THE JOURNEY (part III) Photos 中文

June 02 2014 0500 UTC
08°55'S, 140°06'W
Taiohae, Nuku Hiva

Finally! The vang attachment hardware arrived and I labored all day yesterday to remove the improvisation that we had in place and installed the new one. Looks impresive with six big screws holding it to the mast. I cannot tell whether a month or a little more is fast or slow for making and delivering such piece. Delivering took 10 days.

I am impressed with my work.
Heavy (and heavy painted) rock in Nuku Hiva.

Meanwhile things were happening here on Nuku Hiva. We had a two days music festival with bands and dancers coming from all over Marquesas and maybe even Tahiti. Don't think Nuku Hiva is some backwards place - if heavy metal band plays here it surely means it is current with the style.

Do you have any idea how many coconuts can grow on a single tree? I could be as much as fifty! We accompanied Mahina on his palm pruning job at the local hotel. When those coconuts free fall from a 50 feet high tree they can break a shingle on the roof and in worst case a skull. So the purpose of pruning is twofold - get the coconuts down in a controlled way and cut lower branches which makes the tree grow taller. Mahina is the only guy in the village crazy enough and equipped to do such job.But he also gets to keep all the coconuts.

Where only monkeys dare.

So after one month and a half in Nuku Hiva tomorrow we'll say good bye to Taiohae and sail south...

May 23 2014 1100 UTC
08°55'S, 140°06'W
Taiohae, Nuku Hiva

Have been back for a while now, after tiresome and complicated travel. One must take care of the traveling papers or else can run in all sorts of problems. Like me, forgetting Taozi's bond letter for French Polynesia at home in Chelmsford, which caused us almost to miss our flight from LA to Tahiti. At last we had to buy a return ticket for her (although fully refundable) to get on that plane. And now it'll take forever for Air TahitiNui to issue the refund. One learns...
We just returned to Taiohae after circumnavigating (what an important sounding word!) - but only the island of Nuku Hiva. We spent several days in the three pronged Controller Bay where Taipivai is located in the middle prong. We met our friend Tahina who lives there and visited his home for a delightful six course dinner prepared by his girlfriend Wahina. Tahina took us on a ride in his car to the waterfall at the end of the valley. The road to there is a little better than the one we passed on the north shore, but it was well worth while. There are several streams coming down from about five to six hundred feet high cliffs, breaking into fine mist here and there and wrapping the narrow view of the sky into rainbow - at the right angle of the sun. The times caught up with nature here as well - short distance downstream from the waterfall is a basin that collects water for the hydro power plant. Enough electricity to cover needs of Taipivai and two other neighboring valleys. On the way back we stoped at Tahina's garden to collect a bag of grapefruit, mangoes and papayas for the boat. Besides driving a taxi as his daytime job Tahina is an excellent musician, he plays ukulele with his band at a local restaurant in Taiohae, many of the songs written by himself.

Sunset in Taipivai.

The little river that continues from the waterfall down through the valley runs into the sea and the mouth is navigable by the dinghy at high tide. It is very idyllic and after moving slowly upstream you dock at the "petit quay", a small dock in the center of the village. I guess the center is where the school and the church are, right? I really don't know why Melville run away some 170 years ago. After reading his "Typee" long time ago, visiting this valley was my distant dream. It was in the background of my thoughts when I was buying Levana and when I was sailing her here.
Out of the Controller Bay and up north along the east side of Nuku Hiva, rounding the corner and sailing another three of four miles you get to what is being called the most beautiful bay in Marquesas - Anaho. Granted, it is beautiful, picturesque and romantic. Well protected from swell but open to easterly winds blowing over the low pass from the east shore. And crowded - by yachts. There were some ten of them anchored behind the bend and near the west shore. Beaches are of white sand, stretching for some two miles under magnificent mountains in the background. Only a few families live here but there is a hostel that provides simple accommodations. Following the path along the shore you walk a by church - which makes an exemption: it is not the most prominent building in the village. The hostel is.
Too crowded in Anaho - after two days we sailed over to Hatiheu bay where Levana was the only yacht. It is less comfortable, open to northern swell. We visited this village on our car trip but this visit was much nicer. We arrived on Sunday and everything, just everything was closed. Well, the restaurant Chez Yvonne and her store next to it. But what was open was the village community hall where a group (maybe all of them) of local ladies played - bingo! We returned to the restaurant and the store the next day but since their cook was only arriving at 6 pm we decided to skip our late lunch, bought some provisions and went back to Levana. For the trips ashore we equipped our dinghy with three fenders since the dock is very user unfriendly. It is open to swell and tied to the shore the dinghy rubs to the harsh concrete.
Hatiheu decided to be on par with no less than Rio de Janeiro. High on a peak above the village they (religious villagers, I guess) erected a statue of Mary. It is not very conspicuous, if the sun does not expose its white color one can easily miss noticing it. But the church here is very noticeable. Coming in from the sea you notice its two stipples (like Notre Dame in Paris?) but more importantly, the big white cross on the slope behind, lined in the center between them, leads you straight down the middle of the bay.

