07-12-2018 – Taiohae, Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia

The Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia are a cruiser’s paradise. There are only 8 islands – and a handful of exposed rocks that we need to be careful of! – but each one seems to have its own personality. So far we’ve visited three of them and are quite delighted!

The first one we encountered was Fatu Hiva, among the tiniest, but with the biggest reputation. We spent a couple of nights anchored near the town of Omoa and then a few in the famous Bay of Virgins (a.k.a. Hanavave). We had a nice hike to a famous waterfall with a pretty but chilly pool at its base. Dave and Baban enjoyed a short swim, but Dan and Kathy settled for a shower in the rain instead. 🙂 Because it’s technically the dry season, the waterfall was not running very fast, but it noticeably increased when the rain shower began! It was coming over a very steep cliff and dramatically fell a few hundred feet. The lush jungle surrounded us and we felt as if we were in our own private little space. The hike took perhaps an hour, and was really therapeutic for our legs that had grown lazy over the long passage across the sea.

  

Even though we had found a place to drop our anchor, the anchorage was still crowded and our location was not good. There are strong winds that come down the valley and across the anchorage, and the boat dragged anchor more than 100 feet while we were gone. As we passed through the small town on our way back from our hike, a local woman invited us to have dinner at her home later that evening. Dan chose to stay with the boat, to keep an eye on the anchor, while Kathy, Dave and Baban returned for dinner. Veronica spoke virtually no English, but her husband Rod spoke reasonably well. Dinner was delicious, including our first taste of “poisson cru”, which is raw fish (often tuna) and coconut milk, lemon juice and salt – it turns out to be quite common in this area. There was also a green salad, chicken, boiled vegetables and two banana dishes, one fried and one made with coconut milk that had a texture sort of like bread pudding. All of it was made from local ingredients, and delicious! And Veronica prepared a wonderful dish for Dan to eat later. Our conversation was limited to the basics of our life stories, but it was fun to have an authentic visit with a local couple. Veronica was from the Tuamotus and Rod was from the Marquesas, but they spent most of their lives working in Papeete, in the Society Islands. After the meal, they offered to sell us a bunch of fruit from their yard/garden: pamplemousse, mangos, bananas. We traded them a few small items we had brought, including a T-shirt, some reading glasses and some nail polish. It was a fun interchange!

After we left Fatu Hiva, we moved to the next island north, Tahuata. The bay of Hanamoenoa was reported to be a really nice anchorage by several other boats we’d already heard from, and it was only 15 miles away. Although there were only about 10 boats when we arrived, within a few days there were more like 20, many of them with kids. It turns out that families travelling with kids have a special need to find others with similar aged children, and they often maintain a network of friends, travelling together or arranging for occasional meet-ups. This bay was selected as a meet-up spot for the same time that we had planned to be there. There were roughly 40 kids of various ages that weekend, playing on the beach, jumping on a big floating trampoline toy one boat had tied up behind them, riding along on wakeboards or inflatable rings behind dinghies, etc. They organized a couple of group meals on shore and had a bonfire night which we joined in. It was a very social couple of days – and then they moved on. 🙂 Baie Hanamoenoa has a small but beautiful white sand beach, surrounded by jungle and backed by tall volcanic cliffs. There are a few homesteads behind the beach, but we didn’t meet the people there. (Actually, Dave and Baban had an encounter one evening when they went ashore to do some astral photography, but that’s their story. Baban brought his tripod and his fancy camera, and got a spectacular photo of the Milky Way.) We all went snorkeling one afternoon along the rocks to the south. It was wonderful to see the variety of tropical fish zipping along the reef and ducking into its crevices! After about 20 minutes, though, Baban and Dan ran into a patch of stinging jellies, which left some significant welts. Ouch! We quickly swam away from the shore and headed back to Lungta. Oddly, we haven’t seen these jellies since. A couple of times we dinghied the 5 miles down the coast to a nearby village to do a few errands – and try to get some internet. There was a cafe there run by an astute businessman named Jimmy. He provided breakfast for $10, including internet access, while his next-door neighbor only offered breakfast. All the cruisers frequented Jimmy’s place! 🙂 After our first meal there, he asked us if we wanted some oranges. We enthusiastically said yes, and he picked a bag full, adding in 3 breadfruit. Then he told us it would be an extra $15. 🙁 We didn’t like that way of doing business and we declined. He came back three different times with the same suggestion, and then changed his tack – how about some whiskey? Or some old line (rope)? We negotiated 10 meters of line for the bundle of fruit, and we all came away feeling like it was a fine deal.

After 5 days, it felt like it was time to move on. We hadn’t yet checked into the country, and we were definitely enjoying what it had to offer! We pulled our anchor and moved north another 80 miles to the island of Nuku Hiva. This is the biggest island in the chain, hosting more than 2000 inhabitants – and the second largest in the whole country, after the capital Papeete. Here we could take care of the legal formalities of checking in and arranging to get our long-stay visas. (If you are remembering that we already applied in Panama, you’re right! This is a multi-step process, with lots of details. The first year of a long-stay, one gets the standard 3-month visa, followed by a resident card for the balance of the time.) We have turned in the paperwork for the long-stay cards, and are now waiting 6 weeks for them to be processed. They can only be picked up here in Nuku Hiva or in Papeete (or an agent can help with the process too). It will take about 6 weeks for them to be processed.

The town of Taiohae (tie-o-hay) is situated at the head of the big bay of the same name. The bay comfortably fits many dozens of boats, and has had over 40 the whole time we’ve been here (about 3 weeks). We’ve seen many familiar boat names (many from the tracking list that Kathy coordinated while crossing from Panama) and a number of new ones as well. There’s a nice wharf where we can leave our dinghy while we’re ashore, and a cafe very nearby that has a fairly decent wifi connection – unless there are lots of customers already online. 🙂 The local fishing fleet uses this same dock, and cleans and sells their fish early most mornings. We’ve found amazingly fresh tuna here for only $2.50/lb! As the fishermen are cleaning their catch, they toss the scraps off the wharf into the water. A small crowd of sharks have learned this pattern, and it’s exciting to see them scramble whenever something lands in the murky water!

