Saturday, 31 August 2013

Beveridge Reef: Day 1

It's official: we have escaped Suwarrow's clutches... It was time to leave
after 12 glorious days.*

We've been at sea since 10:20 yesterday morning. After a few hiccups,
(namely, a sticky throttle), we weighed anchor and were out of the pass.
There
is not a whole lot of wind out here, technically we'd have done better to
leave two days earlier, but we first had to squeeze that last bit of fun
out of Suwarrow. That place felt like summer camp.

So, we'll see how this passage goes, we have a total of 500 nm to travel.
We hope to stop in Beveridge Reef for a night or two before continuing on
to Niue. The weather will decide for us.

For now, we're bobbing around on the big blue, wondering what's next.


*I will be posting about Suwarrow once we have Internet in Niue.

Position: 15* 04.184'S 163* 54.391'W
Distance in 24hrs: 124 nm (133 nm since departure)
Heading: 206*T
Speed: 3.6 knots

Sunday, 18 August 2013

day 6: it's about time!

We made it!

The last 24 hours were... slow. The wind gods were laughing at us, I'm sure
of it. We actually motored for 1 1/2 hours last night, as well as 3 1/2 hours
today. Sometimes, it's like that. If we didn't have to worry about our
arrival time, we'd have just sailed (we have limited fuel capacity), and
we've been known to sail at 1.9 knots. But we definitely wanted to arrive
before dark, as we didn't know the pass and the anchorage has a lot of coral
heads. Plus, we'd been told the park rangers preferred that sailors arrive
before 4 p.m. (They have to check us into the country.)

This passage had multi personalities: we had it all, sunshine, heavy rain,
20+ knot winds, no wind, 4 metre swells, relatively flat seas... A lot can
happen in 6 days.

Now, we're in a lovely spot, with 10 other boats. Happy to be here, Rick
checked the anchor accompanied by two young reef sharks. When he checked the
depths of reefs behind us, he wished he'd had his pole spear, according to
him, we would have had parrotfish sashimi tonight. So many things to look
forward to!

Position: 13* 14.845'S 163* 06.561'W

Saturday, 17 August 2013

day 5: musings on broken things

It's official. The fridge's compressor stopped working.* We watched in
desperation as the temperature crawled up into the teens. I'm working out
how to salvage cheese, (cheese cloth soaked in vinegar?) Eggs, well they've
already been refrigerated so they won't last as long at room temperature...
I guess we're eating that sausage now. I've read through our manual without
finding answers. Rick has a theoretical understanding of compressors, he
may or may not be able to fix it, he will give it a shot once we arrive in
Suwarrow. I tell myself that many people do (or used to do) this without
refrigeration, but I think I'll really miss cold water and milk.

So that's Day 5. I have had words with the fridge, but right now, I'm
content listening to my growing playlist of all time best songs (according
to me). Inspired by Gab on SV Cariba, I'm aiming for 500 songs. Right now, Tom
Waits is taking me for a ride in his "Ol'55".

We had stronger winds overnight, but today the wind has been fickle, one
minute we have 15 knot winds, the next we're down to 9.9 knots. Either way, we
should get into Suwarrow tomorrow sometime. We have less than 100 nm to go.
Today, is grey, grey, grey, and it's raining on and off. The deck will be
clean after this passage.

Now on the "broken" list (also knowns as the NFG list when we're grumpy):
fridge and autopilot (that's another story).

Mpf,I'm ready for something to fix itself. One can dream, no? For now, I'm
going with the flow... Time to turn up that music. Sometimes it's that easy.

*The compressor has since started to work intermittently... We still need to
attend to it, but at least the temperature has considerably cooled.

Position: 13* 50.558'S 161* 47.130'W
Distance in 24hrs: 134 nm
Heading: 307*T
Speed: 6.5 knots

Friday, 16 August 2013

day 4: finding our rythm

The truth is, passages aren't particularly interesting, at least, not on
paper. You eat, you sleep, you sweat, you wash up, you sail, you check the
instruments, you write, you read... Press repeat.

