Saturday, 31 May 2014

More Nuku Hiva - Anaho and Haataivea Bays

We are leaving Anaho Bay this morning (30 May 14) and heading the the neighouring bay to the west, Hatiheu Bay so that we are better positioned to hike up to the archeological sites. Apparently this takes about 3 hours off the hike which some of the other kid boat would prefer. There is also supposed to be a small village there.

The funny old orange kayak that we bought off Craig's List in San Diego for very little is getting lots of miles (and good exercise for me as it is not the most efficient kayak in the world). After our very wet and bouncy windard trip to one of the beaches to catch up the other kids we then hiked to Haataivea Bay to the east of Anaho. Quite breathtaking as you crested the ridgeline and descended down to the very windswept and wave pounded beach. It looked more like Scotland than the tropics. I took a few photos with the go pro - the only camera I was carrying - but it does not do it justice. The kids played for hours building a forts and refining the bows and arrows in their armoury. The kayak back just as the sun was setting was more sedate and graced with a very close dolphin show. The dolphins were spinning as they jumped so curious what that behavior indicates. Our guess is that they are actively fishing but will try find out once we have internet again.

Yesterday was a maintenance day for me catching up on preventative and corrective maintenance. I was suspicious that we had a saltwater leak in the engine compartment as our two year old gearbox had more surface corrosion than it did before. I found that the foot operated salt water pump for the sink (which we use to reduce our fresh water usage) was leaking onto the transmission but also that there is a hint that the exhaust elbow may also have a pinhole leak. I did bit of an adhoc repair to the salt water pump to see if it will stop leaking but I think it will be a candidate for replacement in NZ as it requires what looks like a cork seal. I have cleaned up the exhaust elbow and tightened the hose clamp for the cooling water so will see if that sorts out that leak when we run the engine next. There is a small black dot on the weld so it is certainly suspicious. If it is indeed the elbow leaking I will see if I can repair it with JB Weld. The elbow is only two years old and was custom made for us in Anacortes so will be disappointed if it is failing already. In my further search I found two hose clamps that needed replacing due to excessive corrosion. The surface corrosion on the transmission will be dealt with by some nasty rust remover and more engine paint. I took apart the vang too to locktight the bolts and to add some shims to reduce play in the system. Looking forward to finding a machine shop to make me some parts ...

Max

Liz's letter from 26 May 14:

_________________

Greetings from the middle of the afternoon!

I had the choice at 10:30 last night when everyone else was sleeping to call it a night myself or sit at the computer for "just a few minutes". I chose the former in the hope that I could write to you during the day today... and now, here we are - typing in the daytime!

Max and the kids have paddled with bows and arrows in hand over to the "far" beach for the afternoon with most of the other kid boats. The NZ mum from the neighbouring boat has just gone home from popping over to get her "Benjamin fix" (which was lovely because I washed the dishes and mashed bananas for bread while she was here without a little person strapped to me). Now I have a moment to write. Will wonders never cease!

Yesterday's adventure was a hike to a garden where we could get tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, and of course, pamplemousse and bananas. By the time I loaded Max's backpack with 10 pamplemousse (avg size 8" diameter), there was no room for eggplant or watermelon that were also growing there. Everything was growing when we arrived, so it was certainly fresh! The garden is about 20 min beyond the far beach (which requires a surf landing) or just over an hour from the close beach, so we walked a long way. You appreciate your food a lot more when you carry it by hand an hour home in the heat!

Once back at the close beach, a local couple was just arriving in their small power boat. Max offered to help bring it ashore [en francais bien sur]. They didn't need our help, but once they alighted, the lady came over with a fish in her hands - Pacific Bonita, for us! No, she didn't want anything from us in return. When I asked if it would be good for poisson cru, and if so, how should I make it, she told me that it would be good, and that I would need lemons. I told her that we had none, and asked where I should get some. She pointed to a tree across the field, and suggested that I ask the lady in that house if we could have some. Soon Max and I found ourselves tromping among the coconuts and other unknown trees looking for the "citronier", which had seemed reasonably easy to see from the beach, but stumped us a bit when we were closer... eventually we found it (after asking directions once more) and went home with a pocket full of tiny lemons. Since we still had mahi mahi and tuna in the fridge, the bonita will wait until tomorrow. We had heard of this kind of hospitality before, but this was our first experience of it - lovely!

The next challenge was to return four big people, one baby, two backpacks, and a grocery bag of produce back to Fluenta ... Max managed it in two trips, but our little kayak was heavily laden!

After our return to Fluenta for a (very) late lunch, our NZ neighbours came by with their 9 yr old daughter to see if the kids wanted to play at the close beach for a bit. On their return, Victoria prepared the rest of our mahi mahi for frying in coconut oil. This had been step 1 of our coconut curry fish (Cruiser's Fishing Guide Coconut Fish #2, plus bananas, minus other veg ... we use what we have) the previous evening, and she liked it so well that she wanted it for dinner last night. We ended up with four kinds of fish on the table (tuna poisson cru attempt #1 ... hopefully to be improved for attempt #2, sashimi tuna with sesame oil, soya sauce and rice vinegar on the side, fried mahi mahi, and coconut mahi mahi). There were a few bites of green beans each, as a hungry Johnathan had cut them one for the pot and one for himself. I can't complain as it was very late and there are worse things for him to snack on, but I might ask a grownup to cut them tonight :)

Today was a little less adventurous. Victoria has been badgering us since we left Mexico to bake bread. Yesterday when I came across good descriptions of the bread components and process in two of my cookbooks, I told her that she could bake if she would also do a science report on the ingredients and their purpose, as well as the overall process. (We have a month to go, and I am trying to create school where I can!) She agreed, so this morning (after she had drawn me *my* star chart test ("To which horizon is this boat sailing - N, NW, W, SW, etc?" - Max has already had a few of these to do), we got to work. Just as we were waiting for hot water to cool so we could add yeast, the couple from SV Roundabout (Pam and Ted from Alberta) dropped over for a visit. They also spent last year in Mx, so it was fun to catch up, and Victoria was patient with my divided attention. We got it done: Victoria was kneading the dough as they left, and I have been punching it down for her this aft. Her plan is to make one loaf and one treat (Auntie Sarah's cinnamon ball bread, a tea ring, or her own concoction ... either way it will have an addition of cinnamon, sugar and butter!) We will likely go to the close beach for a "sundowner" (and hopefully planning tomorrow's hike) once they come back, then it will be time for baking bread, banana bread, and dinner.

Every day, we have been hoping to use our bbq, but it has been too windy thus far. Tonight seems the same (5 kts gusting 15-20 kts). Tuna is nicest bbq'd, but it may have to go into the pan anyway. On the subject of wind, this would be the perfect location to launch Trickle - sheltered bay, lots of kids, clear water, a plan to stay here long enough to merit the effort of launching and recovery, etc - but constant gusting wind has prevented us every day thus far. On the other hand it has led to some interesting math-on-the-march: yesterday's discussion during our hike was along the lines of "if the wind force goes up with square, and Trickle likes 7 kts, but we get 14 kts, how much more force is that? What about 21 kts (like we have had here)? What about 28 kts (like we had in Fatu Hiva)? Even without launching Trickle, she is very much part of the family!

Anyway, I hope our note finds you well, and that spring will soon find its way to your lawn and garden. Sounds like everyone at home would appreciate a little warmth right about now!

Love, Elizabeth

PS - This is where I left my note at about 5pm. Now it is again approaching midnight, the boat is quiet, the bread (one plain loaf, one cinnamon ball loaf, one banana bread, and 6 (huge) muffins) is baked, the dishes are washed, the counters are wiped, everyone else is sleeping, and I am again returning to the laptop to send a middle-of-the-night epistle. Just after I finished writing the main note, Max & our friends came back from the far beach to see if Benjamin and I might like to go with them for a drink on the close beach. We jumped aboard the dingy, Max & Victoria paddled in the kayak (Johnathan had come back in the dingy, and he did an admirable job of handling the painter, getting Benjamin's life jacket on, pushing us off, etc), and we had a nice little visit ashore (that lasted until rain and sunset colluded to send us back to the boat). One of the dads had gone back early, and since all the kids were chilly, they had all hopped aboard - he was like the pied piper with about 8 kids and himself in his dingy, delivering them boat to boat). Dinner was therefore well late - we didn't return to the boat til 6:30, and then (of course) banana bread needed to be mixed and yeast bread needed to be formed - so thank goodness for popcorn and flexible tummies! Max braved the winds after all, and the last of our tuna was delicious seared on the bbq and served with mashed potatoes, green beans, cucumber, and tomatoes. It looks like we will stay put tomorrow, and perhaps sail over to the next anchorage, rather than hiking there from here. Some of the families are concerned that the 8-hr round trip might be a bit much for little legs ... we shall see what the next few days bring...

