Friday, September 30, 2011


I have written about this before.  We are not a team.  Between when the anchor is lifted & is dropped once again we function well together.  Every time goes a little more smoothly.  Passage is peaceful, in fact we hardly talk at all.  When we are at anchor everybody lets loose, drunk & wild.  "Run aground, run amuck" has been our slogan since Galapagos.  Truer now than ever before.

I returned home with a smile from one of my strangely mysterious nights out.  My bed is getting cold & my current policy is Meet me at the shore at sunset, & if I don't show, I'll find my own way for the night.  Nevermind middle, resourceful should be my first name.  As I walked up to mon equipage (my crew) on shore with my shit-eating grin, I realized the boys were sitting with about 20 bags of stuff next to them.  This almost never happens, but it seems someone else had a more interesting night than me.  The boys were kicked off the boat.

If we had made a bet in Panama over who would be the first to throw in the towel, it would have been a very close race.

Chris & Jamie don't like each other.  Being that Jamie's the Captain, tensions can run a bit high.  Chris has told him many times where to shove it & blatently said he doesn't like him as a person.  Jamie & Hanne have a consistent on-the-rocks relationship.  They bicker talk about their feelings in that way couples who have been together forever & have gone to counselling do.  Exhausting.  She had her bags packed last weekend, with one foot off the boat.  It seems they're back together again.  Sigh.

Even before it all I woke up this morning feeling great about leaving.  It is constantly reinforced that I am alone.  When I have an issue, I can only hope one of the others will back me up.  We recently had a disagreement about liberal sex on the boat.  Jimmy mentioned to me how frustrating it is that if there is sex happening in the main cabin, the rest of us can't use the kitchen, bathroom or anything below decks. 
This is a hot topic for me, so I brought it up.  When Jimmy realized he might be compromised, he renegged.  I was furious that no one would back me up.  Once again my point of view was completely ruled out.  I left the boat thinking that my idea that we are a team is bullshit & the Three Musketeers are full of it.

Hanne was devastated about the boys leaving.  We played depressing lounge jazz while she sulked in the afternoon.  I don't mind.  Actually, it's rediculous how much I don't mind.  It doesn't even phase me.  I tend to think of change as a good thing, & it's been so long coming at least someone had the common sense to jump ship.  (Pun.)

Jamie mentioned that it comes back to backing each other up.  Both Hanne & Jimmy could have talked their counterparts away from the edge, but no one intervened.  I definately do not blame them for it.  It can get very messy.  In this case Chris may or may not have been pushed overboard, depending on who you believe.  Chris' story has him picked up & tossed over; in Jamie's he put his hand on his back & Chris leaped
into the water.  Hanne's the most levelheaded of the 4 of them & the most passive participant, so I tend to lean in her direction, which is somewhere in the middle.

Tonight I am getting ready to go out with the new friends I've made.  Somehow with every night I've spent away, I have still only spent 1 night on land in 3 months.  My new friends are fishermen,  the only people that are possibly bigger drinkers than sailors.  I brought home fresh tuna & snow - the best snow in Moorea - for drinks.  I got a lift from another yachtie, so when they left for dinner on shore they didn't even know I was on board.  I will plug my things in a dry bag & swim to shore, hoping I don't get my hair wet.  Or get eaten by sharks I guess.

Tomorrow when we arrive in Tahiti I will look for opportunities on other boats.  It's crazy how much fun I have away from my so-called family.  And Different is good.

and I am stealing the Three Musketeers just before I walk out the door.

Cross the ocean for a heart of gold

Our arrival on Tahiti is anticipated.  Raced past beautiful Marquesas at the beginning of the world & hundreds of unexplored underwater volcanoes in the Tuamotus to get here.

Despite it's exotic connoctations, Tahiti is the industrial hub of this part of the world.  If we had any doubts about finding civilization..  Internet, hotels, highways (well, one highway), bars, nightlife, & all the workings of a proper city.  Lucky for us, since we have to fix some sails (at least 1 but up to 5), order generator parts, buy new batteries, fix the autopilot, collect my credit card, & buy 2 new cameras.

Spent the night drifting.  I spent the night falling asleep during watch in the cockpit.  It is very dangerous to enter a harbour at night without being able to see what you're actually getting yourself into.  The dark is incredibly decieving.  The lights on the coast stretch out over water & feel nearby all the time.  Tahiti is completely surrounded by reef, so even after a long night, I will definately agree with this call.

