The Ups and Downs of the Cruising Life (Fakarava, Tuamotus)

July 2, 2012

There are a lot of things to love about this life, and we post a lot of pretty pictures, but the reality is that there are many challenges that we face along the way. Some of them are relatively minor, and some are more difficult and even dangerous. What makes these challenges and discomforts worth enduring are the rewards: beautiful scenery, good food, new friends, and the excitement of novelty and discovery. There is a certain balance, what I call a golden ratio, of good to bad experiences that make this lifestyle worthwhile. Rich has nicknamed this the e/a quotient (Ecstasy/Agony). When this gets out of balance the wrong way, when the “agony” percentage gets too high, then a person has to re-evaluate the plan. Some people quit all together, some decide to cruise part time, and some simply wait for the balance to be restored.

Rich and I went through this process at the end of our passage to Fakarava. I will mention here that by the time we arrived in the Marquesas, we had accumulated a high “agony” balance. I have been meaning to write about the passage but just never got to it. I will sum it up by saying it was surprisingly difficult. We have made two passages to Hawaii and back (back is notoriously uncomfortable) and to Mexico, and we thought we knew the passage process very well. But we were surprised by this one. What we thought would be our most comfortable passage turned out to be the hardest passage we have ever done. We had good winds (and with that we were lucky) but we were knocked around by a harsh and relentless swell from the east pretty much the whole time. By the time we arrived in Hiva Oa, we had been “ridden hard and put away wet,” as I think the saying goes.

And so we began our Marquesas cruise with a deficit, but soon we were having experiences in the “ecstasy” category, and our quotient was coming back into balance. After the beautiful Daniel’s Bay, we headed back to the anchorage we had missed in Ua Pou and met some friends there. We had a nice night with them before they headed on to another island, then we had a weekend there while waiting for a weather window for our next passage. At this point, it became apparent this town had some annoyances: young people partying and blaring music on the dock (right next to the boats) until 3am, few clouds which made for relentless heat during the afternoon, children who like to use your dinghy as a swim platform after you leave it (which means a dinghy full of water and sand when you get back), and one particular local who really makes a pest of himself as he “befriends” the boats anchored there (I won’t go into details on this, but trust me). Needless to say, we were anxious to leave in spite of a weather forecast that was less than ideal. We did leave on a windless morning and ended up stopping at a beautiful anchorage on the other side of the island, which we had all to ourselves. The annoyances of the past weekend were quickly forgotten in this beautiful place. But we were feeling anxious to move on, and if we waited for ideal conditions, we could be here for weeks. Actually, the biggest problem was a predicted two days with little wind.

We did head out and had some lovely wind to for the first day or so; then we got into that predicted period of no wind. It was comfortable enough but no sailor is ever happy using that much fuel. It was a relief when the wind came back up, but then concerning when it kept going up, becoming gale-force winds on our final night. It was a rather harrowing trip to Fakarava, and once we got there, we had to kill time and wait for an ingoing tide so we could get through the passage into the atoll. Luckily, being at the north end, we had gotten out of the south swell. Rich was able to put the boat on auto pilot and motor slowly along the top of the atoll and back, killing the 3 hours we needed to kill. In the meantime, our e/a ratio was seriously out of whack once again as this passage, added to the passage from Los Angeles, made for big e/a deficit once again. Sailing on the ocean takes strength, endurance and courage, and these are things we have less of than we did 10 years ago. We had to ask ourselves if we were really up to this, and start listing our options if we weren’t. We have good friends who are ahead of us on this trip, and they had decided to put their boat in storage in Tahiti early in August and then return again next April after a much-needed break. They, too, had a rough passage, and they have decided not to do this full time. Our strategy was just to list our options, and then to wait and see what happens in the coming weeks.

As often happens after a bad experience, you end up someplace wonderful and have an especially nice time. That is what happened to us here in Fakarava, which has been wonderful enough to restore our e/a balance, and for the time being we have decided to continue on. We still think we are going to New Zealand, but we have discussed the option of sitting out the off season in a place like Tonga or Fiji as the New Zealand passage is intimidating. Time will tell. For now, Fakarava is incredible. Next Toau and we are hearing reports that it’s a very magical place. Stay tuned. -Cyndi

e/a approximately equal to zero as we kill time before attempting the north pass of Fakarava.

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Hair Management (Fakarava Southwest Anchorage, Tuamotus)

June 26, 2012

I’ve had very little to do with my hair so far.  I leave it alone, it leaves me alone.  I haven’t used a comb or a brush even once since we left California (thanks Nikki for the great haircut).  The beard got to be a problem though as I was getting quite a bit of mustache with my pizza and no diving mask would seal to that hairy face.  It must be trimmed!

But how do I trim it without covering the boat in hair?  Answer: go to a little private motu (tiny island) in the south end of fakarava, take my beard trimmer and a mirror, and hack away.  The problem was that the battery seems to have gone bad in my trimmer and it only made it half way through the job.  That wasn’t a pretty site.  I finished the job after a quick recharge back at the boat, sitting in the dingy.  The most mundane things can become quite a challenge out here.  I know, I know, you wish you had my problems! -Rich

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Banana Management (Marquesas)

June 2012

Who knew that managing bananas was both a skill and an art.  I wish I’d taken classes in school.  First, you need to know how green a bunch to get then you soon learn they all ripen at once.  You also learn that if you cut the stalk, it leaks a clear, sticky fluid that turns dried-blood-red-brown the next day and refuses to come off no matter what you do (this is why the bunch is hanging where it is).  Our cushions and dingy now look a little like a brutal crime scene.  We have been told that the stains fade in the sun – we’re still waiting to see if that’s true.

Bananas are so plentiful here that they aren’t even sold in the stores.  Why would anyone need to buy them?  Why wouldn’t you just go to your front yard and pick a bunch?  Because our front yard is small and bananas won’t grow on fiberglass (at least not yet).

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Vaipo Waterfall Hike V (Nuku Hiva, Marquesas)

June 13, 2012

After the hike we were exhausted.  See for yourselves…

And yet we had to stop by a local resident’s house for “coffee” – she wouldn’t take no for an answer.  It was fun.  The coffee was good and hit the spot.  She also made some little pancake-like things.  We even ended up going back the next day for a delicious breakfast.

After coffee, we had to cross the river one more time to get back to our side of the bay.

Only to be met by these two lovely horses on our beach.  A perfect end to a perfect day.

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Vaipo Waterfall Hike IV (Nuku Hiva, Marquesas)

June 13, 2012

The pools and falls themselves were hard to photograph as you couldn’t see the entire falls from in the pool nor nearby.  The falls were great, but maybe not quite as amazing as the hike to get there.

This is the first pool.  Climbing over some boulders gets you to the second pool where the fall drops.

Here’s Cyndi in the second pool adorned with her stylish yellow hardhat.  These hardhats were under a big blue bucket along the path – put there for hikers to use to protect themselves from the occasional falling rocks.  We also kept to the edges of the pools to avoid the big rocks from which these hardhats would offer little protection.

This was just about all you can see of the falls from the pool.  Most of the height of the falls is hidden from view behind this closest cliff face.  The water was cool but comfortable and refreshing on a hot day.

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Vaipo Waterfall Hike III (Nuku Hiva, Marquesas)

June 13, 2012

We crossed the river fed by the waterfall several times on the way to the falls.

This was the most dramatic crossing.  Mostly we were able to wade across in ankle-deep water.  One wrong step here and it would have been waist-high in a very strong current.  This is a group that was leaving as we arrived.

There were these amazing blue pools of water along the way.  We have no idea why the water was so blue.

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