Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Tahiti

Tuesday June 30th 2015


Our neighbours at the anchorage in Papeete






You know that you have been away from civilization too long when passing cars and trucks startle your children as they walk on the sidewalk! 



Amelie is currently anchored just outside the Marina Taina on the West Side of Tahiti, just South of Papeeté. Being in the largest urban centre in all of French Polynesia has been a bit of a shock to the system, but the people are just as lovely, and there are definite pluses too. What’s great about this anchorage : First of all, we have the most spectacular view of Moorea, especially at sunset. Secondly, we have had the privilege of being a ‘starting line’ for an outrigger canoe race: Tahitians are an active bunch and they can handle an outrigger canoe like nobody’s business, sitting in the cockpit we can see them go right by us, all in beautifully coordinated unison, and so darn fast ! And finally, we are near one of the best (maybe even THE best) grocery store in all of French Polynesia !  All we have to do is dinghy into the marina and then walk 10 minutes to the store, and they will let you bring your cart right to the Marina, it is so nice not to have to carry all those provisions on our backs ! 


Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti (‘Large’ and ‘Small’ Tahiti) 



Day tour of Tahiti. 

We wanted to get out of the city and see Tahiti’s more natural side so we rented a car for the day on Sunday. What a relief to see that Tahiti actually does have some very scenic sites !  We saw some very large caves, surrounded by lush forrest, towering waterfalls, stopped in to Tautira village where author Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) lived for a while  and was cared for by Princess Moe (of Tahiti). 


Moorea (Background) and the Reef as seen from Amelie


We also went up to the Taravao Plateau overlooking the Isthmus (narrow strip of land) between Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti (‘Large’ and ‘Small’ Tahiti). And of course we just had to go see the world famous Teahupo’o  (pronounced ‘Chai Po’) , home of the mythical wave and world class surfing competition. The wave, which is about 1 km out from shore, is said to be: consistent, huge and  perfect  which is of course what every surfer is looking for, but only the most experienced surfers attempt to ride it !


View of the Isthmus of Tahiti from the plateau



Teahupo’o, a world famous, mythical wave to surfers 


Other than this tour, we have been mostly working on the boat, trying to get through the most important items on the never ending To-Do List. Now that school is over for this year, we were able to get a fair bit done and ,even though we know we will never get to the end of the list, it still feels so good to check items off as they get done. Quite a bit of time has also been spent re-provisioning. The biggest one we’ve had since  Panama. Since we will soon have 4 teenagers on board (yikes!), this requires some careful planning of snacks and meals, thankfully Matthew has us well trained for this already!


Even with all the work that we have done on board, we have nevertheless taken the time to go see another great dance show one night (as part of the Orange festival on the weekend). It still amazes me how much energy the dancers display  for each performance and the drummers. keeping a furiously fast pace for the dancers, with their bare hands on these very tall wooden drums all the while signing and making loud war cries, quite powerful, ensuring that no one in the audience, not even Mark- who has been known to fall asleep in more than one occasion- could EVER fall asleep during the show. It is really nice to see how proud the Tahitians (and all French Polynesians) seem to be about their culture, not only with the dancing, singing but also with their traditional way of life (the canoes, tattoos) I think it reflects well on their education of their children, to carry this pride of their identity from a young age. Like I was telling Meg the other day : Imagine if the younger generation here all listened to modern music only and did not embrace their local traditions and music. As tourist, you and I would have a very different experience visiting these far away places !  We would not have a chance to learn from them about their roots, it would be a mush less interesting world to visit !  This helped us to have a new found appreciation  for all the work done in preserving different cultures, all around the world.


Roulottes:

The renown food trucks , called “Roulottes” can be found on any given evening, through out Tahiti. These are more than your average food vendor. They set up tables (with table cloths and all!) and even have waiters come to take your order and serve you at your table . At the Main Roulottes area in Papeete, there are dozen of these trucks offering choices such as Pizza, Chinese Food, Steak Frites, Pasta, Poisson Cru, Crepes and even Fondus !  We enjoyed eating out at these on a few nights !  Yum Yum !


