Pohnpei, FSM

It has been a very, very busy month for us here in beautiful Pohnpei. We arrived in 3 days after leaving rainy Kosrae nearly a month ago.  Our departure was a wild ride coming out of the Kosrae pass; the wind, waves and swell were on our nose. We didn’t have a dry spot left on the entire boat top by the time we motored beyond the tip of the island and turned downwind. Upon clearing the extending reef the wind was in our favor but the waves were big and came at us with a vengeance. Slowly the seas calmed down and we had a decent sail for the next 30 hours. Eventually the wind died, the sails drooped, on came the engine. We motored the rest of the way into Pohnpei.

We arrived at the commercial wharf, completed the quarantine and customs paperwork, and waited for the immigration group. 5 hours later John hailed the Port Control and asked when we should expect immigration to arrive. The conversation between the Port and Immigration was in Pohnpeian but we gathered by the laughter between the parties that somebody screwed up and forgot we were in. 30 minutes later they drove up and the “Superior” asked us why we hadn’t checked in when we first arrived, 5 hours ago.?? Exhausted, and hangry, we just sighed relieved to be in.

At the anchorage we were very pleased to hook up the SV Carina. We started following their blog 5 years ago, stayed in contact with them on facebook and dreamed that one day we might meet them in an anchorage. Dreams do come true! Leslie and Philip have been sailing the South Pacific, across to Indonesia and back, now working their way homeward to Kingston, Washington. For nearly 12 years they have sailed, blogged and are contributors to the Soggy Paws’ South Pacific compendium that hundreds of cruisers from all over the world have come to depend upon. The latest sailing information, customs and immigration requirements, island culture, and all the essential information that cruisers need when arriving in a new country are well documented in “the Compendiums”.

Leslie and Philip gave us a ride into town, showed us the local stops for fresh local veggies and fish, and all the other essentials that we needed. Its been wonderful to hang out with them, hike and enjoy talking about sailing adventures over dinner. Philip is an awesome chef and makes mean gin and tonic drinks. Leslie is funny and a kick to be around.  Really a great couple!

The anchorage has more sailboats than we’ve seen since American Samoa, currently there are eight of us. We’re always excited to meet new yachties, most of the time anyway. The day after arrival we sat in the cockpit having our dinner. Just as we finished a guy from the next boat over paddled along side us. We invited him aboard, the polite thing to do when you’re new in the anchorage, he handed up his full wine glass and dropped into the cockpit.  After about 15 minutes judging from the conversation, I wasn’t sure if I was tired from passage or he was just a little different. He asked about our pasta dinner as he stared at our empty bowls and peered down the companionway; must’ve been thinking that would go nicely with his wine. Having raised and fed seven, always hungry boys we know that look of foraging and drool. “No, we had instant ramen” and received more useless yak about the quality of our food.  Second clue, his glass was empty, he eyed our drinks and said “could I have a drink of what you’re drinking”? My tiny facial hairs tingled, met this kind of cruiser before. Well neither John nor I were willing to share our bottles. Alcohol is a very expensive luxury in the islands, anywhere from $40 to $83 for a bourbon that costs $16 in the States, John dug out the cheap tequila. By the way, Two Buck Chuck wine from Trader Joes in the states is $9/bottle here in Pohnpei !!  Third clue, “do you mind if I step to the back of your boat and have a smoke?” We are not good at being assertive when need be. We were in the cockpit, the back of our small boat is two steps away. Again, we should’ve just said NO. Two smokes later, he stepped to the back again. Thinking “chain smoker”, we instead heard the very distinct sound of water flowing overboard. Thoroughly disgusted, I looked at John, rolled my eyes and said ” we just came off a hard passage and exhausted, we are going below”. We avoided him until he departed two days later, totally relieved! There are strange cruisers just like the weird neighbors at home.

Aside from the strange guy, all other cruisers are great. We’ve enjoyed snorkeling and hiking with Leslie and Philip. We hiked up the Sohkes ridge – the large rock in the background is Sohkes Rock on the ridge —img_1840 with Leslie from Carina, and Jeanine, another cruiser on a Westsail 32 “Fluid Motion”. Jeanine is also from the US, an avid bird watcher and identified all the colorful birds for us. The view was spectacular, img_1716                       the Japanese war relics were a step back in time. The Japanese used the natives to build a long winding road and rock retaining wall along the Sohkes ridge for the gun placements and look outs. There are tunnels and mazes through out the island that were used by the Japanese during the war.  We didn’t venture very far into the tunnels, it seemed a little creepy.  It felt so good to get out and hike, we had a terrific day in the warm rain and sun. Our boat is the middle one on the far right of the anchorage picture.

