Tag Archives: sailing with kids

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

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3 weeks in the Galapagos! Week 1: Isla San Cristóbal

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.Week 1: Isla San Cristóbal – Puerto Baquerizo
*apologies in advance for not being able to post pictures. Wifi on the Galápagos Islands is very limited and posting from our iridium is even more limited. I will have to back post when we reach somewhere with better wifi.On the 8th night at sea, our passage from Panama to Galapagos was near an end. The sweet damp aroma of earth filled the air. Shawnigan was sailing upwind, as high up into the wind as possible making a west south west track toward Isla San Cristobal, Galápagos Islands. The smell of the earth could be sensed before sight. Based on our track we would round the north end of San Cristobal early in the dark morning hours. We would have liked to have rounded from the south, but could not make that high of an angle. When dawn broke, the sight was unbelievable.There is something so magical about making landfall after many days at sea just in itself. Making landfall in the Galapagos after 8 days at sea was beyond magical. The landscape was green, the air was clean and so blue in contrast. Steep jagged volcanic cliffs and bluffs lined some of the coastline. Everywhere we looked in the water sea turtles were surfacing. The wind had steadily declined and the seas flattened. Birds circled around us, sea lions did as well. We sat staring, with amazement, we had reached The Galápagos Islands!Christian took this time to hop in the water and make sure the bottom of our boat was completely free of barnacles or any other growth. We packed away the boat in preparation for our check-in process. Wed heard many a different experiences as far as the check-in process goes. Some people had been inspected and sent back out 40 miles to clean their bottoms better, some people had food confiscated, while others had no problems at all. We didn’t want to take any risk for being sent away from the Galapagos, so we spent a good hour drifting, getting everything in order*** and raising our yellow quarantine flag before motoring into port.We made it into port by 9 am. Our agent had the local group of people responsible for clearing us in out to our boat in no time. 8 people piled on to our boat for what turned out to be less than an hour long process. Much easier than we expected. Phew. Then we were kicked off out boat for a mandatory fumigation. Without that part planned, we took a mandatory $1/person water taxi to shore with snacks and water and eyes wide open, trying to decompress from the sail and take it all in.We were greeted by sea lions all over the docks and beaches. Huge, black iguanas walking around accustomed to people walking close in proximity. Without needing to explore much further, it was clear that our time hear would be filled with the animal sightings we hoped for.The town in Puerto Baquerizo is quaint with a beautiful Malecon and little tourist shops, hostels and cafes scattered about. The price of food and coffee was similar to that of the US, a little pricey for our taste, but manageable. We had heard about the other kid boats that we’re in the anchorage, and it didn’t take long to spot them out. SV Pelizeno, Raftkin, La Cigale all had kids aboard and were buddy boating with another Kiwi couple on Dol Selene. Meeting them was like meeting up with old friends. Quickly, we all connected and started to plan out activities to do together.From the second day and on we were busy every day with on shore sightseeing activities. Christian found surf at the local reef called Tonga. We went snorkeling in a few different locations. A taxi trip across the island to the Crater, Tortoise exhibit, and another snorkeling beach was organized. We had 4 taxis between all of our boats. The island was green, but not wet either. One of the fresh water sources for the island was from the crater we visited . Apparently this is normally the wet season, but this year hasn’t yielded much rain at all. We also went to the Interpretation Center, a information center. This was neat, as it was free and it gave a good representation of the history of the Galapagos and some of the founding people and organizations that help keep the Galapagos protected and sustainable.During our visit on San Cristobal, we mostly saw sea lions. They were everywhere and not the least bit shy! They were supper friendly, but have been known to bite when provoked. We kept to the 2 meter away suggestion as much as possible. Birds were plentiful. I’m not an expert birder, but thoroughly enjoyed hearing and seeing the different birds. I wish we had hired a guide to point out all of the different species. I do know we saw a few different finches. The frigates were larger and more colorful than the ones we saw in Mexico. We saw the red footed Boobie on our boat, but after that we didn’t see too many more. There were more Blue footed Boobies as well. The iguanas were around, but we didn’t see any in the water. While Christian was surfing he was surrounded by sea turtles! I got to touch one too!After about a week on San Cristobal, we pulled up anchor and headed to Isla Isabela. (Post to come soon).***what is required for checking in:
-Autographo: letter stating approval to enter the Galapagos from your hired agent. We went through Ricardo with Super Yacht Galapagos http://www.superyachtgalapagos.live/.
-Black Water certificate stating you have a proper holding tank for your bathroom waste. We made sure our forward head was not in use and our aft head valve was turned to our holding tank.
-All trash, recycling, and compost needed to be separated and labeled accordingly.
-Certain foods are not allowed (seeds, whole coffee beans etc). We didn’t know about the coffee beans and we just provisioned with 12 pounds of it! (Thankfully we didn’t have it confiscated).
-Fumigation certificate: we heard they would fumigate regardless of whether you had it done in Panama or not, so we waited to have it done on our check-in.