Taiohae is a bit of a cross-roads for boaters, with some arriving directly from their crossing and others arriving from other islands in the chain. It’s a good place to meet people and exchange crew. We expect to hang out here as we wait for the processing of our long-stay visas to complete, but our crew are both interested in moving on a bit more quickly. Dave has already found a place on a Swedish boat that is heading towards the Tuamotus, and Baban is in discussion with an American boat that is not going to get long-stay visas, so will move on to Tonga or Fiji before the end of the season. We (Dan & Kathy) are starting to look forward to having the boat to ourselves again. It’s been fun having crew, but it’s also nice to be “just the two of us”. By the next time we post, this transition will probably already be completed, but right now it feels like there’s a lot of change in the air. 🙂

Shortly after we arrived in Taiohae, we were shopping in the grocery store, when a tall man struck up a conversation, asking all about where to find various services. Bob is on a boat called Second Summit, which has a number of challenges after their crossing. Dan offered to help diagnose the fuel problems with their main engine & generator, and thus a friendship began. We spent much of the next day working on the air leak and getting to know Bill, Bob, and Julie. They had a fourth crew person, but he disappeared quickly after a drinking binge that caused some awkward difficulties with the local police department where the checkin process occurs. Some time that first night their dinghy got seriously damaged on the rocks and the outboard motor got dunked (or rolled?) in the water (outboards don’t like saltwater 🙂 ). They are going to be here a while. 🙁 Bob is a very energetic athletic guy, always working on new ideas for a hike or paddle outing. We joined him on one hike a week ago, and our calves are still recovering! Julie is an unconventional young woman with a fun spirit who we’ve also been spending quite a bit of time with. Bill, the owner, is a bit older and less adventurous. In appreciation of Dan’s help, he took us all out to dinner one night at a fancy hotel’s restaurant, and we enjoyed goat curry and vegetable/chevre rolls with eggplant fritters.

Two weeks ago we took a little jaunt to another bay 5 miles to the west. It’s called Taioe (tie-o-eh) on the map, but cruisers generally call it Daniel’s Bay after a friendly local. The valley there is sometimes called the Royal Valley, and it sports another don’t-miss waterfall. 🙂 We beached the dinghy and found the trailhead quite easily. It was a gentle hike, passing through a small settlement of perhaps a dozen tidy farms. We paid a $10 fee per person to the local “valley association”, collected by a burly, heavily tattooed man named Patrick. (We had already heard about this fee, so we had money with us!) The first half of the walk followed an ancient roadbed, lined with large stones but with the surface gone. Later it headed up into the valley, lined on both sides with tall cliffs and lots of tropical vegetation. A stream ran through the valley, which we crossed 3 or 4 times. We came across an ancient town, with lots of stone construction in ruin, some walls, some steps, and a few stone-lined pits (for food storage?) We imagined the royal family living up there between the majestic cliffs, and travelling the wide boulevard to access the sea. We had heard that the trail beyond this village was hard to find, and we followed one to what seemed the end, where it ran to the stream but didn’t appear to continue on the other side. There were signs saying that continuing was prohibited (we think! It was in French, which is still mostly incomprehensible to us. 🙂 ) We turned around at this point, tired enough that we chose not to search for another path to the waterfall. Later we learned that we were in the right place, and if we’d been a bit more determined we would have found the continuation to our path on the other side of the stream. We retraced our steps, and when we got back to the settlement we met a woman named Monette, who was happy to make a meal for us. At first she thought we were just starting our hike, and said that she’d have dinner ready in two hours, but then we made it clear that we had just returned from the hike, so she offered us some fried banana morsels and whipped up a feast! She included a green salad that had shredded green mango and a wonderful vinaigrette dressing. She sat with us and chatted as we ate; the local culture is so gentle and happy that it is a real pleasure to meet the local people! They seem to live off of the bounty of nature, feeling no urgent sense of not enough. Since the trees produce more than they can eat, they happily share what they have with strangers that come by and ask. They speak gently and smile frequently. Many have tattoos, a holdover from a traditional lineage that little is known of anymore. The current population is only about 10% of the size it was when westerners first arrived in the 18th century. Many cruisers are getting Marquesan-style tattoos, in commemoration of their big passage or to add to a collection they already had started.

Back in Taiohae again, we have learned our way around a bit. There is a lovely produce market right near the dinghy dock, which runs every morning except Sundays. As one friend said: “The French don’t do Sundays!” We’ve found two grocery stores which stock a surprisingly different set of items, so we typically visit both. One of them carries baguettes and larger loaves of bread that can be cut into slices for sandwiches. We’ve found brie and other cheeses, expensive but so good on the baguettes! We’ve also found a French baker who makes delicious pastries on Saturdays & Sundays, once again giving us cause to celebrate the weekend. 🙂 He makes croissants, chocolate rolls, brioches, eclairs, and more! We’re still sampling the list. 🙂 Food here is fairly expensive, compared to Central America, but perhaps comparable to what we paid back in the States. Some items are printed in red, which means that the French government subsidizes them. We have found Corn Flakes subsidized for $3.50 for a small box, while the next cheapest box of cereal is $5.50! We often walk away thinking we haven’t gotten very much food for our $80-100, but then we manage to eat just fine. We’re getting used to a new array of meal ingredients, although we haven’t yet embraced anything particularly exotic, outside of pamplemousse – and soursop (a.k.a. guanabana and coeur du sol), which we discovered in Panama City with Suzanne!

