LINKS FOR THE YEAR 2001
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Log for the week of June 4, 2001 Nuku Hiva, Marquises, French Polynesia by APW
Phil spent the better part of the week trying to fix my computer Arnold. No such luck. Its dead, really dead. My mother e-mailed me and said not to rely on such contraptions. They really are annoying when they don't work. Hopefully we will some day be able to access the hard drive, but for now all of our digital photos to date, are lost. We are really bad about backing things up and you would think we'd learn. Six months worth of snail mail also appear to be lost between the US and here. So we have been waiting around to hear if it has been tracked. (Its been found!!)
We splurged and went to the fancy Inn, whose little palm thatched cottages perch on a ridge overlooking the harbor. The woman who owns the Inn is also the person our mail was sent to. We felt we owed her a little business while she tried to track our mail. Our meal was delicious, an additional benefit- they took credit cards. The waitresses were quite interesting to look at. They wore traditional costumes, bare feet and flowered leis. It was only until you looked close that you saw they were actually men! They did wonders with their mascara.
We left Taio'hea Bay last Wednesday. I had been bugging Phil to circumnavigate Nuku Hiva, but boat projects kept getting in the way, not necessarily all repairs for Iwalani either, and not necessarily paid repairs for other people. Cruising is so much more pleasant when it is just Phil and I, and we pay no attention to the other cruising boats. It is my social dyslexia. I was infinitely happier when I could make fun of all the people and their boats when I watched them from afar through binoculars, inventing for myself, their lives and their problems. Now I am starting to know these people and their lives and its taking all the fun out of being stuck up.
We decided to raise anchor and head to Anaho Bay on the North side. While I was manning the windlass foot button, a terribly exhausting ordeal, I noticed a diamond pendant necklace dangling from the anchor chain. I quickly stopped the windlass and headed forward to retrieve it. Plop. It fell back in the water. We debated about diving down in fifty feet of water to retrieve it, but talked ourselves into thinking it was fake.
While sailing around to the North side of the island, we almost caught a man-sized mahi-mahi, (Dorado fish) . He grabbed the lure and flipped high out of the water, fortunately for all of us, when he crashed back down he broke the lure right in half and swam off. Even Stewart can't eat that much fish. When we got to Anaho I saw a swarm of cruising boats heading into the anchorage, so I changed my mind in favor of the next harbor over called Atiheu.
If you have ever played the computer game Myst, I think you will see that the creators of the game stole the scenery right out of the North side of Nuku Hiva. Tall rock spires jut up off of steep green mountains. A long sinuous high mountain spine snakes along the Northern and Eastern end of the island. In some places it is straight sided with perpendicular mountain ridges acting like flying buttress braces. Who said the Renaissance cathedrals were the first of such structures?
We were the only boat in the harbor for awhile at least, until another catamaran appeared. They rowed over to us to introduce themselves but came along side right next to the ripening trash bag, which they couldn't see on he other side of the bulwark. I did invite them on board, but their wrinkled noses looked like they couldn't get away fast enough. My kind of people. Speaking of trash, I knew the disposal of our refuse was going to be difficult. In the Taio'hae Bay, you know forget it, these Polynesian names all sound the same and seem like they are spelled the same. Naka huko wa wa faduki. That means nothing, but it kind of sounds good doesn't it- anyways as I was trying to say back at the main harbor, the "city" harbor, where we first landed we were supposed to put our trash on this wooden platform on Mondays and Fridays between 6a.m. and 6:30 a.m. This was according to a sign we saw posted at the gendarme. They don't want the trash put there at any other time because the dogs get into it. Now you think they could perhaps build some sides around the wooden platform to keep the dogs out, but no, these are the French we are talking about. This seems like a nice time to rag on the French, which is a major Cruising Boat Pastime. I had no idea the French were so ridiculed. "Well they eat songbirds you know," said our British friends on 'Willy Bolton', "They eat anything that moves." chimed in little eight year old Jessica. My only complaint with the French is that they have gone out of their way to make "paradise" as physically unappealing to the cruising boats as possible. First of all their charts date from 1880, (seriously) and the longitude is off by ONE Mile! The dinghy dock where we are to tie up is a five-foot high cement straight-sided affair. There are three or four rungs you can climb up on the side, which end about three feet from the top. But what do you do when you get to the top rung? There is nothing to hold on to. So you must grope around finding holes in the concrete walkway into which you can put your fingers, to haul the rest of your carcass up, seal-like, onto the pier. Invariably you stick your finger in a fish head or worse still, slip off backwards on some soapy runoff left by a fellow cruiser doing their laundry. The fuel dock is even worse. We borrowed some gerry jugs from "Sunbow" and went in the dinghy to fuel up. I wore a dress (a.) because it was too hot for anything else and b.) I thought I'd get more assistance. The cement pier is about five feet thick and is supported on posts. At low tide there is an air space underneath, which with the heaving swells belched out a hot spray like some underwater dragon. Of course we arrived at dead low tide. I was a little nervous about leaving the dinghy tied up to this dock as I had pictures of it getting trapped underneath the concrete. "It'll be fine," Phil said. I had offered to stay and baby-sit it. No such luck. We carried the fuel jugs over to the pumps, a long hose might have been nice here and maybe even a place to tie up Iwalani alongside, so we wouldn't even have to bother with the gerry jugs. But that would be too easy, this is "paradise" after all. Phil felt a little guilty about leaving the dinghy and went back and checked on it. Meanwhile I fueled up, being careful to not get diesel all over my very nice dress. When I was done I paid, $19,970.00 Polynesian francs, no they didn't take credit cards either, for 45 gallons of fuel. I get all confused with currency conversions but 1000 francs are around $7 US. I started hauling the jugs back to the end of the pier. I must be losing my charms because no one offered to help. When I got back to the dinghy Phil was inside it bailing out at least a foot of water. "What are you doing" I hollered down to him. "Oh just cleaning out the dinghy" he tooted back in his Julia Child voice. The dinghy had gotten stuck under the pier. Luckily it and the outboard were fine. It was hot and after moving only 45 gallons of fuel I had had enough. We still need another 55 gallons. Now of course when Ken on Sunbow went over to fuel up, three strapping teenagers came to his assistance to lug the fuel jugs.
Back to the North side, because it really is spectacular. In our private little bay tall steep cliffs and green mountains surrounded us. We rowed to shore and had a delicious dinner of poisson cru-chunks of raw fish "cooked" in yogurt(?)and lime juice, diced tomatoes and cucumbers, French bread and for dessert a Dove bar. It was exceptional. We had the whole restaurant to ourselves and it really was pretty- flowers, thatched roof, kitty cats for entertainment. On our walk back a native actually stopped his car and offered us a ride. In Taio'heo Bay they tried to run you over.
Now in "paradise" you can pick mangos, papayas, coconuts and bananas practically off the ground, but vegetables you have to fight for. I am in charge of the hunting gathering part of this expedition and I stink at it. Judy on Sunbow is phenomenal and can procure leafy green lettuce, avocados you name it. When I do my "shopping" I can invariably find onions, potatoes and maybe a rotten cabbage. I haven't identified why I am so bad at this food procurement. We are entering into "trading territory". Before they left the states, Judy on Sunbow found dozens of discounted reading glasses at a drugstore chain which she bought for a couple of dollars a piece. These were big hits in the San Blas where women and gay men do intricate needle work-(molas). They are a huge hit in Polynesia for the natives to read their bibles. Natives bring Sunbow wheelbarrows full of fruit and veggies. Our bartering box is pitiful. My mother always told me to leave a place better than when you arrive; this can be challenging at times. As a result, I couldn't bring myself to carry those tacky T-shirts that lie unworn in the bottom of the drawer at home. Since most of the natives can't read or understand English, you see them all wearing garish U.S. T shirts with sayings like "Sluts on Wheels" or "Eat it Raw" or "Babes on Bikes". These are hot trade goods, but I just couldn't seem to be responsible for trashing the local scenery with such crap. I am a snob, I admit it. Other cruisers have bilge's full of cheap rum bought in the Caribbean and cigarettes, for trade goods, these are hot items too. So here I stood, a few days before we left for the North side, trying to barter with Andy a two hundred pound Marquissan, for some avocados.