Parked right on the main drag in downtown Pape'ete, the capital of Tahiti & French Polynesia.  We look like gypsies with our house parked on the side of the road.  The convenience of being within stumbling distance of anywhere that sells liquor is positively brilliant.  Welcome to civilization - let the neanderthals out.
Always looking for excitement.  The Polynesians have taught me alot about trust & I've started a habit (for better or worse) of never refusing anything.  In the most seemingly shady situation I found myself in, these guys lent me a surfboard, & we spent the afternoon chasing waves with a picnic on the beach.
*This is a great example of the generosity & hospitality of Tahitians.  It is inexhaustable.  More on that to come.*

World famous breaks!  Barrels!  Hang Ten!  Gnarly!  The day we went out there was almost nothing.  We circled the island & found some little ones in Papara.  A beach break against black sand.  I didn't do very well, but managed to break a fin on a rock!  It was the shallowest I'd ever been.  I was basking in the moment - admiring the handsome mountains & the beautiful beaches surrounding me.  And out on the waves, there are 3 of us.  That is crazy for The Birthplace of Surfing.  Then 2 of the only 4 people I know in the world are waving from the shore.  It took me a whole minute to even recognize them.  I had even gotten a new suit to disguise myself.  Drat.  I could have gotten some sweet surfing shots from Hanne!  But they would be hilarious cause I am awful.

Teahupoo is the wave on Tahiti Iti with mythological reputation.  A monster reef break that hosts major surf competitions constantly.  Love the culture.  Surfers everywhere, even on the shoulders of channels into the lagoon when the sailboat itself is surfing.  Somedays we live on a 46ft surfboard.

After being ratted out, we were going to be charged docking fees for being a disturbance downtown.  What do you mean?  We did not unfold two enormous sails on the sidewalk!  Preposterous!  That was someone else!  Plus the dock kicked us & took a big chunk out of our outer rim.  Okay we get it.  We hung our heads, left to the other marina & stole a private mooring ball for the remainder of the week.  ...and every following weekend.

We spent alot of time in Marina Taina, Punaauia - our first real marina.  It is here we get our heads put back on straight, get some chores done & get the boat in shipshape.  We get to know the bartenders, the security guards, the happy hours, where there's good water & free wifi.  We go whale watching with friends of Jamie's from the Caribbean & Hanne gets a dayjob polishing stainless steel on our friend Neil's yacht.  Friends & friends of friends; we make plans to meet up later with all of them.

One night one of the superyachts at the marina were hosting a Rugby World Cup dock party for NZ vs France - since all the crew are one or the other.  It was a blast with a full on BBQ & super cool to meet other crew from other boats.  Made a bet with the boys to see who could do the best coaxing to get on board.  They won.  Jimmy & Chris were allowed on board Tiara, the sleek host of the night with the >100ft mast.  Hanne was brought back to a boat in such disrepair she said she would swim home if he didn't take her back immediately.  Meanwhile I was partying with the crew from SuRi, a huge garage yacht filled with toys.  We spent sunrise in the jacuzzi on the roof next to the helicopter.  I think I was the real winner.
(I left my camera at the bar that night & picked it up the following weekend I picked it up.  The beer & Jamesons that were also in my bag had mysteriously disappeared.  I lost it again at the marina & picked it up the next day.  Possibly also while watching rugby.  :P)

With waterfalls, stunningly beautiful flowers, good surf on black beaches & the friendliest people - I still think the heart of Tahiti lies behind the sunset from Punaauia.  Every night the sun sinks tangerine sihouetting the island just across the bay.  Tahiti's little sister Moorea...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Annoying Orange

Rangiroa, Tuamotus, French Polynesia

I am indebted in Rangiroa.  Every Franc spent, everytime we hitchhike to get around is owed to someone else.  I lost my credit card on July 3rd in Panama.  It was weird to call Mastercard on a broken Skype connection & tell them to send it to Tahiti.  I have to cross my fingers & hope it is waiting for me there!

This is the place for scuba diving.  Famous in French Polynesia means world class.  Jimmy, Jamie & Hanne are certified divers, while Chris & I took our intro dive.  Scuba diving is something I could see myself becoming obsessed with.  There is so much.  In one little reef there are velvet purple sponges, erratic coral with fish emanating from within, vibrant neon fish, eels with big gaping mouths that seem animatronic, one chill shark in the distance through the blue pallor, soundless communication, grits of sand & shells, oysters with their velvet tongues sticking out.  On a break from scraping the hull, I'd go snorkeling & diving down to watch the buggy eyed fish go about their days.  Squirrelfish are my favourite.

