A retirement party with a sumptuous Marquesan oven, a tenth birthday with more cakes and desserts that even Laurent couldn’t handle and a lunch invite with some wonderful goat cooked in coco milk. Our social calendar is busy to say the least. We are back in the full swing of things and sharing so much out of it.
The good thing is this year, the support required is more computer/tech oriented, thus keeping Laurent’s hands and finger nails nice and clean (well, for the moment that is!), he stilled squeezed in some washing machine repairs in the middle of it. The photo below shows you the beautiful ten brand new laptops acquired by the school a few months ago, though placed in service without any antivirus while the children can still peruse through internet, there was no software installed so the utility was reduced to dangerous web surfing! After getting back the old copier and new printer working, I have started getting those updated to Windows 10 and all the other bells and whistles needed for the children to have some educational time.
Vaetia was determined not to smile, full stop.
And we even had “Happy Birthday” sung in Marquesan
Finally with so much fruits in our hands what do we do?
Canning is “au gout du jour” these days and Letitgo’s pantry gets replenished with Mango/grapefruit jam, a cucumber with saffron jelly and lastly our delicious pamplemousse syrup.
For the Lagoon 380 owners: before anything, we just wanted to share a thought. Fortunately you don’t learn all the mistakes by yourself and sometimes you get a eureka moment from somebody else. In the instructions manual of our dear boat, it mentions to keep the draining valves connecting the outer most lockers to the mini keel and consequently the bilge pump close or open as needed. This is what we found when we re-read it, but our brains had registered to keep it on the closed position for the emergency valves during our previous read. And we had done so during the last four years (working them every month so they don’t freeze), until we recently realized our mistake.
Indeed recently friends of ours have just had their engine flooded all the way up to the air filter, which is not so good for the life spam of it. Their catamaran Fontaine Pajot has a pump in that compartment but it’s not an automatic one. This made us realize how bad of a judgement we were rendering; luckily we do check rather frequently our engines before departure and had caught the raw water pump at the first sign of failure last time. So here you go, another expensive mishap avoided.
As for our daily life in Vaitahu, last night was a rare day around here, Monseigneur the bishop of the Marquesas was present in town. It was time for his yearly inspection and two valleys had run out of the “consecrated bread” also known as “hostie” in French for the communion so it became a lifesaving mission. As usual when a member of the clergy is visiting his schedule is rather full; between confessions, mass, christening of a boat, the unctions, visits to the sick and elderly there is not a spared moment. Mass was more traditional that day, and we had to be there to see our friends leading on the prayers! Of course by now you know that an evening like this could only be celebrated by a magnificent dinner, the finest dishes were presented in this grand occasion.
The young generation is getting trained in the art of the drum, and this young one is particularly good at it with a good sense of rhythm. Traditionally in Tahuata it is played by the ladies
As for activities, this year we have computers coming from right left and center to us. You see with the coming age of internet the youth has discovered the joy of downloading alas without anti-virus software. Resulting in some like never before infected disks, the amusing aspect of it all is the embarrassed face when we clean the trash or see the names of the infected files. No need to tell you it’s not the prayer songs that are problems so far, but more exotic ones to say the least… So with this in mind we will install the same on all the brand new laptops of the school that never got any protection.
Before anything else, here is the answer to our quiz of the last post. The metal frame is for a fruit picker, fix it to the end of a long stick with piece of an inner tube and you will pick the highest fruits that are perfectly mature.
The swell reappeared out of nowhere with a vengeance which means that the reputation of Vaitahu is done for another season, we should not have too many neighbours… Benjamin is nonetheless able to get a full day of work in; there is no snow day for him so far. On our side we took one on Monday, as we relaxed and made some small upgrades on Letitgo. We finally found what we thought was a rain leak under the seat in the saloon. Truly, it was intermittent and we never really had the courage to really look for it, because it is in a locker located under a seat and filled with boxes of our food provisions but this time we were determined and courageous might we add! So what did we discover? During the elimination process, I decided to put a container under the coil of the fridge coming from the evaporator. It rained buckets that day and not a trace of water inside the locker, it rained again and once more “nada” after three days of pure dryness, we then deducted that the condensation when very hot and humid outside was enough to register as a film of water under our storage boxes! It was that easy.
Next was the mast, behind the decorative panel that got damaged last year by water. We discovered that some rain was able to leak from the top of the mast along the cable. We made a funnel out of a plastic and installed a tube going in the outside front locker all this hold by some metal brace and we are dry once again.