Once again, love to all, E
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At 5/26/2014 9:23 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 08°49.00'S 140°04.00'W
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At 5/26/2014 9:23 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 08°49.00'S 140°04.00'W

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Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Update from Nuku Hiva

An update from Anaho Bay. As Liz writes below it is beautiful here and especially so after leaving Atouna in less than ideal conditions. To start with, the anchorage in Atouna is generally crowded so everyone needs to be on a stern and bow anchor. Then, on our last night, the prevailing swell direction changed and and created swell in the harbour. Later, the swells built and caused breaking waves ahead and over our position. We were anchored quite shallow for us - around 10 to 12' - and I was concerned that we may hit bottom at low tide and big swell. Also, the waves were causing quite a load on our ground tackle. Thankfully everything held and we left in the morning. I got some pictures of the surfable waves going past the boat (would have been fun to ride them on our board if I had not been concerned about our position) and the reaction of the catamarans riding over the waves aft of us. Of course, leaving was not straightforward. We backed down paying out more chain from our bow anchor to retrieve our stern anchor. However, once we were over the stern anchor I could not lift it. We had not put a trip line on the stern anchor so the only realistic option (no room to maneouver to pull the stern anchor from a different angle nor to try any of the usual tricks of snubbing off the line and letting the swell pull the anchor out of the mud) was to go for a breathhold swim. In the process of preparing a trip line to tie off on the stern anchor I gave myself a wee little cut on the hand which gushed blood out of proportion of the wound. Great - now I would be chumming for sharks with my hand ... A few tight wraps on electrical tape secured the hand so that I would not attract unwanted attention. Of course, this was not the pristine conditions one normally thinks of when thinking of tropical waters. The visibility was so bad that I actually ran headfirst into our rudder as I followed the anchor chain down to the anchor. No real problems from there but certainly lots to learn. When we were posted to Victoria a few years ago, we did lots of stern ties in the Gulf Islands and San Juans but we have only had to stern anchor a few times before.

The passage to Hiva Oa to Nuku Hiva was almost ideal. Other than some squirlly and bumpy conditions passing in a channel and then a few squalls overnight it was a smooth and fast passage. Victoria stayed up on my watch and we enjoyed some great starwatching. At one point we could use the stars to estimate the locations of north (the big dipper still points towards Polaris even if we cannot see the "North Star" itself as we are too far south), south (from the Southern Cross) and west (where Mintaka from Orion's belt goes below the horizon). Catching a dorado and a yellow fin tuna within 24 hours was pretty nice too.

Lots of wind in the anchorage here. Good for charging the batteries and makes up for the diminished solar from the regular squalls.

Max


The Liz Letters:

Greetings!

Today was one of those days that we used to dream about when we were dragging our weary selves to work on dreary days in Halifax (I understand that there have been a few of those in the last while!)

We spent the morning onboard, moving slowly, with mahi mahi, rice and eggs (we still have dozens left from the seven flats we bought in La Cruz) cooked up for breakfast, and reheated lentil soup for lunch. Our plan was to go ashore to the beach just behind the anchorage in the afternoon, take a walk, and maybe explore the town. Unlike yesterday when it was completely calm as we we arrived just after dawn, our winds were strong and gusty all night and all day today, so we elected to use the kayak and leave our dingy on the foredeck (the only thing that would worry me more than taking it down in the wind was then having to move the outboard from its safe spot on the stern of Fluenta down onto the stern of the rollicking dingy). It is nice to have a fleet of small boats from which to choose!

As Max and I were paddling towards the beach on leg 1 of his double trip, one of our neighbours came by in their dingy and suggested that all the kids might want to go across the bay to a beach that was more sheltered. We quickly changed our plan; I hopped aboard their dingy, both kids were picked up by another family's dingy, and Max paddled the kayak upwind to meet us. It was a good choice - the beach was farther away, but completely sheltered. By the time we got there, there were 10 kids ashore, one of the moms was painting stripes on faces and tying strong fishing line to sticks to make bows, arrows were being fashioned from straight sticks, and it really was like a scene out of an adventure show - white sand beach, breaking waves, palm trees, and kids running around like savages. We had a great afternoon chatting to new grownups and letting the kids play. Once the bows and arrows were done, one of the dads found a coconut husk to hang on a tripod of sticks and the kids all had a go at knocking it off. Max provided his hat, so the "fellow" was rather realistic :) The waves built while we were there, so before the end of the afternoon, there was lots of time for boogie boarding and body surfing (Benjamin and I declined ...) It is also a bit like the first day at a new school, as we tentatively get to know people and find areas we have in common. All the families seem like good folks, and we feel really fortunate to have met up with them. I am not sure how long our plans will overlap, but they all seem to be on a general track towards NZ or Aus by the fall, so I am sure that we will be seeing more of each other.

Back at the boat, we made an attempt at "poisson cru" despite not having most of the ingredients ... it is mainly fish (raw) soaked in coconut milk with a bit of lime, garlic, onions, tomatoes, and chopped veg. Not having onions, tomatoes, or pretty much anything resembling a vegetable on board at the moment, we had tuna soaked in coconut milk with a squeeze of lime .. not bad (but we will go back to our usual sashimi with soya/sesame oil tomorrow night). The conversation at dinner wandered all over the place, from stars and their location in the northern/southern skies, to the torque required to turn something, and how this is easier with a longer arm (lever) ("So, Dad, that is why it is easier to open a door far away from the hinges, right?" said Johnathan), to how steam turbine makes a ship go. These moments are hard to write up for "school" reports, but they are sure fun to experience! It is now approaching midnight, The Lord of the Rings has been read aloud ages ago, and Victoria is alternately playing peekaboo with a very awake Benjamin and drawing constellations to make a "night sky" test for Max!

As for me, I will sign off and head to bed ... sunrise comes early around here!

Love to all,
Elizabeth
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At 5/26/2014 9:23 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 08°49.00'S 140°04.00'W

Greetings,

Max and Victoria filled you in yesterday on our passage from Hiva Oa to Nuku Hiva... fun to share the emailing with Victoria. She was very excited to write to everyone :)

Almost to the minute, as forecast, we arrived in our new anchorage on the North side of the island at 0800 this morning. Last night, we tried long watches - Max stayed on from the day til midnight and I went down with a sleeping baby (who promptly woke up!) in the late aft and stood from midnight til morning (with help from Max when I had to respond to changes in the weather (read squalls & wind shifts) as Benjamin was *not* interested in staying in his carseat even in the middle of the night). It will take a few iterations to get our rhythm, I am sure. Thanks to our autopilot, I can drive the boat and make minor sail adjustments, with Benjamin in the carrier, but I am cautious when it is rolly to say the least!

We approached Nuku Hiva just after dawn; we got some beautiful pictures of the dawn light highlighting the clouds over the island. As we approached our bay, we were welcomed by dolphins who slowed to match our speed. It looked to be a big fishing area - we could see loads of dolphins and birds cavorting and jumping. As we got ready to stow our sails and bring in our fishing lines, we watched two fish swim under our fish finder... Wouldn't it be funny if they jumped onto our hooks we thought ... As a precaution, Max told Victoria to be careful as she wound in the port yoyo. The words were hardly out of his mouth when both bungies zinged outwards at almost the same time. One got away, but the other was soon landed on our deck - Yellow fin tuna sashimi was a nice complement to our dorado at dinner tonight:) The kids get a great kick out of tallying up what these meals would cost at a restaurant. We have caught both fish on the same lure - a squid that we had made for us in Cabo. Thankfully we removed the weak-looking leader from it before putting it out yesterday, so the fish can pull on our stronger fishing line all they want. It has two hooks, so once a fish strikes it won't easily get away :)

Anaho Bay is beautiful. It is one of the few with a white sand beach, and according to our guidebook is one of the most comfortable anchorages in the Marquesas. It is enclosed on three sides, so it is very protected from swells. The prevailing winds sweep through a valley on the other side of the bay, so our wind generator is happy. The beach is lined with palm trees. To top it all off, the other four boats in the anchorage have kids aboard! They have already come by in their dingies to welcome us and invite us on hikes, etc, so we some socializing in our future over the next few days. This is a nice change after not seeing many English-speaking kids in the other anchorages. It feels like we will be able to relax here - not too crowded, no breaking waves, plenty of depth, clear water, and plenty to do ashore.
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At 5/26/2014 9:23 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 08°49.00'S 140°04.00'W

We are on passage to a island called Nuku Hiva from the island called Hiva Oa. It has been a good passage so far because we caught a Dorado. I will keep this update short, more to come later.

Miss you all from Victoria

[A quick note above from Victoria who wrote this while I am on watch. After a relatively unpleasant night at anchor - big swell, breaking waves, other boats far too close to us, and then having to free dive into the murk for our stern anchor etc - we are having a very nice overnight passage to Nuku Hiva. Great conditions so far - beam to broad reaching in 14 kts of wind with only a bit of a beam swell. And, as Victoria mentioned, we caught our biggest Dorado so far - good timing as we are all out of fresh fish after sharing the remaining marlin in Hiva Oa. Very dark but great for star gazing. Max]
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At 5/18/2014 1:57 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 09°48.00'S 139°02.00'W

Greetings!

Well, we are back to HF [High Frequency radio and a Pactor modem which gives us a bandwidth of 200 to 2800 bits/sec - as opposed to the old "slow" dialup of 56,000 bits/sec. Max], after a brief flurry of internet posting over the bond agent's wifi signal. She has a pretty good gig going - she charges from 11am one day until 11am the next, and you pay for the access code to her router. She simply resets the password each day as she leaves her office (her day is done at 11). We paid in two days more than we paid for a month in Mexico. On the other hand, we are not paying marina fees. If you are ever wondering how to reach us, the best bet is to send an email to both our gmail and sailmail addresses - this way we will get the message for sure :)

The excitement in the port yesterday was the arrival of the cargo/passenger ship in our little anchorage. There is a designated area where yachts are *not* meant to anchor ... and now we can see why. The big ship comes in, turns, lets down an anchor, then docklines are used to bring it alongside. Quite an evolution. The port was bustling all day, as first the forklifts were offloaded by crane, then the cargo was offloaded, then everything was moved from place to place. There were loads of people coming and going; some tourists use this ferry to sail between the islands on a multiday passage.)

