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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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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!

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!