Last week, along with Bob & Julie from Second Summit, we took a hike to the bay to the east, called Comptroller’s Bay – except that we actually hitchhiked half of the way. Although it was paved road most of the way, it did have quite a bit of elevation gain, about 3000 feet. We were surprised to wear out as thoroughly as we did! It turned out to be surprisingly easy to hitchhike here, because almost all of the vehicles that passed us were pickup trucks. It seems that the paved roads here are fairly recent, perhaps 15 years or so, and there’s not really much need to travel from one place to another, but people are enjoying their new-found capabilities. The first person to pick us up was on his way out hunting wild pigs and goats (previously he would have used a horse); most of these islands have wild populations of these animals which now make a ready source of food without having to invest in feeding them. We saw several small groups of pigs foraging along the roadside as we were walking this day. We also saw goats when we were in Daniel’s Bay the previous week, including darling kids frolicking at the water’s edge. Their bleating echoed around the bay for an entire morning. We marveled at the views on our walk, both up at steep cliffs that evoked memories of Yosemite and down at the crystal blue water of the coastline. There were quite a few unfamiliar plants, some flowering, some bearing odd fruits, which we would stop to admire. Near the end of our hike, we were hoping to come to a waterfall. We came to a stream crossing where we waded across the cool water. Julie knelt down to stick her head in the water, flipped her hair overhead and created a beautiful arc. Dan spent 10 minutes trying to capture that on his camera, and then we all noticed that we’d been consumed by mosquitoes and another biting insect called nonos. Yikes! The welts itched for more than 2 days – and sleepless nights! When we realized that we’d have to bushwhack to get to the waterfall, we petered out and decided to call it a day. We hitchhiked most of the way home, tired and full of the sensory experiences of the day’s adventure!

    

This week and next, there’s a festival going on, presumably celebrating the harvest season. There are booths set up in town, and the vegetable market is on hold. Many of the booths are selling jewelry and other art trinkets, but also a massage corner, a pellet rifle shooting range, and a fruit sampling booth. Half a dozen huge stones were placed along the beachfront, and carvers with Makita electric grinders have been making them into tikis over the course of the week. We talked with Henry who was working on a sculpture of sea turtles. He told us how the original people of these islands believed that when someone dies, their soul goes into the sea and then into a large animal like a turtle, whale or mantaray. Later, if the people eat that animal, they receive some of the power of their ancestors’ souls back. When the missionaries and French colonial powers came to the islands they were shocked, saying that the soul goes UP into heaven rather than DOWN into the sea, and the ceremonial eating of sea turtles has been banned. Henry (and others) are outraged at the destruction of his culture and is working to restore the heritage to today’s youth.

  

Drums ring out most evenings, accompanying dance performances both rollicking war-frenzies and seductive hip-shakers. We haven’t seen any schedules, so we just keep our ears open! A few days after we arrived in the bay, we ran into a friend that we hadn’t seen since we were in the Sea of Cortez in 2014. Norma & Christian arrived here in Nuku Hiva a year ago, and have settled in here. She has joined a group of women who are doing a Polynesian dance class twice a week, and they had a recital last week with 20 of her group. It was fun to see this Mexican woman joining in on a traditional Polynesian dance! We’ve had them over to dinner one night since then, and are planning a hike for next week. It’s good to have friends!

  

Yesterday our neighbor Silke (a single-hander on a boat called Ocean Maiden) paddled over and told us that she was having trouble with her anchor. She thought it had snagged on a rock, but had been unable to get it free by maneuvering the boat in circles. She has some ear troubles and couldn’t dive the 30-35′ herself to see what was happening and clear the problem. We pulled out our dive gear and helped her out. It’s the first time in 4 years that we’ve used a dive tank instead of our hookah, and we had to dig out some pieces and reconnect some other bits. Eventually, we got it all together and got over to her boat. We worked out our game plan, and Kathy jumped in the water. Dan & Silke maneuvered the boat up to the anchor so that there was no stress on the chain. Kathy found that the chain was wrapped around a tree (!) that was sticking up about 8 feet from the silty muddy bottom – about 4 times! With a bit of effort, she was able to lift the coils up over the branches one at a time to untangle the snarl. It was a good feeling to be a hero and help out a friend! Silke treated us to a plate of fish cakes – yum!

Well, that’s the news on Lungta. We have wifi internet when we take our tablets ashore from time to time, so we’re checking our “usual” email addresses again a couple of times a week, as well as getting internet tasks done as needed. We’re also still checking our Iridium email most days. Drop us a line if you feel so inspired – we’d love to hear from you!

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06-04-2018 – Omoa, Fatu Hiva, French Polynesia

