Not so long ago, most boats/cruisers avoided the Tuamotu’s. They were called the dangerous islands (or something like that). All reefs, not very well charted and most of them you cannot see until you are just few miles away in the daylight, at night you would not see them at all. The charts of the area nowadays are a lot better and GPS makes it that much more easier. The passes into the atolls are not so easy. The majority of these passes are only safely traversed at or near slack water (that short period of time between low and high tide). Unfortunately there is not a good source (that we have found) for when slack water actually is in these passes, and even if there was, there are so many different variables for each atoll and the weather at the time that those would be inaccurate anyway. We have developed a technique however. And should you find yourself in the Tuamotu’s feel free to use it. The technique. We find the closest island on our charts with a tide table and use that time as a very rough guess. We then send an email to our land based shore operation headquarters/weather router (L.B.S.O.HQ/WR for short). He internets for us and replies to us with the times for slack water, which are just as inaccurate as what we come up with(Seriously though, thank you Eric). We take both of these times, average them and subtract a half hour. At the appointed time, we then wait another 20-25 minutes then slowly approach the atoll and watch the current in the pass. If it looks relatively safe we proceed. Otherwise we wait. Yep….it’s just that scientific. The first atoll we stopped at after leaving the Marquesas was Makemo. We arrived there late in the afternoon, about an hour after slack water, which meant we could not get in that night. We hove-to about 5 miles off the reef/atoll until sun up and for the next tide change. Heaving to in the open ocean is very mellow. Once the boat is setup and the sails are set correctly. Everything flattens out (relatively). We made dinner, watched a couple movies and chilled. All went well in the pass and once inside the atoll the water changes from open ocean conditions to almost flat calm, lake like conditions. We are currently at our second atoll, Fakarava. To use the term “Island paradise” would be a substantial understatement. I cannot really begin to describe it, and since I am posting this via Ham radio I cannot upload any pictures. So hit CTRL, T and google for a bit. That will have to tide you over till we get to Tahiti and get some solid internet. We have been anchored here in the south end of Fakarava for a little over a week now. We don’t really wanna leave but there are other places to see. We’ve spent most of our time snorkling, diving, kite boarding (trying) and exploring the motos. A few nights ago me and 3 other guys from a couple other boats decided to go lobstering. We waited till after sunset and dinghied out to the reef to catch some lobster. It’s not too hard once you spot one, which is hard. Once spotted, you blind him with your flashlight and grab him with your other hand from behind. You gotta be fast and they are crazy strong for their size. If you still happen to have that other tab open take a look at a picture of the southern tip of the atoll. Or better yet, go to Google Maps and drop these coordinates in there; Dinghy anchor spot 16 32’08.4 S 145 28’18.9 W Turn around 16 32’57.2 S 145 29’54.2 W Not that far apart. Straight line about 2 miles. Keep that in mind and let me paint you a picture. It’s 8pm. The Sun has been down for 2+ hours and the moon is about to set. It is dark. We anchor the dinghies and tie a small flash light to a palm tree so we can find our spot on the return. With headlamps and hand held flashlights we walked out to the edge of the reef in water that ranged from ankle to thigh deep. The terrain, a murderous combination of lava rock and coral reef. At the reef’s edge the swell and waves from the ocean are slamming into the reef about 20 feet away. It was low tide, so most of the waves would slam into the reef and die away after crashing into the reef. Every few minutes or so a big set of waves would roll through which would break over the reef and sweep toward us. Falling down is NOT an option. Remember that murderous terrain we are walking on? Falling down turns that into a human cheese grater. That two miles we walked took us 3.5 hours but we managed to catch 25 or so lobsters. We now had to get back, but the tide was rising so we could not safely………(excuse me, bahahahhahhaha…)..ahem…walk the outer reef so we went into slightly shallower water for the return. As an added bonus I was carrying a mesh bag with most of the lobsters in it. That basically made me a walking chum bucket. I had to turn around every so often and kick at the reef sharks that were following right behind me to keep them from going after the lobsters we had caught. I kept telling myself they were going after the lobsters…… “Self”, I would say. “They are only going after the lobsters.” The walk back only took 2 hours and at 2am I was safely tucked into my bunk, swearing to never do that shit again. The next day we had a beach bonfire and grilled up the catch making all the trouble of the night before worth it and of course talking about the next time we should go.

