Monday, 30 June 2014

Biscuits and Mantas and Sharks, oh my!

Greetings,

Sometime just before 7am this morning, a little voice said that she had been awake since 6:17, and could she please mix up some biscuits? So started our day. Victoria mixed up a double batch of biscuits, which we cooked in a bed of oats in the pressure cooker (I use this rather than the frying pan in the hope that releasing steam will make them less gooey). Combined with the pamplemousse that Johnathan cut up and some fried eggs, we had a yummy start to a good day :)

Our friends on Estrelita had told us that it is sometimes possible see Manta Rays in the north pass. The idea of a pass dive is to dingy towards the mouth of the pass during the slack water or with the newly rising tide, and then jump in and swim into the lagoon on the tidal current; the distance is short enough that it can be done several times.

Slack tide has moved to mid morning (very civilized!) so we arrived at the pass while the tide was still ebbing. This meant that we got to see the last of the current-meeting-swell waves, which (compared to a dingy) seemed quite big. Somewhat daunted, we began on the far side, and were impressed by the variety and quantity of fish, even if there were no manta rays. As the incoming current took hold, and the waves calmed down, we crossed back to the other side, and there, playing in the eddy and interface zones (ie where the fast water met the lagoon water) were probably a half-dozen manta rays. We had hit the jackpot! We positioned our dingy to drift near them, and then Max and both kids jumped in. We had lines dragging from the dingy for them to hold onto. Manta rays are huge (5+ feet across), graceful (but in my opinion, funny looking) creatures, that were not bothered by our presence at all. We were within a few feet of them - close enough for the kids to notice that each of the manta rays had a few fish swimming right under its belly. We figured that these fish had found a good place to not get eaten! As much as I loved the snorkelling, I also loved the conversations in the dingy afterwards - I am constantly amazed by how many different fish the kids can identify by name. The clarity of the water was extraordinary; we were probably in 30+ feet of water, and could easily see the coral and fish along the bottom...

.. the water was also clear enough that we could see sharks swimming along the bottom! Several times during our swim, the grownup would say "into the boat!" and the kids would quickly scramble aboard. Eventually, we got used to them (black-tipped reef sharks about 3-6 feet long) being near us, especially as it was apparent that they were going about their business, and were not at all interested in us. [We still keep a very careful eye on them for any change in behaviour and a bit like bears back home, give them a very wide berth] It is still a rather heart-stopping moment when we first see them! On our way back to our anchorage, we stopped at a little sand beach (a dingy with kids aboard pulled up just ahead of us, so we obviously had to see who it was) and in the ankle-deep water there were even more sharks. These were smaller (closer to three feet long) and again, were just swimming around, ignoring us. The dingy turned out to to be our Belgian friends from Nuku Hiva, so the kids had a great reunion (especially their daughter with Benjamin!) Benjamin finally got to sit on white sand at the edge of gently lapping waves with three big children doting on him. He was very keen to chew on the pieces of tumbled coral that make up the beach. It will be funny to look back on where he learned to crawl, and what he used for baby toys!

Our friends are in the next anchorage along from us (also nearer to the pass), which seems to be more open (read fewer coral heads), so we are planning to move there tomorrow, and possibly go together to the South end of the atoll the following day (in preparation for the winds to shift).

[Maintenance update: pulled the old gaskets off the window in the kid's cabin and glued in a new one. Since the gasket material normally lives buried way under the v-berth bunk it made sense to also replace the gasket material on the propane hatch as I suspected it was failing as well. Max]

Photos to follow when we have (lots of) wifi ... this won't be for a few weeks ...

Love to everyone,
Elizabeth



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At 6/26/2014 8:30 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°52.00'S 144°40.00'W
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At 6/26/2014 8:30 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°52.00'S 144°40.00'W

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Sunday, 29 June 2014

Hunt for Water and Coconuts.

Greetings!

I almost went to bed tonight with no note; after all, today was "just another day" with no great expedition or adventure to tell you about. Then I got thinking about what the day had held, and I decided that you might like to hear about it after all :)

Today really started yesterday, with a plaintive little voice saying, "Ohhhh, my book is ruined..." Victoria's Rainbow Loom instruction book had been stored during the passage at the foot of her bunk (top bunk bed in the port cabin). She has not actually slept in her bunk in some weeks, preferring the cockpit, or the settee in the main saloon, or even the floor of the saloon, so no one had noticed that there was water coming into that cabin (the same one where we had to do the major bulkhead repair last year) at the foot and the head of the bed.

Bright and early this morning, we removed everything from her bunk and found that the entire mattress was saturated and there were stains from (what we believe to be) two leaks from the same window: one leak comes straight down from the window glass and the other sneaks under the bulkhead covers and the ceiling "headliner" to drip down near the head of the bed. Max spent much of the rest of the morning with a tube of silicone sorting out the window frame [the full fix requires removing the window and rebedding it but the last time we did that it required a bunch of fiberglass work so this time I removed the outside plate and old caulking and resealed everything back together again); turns out that the sealant on the outside half of the frame (the windows have an outside frame and an inside frame that mate together with the side of the boat in between them) had totally dried out, and water was able to sneak into the boat. He will tackle the window gasket tomorrow. As for the mattress, it spent the afternoon soaking up UV rays and drying out. Since it was wet with salt water, I will clean it with fresh as soon as we have a plentiful supply, but in the meantime, we will keep it as dry as possible and will watch it for stains/mold. And Victoria's book? It turns out that the damaged pages are for (beginner) crafts that she has already done, and the intermediate/advanced sections are mostly OK. It is drying on the upper deck, and getting its own dose of UV. Both kids have really enjoyed using that instruction guide, so I was as disappointed as Victoria to see that it had been damaged. The experience made me grateful that I have stored most out-of-use items in dry bags to minimize damage like this. I have heard so many stories of moldy clothes and books from moisture that has snuck in where it wasn't welcome, that I am a bit paranoid about leaving our stuff for any length of time. Thankfully, this is our first major dampness attack.

Victoria and Johnathan spent much of the morning playing with Lego on the saloon table. Victoria drew a relief map of their space and then they constructed it, complete with river/waterfall (blue cape hung from the fruit hammock), green grassy area (fruit/veg sack) and lake (blue towel). The little pistachio boats took their place as dingies, and their Lego people set up their camp on the little island in the lake. The detail of their play continues to astound me ("Look Dad, this is a raft like in Huckleberry Finn; this house has a wide overhang to keep the rain off the windows; this one opens to this side to avoid the prevailing winds, etc, etc"). Sometimes I just love to stand back and listen!

As for Benjamin, he was in heaven as he got to play with Victoria & Johnathan's stuffies as they all emerged (unscathed) from their cabin. It was very cute to see him sitting on the floor surrounded by toys, and to see Victoria and Johnathan bringing them to life for him.

The main event of the day was supposed to be a coconut hunt, looking for coconuts that had been knocked down by the high winds over the last few days. Alas, there were either none to be found, or the ground was too thick with scrub to access them, so we will try elsewhere in the atoll over the next few days. [or I need to stop being lazy and climb the trees.)

The winds today were almost completely calm, which, surprisingly, brought its own challenges: we have been inundated with bog-standard house flies, and without the wind to push it back, our boat floated forward late this afternoon and wrapped a bit of chain around a coral head. The flies, we are living with (I see them as a distraction from the other bugs on the boat), but the anchor chain needed some attention. With minutes to go before sunset, Max free-dove (ie held his breath) to release the chain from the coral. Unlike a normal anchoring scenario, where there is a clear run of chain from the anchor to the boat, in the midst of coral heads, we have to put floats on the chain to keep it above any obstacles. We run as much chain as we can on a clear patch of sand, and then we fasten fenders/buoys via a line to the chain to lift it off the coral. This is an art as much as it is a science, so we are learning as we go (Soggy Paws has a good description on their website). The chain was tightly caught in the coral at almost the limit of Max's free diving capacity, so it was a relief (for both of us) when he freed it. If he hadn't been successful, and the wind had come up, we would have put out extra chain and treated the coral head as our new "anchor" site. Boats who didn't let out more chain have been lost in this scenario, because they effectively do not have enough anchor chain down for the depth.

