Monthly Archives: May 2016

Tahiti (More Photos to Follow!)

We arrived into Tahiti on the 27th of April after a two-night sail. The ARC paid for two nights at the downtown Papeete Marina and we ended up staying in the marina for four nights. It was quite rainy for the first few days in Tahiti, which apparently, isn’t typical of Tahiti at this time. After a day of exploring some of the city in the rain, we weren’t much in the mood for attending the happy hour/prize giving for the ARC. We went to the Robert Wan Pearl Museum that day and it was fairly interesting. We learned quite a bit from the museum but his collection of Tahitian Pearls was way overpriced! Dan bought me a belated birthday gift of a Plumeria flower and a peacock colored Tahitian Pearl back in Fakarava (the young woman who owned her own nice shop made all of her own jewelry) and I was happy to see nothing at all similar to my necklace here in Tahiti.

Another day we went with Widago and K1W1 Beanz over to the InterContinental Resort on a day pass to use their facilities and have lunch. In part, we decided to do this for Ryan’s birthday so he could hang out and swim and play football with the other ARC kids. It was a fairly relaxing day and lunch was very good. It was like a Mongolian Grill where you choose everything you want to eat but the meats were fresh tuna, mahi, steak, and chicken rather than that “dried” type they typically offer back in the States. The kids had a lot of fun.

Before we left the marina in downtown Papeete, we decided to organize a dock party and invited all of the ARC boats that were still there, as well as a few non-ARC boats. One non-ARC French man knew barely any English (about as much as my French) but we found a common language—Spanish! So not only was I able to communicate the fact we were having the dock party but when he actually came, we spoke Spanish that evening too. A lot of people showed up that night (including some kids for our kids), and some of us stayed out way too late. That was a really fun night.

After that, we decided to head southwest to another area called Taina. There is a marina, which we ended up going to for about 4 nights to get some engine work done, and a nice anchorage with a bunch of mooring balls. We ended up choosing one that was in shallow water with a sand bottom—very inviting for swimming…and not a shark in sight! We rented a car for 24 hours and purposely had it dropped off at 4 pm so we could catch an English language movie that evening and use the car for sightseeing the next day. We went into Papeete to see “Secrets in Their Eyes” (in English with French subtitles and it apparently came out in America last year) and it was nice because we haven’t seen a movie since St. Lucia when we saw Star Wars. What’s funny is that here in Tahiti they only have an English movie on Thursday at 5:30 and one showing on Saturday as well. Every other day and time you’re out of luck! We also ate dinner out that evening.

The next day we used the car to tour the island. We took it up to the Belvedere viewpoint after getting some breakfast. The restaurant up there was so pretty and the view was spectacular, but since we weren’t yet hungry, we just had a drink. I was happy; they had a friendly orange tabby cat, and a beautiful, clean bathroom with a gorgeous open view (and good soap AND toilet paper—rare in a lot of places in Tahiti!). What more can you ask for? While we were there, the folks from Nina arrived which was also quite nice, so we stayed and talked with them for a while before moving on. Our next stop was the James Norman Hall Museum. He wrote: “Mutiny on the Bounty,” the story that was eventually turned into a few movies (one during his lifetime and one later with Mel Gibson). He was American but he married a woman who was half-Polynesian and lived for several years on the island of Tahiti. They had two children, and their daughter decided to recreate their original house and make it into a museum in honor of her father. We learned that Captain Bligh had tried to organize a mission to obtain breadfruit to feed the slaves back in the Caribbean. He eventually was successful but not on this voyage, since, as the name suggests, his crew (headed by his friend Christian Fletcher) staged mutiny because life on Tahiti with topless women was more enticing than sailing. Eventually, breadfruit made it to the Caribbean in 1799 as a result of a subsequent Captain Bligh mission. We tried breadfruit back in the Caribbean, but at the time, we didn’t know it wasn’t native and we didn’t know this story. It was actually pretty interesting to “connect the dots” with this Mutiny and our travel experiences.

The view from Belvedere

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Isn’t this funny?  Well, maybe it is just my sense of humor…

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The restaurant’s kitchen at the top of Belvedere

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Orange Tabby!  

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Hanging out with the Folks from Nina!

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The view from the Loo!

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One night in the Taina area, the folks from Paw Paw and Nina came over for happy hour and we ended up going to dinner with Nina at the marina restaurant. Widago came down to the marina via car and had dinner with us one night as well. Another day, Widago brought their boat down for a night prior to heading to Moorea. The kids all hung out together while we went out for happy hour with Guy and Ali (and met their friend, Chris, who is captain of the yacht that belongs to Google’s founder). After happy hour, everyone came back to Do Over for dinner but I nearly “poisoned” everyone with these SUPER hot peppers I had on the skewers and in the Greek salad. They were so hot! Widago left the next morning to head to Moorea. They are staying on the ARC for the whole circumnavigation so they had to keep moving ahead. Our kids got along very well with their three boys, and it was nice because Ariana is the same age as their oldest, and their two younger twins are only about nine months older than Ryan. It was sad to say goodbye because we won’t see them again until we get back to the States. They lived in Florida but intend to move to the mountains in Idaho after returning to the States; we’ll have to make a trip out west to catch up with them after so long!