Coming up, our friends Sonia, Alexis and Olivia are on their way to us  from Canada as we speak, we look forward to sharing the nearby islands with them over the next 14 days ! Much love, 4Ms sailing


This two headed tiki has a tree growing out of it 

The market in Papeete

Eating out at the popular "Roulottes" in Tahiti


Beach, Tahiti




******************


Meghan on Amelie (Written on July 6th 2015)


Io Orana from Tahiti!  In the past month, we have made it to the two other archipelagos in French Polynesia: the Tuamotus and the Society Islands (this last one being where the island of Tahiti is).  We have only been here and Moorea in the Society Islands but are looking forward to seeing the rest of them in a few weeks.  But first, let’s start at the departure from the Marquesas to the Tuamotus. 


The trip over to the Tuamotus was not really that fun.  No wait, let me rephrase that: the trip over to the Tuamotus was THE worst crossing I have ever done!  We were going almost straight upwind (which is uncomfortable all by itself) and there were big waves that kept crashing over the railings (and the railings are still about seven feet above the waterline!) and caused a lot of rolling.  It’s funny how I went 20 days without seasickness at all (which I am VERY grateful for) but then I had 3 days of constant uncomfortableness!  It was the first time we couldn’t do school on a crossing.  At night, there was no chance we could bring the computer up top to watch a movie because it would get splashed and we would get too seasick by doing anything but talking anyways. In the end, it was surely worth it though!  In fact, I would have crossed a 10 day crossing like that if it meant I would get to see the Tuamotus!


Raroia (pronounced ra-roya)

Our first stop in the Tuamotus, which we had to extend our stay in because it was pretty hard to leave a place like that!  The motu (island) we were anchored in front of was completely natural and uninhabited except for a small pearl farm factory which maybe meant about five people stayed on the islands on monthly cycles. The best part was we and two of our other friends were the only boats in the anchorage for at least 3 days! There was a small town of about 100 people or less on the main motu in Raroia but from our anchorage, you could still just barely see it on the horizon. 


It was a wide open bay so we thought it would be a really great place to play with all our water sports.  We took out our wakeboard, our Australian friends had two optimist sailboats and our other American friends had a windsurfer.  It just so happened that the father on one of our Australian friends’ boats used to be a kids windsurfing instructor so one day, we all went to the beach and he gave us all a lesson.  I definitely don’t have the hang of it yet but for the ten seconds I was up and sailing, I found windsurfing really, really fun! 


While we were snorkeling in Raroia, we caught sight of some clams which looked like they would have some meat in them so we collected a few.  It turns out that there wasn’t just meat in those clams, there were pearls too!  Now, don’t go crazy or anything because these aren’t round and so it’s not like they’re worth $1000 or anything but they’re still quite pretty and it was super fun to make a discovery like that all on our own!


At night, it was just like being out at sea again except we weren’t moving so it was a more comfortable place to star gaze. One night, we had a little potluck among us and our friends. Both of our friends brought the fish they had caught on the crossing over from the Marquesas (wahoo and mahi mahi) and we went on shore and caught some land crabs which we mixed into a salad type meal and we all ate together then played and watched a movie under the stars. 


Makemo (pronounced ma-ka-moh)

The town in Makemo was a bit larger than the main one in Raroia but I would only say by a several hundred people.  It was actually one of the cleanest, most beautiful towns I have seen on this trip.  It is the first village I have been to where even right at the dinghy dock, the water is clear as day like a swimming pool!


Fakarava (pronounced fa-kah-ray-vah)

Fakarava was quite a bit more crowded and more touristic than the other Tuamotus islands we had visited but still a lot of things to do and see! 


Because of the shallow reefs in the Tuamotus, we have to find a way to get into the bay without hitting the reefs. Now that the Tuamotus are on the charts, French Polynesia has set up markers  forming a channel (which we call passes) so we can safely enter into the bay.  We snorkeled a few of the passes in the other Tuamotus islands but the southern Fakarava pass was something very special.  


