Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Relaxing in Raiatea

0800 Position 14-58S 147-38W. At anchor in the lee of Reporepo Motu, Rangiroa

We would like to head 150 miles southeast to the island of Fakarava, a marine preserve here in the Tuamotus that is supposed to have fantastic diving, but that would take us right into the currently strong trade winds. A sail like that wouldn't be much fun, so we are procrastinating and hoping for the wind to die off and/or shift direction.

When the boys were exploring ashore the other day they heard that the drift dive in the Tiputa Pass, just a half mile from our anchorage, is one of the best dives in all of French Polynesia. We decided that we would give it a try. One normally does a drift dive in a Tuamotu pass while the tide is flooding into the lagoon. The velocity of the flood tide is less than half the velocity of the ebb tide, and if you get swept away you would end up in the lagoon and not out in the ocean. Unfortunately, we don't have tide tables for this part of the world, so we have to guess at tomorrow's tides based on yesterday's tides – not exactly the scientific approach. We figured the tide would start flooding just before noon so all piled into the dinghy with our snorkeling gear and headed out then.

As we approached the pass it became evident that our calculations were a bit off as the tide was ebbing furiously out the channel. No drift dive today. We also heard that you could snorkel anytime in the lee of the motu just inside the channel, and we saw a number of dive boats moored there. So we altered course, headed for the motu, and anchored amongst the dive boats. It was a bit disconcerting because as soon as we dropped the anchor we were buzzed by four small black tip sharks. Other divers were in the water though, so we ended up getting in to find an underwater world full of fish of all varieties. The fish weren't shy either. Apparently they are frequently fed by the divers. The sharks would cruise through periodically just to let us know that they were there. Good fun and a pleasant dive in the 87 degree water.

We rewarded ourselves for out successful dive with a trip into the café at the end of the pier for an afternoon beer and free wifi. I got to have a nice long leisurely talk with Lori. Later I got into a conversation with the guys at one of the other tables who were off of a fifty eight foot Oyster, a brand of luxury cruising boats built in England. They are participating in an Oyster round-the-world rally. That explains why we've been seeing so many Oysters since we arrived in the Marquesas, and explains the five Oysters currently at anchor here.

This place continues to be a bee hive of activity. The inter-island cargo ship arrived during the night and we woke up this morning to find it at the pier offloading material. During the coffee clutch a 220 foot super yacht and the Aranui both arrived in the anchorage. Since the pier was occupied the Aranui anchored out and is ferrying passengers ashore in lighters. It will be busy ashore in Rangiroa today!

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Comings and Goings

0800 Position 14-58S 147-38W. At anchor in the lee of Reporepo Motu, Rangiroa

Yesterday I made French toast with lamb sausage for breakfast for the boys. Baguettes make the best French toast.

There is a lot of boat movement here in the anchorage. Five boats arrived yesterday after we did, including an eighty foot power boat, "Askari", that I had seen in Moorea while I was cruising there in both 2011 and 2014. I hope to meet the owner sometime. That guy is using the heck out of his boat.

We spent yesterday morning converting Van Diemen from "crossing mode" to "cruising mode". The interior was wiped down, windows cleaned, cockpit teak scrubbed and brightened, upholstery covers removed, floor vacuumed and wiped, heads and galley sanitized. She looks like a new boat now.

After noon Rob went ashore to try to find his way to the airport three miles away to meet Renee. I stayed on the boat to take a nap. Mike and Bill went exploring. First they went ashore at the nearby resort. "Can we go into your bar to buy a beer and use the Wi-Fi?" they asked.

"Of course", was the answer.

"Can we tie our dinghy to your dock while we are in the bar?" was their follow up.

"No, you can not," they got in reply. Hmmm. Definitely not a cruiser friendly operation, so they headed over to the town pier where Rob and I had landed earlier. There they found a couple of little snack shops with cheap beer and free Wi-Fi.

Rob ended up walking halfway to the airport before a friendly local picked him up and took him the rest of the way there. Renee's flight came in on schedule, and they caught a taxi back to the boat. In typical Polynesian fashion, their taxi driver had some personal errands to run, including picking up her pre-teen daughter after school, during the drive. "Do you mind, Misuer?" she asked.

"No problemo!" would be Rob's standard response. So Rob and Renee got a free tour of Rangiroa and a view into the personal life of a local on their way back to the boat.

Renee arrived with about sixty pounds of boat gear that accidently got left behind in the chaos of departure. Now we can finish up those remaining projects on the work list!

She also brought her culinary expertise and imagination with her. Last night's dinner aboard was a masterpiece.

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Monday, May 29, 2017


0800 Position 14-58S 147-38W. At anchor in the lee of Reporepo Motu, Rangiroa Atoll, Tuamotu Archepelago

We spent all day yesterday doing boat projects, laundry, and relaxing. Lori had emailed me a bunch of breadfruit recipes so I tried boiling half of it in salt, garlic, and chili pepper and turned the other half into ulu chips fried in a pan. Judging by the amount consumed the chips were better, but the boiled ulu was edible if a bit bland. I probably didn't use enough spices.

The water temperature in the lagoon got up to 88 degrees, a new record. Swimming was almost like taking a bath.

We got underway at 5PM and threaded our way back across the lagoon and out the pass just as the sun was setting. It was not a good time to go for visibility, but we had the GPS track for our inward leg and followed it exactly on the way out. If we didn't hit anything coming in we weren't going to hit anything going in the other direction. The tide was flooding into the lagoon at about two knots as we went out the channel, a bit more relaxed than our arrival.

We timed our departure for just before sunset because we were sailing to Rangiroa, 103 miles away. It was too far to sail in daylight hours, so we departed just before dark anticipating an arrival just after sunrise the next day. We weren't in a hurry though, so left the mainsail down and just unrolled the jib. It was comfortable but a bit rolly without the main, and we arrived outside of Rangiroa's Avatoru Pass at 6AM.

Rob had been to Rangiroa before and knew the pass so we powered right in without a worry. Apparently it isn't that easy for everybody though as we saw two wrecked cruising boats high and dry on the motu on the western side of the channel. Once in the lagoon it was clear that this is a big atoll, one of the biggest in the world. It is so wide that you can't see the motus on the other side of the lagoon, and since that is where the wind was coming from there was quite a large chop that had developed. No anchoring here. The cruising guide discussed a sheltered anchorage just inside Tiputa Pass, five miles to the south east so we headed there avoiding the numerous pearl farm buoys that fill the lagoon.

An hour later we were at anchor with six other cruising boats in a relatively calm and protected hidy hole. Rob and I went ashore for supplies and found a store nearby that had the elusive lettuce we have been scouring French Polynesia to find as well as fresh baguettes.

We have a bit more boat cleanup to do to raise the standard of cleanliness from "five guys" to "woman aboard" before Renee arrives at 2PM this afternoon. It looks like some pretty good snorkeling right next to the boat too.

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Calmest Anchorage Yet

0800 Position 14-27S 145-58W. At anchor in the lee of Pahereroa Motu, Manihi Atoll, Tuamotu Archepelago

I was confident that coming up on the shallow waters surrounding Manihi Atoll would mean fish, but we had no luck with our two lines out. Rob has found another cedar plug, and he put that out next to my contemporary resin head. The plug probably scared all the fish away.

The Tuamotus is an archipelago of approximately seventy eight atolls, the coral remnants of the once high islands that eroded away millions of years ago. The atolls are all similar, a ring of low coral rubble islands atop a circular reef that surrounds a large lagoon. Most of the atolls have one or more channels through the reef that boats can use to get into the lagoons. Manihi has one channel into its sixty square mile lagoon.

