The following pages chronicle the journey of the sailing vessel Pelagic and her crew. We are a family of 5; Michael, Amy, Zander, Porter and Anakena, taking our 42' Hallberg Rassy as far as we can comfortably go in three years. We left Oregon in September 2014, participated in the 2014 Baja Haha, continued on through the Panama Canal, into the Caribbean, up the coast of the US to Maritime Canada and from there crossed the Atlantic. After an arrival in Ireland we toured Scotland, then sailed down to France, Portugal and on to Morocco. In January of 2016 we slowed down considerably and enrolled the kids in a local Spanish school in Sanlucar de Guadiana for a few months. In the spring of 2016 we crossed the Atlantic towards the Caribbean. We are now in the Pacific, officially on our way home, albeit via a very circuitous path. We are currently in French Polynesia and looking at weather windows to Hawaii before finally making landfall back in the Pacific Northwest.

Currently our exact location is not available. Our spot coverage will pick us back up in Hawaii towards the end of May, 2017.

Our favorite sailing quote:

"If anythings gonna happen, it's gonna happen out there boss!" Captain Ron

Sunday, April 30, 2017

A few more shots of the Tuamotus, April 30

Looking for dinner.  The boys have gotten really proficient at spearing our dinner. 

Porter following a large Manta.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Fakarava, April 29th

Where the fakarava are we now? It is an old joke, but we never seem to tire of it. We are now visiting Fakarava, one of the more populated atolls in the Tuamotus. There is a small village here; three small stores (smaller than a 7-11), a bakery, multiple pearl farms, but no restaurants that we can find open. There must be a time when there is a little more going on, but at the moment there are only a few boats anchored in the harbor and they all look to be French flagged and probably resident boats. We were really looking forward to a meal we didn't have to prepare and preferably something other than fish. Instead we had to eat on the boat, yet again! We did find some meat from Uruguay and we did get our steak and frites, we just had to cook them ourselves. Internet has been quite pathetic, so I have yet to post many photos of how beautiful the islands are, but take my word for it, they are amazing. We will probably head towards the South pass which is famous for its shark diving and fantastic pass snorkeling today or tomorrow. We were able to provision in town, but we spent $600 and I was able to store all the food on the boat in about 5 minutes. Usually when I do a big shop it takes me hours to put everything away, but there just wasn't all that much food for the money spent. We were lucky with our timing and the supply ship had come the previous day so we were able to pick up a little fruit, potatoes and some carrots. We actually found some grapes that were amazing and we savored each bite much the way a heroine addict savors their poison. Our jones is definitely for fresh fruit. The shops often run out of staples, and since this may be our last shop before getting to Hawaii we were lucky to get flour, sugar, eggs, milk and some of the other necessities.

The Lagoon here is quite beautiful and every view from our cockpit could be a postcard. Small, planked docks jut out into the aquamarine water in a Bora Bora style. Picturesque cottages line the waters edge and a handful of local boats bob lazily on their moorings. The weather has been calm and we feel like we are getting a reprieve from the blustery conditions we have had throughout most of our stay in the Tuamotus. We rented bikes and toured the North end of the island at a much faster speed than usual. We are missing our fold up bike that some a%@hole is Europe is now using as well as the scooters we sent home at Christmas time, convinced there would not be any place to scooter in Polynesia. The coral and shell lined lanes that Michael and I remember from 20 years ago have all been replaced by concrete streets and they are perfect for touring on wheels. The locals all cruise around on bicycles and tricycles and we had a good time site seeing with local transport. We toured a few pearl farms, and although we got a nice walk through of the facilities and the process of extracting pearls, the pearls were very expensive. I think we got a little spoiled in Raroia trading for high quality pearls or paying very little. We wish we had the foresight to have bought a bunch of souvenir quality pearls (blemished), but unfortunately we were convinced we would have several other options to buy pearls. No such luck!

Anyway, we will slowly make our way through the Fakarava lagoon, sailing south to the south pass. We will stay there, hopefully do some diving and snorkeling and then look for a weather window to head towards Hawaii.

Friday, April 28, 2017

A few snap shots from the Tuamotus, April 28

This group of pictures took me 2 hours to download.  One of these days I will get wifi fast enough to post more of our underwater pictures.  The fish diversity and abundance is incredible.  

visiting the island that the Kon Tiki landed on.

One of Z's many grouper that he speared.  Yes, I am are sick of fish! Fish tacos, fish chowder, fish paella, fish curry, grilled with every seasoning you can think of.  It is getting old!

Perfect size palm tree.
Riding back from a great snorkel on the reef.  