We were doing laundry (handwashing at a tap of freely running water mounted apparently for that purpose at a tiled counter) so we had a good vantage point to see the activity. The kids and I washed pretty much every piece of loose fabric on the boat ... sheets, towels, clothing, diapers, etc. It took much longer than I expected, so by the time we got back to the boat, it was 3:30, there were only two hours until dark, and we decided to wring and hang everything today. Once again, I was grateful for my wringer ... it even handled beach towels and queen-sized sheets! In addition to using every inch of lifeline space, I also hung two lines from the shrouds to the forestay. Everything was dry and lovely later today, and now the cubbies are full of clean clothes and the beds have been made freshly for the first time in ages.

We had our own little local excitement last evening. A boat that had just finished its passage [25' boat travelling from Panama, Max] (read exhausted crew of two) anchored less than a boat length from us. After telling them off [politely by Liz in her good French, less politely later my me. Max], but not convincing them to move, we decided to move up a bit (no small feat with two anchors; we basically played out the stern line as we drove forward, then pulled it in again as we set our anchor in its new location and fell back). Our neighbour was very grateful when we told him to stay put; he showed up today after moving to the other side of the anchorage with a bottle of rum for our troubles! It was also a lesson for us - next time we see someone too close, we will ask them to move while they are anchoring, rather than politely waiting for them to figure this out for themselves ...

Our boat is snug, our crew is (somewhat) rested, and we are ready to be on the move again. Looks like tomorrow we will head for the island of Nuka Hiva (24 hr or so passage), where there are several enticing anchorages and as well as places to reprovision before heading to the Tuomotus.

Love to all,
Elizabeth
PS If you are interested in hearing more about our friends on Rebel Heart, they were just interviewed on NPR. There is a link to the show on their blog. I read the transcript last night, and it lays out pretty clearly what they went through.
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At 5/18/2014 1:57 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 09°48.00'S 139°02.00'W

Greetings!

We have internet for a couple of days, so you may have seen photos/blog stuff happening :) We are still in the anchorage near Atuona, and have paid the sum for 24 hrs of internet. Thankfully, our wifi antenna picks up the signal (from the bond agent's office) from the boat, so we can use internet without going ashore. The other boats in the anchorage are spending their days sitting on her front porch with their laptops (and extension cords, and 240/110 converters). Much easier to use our antenna from the comfort of our saloon!

We thought we were going to clear in yesterday, but it turned out that we cleared in today! This left yesterday clear to relax onboard and to walk into town (about 45 min) to the Gaugin museum (French painter who spent his last years in the Marquesas; he died in May 1903), and then eat out at a restuarant whose claim to fame is that they provide free rides to/from the anchorage. The highlight if dinner was our first taste of "poisson cru". It is the Marquesan equivalent of Mexican ceviche, but possibly tastier. Chunks of tuna were soaked in coconut milk and accompanied by pieces of tomato, lime, onion, etc. It was divine, and it will not be our last plate of it. (On the other hand, given the price here as compared to the price of ceviche in Mexico, we will be making our own as much as possible!!)

This morning, we met the bond agent at 8:00 am to finish our paperwork and clear into the Marquesas at the gendarmerie. This was rather important, as Nancy needed the in-coming stamp in order to get her out-going stamp later in the day! We were back at the anchorage, paperwork done, by about 9:00. Nancy left for the airport at 11:30 (after yet another snack aboard Fluenta of local baguettes, this time accompanied by dark chocolate from SV Shindig), and Max headed back to town [1 hr each way a pied], to make a post bond agent trip to the bank). The kids and I stayed aboard ... I had a long list of "things to do" while he was gone, but by the time he got back, the main accomplishment was that Victoria's banana bread was in the oven. there is always "manana" (tomorrow) for the chores.

Benjamin is a slippery, sweaty little bundle in my left arm, so I am one-fingering this with my right hand. He seems tuckered out after his meal of noodles, ground beef, tomato sauce, and the better part of an apple... you would never know that this child had never had solid food until a week ago! Pics to follow :)

Must get to bed so tomorrow is productive. We think we will stay here one more day to allow time for housekeeping/internet, and then do a day-sail to another island anchorage.

We already miss you, Nancy!!

Love to all,
Elizabeth
PS One month today since we weighed anchor in Punta Mita!
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At 5/18/2014 1:57 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 09°48.00'S 139°02.00'W
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At 5/26/2014 9:23 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 08°49.00'S 140°04.00'W

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Friday, 23 May 2014

More photos from the passage and Fatu Hiva

My birthday party at sea

The boat Victoria made for my birthday - note that it made from elastics.


Marlin caught on a hand line.  Note the mess on deck ...  Took awhile to clean

Biology Lesson

Spinnaker up and laundry out.





Passage Treats from friends.

Crossing the line ceremony

King Neptune - Crossing the line ceremony

Crossing the line ceremony


Sunset squalls


Land Ahoy !

Searching for land

Fatu Hiva (with a small forest fire to welcome us)
Fatu Hiva
Yes, more Fatu Hiva ...

One of Benjamin's first foods - Pamplemousse.


Fatu Hiva Anchorage

Fatu Hiva

Kayaking with the local kids.




The Tiki guiding the way to the waterfall

Nice simple path to the waterfall

Not on passage anymore ...

Passage Photos

Now that we have a bit of internet ($US20 for 24 hours and very slow ...) we can post a few photos:




Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Dinner afloat

I love how cruising days unfold!

Max, Nancy, and Johnathan went into Atuona today as a bit of a recce before our official paperwork, etc tomorrow morning (as promised, they were hardly out of the parking lot by the anchorage when someone offered them a ride to town). Victoria and I (and of course Benjamin) stayed behind on Fluenta so that Victoria could decorate the banana cake that she and Nancy had baked yesterday. Victoria has been longing to decorate a "proper" cake for weeks. She was quite put out that we didn't do much baking on the passage, so this was a long-promised event.

On their way back through the anchorage in the dingy, the others stopped at a neighbouring catamaran where we had seen some kids (the only kid boat we have seen so far). Next thing I knew, there was a call on the VHF - did we want to drop over for a bit of a visit? The family was delightful (kids aboard were 10, 11, and 15) and despite the fact that it was coming close to the hour to prepare dinner, we were soon engaged in various lively conversations in a combination of English and French. Victoria whispered in my ear that she would like to share our cake with them, and so I suggested that we could have dinner together if they didn't have other plans.

Since their boat was so much bigger than ours, and it had a lovely open area that easily accommodated everyone, I suggested that we could go back, cook some marlin and potatoes, and we could all eat together on their boat. This was accepted as a good idea all around, so we rowed back to Fluenta and returned an hour later with the food (and with tummies "held over" on our first French baguette of the trip...) and we had a delightful meal and evening with fish (baked in butter and sprinkled with salt & pepper), mashed potatoes, a huge bowl of pamplemousse slices, green papaya salad, coconut pieces, and two kinds of cake - turns out that one of the boys on their boat likes to bake as well. Benjamin sat at my feet and chewed on a piece of green papaya for ages before going back to his stuffed monkey and then falling asleep in my arms.

We hadn't even met these folks this morning, and we had a lovely evening with them tonight. This is definitely one of the things I love about cruising :)

~Liz
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At 5/18/2014 1:57 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 09°48.00'S 139°02.00'W

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Monday, 19 May 2014

Fatu Hiva and Hiva Oa

Safely into Hiva Oa after a sporty passage yesterday. Since the equator we had a south east swell on our beam. On yesterday's passage we now had a north east swell on our beam ! The approach was simple but never fun to see big waves smashing onto the rocks on either side of the entrance to the little harbour here. Nice to be anchored solidly with good holding and no gusts.

No internet here so likely will see what we can find in Atouna tomorrow when we clear in.

Max

Greetings & Salutations :)

We woke early today (not quite at first light, which on this sunset-at-5:30pm timezone is crazy early) and weighed anchor after stowing/securing a few things at 7:25 am. Good thing we secured for sea - from the minute we left our anchorage until we came past the breakwater into Atuona (Hiva Oa) at around 2:00 pm the boat was rolling from side to side like crazy. Max and Nancy drove the boat and I kept the kids in the aft cabin. Since it was just a one-day passage, we just had to get there, without worrying much about meals or watches. It was a long and tiring few hours. Max had the autopilot doing the driving, but he still stood at the helm and hovered over the steering wheel the whole time, because despite how well the autopilot was doing, it wasn't a given that a big wave wouldn't knock us off course [Also, was trying to find a course that minimized the discomfort and watched for the waves to start breaking. With the gusts near 30 also bore off a few times to reduce the apparent wind on the boat. Max}. The only thing we could thing of worse than going from Fatu Hiva to Hiva Oa (downwind) in the seas this morning was going from Hiva Oa to Fatu Hiva (upwind) in the seas the night before last, which is when our two friends on Rhapsody did the trip. As for me, I braced one leg in each direction to stay stable, and the kids read/slept beside (V&J) and on top (B) of me the whole way.

