Well, here we are a month in the Marquesas already and nearly time to move on. It has gone so fast and so slow at the same time. I am coming to realize how incredible the way of life is here, so much slower than what I have known. The days on shore are filled with fruits falling from trees and people spending time together, maybe a pig hunt or two thrown in. Our reality is watching the sun set surrounded by mountains, while on shore a truck drives past, followed by a man galloping by on horseback, and it is no longer that strange. The smells of fire from cooking breadfruit/goat/pig etc, of earth and fish. Being thankful for a cloudy sky because you won’t die of heat but also praying for sun to charge our battery bank.
We have seen so many islands now and have had such an amazing time here, it is hard to believe it is time to move on but it was a month since we first made landfall yesterday. So, what has happened since that first day in Fatu hiva,
Well here we go…
Our time in Fatu Hiva was beautiful, the bay was surrounded by these dramatic somewhat scary peaks of rock that have been described as looking like tikis and I could see why! Hanavave the town seemed to make most of its money on the cruisers that anchored there, while we were there we were one of 16 boats in an anchorage described as comfortable for 4-5, crowded! The nice thing was that a lot of the boats were people we had already met, so it was like a tiny reunion! Including watching the local kids steal Carl and Cristina’s kayak!
The town itself was tiny, a small slipway where they would launch aluminum boats filled with dogs to go hunt pigs on other parts of the island complete with a Tiki bollard, a basketball court, church, school and one shop. The shop had nothing fresh in it, just canned or frozen things. The baguettes were in the ladies freezer next door. Because you really couldn’t even buy new things, the economy wasn’t focussed only on money, the people there did a lot of exchanging, trade your old things for something they have made and they made some beautiful things. The most unique were the tapas, cloth made from the bark of a tree and hammered until it was soft and supple and then painted, they were beautiful! The tikis carved of stone or wood were beautiful too, really cool to walk past a workshop with a guy and his chainsaw and then to go back and see these polished pieces of art!
I went to church there, a bit nerve wracking as everyone was gathering near the dock where we landed, as Phil dropped me off the whole community turned to look! But what a service, they started by singing with ukuleles as they walked to the church and as they entered the sound was incredible. It was the most joyful service I’ve ever been to. After church my Phil came back to get me and we decided to check out town with Carl and Cristina, keeping in mind that I was wearing my church clothes! We started walking and ended up scrambling up to a waterfall outside of town, it was beautiful and violent, the winds were howling and it had rained a lot so the water was pouring over, bringing small rocks with it sometimes. Just standing close to it was like having a shower and we were all soaked! I went barefoot part of the way back because the mud was so slippery I was skating around inside my flip-flops! Then we decided to take the short cut home and ended up fording a chest deep river!
Our days went by in a blur, other highlights were the kids asking us for bon bons, flutes, yoyos and crayons or to come and see the boat. We finally brought Felix, the quietest and politest kid out for a few cookies and to check it out, no idea if he had fun but it was a cool kayak ride at least!
We hiked up the road to the top of the hill, a hard walk and impressive view! We went on a tiki tour, being taken from one home to the next (you have to see my brother’s work or my aunts tapas) and got two small tapas to remember. We were taken to the police officers house to try to fix his trucks horn and after an hour of trying decided that they had installed the new horn wrong and blown a relay, I am convinced that he will bring yet another cruiser over to try to fix what can’t be fixed! And we went to a local dinner, which was delicious! It was the first time I saw Phil actually eat and enjoy banana. They were mashed up and cooked with cornstarch and coconut milk over the fire for hours. Desire our host woke up at 4 am to prepare everything and it was all done outside over an open fire. The cochon (pig) still had some hair on it, but was incredible despite that, the chicken was not cut into pieces you would recognize but hacked into bits with lots of bone and stewed in coconut milk and she apologized for the pamplemousse, the only thing that wasn’t grown or collected on her land (it came from her sister’s tree!).
It was a great time there and a beautiful place, but at the end we were ready to go and explore more. We decided to head back to Hiva Oa to check out some tikis and also to visit our friends on La Luz, who had made the passage on their 26 foot boat and unfortunately had some rigging problems so they couldn’t keep going until they got their parts. This time in Atuona was a lot better, a better and bigger hole to anchor in, good friends and we had a fabulous visit! I finally got caught up with the laundry, washing it by hand with Zuleyka using the water that came down the mountains. Lots of fresh water showers in the showers by the dock. The most delicious pizza of our lives I think for a special dinner out! We rented a car and drove all around the island seeing incredible tikis and more incredible roads, 2 hours to go 20 km mostly in first gear. Up and down mountains, incredible bays. It was spectacular. We went to a small village called Taaoha and saw the tikis there, unfortunately Doug slipped and cut his head so thankfully we had the car and I got to practice my French at the l’hopital while he was stitched back together! The next day we hiked up the mountain, but on the way picked up 3 followers, a 9 year old girl named Sandrine, 8 year old David and 4 year old Takanui (wearing pjs and David’s flip flops). We of course were decked out in hiking boots and then promptly put to shame by the kids running up the mountainside! What a way to see Atuona, the pride with which they showed us all of their treasured places, the plants, the birds and watching them secretly confer as they choice the best place to reveal the beautiful waterfall on the other mountain. It was awesome in every sense of the word. Surrounded by cliffs, valleys, trees. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.
The next day I begged Phil to climb the rest of the mountain, we figured we had made it about half way the day before and had heard some great things about the top. So up we went, and up and up and up. The path was definitely less than easy but we made it to the top, a real accomplishment and had lunch with the clouds swirling around us. That night was our pizza night and the effort of the day may have had something to do with how delicious it was.
Our last day in Atuona Zuleyka and I went to town to get the provisions for our next few islands and saw a huge party in the main square. There isn’t a lot to do here so any excuse to party is looked upon favourably. This one was mother’s day. We decided to go and tell the boys we should leave in the morning and check out the party that night. We got back close to 4 pm when they said the dancing would start again, and sat around, a great place to relax. Fo Fo, one of the locals took us home with him with the idea that Phil would climb the grapefruit tree. Unfortunately or luckily depending on how you look at it the younger brother was home and they ended up throwing about 10 head sized pamplemousse down to us! A load to carry home. Back to the park and the dancing started, what an incredible show. They were doing war dances with drums and the atmosphere was electric. After the dancing was the mother’s day part. I would never have believed it if I hadn’t seen it. 2 teams, sack races, arm wrestling, tug of war and not a smiling face because it was for money! One of the cruiser mom’s got sucked in and did and incredible job of representing, even winning the arm wrestling contest! What a way to celebrate mother’s day!
The next morning we headed out back to tahuata, a beautiful afternoon sail and when we got there we had the most delicious bbq in the world, in heaven. Ocean, blue sky, calm water and good friends. I think we all ate too much meat, but then went over to La Luz for a party with 7 people on board (not bad for a little 26 foot boat). Phil and I snorkelled all the way to shore the next day and that was my 5 shark day! The water was the clearest I had ever seen in the Marquesas and the snorkelling was beautiful. The most amazing part was the manta rays with 5 foot wing spans. They would swim right up to you and check you out, even upside down to see you better. What incredible creatures! That was our day for cleaning the boats and getting ready to move on. We decided to spend one more day there and I was successful in heading to shore in the kayak with Zuleyka (not getting drenched on our beaching which was an accomplishment) and opening a coconut to drink with only a stick, I’m getting skilled! We didn’t stop by the party on the other boat (later described as a Marquesian dance party though everyone was sitting down) and that evening we headed off into the sunset for Ua Pou.
What a sight, the sun rising and the peaks of what was the inside of a volcano coming into view.
And with that tempting sentence I am going to finish writing! It is the day after my birthday and we are off to the Tuamotus. Looking forward to getting the rest written down so I don’t forget it all!