We wish we had purchased more peals in Raroia because we aren't finding many in Fakarava.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Leaving Tahanea, April 25

We are still in Tahanea, but looking at weather windows to depart for Fakarava, our last stop in the Tuamotus. We've only been here about 5 days, but it has been an incredible atoll to visit. Tahanea is a national park, so there are no pearl farms to dodge, just the ever present coral bommies, which we've become fairly proficient at avoiding (knock on wood). Generally there aren't many villagers here, and there is no established village, but during the copra season about 50 islanders spread out on the multiple motus to harvest the coconuts. We haven't seen many of the islanders so it feels very remote. Once anchored we continued our favorite activity of snorkeling the passes. The first time we did it we were a bit disappointed. The pass was deep, the coral didn't seem that exciting and we didn't see many big fish. About half way through the pass we literally ran into a huge bait ball. We aren't sure what type of fish they were, but they were getting hammered by two large tuna that would race through the school and strike a few fish each pass. Once a few fish were hit, the sharks came in. Great big sleek reef sharks that cruised through the group as if on patrol, scattering the smaller fish in their wake. The reef sharks, although intimidating, really aren't that efficient as predators (at least that is what I tell myself). They often wait until a fish is hit by another predator and then come and take advantage of the stunned fish. The tuna were the really impressive feeders. We also had a huge manta ray come over and check us out. We made a few passes and tried to anchor the dingy near the bait ball, but the current was too strong to hold on to the anchor line. Later, we got some pointers from a fellow cruiser and snorkeled the edge of one the passes and found a back eddy or relatively still area of water of fantastic coral and reef fish. A dozen types of butterfly fish, angel fish, grouper, parrot fish and wrasses among many others. The coral was shallow, so the lighting was perfect and we didn't have to dive deep to see everything. We now take our gopro everywhere and are trying to burn the memories of the reefs into our minds. There really is nothing as beautiful as a healthy coral reef. You can always tell who is taking the pictures when we come back to the boat to see them. All of mine are frames of dainty little angel fish, a butterfly fish, colorful coral or at the most severe a stern looking Moorish Idol. When Zander has the cameras he is on the hunt for game fish and all his pictures reflect his interests; huge parrot fish or grouper. He also follows sharks around and sticks the gopro into the holes after big Moray Eels. Tahanea does not have Ciguatera, so we are eating our fill of fish before moving on. The boys always have a Hawaiian sling in their hands and they regularly have their heads in a crevice or whole in the coral, chasing an elusive dinner.

Besides the outer islands motus, Tahanea has several motus in the middle of the lagoon. We visited a bird island with nesting Frigate birds, but it wasn't a good anchorage so we had to take turns swimming ashore to visit. We saw soaring boobies and pairs of fairy terns dive around the island, but the Frigates were the only nesters. The Frigates are like pterodactyls in the sky, they look prehistoric, and we got to see multiple nests with single eggs laid precariously on pathetic looking stick platforms. We didn't see any broken eggs, so apparently the set up works for them, but every time a bird flew off the nest I expected to see an egg fall. The island smelled like guano and we didn't needs to stay long to "experience" it, so we moved on from there.

While in the lagoon we anchored in several places along the SE corner of the lagoon, protected from the fairly strong South-easterlies. We had several bonfires on the beach. One memorable barbecue with an Australian and French boat that have been in Polynesia for several years. We are just a few weeks ahead of the puddle jumpers, so all the boats we meet are resident boats or long term stay boats that are a wealth of information to us, not to mention just lovely company.

Along with catching our dinner on their Hawaiian slings, the boys have now perfected hunting coconut crabs. They are huge alien looking land crabs that have nippers that can open a coconut husk, so they learned quickly to stay away from the business end of the crab and hunt them with lobster nooses. Once the crab grabbed on to the pole/noose they could throw them in a bucket.

Tahanea has been a nice stop, but we are quickly running out of provisions. Never have our cabinets been so bare. Zander is constantly hungry and our meager stores are getting more meager by the day. Fortunately the fishing has been great, but I personally am beyond tired of fish for dinner! Dreaming about ice cream and steak and Frites in Fakarava!

Friday, April 21, 2017

April 18, a few more gray hairs.....

