Sunday, June 26, 2022

Manfred the Chocolate Guy

 Combine a hike, a waterfall, and some delicious freshly made chocolate and you have the makings of a very good day. Setting off from the town of Hakahetau in the NE corner of Uo Pou we began our search for Manfred, the famous Chocolate Guy. The road lead us up to a small dirt road and we took off into the Marquesian woods. It had recently rained so we spent a good deal of time avoiding puddles and trying not to slip in the mud. We passed several people on the road and were usually greeted with the Marquesian "Kaoha" meaning "Hello", or occasionally the French "Bon jour", and always with a smile. 

We were traveling up a valley,  occasionally we could see through the trees to a ravine on the side of us. The vegetation was lush and green, the trees varied in size from the very small to the very large. Along the road there were some botanical signs placed telling us about the trees. Sometimes we could figure out which trees they were referring to, but more often than not, we were left guessing as to which tree we were trying to identify. The names of the trees were listed in Marquesian, French, English and Latin, however the explanation was only in Marquesian and French, neither of which I can read.

After about 2/3 of a mile (or 1 kilometer we) we reached a sign:

The sign was a little deceiving, it should have pointed almost straight up as that is how it felt making our way up to Manfred's place. Along the steep, muddy track on our way up, a pickup truck was coming down. It stopped, and the driver introduced himself. It was Manfred, the man we were headed out to see. He was headed to the next town over to get some cooking gas, but he said we should continue on our path as his wife was there, and she could sell us some chocolate. He told us that when we got to his gate that we should hit the bell and the dogs would come running, but they would not bite.

Sure enough, we got to the gate, hit the bell, which turned out to be an old wok, with a large wooden dowel, and immediately the dogs began to bark and race down the hill towards us, tails wagging. Manfred's wife called for us to come on up, and sadly I do not remember her name. 

We continued up the hill, accompanied by the dogs, past the chickens and roosters, the goats and rabbits, and the duck family with two little ducklings. We passed an area full of discarded cacao husks and into a garden area complete with drip irrigation.

Manfred's wife spoke almost no English, so we communicated with a combination of a few English words, a few French words, and lots of sign language. She offered us some samples, a very good marketing ploy because the chocolate was absolutely delicious! So many flavors, and each one bursting with rich chocolateness.

She brought out a list of the approximately 12 different flavors she had and we chose from it, wanting to try them all, but ultimately picking from our favorites. All the while she kept replenishing the sample box and encouraged us to try more 

Chocolate bars safely tucked away in our backpack, protected from the sun, we headed back down the mountain, back to the blue sign, and took the small path leading to the waterfall.

Winding through the forest with occasional cryptic tree identification plaques, crossing the stream several times, we arrive at the welcome sight of the waterfall.

So refreshing after the hike up to chocolate and back down again.

So refreshing and cool, until the mosquitos discovered us. We could dip ourselves in the water and they would temporarily leave us alone, soon to return. It was such a dilemma, stay and enjoy the cool water and get swarmed by mosquitoes, or run away from the pests and the water. At some point we decided we had had enough and exited the water. Once we were dried off, and away from the waterfall we had no more issues with mosquitos.

Such a pleasant day. Our friend Liane on the sailboat Waveriders even gained a friend, even though it was probably a bit large for their catamaran!


 

Friday, June 24, 2022

Another day, another island

 Ua Pou

Setting sail in a south westerly direction we reached Ua Pou in just a few hours. Our first anchorage was small, but the scenery was breathtaking.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Tattoos anyone?

Nope, sorry, not going to do it.

Yes, I know it is tradition, yes I know that it can be beautiful, and meaningful and a rite of passage, but just not for me.

Maybe.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Exploring Nuku Hiva

 It is always enjoyable to explore new areas, see new cultures and experience new sights, smells, tastes and sounds. Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas is where we have been exploring. (This post will help you place it on the map).


Sunday, May 29, 2022

Where the heck are we?