As for me, I spent much of the day at the kitchen sink - washing laundry and washing dishes. We have a salt-water hose that we pass through the galley window so I can quickly fill the sink for laundry; I do a salt water wash and a fresh water rinse (and I sometimes do a salt-water rinse in between, depending on the amount of laundry and the amount of the day that the other two steps seem to be taking!) My wringer gets nearly daily use, and the big kids peg the clothes as I go. We seem to be keeping up with these chores, so I am hopeful that I will avoid the four-bag laundry run ashore when we get to Papeete (and the $60 price tag that came with it in Nuku Hiva!)

When Max came back to the boat and found the anchor fouled, he had just left Victoria and Johnathan ashore collecting firewood so we could have another bonfire / hotdog night. As ever, it was amazing to be sitting on the edge of a beach at the edge of the world. When we can get the kids to turn off their head torches, the night is completely dark, and we can see so many stars. It is neat to think that friends and family at home are also getting into bonfire season!

It looks like we have another day or so of calm or North winds, and then they are supposed to come around from the South again. We are thinking of heading back to the other end of the atoll, possibly near where our Swedish friends are anchored. This atoll was recommended by several different friends, so we think we will stay here quite a while before heading to another one.

Well ... this has turned into a long dit for a straightforward day. I love thinking of you reading our news with your morning coffee, wherever you may be. Thank you for your continued thoughts, prayers, and good wishes (and emails!). We are so blessed to be able to stay in touch. We have friends with no HF email, and they make me wonder what I would do without this daily connection.

Love to all,
Elizabeth
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At 6/26/2014 8:30 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°52.00'S 144°40.00'W
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At 6/26/2014 8:30 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°52.00'S 144°40.00'W

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Saturday, 28 June 2014

Snorkelling and Weather

Greetings :)

It turns out that we made a good call yesterday when we moved; the wind is now coming from due North, so if we had stayed in our old spot, we'd have been rolling waves that had most of the lagoon to build. It is satisfying when hind-sight gives us a thumbs up! (If you look up our atoll (Tahanea) on Google Earth, you can see what I mean...)

Victoria was the first one awake this morning, and I was vaguely aware that she was bustling in the kitchen. She had decided to make frying pan biscuits, and before long, she had dough made, dishes washed, and everything back to the way it was before she started baking. By 0800, we were all enjoying her fare (I sprinkled oats on the bottom of my pressure cooker, and used it so that the steam would be let out; Victoria didn't think they would be up to "Grampy's standards", but I thought he would have been pretty happy!)

We decided to recce the pass dive today and then snorkel on the little reef just inside the pass. We got to the pass shortly after the slack water, and the current was already building. It was quite neat to watch the waves get larger as time went on. The kids are becoming proficient snorkellers. They went first with Max and came back babbling about parrot fish, groupers, "platypus fish" (no one was sure what they were, but they were long and skinny, and their mouth was like an elongated duck bill), and insisting that I should go. Max and Johnathan did another circuit, then the kids stayed in the boat with Benjamin and Max and I did a little loop. It was beautiful and clear; I understand that there will be even more variety when we snorkel in the pass. Max saw some sharks at a distance, but they were like well-behaved bears in BC - Max beckoned the kids away from them, and the sharks didn't show any interest.

Our afternoon was pretty quiet. We talked to our neighbours (a French couple) and they told us that he has been spear fishing right under their boat. Max may try this tomorrow, as we are getting low on fresh fish... After a couple of days of excursions, today was a day to stow, tidy, clean, etc. It feels so good when this is done :)

Benjamin is sitting for longer and longer periods of time. Now I can plunk him down, give him some toys to play with (usual baby toys like pieces of line and floor panel handles!) and let him entertain himself for a short while. Even a few minutes is appreciated. As for Benjamin, he is quite proud of himself.

The wind is blowing 10-15 kts from the North to North/NW, but our boat is perfectly steady (and quiet). Max dove on our anchor when we arrived, and it is well dug in. Hopefully there will be deep sleep all around tonight.

[We use our HF radio and a Pactor modem to download weather via the Sailmail email system. Very low bandwidth but it works well. Ironically we are having more luck using the San Diego station (at a wopping 1400 baud) than the much closer Mahini and Niue stations. When on the move we download grib forecasts for the area but in an anchorage the grib-based spot forecasts are easier to download and more relevant. We also can receive weather faxes either with our dedicated Furuno weather fax machine or on our HF radio. In this part of the ocean however we access the "fleet code" maps from Nadi. These are based on a World War II system where a series of numbers are sent an e-mail and program named Phys-Plot turns it into a weather map with a text summary of the weather systems. In the past this needed to be copied from morse and then hand drawn. Now we get it in a text e-mail, cut and paste into notepad, and open it in Phys-Plot. We are still on a learning curve understanding the weather systems here. The same physics of course applies but with Corilos Effect "pushing" the winds around the "other" way the Lows, Highs and frontal systems go the opposite direction. The other big factor here is the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ) where the systems from South America and Australia collide. Of course, we are now entering the domain where the SPCZ is a dominant factor.

Also of course time to do some maintenance. An occasional dribble of coolant has been coming out between the filler cap flange and the header tank itself. I added extra gasket goop as the first attempt but not surprisingly that did not work. This time I put some metal epoxy on the small leak on the header tank after sanding and cleaning it thoroughly. Since I still had some epoxy mixed I put another layer on the leaky weld of the exhaust elbow. The previous repair was holding fine but if a bit is good then more is better ... Johnathan and I also continued the hunt to eliminate chafe. I had noticed a little bit of chafe on the genoa furler (if the genoa furler line parts at sea or at anchor in a wind then the whole genoa unfurls which would be quite unsatisfactory). Turns out two of the stanchion mounted blocks for the line were slightly out of alignment so Johnathan and I realigned them. Next maintenance projects will be to replace some gasket material on the portlight in the kid's cabin and the propane locker hatch. As far as we can tell, these are the only two leaks now - quite a change from the water streaming in from almost every portlight, hatch and down the mast with every big wave or rain when we went down the tempestuous Washington and Oregon coast two years ago. Max]

Love to all,
Elizabeth
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At 6/26/2014 8:30 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°52.00'S 144°40.00'W
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At 6/26/2014 8:30 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°52.00'S 144°40.00'W

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Friday, 27 June 2014

Across the Lagoon (Again)

Greetings,

Well, it turns out that lagoons, like most places in life, are not static. Our lovely, flat, calm anchorage was lovely, flat, and not-calm today, with winds hovering around 20 kts, and forecast to move around towards the north. We had the "do we stay or do we go" decision to make. Our anchor was well dug in and secure [nice to be able to easily free dive and check the anchor], and if the winds did *exactly* as they were forecast, we would be just fine; unfortunately, we had that seed of doubt that said that if the winds came more to the north than forecast, or with more force than forecast, we would not like our anchorage. The reef that Max and the kids were snorkelling on yesterday was uncomfortably close to the spot we might find ourselves in depending on the strength of the new winds.

