Update: Wherabouts and Blogging

The internet access situation hasn’t improved, the blog has been quiet, a lot has been going on, and there are so many stories I want to tell ! That calls for a different approach for the blog, and you will have to bear with me here.

But first, a quick update, and I will try to be as concise as I can (which is more challenging than crossing an ocean to me).

UPDATE AND CONTEXT:
– as you know, in March we made a 3,000 mile non-stop passage from the west coast of Mexico to French Polynesia
– French Polynesia consists of 5 groups of Islands: The Marquesas, The Tuamotus, Society Islands (which includes Tahiti and Bora-Bora), Gambiers, and Pitcairn. For the remainder of 2016 we will be cruising the first three groups, and the Marquesas was our first stop
– Last week, we departed from the Marquesas and set sail to the Tuamotus on a 4-day/ 500-mille passage to the atoll of Hao, our first chosen destination there
– Along the way, we where surprised and clobbered by a strong weather system (more to this on an upcoming story). Heavy rain, strong winds and seas that where building by the hour. Of course, wind and waves’ direction where OPPOSITE to our course to Hao
– After battling against the elements for over 24 hours in hopes for the weather to improve, exhausted and seasick, we finally realized we had lost the opportunity to reach Hao, and headed on a more benign course towards the atoll of Makemo, some 120 miles to the NW
– That’s where we currently are, safely anchored behind a reef in an impossibly beautiful bay, inside the atoll

STORYTELLING, THE INTERNET SITUATION, AND FAMILYGONESAILING GOING FORWARD:
Not that I have any literary ambitions, but I love writing our stories here. However, I have found it more challenging to keep the blog updated the way I used to. Here’s the situation:
– I still have stories and images that I want to share from the time we have spent in the Marquesas
– New stories are being made almost daily, especially now that we reached the Tuamotus
– Our access to the blog is limited to the following: ultra-small bandwidth via our satellite phone, which enables me to post mostly text (like this one) and eventually one or two low-resolution images. And very-slow wifi that we can find sporadically on internet cafes on the villages we visit
– Moreover – and I know it will be hard to believe – I haven’t had a lot of availability to write and edit long, image-loaded posts the way I used to before.

As a consequence of all above, our stories are accumulating and the blog is remaining quiet for long periods, which I don’t like.

So, here’s what will be happening from now on:
– MARQUESAS UPDATES: whenever I have access to decent wifi, I will publish posts with the remaining stories we have from the time we spent in the Marquesas. There’s about 4 or 5 of these “in the oven”
– THE TUAMOTUS DIARIES: I will see if it is possible to keep publishing short updates with our satphone. These will be quick stories of our day-to-day here in the Tuamotu atolls, sometimes followed by one or two low-res images (I already published one, by the way, just check the Previous Post)
– The TUAMOTUS ALBUMS: this place is possibly the most scenic we have been to as of yet, and I am looking forward to sharing images of it here. These will be in the form of our “normal” posts, which we shall publish sporadically, whenever decent wifi is available and after we are finished publishing the “Marquesas Updates”.

Ok, there we have it. It feels tidy, practical, if not a bit confusing … ?!?

Uuufh, so much for conciseness !!! If you’ve read thus far, THANK YOU FOR BEING A FAITHFUL READER, and for being with us along this Journey. Have a great 2nd half of the week !!!

Puddle Jump in Images – Part II

This is the sequel and complement to the previous post, with a pictorial update of our 3,111 mile voyage between La Cruz, MX and Taiohae Bay, French Polynesia. Hope you enjoy.

We made excellent progress during our first week at sea, catching the Trade Winds early on, and riding them at high speeds. With that, we were fast approaching the Intertropical Convergence Zone, an area where the Trade Winds of the North and the South converge, and all the humidity they wipe builds up and falls back in the form of Squalls.

