Adventures

I have created this blog with the hopes that you, my friend, will follow me as I sail around the world (figuratively or literally, not sure yet) with my parents on their Contest 48. Whereas I hope to keep you updated with exciting adventures of exotic ports and epic waves, keep in mind that cruising - that is, traveling by boat in a leisurely fashion - tends to be filled with days of intense boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Please keep this in mind as you read these entries, for this platform will be just as much an attempt for me to maintain my sanity (and connection to the California-based world), as entertainment and reassurance for you. And so, follow me as I sail the world.

P.S. All material on this blog, words and photos alike, are copyrighted by me. Copyright 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. If you decide that this material is worth re-publishing, please give me credit and lots and lots of money.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chapter Whatever

In which the author (and boat) leaves the beloved Hana Moe Noa Bay, visits 3 different ports, gets boarded by French customs, spends time in Taiohae Bay (too much time as far as she is concerned), moves to Hakatea Bay (also known as Daniel's Bay), finds some nice little waves to surf and an epic waterfall to hike to.

So. We left Hana Moe Noa Bay because we were tired of that damned clear water and all those color fishes and those outrageously obnoxious manta rays. Just kidding, but we did leave. We headed to the charming bay of Hakahau on the island of Ua Pou. In my opinion, aside from the Jurassic Park like landscape and crazy tall spires that shoot off the mountains and into the clouds, Ua Pou does not have much to offer. Maybe this is because we only spent one day there, and this day was the day before Easter, but everything was closed- except customs.

We already checked in at Hiva Oa, fortunately, because we would have gotten busted here had we not, but in French Polynesia French customs can board and search your boat whenever they want (I am pretty sure this goes for any country with a competent navy/coast guard). No sooner had we set the stern anchor that three very nice looking gentlemen (two Polynesian and one Frenchie) sped up to our boat. The three of us (Mom, Dad and myself) were very charming and welcoming to these guys: Bonjour! Would you like a Coca-Cola? How do you say... en Francais?

Really, they were looking for alcohol because if you have over X amount of bottles they can fine you. "Ehhh, how much alcohol do you have on board?" they ask. "Um, not much, maybe a few cases of beer, a few bottles of wine, and a few bottles of spirits," Dad tells them. "Ok, ok, fine," they say, "Now, we will take a look around your boat." Gulp. As you probably know, absolutely no space is wasted on a boat, so this means that there are a million places to store things. Under the floor boards, under the beds, under the setees (couches): all filled with beer. Not really, but they are filled with something. And beer is hidden in all sorts of random places on the boat, wherever it can fit.

The guys poke around, Dad pulls out one case of booze and says, this is it! Must think we are pretty boring, eh? The guys smiled but I don't think they were amused. They looked behind seat cushions and at one point came dangerously close to finding the wine cellar (under the table), but fortunately they gave up and left. A pleasant visit, really.

We left Ua Pou after a nice Easter breakfast and headed to the island of Nuku Hiva, which is the most populated island of the Marquesas. Anchored in Taiohae Bay, we asked Mark and Yuka from the boat Merkava to come over for dinner. Yuka is Japanese, and for only learning English for the past 5 years, her English is really good. But she is a firecracker, freaking hilarious, and sometimes does not fully understand North American cultural norms.

We were talking about what different cultures eat for different holidays. She told us about her first experience at an American Thanksgiving. "It was horrible! The food was soooo gross. And that bird you eat, the turkey? its disgusting! You stick the food in its asshole and cook it and then you eat it? Gross!" At this point we all burst out laughing but Yuka doesn't get it. She asks, "Did I say it wrong? They do stick the food in the asshole of the turkey, right?" Yes, Yuka, you are absolutely right. Another time she asked me, "Corie, do you know black people?" "Ummm, yeah? What about them?" I said. "No, no, I mean, do you KNOW them? Like, are they your friends? There are no black people in Japan. Do they really talk like in the movies?"

Back to Nuku Hiva. We got diesel here, but there is no fuel dock where boats can pull up to get diesel, no, no, that would be too easy. We had to fill jerry cans, pass them down into the dinghy off a cement pier about 10 feet above the water, take them back, empty them into the tank in the boat, and go back to the fuel station for more. Fortunately we only made 2 trips, but there were some boats that did many.

I was not particularly enchanted with Taiohae Bay or the little town, although we did get good pizza one night. There were cats running around the restaurant begging for pizza. No lie, they would paw at my chair until I threw a piece of pizza into the grass, they would run and eat it, and then come back to beg again. Cats begging for pizza, go figure.

Yesterday we moved to Daniel's Bay. The entrance is hidden from the water, so you basically head straight for soaring cliffs before you see the entrance to the bay. It is a pretty dramatic place. The cliffs are some 900 feet high in places, with a bright green valley down below. Paddling around in the kayak I found a little wave at the rivermouth, and after some debate as to how sharky it was- rivermouth, murky, warm water, I gave it a "very sharky" on the shark-o-meter. However, I had only surfed once in the past month or more, this being the longest I have gone without surfing since I started when I was 16. So I surfed. It was not particularly enjoyable because I was so scared to see a shark, but it was still nice.