We’ve (finally) arrived in the Marquesas! Hooray! Our trip took almost 2 exactly months (actually 57 days if you count from when we left Las Perlas, or 60 days if you count from when we left Panama City). That’s much longer than the other boats in the “fleet” It’s just that Lungta prefers to take her good time about getting anywhere. 🙂
The days at sea all turn into a blur, since each one looks quite a bit like the previous one. Of course, some days have more clouds than others, some present different wildlife sightings, some have slower winds while others are faster, etc. But the elements of each day were substantially the same. No one moment felt especially special or different, and yet the overall experience gels together to produce a unique even on our lives. Somehow life itself seemed to slow down and become more basic. Watching the sun set or the moon rise was among the highlights of each day. We read, ate (two or) three meals, brushed our teeth and napped eah day. We read about places in French Polynesia we wanted to visit, watched episodes of “Cosmos” (the updated series with Neil de Grasse Tyson), repaired torn sails, and talked together. We all learned things about ourselves, some of them good, some opportunities for growth. 🙂
We arrived at the island of Fatu Hiva yesterday evening. We first went to the bay that is known far and wide, called Hanavave. It is lined with tall rock spires and the story goes that it was originally named by the French the Bay of Penises: Baie Verges. But the powers that be were shocked and chose to add one ‘i’ to make it Baie Vierges, the Bay of Virgins. Don’t know if this is true, but it makes a repeatable story. 🙂 We were surprised to see more than a dozen boats in this narrow anchorage which is very deep in the center and only suitable for anchoring around the edges. We poked our nose into several corners, but couldn’t find a place that felt safe. We’ve heard a number of times about winds that come down through the valley strong enough to cause a boat to drag on its anchor, and didn’t want that to be us! So, after exploring the areas of the bay that were unoccupied, we decided to leave and find another spot.
We spent our first night in French Polynesia anchored at the town of Omoa, 3 miles south of Hanavave. (But many of you probably already know this by checking our tracking page, forecast.predictwind.com/display/tracking/Lungta 🙂 ) We saw a great sunset along the way, which included a brilliant green flash. Our anchor dropped at 6:30, and after a joyful champagne toast and a quick spaghetti dinner, we all crashed in our bunks with no worries about having to get up for a nighttime shift. Although there are reports that this anchorage is a bit rolly, we found that it was delightful after 8 weeks at sea. 🙂 It’s open to a spectacular view of the sunset, but has high cliffs which shelter us from the constant presence of the trade winds. The hills are covered with greenery, including coconut palms that we believe are tended as part of someone’s garden. The small town is nestled in a bowl at the bottom of a few valleys, which form a wrinkle in the cliff-lined shore. Our fir st day here, we moved slowly – kinda like this way of living! – we spent a few hours cleaning the bottom of the boat, which had accumulated quite a few barnacles (including gooseneck barnacles, which reminded Kathy of a flock of white butterflies that had landed on the hull and then somehow got stuck). We then took an exploratory trip into town, to find out if our land legs still worked. Fortunately they do! We found a little grocery shop, and bought some basics – sugar, flour, eggs, milk, soy sauce, sweetened condensed milk. Wow – it’s going to be a challenge moving all the Spanish we’ve slowly learned over the last 7 years to a folder for storage, while we work on making coherent sentences (mostly questions!) in French. The woman at the store was patient with us, and we expect that we will encounter many people in the islands with that same sense of “what’s the hurry?”
We are thinking of returning to Hanavave tomorrow, but our plans are pretty fluid right now. We’ll let you more as it develops. For now, it’s time to get another good night’s sleep!

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05-18-2018 Crossing the Pacific

