Friday, July 29, 2011

Swallowed in Suwarrow

The title has way more than one meaning, but the first and foremost news is that Jake lost his first tooth!!! And we think he swallowed it. We knew it was loose and have been watching it for days, but we came home from the potluck tonight and I noticed a nice hole where his tooth used to be. He's so excited but a bit worried about the tooth fairy being upset that he has no tooth for her. So we wrote her a note and I assured him that she would be fine with that.

As for Andy and I, we have swallowed more fish and more food here than anywhere else we've been. We've met some great friends, shared more than a few stories and are not really eager to leave. As a matter of fact, we're thinking maybe our anchor is going to get stuck in the bommies in the next few days and possibly go over our two week limit.

Tomorrow, Jake is going to play with Ms. Ruthie again on Rutea while Andy and I go diving with a few others. We've been snorkeling, walked to the bird island where five different species of birds nest, and Andy has even been on one of the lobster hunts James has hosted here on the island. Tonight was our second potluck, beginning with a volleyball game and ending with very full bellies. We had a great poker game the other night onboard s/v Downtime and another planned for Saturday for the newbies that just pulled in. They don't know that it's really just a donate to Pete night (owner of Downtime), but we'll let them find out for themselves.

Apologies for the sparse updates, either our radio is on the fritz or I can't seem to catch the satellites at the right time, but I've had an extremely difficult time getting anything out of here...I'll try to do better but no promises.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Suwarrow Island

After five and half days, we finally pulled into Suwarrow Island, one of the northern most Cook Islands. We caught a skip jack tuna on the way in so we were in high spirits regardless of our crappy passage. We pulled in to find 7 other boats in the anchorage, many of which we knew.

I've read a lot about this place from other cruiser blogs and no matter how cool they said it was, it didn't really prepare us. The island is beautiful. There are birds everywhere and over 15 sharks swimming around our boat (that might have to do with Andy cleaning the fish though...most of the other boats only report 3 or 4). There are two park rangers that stay here for 6 months out of the year to take care of the island and greet the cruisers. John and James are two large men from New Zealand, but have spent a lot of time in Raratonga and other islands as well. Our first day here we tagged along on a tour of the island. There's a book exchange, a garden where John is trying to grow some vegetables, many scattered graves from past residents, and a coconut shucking station where James showed us how the meat in a sprouting coconut is different from the others in that it's sweeter and softer and evidently makes great pancakes.

Yesterday Andy and Jake attempted fishing but didn't have much luck. Back on the boat, Andy tried again and caught a decent size snapper but it never made it out of the water. The sharks were on it before he could get it up. We were planning on going diving but while doing laundry, I slipped on one of our steps in the cockpit and sliced my foot open a bit. I'll have to keep it out of the water for a few days...but it doesn't look like we're leaving anytime soon so we'll get that dive in eventually.

Last night there was a huge potluck for all of the boats where James and John prepared coconut pancakes, banana pancakes (not really like what we think of pancakes, more like a fried bread of sorts), three different types of fish and a breadfruit salad. All of the cruisers brought a dish to share and it didn't take long to be stuffed to the gills. A few folks brought their instruments and it turned into a long wonderful night.

I wish I could post pictures as I'm not really a good enough writer to give you the right feeling here. Although I'm not sure a picture would do it either. It reminds me a bit of that movie Nims Island, where the little girl is in her own world. Anything you want to do here, you just ask and John or James will either tell you where to go or take you there themselves. We've only been here a few days and already feel like family.

For those following behind us, they're very appreciative of anything you can bring, flour, sugar, spices, canned veggies and fruit. I had a few extra tomatoes, limes and garlic and that seemed to be a hit. We also brought potatoes...anything fresh seemed to be like gold. They like their drink so if you can spare a bottle or two from your Kim Fa order, I'm sure they would appreciate, rum, etc. I had read that they needed some tobacco and rolling papers too but haven't actually heard that from them (check out Soggy Paw's compendium and it gives specifics).

Off to enjoy another day...

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Still sailing

This has to be one of the most monotonous passages I've ever been on. Wave after wave, it seems like it just keeps droning on. Even the squalls are getting boring. The worst part about it as that we can't really get a good idea of when we're going to get there. We've got the main back up with the head sail out and were making decent way yesterday only for the winds to die back down last night. The navigation equipment keeps popping up with "2.5 days" to arrival, then it goes back to "3.8" days and anywhere in between as our speed shifts just as drastically. To make matters worse, I can't seem to get into my normal rhythm and am totally exhausted. All I want to do is sleep. Not one normally to complain (at least on paper), I am over it.