And the river runs through it

The sail along the north side of Nuku Hiva is spectacular for the views of the mountains and little bays that cut deep into the island. But then you soon pass the last green palm lined valley of Pua (where we lost our road on our car trip and ended at someone's ranch house) and the barren land of northwest begins. Here is the only place where there is enough flat land to build an airport. After motoring along the west coast through the island wind shadow we emerged to the wind on the southern side and soon found shelter in Hakaui bay, well protected and surrounded with incredible steep mountain ridge on the west side. The valley is like one big orchard with banana, mango and coconut trees and clear river running through it. I would vote for it as the most beautiful valley on the island. Just a few families live here, but they of course have their church here as well. This one also (like Anaho) is not the most prominent building in the village of some three or four houses. But so far every village, no matter how small, has its own church.

It is still far away from here, but this is the best view. Half of it is still hidden by the rocks.
Once you get there it is not much of a view (except for yours truly of course :-)

A leisurely stroll through the valley leading to the 1000 feet high waterfall soon turns into a stony goat path, very uncomfortable for walking. But you get rewarded with the nice view of the waterfall in the distance. You still have an hour walk from here. Unfortunately once you cross the river for the third time (it is only knee deep in all the crossings) and climb to the place where the water meets the valley you see very little of the waterfall. It is a nice exercise though.

Apr 29 2014 0200 UTC
42°34'N, 071°20'W
Chelmsford, MA

Yeah, that's right. We are in US right now, had to come home on a short notice, but just for one week or so. We fly back to Nuku Hiva on May 6th and continue from where we have left.
Before we left the magical island we rented a car and toured it. A whole day tour took us from Taiohae over the mountain pass down to Taipivai village (to which I will come again after we return). As in every village we visited so far, the most prominent building is the catholic church. The valley is quite long and the river that runs through it begins in a beautiful waterfall which we only saw from the distance from the road that took us through the valley and over another pass to Hatiteu. We met Anuiautien, a young local musician, on the road. We rolled a scoop of local tobacco together and while we smoked it he was telling us about the plans for the music festival that will happen in May and that he was working on. Hatiheu is a nice little village on the north shore of Nuku Hiva and like others very clean and pretty. After lunch at Chez Yvonne (goat meat cooked in coconut for me) we continued to Aakapa and on to Pua, along the north shore. We were prewarned! Let me tell you about the roads on Nuku Hiva. On the map they look all the same but when you drive on them they take all kind of shapes. The first 20 miles from Taiohae to Taipivai took us half an hour. The 20 miles from Aakapa through Pua to the airport took us three hours. Unmaintained goat path would be the best description for that part. We wouldn't even think of doing that without having a 4 wheel drive Toyota pickup with a reductor - which we did use few times crossing wild streams running across the "road". But the views were breathtaking and people we met very friendly and helpful. The island is ringed with small, bigger and big bays that we'll visit when we circumnavigate the island upon our return. Some of those bays were sets for "Survivor Marquesas" reality show and some of the sets ares supposedly still there.
The real surprise came on the last part of the journey from the airport back to Taiohae. One hour and twenty minutes drive takes you from the dry northern part of the island where only brown grass and low bushes grow up the curvy road into the pine forest. Pine forest on a tropical island just below the equator! And green pastures with black and white Hollanders cattle in between. And cold wind blowing the mist over the passes - like summer in the Alps. The highest peak is over 1200 meters (almost 4000 feet) high! And after that you descend back into the lush rain forest growth of the southern side of Nuku Hiva. Three so different climates on an island that lies between 8° 47' 50" and 8° 57' 50" of southern latitude - which translates into 10 nautical miles - roughly 20 kilometers as the crow flies!