Nothing is happening in chronological order any more. I am sitting on the boat, sunset, blue sky and clouds rolling by. A coconut beach and mountains covered in green trees. They are so sharp that I can hardly tell you how dramatic and how real they are. Gentle winds, lots of sun today, I managed to get sunburned inside washing dishes! Tomorrow we’ll have been here a week. I can’t believe how fast it’s gone already.
We made landfall last Monday morning, we had to try our best to slow the sails down as we were coming in, a great wind for sailing but if we had let our little seamonkey do what she wanted we would have arrived in Atuona around midnight. As it was we started to converge with other boats around 2 am, Vulcan Spirit, Mawari, Calusa, just lights in the distance. A great hulking shape f an island and then the squalls started to kick in. Phil was soaked, I put on all of my foul weather gear and by the time I had finished my watch I was still dry and had had to strip it all off. I woke Phil up around 4:30 am as we were getting close and there was the faintest of lights on the horizon, the sun was coming. Phil had no luck that day, as soon as he was up the rain set in, I was sent (thankfully) down below to hide and it poured for a solid 20 minutes. In that time we made gains on the other boats and by proper sunrise we were first in the queue to make it into the harbour, Oh what sunrise brought us, soaring mountains, the greenest green we had ever seen. The smells coming into land changed, first the scent of decay and mold, then of fresh rain, and finally sweet flowers and dirt, so strange to have one of your senses going in overdrive all of the sudden. I am glad we made it in when we did, Atuona bay was completely packed, boats everywhere. We had to anchor with both a bow and stern anchor so that you didn’t spin with the wind that was fine until the wind switched directions and started coming from the side (I’ll get back to that in a bit). Sail covers on, instruments turned off, and it was still before 8 am. We saw lots of boats we recognized from Panama and Galapagos, funny to start having familiar faces on the other side of the world. I finally changed my watch from Galapagos time to Marquesas time a 3.5 hour time difference, maybe the only cruiser to sail 3000 miles and still manage to be jet lagged. Phil closed his eyes, 3 hours of sleep just wasn’t enough, and I started to tackle the mold. A month at sea, and not a lot of fresh water meant not a lot of cleaning, and man, did the mold ever take advantage of that. By 10 am I was wiped out and I closed my eyes. We decided to head into town after lunch to check in. A tin of Marks and Spencer’s 3 bean chili (even Phil the hater of beans declared it the most delicious ever and might see if we can get caseloads of M and S stuff sent to New Zealand! We slowly came back to life and then the Belgians came, a huge catamaran parked right on top of us. Of course I was worried, I hate when boats park too close (although if I had known what we had to look forward to the next day I think I would have relaxed a bit). The guy came over and told us it was a French holiday, from what I understand about France is there are more holidays than working days! Maybe I should try to live there sometime! Anyway, then the entire family promptly left their very closely parked, but still moving vehicle and went to shore. We kept an eye on things for a bit and decided it was time for us to go to shore too. Inflated our lovely Beagle (the inflatable kayak) which has been getting a lot of use since Galap and headed to shore. Passed some amazing Polynesian outrigger canoes on the way in, very fit men, beautiful brown skin and incredible tattoos flying through the water. The on shore “shower” was a pipe heading up the hillside When you open the taps a little bit, a little water comes through, a lot and it comes out of lots of tiny holes, a cold freshwater shower, what a treat. We were going to collect some to drink, but when we put it in our white bucket the water was decidedly brown. So although all the local canooers were doing it we decided that my belly might not be able to handle the shock to the system. The rain showers collected on the hillsides and swept down the valley to where we were anchored so we were able to catch some of that, but other than a few gallons of that caught water, we have used less than 40 gallons of fresh water in a month! Our other explorations on land went past the gas station (closed) and out onto the point where the bigger (or less ballsy) boats had anchored. We went past a beautiful family. I am in love with Polynesians, their skin, their facial features, eyes, curly dark hair. There was the most beautiful little girl I had ever seen playing in a stream coming out of the hillside. Then back to the boat, dinner (I can’t even remember what it was, probably fish because at this point after all of the fish we caught all we eat is fish!) and by 7 pm Phil was in bed. Normally we don’t sleep that well after a passage, but I can say that he slept like a baby until the next morning. I only woke up twice, all in all the best sleep in the world!
We set off bright and early the next morning, along the road to the first turn off, down to the black sand beach, across the fresh water stream (very cold!) and then up the secret path, unfortunately it had been raining, so walking up the path in flip flops was tres challenging! We got to the top and I had literally an inch of mud on the bottom of each flipflop and my feet were sliding around so much that I couldn’t really walk, so off came the shoes and I sauntered away towards the town barefoot on the concrete road (delightful to walk on). Phil told me to be careful of the mud, obviously too late so by the time we got into town I was covered! The 2 mile walk didn’t take very long and the scenery was beautiful Not as many birds as I had gotten used to seeing in Galapagos and not as many flowers but such pretty hills and mountains. At this point I was desperate to find a bathroom, covered in mud and had to go to customs to check in. We decided to bite the bullet and went to the Gendarme dirty and hot and not looking like the respectable people we try to pretend to be every time we go through the rigmarole. They sent me thankfully to wash my hands and then to pay my bond. It only took us 10 minutes at the Socredo (the bank) but what a lot of work for one man to do. I was paid for in full by Phil (only feeling slightly like his property now) and have enough money invested in this country to fly back to Canada if I wanted to. Then back to the Gendarme, It was around 9 am by this time of the day and it was no longer the quiet office we had left, it was stuffed full of cruisers, asking all kinds of questions to the poor small French man with no English. Luckily we managed to get all of our paperwork sorted and I learned my new French word of the day (Duane – customs) and then we were cleared in. No Zarpe required (so the running around to get them to change the boat registration from American to Bermuda in Galapagos was a wasted 30 minutes). Then it was off to the shops. There were probably 5 little grocery store/ bakeries around the town, each having most of the staples but a few different things. The most delicious discovery was the French pastries, a pan au chocolat, a fresh hot spring roll and a baguette for $4.00 or 400 CFA still warm and delicious, now I am starting to understand why there are so many big people around! Some pareaus (sarongs) and a few other knickknacks, the prices were high but not so bad as expected, except a few things, the paper towels $8.00, and the can opener ($15.00 – thank you for our spare one grandma, it is still working!). But they had some lovely things to, like tinned butter, which we had heard all about from Adventure Bound and a coconut grater that I didn’t buy but should have. We walked into every single store. Then headed back to the trucks parked beside the stage to buy our vegetables. I love that the fresh veggies are sold directly out of the back of a pickup. Pamplemousse (grapefruits) green and the size of my head (not kidding), fresh green peppers, cucumbers, aubergine, we missed the tomatoes (but got them the next day) and also splurged on a few pineapples. Lugged everything with us and we walked up the side of the hill to sit near Gaugin’s grave in the beautiful cemetery and have lunch of bread and a strange processed cheese that didn’t need refrigerating! It was a beautiful view of the bay and much easier to walk down then up. Afterwards we decided that we deserved a beer and headed to Snack Make Make (we think, it had no name on it), kind of a screened in porch restaurant where all the other cruisers in the world had ended up. It was like a big reunion. The girls from Flow (Norway), Axel and Elizabeth from Goodrun (who came to our rescue later that night and gave us a beautiful inverter which is why I am able to type on the computer now!) and Moin (parked beside us in Galapagos), Venus and Sunrunner. Some of these people I have seen naked (actually most of them it seems, I think the Europeans aren’t nearly as prudish as me! But despite (or because of that) it was still fabulous to catch up. 2 miles back home, back down the death path, which had dried out, and that was our day. The evenings are short. The sun is going down around 5:40 pm and it is pitch black by 6:30, leads to early nights heading to bed, especially while still recovering from our passage. Meanwhile when we got back to the boat we realized that Robin (on Katydid) had anchored right on top of us, literally overlapping a bit close for comfort but the poor guy had been single handing from Panama and had been at sea for the last 48 days, I can understand just wanting to get parked and get to sleep.
