Beautiful Samoa

It was a quick 16 hour motor out of American Samoa on calm Sunday night, September 25th. The winds didn’t fill in as forecasted, and the squall line in the distance provided a nice light show; fortunately the cloud to water lightning bolts were moving away from us. We crossed the date line and arrived on Tuesday, Sept. 27th, famished, hot, thirsty, and pooped with little sleep. The marina turned out to be very nice, almost like home with concrete docks, firm holding cleats, potable water, and a row of restaurants across the street. I went to the top of the dock ramp where the very helpful taxi drivers wait for tourists. Tsukee, the driver pointed out a nice restaurant so ignoring that we hadn’t even checked in with Customs and Immigration, I dashed across, ordered a fish and chips and asked Tsukee to deliver it to the boat. The marina manager and Customs officials are pretty relaxed here. It was great to have all of the officials come to the boat for a change, we didn’t have to figure anything out and best of all, we just relaxed in the cockpit.

The first obvious difference is the traffic driving on the opposite side of the road, and stop lights (there were no stop lights in Am Sam), crosswalks, noise and congestion, with tourists everywhere – mostly New Zealanders and Australians. This is the cheap tourist destination for those countries. The big cruise liners come in once a week and the city is inundated with camera toting tourists. And wearing appalling short shorts, tank tops, and bright white legs.

Here the cars have the right of way, and when you’re not thinking of the opposite flow of traffic it’s dangerous to try and cross the busy street without looking several times. The drivers would just as soon run you down, tagging extra points for the Pelangees. Dogs run wild and one crew member off a neighboring boat was bitten. John had to fight off one vicious dog with his backpack. Next time we’ll carry some rocks.

Once out of the noise and traffic, Samoa is exquisite and peaceful. The air is clean and fresh, the harbor water is clean. The culture here is different from American Samoa even though the citizens of both countries share the same language and religious beliefs. The Samoans are industrious. There are coffee and cocoa plantations, farms with cows and sheep, partly due to the size of Samoa and green lush flatlands. But the streets are cleaner too, the people are much more active – thereby much less rotund, and much more outgoing. The villagers take a lot of pride in their homes and work hard to present a beautified village.img_3596 Each home has a “pavilion” or family gathering place where family and guests are welcomed. Pavillions are open on all sides, ornate, colorful, draped in Samoan prints, maybe they’re concrete, some are wood, some are actually lived in, and some are grass huts. There are stone base pavilions that have been in the family for generations, lichen covered boulders were amazing. All unique and inviting.

The Matatua village chief, Tusi Tuatua nickname “Junior” our driver took us on an island tour. We started the day at the Robert Louis Stevenson mansion/museum. His tomb is at the top of the mountain, a 1.5 mile hike up the hillside. The Samoans revere him, they sing his poem in their Sunday church services. A very beautiful home – Vila Vailima, most of it has been refurbished due to the high humidity and salt air. However there are quite a few original bedroom furniture pieces, his writing box and inks, books in glass cases, and California redwood paneling.

We continued on to the high waterfalls,img_0955 lower falls flowing into swimming pools carved into the bedrock, and along the coastline collapsed lava tubes nearly 100’ deep have been turned into swimming pools with a slippery,img_3600 moss covered ladder leading down to a platform over the water named the “sea trench”. There were several other lava tube pools along the seaside where fresh water flows from the high mountains.

There are spectacular, fine white sand beaches, rocky cliffs, rough flowing black lava cliffs and bedrock.  John swam in all the fresh and sea water timg_0963ide pools; clear, emerald green ocean with deep blue trenches, img_3605 breathtaking views from the cool refreshing mountain tops when not draped with fast moving clouds. We picked a cocoa pod and ate the green pith around the cocoa bean. It was a citrus flavor with a sweet note.  Cocoa, coconut, banana, papaya, and mango trees are along the roadside, begging to be plucked.

We’ve been very fortunate, most of our weather has been tolerable. The rain has moved in the last couple of days and the temperature feels like it’s 95 degrees in the boat. Somewhere around 2:00 a.m. it finally cools enough to sleep.

We provisioned heavily while in Am Samoa so we aren’t in need of anything but fresh fruits and veggies. Things are a little more expensive here. The fruits and veggies are nicer here with more variety. A 3# bag of eggplant costs about $1.25. Mangoes are in season with several varieties and so sweet. The pineapples and papayas are juicy and wonderful. We purchased a small bag of fresh bitter cocoa, ready to grate for baking or to drink in the coffee. Also a fresh bag of cocoa beans ready to roast and eat as you would almonds. The flavor is indescribable. As to greens – well the hot weather isn’t great for growing greens and we miss the green salads of home.

We didn’t bother figuring out the bus system, the bus stops aren’t marked and not sure where they’re located. The taxis are very cheap, $5 tala – about $2 US will take you anywhere. But as in American Samoa, each stop will cost $5 tala for each stop. We walk a lot of miles, we’re getting even thinner.

My elbows have healed well enough, I no longer wear elbow braces and as long as I don’t carry, lift, push and pull, or strain in any fashion – I’ll make it. Good thing John is strong and able-bodied, mm-hmm. In case you’re wondering, somehow I developed tendonitis in both elbows back in Am Sam and wore elbow braces for nearly 3 weeks. I couldn’t lift even a pan without intense pain. Daily doses of Advil and splashes of Gin lessened the pain at night.

We were set to leave a week ago but a big low depression developed north of Fiji driving 45 knot winds and steep seas. We calculated our trip northward and the last 200 miles forecasted into Tuvalu would’ve been plowing through 15 – 20 knot northerlies with 6-8’ washboard chop, a repeat of our trip from Bora Bora to Suwarrow back in July. No, thank you very much. So we’re looking at the weather for a 6 day trip – 630 miles, so far it’s looking like the next couple of days we’ll be heading out. Cross our fingers the SPCZ (South Pacific Convergence Zone) – stays quiet and well south of us allowing the East tradewinds to fill in. And, while we’re asking the Weather Gods/Neptune, can we have no squalls with lightning?

Follow us as we head north to Tuvalu, you can watch our progress on the DeLorme tracker and we post daily comments. We try to say nice things, never curse, and laugh to appease the Weather Gods.

Farewell American Samoa

We are close to departing Pago Pago, Am Samoa; bound for Apia, Samoa. We’ve been here 2 months, a little longer than anticipated but so much of our plans changed in the short term. Some due to maintenance and waiting for parts, and then the timing of our son’s wedding happened to coincide with our plans. It all worked out for the best, we were ecstatic to see at least two family members and share their joyous day. 20160916_175202-15433

Our  1 week vacation in Maui was very relaxing!

Just a few highlights of our adventures here in Pago Pago.

This is the fish sensor that was floating on the surface as we sailed from Bora Bora to Suwarrow back in July. The 8×8 foot square 2″ tubular frame has a sensor (the sensor is to my right) that sends a gps signal to the fishing fleet via a solar powered float. img_3288The sensor indicates the shadows or presence of fish huddling under the netting, an indication that large schools of fish are nearby. It took off a 3″ stripe of our bottom paint and stole our lucky fish line and squiggly squid hook. There are hundreds of hazardous counters floating on the ocean surface, mostly deployed by the Asian fishing fleets. This one washed up on the beach in Suwarrow. The solar panel was still intact.  As a result of losing our lucky line our catches dwindled in size and flavor. img_0833The always-so positive fisherman wouldn’t give up even the largest flying fish we’ve had, and I vehemently declined his smelly offer of dinner.   It became one of our shopping expeditions to find more hand line and fishing gear when we arrived in Pago Pago. No easy feat here amongst the giant tuna fleet that has scooped up all the “big fish”  gear leaving only 8 pound line and small hooks on the shelves. Fortunately we were able to buy more fishing gear while in Hawaii.