Other than that, we took a bus into Papeete another day to take care of some errands (getting New Zealand dollars as we thought we were going to go to the Cook Islands, some parts at a hardware store, a dive computer battery, and a polarized lens for our nice camera).

We moved into the marina after another day or so to get our engine work done. Dan knew exactly what the issue was, but he did not have the equipment/tools to move the engine up from the compartment to access the upper oil seal on the sail drive. The Yanmar mechanics were able to complete the job in only one day, which we were definitely not expecting. We were also able to get our main sail and jib repaired here in Tahiti as well. We are back to square now!

While we were still in the marina, Cecile, Daniel and Raphael (from Heidi 2.0) took a cab down to our marina and had dinner with us on our boat. They are a French/Swiss couple with a 13 year-old son. Raphael speaks very little English but Ari managed to find a few games they could play without having to use too much language.

Finally, we ordered an Iridium Go Satellite phone, which will not come in for about 10 days, so we decided to leave Tahiti and head to Moorea rather than wait. Dan will likely take a ferry back to Tahiti to get it out of customs (it is only 10 miles away by boat and the teens on Moorea have to attend high school in Tahiti everyday so it is a typical commute). Duty taxes are pretty ridiculous. You have to pay 35% on top of the cost of the item, the shipping AND the insurance amount. So basically add about $450 onto what we had to pay for the phone to begin with.

So, now we are in Opunohu Bay, Moorea, thoroughly enjoying this island. Tahiti was nice for its shopping and movie theater, but it was too crowded, too full of traffic and not as you picture a beautiful, tropical, Polynesian island to be. Moorea, in contrast, seems to be the “happy medium.” It is mountainous with great reef, and I can’t wait to explore everything here.  

Stay posted!

 

Our fish Lucky is still with us…

If you read our post about our “stowaway” from the Galapagos (a small reef Blenny that was stuck in our engine filter 100 miles offshore who would have died if we had put him back in the ocean so far offshore), you may have wondered if we released him back into the wild yet.  Well, Lucky Lenny the Blenny is still happily living with us, eating shrimp fish food, and flake fish food.  We have been taking care of this negatively buoyant little fish since the beginning of March and have grown quite attached to him.  We plan to release him back into the wild in the beautiful Fiji reef before we sail to New Zealand.  (You cannot take any pets into New Zealand and I don’t want the officials to hurt our little buddy.)  So, every day when we leave our boat to go to land, we put his tank underneath our outside table and block the sun’s ability to warm his water by strategically placing our outdoor pillows near him.  (If we left him inside the closed-up boat, his tank would get too hot.)

Can you tell our whole family misses having pets?  We keep talking about how we are going to get two cats, a dog, and possibly some chickens when we return to the States…and every island dog and cat we come across has to deal with our petting and attention (and sometimes food handouts!).

Currently, we are in Moorea, French Polynesia but we are headed to Huahine, French Polynesia tomorrow evening.  We will update the blog with Tahiti and Moorea soon!

FOOD…on a long passage

Warning: This is the most boring blog post ever written if you: (a) aren’t interested in how a family provisioned for a three week passage out to sea, or (b) have no interest in the food habits of a semi-normal/semi-abnormal family out to sea most likely getting crazier and crazier by the day (well, maybe that was just me because I had to cook so much. Where is pizza delivery when you really need it?)

This is what we ate for three weeks. I wrote it down to help me keep track of what I already had used up and what I still had available to feed my family.   You’ll see that my kids ate very unconventionally for breakfast some days, but that was what they wanted to eat so why not? I also baked additional goodies for snacks (cake, coffee cake, etc.)   And in hindsight, I realized I ate a heck of a lot of grilled cheese and grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches–many more than I would ever eat normally.  I guess that’s what tastes good to me now when I am out to sea…

Day 1

Breakfast: Croissants with jam

Lunch: Turkey ham (they have that in Latin American Countries—“ham” made from turkey), avocado, tomato and chips

Dinner: pasta with vodka sauce and veggies (broccoli, zucchini, eggplant), bread

Day 2

Breakfast: Dan: hard boiled eggs and toast, kids: cereal, me: breakfast scone

Lunch: Tuna salad sandwiches (adults) with lettuce and avocado, and turkey ham sandwiches (kids)

Dinner: Chicken with risotto (adults), kids ate leftover pasta with vodka sauce

Day 3

Breakfast: Dan: hard boiled eggs, Ariana: chicken with risotto, Ryan: “breakfast chili” (canned turkey chili), me: breakfast scone

Lunch: Pasta salad with vegetables and vinaigrette

Dinner: Rice and beans, (Dan and the kids also had turkey hot dogs)

Day 4

Breakfast: Dan: Fried eggs and turkey bacon, kids: Pasta Salad, me: cereal and turkey bacon