Andy's body is covered in tattoos. Not the ugly U.S. kind that sort of look like bruises but are actually hearts, or whatever. The Marquissans actually invented tattoos. The tattoos are highly stylized designs depicting battles fought and won, or recent victims eaten. The Marquissans were actually the last of the Polynesian people to give up cannibalism. In 1930 a little old woman was convicted of eating her grand daughter, murdered on the guise of fetching some fruit off a tree. "Just a little further out dear, just a wee bit more" Crack. Splat; and in the pot. Makes Hansel and Gretel almost believable. Back to Andy. Here he was staring me down with terribly fierce dark eyes. I imagined him to be thinking what sauce would go best with my fatty white flesh. "You have no T shirts?, he asked incredulous. "Rum? You must have rum". "Money" I said "Don't you want money?" "Maybe I trade tikis for money" he said. He turned and said something to his sourpuss wife who had been this whole time sitting in the drivers seat of their Land Rover. This should have been a clue to me from the get go. How could I successfully barter with a native who drove a fancier car than I could ever hope of owning? Off she went and arrived a half hour later with a laundry basket full of "hand carved wooden artifacts". Tikis are the stone statues that adorn the Polynesian landscape. Most of them are of men with big erections. When the missionary's arrived the penis's were all chopped off. Andy reached into the basket and pulled out a foot high wooden tiki with a six inch dick that stood fully erect, straight out. It would have made a nice tie rack gift for a detested relative. "Penis too small" I said. Next he pulled out a carved bowl which could have doubled as an infants cradle. "Too big" I said. Next were several ugly wooden beaded necklaces. "Too heavy" I said. I could see frustration looming in his eyes as we were nearing the bottom of the basket. He pulled out a wooden hair pin. It would have been nice to use for a set of chopsticks if their had been two. "Need two" I said. All I really wanted were some fresh vegetables. Finally, Ken from Sunbow, who had been standing witness to this whole transaction said "She has a cat". Andy's eyes lit up at the thought of fresh feline meat. I shot Ken a glance meant to paralyze, "Money for vegetables" I said, "no cat." We finally arrived at a price of 500 francs. It was exhausting.
Every night we have been hearing drumbeats from shore. One night with the cloak of darkness we went to investigate. Under a tent several pretty girls and guys were practicng their dancing for the upcoming Bastille day celebrations. This is a VERY big event in Polynesia. Young boys were pounding on drums and hollowed out logs. The coach strutted around everyone with a whistle in his lips. I had seen Hawaiian Hula dancing before and it kind of left me thinking "ya well, that's ok, so what's the big deal" This was something else entirely. These girls were moving parts of their bodies I never even knew existed.The true meaning of each of the dance moves was clear.It left Phil feeling sad that missionaries came here years ago and ruined everything.
Anyways back once again to the North side. The following day we decided to sail the dinghy around to Anaho Bay, the harbor we had passed by, as it was supposed to have a great corral reef for snorkeling. We arrived three hours later, after sailing six miles in open ocean and came along side the British family on "Willy Bolton". I first heard them on the morning "flying fish net". This was the single side band radio check in that was scheduled every morning at 7 am on our Pacific crossing to the Marquisses. I looked forward to it, believe it or not, but Phil hated it. We did get a little pissed off at some of the American boats, because over the air waves they would scoff at the laws set up by the French. One of the reasons we went to Nuku Hiva first, is because they have a gendarme. Many of the Americans and other nationalities for that matter, went to other islands first, without checking in. Some of the Americans also have Pactor2 e-mail, which uses the Ham radio frequencies. You are supposed to get a reciprocal license to use the ham bands in French Polynesia. The Americans didn't seem to care about this technicality. It really pissed Phil off. So the French eat songbirds, the Americans are scoff laws- and the British, they have an interesting flag system. For the longest time it has puzzled me why I haven't seen any British flags flying off boats. Clearly these people were Brits, but where were the flags? This was cleared up by "Willy Bolton" The British have 3 yacht ensigns. All of them have the little typical union jack in the upper left hand corner, but the main color can be either white, if you are pure royalty, blue, if you are a British blueblood, or red if your just a regular bloke. The Australians have the same red flag, but in addition, it has the Southern Cross. The Kiwis have the blue flag, Southern cross, plus the errant star in the Southern Cross that kind of messes the design up. Its all terribly confusing, but interesting how closely aligned the Australians and New Zealanders are still with the British.
Back to Willy Bolton. They are the only other wooden boat in this Pacific fleet, so we had an instant kinship. They have two daughters, eight and ten years old, who have a passion for animals and took an instant liking to Stewart. They were a little disappointed he wasn't in the dinghy with us, but Stew has remained on Iwalani since we left the U.S, as none of the countries have laws allowing him to land on shore. I wouldn't take him to shore even if I could, as it's not worth him getting some gruesome kitty shoreside disease, or eaten by some hungry native. We sailed over to the reef and snorkeled around. We saw an octopus, a sea turtle, basic pretty reef fish; but this was the first time I had snorkeled on a reef in thirty years and it didn't look like I remembered. The whole thing seemed to be covered with a brown moss-like growth, it didn't seem right.
"Willy Bolton" invited us over for tea, but I declined as the sun was getting low and we still had quite a sail back. They thought we were "terribly brave" to sail our dinghy the whole way-"terribly foolish" Phil replied. We told them we would radio them when we got back. As it was, we arrived back at Iwalani well after dark, after hitting a refreshing squall at the entrance to our harbor, which at least rinsed our salt water off. I wasn't too worried as we had moonlight, plenty of fresh water and a good flash light, but Stewart was in a froth thinking we had been eaten by some giant sea creature. He had heard six bells (seven p.m.) on the ships clock and he usually has supper on "two bells", (five p.m.).
The next day we went ashore in search of the petroglyphs and ancient Polynesian ceremonial sites. We had no directions and couldn't understand a word of the language the son of the lady who made our "poisson cru" tried to explain to us. He pointed in a general direction and said "droit" after drawing bridge on the ledger sheet. "No problem" I told Phil, this was destined to be one of those famous "Amy tours". We found several bridges and went "right" after each one. Soon we found ourselves heading up a very steep road that wound along the shore. Above us were the straight sided rock spires, onto one was placed a white Madonna with corral crown. "I don't think we are going in the right direction." Phil lamented. I agreed, so we turned around and headed back to town. After the first bridge we crossed over, we headed in the opposite direction, up a well maintained dirt road. Along its length were planted numerous banana trees. Birds sang and flowers perfumed the air, though not quite as heady as their nighttime scent performance. A little ways up we saw a stone wall and bushwhacked around some horses left in the woods to graze, with long ropes around their necks. We had found an old ceremonial site. A few of the tikis on display were innocent enough from the front, but from the backside copulation was the theme of the day. We headed back up the road and found a well-worn path off to the left. A startled couple coming from the other direction, told us we were indeed headed the right way. Eventually we found the petroglyphs and an ancient ceremonial banyon tree, which had succumbed to a lightening bolt from the looks of things. We played ancient Polynesian and chased each other around with no clothes on, but that grew old, after offering too much blood to the local insect population. Besides, the ambience was spoiled when we heard a car door slam and realized we were closer to civilization than we thought. Soon a bunch of pale tourists arrived on the scene being led like school children by their hotel guide. Lest you get the impression that Nuku Hiva is covered with high rise hotels, and over run with tourists, let me quickly dispel that notion. There is a big plane, which comes in three times a week, but other than the palm fronded huts overlooking Taiohea Bay, I haven't seen much in the way of tourist accommodations, so I wonder where these people are stored. Every once in awhile we run into the same bunch with the same guide.