Speaking of dwindling fish, here is the ruin of our ocean. img_20160923_093121All the large fishing fleets use these one mile nets with “cork”(hard foam) floats to haul in all the fish, squid, anything that can be trapped. Starkist and Samoa Tuna packing companies are the largest employers on the island. Often times the nets break and drift away trapping and killing whales and dolphins, and ensnaring sailboats.img_0840 There is now a shortage of wahoo, restaurants serving fish here have signs posted  “wahoo shortage”.  One day soon, expect to see a sign posted  “Ciguatera fish only, take your chances.”


We woke up one morning to see a “bomb” floating towards us. John got into the dinghy to investigate, lassoed and drug it to shore. img_0868Turned out to be a tuna boat fender, heavy rubber with giant rusty swivels about 2 feet in diameter, 5 feet long. Another hazard out on the ocean.

We hiked along the Southwestern ridge of the harbor about 2000′ in elevation.  The old tram is still up there. The massive steel structure slowly rusts away.img_3396It was decommissioned after the 1980 Flag Day accident. The P-3 military airplane came in too low and caught the tram cable. The cable cars still remain on both sides of the harbor. img_3363This is the remains of the other side of the harbor tram and the view that people waited in line for. Beautiful scenery looking across the caldera from higher tram, the picture doesn’t do it justice.img_3395


The entertainment of the island, “The Bus”!  The buses are privately owned. For a buck you can ride anywhere but if you get off for one errand and get back on to travel to another destination looking for parts or groceries (no Fred Meyer One Stop Shopping here) you pay another buck. Add all up those “ons and offs” for 2 people, it’s not that cheap anymore. But the buses have their own personalities fashioned after the owners and they are very intriguing. The sound system deafens you, the blown speakers vibrate and beat against the wall of the bus. The small 30″ wide seats shared with large Samoans will cramp you and half of your butt will hang out into the 2 foot isle only to be pinched by the rider’s leg on the next seat over. We haven’t seen a bus that doesn’t have a picture of Jesus or a poster of religious saying. The exterior paint schemes, music and dash decorations represent the owners. The interiors range in beautifully treated wood, plywood flooring, bench seats, some padded seats, plexiglass windows that hang between 2 rails, the bus driver’s windows are home sliding windows and scabbed into the sides.

The music is a little strange. Western music, 70’s hits including BeeGees, Techno-Pop Reggae blend, Hymns, some Beyoncé, and other music sung in Samoan blasting away as we rumble down the highway,  or sung behind your ear by one of the riders.

Just a few of the buses…












Just some other comical pictures of us hanging out in this place much like home, yet so far from home and family. 1 Pamplemousse for breakfast, lunch and dinner weighed over 4 pounds.



A rainy day poking around the Southwest tram, we waited inside the car until the rain let up.


The fiddlehead fern was over 7′ tall, the stem is a the size of a small tree limb.





Hello! How are You?!!

Summer is winding down in the states. We hope you had a wonderful summer,  the Fall Equinox  is around the corner. Our favorite time of year!

We’ve been asked the same question from our families and friends since we’ve been in American Samoa – “What’s Up?”  We’ve had several passage plans written in the sand, completed the chart downloads and sent off the country applications only to be washed away by the ongoing waves. Fiji timing came and went, Tonga destination is still under consideration, waiting to see what the weather and the timing of the cyclone season brings us.

So what else are we doing? Wellll, it’s pretty boring stuff working on the boat. We’ve gone through the entire boat cleaning sails, lines, polishing the stainless steel, digging through lazarettes. Cleaning the mold growing on the cabin interior, drawers, shoes and clothing; the humidity here is 99%, just shy of dripping off the ceiling. Discarded galley items we deemed useless, moldy books, old ratty and new clothes that are too hot to wear, bits of this and that. It’s truly amazing we filled several boxes and hauled it off the boat. The goal is to be able to sleep in our v-berth while in port, the salon bed is pretty cozy for the two of us on a regular basis. We spent 3 days between cleaning the dinghy bottom covered with algae and fouled with nasty green growth, and re-sewing the chewed up dinghy chaps. We scraped and polished it back to new.

The 3 year old 250’ anchor chain nearly corroded through a couple of links from using a stainless steel snubber hook, fortunately John caught that when we moved to the dock. Really bad news – it was in the middle of the chain. John cut out the rusty links and pounded in a joining link, took him about 2 hours in the hot sun on the dock using a ballpeen hammer and piece of steel. We used some bad advice cutting off 50’ of the new chain before we left Portland to reduce the bow weight. Next time we’ll bring a regular hammer too.

We purchased a lot of boat spares and routine maintenance items from home and had those delivered via USPS. And as always, one small routine maintenance turns out to be an add-on to some other issue that needs attention. The electric bilge pump gave out, the raw waterpump couldn’t be fixed, and the new laptop wouldn’t boot, and 3 of the Renogy flexible solar panels stopped working, along with several other typical maintenance items that are necessary to maintain a great sailing boat. A lot of island time, swearing and ranting, head scratching, and a flattened wallet, all is now taken care of.

So on to the good parts. We’ve done a 9 mile hike across the island ridgetop, hiked up to the refreshing waterfall,img_3392


and had one day of snorkeling and feasting at a famous place called Tisa’s. We enjoyed the traditional Samoan Umu roast during the August Sturgeon full moon.img_3418

First the fire is built above ground, rocks are added, then layers of green banana leaves are laid on top. The meat and fish are wrapped in banana leaves, layers of taro root, pumpkin squash, and bananas are added;  tuna and octopus roasted in husked coconut shells,img_3425 with more layers of leaves and left to steam for several hours. Great food and fun with other cruisers.

John installed a cockpit table, it is wonderful to sit outside and eat at a table or work on the computers. It swivels 360 degrees on a swing arm and has adjustable height.  img_0875We purchased the same Lagun swivel arm and bracket mount that our friends on SV Sababa has. Thanks Tim and Lindsey for the great idea! The table is removable when underway.

Am Sam is a wonderful relaxing place to hang out, and the term “island time” really originated from this place. The family owned buses are on their own schedule, the food comes out when it is finally ready (and cold), even the airport is laid back. People are in no rush to be anywhere in particular.

There are several unpleasant facets to this island. I’m on my soapbox now. Trash is one of the biggest complaints. They just don’t seem to care enough. Styrofoam containers are used on top of serving plates, plastic utensils and cups are used – there isn’t a water shortage for cleaning, they just like the disposable system. The wind blows it all away.