Last Tuesday we braved the swell in a rodeo type move and found ourselves stranded on land for lunch with the massive swell, we had moved all the pirogues out of the way (usually stored on a side wall) to avoid them from crashing because of the waves; our dinghy was tied onto a buoy so it would be far from the dock alas with all the strong swell the knot came loose and it untied… Fortunately everyone knows where to find Benjamin and he was quickly informed; he then jumped in to save the day, Thank you for that Ben! In the meantime, Valerie gave tuition on using a smartphone with Facebook etc… while I diagnosed a dead TV and worked on a computer with a virus, plus got the part for the bread roller that got eaten by the mouse during the inaction. Will we ever have baguette soon? Who knows?
Alas by mid-week the swell was picking up strength once more and the wind was joining the party from the west. After a day of sleeping and reading and not leaving Letitgo we said, maybe it would be a good idea to leave. So we left Benjamin on land as he had already slept there and we went to hide in Hiva Oa, where we were greeted by a flat and calm sea. We enjoyed some quiet time, met with friends again, had some nice dinner and chats!
After five days of heavy rain and major flooding around the Marquesas, we came back to Vaitahu, where we found our son happy and well fed; he received an amazing welcome two families were sharing him! Sorry there is no picture yet as our battery and spare camera stayed on Tahuata…
Well, it`s already been a week since we came back to Vaitahu. The swell is down actually let us rephrase the swell is not a hundred percent and we sometimes practice rodeo to get to the dock!
The day/night/sea waters are incredibly hot, definitely a change from last year and to give you an example it is 8am the temperature is already rising to 36C. Yet some things haven`t changed, it is the ability for the islanders to live in such a relaxed and unpredictable way, the rhythm is starting to slow down, and our minds are decompressing, our brains are starting to learn again.
Some readers have been asking us “what do you do in one valley during all these months? “ We will try to keep track of it all for you goal oriented ones. For now, the week started slowly as Laurent was curing an ear infection; Valerie then got bitten by an insect that took her down for two days. Thankfully our favourite herbal nurse taught us how to make Tiare water (a heavenly smell) to cure this eye infection and in no time Valerie didn’t look like a battered woman anymore.
After that, it was time to get down to business: As I had been advised that the bread oven needed to be serviced, if we were in the hope to get some baguettes any time soon (no production for the last 5 months). It took one day to learn the system, clean the jet nozzle and the three filters, remove the old diesel and find some clean one. Second day was testing and cleaning the racks as we did three successful empty loads. The mixer was previously repaired and checked once more, they are ready now to “rock and roll“ it is just a question of who will be baking it now this is still the island mystery of the week…
Second task was to cure an idling problem on an outboard engine, an easy repair but the discovery of the problem was more enlightening. The mixing oil measurement is marked in gallon with the various ratios on the label, in the old days 40/1 or 50/1 (still for the weed Wacker) was the norm but the modern engine requires 100/1. Unfortunately, the minds haven’t re-adjusted and for 20 liters of fuel, a full 16 oz of oil can was added, when after calculation 7oz is perfectly fine. Now I know why that engine had not a spot of rust but some grease build up.
Third task was investigating a lower leg of a 115 HP Suzuki, they just had changed the horizontal gear and I had diagnosed a bad switch last week, then on Thursday the boat was towed in and pulled out of the water, on Saturday they started to pull it apart and discovered the gear stripped again after three hours run time and some bearing seized. Understandably, they were upset as they had used the local `mechanic` to change the part, after some insistence on my part they removed the vertical assembly shaft, we needed to see what had caused the problem. Well somebody shade some tears when we pulled it out and found out that it had broken plus some bearing and plastic part. I advised them that greasing and re-assembling the all lot was better than leaving it in a cardboard box as planned, you wonder how I learned that lesson… In the meantime somebody will need to do a few bags of coprah to pay for those parts from Tahiti. Diagram was downloaded so we made the list of the one to purchase soon…….
Now you understand why we were happy Sunday came along and we took time off. We were invited for lunch came and brought the pizzas ready to be assembled and cooked by the children, it was time to unwind and enjoy an afternoon of farniente.
Us looking at the oven running, that how we spend time.
What is this for? First to give the right answer in the comment below get a free kilo bucket of mango.
And this photo is our favorite, illustrating why we love been here.
This is the latest article for our Cruising association, just to highlight how easy it is to achieve wonders with the right frame of mind.
After Mexico, where do we go?
In our last article, we mentioned that Mexico was just down the coast an easy sail away from our secure waters of the Georgia Straight. So imagine you just spent some time navigating in that region, thus you now feel much more comfortable with your boat, the urge to go home to all comfort items has passed and one too many sunset cocktails have helped plant some ideas in our brain.
Now, what seed do we harvest? Where do we go from here? Actually staying in Mexico is a perfectly good course of action, the country has so much to offer the sailing is easy and the people very welcoming. We did spend eighteen months in this magnificent country and could have stayed a lot more, we find ourselves reminiscing fairly often about the people, food, sights and general atmosphere. Alas the bug of travels confused our brain some more and we found crossing an ocean appealing!