At the risk of sounding cliché, what makes passage making fascinating are
the little spaces in between the drudgery: yep, those little nondescript
moments. Yesterday, I was feeling a bit blue. Today I'm not. Is it because
the breeze has freshened, and we're sailing at over 5 knots again? Is it that
tender but sweaty hug Rick gave me as we exchanged places in the sea berth,
or was it that song I heard early on in my watch? It doesn't matter.

What matters, is that as a passage develops a personality of its own, we try
to match our inner rhythm to it.(It's like learning to canter while riding a
horse, it's uncomfortable until you learn to respond to the horse's cadence
with your body.)

It's true for every passage. We actually have to relearn this every time we
go off to sea. Each passage is different. Sure, one can argue there are lots of
similarities. A passage is a passage, how different can they be (not counting
storms)? But have you ever seen two identical sunsets?

So we sail on, learning the peculiarities that make this passage unique and
finding comfort in that.


Position: 13* 56.083'S 159* 36.515'W
Distance in 24hrs: 115 nm
Heading: 293*T
Speed: 5.2 knots

Thursday, 15 August 2013

day 3: lurching along

I am not sure why this happens to us, but it does. We check the Gribs, they look
good. We leave. The forecast changes after 36 hours. (Meteorology is not black
and white...)

Now we're lurching in 6 knot winds, (we were originally expecting winds in the
teens by day 2). It's not great for the morale, but it's not horrible either.
We're still keeping an eye out for the SPCZ, but so far, we are not experiencing
squalls or the thunder showers predicted for within 100 nm of the trough. Maybe
by crawling to Suwarrow we'll miss the worst of it. Here's a nice touch: the
skies are surprisingly clear.

So we read, watch movies in 10 minute increments. Yes, that's correct. And trust
me, you get used to it. Here's how it goes: Watch a scene. Scan horizon. Look at
instruments. Watch a scene, scan... You get the picture. Actually, we have been
watching Battlestar Galactica (again). We are, shall we say, embracing our
inner geeks. (Our friend on SV Red Sky passed it on to us, thanks Daniel!)

So life is fine. A little on the slow side, but it's part of the deal. When you
sail the oceans, you are vulnerable to Mother Nature's whims. You can't ignore
her caprices like you can on land. There are no barriers. Your boat moves if
there's wind, and if there is almost no wind, it lurches. I have learned to just
give the hull a pat and wait. There are so many life lessons out here. Patience
is high on the list.

P.S. We have now sailed over 10,000 nautical miles since leaving Canada. That's
not bad, eh?

Position: 14* 0.872'S 1576* 43.355'W
Distance in 24hrs: 89 nm
Heading: 329*T
Speed: 2.8 knots

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

day 2: just another day

The wind sure did lighten up. It's half than what was forecast. Our
progress has slowed down a lot. The genoa has been snapping her discontent
and the boat has been haphazardly rolling. It's a lurch and grab kind of
day.

We're keeping an eye on the horizon, last we heard the SPCZ is coming our
way. There's a trough that's supposed to be over Suwarrow on Friday, by the
looks of it we won't be there yet, but we'll be in the vicinity, so we
ready ourselves for fickle weather.

One of the things I miss most during passages is coffee. I don't drink it
as I'm susceptible to sea sickness, Rick doesn't drink it so he can sleep
when he's off watch... So as we slowly make our way, we dream of that first
steamy cup of coffee at anchor.

Position: 14* 39.385'S 156* 24.316'W
Distance in 24hrs: 117 nm
Heading: 270*T
Speed: 4.7 knots

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

suwarrow day 1: let's rock 'n roll!

Day 1 has been a rollicking ride. There's nothing boring about the
occasional 4 metre wave we have seen in the past 27 hours. The winds have
hovered at about 20 knots which is great for a downwind sail. I won't
venture to guess how long it will take us to get to Suwarrow, but the winds
are supposed to continue lightening up, so we're using this push to get
ahead.