As we entered Latitude 7N the sky changed abruptly, and as night fell, we knew we were entering squally territory:

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The first Squall hit us in the night – of course – and already gave us quite a show, with wind gusts of up to 30 knots while we still had all of our sails up. As day broke, another Squall wrapped around us, and it felt like it was trying to “eat” us. We switched on the engine and motored away from it to safety:

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Each Squall is a relatively small formation of clouds, but they discharge an incredible amount of rain, and are often preceded by strong wind gusts:

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The rain is so compact in fact that they even show up clearly on the radar. On this picture, the Squall that tried to “eat” us early that morning:

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Whereas this one gave us a “pinch”:

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And things were about to aggravate. Nearly two days into the Squall zone, as we approached latitude 4N, we discovered a large area of Calm had settled South of us and were forced to turn back to latitude 7N and keep going West until the calm receded. That would add 350 miles and nearly 3 days to our voyage – all of it inside the Squall zone. This was the absolute low point of the trip:

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Those were wet days …

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… the torrential rain constantly washing our deck over …

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… and the gusty winds requiring constant adjustment to the sails:

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With all this activity day and night, we were soon very tired (and constantly wet):

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And then, an unexpected and incredibly welcome surprise. On April 9th – Paulo’s birthday – day broke and it stopped raining. There was even some sun out. Nature’s birthday present to him:

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Everything came up on deck to dry up under the little sun there was:

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Mood improved onboard at an exponential rate:

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Paulo worked with Adriana in preparing pao de queijo – the treat he chose for his day:

Familygonesailing-PuddleJump-Apr16-086In addition to the dry day, he got a box of legos, and started playing right away:

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Raquel also took advantage of it:

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Afternoon came, and we were all on deck soaking in the sun:

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Adriana even evoked a limoncello to celebrate:

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And Paulo got a b-day cake in the form of a bunny (note to self and all – trying to light candles outside is a huge challenge, as we were about to discover):

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Nature brought yet another present:

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Followed by this beautiful sunset:

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Before the end of twilight, though, Mother Nature made clear the celebrations were over, as this ominous thing approached us from the North:

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We were lucky, tough, as we only got rain (our friends from sv Enough were clobbered by a 50-knot gust coming from that same system that night). Our  case was the opposite. That thing sucked all wind from us and we stood still all night and the subsequent morning, floating hopeless some 200 miles away from the Equator. We were wet, sleep-deprived, and there was now an area of good winds blowing not too far from where we were. And we kept under the grip of that cloud, desperate to leave. That’s when I saw this:

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This sequence of Squalls lined up on the direction we wanted to go. I asked Adriana if she was ok to get more wet – VERY wet, and she agreed. I pointed Pesto’s bow toward the first Squall, got its wind, and we were catapulted into the next one, and so on. We rode this sequence of squalls for all day and managed to get sufficiently near the Equator and far enough from the Squalls zone. The next day, before crossing the Equator, we took the Mexican flag down for the last time:

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The Equator itself we crossed at night, on a bold beam reach and running fast straight to Nuku Hiva:

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The next morning I prepared pancakes and offered the first one to Neptune, thanking Him for allowing us to have such a safe passage on his realm, and asking for fair winds and currents for the remainder of the voyage, and our stay in the Pacific Ocean:

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That day we also hoisted the French Polynesia flag, and that wrapped up our Equator Crossing ceremonies:

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We were now sailing fast under twin headsails, straight toward Taiohae Bay in Nuku Hiva:

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Mind you, there were still some more Squalls to negotiate. But we were sailing so well – some of the best we’ve ever had – and were so poised to make landfall that nothing would deter us now. 5 days later it was Land Ho ! Adriana was the first to see Ua Huka on the horizon:

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Nuku Hiva, our destination, was much more guarded, and only revealed itself under a blanket of clouds just when we were a few miles away, as we approached it from the North:

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We were SO happy to make landfall.

Interestingly, we didn’t feel the overflow of senses that we have heard from fellow cruisers – the scent of land, the colors, the sounds. Everything felt quite natural and “normal” to us in fact, almost as if we were returning from a weekend sail.

