Liquid Motivation: Trois Brasseurs


image_3I’m embarrassed at how behind I am on our liquid motivation posts. This one is from TAHITI for goodness sakes! I could blame the storm, the haul out, or the passages, but it is really because I’ve been lame.

While we were in Tahiti, working our arses of at our haul out, we were a short walk away from the only place in Tahiti that brews something resembling a microbrew – Les Trois Brasseurs. This is the same cold deliciousness that is served at the Dinghy Dock Pub by the large marina in Tahiti which we have also sampled.

image_2Well, thank you Dana G for a round of cold ones at the Dinghy Dock Pub. And just to prove that we have firmly internalized the frugal values of the CFSA, we provide proof that we went at the two for one special and were able to get 4 (yes, *4*) beers in Tahiti (where beer is so not cheap).

image_1And thank you, thank you, Gary B, for the opportunity to stuff ourselves with burgers and pizza* (and beers of course) at the Trois Brasseurs main location in downtown Papeete, Tahiti.

On a cruising budget, eating out in Tahiti is not something we can treat ourselves to often. We enjoyed every single bite and those calories went to good use in the several weeks of boatwork (which is also on my blog catch up agenda).

*Incidentally, what is with cruisers and our obsession with finding burgers and/or pizza after landfall. Neither Carol or I were huge burger eaters but man-oh-man do we crave them when we arrive in a "city”.

Powder Days and Moving Meditation



P1020284I am officially a kiting addict. After my struggle to get on top of the @#! kiteboard, while I am still a novice, I am starting to feel it rather than just doing it. The feel of the power of the wind in my kite transferring itself through my body, through the board to the water. It’s a feeling of perfect concentration, attuned to my senses, a moving meditation that I have only found in a few sports in my life. Swing dancing (at its best) was one. Climbing (at my best) was another.

When I lived in Colorado I had a lot of friends who skied or snowboarded – Carol among them. I have never understood the interest in sports where ones fingers and toes get cold so I always abstained. Still, they used to say:

There are no friends on powder days.

Meaning, of course, that on a good powder day it was everyone for themselves, in a frantic attempt to pack as much time on the hill as possible.

Well, when we are near a kite beach, with good wind, from the right direction, without squalls (it is a wind sport after all):

There are no friends on kiting days.

We prefer to kite with a group – much more fun – but now that I have reached the same level of addiction as Carol we are the first dinghy at the beach and we don’t leave until our legs are shaking. We have 6 solid, long, exhausting days of kiting since we have arrived in Mangareva at an amazingly beautiful location (Motu Tauna – more on that separately) and we have another 3+ days of kiting (as forecast) later this week.

Life. Is. Good.


On (Not) Settling Down



As much as we love French Polynesia, we feel ready to leave. Well, not TODAY (*fights down surge of panic*), but in July. We will have spent most of the past two years in this country and even though there are places we have yet to visit, it is time to move on before we grow roots.

P1020554There is always the temptation for cruisers to settle down somewhere when we find somewhere we love. We understand that temptation because we love it so very much here. French Polynesia is our first love affair with a cruising ground and we don’t like the idea of leaving…but for us, the idea of stopping voyaging sounds even more terrifying.

Once we contemplate stopping, we see the place through a different lens. When you are a transient in an area, you know you will sail away from the things you don’t like about a country. When you think about settling, you have to consider living with them. I love French Polynesia but I’m not interested in living here (permanently). We joke that as soon as we understand some of the politics of a region, it is past time to move on. Places can lose their magic when you become entrenched, and this is probably part of the reason so many ex-pats are bitter complainers.

fakarava 3People who have chosen to stay in French Polynesia permanently have told us that they have heard that this is the most beautiful place in the South Pacific and that many people consider it the most beautiful place in a circumnavigation. Perhaps it is. It is easy to believe, but you know what? We heard exactly the same thing from people who decided to settle in Mexico. They were told by friends who were circumnavigators that Mexico was their favorite of anywhere they had traveled. When we were still in British Columbia, people who had decided not to go cruising would tell us that one of the reasons they weren’t going cruising is that cruising friends had told them how good they had it in BC. I bet that when we meet cruisers who have settled in future regions we will hear the same thing again.

Sometimes people settle into a single cruising area because they have found their personal nirvana. Sometimes they stop because they are tired of voyaging. Sometimes they stop because, without realizing it, they have slid back into their pre-voyaging fears. Once you hang around in a cruising area long enough, and become familiar with its ins and outs, leaving it can evoke many of the same feelings and fears as leaving the dock the first time.

We have found our personal paradise but we are not tired of voyaging and we are eager for change. There is a time to move and a time to stay. We are ready to move. Maybe we’ll stop here on our second lap around ;)


We have friends, I swear


P1020486You might think, by reading this blog, that Carol and I spend most of our time by ourselves.

