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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

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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!

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.

Costa Rica Continues

After our adventurous start with the zip lines, we sailed down to Quepos. We only spent one night just off the marina and one night anchored off of Punta Quepos. We didn’t find the town too exciting, but it was nice to get coffee, fresh food and walk around.

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After Quepos, we sailed to Manuel Antonio. We anchored in the bay of the National Park, but after a few hours a guard hailed us from the beach. We weren’t allowed to anchor there on Monday, the day they were closed, so we motored over to the public beach. The next day we motored back over to the park and rowed to shore. Again we were approached by the guard stating we had to pay, which we expected, but we found out that we could only pay in Quepos, and then we also had to pay to get into the park, which we had to do in the town. Rather than going back to Quepos, we motored back to the public beach and rowed in with a surf landing that we timed carefully. We found a guide to hire and paid for us all to walk into Manuel Antonio National Park. We saw all sorts of wildlife and it was nice to get a hike in. See our post about it here.  

The next day we sailed down to Dominicalito, but first we stopped for a surf at Dominical. We anchored just off the break and all paddled in. After 2 hours there, we made our way to anchor off the little fishing village in a cove of Dominicalito. There wasn’t much to do there, surf, internet, and groceries were all in Dominical, so for two days in a row, we hitchhiked to Dominical. Dominical is a happening little surf town with many tourists. The prices are a little higher, but you can find Thai food, a natural food store, yoga and massage spa, and Cafe Mono Congo for good coffee and wifi.

Two days there went quickly. Afterward we sailed to Uvita, well more like motored the 12 miles there. One thing is for sure here, we have had to motor a lot more than we like to. The days are mostly cloudy, so our solar input has been low, and the wind has been sparse, so equally, our wind generator hasn’t put out more energy, and the wind leave us drifting. We’ve resolved to motoring, to boost our battery bank and to get to our next anchorage before sunset. Another reason Costa Rica is an expensive place for cruising, it cost more money in fuel.

Uvita is a pretty little town off of another National Park nicked named “The Whale Tail”. We anchored inside of the bay of the Whale Tail and didn’t have to pay to anchor there this time. Although a beautiful beach with lots to see, it was by far one of the rolliest anchorages we’ve been in. We spent two of the days there just checking out the beach area and swimming in the surf. On our third day there, we met up with Ellamae’s dad and his partner CC, who had flown over from Florida to pick her up and take her back with them after a week of traveling Costa Rica for themselves. Ellamae will now be with Papa and CC for the next 2 months and will fly back to Panama, to continue west with us from there.