Since the change in the wind was set for the wee (dark) hours overnight, and lagoons are best crossed in the bright sunlight (or at least the daytime!), we decided to head towards the anchorage near the pass after a quick lunch. Ironically, we made this decision just after Max and Johnathan had snorkelled on our anchor to add another float to our anchor chain [to keep our chain off the coral heads to ensure the heads are not damaged, to protect the galvanisation of our chain and to ensure we do not reduce our anchor scope due to the chain wrapping]. Oh well. These are the jobs that keep us (him) fit. Changing positions did two things for us - it gave us a potentially more secure anchorage (less fetch for the waves), and it pre-positioned us for the "pass dive" (this is when you go to the outside of the pass in your dingy before the tide begins to flow into the lagoon, then you snorkel (drift) with the tidal current, enjoying the scenery as you go) that our Swedish friends had recommended. It was rather dark (mid afternoon and cloudy) when we crossed the lagoon, so I was grateful for our GPS track from our entry, as we were able to retrace our steps most of the way. On Sunday, we could see the coral heads through clear, turquoise water from about a half-mile away. Today the water was its normal dark-blue colour, and we could only see close-by coral on our beam. The 90 min passage certainly reinforced the need to enter new lagoons with high, bright sunshine behind us. We have made our "coral" crossings with Max on the bow and Benjamin and myself at the wheel .. this protects Benjamin from extra hours of UV. As an aside, we have a set of "marriage saver" (two-way headset) radios, and I think they would be ideal for this application, but when I took them from the cupboard at the last minute today, they seemed to need a little TLC before they would work, so Victoria and Johnathan acted as two-legged relays for us instead.

I am kind of enjoying what is happening now that the pressure of school is off for a while: at one point today, I heard Victoria ask Johnathan whether he preferred green or orange. Turns out that she was making a miniature boat out of a pistachio shell for one of his Lego creatures (picture Stuart Little only smaller). For 'bottom paint' she was choosing amongst various colours of nailpolish. She even had a tiny (gaff-rigged) sail with a pattern of stars painted on it in the form of the Southern Cross. The whole vessel is about an inch tall. Meanwhile Johnathan is reading "The Wind in the Willows" and Victoria is reading Huckleberry Finn.

Dinner tonight was tuna, rice, and diced sweet potatoes fried in butter. Victoria cut them in cubes, as she says that I don't cut them small enough .. it is nice to have help (even if it is opinionated) in the galley :)

Anyway, this is a short note for a straightforward day. We will see what the weather does; hopefully we won't look at our old anchorage with too much wistfulness tomorrow. Once again, experience can only be gained with experience, and we have to make our choices and live and learn from the results ... kind of sounds like life anywhere!

Love to you all, wherever you may be,
Elizabeth
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At 6/23/2014 12:06 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°57.20'S 144°34.85'W
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At 6/26/2014 8:30 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°52.00'S 144°40.00'W

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Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Arrival in paradise!

Greetings ...

..from a boat that has stopped moving for the first time in two months! By that, I mean that our new anchorage is still - perfectly still. Sometimes the wind blows, and sometimes it doesn't, but the boat is steady and flat regardless. The first two times I sat Benjamin on the floor, he fell over right away; I joked that he wasn't used to being on a stable platform! It seems so ironic that Max had under-hull work to do last week when the boat was moving more than if we were at sea! It also feels a bit like our souls will have a chance to catch up with our bodies here, that we will have time to breathe, to explore, and to spend some time as a family.

Anyway, here we are. Max and the kids have gone ashore to explore, Benjamin is sitting (yes, sitting alone) beside me on the floor of the cockpit, and I am taking a moment before tackling dishes, diapers, and dinner (the phrase of my life at the moment) to begin a note.

This really is the kind of place that people sell their homes and sail around the world to see. Two years ago this week, we did just that, and it feels really good to have arrived here.

We have two neat photos on our camera from this morning. The first was of Victoria with Benjamin in my turquoise wrap ("Mommy, he is so heavy, how do you do this all day??") The second was taken by Victoria of Johnathan during a little swim from the boat after breakfast (just a little one ... they are still getting their heads around the fact that "there are sharks in them waters" and despite the clarity, they are venturing in slowly). It struck me that the colour of the water *really is* the same as the colour of my wrap! Amazing.

Our SSB was uncooperative during the last couple of days on passage; we are now too close to the site we were using and we were too busy to programme in other sites that might have better reception. What relief we feel when we actually make a connection! I also feel grateful to receive your notes and updates; home doesn't seem so far removed then.

{pause for the day to unfold}

As usual, now the boat is dark and quiet. Dishes got done, dinner got made, diapers will wait til tomorrow.

Max, Victoria and Johnathan went on two expeditions today - on foot ashore, and on fins to a nearby coral head. During their hike, they saw some black-tipped reef sharks (two medium sized ones (3 feet long) and a tiny one (1 1/2 feet long) - the kids figured it was a mom, a dad, and a baby) in the shallow water by the beach. Neither child had done much snorkelling before, so today was a bit of a warm-up for jaunts further afield; both did really well, and were excited to learn a new skill with Dad. They also helped him attach a buoy to our anchor chain so that more of it would be off the bottom and less likely to wrap around a coral head. (The water is so clear that we can see the entire chain and the anchor. Max could also see that the Splash Zone he put on the skeg bolts has stayed put. Yeah!)

Dinner tonight (and lunch this afternoon) was sashimi tuna (caught on the last day of our passage) and wahoo cooked in butter. With a baguette from the freezer, peppers and carrots to eat raw, and buttery pasta, we had two yummy meals. Lunch ended up being shared with the couple from the only other boat in this part of the lagoon - they dropped by as we were about to eat to say hello, it came up that she had never seen a sextant, so we invited them aboard to see Dad's beautiful old one in its wooden box, and to share what we had.

I must say that it is a relief to have finished our passage. The nights tended to be bouncy, and now they are already a bit of a blur. On one occasion, the wind went from close hauled at 7 kts wind speed (ie comfortable; full sails trimmed for maximum efficiency in the light wind) to 17 kts well forward of the beam (ie overpowered; multiple reefs needed) in a matter of seconds. From down below it sounded like the roar of a freight train. Another night, we had a multi-hour series of squalls with winds over 20 kts. These winds aren't bad when they are from behind, but when we are close-reaching, as we were doing for most of this passage, it is hard work, to say the least! Thankfully (for me, at least) both times this crazy weather came on Max's watch. It was so noisy in the aft cabin (autopilot, boat rolling, water heaving), that I ended up sleeping on our saloon settee with Benjamin one night just so I could sleep! The most unusual thing that happened on my watch was a 90-degree wind shift, just as we were approaching our destination. With 20 nm to go, all of a sudden I needed to steer West instead of South (again in a matter of seconds). With other islands in every direction, this became the moment when we started the engine. It was nice to arrive with batteries topped up and our hot water tank hot when we arrived!

[We did our first atoll pass entry with no problem timing it just before slack high tide. We were going to anchor near the entrance but we decided with the good visibility to motor the 9 nm or so across to the south-east corner of the lagoon. As you can see the bottom in 65 ft of depth navigation is simple but requires someone on the bow to watch for the coral heads.]

This has been a bit of a rambling catch-up email ... I am finding that when I don't send a little note every day, some of the highlights get blurred into memory very quickly!

Love to everyone,
Elizabeth
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At 6/23/2014 12:06 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°57.20'S 144°34.85'W
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At 6/23/2014 12:06 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°57.20'S 144°34.85'W

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Sunday, 22 June 2014

Yahoo, it's a Wahoo -17-19 Jun ... slowing down and catching up

We are still on passage to Tahanea in the Tuamotus close reaching in winds varying from 12 to 15 kts TWS. Fluenta is bounding along with at 6.5 to 7.5 kts with a double reef. A nice change from the variable weather yesterday with the winds down to 2 kts TWS. We motored for about 90 minutes until the wind came back. A chance to top up the batteries and check out the various band-aid engine repairs.