Apr 20 2014 0420 UTC
08°55'S, 140°06'W
Taiohae, Nuku Hiva

We arrived! Actually, we arrived two days ago. By today we are already legal visitors to French Polynesia. It is Easter weekend and as part of a predominantely catholic country (note "French" Polynesia) yesterday (Friday) was a holiday and the day after tomorrow (Monday) is a holiday also. Happy believers - and nonbelievers as well since they get the holiday also. So gendarmerie was closed but we were able to check in today, on Saturday.
But we arrived! On the morning of our 21st day at sea. We did pass another island during the night but our first sight of Marquesas, of Nuku Hiva were magnificient rocky mountains. Maybe noth high enough to be called mountains, but judge for yourself from the pictures in the gallery. Taiohae is the main place (shall I call it town, village) on the island and supposedly a capital of Marquesas. A deep bay protected from three sides and only open to southern swell hosts about 15 yachts right now. And a cruise ship! Granted, much smaller one than those that you see in the Caribbean, but still. These islands have come a long way since Herman Mellville's time. But about that later, after I visit Taipevai (Typee for those who read the book). That village was and is my main reason to visit these islands and in particular Nuku Hiva.
The pictures cannot do justice to this place. Sharp mountains (OK, I'll call them so) surround the valley and their peaks tower above the valley like ancient guardians. You can see how the tribes were bound to their valley and had little contact even with the tribe in the next one.
We found our agent, Kevin of Yacht Services Nuku Hiva, on the internet. Many praises there seem to be quite justified. Very helpful, offering variety of services, from checking in, bond letters or tax free fuel to laundry, propane or car rentals and more, everything under one roof. And given that Nuku Hiva is NOT the port of entry for many of boats coming in from East, although busy, he can and will help with most everything. An interesting guy. And his office is right on the dinghy dock.
And I must mention this - Taozi went up the mast today. We lost gennaker into the sea (and fished it out) because of the broken halyard. So she went up with the lead line to draw the new halyard through the mast. What a brave girl!

Apr 13 2014 1930 UTC
09°11'S, 130°53'W
South Pacific

Winds have diminished. How spoiled one gets sailing in 18 to 23 knots with big but gentle waves swaying the boat. The waves are smaller too, but less organized now. And they still sway the boat, but now we call it "rolling". From time to time Levana falls into this side to side roll which is annoying by itself, but the worst thing is flapping of the sails. We have full jib out and full main up and when it flaps it really flaps. We need the wind above 15 knots to keep the sail full even when rolling. Just a minor nuisance which after some time I don't notice so much - except at night when trying to sleep and the sail says "flap".

Taozi's fresh vegetable garden

Two days ago we hoisted our spinnaker - a day too early. The winds did subside to about 15 but came back and for the moment it blew 30. The spinnaker still held, but a little later the halyard gave up and the butterfly went into the water. We fished it out, didn't loose any parts, but now there is no halyard up on the mast. I don't want to send anyone up the mast to lead the new halyard over the sheave. So no spinnaker sailing until we repair this at the anchor. And other things break as well. We finally took the new solid vang off. The attachment to the mast wasn't dimensioned right, got pulled out and the ear bent. I need to have the whole piece made of stainless steel that will hug the mast and have the right dimensions.
No fish lately. Marko tried all his lures but Pacific fish decided to ignore him after his last mahi. We survive on pasta, cheese, canned meat and fresh vegetables. Yes, very fresh, from our own garden here on Levana. Taozi grows beans, different kind, and when the sprouts are long enough we have fresh salad. It is called hydroponic method - or something like that.
According to my calculations we will get to Nuku Hiva on Thursday, April 17, in the morning. That is if the wind blows according to the forecast. And yes, today is Sunday - although it is a little hard to distinguish workdays from weekends here - we work all the time!

Apr 09 2014 0109 UTC
08°28'S, 119°11'W
South Pacific

The days formed their own routine and we fell into it not really realizing that. Of course we have watch schedule, ours is for the night time only, during the day we are mostly all around and usually at least two people on deck. Night schedule starts at six PM local time and changes every three hours until six AM. So the person who starts at six PM comes on again at 3 AM. We rotate through the crew list so everyone gets his or her share of two watches per night. Local time is "Levana time zone"- we adjusted it once after leaving Galapagos and we will adjust it again tomorrow. Right now it is UTC -7 but at six it is still too bright and from tomorrow on it will be UTC -8, so that six PM is as close to sunset as possible. And we don't have to rewrite the schedule or start watches during daytime.
Two nights ago we passed our half way mark - we are closer to our destination than to our departure place. And it was our eleventh day at sea. It is just incredible how vast these distances are. You have to come down to the zero altitude and move at 7 to 8 knots to realize that. And not see anyone around. Oh well, twice we saw ship lights in the distance and yesterday a small cargo ship passed quite close. Yes, it takes 12 hours to fly accross Pacific and I did it many times without thinking about the dimensions below. Coming down here and doing it at this pace puts things into the right perspective and shows you where your place is in this world and what your importance in it actually is.
But it is not so empty as it looks. Every day at 1800 UTC we have a roll call. A group of boats that left Galapagos around the same time call in on the radio and report their positions and weather conditions. The closest one to Levana at this moment is only about 30 Nm southwest of us. Of course distances changes, every boat has its own plan of sailing and does it so at its own speed.