When we arrived back at the dinghy we couldn't get our stern anchor back on board. Phil goes up and I go down. What that means is he fixes everything aloft while I fix everything down under; although he has been practicing holding his breath and going underwater. Right now he can go about four feet under, I still can not get above the eleventh rung on the rat lines without developing serious diarrhea. Anyhow we went back to the boat and got our snorkeling gear. I gently eased myself into the water, so as not to create a lot of splashing, which attracts sharks. Phil had managed to land the small grappling hook-like anchor in the only crevice, in the only rock, for miles. Within seconds I had it freed up. While down below I glanced around and realized there were pretty interesting fish down there. We rowed a little further out the harbor and anchored the dinghy off a postage stamp sized sandy beach. We saw more fish and slightly healthier corral than was over on the Anaho Bay side. It was all the more fun because we had sort of stumbled upon it. If we did everything the published cruising guides said to do, we would end up seeing nothing. "Do you think many people beach comb that part of the shore?" I asked Phil. He harumphed, so I swam ashore and had a look around. It was covered with very pretty shells, the first we had found anywhere since leaving Maine. I could have used a shopping bag, but instead put them all down my bathing suit, one of the added benefits of a one piece, over a bikini.
I had promised Phil that I would clean the gooseneck barnacles off the underside of Iwalani. I was reluctant to go in the water in Taiohea Bay because there were so many cruising boats and the water was so murky, mostly from the fresh water that emptied into it from the hills above. But I had no excuses here, so we finished the day by cleaning the keel and undersides. It was remarkable to me that Iwalani made it to the Marquises at all. We would have passed other boats if we weren't sailing through the water with a shag carpet tacked on the bottom. I found the best instrument to be a plastic dustpan. It was like plowing March snow in Maine scraping all that junk off. But Iwalani's thanks to us, was setting off the bilge alarm early the next morning signaling an imminent explosion.
We have not been winning the "Battle of the Bilge". We were wrong and hopeful to assume the problem was from leaking Pepsi cans. Every two weeks now we must take everything out and scrub with bleach. I am not even sure what the organism is we are dealing with. Two weeks ago, I collected ten samples and did various tests on this foe to see what would work in killing it. I did salinity tests, pH tests, and used various substances around the boat to determine what killed it. Bleach pretty much destroyed it and fresh water slowed it down. I had assumed it was anaerobic bacteria, mostly because the smell is so repugnant that any self-respecting oxygen using creature would never be caught dead with such an odor. The color is black, like death; and the smell is like a cross between rotten eggs (it probably produces sulfur, or hydrogen sulfide gas) and photographic developer emulsion. It also produces a silver sheen on surfaces, so who knows, it may actually be producing silver too, for all we know. It is not good for the rest of the marine inhabitants to use a lot of bleach, so I really hate doing that, but it is better than having us explode. There is no doubt methane too is being produced. Our current experiments are aimed at finding out who this bilge bug is. Two days after cleaning, the bilge water is lime green, like the color of antifreeze. We are wondering whether this is how its life cycle starts out. I will next spin this preliminary sample down using a fan for a centrifuge, make some slides, stain them and see if I can tell what it is. If it appears to be bacterial, the next step will be to culture it in Tahiti. I did put some antibiotics in the bilge water and it only seemed to make it worse. Early one morning on my watch while sailing to the Marquises, I was listening to the BBC. The propagation wasn't too great but they were talking about an organism-ckkkkkrackkklle, that was not a bacteria or spirochete, crrrrracccccckklle, that was originally thought to be very rare,crraccckkklle, and it was now found to inhabit craccccckklle, forty percent in the ocean. Just when they get to something really great on the SSB, instead of the Toledo Oilers basketball, I couldn't get the whole story. Perhaps this bilge microorganism is the same thing.
Anyway, early one morning, while I was in bed doing my best pondering, I was thinking about this whole bilge thing and got to thinking about the inside of wooden boats. I painted the bilge with red lead paint, it's obviously not toxic enough for this stinky bug, whose to say it will keep toredos or marine worms out? I worry about toredos a lot. Maybe all wooden boats that suffer from toredo damage really acquired them from the inside. I woke Phil up to tell him of my new fear, the result is that we are heading to Raiatea to get hauled out. Not only do the French eat songbirds, but they explode nuclear bombs on the southeastern side of the Tuomotos. Which is really dumb because the prevailing trade winds carry radioactive fall out to the inhabited islands. (You are not supposed to eat any of the fish there as its radioactive, makes you wonder about the black pearl industry.)The French can't care too much for the environment, so they are bound to have some really good bottom paint, and yes we are going to use it in the bilge also.
So with a clean bilge and clean bottom, we headed back to the Southern side of Nuku Hiva, to Daniels Bay otherwise known as Anse Hakatea.. It is almost sealed off from the ocean and has high sided mountains which look like King Kong's birthing grounds. In Charlie's Charts of Polynesia, (the guide book we are using) he described a really great hike up to the third largest waterfall in the world. This was a much anticipated trip for us. Several other cruisers had not survived the trip in one piece. One fell and broke his arm, one lady her shoulder. To say I was apprehensive was putting it mildly. So with fiberglass casting material, bandage supplies, pain pills, insect repellant, sandwiches and water packed up in the backpack we headed off. Despite the fact that there are at least twenty boats in this harbor, we have kept the VHF radio off and have kept to ourselves. We could have gotten directions on where to land the dinghy and where to head, but that takes all the fun out of it. (You definitely don't want to land on the western most beach.) We managed it with Phil's skillful rowing but I wouldn't recommend it for the rest of the inflatable dinghy crowd. You know what's weird? Everyone and I mean Everyone, (except for the Brits on "Willy Bolton", but they are weird wooden boat people too) have these ridiculous rubber boats. I just don't get it. Most of these inflatables have rigid bottoms, so now they are really heavy too. You can't pull them up on a beach, because they are so heavy, so people have put these doinky wheels on them. Have you ever tried wheeling a cart on a sandy beach? Good luck. What are they thinking? They look at our dinghy like it is some new invention. "Wow" they say, "that really moves through the water, with just oars". Yes, it's a row boat. "I'd have a boat like that, if I didn't have this giant wad of gray chewing gum called an inflatable piece of crap."