Max

Latest Liz Letter from Last Night:

Greetings,

This feels quite familiar: we are on passage, it is just after midnight, and I am sitting feeding Benjamin at the chart table in an otherwise quiet boat, typing with one hand and holding him with the other :)

After some hectic days, I have a minute to slow down and catch up with our doings over the last few days.

It is a glorious night. We ate dinner with complete cloud cover and total darkness except for our red head lamps, and I was braced for the conditions to be poor as I started the evening watch, but the sky began to clear almost right away, and for the last few hours the stars have been out in force. It is so clear here! We are on a heading just west of south, so the Southern Cross, our friend from the PPJ passage, is back in place just to the left of the mast. There are little patches of darkness (high patchy clouds) but otherwise the entire bowl of the sky is awash with stars. The moon will rise shortly, and the added brightness will help us to spot squalls, but in the meantime, the view from the cockpit is spectacular!

{We are sailing, as we often do at night, with a double reef in the main. I have been rolling the genoa in and out depending on the winds, which have varied between <7 and >14 kts ... of course, I am doing this with Benjamin's help, so it has kept me on my toes, but I have enjoyed the challenge. I haven't had to wake Max yet on this watch, which is a first!}

There is a funny story to our dinner tonight. After Nancy's good influence on me, I generally try to be in the galley prepping for 6pm dinner shortly after 4pm. This schedule means that we can tidy/prep the boat for overnight and eat before the tropical sunset (no long evenings for us, even if it is June!) and start watches shortly thereafter. Our plan was to eat the skipjack we had caught yesterday (which we kept, unlike the three that we caught today that we returned to the sea) along with some rice and some vegetables ... a proper fancy passage menu. Despite my best efforts, by 6:30, I was just *starting* to cook (something about babies and squalls that kept me out of the galley...). The "old me" would have pressed on with the planned menu: after all, the skipjack needed to be eaten, and I had a plan to execute, even if this meant not eating until 9pm. The "new me" decided that the skipjack could wait, the rice could be cooked for tomorrow, and we could eat the huge can of pork & beans that I had picked up in the Nuku Hiva grocery store! We were eating within 20 minutes, and on watches on time!

Our last few days in Nuku Hiva were spent on provisioning to leave "tomorrow", and then provisioning some more as tomorrow slipped to the next day. How long does it take to prepare for a 5-day passage followed by several weeks of not much in the way of grocery stores (if any)? How long is a piece of string?! We finally were fueled up, loaded up, food stowed (our fruit & veg crates are back in a neat stack in the pantry), and boat ready yesterday morning. The up side of spending a week in a rolly anchorage was that stowing for sea was pretty straightforward! We traded rolls at anchor of -15 to +15 degrees for rolls underway from 0 to +30 yesterday afternoon, as the seas next to the island were quite steep, but they have leveled out to quite pleasant conditions for much of today. We seemed to get our overnight squalls during the day today; they were much easier to deal with in the daylight!

{An aside for those looking to do this passage down the road ... I am *very* thankful for the three carloads of canned goods that I bought in Mexico. Over and above fresh food, all I had to do this week was buy a few things that we were running low on and a few treats for the month. Provisioning everything here would have been both challenging (quantity and selection were limited) and expensive. I shopped for 6 months of canned goods in Mexico, and despite the challenge of finding room in the boat for everything I brought back, it is an effort that paid dividends now.}

{Another funny aside - after days of asking for and not receiving eggs at the grocery store, I was there when they were delivered on Tuesday morning, so without any trouble at all, I was able to buy three dozen. This will stretch our freeze dried supply from Nancy quite nicely!}

We are finding our rhythm on the watchkeeping front - during the day, I sleep when Benjamin sleeps, and at night, I take the first & last watches while Max takes the middle watch. Of course, I had to wake him for an hour this morning to bring in our (first) wahoo (!). As we brought in the wahoo, Max had a running commentary from Victoria, "That's it Dad. They don't tend to jump once they are on the hook. They like to fight. The meat is white and a bit dry. I'm glad I read up on wahoos a few days ago." I am slowly learning that Victoria and Johnathan will both read and write when they see the purpose to it ... and reading the fishing book is a favourite pastime for both of them :)

Max will tell you more about this on the blog [more to follow another time], but his rescue tape and JB Weld fixes seem to be holding their own in the engine compartment. We have another leak near a pump [raw water pump - leaking a small bit of oil at the flange between the pump and the block] in the engine, but we have a spare. We have heard back from Vesper, and our AIS will be sent to us in Papeete. Our list of things to do in New Zealand is taking shape ... as ever, cruising is maintaining our boat in exotic locales!

We are just over 300 miles to go before we turn towards our first atoll. With boat speeds ranging from <3 kts to >7 kts, it is hard to say when we will arrive, but we will keep you posted!

Much love,
Elizabeth
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At 6/20/2014 4:38 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 11°32.00'S 141°39.00'W
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At 6/21/2014 1:31 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 11°35.42'S 142°48.42'W

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Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Mahi Mahi

Photos the kids took of the mahi mahi from a few weeks ago.




Science Class

Science you can eat. Of course he had to write a two page report on it. 




Passage Preps - The Sequel

 Greetings,

Benjamin has just woken from his nap on my back, so while I sit and he feeds, I will dash off a quick note.  Yesterday and today are boat-prep days - time to do the last of the boat jobs (Max is going to breath-hold dive on the rudder to see if, despite the rolliness, he can coax the skeg bolts to stay put by tightening them and putting some Splash-Zone on top; he has already used Rescue Tape and JB-Weld in the engine compartment to buy us time to get to NZ), and I am stowing produce ...

So began this little dit early this afternoon.  Now it is approaching midnight, Benjamin is finally sleeping on the aft bunk after a rather squally (more teeth?) kind of a day.  It is fair to say that a baby is *not* an asset to one's efficiency.  A teething baby who is becoming mobile is even *less* of an asset.  Good thing he is cute :)  (And good thing Mom is a night-owl who can start her day`s work at 10 pm ... the aft cabin is now stowed for sea, the laundry is put away, and the produce will wait for tomorrow!)

Max ended up diving with his gear [and managed to not get eaten by sharks] on the rudder and using Splash Zone (2-part expoxy that gets mixed in gloved hands like gooey playdough) to secure the bolts, patch the rudder where the stern-anchor chain had rubbed it, and patch the transom where the dingy played too rough of a game of bumper-boats with Fluenta (so much for our beautiful Mexican paint job ... the dull-green Splash Zone is not what you would call a colour match, but at least it will prevent further damage to the fibreglass/paint until we can fix it properly).  This turned into an all-hands evolution, as it was necessary for me to form the Splash Zone balls and for the kids to entertain an unenthusiastic Benjamin... so much for stowing produce, cleaning the fridge, securing the aft cabin, running ashore for the last of the provisions, etc etc...

After a quick mid-afternoon bowl of soup, Max and Johnathan began the dingy trips to refuel our diesel two jerry cans at a time.  Johnathan earned his eight-year-old pay today (a bag of chips!) helping Max hoist the jerry cans several feet from the dingy to the jetty, carry them to the fuel station, return to the dingy with them, hoist them aboard Fluenta, and then pour them into the tank.  They did two runs today, and will do the final one in the morning.

It then turned out that all the jellyfish-like creatures that were hovering around Max under water (not stinging, but not leaving either) also found their way into our watermaker system, so after re-stowing all the heavy gear from the lazarette (removed earlier this week so Max could look for the source of funny sounds coming from the autopilot), Max had to trouble-shoot that system as well.  So much for an early night with a tidy boat!  It really did seem like one step ahead and two steps behind, but at the same time, we could be having this kind of day anywhere, and the scenery is certainly nice here :)

Such is a day on a sailboat with a baby ...