There is not much tide here, just a foot or so, but the only way for all the water in these atoll lagoons to get out when the tide is falling is through the channels. It was approaching low tide when we arrived outside Manihi's channel at 10AM, and the tide was racing out. The pass is about fifty yards wide though and the cruising guides say it is deep enough, so we gave it a go. It was heart in the throat stuff. We were powering at seven and a half knots but only moving at one and a half knots over the ground. Six knots of current mixes the water up pretty good, and we were being pushed all over the place at times. The shallowest portion of the channel was at the inner end where we could see the water level drop about six inches as it accelerated from the calm of the lagoon into the rushing river of the channel. We never saw less than sixteen feet of depth though and made it into the lagoon unscathed.

Once inside the sheltered water of the lagoon the only danger was uncharted coral heads, but that was no problem with a good lookout. It was blowing more than twenty knots, and we needed to find a sheltered anchorage. The village by the pass was exposed, so we powered across the lagoon and along the motus until we found a nice spot in the lee of Pahereroa Motu and tucked behind a reef. The anchor went down at 1130AM in fifty six feet of water.

Rob had a list of boat projects he wanted to get finished before we pick up Rene in Rangiroa in a couple of days, so he got started on them. Mike, Bill, and I launched the dinghy and went in to the motu to explore and dive the edge of the reef.

I foolishly forgot my slippers so I couldn't walk far on the sharp coral rubble that forms the motus. Bill and Mike disappeared into the coconut palm and scrub jungle and made it all the way to the ocean side of the motu before heading back. They said it was unremarkable. These motus are all privately owned and most have at least one house like structure on them. Occupation must be seasonal though, and this isn't the season, because nearly all of the structures appeared to be uninhabited.

The water in the lagoon was like a bath. The water temperature here is 86.5 degrees, a degree warmer than the open ocean. When I dive in these lagoons I always tow the dinghy because there are always sharks around. I've seen the black tip sharks get aggressive and when they do it is wise to get out of the water immediately. We only saw one shark, a five foot black tip, that darted into the deep water between Bill and I. The giant clams with their iridescent blue, brown, yellow and green lips were a new experience for Bill and Mike, but there wasn't much else that was special.

This is our calmest anchorage since leaving California. The rolly open roadsteads of the Marquesas are behind us, and we should have all calm anchorages like this in protected lagoon waters until we depart the Society Islands in July.

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Manihi Landfall

0800 Position 14-13S 145-51W. Days run 233 miles. 7 miles north of Manihi Atoll

All day yesterday we cooked along at close to ten knots with a double reefed mainsail and full jib. As evening approached the squalls started forming, and all night long we had to deal with the rain, gusts, and wind shifts that came along with them.

Rob decided he wanted fish for dinner last night so I put a lure out yesterday. We never saw anything hit it but when I pulled it in at sunset I found that the skirt had been destroyed. Rob doesn't have any kind of a strike alarm aboard, like the clothes pins we use on Moku pe'a, so unless you are watching you won't be aware of a fish strike. I will bring some of my pin alarms back when I go home for a week next month.

It's my turn to cook tonight, and I want fresh fish for dinner. The lines went out at dawn and we are entering the shallower waters surrounding Manihi Atoll. Stay tuned.

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Friday, May 26, 2017


0800 Position 11-43S 142-50WW. Days run 216 miles.

Yesterday morning the boys were successful in finding more local produce, including a breadfruit that they expect me to cook. I made the mistake of telling them that Lori has a recipe that turns this otherwise bland starchy fruit into something that tastes pretty good. Help Lori! How do I cook it?

Ua Pou is famous for its five lava spires. It was overcast when we arrived there so we couldn't see them in the clouds, but yesterday morning the sky was clear and there they were, five lava volcano cores sticking up into the sky in the middle of the island looking like whales teeth. We've read that the rock in these spires is not crumbly like the rest of the islands and that it is relatively safe for mountaineers to climb them. They sure are photogenic.

After the boys returned from their shopping expedition we got the boat ready for sea and were underway for the Tuamotus at 1030AM. We didn't have any luck this time as we passed the point where we had the big fish strike the day before. Once clear of the lee of the island the wind filled in from the east and we were off like a rocket. The wind was just aft of the beam, a bit further forward than it was for most of the trip down from California. It has been blowing between fifteen and twenty knots. It is not the most comfortable point of sail, and we occasionally get doused when a big wave smacks the side of the boat, but it is fast. We have averaged more than ten knots of speed since we departed Ua Pou. At this pace we will complete the 465 mile passage to Manihi Atoll in just over two days and arrive there sometime tomorrow afternoon. The weather forecast predicts more of the same, so we should be able to maintain good speed all the way in.

We've had to modify our watch system now that Longy is not here and we are down to four crew aboard. We are still doing two hours on standby and two hours on watch, but we are off duty for four hours instead of six which is cutting into our sleep time. I got off watch at 8AM this morning and was too tired to write and post today's blog. I'm doing it instead while on my noon to 2PM standby watch. Longy, we miss you!

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Anchor Drills

0800 Position 9-21S 140-06W. At anchor in Hakahetau Bay, Ua Pou.

The boys had great success at the farmers market yesterday morning returning with baguettes, papaya, mango, carrots, onions, cabbage and tomatoes. There was no lettuce to be had because it has been so rainy in the islands. I kidded them about elbowing old ladies out of the way and they said the opposite occurred. Apparently the elderly ladies of Nuku Hiva feel like they own the market and just shoo the haole tourists out of the way.

We decided to head west to Daniel's Bay for the day and hike to the waterfall. It is only five miles down the coast, but the bay is totally landlocked and a perfectly smooth anchorage. We got down there at about 8AM, dropped the hook, put up the awning, got in the dinghy, and headed for the waterfall. There were two other boats anchored in the bay so we spun by them first to say hello. One told us that the locals had formed a hui and now charged cruisers $10/person to walk up the valley to the waterfall. That seemed kind of like extortion to us. We wouldn't be walking on any of the local's private land. So we decided that we didn't need to see the waterfall, went back to the boat, hoisted the dinghy aboard, took down the awning, hoisted the anchor, and took off for Ua Pou twenty five miles to the south.

It was a wet and bumpy sail with the wind forward of the beam blowing close to twenty knots at times. We arrived at Ua Pou's main town of Hakahau at 1PM. There we found the Aranui, the interisland cruise/cargo ship tied to the pier and four other cruising boats at anchor. The other boats filled up the inner harbor forcing us out into the roadstead where we anchored for about ten minutes before deciding it was too rough. Up came the anchor again and we were off for the leeward side of the island.

We poked into a number of bays looking for a good spot to anchor. Hakahetau looked good, but there were already a couple of catamarans there. We proceeded down the coast as far as Vaiehu Bay before turning around. On the way down we passed a point that had a lot of current running. It had all the characteristics of a good fishing spot. We hadn't been trolling because we were tired of loosing lures, but I decided to toss a line in for fun as we passed the point on the way back. Two minutes after putting the line in the water a huge fish hit the lure. The hand line was tied to the backstay and I thought the fish would take the mast down. Fortunately the hook did not set, but the lure has a nice new scar on it.

We tried anchoring in Haakuti Bay where there was a nice little village, but it must have been a river rock bottom because we couldn't get the anchor to set. So in it came and we headed back to Hakahetau where we anchored outside of the catamarans at about 4PM.

After getting the boat put to bed for the fourth and final time of the day, we dinghied ashore to do some exploring. This is a magical little spot with surreal rock formations in the village and five huge volcano core spires in the mountains behind the village. The boys are ashore this morning making a final attempt to find lettuce before we head off to the Tuamotus.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017


0800 Position 8-55S 140-06W. At anchor in Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva.

Tourism is an important part of the Marquesan economy. It is too hard to get here by plane, so most tourists arrive by cruising sailboat, like we did. However, they are now getting occasional visits by cruise ships which provide huge but temporary bursts of money into the economy. The cruise ships only visit ten times per year and only stay for the day. It is the busiest day of the year when they are in. It seems the whole community participates. Regular folks become tour or taxi drivers, all the carvers, craftsmen, and artists set up shop and display their wares. Recreational dancers become professionals, etc. Everybody is busy. A two hour driving tour that costs $100 normally costs $400 when the cruise ship is in. All of the tours are prearranged and booked with the cruise ship in advance, so there aren't any taxis cruising for fares.