Sorry. Minor diversion.I know I have been negative about rubber dinghy's before, I promise not to do it again. I got e-mail from my sister today wondering why my family is so negative. What she really meant to say was, why are YOU Amy, so negative. I had just e-mailed her a great money making scheme, which I will share with you all, since she wasn't interested. Soup. Cold Soup, Cold canned Soup. Like Gazpacho, Vichyssois, cucumber soup, squash soup. I had a craving for them all. Because of our fresh vegetable deficiency and the fact that it is fricking hot here, Campbell's Tomato, or Chicken Noodle are just a little too yucky and that unfortunately, is all we have. So don't e-mail me and say, so and so has already invented that and it's a big selling thing back in the states, because I don't really want to know about it. All I would like is a crunchy carrot, or a zippy piece of celery. The fruit in "paradise" is all mushy and no, they don't even grow pineapples here. My sister ripped into me for not ENJOYING the moment.
Well she didn't go on this "waterfall" trip either. We got a late start, because my wonderful husband did all the laundry this morning while I lounged around the boat. As I said before, we made it to shore, through pounding surf and after wandering around dooryards of the natives, all neat and tidy and decorated with potted flowering plants, finally got directions to the "cascade". A skinny old guy looked at his watch shaking his head. He doubted we would have time. "Trois heures" he said. Most people left by eight or nine in the morning" He said pointing to his watch and still shaking his head. I didn't know enough French to figure out if it was three hours one way or round trip. I wasn't too worried though, since it was a full moon and we were EQUIPPED. The trail looked, sounded and smelled like a trail through the white mountains in New Hampshire. Rocks, ferns and even the same type of leaf litter lined the path. Always within earshot, was the steady rush of the small river we were following to the third highest waterfall in the world. Stone walls and stone ruins of an ancient civilization completed the picture. Its hard to believe that 60,000 people once lived here, now there are 2000 on Nuku Hiva. The trail was a little muddy, but that was nothing new to us. We're from Maine. I kept thinking we were going to do some really rugged climbing. We passed many fellow cruisers all heading back, all wearing long pants and shirts to keep out the no see ‘ems, (they call them No-no's here) everyone looked hot and miserable. We found two Australians wandering around looking slightly lost. "You're almost there" they said, "just two more rivers to wade through, one you will have to carry your pack over your head, the other's not so bad and then a short, but steep cliff." They were exaggerating, but mildly amusing nonetheless. We did have two streams to wade through. The water was cool, not bone chilling cold like you find in Vermont- the water there is really just thawed ice. We were now surrounded by very steep, high sided stone cliffs. Ahead of us, high up in the distance a trickle of water streamed down the cliff side. "There's your waterfall" Phil said. "No way, that's just a trickle." We had both imagined a sheet of water dropping down a thousand foot cliff into a clear pool of refreshing mountain water. Flat rocks would line the pool and here and there lithe Polynesian nymphets would bask in the sunshine, while husky dark men rubbed their aching feet. I should have become suspicious when I realized I wasn't hearing a deafening roar of cascading water. The photo gives it alot a lot more credit than is due. As we were wading through the last stream we heard someone hooting and hollering. Ahead of us we could see the same tour guide we have been running into, with his now disheveled looking tourist flock. The guide was really beginning to wonder about us. "Parlez Vous francais?" he asked us. "Non" we replied. "Inglais?" "Non" we replied, just to be smart asses. "Espanol?" "Un poquito", we replied. We kept on moving while he stood there scratching his head. Abruptly the trail ended. In front of us and on both sides were steep- sided dirt smeared cliffs. Not much light penetrated down and a light rain was falling. "Where's the waterfall?" I asked. "You're looking at it' Phil said. In front of us was a crack between the cliffs. A twelve foot high brook sized waterfall, trickled into a murky brown pool, that only a family of hippos would have found refreshing. The good thing was, we were all alone. Because of our vantage point and the fact that top of the waterfall veered to the left behind the cliff, you had to take someone else's word that we were under the third highest waterfall in the world. Phil actually wanted to get his money's worth and plunged into the brown water, stirred up by the departed tourists. I joined him not wanting to be entirely negative. We made it back to the dinghy by four o'clock. We walk much faster than most people, it's about the only thing we do fast, so if you want to see the third highest waterfall in the world, allow five hours total. Better yet, take the helicopter ride. APW
Log for the week of June 10, 2001 Nuka Hiva by PS
This log is coming to you from Arnold (Amy's Computer). Yes he is back from the dead. More on that later. Speaking of dead, we have seen the "Enemy" and he is dying in our bilge. One week after our "Battle of the Bilge" the smell was back, to the point of setting off the LP gas alarm once again. This time Amy was determined to see what we were trying to deal with. She filled some small test tubes with bilge gunk and I taped them to one of our Caframo cabin fans as a centrifuge. We needed to spin them down to separate the water from the beast. I put the fan in the sink in case the containers came flying off. It worked great. 20 minutes later we had our sample. She got out her microscope (she has it for veterinarian work) and looked for the "Enemy". She found it. There were dead and dying protozoa, not unlike paramecium, that live in fresh water. They looked like microscopic shrimp. They will be hard to deal with as they can live in a wide range of environments. Once again we cleaned out the bilge and this time scrubbed it down with bleach. We hope this treatment will last till we get hauled out in Raiatea. There we will coat the inside of the bilge with anti-fouling paint (or something) and keep our fingers crossed. I will also be re-fitting a hand pump to drain the bilge's drier. Right now the water is on each side of the keel and the electric pump only works when both sides are full. About 8 gallons of seawater are left in the bilge. I hope this works because I really don't want to be cleaning the bilge's every week.
Monday, we left Daniel's Bay for Taiohea Bay. It was a motoring slog into 15 knots of head wind. Not quite as bad as our trip down Narragansett Bay, but close. Sure, we could have hoisted sail and tacked back and forth. We would have covered 3 times the distance and taken 3 times as long. Because it was only 4 miles, we motored. We needed to make water and cool the icebox anyway (excuses, excuses). We set out a stern anchor as soon as we arrived. We've been here before and if you don't, it's a sure bet that 2 o'clock in the morning the boat will be rolling heavily and you won't get any sleep. As it turned out, a storm came through and we didn't get much sleep anyway. Our friends on "Willy Bolton" didn't set a stern anchor and were rolling heavily. The wind in the anchorage was blowing 30 knots and it was raining buckets. The Inmarsat-C and the weather faxes showed a convergence zone sitting directly on top of us. I'm glad we were in a somewhat protected anchorage.
Later we did some shopping and returned to the dock to see 10 kids outside our dingy trying to sink it and 10 kids inside trying to keep it afloat. The outboard was on it and the gunwale was under water. I was livid. If I could have spoken French they would have got an ear full. They had no respect for someone else's property. I glared at them and they moved off. Some of them I literally had to pull out of the dinghy. I wonder how they will behave as adults?
Tuesday, several boats headed out the bay but soon returned. The seas were quite high and the wind was still blowing hard. I'm not sure what they were thinking. The horizon on the water looked like the spikes on the back of a dragon. We spent the day trying to get some phone calls made. First you have to go to the post office and buy a phone card. The cheapest is 1000pf for 30 units ($7.00US). Then you have to find a phone that works. After you put in the card and dial the number, you try communicating with the person on the other end. It not easy because the phone works like a radio. Both parties can't talk at the same time. By the time you make that clear to the person on the other end of the line you have used up 7 units of the card. We were calling tech support for Adobe Go Live. We use it to update the web page. We got a try and buy version with PhotoShop and needed to re-register (thanks to Arnold's hard drive crashing). They wanted us to hook up our computer to the Internet and download what we needed. I tried to explain that we were in the Marquises and that we didn't have access to a phone line. The local Yacht Services offers e-mail at $11.00/hr on their machines. They once let a cruiser hook up his own computer and it took them a week to get back on-line, they weren't about to let that happen again. So, our only choice is to buy a full version disk from Adobe for $20 and try to get it sent to us somewhere on the other side of the world. We've already paid $99. Lesson learned: be sure you have full versions of all your software on board, including the operating system.
