good friend of mine used to say that the average wind speed, world wide, is 15 kts. I used to counter 'Well if you average 30 knots and 0 knots you get 15, but neither 30 nor 0 knots of wind is pleasant to sail in'. I'd never had a situation where I could put that assertion to the test, until Sunday night.

The weather forecast was for 18 knots, but the squalls had other ideas. They would blow 25, then rain, then blow 10, then rain some more, then blow 25 some more. You get the idea. I'm sure we had about 15 knots average wind speed, but it was not pleasant sailing.

Thank goodness Monday night was clear and if not settled, steady. We made our landfall at the Eastern end of Hiva Oa just before sunrise and were anchored safely by 0900 local. There's no rest for us though, so we immediately put to work, moving the anchor chain, doing laundry and moving all the stuff off the bed so we can sleep nice and comfy again.

Previously I had said we would be underway 26-29 days. It was actually 25 days (27 with two nights at anchor at Isla Socorro). We sailed 2800 miles and had an average speed of about 4.7 kts. I said that wasn't bad, but in retrospect I think it's pretty poor performance wise. I just looked at how we did on our 2009 passage from the Galapagos: 3026 miles in 551 hours, average speed 5.49 kts. On this trip we motored about 50 hours, in 2009 we motored 4. So if you want to sail to the Marquesas, do it from the Galapagos! It may be farther but it's faster.

{GMST}09|48.193|S|139|01.848|W|Baie Tahauku, Atuona, Hiva Oa|Day 25{GEND}

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Days 23 & 24, Brown Out

Saturday Noon

I swear this boat listens to us. It seems that as soon as we talk about some piece of equipment, whether it be the 'I hope this thing doesn't break' or the 'isn't it great having that thing', kind of comment then whatever thing it is we are talking about packs it in.

Case in point: the tow generator. I mentioned this in an earlier post, how big a change it's been to how we run the boat. Well, Linda and I were discussing the same thing the other afternoon. Then that same evening when I was turning on all the lights for the night I noticed that the tow generator didn't seem to be charging. I checked the plug and gave the generator a good hard thump with my hand but it was clear it needed even more attention than we'd all ready given it.

So I removed it from its cradle, took it below, and opened it up. Out pours water. Huh, that's not supposed to be there. It seems the thing I thought was a shaft seal was really just a piece of string that had gotten wrapped around the shaft. I had sealed up the rest of the unit using caulking but didn't bother with the shaft because 'it has a seal'. Water must have been getting in at the shaft and sitting inside.

I completely disassembled the generator, cleaned everything with WD-40, reassembled it and sealed it up (this time making sure to do something about the shaft), and put it back online. Now it's charging away just like before.

One thing's for sure, I'm not talking about any part of this boat, good or bad, until we're at anchor.


{GMST}05|00|S|135|40|W|Mexico to Marquesas Day 24|Day 24{GEND}

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Day 22 & 23

Thursday Noon

We crossed the equator yesterday without much fuss. I had a drink with Neptune and Linda stayed below reading (it was, after all, our seventh crossing) while I gave Him her share of rum. It's not that sailors are superstitious, it's just that we don't like to take chances.

Things are rolling along smoothly and we should be arriving in a few days. The wind is supposed to cooperate (mostly) but the seas have a different idea. We have what you call 'confused' seas. Frankly I don't think they are confused, they seem very focused on keeping me from sleeping. So until we get the wind and waves agreeing again I'll be struggling to get good rest. Sometimes I just have to lie in bed, close my eyes and try not to get up, for hours at a time. It's surprisingly effective at giving me rest, but it's boring as hell.


{GMST}01|30|N|132|54|W|Mexico to Marquesas Day 23|Day 23{GEND}

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Day 20 & 21

Tuesday Noon

We have sailed clear of the ECC finally. Slowly, bit by bit, our hourly speed went from 3.8 to 5.5 and sometimes over 6. The weather is improving and the sea temperature has dropped as well (another sign we are clear of the current), so there's nothing to stand in the way of our arrival in Atuona (Hiva Oa).

Nothing that is, except just under 1000 miles of open ocean. I've actually been waiting for this point. Our depth sounder, which we use as a navigation display for distance-to-go, will not display more than 1000.0 miles. It must be that anything more than 1000 miles is 'just too far to think about.' Yesterday I put our landfall waypoint into the GPS, told the GPS to 'GoTo' and waited while the distance went from 1002 down to 999.9, simply for the pleasure of watching the depth sounder flip down from 1000.0. Is my life rich or what?

In other news we got one last good look at Polaris (the North Star) the other night. We were at about 4 degrees North Latitude which is normally far too close to the equator to see Polaris. It is usually obscured in clouds and haze below 10 degrees. But it was exceptionally clear on Sunday night so we were able to catch a last glimpse of it before we dip down below the equator.

