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Toau

Video of us leaving Fakarava out of the North Pass:

Video of SV La Cigale as we’re both heading out of North Fakarava pass.

Toau, Tuamotus, French Polynesia:

June 18-23, 2018

Making our way about the Tuamotus with the prevailing winds, next stop after Fakarava, Toau.

atoll. Wait a minute, prevailing winds?! We left at 7 am in order to arrive at Toau’s east pass around 11am. That way we can see clearly into the water, looking for coral heads and shallow areas as well as timing the tide/current into the pass. All looked good from where we were “sitting”. As we left Fakarava, the winds switched out of the north, exactly where we wanting to sail to. To add more excitement into the mix, the current was heading out at Fakarava North pass. Let’s put two and two together: incoming wind (out of the north) + outgoing current = standing waves . Yay a circus ride!!! Apparently you can skirt the edges of the pass and bypass this “mess” but we decided to go straight on through, along with our friends on La Cigale. Don’t miss the video clip below!

Once out the pass we battled the headwind. We almost gave up entirely and turned back in when we would tack one way to head northwest and get pushed southwest, then tack to head northeast and head due east. It was painful. We decided to keep with our easterly direction and turn on the iron sail (aka engine) to aid us to arrive at the the east pass of Toau by 11am. La Cigale also used this method.

Toau’s pass was cakewalk compared to Fakarava north. Many people speak of horrendous passages through it, but we had it blissful. It is still nerve racking when you can clearly see the bottom 7-8 meters (25 ft) below you, and you can see almost every detail of the coral carpet. Not sure one can ever be at compete ease with that.

Once through Toau’s east pass, we headed south, along the eastern edge. We settled in the Southeast corner (ish), a relatively sandy bottom area. As a general rule of thumb, the southeast anchorages of most of the atolls in the Tuamotus, you’ll find more sandy holdings. This is due to the wind direction, blowing sand over and it settling within the atoll. There were some coral heads, but they were easy to spot and plenty of room to navigate around to find a good anchoring area. Here, with La Cigale, and 2 other boats in the distance, there was plenty of room. And it was quiet, peaceful, and beautiful!

Pizza making over on La Cigale.Barber Shop Shawnigan , cutting Xavier’s hair off the starboard hull. Coffee time on Shawnigan

After a few days inside the atoll, it was time to make our way back out and north to Toau’s false pass on the north end called Anse Amyot. It’s a false pass due to its pass like appearance, but no complete pass through. You enter as if heading through a pass and grab a mooring or anchor in the middle. Again the east pass was manageable when we heading out, with an incoming current of about 2 kts. We sailed on up to Anse Amyot and motored up to a Mooring, next to our friends on SV Summer. The “lagoon” , as many people call it, was beautiful, but windy. This is normally a very picturesque anchorage with brilliant colors popping out of the water, but the wind waves made the water surface difficult to see much color. That is until you jumped in. Despite the wind, we were determined to snorkel. It was beautiful!!! We’ve heard many stories of the fantastic diving here. The days we were there were not those days, but non-the-less still very amazing. Watch our video here or click it below:

Our 90 day visa in French Polynesia was already halfway through.

We could have spent at least another month in the Tuamotus exploring underwater and on land. But alas, it was time to head to Tahiti. The clock was ticking. Family was coming to visit us in Tahiti, Ellamae (our 10 year old) needed to fly back to the U.S for her time with her biological father, and we still had the Society Island group the explore. We did the math with distance to Tahiti and average boat speed (5kts). Tahiti was a very long overnight sail from Toau.

The benefit to Toau’s false pass is that one can leave “through” it at night. We estimated our passage from Toau to Tahiti to take about 36 hours, which meant a 3 am departure time was needed in order to arrive before dark the next day. We had tracked our way into the mooring the other day and paid close attention to all the details of markers and reef locations so that our departure would be “easy”.

At 3 am our internal alarm went off. Shawnigan, pointing to the southeast, was bobbing up and down on the mooring ball as the wind persistently blew 15 kts. Perfect wind conditions to sail off the mooring, but not the perfect anchorage. We made it out fine, but I wouldn’t say it was without standing on the edge of my seat. It was windy, there was a small current, it was dark. We had tied an extra line to the mooring we were on, not trusting what was there. We knew we would have to leave it when we placed it. It seemed pitch black with our navigation system lit up, hindering my night vision. We had our tracks in through the pass saved and ready to follow out. As the engined warmed up, we reviewed our exit plan.