I called my sons in NY. I miss then a lot, and my depression was soon whisked away. when I heard a familiar voice. Ben answered. You can tell right away how someone is, just by the sound of his or her voice. He sounded fine. He was in the middle of ordering some parts so he can build his friend a computer from scratch. It blows me away sometimes. the things he knows how to do. Nathaniel wasn't home, so I will try again before we leave Nuka Hiva. I wrote them letters (snail mail) while we were here. Sometimes it's good to cover all you bases.
Wednesday we did some sewing repairs on Sunbow's dingy cover. It's been raining cats and dogs, so we've been doing inside projects. Between showers I noticed Anthony on Willy Bolton sewing his mainsail. I went over to see if I could help. Willy Bolton blew out her main on the way from the Galapagos. The family took turns sewing it by hand. It took them 5 days to get it fixed. It has now blown out for the third time. The sail is 10 years old. The cloth is OK, but the stitching is gone. I offered sew it with "Beulah" our Sailrite sewing machine. I thought about trying to do it in our cabin, but the 500 square feet of sail would leave us no room to move. Getting the machine over to their boat would not be easy. It weighs 70lbs. Also, they have a 220volt system. Luckily, a friend of theirs had a 220/110 converter. We were in business. Later that evening Amy and I went ashore to watch some natives dancing. They were dancing almost in total darkness, only the light of the street lamps outlined their figures. The girls moved to the rhythm of drumbeats. Sometimes fast and sometimes slow. At times their hips moved and the rest of their body stood still. Amy tried to copy their moves, but decided that they must start out at a young age to develop those kinds of muscles. It was easy to see how the early visitors were seduced by these dances. A native who spoke a little English befriended us. His name was Therry. We had seen him earlier that day at the bank. He was quite drunk but friendly. We tried to ask him what the dances represented, but he either ran out of English or was a little too far gone. The next time we saw him he came over and kissed Amy on both cheeks (I almost slugged him). We hadn't noticed it in the dark the night before, but his eyes were looking in different directions. It was a little distracting, as I wasn't sure which eye to look at.
Thursday the weather cleared up and we re-sewed the sail. It was a lower panel, so we were just able to get it through the machine. While we were working, Kathryn was giving Amy some "Hunter Gatherer" lessons on shore. Amy's first lesson was to get some cash. She went up to automated teller, put in her credit card, pushed some buttons and guessed at her PIN. Voila', Pacific Francs came poring out. Amy said it was kind of like Las Vegas. Amy also learned that she needs to spend more time looking at things on the shelves. She hates shopping so much she tries to get in and out as fast as she can. At home I usually do the shopping. I'm not much help here because the labels are all in French. I wouldn't know baking powder from baking flour.
When they returned, Amy gave the two girls, from "Willy Bolton", Eleanor (10) and Jessica (8) art lessons. They all had great fun They love Stewart and though all art lessons should include a cat in attendance.
Friday was Amy's lucky day. Our friend, Ken from Sunbow, came over with his boat cover, which had ripped during the blow on Monday. He also brought a spare hard drive from one of his computers. It wasn't the same brand or the same size. I took the cases off both hard drives and it looked like his might plug into my case. It did and I plugged it into Arnold. Low and behold, I was able to talk to C drive. As his was a second drive, I had to re-format it for a boot sector. Everything went well despite the fact that the drive was only 1.2 gig instead of 13 gig. While Windows 98 was loading, Amy and I went to shore to check out of the Marquises.
We arrived at the Gendarmerie (Police) office at 3:30. It was then that we found out that we needed a visa extension stamp 3,000pf each(~$21 US) from the post office so that we could stay in French Polynesia for three months. The post office closes at 3:30. The Gendarmerie was very helpful and walked with us down to the post office to see if he could persuade the postman to sell some stamps after hours. After a few minutes conversation through the post office boxes (the postman was out of site behind them) it was evident that he wouldn't sell them, even to the Gendarmerie. Not to be deterred, the he took us in his car (one of those expensive Land Rovers) to a warehouse down by the waterfront. After knocking on a door that looked like it was locked, a Chinese looking fellow answered the door. More French conversation with the same result. No stamps. The Gendarmerie apologized and offered to drive us to the dingy dock. Along the way it was interesting to see peoples reaction to the local law enforcement. Some people waved a friendly hello, some looked the other way and the children pointed there toy guns at the car as if to shoot. I told him our experience with our dinghy. He agreed, saying they even use the Gendarmerie boat as a playground. He said "But they don't, how you say? take without authorization". We told him we call it "Stealing". And that is true. We leave our boat wide open and the dinghy unlocked. So there are tradeoffs in Paradise.
Back to Amy's computer. Well, after I got the system loaded the screen display would only show 16 colors in an area one-third the actual size of the monitor. In my attempt to try and fix it I scrambled the hard drive. Aggggg. I tried re-formatting it, but now the computer thought it had a 13gig drive instead of the 1.2gig. I struggled with it for hours. I finally gave up because we were having the "Willy Bolton" crew over for dinner.
Anthony and I commiserated on our bad luck. It seems they were having trouble with their generator and we were having computer problems. Their generator over heated and shut down. Thinking the worst, he was sure it ran out oil and was ruined. Not a happy thought 1,000 miles from a repair shop. After they left I went back to work on Arnold. Amy suggested that I try and use the information from my computer "Danny" because he had a 1.2gig drive. What did I have to loose right? Well, darned if it didn't work. By 1am I had the computer up and running. Thank you Amy! Some times you need input from left field to get things right. As it turned out, I had the drivers to fix her monitor on my computer. This time I got her monitor to work as it should.
Saturday we went to shore to check out the town yard sale. There were picnic shelters decorated with palm fronds and flowers. Not your typical yard sale setting. Lots of clothes and attic junk. We did come across a real find though, DVD's. Who would think to buy DVD's in a Marquises yard sale. We bought four at the cost of $15 each. Not bad a thousand miles from a video store. Now that Arnold is fixed we can watch some new movies!
Then it was back to Iwalani to clean the bilge. As a reward, we treated ourselves to a night at the local movie theater. Amy had heard that it was near the church. She wasn't sure which church or where so we set out about 45 minutes early. We wandered around in the dark (literally) and came across a small footbridge with some kids standing around. Amy asked them "Ou est la cine?" They pointed to a building not 50 feet away. What luck. It was a small building with an open-air snack bar and ticket counter. They were serving grilled cheese sandwiches and bagged popcorn. The French owner/ticket salesman took 1000pf ($7) for our two tickets and we waited with about 30 kids for the doors to open. Seeing that we didn't speak much French, the owner offered to run the show "Vertical Limit" with English subtitles. Great I thought. He must have a couple of versions of the film to choose from. As it turned out, it was a DVD projected on a 10-foot screen. With a DVD it's no problem to change the language or put in subtitles. Who said technology wasn't great. Before the show started, the owner made some announcements about throwing out kids that didn't behave and that they would be seeing English subtitles because there were two English speaking people in the audience. Everyone started looking around and we felt a bit self-conscience. The show started and Amy and I were in for a native experience. Every time someone would be killed, the audience started laughing. They seemed to think it was a Laurel and Hardy show. We noticed this at other times too. Kids seemed to think it was funny to see someone trip and fall down, etc. and get hurt. This was hard to get used to.