Another day we took our inflatable kayak and SUP out with another Australian cruiser to the ancient ruins of Nan Madol. img_1789

The stone city was built nearly 2300 years ago. Most of it is overgrown with mangrove trees but the largest site is well preserved. We spent the day paddling through the mangrove canals viewing the ruins. img_1825You can read the entire history with pictures on the internet. Its quite fascinating.   Hundreds of car size stones and hundreds of thousands of columnar basalt from the Sohkes rock were hauled across the island to build the city. The feat is nearly equivalent to the Egyptian pyramids construction.

It hasn’t been all play though. Boat maintenance is about the same as living on land. Clean the garage, clean and polish the stainless steel stove and oven, scrub out mold from damp lockers. img_1842Our headsail that is only 3 years old had some seam threads coming loose. We thought it would be a couple of hours to hand sew, turned out to be several hours and more yet to do. A very big disappointment with the quality of our “Kern” sail. The sun cover stitching along the entire leach line and foot  (side and bottom of the sail), the most exposed area of the sail when furled has rotted away. A job for the industrial sewing machine when we get to Japan and spread out on the dock. There are only a handful of places that sails are actually sewn in the U.S. and very expensive. Most sail lofts contract out with Asian sailmakers, cheaper but the quality is questionable.

John changed out the raw water pump with a new one ordered from the states. The spare we brought turned out to be heavy bronze junk. The teak rubrails and eyebrows need to be refinished, the sun and salt water is so harsh on the wood. Another dock job.

Our visa expires in a week, its time to get moving. We’ve been monitoring the weather for our next passage to Guam. We have to time this arrival perfectly as a US Navy base is in Guam and have a strict entry process. Overtime fees apply to check into the country outside the Mon-Fri, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., average overtime charge is about $265.

Two other boats are leaving bound for Guam and onto Japan also. They are bigger boats with average cruise speed of 7. 5 – 8.0 kts so we probably wont see them until we arrive in Guam but just knowing they’re within a day or so of us is comforting.

Abaiang, Our Private Resort

20 miles northeast of Tarawa lies a serene atoll that has all the appeal of a vacation resort island.  The culture is simple and oriented around family values. The clean beaches are lined with coconut, bandanas and Palm trees, fine white sand are adorned with ornate seashells, coral and dried leaves.  Clear emerald water gradually turns dark blue as the massive reef falls away nearly 100 yards from the beachside in some areas.
Homes are built entirely with coconut tree beams and sawn lumber thatched with palm fronds tied with twisted coconut twine. There are no nails or tin used.
Platforms under the thatched roofs are built in various heights – ground level to 12 feet providing a small 2nd story level.  The siding is made from the buttend of the palm fronds – very thick and hard, hand sawn into long thin strips and attached to the bigger lumber.  Some siding has intricate patterns cut away for air circulation, some homes have only Palm fronds laced together, or perhaps fabric hanging down.  All unique and several homes are built in a small group allowing families to live together and still have their individual sleeping abodes.
Babies and toddlers have their own small day maneba similar to the doll houses built at home. With the ocean side being within easy walk of a toddler, the parents are able to go about their chores of fishing, cleaning and drying fish, laundry, gathering coconut fronds for mat weaving.  They are busy all day just to gather and cook their food on open fire pits, and wash clothes in large tubs.  The dish pans and washing stands are next to the “house”.
Unfortunately the toilet – nothing more than a giant stone as a base with a hole chiseled away leading to a pit underneath may be too close to the water wells.  They bathe out in the open wearing a sarong.  At least they understand the consequences and boil their water. There are several above ground cisterns that capture rain water but when those run dry they resort back to the well water.
The school is comprised of several small huts, each hut represents segregated ages and class, with the same home construction.img_1345 The finer coral and shell floors are covered with palm fronds. There is 1 small desk and chair also built from coconut lumber for the teacher, a table for books and papers, a couple of 2 X 3 foot small tables for students to sit at while studying, but they mostly sit on the floor to write or read.
We walked through the school lane and were an immediate distraction to the younger students. They are so eager to latch onto you, give high-fives, girls want to hold both hands.
The last day of school for the term was on Thanksgiving day and we were invited to join their “cultural day”.
There was traditional Kiribati singing and dancing competition performed by the students,  and the parents brought palm baskets filled with only traditional foods. There was no “imatang” (white/foreigner) food allowed. img_1373After the student competition the judges walked around to each group of parents to count the number and ways of food presentation.  I, being a true “foodie” person was very curious to see how many ways to cook taro root, breadfruit, papaya, sweet potato and coconut. I duck-walked barefoot throughout the giant school maneba covered with nothing more than coral and shells – it’s rude to walk when everybody is sitting – to speak with the parents and view their hand woven Palm baskets.  Amazing food!img_1400  Most everything included coconut is some form – cream, water, or grated.  There was boiled scrawny chicken with feet and necks still attached, shell fish, small reef fish and octopus all cooked in various ways.  Bandanas fruit was most interesting to eat.  Looks like giant 3″ candy corn shape but unimaginably opposite in terms of texture. The “fine-thread” fruit is boiled with or without coconut, then chewed and twisted between your teeth to suck out the pulp and juice.  One of those and I had a mouthful of threads stuck between all of my teeth. Not very graceful to pick at your teeth, but I did anyway just to be able to speak again. Not wanting to be in second place, a young girl offered me one that she had helped prepare. Not able to refuse I warmly accepted and she beamed with pride. I chewed and nodded my “delicious thanks” and waddled back to our mat with a mouthful of string.