Our online written record is full of pictures of Carol and/or me, all by our lonesome, putzing around in one remote tropical location after another. While there are periods where we are alone for weeks on end, we are usually in the company of other cruisers and we are, in fact, fairly social.

The thing is, I never remember to take pictures when we are out with a group!

DSC_0523I have been making a concerted effort to correct this fact and so you will begin to see, in our logs, pictures of OTHER PEOPLE.

I swear, there are people who like us enough to hang out with us – in public even.

Stay tuned…

* Kite beach picture courtesy of SV Black Pearl – another boat willing to hang out with us!

Our Ciguatera Strategy



As already mentioned, the only way to be certain to avoid ciguatera is not eating reef fish or predators of reef fish.

We spear fish because it is fun, good exercise, something to do with people we meet ashore or on the water, and really cuts our grocery bill when successful.

It’s a comfort level with risk that each person has to decide on individually. We decided that we were comfortable with the risk of ciguatera from eating reef fish under certain conditions.

In French Polynesia and the Cook Islands we have been following these guidelines in hopes of minimizing our risk:

Ask two separate people which fish are safe to eat. If there is disagreement on a fish, don’t eat it. At least one of those two people must be a local. P1020523The other can be a cruiser if they have been in the area for a  long time. If the person makes their living from selling fish or serving fish in a restaurant, they are excluded.

If we move to a different area of the atoll, ask again. Fish that are safe in one area of the atoll aren’t necessarily safe in another area of the atoll.

We don’t eat larger sizes of any species. When asking around, ask for a good size.

Use a picture book to eliminate confusion about species. The addition of a waterproof flip book of local species has been a big step forward in our spear fishing knowledge. We keep it with us when snorkeling or fishing and can use it to point to when discussing fish with other people. Our book has the French, Tahitian and English names of each fish. Although it doesn’t have every single fish in it, it has the main species and provides a starting point for description. We found ours at a local dive shop although you can find similar plasticized fish guides for this area online.

The first time we eat a species in an area of an atoll, eat a small portion. We might cook the whole fish but eat half a filet and save the rest for the next day. The idea is that if the fish is toxic we might experience mild symptoms rather than intense symptoms.

Ume Tarei in reality, and in the picture book:


So far, we haven’t had ciguatera, but we are taking a risk. We’ll let you know if things change…

Ciguatera and the Gambiers and Snorkeling

Ciguatera is a kind of fish poisoning that most cruisers (or preppers) are aware of because it exists in the tropics. Most of the time it is an uncomfortable but relatively mild poisoning with lingering side effects. However, with high levels of toxicity in a single fish (or multiple exposures) it can be very serious and even deadly. The easiest way to avoid it is to avoid eating any reef fish, or fish that are major predators of reef fish (like barracuda). The risk exists and some people feel comfortable taking the risk with varying levels of precautions and some do not.

Contrary to popular belief, ciguatera isn’t caused by algae directly but by a handful of marine organisms that live on algae. The fish eat the algae and accidentally ingest the organisms which contain/produce ciguatoxin.
One of the organisms that produces ciguatoxin is …Gambierdiscus toxicus. Yep, that is correct GAMBIER, as in the Gambiers, as in the place we are right now. Gambierdiscus toxicus is a dinoflagellate (marine plankton) that lives on algae  and produces ciguatoxins.


You might correctly assume that there is a lot of ciguatera in the Gambiers. Most of the fish are ciguatoxic.

This is bad for hunting and gathering and great for snorkeling. It is impressive to see how many parrot fish exist when no one is eating them and how HUGE the groupers get when they aren’t being eaten. The brilliant colors of parrot fish in schools is one of my favorite things about snorkeling here.

Still kayaking


Mangareva is a bunch of small islands inside a single broken encircling reef. This makes it prime kayaking territory -- much like our home waters of British Columbia.

There have been places where we have not used the kayak for a few months. As with anything on our boat, if we aren’t using it, space is tight and we start to wonder if we should get rid of it. P1020497The truth is that the reason that the kayak (and the paddleboard) are sometimes not used is that we are lazy about inflating things and we don’t have enough deck space to store things inflated on transits and still sail. We finally bought a 12V inflation pump which (while pathetically underpowered) does the bulk of the pumping for us.

Now that we are in an atoll where we are staying for a few months, and the distances are small and can usually be sailed on single tacks, we have become a three car family again (dinghy, kayak and paddle board). I think it surprises people to see three inflatable “boats” behind a 35’ monohull.

I love kayaking. It is a great way to explore coral reef laden areas because we have such a shallow draft in the kayak that we touch with our paddles before we touch with our bums. We can get closer to things because we know that we have the power and control to paddle away if needed.  And inflatable kayaks make great snorkel platforms – very easy to roll in and out of the water.