See? This is what happens when I do not write regularly, these things get too damn long. I have not even told you about the epic hike to the waterfall yet. I will try to be brief. Allegedly, this here waterfall at Hakatea bay is the third tallest in the world. Could somebody wikipedia that for me? The book says the hike round trip should take about 3 hours. It took us 3 hours to get to the falls. The hike was nice. At first it felt like walking through botanical gardens- bright green grass and manicured fruit trees, exotic flowers and nice gardens. This was down on the valley floor, where there is a very tiny village (right by the rivermouth I surfed).

After we crossed the river we started getting deeper into the jungle. I was hiking in flip-flops and my feet kept slipping on muddy rocks. At one point I was ankle deep in rotting mangoes. That kind of made mangoes not so appealing. Another time we were crossing the river, which we did about a total of 8 times, I saw an eel! I screamed. I do not like eels. Seeing it, of course, made me nonplussed about crossing the river again and again, let alone swim in the pool at the base of the falls.

As we got closer to the actual waterfall there was a sign that said something to the effect of, "If it is raining do not come into the gorge because rocks will fall on your head and kill you." Well, it has been raining here for weeks, but we decided to take our chances. This was after hours of walking, so we couldn't just turn around. We walked through the gorge with sheer rock cliffs shooting 900 feet up into the sky. The falls are so tall and twisted we couldn't even see the top from the base of the falls. The air was cool and misty, and I tried to keep an eye out for falling rocks and eels, which are difficult to do simultaneously. When we got to the pool we were hot, tired, and covered with mosquito bites (I still am). Dad went for a swim and disappeared under some rocks, but I didn't want to go in because I already saw one eel and didn't want to see another.

Dad came back a few minutes later and said that I had to come see how cool this fall is. Being super brave, I jumped in and the 70 degree water felt freezing!! But refreshing. We swam to the rock pile and I saw how there is a little opening that you squeeze through to get to the big pool where the water comes crashing in. It made a strong breeze and the air was filled with water. Swimming against it to get into the cave freaked me out... the water, the air, the water in the air...the eels... it was scary. We took some pictures, ate some snacks, and headed back down.

The hike back was only 2 hours because we didn't get lost at all, and the way back is always faster. Back in the village a woman stopped us and gave us cold water and bananas right off the stock on her front porch. Tomorrow we are going to go trade for fruit with her.

Ok, that's it! Sorry this is so long and blah blah blah, but I hope you enjoyed!
-----
At 4/29/2011 4:01 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 08°56.67'S 140°09.78'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Manta Mantra

This morning before I even had a chance to drink my cup of tea I was in the water chasing giant manta rays. "Chasing" is not the right word because they move slowly, but I wanted to see them up close and maaybe even swim with them (for my first time). Mom said she had seen them right off the boat, and I could see them on the far side of the anchorage, so I hopped in the kayak with my mask and snorkel and paddled over in their direction.

When you see manta rays from far away only the tips of their wings stick out of the water, and sometimes you can see a flash of their white bellies. Otherwise they look like dark splotches in the water. I lost track of the little guys and was scanning the horizon for their tips, when I saw a huge ray with about a six foot wingspan jump completely out of the water a few meters from my little kayak. "Holy sheeeit!" I screamed, but fortunately none of the boats nearby were paying any attention to me. As the dark shapes came closer I saw their huge mouths wide open, gliding effortlessly through the water.

After paddling over the (pod? school? family?) of rays for a while, I finally got up the courage to jump in the water and swim with them. Manta rays are vegetarian, do not sting, and are known to be friendly to humans, but they are big and a bit intimidating to swim with- especially alone. Feeling very brave I jumped in the water with my mask on and immediately saw a huge, gaping, open mouth coming straight at me, only a few feet away. With another little scream I was back in the kayak in less than half a second.

I needed a little support and encouragement, so I paddled over to the boat Merkava and asked Mark and Yuka if they wanted to go swim with the rays with me. They were stoked to join me, so they jumped in their dinghy and we paddled back over to where the rays were. But, no rays. I swear, I told them, I didn't make it up! I was JUST swimming with them. Right right, let's just go take a snorkel over by the reef, Mark said. I felt really bad about getting them up for nothing, but surprised as you might be, I do not control the marine kingdom.

We snorkeled around the reef for a while and it was cool, although nothing like yesterday when the sun was bright and the fish were plentiful and brilliant colors. After a while we started to head back to the boat when, RAYS! we saw them not too far off the stern of Rutea. We paddled over and, having a companion, I felt much braver about swimming with them.

As soon as I got in the water three rays swam right under me, paying me no attention at all. The bigger ones had a wingspan of 6+ feet and mouths probably a foot wide. Their gills go all the way down their body and it seemed like I could put my hand through one if I wanted (which I didn't). They swam so gracefully and methodically, doing the occasional slow motion cartwheel or back-flip. Although they are very gentle creatures, it was quite a rush to watch one swim right at me with that huge mouth, only to dive under me at the last second. A few times I stuck out my hand and they would just barely graze my fingertips with their wings. They were well aware of us humans, but not bothered in the least. I even made eye contact with one a few times- it was powerful.

We must have swam with the mantas for over an hour. Not only were the rays amazing, but there was a giant school of fish right below the rays that was as sensitive to my movements as the rays were calm. My every movement was reflected by the school. Cool.

