Tag Archives: sailing adventure

Diving with Sharks! Fakarava, Tuamotus, French Polynesia

Fakarava

June 7th, 2018:

Southwest of Kauehi is the atoll of Fakarava. Fakarava South is well known in the diving world for one of the most amazing shark drift dives. We were super excited to be heading there to freedive it and snorkel. We entered through the south pass with La Cigale directly behind us. Looking back, I’m unsure why, but we decide to take the east channel through to get to the anchorage/mooring area. It was only 3 meters at one point, which is plenty deep, but no room for error. As we motored against a strong 4 kt current, it looked like the reef was going to reach our keel at any second and we weren’t moving past it very fast. We made it, though on pins and needles the whole time.

We arrived on Tuesday to find that the anchorage was “empty”. There were only 4 other boats there and 2 free moorings were available. We grabbed one, but unfortunately the other one was too close to the other boat for La Cigale to grab, so they braved the anchoring within all of the coral littered bottom. This normally very crowded anchorage had emptied out due to the supply ship that arrives in North Fakarava on Wednesdays. Most of the cruisers all head up there on Tuesday to be there first thing in the morning on Wednesday for fresh produce. I wish I could say that we couldn’t have planned it better, but we didn’t plan it that way at all.

As we settled in, it didn’t take long to realize that this place was chalk full of reef sharks. Just looking off of our boat down 35 ft to the bottom, we could see sharks circling around. For the first time, they weren’t just black tip reef sharks either. We could see Grey reef sharks and White Tip reef sharks as well. We slowly lowered ourselves into the water for a closer look. Yep, they were all over and “friendly”. At one point I was able to attract a total of 9 sharks near the boat by splashing around on the surface. They were curious, but that’s as far as it went. We quickly realized we weren’t on their menu.

Over the next few days, we snorkeled/free-dived the south pass. You do this by taking the dingy to the outside of the pass, and timed with the incoming tide/current, you drift back into the atoll, watching all of the sharks, Grouper, and other sea creatures along the way. There is a section called “the wall of sharks” , in which the sharks tend to congregate in huge masses. Over the course of 5 days I think we did the drift dive 8 times! Christian put a little video together of it. See it here on our YouTube Channel.

A week zoomed by. A portion of the kid boats we met in the Galapagos arrived here around the same time as well. We met up with SV Alondra, another kid boat from Canada, and a few other kid boats we hadn’t met yet. Edith on SV Alondra is a Marine Biologist and was very generous to put together a few boat school biology classes. She pulled out a few of her props for a lesson on Marine Mammals and again, on another day, her microscopes for a lesson on Plankton.

As our time in South Fakarava neared its end we had been out for nearly 3 weeks without reprovisioning. It was time to head up to “town”, Rotoava, in North Fakarava for a re-supply.

We had a great sail off the hook and back on again in the north end after dodging pearl farm buoys. See our swinging video here.

We anchored off of the town along with other cruiser friends. We first went to find some groceries. We were lucky to find that there were eggs available at the Fakarava Yacht Services facility. They also had wifi and coffee, both were not great , but did the trick. a coconut crab Ellamae and Megan off of SV Raftkin.Haley (Raftkin) and Nina

We spent a few days there, getting wifi, eating really good croissants, and doing a little SUP yoga and video with the ladies.The crew off of SV Today stopping over to say hello. They have a ocean plastic awareness program called “eat less plastic” in which they are promoting through their sailing voyage.

saying “fair winds” to Alondra.

We finally were ready to head out to the next atoll, Toau. There was just one issue, the wind switched to the north, the direction we wanted to head in. Video and photos to be posted on our Toau post, up next.

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Kauehi, Tuamotus – French Polynesia

Tuamotus: Kauehi 1st of 3 Atolls visited May 31 – June 6th, 2018

As we left Nuku Hiva, not even an hour out, we caught a huge Wahoo! We hand reeled it all of the way into the stern and it shook itself loose.

Our passage from the Marquesas to the Tuomotus took 5 days. We probably could have done it in 4 days if we had left earlier in the morning, but we didn’t. After the first night it was clear that if we kept up the good speeds we would arrive to Kauehi South Pass entrance way to early in the morning. We didn’t want to be anywhere too close to that atoll in the dark, so we actually had to slow ourselves down at one point to make sure we didn’t arrive to early in the morning.

Kauehi was out first atoll we’ve ever been to. We were told by many people that it was one of the best In the Tuamotus. Our friends on SV Summer and SV Dol Selene were there already, waiting for our arrival. We ended up timing it just right . We arrived at the pass entrance at 11am. It was low tide and turning , but current hadn’t switched yet. We were still able to sail in without any Hic-ups. We were prepared for the worst. I was on the bow looking for coral heads and the girls were up in the ratlines doing the same. We had about 3 kts current against us, but the water was flat and we were able to move through just fine under sail.

One of the draws to Kauehi, is its relatively easy pass entrance and a well charted zone to navigate in and through to both the south east anchorage and the village. When sailing through Atolls, you have to plan your timing through the passes, for the current can be very strong and standing waves can occur. You also have to watch out extremely carefully for coral heads. Some are charted in up to date navigation plotters, but not all. As we sailed through the pass we were surprised how clear the water was and how a coral head 20 feet down looked like it was 10 feet down. We were going to have to get use to that!