Woke up a bit less early the next morning, otherwise known as provisioning day, First stop, the ladies in the trucks, actually first stop was the bakery, second stop was vegetables. Then we went to see the church. It was a beautiful building, carved doors and open windows in stone all the way around, funny to lock the doors when you could so easily climb in the windows. We sat and waited a little rain shower out. Then to the big grocery store, 4 baguettes, a tin of butter (but not as big as the other lady bought!), some super expensive cheese (which comes in little containers like cat food), some pate (which I actually think is mislabelled cat food) and a few other bits and pieces. I always get overwhelmed in a shop, especially when we haven’t been in one for a while, so Phil had to be very patient and tried to get me out of there as soon as possible! The walk home was a bit slower and a bit sad when we saw the cruisers with the wheely bag in a taxi getting a lift back, but beautiful. However, as we got the the overlook for the bay we saw that Robin and our boat were really close. I think the wind had changed and everyone’s stern anchors had dragged a bit, so a jog/walk back to the boat, engine on and we had to re-anchor. Too scary for me, and yet another reason I love anchoring on our own. It wasn’t the last of our anchoring worries, the next morning when I woke up I looked behind us and Shantianna had dragged their stern anchor. The only reason they hadn’t hit us is their whole keel was sitting on our stern line, managed to get moved but it reinforced my desire to get outta there! We got our most expensive laundry in the world (but I couldn’t face doing it all by hand) and had our anchor up by 11 am.
We sailed through some crazy fast winds between tahoiata and Hiva Oa and dropped our anchor in our new favourite bay Itai oa???? By 1:30 pm literally just as the grey clouds rolled in. An afternoon of water collection and pouring rain was just what the doctor ordered, holed up down below, not another boat in sight and nothing to do except for relax, heaven. We are old fogies it seems, it is pitch black by 6:15 pm and we are often in bed by 8, still recovering from the crossing and it is lovely because I can get up before 6 feeling completely rested and happy! We spent the next morning cleaning the bottom of the boat, a much required job in the clearest water imaginable, I decided to take advantage of the incredible visibility and had a snorkel over to the other side of the bay. The schools of fish were huge and beautiful, lots of friends I had never seen before and then duh du, duh du, duh du duh du duh du, a black tipped shark!!!!!!! I swam so fast towards our boat which was forever away but tried to slow down and then tried to snorkel backwards, craziness I know, I spent the entire time trying not to attract the damn thing. They are beautiful creatures but after that I decided not to try to snorkel on my own (although what poor phil would have done to have to save me is anyone’s guess). Anchor up again and then we went to the beautiful Hanamenu bay… oh Hanamenu, the memories. It was a strange sail, good wind at the start which dropped out, a pod of dolphins, about 25-30 amazing creatures, flapping tails and fins, leaping up to 15’ out of the water, playing in the bow wave of the boat, really magical, (although at first I thought it was a huge bunch of sharks, of course!). Wind dropped out and motor on and then we rounded the corner into huge seas and swells, realized we weren’t exactly ship shape (although we were close) and lost the breadcrumbs onto the floor (talk about a sad moment) and then we were there, in the swell and the wind, anchors down, 3 boats in the bay and us, We had lunch (always important and then headed to shore. Landed on the far side of the beach, with a triumphant landing although I got completely drenched, guess I didn’t manage to paddle quite quickly enough! Walked through a stream and made it to a lovely new friends house, Boia (as in beautiful boia we explained). He has been building his house since july and it is beautiful. The bay is described incorrectly as abandoned and I hope people pay it the respect it is due, not stealing the fruit using the houses etc. I worry that a lot of the other cruisers aren’t as bothered about details like that. Oh well, that as just the start of our worrying. Just behind Boia’s house was a beautiful pool, when I say beautiful I mean beyond anything imaginable, fresh water gurgling out of the side of the mountain, amazing plants and trees, incredible. We wandered through the village, a garden of Eden if there ever was one, lemons fallen all over the ground, the smell of ripe fruit everywhere, I will admit I did steal a lime (off the ground) and then we ended up back at Boia’s house where we were sent home with a bunch of bananas and 2 coconuts (which was all we would let him give us). Dinner that night was a delicious concoction of cashew and cranberry covered mahi mahi and a bottle of wine. Then the craziness began. Just after sunset Phil saw a fishing boat motoring around the bay, they came over to shoot the Sh*t with us, not really saying anything, then drifted off to the sound of their engine not starting, The unfortunate thing is that Phil called the whole thing before it had happened. Low and behold Clovis and David were back asking to tie on to us while they tried the motor and of course it wouldn’t start. At this point both phil and I were decidedly uncomfortable; who were these strange men come to our boat in the night? Why didn’t they go to the catamaran to ask for a cell phone (to call their mechanic friend) or ask for a lift to land where apparently they had a holiday house? You could tell they wanted to be invited into the boat and I was too worried so the poor guys slept outside, I didn’t feel that bad (okay I did) because they were planning on fishing at night, so how could they not have jackets, an anchor a cell phone and wouldn’t go to the other boat to ask for any of it…. But we did feel bad. Anyway, after a restless night of wondering if they were poor stranded men, or cannibals or robbers we woke up and they managed to get to shore to Boia and call for help. By 9 am they were off. Oh the sleepless night. Back to land we went. Another walk to the stone stages, another bathe in the pool, what heaven and another armload of fruits from Boia, this time limes, guava, a watermelon, mint and a huge handful of watercress picked from the side of the pool! Lunch was watercress, local tomato, cucumber, and guava salad with a lime vinaigrette! Eating local isn’t so much a choice here as just how things are.
It was time to move on, the rain set in and the cloud of murk and mud was moving towards the outside of the harbour. Almost ship shape, this time we lost a delicious bottle of juice that we had saved from Panama, what a mess! A lovely sail back to our Tahoata bay, no one there, although there were 8 yachts in the bay right next door, less likely to swim this time but we had a wonderful day just getting jobs done on the boat. The saddest thing that happened was one of the pillows I was sunning went overboard. Even though they are covered in mold it was still a loss. Doubt we’ll be able to get another new one until New Zealand. Good thing we have 2 left! We managed to get the rig tuned up, the ceilings scrubbed (stupid liner, I have to do each inch with a brush and really scrub), dishes caught up, and generally felt better about having the boat in shape. I managed to get a decent sunburn, the funniest thing is that I hadn’t spent any time outside; it was through the hatches and windows! Thank heavens for sunscreen.
4:30 am (instead of 3:15 am as was planned) phil and I had the anchor up and heading down the coast towards Fatu Hiva. A glorious beautiful upwind sail. Of course I managed to feel a bit seasick, but it was beautiful out there, wind in the hair, waves crashing over the deck. Our boat was once again so nearly shipshape, this time it was the kitchen table, whose screw we hadn’t tightened up enough that came crashing down on my knee, between this and the cut that is infected on my other knee getting around the boat has gotten a lot harder!
What a bay to arrive in, it was originally called Phallus bay and now the Bay of Virgins (renamed after the missionaries arrived)). Huge tiki shaped cliffs surrounding the bay, crowded but not as bad as atuona. Clear water, fresh air and the mountains… lots of boats we know, Bamboleiro came over for drinks last night, Katydid has anchored a distance away, Aelaris stopped for a quick chat. Nice to start seeing familiar faces. We haven’t made it to shore yet and we’ve been here 24 hours. Apparently there is lovely fresh water on shore so Phil and I have both splurged with a delicious shower indoors, I’m making lunch, clouds are coming and going, inverter from Goodrun is charging all of our stuff, cup of tea (with real milk) cooling down so I can drink it. Lovely. Well, I’m sure in the next day or two we will have lots more adventures and I will keep typing on this. What a lot for you to read!!!