The head school master’s wife prepared us an eloquent platter  – she won the food prep competition.  We and the other yachtie couple who attended the festivity were the only ones eating with plastic bowls and spoons.  Our food platter had delicious coconut balls very similar to coconut macaroons that exploded with flavor and natural sweetness, crispy taro chips – similar to potato chips, smoked clams on skewers, boiled shellfish, reef fish fried in coconut oil, slices of papaya, chunks of fresh coconut, young coconut spouts, breadfruit,  taro all cooked in coconut milk or just boiled in salt water. So delicious, we ate our fill several times over just like thanksgiving dinner at home.
Unfortunately after sampling the different recipes of all the starchy coconut laden food I paid the price in the middle of the night with a double dose of meds. Cast iron stomach John slept peacefully with dreams of thanksgiving pies.

We rented motor bikes and toured the island yesterday. There is only 1 dirt road that runs the entire distance of the island. We saw only 1/2 of the northern atoll about 10 kilometers. The beaches, villages are the same. All clean and beautiful. Groups of thatched homes, fire pits, wash stands, community manebas.  Families with friendly smiles greeted us as we passed by.  Kids eager to interact with Imatangs waved, yelled and ran after the bikes. Some stood in the middle of the road with their arms stretched out to give passing high fives.

We have enjoyed our stay here at the village anchorage but we’re off to the remote part of the island to paddleboard and hang out with our new cruising buddies from New Zealand. Their boat is very similar to ours and we get along very well. Perhaps too well, we’re being encouraged to move on to the Marshall Islands with them. We had originally planned on the Marshall Islands but the timing wasn’t seeming to work out. Guess it’s better to sit in the M.I. Than in Tarawa for another 4 weeks though. Still thinking it through, we’re not impulsive… Mmphm.

We will keep you posted on our next adventure!

Big Island, Big Hearts

 

The Health and Quarantine group arriving via dinghy. We anchored quite a ways off shore; the ladies weren’t too happy about the wet ride.  img_1126completing all the forms, signing our signatures that we didn’t have stow-aways, rats, infectious diseases, guns and ammo, no dead arrivals, declared the exact quantity of onions and potatoes, literally, we’re all cleared in.  The Quarantine officer then asked for “cold water and snacks, – ‘home made snacks’ .  Still recovering from lack of sleep, no fruits and veggies, I brought out iced tea and cookies from Bora Bora.

We moved from Betio (Besso) to Ambo, about 5 miles east. We anchored in 10′ of water which wasn’t a problem but when the full moon cycle brought exceptionally low tide we were grounded. The tide came back in and we moved into 15′ depths.  A view of the lagoon area from the highway.img_1149 It’s hot during the day but the breeze blows in the late afternoon into the wee morning hours cooling us down.

