Wednesday, September 29, 2010

North Pacific Shipping Routes

Boy, we saw more ships at sea today than we've seen in the previous 6 months! (3) Must be getting close to civilization. The last ship that passed us, near sunset, passed within about 300 yards. That's really close.

We saw him on AIS about 13 miles away, he was coming up behind us and slightly to starboard, on a converging course. The AIS indicated he was bound for Taiwan, probably from the Panama Canal, and we could see that he was tracking right along 15 N latitude, going straight west.

For the longest time the AIS was saying that the CPA (closest point of approach) would be .25 miles. So we finally called him on the VHF and told him where we were in relation to him. After a bit of conversation, he finally said he saw us on his radar (about 6.5 miles away).

We could see on the AIS information that he had changed course a tiny bit to starboard after we talked to him, to pass in front of us. But visually, he was still coming right at us, and the CPA kept showing that he would come very close (.015 NM). I was pretty nervous, but Dave said "He sees us and he won't run us down". When he finally drew abreast of us, he sounded his big air horn, and we could see someone out on the bridge deck waving at us. I got a great picture of them crossing in front of us.

Another ship we saw today was bound for Valparaiso, Chile. This is the second ship we've seen coming down that same course line from Hawaii toward South America. He didn't answer our hail on VHF, but we were well away from him. Dave says he was probably carrying pineapple from Hawaii to South America. If you draw a route in Maxsea (our charting program), from Hawaii to Valpariaso, the Great Circle route goes right past where we were.

We have had another 24 hours of nice sailing, and we anticipate tomorrow to be nice as well--though the wind is forecast to start slacking off.

394 miles to Hilo, we expect to be in on Saturday morning.
At 9/29/2010 5:35 AM (utc) our position was 15°07.59'N 150°09.64'W

Enroute to Hawaii - Day 13

We had a quiet night, the night before last, and a good sail yesterday. But as predicted, the winds are starting to relax.

We got down to about 4 knots of boat speed in the middle of the night last night, with the sails slapping, and finally relented and turned on the engine. 4 knots would be do-able if it weren't for the fairly large swell that rolls us around.

We motorsailed for a few hours, charging batteries and running the refridge.

Fortunately, the wind has come back to 12-13 knots this morning, and we are under sail again.

We called the Hilo Harbormaster on the Iridium phone yesterday, to ask a bunch of questions about arriving on a Saturday. He seems like a nice guy. Usually we would be trying NOT to clear in on Saturday (just sit on the boat and wait til Monday), to avoid overtime fees. But Dave has got it in his mind that he wants to watch some football games on Saturday afternoon.

We are still trying to get ahold of the Hilo Customs office--they were not answering their phone yesterday. The Harbormaster said there were 2 cruise ships in Hilo, that's probably why.

The forecast is for the winds to stay in the sailable range today, though getting progressively lighter, and start dropping off to 'too light to sail' tomorrow. We are hoping to sail as long as possible. It looks like we may have to motor the last 36-48 hours (or sit and roll and slap for 2 days til the wind comes back).

We are 465 miles from Hilo, and should be able to easily make port by Saturday morning.
At 9/28/2010 4:59 PM (utc) our position was 14°30.99'N 149°04.29'W

Monday, September 27, 2010

Enroute to Hawaii - Day 11

<yawn> Another long day on the high seas.

We had a very quiet night last night--the wind was light and we ghosted along, averaging only 4 knots. But we were able to keep sailing in mostly the right direction. I had to talk Dave out of turning on the engine several times, but fortunately every time the wind dropped off to the 'too light to sail comfortably' range, it would pick back up just enough to convince Dave to keep sailing.

For a few hours this morning we had some really nice wind--close to 15 knots, but it soon eased off again to the 10 kt range. We still were able to average 5 knots for most of the day. Our noon-to-noon mileage was 121 miles--the lowest so far this trip.

But it was a nice sunny day, and really a beautiful sail. However, we've been at sea for 11 days, and we are ready to "get there".

All 4 boats we've been tracking on this trip are now out of the ITCZ, and though we all suffered through about 36-48 hours of drizzle and shifty winds, no one clocked over about 22 knots, and no one saw any lightning. Pretty different than we expected. Hope we get as lucky on our return trip in April next year.

We have seen only 2 ships so far in 1300 miles of sailing. One was a freighter who crossed our in the middle of the ITCZ. It was enroute from Los Angeles to New Zealand. We 'saw' him on the AIS and the radar, and talked to him on the radio, but never actually saw him--even though he passed within 2 miles of us. The constant drizzle obscured him completely. Usually a freighter of that size is lit up like a Christmas tree, and you can see them 10 miles away. Another ship just passed us a couple of miles away. Again, we saw him first on the AIS, then went out and looked for him.