The portion sizes are mind boggling! I asked for a $3.50 sundae, I got nearly a quart of ice cream topped with chocolate syrup, cherries, and whipped cream all overflowing from the container.img_20160909_125951 Of course it was served in a Styrofoam container on a plate layered with waxed paper. We stopped for a “quick” burger lunch the other day. A giant bun, ½ pound of meat, cheese, no lettuce available, large portion of crispy fires, a large scoop of macaroni salad and a coke. I overstuffed myself with 1/3 of the lunch. “Skinny Pelangy” (pelangy means white person) as John has been called by several people did manage to eat his entire meal but he needs to eat. The lady next to us ate her entire meal and shouldn’t have. It’s no wonder these people have the highest obesity rate in the world as they continue to gorge and enlarge; and they’re on our healthcare system! PUT DOWN THAT DAMN FORK! The poor kids are built like little building blocks with bags of chips and soft drinks glued to their sides. Boycott McDonalds, Carl’s Jr, Coke, Pepsi, and any other junk food producers. Tax the hell out of junk food.

If it wasn’t for the humidity, lousy anchorage and bugs, and expensive commute back to the states, we’d consider calling Am Samoa home 4 months out of the year. We enjoy the beautiful island and friendly community, the bus system, hiking, and limited shopping.

The timing of our projects and washed away sailing plans all worked out though. Our son is getting married in Maui this week so we flew in yesterday. It’s a nice vacation sitting here in the rented air conditioned condo with a comfy couch, king bed that doesn’t roll from side to side, 2 bathrooms with lots of  hot water, a regular oven, full size upright refrigerator with ice cubes pouring out, and neighbors who knocked on our door to hand over 3 bags of food including a large bottle of vodka. We’re taking advantage of the fast-fast wifi to update the new computer, complete more downloads of the North Pacific region for our upcoming journey.

Wonder if we’ll make Tonga, we’ll keep you posted. I promise!

American Samoa – A Touch Of Home

We packed up the dinghy, readied the boat, departed Suwarrow early Wednesday, July 20, bound for American Samoa 459 miles on a SW direction. A 4 day passage.  imageThe weather router, Bob McDavitt in New Zealand,  indicated a “squash zone” would drape across Tuvalu in the Gilbert Islands, Am Sam and eastward toward the northern Cook Islands. A squash zone is an area between high- and low- pressure systems moving closer, compressing the isobars between the two. Often times the squash can cause even higher winds as one pressure system remains relatively stationary.  We looked at our weather satellite photos, the grib and surface analysis forecasts and decided we were far enough north and wouldn’t be greatly affected.
The anchor had wrapped a corner of one small bommie but slipped off easily as the wind pushed the boat sideways. John secured the anchor and we followed our inbound GPS track on the chartplotter. The tide was lower as we passed over the reefs and so crystal clear, we could see the reef 50′ below us  as if it were within 5′ of the boat’s bottom.
Out on the open ocean once again we adjusted  into our passage mode. The wind was light, it was clear and warm, we threw in our fishing line and settled into the cockpit. By noon, the fresh trade winds picks up from the SE and our boat speed picked up to an even 6 kts over 1.5 meter swells, another great sailing day that lasted into the wee morning hours.
By 9:00 a.m. The high overcast began to move in killing the winds, horse-tail clouds foretold the change of weather way too soon.  The winds dropped down to 10 kts and our boat speed followed suit. We unfurled  all the sails and lazily sailed a flat 4.0 kts. For whatever the reason this passage caused me to not feel well. I didn’t have the energy or inclination to do anything, I just wanted to sleep. Fortunately John and I often alternate the low energy spells on passages.
We pulled another set of forecast files from the SSB, the squash zone was forecasted to intensify over Am Sam area by Saturday/Sunday, our anticipated arrival date. The squall zones started lining up behind us as the day grew darker. imageWe turned on the radar and watched a thick yellow oval shape line up, spanning 25 miles SE to NW behind us, moving faster than our boat speed. We dubbed it “the yellow submarine”.  The wind was starting to come in gusts, our cue to start reducing sail area. Torrential rain poured for a few moments at at time, stop, the wind lightened up. Over and over for the next twelve hours. By this time I had a pounding migraine, generally an indication of low pressure sitting over me. I asked John to consider maintaining 6 kts however we could to arrive before Saturday nightfall to enter the harbor and anchor. With the fluky winds, the seas built to 2-3 meters coming from east to southeast directly behind us. Another rolly day as the Westsail hull is too wine-glass shaped to move forward flatly with wind coming from directly behind. It will roll from side to side, interfering with the boat efficiency.
Over the course of the next 48 hours we motored most of the way. At times we were able to shut down and sail at 6.0 kts when a squall passed over but then the wind would drop back down and we’d roll side to side doing 4.0 kts or less watching the large looming waves coming at us. By Saturday’s predawn hours the waves calmed down as we passed north, hidden behind Manua Islands, 60 miles out from Am Sam. For a few hours we had some relief from the unruly waves. I actually began to feel much better too.

The sight of AmSam’s jagged mountains appeared over the horizon, it was noon and the rain had stopped. The sun was shining between the large cumulus build ups, happy rainbows popped out. We entered the wide harbor entrance at 4:30 p.m. with plenty of time to anchor. The wind was blowing 20 kts and even with the boat set at 1200 rpm, we were moving at 5.0 kts.

There were just a dozen boats in the anchorage, plenty of swinging room for us. I shifted to neutral and got the boat speed down to 3.0 kts as John went forward to ready the 45# CQR anchor. All boater eyes on us, we were up for the “anchoring dance”.   We threaded our way between boats toward shallower waters, looking for 35 – 40′ depth.
A brief history of the anchorage. The 2009 tsunami that swept across The So. PAC did major damage in the Am Sam island. Boats were totaled, loss of life, city destruction took place and the harbor is still filled with debris.  Anchoring here isn’t easy and often times boat anchors become ensnared in all sorts of things. Concrete blocks,  Mattress, tires, bedding, ropes, chain, baby playpen, garbage of all sorts.
And we’re going to find a place free of obstruction. We watched our fish finder, the bottom looked flat, a few large bumps, a couple of sprawling mounds but at last we found the spot between two boats with 200′ of swinging room between us. I always drive the boat while John  manages the anchor and chain dropping. We have great hand signals that keep us communicating without having to shout the commands over the wind and engine noise.
John gave the first command, I stopped the boat. He dropped the anchor, the boat started drifting back from the wind, John payed out a 3:1 scope, i.e., 40′ depth would equal 120′ of chain lying in a line. At that point, he keeps his hand on the chain and  manual windlass (chain pulley with gear teeth that helps pull in or let out chain using a long handle for cranking). As I back down, let out another 60′ of chain, final tug at 1200-1400 rpm to gauge the holding. He can feel if the anchor dug into the bottom properly by the vibration of chain. We both can tell if the anchor didn’t set, we continue to drift backwards, the boat feels very light on the helm to me and from visual land cues we can see movement. Not good.
Wellll, today was one of those days that lip reading was first. I read John’s highly pronounced lips long before the ‘wave off’ wagging head signal happened! John pulled up a plastic bag filled with garbage. imageStart over. We moved into a new position, just slightly ahead, repeated the arduous task. Again,  No joy.
Let me tell you, John has some finely sculpted muscles since we’ve left the states. All the anchor and chain, rope and rigging pulling has given his upper torso a lot of definition and mass. Even the tattoo artist was impressed.
We tried again, MORE pronounced lip reading from both ends of the boat. John came back to the cockpit and huffed that he didn’t think he would be able to pull it again, especially with more garbage attached to the anchor. I looked around, several boaters were watching us and waving directions.  They all had ideas of where we should try next but we saw the lumps and bumps on the harbor bed.
We drove a ways ahead from the anchorage to take a break and discuss our options. “One more time Honey, you can do this”.  And as Tammy on Anjuli would’ve said to Dan ” don’t be a wuss!” We drove back in, found 38′ of clear bottom. John dropped, I maneuvered the boat and reverse speed. It set! 2 hours later, 3 times of dropping and pulling back up, and not so nice  words about with the anchorage area. 4th time we shut down and gave ourselves the ritual high five hand slap.