We’re very happy to have found the laundromat, wash, dry and folded is about $5 – a very cheap price considering water is difficult to make on the boat. Taking a break, waiting for the laundry to be folded. img_1139

We met a gal at a little open “cafe”, her name is Timera (Simera). We invited her and her fiancé, Tenabo, img_1177to the boat for a lunch. They in turn took us to meet their families in the villages.  Turned out to be a real eye opening experience in what life is like in Kiribati.  The village homes are no more than 8′ x 10′ galvanized tin structures with thatched roofs, fenced with chicken wire. img_1183Most of the homes have a “maneba” a platform raised waist high off the ground where family and guests sit during the day.  Some of the homes have fabric draped down for privacy and shade, some are lined with polypropylene rice bags. The interiors are small with nothing more than coral covering the dirt, kerosene stoves, a wash stand as kitchen sink, mats for beds and sitting, solar lights, a community “bathroom”.  Pigs, dogs, cats, chickens all roam freely.  It’s customary to offer water to guests and we were obliged to drink and visit.  The people are very warm and inviting, wanting to hear all about us and where we come from. We found we didn’t want to elaborate too much about our comfortable lives at home when they have absolutely nothing.  We brought our customary gifts of banana bread, jar of jam, candy for the kids. img_1159The children want to be held or carried, a little disconcerting when they are naked and not potty trained, but I happily snuggled and played with them.

More pictures of our new friends’ families and lifestyle sitting in their maneba.

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His parents and daughter. They are from Onotoa, a southern Gilbert island. We were given giant clam meat cured in salt, some fruit “roll up” made from some unknown fruit that was fantastic.  img_1174This is their “kitchen” wash stand.

We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet these extraordinary folks and be welcomed into their homes.  We’re invited for a family get together later this month. It will be a potluck meal. Not wanting to be rude we’ll attend but I’ll bring paper plates and bamboo eating utensils, and we always carry our in our backpacks.

We’ve arranged a tour guide to see all the war relics around the island tomorrow. Later this week we’ll be heading off to Abaiang, an outer island 25 miles NE of Tarawa. We will be there for our limited 10 day visit and come back here afterwards.  Our new friends are so anxious for us to come back so we can swim, visit their homes and spend more time with them.  We may bring more of the family out to the boat to have lunch with us. They don’t know what mayonnaise is and eggs being expensive (.70 cents each, much to expensive for their budgets) I will make them special egg salad sandwiches and peanut butter cookies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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…

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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.

 

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

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

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Back Tracked Mazatlan Carnaval Feb 5

We back tracked to Mazatlán on Feb 5th, via an 8 hour bus ride – each way – to enjoy the Mazatlan Carnaval. That was a fabulous ride through the country side and the Carnaval was a real kick. We managed to make reservations a few weeks ago for a nice hotel on the historic square where bands and street vendors started coming to life at 6:00 p.m. We met up with Dan and Tammy of SV Anjuli, D&T Maztlmet some new friends – Rob and Susan on SV Athanor – Seattle, Wash. and thoroughly enjoyed being a land tourist taking part in the festivities.

The Carnaval is a 118 year old tradition, the third largest in the world. The theme was
“Mazatlantida: La alegoría que emergió de las olas” (The allegory that emerged from the waves), a theme which is in keeping with the recent tradition of choosing relatively inscrutable carnaval themes.”

Six Bands on stages were set up spanning the 3 1/2 mile Olas Atlas malecon. Latino, Mariachi, Jazz, and various Pop music blared as people of all ages danced shoulder to shoulder and shuffled from one band location to another.IMG_0111

We danced with everybody, strangers and friends included. The restaurants, cart vendors and beer stands were packed as peopled waited for the Bad Mood Burning and firework events to start. dan dancing

 

 

The traditional Carnaval ritual “Quema del Mal Humor (Bad Mood Burning) is the incineration of a giant puppet. It is generally modeled after an unpopular public figure, the effigy is hanged and burned, exploding like a massive piñata without the candy. IMG_0116This year was none other than – – – Donald Trump ! The crowds cheered and roared with laughter as Donald was motored down the malecon hoisted from a crane.