Grumbling about the conditions of the passage aside, it was lovely to arrive in Hiva Oa. The anchorage is beautiful, surrounded on all sides by green hills (and large nice houses - it is a much bigger center than Fatu Hiva), and protected from the sea by a breakwater, which means that the anchorage is (thus far) flat and calm. Everyone here uses a "stern anchor" as well as their usual bow anchor, which means that all the boats are held facing the same way regardless of wind/current. This lets more boats anchor in a small area (which is good ... other cruisers seem much more comfortable than we are in close quarters). We dropped our bow anchor near the stern of another boat, backed up further than we would eventually be, set the anchor (which means driving backwards on it to make sure that it will hold in big winds), then dropped our stern anchor, set the stern anchor, and took up chain in front while we let out line in the back until we were nicely balanced between both anchors, and a comfortable distance from the other boat. For the first time in days, it seems that conditions tonight will let Max get a full night's sleep without anchor and wind alarms waking him regularly. [I have the stern anchor rode now run to the large electric primary winch - a Barient 36 rough;y equivalent to a power ratio of 65 on a modern winch. Two big snatch blocks give the stern rode a fair lead around the deck boxes. Max]

Backtracking a bit, we had a fun visit yesterday morning before our hike. Just as I was boiling the kettle for coffee & oatmeal (the usual breakfast aboard Fluenta), I heard a cheery exchange of "good mornings" from Max and someone approaching the boat. On our outing to town the previous day, Max had made conversation with another boat (Defiance), which had the insignia of our watermaker company, Spectra, on their bow, asking if they were sponsored by them. "It's my company" was the reply. The cheery good morning was from the owner and his wife who had dropped over to have a look at our watermaker installation and offer any suggestions to optimize it. Now our watermaker has been blessed by its manufacturer, and we have the name of a company in New Zealand who will overhaul and upgrade one of our pumps for us when we get there this fall. Fun. You never know who you will meet on the other side of the world :)

Tomorrow we will lay low and spend some time restoring order post-passage (cleaning, laundry, organizing cubbies, tallying supplies, etc) and we will check into French Polynesia on Monday. We are all looking forward to a peaceful few days, relaxing and enjoying every minute that we have with Nancy before she flies home to Canada on Wednesday.

Love to all,
Elizabeth
PS Dinner was Mom's Sweet & Sour Meat Crumbles (aka S&S Meatballs, but who has time to make meat balls when everyone is hungry and turning on the oven heats up the entire cabin?), Coconut Chicken, rice and some of Allison's chocolate for dessert. We still have apples and potatoes in the pantry, but otherwise we are eating canned veg with each meal. One of tomorrow's projects is to use about a dozen ripe bananas in as many ways as we can think of, and the other is to finally put the grommets into the flags we made so we can hoist our French, French Polynesian, and "Q" (Quarantine) flags early tomorrow.
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At 5/18/2014 1:57 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 09°48.00'S 139°02.00'W

Greetings!

We went on an expedition today - there is a high waterfall on Fatu Hiva that is a 2hr (round trip) walk from the anchorage. We packed a picnic, and set off on reasonably sturdy post-passage legs in the late morning, and had a picnic at the top. The path was described rather benignly in our guidebook, but it turned out to be a bit tricky as we got nearer to the waterfall (nothing too surprising, but I found it funny that another hike in the next paragraph was noted as requiring sturdy shoes and water, while this one made no mention of the rocky path that we would eventually be scrambling over). It was a good thing that we were all strong and sure-footed. Benjamin rode along quite obliviously in his carrier, sound asleep most of the way. Once we started eating our picnic, however, it was a different story - he was wide awake and looking for lunch! I had never imagined seeing a five month old baby eating (our last Mexican) grapefruit, but I watched it today. He made sour faces, but he chowed down on it and reached for more! We are all having fun watching Benjamin experiencing foods for the first time :) Pictures to follow once we have wifi ...

As we walked by what looked like a chicken coop or a bunny house (raised screened room with a roof) we noticed that it was full of pieces of coconut. It turns out that the local people dry the coconut for several days, then they ship it off-island (Hiva Oa or Papeete) where it is processed to make coconut oil. This led to a conversation with the people who were leaving for the day, which led to trading for more pamplemousse and bananas. This time the woman asked if I had anything for eczema, so instead of tea towels, we traded a little tube of lotion and a tube of ointment. Nancy and Johnathan went to her house with her to get the fruit, while Max took me back to the boat by kayak for the trading items. Even though they were just coming to get fruit, once Nancy and Johnathan got to their house, they also offered banana treats; even as strangers, they were guests. It turns out that her 7 month old baby has really rashy skin, so I was glad that we were able to help. Now we have *lots* of bananas!

We had left our evening plans open, but once we got back to town, we found out that it was too late to arrange the Marquesan dinner, as we are leaving in the morning for Hiva Oa, so we saved our pennies (actually our gasoline) and invited our friends from SV Rhapsody for dinner instead. Rhapsody arrived from La Cruz last week after 37 days at sea, hand-steering most of the way, and they anchored beside us this morning.

All the boys were again waiting for Max when we got back to the boat launch, so he took me back to Fluenta and was good-humoured with them swimming and holding onto the boat. Their smiles are infectious!

Dinner was chicken strips and brown rice in what was supposed to be Allison's coconut / lime / soya sauce, but I think I will have to follow the recipe a bit better next time :) Thankfully, everyone was positive about their dinner and asked for seconds, then we shared a pamplemousse as a first dessert and a bar of dark chocolate as our second dessert. No one went home hungry :)

The anchorage has gotten really busy since we arrived. When we got here, there were two little boats, a big Swan (probably 70 ft) and a 45 ft Lagoon catamaran. We thought it was crowded then and it took us a few attempts to anchor in a way that we were satisfied with our swing room both with other boats and with the rocks (especially given the huge gusty winds we were experiencing). This morning, I counted 14 other boats in the anchorage! I guess it wasn't so busy on Tuesday after all... [A big fancy trimaran, Traveler, with a rotating carbon mast etc anchored right upwind from us. In the night we were less than a boat length from them. I figure our solid fiberglass hull would trump their fancy cored hull ... They had tomove to let us weigh anchor. Max]

We have an early start in the morning, so I will sign off and wish you a good night!

Love,
Elizabeth
PS - We have changed time zones 3 1/2 times since leaving Mexico (UTC - 9.5). We are 6.5 hours behind Halifax and 2.5 hours behind BC. It is still the same day here, as we haven't crossed the date line yet.
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At 5/15/2014 12:42 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 10°27.94'S 138°40.11'W

The boat is quiet, the 30 kt gusts of wind have eased for the moment (we are getting gusts to 15 kts instead, which is much more reasonable!), and just before going to bed I couldn't resist sending a quick email :) I am really enjoying staying in closer touch than we did in Mexico ... but I am also worried that if I "fall off the wagon" and skip a day, you might not hear from me for months! So, here we go ...

We went ashore for the first time today ... dinner last night was overtaken by the winds that were blowing through the anchorage, so we didn't feel comfortable leaving the boat (in fact, Max didn't even feel comfortable sleeping, so he rested in short segments between anchor and wind alarms). After the resulting slow morning and lunch time, we went ashore. The easiest small boat to launch from Fluenta is our double kayak, so Max got his exercise ferrying us into shore in two lots. This turned out to be kind of a fun thing to have done, because the local children were fascinated by our orange boat, and before we left to come back he took some of them for a bit of a ride/play. They wanted to try it themselves, but I had images of our family car going out past the breakwater and straight into the Pacific, so we insisted that Max would drive and they would go along. It reminded me of the question of how many people can fit into a VW bug ... how many little children could pile onto our kayak at once! They had such fun clambering aboard and then jumping off that he never did need to take them more than 20 feet from shore. The local people seem to appreciate that we are Canadian and that we can speak to them in French. They also told us some words in their Marquesan language, but these didn't seem to want to stick for me.

The town is sweet - very tidy, lush, green, and well maintained. There is a small store, but because we haven't been to the bank (and I didn't end up getting Euros in Mexico, let alone FP Francs) we will have to see about any shopping (one lady offered to buy our bread for us and we could give her something in exchange. She turned out to be one of the ladies who host the dinners, so we will talk to her again in the morning and see what we come up with). We think we will go back tomorrow and do a 2hr hike to a waterfall which is supposed to be beautiful. Hopefully it is an easy hike, because our legs feel like we have been sitting on a boat for a month!

The most fun part of today actually happened on board Fluenta ... we decided to let Benjamin (who has been grabbing at anything headed for our mouths for the last six weeks) have some food. I have been letting him suck the juice from apples for a week or so, but this Mexican baby's first actual food was South Pacific pamplemousse! He knew exactly what to do with it, and grabbed for more when we offered. We followed this up with rice at dinner, which he shoved in his mouth by the fistful! The kids were so excited to feed him that they even willingly swept up the debris field around him once dinner was over:) We have entered a new phase, for sure.

In case the muse does not strike tomorrow, our tentative plan is to stay here one more night (hike and dinner ashore tomorrow, we think) and then sail to Hiva Oa on Saturday (day sail of about 40-50 nm). Nancy's flights are booked back to Canada on Wednesday (thanks Marilyn!) so we will have a few days there to enjoy Atuona, do our official paperwork, and be ready.

The adventure continues ...

Love,
Elizabeth
PS - Thanks for your emails. Sometimes I have a second to reply and sometimes I don't, but I grin with happiness with each one that arrives. Even though we are far away, it is so nice to hear about gardens, and moons, and children, and travel. It makes me feel much closer.
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At 5/15/2014 12:42 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 10°27.94'S 138°40.11'W

Hello!