Lunch: Dan: Pasta Salad, Ariana: Broccoli cheddar soup, Ryan: peanut butter and jelly sandwich, me: Thai soup

Dinner: Ground turkey tacos with carrot, with guacamole, refried beans, cheese, lettuce and tomato

Day 5

Breakfast: French toast and soy sausage (All of us)

Lunch: Knorr Parmesan and Butter Noodles (All of us)

Dinner: homemade turkey chili, rice, green beans

Day 6

Breakfast: Spinach, cheddar, bell pepper omelets, and home fries (All of us)

Lunch: Kids: chicken rice soup, Dan: nothing, Me: cheese and crackers

Dinner: Green curry shrimp with broccoli, zucchini, and green onion (adults); chicken burgers, rice and beans, broccoli (Kids)

Day 7

Breakfast: Cereal and homemade banana muffins (All)

Lunch: Dan: turkey ham and cheese sandwich; Ryan: peanut butter and jelly sandwich; Ari and me: (chicken vermicelli soup with carrot)

Dinner: Pasta with veggies and feta cheese in a white wine, caper, butter sauce (adults); kids: same thing with ground turkey and minus the wine and capers

Day 8

Breakfast: Egg, turkey bacon and cheese croissant breakfast sandwiches (all)

Lunch: Ari: leftover pasta, Dan: leftover curry shrimp, Ryan: leftover homemade turkey chili, me: cheese and crackers

Dinner: Chicken, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, creamed corn, peas

Day 9

Breakfast: Dan: Breakfast sandwich, kids: waffles, me: small bowl of Rice Krispies

Lunch: Ryan: grilled cheese sandwich, Paula, grilled turkey ham and cheese sandwich, Ari: leftover chicken, mashed potato, stuffing and gravy, Dan: sandwich

Dinner: Chicken, beans, bell pepper and cheese quesadillas

Day 10

Breakfast: Ariana: Bagel, Dan: cereal, Ryan and me: nothing

Lunch: Dan: turkey sandwich, Paula: Cup-O-Noodles, Ryan: peanut butter sandwich, Ari: leftovers

Dinner: Homemade southwestern bean burgers with chipotle mayo and seasoned French fries (and cake for dessert!)

Day 11

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, home fries

Lunch: Pasta Salad—a new batch with the veggies that are still good to go

Dinner: Falafel, tzaziki sauce, couscous with feta and tomato, homemade Naan bread, Ryan –substitute falafel for a hot dog

Day 12

Breakfast: Croissants with honey (kids), plain yogurt with vanilla and granola (the kids and me)

Lunch: Pasta salad (all but me); grilled turkey and cheese (me)

Dinner: Pasta Puttanesca (Dan and me); Kids: Pasta Alfredo with carrot.

Day 13

Breakfast: Pancakes, turkey sausage links

Lunch: Kids: grilled cheese; Dan: grilled turkey ham and cheese; me: leftover pasta puttanesca

Dinner: Pressure cooked chicken, black beans, corn and salsa over white rice with avocado

Day 14

Breakfast: Quesadillas with scrambled egg, black beans, turkey sausage and cheddar (all but me); me: Cheerios

Lunch: All of us had either leftover falafel meal or chicken/black bean/corn/salsa meal

Dinner: Lasagna made with penne pasta (on the grill) and garlic bread

Day 15

Breakfast: Cereal (Dan and Ari); Ryan and me: peanut butter and jelly sandwich

Lunch: Chicken noodle soup (kids and Dan); me: potato chips and onion dip

Dinner: Pork fried rice with frozen peas, carrots, corn and green beans, and rolls

Day 16

Breakfast: Ryan: cereal; everyone else did not eat

Lunch: Grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches, but Ryan had a wrap

Dinner: Pasta pesto with ground turkey; salad that consisted of cucumber, tomato, green pepper and feta with Italian dressing (basically the last of the fresh vegetables!)

Day 17

Breakfast: Dan: ham, eggs, toast; Kids and me: eggs, black bean and turkey bacon taco

Lunch: ? I did not eat lunch. I am not sure what others ate.

Dinner: Homemade chicken stew with biscuits

Day 18

Breakfast: Dan and the kids: turkey sausage, egg, and potato tortilla, me: a biscuit

Lunch: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches

Dinner: Salmon, Wasabi mashed potatoes, sautéed cabbage and carrots with soy (adults); kids: hot dog and pasta with butter

Day 19

Breakfast: Dan: toast and cereal; kids: toast, me: nothing—maybe just extra sleep for breakfast! (My favorite breakfast)

Lunch: Leftover chicken stew and fruit

Dinner: homemade tomato and jalapeno pizza on the grill (cheese for the kids)

Day 20

Breakfast: Eggs, turkey bacon, and potato pancakes

Lunch: tuna and carrot wrap (me); kids: grilled cheese sandwiches; Dan: leftover pasta

Dinner: Chicken with raspberry glaze, chicken rice and snake beans (long green beans)

Day 21

Breakfast: ?