I have managed to start Jake back up on his school after our "Tahiti break" (what? you don't get one of those?), but it's bare bones - Math, Reading, Writing. Today is day 4 and I'm hoping it is just a matter of getting re-acclimated.

I broke up my naps yesterday by trying to make some Irish Soda Bread. It wasn't the best bread I've cranked out but hot out of the oven, it was pretty good. I was shocked in that Jake didn't like it but Andy did. It's usually just the opposite. Andy's more of a Wonderbread kind of guy and usually only likes my Naan bread and tortillas. The food is suffering because I can't seem to wake up long enough to make anything decent. We did have pizza the other day but that was by far the highlight of my culinary skills this week.

Our leak is holding steady with about 2 gallons every 6 hours or so. Andy has a routine of checking it and vacuuming it out every once in a while. Not much discussion around it, so no updates as to what we're going to do about it.

My 5:00 watch just started so I'm going to go get some quality iPad time in before the two dudes wake up. I'm sure you've figured out this is new and we're all excited. But we're very limited in what we can do as we don't have the internet out here and I didn't have time to find but the most basic of games in Bora Bora and didn't get to crack the code on books. I have one movie that I was downloading for Jake but it never finished. So Jake plays battleship. He and Andy play checkers and some demolition game they're addicted to and I play solitaire. I downloaded some match game for Jake that turned out to be too hard for him so I'm practicing on that as well :). I finished a biography on Anne Morrow Lindbergh and am starting another book now that someone loaned me before we left Bora Bora.

323 miles to go...should be able to finish that book...

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Leaky boats and other things that make passages irritating

As we pulled out of Bora Bora at about 7:30 Thursday morning, we were ready to go. Full of food, booze, fuel and water, we were expecting to make Suwarrow in 4 to 4 1/2 days. It just goes to show, plans are meant to change.

About 2 1/2 hours into our trip, I went to Jake's room to get something and noticed the carpet was all wet. Not good. The only thing under there are our diesel tanks. I told Andy and we both got to work. The first thought for both of us was that the pesky leak in the forward bildge under Jake's bed wasn't really fixed and had gotten bigger over time and overflowed the other compartments. So I emptied out everything under his bed and lifted the floor boards to find...the bildge dry as a bone. Hmmm.... We lifted our floorboards aft of the water tank to find...the bildge with a little water but nothing of the magnitude it would take to overflow the compartment over the diesel tanks. We emptied everything out (we store A LOT of stuff under the cabinets on this side of the hull...spear guns, paddles, spare wood, etc.) and pulled up the carpet, then Andy unscrewed the floor boards. Three compartments had overflowed. We spent a good hour cleaning and pumping out the water and then Andy spent the remainder of the day trying to find the leak. Ultimately, after lots of apoxy and still oozing water, Andy thinks he found a crack in our dagger well. It's in a very precarious spot of course, requiring a mirror to look at it. He took a picture and we blew it up on the computer to confirm. So we've used all the apoxy we have, some black gooey stuff, and basically tried to throw whatever will stick to close the leak. It's under control now, but definitely not fixed.

We have no idea how long it was leaking but we cleaned up over 10 gallons of water. It's down to about 2 gallons a day now. We contemplated turning around and going back to Papeete or we even heard of a haul out in Raitea (although ultimately, we probably wouldn't fit there). After much debate, we decided to continue forward and see about getting hauled out in American Samoa. It will probably need to be cut out and have a patch welded on. We hear they have facilities for hauling out large Tuna boats, therefore will probably have both adequate boat yards for hauling us, as well as some pretty decent welders. So we're living in a little construction zone with the floor torn up and the shop vac on the ready (it's probably the only place we don't have a bildge pump on this boat).

To top things off, the waves are screwy out here and the winds are not where we would like them. While we do have following seas, they're confused as to what that means and which side of our stern they would like to follow. The wind is coming directly from the east (we're headed west) and if it were a little lighter (where we could fly our spinnaker) or a little heavier (where we could make good time with just the jib) it would be fine. As it is, with our main up, the boat wants to jibe every 5 minutes and it you don't catch it right away, even with a preventer, we get ourselves in irons. Which means, no one sleeps. If it's my watch, I need Andy to help me get it going right as I'm not yet practiced enough, or strong enough, to drive, pull out the head sail and move the traveler where it needs to be, all at the same time. If it's Andy's watch, he can do it alone, but I'm now in tune enough with the boat to know we changed directions and wake up wondering what the heck is going on. So, no one sleeps (well, technically Jake does, but he's not watch worthy yet). We decided this morning to take the main down and throw out the jib for the sake of crew comfort even if it does mean we slow down a bit. And now it's raining.