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On the other hand, we were all feeling in IMMENSE sense of pride. And that has been with us since then.

I don’t think we are the same anymore.

Probably won’t ever be.

Puddle Jump in Images – Part I

The time here has been split between sightseeing, bureaucracy, resetting Pesto to Coastal Cruising, sleeping, and swimming. Not much left to download, sort and process all the pictures taken during the Puddle Jump. But here it is, finally – a visual update of our 3,111-mile voyage across the Eastern Pacific.

But a quick disclaimer before proceeding: unfortunately there’s an awful lot of pictures of me barechested … it was way too hot/humid during most of the way, and I just didn’t think of dressing up before pictures were taken. For that, I apologize.

Ok, here we go now:

Departure #1, from Barra de Navidad. From left to right: Phil (sv Terrapin), Debra (sv Coastal Drifter), Janet (sv Cape D), Adriana (sv Pesto), Julien (sv Cape D), Jessica (sv Terrapin), Phil (sv Coastal Drifter), Aimee (sv Terrapin), Emma (sv Terrapin):

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We were making good progress on a tight reach in light winds – we would soon learn Pesto sails really well upwind:

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But the backstay fitting broke, and we had to turn back. The kids took advantage to reacquaint themselves with their friends in La Cruz. Here, Paulo receives a haircut from Adriana under close surveillance of his friends:

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The hydraulic fitting was fixed – despite the odds – making the skipper very happy – we were good to go again:

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Another departure, another occasion to bid farewell. Here the crews of sv Pesto, sv Kenta Annae and sv Enough met up for one last dinner at the local German Restaurant in La Cruz:

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We left early morning on a Monday. When the sun set that day, we were already out of sight of land:

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Back then, blankets were still necessary for the night watches on the cockpit:

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On the second evening we were glad to receive visitors:

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The boobies were so cute! We welcomed them on our back solar panel:

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We would soon regret it, but on the meantime, we were happy and distracted by the parade of sunsets and sunrises – one more beautiful than the other:

Familygonesailing-PuddleJump-Apr16-011Other than the boobies, we also had the occasional visits of Dolphins:

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Adriana and Paulo, in particular, are very fond of these visits and often spent long times on deck watching the dolphins swim by:

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On one of these visits, we were at the bow, camera on hand, waiting for the dolphins to surface again for yet another picture, and then THIS happened:

Familygonesailing-PuddleJump-Apr16-024This dude was a large bottleneck Dolphin, and he must have jumped at least 2 meters above the water, right in front of us. It was breathtaking – and even a bit unnerving!

Back on deck, the boobie situation now was getting out of hand. This guy landed on deck, and he was clearly different from the others. He looked of advanced age, was very tired, and had green feet. I tried to evade him – gently – but however I tried, he would fly back onboard. I figured he was nearing absolute physical exhaustion and didn’t have anything else to lose. I ended up letting him stay, and the kids named him “Lucky”:

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Familygonesailing-PuddleJump-Apr16-038The condition for Lucky to stay was that the others would have to go. Here, Adriana tries to evade one daring boobie who landed on our Radar:

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This sophisticated contraption (empty plastic bags) kept them away from the Radar for the rest of the voyage. The solar panel, on the other hand, would require ongoing surveillance (and a lot of cleaning):

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As a revenge, the boobies were now trying to land at the top of our mast. If they succeeded, they would destroy our wind sensor, and that would be a big nuisance for the rest of the voyage (we used the sensor during the night to adjust Pesto’s position to the wind). We learned from sv Enough, who were also enduring similar problems, that loud noises prevented them from landing. We spent many hours blowing our whistle as a result:

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And the days went on, together with the parade of sunsets and sunrises:

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After just three days at sea, we found ourselves at the edge of the Trade Winds already. It was Spinnaker time!