This was it, the big passage, the scariest, most impressive 3000 miles I have ever travelled. How can I begin to explain the challenge of leaving, the fear of not having enough fuel, food and water and the realization that we had so much more than we needed it was ridiculous! Leaving Galapagos was hard, as it always is for me to leave a place I have come to love. The last few days we went to provision, unfortunately the supply ship hadn’t been in for a while, and the bakery with the delicious croissants was closed so we didn’t have any packaged bread, only 2 packs of crumbly tortillas and had to head to the market the morning we were leaving for our fresh fruits and vegetables. It was a fun shop, and ended with a fresh donut, the first I’ve had in ages, a most delicious treat.
We managed to get packed up by lunch time, Bamboleiro heading out about 30 minutes before we left. And with a grey cloud moving in we took the sail cover off, fired up the engine, had a lovely last visit from “happy guy” our favourite water taxi man who spent 5 minutes explaining lots of things in Spanish, asked if I had Facebook and sent us off with hugs and handshakes, a lovely send off. We cleared the harbour and but our sails up, the wind picked up and we were off, Bamboleiro in the distance and with that goal we hoisted first our little spinnaker and then our big one and set out to catch up. We sailed quite close and then we were off, into the sunset.
That first night the sun set around 6 pm, and with the setting sun, Phil went down for his first sleep of the night and I set out to do my first watch. 7-10 or 11 pm, then Phil was on until 3 am, and then I was up until he woke again usually between 7 and 10 am. The sun rose around 6 am and it was a beautiful day at sea. The first few days had a bit of wind, and so it took a while (but no medicine) for my stomach to settle in. We talked briefly about putting out the lines but really our fridge was so stuffed we focussed mostly on eating our way through our supplies. The first day and a bit we sailed through the Galapagos, looking at Isabella a huge mountainous island covered in rain clouds, followed by Galapagos petrels and boobies, even visited by a family of sea lions about 4 miles away from shore. The Galapagos petrels were beautiful, tiny little birds that would flit right over the waves. When it was calm they would dangle their long spindly legs down and wiggle their toes in the water (to attract fish?) it looked like they were dancing.
We lost sight of land by the third day and that was it, we were out in the pacific. The days drifted into a regular rhythm and within a few days the seas had calmed down enough that I felt pretty good and was actually managing to do things around the boat, cook lunch, do dishes, tidy up, just bits and pieces but more than I had managed on past passages. We had so much food we could barely see into the fridge and getting what you wanted out became a cross between a mission and a joke. Sunscreen every day and I still managed to get burned. Gave up on exercises the rolling was a trial enough. Our typical day felt like it started in the evening when we both had dinner, then we just rolled into the events of the day, setting sails, checking sail trim and making sure we didn’t run into anyone. Some boats didn’t use a watch system, terrifying because we knew they were out there somewhere and we managed to spot two large fishing boats that didn’t appear on our AIS about 1100 miles away from Galapagos and 1800 to go to Marquesas, literally in the middle of nowhere. We were often surrounded by mother carey’s chickens otherwise known as Galapagos storm petrels, really cool little birds that would dangle their feet in the water so they looked like they were dancing on it. We also took great pride in our boat pets, drosophila (fruit flies) that mainly lived in the bathroom and started to mutate (lots of albino ones) and our crab, which lives in the drain in the back of the cockpit, he has molted at least 2 times and I just saw him looking gloriously happy. He would always come out when we caught a fish to check out what was happening.
Our water maker didn’t work for the duration of the passage (we figure the airlocks in the system just weren’t budging) so we were on a pretty tight water restriction while still drinking absolutely as much as we wanted, we ended up using about 30 gallons over 22 days (not including the rain water I collected for “showering”). Pretty good, used it mostly for drinking, teeth and rinsing the glasses, for some reason salty plates and bowls weren’t so bad (because of washing them in salt water) but salty glasses were terrible). Of course our fresh water washes were a highlight of the trip, to feel less salty and sticky and sunscreening, and to finally get to wash my hair which was feeling way too long! Phil had the same problem, but in 25 kts of wind I managed to give him a haircut on the back of the boat! (only went too short once and it has mostly grown out now!).
The first few days were tough to get up to do my watch but as the days turned to weeks we stopped needing alarm clocks and started to just wake up after about 3 ½ hours. Of course some days were harder than others, on those whoevers was feeling stronger would manage to do a longer watch, much to the relief of the sleepy one.
This was such an incredibly different passage compared to the Caribbean, we only had a few waves that managed to slop into the boat (as opposed to the majority of waves finding a way of getting us wet) and the winds were more variable. The nice treat was the boat was way less salty than usual, although because we had the hatches closed it got really humid inside and the mold won more than one battle.
I wish we had been able to say (as some of the boats did) that we never turned on our engine. But, when it was too calm to move and the swell was slamming our boom (or just our sail) back and forth shuddering the whole rig we both decided that our incredibly expensive diesel from Galapagos was worth it (especially when we got to the Marquesas and realized that diesel is in such short supply that some boats were waiting at least 2 weeks before they could get enough fuel to move on, I’m glad that we actually manage to sail our sail boat!).
How did we pass the time? I had all of these visions of writing and drawing and reading. I did manage to do some of those things, and also to sleep, lots of sleeping. Watch at night was a cross between trying to do things by flashlight and managing to just watch the stars and the ocean, the fish jumping, the phosphorescence, the moon. The nights were magical and I wish I knew my constellations better. During the day our watch system was less set out, have breakfast, try to sleep (that was my hardest thing, trying to fall asleep after the sun came up for my second 4 hour sleep of the night I often didn’t manage which led to some very sleepy days). Then it was lunch time, do the dishes, sit, daydream, and maybe after we had eaten enough out of the fridge put the fishing line over.
We managed to catch 3 fish (and 1 that got away). The first was a small Dorado/mahi-mahi or dolphin fish whichever you like, DELICIOUS! We landed it at sunset and Phil decided he wanted second dinner at 9 pm, a ludicrously late time at night for some reason when you are at sea! It was the most delicious and freshest pan fried fish in the world. The second night we had fish sticks! A few days later we saw another sailboat on the horizon, Robin who had sailed directly from Panama to Marquesas; he was on day 40 of his passage (yikes) and told us about a radio net we could listen to with some good info on the latest formalities. We were contemplating making landfall at Fatu Hiva, the southernmost island which wasn’t exactly a port of entry. We decided that neither of us would be comfortable watching to make sure people didn’t ask for our papers so we ended up heading straight for Hiva Oa. BUT the point of this was for the next 3 days every time Phil hooked up the radio to listen to his net about 15 minutes in we would catch a fish. The first one was a seamonster that landed on our tiny spinning reel with the smallest lure available. Phil fought with it for a solid 15 minutes before it escaped; it was like a fishing show on tv! The next night we caught another fish on that reel. I only found out because as I went outside to chop vegetables for dinner I saw that all the line was gone and the reel was bending over. That time it was a skipjack tuna (for about 3 blissful seconds we thought it was a Bluefin, oh well! The sucker was about 25 lbs and after making dinner with him the first night Phil and I decided that from now on that kind of fish would be known as the chicken of the sea. The next afternoon I decided to try my luck one more time and this time I landed a 3 foot dorado!!! He was so big that we couldn’t even lay him out in our cockpit for filleting and had to do it in stages instead! Little did we know those two fish would feed us for the next 2 weeks (every night, day in day out over and over and over, how many ways to cook a fish!).
To make the most of the wind Racer Phil took advantage of all of the sails we had, changing them up and down and hoisting our spinnaker at regular intervals. We flew our big symmetrical spinnaker for over 48 hours and our smaller a sail for 56 hours, they both suffered a bit, our small asymmetrical spinnaker chafing through its stitching and tearing a bit (we have yet to fix it). It was so good to be flying along though, and at night, ghosting through the water with the spinnaker happily catching as much wind as it could.
As the trip drew to a close we seriously considered turning around for 100 Nm just to have another few days at sea. The lifestyle, the simplicity, the joy of seeing dolphins playing around the boat was incredible. I forgot to tell you about the dolphins, we were surrounded by 50 or more! Playing in the waves, playing with the boat, I didn’t hear them squeaking but the most incredible thing was watching a mother and a tiny copy, her baby mirroring each other exactly as they flew through the waves. It was a moment I will never forget.