We found out that the Fakarava southern pass was actually a UNESCO Heritage Site! In fact, there was at least one film team collecting underwater footage for a new Disney Nature movie there!  There was also a charter catamaran that was filming footage for a  documentary about kite surfing and we saw a kite surfer who was probably going to be in that movie!


Actually, it was after we snorkeled and dove the pass that I found out it was a UNESCO Heritage Site.  I was also glad to hear that fishing was prohibited in that channel because we got the chance to see lots more fish and sharks that way!


I have never seen sharks like I have in the Tuamotus.  Since Galapagos, we have seen more sharks snorkeling than we had before but that still only meant at the most one shark a snorkel. In the Tuamotus, there were at least five each snorkel! They were only black tip or white tip reef sharks that were 4-6 feet so still “adrenaline rush” big but not dangerous. The Tuamotus sharks though, were extra curious about humans. You would see them in the distance and then you’d see them coming closer and closer and they would just stay close to you for about five seconds and then, they’d swim away. I’m telling you, even though some were smaller than me and I knew I’d win in a battle between them and me, my heart was pounding and I was holding my breath for those five seconds. I wasn’t really scared of them though (I actually found them really cool), I just had a few moments where I wondered if I may be under estimating their intentions! I guess it is just the knowledge that bigger sharks can and have killed people is a little bit of a scary thought. 


When we were diving, there were so many more sharks.  I am talking about dozens and dozens of them!  Because they were just in front of us and swimming with each other not us, it was less nerve racking.  There were baby sharks swimming with their parents, pregnant sharks, big sharks, little sharks galore!  There were even silver tip sharks which have the white dorsal fin, as well as the side fins too. 


School of sharks, photo taken by Meghan in Faka Rava


For those of you who were wondering, I will be making a video on diving and snorkeling all of that, probably as one video of all the South Pacific (or maybe I will do separate videos?) but due to sketchy internet here, I will have to post it in New Zealand most probably.  


Pacific Puddle Jump Party!

There is this organization called the Pacific Puddle Jump and it is for any boat leaving North America who is going to the South Pacific who would like any extra, helpful information.  We joined the organization and I’m glad we did because we also ended up being able to make it to this really great party they had organized just for the Pacific Puddle Jump members!


Moorea was our next stop after Fakarava and our first stop in the Society Islands and it’s where the party happened.  On the Saturday night, we had a nice dinner and then there was a special surprise at the end.  Some professional French Polynesian dancers (men and women) performed traditional French Polynesian dancing for us! 


I was very excited because I had seen some of the dances in the Marquesas and they were breath taking so I really wanted to see some more.  These dances were actually a lot better than the ones we saw in the Marquesas though.  The ones we saw in the Marquesas were vibrant but they weren’t as powerful and strong as this one. The women’s dances were always elegant and beautiful but don’t be fooled by that because they could move fast and energetically when they needed to!  Especially, their hips! I have no idea how much practice it would take to be able to move your hips that fast for so long without throwing up!  The men’s dances were spectacular too but very different from the women’s.  Their main focus of the dance was to get it out there that they were strong, powerful warriors that will cut you to pieces if you say the wrong thing!  No seriously, there were some dances with machete throwing!  The dances were incredible because it was so amazing to see that even hundreds of years later, people still do the traditional dancing of their culture and they are still so proud of it!


The next day, it was sports day!  The main sport was canoe racing where each team had a six person traditional Polynesian canoe (each canoe had two locals) with an outrigger. Plus the canoes were so prettily decorated with flowers and everything!  Team Amelie came in third out of fifth place in our heat!  Later, there was a kids canoeing race where I teamed up with the kids from two other boats made we made it fourth out of fifth place! Later that day, there were more activities like obstacle course racing and a sarong styling demonstration. All in all, it was an awesome party!


Now, we are here in Papeete (pronounced pa-pay-tay), the main city of Tahiti and we are enjoying the spoils of the city again: buses, malls, big grocery stores and all that. We also rented a car to tour the island and so here are a few glimpses of the nature part of Tahiti to end it off.  After this, we will be making our way through the Society Islands but that is next month so nana (bye bye) for now!


The old tower in Papeete




Another breathtaking waterfall.