Swimming with the manta rays was definitely the highlight of being in Hana Moe Noe Bay, although yesterday was pretty cool too. Yesterday a bunch of us decided to go snorkel by the rocks on the north side of the bay. We are all getting in the water off the boat when Mark, who had just jumped in the water, shoots back up and yells, SHARK! TOO COOL! He claims to have seen three Black Tip reef sharks, but I didn't see any, and I am rather disappointed about it. I have prepared myself and I am ready to see one- so long as it is not interested in me.

We did see lots of cool stuff: bright yellow and black striped butterfly fish, neon yellow tang, crazy colored parrot fish, and some psychedelic wrasse (actually called that, aptly so), and my favorite, the humuhumu nuku nuku a'pua'a. I also spotted an octopus with its creepy crawly tentacles, and when I dove down to get a closer look it instantly changed its color to camouflage with the brown coral it was hiding under.

The water is the aqua-marine, 80 degree, clear water of my dreams. The sea life is abundant. We always hear about the ocean crises: the whales near extinction, the sea turtles dying off, the de-finning and overfishing of sharks, etc., etc. All of these are very serious problems and I appreciate every effort taken to preserve our most prized natural resource. But I hope you will find it as refreshing as I do to know that not every sea turtle is choking on a plastic bag, there are many whales alive and happy, and the coral is beautiful and healthy.
-----
At 4/23/2011 5:03 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 09°54.49'S 139°06.38'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Too Many Manoges

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and think, what am I doing with my life? I am 23 years old, I am living with my parents, and I hang out with people a solid generation older (or two) than me every day... Is this really what I should be doing with my life right now?

Sometimes I can shake the feeling off early in the morning, sometimes it lingers all day. Yesterday I woke up with this negative feeling flowing strongly (this morning I did not because I woke up with a tummy ache from eating too many mangoes, but that is a different story). I tried to cheer myself up with a game of Scrabble on the IPad and a nice cup of tea, but the IPad beat me. It was too rainy to sit out on deck and the cabin was hot and stuffy and humid because the hatches are closed to avoid rainshowers inside. Long story short, I was not digging the South Pacific.

Our little fleet of boats that we have been cruising around with has moved from Fatu Hiva to Tahuata a few days ago, and we are now anchored in the bay of Hanatefua. It is supposed to have the best snorkeling in the Marquesas but it has been raining so much the visibility is only 20 feet or so. Yesterday, even though I was not feeling so energetic, I went into the village with the folks and friends. When we got to land a guy, Fred, from the boat Songline, said, "Wow, Corie, I am really surprised with your patience with all us old people and not getting to surf all the time. I am sure you will find a great wave soon." I hadn't said anything- maybe I looked bummed out or something- but I appreciated his words.

We walked through the village and came across a little market in a thatched, open air meeting space. The tables were filled with carved tikis, jewelry, and ceremonial paddles. All of the crafts are made right here in the village. Dad bought a paddle, I got a tiki amulet, and mom got some jewelry. Seeing as how our group were the only buyers in the place, I think we made the villager's day.

After shopping we walked down a stone path with tall palm trees lining it. The path soon turned into jungle and we climbed up the hillside of black, rich soil and lots of detritus to get to the road above. I was keeping a sharp eye out for centipedes but fortunately I did not see any. Sometimes the jungle smells wonderful, like fresh flowers, rain and trees. Sometimes the jungle smells like your garbage can because so much fruit falls out of the trees and rots on the floor. As we were hiking up to the road I must have stepped on a hundred rotting mangoes.

We finally got up to the road and were swarmed by huge mosquitos. These are no ordinary mosquitos. These are huge blood-sucking demons with big black and white striped bodies that roar in your ear (as opposed to buzz) and leave a huge blood splat when you smash them on your arm. Fortunately we have very toxic bug repellent/sunscreen that keeps the bugs away (and could probably kill a small child). After slapping tons of the stuff on, we took off down the road. Then it started to pour again. Normally rain showers last a few minutes at the longest, but it rained pretty much the entire time we were walking. Big fat drops. And lots of them.

The road was lines with mango, banana and papaya trees, so I collected and ate mangoes the whole time we were walking. We were far enough away from the village that we didn't feel we were taking their mangoes. And besides, the road was essentially paved with thousands of mango pits that nobody picked up. The trees are so plentiful that I could throw a rock in a tree and fruit came tumbling down to my feet.

It is a practice in self control not to eat too many mangoes... but how much is too many? With them rolling ripe to my feet, how can I resist? Same goes with the bananas. The stalk we have on the boat is now perfectly ripe- all 30 or so of them. They are so sweet and delicious and pretty small that I can eat 4 for breakfast without thinking about it. Then I get a tummy ache. So maybe we will have to make banana bread, banana pie, banana... any suggestions?

Being here is kind of a practice in self control in general. I feel so fortunate to be here; it is easy to get lost in the beauty and adventure of this place; awe of the towering green mountains over the deep blue water with the brightly colored fish and the birds circling high above looking for their dinner. It is also easy to get caught up in my bug bites, the heat and humidity, the lack of people my age around. It is easy to become desensitized to the beauty of where we are, wherever we are. But it helps to take a deep breath, look around, and smile.
-----
At 4/21/2011 7:53 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 09°57.71'S 139°07.16'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Monday, April 18, 2011

Double Rainbow!!