Taioha'e Bay, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia 

If you are not sure exactly where that is, let me help you place it on the map.


French Polynesia is both an overseas collectivity of France and its own country. It comprises more than 100 islands, and stretches for more than 2,000 km (more than 1200 miles). It is approximately halfway between California and New Zealand.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Your Questions Answered

In finishing up our passage from the Galapagos Islands to French Polynesia I asked my family if they had any questions for us. They came up with some great ones. My answers are in blue, and Bob's are in green. I hope you enjoy the answers, and please feel free to ask any of your own queries in the comments.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Sighting land at dawn.

About 3:00 am. Morning of day 20, graveyard watch as usual. Sarah mentioned seeing skimming birds feeding at dusk last night when we were just under 100 nm. from land. Birds are always our last send off and first greeters on passage. Also, as is usual since leaving Panama, a red footed booby has chosen our bow rail to rest for the night. We marvel at the flexibility and unwavering tenacity their webbed feet display in gripping slimy, salted 1” stainless steel pipe bouncing about for hour upon hour.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Land Ho!

After 20 days at sea,
over 3000 nautical miles,
5 trips by Bob into the back lazerette to fix the autopilot
One broken halyard
One Code Zero sail retrieved from the water
3 days of on and off hand steering
A Refrigerator and freezer with decidedly more room and less food than 20 days ago
Several rounds of picking up things that were not properly secured,
Numerous bumps and bruises, also known as boat bites, as the boat lurches one way and then the other, reacting to the wind and the waves,
and one entire box of Chocolopagos chocolate turtles
land has been spotted!

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

It always breaks at 5 AM

Four nights ago, while on the 2 to 7 am. watch, I heard a new, but faint, clicking sound I couldn't place. Over the next hour went from intermittent to occasional, and then it increased in repetitions and volume until I finally tracked it down as something connected to the steering. After a preliminary investigation by flashlight I found a wiggle in the bolt that connects the autopilot arm to the steering quadrant that was causing one to rub on the other...but only when a larger wave from the aft port quarter shoved our stern strongly to starboard. So waking Sarah from her favorite deep sleep session, (not happy, but ready to help), we emptied the aft port lazerette. This storage area is 5' deep and holds all our extra diesel and gas jerry cans so we don't have to store them on deck. We have knotted lines tied to the handles to help raise and lower the heavy cans when full as they are now, but in the dip and roll of 2 meter seas it can still be a challenge to empty the area safely. Finally, after collecting necessary tools, shims, and spacers, I got decent lighting set up and climbed down into the aft bowels of our boat, and stuffed myself into a seriously contorted position to access the quadrant. With Sarah hand steering and the autopilot off, I finagled a way to manipulate wrenches top and bottom, removed the nearly immovable nuts, and got the bolt released. After adding an additional spacer for just enough clearance, I had to time the reassembly with Sarah's turning us into the wind far enough so as to slip things back together as we fell off the wind, but quickly. I was truly relieved when all was tightened back down, the autopilot engaged, and no more rubbing cast steel on soft aluminum. But the final relief was getting my brittle old self out of that hole. After cleanup and repacking the lazarette, Sarah went back to bed, and I went looking for an ice pack. Just another chapter in the continuing saga of fixing your boat in the dark in exotic places.

Footnote: I've been down in that hole twice more since first writing this. Once to replace the same bolt broke in half, and once to retighten the nuts I had already installed as tight as I possibly can. Both times very near 5:00 am. I need more suitable hardware.

Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Morning Light

5 AM, somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and the sky is changing.

Bob usually has the 2 am. to dawn shift, so I don't observe the sun coming up very often. Every once in a while we change shifts for a variety of reasons: one person is more tired from lack of sleep on their last time off, or feeling less than up to par, or perhaps the other person just does not feel sleepy at the appropriate time. Tonight was one of those nights, and I took the second shift.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Communication at Sea

Being in the middle of the world's largest ocean makes communication both difficult and necessary. In the days of yore sailors could go months without any news from the outside world. Now in our world of modern connectivity there is the expectation of instant communication, even 1000's of miles at sea. We now use a variation of a satellite phone called the Iridium Go. The Iridium Go is a small, digital, black box attached to an external antenna and we communicate with it through our tablets. It is through this setup that we get regular weather updates (very important) and communicate with the world.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Code Zero Saga

Hearing a loud sound on a sailboat is rarely a good thing, and this time was no exception. The winds have been inconsistent, and causing the sails to "flog" or whip back and forth against themselves making a loud "thwapping" noise (particularly annoying during a night watch). The sound we heard was louder than the normal thwap. Bob looked up and our large Code Zero sail was no longer flying proud. Had it gone overboard? Was it wrapped around anything? Had it broken free? It didn't take long to see it trailing alongside Rhapsody, fully in the water.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Another night watch

The funny thing about night watch is the feeling of being in Backwards Land. A place where we need to maintain alternate times on watch and therefore wind up living in a rhythm opposed to our normal schedule of waking and sleeping. We are trying to get to our destination, yet we purposely slow down a little at night, for safety reasons. We can't easily see what might be coming our way, be it squalls or waves , boats or floating objects. Going slower also makes for a more comfortable ride and less wear and tear on the equipment.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Sights and sounds of Night Watch

3 AM The golden sliver of the moon is rising on the horizon behind Rhapsody. I can see the handle of the Big Dipper sticking up from the horizon off the starboard side of the boat, the bowl of the dipper is below the horizon. The Southern Cross is visible off the port side of the boat. Bob woke me at 2:30 to begin my watch. I was in a deep sleep and it took him a while to rouse me. This is unusual for me, usually on passage I wake easily, but I was deep in a very strange dream.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Well, that was odd!

Suddenly I hear a strange sound. Living on a boat makes you very tuned into sounds, anything new could be potential trouble. This was definitely a mechanical sound, an engine of some sort. I look around, trying to pinpoint the sound, and I look up. It is a helicopter. I think it is just flying by, but it is very low. Then it began circling Rhapsody, once, twice, three times around. I wave at them, they wave back. Bob comes up and waves, they wave back. Bob gives the OK signal, they give the OK signal back, and then they fly off. There was no communication on the radio, and I did not recognize the markings on the helicopter as any government or agency that I was aware of. You are never quite as alone as you think you are, even in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!
2700 nm to go.

Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

Day three, 8AM

Lousy last 23 hours. Wind died to nearly nothing. Still motoring when fouled fuel returned causing engine shutdown, and four filter changes later, no relief. Decided to wait for light to try again. Funky, rolling night with 2-4 knot gasps of wind. Mostly on the nose, sails flapping, even trimmed tight, so we headed 60 degrees south of our rhumb line to SSW, just to smooth things out a bit and ease abuse on our gear.

3:15 AM Lying in the cockpit, cussing dirty fuel again, it occurs to me it could be worse, it could be raining sideways on me. Two minutes later it begins to rain. Murphy's Law laughs again. Steady drizzle becomes light showers. At least the rain brings 5-7 knots of intermittent baby gusts and we return halfway back on course.

6:30 AM Wind reduces to 3-5 knots, no rain on us now, but dawn brought total overcast with very low clouds and visible showers all around us. Turned SSW again just to stay underway.

7:30 AM and we finally feel 10 knots of actual breeze since leaving. Back on course with scattered wetness. Generator charging, because so far, solar has the day off. Good to be moving over mellow, if gray, seas.

Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Setting off to the Marquesas

After the usual prep frenzy and "what have we forgot" concerns, we hauled anchor and began motoring out of Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island at 7:05 AM. With last glances back to the dark green shore, we weaved between the many live aboard charter boats, around the many shallows and out into open water. Sarah set up the new waypoints on our recently updated chartplotter, and announced only 3019 nm to go.