For the non-boaters, AIS stands for Automated Identification System. It is a new gadget that big ships are required to have that broadcasts a digital signal over the VHF radio (receivable about 25 miles away), with the ship info, location, speed, and direction. We have a receiver aboard that receives that signal, and plots it on our computerized charting system. It's pretty cool. Way better than radar. The ship's info includes the name of the ship, what kind it is (freighter, tanker, etc), how big it is, and its destination. I think we'll be upgrading our AIS receiver to a transmitter when we get to Hawaii. That way THEY can see US too.

658 Miles--about 5 more days--to Hilo, Hawaii.
At 9/27/2010 7:14 AM (utc) our position was 12°41.29'N 146°17.14'W

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Welcome to the NE Trades

We are happy to report that we are finally clear of the ITCZ. We ended up turning on the engine last night about midnight, after I spent a frustrating 4 hours trying to keep us going in the squally conditions and shifty wind and really confused seas. When Dave took over, he said "That's it, I'm turning on the engine.". It was a good decision--the GRIB files showed stuff brewing up in the ITCZ and we just wanted to get clear.

By 6am this morning, we were at 10-10N, with some sunshine and fluffy white clouds, instead of the low gray clouds we'd had for the past 2 days. The wind filled in nicely from the NE, and we turned off the engine, rolled out the genoa, and have been sailing all day.

We had a fabulous sunset this evening--complete with a green flash, and then some great after-effects with the clouds. And we were visited by porpoises today as well.

Unfortunately, the normally-strong tradewinds are forecast to get lighter and lighter, and then totally die in a couple of days. I'm not exactly sure what's causing it, but it looks like we'll have to motor in to Hilo the last 48 hours. I keep hoping the GRIB files will change, but so far that has been steadily predicted for the last few days.

778 Miles to Hilo. ETA probably sometime Saturday, Oct 2.

We understand the Florida Gators beat Kentucky today. Go Gators! We'll be rooting for them to knock off #1 Alabama next weekend--maye we'll get in soon enough to even watch the game on TV!
At 9/26/2010 6:05 AM (utc) our position was 11°11.94'N 144°47.72'W

Saturday, September 25, 2010

It Was A Dark and Stormy Night

Picture Snoopy sitting on his dog house with his typewriter...

Yes, we have a dark and stormy night. We have been making our way NW through the worst of the ITCZ today. We motored all night in light winds and rain. In the morning, there was enough wind to turn the engine off and put the sails out. But we've had squally weather and shifty winds all day. We've made about 10 sail changes today--genoa in and out, staysail in and out, pole up and down twice. The wind has gone from SW to NE--and all points in between, and between 0 and 20 knots. So far, nothing even approaching a Florida thunderstorm--no lightning and no wind over about 20 knots.

We celebrated passing 9°N at 4pm today with another black squall line ahead of us. And 3 hrs later, we are still in the rain, and hard on the wind with the wind out of the NE.

Well, maybe 10°N will bring us clear weather and steady winds--hopefully dawn will bring us 10°N and sunshine.

We are now well past the halfway point. Only 924 miles to go (about 7-8 days of this).
At 9/25/2010 5:33 AM (utc) our position was 09°17.78'N 143°18.55'W

Friday, September 24, 2010

Greetings from the ITCZ!

We sailed all night last night and most of the day today, wing on wing. It's a nice rig--genoa poled out to windward, main vanged to leeward, and the staysail sheeted on the centerline. Very stable and pretty fast even in light air. We can tolerate course variations of up to 60 degrees (briefly), so the autopilot can handle the steering.

If we get a squall, we roll the genoa up and leave the pole set.

About 3pm, the wind came up and seemed to be shifting SW (as forecast). This was good, so we dropped the pole and gybed the genoa, expecting to have a nice broad reach up our course line. However, an hour later, we were in rain, and the wind went back SE, and then very light. So we reluctantly started the engine. We are now motorsailing with main and staysail sheeted tight to stop the roll. Even though there is only about 5 knots of wind, the seas are still big enough to be uncomfortable.

We had a nice civilized dinner tonight, with the table up and everything. Lamb chops, fresh mashed potatoes, and cucumber salad. Crew morale is good. We are looking forward to getting through the ITCZ within 48 hours. We are holding our breath that nothing major will spin up near us while we're crossing through.

Geek alert: With the Iridium phone hooked up to Sailmail, I can download a very small IR satellite picture from NOAA Honolulu's website. It has all the active storm cells along the ITCZ highlighted. I then pulled it into Sea Clear (a shareware charting program that lets you create your own charts), added some reference points, and voila, I can see our boat moving across the satellite picture. Pretty cool, and really helps in trying to pick our way through the hot spots in the ITCZ.

Only 1044 nautical miles to go to Hilo. We are about halfway. ETA probably sometime Saturday, Oct 2.
At 9/24/2010 5:30 AM (utc) our position was 07°12.20'N 142°38.98'W

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Beam Me Up, Scotty!

Enroute from Marquesas to Hawaii, Day 7.