 *****************************



Wednesday, 24 June 2015

FAKARAVA to MOOREA

Wednesday June 24th 2015



I’m trying to remember all that’s gone on since I last wrote. I believe I left you off as we were in Makemo in the Tuamotus. Ok, so, after leaving Makemo, we headed off to FakaRava, where we’d heard there were more people, and, possibly, even a restaurant!!



Faka Rava


FAKARAVA : 

Like the other atolls we had to time our entry in through the reef and estimate the tides (there are no actual tide tables available, and so you have to guestimate the tides and currents, which means that when we get to the pass, we stop and watch, and then we communicate with any boat that is near us to share any information we may have, then we have another look at the pass, turn the engine on, bite our lower lips and head in, all hands on deck, it’s a bit unnerving , but lots of fun too , and what a relief once we are through! 


Matthew enjoying a quiet beach in Fakarava

Fakarava was a real treat and so worth the visit!  We did not know until we got there that the pass was a protected UNESCO HERITAGE site. The snorkeling and diving is spectacular, no wonder it is rated as one of the top in the world!  So we spent everyday in the water, looking around. While Meghan and Mark are the divers in the family, Matthew and I like to stay at the surface, me wearing a mask and snorkel and he, preferring the more natural “ Take A Deep Breath-Stick Your Head Under Water-Open Your Eyes Wide” approach, he really IS part fish!  Anyways, the highlights from my view point at the surface was : seeing a SCHOOL of sharks (dozens of sharks swimming, slowly, just below me), the variety of the reef fish whose colours dazzle in the crystal clear water, the giant emperor fish AND finally: swimming under the restaurant’s (yes there WAS a restaurant after all!) deck while negotiating with a shark on who should have the right of way in the narrow pass between the pillars!  I let him go first.  I thought it was the polite thing to do, after all it IS his ocean, but as he brushed right past me as he swam by it gave me such a THRILL!  Meg and Mark went diving everyday and they would see the same sharks as we would, except that instead of dozens, they were swimming with HUNDREDS of them, an experience they will never forget!


One of the many sharks we swam with

It's no wonder Disney is currently filming a nature film here, and we heard that BBC was just here a few month ago doing the same.  Maybe one day we will get to see Fakarava again, on the big screen.







The restaurant in Fakarava


We could of easily stayed much longer in the Tuamotus, but, we are only allowed to stay a total of 90 days in French Polynesia, and there are still Tahiti, Moorea, Riatea and Bora Bora waiting for us with only 30 days left, and, our friends are scheduled to arrive in Tahiti soon, so, we raised the anchor on June 16th and set sail for Moorea. We wanted to arrive in  time to partake in the Tahiti Rendez-Vous celebrations which were happening on the weekend. Morea, (like Tahiti), is a beautiful mountainous island surrounded by reefs. We arrived at the entry to Cooks Bay at about midnight on the morning of the 18th. We had never come into an anchorage so late at night before, let alone gone through a reef in the dark! (Moonless night!)  But Mark had done his homework checking the accuracy of the charts we have and he knew that the pass was well marked with navigation lights including range lights to get you in and down the bay (you have to love the French for that too!) So, after heaving to outside the entrance for a bit to let a small squall blow past, with Mark at the helm armed with our charts, radar and Google Earth image overlays (on the chartplotter and computer), and with me on deck keeping watch and calling out depth , we made it through without any issue. We then had to find a place to anchor (I had to stand on the bow and use a flashlight to make sure we didn’t hit any other boats, as it was pretty dark!). We had a good night sleep and woke up to the breathtaking scenery of Moorea, tall mountains all around, reminiscent of Fatu Hiva’s Bay of Virgins, but with fancy resorts ! 


"RENDEZ VOUS" FUN !

The “Moorea-Tahiti Rendez-Vous” is an annual event held  for sailors who have crossed the Pacific.The events took place at one of the resorts called the Bali Hai. The weekend was packed full of activities such as Polynesian Dancing, Traditional Outrigger Canoe Races, Good Food and Music, Demonstrations such as Coconut Husking, Weaving (with banana leaves) Rock Lifting, Sarong ('Pareo') Wrapping and even how to make beautiful head dresses and lays with flowers.