An item to purchase: the electric windlass. We heard, discussed, read all the pros and cons, and I am determined to have one, John isn’t so sure.

As it tuned out, we made a wise decision to motor the 40 some hours, the wind picked up close to 25 kts in the anchorage that night.  We set the anchor watch and slept with one eye open. A boat came in on Sunday, did the same dance next to us and mentioned the sea was extremely rough and uncomfortable. He is a 40′ catamaran that performs well in downwind sailing configuration.

Pago Pago, pronounced Pango Pango,  looks and feels like a small Oregon coastal town. Large tuna boats, semi-large container freighters, long high piers for the inter island ferry, smaller fishing fleet boats, mountains surrounding the harbor, tall green trees line the mountains, the Starkist tuna plant gives it the fishing town smell, McDonalds and Carl’s Jr have their special meal deals, (should be banned in my opinion due to the obesity issues here), the Toyota dealership is across the way, colorful buses drive by, the homes have the American design, – colorful  ranch style with peaked roofs and driveways. The American and Am Samoa flags fly on poles throughout the city. Very different from Fr. Poly and Mexico.

imageOur first trip ashore on Monday to check in was so pleasant. The harbor master, customs and immigration process was lengthy but easy. The officials are so kind and welcoming. We could read the street signs, wonderful friendly people called out to us in English, we saw nice coffee shops, open fruit market, clothing shops, all the buses had signs we could read. The ADA wheelchair signs are prominent in the parking lots, the political campaign signs are up.  Just enough to make us feel comfortable and at home. We’re not so lonely here. If it wasn’t for the constant blowing wind funneling through the harbor we could actually live here on our boat.

Food prices are slightly higher than Oregon but that is to be expected with the cost of shipping. Most American brands are here with lots of Asian products. A melding pot of Asian and European descent folks. The Samoans are very large people, not so much tall, just wide. Most of the women have their clothes designed and hand sewn here. There must be one sewing shop on every other block. They  proudly display their personalized clothing in the windows. The dress code is on the modest side. Cover thy scandalous knees, no bare shoulders. I wear my long beach pants and tee-shirts, goodbye flowery shorts.
I went to the laundromat, what a treat to load the washer, push all the buttons for fun and watch the agitator.  Then, to have the clothes dried in hot air, shrinking our stretched out tee shirts back to normal size. Aah , the smell of fresh dried clothes!

Sunday is worship quiet day. Most of the stores are closed, the buses don’t run except the church buses filled with smartly dressed citizens. Beautiful!

It’s amazing to interact with the genuine, friendly people and listen to their  personal  history connected to this island. Everyone we’ve met has some personal connection to mainland US. They want to know where we’re from, what its like,  how many kids we have, how long have we been out, how long we plan to stay, where are we going next.  We found out the Am Sam citizens vote in the US presidential elections. The cab driver wanted to hear our political views so his children have a better idea of what the average American thinks of the candidates. Oh boy, bad year to talk about our views.

The wind has been blowing hard everyday and we’ve tried to make sure one person is aboard at all times. It’s suppose to calm down this weekend so maybe we’ll go ashore together to do some sightseeing. The coastline is just as beautiful as Suwarrow, long white beaches lined with coconut trees, deep blue, emerald to light green water surrounding uprising rocks 200′ tall covered with lush vegetation. This is a view taken from the WWII memorial site trail. The main highway along the coastline winds around for miles, the bus ride is very scenic.image

We are starting our boat projects, taking advantage of the beautiful scenery with hikes planned and a festival this weekend.


Bora Bora to Suwarrow July 7 – July 15

Our passage was 700 miles, it should have taken us 5-6 days, 7 at most if we had very light winds. The first two days were very boisterous sailing conditions.  The wind was up to 25 kts and the seas kicked up to over 3 meters from the SE, breaking over our port quarter across the stern. At times we saw 10.7 kts on the speed log as we surfed down some of the larger waves. We had a triple reefed mainsail, reefed staysail and reefed Yankee down to 70% and sailed with a nice balance on the helm. We sailed 147 miles the first day despite the breaking waves. By the third day the SE wind lightened up and we cruised along at 130 miles a day, felt much better, our appetites had returned and got into a sleep pattern that gave us enough rest.

We had two glorious days and nights of velvety sailing, 15 kts of SSW steady wind, with mostly flat seas. The days were were spent reading and basking in the shaded cockpit watching the 1 meter seas roll by with full sails pulling us along at an easy 6 kts. By 8:00 p.m. the moon had already set allowing a full sky of stars and the intensely bright southern Milky Way.   The southern cross normally highly visible blended into the backdrop of the star maze. We even had a small meteor shower for a few hours. As tired as we were we couldn’t stop watching the night  sky.

On one of the fine sailing days, John looked out to the port side and jumped up as we watched a large 24″ diameter counter with solar power drift next to the boat. It was that same instant he looked back behind the boat to see that it was tethered to a large 6′ X 6′ floating 2″ tubular steel frame with net and buoy balls. It was a fish attraction shade, the counter sends a GPS coordinate to the fishing boats informing them the quantity of fish in the area. We had sailed directly over the top of it!  All we can say is we are so grateful for our full keel boat and the keel guard cover plate between the rudder and hull. Had we been a fin keel it could have wrapped around the fin,rudder and or propellor. Also we were sailing and the propellor wasn’t in danger of over wrap. Our lucky, lucky day! Later at anchor we were to see that our bottom paint was totally stripped off in a 3″ wide stripe from the cut water fitting (a fitting that holds the bow sprit to the hull of the boat) to the rudder. John barked at me to let go of the fishing hand line I was trying to save. I lost my lucky, favorite fish hand line, it hooked the net and took everything with a huge yanking snap. Better to lose the line than my fingers.