So we're two days into it and not even half way yet. I guess it's going to be more like 5 or 6 days before we get there. It's not my favorite passage (I wanted to hop a plane this morning but couldn't find any sea planes around), but we're all in pretty good spirits. Jake is 100% addicted to the iPad and a little slap happy otherwise. We've all heard such good things about Suwarrow that we can't wait to get there.

Only 515 miles to go...

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Busy in Bora Bora

Fred on Songline introduced Jake to the surfboard.
I forsee a new toy on Savannah.
We’ve gotten to do a lot here in Bora Bora over the past week.  It is honestly one of my favorite places so far.  A nice mix of the Marquesas and the Tuamotus, landscape wise.  The people are friendly and there are lots of things to do.

A few nights ago the folks on Rutea organized a bonvoyage party for the sailing vessel Sara Jean II.  They were leaving the French Polynesia and heading for the Cooks (the same path we’ll be taking soon).  So we all brought an appetizer and bought our drinks from the yacht club here and had a nice night of chatting, catching up for some, and saying goodbye for others.  Afterwards, I went into town with a few of the girls to watch the dance competitions that are going on right now.  Every July there is a celebration called Heiva where dance groups from all of the different villages come together to compete against each other.  They build restaurants and structures in the town here just for this occasion.  In 5 weeks time, they’ll all be torn down. 

I loved the dancing.  It reminded me of the competitions I used to go to when I was a kid.  Only this is Polynesian dancing and mine wasn’t.  But the concept was the same.  A group of people get together and practice and practice and practice.  They’re performers.  They smile, they move (in quite unforgettable ways), and they do it because they love it.  The groups were made up of both men and women.  I read on a friends blog how he really enjoyed the women dancing the most.  As it should be (and I do agree it’s very beautiful, and boisterous!).  But I have a different perspective.  The men’s dancing can get kind of savage with a lot of slapping and yelling and it’s absolutely fascinating to me.    And here’s the best kept secret of the Polynesian…the men here are better looking than the women.  And most men will agree.  We’ve had men rowing by in their outrigger canoes for the past few months and  I for one have been thoroughly entertained.  Whether they’re 17 or 70, the muscles never cease to amaze me.  The women on the other hand are either really beautiful, or not so much. 

We moved our boat to the other side of the island and found some more stingrays and black tips to snorkel with.  These appeared to be more skittish than the ones in Moorea but it was fun all the same.  For those following behind us, they’re on the southeastern side of the island past the small sailing club on the motu.  There are a few buoys out there but you can’t see them until you get closer to the reef.  Much like Moorea, just look for the tourist boats.

Happy Birthday Fleur!
Last night we caught up with our friends on s/v Libis again.  It was Fleur’s 34th birthday and they were having a little floating pizza party.   Fred and Cinda on Songline were there as well and we had a great time just chatting and floating around.  We ended the night back on our boat with some additional food and drinks and of course, more stories. 

This morning we woke up early, got in the dinghy and made our way to Marama’s Tattoo joint at the southern end of the island.  Andy has been wanting to get a Manta Ray and we just haven’t found the time.  We were told this guy was the best around and after seeing Andy’s tattoo, I believe it.  He totally freehanded the whole thing.  No stencils, no drawings on paper first…just a short chat with Andy and what he was all about and about an hour and a half later, an intricate manta on his shoulder with various different Polynesian symbols pertaining to his life….water, waves, stars, the four elements, family, protection, energy.

We’re back at the yacht club now and tomorrow we’ll go to the store one last time and fill up with water, then we’re off.  We’ve decided to skip Maupiti since we’re pushing our luck here anyway and head straight to Suwarrow in the Northern Cook Islands.   So this may be our last post with pictures for quite some time, but I’ll still keep you all informed as to our shananigans via SSB posts.  It should take us 4 days or so to get to Suwarrow and then we'll stay there two weeks (or so) and then head to American Samoa...we'll have plenty of pictures by then!

Fred and Jake paddling around the boat.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lemon Sharks

Yesterday we went with Yuka and Mark on s/v Merkava to dive with the lemons sharks.  A few other boats went with us as well to snorkel (and lucky for me, watch Jake).  We went just out the pass to the left where there are lots of buoys to tie the dinghy up to.  We went down about 50-60 feet and just waited.  We didn't have to wait long.  There ended up being about 5 of the biggest sharks I've ever seen.  There were a few mommy sharks that looked like they were close to pupping.  They would swim at you with their big teeth hanging out and then when they saw the scuba bubbles they would turn.  It was a big nerve racking at first but by the end of the dive, Yuka, Mark and I were trying to herd them toward Andy so he could get better pictures.