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With the big chute up, speeds were now steadily above 7kts and we were making excellent progress straight on to Polynesia. Pesto was happy, and the crew was happy as well:

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Every day there was something to fix on deck. Here, I am setting up a jury system to replace the boom vang which was giving up – not coincidently, another hydraulic fitting !

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Other daily chores included cleaning the decks from the flying fish that met their fate onboard during the night. Every morning there would be between 5 and 10 of these creatures lying around:

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Early morning was also the time to check in with the Pacific Puddle Jump net on the SSB radio. At that time I would broadcast our current position and take note of the positions of other boats doing the Jump as well. There were over 15 yachts along the way back then:

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For a while, Paulo and I tried to plot these positions on a large map. It was cool, but I confess the activity required a discipline that neither Paulo or I had. The seas were building and Pesto was rolling a lot. Moreover, the air was getting hotter and more humid, and time inside the cabin was reduced to the absolute minimum necessary:

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We had a fantastic time with the spinnaker up, flying it for 72 hours straight:

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But the winds kept freshening up, and it was now time to douse it. Boy it was quite a chore to bring all that canvas down in 25 knots of wind!

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Paulo wasn’t too happy at first:

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But he would soon realize conditions were getting a little too sporty. At this stage, we had the largest waves that we would (thankfully) see on this trip – at up to 3 meters. Paulo and I spent some time at the stern watching them roll under us:

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At one point, winds were so strong that even our genoa sheet broke. It was quite a fight to get a replacement tied to the wild sail under those conditions !

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With all that wind and all the action, time was flying, and we were gaining a lot of Latitude toward the Equator. Something was lurking in the horizon and we hardly noticed:

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That, and more, will be the subjects of the next post.

Stay tuned !

If …

It was like a carefully coordinated act on a play. The Sun set to the west, behind the dramatic contour of the rugged mountains that wrap around Taiohae Bay, and up came the Moon to the east – so bright as it was.
5 years ago, if someone had told me I would be here on this day today to witness all this, I would have said “I wish” and might have wondered how difficult it would have been to change our lives so radically for this to happen.

We watched this natural show while savoring a Carbonara Pasta that I had just cooked, a promise I had made to the crew – and to myself – as a token for completion of the Puddle Jump.
10 years ago, if someone had told me I would one day know how to cook, I would have said “Dude, I can’t even fry an egg, let alone make an elaborate dish”, and would have gone back to whatever was making me too busy to dream at that time.

We kept enjoying the moment, made even more pleasant as Pesto rocked gently to the little swell that makes it into the bay.
15 years ago, if someone had told me I would one day own a stout, seaworthy yacht capable of taking us to wherever we dared to go, I would have daydreamed, but wouldn’t believe it could ever come true given how much I was earning at the time.

Adriana was at the front deck, dancing to the song that was playing off the iPod, her body glowing silver to the Moon’s impossibly bright light.
20 years ago, if someone had told me Adriana would one day enthusiastically join me on the wildest adventure we could conceive, I would have felt reassured, although skeptical, given how overwhelming life seemed to be at that stage.

Raquel was keen on the music selection, and Paulo was laying his head on my lap.
25 years ago, if someone had told me I would have two kids – a boy and a girl – and that I would love them so much, I would have presented at least 10 strong, well-rehearsed reasons as to why I had “not been made to be a father”.

Elton John was playing on the iPod, completing what was already a quite perfect moment.
30 years ago, as I sat on the backseat of my parents’ car, and listened to the Elton John’s songs coming from the cassette tape player, someone had told me I would one day be listening to those same songs, sitting on deck of my yacht, watching the Sun and the Moon dance as day turned into night, floating at a picturesque bay somewhere in the South Pacific, as I shared a delicious meal with my family … Well, I would have believed it wholeheartedly.

And then, maybe this wouldn’t have happened at all.

Life has so much potential.
And I wish Paulo and Raquel have the wisdom and fortune to find their own keys for it.