Lunch: ? (I didn’t log this—I just want to get into port!!!!!

Dinner: Chicken, bean, rice, cheese burritos. We arrive at 2 am after this. Yippee!

By the time we arrived into the French Marquesas, the thought of almost all food sort of sickened me. I have no idea why. So it was sad that my first meal there was the most terrible, fatty, dark meat, (and fried) chicken sandwich I have ever ordered. I say ordered because I didn’t actually eat it. The French Fries were VERY much appreciated though! J

 

 

Leaving the ARC and the “Road” Ahead

We made the decision to leave the ARC as of Tahiti because the pace is just too fast for us at this point. We cannot sail from Fiji to New Zealand until after cyclone season, so we have until the end of October to enjoy all of the islands in between Tahiti and Fiji. Fortunately, there are several other boats who are jumping off of the ARC as well, so not only will we have greater opportunity to meet other cruisers, but we also have some folks we already know and like who will be traveling on much the same path. We are still trying to nail down which islands we will go to, but it looks like we will most likely take the northern route after the Society Islands. We were originally thinking we would go south to the Cook Islands, but the weather on that route is more volatile and you have to be ready to depart the one Cook Island we would have gone to (Rarotonga) if the weather gets bad—and there is really no other place to go. Also, despite the fact we have heard American Samoa is not very pretty and not worth the effort, we may go there to receive delivery of all of the kids’ school materials for next year so we can avoid the steep customs charges. Since we are American, we are exempt from the duty fees in American Samoa (at least we think so; we will have to confirm that). That little side trip will probably save us about $1,000. So, this means we will hit Suwarrow, American Samoa and then head to Tonga and Fiji. Prior to that, we still have several islands to go to here in the Society’s: Huahine, Tahaa, Bora Bora, Maupiti, and possibly some others. I already prefer the Society Islands over the Marquesas, so we will definitely be taking our time here. (The Tuamotus are also VERY high on my list of favorite places so far.)

The Tuamotus

North Fakarava

Fakarava, Tuamotus

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Our sail to the Tuamotus took us four nights and was relatively uneventful. But, looking at our Yellow Brick position, people would have thought we were still in the middle of the ocean when we arrived; these islands are like specks in Horton Hears a Who.   Heck, I had never heard of them before this trip, and I had no idea what to expect. The repairs I stitched on the jib continued to hold up and our newly-fixed Genniker was much appreciated on this sail.   We were headed specifically for Fakarava Island, which is actually classified as a Natural Biosphere Reserve by Unesco. We were headed for the land of exceptional scuba diving—yippee!

The Tuamotus are somewhat strange for cruisers. They have “cuts” in the atolls at a few places, and that is how you make it into the protected middle. The land itself is not wide at all but goes around nearly completing a circle. You have to be careful entering these cuts because if the tide is coming out, the current can be very strong, and your engine(s) won’t be able to get you in there. Also, the waves can be very large as well in some of these passages. We entered Fakarava’s north cut at the proper tide time, and this cut turned out to be quite easy.

The name of the town at the northern pass is called Rotoava. It is a nice little village with a few restaurants, some pensions, two small grocery stores, some artisan craft stores, a Tahitian pearl jewelry shop (the woman makes her own jewelry), a few dive shops, a handful of pearl farms and a small airport. There is also a Yacht Services Company that is owned and operated out of the home of a nice French family with two young girls. They rent bicycles, sell sodas and fresh juices, and allow cruisers to use the Internet on their home’s deck. That is essentially the extent of the town. One night we tried to have dinner at a restaurant and the power went out in the entire village! Left with few menu options, we opted to return to the boat and cook. The good part about living on a boat—power when land doesn’t have it! We eventually ate at this restaurant which really only served paninis and crepes. There was also a woman on the island who would make you pizzas out of her house for $12 each (individual-sized) but we never could find her house and you had to order early in the morning for an evening pick-up. The only other restaurant in walking distance was very good, and you could get two nice pieces of seasoned, grilled tuna with French Fries (with Garlic Butter) for only $10. Not bad!  They had steak and fries too for $10, and salads that were pretty good.

Rotoava, Fakarava

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Nina:  Steve, Lynda, and their crew, Peter and Karen

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Lunch at one of the few restaurants on the island

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Fakarava Yacht Services (at Stephanie and Aldrich’s house)

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The house of an owner of a pearl farm

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The Fakarava Airport

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A day out exploring on bikes

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Tiny hermit crabs

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There was a nice pension we rode our bikes to as well. They had a snack bar on the water and a very nice atmosphere. They had a “fancy” restaurant at night, but I am not sure if anyone ever ate there. There were two small grocery stores on the island and I was able to get grapes and yellow watermelon—but only on the days when a ship came in with fresh produce (about once a week). By the end of the day, almost all of it would be gone from the stores! Still no tomatoes though…

The Pension–nice place!

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Interesting.  Can you imagine checking into your room called:  “GI Hoe?”  

