Tuamotos 1

April 9, 2019

Many stories to tell but I will start with just updating you.

We have left the Marquesas and are on another passage of about 3 days. This time we are going to the Tuamoto Island group. After leaving the Galapagos, we spent two weeks at sea, landing in Hiva Oa, an island in the Marquesas island group. The Marquesas are part of French Polynesia, which contains (I think), five island groups. We visited the Marquesas, are on our way to the Tuamotos, and will also be in Tahiti, which is part of the Society Islands. 

In the Marquesas, we visited four islands – Hiva Oa, Tahuata, Nuku Hiva, and Ua Pou. All of them are lush, green places with high rocky pillars jutting straight up out of the sea. After two weeks at sea, and with more sea to cross with even less civilization ahead of us (the Tuamotos are remote and have limited services/supplies), we had lots of “life” to take care of, like paying bills, getting groceries, fixing things on the boat, etc. So we did more time searching for good internet and/or groceries than touring the islands, but we still had a good time.

These islands are very remote and with very limited tourism which had its positive and negative aspects. The good – the people were very welcoming and kind, and we felt like we were seeing how they actually lived, rather than getting a “show.” The bad – it was hard to get a break from boat life. It’s hot on the boat but much hotter walking down the street to the store that is 20 minutes away. No real taxi service, especially on Sundays. Intermittent internet access that is much, much slower when 28 boats starved for internet show up at the same time. Only 2-3 restaurants that get overwhelmed and short on supplies. No real shopping to speak of other than essentials and jewelry so Cobin couldn’t get his electronics/gadget fix.

Grocery stores run out of things and/or close early on Saturdays. I learned this the hard way when I tried to do a grocery run on a Saturday morning in Hiva Oa. I heard (at 11:30 am) that the store closed at 12:30 pm so we rushed over. I was scrambling to get supplies for the next 4 – 5 days. I thought I still had 30 minutes when an employee of the store told me they closed at 12 pm and were already closed. I felt like someone on a game show, walking down aisles, throwing stuff into my basket. In the produce section, they had avocados and cucumbers so I bought as many as I could, trying to imagine what I would do with them. Thankfully, their frozen foods were fairly decent so I grabbed frozen meat and vegetables and headed to the checkout. 

That’s another fun experience that sailors have to deal with. We go to these remote places where people seem to visit the grocery store on a daily basis, buying handfuls of items. At most, they might have a small basket full. When we go in and buy a week’s worth of supplies at one time, we completely overwhelm the checkout queue. On Nuku Hiva, Joe let about 20 people pass that were only buying 1 – 2 items before we finally felt like we could proceed with our giant quantity of groceries and not without inconvenience the entire village.

Some updates for those of you following closely and then I will write more stories another time.

Crew: Sunil and John did a great job helping us out on the Pacific crossing. We won first place in the multihull division and got a jar of honey at the prize giving. I’ve heard that we also placed first overall after all the adjustments were made but I haven’t been able to confirm that. Sunil left the boat after an extensive cleaning day (but not because of it – his departure was already planned) and got a room on shore to try to get some work done. We saw him a couple of times in the Marquesas and had a final crew dinner in Nuku Hiva with him and John. John stayed on board through our visit to Tahuata and made it to Nuku Hiva for his flight back to Scotland. We wish them both well and hope they are adjusting to life away from Charm.

On board now are a family of four – my college roommate, Susannah Porter, her husband Jamie Kellogg and their two sons, Willie (14), and Sam (9). They met us the morning we arrived in Hiva Oa but joined the boat in Nuku Hiva. Susannah is a professor of paleontology at the University of California/Santa Barbara and Jamie is a physics/computer science teacher at the Cate School (private boarding school) in Carpinteria. It is a dramatic change to go from two guests to four, especially with two of them being children and all of them being highly intelligent, intellectually inquisitive people. Part of the reason we welcome so many people on our boat is that we feel it is a good experience of all of us to learn to live in tight quarters with others.

Susannah just told me today that a NASA scientist called her as part of survey related to a plan to try to send a manned mission to Mars. They were compiling a list of the various people they would want as part of the mission and wanted Susannah to help them come up with essential traits to look for in a geologist. The scientist told her that, as they were contemplating the issues that might arise with having a group of people in a small shared space for a long period of time, they had analyzed ships’ logs. Apparently, life on a boat is a fairly close approximation of what life in space might be like. In the logs the scientist read, the most discussed topics were 1) Food and 2) Other people on the boat. So, if nothing else, after this experience, it sounds like our children will know if they want a career in space!

Wildlife sightings: 
In Panama, I went on a run, heard rustling in the trees overhead, and saw a family of monkeys. In the Galapagos, I went on a run and heard rustling in the bushes and saw iguanas and giant land tortoises. In the Marquesas, I went on a run and heard rustling in the bushes and saw . . . chickens. Yes, indeed. Real, live chickens. As we approached Hiva Oa after our time at sea, we could smell the land. We also heard roosters crowing. Since we had dumped half our egg supply (spoiled) and had been rationing eggs, it was a welcome sound. Later, we realized that if they could charge extra for the amount of “free range” their chickens have, they would have the most expensive eggs on the planet. Apparently there’s an island in the Marquesas where the wild goats and horses outnumber the human population 10 to 1. Not sure what the wild chicken to human ratio is but it’s high.

Outboard motors:
For those of you that read about us leaving Panama with three outboard motors on board, you will be happy to know that we are down to one. In the Galapagos, we sold our used Yamaha 10 hp to the dive master that took Cobin and I out on our first open water dive. He came out on a water taxi, looked it over, and left with it on another water taxi. He seemed very pleased with the price and the motor although what he really wanted was one of our SUPs. If anyone goes to the Galapagos, take a few SUPs to sell -apparently they are in demand.

The second motor just left us two days ago. We put out the word via a man named Kevin. He is originally from California but married a local woman and runs Nuku Hiva Yacht Services, helping folks figure out how to get what they need for their boats. A boat named Dogbark, out of Seattle, had hoisted their dinghy onto their deck to travel. The next morning, the motor was gone. They still don’t know what happened to it but the logical explanation was that there was some issue with the attachment and the motor fell into the sea. In any case, they were dog tired (sorry) of rowing and bought our last available dinghy motor from us. Turns out that Joe and the Dogbark skipper knew each other from racing in the Pacific NW – small world! We almost had more demand than supply because the dinghy dock in Hiva Oa moved dramatically with the tides and caused damage to several of the ARC fleet’s dinghies. Another business opportunity!

Boat problems:
For those of you that like to keep track of the extra projects Joe gets to take on, there’s a never-ending supply. In Tahuata, we were anchored in a beautiful bay for almost a week. Somehow Joe noticed that our rudder on the starboard side was slipping off. So he and John took the rudder off, rebolted it, and put it back on. Some important preventive maintenance! We encountered another boat in Hiva Oa that was waiting on the shipyard to make them a new one because they had lost theirs.

In the Hanemanoa Bay in Tahuata, a Swiss man came over in his dinghy with a business card stuck in a grapefruit. He offered up his services for any electronics we had on the boat. Joe hired him to help out for a couple of hours to help identify ways to re-run the wiring to better distribute the load/charging capabilities of the machines and engines we have on board. The other day we almost had a circuit board meltdown when we ran the water maker and washing machine at the same time.

We are still working on replacing/repairing the freezer which works intermittently and on getting a new spinnaker and the old one repaired. We have a lead on a sailmaker in the Tuamotos.

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