We expect to be at sea another 7-10 days. Subtracting the two days we spent at Socorro that gives us a passage of 26-29 days. Not great, an average speed of 4-4.3 knots, but not bad for a boat with a 29 foot waterline. However, last night on the radio net we heard from a boat that has been underway for 37 days and counting. They should be arriving soon, but their average speed is just over 3 knots. Now that's a long passage.

Tomorrow we cross the equator!

(for the 7th time)

{GMST}01|45|N|130|22|W|Mexico to Marquesas Day 21|Day 21{GEND}

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Day 18 & 19, ITC & ECC, Y U B So Hard on Me.

Sunday Noon

Friday night wasn't so bad. Even though it was clear that we were well inside the ITCZ there was much less lightning than Thursday night so we were able rest better.

It did, however, rain very much but by early Saturday morning it was clear we were going to come out of it and start to get a taste of the South East Trade winds.

Or would we? Some time around Friday evening we seemed to have entered the ECC, or Equatorial Counter Current. This is a narrow band of water that flows East, against the prevailing wind usually near the ITCZ. Our destination lies to the South West, and it seems the ECC is flowing East North East, meaning that we are heading almost directly into the current. Our hourly speeds, while not stellar before, have dropped to the 2.9-3.7 mile per hour range. This was when we were motoring and normally do 5.5 mph or better!

On top of that, the wind is from the South South East. So the best course we can manage is West South West. In order for us to get out of this current we have to go South. In the last 33 hours we have only been able get an additional 60 miles South.

It will all resolve itself eventually. We will inch our way out of the ECC and, as we get farther South, the wind will back into the East making our final days nothing but glorious sailing in wonderful tropical breezes. A perpetual sunset off our bow. Yeah, right.

{GMST}04|48|N|128|00|W|Mexico to Marquesas Day 19|Day 19{GEND}

Friday, May 03, 2013

Day 17, T-Storms and Strangers

Friday Noon

Everything was going so well. We were sailing along yesterday afternoon in a nice NE breeze until the weather started to close in on us a couple hours before sunset. That should have been our first clue that it was going to be a stormy night.

Then right at sunset John spotted a light. Turn on the radar and confirm that there is something there about 6 miles away on our left side (the radar works a little, just not as well as it should). We were on parallel courses and since there was nothing on the AIS (*) we figured it was a yacht or small fishing boat. We were going a little faster then him so we passed him and pretty much forgot about him.

Then about midnight, John, the off watch, got up to check on things to find Linda in the cockpit tracking 3 big thunderstorms. Lightning, thunder, bang bang bang. You get the idea. They were pretty much in front of us and since we were moving 90 degrees to the wind direction, the wind coming from our left hand side, we would expect them to move to our right and leave us a clear path. But it seemed a better idea would be to slow down and maybe go more to the left and wait for the bad boys to either dissipate or move off. So we did that.

But remember that other boat? Well, turning to the left and slowing down put us right in his path. He was still 10 miles away when we performed our maneuver, plenty of time for him to react, but because of the relative positions of the two boats it would be his responsibility to change course to allow for us. Some time later, it was starting to look a little too close (he was inside 1 mile and still heading towards us) so John turned on ALL the lights (running lights, deck lights, foredeck light, anchor light) and flashed the spot light in his direction. This got his attention and he altered course to his right to pass behind us. He passed astern, shone his spot light on us, did a little circle as if to say 'follow me,' and headed off in the direction we were both traveling before we turned and slowed down.

Then about an hour later... Flash! Big lightning right from the direction of the wind. Which means it's coming right at us. So we start the motor and move off at 110 degrees to the wind (basically the course we were on before the turn) and fall in line behind the little ship to try to put as much distance between us and the lightning as we can.

We never got close enough to a storm to hear anything but distant thunder (that is the point after all) but it's still very hard on the nerves watching for lightning hour after hour. We both plan on getting as much rest as we can today since we figure tonight will be a repeat. At least the sun is up now and even though it's no less stormy, we can't see the lightning so everything is much calmer.

* AIS or Automated Information System is a radio based transmitter/receiver system that allows ships and other vessels to track each other. Vessels over a certain size are required to operate a transponder which will send their position, course and speed every few seconds. Smaller vessels can also have transponders, but it isn't a requirement. This information is broadcast 'in the open' and anyone with a receiver can get the broadcast and, by comparing it to their own vessel's information, make a determination on the likelihood of a collision. NAKIA has a 'receiver only' system that takes in data transmitted by other vessels and displays the contacts on a little 'radar' screen (NAKIA is in the center). We can use it to tell if we are at risk of collision with other vessels and to warn us when we are getting too close to other traffic (for us, too close is usually about 4 miles). Why didn't the ship we encountered show up on our receiver? On closer examination of the AIS John found the ship did have a transponder but it wasn't putting out his correct position. Our receiver assumed it was getting a radio signal from a transmitter many hundreds of miles away and ignored it.