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Many of the kids in Fakarava north ride their bicycles to and from school (parents usually ride the young kids in on the backs of their bicycles), and overall, it is a nice, quaint town. Although most of the houses are very modest, many residents had beautifully landscaped yards and could be seen working on their gardens as you strolled through town. We rented bicycles one day and visited a pearl farm another, but much of our time here was spent in the water and under the water. I will say the pearl farm was worth the visit. We learned how black pearls come to be, and how they graft in a nucleus (from mussels in Mississippi of all places), and the oyster develops the pearl around it. An oyster can produce four pearls in its life (each one bigger than the other because of how they cultivate the oyster). But some oysters reject the graft and some produce inferior or no pearls. It is an interesting process.

Our Visit to the Pearl Farm

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Because the passes on these islands have a huge tide filtering through them a few times a day, the coral in and around these passes is impressive and most days the visibility scuba diving is nothing short of spectacular. They actually consider some of these areas “coral gardens.” And because of this amazing coral, you also have incredible numbers and types of fish—and sharks. Sharks are everywhere and our dives were full of them. During our time in the Tuamotus, we saw HUNDREDS of sharks—white tip reef, black tip reef, nurse and gray sharks. At first it is a little disconcerting snorkeling and diving with so many sharks around, but THESE sharks have learned their place is lower on the chain than humans. They generally did not swim too closely to you, but occasionally they would come in fairly close out of curiosity (especially in the south part of the island which I’ll talk about next).

Some Fish While Snorkeling

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We arranged a scuba dive with Vincent (at a local dive shop) and his boat captain on the northern part of the island. It ended up just being Dan, Ariana and me that day. We went to the most incredible reef I have ever had the pleasure of diving in. It was awesome! It was my favorite dive in 18 years of diving. The visibility was amazing, we saw numerous sharks cruising around, and the number of different reef fish was nothing short of spectacular. I have been diving in Hawaii, but this dive put my diving in Hawaii to shame. Hawaii’s visibility wasn’t nearly as good and I saw species of fish in the Tuamotus that I have never seen on any other dive. I especially loved the Napoleon fish. They are huge, curious, and come very close to you. They also have a Unicorn fish that has this horn coming out of its face. The fish is white, but when it gets parasites it wants other fish to eat, it swims to the bottom of the water and turns black so the fish know where the white parasites are. How amazing is that? Also, we finally had the opportunity to dive with Ariana. She did fantastic! Dan was beaming with pride. She was so comfortable in the water and seemed unfazed by the sharks, the depth (about 65 feet) or the current we were diving in.

Another day, we dove the pass. It was just Tim, on Belafonte, who was becoming scuba-certified during his time in Fakarava, and us diving. This was a unique dive. The current is incredibly strong, and our plan for the dive was to descend, level out, swim above the reef into the cut, hold on dearly to a rock so the current did not pull you away prematurely, watch the sharks for a little while, let go and let the current take you as you cruise above the reef watching the fish. It felt like we were flying. It was a neat dive, but I actually prefer being able to stay a bit longer in one place to look at all of the reef critters. Unlike Cozumel (which has current and is all drift diving), there was no way you could fight the current here to stop and look at something that intrigued you in the water. So, we flew above like we were on Soarin’ at Disney World.

We hung out with Bob and Lori on Barbara Jean and Tim and Magda on Belafonte a few days/evenings while we were in the north passage. We went out to lunch/dinner a few times and we also had a potluck on our boat and that was a fun evening as well. We were able to see the folks on Nina a bit too, and Dan scuba-dove to free their anchor from the reef that it ended up in. Finally, Gail and Jason (on Two Fish) rolled into the harbor and we went to their boat for a cocktail party our last evening in North Fakarava. They tried to have people over the night before that, but it was ROUGH in the anchorage so we chose to move it to another night. It is so strange to be seasick at anchor…

South Fakarava

We were off to South Fakarava, which allowed us to stay within the protected atoll the entire time. The village in the south is called Tetamanu, and it is SMALL. There are a few houses and a small dive “resort” with a dock and some huts over the reef. There is also another small house (if that’s what you want to call it) that is only habited by Top Dive instructors when there are divers.

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If I were to describe South Fakarava in one word it would be “sharks.” If I had another word, it would be “clarity.” The water was so clear, which meant that you could see all of the sharks lurking underneath your boat. We always had at least five (three black-tip reef and two gray sharks) who treated our catamaran like a shady reef. We also had amazing fish under our boat, and at one point, we had a large Napoleon Fish. Although we went on to snorkel and dive with tons of sharks down here in the South Pass, I think we all felt a little uncomfortable swimming right off of our boat with all of them hovering there. Cruisers throw their food scraps into the water so trash doesn’t get too stinky. Fish usually get to it pretty quickly. I guess we just didn’t want a shark to take a nibble on the kids or us before they decided we weren’t table scraps! So after a day, we decided not to swim right off of our boat. After that, anytime I would put a bit of chicken fat, an old hot dog, etc into the water, it took all of about three seconds for the fish and sharks to attack it. A little disconcerting, but fun to watch!