If I recall correctly my last post was about surfing with sharks. Unfortunately I have not written since then, and so much has happened! I will try to recount events without babbling or ranting or running around in circles.

Let's see: we went on a tour of the island, then we left Hiva Oa and came to Fatu Hiva; here we have spent days snorkeling, hiking and hanging out with the townsfolk.

Back in Hiva Oa we took a tour of the island with Marie Jo. We spent the whole day driving around the island, stopping at what seemed like totally random places in the jungle to hike in a bit to see a tiki statue or petroglyhps. I had to wonder, why build a religious site here? It was hard to get to by car- let alone on foot. The tikis were small stone statues, some with fierce expressions and others smiling and rather goofy looks on their faces. The petroglyphs signify "family, tribe, etc.," according to Marie Jo, but who knows? They looked kind of like crop circles, except engraved in stone. And being a few thousand years old, it is hard to know exactly what the early inhabitants of the island were thinking, although "family, food, fight" are basic human concerns.

The abundance of food on this island is amazing. Hiking through the jungle we came across tons of coconut palms, pamplemousse trees (a way better French name for grapefruit), orange, lime, almond, and breadfruit trees, as well as little plants that had bright red chili peppers on them. One could cook quite a meal with food picked from the jungle. There is only one little problem: in theory, every piece of fruit on the island, every tree is owned by somebody (which is hard to imagine because there are SO many trees). This means that when I see that perfect mango hanging from the tree, those huge stalks of bananas tempting me, they are forbidden fruit. Fortunately fruit is not hard to come by. The locals are very willing to trade a bunch of bananas for a bottle of nailpolish or a pack of colored pencils.

Back to the island tour. My favorite place we went on the tour was a little village and bay called Hanaiapa. When I walked down to the beach I found a very nice little river mouth that had a nice wave peeling across a cobblestone point. Fortunately the wave was too small to surf that day, otherwise I would have flipped-a-shit trying to get in the water. Outside the bay there is a giant rock. Marie Jo asked me, "what does that rock out there look like to you?" with her very thick French Polynesian accent. "A man's head? I guess..?" "YES!" she shouted. "Like head of neeegro! Hahahahahahah." Not very tactful, but that is how people are here: straightforward and blunt. Then she bent down and picked up some seed pods, cracked them, and gave me fresh almonds. In my opinion, if you can surf a perfect wave and eat almonds and coconuts fresh off the tree all in your little village, that is pretty damn close to paradise.

The rest of the tour was spent driving up very steep roads, down little dirt trails hugging sheer cliffs looking down into bays of crystal clear blue water and immense sky. Every now and then Marie Jo would stop the car and say, "now you get out and take a picture." Yes ma'am. We ate lunch at a little place. Poissoncru and a shrimp curry-ish kind of thing with lots of coconut milk, breadfruit, taro and baguette. Poissoncru is a raw fish salad cured with lime and coconut milk. Taro is a pretty awful food- dark green, slimy and starchy. A note on breadfruit: it is kind of like a potato, kind of like bread, and the locals here love it. I am not crazy about it, but it has great potential... deep fried. French Polynesian fries? I think I am onto something.

Moving on. We left Hiva Oa a few days ago and sailed upwind (more like bashed) for 9 hours to get to Fatu Hiva. We are anchored in the Bay of Virgins, which used to be called the Bay of Penises because of the giant spires and volcanic pillars that stick up from the sheer, green cliffs. Then the missionaries came and named it more appropriately, in their opinions.

The night we arrived there was a big community dinner, complete with a traditionally cooked pig (in the ground wrapped in leaves), more poissoncru, rice, and coconut milk for all. There was singing and music by a local family and traditional dancing by a few kids. One little girl in particular was quite the hula dancer.

Some of the kids here are very beautiful, some look like the result of in breeding, many have health issues (I was told yesterday that 85% of all Polynesians have diabetes, thanks to Coca-Cola, candy, and the fact that they drive everywhere) and they are all very friendly. They are friendly to the point of being aggressive. When we go to shore they run up to us saying, "Bon-bon?" Candy? NO. Then they ask me for my shoes. NO. I am happy to trade for things, but it throws off the balance of community commerce when they are given everything.

Ok, this is getting very long. Gotta wrap it up. Two days ago a bunch of boat friends hiked up to a waterfall. It was so refreshing to jump into a cool pool of water after hiking in hot, humid, bug infested jungle for 2 hours. Never mind the giant, bitting eels that live in the pool. So worth it. Yesterday I went snorkeling with some friends. We had about 30 feet visibility, but the mountains are so steep and sheer here that we swam on what felt like the edge of the blue abyss. I was prepared to see a shark, but we only saw a spotted eagle ray. *Sigh of relief. Then we hiked up to a cross at the top of a hill in the pouring rain. Last night we went to a German guy's boat who is a dentist and sails around the world doing dentistry on his boat. He gave us lots of advice about cruising the Tuamotus, where we will go after the Marquesas. He said you will see tons of sharks, but they are, "friendly," and it is really "no pwoblem, no pwoblem."