Apr 04 2014 1610 UTC
07°00'S, 104°25'W
South Pacific

This is sailing also! We set our sails two (or was it three) days ago and haven't touched them since. We are sailing on the line directly to our destination on Hiva Oa. Wind does change a little in strength, goes from 18 or 19 knots to 24 or 25 knots and blowing at about 120 degrees on the port side we are making between 7 and 8 knots. The interesting part of the boat balance are of course the waves. First, these don't align with wind completely, they come from slightly more southerly direction. Since we sail at an angle to them it makes for interesting steering when a bigger one throws Levana's stern aside and then she heels over some more. It takes practice to feel such event coming and steer the boat away from the wave to keep her upright. Well, nothing is upright, I think at the end of the journey we'll all walk a little slant.
Yesterday we set Levana's record for 24 hour passage at 185 nautical miles, averaging 7.7 knots. At this moment we are still 2060 Nm from the destination and at this rate of travel we would get there on April 16. But the story will change, it is in the forecast. The wind will slowdown and change direction and we will sail slower. How much slower? Hard to say but we should get into Marquesas on or around April 20th.

Mar 31 2014 2020 UTC
06°12'S, 96°27'W
South Pacific

Haven't updated this page in few days. We left Galapagos as planned on March 27th late afternoon. And the farewell was typical, as usual I had to go through the birocracy procedure to get my sailing papers. Although the port authority put Levana's information into their "system" all of sudden it was not there when I was ready to leave. So look for JC, our agent, to come and help resolve the problem. After four hours (and a number of beers I drank waiting) I got my zarpe to sail to Hiva Oa in Marquesas.
The wind situation southwest of Galapagos is usually not very inclined towards sailors. Often no wind or wind with mixed directions. This time was no exception at all. While we made a show and sailed out of the harbor flying our butterfly we had soon to take it of. And then followed the real mix. We motored, sometimes with sails up just to stabilize the boat against rolling, we sailed and we also made our way through the storm system with gusts up to 27 knots. And rain! It rained for a whole day and we were wet, really wet. To spice things up the vang decided to part with the mast - it pulled out the 8 (eight) rivets that held it's plate to the mast. Marko spend some time fixing it, getting the rivets - or their remnants - out so we could place some screws into the holes to hold the plate in place and then tighten it to the mast with kevlar line which Marko, using a trucker trick with screwdrivers, made so tight that it is impossible to move. After two days it still holds like new. But obviously those rivets were not of the right dimension to hold the plate fastened. Although I understand that mine is the first application of conversion kit for Leisure Furl, the vang part should be part of a standard installation and thus strong enough.
I just finished my lunch of the best tuna sashimi! Marko pulled up two tunas. An 11 lbs (5 kg) one first and then a 14 lbs (6 kg) one after that. Taozi is already a master slicing the fish and she cut out the best part for sashimi. The rest went for steaks, ceviche and just fish pieces fried in oil. How I know the weights so precisely? I brought with me my travel scale which I used in my traveling times to weigh the luggage before I went on an airplane. It comes very handy now so that Marko can brag about the fish.
The ocean is vast... As far as the sight reaches just blue waves. But it is not so empty as it looks. Today we had seven boats on a noon time call. We all left Galapagos around the same time, with maybe a day or two difference. Since everyone reports the position it is very interesting to watch the distances between boats grow or became smaller. So the closest one to us is about 30 Nm north. Everyone has a little different idea what is the best way to get to the southerly trade winds without sacrificing too much distance to the destination. One is sure, the boat that followed ruhmb line fell quite behind experiencing severe calm.
I think we reached the trade winds zone sailing at about 6 degrees south, doing up to 7 knots in 13 knots wind blowing from 110 degrees. We'll go a little further south to get the 15 knots wind, the turn towards the destination and fly our gennaker during the day and jib and main during the night.