I just had to write ... we feel like we really *are* at anchor in French Polynesia now - ie we have arrived!

After no rain to speak of in the last six months, we have had bucketing rain every few hours overnight and today. It lasts just long enough to have us close all the hatches, and then it stops. In the misty light today, the palm-covered cliff faces are vibrant shades of green & yellow, especially in contrast to the wisps of grey clouds that are blowing down from the high hills. Every few minutes we get a gust of wind that takes us from about 5 kts to 20 kts in the space of a minute or two...

..but, the biggest reason that it feels like we are really cruising is that we have done our first trade :) We had a couple come and visit our boat this morning with bananas and pamplemousse from their home. Pamplemousse may generally translate to English as grapefruit, but these (famous) south pacific pamplemousse are unlike *anything* we have ever eaten. They are so tasty that we can't even describe what they are like. Here are are some words that the kids came up with - Johnathan - unpredictable (sometimes as sour as a lime and sometimes as sweet as candy); Victoria - amazing; indescribable; sweet & sour. I think you get the idea! When I said that we hadn't been to the bank yet, and that we had no money, the couple (Jacques and Desiree) said that they would actually prefer to trade. Did we have any rum? Wine? Lines for the boat? Gasoline? Household items (bedsheets, towels)? perfume? We settled on a tea towel and a little hand towel for three pamplemousses (the smallest one was 7" diameter and the other two were probably 9-10" diameter) and two bunches of green bananas (directions: soak them in the sea for a few minutes and then hang them somewhere outside until they all ripen at once, then eat them quickly). We all shared one pamplemousse and we each had plenty. Even Benjamin got in on the act - he loved sucking on our juicy fingers, and I even gave him a large piece to gum and slobber over :) We are invited ashore for dinner tonight. They have a set price for making dinner in their home; since we have no local money (they were not interested in USD) we are hoping that we can pay for dinner with gasoline!

Just thought you might like this little vignette of day 1 at anchor. We are having a slow day (crepes for breakfast with bacon, cheese, apples, and precious maple syrup) sleeping, reading, and cleaning the boat. We saved our last 1.5 hr time zone change until today, so we had extra time for everything :) We will likely launch the RHIB and go ashore in the late afternoon.

Love to all,
Elizabeth
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At 5/14/2014 9:46 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 10°31.00'S 138°40.00'W
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At 5/18/2014 1:57 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 09°48.00'S 139°02.00'W

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Thursday, 15 May 2014

Passage Stats and Updates

After 21 days and about 23 hours we arrived in the Marquesas yesterday (14 May 14).

Some initial stats:

- Distance through water: 3002 nm
- Planned distance over ground: 2845 nm. It would be less if you just measured the "as the crow flies" distance but we took a route first towards Socorro Island for better wind, a long leg to our expected ITCZ crossing point, a dash due south to spend the shortest time in the ITCZ) and then finally another long leg to the Marquesas. We also ended up gybing downwind for much of the first downwind leg.
- Best distance covered in 24 hour period: 174 nm for an average of 7.4 kts. Close reaching in 15+ kts of wind.
- Least distance covered in 24 hour period: TBD
- Total engine hours for motoring: 7 hours. Sailed off anchor and through most of the light winds but decided against sailing onto our anchor at Fatu Hiva as the wind was alternating between 0 and 20 kts and the rocks on either side did not look inviting .. Most of the motoring was in the ITCZ to get south into wind and to lessen the effects of the counter equatorial current and then some motoring to avoid particularly nasty looking squalls.
- Total engine hours for battery charging: 6 hours
- Total diesel usage: 12 gal of our approx 150 gal (130 gal internally and 20 gal on deck)
- Total gasoline usage (for our Honda 2000 generator): about 4 gal of our 28 gals on deck. We would have used it more but we do not like to use it if there is too much spray on deck.
- Fish caught: 4 - one marlin (we think), one yellow fin tuna, one mahi mahi (also called dorado) and one skipjack tuna.
- Fishing lures lost: 4
- Number of times reefing or shaking out a reef: too many to count.

An interesting passage and the longest we have ever done. Not quite the "classic" tradewind sailing one hears about where you trim the sails every few days. Certainly no tough conditions but lots of variety. We would spend time coaxing every bit of energy from the wind to keep Fluenta moving at a reasonable speed to a hour later reefing to avoid going too fast. Unlike racing or coastal cruising we are also very concerned with reducing wear and tear on the boat and the crew. Even close reaching, which is normally easy, we had the additional challenge of having a significant swell on the beam. This meant we need to experiment with the trim and a small block and tackle used as a preventer to reduce the slatting of the sails and the loads on the rig. This experimentation of course led to me peeling back part of the toe rail in a 0300 decision to increase the tension holding down the boom to reduce the infuriating slatting and banging in our Furlboom. We used our spinnaker pole for much of the first downwind leg to either pole out the clew of the genoa downwind like a whisker pole or to sail wing on wing with the genoa clew poled out to windward. While wing on wing was fast with the winds we were getting between 15 to 20 kts it was just too uncomfortable as we could come off the surf or got hit on the beam by a wave. In the past we have also poled out the tack of the asymmetric spinnaker but the times we used the spinnaker on this trip the apparent wind angle was about 090 to 120 degrees so we kept the tack attached to our adjustable tack line.

I intend to write a bit of a "lessons learned" later to help others preparing for the passage and as a reminder for ourselves. Included in that I will list the various things we broke enroute (a pretty small list for 3000 nm).

The anchorage is spectacular. Much nicer now that the wildfire ashore appears to be out and the rain from last night has cleared the boat of most of the ash. Now if only the gusts would moderate a bit. The anchor appears to be holding well and we closely monitor our position on the GPS and backed up by the radar as required. The wind at least lets us air out the boat after having Fluenta so closed up over the last few days.

Liz's letters home are below.

Cheers,

Max

14 May:

Hello!

I just had to write ... we feel like we really *are* at anchor in French Polynesia now - ie we have arrived!

After no rain to speak of in the last six months, we have had bucketing rain every few hours overnight and today. It lasts just long enough to have us close all the hatches, and then it stops. In the misty light today, the palm-covered cliff faces are vibrant shades of green & yellow, especially in contrast to the wisps of grey clouds that are blowing down from the high hills. Every few minutes we get a gust of wind that takes us from about 5 kts to 20 kts in the space of a minute or two...

..but, the biggest reason that it feels like we are really cruising is that we have done our first trade :) We had a couple come and visit our boat this morning with bananas and pamplemousse from their home. Pamplemousse may generally translate to English as grapefruit, but these (famous) south pacific pamplemousse are unlike *anything* we have ever eaten. They are so tasty that we can't even describe what they are like. Here are are some words that the kids came up with - Johnathan - unpredictable (sometimes as sour as a lime and sometimes as sweet as candy); Victoria - amazing; indescribable; sweet & sour. I think you get the idea! When I said that we hadn't been to the bank yet, and that we had no money, the couple (Jacques and Desiree) said that they would actually prefer to trade. Did we have any rum? Wine? Lines for the boat? Gasoline? Household items (bedsheets, towels)? perfume? We settled on a tea towel and a little hand towel for three pamplemousses (the smallest one was 7" diameter and the other two were probably 9-10" diameter) and two bunches of green bananas (directions: soak them in the sea for a few minutes and then hang them somewhere outside until they all ripen at once, then eat them quickly). We all shared one pamplemousse and we each had plenty. Even Benjamin got in on the act - he loved sucking on our juicy fingers, and I even gave him a large piece to gum and slobber over :) We are invited ashore for dinner tonight. They have a set price for making dinner in their home; since we have no local money (they were not interested in USD) we are hoping that we can pay for dinner with gasoline!

Just thought you might like this little vignette of day 1 at anchor. We are having a slow day (crepes for breakfast with bacon, cheese, apples, and precious maple syrup) sleeping, reading, and cleaning the boat. We saved our last 1.5 hr time zone change until today, so we had extra time for everything :) We will likely launch the RHIB and go ashore in the late afternoon.

Love to all,
Elizabeth

Greetings!

2200 Fluenta Local 13 May 14 (0600 14 May 14 UTC)

Well, for once I am doing my one-finger-while-holding-Benjamin-epistle before 0200, and there are no big swells rolling the boat! We made landfall in French Polynesia today, 21 days and 23 hours from when we weighed our anchor in Punta de Mita. The big passage that we have been planning for the last four years is complete, and now we are onto the next phase of our journey as a cruising family. Wow. The magnitude of this has not really sunk in yet.

This time last night, it was anyone's guess whether we would be anchored right now or so-close-yet-so far and hove-to outside the bay waiting for morning, but the wind and seas were cooperative, and we had a fast, bouncy ride the last 75 miles. Last night's watch rotation was me, then Max, then Nancy, so Max could be fresh and rested (or at least have had a short sleep!) before bringing the boat into the anchorage. Just after 0800 this morning, Nancy sent Victoria to mark the log with those all important words: "we see land".

It was a strange feeling to see land rising from the ocean after so many days of seeing nothing but water in every direction. I had heard that there is a different smell on the breeze when land is close, and it was true; in this case, it smelt like fruit and smoke. It turns out that there was some kind of burning taking place on a nearby hillside, and the air was filled with a combination of smoke and ash. This (Hanavave, aka Bay of Virgins, Fatu Hiva) is supposed to be one of the most spectacular anchorages in the South Pacific, so we are hopeful that the air will clear overnight, and we will be able to stay a few days to explore. If not, we will go to Hiva Oa tomorrow (less than 50nm away).