Rainstorms have been coming through every few hours for the past few days. The heavy rain and high winds that come in short gusts make the boat seem more cozy and nice to be on. Yesterday, right before the sunset a rain squall came through as the sun was setting, producing the most perfect rainbow I have ever seen. It arced across the boat and went right into the water. Then another one was created above it: DOUBLE RAINBOW!!!!

I wish I could post pictures of my adventures, but the internet here is very slow and unreliable. I'm sure my words have not even started to convey the beauty of this place to you, but for now it is the best I can do.
-----
At 4/18/2011 7:06 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 10°27.93'S 138°40.10'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How do you say "Is it sharky here?" in French?

I should know how to ask if there are sharks around here in French, but it is a stupid question. Of course there are. When I jumped in the water with my surfboard to catch some waves, I was not even thinking about sharks... until I saw some big creatures fighting in the water. Uh oh.

I am not a morning person. I don't pretend to be. But here near the equator it is sweaty-steamy hot by 9:00 AM, and the hours between sunrise (5:45 AM) and 8 are quite nice. I think I am becoming more of a morning person. Anyway, by 10 this morning I was blazing hot and decided to go try to get a few waves at the beach here in the cove we are anchored in. The beach is black sand and volcanic rocks, and the water is totally murky- I hope this is because of the rivermouth at the far side of the beach. Because the cove is so protected the waves are small, but better than nothing, I thought.

I jumped in the 80+ degree water (which is semi-refreshing) with my longboard. Good to be back on a board!! I started paddling toward the beach a few hundred yards away, feeling my muscles start work and pushing me smoothly through the water. I was about half way to the beach when I froze. There was a boil in the water. Then something- what, I do not know- but something BIG jumped a way out of the water and appeared to be struggling. Fighting. The water was disturbed for another few seconds and then it went silent. I looked around, thinking, murky water, rivermouth, south pacific, hmmmmm... I decided to paddle over to my friends on the boat Savannah.

"Hello, Savannah!" I yelled and knocked on the hull of the boat. Andy, an ex-Navy SEAL, poked his head out of the hatch. "Oh Hey Corie, you going surfing?" He asked me. "Um, well, I was going to but..." and I explained what I had seen to him.
"Yeah, I've seen some things around here that have not looked quite right. I mean, I have not seen any shark fins or anything, but the guide books say its really sharky around here." He told me. "Oh really," I said as I tucked my feet up onto my board. As I was about to paddle away from his boat, his 5 year-old son Jake popped his head out of the hatch and said, "If you see a shark, swim at it 'cause it will scare it away 'cause it will think your are gonna eat it." Yes, little Jake, if I see a shark in the water I am sure I will swim right at it.

Looking for a bit of support I decided to paddle over to Merkava, to try to recruit Mark, an ex-stuntman (cruisers are all sorts of interesting people!) to come surf with me. When he declined with the excuse of cleaning the hull of his boat, I told him what I had seen. "Oh great" he said, "and I was just going to jump in the water to clean the hull." "Perfect! That might cut my chances of getting chomped in half." I joked. "You know," he said totally seriously, "the only thing I have read about sharks in the Marquesas is how unbelievably big they are." I looked for a glint of humor in his eyes: nothing. "Great, ok thanks. Uhh, see ya around." I paddled back to Rutea as fast as I could.

I do not like to be deterred when I set out to do something- especially when it comes to surfing. When I got back to the boat I rethought the past 15 minutes. Was I overreacting? Did I really see something gnarly in the water? Maybe Andy and Mark don't know what they are talking about. I told Mom everything and she said, "Yea, the guide book says that it is really sharky here, but it was written so long ago..." Thanks for looking out, Mom.

I need a bigger boat. Fortunately we have a kayak, so I launched it and paddled back to the surf. I didn't see anything unusual, except for a small, peeling, fun looking left. Back to the boat, I rigged up an anchor for the kayak, attached my longboard to it, and paddled back to the beach. I anchored, and then waited in the kayak for a set to come. When it did, I jumped onto my board, caught a nice little wave, and paddled like hell back to the kayak, climbed on it, and waited for another set to come. I surfed this way for a while, and when I still had all my fingers and toes after a half hour or so, I decided not to push my luck any further and headed back to the boat.

Perhaps I was overreacting, but I was surfing alone in this crazy place. I think I might save my surfing expeditions for another time and place. Tomorrow we are going on a land adventure to see ancient Tiki sights around the island, which should be cool. Until next time, send good vibes to all the ocean creature out there.
-----
At 4/13/2011 12:40 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 09°48.21'S 139°01.83'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Monday, April 11, 2011

LLLAAANNNNDDD HO!

We made it! We are here in French Polynesia. It is surreal. I can't quite fathom it. Even though I had 18 days to ponder it, I can't quite grasp that I am here.

We actually arrived yesterday. When I woke up yesterday morning we could see land. I could actually smell it on my midnight watch; the air was heavier, smelled earthy and a bit like animal. The closer we got the more beautiful the land appeared. The Marquesas Islands are the youngest island chain of French Polynesia, so they are the tallest. This is in comparison to the Tuamotus, which are only atolls now. The volcanic mountains shoot out of the sea straight upwards of 3000 feet. The peak under which we are anchored is masked in clouds. The hills are covered with mango, breadfruit, papaya, and coconut trees. I forgot how much I missed the color green!