We’re now starting to get close enough to our destination that we can sense a change (internally, not the environment!). We’re still 1200 miles away, too far to just douse the sails and motor in, but something is changing. We have cycled through all four of the shifts, so each of us has spent 10 days on each time schedule. We each have different ways of organizing our days to fit in the constraints. Now we’re rearranging the shift schedule again, this time not according to the algorithm, but rather looking at who prefers which shift and who is open to any of them. Dan and Dave will keep the current schedule, while Kathy and Baban will switch. We think we are roughly two weeks from making landfall.
We had a celebration about 10 days ago marking the halfway point in our travels. Dave made a delicious appetizer of seared dorado with a sesame-soy sauce, Dan made a fresh loaf of apricot honey bread and mixed up a fruity rum punch. We set up a picnic on the deck in front of the pilothouse while Lungta all but sailed herself. We watched a few whales spouting in the the distance and toasted our journey, both internal and external. The day had a bit of a magical quality to it!
We’ve seen more than our share of wildlife and other boats. We have had a few sightings of spinner dolphins. These guys are smaller than the “usual” bottlenose dolphins and behave quite differently. While bottlenose dolphins love the bow wave and will swim back and forth in front of the boat for hours on end, spinner dolphins rarely come closer than half a mile from the boat. Spinner dolphins, however, love to leap! They seem positively joyful in the way that they catch the air! Sometimes they will do interesting spins and turns, but mostly they just jump as high as they can and come back to the water with a huge splash! The latest pod we saw was huge, with well over 50 members. There were smaller groups of them that seemed to be swimming in tandem, surfacing together and diving simultaneously. Other individuals were dancing their own dance, some leaping 15 feet up in the air, some doing partial somersaults, landing on their sides or backs. The whole happy show only lasted 15 minutes, although we could see their silhouettes fading into the horizon for a good bit longer. One night Dan and Baban enjoyed a visit by a group of bottlenose dolphins playing under the bowsprit. Another night Kathy heard a whale spout just outside the window of the pilothouse as she sat at the helm. She grabbed a flashlight and searched the water’s surface. She heard the release of breath, saw the mist of the spout, smelled the fishy breath, and saw the mucousy residue on the water’s surface. The whale (or pair?) surfaced roughly a dozen times close by, first on the port side and later on the starboard side, but never in the flashlight’s beam. Dan joined in the search and did catch a glimpse of a tail submerging – but mostly this individual or pair avoided the light. Given the size of these animals and the fact that others have reported seeing pilot whales in these waters, it’s reasonable to assume that is what these guys were.
Back when we passed the Galapagos, and for about 250 miles all around, we had lots of boobie birds around. There was one night where we had 15 of them on the spring stay (which connects the tops of the two masts). They generally coexist peacefully, with only a little bit of grousing. 🙂 But there were also 2 or 3 frigate birds that wanted to horn in on the location and they were a source of much complaint! Eventually the frigates moved on for the night and we were left with only boobies. Unfortunately, in the morning we were left with a spattered and slippery walk on the downwind side of the boat. At that, we decided they were unwelcome. Baban and Dan pulled out a slingshot and tried to shoot dried beans at the birds to convince them to move on. But, true to form, the boobies were unresponsive. Fortunately we moved beyond the comfortable reach of their home territory and they dropped away in just a couple of days. More recently we had a smallish bird catch a ride on our deck overnight. Although this is usually not a good sign, he ended up flying away in the dawn’s light. We typically end up feeling protective of birds like this that take refuge for a while on our floating home!
We’ve also had a couple of turtle sightings. They seem like such gentle creatures, and their endangered status always makes us privileged to encounter them. By far, thought, the animal that we’ve seen the most of has to be the flying fish! They get spooked by the boat as we pass by, and they leap out of the water on a mad dash through the air, sometimes “flying” a hundred yards away from Lungta. Sometimes they are avoiding other marine entities – like tuna and dorado! It’s exciting to see a school of flying fish with a predator or two in hot pursuit! Our stretch of catching dorados daily has passed, and our catch has dwindled to only one fish every 2-3 days – which is still a treat!
Last night we decided to leave a fishing line out over night to see what happens. What a surprise! Round about midnight, the line made its classic whizzing sound, indicating something bit. Baban woke us and then proceeded to reel the line in. Turns out we had hooked a squid, about 15″ long and 6″ in diameter. Dan scooped it up in the net, and it squirted ink into the air (making a sound reminiscent of a fart). 🙂 Baban (what a guy!) brought it into the galley sink, cleaned it and popped it into the fridge for lunch today. Mmmmm, garlic and olive oil calamari!
In addition to wildlife sightings, we seem to have had more than our share of boat sightings. 🙂 We have seen two sailboats and 3 commercial vessels (two of these were mentioned our last posting). All but one of them passed within 2 miles of us! One cargo ship altered course when they spotted us. Our AIS system showed us that one was heading from Panama to New Zealand and another from Seattle to Brazil, around Cape Horn. So even though we were way out in the middle of blue water with no land within 500 miles, we were right on the route straight down the coast. Both sailboats were almost certainly heading the same place as us – French Polynesia! Of the 20 or so boats on the tracking list that Kathy is maintaining, no one has reported as many sightings as us. Few see more than 2 on the entire passage! Don’t know what’s different about Lungta, whether it’s our route, the fact that we have four pairs of eyes scanning the horizon, what catches our interest – or perhaps just a coincidence!
One of the common issues on a long blue-water passage like this one is chafe. We have had our share too. The most significant example (so far) has been the halyard for our jib. This line is used to pull the jib up to the top of an aluminum extrusion, which encircles the forestay and can freely spin around it, and which has a slot that the forward edge of the sail inserts into. The halyard loops over a pulley built into the extrusion at the top, to allow us to pull down from below when we want to bring the sail up. But with all the continuous motion of the boat, the line moves around a bit and slides along several surfaces in the area around this pulley. Over time, something wore completely through the halyard, causing the jib to slump down in the extrusion’s slot. Once the sail was no longer taut, it lost a lot of its effectiveness. We were able to roll it up, loosely, and continue on our way – but at a significantly reduced speed! We decided to send someone up the mast at th e first available window of “gentle weather”. Unfortunately in the meantime, both of our staysails developed long tears in them. These sails are quite old and it’s time for us to replace them (obviously, according to Captain Hindsight). We had thought/hoped that they had one more season in them (but perhaps we shouldn’t have tried to cross an ocean in that last season!). So we pulled out the sewing machines and set to work. In the meantime, a flap of the jib worked its way loose and flapped itself silly in the wind, creating a few more tears that needed repair. After 3 days of sail repair, we were moving along again with all of our sails except the jib. Finally we found the weather that we were waiting for, and Baban volunteered to go up the mast to run a new halyard. Then we hoisted the jib, secured all the lines involved in the process, and lowered Baban back down to the deck. Away we went with our powerful jib leading the way!
Several people have reported to us in the last couple of days that there is something odd happening with our tracking page at forecast.predictwind.com/display/tracking/Lungta Apparently the line that represents the track we have followed the last several weeks/months has turned into a squiggle that is reminiscent of an Etch-a-Sketch drawing. It appears that we backtracked dramatically and then returned to our course. Rest assured that all is well on Lungta. We did not lose someone or something and go back to retrieve it! 🙂 We don’t know what happened with this tracking tool, but the problem is digital not actual! We have heard that one other boater is having similar issues.
We have had no problems with storms, tsunamis, or pirates! We are slowly, but peacefully, crossing the Pacific Ocean under the force of Mother Nature. Life is slow and fairly basic. We’re all learning about ourselves and each other. This is a lifetime event for all of us, but it may be difficult to articulate just what it is we’ve experienced! It will be nice to arrive in French Polynesia, but these last several weeks have not been all about getting there; they’ve stood on their own as an interesting chapter in our lives.
Hoping each of you is also content with where you find yourself in life! Thanks for riding along with us on ours!

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Fwd: 05-08-2018 Crossing the Pacific