It is always more fun in light or no wind, but we can paddle against some fairly good wind and chop in the kayak and still make way. It adds an element of safety to our exploration.


Our kayak is somewhere near 6 years old and still going strong. We have a bit of tape on the nose where we regularly bang into rocks or grind up onto beaches. The bungee rotted off for the baggage straps on the nose and rear. Otherwise, no holes!


*We are not affiliated with any kayak companies – just happy users.

We are famous!


Well, technically is it our friends who are famous and we are just a blip in the background. And also, famous is probably a bit of an exaggeration…

Our friends are on the cover of the 2014 edition of the popular tourist calendar here in French Polynesia – two monohulls and a catamaran shown moored at South Fakarava. From left to right we have Dream Time, Namaste and Nomad. Estrellita is one of the white masts in the background of the picture.


The photo was taken in 2012. We had just met this group of kiter-diver-cruisers. After this photo we traveled together for three weeks and a subset of these boats traveled together again for a few months this year.

We miss you guys!

Electronic charting on Estrellita: iPad, iNavX and Navionics


First, if you want to know how to set up a real iPad system, and who is a fan of iNavX (with some caveats) read this post and this post by Tucker on Convivia.

We have not set up a similar system and because our iPad isn’t our only navigation system running, we are not sure yet if we will add in the expense of the iMux or similar. Maybe someday...

First, the positive: We have limited experience because our iPad is new to us, but Navionics charts have been better than our other two chart types in the 3 islands in French Polynesia we’ve visited since we picked up an iPad. If friends’ reports are true, this pattern will stay consistent as we head West next year. The general consensus is that Navionics charts win in the South Pacific.


Here is where it gets awkward. Navionics charts are expensive (on a cruising budget) UNLESS you buy them through a single vendor, for use only with iNavX, only on an iPad or iPhone. So, if you want Navionics, you essentially are strong armed into buying an iPad and installing iNavX. The cost of the difference in chart prices essentially pays for an iPad if you can believe it.

So, is being strong armed into an iPad and iNavX so bad? We love our new iPad. It can be annoying because it assumes you are mainlined to the cloud at all times and as cruisers we are definitely not. However, it is fun. It is slick. We feel like part of the techie world again. My ereader broke and although I don’t love the iPad as much for reading I’m very glad that it serves that purpose as well. We have all kinds of other apps crammed onto it that we love. Generally we’re happy to have one aboard.  The only real negative for an iPad with navigation is that because it doesn’t have an easy way to get files on and off the tablet (unless it is networked) it makes swapping files difficult and swapping tracks is a big part of the cruising community at this point. Not that file swapping is possible really with iNavX, but I get ahead of myself…

What I really don’t love is iNavX. It is a shame because it looks so pretty, and swiping your fingers around is so fun…but it cannot do so many of the things I am accustomed to being able to do, as standard, in every navigation program I’ve used. Simple, basic things really. To us it feels like an app, not a fully functional nav program. You can certainly use it to navigate around the world but it is missing the flexibility of a full nav program.

A few of the ways I find iNavX underwhelming:

  1. There isn’t a one touch MOB feature. Woah. What? A navigation program. For sailors. Without a MOB button. I’m boggled. You are supposed to tap on your position icon (hope you can tap exactly where you are in that triangle shape in an emergency) and then select “go to” from the menu in order to navigate back.
  2. The way iNavX handles tracks is terrible: cache and importing. iNavX has already decided how much space you can use on your iPad for tracks. You can’t change this. It doesn’t matter that you bought a 128GB iPad. Even though you have loads of space left on your iPad, your track cache will quickly get full. Your capacity to store tracks also clearly affects importing tracks – your own, or those given to you by another boat. Tracks are not huge files. I am accustomed to having all of my own tracks for an entire country in each of my navigation programs PLUS the tracks given to me by others. In fact, in many programs I can even color code the various tracks so I know which are mine and which are from friends (and which friends). This means, if I want to use my iPad for navigation, I have to set it up with the tracks that I want on it for every navigation rather than knowing that everything is already ready to go.
  3. The way iNavX handles tracks is terrible: naming and exporting. You cannot name a track for a given day. You cannot export a track for a given day. All you can do is export the entire track history from your iPad. Oh, and you need to do your export while online (except when exporting .kmz files if you have also downloaded the Google Earth app). We use GPS Exchange files (.gpx) because they port in and out of all of the programs we use which means we can only back up iNavX while online. That doesn’t really matter though because we don’t use our iNavX tracks because we can’t segment them with the program easily. We could download a separate program to cut and name our iNavX tracks, but why bother when it is easy to do standardly in our other nav programs.
  4. You cannot create a route in a single step.  You must first create waypoints and add them to a route in two separate steps. That’s just silly to me – clearly the most amazing advantage of tablet navigation would be the ability to tap, tap, tap your way to a route. I can click, click, click my way to a route in SAS Planet, in OpenCPN and in SailCruiser so iNavX’s route creation awkwardness felt like a step backward in software.
  5. You must use unique names for waypoints. You cannot have two waypoints called “reef” or “pearl farm” or “Pac Sea Net 1”. If you want to mark a bunch of reefs, or pearl farm buoys, or check into the Pac Sea Net on more than one passage, you have to let them have generic autogen names like WPT00023 or start making up variations. 