We had a stressful last couple of days, probably the most stressful of our whole time cruising. Five days ago we were anchored behind some motus, in the lagoon, on the northwest side of Makemo. We were near the reef pass and we thought we were in a great spot to sit out some northern winds. The first day we were there it was wonderful. We explored the islands, but the favorite activity was definitely spear fishing in the pass. The boys waited until the pass was at slack tide, grabbed all their Hawaiian slings and fishing gear and dove in. Mike later told me it was one of the best dives/snorkels he has ever done and of course I was immediately jealous. Apparently there were a lot of big grouper and parrot fish, so everyone came back with fish, but there were also inquisitive reef sharks everywhere. Reef sharks rarely bother you, but the kids were careful to bring their speared fish up to the dingy as quickly as possible and not leave a trail of blood in the water. Several of our friends have returned with half a fish when an inquisitive shark decided to take his fair share. Hard to argue with a top predator when they want to collect on a "reef tax". When the slack tide started to flood, they passed coral heads, more sharks and brightly colored fish. They came back raving about the dive and anxious to bring Ana and I back the following day.

The next day we woke up early, hoping to catch the morning slack. Well, we waited, watching the pass from our vantage point about 100 meters away at anchor. The rushing water looked like class five rapids. We were looking forward to the change in tides because at anchor we were seeing 2-3 knots of current pass the boat increasing to about 8 knots at the "falls" not too far away and definitely not as far as we would have liked at that point. Noon came, no change in tide, if anything it looked stronger. We decided to take a look by dingy and see if we could snorkel an eddy along the wall. Going out was no problem, and even from the dingy the water was inviting. I could see the wall and the bright corals. It was all I could do to stay in the boat. Unfortunately we decided there was still too much current to safely snorkel with the family. On our way back, we avoided the standing 6 foot wave that looked much too close to our boat, and threaded the needle between two small reefs. Granted, our 10 HP engine doesn't go very fast with all of us in the boat, but we had full throttle on and we were barely moving. At one point Mike considered dropping Zander and I off on a reef to get Porter and Ana back safety and then return for us. It is unnerving not to have enough power when you need it and if we could do this over we would purchased a bigger engine. It was a little scary for a moment and I was happy I had the kids wear their life jackets, because we don't always do that when we are just puttering around. We started to make just a little gain and eventually we all made it away form the turbulent water and back to the boat. At this point, the current was strong, but the winds were light and from the north and we were protected by the island and after a dive on the anchor we knew the anchor was in a good position, we just didn't like being so close to the pass that had now only ebbed for the last 3 tide cycles. We weren't aware that a scenario of no tidal change was even a possibility in the lagoons. We knew the slack tides were hard to estimate when excessive water came over the reef, and the slack tides could be delayed significantly, but no where did we read or were we told that the slack may never come. It was a bit of a nail-biter night knowing we were anchored right upstream from what looked like a waterfall, but we have a solid anchor, it was firmly hooked, we had 120 feet of chain out and we felt like we were secure even if we still had butterflies in our stomachs.

We decided we would try to leave the next morning to go to Tahanea, about 45 miles away. After a 6am rise, a look to see that the water was still ebbing ant it still looked like it was moving anywhere from 6-10 knots we got everyone in place to pull the anchor up. We were anchored between 4 small reefs, each about 200 meters away in every direction and we knew we couldn't drift much once we got the anchor up. Well, it turned out that that was not a problem, we could not get the anchor up! Mike tentatively got in the water, hung on to the anchor line and tried to descend enough to see what was going on. The anchor had dug in and was firmly attached to a huge rock under a little ledge of dead coral. We weren't going anywhere soon. We tried motoring around, pulling from other angles, but the anchor wasn't going anywhere without us physically dislodging it. We had mixed feelings; we weren't going to drag, but we also couldn't up anchor and leave. Any other time Mike would have gotten in scuba gear and untangled the anchor, but with the strong current, it seemed like a dangerous option. If he lost his way from the anchor and chain he would never be able to swim back to the boat against the current and would eventually get sucked in to the falls and eventually out to sea. We hadn't peaked at the waves on the ocean side, but the previous day there were 8 foot breaking waves where the water that would normally be flooding in, was meeting the stronger outflow from the lagoon. Pelagic could have easily made it through the waves, but the dingy would have been hard pressed to and I certainly didn't relish the thought of trying to fish Mike out of the water in those conditions. We'd have to wait until the current subsided, at least a little. So, wait we did. The dark skies opened up regularly throughout the day pouring rain down on us and during those times the wind always piped up. By afternoon the winds had clocked around from the northwest to the southeast and we had sustained gale force winds. We were now on a lee shore, with a reef between us and the island, we were watching the wind speed creep up into the mid 40's and probably the most unnerving thing was the wind direction was now coming from the SE, which meant straight up the lagoon, creating more fetch than was comfortable. It is the fetch that is hard on anchors and ultimately what causes anchor failure during big storms. The short steep waves caused the bow to pitch and it constantly pulled on the anchor chain. With sustained wind, but no fetch, the catenary effect (a curve in the anchor chain that takes the pull of the wind, absorbing the energy and saving any pull on the anchor itself, at least that is my definition of it), and 4-5 times the depth out in chain is more than enough to keep the anchor set, even in gale force plus conditions. With the fetch our bow was pitching more than we wanted, but there wasn't much we could do about it. Mike checked the snubber line periodically throughout the day to make sure it didn't show signs of chafe, and when it did, he changed the position a little. He also added a second snubber line to fall into place if the first failed. He rigged our second anchor on the bow in case we needed it. We knew our anchor would hold, but we worried that the chain could break (normally unlikely, but if a chain wraps around a coral head tightly, they have been known to snap).