Finally as we came in ever closer to land we started to see other boats, Mawari who we had crossed a few days earlier at sea complimenting us on our spinnaker flying, Vulcan Spirit, Calusa. We managed to go from a second place spot to a first place by manoeuvring and as we came through one of the showers to the sun rising, a rainbow and the green beyond green of the land. And that was it, the end of our passage and the beginning of the south pacific. That is all I can remember now, not bad for finally getting around to writing this nearly 2 weeks after the fact. Stay tuned, heading off to write about the Marquesas now!
It has been another 2 weeks in Galapagos and we have had some wonderful adventures. A hike with friends to see a swallowtail tern colony and blue footed boobies sealions and turtles surfing along side the surfboards. We rented bicycles and took a taxi up to the volcano, cycled down one side to check out the Galapagos tortoise breeding colony and a cool beach then back up (which was torturous, wasn’t sure if I was going to make it) and then back down the other side, I was so tired of hauling on the brakes I didn’t even notice that my legs were tired! A hike over lava rocks to a deserted beach we shared with some sealions and an iguana or two, a snorkel to Leon Dormido and our first sharks (cute little Galapagos ones), we kayaked around the corner and played with sealion pups and got scared when mama came to check us out, at the end there were 10 of them swirling around us, saw turtles on the way home. On less of a fun note our house batteries and inverter have met the end of their life. With a lot of hilarious Spanglish I managed to find some new batteries and we once again have electricity at night (but can’t charge the small laptop b/c of the inverter thankfully we can charge the back up laptop! Phew!) and we bought 25 gallons of water from a water purifying/radio station with the girls working in both places dancing around us and singing. We’ve had fabulous 3.00 lunches of soup, rice, meat and juice, I’ve learned to always carry toilet paper because seats and TP are optional in bathrooms and to get used to things shutting from 12-4 for siesta. We smile at the locals, have friends that are our taxi drivers and discovered that there is exactly 1 store on the island with softserve icecream (everyone else has run out). Today it has been rainy and I tried to finish up provisioning but the market wasn’t open, guess we’ll be back on shore tomorrow for one last shop before a month at sea! If you don’t see position updates try not to worry (impossible I know) but really we are looking forward to our time at sea and seamonkey is ready for the trip!
Talk to you from French Polynesia! Don’t forget to check the at sea blog and our position updates on the external link (see the at sea page) and if you get bored search for our friends on Bomboleiro (Christine and Carl) who are leaving the same day as us! Keep us in your thoughts and we’ll send pictures when we get to the next internet spot!
Still 50 miles from San Cristobal and the bird life was already incredible. We arrived in Galapagos at sunrise, to wreck bay, full of cruising boats. Saw some familiar boats already, our new friends for the rest of the voyage??? Within minutes of dropping our anchor Pedro an agent came to arrange the port captain’s visit. Within an hour we had 4 people on board, checking our supplies (had to give up a lime and 2 remaining oranges), filling in paperwork and getting organized, and without quite knowing how it happened we were in a water taxi heading to land. I was so exhausted, as happens after a long passage, but we made it to shore with our brains still almost working and managed to get through the formalities. The strangest part was paying our parks fees/agent fees/immigration fees/ quarantine fees all at Pedro’s “office” in the back of a tiny shop on the big chest freezer, so strange! Then we were left to our own devices until 3 pm when we had to go back to collect our paperwork. We hadn’t planned on being ashore all day but thankfully I packed sunscreen; the equatorial sun here is crazy bright! We wandered through town, checking out the sights. It is a great little place, the front street has a bunch of shops and restaurants, beer at the local places is $1.50/bottle (or 2.50 for a big bottle) sea lions lounging about all over the boardwalk. They have really done a lovely job developing the walkway, lots of benches to check out and some sketchy things to (following the Latin American “if they are stupid enough to try it isn’t our fault they got hurt) including 2 children’s slides that go from the boardwalk into about 10 inches of water at low tide in a sea lion infested pool! The board walk is fabulous, my favourite are the people that walk along the narrow waterfront bit just far enough to run into a sea lion then have to turn back and walk the rest of the way to get around them!
We found a great place for lunch, run by the happiest people in the world, they sold hamburgers (fairly sure it wasn’t at any point in its life beef) and milkshakes with tonnes of fruit hanging all over the shop, a really fun and friendly place and just what the doctor ordered after 8 days at sea. We wandered around town, found Pablo and got our paperwork and were just sitting in a little park when we ran into Doug and Zulaica from La Luz who we had met before when we were in Panama city. They took us for our first fabulous beer, it was delicious, and then I slept!
We are anchored near a few rafts that during the day are covered in sea lions, such funny noises, kind of a cross between a sneeze, a bark and an old man coughing. Watching them swim under the boat is incredible! The second day here I jumped in the crystal water and took a look at our poor little seamonkey. She was covered in brown slime on the topsides just above the water line and below the water was absolutely COVERED in these cool little stubborn little pain in the tucas little gooseneck barnacles. They were pink and flowery and you could see them floating their little tentacles into the current catching dinner. Then I took a scraper and without a second thought I scraped the poor little things right off! Felt good to have our boat a bit cleaner but it was amazing how much stuff managed to grow in 8 days at sea. Poor Phil, it pains him to have a not clean boat bottom. He is counting down to Tahiti when we might actually have a chance to get some more antifouling on there.
The sea lions really love sitting out of the water so dinghies are at a high risk of sinking. There is also nowhere to leave the dinghy on shore so they have water taxis that head over to the boats and take us to shore. It costs a dollar each way which can get expensive when you want to go in more than once a day, but it is an easy way to get around. Don and Phyllis took us for a delicious lunch, 3.50 for soup, rice, meat, potatoes and juice, a great deal! Wednesday we were possibly going out for a tour but decided we were still too tired, a good thing to because the rain came! I was going to go and buy water with Zulaica and luckily we waited because between our new bucket/roof water catcher design and me sitting with a pot outside collecting water off our sunshades we managed to fill up our tanks with at least 20 gallons of water! I think Bermuda and drinking roof water made it an easier transition for drinking rain water off the roof (although we still couldn’t bring ourselves to drinking water off of the foredeck, too much panama dirt still ground into the decks). It was incredible to watch the water go from so clear you could count the fish and watch the sea lions to brown with run off and plants floating past. Water is a hot commodity here, not a lot and when it rains like this they can have contamination in the drinking water. This is a place where it is worth buying bottled water.
Finally headed off the boat into town, to check out the sea lions and have a bit of a walk, once again found Doug and Zulaica and had dinner out. It has been really lovely eating in restaurants, especially since we aren’t allowed to throw our organic waste away. They were really insistent on no organic waste from boats heading to shore. Makes you not want to have a lot of organic trash!
Thursday, the swell rolled in, I hadn’t realized what a lovely happy, comfortable princess I had become, watching the swell and trying to get anything done on the boat was impossible. We decided to get off and head to shore (thank heavens) and walked over to the interpretation centre. We also went past GAIAS a satellite campus of University San Francisco in Quito (on Friday I headed in and am going to check out a class on Monday!). Then up to the nature reserve and interpretation centre. It was so well done, lots of history on the island and some stuff about the future of Galapagos. They are huge into their sustainable development here, developing tourism to be sustainable, renewable energy, the water crisis and immigration. Really interesting, and very cool to learn that this hasn’t been a deserted island just found by Darwin but has had a thriving community for centuries. There was a really beautiful hike around the nature reserve and we saw our first marine iguanas while watching a bunch of guys surfing at Carola. Finches, a smooth billed ani, frigate birds, pelicans, snakes, lizards, it really was wildlife central and I wish I had an ID book to use. There is an amazing bay for snorkelling and when you stand above it there is a perfect view down to watch the sea lions playing. I think it is only with that perspective that you can begin to understand how fast these guys can move. So cool to watch them play. We saw a booby fly overhead. I had seen a bluefooted booby flying around the anchorage the day before, in the driving rain; hope we’ll see another one! Climbed all the way up frigate bird hill and it was an incredible view. So many living things, so unafraid, it is like I imagined. On the way back down it started to rain, that’s when I realized my flipflops were past their useful life. They were so slippery Phil had to hold my arm like a little old lady all the way into town! Again, ran into Doug and Zulaica and another lovely dinner with them and with Don and Phyllis, no one wanted to be on the boats as they were flopping around in the swell, it was impossible to do anything on them, and difficult to sleep. The next morning though Phil woke up and took advantage of it and went for a 3 hour surf with Doug. I had a surf of my own, trying to use the internet in the town. It is incredible what you get used to. I miss having internet that works. Even in an internet café there was not a lot of connection. Did the best I could but that is why I haven’t managed to post anything in a while.