Timing our boat’s dance with the wind, we motored off the mooring in the correct direction, away from the reef 20 meters to our starboard. Behind the helm, my job was to quickly throttle up our RPMs as soon as we released from the mooring ball. We had our lines set up with two loops to either side of our bow. Christian released the first one, checked to make sure I was ready, and with a torch shining on himself he released Shawnigan from the mooring and hand motioned me to motor out. The wind was strong enough to require 1800 RPMs for ample steerage off the mooring to turn off the wind, past the other boats and out through the pass. At the helm, I focused heavily on our Navionics chart, attempting to follow our track out exactly as we came in. I will say, it’s a lot harder to do when you can’t visually see where you’re heading and only looking at a screen and compass. Christian was on the bow with a bright light shining, keeping an eye out for the surrounding reefs. Heart pumping, I was relieved when we made it out of the pass and clear of any reef danger. As we veered off the wind, toward Tahiti, we unfurled the Jib and turned off the engine. Ah, peace. All that was, was the sound of the wind, the slapping of the water from behind and the stars in the sky. Off the coast a few miles, we were in the clear of any obstacles and could relax.

Toau, thank you for your beauty. We hope to visit again? Maybe in less windy conditions next time.

SV Summer (Shannon 28) with Leo and Laurel aboard.

do you see the fish?

SV Tusi 2

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Marquesas, French Polynesia 🇵🇫

Marquesas, French Polynesia – May 9th – May 25th, 2018

We arrived to the island of Hiva Oa at 02:30 am on May 9th, 2018. The kids were asleep. Christian and I had both been awake since 10pm after a 2 hour nap to charge us through making landfall. Once the anchor was down, we slept…but not soundly. Partly because we were excited to arrive and get to shore and partly because the anchorage was so rolly it felt like we were still underway. And after 21 days of being underway, our bodies were in a routine of waking up so often with all of the little noises and odd movements.

We woke a few hours later with the excitement of seeing the landscape, seeing our friends on other boats, making our way to land to start the check-in process, and buying fresh baguettes and brie. Apparently that’s what everyone does… baguettes and brie are the hot commodity in French Polynesia.

We were greeted by our friends Marc and Doreen on SV Imani. Marc and Doreen are our neighbors and good friends in our home port of Sausalito, Ca. They crossed from San Francisco to the Marquesas this last December, 2017. We were sooooo excited to see them. They brought us a welcome gift of fresh Pomplemouse (local grapefruit) and chocolate chip banana bread. After rationing out the last of our fresh fruit from the crossing, fresh pomplemouse tasted so good.

Raising the French Polynesian flag 🇵🇫 and the quarantine flagMarc and Doreen on SV Imani

The check-in process was pretty easy. We used “Tahiti Crew” for hire, to help speed the process and get the bond exemption that’s offered for the latitude38 sponsored “pacific puddle jumpers”. Sandra, the agent in Hiva Oa, picked us up in her car, drove us to town and facilitated the check-in process at the Gendarmarie (police station). It was official, from May 9th, we had 90 days to explore all we could of French Polynesia.

After that, we roamed on foot exploring the land, picking mangos that had just fallen from trees and taking in all that was there, the smell, sight, feel. We didn’t get baguettes that first day. Apparently it’s common for them to run out by noon. We did get our baguettes and brie eventually though.

Shopping for groceries was fun. Most stores were closed for “siesta” (I’m too use to Latin America to call it otherwise) at 11:30 – 2 pm, so provisioning had to be planned around that. The prices weren’t as bad as we expected. We had heard terrible warnings on price tags, but honestly I think we weren’t that shell shocked coming from Panama. Some items were outstanding and some were cheap. The “red tagged” items marked those that were government subsidized, so those were affordable. As long as you took your time to shop around, good food wasn’t terribly priced. We do recommend finding a local family to buy fruit from. Buying direct from farmers usually brings the price down. Eggs were pretty plentiful on Hiva Oa, coming from a local farmer. They run about $5/dozen, but they are farm fresh and tasty. Eggs in Nuka Hiva are much harder to get. They came from Hiva Oa and needed to be reserved a few days in advanced. The supply ship came in while we were there. They brought in more fresh produce and other imports. Moral of the story, buy government subsidized food and from the local farmers to keep your “kitty” from breaking.

Laundry in Hiva Oa can be found and paid for full service, but we used the washing station near the dinghy dock in Atuona, Hiva Oa. See video below for a time lapsed laundry washing demo!

The anchorage at Hiva Oa was very rolly and not suitable for swimming (murky and sharky). We were ready to leave as soon as possible to explore.