We are now anchored in an anchorage near the town of Atuona. It is very small and everybody (except a few snooty French boats) have bow and stern anchors out so we don't swing into each other. We were greeted by friends we met in Mexico, and we are all the more closer now that we have bonded over the experience of sailing across the Pacific. Last night we went over to a friends boat for cocktails- how fun it was to talk to somebody other than Mom and Dad!! But really, Mom and Dad made great companions to make the passage with, and there are few people in the world I would make the passage with again. We also met another boat who arrived last week. They took 37 DAYS to cross. Ouch. 18 and I was starting to go stir crazy... I can't imagine going twice that.

Today we met Sandra, the agent who helped us check in to the country. She pulled up to the dinghy landing in her Range Rover, hopped out, and said, "Bounjour!" She speaks English with a heavy French accent, and it was fun to communicate with her. I immediately asked her about surf, and she said she has a friend who might be able to take me to a wave about an hour from here. There is actually a small break at the beach behind the anchorage here where a river drains out, and I think I might paddle over and see about catching a few ankle-slappers after I write. The water is 81 degrees and the air is 87....

Back to checking in: we drove into Atuona, which was a few minutes drive. It is a very small town with nicely maintained buildings, little houses with fruit trees surrounding them, and a few general stores. There are a few restaurants, although some friends told us they went to "Make Make" the snack shack, and 2 hamburgers, 4 beers and a plate of fried rice cost them $60. A bit pricey, no? Checking in was a breeze; the customs woman was friendly! Surely a first. I got to practice my first real French phrase: "Ou est la banque?" And they understood me! And I understood them! (because they pointed across the street and laughed.) Yes, I think we will get along fine.

The people here look interesting. Some look more European- lighter skin and hair, and others look more Polynesian- dark hair, dark skin, bigger builds. Lots of tattoos and the girls wear flowers in their hair. I only heard people speaking French. I am going to make flash cards and practice! I saw a few guys with surfboards who went down to a beach and were surfing a little shore break wave. Perhaps I will go surf with them one of these days.

Colonialism is a very strange thing. Here we are, in the middle of the Pacific on a very remote island chain, and people are speaking French. Every morning people buy fresh baguettes and croissants. There are French flags flown. You are greeted with "bounjour." And the country who colonized it is probably as away as one could possibly be on Earth. Weird. But, this place is awesome. Beautiful, warm, friendly... I can't wait to explore more of it!

In all honesty, I think I could be anywhere and be happy right now. The passage was not that difficult, we had good weather and wind, a comfortable boat, and made good speed, but I am so stoked to be here. Not only am I stoked, but I feel like I deserve to be here now. I worked hard those last 18 days to get here! Well...something like that.

Now Dad is recruiting me to scrub barnacles off the bottom of the boat. I need to learn how to curse in French. C'est la vie!!
-----
At 4/11/2011 8:51 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 09°48.21'S 139°01.83'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Almost there...!

Although we are still surrounded by sea and sky, land is not far off! The GPS says we have 147 miles to our destination, and our ETA is 22 hours: less than one day! WAHOOOO!!! Don't get me wrong, this has been some pretty incredible sailing... but I will be so stoked to arrive.

Picture Rutea cruising along at 7.5 knots, hitting 9.0+ as she surfs down a wave. The wind is steady at 16 kts out of the East, with gusts to 18. The thing is, its night. It is pitch black outside as there is no moon and the stars, while bright and clear, are no match for the thick darkness that one finds thousands of miles from any cities. The bioluminescence leaves a faint green trail in our wake. We are barreling across the ocean essentially blind, hoping that in the millions of square miles of the Pacific ocean there is no whale or container in our path. Sometimes I feel like we are going to sail right off the edge of the Earth, but rumors are that it is round, and we won't fall off.

This is an exhilarating feeling, and for the past few days we have had great wind- special shout out to the southerly tradewinds- to get us to the Marquesas with speed and style.

Funny, I am more excited about getting in the water than getting on land. Whereas we are surrounded by water, I have not gotten in it once, and my gills are drying up. As for surf in the Marquesas, I am playing the pessimist and not expecting much... so I will either be right or pleasantly surprised. I could have gone swimming when we were sitting in the doldrums, but there were tons of jellyfish in the water that I have concluded- with little research- were man-o-wars. Aside from that one day in the doldrums we have been moving too fast to go for a dip, unless I wanted to be left behind. No thanks.

I have been trying to brush up on my French and Tahitian, but it is hard to learn a language from a book. I figure I will just have to go make a fool of myself until I can get the basics... and I can't wait!! We have heard from friends who have already arrived and they make us jealous, and we have also heard from friends who are just leaving Banderas Bay. Hahaha, suckers. I will be drinking tropical drinks while they roll their way across the Pacific.

I think the thing I am looking forward to the most is to stop moving. Being on the go 24/7 is really exhausting. I just want to stay in one place for a bit. And the second thing I am looking most forward to is moving! Running, jumping, swimming, playing frisbee, whatever! This sitting all the time is exhausting. Did I just contradict myself again? Yes. But I find life to be a paradox, a catch-22, a contradiction, a positive for every negative and vice versa. Oh no, when I start to write like this I know it is time to stop.