Alas, the weather constantly changes and we saw from our daily weather satellite and wind forecasts that a very large trough was moving on an easterly course,  well to our south, driving 40-45 kts of wind and large, tall seas  from Fiji to the Society Islands, Fr. Polynesia. We listened on the radio net to the group of boats bound for Tonga as they approached the front. We felt concerned for them but they were well seasoned sailors with good sturdy boats, at most they would lose their appetites and have a couple of sleepless nights.  We knew we wouldn’t get the full brunt of its fury as we were headed in a  more NW direction but wind and seas that large in strength have long tentacles. The wind picked up right on our NW  nose, 20-25 kts with short 6′ waves 3-5 seconds apart, looked like a giant washboard as we leapt and crashed over each white, angry wave. We were being pounded. The boat smashed bow down hard into the troughs, jarring every bone in our bodies, clanging dishes, books, and seat cushions were thrashing around down below. Walls of sea water splashed back well over the dodger and Bimini – (the sun cover over the cockpit), water was running down the walkways in a steady stream. We were drenched, there was no sitting down in the pools of water rushing down into our cockpit seating. The only saving grace – it wasn’t too cold and we didn’t need sunglasses.
We were close hauled – boat pointed as close to the wind direction as possible, headed in a  more NW direction. The sails were working as hard as they could, we were making only 1 kt of headway. We tried falling off the wind (point the boat in a different direction) but there were only 2 options: go south into stronger winds and bigger seas or go north away from our destination where the wind and seas weren’t any better. We started the engine and decided to motor to get through the front as quickly as possible. Mm-hmm, plans are wonderful fantasies! The first hour we bashed and crashed into the waves. The bow dipped, the stern rose up, growled as the propeller cavitation beat the water into a white foamy froth.  The second hour we called out “UNCLE”!  With 2000 rpm and sails, we were making only 2 kts of headway! Normally 2000 rpm will push us along at 5-6 kts, but not this day. A quick calculation said we would burn through all of our fuel in the remaining 119 miles of  our trip. Suwarrow Island doesn’t have fuel or provisioning supplies and there was another 450 mile leg to go after Suwarrow. Exhausted, hungry, achey, sticky with sea water, we shut the engine down and hove to -sails on opposite sides of the mast to stop forward motion and keeps the bow pointing toward the the waves.

Immediately the calm settled over us, relieved,  we shed our wet underwear and hid down below for nearly 23 hours. The wind and seas never took a break, the wind howled through the rigging as the wind and waves pushed us backwards nearly 57 miles! At noon the next day we looked at the conditions,  determined to gain back our distance we tried to sail due north. It took us 8 hours as we motor sailed 55 miles back to our original hove to position. Determination and logic dont always produce the desired results when you’re dealing with Mother Nature. We shut down and hove to again for another 12 hours. At 5:00 a.m. The wind had died down, we released the sails and slowly sailed at 3.5 kts towards Suwarrow. By noon the wind gradually picked back up to a steady 15 kts and we had a marvelous 20 hour sail to the welcoming entrance of Suwarrow.

Suwarrow Island : Atoll. Part of the northern Cook Islands, governed by New Zealand. Very remote atoll, only one entrance on the NE side. The wind was still blowing at 15 kts when we furled the headsails. The current wanted to push us closer to the reef so we carried a little extra speed and had the mainsail ready to rehoist should anything happen to the engine.  We monitored  both the Garmin chartplotter and I-Sailor app on the IPad to navigate over the reefs and winding channel, both systems were spot on. Not too bad, just pay attention.
Suwarrow selfie
The largest island known as Anchorage island is less than 1/2 mile across, about 2-3 miles in diameter. A Small anchorage is in front of the island in the atoll, but can hold as many as 20 boats before the anchorage becomes over 100′ deep.  SuwarrowThe finely crushed coral beach entices you to heaven with mature coconut trees overhanging the lagoon, shady areas along the beach have comfortable weather worn benches, a fire pit for bbqs, a large hammock made from fishing net, mountains of fascinating, colorful shells draw your attention to the ground, giant hermit crabs walk along unafraid. Aside from the wind blowing in the trees, ocean waves crashing on the distant reefs, the birds whooping in mid air,  there are no other sounds.
Suwarrow anchorage
There are several other small islands within the lagoon but due to the fragile ecosystem, it is no longer permissible to dinghy out to the other tiny  Motus/islands. Scuba diving has also been disallowed. We arrived amongst the company of 2 other boats, one of which followed us out of Bora Bora but because of the boat size, steel, tall freeboard bow and hull, large engine carrying 1,000 liters of fuel was able to motor the entire way. But despite Morild’s advantages, they were also delayed 24 hours to Suwarrow. We didn’t feel like such wieners after talking to them.

Harry and Pai, the very friendly Customs and Immigration officers radioed us and gave us a better location for anchoring than we had chosen. We motored to the back of the other 2 boats, dropped anchor in 55 feet, mostly bommie  free, white sand, with the usual welcoming committee of no less than 6 sharks circling us as we shutdown. We barely had time to get the cabin back in presentable order, put on some clothes and throw out the fenders before they arrived in their 20′ aluminum skiff. This was a first for us- not even in formal Mexico, Fr. Poly were we boarded. The inspection, fumigation – an aerosol can of bug killer sprayed through the air for 15 seconds, paperwork, payment of $50 took an hour. The only eyebrow raising was the fact we were carrying 24 cans of beer in addition to the abundant quantity of other spirits. HArry was very excited to receive a six pack to lighten our stores in exchange for 5 pounds of freshly caught yellow fin tuna.

Harry and Pai had gone fishing earlier that morning and caught 7, very beautiful  rainbow runner fish. I believe they may be part of the tuna family. About 26″ in length, weighing nearly 5 pounds each, Harry roasted them over the open BBQ pit. They served rice with coconut curry sauce while the yachties brought the other potluck food. A fabulous way to end a long tough sail, on a remote island with less than a dozen people, sitting under the stars, with a cooling breeze flowing across the lagoon. We carved out trenches in the sand, chose the biggest hermit crabs and had a humorous race watching the silly crabs claw their way forward. It was a truly magical evening on a very mystical island.
That day was worth every muscle ache, salty faced grimace and foul language moment, the sailing days we dream of, the idyllic anchorages and people, and why we continue on through the often times, ill tempered ocean.

The 5 days we spent in Suwarrow were spent paddle boarding and snorkeling across massive coral bommies  teeming with damsel fish, schools of multi colored parrot fish, other unidentifiable colorful  reef fish, strange looking eel creature, and sharks. One day the torrential rain blew in, we showered on deck, captured 25 gallons of rainwater, and hung our swimsuits out for the fresh water rinse. That felt really good as we had to conserve our fresh water for the next leg of the journey.
We lucked out and got to see the manta ray that come in for their 7:00 a.m. early morning cleaning. Small parasitic fish swim on top of the manta ray eating the algae and harmful parasites. We were fortunate, the other boats missed them. Unfortunately the 4′ grey shark took a special interest in my mass despite my growling and waving of limbs to make myself look bigger. Ooh, warm breakfast: rolls and ham hocks on that frame. I confined myself to the dinghy while John bravely continued to film the ray.
One day we had 15 black tip sharks circling the boat, rather a creepy feeling to watch their beady little eyes. They weren’t interested in my swishing fingers to get a close up picture.

The path to the north side of island is dense through the coconut trees, underbrush and mangrove bush. We fed the tuna skin and bone remains to the sharks in ankle deep water. It didn’t take long to have 6-7 sharks snapping and thrashing to catch the tasty morsels.  Hoping to see from where we sailed, we unfortunately were besieged with enormous amounts of trash. Here stretches the human impact on the  planet.  Plastic in every form from our highly civilized existence. John collected 7 toothbrushes within a 10 foot stretch of beach. Bottles, shoes, rope, netting, toys, everything and anything. Such a tragedy to see what we are leaving behind in our wake of free will and reign over the fish and mammals. We hung our heads in shame and silently circumnavigated the reef back to the lagoon.