Some Sharks and a Cute Fish

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A Feeding Frenzy

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The first day, we all snorkeled together over at the pass (the cut in the atoll that brings in/lets out great current with the tides). One of the funniest moments was when Ari, Dan and I were snorkeling (our dinghy was tied to Dan) and Ryan, after having taken a dip in the water, was back in the dinghy with his feet dangling out in the water. Snorkeling, we saw this gray shark heading straight for Ryan’s toes. Dan popped his head out of the water and said: “Ryan, pull your feet into the boat.” As soon as Ryan did, the shark did an about face and stopped pursuing Ryan’s little smoked sausages! That was really the only uncomfortable moment while snorkeling—but the sharks didn’t actually bother us snorkelers—only that yummy “food” dangling just at the surface.

The Village of Tetamanu

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We knew we wanted to dive this pass as well, and here, you did not have to go in a power boat with a dive instructor because it was easy to dinghy over. No one would rent us a BC and regulator for liability reasons (strange) so all three of us could dive together (Dan and I have equipment but Ari does not), so we had to split up. Also, our father-in-law had bought us three new scuba tanks prior to our trip.  We had them filled by Vincent in North Fakarava and we realized upon arrival in the south that one of our tanks has a leak in it.  There was no air left! This motivated Dan to break out the dive compressor and attempt to fill our other tanks fully. Dan had popped the breaker when he tried it prior to our trip on 10 volt, so this time he tried plugging it straight in to 15 volt.  It worked!  We now can fill our own tanks.  How exciting!

The first day of diving, Ari and Ryan dropped Dan and me off at the pass, we waited on the surface for them to dinghy up at the dock, and we descended. It was an amazing dive! I must have seen at least 100 sharks and the visibility was wonderful. Again, this was a drift dive, but more like Cozumel. You could easily fight the current to look at all of the reef fish and the sharks. We drifted right up to the dock, where the kids were playing Travel Battleship while waiting for us.

The next day, Ryan and I dropped Ariana and Dan off for their dive. They had a good time, but their visibility wasn’t nearly as good as the day before and they only saw a handful of sharks. And terribly, Dan ruptured his eardrum on this dive. Once it ruptured, he had relief, but he really shouldn’t have gone diving that day. On our dive, he took a good solid 10 minutes to ascend because his ears were bothering him so badly. He just wanted to make sure Ariana got a chance to dive—what a great Dad! He took antibiotics, but now he can’t dive for some time. He is hoping to be able to in Nuie. Ari and I will need to be dive buddies for a while!

Getting the Dive Compressor to Work!

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Ari and Dan’s Day to Dive

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The Resident Dog of the Small Dive Resort:  “Lucky,” just like our Fish, with Dan.

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The Church, Built in 1874

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We spent one day walking the small island and crossing parts of the atoll. We also had a nice ping pong challenge on the picnic table at the deserted Top Dive house. (We have a portable table ping pong set.) That was a lot of fun.

Ping Pong Fun

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The Jelly Fish We Saw on the Beach–so Bright!

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Wandering Around the Small Island

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Top Dive’s Area (When They Have Divers)

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I am so glad we went to South Fakarava. We debated whether it was worth the 35-mile trip, but it really was. For two nights, we were the only other boat there! It was our own secluded oasis, and we were lucky to have that oasis include crystal clear waters and beautiful reef. It was simply amazing.

A Strange and Pretty Sunset 

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I Love These Little Huts!

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From there, we were off to Tahiti! We could depart right out of the South Pass of the atoll when the tide was slack, and luckily, it was only a two-night passage…

 

Welcome to French Polynesia! The Marquesas Islands

Flying the French and Polynesian Flags!

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The Marquesas are a very unique island group. There are twelve islands total with only six habited (by a total of 8,000 people).

Hiva Oa

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Hiva Oa

Land ho! It was very nice to reach land again. We left the Galapagos speaking Spanish and arrived into Hiva Oa where French (or Polynesian) was the language spoken. What a change! The land is full of mountains and glorious hiking opportunities. Our first stop was Hiva Oa and after walking around the town on Day 1, we headed to a hotel at the top of the hill on Day 2 for swimming, lunch, Internet and the beautiful views (with K1W1 Beanz). We liked this place so much we came back again another day (and met Widago and K1W1 Beanz). The man who owns the hotel (Jean-Jacques) is originally from a ski resort area in France, but when he came here several years ago, he met his wife and never left. It seemed to be a common story. Kevin, who runs a yacht services company on Nuku Hiva, cruised to French Polynesia several years ago, met his wife, and decided to settle in the Marquesas.

Hiva Oa Town

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The hotel pool at the top of the hill

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On Hiva Oa, there weren’t many restaurants (I think there were 4 total) but they had a pretty good pizza place which is always appreciated.  It was normal to hitchhike here, and even if you didn’t try to flag down someone for a ride, people would stop and offer you one to the marina.  We did this on a few occasions, even with the kids, because it was a LONG walk, and it is what people do here.