Team Amelie ready for the Race !


The Amelie Team after the race ! 



The timing was perfect, as it was Father’s Day weekend, and my birthday, how lucky for us to have so many fun activities happening on that weekend!  In short; we had a blast !  Team Amelie got in third place (out of 5) in our heat of the canoe race, mostly because of our two local team mates (there were 6 seats in the narrow (and beautifully decorated) canoe, the front and back seats were occupied by the true professionals and the 4Ms sat in the middle seats, one behind the other. With the guidance of our experienced team mates we used our wooden paddles, digging deep into the water, switching sides when we were called to do so and paddled our hearts out!  (Matthew got to just sit and enjoy the ride). The whole things lasted maybe 15 minutes, but it was exhilarating to go so fast thorough the water and to cross the finish line! 



Coconut Grating Demonstration


The starting line





The dance shows on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon were just FANTASTIC!  The dancers were so darn good  ( I had no idea a woman’s hips could move like that!) There was so much energy!  My favourite were the men, when they did their warrior dance (like the New Zealand ‘Haka”), they really put their heart and soul (and muscles!) into it!  I could easily see how this would intimidate any rival, especially at the end of the dance when the men threw themselves into the audience with a loud war cry (and flying sweat) they would land mere inches away from a spectator’s face, freezing into a cold, angry stare, for 10,20 seconds of silence. It’s really intense! I should know because I was the recipient of one of those stares. I shall  never forget those angry dark brown eyes looking into mine for what seemed like an eternity,  Of course after the spell is broken,  the same men relax and break into their signature friendly smiles, the act is done, and you can breath again but just, wa-a-wow! I wish I could have captured THAT on film!




Meg (3rd from front) in the Kids Canoe race

 







Birthday girl gets a lift

Meg had a great time with the demonstrations and even took part in a relay race where she had to run carrying two stocks of bananas (one stock on each end of a bamboo pole) around a course. Matthew loved the music (loud drums!) and swimming in the Bali Hai Pool!  Mark had a great time catching up with all the cruisers we had met from Panama to Moorea, so many familiar faces and names, so many stories to swap!


After the party wrapped up, we sailed to Tahiti (Monday) and have been enjoying the hussle and bustle of the “Big City”. The last two days have been spent shopping, crossing items off of our boat list, and of course we had to stop in to McDonalds, to have  ice cream sundaes!  


Coming up : 

We have a few projects to work on before our guests arrive, tomorrow is the last day of school and so we will have more time to get all those things done ! Well, we hope you are enjoying your summer, here in the Southern Hemisphere, we are entering winter, but happily no winter boots or toques will be needed ! Loads of love, 4Ms at sea, in the Society Islands.


Super strength money girl 




A "Sea Biscuit", like a "Fat" sand dollar, found intact !




This is one of the beauties that got away a  5-6 foot sailfish we hooked between Tuamotus and the Society islands



Faka Rava
Meg and Tristan, the youngest crew of SV Kazaio


Trumpet fish and friends under the Faka Rava Dock

Napoleon Wrasse







Faka Rava



Meghan On Amelie-GREAT PACIFIC CROSSING

Well, it’s finally posted! Now, let’s just pretend that this was posted at the beginning of May, right after we arrived in the Marquesas so everybody take your time machines and read this as if we had just finished the crossing!

!!!WE DID IT!!! We did our longest crossing yet (and probably the longest crossing we will ever do): 19 and a half days from the Galapagos to the Marquesas! This blog will not be about land but about life when you are literally floating amid the waves of the biggest ocean on Earth for weeks!

Before you do a long crossing, there is quite a bit of preparation to do ahead of time. I really take “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best” seriously. I pictured in my head that the worst that could happen to us is we flip completely over (but, if we did, we would come right back up after) so I prepared my room for that! We never actually got even remotely close to the sail touching the water but I’m glad to see that I can prepare my room for that kind of condition. During the preparation stage, it can be stressful but once we get out on the open ocean, we become like rasta men say: “Hey mon, what were we fighting about mon?”!