When I came on watch last night, I asked Max what time he would like to anchor today. He wanted to be at our turn-off waypoint at 1200 and anchored at 1400. At 1355 I was on the foredeck with the anchor capstan bar in my hand and we were navigating to our preferred spot in the bay. Amazing :)

The bay is lovely, smoke and all. The palm trees look just like Simon and Pam's photos of Fiji (which makes sense, of course, but it was funny to have the realization hit me). There is a luminescence to them that I do not remember of palm trees in Mexico. The island is lush (it is 4mi by 8 mi and 800-1100m elevation) and seems to be in cloud cover all the time, so there is plenty of rainfall. Because it is so tiny and so tall, the cliffs are very steep all around us (and the water is deep in the anchorage) and most of the island is inhospitable. Our guidebook (1996) says that there are about 600 people who live here, in two towns. If we stay, we will go ashore tomorrow and see who we meet. There is supposed to be a walk (2 hrs) to a waterfall, so that might be good to burn off some at-sea steam (kids) and lethargy (grownups).

Max will, of course, have some maintenance to do now that we are here, but much of it can wait until our next anchorage or beyond. We found out the hard way during the night before last that our toe-rail was not as strong in one place (where it had previously been repaired before we got the boat) as was necessary, and the fitting that we had attached to it (preventer for the main sail) actually pulled about 8" of toerail up from the deck. Max has done a jury rig 'fix' with silicone (to keep out water) and duct tape (to prevent chafe on the rough edges) but the actual repair will be a job waiting for him in either Papeete or New Zealand (or sooner if possible). Believe it or not, we actually have a segment of toe rail under Nancy's bunk! Overall, Fluenta did amazingly well for us over a passage that stressed all of our systems. Our new autopilot drove without any issues (a small percentage of the time we would hand-steer just to feel what the conditions were like for it). The drive for the autopilot (the hydraulic thing that physically moves the rudder) is behind the head of our aft cabin bunk, and it sounds to me like little gnomes pulling and pushing the rudder back and forth for us to keep the boat on course. I am always grateful to them for doing their job, even if they are sometimes noisy!

I must tell you about an unusual sight from a couple of nights ago - when Max and Nancy were on squall watch in the wee hours, there was so much light from the moon and so much moisture from some of the squall clouds that they actually saw a rainbow in monocolour. None of us had ever heard of this phenomenon before. (Aside - fun to think that as the moon has grown fuller over the last few days that we are all under the same moon, no matter how far apart we are.)

Well, that is the news of the day. I will send emails to this list when we are on the move, but they won't necessarily be every day when we are at anchor. Thanks for sharing our journey with us. It has been extraordinary.

Love, Elizabeth

Well!

We certainly got a taste of the reliability of off-shore comms last night. No matter which SSB email station we used, and no matter how many times we tried, we just couldn't get a connection that let us send our emails. I am hoping for better luck tonight! I also hope that you did not spend the day assuming the worst when you did not hear from us. All is well aboard Fluenta.

I have just finished yet another bouncy shift (after dinner til 2ish). This time, instead of squalls here and there, we seem to have had lots of cloud cover everywhere, and higher than normal (17-18 kts vice 10-14 kts) winds throughout. Max and Nancy have been reading our marine weather book, and it seems that when the winds are higher than 14 kts or so, the air is moving too much for squall clouds to form; they are much more likely at 10 kts and below. This appears to have been the case tonight :) [Turns out we were wrong ... there were constant squalls all night ... Max]

Fluenta is like a winged horse galloping for the barn (and so is her crew). We are into the home stretch, with less than 100 nm to go. Now the trick is to arrive in the daylight so we can anchor when we get there (otherwise, we will need to heave-to and wait outside the harbour).

That being said, today started slowly, with a flat boat, and minimal wind. Once again, we were just thinking of hoisting the asymmetric when the winds picked up in the late morning/early afternoon, and they have been good ever since. Since it was quiet, we enjoyed Sunday brunch as Monday lunch - Dad's Oatmeal Pancakes with apples on top (we still have *lots* of apples!) (bacon will wait for the anchorage).

Dinner was going to be chicken and rice, but when we opened one of our last four packages of Costco chicken strips (supposedly good until 19 May) we found that we had missed our window ... so we used some to bait our hook and all of the rest went overboard; every bag had gone off. Instead, dinner was more yummy chicken/beef/curry pot pies from the La Cruz market. This turned out to be a fortuitous change in menu, as we had a squall hit just at dinnertime, so it was handy to have something quick and easy to eat. The pressure cooker full of brown rice will wait until tomorrow...

Dad was wondering if we had been using his sextant, and if the kids had been helping. Johnathan was the "nav yeoman" the last time; taking the fixes turned out to be a family affair: I needed the chartplotter (with the GPS time) facing me, so Max called out, "Ready ... Mark", I told Johnathan the seconds, and he wrote down the time and the fix angles. He was very organized, and prepared his paper with the hours and the degree marks ahead of time for the five sun and five moon fixes, and wrote down all the numbers very carefully.

With all the squalls, they have both been learning to use the radar. They can pick out squalls and tell us if they are falling behind or ahead of the steady bearing line. Very handy to have two extra crew in those situations :)

Well, I am curious to know if this email will go out tonight, so I think I will sign off and endeavour to send it!

Love to all,
Elizabeth
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At 5/12/2014 2:57 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 07°54.00'S 136°24.00'W

Happy Mothers' Day!

0200 Fluenta Local 12 May 14 (1000 UTC)

It is starting to look like the next time I will be able to write emails in peace and quiet will be at anchor - today was another lumpy day.

Now that my watch is "over", Nancy has come on watch, and I am at the chart table monitoring the radar because there are three squalls in our vicinity. Since our radar is downstairs, it is much easier to do this with two (or three) people! Given my limited mobility with Benjamin in the carrier, Max has been sleeping in the cockpit so that he is close by to reef, etc ... so now all three of us are awake! Max and Nancy are doing the sails/driving, and I am monitoring the radar. Our radar is old, but it sure does the job for us! Benjamin has been popped into his carseat, and thankfully stayed asleep :) (Oops - spoke too soon - he slept there for about 15 min. Now I am one-finger editing with my left hand!)

We started the day on a bit of a wallowy downwind course that wasn't even in our proper direction (too much West, not enough South) but was keeping the swells on our quarter (meeting the boat at an angle towards the stern). When we "hardened up" the sails (changed from a downwind to an upwind course), we found that we were actually able to sail right on our desired course at a much greater speed. This put the swells coming in towards the bow of the boat, which made it a little bouncy, but not so rolly, and much, much faster (not to mention that all our speed was actually taking us to our destination!) We did our best distance yet with 174 nm over the ground (boat and current together). We now have less than 250 nm to go:)

We kept on like this for most of the day, which meant that moving around the boat was a bit of an obstacle course (one hand for the boat at all times!) and handing Benjamin off from person to person was a bit challenging. We managed, but let's just say that Sunday Brunch (which we have done on the other Sundays of the passage) was postponed for this week!

Lunch today was a *big* bowl of passage ceviche - we liked it so much yesterday that we made *lots* of it today. Dinner was marlin again (the last of the marlin from the fridge - the rest is in the freezer to enjoy at anchor) with ginger sesame rice with yet another can of mixed vegetables. Thankfully, we still have jicama and beets to make slaw with our mandoline, so the grownups get some crunch, even if the kids don't like it. One of these days, I will involve the kids in making sprouts (the quintessential long passage activity), but it is "one thing too many" at this point! {One of these days, we will also bake bread, make cakes, do crafts, etc, etc ... but those days haven't come yet either!} The root of contentment is accepting things as they are, so I am working on contentment :)

Johnathan is deep into book 5 of Harry Potter; Victoria is a bit at loose ends because I need to copy book 6 from our hard drive onto one of our new kobos ... not so easy to do with the boat as bouncy as it has been, but maybe she will get it tomorrow. In the meantime, she has been busy with the rainbow loom making more items of her own design. (She even had a trinket for everyone at the equator crossing). Benjamin is still working on his first two teeth, so he is especially clingy at the moment. This means lots of time with a slippery, sweaty baby in my arms. Thankfully we have fans pointing at most of the sitting places, so that helps to cool him off. The days when the boat is flat and we can have hatches open are so much more comfortable; at the moment, they seem like a distant memory.

I mentioned the time at the beginning of this email ... we changed time zones again today (one and a half more to go before we arrive - the Marquesas are UTC-9.5 - kind of like Newfoundland time...). Max often jokes that I am on my own time zone; on this passage, I (we) actually get to pick when we change to the next time zone, so we really can be on "Liz Local". Fun. We have dropped three hours since we left Mexico, so we are currently one time zone earlier than BC. This puts the PPJ radio net at 6pm, which actually turned out to be a convenient time. There are so few

Squall update: one squall covered too much area for us to avoid it, so we reefed our main and changed course to minimize the contact with it. The winds picked up a few knots, and we got a bit of rain, but it wasn't too bad. We are starting to calibrate our eyes in terms of which clouds we need to worry about, but we are still learning and gaining experience. The good thing is that V & J are getting used to "stowing for squalls" at dinnertime each night.

Squall excitement finished. Time to pick an HF channel on which to send this, then off to bed.