All day we kept the kids busy watching TV and baking treats for them, but I knew it was going to be another nail-biter of a night. With our boat on a lee shore, we were never in personal danger, but it felt tense. We had a couple of strategies to contemplate. First we could dump all our chain, marked with a buoy, leave the main anchor and motor back to town, 25 miles away. Normally we wouldn't travel through the lagoon without optimal lighting, but since we had just made the crossing our GPS showed our track and if we stuck to that, there shouldn't be any surprises in our path. Once in town we would have a concrete pier to tie to, a location far closer to the eastern sides of the lagoon, meaning much less fetch and a spot away from the white water pass, and as Zander repeatedly reminded us, a spot much closer to a bakery. Our second strategy was simply to wait until the current subsided a little and send Mike down to untangle the anchor and then decide if the pass was passable.

The forecast showed continued strong SE to Easterly winds for the next few days. Hmm, what to do. Well, as it turns out the decision was once again taken from us. We made it through the night, we had set the anchor alarm so if we moved more than 65 meters we would all wake to a screeching siren. We didn't wake to an alarm, so that was positive, instead we all woke to the snubber snapping and a huge jerk on the chain. Fortunately the second line served its purpose and we then added a back up to our backup. The wind was still strong so we contemplated our next move. Our GPS keeps our track for the previous 175 miles, so we assumed we could backtrack on our course, even if visibility was poor. Since our GPS needs to be on for the anchor alarm to work, it was calculating the movement of the stern the whole night, sailing back and forth in the current and wind. How we could have moved 175 miles in a 12 hour period we aren't sure, but the snake of our track caught up to us. According to the GPS we traveled 175 miles in one night. Back tracking was out! It would be a waiting game. The good news was we talked to a fellow cruiser later on the second morning via the SSB and he thought the wind would start to die and the lagoon would start to empty. We survived day two stuck on the anchor.

By the third night we felt like being on a lee shore with strong winds and fetch, anchored between 4 reefs and next to white water was pretty routine. Ho hum! Actually the wind had died down during the day and stayed in the 25 knot range. Whew, we were almost through it, so far unscathed. By the next morning the tide finally switched and after 72 hours of outgoing tide we finally got a slack tide. Mike dove on the anchor and after a few attempts (and some less than optimal communication, quite possible requiring marital counseling in the future), we got the anchor up on deck and we were free. The sea forecast still predicted big seas, so we decided to wait and let the waves die down a little before moving islands. We'd move to a more protected area of the lagoon and try to leave the following day.

As you can see, we made it through the three nights, a prisoner of our own anchor, learned a few lessons from the ordeal and hopefully we are wiser for it.

Monday, April 17, 2017

A few more photos of the Marquesas, April 17

photos of Ua Pou.

Waterfall in Ua Pou.
Waterfall in Daniel's Bay.

First Land in 24 days.

Life continues as usual on the boat.

Shore loot.

A boy and his boat.

Last stalk of bananas before we leave for the Tuamotus.

Daniel's Bay.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Tuamotus update, Raroia and Makemo, April 14

We've now been in the Tuamotus for over a week and we are loving it here. The atolls are drastically different from the Marquesas and we are enjoying a different type of cruising. The lagoons are totally protective and we sleep well, the snorkeling is great, and the boys are enjoying the spear fishing. Yesterday we enjoyed fresh ceviche from some grouper Porter speared. We've also been making our own coconut milk, so our fish curry's are pretty awesome. We just learned how to make coconut crab stir fry, so we are looking forward to catching some coconut crabs in the future. We've been told the next atoll has lots of them. The stores are pretty bleak for provisioning, so food is often on our minds. Although we stayed in a village on Makemo an extra two days to meet up with the monthly supply ship. From the ship we were able to buy produce that while the selection wasn't very diverse, the quality was awesome. Often, in these small villages, the only produce in the store looks like it has been rolled down a street before making it to the supply case. We haven't bought an apple or pear in 4 months and yet yesterday we saw refrigerated apple boxes straight from New Zealand. Today we are savoring the long lost flavors and unexpected produce quality and trying our new stash last as long as possible.