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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!

Culture shock: from remote Panama to City life…

Two months ago we checked out of Manzanillo , Mexico and sailed south to Costa Rica and later, Panama. Manzanillo was a big port for ships, and was busy with cars and people, but not too overwhelming. After experiencing mostly small villages in Mexico over the past 2 years, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo were the among the largest cities that we visited. From the day we checked out of Mexico, the next 2 months we would make a our 19 day crossing without seeing a single other soul and again only see small villages along the coast of the pacific side Costa Rica And Panama.

Bright lights, big city: Feb 11th, we sailed into Panama City after a 37 hour upwind and up current from Playa Venao. About 10 miles from making our anchorage we could smell the crude oil from all of the ships coming in and out of the Panama Canal. As we neared Panama City, the air got thicker and thicker with pollution, so much so that we could hardly see the skyline of the city itself until we were only a few miles away. Regardless of that, the air was filled with excitement and buzz. We were wide eyed with amazement as we entered the huge port after so many days of quiet seclusion.

We anchored in the anchorage known as Las Brisas just before sunset. We made dinner and ate outside, taking in the view of Panama City’s skyline. We all agreed that it is by far the largest cityscape that we’ve ever seen. As the day set and the darkness of night filled in, the city’s lights shown brilliant across the bay in our direction. This has now been our view for the last four weeks. Yep, four weeks already!

It took about a full week to get our bearings straight. We made friends quickly with a few other sailors who helped show us the lay of the land. I don’t honestly know how we would have figured it out without them. The very first full day we were there happened to be Carnival. Yes, to add chaos to our already overwhelmed feelings, it was Carnival. Places were closed that were normally open and places were packed that were normally not. Our new friends on Brisas 302 and Arc en Ciel showed us how to get into the city and use the bus system. We explored the mall and a few grocery stores, ate out for lunch and returned home for dinner. We avoided the nighttime Carnival scene, we were exhausted from our overnight sail and not quite ready for that kind of excitement.

We spent the next 3 days checking into the country and going to the city exploring. Yes, it took 3 days to check in. Ugh! Yikes! Over the next few weeks we met more sailors from all over the world, took the bus to town for entertainment, arranged for and completed much needed dental work, had family visit, friends visit, and slowly continued to prepare for crossing the Pacific Ocean. We quickly discovered that Panama City is just as expensive as the United States.

So here we are, four weeks later and still a few more to go before we head to the Galapagos and then French Polynesia. Why are we still here? Why did we get here so early just to hang out? We sailors always have our reasons. Ours being, much needed dental work that would take at least 3 weeks to complete. Taj needed is passport renewed, which we did at the US embassy. The turn around for that is two weeks. And most importantly we were waiting for our middle daughter to return from her time with her Papa on March 9th (today!) . She also needs her passport renewed, so we tack on a few more weeks before we can actually go…weather dependent.

I will post more pictures of our small Panama excursions in later posts. But here is this short video for now and a few pics.

Also, don’t forget to check out our videos (part 1 and part 2) of our passage from Mexico to Costa Rica.

#SurfPanama #SailPanama

We enjoyed 13 days of sailing through Panama’s remote Northwest coastline. Upon the end of the second week we sailed into a populated anchorage called Ensenada Venao, known for its protection, waiting to round the point into the Gulf of Panama. Also known as Playa Venao, its in the list of places in Panama for surfing. We went there for all of the above, but especially for the surf. We had a VERY long day sailing the 70 miles from Isla Cebaco to Ensenada Venao (aka Playa Venao or Ensenada Benao). We were able to sail for the first 2.5 hours until we started sailing as high into the wind as possible, with wind speeds fluctuating anywhere from 10kts to 30kts. To top it off, we had a current pushing is back. We were in a very frustrating situation. We needed to have our sails set for 25-30 kt winds for the times when the wind would blow that hard. As soon as the wind dropped to 10 kts we lost all speed (which was only 2-3 kts at best) and we would lose steering from all of the wind chop and current. After a few on and offs with the engine, we made the decision to motor-sail, bashing up into the wind and current. Our goal became “let’s just try to get there before dark”. We ended up motorisailing for over 13 hours. This was a first for us and was a hard choice to make. We basically motored more hours in one day than we had over the last 3 months. The good part of this sail was that we caught a large female Mahi Mahi!