I hope the next time you hear from me we will be at anchor in a beautiful, calm bay drinking champagne and toasting our good fortune. And so, I give you a preemptive "cheers!!"
-----
At 4/9/2011 8:02 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 07°53.59'S 137°04.65'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Happy New Hemisphere!!

Yesterday right about this time we crossed the equator! Officially Shellbacks. I think you are supposed to pierce your ear or something like that when you cross, but I already have 2 in each side, so I figure I am good for another 3 crossings.

Following proper seafarer tradition, we held a ceremony to the Ocean Gods Poseidon and Neptune. We sacrificed a bottle of Sailor Jerry's rum under the request of fair winds and calm seas the rest of the way to the Marquesas, and drank a bit of rum ourselves. I made an offering of my favorite tea, Zealong Dark Oolong- grown in New Zealand- to ensure our safe passage to New Zealand. We also sent out the hat of a fallen friend, Jeff Abbey, to the sea, although he will remain in our hearts forever.

Alas, this occasion was well-celebrated. Now, I want to get there. I am really tired of sailing. I am tired to constant motion; rolling, rocking, pitching; having to hold on while I eat, sleep, pee, cook, clean. I am tired of waking up every night at midnight to do a 3 hour watch; I am tired of constantly feeling grimy and salty. Wahh wahhh wahh. I know I am whining, but I am pretty sure you would be too.

I keep telling myself that we are almost there, and every day that becomes more true. 603 more miles to go. Does that sound like a lot? Maybe it is, but compared to 2,700, its not too bad.
-----
At 4/6/2011 1:45 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 00°13.20'S 131°01.48'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Monday, April 4, 2011

Doldrum Blues

Everything you have ever heard about the doldrums is true. Maybe. Depends on what you have heard. But everything that I have heard about the doldrums materialized yesterday.

Yesterday I woke up to a nice squall. No lightening and lots of rain to wash the salt and ink blotches of dead squid off the boat. Every morning I wake up to a few flying fish and squid who have committed suicide by jumping on our boat (maybe they think its a comet or something...) The rain lasted about half hour and then the skies cleared and the sun came out. The water turned sheet glassy and looked like metallic blue, rolling hills, and there was not a breath of wind all day. You could see the reflection of the clouds in the water.

The clouds were amazing all day. Every kind of cloud formation you can imagine, from giant dark thunderheads to uniform rows of cotton balls to high streaks in the sky. Sorry I don't know the proper names for these clouds... I am pretty sure I learned them in kindergarten and have forgotten. Regardless, every hour or so the clouds changed and kept getting more and more beautiful. We took tons of pictures, and looking back through the pictures I have taken in the past 2 weeks are all of ocean, sky and sunsets. Go figure.

We also took advantage of the calm day- the calmest we have had yet- to do some laundry in our "washer" i.e. a bucket with a motor to swish clothes around. We had to take all the drying underwear down with a quickness when I saw a giant squall on the horizon, but it dissipated before we got to it. In the afternoon I played guitar on the foredeck in the shade of the sails. It is quite pleasant in the shade and breeze, but the sun is ferocious. The cabin (inside the boat) does not get cooler than 80 degrees, which makes sense because it is sitting in 85 degree water. I sleep with a fan on full blast, pointing right at me. Somehow I think it is going to be this hot, and maybe even hotter, for the next 6 months.

As for the doldrums, we seem to have gotten through them today, but you never know. Because we hold nearly 200 gallons of fuel we were able to motor through the windless day, but I can totally identify with sailors going crazy around the equator because there is no wind and it is hot as hell. I'm not too crazy... yet... Right now we have 9 knots of wind out of the south east which leads me to believe (optimistically) that we have reached the Southerly Tradewinds, even though we have not crossed the equator yet. We hope to tomorrow. We do, however, have less than 1,000 miles to go! Its great to see 3 numbers on the "distance to destination" box instead of 4. Yes, the little things in life.

Well, my friends, I hope all of you are enjoying the beautiful things in your lives, tough as it may be some times. I miss you often, but can always make myself smile by conjuring up some silly memory I have of us winning a beer pong game, sharing epic waves, late night jam sessions... I could go on and on but I will spare you any more sap. Much love. :)
-----
At 4/4/2011 8:06 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 02°24.38'N 129°39.87'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Good Day

Today was a good day. Let me recount:

My days start at 12:00 a.m. (00:00) because I take the midnight to 3:00 a.m. watch. I like watches because I get some time to myself and it is cool. Not so cool that I need more than a t-shirt and shorts, but refreshing. My watch was more or less uneventful, although on the radar I could see squall lines passing to the East. Fortunately we did not hit any while I was on watch. When Mom came up to take her watch at 3, I went back to bed and slept blissfully...

Until I woke up to wind howling in the shrouds and could feel the boat going very fast. It was still dark but I could tell Dad was on watch, and I was sure he had everything under control. Then I heard the sails start to flog (also called luffing- when the sails flap around). This is never good. After a minute or two we got the "all hands on deck" call from Dad, who, after I jumped out of bed and put on my harness and scrambled into the cockpit, said that we had been cruising along quite nicely but then the wind picked up to 25 knots and started to change directions. This is essentially a squall- the wind comes up fast and can change direction instantly, and is usually accompanied by rain and sometimes lightening. We hit a mini squall, but no harm came out of it. We took down the genoa and sailed under the mainsail until the sun came up.

