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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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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.

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!

Our time in Panama

Our time in Panama City was a whirlwind of a month. The first week zoomed by with 3 days of checking into the country and getting to know the city layout. The rest feels like a blur, a bit of a twilight zone feeling. To give you a taste for what it was, I have added mostly pictures. Cost of living there is not cheap. Food is comparable to American prices and not quite like Mexican food. There is a mix of Caribbean, Creole, Mexican, Colombia and Peruvian influence, but mostly its rice and beans with a meat plate.

Panama is a melting pot for different cultures in addition to the many Natives that have inhabited these lands long before. As it was started as an early settlement from the age of explorers, and later a hub for “shipping advancement”, the addition of Spaniards, people of European Jewish descent and hired Chinese for building the Panama Canal, created a large multicultural country. The people are overall very friendly, especially for a big city. It is more like Mexico, where people say “hola” or “buenas” when you walk by.

We ended up measuring our time there by the number of “cruisers pizza nights”. Every Wednesday a local pizza place near the popular anchorages and marinas offers 20% of pizza for the cruisers. Our first pizza night was a few days after arriving. What a great way to meet up with other sailors. 5 pizza nights later we were finally leaving Panama City. Not complaining one bit though. We had a great time meeting sailors from all over the world, attending the Puddle Jump Party (x2), reuniting with cruising families that we had met in the past, and getting our fill of the big city life. Panama felt a lot safer than people have made it out to be, granted we weren’t staying in Colón. There are places to avoid, but overall, we felt comfortable exploring the beautiful country.

Here are some picture of our time there:

bus rides and cruiser’s pizza nights

dinghy didficulties…provisioning fun!

Boat teens!

Shipshape!!!

out of town surf trip…

good times…

Taj getting a pediatric dental cleaning..$40

Please leave a comment for us to look forward to reading when we get wifi again in French Polynesia!

OSA Peninsula, Costa Rica

January 16, We had wind for a great sail down to Bahia Drake, our first stop on the Osa Peninsula. What a beautiful sight! A lot less traveled and a lot more rain, the Osa Peninsula’s rainforest is dense and attractive. After dropping the hook under sail, we immediately got the paddle boards out with just enough time to venture up the river against the current. This was by far one of the coolest jungle sightseeing experiences yet. The next day we took a hike in the jungle and along the beach. We took a dip and rinsed off in some much needed fresh water. On our way back we encountered a group of rambunctious Capuhin Monkeys. I will admit there was a few moments of “I’m not so comfortable with this”.

January 18th, we made our way south the Matapalo. We actually had good wind again for this stretch. We only motored for 2 1/2 hours, and that was mostly to give our batteries a boost and to get safely into the anchorage. Just before lunch we caught a yellowfin tuna! Sushi time! This was the first fish we’ve caught since November ! We anchor at 4pm and Christian was off the boat heading to surf by 4:15. I stayed behind to prep our Tuna dinner of Poke appetizer, a few Nigiri Sushi pieces, and Garlic Ginger seared Tuna with rice and beans for the main course. Yum!

We had two full days of double surf sessions. Christian took his SUP with an anchor and his board up around the corner to Matapalo break in the mornings. I surfed both days just in front of our boat. Both evening, we surfed together at a place just east of us, in which we paddle boarded to and anchored them just off of the break. Taj joined us the second evening with his Boogie board. He caught a few good ones right next to me! The third morning there, Christian went his way for his surf and I took Nina and Taj on a hike to the waterfalls. It was a beautiful hike, with lots of rainforest views. It was so nice to take a freshwater shower under the falls.IMG_2119IMG_2120

IMG_2220Josie and TajIMG_2235IMG_2214IMG_2218Nina

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We then sailed off the hook and over to Jimenez to stock up on food and fuel and get at little wifi time in.