Yesterday the boys did some wake boarding with another boat and had a great time, although our new favorite thing to do is drift snorkel the passes. We hope to dive a few of them, but snorkeling is pretty incredible, it requires far less gear and we can do it over and over. On a flood tide we take the dinghy out to the entrance of the pass, we all dive in with our snorkeling gear and drift over the coral beds at 5-6 knots, we then clamor back into the dinghy after our 10 minute ride to do it all over again. The boys dive down and they can stay down for so long its fun watching them do tricks, float upside down and mimic flying over the coral. Both boys have a lung capacity that Michael and I envy. Zander in particular has been practicing his free diving and can stay underwater for over a minute. We see butterfly fish, angel fish, larger grouper and parrot fish in addition to sharks and rays. The minutia of the reef is lost at that speed, which is a personal favorite of mine, but the larger species are awesome to watch and quite frankly it is just really fun to have the sensation of almost flying.

The atolls are mostly uninhabited, so we can have bonfires on the beach and we have unlimited access to coconuts. We miss the fresh fruit of the Marquesas, but otherwise the atolls are quite idyllic. The clarity of the water is like gin and the color changes depending on depth, sun and time of day. The multiple shades of blue are almost indescribable. There are a dozen shades of blue; azure, aquamarine, cobalt, midnight, turquoise to name a few. When we pass through the lagoons we have to be diligent about watching for bommies, coral heads that come up from 75 feet to a foot below the surface almost instantly. In good light they are easy to spot, but in late afternoon light they can be nearly impossible to see. We also have to watch out for pearl farms which may have the telltale buoys attached, but derelict pear strings can be 5-10 feet below the surface and not marked at all. Raroia was particularly bad, but Makemo seems to have fewer farms.

We will stay in Makemo for another few days, wait out a northern wind pattern, and then head to the next atoll. Life is quite blissful at the moment and we are trying to take it all in and store as much of this fun as possible to sustain us through the next long passage.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

More misc. photos from the Marquesas, April 13

Friends we made in Daniel's Bay.  


Banyon Tree

pretty run of the mill traffic obstruction on Nuka Hiva.

view of the north side of Nuka Hiva, Atuona Bay.

Pit they kept captors before sacrificing them.

A throw back from Fatu Hiva. 

Anchorage in Ua Pou.
Hokule'a ceremony on Ua Pou.
More of the dancing at Ua Pou.
This is hard to explain, but the day before I took this picture there were about 30 kids playing in this rushing, gushing water.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Arrival Tuamotus, April 9

We left Oa Pou in the afternoon expecting a pretty slow, most likely a motor assisted, passage to the Tuamotus. The weather predictions were for light winds from the east and several other boats were waiting for the winds to increase the following week to head south. We wish we had the luxury of waiting for optimal weather like that, but we only have a month to explore the Tuamotus, so we needed to get going, wind or no wind. We will wait out bad weather, but we can't wait forever for perfect winds. It was 450 between Ua Pou and Raroia, and that would take us a minimum of 3 days. We motored in the lee of Ua Pou for 10 miles or so and then as soon as we cleared the island we had constant 12-17 knots of wind on the beam the whole trip. It was fast, we averaged over 6 knots, and because the wind wasn't too strong, we had relatively flat seas. In fact, it was one of the best sails we've have had to date. Our only complaint was it was hot the moment the sun came up and with the seas on the beam we were reluctant to open hatches, afraid of a rogue wave, so it was stifling down below. Although, at night it cooled down nicely, the moon was up about half of the night and then we had a beautiful star show. We didn't have any real squalls roll through, it was by all accounts a great passage. More passages like that and I may call myself a sailor!