The ‘Naval Battle’ fireworks display representing the battle with France was lit from the beach just over our heads, the raining ashes continued to burn as they floated toward us. Music and lights accompanied the fireworks to the impressive grand finale. No expense was spared there.
We left after the fireworks, it was well after midnight as the younger generation crowds were just getting started in front of the band stages. Outside our hotel the crowds and bands lingered well after 4:00 a.m. At 5:00 a.m the cleanup crew with gas powered leafblowers started their engines blowing garbage and people away. For our 3 night stay this was the evening routine.

The Grand Parade on Sunday afternoon started at 5:30. Dan and Tammy were able to get tickets for seating on a hotel balcony. Vacant lots lining the malecon were transformed into balconies, some engineer put a lot of thought into saving money and resources. IMG_0144 Platforms were built with old pallets, the supporting posts were tree limbs, and the cross “beams” were 1″ x 2″ boards all pounded in with shiny nails.

The four lane highway was closed as the parade floats motored between 2 sets of bleachers and chairs.IMG_0151
People were dancing in the streets along side some of the floats as the bands and music played.

Some people brought step ladders to tower over the crowd. IMG_0161 Try that in the U.S? We tried to estimate the number of people, 3 1/2 miles of people on the streets, sitting on rooftops and balconies, hotels suites – uncountable.

 

 

The float displays were dazzling. The Carnaval queen’s float was most impressive.0207161833c There was a float of prior years’ queens, some of them were close to 70 – 80 years old. There were several Mexican company floats (sponsors of the Carnaval such as GasPasa, a Propane company not medicinal product) that had high powered stereo systems with skimpy costume dancers. There were Dance School floats and their students danced for miles dressed in beautiful flowing costumes. There was a float of speedo clad young men dancing to the beat of wild drum music, the crowd clapped and cheered.

We spent the fun filled days walking the city of Mazatlan, dancing, eating and taking in the soul of Mexico with our best friends, Dan and Tammy.  IMG_0125IMG_0107

Another activity to add to your list of travels.

Busy Days In PV

Somebody asked “what do you do all day?” Geez, with a small boat, living space less than 200 sq ft, we should be almost free to do anything. No…, that’s just a fantasy!
Cruising is suppose to be 90/10 ratio – 90% fun, 10% work, maybe 80/20 even. That’s a fantasy also, but once in a while we get out and do fun activities.IMG_0086

Here is a snapshot of our day from the time we get up. If this is too boring then please stop reading and find something really fun to do, I think I would do that.

We get up at 7:00, John makes our coffee.

Coffee discussion time to figure out what to eat. Since we don’t have a toaster we can’t just pop in the bread. We locate the bread in a settee cubby hole. Next, dig to the bottom of the giant cooler like refrigerator by pulling out the bags of veggies, move the bottles and jars that shifted during the day, move cans of beer, slide the yogurts from one side to the other and FINALLY, there is the little plastic box of butter at the very back that has a 1/2 tablespoon left in it. Back to the front of the fridge to pull out the carton of milk, cream, juice, beer, meat and any other item dumped in on top of the sliding tray, set it all on the 1′ X 2′ counter space, lift out the tray and under the cheeses, are the soggy wrap cubes of butter.
Repack everything, maintain patience and try to put it back in some order that makes sense for the next cooking event.
Light the oven, put the bread on the rack, wait to cook the other side of the toast. Breakfast is ready. Don’t ask for eggs, the pans are in the dumpster behind the stove, first you’d have to move tea kettle and booze to open the dumpster, move lids and the bread pan to get to the frying pan.
After eating, place the plates into the sink, don’t wash them yet, we can’t waste water for 2 plates, 1 knife and 1 spoon.

Start loading our backpacks with shower bags, remember the towel too. Dig around in the overstuffed drawers for clean clothes, if you can’t find your favorite shorts, rummage around on the side of the bed or up on top of the hanging closet/drawer combination where all the other clean clothes are stored. John’s clothes are generally stored on top of the dresser as he has fewer items. Climb up the 3 steps, check your pocket for the dock key – nope, gotta locate that first, now walk 2 – 3 blocks to the shower room.
If we’re anchored out then we shower in the cockpit with a liter of water each, saving time, Yay!
We are anchored some of the time here  so we have to adjust 3 or 4 solar panels to make the most of the amps required to run the fridge, electronics and lights. John spends about 15 minutes to angle the panels toward the sun. The boat moves in the current or wind, and 20 minutes later John goes down back out to readjust the panels. Several times a day.