In reality what are the options available to us. One is to go back toward colder latitude ie: Canada though this one doesn’t catch many of us like a flu bug by surprise. The second one is to follow the coast as you have just been doing and enjoy another few years of “day sail”, right back up to Florida through Panama or down the coast. Yet, again you went to Disney with the kids once and that was enough for most of us.
So for a few illuminated ones, the only option is to visit the islands of the South pacific. And there lies your first challenge the so called Pacific Ocean the largest one. We can attest it is a big blank space, with a few grain of sands plucked in the middle of it. That should reassure the pessimist, less earth, less danger to hit something with the keel: “Well, let’s go darling!”
Still a change in the frame of mind needs to operate slowly, this passage will be a little longer than the La Paz/Mazatlán one. We still remember vividly that first crossing; we thought we were going to the other side of the world. So what happened in our brain to facilitate our exit strategy?
First we needed to “tropicalize” the crew, which means relax you are not in North America anymore; things will happen in their own time, people have different values and visions of life. The “manana manana” mantra of Mexico is the perfect place to get into that rhythm. The stress you are going to induce is going to be enormous; all systems in the brain need to be in tip top shape. It is not the time to stop smoking or question our love relationship! Yet again, we are not all on Prozac or Opioid out here or wearing “rozy” glasses, but rather a normal bunch so try not to worry too much.
Secondly, crossing to the Marquesas will take roughly 25 days or 600 hours; this is equivalent to five years if not more of regular Sunday outings for a normal boat. The stress you are going to put on your vessel is going to be enormous, so this time around all system needs to be in absolute perfect shape. And Tahiti is not a heaven for boat shopping either, very little 110 volts items available, small selection of SAE parts and when you need to import better be ready for the sticker shock.
You get the drift; it’s not a race around the beer can. It’s an ultra-marathon under dead valley condition, for the boat and the crew. Let us re-assure you though many of us have done it, and will do it again!
But a few things made it enjoyable and safe to accomplish for us. We decided on all the safety systems we required for our peace of mind on board. This means very different things for different people. It was an Epirb with an updated registration, a mean of communicating with land SSB/pactor, and a new life raft. Sorry no, not the one you’ve seen at the San Carlos’ fleet market burnt by the 20 years of Mexican sun; actually that’s better than nothing some boat would love to have one, so go ahead buy it. It’s only for the peace of mind really, 99.9% of us never used it. To back up our assumption, we did a rigorous survey in Hiva Oa and not one crew that where there used it, even the ones that had to leave their boat on route in the middle of the Pacific.
Also we had Letitgo in the best condition possible; no system was left with a doubt or a presumption of hope that it will be ok. Every piece was inspected, including sails and every questionable part ordered and changed. We have done everything we could, now it was time to go relax and enjoy that special time where you don’t have e-mails, cellphones, negative news on a daily dose! Don’t some of us pay a fortune for this nowadays? We like to call it a detox cruise!
Still in the back of your mind you need to be ready for all eventuality, for example in 2014-2015 one boat hit a whale North of the Galapagos and had to divert to Salinas Ecuador, therefore sailing 6 days with a damaged boat and not knowing what would happen to the rudder. After repairs, they made it back at sea and without any more problems here. Another one was plucked of their disable vessel by a passing sailboat and delivered in good spirit in the Marquesas. This is to illustrate that some of us encounter unexpected issues and need to be ready for them with well-practiced drill and standard operating procedures.
Next, why don’t you get a long stay visa for French Polynesia, it does require a bit of paperwork and a couple of trips to a French embassy but the system is decently “oiled” by now if you have a well-built file. Know that it is well worth it in the end; after all you haven’t crossed an ocean to be rushed through a territory that is 2000 km long with an amazing variety of islands. We feel that being pushed toward your cyclone safe zone is one of the reasons why so many crews are disillusioned when they arrive down under. The boat and crew are tired, they just sailed 6000 nm in 8 months, the fun is gone long ago like the Jabsco pump on those great toilet of ours.
If you made the effort, you speak Spanish by now of course, and French is quite similar to it so don’t let yourself be scared about the language: get that high school vocabulary out of under a few years of adulthood dust, life will be so much more fun. Be ready, not only on shore but also the VHF will speak a different language. The Maritime Rescue Service Center will announce all kind of interesting things such as a tsunami alert or a missing boat and only in the language of Moliere.
Boats will start to be less homogeneous. Pot luck is a strange concept to a European crew, 3-1 ratio on the chain is for extreme weather to a French sailor. Speedo is a formal wear, strong coffee and cigarette the elixir of life for some. Quinoa and yoga are some strange elements of a sect, not the normality like on 4th Avenue.