Love to all,
Elizabeth
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At 5/12/2014 10:42 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 07°35.00'S 136°04.00'W

Greetings!

Today was rolly! Winds were light this morning, so we thought of putting up our asymmetric, but by the time we got ready, they came up and stayed up throughout the day and the evening, so no asymmetric - in fact we currently have 2+ reefs in the sails, and it has been bumpy throughout the night.

There were lots of squalls moving overhead during what should have been the dinner hour, so marlin, rice, and corn had to wait until after dark. We are teaching the kids to use the radar - they now both know how to change the range, and how to tell us the bearing and distance to a squall (the rain shows up as a bright spot on the radar).

We made "on-passage ceviche" for lunch - ie I cut some of the fresh marlin into little cubes, cured it in lime juice (limes wrapped in foil are doing really well), and then lacking any of the other ingredients (fresh tomatoes, fresh cilantro; we had onions), I drained the lime juice and added a can of salsa to the fish (it has most of the same ingredients). It was actually so tasty that I had an order to make it again, and to make more of it tomorrow!

So - a short note for tonight, as some sleep is in order! We are down to ~400 miles to go, but we are not there yet, and if these conditions keep up, Neptune will keep us on our toes until we are anchored! Bottom line - we are all well, we are looking after each other, the kids are finding creative ways to spend their time (they spent much of today tying various lines into various knots), and we are doing our best to stay rested and on top of the constant pressure of "crew fatigue".

Love to all (and Happy Mothers' Day as applicable),
Elizabeth
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At 5/10/2014 1:50 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 03°58.00'S 132°23.00'W
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At 5/15/2014 12:42 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 10°27.94'S 138°40.11'W

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Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Landfall!!

Fluenta is at anchor in Fatu Hiva! More news of our passage to follow soon.
~Liz
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At 5/14/2014 5:21 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 10°31.00'S 138°40.00'W

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Sunday, 11 May 2014

Ceviche and squalls

Making fast progress today close reaching in 13 to 15 kts of wind but have reefed down a bit to back things a bit more comfortable onboard as the seas have built up somewhat throughout the day. The latest GRIBs show this is the expected weather until the Marquesas. The squalls seem to be done for the night so will likely shake out a reef when go back on deck.

Johnathan and I did a sun and moon sight yesterday with the intention of doing the sight reduction and plotting today but conditions have not been ideal for sitting at the chart table doing the math. Our noon sight however turned out well and put us reasonably close to our GPS position.

As Liz notes below, the ceviche was very tasty and we are all looking forward to more tomorrow ... Will likely put the fishing lines back into the water tomorrow. Our rig is very simple. Strong line (about 250 lb test) onto a bungee backed up to a cleat. For a lure we use normally use a cedar plug but the marlin was caught using a flying fish I found on deck. We have not even bothered using the gaff to bring the fish up but rather just pull them over the side. If we catch anything bigger than the marlin we will have to start using the gaff as the marlin was rather a struggle to land.

Max

Greetings!

Today was rolly! Winds were light this morning, so we thought of putting up our asymmetric, but by the time we got ready, they came up and stayed up throughout the day and the evening, so no asymmetric - in fact we currently have 2+ reefs in the sails, and it has been bumpy throughout the night.

There were lots of squalls moving overhead during what should have been the dinner hour, so marlin, rice, and corn had to wait until after dark. We are teaching the kids to use the radar - they now both know how to change the range, and how to tell us the bearing and distance to a squall (the rain shows up as a bright spot on the radar).

We made "on-passage ceviche" for lunch - ie I cut some of the fresh marlin into little cubes, cured it in lime juice (limes wrapped in foil are doing really well), and then lacking any of the other ingredients (fresh tomatoes, fresh cilantro; we had onions), I drained the lime juice and added a can of salsa to the fish (it has most of the same ingredients). It was actually so tasty that I had an order to make it again, and to make more of it tomorrow!

So - a short note for tonight, as some sleep is in order! We are down to ~400 miles to go, but we are not there yet, and if these conditions keep up, Neptune will keep us on our toes until we are anchored! Bottom line - we are all well, we are looking after each other, the kids are finding creative ways to spend their time (they spent much of today tying various lines into various knots), and we are doing our best to stay rested and on top of the constant pressure of "crew fatigue".

Love to all (and Happy Mothers' Day as applicable),
Elizabeth
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At 5/11/2014 10:14 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 05°36.00'S 134°01.00'W

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Saturday, 10 May 2014

Fish On!

Day 19:

Johnathan summed up today as the cockpit was quieting and we were settling into night watches: "Mom, I think that this was the best day of the passage so far - we had a great Lego game, we saw dolphins, and we caught a marlin." May I add, we flew our asymmetric, and I had a quiet moment with each child before they went to sleep.

Let me back up a bit...

Overall the day was one of light winds. We are somewhere between a beam reach and a broad reach, mostly on our course, and making between 5-6 kts over the ground. Thankfully, the current is finally in our favour, because given the winds, we weren't making huge progress on boat speed alone. When everyone was on deck in the afternoon, we hoisted the asymmetric, and this helped a bit.

Once things were quiet in the cockpit again, it was Nancy's turn to go below for a nap. She had hardly gotten into her bunk when Max said almost to himself, "Fish on". At first I wasn't sure that he really had a fish - sometimes just the tug of the line masquerades as a fish, but as he began to wind the line onto our red "yo yo" (literally a red circle about 8" in diameter that we wind the fishing line onto by hand), it was clear that he not only had a fish, but that it was a good sized one. First I called the kids to bring the camera, and took over driving the boat. At this point, we eased the sheet on the asymmetric to slow the boat down. Benjamin was getting noisy, so Johnathan handed him to me, with strict orders to stay close in case I needed to hand him off. It soon became clear that this was an evolution that would need all hands, so I called Nancy - her nap would have to wait! It was a sight to see - not only did we have one pointy fin zooming crazily behind the boat, it actually looked like we had two: whatever was on our hook as well as something that was swimming with or chasing it. Yikes!

Max had been saying for a couple of days that he wanted to catch a big fish. One of our friends had put the flying fish from his deck onto his lures and caught fish quickly that way ... we wanted a piece of that action, too. Let's just say that we got it today.

There is nothing fancy about pulling a fish aboard Fluenta - no gaffs, no nets, no extra equipment. Today there was not even a bucket to catch the fish - I offered to bring Max the Home Depot bucket that we usually use, and he just laughed and said that the fish wouldn't fit into the bucket. Yikes again. He kept winding the line onto the yo yo, Nancy came on one side of him with the knife, and Victoria was already on the other with the camera. With one quick movement, he brought a 5'4" Marlin onto our deck. (Yes, it was taller than I am - it was huge!) With beautiful blue colouring and a long pointy nose, it was an extraordinary sight flapping about on our deck. Johnathan held Benjamin, Max held the fish down by the tail, and I stabbed wildly for his brain with the point of the filleting knife; not the most elegant dispatch of a fish. He did not want to lie still, and our deck may well show the scars of my surgery. Finally, we wrestled a line around his tail and fastened him to a deck cleat just to be sure that he would stay on board!

Next came the science lesson (at this point, Benjamin and I went back to driving the boat) ... intestines (long and thick), internal organs, good meat were all examined in detail, while Max and Nancy cut and bagged the fillets. It turned out that our deck-wash fitting had corroded over, so the kids got their exercise carrying buckets of salt water up from the galley where we have a foot pump so we could wash the meat and later wash the deck (the boat was travelling too fast to dip a bucket overboard).

Even after eating a huge portion for supper, we have a big ziplock of meat in the fridge and several dinner-sized packs in our freezer (thank goodness it has been working reliably!). Delicious ... I cooked gently it in the frying pan in butter, salt & pepper, and served it with mashed potatoes, canned corn, and some more of our jicama/beet slaw (we are now out of carrots).

Oh yes, all this excitement and we had dolphins as well - a huge field of them came again doing acrobatics from as far as our eyes could see, then swimming fast and furiously next to the boat once they got here. For whatever reason, we also had swarms of little birds out fishing. We have no idea how they go so far - we are about 600 miles from just about anywhere.

Now we are into the night watch - tonight we have a mostly starry sky with large clouds here and there that I am watching for squall characteristics. So far they have all been benign. Soon I will hand over to Nancy and head to bed.

If you are curious about our watch rotation, here is what has been working - I generally take the first night watch (after supper/radio nets/dishes/tidying the cabin/reading to the kids, which translates to sometime between 8pm and 10pm) and stay on watch until about 1:30 or 2:00. This means that I can sleep until Benjamin wakes in the morning and function reasonably well with one nap with him during the day. I took the middle watch one time, and Benjamin was awake and full of beans when I was meant to be sleeping the next day - that didn't work so well at all! Since then, Max and Nancy have been alternating the middle watch and the early morning watch, and everyone sleeps a few hours during the day. Max & Nancy usually take the cockpit watches and I do mostly downstairs jobs, although we have shared lunch, dishes, and laundry duties. We basically trade around so that there is always someone in the cockpit and everyone gets a sleep at some point in the day. Dinner at 6pm works the best, which means that I head for the galley around 4:30 (barring fishing and spinnakers!) ... this means that we can eat before the nets, tidy the boat while it is still daylight, and get everything quiet just after dark.

Well, there you have it ... a day in the life of Fluenta ... and I have to agree with Johnathan, one of the best days on passage so far.