When the first catamaran arrived, we went over straightaway to introduce ourselves.  (We’re keeners.)  The exchange went like this:
"Hey! Where're you from?"
"Hey! I'm looking for crew!"

This is Dan the Irishman.  A 23yr old skipper, looking for young blood to make up for the 3 months he spent in Marquesas alone.  The feeling is reciprocal.  Even though our first night with him was tame with  his girlfriend & formal drinks, he gained himself an open invitation to come chill out aboard.  Which spells debauchery.  One morning had him wrapped in our Jenny sail on the bow too hungover too function.  Meanwhile the boys were just getting started & we were all slaving away to sew it up with bottlecaps taped to our fingers as homemade thimbles.  He takes way too much pleasure in drunkenly teaching us knots & talks an exceptional amount of shit.

Family nights are do-it-yourself sushi with Bigfish ("from all over" w/ 3 kids) & Santa Paz (Brazil, 2 kids) - our new neighbors.  Camaraderie outside our family of 5 is extremely refreshing.

Bigfish & Santa Paz really taught us a thing or two about life on the water with kids.  Their kids are amazing.  They are the most personable homeschooled kids I've ever met with seriously good heads on their shoulders.  Alex came over almost every night to watch movies, Iyla would drive the dinghy boat to boat, & Max took us maniacal tubing one day & regales us with his big fish stories.  They taught us the
do's & don'ts about swimming with sharks.  They've got all these incredible skills already - kitesurfing, freediving, scuba diving & teaching themselves out of a textbook.  Even when it comes to climbing the mast, they all show awareness of their own limitations, but move with such ease; second-nature safe about everything.

Makes you wonder what life could have been like, & all the possibilities yet to come...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A World Apart: Tuamotus

Everytime we leave anchorage things go more smoothly - in relation to our increasingly ferocious antics on land & our decreasing amounts of time at sea.

The Tuamotus is a series of atolls between Tahiti & Marquesas.  Atolls are ancient sunken volcanos of which only the outer rim rises about sea level.  We decided to stop in Rangiroa, the biggest of the Tuamotus, 2nd biggest in the world, hoping for a dose of civilization (come on internet!)  We didn't realize it would be 80miles across, so that travelling within it would be a daysail itself.

Atolls are tricky to navigate.  They are ancient volcanoes of which only the rims are above sea level.  When you enter through the channels, they have rediculous currents & reef breaks.  We got lucky with the timing & it was the perfect time of day to have dolphins leading us.  Caressing the bow, leaping all around us.
Way too cool.  Sailing rules.

Rangiroa is the kind of place where our tight schedule just seems to unravel.  We had 3 very specific days, then 5 more on the fly.  This is exactly the tropical paradise you might imagine.  Nobody mentioned it, but we were all quite okay with stretching our timeframe.

Dead Calm.

It might be interesting to see what my logbook looks like for one day on passage.  A calm day at sea.
kn = nautical miles (knots/nauts)

Wed Sept 6th = 5318kn @ 2:15am
(2am-2:05am = 63kn, 58kn made good)
50kn to Rangiroa
Day 61 from Panama!

The fastest we've actually sailed all day is 3kn.  We'd made 40kn in 17hours.  Our worst day.  Jaime Hanne & I went swimming!  Super cool - diving off the bow & keeping time with our vessel.  An out of boat experience with the sails up.  Very hot - 30 degrees, no wind.  Drifting the SPacific.  Tucked in Jenny & motored a couple hours, watched Apocalypse Now!  It's very good so far & interesting.  F'n long @ 3:30hrs though.
I love the smell of napalm in the morning.
I love the surfing scene – the general says ‘you either surf or fight’ then ruins the waves with the wind coming off the napalm.
Eerie – the ocean is calm as a lake.  Calmer.  Flat, know it all moon shining straight down.  No waves, no wake, no wind, no weather – nothing.  Like everything we know has ceased to exist.  Almost couldn’t sleep we were so still.
Goddamn we have been out of contact for a long time.  I haven’t thought anything of it except wanting to make some calls & send some emails.  I wonder how they’re doing & hope they’re not hurt by my incommunication, but that’s how it is.
-A pod of dolphins just came to check us out, at this speed.  How nice.
-We want to do what we can to get there today.  It feels like we’ve been 70kn away all day.  Should be more wreckless – stop watches, open hatches, untie shit.  The Jenny’s got another little tear in ‘er.  & I wonder what the next move is if Paramour doesn’t press on from Tahiti.  Tonight’s night 7 from Fatu Hiva.  We hoped to be in Tahiti on the 10th, in 4 days.
5373kn @ 5:59pm