We saw the bottom few hundred feet of the island slipping away in our wake as the typically overcast morning sky obscured 90 percent of the volcanic peaks. Course set, WSW at 6-7 knots. Wind on the nose, of course. We will bear a bit south of our rhumb line in hopes of picking up the very favorable trade winds sooner. Good to be underway. You can't begin to get there until you leave.

Motor sailed until 4:30 PM with 7-9 knots. Winds now shifted to 140 degrees behind us. Brought out the genoa as winds picked up to 10..11 plus until 9PM. The winds calmed, and were very inconsistent, and the sails flapped a lot, so... rolled up the genoa and began motor sailing again. Sarah's up after some, unusual for her, early evening sleep. First try at off watch sleep-on-demand for me a dismal failure, so I read and write.

Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Moving on

 The time has come to move to another place. There is still so much to share about the Galapagos, stories and pictures, but it will have to wait. I will post them when we return to the world of the internet. We are on our way to French Polynesia, specifically the Marquesas. This will be our longest passage yet, by far, 3000 nautical miles from the Galapagos to our next landfall in Nuku Hiva. 

That's a lot of blue! 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Just hold still


Holding still has benefits here on Isla Isabela, the largest of the Galápagos Islands. It has the smallest population of people, but the greatest feel of expansive space. One's sense of scale is tweaked by the many volcanic cones scattered about the landscape, the largest of which extend into cloud cover every day so we've yet to see their crests. Same as the other isles here about, opportunities to see and even interact with the wildlife are plentiful. Birds, lizards, insects, tortoises, penguins and sea lions let you approach considerably closer than normal.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

A Tale of Three Islands

 When arriving in the Galapagos by a private vessel such as Rhapsody, there are only three islands at which we are allowed to anchor, San Cristobal,  Santa Cruz and Isla Isabela. All other islands are off limits to protect the wildlife.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Exploring San Cristobal

 San Cristobal is the first of three islands that Rhapsody is allowed to visit, and coincidentally the first island that Darwin visited. We are allowed to venture onto other islands (with guides), but Rhapsody has to stay put in the three designated anchorages.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Diving Kicker Rock

 Kicker Rock, Leon Dormido, Sleeping Lion, Roca Pateadora.  Most places in the Galapagos have at least two names, the English name and the Spanish name, and then sometimes the translation of each of those! It can get a little confusing at first until you figure it out. Friends who are in front of us were messaging us about sailing past Kicker Rock on their entry to the Galapagos, but all our chartplotter identified was  Roca Pateadora.

Kicker Rock was our welcome to Galapagos spot and so it was nice to be able to return to dive it. It has a reputation of being the best dive spot around San Cristobal.

Kicker Rock is about 500 feet tall with many birds calling it home, Blue footed boobies, pelicans, frigate birds and tropicbirds among others. We had an approximately 2 hour boat ride to get to Kicker Rock because our motor catamaran had one of its two engines at the shop. It was a pleasant ride and we had a chance to talk with the other passengers.  There were 10 of us, 5 were diving and 5 were snorkeling. 

Saturday, March 26, 2022

First trip ashore in the Galapagos

 Getting ashore after a passage to a new destination is always a learning experience.  Where do you take the dinghy? What can you access once you are ashore without a car? What if you can't take your dinghy, what do you do then? Among the many rules for private boats in the Galapagos is the rule that you cannot use your own dinghy, at any time, in any place. 

Sunday, March 20, 2022

The Galapagos Clearance Dance

 What a flurry of activity!

Suddenly there are 9 extra people aboard Rhapsody, and one more underwater. All speaking at once, all asking us to fill out their forms first, please, all working frantically to fulfill their part of this dance. Such is the check-in procedure for the Galapagos Islands. The storm after our calm five day passage.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

The Passage to the Galapagos

 At long last we are departing Panama, heading west. First stop- The Galapagos.

These are the notes I wrote during the passage and was unable to post them at sea. This is an issue I am still working on for future passages, but for now, here was our experience.

Total distance to go 895 miles