Another day in Hiva Oa, Dan and I had a few hours to ourselves as the kids opted to stay on the boat and do school. We went into town to the store to buy fresh baguettes and dry cat food (for Lucky Lenny, our blenny fish, and for stray dogs and cats!), went into the (closed) Gaugin museum briefly, and had crepes and salad at a small restaurant with Internet.

The restaurant for crepes

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As a side note, all I wanted when I arrived into French Polynesia was a salad, and it wasn’t until Dan and I had lunch together that I witnessed lettuce. Real, green lettuce! We take it for granted in the States, because not only do we have lettuce there, we have Iceberg, Green Leaf, Red Leaf, Romaine, Arugula, Spinach, Mixed Field Greens, Boston, Boston Hydroponic and probably more I am forgetting. What a variety! Ah, spoiled brats we are…but now I am a traveling islander seeking ANY lettuce. Damn, I am not picky. My love for lettuce prompted Dan to volunteer for the “lettuce mission.” On Hiva Oa, we learned that they have a Saturday morning farmer’s market. I use the term “morning” loosely here, because the Farmer’s Market is from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m.   In my lexicon, the definition of morning can NEVER include a “4”—that’s night—but I digress. Knowing that despite my avid adoration of lettuce I would still not get up that early, hop into a dinghy, drive into land, tie up, walk to the market and find my precious gem-quality vegetable, Dan offered to go on the lettuce mission for me. And he was successful! He arrived into town by 5:30 a.m. to secure two beautiful heads of green leaf lettuce. From what I heard, 20 minutes later, he would have come up short-handed. No more lettuce even before 6 a.m.   Oh, and there have been NO tomatoes in all of the Marquesas (apparently there was too much rain this season because of La Nina), and NO tomatoes in the Tuamotus either (which will be written about in a later entry). Now I miss tomatoes…

Me Repairing Our Jib

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Fatu Hiva

After less than a week in Hiva Oa, we opted to do a full day sail down to Fatu Hiva, a beautiful island that Captain Cook sailed to so long ago. Fatu Hiva is considered the lushest of the Marquesan Islands; it is only 10 km long and 4 km wide but packs a punch with a height of 1,000 meters. (All this international travel has me using the metric system much more than I ever did in the U.S. A thousand meters is about 3,000 feet.) We left at about 5 in the morning and arrived mid-afternoon. The bay we anchored in used to be called the Bay of Phalluses, but after the missionaries came through, they changed the name to the Bay of Virgins. Silly, really. The bay was given its original name for a REASON, due to the natural volcanic spikes that seem to “stand at attention” all over the bay. 😉 This was a beautiful bay and finally granted us some fantastic hiking.

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We sailed to Fatu Hiva with Barbara Jean and Belafonte, and were joined by several other ARC boats and a few others that were already in the bay. We had an impromptu cocktail party on our boat that evening. Interestingly, we had about 16-18 people on our boat, representing 12 nations, including the French man (Daniel) who had been living on his boat in that bay for about 8 months already. Countries represented were: Ireland, Canada, France, South Africa, Germany, Spain, Italy, Great Britain, Belgium, Poland, and New Zealand, and the United States. How cool is that? That is one part of cruising (especially with the ARC, but not exclusively) I really love—meeting people from all over the world. Being a social psychologist, this part of our trip is nearly as wonderful for me as all of the places we are visiting.

The morning after our cocktail party, a fairly large group of us (ranging in age from 10-70) decided to hike into a waterfall. It was a beautiful hike that took about an hour to reach a lovely, tall waterfall with a cold, deep swimming hole at its base. I am usually a baby with water that cold (think Canada-cold), but it sure did feel refreshing once you got in after the hot hike. The kids and Dan decided to swim under the waterfall too; our family had a great time.  We stayed only a few nights in Fatu Hiva and then we decided to do an overnight sail to another Marquesas Island called Nuku Hiva. On the way, we spent a night at Baie Hanamoenoa (Stephen’s Bay) on Tahuata Island. That was a lovely anchorage where several ARC boats were located, included Widago. Widago had a cocktail party that night and invited all of the ARC boats to attend. It was fun and the kids got to hang out again!

The Waterfall Hike on Fatu Hiva

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Typical House on Fatu Hiva

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Adorable, affectionate kitten on Fatu Hiva

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Coprah Production (Drying the Coconuts)

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Nuku Hiva

From Stephen’s Bay, our plan was to sail to Nuku Hiva for the ARC rendezvous a few nights later. I did not anticipate having seasickness on this short sail (one night), but I was hit hard. This officially became my first watch that I could not stand entirely on my own since we’ve owned Do Over. I don’t know exactly what prompted this horrible seasickness (we have had much rougher passages) but a Scopalomine Patch could not touch it. I sat at the helm with a few one-gallon Ziploc bags, and got sick about 16 times. We were sailing fairly close to Belafonte and Barbara Jean, and for the first time, I just didn’t think it was 100% safe for me to be at the helm. After two and a half hours, I had to wake Dan up.