It is Tuesday, June 16th. We are anchored in an atoll in the Toumotus called Makemo. We ended up spending more time here than we planned due to weather. Not particularly bad weather, but it was enough to make the passes in and out of the atolls a little gnarlier than we like so we just stayed put here. And as luck would have it, Here, is absolutly a south pacific island paradise. We are tucked in behind a reef. So even though the wind has been blowing 25 knots for a few days, the waves never build up to more than a foot of wind chop. The reef we are anchored behind is huge and we have been snorkling all over it. And have become accustomed to swimming with sharks. Granted they are reef sharks, but i’d like you to pay particular attention to the word that appears after that word “reef”….Yeah, it is still a shark! We are sorta channeling some Steve Irwin. We spent a little over a month in the Marquesas, which were freaking awesome! Loved every minute of it. The scenery, and the islands were incredible. INCREDIBLE. The Marquesaian people, unbeliveably friendly and welcoming. That last sentence was very hard to write. I actually wrote, deleted and rewrote it about 10 times. Most of the stuff I deleted was multiple paragraphs long. But I just could not get it right. There is just no way I could write out just how mellow, friendly, and welcoming almost every one of the people we met in the Marquesas were. I say almost, cause there was one lady in particular that was grumpy as shit. Maybe she was just having a bad day. So I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt………she was still a bitch though. Our last stop in the Marquesas was the island of Oa Pou. We spent almost a week there. From there we sailed four days to the next island group. The Toumotus, which is a group of Atolls. I seriously suggest you get your Google on and check out some pictures. These atolls are a trip. I’m posting this via Ham Radio, so I cannot upload any photos. A few minutes of Googling and you will not be disappointed. However, if your sitting in your cube at work, you might feel a slight suicidal twinge, but that will pass when the jealous rage takes over. As I mentioned, the atoll we are at in called Makemo. We have been snorkling, kiteboarding…..ish…and just chilling here for a week. Our plan is to take off tomorrow and head for another atoll called Fakarava. We have decided to skip Tahanea (sorry Aaron), but we only have a limited amount of time on our visa and have had to make some tough decisions. Sorry no pics, but word is there is internet available on Fakarava, so we might get some pictures uploaded next week.

I have wanted a tattoo for a long time…but I wanted it to mean something. Nothing ever felt right to permanently affix to my body. I made it through college without any poor decision tattoos. I knew someday the time and place would be right. When we started seriously talking about cruising and crossing the Pacific ocean, I decided a Marquesian tattoo would be a great badge of courage. Well, we made it across the ocean and it was time to start searching for a tattoo artist. The larger towns had tattoo parlors and numerous cruisers were getting their own badge of courage….but none of it felt right. I wanted a more traditional feel. One of the cruising guides we had talked about a guy named Fati who lived on Tahuata island in the village of Vaitahu… The book mentioned that Fati was thought of as one of the best tattooist in the Marquesian Islands. So we went to Vaitahu bay and started our search for Fati. The little map of the village was not accurate, so in horrible French we started asking around about Fati. Apparently Fati is a popular Marquesian name meaning big or large. The first Fati we found offered to trade for fruit, but said he was not tattoo Fati. He did know where he lived though and told us enthusiastically how high up in the mountains tattoo Fati lived. Fruity Fati thought it was a good 2 km straight up😯 It was high noon and hot as hell. We almost gave up, but in the end started the hot ass trek to find tattoo Fati. A quarter of a mile up we ran into a local kid and asked him where Fati’s house was. He said not far, I’ll show ya. Total distance was maybe a 1/2 mile walk…maybe we shouldn’t asked for distances from men named Fati. Anywho, tattoo Fati is a super nice man. He spoke no English and us no french…but it all worked out. We would come to his house tomorrow to talk about tattoos. As we were heading out we heard a whistle and saw Fati flagging us down. Turns out he didn’t know that “tomorrow” was the Lord’s day (Sunday for all you heathens😉). His wife very adamantly told him so and that he had agreed to cook for the island children who had just had their communion. He asked us to come and that we could do the tattoos the next day. C’est Bon! Meanwhile, while walking around town we saw some other cruiser’s who looked like they had new tattoos. We went to their boat and talked with them. They did indeed get their tattoos from Fati and they were amazing. The boats name was s/v Letitgo, they were French and had also been invited to a kaikai (meal) at Fati’s house. The next day we met up with Letitgo and headed up the mountain. The meal was great and was served out on the lenai. Thank goodness Letitgo was their to translate and help us with explaining what we wanted for tattoos. Fati is an original Marquesian tattooist. He wants to hear your story and then creates a tattoo for you in his mind. He needs a night to think it over, and when you show up the next day he sketches it out for you on your chosen body part. For me it was my ankle (one of the most painful places). I wanted an inch wide band that represented our crossing and a few other personal things. The next day we went to Fati’s and his lenai had been  transformed from eatery to tattoo parlor. As I laid out on the same table that I had ate at last night looking out at the mountains and lush valley, I realized that we had found the special experience we were looking for. Even more amazing was that we found out that Fati had tattooed friends who went cruising 2 years before us on s/v Estrelita 5.0. As I cringed and took the pain (these things aren’t licked on by kittens people), my badge of courage transformed into a beautiful piece of art that I would have with me for the rest of my life. Thank you Fati and the crew of Letitgo! I love my tattoo.