The Tuamotus are all low atolls, most are comprised of a string of small motus that connect forming a ring around a lagoon, (an extinct volcano). The islands are protected by a coral reef that rises out of the abyss, and even once we closed the coast of the islands and were as close as a quarter of a mile our depth finder still couldn't find a reading. It is literally a coral wall that descends down into thousands of feet. The larger atolls have at least one pass that if you time correctly allow you passage into a protected lagoon. Most cruising guides suggest passing at slack tide, but unfortunately the slack is not always predictable. You have to take into account the normal tide, but in additional depending on how much water has entered the lagoon on the opposite side (wind, waves), you have to calculate how much will be exiting through the pass. If you are patient the passes are easy, but if you time them wrong they can be deadly.
In the nineties, when Mike was down here visiting on the World Discoverer, he witnessed a poor passing that was ultimately fatal. They were visiting an atoll that did not have a reef entrance big enough for the big ship. Instead, the passengers were ferried in via large inflatable zodiacs. Mike's driver motored through he pass without incident. The second driver miscalculated the reef entrance and was coming in at an angle. Once he realized his error, he tried to compensate, but at that point the waves hit them broadside. The zodiac flipped, the driver was instantly killed, another woman ultimately died and several people were life flighted to Tahiti. That was obviously a particularly bad story, but it sure keeps Michael and I on our toes. We don't take these passes lightly!

Fortunately, we managed to time our arrival close to slack tide and after lining up the range markers, we were able to enter the lagoon without difficulty. Some lagoons are really shallow, but this one has over a hundred feet of water in the middle. The winds were about 15-20 knots and we didn't want to anchor on a lee shore, so that meant crossing the lagoon and anchoring on the far side. We were a little tired, but we knew we would have a more relaxing visit if we weren't worried about our anchor dragging. To date our main anchor has never dragged (knock on wood), but it is always a concern. We crossed the 6 mile lagoon, dodging the pearl farm buoys and the coral heads that appear out of nowhere. The Tuamotus are known as the Dangerous Archipelago for good reason. For early mariners without GPS, the atolls were low on the horizon and often difficult to see out at sea. Once inside the atoll it is advisable only to travel around when the sun is high and at your back. Otherwise it is often difficult to see the coral heads. The Tuamotus claim 3 or 4 sailboats every year and we are determined not to be in that bunch. The coral heads are the danger inside the lagoon. The depth sounder will read a steady 100 feet and then a coral head appears a foot below the surface seemingly out of nowhere. They are easy to spot with good lighting and we plan only to travel around in those conditions. The kids love being spotter on the bow, so it works out well. Anyway, we crossed the lagoon and anchored in the lee of a palm strewn island, with just enough breeze to keep the night cool. After a quick ride to shore, a soak in the aquamarine water and a belly full of food we all slept like the dead. It was probably the calmest the boat has been since we were in a Marina in Colon back in December.

Our first full day in the Tuamotus was one of those "brochure days". We snorkeled some of the closer corals, getting to see new species of fish, giant clams and the kids's favorite: the black tip reef sharks that parol the waters around the coral. We also visited a pearl farm, explored the island that the Kon Tiki went ashore at after Thor Heyerdahl's epic raft crossing in the 1930's. We also did some drift snorkeling; catching the incoming current through a shallow reef entrance, and passing coral heads and fish at about 4 knots. It was super fun, but if you saw something you wanted to take a closer look at, there was no way to fight the current back. After a fun filled day, we returned to the boat and after re-fueling, the kids all wanted to get back in the water. Out came the tinker and sail, the paddle board and the kayak. At one point I was the only person on the boat, and I can count the number of times that has occurred in the last year on one hand. It was quite blissful to relax seeing Zander sailing around the lagoon, Mike exploring a few other motus by dingy and I could just barely hear Porter and Ana playing on the paddleboard. I asked Ana if she was afraid of the sharks and she replied in a very snarky sarcastic voice "what part of R E E F shark don't you understand". Apparently she is not afraid of them! She doesn't get that from her mom. I don't mind seeing them when I am snorkeling, but I don't love seeing them circle the boat when I'm just swimming without a mask. Of course, I'm also the person that used to be afraid of sharks in the deep end of the pool!

As you can see, we are doing well and very happy to be in the Tuamotus.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Leaving the Marquesas, sniff, sniff

Nineteen years ago I visited the Marquesan island group on my tour across the south Pacific with the World Discover expedition ship. We spent 12 weeks between Fiji and Easter Island and much of it a blur since we were seeing so many exotic islands in a relatively short time. Combine that with the fact that I was indeed working and contrary to popular belief it was an exhausting job and I didn't get the opportunity to fully explore all the islands. That said, some island groups were so amazing that they are etched into my memory. The Marquesas are one of those island groups. I don't remember every landing we made or bay we explored, but I remember the feeling of being in a magical and beautiful part of the world. The tales of the south seas have always beckoned us with scenes of palm trees swaying in the breeze, white sand beaches, fruit hanging from every tree and the fragrant scent of the Tahitian Tiare or Gardenia wafting along on the breeze. The Marquesas have the added feature of feeling like they are an island group lost in time. Volcanic spires emerge out of the mist with a back drop of primordial forest giving the islands the appearance of a land straight out of the Jurassic period. It really feels like you have come to the ends of the earth when you visit.