That afternoon I needed some nature so we went back to Frigate bird hill for another little walk over the volcanic rock. It is a great area, lots of locals swimming, jogging on the paths it was really good to see so many people out and about. I jumped into the bay and had a sea lion swim right under me. I thought it was the most amazing thing until I watched a couple of German tourists with no fear of the barking sea lions have a little pup come right over and swim around them, doing circles and floating on its back. Really want to try getting in the water there again. Saturday morning I was up bright and early to head to the market. It wasn’t the most fabulous market in the world. Not a lot of different produce than we have seen at the grocery store, peppers, mangoes, a peach, and some pears. Bought some meat, so different than the sterile grocery stores of north America. A chunk of meat hanging or on the counter, no washing hands, cutting off a chunk and putting it into a scale that just held a piece of fish or some chicken. I had the option of fresh chicken, still with feathers and clucking, feet bound together, couldn’t even imagine what to do with it! The fish was a challenge enough! After shopping I wandered through the town and had a really lovely look around. They had closed off the street the market was on and a tonne of information booths were set up. I learned about the sea lions which seem to be everywhere but are in fact endangered, some of the local plants, pest control… a bit of everything! Came home with so much Spanish literature Phil just laughed! That afternoon we headed to Lobaria, the sea lion sanctuary. It was a long sweltering walk on pavement, started to understand why people pay for a taxi! It was a beautiful beach, the surf was still breaking. We saw more marine iguanas and sea lions. A little bird tried to flit under my hat which was the only shade in a long way. Phil had a lizard crawl on his shorts which were the colour of a rock, very nature time! The path seemed to go a long distance, yet another hike I would like to do. The longer we stay the more adventures there seem to be! On the way home we decided to jump in the water, the visibility wasn’t fabulous because of the surf, but what a snorkel. So many cool fish that I have never seen before. Angel fish with really different colours, black fish with yellow lips, parrot fish not like normal. Then the amazing things, a sea snake (or an eel) yellow with black spots, slithering past beneath me and two HUGE rays, the big one (with no spots) had at least a 5 foot wingspan and it glided not 3 feet underneath of me, followed by a slightly smaller one with spots. Unfortunately they were out of sight before Phil could stop to take a look. The currents were pretty big there, so you couldn’t go too far out, but I’m looking forward to getting back in the water there. Apparently there are often big turtles which would be great to see! After our adventure we caught up with Bombelero (who had just arrived from panama city) and La Luz, starting to get to know the other boats and so strange to think this will be our caravan community for the next long time! Then brought Doug and Zulaica over for dinner, it was nice to cook on the boat again and to have company.
Yesterday (Sunday) was rain, collected another 10 gallons of water, like mana from the heavens. Phil got a few jobs done and I managed to launch to Beagle (our inflatable kayak) making it much easier to hop around the anchorage to have a few little visits with people. It is funny for 50 cents you can get to another boat, but it is so much more fun to go on my own. I pulled up to Solstice and had a bit of a visit and came out to an “oh dear” I had left the kayak alongside solstice and a sea lion as big as me was lounging in it! In response to my oh dear, he looked at me, barked and then flopped back over the side!
So here we are this morning, I am off to head to class, interested in what they teach here and how they teach so I’m going to sit in on a few lectures. Phil is going to paddle me over and I will probably swim home, how funny is that! We still want to head out for a dive/snorkel in the offshore waters and are looking forward to our land tour. Then there are all the hikes around. We have been here a week today and it has gone fast! Hope to post this soon
The first of our big passages hello pacific. I think I’ve been waiting my whole life for you. Here we are on day 5 of the passage and I now understand why people would actually want to travel by sail boat. Flat seas, 10 knot winds from behind, blue skies, amazing. We set off on the afternoon of St. Patrick day. I unfortunately took a seasickness pill that made me loopier than just being at sea, it has so much calmer than our anchorage in Panama city It was heaven to finally be on our way again. Like a weight had been lifted off of us. The first day we each saw a few ships, and then nothing until yesterday. It is sweltering hot in the day but at night time, especially the first few nights it was beyond freezing. T-shirt, long sleeved shirt, fleece, foul weather coat, long pants and rain pants, wrapped in a fleece blanket and still chilly. We are doing watches now. Finally starting to get into the rhythm of it and feeling less of a zombie than those first few days. Phil is on watch from 7-11, I’m on till 2 am, He’s back on until 6 or so, then I’m on till 11 am, then we nap as needed until the next night. Those first few days you feel like the night of the living dead. But we are more into a routine now and feeling better. WE have been away from shops for nearly 2 weeks and still have enough food for an army. Actually worried about eating all the fresh stuff before Galapagos in case they quarantine it and try to take it away. Day one was a lovely sail, day 2 we put up our big spinnaker and flew before the wind, day 3 we put fishing gear over board, Phil caught our first fish ever, a skipjack tuna (about 6 lbs.) within 30 minutes of putting the hook over. With our trusting fishing guide in hand we managed to kill and fillet it and have some for lunch, pretty incredible. I decided I didn’t want to miss out on the fun so I put the line back over, by 6 pm I was reeling in my first catch a 5 lb. yellow fin tuna, delicious. Tried a recipe for ceviche (lemon onion, tom, pepper and raw tuna) delicious, and had the rest marinated in chili sauce the next day with coconut rice from my hand collected and grated coconut, talk about eating local!. Realised we are going to need to work out more fish recipes soon. Yesterday was a day of rest. Our big spinnaker had some pre-existing love wounds on it including a patch that featured duct tape. So we have been relying on the little on. The wind typically fails a least 2 times a day and we’ve used nearly half a tank of diesel so far, with the doldrums left to come. Still have lots on board though. Later that same day we had a pod of dolphins come and ply, there were 5 of them, playing in the bow waves, going from the front of the boat to the back, playing with each other, hey staid with us for 20 minutes at least and it was such an incredible experience, it really felt like a privilege to be out here and see them. That night as I was trying to sleep at 7 pm (a hard thing to do even when exhausted Phil shouted for me to come up. The nights have been so dark, not a star in the sky because of the clouds and no moon so it is hard to tell the horizon from the water, but the phosphorescence has been amazing. Our friends were back, leaping around the boat, we could only see the; bioluminescent splashes where they landed, One of them came like a bullet under the boat; the only thing giving him away was the trail of green. Yesterday was the long liners, from out of nowhere, haven’t seen another person for 4 days this little 25 foot outboard boat comes up to us and tells us in Spanish they have a long line out for fishing. I have never woken up so fast from a nap hearing Phil talking to another boat. That was the first of 5 separate fishing teams, some asked for food, others just escorted us through and past their lines so we wouldn’t snag it or break it and one guy looked really angry when we told him we had no cigarettes on board. My favourite boat was Devino nino jesus. I couldn’t’ imagine being stuck out on the water 100 miles from shore with no shelter, it is hard work. Whatever they were doing with those long lines it was more wildlife than we had seen in ages, big game fish jumping, our first potential shark spotting (just saw a fin from a distance), a school of big fish leaping out of the water like dolphins, incredible. Today is a day for recouping, Spinnaker has been taped, Dishes washed from last nights feast of vegetable stir-fry and homemade apple crumble (which Phil has declared to be his new favourite boat thing), a fried breakfast this morning. It is so much better than just hanging on. I’m typing on the computer in the shade of our sunshade, trying to keep the spinnaker flying as we head ever closer (currently 58 Nm from the equator. We have bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate, but not sure how that I’ll go with our current eta of 5:30 am. Another night watch ahead, a blackness, broken by the kitchen timer ringing every 10 minutes, sometimes a sail change, often watching the birds that pluck things from our wake, the bioluminescence of the waves, or our wake behind us, sheet lightening last night, stars if we are lucky. A quiet, peaceful, happy time. Looking out for boats, but knowing you are probably not going to see them. I love it here, I told Phil I hope that this will be sailing from now on. I know we won’t be that lucky but it has been heaven. Off of the computer, time to check the weather and see where the intertropical convergence zone is, how many more days will we be able to sail before we hit the doldrums? Will try to type again soon.
