Our aquarium


Since arriving in the Tuamotus, our backyard has included an aquarium. Clear water, and various creatures sheltering and feeding on the underside of our boat. One morning I was sitting outside with my cereal and I dropped a spoonful in the water and this is what happened:

We love clear water. We love our aquarium.

Logbook: Tahiti


Estrellita at Tahiti Yacht Club

Tahiti is a big island and we only visited a small section of it. We took a mooring at the Tahiti Yacht Club, just East of downtown Papeete in Arue and we anchored for a few nights off the lovely park area of Point Venus.

Gran Marche PapeeteWe started our visit with a day of sightseeing rather than jumping straight into the chores of replenishing our cooking propane, diesel, gas, food, etc. We hitchhiked into downtown and walked around all day. Three notable parts of the day: the Gran Marche, the Quai, and the roulottes.

The Gran Marche is the two story market building selling everything from scented oil to produce to freshly cooked snacks to those brightly colored rectangles of cloth you can wear (pareux).

We had a couple of bao which are steamed (or sometimes baked) sticky buns, in this case with a peppery cabbage and meat interior. I grew up eating these with my Dad in Seattle and Carol is now similarly addicted. We also bought presents :)

The Quai is the downtown boardwalk, like a Mexican malecon, and apparently yachts used to drop their anchors in the harbor and back up to the sidewalk and tie their sterns to it so they could step off the back of their boat and be downtown. Cool, huh? BUT there was a bunch of theft and so now they have these less interesting plastic floats instead.

Where you would anchor before (left) and after (right):

The quaiQuai in foreground, floats in background 

We stopped in Les Trois Brasseurs for a pint of real beer (ahhhhh…) and waited for the roulottes to open. These are like the lunch trucks in San Francisco or other cities but these come down to the quai at night for open air dinners. We tried one of the Chinese which was of the greasy but still tasty variety. If you are from a N American city with good Asian food, you will probably enjoy the roulottes for the ambience more than the food, but the ambience itself is worth the work.

Estrellita at anchor at Point Venus

After getting our boat refilled with goodies, we spent a few nights at anchor near Point Venus where we spent two days kiting and one day enjoying a sporting event, including outrigger races. With a few yachts anchored out, they decided to use the boats as the outbound buoy so we had a close up and person view of the racers and they clipped each other rounding our boat. Very cool. One of the great things about French Polynesia is how into water sports the local population is. In Mexico, we rarely saw Mexican kiteboarders or surfers but here we always see Polynesians kiting, swimming, surfing – whatever play is to be had in the water, they are out there doing it at *all* ages.

We were able to meet up finally with a fellow Victoria BC boat, Ladybug II, and also had breakfast with Southern Cross who arrived the day we departed for Moorea.

Stingrays in Moorea


Coolest day in a long time and that’s saying a lot. Memories of a lifetime.

We have taken so much video and we used too much pay internet to get up our passage video because I really wanted to. So…we’ll wait until New Zealand to put the footage together. From now on, I will downgrade the quality of some very small clips and upload when I can.

So, here is me squealing my head off while feeding stingrays in Opanohu Bay in Moorea:

Logbook: Toau


Splitting coconuts

Cutting heart of palmWe went into Toau through Pass Otugi on the E side with an incoming current after a nice close hauled sail from the N Pass of Fakarava Atoll. We spent almost two weeks in the SE corner of Toau, kiting, and socializing with the boats we had been traveling with. It was at Toau that I feel like we really explored an atoll. Fakarava was a turbo expedition of fun and Toau was a lazier (perhaps because we were all tired) exploration of atoll life.

Coconut becomes treeThe Tuamotus are a great place for small beach fires, particularly on the more isolated ends. Although all of the land is owned, people don’t seem to be concerned about what happens on the edge of the beach on an isolated motu within the atoll.

Although the water clarity was good, the isolation (um, except the pack we were traveling with), and the gorgeous shell beach motus on the S end of the atoll were the reason we stayed so long. We kited 6 days, spent a day walking the motus and splitting coconuts, had 3 or 4 social hours on the beach, and dinghied back and forth between boats for various dinners and sundowners.

We met one of the coconut harvesters in the area and he invited us to his home for breakfast which turned out to be a 4 course extravaganza of dishes featuring coconut, morning-caught fresh fish, plus fried bread and coffee. Totally spoiled. Go ashore on the SE corner and say hello to Vaitea if you are in the area and speak some French (he doesn’t speak any English) – incredibly welcoming guy.

Going international

If you are from N America, your VHF is probably set to N American mode (USA or CAN). You might not think about that much. We didn’t until last month when we started hanging out with several European boats.
When your VHF is in N American mode half of the channels are “alpha”. When you ask someone to switch from 16 to, for example, channel 18, you are actually asking them to switch to channel 18A* if you are in N American mode. Non N American radios have channel 18, not 18A. In our experience, we could hear them if their radios were on 18 and ours were on 18A but they could not hear us.

We switched to “International”** mode while we were hanging out with those boats and now we are stuck with half the boats we are talking to on the radio being in N American mode and half in International mode. I have learned how to switch modes very quickly when an American boat hails us on 16 and says “up 1” or “up 2” which I translate to “up 1 or 2 and be on USA mode”. I also memorized a few channels that were safe (non-alpha) for all modes (e.g., 68, 69).

Food for thought.

*Also known as 18 in the USA mode.
**I don’t imagine that is what it is called on the European boats’ VHFs.