Sunday we did some more canvas repair for Sunbow. As far as I am concerned, they can have a lifetime of canvas repair from us. Amy couldn't wait to use her computer again. She spent part of the afternoon drawing digital artwork with the Wacom drawing tablet. Her old hard drive needs a new controller board. We are going to buy one and try to recover her files. We'll need some really good luck for that repair. "Willy Bolton" looked like they were leaving for Tahiti, but stayed on their anchor all day. I called to see what was up. It seems they were still having generator problems. It was loosing engine coolant. He had spent the day going over hoses and connections, but it was still leaking. I told him to try and run it without the radiator cap on. This takes the pressure out of the system and lessens the leak. He called back a few minutes later to say it was still leaking a bit and the coolant seemed to be frothing. I told him to take out the injectors to see if they seemed to be "Steam Cleaned". If they are, it could be a sign of a leaking head gasket. I loaned him a socket wrench on my way to "cocktails" on Sunbow. I'll be calling tomorrow to see how he made out Looks like we may not be leaving for Tahiti right away. PS
Log for the week of June 17, 2001 Nuku Hiva Marquises to Rangiroa, Tuomotos, French Polynesia by APW
They call the Tuomotos the "dangerous archipelago" for good reason. Atolls are very low coral islands. They are actually the circular rims of undersea volcanoes. Think of the rim on a bucket full of water and you'll get the picture of an atoll. This group of atolls lies on the rum line between the Marquises and Tahiti. They are six hundred miles from the former and two hundred miles from the latter. With the advent of GPS and radar, the Tuomotos have become popular as a cruising ground, with the exception of the south eastern corner which will set a Geiger counter into a ticking frenzy, from the French "Nuking" it to death.
We left Nuku Hiva late Monday afternoon with strong Southeasterly trade winds. None of us was happy to be back at sea. It takes about five days before Phil and I are into "the four on four off schedule". Even Iwalani was not her usual spry self. We barely could get her above five knots, despite a healthy breeze. Before we left, I managed to scrape off the gooseneck barnacles, which are soft, squishy and look a little like shell-less clams, but the normal crusty barnacles were another matter. I felt very uncomfortable in the water, which is unusual for me. It was as if I was being watched. I thought perhaps some hungry undersea creature was waiting to have me for dinner. I became even more nervous after the barnacles left a long bear-claw slash on my left leg, which started to bleed. I decided to call it quits at that point, figuring we would scrape the hard barnacles off when we get hauled out. Little did I realize they would affect the sailing performance so much. I have since found out from some people that dove on an anchor in the harbor, that the anchorage was loaded with tiger sharks. So its probably just as well I left the barnacles alone; a speedy boat is nice, but not at the expense of an arm and a leg- literally.
On our second day out, we were all down below eating breakfast, when Stewart began looking around with a curious expression. Soon we heard it too. Birds singing. Strange. We were too far from land for songbirds. "Whales" I cried. Phil and I ran out on deck but could see and hear nothing. Looking down below us, deep into the cobalt blue water, we could see large dark shadows passing far below Iwalani's keel. They never surfaced and quickly vanished.
On our third day out, at nine in the morning- Phil's watch, we saw a bruise colored sky approaching from the South. "'Spose we ought to put in a reef?" one of us suggested. We just didn't have the ambition, as we had been very spoiled by the passage from the Galapagos to the Marquises. On that passage, squalls would approach always in a line, hence the name "line squalls"; they were solitary bursts of rain, often with little to no change in the direction or velocity of the wind. You could always see behind the squall, and they were nothing worse than minor annoyances. This approaching gray mass was thick and ugly looking. We decided to put a reef in the mainsail and take the jib down, leaving the staysail up. We were a little too complacent and a little too slow. This "squall" struck with an angry burst of freezing cold air that had been vacationing with the penguins in Antartica, I half expected sleet, but instead was pelted with cold rain. We "skandalized" the main and got a reef in, fighting the whole time with the raging wind and slamming sail. For the next two days we alternated between these squalls and periods of little wind. At night, on the radar screen, these "squalls" looked like nasty blotches of metastatic carcinomas-cancer. They were viewed with as much pleasure.
Thursday night on my watch I saw one approach on radar. It didn't look too menacing, but I went ahead and closed the hatches anyhow. I sat back and waited. The wind picked up, the seas picked up. A large wave swept up from behind, knocking Iwalani's rudder hard over, which of course threw us into a gybe. We have the boom tied to the bow with a line called a preventer, which keeps the boom from swinging all the way over to the port side, knocking out the running backstay. But enough wind now filled the crooked mainsail and we flopped hard over to the port side anyhow. After being on a port tack for practically ever, all those little things that were sitting on the starboard side all of a sudden get there big chance to come crashing to the floor. Actually, it wasn't too bad, the only casualty was Phil, who was thrown to the opposite side of the bunk, along with a pair of dark glasses which flew through the galley. I was fighting the tiller over to the opposite , when he arrived in the cockpit to help. We reduced sail once again.
In order to get into the "lagoon"(inside the bucket) of any of the atolls, one must arrive at exactly low or high tide when the water flowing through the pass is "slack". Late Friday, we were over one hundred miles away and realized that at our current speed we would not make it to the pass until after dark on Saturday.
One of the big disappointments about life at the equator, is that day and night are practically equal. It is dark a little after 6 p.m. Once the sun starts going down, it rushes off like a bored party guest to westward. The sun acts like it really would rather be somewhere else. In the morning, sunrise is an incredibly long drawn out affair. It starts getting light long before Mr. Sun reluctantly appears over the horizon. Phil was all set to come in to the lagoon in the dark. What was he thinking? This is deservedly the worst place in the planet- threading ones way through coral, breaking seas with a six knot , sometimes twelve knot, contrary current, wasn't my idea of evening entertainment. As a result we decided to slow Iwalani down to 3 knots, so we'd make it to Rangiroa at daylight Sunday morning. We took all sail down except the jib and began the slow roll downwind. Of course, as soon as we made our decision to go slow, the wind picked up to about twenty five knots- Iwalani's favorite wind speed and never let off for the rest of the way.
My sister Susan, was due to be married Saturday afternoon at my parent's house in Vermont. Initially, we had hoped to be in Tahiti, so we could fly home for the big event as well as Ben's high school graduation. We got word from Ben a few months ago, about the cost of his college tuition and that put an end to those plans. Money for airline tickets and a new computer would have to be set aside to help get Ben through college. I had hoped to be in Rangiroa to phone from a telephone and wish Sue and Hal good luck, but that didn't look like it was going to happen either. We decided to try our luck with the ham bands on the SSB radio and see if we could get a phone patch to Vermont. We were very lucky to get hold of Bob(K5SIV), otherwise known as "Sugar-Ida-Victor", a ham based, I think, in Texas. He monitors channel 14313 between 2 and 2:30 GMT. He put through a collect call to Vermont, hooked it to his ham radio and I was able to talk to Sue. It just seems amazing to me. All that suffering that Phil went through to memorize Morse code was worth it, so he could get the license to allow us to do transmit on the ham frequency. The clarity of the call was better than the regular phone lines and it only cost my parents eleven cents a minute! The only drawback is the reception is limited by propagation, which is the mysterious interaction of radio waves (which are a form of light waves) the sun, earth's magnetic field, the ionisphere, sunspots and who knows what else. Propagation is best around sunset, or at night. Unfortunately we can only use the ham radio when we are at sea, because we don't have a reciprocal license with the French. A phone patch can only be used in US, or international waters. Hams are also limited by what they can talk about , which is why most of the conversations between them is incredibly boring and limited to such things as antenna heights etc. Business talk isn't allowed. Some countries, like England, won't even allow the phone patches at all, which is too bad for people on boats, but these countries are trying to protect their telecommunications industry. This isn't even really new technology, as anyone who watched MASH, with Radar O'Reilly putting through phone patches will remember.