Rob went ashore early to try to find a taxi to take Longy to the airport on the other side of the island, a two hour drive away. He didn't have any luck for a couple of hours but the lady in the Air Tahiti office who helped us yesterday knew somebody who knew somebody who agreed to drive him to the airport. So we think Longy made it to his flight OK.

This would be our last chance at proper provisioning until we get to Tahiti, so we did some shopping after Longy departed. We got most of what we needed, but fresh produce was scarce. The word on the street was that the Wednesday morning farmers market would give us our best chance of getting fresh produce. It opens at 530AM, and you have to get there early to find the best stuff. So we decided to hang out for another night and give it a shot. As I write this the boys are in there elbowing old ladies out of the way to get lettuce.

We hung out for most of the day yesterday, and then when the tour vehicles started bringing the passengers back to the cruise ships we approached a few on the pier and asked for a two hour tour of the island for $100. A few balked because they had just earned four times that amount for the same service, but one guy realized that the party had ended and agreed. He took us up to the lookout above Taiohae, on to the island's central plateau, and east to Typee Valley that Herman Melville wrote about in his first book. It was a fun and worthwhile tour and our driver was very friendly and knowledgeable.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Big City

0800 Position 8-55S 140-06W. At anchor in Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva.

Rob, Longy, and Mike decided to go ashore after breakfast to look for the ruins at the back of the valley behind Hane Village. I stayed aboard to get some chores done like washing laundry, and I had a hankering for some triple chocolate brownies so I baked some as a surprise for the crew. The boys returned an hour or so later not having found much of anything. We got the boat ready for sea and headed off for Nuku Hiva, thirty miles to the west.

We had an easy downhill run arriving at Taiohae Bay about 3PM. Taiohae is the biggest town in the Marquesas. It has the largest and calmest anchorage, a couple of fully equipped piers to handle cargo and passenger ships, and about thirty cruising boats at anchor. Ashore there are shops that cater to visiting tourists, banks, stores and restaurants. There is an airport on the other side of the island.

Longy was supposed to fly out of here on the 24th, but we decided to come a day early just to be sure of his flight status. Good thing we did. We stopped at the Air Tahiti office and they couldn't find his reservation. The flight to Papeete on the 24th was fully booked as well. Fortunately there is a spot left on today's flight. Longy will have a day to kill in Tahiti before his flight to LA, but he'll get there.

We tried to rent a car to take Longy to the airport and tour the island, but none were available. The agency told us that a cruise ship was arriving so they were fully booked. Too bad. Looks like Longy will have to take a taxi.

We walked around town for a couple of hours and ended up in a pizza joint that had cold Hinano. After dinner we stumbled back to the boat in the dark. The brownies ended up being Longy's last night celebration dessert.

This morning when we woke up we found the Aranui, the inter-island passenger and cargo ship, at the pier. An hour later a larger cruise ship arrived as well and it anchored out. It is now ferrying passengers ashore in its small boats. It will be busy in Taiohae today!

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Bay of the Wood Carvers

0800 Position 8-56S 139-32W. At anchor in d'Hane Bay, Ua Huka.

Yesterday we motor sailed east to the first bay we had poked into on Ua Huka the day before, d'Hane Bay. That name doesn't look to be Polynesian to me, but that's what it says on the charts. The village behind the bay is called Hane.

After anchoring and launching the dinghy all five of us ventured ashore through the surf. It was an interesting landing with our temperamental outboard engine choosing to stall just as we entered the surf zone on the beach. Bill and Longy sacrificed their bodies by throwing themselves overboard to keep the dinghy upright and we made it in otherwise unscathed.

Once ashore we met a nice gal in the village who told us that there was a festival with sports competitions going on in the next bay to the east, about a ten minute walk away. Her brother just happened to be driving that direction so she waved him down and asked him to give us a ride in his pickup truck. We all piled in and were chauffeured to Hokatu village where we found a crowd gathering for a soccer match on a concrete slab the size of a basketball court.

They were selling numerous kinds of local food in the building next to the arena and we tried them all. Longy had the local version of "poke" with lime juice, fish, and tapioca. Mike had beer batter fried prawns. Bill had chicken and noodles, I had a panini, Rob had mystery meet on a stick. It was all good.

The soccer matches were impressive. There were men's and women's matches with team's representing different villages. The ball handling was quite good, officiating professional, and sportsmanship between players and teams exceptional.

After the games were over we went into the village artisan shop to look at wood carvings. War clubs appeared to be their specialty, but they had all manner of wood and coconut carvings. Mike bought a coconut gourd but the rest of us just looked.

Our trip back out through the surf was as exciting as the trip in was. The outboard once again decided to stall at the worst possible moment, but we made it out intact and decided to spend the night right where we were.

This morning's topic of discussion in the cockpit over coffee is a fisherman who is walking along the lava ledge on the side of the bay carrying what the boys have decided is a twenty pound ulua. Our fisherman must have caught it out near the mouth of the bay. He is stopping every hundred feet or so as he moves over the jagged rocks to rest and have a smoke. Now it looks like he must have dropped his cigarette lighter because he just put the fish down and is headed back out searching for something in the rocks as he goes…

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Ua Huka

0800 Position 8-57S 139-36W. At anchor in Haavei Bay, Ua Huka.

The boys decided to go ashore and do some exploring after we finished breakfast yesterday, so they launched the dinghy and braved the surf to land on the beach. I stayed aboard. It didn't look that interesting and sometimes beach landings don't turn out as well as you'd hope. They made it through ok though, but the beach was unremarkable and they didn't spend much time there.

After the crew returned Van Diement got underway for Ua Huka, fifty seven miles to the northwest. It was a pleasant broad reach in fifteen knots of wind and we arrived on Ua Huka's south coast at about 4PM. Rob had wanted to anchor in a bay near the eastern end of the island because that's where the famous wood carvers are, but the two bays we poked into were too rough so we ended up on the western shore of the island off of a lovely beach.

This morning while enjoying a pancake breakfast in our solitary anchorage we noticed a mast on the horizon. In typical French Polynesian fashion this vessel came in and decided that the only suitable place to anchor on the planet was the exact spot that we were anchored in. I told the boys he was likely either French or German because both species like to see how close to you they can anchor. Turns out they were Swiss. Isn't that right between France and Germany? They circled us a few times and looked about to drop their hook right on top of ours. We beat them to the punch though and got underway before they could mess with us. They are now anchored right where we were.

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Gimme Shelter

0800 Position 9-42S 139-00W. At anchor in Hanatekuua Bay, Hiva Oa.

It rained all morning and into the afternoon yesterday. It must have been a low pressure system passing through. We ate and read and napped and talked until we couldn't stand it and then decided to brave the elements and head north to Hanamenu, a favorite bay of mine on the north side of Hiva Oa. This normally arid bay has a spring fed waterfall and pool right next to the beach. It was uninhabited when we were here thirty years ago and we had it to ourselves for a couple of days.

Out came the fishing lines as soon as we departed Tahuata. We tried to watch them closely as we motor sailed north but we weren't watching close enough. When we pulled them in as we entered Hanamenu we found that Longy's lure had been destroyed and mine had the hooks bent straight. We never saw any fish strike the lures.

The anchorage at Hanamenu was not good. There was too much northerly component in the wind and waves and it was pretty bumpy at anchor. After a half hour of rocking and rolling we decided to press on to Hanatekuua Bay ten miles further up the coast which appeared on the chart to be more protected. We arrived there just before dark and found it to be a much better anchorage.

