About Us

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We work as ecotourism guides (as well as biologist and boat captain) often on the BC Coast, but also as far ranging as the Arctic and Antarctic. We have an insatiable curiousity for the planet; all its hidden gems and what makes them tick. That and our love of sailing is what inspired us to sail around the Pacific in Narama, our tough and pretty little sailboat.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cruising the Marquesas

Spinner Dolphins in the Hanaiapa Anchorage

From Atuona on Hiva Oa we sailed SW around Is. Tahuata, where we anchored in Hanamoenoa Bay – with white sand lined with palm trees where we had excellent snorkeling. Most bays here in the Marquesas are dark and murky and everyone warns you of sharks, so Hanamoenoa was a real treat! We stayed for three days working on lots of odd jobs on the boat after our long crossing and snorkeling twice a day. One afternoon as we were rowing the dinghy over to the reef on the side of the bay a dark shape in the water caught our eye. No, not sharks. We jumped in and watched two large (6-feet + across) Manta rays gracefully perform backward summersaults through the water as they filtered the plankton – how wonderful!

We visited one small village on Tahuata where we found fresh mangoes falling from the trees (cut off the bruises and they’re fine) and then sailed around to the north side of Hiva Oa. We met William, a lovely man who is the self-appointed Commodore of the Hanaiapa Yacht Club. The yacht club consists of a guest book which he gets most passing to sign and in return gives away lots of fresh fruit from his garden.

We had a great sail north to the smaller island of Ua Huka (Oo-Ah Hoo-Kah) which didn’t offer much for protected spot to anchor. We sat for a night next to a couple small islets absolutely covered in nesting Sooty Terns. It was a wild place all to ourselves which isn’t surprising as we didn’t sleep for the waves knocking us around. That was last night, now we are in the relative metropolis of Taiohae Bay on Nuku Hiva, with about 20 yachts for neighbors!

Landfall Hiva Oa, Marquesas

“At once the new starlight walked the water, leaving a footpath of silver to run between me and the east like a life line through the multitudinous creases in the palm of the sea’s black out-stretched hand.”
--Laurens van der Post.

Our first impressions were the smells of earth, plants and flowers and decay and the sights of so many brilliant colours – the greens of lush jungle and vived red hibiscus. Once the anchor was down friends from “Pipistrelle” came over to welcome us and then presented us with some fresh fruit and a bit of bubbly to celebrate! We went ashore toute suite for a hike in the hills along a stream to work some muscles and our lungs – not at lot of cardio in 33 feet of space!

So far we’ve enjoyed eating the daily bagettes and so much fresh fruit: bananas brought by the bunch, pamplemouse (sweeter than grapefruit and so huge!) Refreshing showers of rain and lot’s of water to wash with and beautiful friendly people. Our only frustration is that Spanish comes out whenever we open our mouths and now we need fran├žais. But Heidi’s highschool French is returning in leaps and bounds, whenever we hitch hike into town!
Trip stats from Galapagos to Hiva Oa:

Distance: 2941 nautical miles (nm)
Time: 25 days
Average distance in 24 hours: 120 nm
Best day: 155 nm
Worst day: 84 nm
Sail changes: 41
Flying fish on deck: 48
Water consumed: 210L
Engine running hours: 16.3 (about 32L of fuel)
Loaves of bread baked: 11 (all but one were made by Stevo!)

A very dirty boat after 25 days of sailing hard

Life at Sea

25 days at sea without sight of land might seem like an awfully long time, but it depends on your perspective. Our longest passage took 31 days in 2004 from New Zealand to Tahiti and honestly a couple days doesn’t make much difference – we are still really happy to see land! Our isolation on Narama is even more profound as we have very limited communication onboard. Our VHF Radio rarely gets turned on, unless we can actually see another ship or sailboat as its range is limited. We have an SSB receiver which lets us get weather forecasts via either a voice recording or we can plug the audio into the laptop and some lovely software turns a bunch of clicks and beeps into a weather fax image. Our SSB also lets us listen to Radio Australia from Suva and to the “Radio Nets” that other yachties often use to chat and relay weather and positions. Out little unit does not allow us to transmit, so we are really just lurking on the sidelines and not participating in these nets. While listening we learned that nearly everyone has a pet name for their autopilot. Our windvane is “Ernest” and he steers the boat 95% of the time on passage. Our electric autopilot is “Parson Brown” and gets put to work whenever we are motoring.

We found that having a routine helped to make the days go by faster. The first four days or so every moment off watch is spent napping, then it seems our body gets used to the schedule and doesn’t need as much sleep. So what do we do with our time? Well of course there’s the actual sailing of the boat. You have to keep an eye on Ernest since he steers by the direction of the wind, if the wind swings, so do we. But a casual glance at the compass and a quick scan of the horizon for traffic every few minutes is really the required watch activity. Add to that the occasional sail and vane adjustments and there’s still time to read a book or cook a meal. We also keep a rather detailed “logbook” which really reads more like a ship’s journal. We note the weather, our speed and direction in a table every four hours as well as our noon position and a few other important stats. Otherwise we often note all sorts of very “unofficial” details: wildlife: whales and birds and even flying fish (especially if they land on deck), the moon, stars, general mood of the crew and and what we eat, etc. It’s often quite interesting to start a watch and read what the other has written, especially if there’s been serious star-gazing and philosophizing.

Other shipboard routines include our daily happy hour drink. Conditions have to be pretty rough for us to go without it, sometimes it’s just a glass of juice, usually it involves brandy. We also have a daily “bucket bridage” on the foredeck. There’s not enough fresh water storage on Narama for us to have showers, so every morning (usually at the 10 AM watch change) we head to the foredeck with a bottle of shampoo and a bucket. In this hot tropical climate it is very pleasing to tip buckets of sea water on each other’s head. We then get a couple of cups of fresh water to rinse off a bit of the salt and this keeps us from going “feral”.

Aside from all this, reading is probably the most common activity (next to sleeping). Our most common conversation topic is definitely the weather, followed by the boat itself. Life at sea isn’t too bad really, it’s just tedious when the seas are rough and you can’t use two hands to do anything (one is holding on!).

A few quotes from our logbook:

April 14: “We’re now bouncing along under 3 reefs and a little bit of jib. I’m guessing that the large convection cells and wind against tide are keeping the seas rough.”

April 17: “Happy hour and full moon rise as sun set. Seas slowly easing and we’re making just over 4 knots.”

April 26: “Dreary drizzle, dolphins diving with dashing dexterity in the dark depths, drawing dazzling designs with diamonds.”

April 27: “One of those nights when staying awake seems impossible. Walk from the cockpit to the galley and back again, over and over. Eat a piece of chocolate and still my head wants to lie on any surface available. Meanwhile Stevo snores like a trooper and makes me insanely jealous!”

We caught a Tuna!