——– Original Message ——– From: Dan Finkelstein <lungta@myiridium.net> Sent: May 8, 2018 2:34:54 PM PDT To: 1126blog.com Subject: 05-08-2018 Crossing the Pacific
Life on Lungta continues on, much as it always has – but different too, while underway. Our days are colored by the watch schedule, especially at night. During the days we’re more casual, but someone is almost always in the captain’s seat. Part of the reason for that is that the navigation PC is also our primary connection with email.
Kathy, in particular, has been making a lot of use of the email recently. She volunteered to be the new manager of an email system to track the locations of a group of sailboats traveling from Panama to the Marquesas, called M-Fleet by its founder. When the original list manager arrived in the Marquesas, he was tired of the project and asked for a replacement. Did Kathy step forward or did everyone else step back? The original owner had designed a nice Excel chart that graphically showed the relative locations of all the boats on the list. He embedded it in his email for everyone to view easily. But after a few hours of banging her head against the project, Kathy determined that she would not be able to provide the same image; our mail app compresses attachments, and this one ended up with unreadable text when it was received. Since the boat names are an important part of the image, this was unacceptable. She sent the data out in a text list in her nightly email, but was disappointed with the results and kept working on trying to find something better. After a couple of days, one of the boaters suggested a different type of file format that used text to denote waypoints on a chart to things like our navigation software and GPS devices. He helped her organize the data so that when people download this file to their device they will see a star marking each boat in their location on the chart. It’s fun to see who’s closest or how far someone else has come in the last day or two! This week some of the boats are arriving in the Marquesas and a similar number are beginning their trip across the ocean. There seems to be a larger number of boats moving this way than we had even imagined.
We often feel like we’re out in the middle of the vast ocean, with no one and nothing as far as the eye can see. Last Thursday, though, we were reminded that there is more going on just out of sight than anyone knows. On one morning, we sighted not just one, but two other boats. Baban actually sighted the navigation lights of the first one in the wee hours of the morning, and it approached over several hours. Eventually it got within radio distance and the AIS system provided us with lots of information, including that it was a 333 meter Greek tanker, bound for Brazil on the other side of Cape Horn. It got 1.25 miles from us before crossing our track as the sun rose, and then receded over the next several hours. The second boat was the opposite: a small sailboat that was heading in essentially the same direction as we were. We first saw a sail on the horizon. As it got closer, Dan established radio contact and had a pleasant conversation with the Norwegian woman who replied. We learned that this boat was named Isis II – and felt a surge of recognition as we realized that this was the boat that had recruited Laura away from us almost exactly a month ago! They had been to the Galapagos and were now bound for the Marquesas, but *much* faster than us. What a small world!
On April 28th at 10:04pm, we finally achieved an exciting milestone: crossing the Equator! We captured a screen shot of our navigation PC to commemmorate the event when we were at 00 00.0001S 94 48.3216W There are many traditions of how sailors have greeted this occurrence, and mostly they are silly or treated as a rite of passage. More elaborate ceremonies typically invoke King Nepture, and sometimes bring newbies (referred to as pollywogs) up on various charges for King Neptune to rule on, sometimes administer punishment (Kathy knew of a boat that made everyone eat some vegemite for their transgressions), and frequently involve a sacrifice (the child of one of our friends offered up a pancake from his breakfast). We’ve heard stories of people shaving their head, dressing in silly costumes (often including a crown and staff like Neptune), and historically walking the plank. We settled for opening a bottle of champagne for toasts reminiscent of New Year’s Eve, along with a sa crifice of rum for Neptune to join us in the celebration. Our crossing occurred during a Full Moon, which felt even more auspicious! After crossing the Equator by boat, pollywogs are promoted to shellbacks, and traditional maritime practice allows them to sport a particular tattoo motif to commemmorate that event.
On a long passage like this one, people seem to crave some milestones or other events to break up the monotony. Many of the boats in our “fleet” are counting down the miles. We are changing our shift schedule around every 10 days, for variety, moving back one segment to the previous 3-hour shift. As it works out, the person who had been doing the most challenging shift schedule “gets a night off”, when moving from the 12-3 shift to the 9-12. We’re about to move into our 4th shift schedule, which means that we will have each done all four watch times. It’s looking like we might have another 1 or 2 after that. In addition to “shifting shifts”, we are distributing the time zone changes geographically. Panama and the Marquesas are 4.5 hours apart. We’re turning our clocks back an hour each time we pass a latitude line that’s a multiple of 10. We passed 100 degrees South three days ago, so we turned our clocks from Central time zone to Mountain time zone. We’ve turned the clocks b ack twice so far and have three more to go, the third time we’ll only do half an hour because the Marquesas uses a time zone that is off by half an hour from their neighbors. That seems odd to me, but I have heard that India also uses a half-hour offset to find a time that works for the most people possible in its region.
We’ve been fishing a lot, by which I mean dragging a lure through the water as we travel. Most of the daylight hours we have two lines trolling out back. The first two weeks we were underway, we only caught one fish. All of a sudden we are catching fish, almost exclusively dorado, a.k.a. mahi-mahi. We have caught 14 dorados in the last 9 days, and a few near-misses! We’ve seen schools of them near the boat, and we believe that they are following Lungta. Dorado are known for hanging out underneath floating objects. But they are most likely to bite when the lure is moving through the water fairly quickly, at least 5knots. Many of the fish we’ve caught have been when we’ve been taking in a line, for example at the end of the day. We prefer not to have the fishing lines out at night, because it means a bit of work, not just landing it, but also killing it and processing it for storage. We have put a good bit of these fish into our freezer, but we’ve also been enjoying fish for di nner most evenings. We’ve come up with a variety of ways to cook them, but still have a few tricks up our sleeves! Dorado makes for good eating!
There was a day last week when we weren’t moving very quickly, so Kathy started a load of laundry. (We’re concerned that when we’re heeled over or bouncing around, it might not be good for the bearings in the washer. Can you believe that the designers wouldn’t have tested it under similar conditions?!) By the time the wash was done and it was time to hang the laundry to dry, the wind had picked up a good bit. Perhaps 15 minutes later, Dan checked the fishing lines and found that there was a fish on one of them. He called out to the crew and we all came running. When Kathy got on deck, the first thing she noticed was that one of the sheets was missing. As she looked around deck to see if perhaps it had landed somewhere, Dan reeled in the fish and the others prepared to bring it on board. Then they noticed that the fish was actually a big, blue bedsheet! What a silly surprising coincidence! The hook had poked a few holes in the sheet, but at least we still have a complete set. 🙂
So, there are a few things happening on Lungta while we’re on our way to the islands of the South Pacific. We’ll send more in a bit. We’re happy and healthy, and hope that each of you is also!
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04-27-2018 – Crossing the Pacific