I didn't put out a line for our second trip, but Longy and Rob did. Rob lost his lure and Longy's was thrashed. It seems like the fish are toying with us here. We put lures out and the fish take or destroy them when we are not looking. Nobody stays for dinner.

The rain slowly diminished as the afternoon progressed, and by the time we had anchored in Hanatekuua it had just about stopped. Later in the evening we could see some stars and this morning it is a typical trade wind day. It looks like the bad weather has moved on.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

We are Legal!

0800 Position 9-55S 139-07W. At anchor in Iwaiwanui Bay, Tahuata.

At 9M yesterday the whole crew dinghied ashore to meet the agent. Sandra showed up at the dock a half hour later in her pickup truck with her toddler son. "Can you help us with immigration?", we asked.

"You'll need bonds or airline tickets," she replied. That sounded familiar… Further discussion revealed that we couldn't use her company's services her unless the entire crew had French Polynesian health insurance, which we didn't.

"That's the same story about insurance the agency gave me when I asked a couple of months ago," said Rob. Hmmm… So we were on our own.

Off we went hiking into town again. This time we went directly to the bank where Rob, Mike, and Bill purchased a bond.

Longy and I had return airline tickets, but the Gendarmes required that our ticket confirmations be emailed to them. How do we do that? It couldn't be done from the boat with our super slow email capabilities that can't send graphics. We could buy a WIFI card at the post office though, which would allow us email access there. That we did, but there was a power outage on the north side of town that included the post office. No WIFI there. We walked to the other side of town to the bank where the power and WIFI was still on and sent the emails, and then headed back to the Gendarmerie. Of course, the office had just closed for lunch when we got there. The Gendarmes must eat a lot, because "lunch" lasts from noon until 2 PM.

Did I mention that it was pouring off and on the entire time we were traipsing around Atuona. I was the only one who brought a raincoat.

At 2PM we were standing at the Gendarmerie gate, in the pouring rain, with other cruisers who were also trying to check in. "I'm am sorry Messieurs. We did not receive your email," was the answer we got from the officials. After further discussion, it was decided that we could load our flight confirmation emails onto a thumb drive and submit that. Off we went again to the bank, where we could get WIFI, to download the confirmations onto a thumb drive. Back to the Gendarmerie, submit the thumb drive, only to get the response, "I am sorry Messieurs. The thumb drive is empty." Rob had used his Mac to load the thumb drive. Perhaps their PC couldn't read it?

Now, you might imagine that we are getting a little bit frustrated by this time. Rob is starting to boil over, and the collapse of NATO is imminent. The head cheese offers Rob to come look at his computer to prove to him that our emails never came in. They go into a back office, look at the computer, and "Sacra bleu, it is a miracle! Here are the emails".

The whole process took seven hours. We probably hiked five miles… in the pouring rain.

As you might imagine, we had had enough of Atuona. We went back to the boat, pulled up the anchor, and motor sailed back to the north end of Tahuata where we dropped the hook for the night in the bay next to the one we were in previously.

It poured all night long with some thunder and lightning, but we didn't care. We weren't in Atuona anymore.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017


0800 Position 9-48S 139-02W. At anchor in Tahauku Bay, Hiva Oa.

We didn't have far to go yesterday, just eight miles, to the big town of Atuona to clear into French Polynesia. After completing some boat projects we hoisted a double reefed mainsail and motor sailed across the channel between Tahuata and HIva Oa. We found the harbor in Tahauku Bay completely full with about thirty cruising boats at anchor. This place is a hell hole. It is sheltered by hills so there is little wind here making it hot, Africa hot. The anchorage is rolly everywhere, but we are in a particularly bad spot outside the breakwater. Our plan quickly became to complete the formalities and get the heck out. Other than perhaps making a voyage repair I can't imagine staying for any other reason, so I'm not sure what the other boats are doing here.

If you've read the blogs from any of my previous voyages, you know that clearing customs in these third world countries is always an adventure. This time is proving to be no different. Rob gathered up our passports and went ashore at 1PM to do battle with the French after we got the boat tidied up. He returned two hours later after being told that the entire crew had to be present at the Gendarmarie to clear immigration. We all jumped in the dinghy, went into shore, and started walking. We had to walk around the end of the bay to get to Atuona, and a half hour after we started hiking we were standing on the hill looking down on Van Diemen from about 100 yards away. Another half hour of walking and we were at the Gendarmarie where we started the sign language game with the officials.

This is the primary port where yachts from the west coast clear into French Polynesia. Each year about 400 yachts enter here. Most of them are American. The French know this. Don't you think they would attempt to put employees with English language skills in the Gendarmarie here? Nope. None of the three officials who served us could speak English.

After ten minutes of gesturing it became clear that they wouldn't clear us in unless we had either an email confirmation of an airline ticket out of the country or proof of bond posted at the local bank. When Matt and I cleared into French Polynesia in 2014 this wasn't an issue. Now it is. It was almost 5PM, closing time at the Gendarmarie, so that hurdle would have to wait until tomorrow. Who knows how long it will take. Hmmm. Perhaps this is what all those other boats are doing here in the harbor.

Rob has a plan though. There is a local "agent" who is an expert at assisting yachts clear into French Polynesia. The plan is for him to meet the agent at the harbor breakwater at 9AM this morning. Stay tuned. This could get interesting.

So it was 5PM, we were in Atuona, a two mile walk from the boat. We decided to have a look around. There wasn't much there except the Gendarmarie, a bank, a post office, a couple of stores, restaurants, and a school. We bought some provisions in the store and were walking back to the boat when we bumped into some pals of Bill's who arrived here from San Diego a week ago on their thirty eight foot sloop. They had a tougher passage than we did breaking their steering, their generator, and their gooseneck. It is amazing how different the same ocean can be. We had dinner and a few Hinanos with them at pizza place and caught a cab back to the harbor.

It was pretty difficult sleeping last night with all the rolling, but it did cool off at about 2AM when the wind shifted to an offshore thermal and the breeze blew down from the hills. Longy was explaining to us this morning how he had to contort his body to keep from rolling out of bed and onto the floor of the cockpit. Good times.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Deja Vu

0800 Position 9-55S 139-06W. At anchor in Iwaiwa Iti Bay, Tahuata.

A full night's sleep did wonders for all of us. After a fried rice breakfast and some boat repairs we pulled up the anchor, hoisted the reefed mainsail, and headed off for Tahuata, forty miles to the northwest. We had a beautiful four hour sail in a twenty knot easterly breeze. We passed a couple of other boats headed in the other direction. They were pounding and heeling under shortened sail and did not appear to be having as good a time as we were. I kept telling the boys, guaranteeing the boys, that we would hook up as we rounded the southern tip of Tahuata. Thirty years ago we landed two huge ono there and I was confident the same spot would be a sure thing this time too.

As we rounded the point we could see the fish darting for our lures. All three lures, including Rob's cedar plug, were hit, but only Rob's hooked up. Unfortunately, the fish came off before I could get him to the boat. An inspection of the other two lures revealed that one was completely destroyed. It looked like the work of ono teeth. We made another pass by the same spot and lost another lure completely to a strike before heading down the coast to Hanamoenoa Bay. There we found seven boats, which was seven too many for us, so we turned around and went back to Iwaiwa Iti a half a mile to the south and anchored. It is a nice little bay with a white sand beach and we have it all to ourselves.

The water temperature is still 85.5 degrees and the swimming is wonderful. This is warmer than I ever recall the water being in Hawaii.

Longy and Mike tried to sleep in the cockpit again last night, but this time it rained. They both tried to tough it out thinking that the rain would stop, but it poured and by the time they gave up and came inside they were soaked.