Oh yeah, and technically Michael and I met in the Marquesas, so there is a special place in our hearts for this island group. 19 years ago I certainly didn't think there'd be a day in the future when I would be back, with Michael, and our three kids on our own boat. That was definitely not on my radar. That said, it has been awesome showing the kids the islands and sharing our experiences from two decades ago.

Each island has a charm of its own and we enjoyed exploring the 6 islands in the group we visited. Technically there are 12 island in the group, but only 6 are inhabited. Each of the 6 has between 500 and 3000 islanders still on the island. It seems about appropriate for the size of the island, although in fact, when Captain Cook visited the islands in the 1700's there were hundreds of thousands of people living on the islands. It's an old story, European invasion brought diseases and pests which absolutely decimated the indigenous population. Today you can wander around in the valleys and see the remnants of royal roads, house foundations and tiki's everywhere. Archeologist claim that only about 15% of the Marquesas has been excavated. We felt like Indiana Jones climbing around the jungle exploring a long lost ceremonial site, a village or seeing petroglyph's for the first time. Wildlife sightings on land were very sparse if you exclude the feral goat, horse and pig. There are a few endemic birds, but not much of a variety otherwise. If you hear a noise in the trees it is more likely to be a wild chicken than anything else.

The real gem in the Marquesas are the people, by far the friendliest of anywhere we've traveled. They are a happy lot and their exuberance for life is contagious. I've never seen more smiles, more laughter and more genuine zest for life. Few people are trying to sell you something, they often want to trade, but only because there are so many items that are hard to get in the Marquesas. More often they are trying to give you something as a gift. You never have to pay to anchor or to land your dingy or leave your garbage. When the North Americans sail across the Pacific to get here there are a glut of boats in the islands (150 or so). That said, most of them can only stay for a month or so because a French Polynesian visa for North Americans only allows 90 days in the whole island group including the Marquesas, Tuamotus, Gambiers, and Society Islands. There are a few places that have services for sailboats, but with so few cruisers in the islands throughout the rest of the year, catering to yachties isn't a huge business. Instead it is refreshing to see the locals going about their business much as they would if we weren't visiting. They are generous as they share their island with us and I hope we worthwhile American ambassadors in return.

We spent a wonderful month in the Marquesas, one of the best, most memorable months of our whole trip. Just as these islands are etched in my memory as wonderful places, my kids will also have fantastic memories from our time here and I'm grateful that they had this opportunity to visit such a special place that hasn't changed all that much in the last 19 years.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Ua Pou