It’s now 9:15, we’re ready to start the day. Have a second cup of coffee and check the “to do” list. Sigh, today is grocery shopping, and we need some boat parts too. Load up the sacks, wallets, sunglasses and hats, check for enough pesos.

Launch the dinghy first. Untie the ropes and sail cover. Hook the dinghy to the rope, start winching it up and over the life lines and lower it into the water. Tie the step ladder to the side of the boat so John can get in and move it to the back of the boat. Unlock the motor, hook it up to the back of the boom blocks and begin lowering it to the dinghy. Hook up the gas line, throw in the garbage and backpacks. 20 minutes later, we’re ready to go if John remembered to get the key to the dinghy motor. Sometimes we repeat a couple of steps. Sigh. Motor in to shore, secure the dinghy. Shuffle around on the dock, rearrange the skirt or shorts, wipe off salt water sprayed during the ride. Walk to the bus stop and wait, or start the 1 -2 mile walk, depending upon the city we’re in.

Walk each isle of the store to find the specific cans of food, it’s not the same category as the U.S. stores. The coffee cream isn’t located next to the milk – find a grocery clerk and in the poorest Spanish accent, ask for “media crema”. Pretend to understand her response but the blank look will tell her she needs to walk us to the case of cheeses and meats 25′ feet away.
Now that I have the case memorized, we’ll soon depart for a new destination in Mexico.

It’s now after lunch, we’re hungry and vendor food carts are out of my stomach’s comfort zone. Walk to various corners and look for a small cafe. Hem and Hah, check around for local citizens, if they don’t eat there, keep walking. Okay, give up.
Start looking for the hardware stores. Wave arms, make faces and gestures, draw pictures of parts that we need. The Spanish Book for Cruisers is great in reading mode only, don’t try to pronounce the words, we only confuse the clerk a little more. Give up.
Catch the bus or walk back to the dinghy, reverse order back to the boat and dinghy launching. The dinghy car is valuable and there have been many thefts. The boat next to us lost theirs while in Mazatlan.

Oh, before loading groceries onto the boat, discard all boxes, bags, wrappers. Cockroaches LOVE boat rides! And they invite their large families, have lots of little ones in a matter of days. We found a baby, John smashed it the other night. We’ve been on the hunt for possible family additions. So far we haven’t seen anymore.

It’s now close to 3:30p.m., we’re hot and tired from walking nearly 5 miles with heavy backpacks and and have a bad case of Hangry! Groceries need to be put away, we haven’t done the laundry and we didn’t have wifi today to catch up on the Blog, Facebook, and emails.

Day is over, beer thirty is upon us! Cruiser’s midnight is 7:30 p.m.

Mazatlan Pictures

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Lou and Diane at our favorite breakfast café.   Freida artwork is seen everywhere.IMG_0011

 

 

Mazatlan Mercado

 

Beautiful bead work by the Huilchol Indian women.  I would’ve bought it all!

 

 

John and Lou prepping the boat with wonderful fresh food from the Mercado.  Lou bought some delicious Mexican cake made with apples, walnuts, and cream that were our favorite.  The pineapple cake was great for breakfast.

 

IMG_0038On passage from Mazatlán to Isla Isabella, warm and nice breeze, just enough to tease us.  Long motor but was great to have Lou on night watch with me!  Time went by so quickly.

 

 

Isla Isabella was so close but the waves were pounding on the shore, there were 3 boats in the anchorage and no spare room.  We departed for Matanchen Bay, 40 miles Southeast, 4 miles from San Blas, Nayarit.  The sunset was beautiful, the weather and temperature was a definite change from the cooler Mazatlán area.

IMG_0050Mantenchen sunset

We spent a day at Sayulita, a tourist resort area with pounding surf, nice beach under palapa shade.IMG_0087Lou traveled back to Portland, we were so happy to have her on board with us.  Miss you, girlfriend!