{GMST}06|38|N|126|52|W|Mexico to Marquesas Day 17|Day 17{GEND}

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Day 16, Happy Halfway

Thursday Noon

Lots to report today... First I'm glad to report we've made it to the halfway point, distance wise. We still have 1400 miles to go, but at least we only have 1400 miles to go not 2800 :-)

I think I may have finally found the (or at least the biggest) problem with the short wave radio antenna. This is the antenna we use to send and receive email as well as receive weather fax. It was receiving fine, but I was getting very slow email transmit speeds and the Ham Radio Net we check into was telling me my signal was very weak. I think the basis of the problem was the 12 gauge copper household wire I used as the antenna. It had a plastic covering on it (not the insulation, but a clear plastic coating over the insulation) that didn't hold up to the sun. It all flaked off recently but I think that compromised the water proof integrity of the connection and allowed corrosion, causing water to get in. I cut back the corroded part, added a better insulator to isolate the antenna from the stainless steel railing and 'voila' (*) much better radio operation.

Last night, right after sunset, I was on deck to do a horizon scan (we look for ships and anything dangerous every 15 minutes) when I spotted a very bright star in the North. I don't know of any really bright stars in that area so I looked at it for a few seconds to see if I could identify it. That's when I noticed it MOVING. I watched it for 5 minutes until it went behind the clouds and later confirmed with an operator on the Pacific Sea Farer's Net that it was either the International Space Station or a UFO in low earth orbit.

On the wildlife front, I have been surprised that we have had sea birds around the boat the entire trip. We are over 1000 miles to the nearest land. We've seen Tropic Birds, Masked Boobies, Brown Boobies, Petrels, and Shearwaters. Of course flying fish are landing on deck every night as well, much to Ziggy's pleasure, and last night for the first time this trip we had two squid, much to Ziggy's confusion. As always we don't let Ziggy eat the fish and squid if we can stop him, but last night he got out onto the side deck and was examining a squid to see if it was something he wanted for 5 minutes or so before I noticed it and threw the slimy thing over the side. Frankly, I'd rather have the wildlife we had on our 2009 passage from the Galapagos: whales, dolphins, pilot whales, and even one oceanic white tip shark. At least they don't sh*t on the boat or leave ink stains.

The water temp has been increasing over the last few days and with it the air temp and humidity. We are running the fans all the time to keep cool down below and are using much more electricity than we were at the beginning of the passage (higher humidity means more clouds so the solar doesn't work as well and higher temps means the fridge works harder). We're hoping for a break in the humidity south of the ITCZ, but really, 'Que sera, sera' (*).

Yesterday's position was in error. Je suis desole (*)

* Can you tell I'm studying French?

{GMST}8|10|N|126|34|W|Mexico to Marquesas Day 16|Day 16{GEND}

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Day 14 and 15, Fun with Weather

Wednesday Noon

It has been an eventful couple of days on NAKIA. When last we checked in we had just made the turn towards the ITCZ. The ITCZ seems to have had other plans and decided to come give us a preview of what it has in store for us.

On Monday morning I had downloaded weather forecasts, call GRIBs (*), that indicated we would have good wind all the way down to the ITCZ. On Tuesday morning, the GRIB file had changed to tell us there would be NO WIND on Tuesday. Huh, thanks for the heads up.

What we got was real ITCZ like weather. No wind, big thunderstorms (with lots of wind for 15 minutes) and LOTS of rain. We got through it ok, with all the salt crust washed off the boat, thanks rain, and finally picked up what we hope will be the last of the North East trade winds late Tuesday afternoon.

Now that we've had some practice we should be well prepared for the ITCZ in two days.

* These forecasts are a part of a giant computer program that models the wind, rain, waves, snow, barometric pressure and temperature for the entire globe. When I access them I get the tiny little piece that pertains to my location. These computer models are not magic, they are based on experience and have years of work put into them by various agencies of various countries but they have to be given somewhere to start. Over land, where there are lots of wind meters, thermometers and barometers the input to the models is frequent and accurate. Out here, there are very few weather buoys and only one or two satellites which scan the surface of the earth to provide input data. It's these satellites that are the problem here. In November 2010, as we made our way from Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas to Hawaii, the USA's QuickSCAT satellite finally gave up the ghost and died. I'm not sure when it was launched, but it had far exceeded it's projected lifespan. QuickSCAT's job was to scan the surface of the planet's water and give wind and wave hight data to the global weather models. In order to keep the weather models running (they provide forecasts to everyone on the planet, not just yachts) the models were adapted to use an older, weaker, European satellite called A-SCAT. The problem is, A-SCAT being weaker, it often misses data that QuickSCAT would have caught. The model may not get informed of the weather condition for 2-3 satellite passes, especially if it's a small condition. So we sail along on NAKIA, getting GRIBs that tell us one thing and then all of a sudden they start telling us another. All because the US decided not to replace QuickSCAT when it was obsolete and still has not replaced it over two years after it broke down.

You can help! Call your congressman today and tell them that you want an new scaterometer satellite in orbit ASAP!

{GMST}19|32|N|109|34|W|Mexico to Marquesas Day XX|Day XX{GEND}