I was actually very surprised. I thought that being out of sight of land for a long time would freak me out a lot because I would worry about storms, high winds and something happening to the boat like a fire or a leak but actually it did the opposite; it relieved me of my worries. After I realized that the way things were going on the crossing, there was about a 5% chance those things would happen.

Now, if somebody asked whether I like it better at anchor or out on the ocean, I would honestly say I like it better at anchor but if I was measuring this on a seesaw, the difference would be almost not noticeable. When your’e out at sea, you can do anything and I mean anything. You can scream as loudly as you want (which my dad is not a big fan of) and not a single soul either than your family will hear you! You can blast the music on your speakers as loudly as you can and no neighbours can come to complain. Even if the entire continent of Asia blew up, you would have absolutely no clue! 

You may wonder how we hand steer the boat for 3 weeks without stopping and the answer is: we don’t. Thanks to our friend “Auto” the autopilot, we just enter our course into “Auto” and the boat will just keep going on that course until we change it. It’s very efficient because that way, we can just relax and do our normal things while “Auto” drives us all the way there (but at anytime, we can always hand steer ourselves). As my dad phrases it, “I find that Auto has more patience than me”! Still, at least one person always has to stay in the cockpit though to make sure “Auto” doesn’t go off course and the autopilot still can fail if it is stressed too much in heavy winds or storms. That is why we have “Auto #2” just as a backup because if it fails, we would have to steer the whole way there which would not be fun. Of course, some boats do do that because either they don’t have an autopilot or their autopilot breaks (which is what happened to one of our friend’s on the same crossing). 
Dad raising the second headsail
About school underway, that went actually pretty normally. I was surprised that I was able to do all my subjects without ever feeling seasick at all! Of course, it was sometimes extremely frustrating in the swell and wind because my textbooks wouldn’t stay on the pages I needed them on. I did lose one handout in the wind! Despite all of that, I still managed to do school everyday except one which now that I look back at, I actually feel pretty accomplished. My dad did an exceptional job at getting us there safely, my mom did an amazing job at cooking three meals a day despite the challenges with the rocking, Matthew did an excellent job at finding new hobbies either than swimming and I feel I did a pretty good job at school everyday including weekends.

School only took up about half to two-thirds of the day so I definitely did other things to keep me busy during the day because you can’t just say, “I’m a bit bored, I think I’ll just go for a walk around town,”! I always like the quote “Music saves my soul” but on this crossing I truly believe that movies saved my soul! Thank goodness for a hundred thousand movies out there because almost every night is movie night on long crossings! I also enjoyed practicing guitar (I am working on my first song: “Heart of Gold” by Neil Young), making dozens of elastic bracelets to give to the local kids around the South Pacific, playing so many games of I-Pad Monopoly until I was able to beat my dad and lots of other stuff I can’t remember right now!

We obviously put out our fishing lines to see what there really was out there in as far as we could tell, the vast nothingness. Sadly, we only landed one small dorado fish (mahi mahi). We had actually hooked about 10 fish but all of them got away or we threw them back because they were too small (when they were still alive). The most impressive ones we hooked were about 6 and half foot sailfish and about a 5 foot marlin! The way we had arranged our lines is we attached a bungee cord with an empty pop can to the line and when a fish would grab on, the line would stress the bungee cord which would make the pop can bang against the deck alerting us there was a fish so we could go pull in the line. When we caught the sailfish, it went a bit differently than that though! The pop can went insane for about half a second and then we heard the fishing line being unwounded extremely fast and then WHAM! snap went about a quarter of the line, including our lucky lure which we had caught all our other fish with! We were looking frantically everywhere and then in the distance, we saw it “tail walking” (jumping out of the water but keeping it’s fin on the water making it look like it was walking on water), probably trying to get the lure out of its mouth!

Either than the fish, we also saw some other, not-good-to-eat animals such as dolphins, whales and birds. I had thought that 10 days from the nearest land, birds wouldn’t be around but that was obviously wrong because I saw birds every single day on our crossing. They weren’t even big birds, they were little blackbird sized birds coming for some offshore fishing!