 

The Sail to Mazatlan – Part 1

It was a busy 10 days in Mazatlan, so just now catching up on our latest adventures.
The sail out of Topolo:
We waited for the slack high tide to cross the shallow channel, Anjuli was right behind us. We sailed all but 48 miles of the 206 total distance from the Topolobampo sea buoy. We calculated a 40 hour run averaging 5.0 – 5.5 knots to allow for entry in the daylight. The first day was extremely rolly with 6′ following seas (waves coming from behind the boat) and the light winds didn’t help. After changing sail configurations several times we gave up and sailed with a double reefed main and partially furled Yankee which slowed us down considerably but the banging, snapping sails and potential rigging damage worried us. We didn’t sleep that first night, the rolling was relentless. We couldn’t walk in the cabin nor stand in one spot without being thrown down onto the settee, using the head was darn near impossible! I couldn’t sit up in the cockpit without being tossed from side to side so I hunkered down in the cockpit well my entire watch. Waves pitched up behind us but never quite washed up over the stern. Tammy on Anjuli took a wave over the stern, drenching her with cold salt water.
The second day out we had great sailing. We shook out the sail reefs and scooted along at an average of 5.5 knots. The sea had smoothed out, it was warm and very comfortable in the cockpit. We had hearty meals that day making up for our lack of appetite the prior day.
Just before dusk, John hooked a fish just as he was putting out the hand line. We were excited, hoping that it was a white flesh fish as we had seen large dorsal finned fish swimming past the boat earlier in the day. Turned out to be a 10 pound skip jack tuna. Most people don’t care for the stronger tasting red meat fish, but eaten as sashimi, it’s delicious!

By nightfall the wind was beginning to die. We struggled to maintain 2.5 knots of boat speed and the boat began to roll. Just as I came off watch at 3:00 a.m., the wind totally died, we were drifting along with flat slapping sails. John started the engine and we motored the last 48 miles. Disappointed to run the engine but our calculations indicated that we would spend another night out as our arrival time was just after dark – 6:30 p.m.

We arrived at the channel entrance at 3:30 p.m with heavy shipping traffic, outbound fishing boats with helicopters on board, and tourist ferries following us. We motored in and started looking for our spot amongst all the abandoned sail and power boats. Just when we thought we found a good place, the waft of sewer stench blew over us. Argh!, what’s that smell?? They built a giant, 3 tank sewer treatment plant right at the shoreline! We continued to motor around a bit trying to avoid being directly downwind of the ghastly tanks. We dropped anchor in 25 feet, just east of old abandoned boats, and a little further away from the smell. We only had to close up and hide down below a couple of times.

But it was free anchorage, we had wifi at the shore if we held our breaths long enough. The dinghy dock was $3 per day, that included free tap water but not potable, and we had to jug it back to the boat. The facilities are run down, it was built in 1960s and the sea and wind have taken their toll on the structures. We had showers with 110V elements wired into the faucet head. I always checked to see if the black electrical tape was still attached to the exposed wires before I stepped in. Are these things even sold in the U.S.? As long as I kept the water flow down to just above trickle, the water temperature stayed fairly warm and sometimes hot. John’s shower was the opposite, lots of water flow but just above lukewarm. Can’t have everyththing you know.

Stayed tuned for Part 2 and pictures.

 

Topolobampo – Sinaloa,Mexico

We departed Isla Espiritu Santos, Jan 2nd, with our buddy boat Anjuli bound for Topolobampo, a small rustic city about 200 nm north of Mazatlan. Getting into the marina harbor was a bit of a challenge with a shallow entrance with breakers along the sea buoy, long 10 nm main channel and a secondary shallow channel at high tide with limited buoys and markers for another 4 nm. It is so far inland that the city’s underdeveloped sanitation system creates very murky water. But we didn’t come here for the marina, it was a place to dock and leave the boats for a train excursion to Copper Canyon.

The four of us departed at 6:00 a.m on a train headed for Creel. The 9 hour train ride wound through a high mountain range with spectacular scenery, deep canyons with boulders larger than sailboats, a 1000 meter tunnel followed by 85 shorter tunnels, numerous primitive towns, 4 different forests – ( more on that later) of varying species of trees, a high bridge that crossed over the mountain lake, and a gained elevation of nearly 8,000 feet. At 7,700 feet is the small town of Creel where the Tarahumara, an indigenous Indian tribe reside.