Thinking that this would be our last night here, we went ashore for pizza (overpriced and undersized, unfortunately, but the wood-fired oven that we could see from the table was worth the walk).  We had been planning to leave at noon tomorrow (Tues), but now it looks like we will leave at first light on Wed.  The journey will be between 450 and 500 nm, so it will likely take us 4-5 days, depending on the wind.  Unlike the Marquesas, which are high and mountainous (read lush, rainy, and fertile), the Tuomotus are a group of volcanic "motus" that are flat and consist generally of a ring of (very dry) land surrounding a coral-filled lagoon.  Passages need to be timed carefully so that the lagoon is entered through the pass during particular current windows, and when the sun will be above and behind us.  As I understand it, the wind will be a constant presence, but the anchorages are typically flat because the circle of land quells the waves.  Our batteries should be happy, and so should our souls, because we will finally be in a peaceful place with white sand, clear water, and minimal swell.  Now we just need to prep our boat and make our passage so we can get there!

On that note, I will call it a night ... much love to all,
Elizabeth
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At 6/8/2014 6:18 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 08°55.00'S 140°06.00'W


Monday, 16 June 2014

10-14 Jun - Marquesan Wedding, Boat work, Internet and End-of-school (sort of)

Good Saturday evening!

I'll start with today and work backwards ... the week is a bit of a blur of school wrap-up and using wifi while we had it. Today, however, was unique: we attended the celebration of a Marquesan wedding :)

It turns out that it is a Marquesan tradition to include last-minute ("non-prévue") guests at their wedding receptions - they even set aside tables for them. Given the squally weather last night and today, Max and Johnathan stayed aboard. The wedding itself was private and took place at 9:00 am, while the reception began just after 11:00 am. (I told the bride that it must be true love, as she was up at 5am to prepare!) The bride's family is descended from local royalty, so she and her new husband were dressed in matching red with brilliant white flowers in their honour. Many of the ladies were wearing floral arrangements in their hair, and most of the guests were wearing nice, but practical, clothing (which was a good thing, given that the reception was outside under decorated tents, and it bucketed rain for quite a while in the afternoon). I hadn't been sure what dress code to expect (arms covered? legs covered? but it turned out that my "little blue nursing dress" with flip flops was just fine. Nice to be neither under- nor over-dressed). The feast took all day to prepare yesterday (this is where having nine sisters in the family comes in handy - everyone pitched in to help), with much of the food being prepared in an earth oven (which I didn't see). It struck me as an interesting juxtaposition of traditional and modern to see the food laden on palm-frond serving platters on the long serving table, but dispersed to the guest tables in plastic take-away type containers. I was told that part of the reason for the tradition of inviting extra guests is that there is always so much food, and they need someone to help them eat it... we didn't mind doing our share to pitch in :) We were served pork with a choice of BBQ or coconut milk sauce, goat (in coconut milk), veal (with long rib bones sticking out of the meat), octopus (in coconut curry), potato salad (very familiar to my Russian friends who enjoyed the potato/beet/corn/garlic/mayo salad as a taste of home), coconut rice, spiced rice, sweet potato, white beans (with bacon), bananas (cooked in coconut milk), and poission cru. Victoria and I tried a little bit of everything, and were even sent home with some of the leftovers :)

When we got back to the quay, we found that Max and Johnathan had been busy: Max seemed to be the only one who had noticed that one of our neighbours was dragging (even the boat downwind of them wasn't doing anything), so he got on the radio to muster a response. Thankfully the skipper had noticed from the wedding reception that his boat was moving across the bay without him, and returned in time to move it. For a single-hander, he had a rather complex, labour-intensive setup; I think he appreciated the assistance from Max, Johnathan, and the newly motivated downwind skipper. The funny thing was that at the wedding, he had been telling *me* that he thought we had dragged last night! Given the rolly, squally conditions, and the fact that the first part of the week had felt like a potential game of bumper cars (we were never too close to anyone, but we were always on alert for someone to drag), after we had him settled, we elected to move to deeper water where we could put out more chain. It is still rolly, but we are not having to keep watch every few minutes to see who we are close to now! I had forgotten what a relatively small effort could do for everyone's peace of mind.

Weddings aside, the highlight of today for the kids (and admittedly even for us) was one of our rare movie nights -- we all tucked in around the saloon table, shut the windows and hatches to the wind and the rain and transported ourselves away to Middle-Earth. We just finished Volume 1 of the Lord of the Rings, and had read The Hobbit last year, so it seemed fitting to enjoy The Hobbit (part 2) as a family. It was lovely :)

The kids love sleeping in the cockpit. Even on sqally nights, one or both typically start and sometimes even finish the night there. Last night, however, was so rainy (when he got up to check the dingy [hoisted up on a spinnaker halyard] at 4am Max could hardly see the town), that even Johnathan returned to the warmth and dryness of the cabin. I felt a cold hand on my foot at around 4:30, and woke to find a very soggy boy at the foot of the bed. Five minutes later, he was in dry clothes, wrapped in a blanket, and tucked into bed. The boat was rolling so much that it felt like we were on passage. It will be interesting to see where they end up tonight :)

There is quite a little community that gathers each day at the snack bar on the quay - unlike other places we have been in FP, there is free wifi at all the restaurants here. The snack bar reminds me of the VIP Lounge in La Cruz, but with food and drink available. The delightful owner does not seem to mind how long we stay, or how much/little we order; it seems to all come out in the wash. We have gone ashore each day this week to document/finish Victoria & Johnathan's schoolwork. We are pretty much done - a few more sheets to finish, photograph, and email for Victoria and we can call this term complete.

It will be a relief to be done with the official school year, but we are already talking about continuing with a school routine over the summer so that there is always some kind of reading/writing/reflecting going on in FLUENTA. (As an aside, at dinner yesterday, Johnathan wanted to know if it would make financial sense to skip the anchor/chain/windlass expenses and just pay marina fees. Safety aspects of being a boat and therefore needing an anchor aside, we helped him estimate and work out how many nights in a marina it would take to pay off his anchoring equipment (about 100) and he saw that anchoring, even with expensive equipment, is a pretty good deal! When he balked at doing "math" at dinner, we suggested that we would have to do more of it in the daytime otherwise, and he became pretty cooperative...). As for me, I am hoping to investigate some of the other approaches to home schooling (un-schooling, project based learning, etc) over the summer in the hopes of establishing a better-fit routine for us next year.

We had internet trouble earlier in the week (we had installed Virtual Private Network - VPN - software before we left Mexico, and for some reason we couldn't connect at all even though the computer thought it had an internet connection - our friend at Yacht Services turned out to be a former IT guy, so he quickly rectified the issue yesterday afternoon - for the first time a computer job actually did take "only five minutes"), but once it was resolved, I spent some time on the quay reading the blogs of some of our friends - they are so well written! It can make a person (ie me) a bit over-awed to read other people's writing, but at the same time it is fascinating to have insight into other sailing families (check out Adamaster (water-log), Rebel Heart, Bettie, and Totem to see what I mean.) I have decided to *choose* to not be over-awed (which would lead to not writing) and simply continue to keep you in the loop of our doings and musings :) I have heard somewhere before that comparisons are odious ...