We sailed all the way into the south east anchorage and onto the hook successfully avoiding all coral heads. That was exiting! We were happy to make landfall, greeted by our neighbors, and go for our first crystal clear Tuamotus Atoll plunge.

Kauehi turned out to be one of our favorite places so far. Clear, warm water to snorkel in, easy to hop on our SUPs and go for a good paddle, our first close encounters with larger black tip reef sharks, good cruising friends and beach bar-b-ques. A few more of the boats we knew arrived with kids (SV La Cigale and SV Counting Stars), so our kids were extremely happy about that too!

Over a period of about 5 days, we made daily trips to the bommies (coral heads) to snorkel, morning SUP and swim exercise, morning boat schooling and boat to boat social hours. What more could you ask for?!

SV Counting Stars in the Sunrise. The boys heading off to freedive some Bommies (coral heads).Leo and Christian played while Laurel and Josie played. Adult play dates!Ellamae paddles the Xterraboard over to other kid boats many play dates over on La Cigale. Bonfires, hermit crab collecting and releasing, and potlucks on the beach .sourdough loafs and sourdough pancakes!

and many amazing sunsets 🌅.

Next stop, Fakarava Atoll!

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

Isla Santa Cruz, Galápagos Islands : Week 3

Isla Santa Cruz, Galápagos Islands : Week 3

Posting from our iridium satellite phone. I will post photos when we get decent wifi somewhere in the South Pacific.

On April 10th we arrived in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island at night. Not our favorite thing to do, arrive by night that is. We were having such a great sail up and over here that we were a little late on getting the engine to assist to make sure we were there before dark. We came in around 7:30pm. We motored in slowly as it was incredibly dark, but littered with lights from town, it was hard to discern were there was space in the anchorage to drop our hook. To top it off the anchorage was crowded. Some people had stern anchors out and some didn’t. We found a hole to safely anchor in and called it a night.

The next morning, April 11th, our morning coffee during sunrise was beautiful. The sun came up soft and warm, and the sky turned from pastels to a bright blue. The town had a look of a little village in the Mediterranean. We were excited to get to shore. Santa Cruz is the most populated island of all the Galápagos Islands. The town of Puerto Ayora itself only has 2,000 people, but that does not account for all of the tourists and the nearby villages. It was Tajs 5th birthday and we were all excited to wonder town and find a place to get a birthday treat to celebrate with.

Water taxis were mandatory once again, $1/person each way. We walked the Malecon, found our place to get a treat, found good coffee and we found our local friends that we had only met online. We attempted to FaceTime family for Tajs birthday, but wifi on the island was slow. A little frustrating, but it forced us to enjoy the moment more.

Over the next few days, we met up with our local friend, Diego and surfed. We found more activities to do with the other kid boats (Pelizeno, La Cigale, Lady Mary, Raftkin, Bajka and Dol Selene). We surfed more and went to more beaches and tortoise breeding grounds and huge lava tunnels. Saturday was a big day. There is a local farmers market that starts at 5am. A group of us got together at 6 and took a taxi there. We loaded up of fresh food for the crossing!
That afternoon (April 14th) we celebrated Tajs birthday with all the other kid boats and celebrated Hayleys (off of SV Raftkin) 12th birthday as well. There was a total of 17 kids (SV Kea and C’est Si Bon joined our kid boat group)! We were so happy to have so many kids to help celebrate with.

Before we knew it, it was time to check out. Our weather window to leave was looking to good as far as having decent wind to sail as much as possible to catch the southern Pacific trade winds. Also, all of the other kid boats were leaving during the same window. Wed already grown attached and didn’t want to be too far behind them once everyone made it to The Marquesas. Leaving was so hard. We all felt like we wanted another week there and we wanted to spend more time with our local friends Paola and Diego. But weather windows always take priority when planning a departure. We might just have to find our way back to the Galápagos Islands for another visit.

Tuesday morning, April 17th, we finished checking out of immigrations after one last farmers market (6am) run, breakfast with Paola and Diego at their house, and a last minute FaceTime with family. I held it back during the moment, but those calls were a little emotional for me.

At 10:30am (16:30 UTC) we departed for French Polynesia. Kea and C’est Si Bon left 2 days prior, Bajka left the day before, the rest of us kid boats (Pelizeno, La Cigale, Raftkin, Shawnigan) and Dol Selene left on Tuesday a few hours apart.

*** side notes for people who will be visiting Santa Cruz:
Places to eat;
-La Garrapata (excellent service, sea food, fresh tuna, ceviche and kid meals).
-The Rock: For lunch time, you can get a very tasty almuerso special meal for $5 that comes with soup, main meal (i.e. Chicken and rice) and fresh juice. -OMG: for coffee and ok wifi.
-Saturday morning Market (Farmers market) fresh empenadas and Bolons.

Places to see:
-Darwin Center
-Museum that’s down town
-the 400 m lava tunnels and tortoise breeding grounds.