This morning's topic of discussion over coffee in the cockpit was the wild animals we could see moving on the hillside above the anchorage. Out came the binoculars, which got passed around for each of us to have a look. First we decided they were horses. We've read in the cruising guides that most of the Marquesas have wild horses on them. A bit more looking and a bit more talking and we were convinced that they were dogs. Finally we decided they were very large and ugly goats. Goats. Too bad. Horses make a better story. As I write this the boys are still talking about them. They are being referred to as the "goat-horse things".

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Fatu Hiva

0800 Position 10-28S 138-40W. At anchor in the Bay of Virgins, Fatu Hiva.

We spent a few hours yesterday cleaning up the ship, inflating and launching the dinghy, and doing some minor repairs. When we were done, Longy dropped us off ashore and the four of us went looking for the infamous waterfall in the back of the valley. We walked for an hour or so towards the back of the valley before we gave up and turned around. It was a beautiful walk, but we didn't see any signs of a waterfall. I'm zero for two now on my attempts to find it. Alison and I tried to find the waterfall thirty years ago with the same result. I wonder if it really exists?

I got to know Van Diemen pretty well during the time I spent working on her before we departed Newport Beach. My month of labor also earned me first pick on the available ship's bunks that will be my home until we reach Australia. Rob, and Renee when she is aboard, are in the master cabin just forward of the saloon. There is also a guest cabin and a crew cabin forward. I picked the crew cabin. It is smaller than the guest cabin, but I believe it is a better berth when the boat is heeling at sea. So far I have been comfortable there. Bill Barsz is in the guest cabin, and Longy and Mike are in the quarter berths that lie under the cockpit on the port and starboard sides of the boat. The quarter berths themselves are pretty comfortable once you are in them, but it is a pain crawling in and out on hands and knees. The quarter berths are also right next to the engine and generator so it is noisy and hotter than elsewhere on the boat. The heat made the quarter berths especially uncomfortable on our crossing here. Because of their sacrifice, Mike and Longy claimed first dibs on sleeping in the cockpit when we are not at sea. The cockpit seats are plenty long enough, have very comfortable cushions, and are a great place to sleep at anchor as long as it doesn't rain. It must not have rained last night because this morning both Mike and Longy woke up with smiles on their faces.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Land Ho!

0800 Position 10-28S 138-40W. Days run 204 miles. At anchor in the Bay of Virgins, Fatu Hiva.

We had been fishing for days without success. After lengthy discussion in the cockpit, we decided that the fish couldn't stand the hot water either and had descended to cooler depths. Besides, if we caught a fish in water this hot, it would already be cooked when we landed it. Yesterday was the penultimate contest day. Longy had a lure out, I had one out, and Rob had his cedar plug out. Nothing happened all day. Just before dinner the lines came in and there was no lure at the end of mine. It had apparently been hit by something pretty big and it broke at the swivel. Too bad. It was the lure Fred Morelli made for me that caught the sixty pound ahi near Raivavae in 2014.

The trip wouldn't have been complete without a little tough weather, and we got it late yesterday and this morning. Squalls rolled through all afternoon and evening. The wind would shift forty degrees and increase from five to twenty five knots. We had a big south swell and a south east swell that knocked the stern around. And it rained… hard. We had to stay on our toes all night with lots of hand steering during the heavy stuff, and ended up putting two reefs in the mainsail early this morning.

At 6AM this morning we dropped anchor in Hanavave Bay on Fatu Hiva. This is a popular place. There were eighteen boats here when we arrived and a couple more have come in since we did. We are smack dab in the middle of the "Pacific Puddle Jump" fleet, the annual organized coconut milk run caravan across the South Pacific. We will likely run into these same boats all the way to Australia.

There is a reason this anchorage is popular. It is one of the most spectacularly beautiful spots on earth with 3,000 foot peaks that fall away right into the sea on both sides of this protected gorge. There is a waterfall that empties into the ocean 200 feet off to starboard, and lava spires on the hillside to port. During my eight month South Pacific cruise in '86 I shot five rolls of film. One of those five was used up here. We are planning to go ashore to do some hiking and exploring today, and then we will likely be off to Tahuata, the next island in the group, tomorrow.

We were fifteen and a half days getting here sailing 2,900 miles at an average speed of 7.8 knots, pretty quick for a light air trip. Except for last night's rough weather, it was probably my smoothest crossing ever.

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Hotter Water

0800 Position 7-29S 137-04W. Days run 185 miles. 201 miles to go to Fatu Hiva.

The idyllic South Seas cruise weather ended yesterday. Water temperature got up to 87, the wind died, and it rained. It was stifling hot below during the day, the hottest I can remember at sea, and the sun was unmerciful on deck. The wind trended lighter and lighter as the day progressed. The squalls that rolled through sucked up what little wind remained and we slatted as they moseyed past us. This weather wasn't forecast yesterday, but today's gribs show a weak low pressure system moving through which matches what we saw. When I came up on deck this morning at 2AM the skies had cleared, our wind had returned, water temperature was down to 85 degrees and we were back to postcard sailing under a nearly full moon.

The slow going wasn't a problem. It had looked like we were going to make landfall during the night which isn't good, and with the slow going yesterday it now looks like we will arrive at about sunrise on Monday. Perfect.

It was calm enough last night to fire up the barbeque to cook hamburgers for dinner, a nice treat at sea. We've also been sliding on our dry ship policy. There is cold beer in the reefer and it just seems wrong to let it sit there in this heat. Besides, hamburgers taste better with beer.

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Hot Water

0800 Position 4-35S 136-04W. Days run 204 miles.

I recall reading somewhere that there aren't significant coral reefs in the Marquesas because the water is too cold. I didn't see much coral during my first cruise there in '86 which seemed to confirm that theory, but now I'm not so sure. I had expected the water to keep getting colder until we reached the islands, and it got down to 83.5 degrees as we got south of the doldrums. I even had a sweatshirt on the night before last. Yesterday morning the water temperature reversed direction though, and has since increased to 86.5 degrees. Hot water means hot air and it was pretty uncomfortable yesterday during daylight hours. It was almost too hot to be below, and impossible to sleep. Last night it cooled off enough to sleep, but you didn't even need a t-shirt on deck. We are less than 500 miles from the Marquesas now, and I can't see the water cooling to the point that coral won't grow before we arrive there. I just pulled out a cruising guide and read that it is hot year round in the Marquesas. Hmmm. Maybe Berg and Kai can get the facts for us.

Perfect sailing conditions continue though. We are still beam reaching in eight knots of wind and flat seas. The lack of change should make it boring, but who can get tired of these conditions? All the hatches are open and the deck is dry. Climb into the cockpid during the day and you'd think you were in a library with everybody sitting around reading in the shade of the bimini.

It was Mike's turn to cook yesterday and he put in a request for fresh fish. Longy and I tried to oblige but had no luck. It is a bit surprising. There are flying fish everywhere and we are seeing groups of sea birds working as we get close to land so there should be something catchable out here.

If the weather continues little changed, which is the forecast, then we should arrive in the Marquesas on Monday morning. Depending on our arrival time we will either go directly to Fatu Hiva at the southern end of the group, or to Hiva Oa, fifty miles to the north where we will formally check in to French Polynesia.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Neptune Pays a Visit

0800 Position 1-31S 134-37W. Days run 189 miles.

All day long yesterday we enjoyed perfect reaching conditions in flat water. Eight knots of breeze on the beam, eight knots of boat speed, clear skies with puffy cumulus trade wind clouds.

We had just finished a chili and rice dinner at 630PM when a commotion on the bow got everybody's attention. "Avast, you scurvinous dogs!", we heard in a deep voice. "Who dares disturb my cocktail hour?"

We looked up to see the Denizen of the Deep, King Neptune himself, come climbing over the bow pulpit, trident in hand. He was a striking sight in the setting sun with the fading light reflecting off of his crown and his cape blowing in the breeze. "I smell pollywogs!", the Sea King bellowed.