20150518_101957
This is the Marquesian symbol for boat and the waves underneath represent our passage. The next symbol is man (CB).

20150518_101945
This is the symbol for woman (me) and the Marquesian flower.

20150518_102016
This represents courage, but also is similar to the design of our rings (the turkshead knot).

20150518_102005
Finally, the Marquesian cross representing the land and people of the Marquesas.

Some quick info on the crossing.

We left Isla Isabela, in the Galapagos Islands on April 9th at 11:30am. We arrived here at Fatu Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia at 7:00am on May 3rd. A straight line shot from there to here is 2914 nautical miles. Since we wanted to stay in good wind as much as we could, we went a little further south to do that so our total trip miles ended up being 3094.

Our daily average: 129.25 nautical miles
Average speed: 5.4 knots.

We covered that entire distance under sail alone with the exception of 24 hours in which we used the motor. That means that we only burnt somewhere in the neighborhood of 14.4 gallons of diesel fuel. Those 24 hours were not consecutive, but spread out over the course of the 3 week crossing.

23.5 days of constant motion on a 32 year old boat that never really sits still anyway is a lot and we had a few things break along the way, but nothing huge. A small valve on the head (shitter) broke, but we improvised a fix. That fix is still in place and probably will be until we get to New Zealand.

Both jib sheets and the second reef line chafed. But those are easy to flip and get the chafed area out of use. The big break was the whisker pole. I was on watch and got hit by a smallish squall one night. The pole was up and wind rose from 12 knots to 30 in about 25 seconds. I did not have time to get the pole down or the sheet eased and we fell off a wave and rolled back on a gust just as the jib collapsed and then loaded up big time. The shock blasted the whisker pole mount on the mast completely off. Ripped the rivets right off, and blasted the top off one of our mast winces for good measure in the process. No show stopper though. No such thing as that really, we didn’t really have an option out here. Once the sun came up, I dug out the tool bags and re-riveted the whisker pole mount back into place with a better backing set up and stronger rivets than I had on there in the first place. So it should all be good to go….

But now on to the good stuff. The island of Fatu Hiva.

INCREDIBLE!

This place has easily made my top 3 spots in the world. Actually, it is firmly in 1st place.

I’ll grant you that in order to get here we had just crossed half the pacific ocean and had not seen land for over 3 weeks. So you could argue that had we pulled into a Walmart parking lot in French Lick, Indiana we probably would have been pretty excited. But screw you and your cynical attitude.

The night before arriving we slowed down to time our arrival to sometime after sun rise the next day. Pulling into the bay, we were met with an amazing view. I’m not even going to attempt to describe it, i’ll just let you look at a few (inadequate) pictures.