A part of Panama that even I could love! It took us only a day to sail from Panama city to Las Perlas, beautiful winds, calm seas and you could actually see that we were leaving the smog behind. What a blessing. Our little Seamonkey was laden with fruits and vegetables, packaged meats, only 2 loaves of bread for Phil (a mistake we realized quite early on) and enough blocks of cheese for an army.
Las Perlas is a common visiting spot for boats en route to Galapagos or those just getting away from the city. Because it is so close it makes it really easy to get to. Phil had carefully picked our anchorages from our Panama cruising guide, a purchase I wasn’t sure about at the time but was so worth it after the sailing we’ve done and the secret spots it let us find. We sailed past Contdora, the island where most people sail to (closest to Panama city and has a tienda (shop) and facilities and looked over our shoulder to see a fleet of no less than 40 boats all anchored there, we had only just escaped that kind of madness and I wasn’t ready to sign up for another session of “the net” again. I think Phil knew I needed to be away from people so he sailed me on to a tiny bit of island that had 17 feet of tide. It is incredible to sit in one spot and watch the landscape shift around you. The thing that took my breath away was the bird life. It is the first time we had heard birds (with the exception of the mockingbirds and the damn parrots in a cage at Isla Perico) and it was beautiful. That first night we lit the bbq, had a beer (not the most delicious as it had been frozen and thawed numerous times, but delicious none the less and enjoyed. We had arrived at mid-high tide and tiw as amazng the next morening to see an island where there had only been water the day before. We were woken up to the songs of birds singing on our rigging, and perhaps trying to make a nest in our folded up sail, we might never know! I jumped overboard and that is when we realized, that although we were in paradise it still had drawbacks. The water was green and as thick as pea soup But worse than that was the state of our boat bottom. Poor little seamonkey, barnacles almost an inch thick as far as the eye could see, tiny shrimp making a biofilm over everything. I now understand so much better why people study natural things for materials sciences, those barnacles hung on with a lot of force better even than 5200! So scraper in hand I went at it. I was probably in the water close to an hour and when I came out I was as close to hypothermic as I had been sine my childhood swims in Emerald lake. It is such a strange feeling to be shivering uncontrollably when it is 30 C outside. I wrapped under a few blankets and when I finally warmed up we went to explore low tide land. The tiny top of the mangrove bushes near us were now trees standing a solid 10 feet above the water level. The small breaking rocks that we hadn’t even been able to see the day before was an island. It was incredible. We headed to low tide island first; the shells were amazing and the comb jellies, glimmering past us in the water. Periwinkles, crabs in tide pools, so cool! Then we headed to the islands that had “land bridges” at low tide. Where the water had reached was now a scorched desert, barnacles crackling as I walked over them (and felt a little stab of revenge for all that the ones on the boat had put me through). There was a river that was cut off at low tide with some amazing puffer fish, small fry and other pacific fabulous creature, a solid 10-15CC higher than the water coming in. I found a beautiful scallop shell to go digging with and my biggest regret was not having a better pacific ID book. Our last stop was the seashell beach. It was like the Party beach we drove up to in Barbuda but only with whole beautiful pink shells. It was beautiful. A good rest under a tree, past some oyster catchers on a rock that we hadn’t seen on the way back home, one again reminding us of the dangers of crazy tidal regions and then to work on the boat. These jobs are never done it seems. Phil spent the afternoon putting our rain water catchment in place after scrubbing the dirt from the solar panels and roof, so gross! In the meantime a boat with some fishermen came into our previously deserted bay, oh well; it was nice to have the place to ourselves while it lasted. The next morning we decided to move on to another anchorage, this one featuring a fabulous long beach. More than that was the bird life. As we were sailing in we saw a flock of birds, at least in the hundreds fishing. We couldn’t make out what kind they were but in our bay we saw passing flocks of pelicans, cormorants, terns, gulls, swallows. It felt prehistoric watching them wheel about the boat and dive to fish. They were everywhere, huge flocks flying past us, they roosted on some uninhabited islands nearby so that was our adventure for the next morning, A beautiful picture perfect island, small rocks and trees covered in white, turned out it was guano. Palm trees that someone obviously was caring for. Such a beautiful place. Our trip to the shore in front of us had a long walk on the beach, but also a road going past so not quite that same deserted magic. That afternoon we were again in the water scraping away, this time the visibility was even worse, like swimming in mud. I couldn’t tell if the shrimp were from our boat or just passing along in the water but when I was done I was once again blue, but also covered in shrimp, yuck! These are not the delicious eating kind, although I would have loved to have my revenge on them with their bigger cousins too. Time to move on again, we sailed all day nearly 17 miles down to the southern end of Las Perlas to a beautiful anchorage, or it would have been if there wasn’t a huge swell rolling in. As it was it was one of our harrier “check it out sessions” Phil the surfer wasn’t happy with the shape of the wave breaking on the beach, I wasn’t happy with the roaring of the surf so in the end after a miraculous U turn we were out of there and looking for another spot to rest. We had left early in the day so had plenty of time to sail onwards. We headed west to the last island in the chain and found a perfect spot in paradise. It is Phil’s favourite anchorage to date, me to maybe. A huge beach covered in palm trees and green plants, red cliffs. It is apparently privately owned, but here were no lights that we could see, no traffic to hear, it was heaven. When we arrived there were three other boats in another part of the bay, but this bay was so huge we still found a spot all our own. The first night we fell asleep to the sound of surf breaking on the beach. We spent the next day trying to get the boat sorted out. Once again, my least favourite thing to do, attacking the barnacles, this time I was learning though and managed to put on my wetsuit staving off the cold! Phil worked on other bits and pieces around the boat, the list is ever growing and I’m looking forward to the day we can just relax without a kazzilion things we should be working on. The next morning up again and back to work on things, We had a fabulous field trip to shore though, the swell was finally calm enough to land the Mighty Quinn on that stretch of beach and we walked and walked, found and harvested our first coconuts for eating, saw snake tracks and wild pig tracks and even heard one in the jungle. It as the wildest place we have been on this trip. Saw a jellyfish unlike any I had seen before floating past us beneath the portabote, showing us it wasn’t really mud soup water. We got the watermaker working, the latest bane of our existence and filled our tanks (the sludge left in the filter was amazing). Managed to husk, grate and toast my first coconut, delicious, although my first attempt at coconut milk left something to be desired. Then it was onto our final preparations for the Galapagos passage. Cooking up a storm, pasta, coconut curry and rice, chicken, steak. Our fridge was loaded. Phil connected a new system so we can now charge the batteries while the engine is running, installed a see-through shower curtain over our instruments in case of any splashes down below and started to get our fishing gear ready. The next morning we had a few jobs to finish up with, and didn’t’ rush like the usual 7 am departures, instead we had a really beautiful day and left around 1;30 pm, onto Galapagos
Such a country, some people love it here and there are things I can really understand about that, but some of the time it is so beyond frustrating it isn’t true! Some of Panama has been breathtakingly beautiful. We’ve seen dolphins, iguanas, butterflies, incredible birds and yesterday a family of 2 toed sloths, incredible!!! Mama and baby in one tree, daddy in the other, we are going to try to go and see them again today. Even more amazing, we saw them when they were awake, apparently a rare treat! Bad things have included flocks of vultures, I have never really seen a flock of vultures and it isn’t pretty. They were burning weeds for the first week we were here too, so every day smoke and ash covered the boat. It felt like hell. On a brighter note we have also had some amazing adventures, including the mall (where I was stumped while trying to order a baked potato from Wendy’s another crushing blow). Luckily our Spanish has gotten marginally better, making communicating simple things easier, but more complex ideas are still beyond us. The gutting news of the day is that we can’t get the boat hauled out, even more sad because we really thought we were organized and ready for it all a week ago. That means in the next two days getting ready for fuel/water/food then heading off to Las Perlas then Galapagos! We have never had the boat so full of food and drinks, not sure where we are going to fit more. There are so many more adventures to do here too, always the way, you discover more the longer you are in a place. Hopefully will try to do some research about good things to do (for not that much money) in San Cristobal Galapagos, from the sounds of things it can be really expensive, but I’m sure we will find some good adventures none the less. Really looking forward to good clean water and a snorkel in las perlas, apparently the diving is incredible, but with this head cold I don’t think I’ll be trying to equalize my ears any time soon! It will be nice to be in a beautiful place to clean the boat (groan)… at least we will probably get faster at it! Phil has just gotten back from cleaning out our poor engine on the mighty Quinn. The boat SANK while tied up behind the yacht the other day, phil says it was just swamped but still!!!! He got in and bailed faster than someone in a Bermuda fitted dinghy! Amazing, he got it up and floating and had it driving like a race car not long afterwards.