Next, we sailed to Tahuata, a little island just about 10 miles southwest of Hiva Oa. Most of our kid boat friends had already left for there and we were ready to join them. Tahuata was so lovely. We anchored on nice sandy bottom that was visible from the surface and amongst 15 other boats. It was a packed bay, but happily so, as 7 other kid boats joined in on the fun. It was so nice to be able to swim and to have the kids paddle from boat to boat. This is the type of freedom we enjoy as cruisers. There is something so nice about being able to swim off your boat, paddle board to the next cove for exercise, letting the kids roam from boat to boat or to shore to play. We even celebrated a few kid boat’s birthdays there. Oh and my 37th as well. Tahuata was one of our favorite places in the Marquesas by far.

From Tahuata, we sailed up to Nuku Hiva. That is where we finally met up with our friends Leo and Laurel on SV Summer out of San Francisco as well. Laurel and I use to work together at UCSF and long before that, she was boat neighbors with Christian. They crossed the Pacific in their 28 ft monohull from La Cruz, Mexico. It was so nice to meet up with them and have them show us the ropes of Nuku Hiva. They also took us up to the Marquesan ritual sight (Marae) known as Tohua Koueva. This was one of the places where the local Marquesans would hold their rituals and work as a community. It had an eerie feeling about it, but also a strong feeling of sacredness.

In the middle of our stay at Nuku Hiva, Christian got a small wound on his toe that quickly became infected and not so small. The treatment took about two weeks for it to heal enough to leave the Marquesas. In the meantime, we went to Anse Hakatea, aka “Daniel’s Bay” hikes around and back to Nuku Hiva. We explored the town a little bit, but mostly socialized with other cruisers at the “snack”, small restaurant, that was at the dinghy dock area. That’s basically where everyone conglomerates to try their luck at wifi connection. Wifi in the Marquesas is very hard to come by, so when the cruisers find it, even if it’s slow, that tends to be where they all meet up. While we were just “sitting” in another murky water, shark zone, we decided to get a marquesan tattoo.

We found Teiki HUUKENA , the local Patutiki (Marquesan style of tattoo) to do our tattoos. He thoroughly and passionately studied not only the Marquesan Patutiki, but also all of the other Polynesian styles of tattoo. He even created his own book with as many of the symbols and their meanings as he could fit in. We studied the book and the symbols and made an appointment for our Tattoos. A few days later I went in and had my whole spine done by Teiki’s cousin Teikivahiani PUHETINI. He arrived with full face tattoo, no English, ready to place his art and the Marquesan culture in ink on my back. I book marked a few symbols in the book that had meaning to me and he composed the design. After 2 hours of drawing it out and 2.5 hours to tattooing, it was done. A few days later, Christian got his arm tattooed. During his session, Teiki himself added a few more symbols to the lower section of my back. These two do amazing work! Video to come soon.

All said and done, we didn’t explore as much as we’d hoped for in the Marquesas, but we enjoyed what we saw and the people we were with and introduced to. Maybe next time around we’ll get the long stay visa, more than 90 days.

Next stop in the French Polynesia chain of islands, the Tuamotus. We had friends awaiting for us…

bye bye Marquesas, for now…

More pictures from the Marquesas:

recyclables, batteries, tins, garbage…

our Navionics chart

Costa Rica Rainforest zip line tours and more

We started Costa Rica off strong first with heavy winds pushing us out of our first anchorage and then with a zip line canopy tour with Vista Los Sueños Canopy tour company.

January 3rd, after our 19 day passage we thought we would have a great nights rest anchored in Punta Leona, Costa Rica. We thought wrong. Upon going to bed we had light onshore winds, most likely Papagoyo related, but not strong enough to be a concern. By midnight, they got stronger, then by 2 am we were sitting a lee shore with wind blowing 20 with gusts of about 25. No fun! We were about to pull up anchor and head south around the corner when we realized the windless wasn’t working! It was dark, windy, we were tired, there was no way we were going to pull are anchor up by hand. (I’m sure we could have if we had to.) We were solid in our holding, so we opted to sleep in the dodger and take watches until the morning. Needless to say, we didn’t sleep well at all. First thing in the morning light, the wind had calmed a bit, we pulled up the anchor and sailed out and down to the next anchorage, Herradura.