We visited Ua Pou on our last stop in the Marquesas before heading south to the Tuamotus. Our expectations were low, since we didn't have much literature on the island, but the scenery blew our minds. When you approach the island the peaks poke through the clouds giving you the illusion of a majestic castle in the clouds. We thought we had seen the best of the best, but Ua Pou was really exceptional.
We stopped in two villages, Hakahetau and Haakuti. Haakuti was quaint and very small with the obligatory backdrop of breathtaking volcanic spires. We walked through the village, which was busy prepping for the Arinui 5 to come into port. The Arinui is a hybrid cruise ship cargo ship and it comes into many of the villages of French Polynesia monthly. They leave from Tahiti, stop in a dozen spots in the Tuamotus and then continue on to the Marquesas where they make another dozen stops. We've already overlapped ports once with the ship and there are some advantages. The artisans come out of the woodwork in town to show their wares to the passengers (80-100 of them) when the ship is in port. We get to see all the beautiful carvings and other artwork that the Marquesas are known for. They also often have some type of exhibit for the passengers; dancing, artwork demonstration, singing, etc., and we have tagged along in the past. The cruise/cargo ship is a brilliant combination; passengers get to see a part of the world that is virtually inaccessible except by private sailboat or small plane and villagers get much needed provisions. The villagers also get to ship fresh produce to Tahiti to sell and they were busy bundling up limes and pomplemousse to ship out while we were in town. After the excitement of the Arinui we hiked to a waterfall and found some flower stone rock (phonolite). This rare rock is only found in two places on the planet, on Ua Pou and a location in Brazil. A few pieces may have made it into our backpacks as souvenirs. Waterfalls are a dime a dozen in the Marquesas, but with the heavy rains we've experienced, they've often been a little muddy with run off. This time we managed to hit it perfectly and we had a beautiful pool of crystal clear water all to ourselves. A few freshwater eels made their presence, but none as big as the ones we saw in Daniel's Bay. One of the highlights of our visit to the village was the daily water park like activities for the kids at the pier. The surge in the harbor is pretty strong and the local "big" kids use the pier to jump and dive from and then get pushed in through the rushing water to the ramp on shore. The smaller kids slide down the algae covered ramp and dive into the swirling water at the bottom, only to get pushed back when the wave floods back in. Its hard to explain other than it is a free for all of rushing, gushing white water that the locals have all figured out how to navigate. The first day we were there, there must have been 30 kids on the ramp and pier, all having a great time. Our kids were welcomed, but the locals had spent their lives learning where every little crack and cranny was that could potentially scrape them up. Zander and Porter came back bruised and bloody, but all smiles. Zander's comment was "this would never be allowed in the USA". No, probably not, but it sure looked fun!
We then went to the village of Hakaetau, the more "cosmopolitan" of two larger villages on the island. The village, while a little more commercial looking, but it was still nestled in a beautiful valley with huge spires looming like sentinels around the periphery. Its an old story in the Marquesas; little town, huge peaks, cascading waterfalls, fruit everywhere...we are getting a little spoiled! While in town, we crossed paths with the arriving Hawaiian canoe named the Hokule'a. This was a boat we also saw in Panama and was on the tail end of their circumnavigation without any modern navigational equipment: no GPS, no sextant, only dead reckoning and an old Polynesian style of navigation using the stars. Not only was it fun to see the traditional looking vessel again, the locals put on a show for the arrivals including a local feast, dancing and music. On the world discoverer (my old ship) we often had villagers perform for us, and while it was great, they were performing for tourists. In this case the locals, who were in traditional dress, were performing as a celebration for their people as well as the visiting Hawaiian's and it felt very authentic. As the boat was arriving, all the local kids got in their dugouts and escorted them in. The mayor invited the anchored sailboats to join the festivities and we were glad we got to witness a real Polynesian celebration. We ate curried goat, poi (breadfruit mashed and soaked in coconut milk), poisson cru (ceviche style tuna soaked in coconut milk) and rice. There were a few delicacies absent that we've learned to avoid including the fermented breadfruit and fresh fish soaked in fermented fish liquid.
Alas, we are now coming to the end of our Marquesan visit. I recently asked the kids if visiting the Marquesas was worth the passage and they all enthusiastically replied "yes". It is a monumental effort to get here, but of our whole trip, these are probably the islands we will dream about the most on a rainy Portland winter least until we get back out here!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

April 1st, Going bananas

If you saw the last pictures I posted, we got a "petit" green banana stalk about a week ago. Of course they all ripened at once and we have about 500 bananas that are now ready to eat! There's most certainly a way to separate a stalk of bananas and delay the ripening of one section, but of course I don't know what it is and we now have a plethora of bananas to eat! I feel bad wasting such fresh produce so I'm force feeding my kids bananas with every meal. Between a banana surplus and the tendonitis I have in my wrist from eating so much pomplemousse, I'm sure I won't get too much sympathy. These sure are nice problems to have.

We are starting to look at weather to make the 450 mile run south to the Tuamotus. Hurricane season officially ended today so in theory we are safe any time (the Marquesas are considered out of the hurricane belt, but the Tuamotus are definitely inside), but considering we've been affected by three atypical hurricanes (two out of season completely) in the last three years, we want to get a little input from some weather gurus about how warm the water temp's are compared to historical temp's and feel out if there is anyone predicting favorable conditions for a late hurricane or tropical storm to develop. I've downloaded weather for the next two weeks and to our collective amateur eye we don't see any warning signs, but we'd like a little more information. We will have to be a little more diligent about checking weather regularly and checking in to the local ham nets to make sure no bad weather is escaping our notice. Normally out of season I wouldn't be worried, but times they are a changing. Its tricky, because we don't want to run south too quickly, but by the same token we need to visit the Tuamotus and be back in Hawaii before the start of the hurricane season in the Northern hemisphere June 1st. It is a short window of time to see some of beautiful islands. If we go south and a late hurricane should develop, technically we could run back north, but I really don't want to be playing the equivalent of hurricane dodge ball with the weather Gods.

At this very moment we are sitting at anchor contemplating our options, a rum lime drink in one hand, our boat completely dwarfed by the mountains of Ua Pou, and I have to admit we've got it pretty good right now. Never mind that we have our share of problems out here (remember it isn't all giggles and rainbows as the brochure suggests), at this particular moment I am drinking in the amazingness that is this life. Tomorrow I may want to divorce my husband, throw all our home-schooling curriculum overboard and beat my kids, but right now is a moment of zen and I am reveling in it.