That’s all for today, I’m going to go curl in bed, 32 C, feels like 37 C outside, or maybe a fever, who knows. More soon
Being in a big city finally affords the luxury of shops, but every time we head out shopping we realize more and more how lucky we were in Bermuda. The grocery stores all had fresh meat and while you had to pick the vegetables carefully there were always good ones to be found. Phil has come to realize even the boat stores and hardware stores have been vastly better stocked than the ones here in a huge city. It might be that all of the parts are here, just spread out, or they might really not have the selection. In any case, we have been running all over town trying to get all of the things we need for the next leg of the trip.
Marcelle and I had a fabulous adventure to the Mercado Amados (a fruit and vegetable market). After standing on the side of the road for an hour waiting for the bus, the American’s we were with decided to catch a taxi. Really I would have been happy to get in for $4.00 but after the first 2 drove away I would have gladly paid $5.00. But they were having none of it, so we stood and waited for another 30 minutes to save a dollar. The market was impressive, lots of fruit and veg, we got the tourist prices of course but it wasn’t too bad, and the produce was worlds better than what you can find in a grocery store. Laden with bags (including Marcelle’s best buy of the day 4 tiny pineapples for a dollar) we headed to a lunch stall and had our $2.50 for chicken, rice, beans and strangely spaghetti! Neither of us speak much Spanish but we still managed to have a good conversation with the lady who ran the shop (originally from Dominica). The next day Phil and I did our big store shopping, we went to MegaDepo, Panama’s answer to Costco without a membership, it was wonderful! We have eaten through our cashews that Hilary brought us in Bermuda and have finally restocked the supply, found a solar garden light that is our new energy efficient anchor light, went to a hardware store and bought all of the pieces to make a rain water collector and stopped at the nice grocery store for chocolate muffins, nice meat and a few delicious treats for our passage. Met another lady coming back to the boats who refused to pay 8.00 instead of 6 to get home with her $400.00 worth of groceries, I find it hard to understand. Especially when after we eventually got into a taxi, they charged us $ 10 and we were completely laden (including bags on laps and at feet). Anyway, I am glad that Phil and I are together and don’t mind spending on taxis if we really need them, and equally don’t mind walking or taking the bus. Especially in a country where although there is that level of always being pressured to spend, they are also trying to earn a living, costs aren’t so cheap here and gas is expensive. That is my rant for the day. A few more trips to shops close by and hopefully we’ll be able to do some fishing now (Phil has been loving his fishing book), found our bbq gas supplies and a few other odds and ends. We have two more trips planned into the city, one to go to the mall (such a treat to buy everything we need in one place) and hopefully back to the fish market for another chill afternoon.
I finally feel like you are caught up on this place! Sorry for all of the writing, will try not to get so behind again. Hugs to everyone!
First city we’ve been in since Toronto? London? Skyscrapers, taxis everywhere neighbourhoods, a beautiful waterfront walkway, it is really nice to be in a city again. Poor Phil had to make it back to Colon to finish paperwork we weren’t able to sort out because of Carnival, he still had to pay overtime even though the holiday was over, oh well, Panama, land of bureaucracy and as many extra charges as they can get away with. The next day Norberto and I made our way to Vacamonte, to check out a possible place to get our boat hauled out. It was a great adventure a day on the buses and for 25-50 cents each way a fabulously affordable way to see the city. We made it to Albrook mall and then onto the bus to Vacamonte, we went over the bridge of the America’s and into Vacamonte, a small town, I felt like there should be tumbleweed blowing by. We had a lunch fit for kings for $4.00 in an open air restaurant with the most incredible fresh juice imaginable, we ended up having at least 3 glasses each (and I tried a different one each time). I think the trip was worth it just for the juice! We had to get on another bus to get to the port and almost made it, but we got to a checkpoint and the guard came on the bus, pointed at me and Norberto and we were escorted off. Thankful for his Spanish again we were asked what we were doing (trying to check out the haul out facilities) and if we had permission (no) and were told we could wait for another hour for the bus to come back, but we weren’t allowed in without special permission… honestly what a pain in the behind. Meanwhile while we were waiting the guards tried shooting hoops with coconuts (10 cents for every basket, the old guy won the money). We managed to catch a lift with a very quiet guy in a pickup truck and then spent the rest of the afternoon finding our way home on the bus. We got back in time to see bloody Francisco, our slimy line renter/ line handler provider collecting the lines from Phil and giving him a refund, he did not however collect his tires, even though I went back to find him and tell him he needed to come and get them. I shouldn’t be disappointed in humanity, but he embodied everything slimy and corrupt about this place. I’m looking forward to getting back to somewhere a little less corrupt. Friday, our last day with Norberto was another wandering around town day, we found our way to San Felipe, the old part of town with an amazing fish market (although we all decided it would have been outlawed in our respective countries for lack of refrigeration, not including the stall with the ladies screaming and running out, we guessed a rat??? A delicious treat of seafood in a lemon marinade and then beers (Milwaukee draft) served in a Styrofoam cup watching the tide roll in. Guys who would have made Chris cringe fiberglassing their dinghy, no gloves, no respirator and heaps of glass while the tide was out, and scampering to get out of the way while it rolled back in. Then lunch, at the delicious stall, 3.00 for a huge plate of beans, rice and meat. Delicious. Walked into the old town, down to a beach, saw some stalls with tourist things, then a tiny alleyway, filled with shops and repairs places; it was like a secret path, filled with magic. I want to go back. Finally a plan to head back to the hotel district for a drink with Mike and Paul before everyone except me and Phil left panama. Norberto taught me the value in stopping in an air-conditioned restaurant for a beer, of walking and of laughing. Waking up in the morning to watch the sunrise. Then on Saturday, he went home… we both feel so lucky to have had such a great visit and transit with him. Norberto has an incredible business in the Azores whale watching, diving and doing research with the University and we have both decided we would love to go and visit one day! He is one of those people who are genuinely good and will be a friend for a long time I hope. For anyone interested check out his website www.norbertodiver.com