We are not quite halfway to Hawaii. The fun sailing is over and now what's left is over 1,000 miles in light and variable winds, interspersed with scattered squalls, and a few low pressure areas. Even the tradewinds that should normally give us a booming sail on the last leg to Hawaii, seem to be shutting down. At least that's the current long range forecast.

So we're at the inevitable 'beam me up' phase of the trip, where we are tired of all the 'fun', and just want to get it over with. Unfortunately, the warp drive is down and so we're just going to have to continue sailing slowly along at 5 knots.

Today's big THANK YOU goes to our friends: Winnie, Jim Yates and Barbara Emmons of s/v Carisma, and John and Linda on Nakia. Thanks for all the help and info you have sent our way!!
At 9/23/2010 5:32 AM (utc) our position was 05°05.22'N 141°56.26'W

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Back in the Northern Hemisphere

We crossed the Equator at about 11am today. It's nice to be back where the High Pressure areas rotate clockwise, and the cold weather comes from the North, like we are used to. I can stop looking at weather maps standing on my head.

We are still sailing almost due north--heading for a waypoint somewhere near 10N 142W, where we'll 'fall off' (change course) for Hawaii.

About 1,380 miles to go to Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii.
At 9/21/2010 5:53 AM (utc) our position was 00°48.28'N 141°38.61'W

Monday, September 20, 2010

Enroute to Hawaii - Day 4

I hate to sound redundant, but we're still having a fantastic sail. 1,496 miles to go, as the seagull flies. All systems aboard are working well, and the crew are doing great. Nice meal of pork chops, baked potatoes and green beans for dinner tonight.

Dave's cousin Bryan reports that the Gators whupped the Tennessee Vols yesterday... sorry, Sally. Go Gators!!
At 9/20/2010 6:26 AM (utc) our position was 01°22.76'S 141°33.68'W

p.s. PLEASE, if you want to respond to our emails (and we always look forward to hearing from you), do NOT send our original message back to us along with your message--we receive this email via HF radio, and every extra byte counts. Attachments and pics get automatically stripped from incoming emails, so pls send those to our svsoggypaws email address instead.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Enroute to Hawaii - Day 3

Wow, what FANTASTIC sailing. We made 150 nautical miles in our first 24 hours--that's the best 24 hour run we've ever had.

Now the winds have moderated some, but it's still really nice sailing weather--10-14 knots on the beam, with moderate seas, and sunny skies. The moon is nearly full at night, so we've got nice shiny nights, too.

So far, the forecast for our passage through the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) (still 5 or 6 days ahead) looks like it is going to be pretty easy. We are prepared for a day or two of motoring to get through it, but not anticipating any nasty weather.

"Only" 1,660 miles (as the seagull flies) to Hilo... Current ETA probably 2nd or 3rd of October.

Of course, the troubles from home even follow us out into the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I got an email from Capital One about a suspected fraudulent charge on our credit card. It was only $12, but after 3 satellite phone calls (one to my daughter to make sure she hadn't done anything unusual), they refused the charge and canceled the card. But now I'm left wondering what 'automatic' payments I have on that card that might bounce in the next 2 weeks. (Since we had to cancel some cards and re-arrange finances after our 'swim' in Easter Island, I've lost track of what thing is on what card).

And my daughter moves out of our condo in Satellite Beach in 2 weeks, for a new job with GE in Cincinnati, and we still don't have a renter lined up for the house. Sigh. But we just might get to stay in our own home when we go home in November!!

We are in radio contact twice a day with the other 2 boats out here... Infini is 50 miles east of us and Apple is about 35 miles north of us. Both too far away for VHF, so we have an SSB schedule. And we are still able to check in every morning on the French Polynesia Breakfast Net (1730z 8164 USB), which our friend John on Nakia is now running single-handed, since we have left French Poly. We are also doing an evening check-in on the Pacific Seafarer's Ham net (0300z 14300 USB).

In between all these things, we're reading, sleeping, eating, and trying to keep "Henry", our steering vane, on track. This is the first passage that we've actually used Henry for any period of time. Using the windvane saves energy (about 30ah per day), but the sails have to be "balanced" for it to work properly. It's a real learning experience, but I think we've finally figured out how to balance Soggy Paws--at least in these winds.

No fish so far, but the fishing line has only been out for about 4 hours. We don't put the fishing line out unless the seas are really low and/or we'll be in port soon (We don't want Dave cleaning a fish on the back deck in boisterous conditions).
At 9/18/2010 7:16 PM (utc) our position was 04°45.20'S 141°30.63'W

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Friday, September 17, 2010

On Our Way to Hawaii

Well, we finally made it out of Anaho Bay at noon today. The winds eased off overnight last night to a nice 15 knots, and the skies cleared by mid morning. We got our final preps done--dinghy loaded, sail covers off, engine checks done, computers and GPS's programmed, living spaces stowed, etc. The anchor came up without any problems right at noon.