Although sleep deprived, we were so excited to get our legs on land. Shortly after dropping the hook, we rowed into shore, where we tied our dinghy up on the beach and walked into town. We spent the entire day walking around, just getting a feel for Costa Rica. The Spanish is different, faster with different words. Most people speak English here though. Figuring out the money was a challenge too. The Colones is 560 per the US dollar. After having the Mexican Pesos figured out, now we had to adjust to Colones. We quickly discovered that Costa Rica has about the same prices for everything as the US and double the prices for anything related to marina fees and boat related costs. We will not be staying in any marinas here if we can help it. One thing we loved and worth the money here, was the fried plantains. We had “nachos” with friend green plantain instead of chips as part of our first Costa Rican meal. Yum!

During our 5+ miles walk about, we stumbled upon a Canopy Zip Line tour company called Vista Los Sueños Rainforest Tours. We decided to splurge this one time and schedule a 10 platform zip line experience for the next day. Everyone was so excited! First thing the next morning, we rowed to shore and made our way up town to Vista Los Sueños for our 10 am tour. We were the first of our tour group to arrive, so we given bracelets stating we were #1, which meant that we got to go first! The staff at Los Sueños were super nice. They are all bilingual and well trained. After a safety intro, we took a tractor ride up the rainforest’s hill to platform 1 of 10. After another quick instructional talk it was time to start. I went first, followed by Ellamae, then Taj (yes, Taj went all by himself!), followed by Nina, then Christian.

The tour itself was about 2 hours. We all had a blast! At the completion, they give you a nice cup of seasonal fruit.

Afterward, we got a shuttle ride into Jaco, the tourist surf town nearby. We were in search of coffee and wifi, but instead found an acai bowl/yoga studio place called B-Fresh that offered amazing smoothies, acai bowls, panini sandwiches, kombucha on tap, and cold brew coffee for the after fruit sugar crash. It felt like we were in California again, in a good way. The prices were expensive as far as our cruising status was concerned, but still a little cheaper than California.

Before heading back to the boat we tried our first Costa Rican “Soda” place for dinner. A Soda is basically a cheaper typical food restaurant. Sometimes more like fast food, and not quite as expensive as a tourist oriented restaurant. It was good, but it was not the Mexican food we had been spoiled with for the last 2 years.

San Antonio, Mulege, Punta Chivato

Still catching up on posts from June, 2017, when we were still making our way north, in the Sea of Cortez.  

⛵️⛵️⛵️Now, three boats deep, Easy, Kenta Anae and Shawnigan left from La Ramada around lunch time and sailed the not quite 10 miles to San Antonio. We were excited to go check out this a huge obsidian vein there.  26.521937, -111.450718 .

The south end of the point was too exposed to the prevailing wind, so we went around to the north side and set anchor at San Antonio (proper) 26.533917, -111.477790. We all met ashore, soon after anchoring, to get a hike in before evening set. Another perfect geology lesson for boat-school life.  Getting to the road was an adventure. We bushwhacked our way until we finally found the road/trail. Not so fun with all of the prickly brush and cactus to avoid.  Before climbing the peak, we first hit up the obsidian vein. Black, grainy and shiny at the same time, the vein looked like a petrified waterfall and surrounding us, looked like petrified water droplets that had misted to the ground at our feet.Taj, Matero, Shandro, Nina and Ellamae.

After a few minutes of exploring the obsidian vein, we made the trek up the steep hill to the top point. Taj hiked the whole way! I think he wanted to impress the Kenta Anae boys, or maybe he was just distracted. The view was fantastic, as always in the Sea of Cortez. We took time to soak it all in.(I could resist groping this tree’s butt) 😬

The way back to the boat was more straightforward. We just followed the road that led to the beach, then walked the beach up to our dinghies.  As we sat, before heading back to the boat, S/V Dad’s Dream (from Isla Corondo) showed up and anchored out beyond us.

Not long after we got back to the boat and had dinner, the southerly swell started to wrap around and make its way into the anchorage. We had our flopper stopper out, as did Easy, but there was no comfort being found at this spot. We called Easy, Kenta Anae and Dad’s Dream and announced that we were pulling up anchor and heading up around the corner to San Nicolas, 26.868896, -111.848712. The stay there was just for an overnight before heading up and around to Bahia Conception. All four us us made the move to San Nicolas just after sunset, but before dark. The anchorage was much more comfortable than San Antonio and we were that much closer to our next stop, 26.870196, -111.846589 , about 30 miles away for another brief overnight sleep. The three of us sailed up together. Dad’s Dream stayed behind. The sail up and around was beautiful and uneventful. Kenta Anae kicked our butts (they are fast! There, I said it out loud, Merle!).