RIMG0227

RIMG0218

RIMG0242

As we pulled in we saw a friend standing on the bow of his boat waving to us. We motored past him and he tossed a couple of huge pamplemousse to us as a “You did it!!” gift. Also, after 3 weeks fresh fruit and veg is but a memory. So very welcoming.

I had never had a pamplemousse before. Now that I have, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret.

I love them. I don’t say that about many fruits. The list is: Pineapples, Strawberries, Dan Lofstrom and now pamplemousse. And sometimes Granny Smith apples, but I sometimes go overboard with those and burn myself out on them. Soooo, no. I do not LOVE Granny Smith apples.

But, back to the pamplemousse, imagine if a grapefruit and a pineapple made sweet, sweet (and probably forbidden) love. Then went to the store and bought a pamplemousse, which they then gave to me as a treat. Shit is sooooo good. If you have had one, keep it to yourself, this is about me right now.

There are roughly 600 people on this island (Fatu Hiva), in two different villages. There is no airport so the only way to get here is by boat. The village at the head of the bay we are anchored in is called Hanavave. Sleepy little town, with one small store, a church, a post office and a pay phone. That is about it.

RIMG0248

When we left the Galapagos, we only had about $25 USD on us and absolutely no French Francs. But we were told that you could trade with the locals for fruit and veggies. The main thing they wanted to trade for was old rope. Nothing fancy, but they seemed to want it. So we dug some out of storage on the boat and Tawn grabbed some trading stock items she had picked up in Panama City (shitty perfume, lip stick, crayons, coloring books, pencils, paper, stuff like that) and we headed in to do some trading.

For a few yards of old rope and some lipstick, Tawn loaded us up on fruit.

RIMG0208
Thats not all of it, just the stuff we keep out side to ripen.

We took a look at a few Tikis, but nothing really caught my eye and they were just too big. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, we are not really big on knick knacks. But some of the stuff was pretty cool.

Later that day I ran into another local carver at the little store and he wanted to know if I had any old rope to trade. I said I did and I ask if he could carve me two small tikis so I could us them to replace the wooden knobs on my throttle and gear shifter on the boat. He said he could, and they they would be done the next afternoon.

They were. I got these two custom shifter knobs for my boat for the grand total of 16 feet of 3/8 inch line.

RIMG0231

I was looking through a guide book we have on board and saw a drawing of a Marquesian war club (yeah I know, ‘nough said). I started asking around town and all the carvers said they did not make them. Only one dude did and they pointed me in the right direction.

We went to the guys house. His name is Tema, and he carves the coolest stuff. It is next level. Blows the other guys stuff away. And he knows it, so do they. :) He sells his stuff on other islands and in Tahiti. He had a crate of his stuff getting ready to ship to Tahiti next month for a competition of some sort.

He starts dragging it all out and showing it off. It was amazing stuff. The War clubs were cool as hell. I wanted one bad, real bad. Then I saw his price tags….No way I could justify that, even if we did have the cash on us. Some of his Tikis and fruit baskets were $200 USD. The war clubs ranged from $120 to $400.

As we were talking I ask if he would consider trading. He said no right away. Oh well….didn’t need more crap on the boat anyway.

Tawn was inside looking at and buying a Tapas his wife made. Tapas are cloth that they make from the bark of different trees and then draw these very cool designs on.

This is the one Tawn got.

RIMG0252

As I’m standing out in his yard, I notice he has an broken spear gun hanging in a tree by the back door. I ask him if he needed a new one. He said he did and he also mentioned that he lost his flippers last month when his boat flipped over.

DING!

I told him i’d come back the next day.

I did, with a pair of almost brand new flippers that my buddy Robbie left with us when he was in the Galapagos with us. I also brought my spear gun. He was drooling over the flippers and spear gun. :)

We talked for a bit, he tried the flippers on. Then he says, wanna trade for a Tiki? I said, no….but I would trade for one of the War clubs and grinned. We went in the house and I pointed to the one I wanted.

This is it:

RIMG0255

It is so awesome. It will go on my wall o’weapons!

This is just one of those “Just another day at the office” Pictures:

RIMG0250

Our boat is the furthest one out.

RIMG0246

Went for a hike, took this picture.
RIMG0203