Never mistake motion for action. Ernest Hemingway’s words that I choose to live by. I like planning and doing things, getting it done, not just going through the motions. However, writing this blog doesn’t fit into that. A fellow cruiser and I were having a conversation about the frequency of publishing on our respective blogs. She updates every few days, mine can go month between posts. I didn’t plan it that way. This blog is a way for us to look back at this time on our boat and remember what we did. It’s not to brag about us and the how our life looks so perfect. Cruising certainly isn’t all cocktails at sundown and relaxing days. We are very relaxed, released from the day-to-day pressures of having a steady job. We do have a beer or two from time to time to celebrate the latest problem solved or a glass of wine while watching the sunset and thinking how lucky we are to be doing this. It doesn’t mean that interesting events haven’t happened, it just means that they haven’t been shared. I’m not busy where I don’t have the time to write, there is plenty of time. I’m just content in focusing on living life each day to the fullest with my best friend and our awesome children. Being a visual person, I take many photos, posting maybe 5%. I’m sure we’ll have giant photo albums to share someday.
Thinking back to March, many worthy experiences have occurred. We’ve sailed SV Beach Flea across the Pacific Ocean from La Cruz, Mexico to the Marquises Islands in French Polynesia. 2800 miles as the albatross flies, but 3200 miles sailed due to currents, wind, and human hand-steering errors. The Pacific crossing is the ultra marathon of crossings and we chose to do that one first. It only took us 24 days. Luckily, we had help from an old middle school teaching buddy of mine, Ron. He has been around boats his whole life, but never sailed any blue water. It was great to have him aboard to help with day and night watches, keeping Abby and Luke entertained, and catching fish. Each day was like the Groundhog Day movie. It took about 4 days to settle into a routine of sleeping, eating, and trimming sails. The sudden burst of a fishing reel clicking was one of the few nonscheduled but daily occurrences. We caught a lot of fish: Bluefin Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna, Wahoo, Skipjack, Yellowtail, Utu, Dorado, and Big Eye Tuna. Every single day had blood on the deck of the goodship Beach Flea. Other nonscheduled events included being buzzed by frigates and boobies some 1,000 miles from the closest land, crossing the equator and going for a swim, thus elevating our status from lowly pollywogs to higher shellbacks, and near daily dolphin escorts. One very memorable event occurred about 1,500 miles from closest land: We choose to shower on the stern of the boat using a fresh water hose because it is refreshing being outside in the sun and keeping water out of the inside of the boat is a priority. There are 2 showers onboard, but we’ve yet to use them because humidity can encourage mold to grow in this heat. Abby resisted the captain’s (ok, her dad’s) orders to take a shower and kept putting it off, using the age old teenager reply of “I’ll do it later” with the accompanying eye roll. Finely she is soaping up and trying to wash her hair when I heard what I thought was the sound of a helicopter, not possible due to our location. Out of the blinding sun comes what must have been a tuna boat spotter, unmarked with big orange floats coming to check out our tiny sailboat in the vast ocean. I didn’t warn Abby until the last possible minute but she joyfully waved “Hi” at the 2 pilots, all while standing in her birthday suit as they circled our boat twice and flew away after we gave them the universal thumbs up sign. Now we all laugh every time that story gets shared.
Luke with his youthful eyes was the first to spot the Marquises Island of Nuka Hiva, yell “Land Ho!” and collect $5 from the captain. Seeing the magnificent green cliffs rising straight out of the water after 24 days of flat horizons brought out unrecognizable sounds from all of us. We were delighted to drop anchor in the main bay, launch the dinghy, and check into our 2nd foreign country. My years of high school French didn’t help much, but through practiced basic phrases during the crossing, we had entry stamps in our passports and could legally walk around town or sail between islands. Of course we chose to buy a fresh baguette and some Hinano beer to celebrate our arrival. And then it started raining, which it proceeded to do for the next 4 weeks, several hours everyday. And the rain helped the no-no and no-see-ums bug populations flourish along with their cousins, the mosquitos. They loved Lisa’s, Abby’s and Luke’s hairless skin but stayed clear of me. The locals said it shouldn’t be raining this much at this time of year. Oh well.
At a place known as Daniel’s Bay, we hiked to the world’s 3rd longest waterfall. Think back to the TV game show Survivor: Marquises. It was filmed there. We met a really nice guy named Paul that looks out for his family’s land and keeps it in near pristine condition. After a great hike through the jungle, crossing several rivers in waist deep water and stumbling across ancient rock built dwellings, a traditional meal of wild pig was cooked for us and the locals loaded us up with more pamplemoouse, mangos, limes, bananas, and guavas than we could carry. The next day we collected land crabs, ripping off their large claw, knowing the small one would compensate, becoming the new big one and the now missing one it would regenerate itself. It was some of the sweetest crab I’ve ever had. I will never forget the 5 of us running around the river, using sticks to coax the crabs out from under the trees all while the rain never stopped. We were hunting crabs, our own version of Survivor. Later that night, several cruisers came over for dinner of Bluefin and crab claws, just another day in paradise.
