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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.

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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!

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.