Copper was actually mined back in the late 1800’s but today the feature is the deep canyon and in some places, is actually deeper than Arizona’s Grand Canyon. imageThe water and wind eroded the geological formations where giant boulders balance atop pinnacles several hundred feet tall.
The Tarahumara tribe took up residence in some of the caves, and a few families continue to live there today. imageSome live in primitive dwellings on the rocky hillsides. We saw a few of the people disembark from a bus carrying large 50 pound sacks of staples, waited at the roadside for the pack horses to arrive and carried it home. A very proud, spiritual people who lived off the land growing corn and beans found peace and meaning with nature’s geological formations. Most of the people now live within the small town of Creel in primitive dwellings, some with thatched roofs, outdoor cooking accommodations and stick limb outhouses. They wear their colorful traditional dresses but a few women wear tennis shoes replacing their leather sandals. They have dark, deep set eyes, rarely smile at you and weathered faces reflect their meager existence. The women weave baskets and shawls and sell them sitting along the sidewalks or stand at the train stations hoping tourists will purchase their works. The children walk with handfuls of baskets and other trinkets hoping tourists will purchase something from them. They perform all the menial labor jobs of running a small town catering to tourists. Surprisingly, we met very few Americans. Mostly Europeans and South Americans arrived and this is the peak of tourist season.

When we arrived it was raining off and on, we were totally unprepared for cold windy weather. We didn’t bring any warm clothing and being so accustomed to mostly 80 degrees living in shorts and t-shirts, we didn’t even think about hats and gloves. Our first clue that we might be cold was the Europeans boarding the train at 3000 feet wearing fur lined parkas, hats and gloves with wind blown faces.
The hotel was very nice with colorful tile and stone. Large tiled bathroom with hot water too,(the marina here doesn’t have that) but the propane radiant heat couldn’t keep us warm enough. It was very cold sleeping in our socks and clothes.

The second day out was sunny but cold and a little more tolerable. We visited the museum, entry fee was 10 pesos, just a token. There is a mummy in a glass case with no environmental protection. The cold air may be enough to prevent further deterioration. It appears to be a very small person, perhaps a child as the Tarahumara people are not small boned. It is amazing to see, most of the skin was still intact. The body was preserved with palm fronds and mud, and the arid heat made for rapid drying. The extreme cold preserved it from decay. A picture shows the mummy when it was unearthed, it was in a position that is difficult for the human body to maintain at time of death. The rest of the museum was full of pictures of the tribe’s people, pictures of the Copper Canyon developer and later generations, tools used by the Indians, baskets, and some Christian influence artifacts. In whole, the museum catalogs the Indian tribe and history.

Back to the Forests. There were lush tropical, dry, and pine, changing with elevation. Coming up the mountain from sea level we passed large farms with modern disc and plow equipment, but the workers pick the crops by hand. Bus loads of workers picked the crops of giant tomato plants, potatoes and green beans. It looked just like the farm lands in Oregon with migrant workers.
As the train climbed we watched the cactus covered hillside change to greener foliage and flora. We passed through hillsides of green deciduous trees inter populated with pink blossom and white blossom trees, alder, oak, and madrone. Further up, the forest changed to tropical trees as the canyons provide hot humid air. Mango, banana, guava, orange and grapefruit trees were growing everywhere. There were trees with large fluffy balls hanging from the limbs.
Even higher, the rocks became house sized boulders, columns of solid rock, compressed hardened ash pillars, covered with various fauna and trees. A yellow bark tree grows very tall and the exposed yellow roots twist themselves around the rocks, hanging along the cliff walls. The lodge pole pines were the last forest at the highest elevation. Dry dirt covered with deep layers of pine needles, giant boulders provide root protection for the tall windswept pine trees. The bear grass like plants similar to Oregon’s high desert and alpine scenery send up tall stocks of flowering bulbs. Breathtaking scenery, you can’t pull yourself away from the windows.

Divisadero, the last stop before Creel, the train stops for 20 minutes to allow passengers to disembark and take pictures overlooking the deep canyon. Food vendors line the streets with hot grills and pans of various meats, beans and cooked cactus. For 20 pesos = $1.15 US, you can purchase scrumptious Gorditas made with corn, filled with potatoes, or meats and beans. Truly mouth watering food. Children sell bags of delicious apples, and the Tarahumara women sell their hand woven goods.

If you have a bucket list, make this place a destination. We won’t forget this place, and even still, I ponder the Tarahumara people and their traditional way of life is endangered.