That’s all the Shenanigans on Shawnigan for now…

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Christian and Diego Surf it up, #tortugabayexperience

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Field trip to the Darwin Center!#Eatlesspasticand we still had enough for sushi!

3 weeks in the Galapagos! Week 2: Isla Isabela

3 weeks in the Galapagos! Week 2: Isla Isabela Week 2 of Three weeks in the Galápagos Islands; a life long dream come true.
***This post has been posted using our Iridium Sat phone from somewhere in the middle of the ocean. I will add pictures when we reach French Polynesia and get sufficient wifi.April 4th, 2018
We arrived to Isabela after a full day of motor sailing ~80 miles. We left at 4 am and arrived by 5:30 pm. I’m glad we arrived at daylight, as there were many reefs surrounding the anchorage and many that are not on our Navionics charts. As we were coming in, our agent for Isabela, James, haled us in the radio. He gave clear instructions for us to stay on the boat until we had been checked in by authorities in the morning. Wow! We had no idea we would have to be checked at every port we went to in the Galapagos. Good thing it was only going to be three ports.
So, first thing the next morning, we got cleared in. James, the port captain and immigrations came aboard for questions and a quick inspection. They were super nice, but it always feels weird having authorities come aboard to inspect your boat. There is that something in the back of your mind “what if they find something and make us leave after spending all of this money and effort to visit?” . Thankfully all was good to go.On Isabela you are allowed to use your own dinghy to go ashore instead of the mandatory water taxi service that is on San Cristobal and Santa Cruz. The other kid boats (Pelizeno, Raftkin and Dol Selene) left San Cristobal on Wednesday night making their voyage an overnighter, therefor arrived in the early morning on Thursday as we were getting checked in. We waited for all to get checked in and went to shore as a group just after lunch. The dinghy dock is new and built more for the pangas to use but suitable for a few sailing tenders. (Bring a stern anchor for your dinghy if you sail here). Oh and it’s $10/person to use it for the duration of your stay ($5/child).The feel for Isla Isabela was different. The island itself is much dryer, with green mangroves only near the water and some green farmland in the highlands. The rest of island was mostly dirt roads (except for a few new paved roads) and lava rock and formations. Again, tons of Sea Lions and tons of Marine Iguanas. The town of Puerto Villamil itself is pretty small and a bit of a walk from the dinghy dock. Toward the end of our stay on Isabela the walk seemed further, especially heading home after a long day. That first day we just wandered up the main drag getting ideas for activities to do over the next few days.We quickly discovered that most of the highlighted sight seeing activities that “everyone” recommends, cost a fair bit of money. We’d been told by many people to do the “los tuneles” snorkeling tour, but after finding out that it would cost ~$100 / person ($500 for our family) we opted out. To help justify not doing it was the poor water clarity reported recently. There were other activities, but most require a hired guide or tour due to the National Park regulations. Hmm, our options became limited with our budget.After talking with some locals we found free and cheap sight seeing activities! The next few days were spent walking along paths to see birds, including flamingos and finches, iguanas and tortoise breeding facilities. We had a few beach days with time drinking coffee while the kids played in the sand and iguanas walked over our feet (literally)! Our most epic day there was when we (Pelizeno, Raftkin, Dol Selene and us on Shawnigan) rented bikes and hired taxis to drive us 1/2 way up the crater and drop us off to ride down.We started up past Cueva Sucre lava tubes, so that we could ride down through some of the highland’s farmlands. The locals grow banana, papaya, and many other fruits along with raising chicken, cattle, and horses. Pesticides are not permitted on the Galapagos, so everything there was pretty much “organic”. Guava trees littered the roadside and were encourage by the taxi drivers to pick due to their introduced and invasive nature. The bike ride down was amazing ! We started on fairly loose gravel road. There was a few of us who took it slower along with some of the kids. We stopped along the way at Cueva Sucre lava tubes, then again for lunch at a lookout called Mango Vista. The ride was about 20K and pretty much all downhill back to town.After an Ice Cream break we hopped back on the bikes to ride another 7K to the Wall of Tears. Not all downhill and quite a bit sandy terrain, we trudged through the additional 14K more. Totally worth it! We saw tortoises along the trail, beautiful look outs and the “Wall of Tears”. The wall was built as a punishment or rather a way for the 200 relocated prisoners to “work off” their sentence by piling heavy lava rocks up and along as a huge wall. It turned into a brutal and hostile project that cost the lives of many in the process. The day ended with our now routine coffee at the beach and later Pizza with the whole group including SV La Cigale (who has joined us, anchored in Isabela, but couldn’t join us for the bike ride).The next morning, April 10th, we woke up early for a 5 am departure for Isla Santa Cruz. We were the only boat in our little kid boat group to leave that day. The rest would join us in a few days.our friendly immigration checkScreenshot (153)IMG_2905IMG_2904IMG_2902Screenshot (156)Screenshot (157)Screenshot (158)Screenshot (159)Screenshot (161)Screenshot (162)Screenshot (163)Screenshot (165)Screenshot (185)IMG_2826IMG_2828IMG_2831IMG_2832

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SV RaftkinSV Pelizeno