We took pictures of the famous cabin and Living improvements that Tom Neale built during his stay alone on the island during 1957. Suwarrow RangersThe Rangers currently  live in an open A frame “house” complete with generator, lights and a freezer for their 7 month stay on the island. The kitchen is a separate area with some shelves for stores, dishes and a 2 burner propane camp stove. Their beds are in the open air, the picnic style table and benches share the same space. They catch rain water from the gutters, filing a 500 gallon cistern. When it rains they pull down the tarps that are nailed to the frame. A very simple, often times lonely existence – monitor the boats that are anchored and fish for their food.
Nothing else grows on the island except breadfruit and coconut. The coconut crabs are illegal to eat and fishing in the lagoon is prohibited. A good thing as it attracts the larger gray sharks.

As we checked out we left our departing gifts to our hosts.  A dozen eggs, 2 pampelmousse, and 2 additional beers. We were sad to leave this magnificent place, so pristine and different from south Fakarava.

The sail to American Samoa, a touch of home for the homesick sailors is next.

Departing French Polynesia

Some of the best times we had in Fr. Poly were spent in Nuku Hiva, Marquesas; South Fakarava, Tuamotu; Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora. bora boraAnchored at the Bora Bora Yacht Club with this beautiful view of Mt. Otemanu, 727M tall towering over our bow.

We missed out on Huahine and several other islands in the Tuamotu but there is so much more to see on our journey.

Fascinating archeological sites – we would’ve visited each one if time allowed, jagged volcanic terrain, diverse Marquesan culture, beautiful Tahitian artisans and woodcrafters, fakaravasnorkeling in pristine turquoise water, collecting shells, paddleboarding across the colorful coral reefs filled with exotic fish all made our visit exquisite and unforgettable.  The 90 day visa wasn’t long enough, we really wanted more time but getting the extended visa while living in Oregon just didn’t work for us.

Our 15 days in Raiatea and Tahaa were spent on a mooring ball hiding behind the mountains in semi sheltered anchorages from torrential downpours, steady winds of 25+ kts –  gusting over 45+ on some days, blinding lightening and thunder directly overhead.

The deep anchorages in Raiatea and Tahaa were unexpected and we probably missed out on a lot of sights due to bad weather and not wanting to take chances dragging anchor. We heard several calls from boaters requesting assistance, mostly boats that dragged anchor and ended up on the reefs.

But we managed to visit the fragrant vanilla farm on Tahaa – known as the vanilla island, and loaded up with fresh vanilla products. scooter selfieWe also rented a scooter to see Raiatea, that was a fun trip motoring through the villages and interior farm land. The pearl farm was very interesting and the black pearls are exquisite! Couldn’t load up on those but John bought me a beautiful set of earrings.

We won’t miss the painful no-nos (no see-ums) their bites and itching lasted for over 2 long weeks, the pesky mosquitoes that left quarter-sized welts, expensive food, agonizing slow wifi connection  – if there was any at all, and the constant smoky air from burning piles of vegetation.

We met so many cruisers from all over the world, we kept a log of the boats that we met more than twice in the anchorages. Some were from Mexico that came across as part of the Pacific Puddle Jumpers, foreign nationals on their way home via the Panama Canal having been around the world already, and a lot of newbies like ourselves.  We received a tremendous amount of information and knowledge from cruisers that had already been to the places on our future cruising route. It was hard to say good bye to those we bonded with, we will miss our sailing buddies who are heading off to Tonga and beyond.

We wrap up this leg of our adventurous passage making and mark our one year cruising life all in the same week.  1 yr sailingWe laugh at our mistakes – thankfully we didn’t suffer losses, shed tears when we wave goodbye to friends, cry when I think of family at home, toast our accomplishments with lots of rum and whiskey, and high five ourselves when we set the anchor in the idyllic waters.  We’ve discovered so much more about the world and Pacific ocean, ourselves, each other, our boat, perseverance, faced our fears head on –  I can now swim underwater, and finally admitted that I brought too many clothes.

We’re anxious to begin our next 1200 mile journey that introduces us to new cultures, interesting lands and anchorages, and new cruising friends.

Westward bound this week for Suwarrow (Suvarov) Atoll – Northern Cook Island. New Zealand territory. If you have a chance – read the book “An Island to Oneself” by Tom Neale to get some history of this place.


Opunohu Bay, Moorea

We have been in Opunohu Bay, Moorea for the last week after leaving Tahiti. Had a fantastic 2 hour lively sail, hand steered through the tall waves just for the thrill of it and dropped anchor in beautiful coral sand behind the reef.  Sandy beaches lined with coconut and palm trees, clear water, and peaceful surroundings. Opunoa bay  It was cloudy most of the time, had a couple of howling windy days, gusting 25 – 35 knots, enough that we took 3 hour anchor watches throughout the first night. Easy to sit up and read or watch movies compared to night watches on passage. A catamaran came in and dropped his anchor very close to us. Even in the best conditions we are nervous when the reef is so close to our anchored position and to have this guy swinging our way made the sleepless night even worse.

We snorkeled 3 days out on the ocean side reef and along the shoreline. The coral appears to be stagnant, covered with a growing, muddy algae crop across the tops of the heads. We suspect the nutrient rich water may be aiding the algae growth.  The village runoff, ski doos, lagoon tour boats, cruising yachts, and the commercial princess line cruising yachts are taking the toll on the coral’s demise.

Across the top of the water are large clusters of floating dead algae with prickly stems all strung together like long stringers of rope.  It was entwined in our arms and legs as we glided across the water surface.

In a few spots we viewed a few patches of healthy anemones. They were about 3’ in diameter, beautiful white and light brown ones attached to the sides of the coral heads with long waving tentacles and had orange, brown and purple Nemos swimming through them. We even saw a couple of light pink anemones.  We hope the camera was able to pick up the coral heads as the lighting wasn’t very good on the snorkeling days. We saw some different fish compared to Fakarava. The red squirrel eyed fish, a star eyed fish (had 4-5 lines streaking back from his eyes, looked like long eyelashes), an eel, sea a yellow conch that was nearly 12” long, giant sea cucumbers, and schools of tiny bright purple fish and so many others. We saw several rays sitting quietly on the bottom, the spotted ray was gliding peacefully with large bottom fish trailing him.

We motored the dinghy around the reef channel, nearly 2 miles to Cook’s Bay. Incredible scenery with the deep bay lined with the tall basalt craggy mountains. Coconut, banyan trees and palm trees grow along the banks and mountain sides. Cooks bay A pineapple farm travels upward along the steep hillside. (they sell bunches of 5 small ones tied together, fragrant and delicious).  An archeological site is visible from the water, a marae (a ceremonial stone platform with walls used for religious and human sacrifices) stands out vividly. We tried to imagine what it must have been like for Captain Cook to sail into the pristine bay with only the natives standing along the sandy shores waiting for newcomers. Perhaps some of them gleefully clapping awaiting their next meal.

Greg Clark – we did see the Mines of Moorea,  strained our eyes but didn’t catch a glimpse of the Balrog, think he sunk into the 118′ water depth below us.  The mountains are SO cool, can’t wait to show you the pictures!

Today the dark, muddy bay is lined with a half demolished hotel, old concrete wharfs, homes of the rich and famous, an “upscale” hotel chain with those glass bottom rooms overlooking the water,  a snack bar, and lagoon tour boats moored at the Mobil gas station dock.  The water along the shoreline is muddy with clumps of dead algae. We’re glad we didn’t anchor in the bay despite the very calm water.