Sorry Anonymous Commenters


Since the beginning of this blog I have been committed to leaving open the anonymous commenting option. This allows people to comment easily without having any particular type account. I knew this would mean a lot of spam but Google does such a good job that those spam comments go straight to our spam folder instead of on our blog.

If the spam comments are not appearing on the blog, why did I recently disallow anonymous commenting? We get each and every comment delivered to our gmail account and I recently downloaded 80 spam comments in Tahiti. What a waste of bandwidth and while cruising remotely, we don’t have bandwidth to spare. Unfortunately although Google puts the comments in our spam box, they also still get emailed to us and I haven’t figured out how to stop that.

If you don’t have or want a google account and still want to comment, it is *very* easy to get an OpenID which you can use all over, on many different types of blogs including the two most common --  blogspot & wordpress.

Video diary: Mexico to the Marquesas


We kept a sporadic video diary on our passage from Mexico to the Marquesas (early March departure 2012). We used a few different cameras and had some issues with our GoPro housing (our fault). I had to increase the volume on those videos which also increased the annoying popping sounds when we move our fingers on the camera. Amateur video, amateur video processing, etc.

Still, warts and all, we enjoyed watching this again last night. For those of you with an interest in bluewater sailing or friends and family with an interest in the weird way that our lives have taken a left turn, I think you will find in these videos a glimpse of what it was like for us to make an ocean passage.

The video is long (more than 30 minutes) so if you want to watch it, give yourself some time, make some popcorn, and ride along with us for 26 days.

More questions from comments


I appreciate your accounts of the day to day adventures of the more mundane aspects of cruising. One issue that I hope you will write about in the future is how you handle trash while cruising. Trash management during even a 3 week trip can be a challenge. What strategies have you developed to cope with the garbage you create?

So far trash management has been relatively easy. Almost every town or village we have visited in the Marquesas and Tuamotus had a communal trash bin we could use. We remove most packaging while we are in the provisioning town and have access to trash. All food scraps go in a compost jar in the kitchen with a lid and go overboard whenever we are sure they won’t make it to land or shallow water. That means we dump while in deep water or good outflowing currents in open bays. We keep a “sink” bucket for things we plan to sink in deep water (glass, cans) and for cardboard and paper we plan to tear up and drop in the water. That bucket goes overboard when we are outside of a bay in deep water, or here it goes overboard between islands/atolls.

You are wearing long sleeves... was it chilly or were you just escaping the sun?

Just escaping the sun. I have one actual sun shirt (REI) and several long sleeve cotton shirts I picked up at a second hand store and treated with wash-in sunscreen detergent. So far there hasn’t been a single instance where sleeves of any length were required for warmth since we arrived in the Marquesas.

Glad to hear the gendarmes were reasonable and professional. I would imagine that wine in French Polynesia would be relatively inexpensive if it subsidized by the French government.

Unfortunately wine isn’t subsidized. Lots of food seems to be but there are no booze subsidies. 1L of cheap box wine is about $13. One can of beer is about $3.

Love the shot of Carol, trying to stare down a rock sculpture...who blinked first? LOL

Carol *is* a rock sculpture ;)

Liquid Motivation


We splurged big time with our most recent liquid motivation check.

Eating out in French Polynesia is rare for us because of the expense. I actually find that overall we are spending less money because we are more careful and since arriving in French Polynesia we have had only two special meals. Yvonne’s restaurant on Nuku Hiva was delicious and our first goat-coconut dish. Our second meal was at the White Sands Resort.

We decided we were going to have a date night, dressed nicely, with cocktails at a fancy schmancy resort and it is thanks to you, readers, that we were able to do so. We took our last check from the ads on this site and bought ourselves an evening of luxury in paradise at the White Sands Resort.

Drinks at White Sands

I had a “Tuamotus Vanille” which was something with vanilla bean and dark rum (yummy, yummy) and Carol had a strong Mai Tai. With two options for entrees on the menu, we each ordered one and changed plates half way. One dish was all seafood with basmati rice in a delicious sauce and the other was steak, potatoes and veggies.

We had a long slow meal with excellent service and a lovely setting. Afterwards we sat on a couch overlooking the water enjoying the stars, the night, and the light breeze rustling the coconut palms.

Thank you, thank you, to you all for a much needed night out.

Logbook: Fakarava (White Sands)


P1040186 (1280x960)We left Fakarava’s South Pass and what a delight it was to sail inside an atoll. Flat water, breeze uninterrupted by the palm trees and our experience in Fakarava so far was that the marked channels were relatively obstruction free and most of the reefs were marked on our charts. We stopped for a night at Tonae and were chased around the cockpit by black flies and little biting bugs and so we departed the next morning for an internet binge (pay internet for the first time since we arrived in the S Pacific). The internet was Skype-able.

White Sands ResortInternet aside, the anchorage itself was gorgeous. We used the resorts beach and their chairs after first strategically making a dinner reservation and obtaining their permission. Dinner was expensive, tasty, with great service and a world class view.

The water was pool temperature and we would swim for a bit, sit in the chairs until we sizzled and then go back for another swim.

The view from the water was such a perfect postcard image that we took turns taking pictures in front of it. Who hasn’t dreamed of crystal clear water and a grass roofed hut on a pier stretching out from the white sand beach?

Carol, Estrellita at White Sands Resort


Click on the dollar and buy Livia and Carol a cold frosty one:


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