The crew is in good spirits if tired. (It always takes 24 to 48 hours to
adjust to our watch enforced sleep patterns.) The good news is we broke our
surfing record! Rick was very excited to say that our speed peaked at 13.6
knots when Nyon surfed down a particularly big wave.(Just to put this in
perspective, our hull speed is 7.3 knots.)

Other than bouncing off the stove and table with great regularity, we have
nothing else to report.

Position at noon: 15* 17.390'S 154* 28.646'W
Distance: 183 nm (in 27 hrs)
Heading:298*T
Speed: 6.8 knots

Sunday, 11 August 2013

la fin (the end)

It took many nautical miles to get here. And now it's time to say
"Au revoir".French Polynesia has been good to us. From the Marquesas' majestic
outlines, to the Tuamotus'incredible sea life (yes, including the sharks), to
the ever social Society Islands with their blend of turquoise waters and green
mountains, we were charmed. I won't wax poetic for another 1000 words.
Travelling throughout French Polynesia was also at times difficult, frustrating,
and isolating.

We sailed a lot in the north-east Pacific. We also spent a summer sailing in the
Mediterranean, and a year and a half cruising full-time in Mexico. And while it
prepared us for spreading our wings, the South Pacific is a whole other animal.
The sailing can be more challenging and there is a lot more boat maintenance to
do, the anchorages can be very rolly (mostly in the Marquesas),or they're flat
but riddled with coral heads(bommies)for your anchor chain to get caught on, or
they are incredibly deep and occasionally crowded. You can make a few short
hops, but mostly, you must go on overnight trips to a few days at sea before
reaching your next destination.(That becomes a non-event once you get used to
it.) That is, as long as you watch the weather forecasts like hawks: Where is
that low, where is the SPCZ (South Pacific Convergence Zone),what about that
anticyclone that reached 1045 millibars? That was exciting, for us on the edge
of it. You also want to watch that swell: 4 meter swells are uncomfortable to
say the least. The ever-changing weather affects where you anchor, whether you
can enter a pass(we are in the land of fringing reefs) or whether you have to
heave-to somewhere along the way. Going ashore in our dinghy was particularly
challenging in the Marquesas, surge and concrete docks don't like dinghies. You
need a system to anchor the dinghy out to avoid damaging said dinghy. (We had a
stern anchor drag and our dinghy was fairly badly damaged.) Sometimes it rains
so much you can collect 40 gallons of water in one sitting. Sometimes it's so
windy, you just hunker down, check your lines for chafing,and wait for it to
pass.In other words, you pay your dues to come here.

Was it worth it? Oh yes! Rick and I were enamoured with these South Pacific
Islands. We fell in love with the richly green scenery.(The Tuamotus were also
striking,while differently beautiful.) Elsewhere, the flowering plants,the tall
palm trees and the giant mango trees, the fragrant and delicate monoi flowers
and the watery shades of turquoise, painted a beautiful three-dimensional
picture.

We became addicted to the Marquesan pamplemousses, the bananas, the fish, and
most of all the coconuts. At least one crew member of every boat we befriended
had a coconut cracking expert aboard by the time they left French Polynesia.

And then there were the people of French Polynesia. We made friends in every
archipelago, the fact that I speak fluent French made connecting with others a
lot easier. While we had great interactions in Mexico, I never spoke Spanish
well enough to not sound like I was 5 years old. Here, there was an element of
generosity of spirit that I had not experienced before. Of course at times, some
of the locals looked more annoyed than pleased at our presence, but I recall
having enough of "tourists" in Victoria when I lived fairly close to the
downtown tourist zone. I get it. Obviously, the small villages and the copra
camps had a very different vibe than the touristy spots, people reached out
more. We only know a few Tahitian words but smiles are international, that
helped break the ice many times over. Throughout French Polynesia and in the
Society Islands in particular, we also met many like-minded voyagers… The
peaceful solitude of the Tuamotus was stamped out by more social commitments
than we could shake a fist at by the time we reached the Society Islands. It was
fun to be part of a small ambulatory community for a while, and sad to say
goodbye.