Since then, we have been having a great sail--15 knots on the beam--all afternoon. Just like when we used to go sailing for fun!! We averaged 7 knots for 3 hours!!. Now the moon is up, and the wind has eased to a nice 12 kts. We're going a little bit slower, but the motion is easier, too. I could do THIS for 2 weeks, easily.

Our friends on s/v Infini left about 2 hours ahead of us, and they are heading for a slightly different waypoint to go through the small islands and seamounts NW of Nuku Hiva, so they are about 10 miles NE of us right now, on a more northerly course. Another boat, Apple, left at the same time we did, and they are about 3-4 miles NW of us. We are all still in VHF contact, but by morning will likely be too far apart for VHF. We have an SSB schedule planned to chat every morning and evening, swap positions, and share weather information

"Only" 1,854 miles to go! At our historical average speed of 135 miles per day, we should be in Hilo Hawaii on Sep 30 or Oct 1. (but don't book your tickets yet!). The big unknown, speed-wise, is the ITCZ (formerly known as "The Doldrums"). This is an area of variable winds and squally weather. Historically boats could take weeks drifting around before they managed to break through an area like this. Fortunately, we have an engine in great shape and aren't afraid to use it. So the minute the wind dies off, we'll crank up Mr. Perkins and motor on through it.

We're not exactly sure what route we'll end up taking. Historically, people have headed north out of the Marquesas and set up to cross the ITCZ at around 140 west longitude, and then fall off for Hawaii. But we've been playing with the routing optimization software in the Maxsea charting program, and are going to follow its advice (until we decide not to). It takes in the GRIB files (weather predictions) and your boat's Polars (a table indicating what speed you can make in various wind conditions) and optimizes your route. Theoretically...

Sometimes Maxsea can come up with some pretty whacky results. But for now, I agree with what the optimization suggests. So we are headed 340 degrees (NNW) til tomorrow morning at least. This is almost directly on the rhumb line (the straight line course to Hawaii).
At 9/17/2010 5:24 AM (utc) our position was 08°04.90'S 140°20.09'W

Preparing for the Sail to Hawaii

Current Location: Anaho Bay, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia 08°49.35'S / 140°03.89'W

Beautiful Anaho Bay
Photo By Simon Scott

Our main focus while here in Anaho Bay has been getting ready for the two-week, 2100-mile sail to Hawaii. In between hikes and snorkeling expeditions, both us and our friends on Infini have been working on boat maintenance issues--bottom scrubbing, rigging checks, leak fixing, etc etc.

I have also pre-cooked about a week's worth of meals, so all I'll have to do is pull something out of the freezer and heat it up.

Plus I've spent a lot of time over the last month collecting weather information about the trip. Mainly just watching weather patterns so we know what to expect. It should be a pretty decent trip. We are starting on a good weather window--wind today should be just aft of the beam at 15 knots. We'll sail N-NNW for the first week or so, until we get across the ITCZ (motoring if the wind gets too light), and then fall off in the northeast trades for our destination of Hilo Hawaii.

Though Sailmail gives us great access to many bits of weather information, we have enlisted our friend Winnie, a professional meteorologist based in Florida, to keep an eye on the 'big picture' for us. We are also getting advice from a Danish guy named Karsten who has been doing Pacific weather for cruisers out of Panama for awhile.

We will be in company with 2 other boats--Infini and another boat here headed for Hawaii called Apple. Apple is a Jeanneau 44, and is likely to go faster than us--though he swears he'll try to slow down and stick with us.

s/v Apple in Anaho Bay

We expect to make landfall in Hilo, Hawaii sometime the first week in October. The direct-line course from here is about 2100 miles, but because of the way the winds go between here and there, we may dog-leg east a little bit from a direct course.

In the last couple of months, we have finally gotten around to doing some of the less important tasks on our list--things like hooking our GPS to our EPIRB, so our emergency beacon will broadcast an accurate position if we sink. Though somewhat important, it never made it high enough on the list before our long trip to Easter Island. So we are more prepared for this trip than we ever have been. And the crew is ready...with over 6,000 miles under our belt already this year, we feel pretty seasoned!!

We plan to do a blog post and update our position at least daily. The easiest and quickest way to see where we currently are is via the Findu link:

But there are several other ways--check our Positions page on the website:

Anaho Bay

Current Location: Anaho Bay, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia 08°49.35'S / 140°03.89'W

We arrived in Anaho Bay, on the NE corner of Nuku Hiva, the northeastern-most of the inhabited islands in French Polynesia, about a week ago. It is the best anchorage we've been in so far in all of the Marquesas (except maybe Hanamoenoe in Tahuata).

This time of year, there is a large SE swell that makes all the anchorages on the south coast of Nuku Hiva really uncomfortable. And Taiohae, the main harbor, is particularly crappy, both because of the large swell and because of the 'williwaws' (wind gusts) that come from every direction. Daniel's Bay is better, but a little cramped, and still a little rolly. Anaho is flat calm and beautiful, and the wind blows from a constant direction at a reasonable speed.