Sunday morning we arrived two miles outside Tiputa pass at Rangiroa around 5:30 am, just as it was beginning to get light. Phil waited around for the sun before waking me. We had changed our schedules that night, since neither of us had gotten sleep and both of us were needed to get Iwalani through the pass. He wasn't used to the early morning watch. "Where the heck is the sun?" he asked mystified. It was now 6:15. "You won't be seeing the sun for another half hour" I told him. Behind us, fast approaching, was another blue-black squall. We were two hours too early, for the slack water through the pass, (which happens five hours after moonrise). The wind was already blowing twenty-five knots, the seas were eight feet, the squall was going to only increase the wind and the seas. It was now ten miles away. "I saw a fishing boat go through the pass about fifteen minutes ago, I think we should head in" Phil said. My gut reaction was head to for Tahiti and forget about the Tuomotos. Earlier, Phil had wanted to by-pass the Tuomotos and I had to remind him of the story about Mary Maynard Drake, a woman who accompanied her husband on a circumnavigation in an engine-less boat. After drifting by yet another island in paradise, she left her husband for another man who happened to have a boat with an engine. It seemed silly to be on a circumnavigation where you only sail around without stopping. The tables had turned. After much debate, we both decided to beat the squall through the pass. It was the wrong decision. Phil had checked the fuel filters to make sure the engine wouldn't choke, sputter and die from bad diesel at the wrong moment. Each time before we start the engine, one of us checks the oil and coolant levels before turning the starter motor key. We fired up the Westerbeke, doused the jib and headed in.
The pass itself is quite well marked with two green range lights ,which we lined up. We are now away from the American system of "red, right, return"- reds are on the left and greens on the right. We had been told and have read, that running these passes is a little like shooting rapids in a river. Only instead of a kayak, we are maneuvering a forty two thousand pound boat. We headed toward the opening pushed forward by the eight foot seas, which were rolling straight into the pass. The squall was now five miles behind us. We had reached the point in the pass where we could not turn back if we wanted to. The waves would have rolled Iwalani around like a baker kneading a loaf of bread if we turned any way but straight. A six knot current was rushing out of the pass. Dolphins were leaping out of the waves. Sleepy eyed people were coming out of their houses with anxious looks on their faces. Some had bags in their hands for picking through the salvage from the wreck of Iwalani. Phil held tight to the tiller. "What ever you do, don't look behind us" he yelled to me. I couldn't help it. I looked behind us. The good news was that the squall was going to the east, by about a half mile. But, the waves rushing at our stern were huge! We chose this pass in the Tuomotos because it was reported to be the widest, deepest and safest. For ten minutes we hung at the entrance to the pass, not moving forward and not going backward. Because Iwalani is double ended, the waves from behind, just parted like a hot knife slicing through soft butter and didn't slew her sideways. The outgoing current just whizzed by, swirling the water into a tourquois cauldron. We were hung in a swinging balance. We were sucked back and pushed ahead by each breaking wave. Phil pushed the throttle wide open. The Westerbeke was making a sort of screaming sound. "What is that?" I asked horrified. "Don't pay any attention, Phil said, "It's just the fan belt on the alternator" Gradually, I noticed that we were beginning to move ahead. Each huge wave, lifted Iwalani up and deposited her one foot forward, the current could not push us backward, try as it might. The people on shore, grew bored watching us suspended amidst the raging seas. When they saw we were actually moving ahead they began to lose interest in us. Some went back to fishing, others went back in their houses. An hour later we made it through the thousand- foot long pass.
Little eight year old Jess on "Willy Bolton", woke early and waited patiently for an hour by the VHF radio, willing her parents to get up so they could turn the radio on. She had been worried about the crew of Iwalani, the weather had been bad all night. Despite the fact that Willy Bolton left eight hours ahead of Iwalani, they arrived two days before us. Not ten seconds after her mother awoke and turned on the radio, my voice came over the airwaves and told them we had made it through the pass and needed instructions on getting into the anchorage. Phil and I were not keen on wrecking Iwalani in a calm lagoon after getting her through the white water pass.
Our initial re-con of the area has led Phil at least, to be quite pleased with Rangiroa. We went ashore to try and phone our fathers for Fathers day, with no luck getting an overseas connection. We found a small restaurant overhanging the water and had the "plat du jour". By this time we were both hungry. We were served a delicious meat of "somebody" stewed with prunes and mushrooms. I had thought it was pork, but I awoke in the middle of the night last night thinking the stifle joints were a little too small for a pig. For all we know we could have been eating a dog. In any event the scraps were thrown out the open kitchen window where they were enjoyed by several brightly colored reef fish. From our table we could look down and see them almost as well as if we had been snorkeling.
Houses are single story, made of cinder block. Roofs are tin. Yards are well maintained, potted flowering plants, no trash or junk strewn about. Lots of stubby short palm trees. People are friendly, wave as they pass in cars or on scooters. The girls are starting to be very pretty. Brown skinned, long straight black hair. They appear more sure of themselves, unlike the Panamanian-Ecuadorian women who have the men doing everything. Girls here operate their own outboards and zoom along with their jet black hair flowing out behind like a flapping Polynesian ensign. In Ecuador I felt like a freak, rowing or driving Phil around in the dinghy. He thought it was amusing to hear the men cackling and gawking at us.
The anchorage is calm. No rolling seas, no need of a stern anchor. The lagoon isn't really what you'd think of as a lagoon. It's bigger than all of Penobscot Bay back home. You can not see the far side of the bucket at all. There is a fancy hotel along shore that has palm-thatched huts perched over the water. It looks like a swell place for a honeymoon, or a delicious haut cuisine dinner. The water is clear and the color of a blue Popsicle. Once I am finished here, I will jump in for a swim and snorkel. Hmmm, that sounds like a really good idea. More next week from Phil. APW
Editor's Note:Lots of e-mail from readers correcting me on the even more confusing Brittish/ Australian and New Zealand flags. The Aussies have the errant star in the Southern Cross, not the New Zealanders. Sorry. APW p
Log for the week of June 24, 2001 Rangiroa by PS
I would like to congratulate my son Ben for his successful completion of High School. I know twelve years seems like a long time, but you finally made it. Now it's on to RIT! On a sad note: Dennis Puleston has passed away. If you have read the opening page to the web site, you know that he was an inspiration for me on this trip. His contributions to society were many. Among them was the founding of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), which was instrumental in banning DDT. He will be missed by a great many people.
Paradise at last???? Could be. Despite my callused view on this trip (thank you Tim Sullivan and "icebreaker", who e-mailed me with support on this issue), I have come close to finding it. Rangiroa. Calm anchorage (not just some rolly roadstead), cool temperatures, breeze enough to generate some electricity, a fine French restaurant, natives who smile and wave at you, kids that play marbles (not give you the finger, like the kids on the Nuka Hiva school bus) and the BEST snorkeling we have ever seen.