The next morning we motored an hour over to Mulege 26.906125, -111.954573 to go to shore and re-provision.  We anchored in about 15 feet of water on a “roadside” anchorage. Our time was limited, as we knew that the regular wind would be picking up around noon. We found a few tiendas (small grocery store) to stock up at, a park to play in, and an ice cream shop to treat the kids with. Ice Cream is ok at 10 in the morning when you’ve walked 2 miles to get to town, it’s hot, and the last time you had it was in La Paz, right?!

We made it back to the boats just before noon and sure enough, the wind was starting to pick up. We were able to sail off the hook and head due north toward Punta Chivato 27.066717, -111.962607 . Once anchored in front of the lovely Punta Chivato, I had time to swim and the kids, relax, before heading into shore to explore. As Kenta Anae was anchoring they saw a whale shark, but we were not able to see it. I was hoping when I was swimming that I would see it, but all I saw was barely my fingertips 2.5 feet in front of me. The visibility was terrible and the water was not that warm. Warmer than Isla Coronado and La Ramada, but still pretty chilly.

On shore, we all took a stroll down the main road toward and abandoned building we saw on the beach. We were intending to go explore “shell beach” (literally and beach completely covered in shells), but we got distracted by the vacant dilapidated building. We found out that it was once a hotel, but somehow lost ownership and has been destroyed by storms. The kids spent an hour just wandering around it, making up scary stories about it. FUN! I wish I took more pictures of it, and the ones that I did were lost when I tried to back them up to “the cloud”. So, I apologize for the lack of photos for this section.View from the building!

After exploring that area, we ran into a part-time resident that suggested a restaurant named Doña Julia’s. We weren’t expecting to eat out, but she told us that the price ends up being $2.50 a head. Not sure whether to believe her or not and if it was true, was that a good sign or not, but we thought we’d give it a go. It was a GREAT choice. Basically we ate in this families enclosed porch. Julia gave us two options for food, fresh fish of the day or enchiladas. We made our choices and she brought it all out, family style, along with refried beans and salad. We asked what the fish was and she said it was “strong fish” or “Toro”. Guessing that was not the Toro which is Tuna and some kind of Jack instead , which we normally don’t like, we were amazed at how well it tasted. And sure enough, it was $2.50 a person!

One more reason to LOVE Mexico!Plate full of enchiladas!

Next up: Isla San Marcos (one of our favorites! ) and Santa Rosalia. Stay tuned.

One year ago… we sailed out “The Gate”

We can’t believe that a full year has past since we left San Francisco to start cruising on our sailboat! We’ve experienced so much and all of it so wonderful: The emotions of leaving, the adjustments of boatschool, the adjustments of a life less “connected” but more connected as a family, the growth of world knowledge, the change in marriage dynamic, parenting dynamic, and educator dynamic, adapting to Mexico’s culture and food, meeting new and wonderful sailors/cruisers, and so much more I’m probably leaving out.  All of these had their ups and downs, but all transformed into good experiences and contributed to our lives in such a positive way.

My friend Lara interviewed us for a radio and podcast she does out of Byron Bay, Australia. I feel like it summarizes some questions a lot of people wonder about when pondering what the life of a family of 5 sailing on a 40 foot boat is like.  I posted the link on our blog and Facebook when it aired live and only on Facebook  again when a link was available to the podcast version.

Here is the link to the podcast version below. It will take you to the 30 minute interview. Our 13 year old daughter,  Nina, is interviewed as well and adds a lot flavor to the interview.

https://www.spreaker.com/user/pregnancybirthandbeyond/a-family-afloat

Anchored off of Halfmoon Bay, California (August 21, 2015)

Becalmed off the coast of California (Oct 2015) with Christian’s father, Gene Lauducci, aboard.
Ellamae posing with her polarized #teenytinyoptics glasses

Nina and Taj posing with their polarized #teenytinyoptics glasses

On top of a mountain in Turtle Bay, Baja Mexico (Left to Right: our crew Emma Casey, Taj sleeping on my back, Josie, Christian, Nina, and Ellamae) November 2015

Taj swimming in Chamela, Mexico (January 2016)

Barra de Navidad, Mexico (February, 2016)

Baja, Sea of Cortez, Isla San Francisco (May, 2016)

S/V Shawnigan with a beautiful backdrop of the Sierra Gigante Mountain Range, Baja, Sea of Cortez, Isla San Francisco (May, 2016)

My beautiful kids back in the United States (July 2016) Ellamae (8), Nina (13) Taj (3)