As for the rest of the family, Max has been chipping away at boat jobs (engine painting, despite the rain, was on the agenda for today; dealing with the bolts that have loosened on our skeg keeps being pushed off until mañana in the hopes that the boat will not be moving so violently when he dives on it again). [The transmission is only two years old but the salt water leak from the exhaust elbow caused a bunch of corrosion onto the transmission in short order. It pained me to look at it - corrosion never sleeps - so some rust treatment and engine paint {use in well ventilated areas ha ha ha insert maniacal laughter here} and the transmission looks as good as new. Corrosion also seemed to be at work on our shore power cable. With all the overcast weather we have had to resort to using our gas powered Honda generator via our shore power connection. I noticed that the plug on the boat end was getting warmer than it should. Turns out some corrosion had built up in the plugs but a bit of sandpaper and Corrosion-X sorted that out quickly. The new autopilot has been a big improvement from the old Robertson that is now kept in reserve. However, a few times on the trip we had the "rudder response failure" alarm and Sammy the Simrad autopilot stopped driving. Resetting the autopilot got Sammy driving again but it is a bit disconcerting so I talked to Simrad about potential fixes. They are not sure why it would be happening especially we are careful to keep the sails reasonably balanced and the weather helm to appropriate levels and that I had checked the wiring, hydraulic fluid levels and the range and motion of the quadrant. They did however give us a few things to adjust in the commissioning settings so we will have to see what happens on the next passage. I spent several hours at anchor trying to make it fail but to no avail. Since I already had access to much of the steering I took the opportunity to oil the steering cables and sheaves and tighten up the steering cables a bit. Other scheduled maintenance on the windlass and main sail furler have been checked off while I wait for an opportunity to safely dive on the skeg - we are rolling up to 20 degrees and the visibility is not great with the overcast. Max]

Victoria and Johnathan have been reading, doing official "school work", watching a grown-up friend with a machete deal expertly with both coconuts and live chickens (which all eventually end up in the same stew pot), and playing the the dozen or so kids who are here in the bay. As with La Cruz, or the Sea of Cortez last year, there is a nice range of kids around their age (approx 5-14). The difference this year is that the families come from all over the world. At the moment, there are Russian, Dutch, Belgian, and Australian, and French kids here. There is enough common language (generally English) to play dodge ball, cops & robbers (and of course, mine-craft). Benjamin's rash is improved now that I have put ointment on it (Dr and pharmacy visits this week sorted that out; the pharmacist even helped me choose and obtain the homeopathic remedies I needed. When they weren't in stock, she had them sent to the snack bar the following afternoon to save me a 40-min walk each way to go get them). (On the other hand, despite poison powder and spray, I am still losing to the bugs who are stowing away onboard.) We are enjoying our growing sense of community, but we are also starting to look at weather windows to be on our way [the cause of all this rolliness in the bay is the relatively nasty conditions offshore - 'rafales 30/45 kts', 'mer forte' and 'houle courte 2.5m/3m' according to the meteo. There is a market with farm-fresh produce beside the dock, so I stocked up this morning, and we will be ready to go when the window opens. Tomorrow is stow-the-boat day again (the forward head will turn back into an organized pantry [and tool shed]- yeah!)

So -- for now, you will likely hear from us a few more times from this bay. We may go to Daniel's Bay for a night or two, and we are hoping to head to the Tuomotos Tues or Wed this week. On the advice of friends who have already done the hike, it is likely that we will give the famous "3rd highest waterfall" a miss, as it doesn't sound nice and we have already done a waterfall hike. This will give us an extra day in the Tuomotos, which we think we will appreciate more.

Love to all (and happy World Cup / Stanley Cup if you are watching ...),
Elizabeth
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At 6/8/2014 6:18 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 08°55.00'S 140°06.00'W
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At 6/8/2014 6:18 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 08°55.00'S 140°06.00'W

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Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Photos from Nuku Hiva

Anaho Bay



Anaho

The Hike to the Market

Getting Pamplemouse at the Market

Tiki

Petroglyph

Banyan Tree


Dinner onboard with our new friends

Dinner onboard with our new friends

The Market Garden

The anchorage to ourselves

Solo in the anchorage


Benjamin's Six Month Immunizations with our friends.

Downtown

Taxi !


Gone fishing


More fish from our friends

Peek a Boo

Break from school

Anaho Bay


Mango Hunting

Mangos !

Posing with  Bernadette who introduced us to several local fruits and vegetables. 


Johnathan and I getting the hooks out of the yellow fin tuna.

Windy windward passage

Not looking like the brochure ...

Mango that the kids picked and prepared 

Tired out from the passage.

Hiva Oa to Nuku Hiva

Goodby Hiva Oa
Squalls ...
Into Anaho
Yet another failed stainless steel hose clamp ... 
Kids on the beach
Archery practice with the bows they made themselves.

Atuona

A few pictures from our last days in Atouna.  It is a pretty tight Harbour but the exhausted crew of this boat then went and anchored right beside us.  They had just sailed from the Galapagos and as it was getting dark and his one crew had just left we thought it more prudent to move our boat forward.  He was vey apologetic and dropped off a very nice bottom of Panamanian rum in the morning. 


Overnight the swell direction changed and made it less than safe where we were anchored.  The photos do not do it justice but we could have surfed on the waves going past.  We were anchored fairly shallow - for us - so not a lot of room under the keel in the big swells.  We left in the morning.






A Summary from Victoria

This is a summary Victoria wrote for her old classmates at the Shambhala School in Halifax.

Dear classmates,

It has been almost two years since I last saw most of you, and I thought you might be curious about what we have been up to. We bought our boat in Anacortes, Washington, and sailed from there to San Francisco and then San Diego. From San Diego we sailed to Mexico. We stayed in Mexico for the last year and a half, fixing what broke on the way down. There was a lot to fix, like the rigging, the steering, the autopilot, the fridge, the engine, the watermaker, the plumbing, and the electronics. My dad, with a little [a lot !] bit of help from my Grampy, fixed it all. Parts are hard to get in Mexico. Even if you can find them they can be fairly expensive.

Thankfully, in the marina we were at, there was another sailboat with some kids on it. While Dad fixed the boat, Johnathan and I played with the kids and did things like catching barracuda, building with Lego, playing at the beach, swimming in the tiny pool, and biking to the little town square. At the square, there was a little icecream shop that has some of the best ice cream that I have ever tasted. It was made right there in the little shop. Just a short walk from the icecream place, there was also a good source of fireworks. Nearby were two of my favourite restaurants. One had amazing ceviche and the other had the best tacos you could find anywhere. Ceviche is a Mexican food that is fish (uncooked) that has sat in lime juice until it turns from pink to white. This cooks the fish fairly well. Then they add tomatoes, cilantro, and onions.

Last year we went to the Sea of Cortez for a while. In the Sea of Cortez, it was wonderful. There was clear water, beautiful fish, and amazing snorkeling. The only down side of my time in the Sea of Cortez was that I got a fairly bad rope burn, which meant that I couldn't play in the water for a while. It is better now, but there is still a scar. Our engine broke again, but other than that it was an amazing trip. After the Sea of Cortez, we went back to Canada to see our family, and came back to Mexico in the fall. In December, Mom had my little baby brother Benjamin. Being at Benjamin's birth was an amazing experience.

In April, we set off for the South Pacific, which can be a month-long passage. It took us 21 days and 23 hours of non-stop sailing. We couldn't use our motor very much in case we needed the fuel later if a squall came. During the passage, we caught a marlin, a mahi mahi (also known as a dolphin fish or a dorado), a tuna, and a skipjack. It was rough at times and at other times smooth. Now we are in French Polynesia. We first arrived on the Island of Fatu Hiva. After that, we went to Hiva Oa to check into the country. After we checked in, we left because it wasn't a very good anchorage and the boats were coming way too close and the waves were getting big. We went to the island of Nuku Hiva. On the way, we caught another tuna and another mahi mahi. The anchorage looked like a beautiful postcard, with white sand beaches, coconut trees, and coral reefs. The only downside was that it was a long hike to the ancient Marquesan ruins, so we were going to go to another anchorage that was nearby so it would be a shorter hike, but our engine broke again! There was a nice man on another boat who had a lathe. He helped us use the parts we had to stop the leak.