It is a large bay with a series of pretty beaches interspersed with coconut-dotted rocky points. As everywhere on Nuku Hiva, there are signs here of a large population in the past. There are walls and tumbled-down rock structures buried all over in the foliage--all that remain of the 10's of thousands of Polynesians who lived here when the Europeans first made landfall.

There are only a few families living here now, but they keep the grounds pretty well-tended. There are the usual large coconut plantation areas, which they tend by piling all the fronds and husks into piles and burning. The coconuts get piled up and left to dry, then they are opened, and the meat extracted for 'copra'. This is eventually shipped to Tahiti and becomes coconut oil and other byproducts.

They also have the typical Marquesan gardens filled with fruit-bearing plants. We have been able to trade a few things for all the fruit we needed--especially bananas, mangoes, and limes. We got rid of the last of our 22 shells and a pack of old cigarettes for a huge stalk of bananas and some mangoes.

We were also able to trade for some pearls. There is a French boat anchored here who has spent 18 months in French Polynesia. He's a diver and spent a season helping a pearl farmer in the Tuamotus, and he was paid in pearls. So he came to us offering to trade some pearls for any leftover wine and other food we could spare. So we had a nice happy hour session with us and Infini and Florent, trading for pearls and going over all his favorite dive spots in the Tuamotus. We all came away from the trading session happy--we got a few 'quality' pearls, a few 'B' grade pearls, and a handfull of less than perfect pearls, but ones which family and friends will enjoy having as a small memento of our travels (we hope).

We have done 2 of the possible hikes in this beautiful setting. There is a lot more hiking to be done, but we're ready to head north soon. One beautiful afternoon, we hiked east over the low peninsula to the windward beach. We were warned that the beach would be buggy with no-no's (tiny biting flies much worse than mosquitos), so we went in socks and long pants and long-sleeved shirt. But it was pretty windy and I think that much coverup was overkill on that day--it was really hot hiking in all that clothing on a sunny day out of the wind!! We found a pretty beach, some semi-wild horses, some possible remains of an old habitation and not much else. We never did find the little farm back in the trees where friends had gotten fruit.

We also hiked over to the town of Hatieu, to the west. This was a little harder hike--up over a pretty high hill and down into the next bay. But it was mostly wooded and we picked an overcast day, so it wasn't too hot. The whole trail was lined with old mango trees. But some of the mangoes we collected on the ground--ven ripe ones--tasted very very tart--almost like a lemon--certainly not like any mango we ever tasted. In Hatieu, we visited the grocery store where an ice cold Tahitian beer was waiting for us. And also, of course, onions, cucumbers, potatoes, chips, and frozen baguettes. We ate lunch at Chez Yvonne on the water (we had called ahead on the cell phone for reservations, but may not be necessary). It was a yummy big lunch--most of their meals were in the $2000 CFP range (a little over $20). Between the 5 of us we had curried goat, curried shrimp, poisson cru, and goat in coconut milk. It was all good, and large portions. Even Dave was stuffed when we finished. Hatieu is a pretty little town anchored by a fairly large, fairly new catholic church. The caretaker of the church let us in for a quick look--it is only 5 years old, so pretty modern in design--'airy' is the best word to describe it. Probably built on the ancient foundations of a Marquesan marae (sp?) platform.

As everywhere in French Polynesia, we could easily spend 2-3 times the time we have spent here, and not be bored. Too bad the French insist on limiting our time here!! A 2 year cruise in just French Polynesia would not be too long, in my opinion. We have only touched on half of what's here, in the 6 months we've been here.
At 9/15/2010 2:35 AM (utc) our position was 08°49.35'S 140°03.89'W

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cruising the North and West Coast of Nuku Hiva

Current Location: Anaho Bay, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas

From the main town of Taiohae, on the south coast, to Anaho Bay, on the NE corner, it is clearly best to go 'eastabout' to get to Anaho Bay... shorter and less windward work. But leaving from Daniel's Bay, on the SW corner, the choice was not so clear. It was slightly shorter to go eastabout, but with an ESE wind, it should be much calmer going westabout.

After flip-flopping several times, we finally decided to go around the west coast. It would give us smoother water (for awhile), a chance to see part of the coast that most people don't go, and a chance to make water with our engine-driven watermaker. (It's a little dicey making water in the anchorages due to the amount of particulate in the water).

We also opted to break the trip into two parts, stopping overnight at what's known as the 'airport anchorage'--Baie Haahopu at the NW corner of Nuku Hiva.