Only 3 things broke during our crossing. The main sheet block on the traveller decided the prior 39 years were enough so I was able to use a soft shackle that I spliced out of Dynema line which is stronger than steel. Easily fixed. The diesel fuel lift pump failed, causing air to get sucked into the system and stalling the Perkins 4-154, our trusty iron wind maker. Before figuring out what the problem was, I would change the Racor filters and re-bleed the system and it would run great for exactly 52 minutes before I had to do it again. I figured we only had 140 hours until we arrive in Nuka Hiva, so I’d only have to bleed the air from the lines about 150 more times, catching whatever sleep I could in between if we motored the rest of the way in due to dying wind. Being a person that plans ahead, I added a spare lift pump to the parts Ron brought to Mexico to move fuel between tanks rather than having to siphon it. A 10-minute install and the problem was solved. The external voltage regulator for the alternator on the Perkins was one that stumped me. I was told by several marine mechanics that “those never go out, don’t worry about it, the alternator will die before that does, carry a spare alternator” (which I do). I ordered the part from the states while sitting under a rain tent on the quay in Taiohae Bay. My friend Jeff picked it up adding a few new fishing lures to the 2-pound box and dropped it off at FedEx for a “fast” 10-day delivery, all for $165. They must be very proud of their service for that price. Due to the lack of real address in the Marquises and a union strike by the airport firemen in Tahiti thus preventing all flights to and from Nuka Hiva, my part only took 22 days to arrive. But when it did, it took all but 12 seconds to plug and play. The batteries happily took a charge when the Perkins roared to life.
After Ron left, we went to the north side of the island to Anahoe Bay. Think white sand beaches, crystal clear water, and tons of reef fish. We had several fish cookouts on the beach, hiked all around, caught some fish, swam with manta rays, and did a little scuba diving. It has become the standard to which we judge all other anchorages. We sailed to Ua Pou, another island in the chain. It was the worst anchorage we’ve ever been in, except for the 5 nights in Cabo San Lucas, the other end of the judging standard.
Soon we were setting sail for a 5-day crossing to the Tuamotos. The atolls are like water islands, or lakes in the middle of the ocean. The ring of coral reef usually has a pass that needs to be carefully planned when navigating. Several become dangerous and impassable with the wrong combination of tides, swells, and wind direction and intensity. The Google Earth images I downloaded in Mexico help us plan running the passes. Estimating the tides has proven to be difficult. Watching out for coral bommies while we sail in the atolls keeps us always on the lookout. We spent several weeks on Raroia, Makemo, Faaite, and Fakarava. Each one was special in its own way. We’ve had our own private motu, saw a classic 1 palm tree island, swam with sharks under our boat, walked endless white sand beaches, collected coconuts on crushed coral beaches, made “popcorn” from those coconuts, did drift snorkels through the passes on incoming tides where the coral was so thick it looked like carpet that went on forever, saw too many fishes to identify, scuba dived with 200 blacktip reef sharks, saw a pair of eagle rays, and were luckily enough to be at the largest grouper breeding event of the year due to a full moon near the fall equinox in the southern hemisphere. We collected lost buoys from pearl farms, found more shells than we know what to do with, and even found some of our own natural pearls in the oysters we collected while snorkeling. Both kids learned how to skurf behind Sand Crab, our water car. We also played a memorable beach volleyball game with the other kid boats that we loosely travel together. Lisa learned not to fall asleep while standing up on the 3-6am watch because teeth get chipped when you face plant into the helm. Hopefully she can get them fixed in Tahiti.
To date we have put 6,032 nautical miles under our keel. Every one of them has been memorable or has lead to great memories. Hopefully we’ll add to that total and keep enjoying everyday.
Mexican provisioning run
March 27th, launch date
Fish, it’s whats for dinner!
Utu, only a face a mother could love
The “homeless” look of Ron
Message is a bottle
Celebratory beer at the equator
Daily dead flying visitors
Flying visitor, too
Flying spinnaker = Speed
Teaching math for the future
Another sunset in the logbook
Goats in Comptrollers Bay
Falling water at Daniels Bay
Falling in water
Pre crab hunting
Post crab hunting
Tane, the pig hunter
Clay, Jill, & Briely from SV Me Too
Sunset # 200
Phil, Aimee, Jessica, & Emma from SV Terrapin
Abby at the pearl farm dock
Worker inserting the plastic pearl “seed”
All seeded up for the next year
Kids trying to open coconuts
Abby & Luke Scuba diving
Luke diving with a shark
Grouper breeding site
Abby in the local soccer game
Local kids in the Tuamotos