In the new anchorage, we met the wife of the Doctor in that town and she agreed to take us to the ancient ruins. The ancient ruins were amazing. They had some amazing stone carvings and tikis (carved statues). We went for another hike and met a nice lady who helped us get two full shopping bags of delicious mangoes - for free! We have now moved to a new anchorage because the last anchorage was getting rolly. Here, it rains every day and the water is murky. It gets very hot when we have to shut all the windows. The only thing I like about this bay is that there are giant manta rays, from three feet wide to five feet wide. People say that there are fairly large sharks here, so it is not a good swimming bay. Down here we have gotten pamplemousse. It translates into grapefruit, but it is so much better. Even Benjamin likes the pamplemousse. The bananas are amazing here, and plentiful.

That has about caught up to where we are now. I hope it helped you understand how our passage has been going. If you want to check on how we are doing, this is the address to our blog: SV-FLUENTA.blogspot.ca.

From,
Victoria Shaw
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At 6/8/2014 6:18 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 08°55.00'S 140°06.00'W

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Taiohae

Liz Letters:

Fluenta 8-9 Jun - Taiohae

Greetings - just a quick message so you will know we are still here :)

We are still anchored in the big bay of Taiohae. It turns out that today was a holiday, so we have had three days of waiting for the workweek to start so we could get going on some provisioning, repairs, etc. Max went ashore today and met a guy who runs a yacht services company on the dock - an American sailor who came here by boat and married a local girl, so English is his working language, he has a good knowledge of both boats and the local area. He turned out to be really helpful, and will assist us with everything from laundry to diesel repairs. (Small world - his brother-in-law owns the restaurant where we ate a couple of nights ago, which supposedly has the best/quickest wifi signal around).

Max was able to do a temporary repair to our toe-rail today (where a piece tore off during our Mexico passage). He cut off the broken piece, then with Johnathan's help on the upper deck, he was able to fasten in some bolts [and a bunch of sealant] to keep it all snug until we get to Papeete or NZ. I spent a short while with my head in the area of the bolts when Johnathan didn't have the length to hold the wrench to the underside. My reaction was that it was a crowded awkward spot to put my head; for Max it has some of the easiest access of any of his jobs on the boat!

As for me, after two days of having it as the "next thing on my list," I finally worked my way through our bounty of mangoes and set some of them aside for eating and turned the rest into my first-ever pot of mango chutney. I wasn't sure how popular it would be, but when I presented it as mangoes cooked with sugar and vinegar ("Like Grammy's meatballs, but with fruit instead of meat," deduced Victoria) it turned out to be quite a hit as an accompaniment to our smoked turkey breast (Costco, Puerto Vallarta), mashed potatoes (pretty much the last of our Mexican horde - thanks to Deborah and Rigo on Heavy Metal for some last minute re-provisioning when we were in Punta Mita, or we would have been out some time ago), and corn at dinner time. Of course, we started with a sashimi appetizer as well, to use the last of our yellow-fin from the other day :)

Victoria and Johnathan continue to work their way through all the books on board (paper and electronic). They have both now finished the Island and Everest trilogies by Gordon Korman (thanks Mom for sending them, and thanks Marilyn for carrying them!). Johnathan has started "Hoot" and Victoria has been busy knitting. When they are busy, they are quiet. Johnathan has also spent some time each day doing something active (jumping overboard, climbing the rigging, paddling the kayak, etc ... it is good that he knows when he has energy to burn!)

The excitement on the Benjamin front is that he cut his first (sharp!) tooth this weekend. I am hoping that the eruption of these teeth will ease the grisliness/fussiness and the teething rash around his neck. We were given a solution to bathe his neck with by the nurse in Hatiheu last week, but I will take him to be seen tomorrow or the next day (local advice - it will be a bit like sick parade, so don't go on the first morning after a long weekend!) in the hopes of getting something for the thrush in his mouth, as well as for the rash (looks like a teenager's worst nightmare!)

Internet has been a bit of a case of "so near and yet so far" - there is internet in the bay, but it is painfully slow and we have thus far had to go ashore to do much of anything. We can see the wifi signal with our antenna, but we haven't been able to get a good connection. I know that you are waiting for photos of all of us (OK, I know that you are waiting for photos of Benjamin...), and they will come, but not today! Hopefully on Monday, one of us will go ashore with the sole purpose of choosing and uploading some photos :)

In the meantime, I hope our little note finds you well, and that you are enjoying the feeling of spring wafting across your doorstep.

Much love,
Elizabeth
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At 6/8/2014 6:18 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 08°55.00'S 140°06.00'W


7 Jun 14

Greetings :)

Max finally has a reprieve from either rowing our dingy or making two round trips with our kayak for every excursion ashore. Our anchorage is rolly, but the winds are not as strong as they have been, which meant that it was not such an ordeal to launch both our dingy and our outboard this afternoon. This is the first we have used our outboard since Mexico, and it started on the first try. Even Johnathan was able to start it on his first pull when he drove us ashore for supper. We met another baby boat on our way - they were flying the unmistakable flag of baby families everywhere - diapers on the lifelines - so we stopped to chat. They will be heading to Canada this summer - they have another baby due in Dec, so we will exchange info, and help them as much as possible.

There is a breakwater here and a concrete wharf where dingies can be tied. I was a bit surprised to see the metal ladders we had to climb to leave the dingy - we have been so spoiled in other places with floating docks and stepping ashore! It was a bit daunting to pass Benjamin (in his life jacket) up from the dingy. We elected to do it in stages - Max stayed in the dingy, I stood on the middle of the ladder, and Victoria scampered up ahead of me to receive him on dry land. (I did things much more simply on our return to the boat - I put him in the back carrier and simply climbed down the ladder!) We also contemplated (jokingly) doing what several crews were doing with large water jugs - tying a line on and hoisting! Thank goodness or four watermaker :)

As soon as we stepped ashore, we had a selection of places to eat for dinner, all of which were offering free wifi ... this was the opposite of Atuona. We elected to walk into town a little ways, and found a sweet little place that offered what we were craving - steak / frites, hamburgers, and curries. We will go back for brunch at some point to try their crepes (and their wifi!)

Sooo ... it is quite likely that we will be able to upload some photos in the next day or so :) In the meantime, thank goodness for HF!

Love to all,
Elizabeth
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At 6/8/2014 6:18 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 08°55.00'S 140°06.00'W
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At 6/8/2014 6:18 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 08°55.00'S 140°06.00'W

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Sunday, 8 June 2014

Raining Mangos

Evening greetings :)

It is calm but rolly in our new anchorage. Lots of boats around the perimeter of the bay are stern-anchored; we will decide tomorrow if it is worth our while to move to join them... in the meantime, we are in the middle of a large group with only a bow anchor.

Yesterday's adventure was a hike to the top of the saddle between our bay and our previous bay (Anaho). We spent the morning on Fluenta focusing on some reading and school assignments (which was fortuitous, because our friend came by after his dawn fishing trip with yet another gift for us - this time a deep water red fish, whose eyes were bulging because of the great decrease in pressure he had just experienced. He looked like some kind of cartoon !) In the afternoon, after a lunch of banana pancakes, we went ashore, bought a baguette for the road, and headed uphill. Our journey was partly to stretch our legs, partly to see the view, and mostly to collect mangoes that we had heard were to be found all along the route. At the top of the well-worn foot/horse path, as we were admiring the beautiful view (of at least seven sailboats, in contrast to our solo anchorage) we met a woman whom we had chatted with the previous week on our hike to the garden. {Aside - Every day, she does the one-hour hike morning and evening to work in the coconut plantation we had walked through.} As with all the local folk we had met, she turned out to be very friendly, and we walked back down with her and her two dogs. Somehow it came up in conversation that we were interested in a few mangoes... The next thing we knew, she had found a long forked stick (by long I mean 10-12 feet) and had started shaking mangoes out of the trees for us. When her stick broke in one of the trees, she climbed the next one and shook them out by hand! Johnathan's comment that it was "raining mangoes" pretty much summed it up - she shook them down and the kids scampered around to collect them. By the time we got to the bottom, we had a couple of grocery bags full of beautiful golden yellow mangoes. We tried some today, and their flavour was again unlike any mangoes we have had at home - sweet, flowery, and peppery all at once.