List of Faves:

• Favourite destinations – Rick: Hakatea (Daniel's Bay), Tahanea, East of
Bora Bora, Kyra: Hakatea (Daniel's Bay), Tahanea, Motu Toopua
• Favourite Town – Kyra: Vaitahu (Tahuata), Rick: Omoa (Fatu Hiva)
• Favourite Food – Rick: Pamplemousse, Kyra: Sashimi
• Favourite Archipelago – Rick: The Society Islands, Kyra: can't make
upher mind. They were all great for different reasons.

Highlights:

• Climbing to the top of Bora Bora
• Snorkeling in Makemo and Tahanea
• Waterfall hike in Hakatea
• Yoga with the gang
• Befriending voyagers and locals
• The party on Patrick's property
• Baguettes and pamplemousses
• That cold drink after hiking to Omoa
• Spearfishing in Makemo
• Most fun passage: Huahine to Ta'haa
• Best passage: Makemo to Tahanea

Tomorrow, we leave. We are headed for the Cook Islands: Suwarrow to be specific.
But first, we sail 690 nautical miles to get there.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

bora bora part II - gratuitous turquoise, goodbyes, and a bike ride

Motoring in a channel with only 0.7 metres under the keel,
no big deal. (My, how things have changed!)

Will you just LOOK at that water
We woke up to sunshine once more and motored away from Bloody Marys after spending 24h there. If you eat a meal at the sandy-floored restaurant, (lunch is more affordable), you can stay on a mooring ball* for free and fill up on potable water at the dock. So we did. Tasty burgers and lots of fresh water later, we headed for the eastern side. We followed the channel around the north end, and then hooked to port into this shallow little channel that brought us to jewel-like waters (again). We anchored near one of those huts-on-the-water hotels, so we could go meet manta rays the next morning.

Wish I had a better photo, there was a fair
bit of plancton in the cleaning zone
There is an area here where manta rays go for a cleaning. Small fish take care of that while the manta rays are busy looking majestic. Early the next morning a group of us went to see the Manta Rays. We observed, awed, as they swam beneath us. We saw many Spotted Eagle Rays too. And fish. It was fabulous. Not much later in the day, Compass Rosey, half of Cariba and all of Nyon went out again for more exploring and snorkeling… The water is incredibly clear in the shallows. We all felt like we were in a pool.


There were more potlucks and gatherings, coconut milk processing and guitar playing. There even was time to lounge in the hammock on the foredeck. In spite of the traffic that went back and forth we didn’t mind this place at all. It did its positive bit to add to our experience. 



That's Mark, jumping from Compass Rosey's
spreaders

Trying to look cool like Gab

It's a playdate with Compass Rosey!
This is what the water looks like when it's very shallow!

"The girls"
Guess where we are? We (discreetly) crashed the St Regis
and had one last just-us-girls hang by the poolside...
Eventually, we all had to make our way to the west side again. Some people were getting ready to leave, including Nyon. We are sailors. We scatter to the winds. We say goodbye often. So long Compass Rosey, ciao Osprey, goodbye Red Sky! Farewell all you boats and locals we met! (I feel like I should be singing that Sound of Music song: "So Long, Farewell".) Thanks goodness Cariba is still around! It feels a little emtpy right now. 

Yoga on the dock. Last time with Brianna!

The yoga gang

Two of the fab people we were
sorry to say goodbye to
Check out their Facebook page!
Another view of Bora Bora
So to alleviate this empty feeling, we went on a bike ride with Izzy. (Gab caught our cold, poor guy...) The crews of Living and Kiapa lent us their bikes. (Thanks guys!) We circled the island, don't worry,  it's only 32 km and mostly flat. It was fun to stop here and there for snapshots or for a coco glacé (cold coconut water in the coconut). Simply put, it was a chill way to spend one of our last days in Bora Bora.