The coral here is dead as it can be.  Apparently they had a cyclone here a few years ago and it wiped out most of the coral.  But it didn't seem to make a difference to all of the fish.  There were hundreds of fish of all different types and I even found a little hill where there were literally thousands of juvenile fish swimming around.   If the coral would have been alive this would easily have been the coolest dive I've done.  The fish weren't skittish at all.  I had a few swimming around my head and they caught me off guard a few times and made me a bit jumpy.

I'll keep the commentary low as I'm sure you just want to see the pictures.  They're really great.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Blond in Bora Bora

So, if anyone was wondering if I’m a natural blond, the answer is yes.  And tonight (and last night), I proved it.   For all of those 4th grade classes out there reading…beware, I think this might be a PG-13 post based on suggestive content and mild language.  My apologies ahead of time, but Andy thinks it’s  too funny not to tell.

The entrance to Bloody Mary's.  The boards to the right and
the left have the names of all the famous people that have
eaten there.  Evidently, it's very hard to get your name on the board!
We are moored on a free mooring ball off of the restaurant Bloody Mary’s.  The only requirement is that you go in and a have a beer or two.   And so we did.  Last night we sat at the bar with a few other cruisers while Jake played monster trucks in the sandy floor.  A few times he had to go to the bathroom so I took him to the loo to the left of the bar.  After the first trip, the guys asked me if I saw the pull string.  Well, I had read about this pull string so I went back in and saw that in order to wash your hands you had to pull a little ring and a waterfall would start trickling through some rocks and it made for a very unique sink.  There was a bit more talk at the bar, but I ignored it and thought the whole thing kind of cool but not so memorable.

Tonight we went for dinner.  And a fabulous dinner it was. Tuna, Moon fish and shashimi…fantastic.  As soon as we sat down, of course, Sir Jake needed to visit his throne.  Naturally, I took him.  As I was waiting for him outside the stall, I noticed a giant wooden penis hanging from the ceiling over what appeared to be a foot washer (it is a sand bar after all).  I thought it odd but fascinating and when Jake was done we went back to the table so I could tell Andy… “I understand now why they asked me last night about the pull string…there’s a giant penis over the foot washer or shower or whatever it is.”  A long silence followed, along with a sly smile and a look I know well…it sort of says, ‘you dumb ass.’ 

“What?,”  I said.
“For real?”
“Yes, for real…what?”
“That’s a urinal, Monica. “
I still didn’t get it. 
“It’s a men’s restroom.”
“But I’ve been in there three times.”
“And you just now saw the giant penis?”
hmmm…..  I can see where this looks like I wasn’t paying attention.
“Where’s the women’s bathroom?”
“On the other side of the bar.”
“Are you sure?”
Lots of laughing at this point… “Yes, I’m sure”
“Oh…well I’m gonna go check it out”
“You do that.”

What can I say… nothing really…I had no idea…but the giant penis is a nice touch I guess…the men seem to like it…after all, they kept asking me about it.  But I was highly disappointed with the women's bathroom...nothing special in there to keep us talking at all.
Lesson learned...Read the signs over the bathroom door, ALWAYS.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

4th of July in Bora Bora

We had a very active, yet quick passage from Tahiti to Bora Bora.  The winds were 20-25 knots mostly on our stern quarter with 10-15 foot swells.  Since it was almost from behind, we weren't too uncomfortable but I have to say I was glad when we arrived.  We averaged 7-8 knots and made the 160 miles in good time.

And what a beautiful place it is.  I've heard from a lot of cruisers that they didn't care for Bora Bora, that it was too commercialized.  After seeing it, I'm beginning to think we cruisers are more than a bit spoiled.  How anyone can pull in here and not think it's gorgeous is beyond me.  We picked up a mooring ball at the Tahiti Yacht club for $2000 francs.  Every night after that is only $1000 francs so it's not that bad.  The yacht club went through some rough times the past few years with a cyclone that came through so they're in the process of rebuilding.  It looks like it's going to be very nice though.  We were able to get a few drinks and enjoy ourselves on their dock.

Today we're heading over to a free mooring of the infamous (or famous, not sure) Bloody Mary's Restaurant.  Our understanding is that you can stay there (short term) free if you buy a few drinks or have a meal there.  There appears to be a pretty good snorkeling spot a dinghy ride away so that's our plan for today.

I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July and ate tons of barbque and potato salad!  And now I'm sure you're enjoying your day back at work...