I got chatting with our new friend as we descended. Like all Marquesans, she had a French name (Bernadette) and a Marquesean name that I cannot manage to repeat. Her Marquesean name meant something along the lines that she was a descendent of the last King, and that she was the guardian of her town. She is a second or third generation granddaughter of the last king. Once she realized that we were interested in the various fruits that we were walking by, she was excited to share and let us taste any that we saw. I am sure it was very dark by the time she got to her home near the historical site (up the hill on the other side of town), as she was very patient in stopping to cut down "pistache" (different from our pistachios - grape-shaped, dark purple/black and we at the fruit not the nut), some kind of bean where we sucked off the juicy covering of the inner seeds, but left the seeds, and various other delicacies. She also pointed out the noni tree, which of course had become very popular as a cure-all in North America and here grows wild. Marquesans use it for many medicinal reasons. I was sad to arrive back in the village, as it had been so interesting to talk to her, and since we really were ready to move on to another location today, it had to be a short-lived friendship. Incidentally, she was the guide for our NZ and UK friends to visit the historical site the day we were fixing our diesel leak.

On our way back through the village, we stocked up on baguettes (buy em when we see em!) and stopped to say farewell to our "hosts". We had brought a small bottle of lotion as a token of thanks, and *still* we didn't leave empty-handed - the husband disappeared inside their home and came out a minute later with two beautiful shells. After a few more minutes of chatting, the wife said, "Go, or I will cry!" It was very like leaving home at the airport! Thankfully, we have an email address for them, so we will be able to send some photos once we have wifi.

This morning, after a quick restoration of the upper decks to sailing-ready status and a mouthful of baguette (our provisions for the day!) we left for the main town on the island (Taiohai). Our route basically took us on a 35 nm half-circumnavigation from the NE corner to the SW corner. We elected to go counter-clockwise in order to be in the lee of the island while the wind was on the beam. As it turned out, we were in the lee of the swells, but the wind was pretty fierce throughout the day. I really didn't know what it meant to feel vulnerable until I had a baby strapped to me and the wind was gusting to 29 kts! Thankfully, it was a short passage, which meant that we had both adults "on duty" for the whole trip, and that we could motor-sail (ie keep the main up, but mostly use the engine for propulsion) as we can re-fuel in this bay. We even had a yellow fin tuna kind enough to jump onto our favourite double-hook squid lure while we were in the lee of the island so that Max could fillet it before we headed up-wind. We had so much sashimi for our appetizer at dinner that we hardly needed a main course :) The funniest part of the trip was also the most stressful: our last eight miles were up-wind against some bouncy/steep seas (there is a reason people refer to "bashing to windward" - as we went through each wave, the bow would rise up, bash down, and a wave would break on the top of the dodger, with water running along both sides of the upper deck). Max and I were counting down the miles until we would safely be in the anchorage with (hopefully) nothing new on the maintenance list; Victoria and Johnathan (harnessed and tethered) were leaning out of the cockpit so they could feel the full force of the wind and be doused by the waves!

After being alone last night, it was a shock to arrive here and be one of dozens of boats. We are not in Kansas anymore, Toto! We have heard that there is wifi here, so we will hope to reconnect, send photos, do laundry, buy groceries, etc then head around the corner to Daniel's Bay, from which we can hike to the 3rd highest waterfall in the world, and wait for a weather window to head to the Tuamotos.

Love to all,
Elizabeth
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At 6/2/2014 9:08 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 08°55'S 140°06'W
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At 6/7/2014 9:01 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 08°55.00'S 140°06.00'W

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Friday, 6 June 2014

More Pamplemousse, fish and school.

Greetings!

I almost stopped to write to you several times today - it was just that kind of a day :) As it is, I am writing at my usual boat-is-quiet-but-I-want-to-write-more-than-I-want-to-sleep hour!

We were hardly on deck this morning when another dingy stopped by to say that a "lady" was on the dock with fruit for us. Max and Victoria hopped into the kayak (with the chocolate-banana cake we had (thank goodness) made yesterday) and paddled over to see our friend on the dock - she had shown up with three big bags of fruit - guavas, starfruit, and pamplemousse. As predicted by our neighbours, she told them that she loved chocolate, and was grateful for the cake. On arrival back at Fluenta, Max had hardly put the kettle on when our friend's husband also came bearing gifts - independently of his wife, he was returning from an early morning fishing trip, and had a beautiful silver fish to bring us. When I asked what I should do with it, he told me I should "eat it!". In other words, it was a lovely fish and would be equally nice as poisson cru, ceviche, cooked in butter or bbq'd. It is fun to have interacted with people enough to have them joke with us. We have been rereading the Dashew "Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia" in which they talk of staying in one place long enough to get to know people a bit, rather than trying to cover as much ground as possible, and we certainly find that to be our preferred approach as well :)

The rest of the morning was focussed on school. I am finding that if one child is reading I can work well with other; hopefully this is a model that we can continue as we go. This afternoon, Johnathan and Max did some fun science - they studied (and opened, and shared) our first coconut. Thanks to Shandro and Matero, Johnathan knew to look for a bright orange coconut, which he had found and brought home on our last trip to town. Our machete came out of its storage place, and he and Max set to work figuring how to open a coconut on a sailboat. The shore-side advice of smash it on the cement or mount a stake into the ground doesn't quite apply here onboard... After a bit of trial and error (all good grist for the write-up) they came downstairs with two half-coconuts full of lovely coconut meat. After dinner, we had great fun as a family reading aloud from our old copy of "Cruising in Tropical Waters and Coral", which has a whole chapter dedicated to choosing, harvesting and enjoying coconuts.

I told you about the end of our eggs yesterday, but I didn't mention what we used instead - Nancy left us a can of freeze-dried eggs, and they worked super well in the cake. They were even yellow and smelled like eggs, so I think they will be a good addition to my kitchen, especially since eggs are really hard to find here in French Polynesia.

As for dinner tonight - we had ceviche, butter-fried fish, rice, and various fruits - really tasty and very local :)

We are once again the only boat in the anchorage. Our wind-generator is happy because the wind almost never stops (and often gusts 15-20 kts with the odd gust of 25 kts to keep us on our toes. I guess this is good preparation for the Tuomotus, where we have been hearing of gusts to 30 kts!). Our solar panels are happy because except when it is raining it is really sunny (how is that for a true statement?!). We seem to get pouring rain at least 2-3 times every day or two, most often overnight or in the morning. The rain keeps our solar panels clean, while the wind keeps them cool. Thanks to Max's installs over the last couple of years we haven't had to run our generator at anchor :) We haven't got a system to collect rain water, but at least it rinses the salt from the clothes that have been hung, and it gives the diapers a second rinse.

I am sure there is more I could tell you, but it is time for bed!

Much love,
Elizabeth
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At 6/2/2014 9:08 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 08°50.00'S 140°05.00'W
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At 6/2/2014 9:08 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 08°50.00'S 140°05.00'W

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