Rob, Bill, and I had seen this movie before, and we were unfazed. Longy and Mike, on the other hand, had never been across the equator, and both recoiled in fear to the after part of Van Diemen's poop deck. "Bring me these blasphemers!", the Lord of the Lampreys commanded.

"It's those two in the stern you want," responded Rob, eager to get the Commander of the Crabs aft to where the deck hose was located. Neptune was getting seaweed and slime all over Van Diemen's new paint job and our skipper wasn't happy about it.

The Master of the Maritime moved aft, cornering Longy and Mike near the transom. "I know Van Diemen and the shellbacks aboard her well," his majesty stated. "But tell me who you are and why I should allow you into my realm?"

"What's a shellback?" asked Mike timidly.

It was the wrong thing to say, equivalent to responding "President of what?" after being introduced to the leader of the free world. The Wizard of the Waves was clearly pissed. "Master at Arms, administer punishment," he roared.

A large creature, eerily similar in appearance to Sponge Bob, Square Pants, who we hadn't noticed before, stepped forward and flung large gobs of slop onto Mike and Longy. The slop appeared to be a mixture of oatmeal, tomato paste, raisins and water that had been left to stew for a few hours, but I wouldn't know anything about that.

Watching Longy and Mike get slimed improved his majesty's mood significantly. He queried them both about their qualifications to become shellbacks and appeared satisfied by their answers. After some consideration, and clearly anxious to return to his martini, he announced, "I hereby decree that Mike and Longy are Shellbacks and entitled to all of the benefits of shellbackdom. Let them be welcomed in all my seas!"

With that, Neptune and his entourage slipped back over the side and disappeared, leaving behind what looked like the results of a cafeteria food fight. As Mike was cleaning up the mess he was heard muttering, "That was interesting. What's a polywog?"

By this time the sun had set, it had become dark, and the flashing light of the equator mail buoy appeared on the bow. We stopped and checked for mail but the buoy was empty. It appears that the old days of snail mail are behind us. Everybody is using electronic communications now and I fear that the mail buoy system, which has been in use since the 1800s when New England whaling ships plied these waters, will be discontinued soon.

We hoisted sail and got underway, this time in Van Diemen's home waters of the southern hemisphere.

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Southeast Trades

0800 Position 1-19N 133-16W. Days run 178 miles.

The doldrum conditions only lasted for seven hours. By 2PM yesterday the wind had filled in enough that we could shut the engine down and sail again. As often happens just south of the ITCZ though, the wind was blowing from the south, so even close hauled we were ten or so degrees low of our desired heading. It has been steadily lifting us ever since though, and at sunrise this morning the sky had cleared and we were close reaching at nine knots in flat seas and eight knots of wind heading straight for the Marquesas.

We had a pretty easy time of it getting through the ITCZ. The gribs say that conditions should be perfect for us the rest of the way to the islands with the wind slowly lifting us and blowing consistently but never more than twelve knots.

We've been watching the sea water temperature as we work our way south. When we left Newport the water temp was in the low 70s. Yesterday it got up to 85.5 but it has been on the way down ever since and is now 84.1. As we get south of the ITCZ we are starting to feel the effects of the cold Humboldt Current that flows north along the west coast of South America and then turns to the west just south of the equator. I'm surprised that we never noticed the effects of the equatorial counter current. We should be well south of it by now.

Hot water means hot air, and while it is pleasant on deck it is pretty warm below, especially when we can't open the hatches due to the rain or spray. I'm not sweating in my bunk, but it isn't exactly great sleeping weather. The temperatures should start dropping now as we work our way south.

Just as the sky was lightening for sunrise this morning, Rob and I were treated to a visit by a school of small dolphin over 100 strong. The largest couldn't have been more than four feet long. What a sight with Van Diemen screaming along in flat water, a full moon just above the horizon in the west, and scores of dolphins competing to play in the bow wave.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

In the Doldrums

0800 Position 3-53N 131-49W. Days run 186 miles.

We haven't been fishing every day. When the trades were up it would have been a pain to handle and clean fish on the stern so we didn't put the lines out. The seas were down yesterday morning though, so three lines went out at sunrise. At 9AM the boys woke me up from a deep sleep with yells of "fish on!" We had sailed through a school of mahi mahi and had a triple hook up. We only wanted the biggest though so Longy pulled the smallest mahi aboard, got the hook out, and released him. The one on "Hilo Boy", Longy's custom big island lure, threw the hook just as I was getting mine close to the boat. I pulled the fish on my Fred Morelli special lure in and swung it aboard in a single motion. It hit Longy right in the chest, thoroughly sliming him, and dropped into the cockpit.

It is still an official tie on the fishing tournament. I do have the edge in spectator appreciation points though for the way my fish was landed. The mahi dinner was delicious. We have decided that perhaps we should be putting out a single fish line. We've had two triple strikes so far and only want one fish at a time. That will complicate the fishing tournament.

To our surprise the wind stayed with us and the weather was fair all day long. At 6PM we sailed into a stationary band of confused clouds and rain, but the wind continued to blow out of the north east. Wind strength varied a bit, but we were able to keep sailing until 7AM this morning when it died completely. We are now under power in 100% overcast with rain squalls all around us. Occasionally on of those squalls hits us and we get a thorough drenching. This is typical ITCZ.

The ITCZ is much further south than I have experienced in my previous crossings. These conditions will likely continue for about a day before we leave it behind and enter the south east trades.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


0800 Position 6-41N 130-30W. Days run 212 miles.

We had good broad reaching conditions all day yesterday and most of last night, but when I came on watch at 4AM this morning the wind had started to back off. We are starting to feel the effects of the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone, or ITCZ. Historically called the doldrums, the ITCZ is a region between the northeast and southeast trade winds characterized by squalls, thunderstorms, calms, and inconsistent conditions. It is basically atmospheric chaos, and I've seen it vary in width from ten to 260 miles. During the '76 Tahiti Race we spent two days wallowing in the doldrums, and when I cruised north from the Marquesas in '86, it took four days to get through. Sometimes you get lucky. Kara and I had only two hours of doldrums on our way south to Tahiti in 2011. It is different every time. The ITCZ usually lies between 4 and 12 degrees north latitude in this part of the world, but it can be further north or south. We've made it all the way to 7 degrees north this trip without slowing down. That's a good sign. The grib files indicate that the doldrums will be very narrow for us, but south of the doldrums all the way to the Marquesas the trade winds are forecast to be unusually light, and that's bad. We may be doing a lot of powering in the days to come.

The current in the trade wind belts generally move in the same direction as the wind, west, at about one knot. However, in the area of the doldrums lies the Equatorial Counter Current, basically a river of water moving to the east at up to two knots. We haven't felt this counter current yet, but it can add to the climatic mess in the area.

The water temperature has increased from the low 70s when we departed Newport Beach to 84.5 degrees now. Air temperature follows water temperature so it is pretty warm. It is short sleeve t-shirts while on watch at night and we are lying in our bunks without sheets trying not to sweat during the day.

Longy and I shook out the reef in the mainsail at 6AM this morning, and a solitary dolphin came by for a visit shortly thereafter. It was our first marine mammal sighting of the trip.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Half Way!

0800 Position 10-04N 129-36W. Days run 223 miles.

The LA to Tahiti Race rhumb line is very close to the rhumb line for this passage. When I sailed in the Tahiti Race in '76 rumor had it that at the midpoint of the race we would be as far from dry land as you could possibly be on the surface of planet earth. We crossed the half way point on this passage yesterday, and a quick look at the chart showed our position to be about 1,300 miles from the nearest land. You don't want to fall overboard here. It is a long swim to shore.

When Rob announced that we had reached the mid-point for the trip, I busted out the crew gifts that Lori and Betty Lou had picked up for us. Each crew member received his very own back scratcher. Thank you, ladies! The girls figured we'd be dirty, crusty, and itchy by now and that we wouldn't be scratching each others' backs. They got some laughs from the boys.

