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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.

Southbound from La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Mexico.

Southbound from La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Mexico. (Dec 6th – 10th, 2017)

At the end of our four day surf binge in Banderas Bay, we took the good weather window out of La Cruz to make our way south. Our destination, Tenacatita, about 130 miles south, would take us about 24 hours with decent conditions.

December 6th, the day started with a warm welcome from Saint Nicholas. One present in the stocking , traditionally a boot left out for Saint Nicholas. We all got 1.5 – 2 mm tops for future surf and snorkeling sessions. As soon as the wind picked up around 10am , we finished prepping the boat and sailed out of the La Cruz anchorage by 10:30. First, we had a wind sail out, then switched to upwind for a few hours. By the time we were just northeast of Cabo Corrientes the wind was in our beam out of the north and slowly cocked behind us, giving us a nice push out of Banderas Bay and pushed us around the corner and south. We ended up wing on wing (main sheeted out to one side and Jib sheeted out with a whisker pole on the other side) around the point and up until about 12 midnight. The seas were pretty flat as the winds 10-15 most of the time. It was only from 10pm – 1 am that we had a reef in the main and the jib partially furled in. The wind slowly started dropping off around 2 am and switched to a broad reach. This made for a few comfortable hours to rest in between watches and the 15-20 minute naps for Christian who was on the 3am – 7 am watch.

Around 8am (1400 Zulu) , we were 5 miles west if Chamela, when Nina performed her Net Control commitment for the Amigo Net. Sea state was calm, wind was about 5 kts, which made for a relaxing morning coffee while we listened to the net. By 11am wind speeds picked up to about 10 kts and we were back to wing on wing , heading straight for Tenacatita. School underway was successful as it was the previous day as well. It seems like we’ve been able to get back in the grove of sailing a lot quicker these days , even after long periods of off season activities. I was happy to be able to go down below to cook and sleep without feeling the slightest bit of sea sickness.

We arrived into Tenacatita under jib alone by 2:30pm. To my surprise it was perfect timing for the daily Tenacatita group swim into shore and Bocci Ball on the beach. I swam as fast as I could to catch up and the rest of the family paddle boarded to shore.

The next few days were more of the same. School, swim, paddle board, boogie board, bocci ball , mangrove paddle, and meeting other cruisers.

below: Taj Kayaking to CarmanahTaj Surfing on his boogie board.paddling up the mangrove.

We even got to participate in the first dinghy raft up of the season! “The Mayor” of Tenacatita , Robert on S/V Harmony always does a great job at getting the cruisers together and making everyone feel welcome. We make the dinghy raft up into a potluck. Each boat brings a dish to share, we all bring our own plates and eating utensils, we pass the food around, eat, and introduce ourselves . The topic to add to our introduction was , “what inspired us to go cruising?”. I left that one to Christian, since we was the one who started sailing as a youngster with his dad. It was great way to learn a little bit about each cruiser. We had a total of 18 boats in the anchorage, not all were present that evening. (Adagio, Aldabra, Bula, Caper, Dos Gatos, Carmanah, Floating Stones, Haramara, Harmony, Hooligan, Kook, Shawnigan, Wind Rose, [and a few boats that In forgetting ] ). Thanks Robert and Virginia for facilitating keeping the Tenacatita community alive!

After a few enjoyable days in Tenacatita, we found ourselves heading to Barra de Navidad, for probably the last time for a long while. Nina will be turning 15 on the 12th and really wants to go out to a restaurant there called “El Riconcito”. We will also be prepping for our next big hop, sailing out of Mexico.

Back on the run, heading south of Mexico for fun!

Well, more like back on the slow sail (not a fast run). My 13 weeks for refilling the kitty turned into 19 and now we’re topped off. We’re hoping $20,000 will take us south from Mexico, into Central America and Westward. The idea is to cross the Pacific in March from Panama, spend our 3 month visa time in French Polynesia, make our way toward Fiji and then head down to New Zealand. Hopefully we’ll arrive in New Zealand November 2018 with just enough $ to find a place for S/V Shawnigan and our Family Afloat and to find myself a job in the NICU.

So now that you know “Plan A”, stay tuned as we make our way south from La Cruz (Puerto Vallarta). Ellamae and I returned to the boat and family on Friday. Saturday and Sunday we spent at the beach surfing and playing with friends. Today is a Boat-School day and Costco provisioning run. We hope to leave on Wednesday for Tenacatita, possibly stop in Barra de Navidad for Nina’s 15th Birthday, then Santiago. This will be our first time south of Barra (except for when Christian was a kid sailing with his father). We are looking forward to new anchorages and new towns to explore!