Caveat: We are new iNavX users and so I’m hoping to be wrong about the above. I did send iNavX an email about each of the above and they responded to our email quickly (with links to specific pages on their online help which I was able to view the next time I was online). If you know how to fix any of those 5 issues, please dish here.

Electronic charting on Estrellita: Garmin 76CX


P1020419We find that in this region the Garmin BlueCharts are often offset from reality. You might be in the middle of a pass and going over land. However, despite the fact that they are usually off here, sometimes, for whatever reason, they have different info (buoys or markers or depths) than our other charts. Put simply, sometimes the Garmin chart has something on it, that exists in reality, that is missing from our other charts.

You might think that the charting flaws would be a dealbreaker but there are a number of reasons that we really love having a Garmin 76CX (actually, we have two): 1) The combination of a great internal GPS and high resolution tracks mean that we lay down very good tracks that we can then follow if we need to in an emergency, 2) They take very little power and even less power when you darken the screen, 3) They have a nice anchor alarm feature and 4) They have a convenient compass setting that we really enjoy using in the cockpit on passages to give us a running idea in the cockpit of where our windvane is taking us.

P1020420You may ask yourself – don’t you have a compass in the cockpit. YES, of course we do. But our compass doesn’t tell us whether we are right or left of our intended course, what our cross track error is, how many miles we have to go, the time (for watches) and also have charts for the entire Pacific Ocean. We frequently have our Garmin 76CX in the cockpit, plugged in 12V on passage.

It is also a handy size to put inside of our oven, or in our v-berth, or wherever we convince ourselves might be  less affected by lightning, and they are very durable in crappy weather or when dropped frequently in the cockpit (ahem).

Electronic charting on Estrellita: SAS Planet & OpenCPN


This is what the split screen on our netbook looked like when we were making landfall and first anchorage at the town on Rikitea Island, in Mangareva Atoll, in the Gambier Archipelago, French Polynesia (whew! big name, small place).

SAS Planet (on the left) is a neat bit of freeware that allows you to use satellite imagery, from a variety of sources, with a GPS plugged in. It was passed to us on a hard drive but you can download it here. You accumulate a cache of satellite images while you are online. These caches can also be passed around so that the same images don’t have to be downloaded on the slow internet connections in the islands by every cruiser.

SAS Planet allows you to download satellite imagery from various sources including Google, Yahoo and Bing. Because these sources aren’t identical this is very useful. For example, if the Google image for the anchorage you want has a big cloud in the middle, you can try the Yahoo or Bing image – all from SAS Planet.

You can make tracks, and import and export tracks, routes and waypoints in the commonly used .kml/.kmz format.  I use GPSBabel to convert between formats when necessary.

There are a few things I find awkward, such as the fact that the measure tool will only give metric measurements (not nautical miles) and that you have to actively save a track before you close the program otherwise it gets dumped. Also, Google will sometimes lock you out, stopping your ability to download their imagery, if you download too much at once. Still, overall a great piece of freeware.

Having satellite imagery while offline was revolutionary for us.  If you like to pore over images to find out of the way anchorage possibilities, to imagine routes through reef laden areas that will allow you to go somewhere that other people are not going, satellite imagery in some form is the ticket. We had previously tried the Google Earth plug in for OpenCPN and, at least at that early stage of development, found it cumbersome. Take a look at the difference between a CMAP chart and SAS Planet in this close quarters reef navigation (yes, yes, we used our eyes as primary).


OpenCPN (in image above on right) in its newest iterations is a very useful piece of software. It is not as slick as our previous (purchased) navigation software (NavSim’s SailCruiser), but, well, it’s FREE. I love the flexibility and customizability of it. Importing and exporting tracks, routes and waypoints between our various programs is easy. Almost everything in the program can be customized or turned off or on. The plug in we find most useful is the GRIB visualizer. The older versions of OpenCPN worked with a Fleet Nadi plug in as well but we haven’t been able to find that plug in for the newer versions so we are currently running an older version because we download the Nadi Fleet Code regularly with our SSB.

In order to run both programs simultaneously with one USB puck GPS, we downloaded and installed Franson GPSGate. This allows us to take the single COM port created by the GPS and turn it into a bunch of virtual COM ports which can then be assigned individually to any program that wants one.


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


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