In case you are wondering, we have decided to take couple days to catch up on boat chores and prep Nyon for the 690 nautical mile passage to Suwarrow. Bora Bora has been a whirlwind, we realized we needed time to breathe deeply before taking off.

Izzy perfects the Venus pose

Rick, raring to go!
(That's what happens when you don't get a flat tire or a broken chain!)

Yup. I'm having fun

Saturday, 3 August 2013

bora bora part I - the social bit

Motu Tapu surrounded by gorgeous blue waters.
Bora Bora wasn’t exactly what I  had imagined. Come to think of it. I don’t exactly know what I imagined. I knew from past voyaging experience, that it wouldn’t be the “perfect” paradise everyone expects. The turquoise waters were there, the peaks were dramatic, but there was so much more to it. In Bora Bora I sweated, I cooked, and I sang (rather badly). Eventhough it doesn’t fit the paradise image everyone has when the name Bora Bora comes up, I loved every bit of it.

It's up, up, up
Almost as soon as we picked up a mooring ball at Marina Mai Kai, we encountered a group of young and young-spirited boats and we all met for drinks and chatter later that evening. Passed the introductions and into the stories, a hike was planned. We were to climb one of Bora Bora’s peaks the next day along with 6 other boats, including our buddies on SV Landfall. Now if you know me, you know I love hiking. And I love nature. But this peak looked very steep and had me worried. I suffer from Ankylosing Spondylitis, which means sometimes my body says no. But the idea of not attempting such a dramatic peak (to me), was depressing. So I decided to give it a shot. Fourteen of us did. Some were mountain climbers, some were just younger and very fit and others were like me: youngish (that's for you Izzy) nature lovers, that didn’t mind a challenge.*


This one's a little gratuitous
Standing at the top
I sweated Mount Ohue out of my pores. We all made it to the top and back down, and all of us with silly grins by the end of it. The view from the summit was breathtaking. Unlike most hikes, I didn't have too many bruises or scratches to mark this particular experience. It sure felt good to have gone up there, and the friendly hellos at the bottom of the mountain were very welcome!

Soon after, we had to say goodbye to our buddies Barb and Denny on SV Landfall. We spent a great evening with them, drinking Pastis and sharing stories. We don't know when we'll see each other again, hopefully it will be sooner than later!



Brian is so going to kill me for this one...
SV Landfall savouring reaching the top
Follow the first three boats, we are the tiny one that comes fourth
(inside the triangle of catamarans)
Click to enlarge

All around beautiful
As our bodies recovered, we took care of getting duty free fuel and some provisions. Brianna from SV Compass Rosey lead an eager group in morning yoga on the dock two days later. This was our second time, we’d joined SV Compass Rosey in Raiatea once before and we’ve been spoiled with many sessions since.

Soon we were ready to leave the town of Vaitape for a motu. Toopua was the chosen one. We and a few other boats headed for the west side of Toopua. We gaped at the turquoise waters and were swimming in them almost immediately after dropping the hook. That night, we had our first of many potlucks, this time aboard Daniel’s boat, SV Red Sky Night. (Remember the friendly Aussie we met in Raiatea?) Laughter, okay mostly mine, echoed over the quiet anchorage that night and thus began the social whirlwind that was Bora Bora. The next morning we all met at the tiny Motu Tapu, an uninhabited island that had a few palapas and tables and a nice sandy patch to do yoga. Although we’d asked permission from a couple locals that were there, we found out from the guide who brought over Hilton Hotel guests for their Deserted Island Fantasy at 9 a.m. sharp, that actually, we weren’t allowed to be there . Luckily, Izzy convinced the manager to let us finish our session and we left soon after. (We were given permission to come prior to 9 on another day if we wished.) 