~Liz
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At 5/10/2014 7:59 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 03°30.00'S 132°08.00'W

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Across the Equator

Busy night watch dodging squalls and keeping up with the constant wind shifts. The moon set a little while ago so the stars are so clear. We are heading straight for the Milky Way and there have been some very bright shooting stars. Venus should be rising shortly - this time will not stress over why I could not see the suspected contact on radar when it is indeed only a planet.

Fishing report: pulled in my lines to check and, again, some monster of the deep has broken off the leaders of both lures. New hooks tied on straight to the strong line (200 lb test I think) and a flying fish added as bait. The tuna we caught seems like a long time ago so looking forward to fresh fish ...

Wildlife report: Bobbie the Booby has appeared to move on which does minimize the clean up I need to do on the foredeck. The dolphins have come to visit regularly and there are still squadrons of flying fish bounding all over the place.

Maintenance: Liz mentions the refrigeration challenges later. Also keeping an eye on the vang attachments as they are creaking. I have figured out what is moving and will see if I can find a machinist in the Marquesas to make me some bushings. The "to do" list on the spreadsheet is growing already for our arrival.

Some excerpts from Liz's emails home:

Day 18:

"We no longer have a crew of pollywogs - now we have a crew of shellbacks. This afternoon, King Neptune held court, asked some challenging questions, of the gathered entourage, and we celebrated with treats (both ones we had packed and some surprises sent with us from some of our friends - we are so grateful to be so blessed). It was a fun afternoon for everyone. We had earlier contemplated a mid-ocean swim, but the winds were good (in fact, Neptune provided us with a bit of a rolly period), so we all stayed safely aboard. It is quite likely that swimming stations will happen at anchor after we arrive :)

The Lego emerged from its cupboard yesterday, and peace has been reigning aboard Fluenta ever since! Even with a small fraction of their available Lego, Victoria and Johnathan were absorbed for hours today, both making and playing. They have even been cooperative and put it all back in its box during the after-dinner stow-the-boat period. I love to listen to their play, as the bad guys plot and the good guys win in the end.

I think Fluenta did us a favour today. I woke up from an off-watch nap to find Max wearing his favourite (not!) Refrigeration Technician Hat, and poking around in the engine compartment with his multi-meter. The fridge had not been running for part of the day, and he was trouble-shooting the problem. After poring over the circuit diagram with Nancy, and checking various voltages in the engine compartment, he traced the problem back to a switch that is above head height behind the nav table that had somehow gotten bumped into the off position. This is an old switch that we have never used, and never bumped before. In the process of his trouble-shooting, however, he found two places where cables had come loose and were rubbing that could have caused damage down the road (one was a power cable and one was a fuel line). Thankfully, it was a simple fix, but I was grateful that he discovered these other problems in advance. All I could think was, "Thank you, Fluenta!" Our fridge is cooling happily again, and after a couple of little wire-tying jobs everything will be in its place in the engine compartment, but it could have been so much worse!

Dinner tonight was a feast of individual pot pies from the La Cruz Market. So yummy and so easy. (And if there was any doubt about the freezer, I wanted to enjoy them while they were good!)

All is well in the southern hemisphere - less than 700 nm to go!"

Day 17

Greetings!

Today was all about preparations for crossing the equator. The sailing was lovely and lazy (perfect conditions if you didn't have somewhere to go... as for us, we were appreciative when the wind came up to 8 kts in the evening from +/- 6 kts throughout the day). On the bright side, the current is *finally* helping us - it is pushing East to West at about a knot). The kids got to work in the afternoon making costumes all around (amazing what they could come up with using tinfoil and imaginations). This also used much of their energy so there was less left over for winding up each other (or me), which was nice. They actually commented at dinnertime that they had had a good day.

Today was also the day that Victoria created a fort at the head of the aft bunk and Johnathan practiced tying some of the knots from the Marlinspike Sailor and from Victoria's knot book ... once again, fun to see what some pillows, some sheets and/or some lines, and some imagination could lead to.

The main excitement of the day came just after midnight, when we woke everyone up to watch the latitude numbers count down to 00 deg 00.000 minutes N. We will celebrate properly tomorrow, but the crew of Fluenta has successfully crossed the equator!

Just to remind us, once again, that we are *not* alone in the ocean, as we were disbanding from our mini equator crossing party, Nancy said, "I see a light off the bow." It was *not* (as I first hoped) a brand new star from the southern hemisphere, although it was almost as bright -- it was a ship. There was much less excitement than the last time when we saw a fishing vessel - we flashed up the radar (yes, sure enough - a ship), tried to hail him (no luck on either Ch 16 or 12), changed our course by about 20 deg to be sure of plenty of sea room, and shone a bright light on our sails. We probably got no closer than 4 nm away, and then carried on our way to the Marquesas, back on our bearing of 212 deg M.

Thank you for all the prayers and good wishes. We feel very blessed that thus far, our passage has been reasonably smooth, with cooperation from the weather and from our boat. We have friends who left a day later than we did, and have had no end of grief (either no wind or too much wind). They have been hand steering for the last three days because the seas are too big for their windvane. Other friends left the same day that we did, but they tore their mainsail within the first week, and they are struggling now that the wind is more on the nose. They are both hundreds of miles behind us. A third boat left La Cruz five weeks ago, lost their autopilot early in the game, and have been handsteering the entire way with just two of them on board. They have been a "couple of days away" from Hiva Oa for almost the last week, but they are hoping to arrive by the weekend. These scenarios remind me of how fortunate we have been, and how vigilant we must continue to be, as we complete the last several hundred miles of our journey. Please keep all of these boats in your thoughts and prayers. That being said, we hear from each of these boats each evening on the PPJ SSB (HF) net, and spirits are good aboard them all. Everyone has their own journey as we cross this ocean together.

On the more mundane side of things, I threw out two cabbages today (probably could have eaten them up until a few days ago, but didn't bother in time). They molded the whole way through. We made slaw for dinner (mac & cheese) with our jicama (still fine, kept out in the open in a crate), beets (kept in green long-life bags in the pantry and still good), and carrots (from the fridge) and Aunt Margaret's boiled vinaigrette. (Made with my Allison-inspired mandoline). It was popular all around and a good way to get some crunch after over two weeks at sea. It is taking some creativity to feed everyone a few servings of fruit & veg every day ..we still have loads of apples (thanks to Exodus for the suggestion to bring lots!) and potatoes, that are all keeping well in the bags that Allison sewed. These are in the pantry (aka forward head) in the stacked plastic crates from the tienda (fruit & veg market) in La Cruz, but other than a dozen carrots in the fridge, that is it for fresh food.

Well, my bunk calls, so I will wish you a good night / good morning :)

Love from the southern hemisphere"

Day 16

Fluenta has been flying along! She seems to love this point of sail. Even with still about a knot of current against us, we have been doing 6+ kts over the ground (ie 7+ kts of boat speed) with the boat riding comfortably through the water.

Tonight is a beautiful starry night - no storm clouds to be seen - just lots of stars, and finally some moon. Even still, I didn't like to leave the cockpit during my watch, so now that Max has taken over, I have a minute to send a note.

The highlight of the day - we celebrated passing through 1000 nm to go in the late afternoon. We are down around 960 now.

Day 15

I just finished my watch - bouncy!

The word(s) of the day today was hot - and humid - and heeling. The good news is that our winds have picked up an have been steady (10-15+ kts) for the last 24 hours, and we are heading towards the Marquesas directly (ie not trying any longer to go S to get through the convergence zone). The bad news is that the winds are from the S/SE, so we have been on a close reach most of the day. This means that the sails are in pretty tight, and the boat is heeled over at about 15 degrees. This is fun for a Wednesday night race heading towards the windward mark, but it wears thin after a bit when it is your house (especially your kitchen) and it goes on all day and all night! It could be worse - we have friends who left a day or so after we did and have spent much of the journey waiting for wind. These conditions just make us appreciate the trade wind sailing when it comes all that much more.

We still have a lot of current against us (this is expected to last until about 1 deg N). Most of the day we were eeking out 5 kts of boat speed which was converting to a measly 3.5 kts over the ground. Now that the winds have picked up tonight, we are doing over 7 kts through the water which is still over 6 kts over the ground. Even with a double reef in the main and a reef in the genoa, we are doing these kinds of speeds, which is so much more heartening!

Back to the words of the day - hot & humid - by this I mean that it is over 30 deg C in the cabin and the relative humidity is about 70-75%. I tend to keep Benjamin down below to keep him out of the sun, but he just drips with sweat all the time, so it is a constant juggling act. I drink and he drinks, and he is otherwise happy and hydrated.

We are still eating some fresh veg from the pantry - sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, and lots of apples. I have a couple of beets and some cabbage that are still waiting as well.

Our next waypoint is the mouth of the harbour for our anchorage. The miles are counting down - we had 1089 to go when I came off watch. We will celebrate the various milestones over the next few days - 1000 miles, equator, 500 miles, etc, etc. Hopefully these moments will provide some distraction as well.

So, it is off to bed for me and on-watch for Nancy. Fluenta seems to be enjoying these conditions - 15 kts of wind, boatspeed between 6-7 kts, and waves to blast through. My watch made me think that if ever I had ridden a fast horse that loved to gallop, the feeling would have been similar. The sky has cleared off, and there were no squally clouds at all for the last few hours. It is a completely different night than last night.
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At 5/9/2014 8:49 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 01°52.00'S 130°51.00'W

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