We’re stowed and ready to depart for Raiteaa.  It’s about 100 miles to our next anchorage. It will be an overnighter, 18 hours of light winds and small 1.8 Meter waves. As two of our solar panels have quit, the housebank batteries need a deep cycle charge so we’ll unfortunately need to motor for at least 6 hours, pushing us along at 5 – 6 kts and burning 15 gallons of diesel. With the wind coming from behind us the fumes generally blow into the cabin causing a headache.

We get lonely sometimes, think of our family and friends everyday, miss the conveniences of a house when we want clean laundry and a shower but we’re doing well and very grateful for our life style.  We’ve met nice cruisers and made new friends, continue to say “good-bye” to them and move on knowing there are other cruisers like us looking to make a connection.

Oh, and a really exciting note, I repaired the sunbrella cover on a headsail for a cruising boat the other day with my heavy duty sewing machine, I made $100 !!! paid for 10 hours of wifi, ice cream and 15 gallons of fuel. Seriously, there went $100.00

We’ll see you later, and if you have time look up Hotopuu Bay, Raiteaa on google earth, that’s where we’re headed for a few days as we migrate north from various anchorages to Taha’a.

Waiting For The Big Waves To Move Off

It was a quick 2 night, uneventful passage from Fakarava to Papeete, Tahiti on May 28th. We had a lucky motor/sail as the wind never picked up enough to sail the entire distance but we outran the SPCZ as it moved south.  It has been a productive week in the Papeete Marina with wifi, shopping, shower facilities all so close, stepping off the boat onto the dock has been wonderful – no salty dinghy ride to shore.

We were able to FaceTime with Mom, my sister and sons, that was a treat I didn’t anticipate. We had some boat projects to work on – lost a dinghy oar in rolly conditions back in Nuku Hiva – a French boat gave us an old one he had, traded for some chocolate bars –  nice guy; the dinghy motor fell apart while in Fakarava – purchased a new one in Tahiti and cheaper than US for Japanese manufactured Tohatsu 2 stroke that is unavailable in the US;  2 solar panels went dead – no replacement available, new laptop broke just as we left Nuku Hiva – needs to be shipped back to the US, the Bluetooth keyboard for the IPad broke- too expensive to buy a new one,  ordered a new raw water pump for engine – have a small but irritating leak.  We’re in the process of ordering all these replacement parts to be sent to American Samoa where there are no customs taxes for parts and can be shipped via US  Express mail service.  A huge dent to the cruising budget but it’s the cost of living just like home and driving a used car, something needs to be repaired or replaced.

We had planned to sail to Moorea today but the weather system south of us turned into a gale. 018The winds are suppose to pick up to 25 kts with 4 meter waves on Wednesday/Thursday moving NE. Just above the multi-colored hook shape are the Society Islands where we are. We’ve done that wild sail before, hell no we’re not sailing it if we don’t have to.  Honestly – not a lot of fun!  And its just about the time we were planning on snorkeling the reefs and paddle boarding around Cook’s Bay. This weather system is suppose to move off by NEXT Monday.

The wind was blowing out of the northwest today sending waves right into the Marina, white caps were in the harbor. By tomorrow the wind should subside enough so that we can motor around the island into Taina anchorage until the gale bows off.

Marina life is great for a few days, after that, sensory overload. The cars, people, noise and shops become overwhelming. Aside from the convenient Marina life in Tahiti, we’ve had a great time people watching, Grottotouring the island via car.  This is a grotto, one of many along the west coast of Tahiti. Beautiful scenery and coastline.

Shopping,  buying beautiful Tahitian print fabrics, eating very expensive ordinary meals – $63 for a small plate of pesto spagetti, 10′ pizza, and 2 beers.     Wifi with speed just a little above the old dial up is spotty and frustrating but better than no wifi on the ocean.

We’ve said our goodbyes to buddy boats Sababa and Athanor, each boat heading their own direction. Our newest friends on SV Chevalde whom we met in Hiva Oa, Marquesas happened to be walking along the malecon and spotted our boat. We had a happy reunion with them. They are anchored in the Taina anchorage where we’re going tomorrow, maybe we’ll sail together until our visa expires. Never know who you meet along the way but it always turns out to be a strong bond between cruisers.

Waiting and watching the weather forecast everyday to depart Tahiti. We are ready for our next adventure!


Birthday Vacation in Fakarava Atoll

We survived the torrential downpour on the last night of passage but I think John must’ve sprouted a beard overnight in all that rain. We are entering the S. Fakarava pass, it was an awesome feeling getting in safely, happy to be in paradise!Fakarava landfall Picked up a mooring ball in the anchorage area.  These are the latest additions, free to cruisers, safe and secure from getting the anchor and chain fouled on bommies – coral heads that are nearly 25-30 feet tall. It was our first time picking up the ball from Konami. A little finessing the boat by Diane; John was on the bow with the boat hook reaching over to grab the ball’s eye line. He nearly lost the pole overboard as the boat was gliding by too quickly, but held steadfastly and grabbed the boat bow line to loop through the eye. Once secure in the eye he then tied it off through the hawse pipe. We slept so well that night for the first time since  La Cruz, Mexico dock. The water was totally flat, no waves, no worries about dragging anchor!   34′ of water, coral and sand, lots of colorful fish, vibrant coral – blue, pink,  purple, bright white, sand colored and red.  Giant wrasse fish, sharks, bright purple and green parrot fish, groupers, needle nose fish, angel, on and on,  swimming under us, an aquatic park all made just for us.Fakarava mooringThe welcoming committee sent an usual sponsor to our boat – forgot to tell us not to throw bits of food into the water. This guy and his 5 buddies all stalked the boat the entire time we were anchored. Most of the time they ignored us, but if they heard splashing they came very quickly to investigate the thrashing feet and hands, smorgasbord on a SUP. They actually headbutted the swimming ladder, swam through one of the rungs and glared upwards looking at us. Wasn’t until the last couple of days snorkeling, SUP, and swimming that I became adjusted to them being around. Black tips were okay, the grey sharks were bigger and a little more aggressive.

SharkThis was our view every morning! The “pension”, a resort owned and operated by Tila & Manihi Salmon.  Take a look if you’re curious, it was very beautiful, 30 years of hard work building this place. We had fabulous pizza one night – Tuna pizza and Ham pizza. Amazing woodfired pizza oven, bring your own drinks and dessert! to see their place.

Manihi Pension   Fakarava sunriseSunrise over the tallest trees in the atoll, part of the everyday view from our boat deck.



The day before John’s birthday we did our chores. It was the perfect day to get in and change the zincs on the propeller. I kept watch in the dinghy for sharks lurking about John so could enjoy his next birthday cake.  Had the oar ready while handing off parts to him. Two days later a front moved in and we spent a couple of days on the boat waiting for the wind and water to calm down so we could snorkel. Again, we were so happy to be attached to the new mooring ball.

Boat work

The rising coral reef continues to build but the old reef gets pushed up out of the water leaving everything to die in the open. The lighter color water in the background is actually the new coral reef building up. It was about 1000 yards out to the edge of the reef, slippery with algae and rocky. The ocean is breaking on the edge of the reef, the dark blue ocean one step away – about 1500′ drop off.  Edge of the reefDiane looking for shellsCollecting shells and coral in the wasteland.