Exploring the west coast--motorsailing slowly north and ducking into every little bay we saw to check it out--was fun. We hadn't done that type of gunkholing in awhile. Though the guidebooks only mention one or two anchorages on the west coast, we found a total of 7 bays 'possible', with reasonable protection and anchorable depths. As follows, N to S:

- Baie Marquisienne
- Anse Haatapuna
- Anse Tataia
- Anse Tapueahu
- Anse Haatuatua
- the unnamed bay just N of Pt Matatekouehi
- Baie Haahopu

A couple of these had signs of habitation--one house and a small skiff. But most were completely deserted. Some had rocky beaches, but as we got further north, more of them had sand beaches. Baie Haahopu had a pretty sand beach, but an ugly concrete dock and a building (uninhabited).

Once we got around Cap Motumano, the waves started settling down, and after rounding Pt Matateteiko, it was flat calm for the rest of the way.

The west coast of Nuku Hiva is arid and dry, so with little runoff, the diving ought to be clearer. We could easily see the bottom in 25' in Haahopu. We found another cruising boat there when we arrived, and we anchored just inside of him in at 08-49.5S / 140-14.94W in sand. There are some coral heads around, but lots of sand, so try to pick a spot in sand. From here it is possible to dinghy a crewmember into a cement dock and (hopefully) hitch a ride to the airport (but we didn't do this, so don't know the logistics). Most people opt to taxi over from Taiohae.

The winds were kind of weird on the west coast in the afternoon--we had a good 12-15 knots blowing from the WEST (against the trades). Obviously a 'sea breeze'. It died down at night and switch to the east.

The next morning we left early to head east along the north coast of Nuku Hiva. With the wind south of east, we had hoped to find some lee by staying close in along the coast. We did, but it wasn't as much lee as we had hoped. It was really wild going around the NW corner--big steep waves, lots of wind, and a couple of knots of current against us. But that didn't last long (the current died and the waves lengthened). We short tacked along the coast, staying in as close as we dared to get a little shelter behind small headlands.

It took us about 4 hours to go the 12 miles to Anaho Bay, but we did duck in and explore 2 bays on the way. Baie Hakaehu, where the town of Pua is, and Baie Hatiheu, where the town of Hatiheu is, are both possible anchorages, but not nearly as nice as Anaho. There are other possible anchorages, I think, along the N coast that we didn't explore--we just got tired of bashing to windward and wanted to get it over with.

When we arrived in Anaho Bay, we found 3 other boats. Our friends on Infini were here, and a French boat and a Belgian boat. These other 2 boats, being EU citizens, have the luxury of just hanging out in French Poly--the French boat had been all over all of French Polynesia, diving, for the last 18 months. We have a nice anchorage here in 35' sand in a beautiful bay.
At 9/15/2010 2:35 AM (utc) our position was 08°49.35'S 140°03.89'W

Monday, September 13, 2010

Daniel's Bay

Location: Daniel's Bay (Hakatea), Nuku Hiva, Marquesas 08-56.62S / 140-09.80W

We actually made 2 visits to Daniel's Bay, staying a total of a week there. The proper name for Daniel's Bay is Anse Hakatea, but among cruisers, it is known as Daniel's Bay. For many many years, the bay was home to a man named Daniel who was very welcoming to cruisers. He even went to the trouble of piping fresh water out to a bouy in the anchorage, so cruisers could easily take on fresh water from his water supply.

Unfortunately, the popular series 'Survivor' came to Hakatea one day and persuaded a very old Daniel to move to town, so they could use his isolated bay to film a Survivor series. Daniel passed away soon after, and his bay is now uninhabited.

However, there is still a small friendly village in the adjacent bay, within easy walking or dinghy distance. And there is still the '3rd highest waterfall in the world', only a 2 hour hike away. And it is still a better anchorage than the rolly gusty anchorage at the main town of Taiohae.

We made our first hike to the waterfall with our friends on Infini, who had already visited Daniel's Bay before. They knew the way, and so we had an easy hike on a nice sunny (dry) day.

The hike starts in the tiny village of Hakaui--really just 4 or 5 houses, surrounded by carefully tended gardens. There is a tiny church, no post office, no central electricity, and no cell phone signal. We understand that most people nowadays don't live full time in this village. Their main house is in Taiohae, and they visit their home in Hakaui on weekends--leaving a caretaker or one part of the family to stay in the house and tend the gardens.

The 'gardens' are a combination of flowers, ornamental shrubbery, and fruits and vegetables... including bananas, mangos, papaya, citrus, guava, manioc, breadfruit.

There is a fresh water stream that runs through the village and out into the bay. At high tide, it's possible to get a small outboard over the 'bar' and into the stream. It's a bit of a challenge--the bay is swelly and usually has some waves breaking on the rocky beach and across the river mouth. So you have to time the passage through the waves, and hope you don't miss the deep part of the small stream... grounding at the entrance is a good way to get swamped by the waves, which we did once. At low tide, it's still possible to get an inflatable dinghy with a light outboard in--you just have to be prepared to have everyone hop out of the dinghy and drag it in through what's left of the stream to the deeper water.

The alternative to surfing in over the bar is to haul your dinghy up very high on the beach in Daniel's Bay, and walk along the beach to the left to the start of the path that goes over into the village in the next bay.