After the sunrise we decided to put the genoa back up. It is the biggest sail on the standard rigging, so we do not use it when it is very windy, but everything had calmed down (it always seems to do so after sun rise). Long story short, the genoa and the main were too much sail, so we dropped the main. Then the wind clocked around so we had to take down the genoa and put it up on the other side, then the wind dropped more so we hoisted the main again. We essentially played with sails for 4 hours before getting the right combination. That is one misconception about sailing: you point in the direction you want to go, set your sails, and go. Not so. The wind and seas are always changing, and one has to adapt accordingly.

After "adapting" I took a nap as the three hours of sleep after my watch was not quite enough. When I woke up the seas had calmed down and we were sailing on a beam reach. The sky was filled with big, white, puffy clouds against the bright blue sky. We are getting close to the equator and we can tell. The sun is INTENSE. I try to stay in the shade as much as possible, because the instant the sun touches my skin, it burns.

We also took (boat) showers today. Big deal! Want to feel like a million bucks? Don't shower for a few days, stay outside in the wind and the salt, and then take a shower. Its cheap and it feels soooo good. But the trick is staying clean at least for a few hours after the shower. To do this I sit in the shade, in the breeze, and move as little as possible. Regardless of how still I stay, within an hour my shirt is sticking to my back and I am salty all over again. Hence the name- Salty Schneider- even though it sounds like the name of some pretzel snack (so I have been told).

Right now it is 21:00 (9 pm) and it is 86 degrees in the cabin. The water temp is 81. The wind and seas are calm; the stars are shining with full force.

And so my friend, stay tuned for more deliciously crunchy, salty adventures.
-----
At 4/3/2011 3:45 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 06°17.32'N 127°39.48'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Friday, April 1, 2011

Chinese Pirates and Half-Way Points

First things first: today we reached our half-way point!! At 1,338.5 nautical miles we were exactly half way between Punta de Mita, Mexico, and Hiva Oa, Marquesas. Its all downhill from here... or something like that. We still have to cross the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), which is about from 6 to 3 degrees North and always expanding and contracting. We are looking at our weather forecasts for a good window to cross through to avoid the squalls and other nasty weather found in the zone.

And then we hit the doldrums, cross the equator (drink champagne, pay homage to Poseidon and Neptune, and maayybe jump in the water if the conditions are calm enough- I mean, how cool would it be to swim across the equator?!) then we pick up the southern hemisphere trades that sweep us into Hiva Oa with a graceful entrance. Easy! But I am getting ahead of myself... It took us 10 days to get this far and will probably take us another 10 to finally reach land. Sigh.

Remember how I told you that cruising is essentially "hours upon hours of sheer boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror"? Well, this anecdote should prove my point. Yesterday morning I woke up to the smell of fresh baked cinnamon rolls (out of the can, of course, but an essential to any offshore passage). This was a nice way to wake up to what should have been a long, uneventful, and rather boring day.

As Mom, Dad and I were sitting in the cockpit enjoying our pastries and a nice 18 knot breeze that kept us moving at a brisk 7-8 knots, Mom noticed a ship on the horizon. Whereas it is not uncommon for ships to be in the ocean, it is rather uncommon to see ships 1000 miles out from any land, considering that the Pacific ocean covers hundreds of millions of square miles, and we have a visibility of about 6 miles in all directions. Nevertheless, there was the ship, and it appeared to be coming our way. At first I ignored it, hoping it would just go away (I don't like seeing other boats out here) but Mom kept looking at it through the binoculars and plotting it on the radar. She said, "Corie, you gotta look at this thing. I can't tell what kind of boat it is... is it a fishing boat? refugee boat? abandoned?"

When I looked up from my book the boat was much closer than I would have expected. When I looked at it through the binoculars it made my stomach churn. This ship was the boat equivalent to the shadiest, nastiest "Chester the Molester" van you have ever seen. It could have been out of a horror movie, not in that there were decapitated heads stuck on spears or goblins gnashing their teeth on the decks, but it was just creepy. The boat was about 75 feet long, and looked to be some sort of fishing boat, except that there were no signs of fishing gear. In fact the boat was deserted. No signs of life anywhere, except that it kept speeding up and slowing down, and did not keep a straight course.

The boat was almost completely rusted, with green algae growing up the hull. The panels that went up to the second deck were almost all rust, so that it looked like the boat was collapsing in the middle. The only signs of identification I could make out were some symbols in Chinese that were painted on the bow. It had no lights (that I could see, although it was day) and I could only tell that it was moving because of the wave at the bow. And in fact it was coming straight at us.

Ok, so it didn't come straight at us. But it passed our stern about 1/2 mile away, which is very, very close out in this big ocean. I kept an eye on it as it slowly started for the horizon, happy to have that thing as far away as possible. Now, while this boat did not actually hurt or threaten us, it still scared the shit out of me. Mom and I decided that they were probably pirates and didn't want to board the boat because it was too rolly and we would have kicked their asses into the water. When I went on watch Mom said, "Make sure the pirates don't come back." Haha. Gulp.

Later, when I asked her if we have any sort of defenses in case of some sort of attack, she stuck out her jaw and stuck up her middle finger.
-----
At 4/1/2011 9:37 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 07°57.88'N 125°22.02'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com