Patrick showing what a machete can do in the right hands
That day is when we also met Patrick. If you haven’t already guessed, unlike the Tuamotus, the motus around here are private. The south of Toopua has been taken over by the Hilton Hotel, but where we anchored there were private properties with lovely and humble homes. We saw that one waterfront home had a dock and a large picnic table. Our ever reliable Izzy and Irene (SV Kiapa) went to talk to the owner. They asked how he would feel about having a party (potluck) with us on his property. Patrick was game, and so began our friendship with one super nice guy. We enjoyed an evening of merriment comprising of traditional Tahitian food and Cruiser potluck fare, stories and legends, and of course music. The singing began when the guitars and Rick’s bodhran were brought out. Patrick sang some beautiful Tahitian songs a capella, and shared the legend of Bora Bora with us. We all had fun joining in the singing. I kept mixing up a lyric from "Mustang Sally" in spite of having it pointed out to me multiple times by Mark. That's okay, most people were watching Izzy and Daniel, our go-go girls.


Chatter by the water
Patrick is grating the coconut while Rob befriends his dog
Nyon, resting a quick row away
It's great to see him hold that bodhran again!
The rest of the Musicians: Paul, Gab and Brianna
I get to be in a picture! Thanks Daniel
Sharing legends under the stars
Our very own go-go girls

The next day, Patrick invited us to do yoga on his property, and joined us for the session. That same day he took some of us, including Tahitian kids who were vacationing on Toopua, on a hike all over the motu . We had a great time bantering with the young ones and checking out the motu with them. 


Motu Tapu (Our first yoga location)

Another way to be on the water
Some of the gang that hiked Toopua
Mark finding his inner child
(SV Compass Rosey)
Afterward, Bri, Izzy and I decided we needed some “girl time” over tea and Tim Tams (these seem to be standard fare among cruisers…) Eventually, our male counterparts were welcomed, and the evening continued over mac and cheese and “chateau de cardboard” A cheap wine we cruisers with tight budgets have adopted. It was a chill night for most of us, except for Rob and Mark (SV Compass Rosey) who ended up joining Patrick for some night fishing. 

A smiling Bri

Izzy and I just before we saw
an eagle ray
Throughout our stay there, we joined SV Osprey for a great snorkel. Brian had located a good spot, probably the best in the Societies that we'd experienced thus   far. The coral looked a lot healthier there. We went and said hello to some stingrays too, but these ones were shier than their counterparts in Moorea. Another great way to explore the area was by kayak, Izzy, Bri and I made sure to get a little jaunt in before we left.

I’d heard people say that Bora Bora was not as friendly as the other Society Islands: something about being touristed out. We could understand why whenever we strayed into the particularly touristy spots, but lack of friendliness was not our experience. When we walked off the tourist path and into the surrounding neighbourhoods, even on the main drag for that matter: a cheerful Ia ora na (Hello) was almost always met with a grin and a warm response. As we got to know Patrick, the warmth and generosity the man showed a group of strangers, most of whom couldn’t speak fluent French, was evidence once again that being open and friendly go a long way. 

Bora Bora is also where Rick and I both got our first colds since we began voyaging… We’d forgotten what it was like to have runny noses, sore throats, and fever.  We both were knocked down a bit, but not for very long. 

The Bloody Marys gang
We left Toopua with Cariba and headed for the famed "Bloody Marys", a restaurant that's been frequented by many celebrities. We played tourist and splurged on lunch there with Daniel and Cariba plus their bonus crew, (Rob and Bri from Compass Rosey came for the day). The washrooms were a big topic of conversation you'll have to come here and see why. The weather was wet and windy, so the rest of the day was spent playing games and watching a cartoon aboard Cariba. This was Bora Bora too.

Next: We go to the east side of Bora Bora.


*It is recommended that you take a guide for this difficult hike, but we had some avid mountain climbers in our midst, and once you find the head of the trail, it would be difficult to get lost. You go up.




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