The hike to the waterfall follows an old 'road', up through the valley along the stream. If you pay attention as you are walking, you can see that the path was once improved--in the low spots, there is a 2-3' high wall of fitted stones on either side, with earth filled in between. This keeps the path dry even when it rains. The path is still lined with ornamental shrubs in many places. On either side of the path, set back into the woods and nearly covered with jungle, you can see old massive stone platforms, usually surrounded by fruit trees...the only thing left from what was once a flourishing community of Marquesans in a spectactular setting.

The problem with the waterfall is that it is set in a 'fold' in the mountain, and when you are at the base of the falls, you cannot see the top of the falls at all... only the last 100 feet of the falls are visible. But, halfway there, at a wide spot on the path, there is a great view off to the left, over the jungle, over the stream, to the waterfall. (See picture, to be posted sometime when we have internet). This is also a spot where there is another massive stone platform that probably had a good view of the falls and most of the valley.

At the falls, there are some giant rocks (15 feet high) and a small pool. We swam across the pool and between the rocks to actually sit under the base of the falls. When we were there, the water was running pretty good, the falls were too strong to stand under, and there was a really wet and cold downdraft in the little cave area where the water comes down. We didn't stay long there.

We also found some fresh water eels and small shrimp in the pool. One of these eels was quite big--similar in size to a big green moray eel--and lurked just off the 'beach' waiting for handouts. We had fun feeding the eels and shrimp bits of our lunch.

After the hike, Mike and Sue took us to Ma'i and Maria's house, back in the village, facing the bay, on the far left (west) side of the rocky beach. Maria's family has been prominent in the village for generations, and she and her husband and young son are now the latest 'caretakers' of this prime family property on the beach. In addition to her native Marquesan, Maria speaks fluent French and pretty good English. Since Daniel's demise, and because she speaks both French and English well, Maria has been host to many cruisers. We traded some 22 shells and shotgun shells for a nice lunch of traditional Marquesan fare, including 'poisson cru', goat in coconut milk, and breadfruit prepared 2 ways. (They use the ammunition to go up into the hills and hunt the wild goat and wild pigs that roam the island).

Over lunch, Ma'i offered to take us goat hunting and pig hunting, if we were interested. So we set up and expedition for the next day, to scramble up the rocky, arid face of the mountain west of Daniel's Bay, in search of wild goat. By the next morning, however, it turned out that Ma'i had hurt his knee, and Maria ended up being the one who guided us up the mountain (without the gun). It was a tough climb, most of the way up a rocky stream bed. But once at the top, we had a spectacular view of the bay below us, the south coast of Nuku Hiva, and much of the western side of Nuku Hiva.

There is a big dry grassy plain at the top. We hiked along the ridge to the highest point and saw many wild horses and lots of wild goats. Since the locals usually come up here on a hunting expedition, the goats were fleeing in small herds ahead of us, across the rocky face of the mountain. We marveled at how fast they could run in the loose dirt and rock that we had to walk very carefully in.

The wind at the top of the mountain, facing east, was blowing about 30 knots, a welcome relief after the hot climb. We sat and enjoyed the view and the wind, and ate our lunch, and listened to the goats bleating (still fleeing). On a later expedition, when his knee had healed, Ma'i bagged 2 goats, and he and Maria's father each carried one down the mountain on their shoulders.

On our second visit to Daniel's Bay, Ma'i also took us on a pig hunting expedition. 2/3 of the way to the waterfall, we turned right, and scrambled up the mountain through a muddy swamp to where the pigs hang out. We saw lots of pig sign--pig poo and where they'd been rooting around and some pig wallows, but unfortunately we never saw a pig. We had 10 people on that trek and I think they heard us coming from miles away. This expedition was also to show us a 'cave' that Ma'i had told Dave about (Dave is nuts about caves).

We found not exactly a cave, but a 5-story high rock with a big overhang. Along the base of the rock, past inhabitants of the area had created burial sites by 'bricking in' (with rock) hollows at the base of the rock. Ma'i showed us one hidden in a cleft of rock that still had bones and the remains of a wooden canoe. After climbing a tree and scrambling to the top of the rock, we had another incredible vista of the valley.

You could easily spend a month (or more) in Daniel's Bay, hiking and hanging out and trading with the friendly Marquesans who live there. But alas... we had to get moving. On our second visit, we had already checked out of French Polynesia (our visa expired 1 Sep), so we couldn't stay forever. We bid tearful goodbyes to Maria and Ma'i promising to come back and visit (but knowing we probably wouldn't get there next year).

Next installment--still catching up--we cruise the west and north coasts of Nuku Hiva to Anaho Bay (where we are now staging for our trip to Hawaii).
At 9/12/2010 12:20 AM (utc) our position was 08°49.35'S 140°03.89'W

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Week in Taiohae

Location: Baie de Taiohae, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia 08°54.84'S 140°06.09'W

We've been so busy having fun and taking care of business, that I'm a couple of weeks behind in my blog entries.