Monday was squally with heavy down pours. Seems that some of the bad weather we had on the passage from the Marquises followed us. Things cleared enough in the afternoon to do some snorkeling. There was a reef about one-quarter of a mile away nicknamed "The Aquarium", with moorings which you could tie up to. Without getting too overly mushy, I will say that the visibility was at least fifty feet and the color and variety of the sea life were breathtaking. That says a lot, coming from me! Here is a painting that Amy did, showing some of the undersea life.
Tuesday I had another round of fixing the salt-water pump. After taking it apart and freeing up the brushes, it's working once again. I also cut out the shelf underneath the pump, so that if it leaks, the water will go into the bilge and not on the shelf. Later, we went ashore with our bikes to tour the island. The Willy Bolton Crew came along, while Anthony once again worked on their generator. Luckily the hotel rents bikes, because Amy's tire was flat. We found a Galapagos thorn stuck in it. It cost $7 US to rent a bike for half a day. You could also rent these strange looking cars (see pic). The riding was easy. Flat terrain, tarred roads and not much traffic. All told, we covered twelve miles. We had hoped to get some money changed at the bank, but it was closed for the afternoon. We tried for the next several days, but couldn't seem to get our timing right. We also stopped at a Black Pearl farm for a tour. The farm raises the oysters, which actually look like scallops. When mature, they are kept in separate net bags. The farmers surgically plant a plastic "seed" into the oyster and return it to the sea. Between two to five years later they surgically remove the pearl and plant another seed. They can do this up to four times over the life of the oyster. Of the one hundred thousand pearls that the farm produces every year, less then five percent are marketable.
We went to the Internet service, which turned out to be the front room of a young French couple. It took a couple of tries, and a lot of waiting, for me to up date the log. The modem speed was 14,400bps. Agg!! I always do my best to get it posted. I know many of you are counting on it.
Wednesday we attacked the bilge once again. This time we scrubbed the planking with Scotch-Bright pads to try to remove the black deposit which seemed to be breeding our problem. I decided that later in the week I would rig up a better bilge pumping system.
As a reward to bilge work, we treated ourselves to a nice dinner at the Kia Ora restaurant. Even though we were not guests at the hotel, or had reservations, the Matra 'd found us a table. The dinner was a buffet of unbelievable gourmet quality. Here is a partial list of what they had: Poisson cru (cold poached white fish), a vinaigrette potato salad, corn salad, fresh cucumbers, grated carrots, cocktail shrimp, smoked salmon, barbecued banana, fish, lamb chops, shish kabob. For dessert: three different types of glaceed fruit tarts, strawberry, kiwi, passion fruit, flan, cocoa flan, cut up fresh fruit in tiny pieces with coconut whipped cream, chocolate mousse, napoleons, sticky coconut stuff, coconut cake, and cream puffs. Wow, is this paradise or what? All for the modest fee of 11,000 pf ( about $77 US including a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc ) After dinner there was a traditional dance show. It was well done, with some great drumming, despite the dance moves being toned down for the tourists. We had seen the "Real" thing at Nuka Hiva.
Thursday we headed to shore with our bikes, for a pearl buying expedition. My patch on Amy's bike didn't last one hundred yards. I had evidently pinched the tube. As she rode along, it blew out with a BANG! So, it was back to the hotel to rent another bike. We got to the pearl farm in time for us to buy some pearls for our mothers and a nice set of earrings for Amy. There was a glitch with the credit card transaction, so the pearl lady had to call the credit card company. After much French and a lot of sighs, it seemed that it would take a while to straighten things out. We decided to kill some time and bike to the bank. Once again it was closed. We did find a great market, with fresh food and a bike tire to boot! No inner tube though. They did take credit cards, as do all the stores on Rangiroa. Amy went on a shopping spree. We headed back to the Pearl Farm and the credit card business was straightened out. Then it was back to the boat to see if I could fix the inner tube on Amy's bike once again.
Friday we worked on the bilge pump system. Because of the large keel inside the boat, our bilge has never been pumped completely dry. The electric pump sits on top of the keel and leaves about six gallons of water. I re-rigged a Gusher hand pump to a Y connection, so now we can pump the bilge completely dry. We are hoping that this will eliminate a large die-off of the salt-water protozoan Amy discovered under the microscope. It's either that, or make the boat leak more so they have a fresh supply of oxygen. Most of the water that enters the bilge comes from the stuffing box, where the propeller shaft comes through the hull. We have a traditional flax packing stuffing box, which requires a small amount of water to leak by to keep it cool. Sure, we could have one of those "dripless" types, but let me tell you a story about them. When we returned from our day sail on the catamaran ‘Sunbow" the bilge pump in the engine room kept going on. On closer inspection, we found the starboard "Dripless" stuffing box leaking in about five gallons a minute! All the pieces seemed to be intact. Evidently, the mating surfaces got out of alignment and nearly flooded the engine room. So, no modern "dripless" boxes for me!
In the afternoon we snorkeled on the reef with our cameras. Amy bought one of those throwaway waterproof types and I wrapped our digital camera in saran wrap and a zip lock bag. When we got in the water the fish went crazy. They came at us from every direction to within inches of our faces. We decided that it was the plastic bag that had brought them. The dive shops must feed them from plastic bags. Once they caught on that there was no food, they moved off a bit. I had limited success, as seen by the photo, because the plastic over the lens made things seem blurry. Kind of like the Playboy pictures with the cheese cloth over the lens. Hopefully Amy's pictures will come out better.
Saturday we headed out the pass at dawn to await the arrival of "Sunbow". We had the portable VHF so we could let him know exactly what the conditions of the inlet were. I wished we had someone do that for us. Would have saved us from running the surf! Sunbow made it in fine and we had them over for waffles. After breakfast they faded pretty fast, so they headed back to their boat for a well-deserved nap. Amy and I spent the day getting ready to head for Tahiti. I re-worked our reefing lines on the boom and served parts of the topping lift with marlin. The serving will help protect the line from chafing. Chafe is the enemy. All the rigging needs close attention against chafe.
Later we went for one last snorkel, and it was by far the best. We saw a moray eel that was six feet long. I saw a white tipped reef shark, which got my adrenaline flowing. The number and variety of fish were overwhelming. I also practiced my snorkel diving. Amy commented a few days earlier that I seemed to be a flailing mass of arms and legs.
Sunday we got up at six am. We had to make the tide by seven-fifty or face some rough seas at the pass. We put a single reef in the mainsail, as the wind seemed to be piping up. Luckily, our anchor came up with out a hitch. That is one drawback to the Tuamotus. Almost everyone had to dive to retrieve their anchor from the clutches of a coral head. Not an easy thing to do, as most of the anchorage's are forty feet deep. With Amy at the helm, we cleared the pass into the open ocean. We stayed in the lee of Rangiroa for Amy's off watch. It was so calm, she woke up thinking we were at anchor. The rest of the 170-mile passage wasn't so peaceful. The wind was on the beam, blowing anywhere from 20 knots to as high as 30 in rainsqualls. During Amy's watch she would leave all sail up (one reef still in the main) and Iwalani would lay over and start a roaring bow wave, which would get me out of my bunk. "What do you think you are doing?" I crawled up on deck and asked. "She likes it like this." Came Amy's reply. "Well it's hard to sleep with the din of a freight train in my ears." I said. Sometimes she reminds me of those hard driving clipper ship captains. When questioned by their mates about taking in some sail, the captain would reply "What she can't carry, she can drag!" Bringing visions of assorted broken spars and sails dragging along side a wildly careening ship. Who would think of mild mannered Amy as Captain Ahab!
Next week, Amy gets to write about the crown jewel of French Polynesia, Tahiti. PS