We’ve been underway for about two weeks now, and have begun settling into a new rhythm of life. We’ve set a watch cycle, where each of us does a 3-hour watch during the day and another at night. The schedule is the same from one day to the next, but we’re changing it around every 10 days to give us each the opportunity to experience all of the time periods, from sunset to midnight to sunrise. They each have a different character, and it’s fun to have a little variety. We did our first “shift shift” almost a week ago. It took a couple of days to settle in to the new pattern, but now it’s familiar. We all have our own personal rhythms, so when one person is waking up in the morning, another is going to sleep, and someone else is ready for a bite to eat. Sometimes that makes it difficult to do things together, like the family style meals we like to share. But we’ve managed to find a nice balance between doing things all together and doing things alone or in pairs.
We’ve been sailing almost continuously, but generally not very fast and often not in the exact direction that we want. 🙂 Most boats going from Panama City to the Marquesas first go to the Galapagos, pass to the south of them and then jump on the tradewinds all the way across. But we were having trouble getting south, and there was disagreement about whether the “usual” route was the best one for us. Eventually we decided to pass the Galapagos to the north, and try to turn south at some later point. At that point we began moving again, primarily west, which was encouraging. We’re still trying to get south and still moving mostly west. Stay tuned…
We’ve had two fishing lines in the water most of the time (during the day), but have very little to show for it. Yesterday we finally got a hit. The first strike jumped off the line almost immediately, but then a second strike happened on the other line. Baban reeled it in and dropped it in the net that Dan was holding. It was a beautiful 2′ dorado, a little on the small side but enough to feed the four of us that night. What a delicious meal! As we hear from other boats, it’s sounding like the fishing is more successful as people get close to the islands. One person described getting 5 fish in one day!
One of the commonly reported problems on blue-water passages like this one is wear and tear from all the constant movement. Soft surfaces like sails and ropes are particularly at risk of chafing through. Overall we’re doing pretty well, but we did have one line break a few days ago. Murphy’s Law would have predicted this to happen in the wee hours on a choppy, moonless night. Oddly, for us it occurred mid-morning on a fairly calm day. The line was a halyard, which holds our jib sail up tight. This sail is a roller-furled sail, though, and is mostly supported along its forward edge by an aluminum channel. This meant that although the sail was not useful it didn’t fall into the water or on deck, potentially sustaining further damage. We were lucky! Later that same day we found a really calm moment when we were able to raise Kathy up the mast with the other end of the rope, so she could reconnect it to the sail. Even a calm moment out here is far rollier than she’s used to in an anchorage. She used an additional strap to keep her from swinging away from the mast as she went up. It was a good learning process and a confidence booster, in case there’s a “next time”. We’ve been steadily sailing ever since.
Over the two weeks we’ve been underway, we’ve spotted lots of different animals. They’re not happening all at once, so it doesn’t feel like all that much, but most days there’s an interesting sighting or two. Close to Panama we had several whale sightings; we’re not sure which species, but “fin whale” comes to mind. We’ve seen a couple of turtles and quite a few dolphins. There was one day when we watched a large pod of spinner dolphins move on by. These guys are smaller than the more common bottlenose dolphins and less interested in interacting with boats. But their claim to fame is that they jump, frequently and apparently joyfully. Imagine a whole school of dolphins happily leaping along the way wherever their pod is taking them. They don’t synchronize their moves, and they don’t always land gracefully. But they do it a lot! It’s quite a sight. 🙂 A few times we’ve sighted a group of “jumping somethings”. They seem to come in a few different varieties, some darker than ot hers, some bigger than others. All of them are somewhat reclusive, avoiding close encounters with sailboats. We mostly see them in the distance, but we’re hoping to study them more carefully in the coming weeks.
Baban has a mind thirsty for knowledge. He has been learning a lot on this journey, and one area that has absorbed a lot of his time and energy is maritime ropework, known as marlinspike seamanship. Every day he asks Dave for a “knot of the day”, and every day the two of them spend a couple of hours working with rope, sometimes tying beautiful decorative knots, sometimes splicing eyes into the ends of old lines, sometimes finishing a raw securely with whipping twine. Dave is always enthusiastic about sharing his knowledge, and this is one area that he has a deep trove. Another topic that makes him shine is the night sky. He loves to talk about his “celestial friends”, which range from the moon (the full moon is especially meaningful to Dave) to individual stars to the wandering planets. One cloudy night he spotted a star through a break in the clouds and confidently identified it as Castor, in the constellation of Gemini. He used the direction from the boat, the height of the moon, the brightness of the star, and his knowledge of what other stars were nearby to draw his conclusion. Although no one else onboard had remotely enough knowledge to support or refute his observation, his confidence felt almost like magic!
A friend on another sailboat shared with us an email he was receiving daily where another boater was collecting location information from all the boats currently crossing from the Galapagos to the Marquesas. He used an Excel spreadsheet to create a beautiful chart that graphically showed everyone’s progress, and distributed it daily. We joined the list of boats that he was tracking – but he was only displaying boats that had passed the Galapagos, and we hadn’t yet gotten that far. Shortly after we joined up, he announced that he was arriving in the Marquesas and would be discontinuing the regular distribution. He was looking for a replacement, and Kathy ended up volunteering (it might have been one of those situations where everyone else steps back from the line). She has spent the past three days getting set up. It turned out to be a more complicated technical situation than expected, because of the limitations of our email app. (It’s trying to compress the image for distrib ution, but it’s being too aggressive and the result is an unreadable fuzzy mess.) In the meantime, she has been sending the information out in a simple text email, while she tries to figure out a prettier solution. She’s spending much of the time she’s on watch collecting the data from emails and creating the distribution email, but also sending personal email communications to many of the boats, trying to get to know the people in our new “community”. It’s fun, but time-consuming!
So there are a few things happening on board Lungta as we sail across the Pacific. We’ll send another update in a week or two. In the meantime, stay safe and happy – and we’ll do the same!
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04-15-2018 – Crossing the Pacific