I hate that I can no longer say I have always stood my watch. I used to pride myself on that. But I won’t be too hard on myself because it is still surreal to me that I am here in French Polynesia because I sailed here with my family—seasickness and all. That has to be worth something, right? 🙂

Nuku Hiva

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Nuku Hiva was a lovely island and we ended up staying there for about a week. Nuku Hiva is actually the second largest French Polynesian Island after Tahiti (with 330 square kilometers). We based ourselves much of the time in Taiohae Bay. Here, A LOT of people from the ARC got tattoos but I am proud to report or sorry to say (depending on your view) that no one from the Gabier clan partook in a new tribal body decoration. Some of the tattoos did look very beautiful though. We had an ARC dinner and a day of the local folks demonstrating their bead jewelry making, basket-weaving and offering up their local fruits for tasting. There was a good restaurant on the island as well, and some Internet! We also had our Genniker sail repaired here by Kevin, who owns the local yacht services company.

Nuku Hiva

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Ariana and Ryan making bead necklaces

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ARC dinner

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One of my favorite photos of the trip:  “Chicken in a Bucket”

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During our time in Nuku Hiva, we left to go to Daniel’s Bay (Baie de Taioa or Hakatea) for a night, which was only a short sail away. Daniel’s Bay was gorgeous. The scenery was incredible and it was such a quiet and peaceful anchorage. There were a few boats there and we were able to learn more about the incredible waterfall hike. It had rained quite a lot before we arrived so the trails were expected to be very muddy, and the hike itself required crossing a river several times. The hike took you to the Vaipo Waterfall, the third largest waterfall in the world. There were a handful of ARC folks who felt it would be too difficult for Ryan and Ariana to do the entire hike, but they don’t know our kids like we do! We ended up doing the entire hike without any complaints from either of our little progeny—and it was quite challenging. At one of the river crossings, Ryan started to get swept up a bit in the current, but Dan grabbed him and got him across. Sometimes the trail was not well marked, especially after the river crossings, but we managed to find our way to the end of the hike, which resulted in a view of only part of the waterfall and a bunch of waterfall spray. The whole hike was about 4.5 to 5 hours, and EXTREMELY muddy. We were pretty much covered in mud from our knees down until we hit each of the river crossings and could wash it off. One part of the trail, Ariana nearly lost her Keene shoe after she went ankle deep in mud! We also had to keep applying mosquito repellent because those mossies would get fierce near some of the river crossings. Also, there was really no place to sit and enjoy a snack along the way during this hike. Boursin cheese and crackers had to wait—so we had two very incredibly hungry kids when we got back to the locals’ houses. Which brings me to the other wonderful part of this hike. Before we ventured into the plant-filled gardens and forest, we met some of the locals who were interested in selling us their garden fruit. We told them ahead of time what we wanted and they had it ready for us when we got done with our hike. They had so many fruits! Bananas, yellow and green papayas, grapefruit, star fruit, and their “guava.”

Guava is a funny thing, because it seems to be different depending on where you are. Guava in the Galapagos was this very long and thin fruit that you peel and take the insides out and eat—and it is soft and “fluffy” and white. In the Galapagos, Guayaba is what our guava is in the United States. In the Marquesas, Guava is completely different from ours in the United States too. It is about the size of a small orange, you bite into the entire thing and it has about a quarter inch layer of orange color with a deeper core of an even brighter color with many seeds. You don’t peel it, and it is pretty good. Ariana really liked this fruit. So, we met the family’s incredibly cute white kitten and their older cat, and got to see a bit more how folks live out there.   Like a lot of families, they made “coprah” which is coconut oil. They harvest their coconuts and dry them out, ship them to the mainland, and it is made into the final product. A few of these families would cook you lunch as well. Some ARC people decided to have lunch, which included a pig roasted in their traditional manner (underground), some rice with coconut milk, and some grapefruit for dessert.

On another night (back in Nuku Hiva), we went to a cocktail party on Paw Paw (Roy and Elaine) with Nina (Steve, Lynda and crew Peter and Karen) and a few non-ARC boats from Australia and New Zealand.  That was a very fun night too!

Daniel’s Bay

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The Waterfall Hike–Crossing the River

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The Third Tallest Waterfall in the World (Vaipo Waterfall)

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An Islander’s House

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“Guava” in the Marquesas

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The Family With All of the Fruit!  

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Most Random Spot for a Working Telephone Booth

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We headed back to Taiohae Bay to have our sail repaired and to provision. After a few more days, we were off to the Tuamotus, which are low-lying atolls in the South Pacific Ocean.

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I know, I know, I am slow…

I will be posting again within the next day or so.  It will include the Marquesas Islands, the Tuamotus, and a great Drone video we took in Fakarava, Tuamotus.  AMAZING waters and diving.  I hope all is well and please keep checking for new posts.  It definitely encourages me to keep writing when people are reading what I write!  🙂