One day, the same day we caught our mahi mahi, we got a spectacular dolphin show! There were about 20 5ft long dolphins splashing at the bow with a surprise pilot whale friend with them. It was very, very odd that one pilot whale was, first of all swimming amid all of these dolphins and, second of all, was also swimming right next to the boat. 

You might think that all the good stuff happens during the day which is partly true because you can definitely see things better during the day but when you see things at night, now that is special. One time, my dad saw dolphins when it was a full moon (which sounded really cool) but when we had our dolphin show it was a new moon. It’s true that we didn’t actually see the dolphins themselves but the phosphorescence (plankton that glow green in the water at night) outlined them so we could see where they were moving and the spray that came out when they breathed!

A hitch hiking Galapagos night seagull
sitting on our solar panels!

Also, on the first few nights, we saw some Galapagos night seagulls. The Galapagos night seagulls look exactly like normal seagulls except they have red eyes which let them see at night so they can fish! That time, there was a moon so we could kind of see them flying but the coolest part is that there were many of them so they were communicating back and forth making ticking noises.



I don’t think the animals are the most breath taking things on night watch though. I think the stars are. The only light pollution within hundreds of miles was our navigation instruments (which is very minimal light) so no stars are hiding. You look up and everything you see looks like a diamond. There is no way I could count all of them but I would guess there are probably 100 million or more! You can even see the milky way which you know is countless miles away because the stars are extremely hard to see. You see them for a second but then you don’t a second later but you know from that one second that there are more stars in that milky way than people on Earth!

I know that I am saying, “beautiful this, beautiful that” a lot in this blog but it’s not beautiful sunsets and stars and dolphins all day everyday on a 19 and a half day crossing. Everything takes longer when your’e moving. It takes two minutes to put on pants instead of 10 seconds. It takes five minutes instead of one to get up, go downstairs, get your notebook and come back up. 

Life in the kitchen on a moving boat, well... that needs a whole paragraph just to itself. I know I didn’t cook so I’m definitely not taking credit for that but I did do dishes sometimes so I have some experience in a moving kitchen. First of all, I can’t stack the dishes on the side of the sink like I always do because in the waves, they will just crash clang and it will end in disaster. I have to put them on one of our countless life saving anti-skid pads. In science this year, I learned that a stable structure is wider at the base than at the top and I think that washing dishes was the situation I thought I would least need that tip. Turns out, it was very useful because spreading my legs wide like the yoga warrior pose was the only way to stay standing. 

I hope you did not mistake my words as complaints because that is certainly not what they were meant to be. In fact, I think we were extremely lucky at how well the passage went. Some of our friends were not so lucky and had some bigger issues but if I start telling the stories, none of you will ever want to cross an ocean and I don’t want to eliminate that option for you. Yes, the continual swell we had was hair-ripping-frustrating at times and we didn’t have much luck with fishing but we had no serious injuries or illnesses, no storms, no boat problems (either than a minor laundry machine issue), we made pretty good time and let’s face it: we had A LOT of fun! 

For those of you who are wondering, when we stepped foot on land, oh yes, did it ever feel like the ground was moving! 

P.S: You can all come back the the actual date now:) 

Friday, 12 June 2015

Tuamotus. Amazing!

Friday June 12th 2015





Ahoy there ! We are still traveling between atolls in the Tuamotus!! 


The sail between each atoll is usually done over night (as they are a close 40-60 nmiles apart and timing to leave one atoll in good light and/or tide, then arrive to the other in good tide or light) but we have to time our arrival just right with daylight to have the best visibility of the surrounding reefs. Sometimes this means slowing the boat right down or 'heaving to' (completely stopping) for a few hours in the night. 


An atoll is an old volcanic island which has eroded away leaving nothing but a thin rim of reefs with an interior large lagoon. Some of the breaks in between the outer rim offer us a safe passages (which thankfully have been well charted and marked for arriving sailboats. Still, when the time comes for us to enter the passage, it’s All Hand on Deck,  and quite exciting! 