The past twenty four hours has seen us reaching along in strong trade winds with headsail and jib set. Average speed was more than nine knots for the day which is pretty good for a cruising boat. We reefed the mainsail just before dark which made it easier for the auto pilot to steer. The swells have increased and we are surfing on them now. That makes it fun to drive the boat so some of the guys have been hand steering during their watches. Top speed so far is 14.2 knots when Bill Barsz was driving.

This morning's flying fish count on deck was eighteen, including one that hit Bill in the head while he was driving and one that came through the bathroom hatch.

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Unluckiest Fish in the World

0800 Position 13-44N 129-04W. Days run 213 miles.

By 9AM yesterday the wind had clocked around to the east to the point that we could sail closer to our destination on the other tack, so we jybed to port tack and set the spinnaker. Our speed increased a couple of knots and we were able to head almost directly towards the Marquesas. It was a nice change from sailing forty degrees off course as we had the day before. All day long we surfed as the wind slowly increased until just before sunset when we took the spinnaker down to sail more conservatively. None of us was interested in getting up at 2AM to deal with a problem in the dark. The top speed for the day was thirteen knots. It was blowing hard enough when we took the spinnaker down that we hardly slowed down at all. Van Diemen is a pretty slippery boat.

Rob got up for his morning watch yesterday and found a dead flying fish sitting pretty as you please on the galley counter next to the sink. He figured that one of us had picked it up off of the deck and put it there as a joke, but when he looked more closely he could see where it had left scales and scum as it came through the just cracked open hatch above the galley and bounced off of the bulkhead on its way to the counter. We've seen a bunch of flying fish over the past couple of days, but that was the first malolo to come aboard the boat. It was a one in a million shot, and a very unlucky fish.

The whole crew has had a chance to cook our evening meal now, and it was my turn again last night. I didn't want to be the first to do a repeat, so I used the last of our fresh aku to make mac-n-cheese with tuna and a nice salad. Not very exotic but edible and filling.

There is a lot of reading going on as the job list gets shorter and we settle down into a routine. "The Adventures of Chas from Tas", the life story of a sailing peer of Rob's, is being passed around. Longy is reading historical fiction Mike, a book about Captain Cook, Bill, a Michael Crichton novel, and I'm just finishing up the first "Game of Thrones" novel that my daughter Kendra loaned to me.

Saturday, May 6, 2017


0800 Position 17-13N 128-20W. Days run 162 miles.

We had a great day yesterday. The wind finally filled in enough so we could turn the engine off at 1030AM. It is still pretty light though and blowing directly toward our destination which forces us to sail forty degrees off course to keep the boat moving. It is beautiful sailing in flat water. The boat is silently slipping along at seven knots, a little slower but a vast improvement over the drone of the diesel engine.

The remaining job list was mostly in the engine compartment and couldn't be accomplished with the engine running, so the afternoon was spent working there. Longy and Rob completed a number of projects. It took a lot of head scratching and trial and error, but the engine heated water heater got fixed. The heater supply and return lines were connected to the wrong ports on the newly installed engine. It was difficult to solve the problem without a proper engine service manual. Longy also installed an auxiliary fuel pump for the generator and Rob got the barbeque working.

Bill Barsz made a fantastic chicken stir fry for dinner. He has been saying all along that he didn't know how to cook but that was clearly BS. His was the best meal yet. Bill is a retired airline pilot who loves to cruise and has sailed all over the world mostly crewing for others. He and Rob are members of the Cruising Club of America and have sailed together before on Van Diemen.

Last night was magical. You could hardly tell the boat was moving, but the knot meter confirmed that we were sliding along at seven to eight knots. A periodic glance at the windex and an occasional autopilot course adjustment up or down a couple of degrees to keep the apparent wind on the beam was all the attention it took. The moon is getting bigger every night now, and the half moon seems to put out as much light out here as the full moon at home. Perhaps it is the lack of background light at sea that makes it seem brighter. Rob stayed up and extra hour after his watch ended at 10PM, and I didn't even bother waking Longy for his midnight watch and stood it for him. He worked hard yesterday and deserved the extra rest. Besides, I was in no hurry to see it end.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Enough Already

0800 Position 18-11N 125-41W. Days run 185 miles.

Van Diemen is still powering south in smooth seas and no wind. I have never seen the ocean this calm for this long. We are all anxious to go sailing. It is hard to believe that we are almost 1000 miles into this passage and have been under power for more than 2/3 of it.

Our email communications system is working well enough for us to get daily grib files that contain our weather forecasts. It looks like another day or so of powering before the northeast trade winds fill in.

Temperatures continue to increase as we get south. Yesterday it was shorts and t-shirts on deck and last night I was shoeless and only had on a single sweatshirt.

Longy drew the short straw on cooking last night, but he had the fresh aku he caught to work with. He made a nice lemon-butter-caper aku with wild rice that was onolicious.

I've known Longy since we sailed against each other in J-24s in Hawaii in the early '80s. He left the state shortly thereafter to pursue a career as a professional yacht racer, boat captain, and yacht commissioning expert. He is the most knowledgeable person I know on the installation, operation, maintenance and troubleshooting of the complex systems found on modern yachts. He is also an always good natured and interesting guy. I look forward to our two hour overlap every watch cycle when I am on watch and he is on standby. I always hear some funny and interesting sea stories and we are sharing a lot of laughs.

Last night when Rob and I were on duty we tried to determine how many days we'd been at sea now. We figured it out by recalling the meals that we've had. "Let's see. There was the soup that Renee prepared for us the first night, the chicken dinner, the spaghetti dinner, quesadillas, steak, and fish. That's six dinners so we've been five full days at sea." Don't let a sailor tell you that food isn't important on a voyage.

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Into the Tropics

0800 Position 21-01N 124-29W. Days run 185 miles.

It's hard to believe, but it was even calmer yesterday than the day before. There were more waves in the Newport Harbor Basin Marina than there are out here. For much of the day there wasn't a breath of breeze either. The water has been mirror smooth as we power south. During my 4AM watch this morning it was so smooth that you could see the stars of the Milky Way reflecting off the ocean surface.

For the past couple of days the Pacific had been completely devoid of life except for the five souls on Van Diemen and a couple of ships passing through the area that we saw on AIS. No birds, no fish, no marine mammals, no pollution.. Nothing. This morning just as dawn was breaking Longy and I saw a couple of flying fish. Then we saw a couple of birds. Just as the sun was rising over the horizon. wham! Triple strike on the lures. Two fish hooked up and we landed a couple of seven pound aku, one each on Longy and my lures. Longy's aku might have been a little bigger than mine, but mine hooked up first which got the whole shooting match started so I am calling this first battle of fishing wars a tie. Looks like fish for dinner tonight!

We're all over-rested now. With the auto pilot driving the boat, there isn't much to do but eat, sleep, socialize and read. There are still some boat projects to work on during daylight hours. Yesterday Longy made some adjustments to the mainsail reefing system and I put the pieces together to install the new but too-short inner forestay. The HAM radio system we use for email communications wasn't working well. I read the manual and determined that some of the communications settings were incorrect. I changed them and the system is working better. We've got a few more issues to resolve in the next few days. The main engine heated water heater isn't working, and we aren't sure why. It is plumbed directly to the engine's cooling system, so it should be foolproof. Our work around has been to run the 220 volt generator which will heat the water for our critical daily hot showers with the hot water tank's integral resistance heating element. It's a waste to run both the generator and main engine though so we need to figure out what the problem is with the engine heated system.

Rob was our chef last night, and he took advantage of the calm weather to cook some New York steaks with carrots, asparagus, and a salad. He had intended to grill the steaks, but there is something wrong with the new barbeque's pressure regulator so he fried them in the galley. The steaks were great and we have something else to fix tomorrow.