The tide pool in the old reef is mostly



stagnant sea water.


coral reeg wasteland

We could’ve spent much more time in S. Fakarava, we didn’t want to leave the beauty, solitude, and mesmerizing ocean park.  But time is moving on without us, our visa will expire soon.  We had a wonderful 10 days drift snorkeling the pass, snorkeling over the bommies, paddle boarding through the lagoons and over the tops of bommies while watching the fish and green turtle.  We made every effort to compost our trash on board to keep the coral alive and healthy. 2 weeks of compost begins to smell even in enclosed in large plastic jugs.

This is passage out of Fakarava. The tide was high slack current but the swell was huge. Konami just passed over the tops, fully capable and smooth. The breakers are actually breaking over the reef off to the left of the channel. We were in deep water when we went out that morning.

Breakers leaving Fakarava

Wahoo Fish Tale to Tuamotu Atolls

We departed Nuku Hiva on May 12, bound for Kauehi Motu part of the Tuamotu Island group, roughly 535 nm, 4-5 day passage southwest of NH.  The morning squalls rolled across the island mountaintop just as we upped anchor. Our buddy boat, Sababa of Portland, departed an hour before us and reported back  “lumpy seas and rain”.

We headed out of the harbor,  sure enough right into 6’ lumpy seas with 8 second swells, heavy rain and 15 knots of wind. Konami rolled and pitched as we got the autopilot set (AP), sails in order, tidied up the cockpit and checked for loose items in the cabin. John unwound the fish line and 15 minutes later we had a large fish on, jumping out of the water.  It was a Wahoo, 45” long, about 30 pounds of mean fish, two rows of nasty teeth, with a 6” dorsal fin similar to dangerous porcupine like needles. A delicious, very mild tasting, firm white meat fish much like the NW Halibut.  We didn’t expect to catch a Wahoo and had no idea how to deal with it, but speaking from experience, we knew NOT to bring a conscious fish aboard!  John pulled it along side the boat and just looking at his piercing eyes made me shudder.

Please stop reading if you’re squeamish or a vegetarian. But for those cruisers and fishing wannabe people like us, follow along to learn more about landing a crazy Wahoo in rough conditions.

With the boat on autopilot we focused on landing the fish. We struggled with the fish net (first item purchased in Tahiti) to get him up out of the water to wrap a rope around his tail; nearly lost him as he thrashed and jerked backwards, leaving him dangling and wiggling violently from the leader line. The boat rolled from side to side, rubrail in the water, throwing us around as we changed places to get a better grip.  Determined not to lose him, we firmly pulled him back towards the boat and took a couple more swipes at him with the net. Finally, John swooped it down under him and caught him balanced in the flopping net.  He was ferocious – jumping, thrashing and snapping his jaw.  I was afraid of him. With both of us pulling on the fish net and pole end John managed to get a rope tied to the tail with one hand. That made the fish even madder, slime, slobber (not sure who was slobbering) and blood was spraying everywhere! At this point I thought maybe WE should give up and clip the hook before we became injured.

The fish book says “club it to death before bringing it into the cockpit since the Wahoo has been known to bite and thrash about so violently that a fisherman was seriously injured.” Great, get the bronze winch handle… Now, some people use methods of spraying alcohol into the gills or covering the heads with a bag to calm them down, either way, we couldn’t get close enough to his head and weren’t taking any chances of a drunken or half suffocated fish biting us.   Sounded really cruel but we followed the instructions, and 20 minutes after the catch we hauled the unconscious fish aboard. wahoo1Doesn’t look so big and threatening here though.

Even after cutting through his gills, his heart continued to beat. Oh that was awful, we felt really bad but this is the food chain here.  We struggled to get it onto the cutting board attached to our stern pulpit, the darn thing wanted to slip away while the boat continued to roll and pitch as we hung onto everything within our grasp to stay upright. An hour or so after the initial catch, we had 6 large bags of beautiful fish in the empty freezer.

As we dealt with the fish, the seas had continued to build and the wind shifted.  The boat was headed nearly 15 degrees off course, the swells were hitting directly on the beam, and the wind had slightly decreased. It’s no wonder why we were rolling so badly but the fish had taken all of our attention.  We regained course and settled down.  Another boat hailed us as they had just departed the harbor and were reporting wild squalls of 30 knots and steep seas. We looked back and watched nearly 15 miles of squall line spanning between us and them.  Wow, we had good timing of getting out when we did and caught the fish just before the mother of squalls hit!

We were lucky to stay just enough ahead of the monster squall line for the next 24 hours. The other boat should’ve turned around, his wife was sick and they had the stuffing pounded out of them. As the passage continued the seas improved and we had a lovely sail for the next 2 days. The sun came out, winds were perfect 10 – 15 knots, we sailed fast and easy. On the 3rd night at 11:30 John came on for watch. I had just gotten into bed when a muffled “bang” brought me upright. I listened for other sounds, nothing. Sounded like we hit something, a metallic “boing”.  We never want to hear a metallic sound, especially at night! John was already looking around as I came up. All deck lights came on as he went forward to check the rigging. The inner stay wire (sail hanks onto it) was loose and dangling. It is attached to an eyebolt that goes through the bowsprit. Crevice corrosion had caused the end of the bolt head to break off . Fortunately we didn’t have a sail hanked on at the time and we had a spare – thanks Dave King!  Heavy breathing subsided and we continued on.

Also on the 3rd day out we had decided to change direction and enter the S. Fakarava pass to stay with Sababa. It added another day to our passage, and the timing of tide and current meant we had to slow down to no more than 4 knots the remaining distance to avoid standing offshore in the dark for 10 hours.  Of course the weather wouldn’t cooperate. Great winds and sea conditions and we have to slow down.  When we want to get there asap – shitty conditions! That is the sailing way.  We reduced forward sails, still going too fast, we reduced the mainsail even more.

The frustrations of sailing- just when you think you’ve got it made, mother nature lets you know who is really in charge.  The last evening out, the rain squalls set in. No significant wind – good thing there, but the rain was torrential. John was shivering in wet clothes and got out his rain gear, not sure why as he was totally soaked in those too. I came on watch at 12:30 a.m. and huddled in the cockpit in just my underwear. No sense in having 2 sets of soaked rain gear to clean and dry.  There wasn’t a dry place on the boat, the rain came straight up our aft end – right into the cockpit, beating on the cabin doors, hard onto the cabin top, rain water sprayed upwards and outwards. The raindrops flattened the waves and there weren’t any other sounds besides the rain. I couldn’t hear the wind, the sounds of the boat moving through the water nor the rigging sounds. Nothing, nada but rain and water. The entire ocean seemed to be overwhelmed.  It lasted until 4:30 a.m.

At 10:00 a.m. we had sight of Fakarava, just coconut trees jutting upwards out of the ocean.  By 11:00 we had the entrance timing made, the sea condition had settled down enough that we didn’t have breaking waves . Coral reefs on both sides of the pass, in 19’ – 25’ of water above the reef line we were on high alert as we scanned the water ahead for bommies (coral heads), watched our chartplotter, and followed the channel in. The pristine blue water was breathtaking, transitioning from deep ocean dark blue to emerald green to light brown coral, and white sand.  We got lucky and picked up a mooring ball so had no worry about snagging or wrapping the anchor and chain around a bommie. Safely tied to the ball, we shut down the engine and gave our hugs and thanks to each other for a great passage, thanks for the easy pass entry, not hitting the coral reef, a freezer full of yummy fish, good friends tied next to us, and PARADISE waiting for our arrival!