Fortunately, we made it to Taiohae (Ty-oh-ha-ay) in time to take advantage of the car rental that Mike on s/v Infini had arranged to go pick Sue and son Matt up from the airport. The airport on Nuku Hiva is on the other side of the island, and it costs almost as much for a taxi ride to or from there, as it does for a rental car. So Mike had rented a 'car' for the day (actually a 4WD Pickup) and talked his local friends Laurent and Letitia into driving and giving everyone a tour of the island, after picking up Sue and Matt. Though there wasn't room for us inside the truck, Dave and I begged our way into the pickup bed for the 'island tour'.

(Sue has actually posted some pictures of this adventure, which you can see on her blog at

Laurent did a great job of driving us all over the island. We visited a religious site near Hakatea on the north coast, and we visited the village of Taipivai (ty-pee-vye), which Herman Melvile wrote about in his book Typee. We saw the 'desert' area on the NW coast near the airport--truly a desert and in huge contrast to the lushness of the southern and eastern sides of the island, where everything is green and there are many waterfalls. Dave took a billion pictures, which we've hardly had time to go back and look at, much less get them posted anywhere on the internet.

The biggest project for me while in Taiohae--the first internet we've had in about 3 weeks--was to deal with an IRS Tax Notice for our 2008 return, which required a response by Sep 1. Fortunately, I file our taxes using TurboTax, and part of their 'transmit your taxes' process invites you to buy 'tax insurance'. For $35, you can enroll in their Tax Defense program. Their claim is that they completely handle any audits by the IRS. Since we knew we'd probably be in remote places for the next few years, it seemed like a good investment. Thank goodness for that foresight!!

I called their 800 number via Skype and explained that we were in French Polynesia and preferred to communicate via email. They told me to send a copy of the IRS tax notice and my tax return to their email address, and I would hear within 48 hours from the agent they subsequently assigned. It has worked out well... the matter has not been concluded with the IRS yet, but the assigned agent was a knowledgeable tax expert, and a good email communicator. He and I got on famously via email, and he has now filed our response to the IRS with a Power of Attorney and my supporting paperwork. He said he did not expect to hear back from them for 6-8 weeks, and by then we'll be in Hawaii where communications will be a lot easier.

In addition to all the financial business we handle via internet (banks, credit cards, etc), Dave and I both spent a lot of hours on the internet while in Taiohae, catching up on U.S. and World News, sports news, news of all our traveling friends with blogs, etc. We download and save tons of stuff--without taking the time to read much of it--and then read it later when have time but no internet. Dave is also starting to research information for upgrades we plan in Hawaii, possibly new refrigeration, more solar panels, and a new, sturdier and hopefully more aesthetic arch.

We did take the time to enjoy some of Taiohae while there... eating big juicy cheeseburgers at Laurent and Letitia's Snack Babazook (in front of the blue grocery store), and ice cream and crepes at the Snack right by the dinghy dock. (A 'snack' or a 'roulotte' is a rolling lunch counter, very common in French Polynesia in the bigger towns. Most have a table or two and some chairs in the shade for you to enjoy your meal.) We also went once for lunch at the Pearl Lodge restaurant. Mike and Sue had eaten there before and said it was quite good. But our lunch--poisson cru--was so-so... there was no coconut milk in our poisson cru!! Since a beer in a grocery store is about $3, in a nice restaurant they are more like $5-$6, and the whole lunch bill for Dave and I was $48. We don't do that very often (and reminisce fondly about lunches in Ecuador for $2-3 each, including soup, main meal, and a drink)).

Taiohae is a great place for provisioning--the best we've seen in French Polynesia so far. There is a daily fruit and veggie market right next to the dinghy dock, so fresh stuff is easy. Most of this produce is grown on the island and so isn't too outrageous in price. We were able to eventually find lettuce, tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, avocados, green beans, and of course the standby's: potatoes, onions, cabbage and carrots. Still no brocolli or celery, but at least some green stuff. And all the tropical fruits plus some apples. We stocked up for 6 weeks worth of groceries--that should get us to Hawaii. We never did make the 4am Saturday veggie market, though.

There are two conveniently located grocery stores, and between the two of them we managed to stock up on all the staples we needed to make it to Hawaii. Mostly we needed meats and snack food (cookies, crackers and chips). The meat selection was quite good--boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chicken leg quarters, whole chickens, pork chops, ground beef, lamb chops (and other cuts)--even bacon!! We also stopped at the afternoon fish market by the dinghy dock and bought a few kilos of fresh yellow-fin tuna and wahoo (nicely priced at $5/kilo uncleaned with the head removed, and you can buy half of a fish).

After Taiohae, we moved to Daniel's Bay, next door. But those adventures will have to wait for the next installment.
At 9/3/2010 7:42 PM (utc) our position was 08°56.62'S 140°09.80'W