From the Land to the Lights

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Three days rolled by as we hung on to the deep depths of the Fatu Hiva anchorage. Gusty winds blew down the steep jungled mountains and too many boats in too small a bay made for some restless nights. Several dragged anchor, sometimes into other boats, and midnight rescues became common. We were all thankful our ground tackle held strong, and enjoyed the rainy days amongst green, green trails and falling cascades. A boat with three spanish boys, Sikim, was anchored next to us, and with Charlie hiding down below, we had them convinced Portal was a boat full of maidens. I was up early walking about on deck, then Barbara, then Lydia came out, and I chuckled as their eyes grew wider. We had to burst the bubble eventually, but Charlie charmed them with his spanish and we spent some nice time swapping stories, all eager for the social contact.

IMG_7492 IMG_7494 IMG_7527 IMG_7598 IMG_7596After our fill of coconuts and mangoes, we pulled the hook and sailed overnight to Nuku Hiva, a bigger island with the main Marquesan town. Civilization! Baguettes, internet (sort of), flushing toilets… Well, it was still pretty rural and rugged, but we easily spent 6 days there, relaxing with the many other cruisers in the large bay. One could get sucked in forever, since everyday, more sailors would come in, each with their own unique, fun stories. We met a family of 5 onboard “Lear”, a huge heavy research vessel; 2 young guys and their dad on “Dragonsbane”; a crazy character, Alan, on his 40ft engine-less, thruhull-less beautiful Zebedee; and most notably, 3 Swedes on a tiny 27ft “Waskavi” travelling with their friends “NightHawk”, two Norwegians. All five men are tall strapping vikings, which helps contain the buckets of rum they put away every night. Their sweet spirit warmed the whole bay though, and their frequent parties brought us all together. At one such event, we met Jess and Duncan aboard “Alliance”, but little did we know how important that meeting would be…

IMG_3190 IMG_7628 IMG_7631 IMG_7639 IMG_7661 IMG_7682A trip over to Daniel’s Bay, another few hikes and more spectacular waterfalls, then we stocked our little boat up with water, bananas and pamplemousse (traded!), and set off for the 4 day sail to the Tuamotus. We had dined with Alliance the evening before, and were very excited to see them off our stern quarter a few hours after setting out. And even more to our surprise – We seemed to be keeping up with them. Somehow, our old, loaded 30ft boat does often as well as newer, larger vessels, and at one point we were also gaining on the 43ft “Dragonsbane” ahead of us. Of course, once the wind dies completely and engines come on, we soon get left in the dust!

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IMG_7683Still, it was comforting to see the light of Alliance every night as we neared the “Dangerous Archipelago”. The Tuamotus are a collection of atolls, reefs and lagoons in the middle of the Pacific, with nothing but palm trees and coconuts. One must navigate through them only with the height of the sun, and enter their passes only at the appropriate tide. Even then, there can be rough entries and reefs to narrowly avoid. So it was with joy and excitement that Charlie and I high-fived just after our first successful Tuamotu pass, on Kauehi.

Only, 5 seconds later, our engine slowly throttled down, on it’s own, then died.

Uh-oh.

We quickly hoisted the sails, to avoid drifting back into the pass, and Charlie jumped below to trouble-shoot. Babsi kept a keen eye out on the bow, for any reefs we might hit. Ten minutes, 15 minutes, still no sign of being able to fix it. I stayed calm, though inside my heart was sinking. I planned to sail us to a shallow spot, drop the anchor, and figure it out with the next dawn. As the sun sank dangerously low, our radio came to life – It was Alliance, just ahead of us, offering us a tow.

IMG_7690A tow?! What a brilliant idea! We readily excepted, and they circled back to our rescue. Thankfully, we made it to the South East anchorage without hitting any unlit reefs, and each took a well-earned shot of rum. I was shaking from the excitement, and didn’t sleep well.

Morning came though, and after two more, we had her back on and running. What sweet relief. Our friends Marionette had also been nearby, so with Bruce’s help and Duncan from Alliance, we cleaned the lines, changed filters, and bled the fuel, which seemed especially blocked coming into the injectors. I changed the oil, cleaned the sump, and watched for leaks. Dirty fuel? Bacteria in the system? Water in the oil? We still have questions, but thankfully our motor is now running and back to her old noisy self.

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Our friends on Marionette

IMG_7768By now we had become firm friends with Duncan, Jess, and her dad, Jeff, and vowed never to be more than a tow’s length away from them đŸ™‚ We began to pay off our debts with fresh-baked bread every day, and now, after 2 weeks, continue the ritual.

We visited one more atoll – Fakarava – with incredible snorkeling and shark-sighting, then continued on to the Society Islands.

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It was a rough 2 day sail, with an epic squall that was our biggest yet, but we safely arrived into Moorea, anchoring close to Alliance (of course). Barbara’s birthday brought celebrations of food, pirates and big fires on the beach. We discovered a wonderful garden cafe “Lilikoi”, and made many new friends. Charlie and I biked the 60kms around the island, grateful for some muscle workout. Five days of rest though, and we were ready for the big-smoke – Papeete, Tahiti.

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Tahiti has become quite an important landmark, almost the half way point, and the first chance at real provisioning since the crossing. There’s fast internet, delicious coffee, cheap beer, and many of our friends nearby. The Scandinavians are with us on the same dock, so of course rum and late nights are common. I’ve motivated to get some varnish done though, and so far have 3 coats on. Lydia leaves us tonight, so the Portal crew is pairing down. We are very grateful for her hard-work and help the last 3 months, and will be sad to lose her, but we’re also excited to have more space!

Thursday will mark the beginning of my 26th year, so more celebrations and fires to come! Thankfully, there is endless ice-cream, avocados and good food everywhere! Big city life – It’s alright!

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