Meg and Matt keeping watch when we enter the lagoon.

 



What you see when you look in towards one of these passages is a swirling, boiling soup of water , waves going in any and all directions and the current can be quite strong, it is an eerie feeling as your boat gets caught up into the current and suddenly your speed increases, you are being pulled in, and all your have to do is keep control of the boat , steer it straight and keep the engine going, just in case. Other than this little bit of steering control, you are quite at the mercy of the current for a few minutes, sort of like when the 'Millennium Falcon' gets pulled in towards the Death Star in Star Wars, except that instead of Storm Troopers and Lord Vader waiting for you at gunpoint when you arrive, you are welcomed by calm, ridiculously transparent, beautiful, aqua blue water. 


The dinghy dock at one of the rare "towns" found in the Tuamotus. This is the tiny village in Makemo.

The anchorages we've been to so far have offered great protection. The view never disappoints; the idyllic deserted island, palm trees, surrounded by 'bombies' (small reef outcrops). At night, the stars shine brighter than anywhere I've ever seen on earth and there is no one around! 


THIS is what we have to look out for while we are sailing in the  Atolls, there are many scattered all around us.

Because the water is so protected in these atolls, we have had some beautiful day sails. With almost zero swell, it is like sailing on a lake. Living onboard a monohull, we have grown accustomed to living while being constantly healed on one side, but these downwind sails have provided us with perfectly horizontal and steady ground to stand on, while still enjoying the fun of racing forward with the wind. The only think we have to be wary of are the many reefs, so one of us usually has to perch ourselves quite high in our rigging to keep a lookout. 


Mark finds a comfortable spot to look for reef. (Inside Makemo Atoll)


We have not been doing much fishing within the Atolls, as some reef fish have ciguatera (a type of food poisoning which is caused by an accumulation of toxins in the fish), but once back out in the deep, deep waters, we have thrown our lines in, but we have not had much luck recently, only having caught one large unknown fish who promptly jumped out of the water stealing our lure and swimming out of our reach before we even knew it happened! One day we were subjected to a particularly cruel teasing by a large school of tuna. They swam along side Amelie for over an hour, jumping on either side of us. We could see them clearly as they chased along side our hulls. We had two lines out and Mark even went to get a fishing rod and started to cast out towards them, and we caught NONE! Oh well, we still got to enjoy a delicious fish barbecue with friends on board SV Perry who were luckier and caught an enormous (5 foot) wahoo one day! 


Days have been filled with school, which is rapidly coming to an end (just a few more weeks before summer vacation starts!) and pretty spectacular snorkeling. It is amazing how quickly one adapt to sharing swimming space with sharks! There are just so many here! They usually come out to investigate when they hear our splash when we first jump in. They are pretty cool to see. Sure you get a rush of adrenaline (never fails), but then you see them gently swim on by. Occasionally they grant you a second or third visit to investigate you a little bit more, but nothing too alarming. We have mostly seen black tip (reef) and nurse sharks, usually in the range of 4-6 feet long, so not small, but harmless just the same. 


The reef fish are very colourful here, even more colourful, I think, than in the Caribbean, and there is a greater variety of all the species, just so many, its hard to describe. It is always a joy to experience this, it never seems to get old! 


A black tip shark in Tuamatous



Some colourful Clams in the Coral

‘Mark’, It rhymes with 'Shark'! A funny thing happened to Mark today as he was diving behind the boat (trying to retrieve a socket he had dropped while working earlier). He came up laughing telling us that a ramora fish (the kind you often seen attached to a shark's belly) was trying to attach himself to Mark (and or his weight belt) and I guess he was quite insistent about it. Mark had to push him away several times! We are slowly making our way across the Tuamotus, currently at Fakarava, on our way to the Society Islands (Tahiti) which we should reach next week. As always, we are sending you lots of love from this part of the world. 4Ms sailing 



Amelie IV anchored in Raroia


A tiny hermit crab, Raroia


View from the lagoon, with the Pacific Ocean in the background
Sunset, Tuamotus, French Polynesia



A close up of the Atoll, where we found the land crabs, Raroia