The main reason I wanted to go on this adventure was to sail with Rob again. I first sailed with him when I was a twenty one year old kid just graduated from college. I was already a pretty good sailor, but Rob taught me a lot about ocean racing, seamanship, and leadership during our two voyages together to the South Pacific in 1976 and 1978. Time has aged us all, but Rob is still the same competent seaman and good humored skipper that he was forty years ago.

It is starting to warm up as we get south now. Yesterday afternoon I was relaxing in the cockpit, basking in the sun, reading a book, and enjoying music on the stereo. The cold and challenges of getting this voyage underway were behind us. Ahead lies perfect weather and tropical islands. It occurred to me that there is no place on earth that I'd rather be than right here.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Powering South

0800 Position 23-51N 123-12W. Days run 188 miles

Rob put a new Yanmar diesel engine in Van Diemen during her recent refit and it has been purring like a kitten for more than a day now. It is amazingly calm out here, as smooth as Kaneohe Bay. We haven't seen more than five knots of wind since we started the engine yesterday. This calm is being caused by a shallow low pressure system just south of our position, and as we approach the low's center it has become more overcast. This morning it is 100% overcast and chilly because of it.

Last night's chef de jour was Mike Ormerod from Newport Beach. Mike took his responsibility seriously and took a few hours making us a great dinner of quesadillas and an avocado salad. A lot of that time was spent digging through the lockers to find the ingredients he needed. I posted our four page provisioning list on the galley bulkhead so everybody can see what we've got aboard. Unfortunately, that list doesn't show where everything is stored, and there was no real organization in how it was stored, so it is an easter egg hunt to look for things.

Rob had asked me to be in charge of provisioning the boat. I still have the provisioning lists from Moku pea's last two South Pacific cruises in my computer so I used them as a basis for Van Diemen's list. Lots of cruisers just head to the super market, walk up and down the aisles, and load the shopping cart with what they think they might want during the cruise. Depending upon what you are hungry for while you are shopping that day, it is a good way to overstock or understock on certain items. You also don't want to forget critical small items, like wasabi or AAA batteries, because you don't see them on the shelf, so I always make a list. The day before we departed Rob gave me his car and Bill Barsz and I hit Costco, Trader Joe's, and the local supermarket. We filled the car twice.

Rob knows that a quesadillas taste twice as good when washed down with a beer so we each were allowed one with our dinner. It was an outstanding combination.

Mike has lived in Newport Beach all his life and like Rob, is a builder. They were neighbors for many years and became good friends. Mike has done a lot of local sailing, including some with Rob on Van Diemen, but this is his first voyage offshore. King Neptune is fully aware that Mike has not crossed the equator before under sail. Heh, heh, heh.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Pleasant Sailing

0800 Position 26-45N 121-52W. Days run 165 miles

The wind was a little bit lighter but otherwise conditions remained the same all day yesterday. Beam reaching on starboard tack in flat seas with less than ten knots of breeze. The wind speed varied all day allowing us to sail at up to nine knots in the puffs, and down to four knots in the lulls. With the apparent wind forward of the beam we could just keep moving at a reasonable average speed. At 530AM this morning, while Longy and I were trading sea stories, the wind died off completely and we turned the engine on. The gribs show light conditions for the next few days. We don't like to power, but we left the dock with almost 700 gallons of fuel so there is no limitation on powering.

We've had a couple of chafe issues with lashings, and the spectra lashing I did on the outhaul came undone. I'm not familiar with this newfangled high tech line and how to tie it, but I am learning. It is very strong but slippery stuff and many conventional knots won't hold when tying it. These minor chafe issues are just items in the to-do list which keep us busy during the day. Other than the nuisance of leaking fuel, which seems to have gone away, we haven't had any significant problems.

While still under power on our first night at sea we came within about six miles of San Clemente Island, which is owned by the Navy and used for target practice. As we passed we could see a brush fire burning on the west side of the island. It looked much like the forest fires we saw burning on the pali as we approached Kilauea from the south aboard Moku pe'a in 2011. I suspect the fire on San Clemente was caused by Navy live firing because last night I heard a warning on the VHF for vessels to stay well clear of San Clemente. They announced that a Navy aircraft carrier was conducting live firing exercises there.

The 807 foot cargo vessel ANL Bindaree passed by just after dark last night 2.7 miles astern of us. We could see her lights as she passed. She was doing eighteen knots and is headed for Auckland, New Zealand. She has a beam of 105 feet and draws 33 feet. How do I know all this? She has an AIS transponder, as we do. It transmits the vessel's position, speed, and critical information over the VHF radio. We have an AIS receiver as well which allows us to see all transmitting vessels and their information on our chart plotter when they are within fifty miles or so of our position. A computer in the system determines a transmitting vessel's closest point of approach to us. All commercial vessels are required to have AIS transponders. The AIS system makes it much easier to avoid collisions in high traffic areas. It is also fun to get information on the other vessels that are out here in the open ocean with us.

The AIS showed a line of about six vessels as we crossed the 100 mile mark off of the California coast. The boys aboard who know such things said that they were ships that bunker fuel there constantly. Nobody is sure if this is done for environmental or economic reasons. We passed within sight of a couple of the ships that just seemed to be sitting there. Weird.

I cooked dinner again last night, spaghetti with meat sauce and a goat cheese and beet salad. I proposed to Rob that the guy who is on standby from 4 to 6 PM be responsible for cooking that night's meal. He thought that made sense so the policy was announced at dinner.

It is pretty cold at night out here. The night before last I had on long underware and jeans, a hooded sweatshirt, fleece jacket, and gloves on watch. Last night was a bit warmer so I skipped the gloves. It should get warmer as we move 150 miles south every day. The sun warms things up enough during the day so just a sweatshirt is necessary to stay warm.

In this cold climate the sleeping is great though and we are all well rested now. Last night after dinner I showed the boys my Dad's hour long narrated color movie of his trip around the world as the first mate on the schooner Yankee in 1939. It was fun to see some of the places we will be visiting as they looked eighty years ago.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Slip Sliding Away

0800 Position 29-04N 120-13W. Days run 193 miles

Conditions remain unchanged from yesterday. Apparent wind is on the starboard beam. The true wind is on the quarter at about seven to eleven knots. Our speed doesn't vary much though. We are hanging at just above eight knots. We have about five degrees of heel to port and the seas remain remarkably small.

The chaos of loading the boat has resulted in numerous misplaced items. Longy and I have been verbally sparring about our respective fishing prowess, and yesterday afternoon we went to get the fish lines to begin the much anticipated competition. Couldn't find them . The day before I had put them in a safe place but they had been moved. Nobody recalls moving them. We both tore the boat apart looking but no joy. We ended up jury rigging some halyard messengers which will suffice until the fish lines come out of hiding.

Neither one of us caught anything yesterday so today it is double or nothing. I'm pretty sure that Longy's lure is scaring the fish away before they can get a good look at mine. We may end up wagering our car's pink slips before this thing is over. The whole crew oooed and aaahed as we broke out our quivers of lures for comparison. Longy is of the bigger is better school and I am from the quality not quantity school. We shall see. We shall see….

Rob and Longy spent yesterday afternoon chasing boat issues. We have a diesel leak and we have found a significant quantity of fuel in the bilge on three occasions since we filled our tanks a week ago. Rob thinks we may have overfilled the tanks, but that doesn't explain where it is coming from. We will keep looking.

I was elected to cook last night's dinner. Lacking any sort of imagination in that department, I made a salad with all of our fresh vegis, cooked some rice, and sauted some chicken with garlic, onion, capers and lemon juice. It wasn't that good, but the boys said it was to encourage me to keep cooking so they don't have to do it. I'm not biting. The night before we had a salmon chowder that Renee had prepared for us. All we had to do was heat it up and it was fabulous. This morning Rob cooked us a feast of scrambled eggs with herbs and cheese, sausage and toast.

Life is goo aboard the good ship Van Diemen.

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