Overall, the day felt like one of those times where you wonder if you did something to bring on bad luck. We were getting so much water over the bow, we discovered new leaks seeping into the V-berth. We lost one of our SUP paddles. A wind gust came on so strong along with bashing into waves that the paddle popped out of its tied up place and sank faster than you could say “we lost a paddle”. Another one fell off too! Of course there’s more to that story. I was down below, cooking, and Christian says nonchalantly, “well we get to do a man over board!” My heart jumped through the ceiling. Then he revised it to “sorry, Ellamae’s paddle fell overboard.” Heart rate went back to normal, mostly. It was great practice that’s for sure and I’m sure glad it wasn’t one of us in the water waiting for us to retrieve them. The good news is that we were successful at retrieving one of the lost paddles! As bad luck normally happens, things happen in threes… Davy Jones wasn’t through with us. As soon as we anchored a gale force gust came up and blew Ellamae’s boogie board right out of its tucked away spot and sent it skipping and flipping across the water and out to sea. The boogie board was in poor condition, so our disappointment in having it blow away was stemmed from feeling terrible about adding to the litter out at sea more than losing the board itself. (Sorry no photos of all the shenanigans, we were too preoccupied).

We arrive at Ensenada Venao at 7:20pm, just before dark. I’d been down below making “sushi” out our Mahi Mahi. I put “ ” marks around sushi, because we cooked the Dorado first, having never heard of it being used raw. A feast was ready to eat as soon as we anchored and relaxed. Based on the guide we had, we did not expect a beach full of hotels and restaurants that lit up the sky come nightfall. I guess we were officially out of remoteness. It brought a bit of excitement aboard. We hadn’t really conversed with many people and we were getting pretty low on our fresh fruits and veggies. The thought of surfing, conversation, people watching, and potentially having wifi was uplifting.

We spent the next four days surfing first thing after coffee. I’d go first, then we’d swap kid duty and Christian would go. I’m still learning, so an hour in the morning worked me. Christian could easily have surfed all day long. We managed to get the kids in through the surf and onto shore to play in the waves and socialize as well. Nina was very happy to meet some other teenage girls that were on vacation from Alaska. She even ended up having a sleepover with them. Lucky girl got a freshwater shower and a memory foam mattress in an air conditioned room!

The offshore winds were pretty strong for the first 3 days, but the weather was overall amazing. The sun is definitely more intense down here closer to the equator. The swell was on the rise starting on the day we arrived. Day 3 was getting so big, that after getting pounded on my surf session I decided it would probably be best to stay aboard with the kids for the day. The wind was blowing too hard to paddle to where the waves were smallest. The next day was just as big, but we needed to get our feet on ground. The wind had finally let up, so Taj, Nina and I hopped on the inflatable SUP, stopped over at the sailboat (S/V Jabiroo II) that came in during the night to say hello, then made our way to the more protected landing further down the beach. I was a bit of a paddle, but we were glad we did it. We explored only the few blocks of the vacation village that was there. We found a cute coffee house and ice cream shop. A produce truck happened to be driving through, so we bought a few affordable greens and plantains. The one and only mini-mart there was overpriced and had a very limited selection of food. We bought one dozen eggs for $4 (doubled that of Mexico prices.

On our way back out to the boat we stopped by S/V Jabiroo II again to chat. They had us aboard and we talked boats. We established that we had actually met them before, up in the San Francisco Bay Area while we were visiting last year and they were making their way south from Canada. It was great to see other cruisers and chat. They had tried rounding the corner to head into Panama City, but got pushed back by the wind and current. Their plans were to leave early in the morning with the ebb tide. Originally we were going to get one last surf in, but looking at the tides and weather, we jumped onboard with their plan. Nina putting away the inflatable xterraboard.

4am the next morning (Sunday) we left by motor alongside with S/V Jabiroo II. It felt great to have other people to commiserate with. We haven’t seen too many other boats down here. I’m guessing the strong winds and currents detours people from making this a regular route, unless of course the intent is to pass through the Panama Canal and head east. We’re glad we took this route though. Seeing Costa Rica and Northwest Panama has been awesome!

I made another S/V Luna Sea recipe. French Bread!