We have finally made it out of Panama! We made some new friends, and had a few setbacks, but we finally made it out of the gravitational pull of the to-do list and the city of services, society and stuff!
We met a family on a boat named Shawnigan. Coincidentally, our friend Jonnie had already met this family (or at least the mom!) in her yoga class in Mexico months previously. She suggested to both of us that we might enjoy meeting up. This family came over to dinner on Lungta one night, and Dave enchanted the 4-year-old with stories and a few magic tricks (well, truthfully, he captivated all of us with his magic!) The boy called Dave “Santa” and gravitated his way whenever we encountered them again over the next few weeks. Shawnigan left well before us, but we’re hoping to catch up with them again either as we pass the Galapagos or after we all reach French Polynesia.
Another boat we hope to meet again is called Tribasa Cross. Gary is sailing on his own, but his wife meets him when he’s in port. He was searching for crew for the crossing, and we compared notes about our experiences. He appeared at our door with a membrane from his watermaker which he was replacing with a different size – he arrived just as we had removed ours because it wasn’t working. What serendipity! We exchanged a few practical gifts like that in the 3 or 4 weeks we were both in the anchorage. Kathy sewed a pair of small awnings for him; he gave us a couple of spare fuel pumps for our generator. Dan advised him on an air leak in the fuel system for his generator, and he gave us some pointers about configuring our Iridium satellite device. Just days before he departed Panama City, he found a crew mate that seemed to be a good match. We waved them goodbye, but are staying in touch along the way to the South Pacific.
The biggest setback we had to our departure was when our windlass motor stopped working. We were about to bring Laura up the main mast for another day of painting, but when we stepped on the pedal nothing happened! Being able to deploy and raise our anchor is a critical function which we cannot live without. The motor is a relic from U.S. Navy vessels during WWII. It was designed to be used in a cargo crane, although we don’t know if it was actually deployed that way. There’s no information about this 80lb behemoth online, and we gingerly approached a local electric motor shop for help. As far as we know, the motor had never been removed from its mounting spot in the ceiling of the forward stateroom. It was a bear to remove, with mounting bolts that were nearly impossible to access and a few that were stuck so firmly that the heads tore off before the shaft of the bolt was willing to turn. As always, though, we managed to get the job done, and we sent it off to the shop for diagnosis and repair (they actually came to us, and picked it up at the the dock where we tie off our dinghy when we come ashore). While the motor was in the shop we turned our efforts to removing the broken bolts so we’d be ready to reinstall the motor when it came back. The shop took only a couple of days to work on the motor; it turns out that there was nothing especially wrong, just years of corrosion, dust and wear. It’s back in place and working as well as ever. What serendipity that it didn’t go out one week later after we had left for more remote places!
We found a new crew mate, a multi-cultural 28-year-old named Baban. His parents are Iranian Kurds who were freedom fighters in the 80’s. Eventually they found asylum in Denmark where they settled when he was 5. He is now a Danish citizen, but still feels ties to his family’s roots. He has a real gift for languages and speaks 5 languages fluently. He’s extremely bright and full of energy and curiosity. He came aboard the day before we left on our last trip to the Perlas, a shake-down cruise of sorts also intended to give our new crew some experience underway before there was no turning back. Laura returned the same day from a side-trip to the Caribbean side of Panama, where she made a new friend and joined her on another sailboat for several days. We had a short but sweet trip back to the Perlas, and it was delightful to see Dave shine as he schooled our two young crew mates in short courses on useful knots, weather, sail management, navigation, the night sky, and more!
The day after we got back to Panama City, Laura spent some time in town, making some important phone calls and doing some important soul searching. She came back with some exciting but also disappointing news – she had decided to leave Lungta and join the boat that she had met the week before. She had made some decisions about starting a graduate program later this year, and her schedule was no longer as flexible as before. This other boat, named Isis, had a tighter itinerary than ours and seemed to be a better fit. We all joked about her having been recruited by Isis. 🙂 So, we were 4 again. We spent a bit of energy looking for a replacement, but there was so little time until our departure that it felt unrealistic to find and orient someone new.
Our final setback happened when we made plans to leave on April 1st, with the steps of checking out at Immigration on Friday, final provisioning on Saturday, to leave on Sunday morning. Friday morning arrived and we learned that all government offices were closed for Good Friday, one of the nation’s biggest holidays – oops! So we waited until Monday when the offices were open. Our provisioning actually consisted of three stops: PriceSmart (a Central American version of CostCo), a wholesale farmer’s produce market, and a standard grocery store. All three of these trips turned out to be much bigger events than we’d done before; we wanted to prepare for a month on the seas and another month of island hopping before reprovisioning, and also include a hefty buffer for spoilage and a safety margin. We were surprised that our PriceSmart bill totaled more than $1000 (we’d expected half that)! The trip to the produce market was especially fun. We hired one of the local guys with a stu rdy hand-truck to follow along with us and collect all of our purchases. As it turned out, Alfredo also helped us find the stalls with the best prices and quality. We got a 30lb bag of mangos, 10 pineapples, half a dozen papayas, some melons, a bunch of small sweet bananas and a box of the usual ones; we got a 50lb bag of winter squash, 20lb of carrots, 6 cabbages, 10 bunches of spinach, and some onions, broccoli, and tomatos. Alfredo was great, and he even helped us flag down a taxi to get back home.
We left Panama City on April 5th, spent two nights near Isla Contadora where we were able to access internet for our last-minute on-line needs. Among other things, Baban helped Kathy set up a tool to allow her to post blog entries – like this one! – via email. We did the final coat of paint on the last bits of both masts, cleaned the waterline of the boat one last time, and topped off our water tanks. Then, at 8am on Sunday the 8th, we pulled up our anchor and sailed out of the anchorage, beginning our journey across the Pacific. Although there was little fanfare, all of our hearts were singing as we began this most romantic of all sailing passages to the islands of the South Pacific.
I’ll keep this posting shorter than past ones, and try to post more frequently to keep you up to date on our progress. Remember that you can check on our location at the tracking page forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Lungta
Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

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