One last food for thoughts, from Ecuador you can cross the Pacific all year around, New Zealand is not the only cyclone safe harbor in the South Pacific, take your time only a few sailors do cross more than once on their own boat.
It’s not that hard, we were ready, well we convinced ourselves of it, anyway…
We are now officially back to just the three of us, which means in our small world a spare room; hence we are in a re-organization, re-provisioning and cleaning mode for Letitgo who needs some TLC. We haven’t regained the bay of Vaitahu (on Tahuata) yet since the swell is still up on the west side of the island, so happily we are bobbing around in Hiva-Oa and re-grouping. There are a lot of boats still in the bay at the moment, which is a great opportunity for us to reconnect with friends, entertain and be entertained! We also took some delivery from Panama as you can witness below. Just like a Christmas gift our coffee arrived!
For anybody who thinks that filtering its diesel after letting it sit in jugs is superfluous, let’s take a close look at the jar in the photo. The bottom is water, the middle algae and the top a mix of bad fuel; this in your tank could create havoc in no time. That is why since our departure from Canada we’ve never put fuel directly from the pump but from jerry can which we let sit a minimum of a day then funnel it through a ceramic filter (used for small plane) and a bit of Startron for peace of mind.
It doesn’t look like a coffee delivery does it, but no we don’t finance our “extravagant” lifestyle this way.
Once more we are catching up with the blog posts… We have arrived in Vaitahu and are enjoying being amongst our friends again and getting first hand new experiences. The holidays’ visitors are starting to leave slowly, kids are going back to school this week and life is coming back to normal in the tranquil valley the village is regaining its casual pace.
Today during lunch we were offered to try a delicacy dish and were presented with some Fafaru! Do you know what this is?
Here is the recipe so you can recreate it back home:
Fafaru is a very traditional meal prepared with sea water that has been putrefying for a few days with a few pieces of fish for good measure; we will let your nose imagine the smell it creates as small organisms macerate in it. Once you mastered this very important step you let marinate pieces of fileted fishes for various length of time, you then drain it to finish with fresh coco milk (but of course!) and you are in business to get a family of Marquesans very happy to be around the table. And now, the feeling mimics the one of deprived English with Marmite or Australian with Vegemite, there is true excitement with big eyes and then rush and delight. For the foreigners, it’s a test in their eyes, are they going to eat some? Truly the smell is worse than the taste just like some cheeses in France and requires some rewiring of brain cells, so just go for it! Our only question though is that to our taste buds it doesn’t enhance the beautiful fresh fish flavours so why do it?
Fortunately Fafaru takes time to make (up to two or three days) thus it is only made for special occasion, you might be in luck! But now that you are aware of this Marquesan delicacy you have no excuse for a faux pas when you are invited to taste it!
Hibiscus flower arrangement, compliments of Benjamin.
The experts know what this view means.
Les experts savent maintenant ou nous sommes, et ce que cela veut dire…
Nous sommes alles faire un tour dans un arbre, elles sont pretes, juteuses et sucrees en un mot delicieuses!
Perfectly ripe to the day, that bucket will be gone by tomorrow with 12 people around the table…
What a surprise, Koki and Titi came especially from Vaitahu (they took a speed boat early in the morning) to deliver flower couronnes that Titi made the day before all by hand. This was to bid farewell to our parents and wish them “bon voyage”.
What a beautiful gift of kindness, thank you Titi and Koki we were very touched.
Sophie, sains et saufs nous te les renvoyons, maintenant il ne leur reste que 35 heures pour retourner en metropole avec 11 heures de decalage en plus…
Mum and Dad, on esperent que vous rentrez la tete pleine de belles images, de bons souvenirs et que vous avez passe un bon sejour avec nous.
On our second day, we explored the North side of the island and went all the way to Puamau for the famous Tikis which are still stunning. We will let you enjoy a much smoother ride in photos, as the road is still in major need of repair.
The winds seem to be dominant around here and we were in the cloud at the top of the mountain.
Gauguin museum in Atuona.
Emma this is where we called you from when we tried to describe.
Sadly we haven’t been able to go back to shore before leaving Vaitahu hence Mamau and Papau have not been able to say their good-byes, the swell crashing on the dock was really a big risk we didn’t want to take. So we voyaged toward Hiva Oa and started to discover its wonders.
We had to bring flower couronnes back to town for friends of friends.
Pic nique in the back of a pick-up truck.
Now this is serious time in Polynesia, Bingo time.
Dinner was served in style to celebrate….
We better stop eating or we are going to explode… Ok, this may be a bit of an exaggeration though gout may set in faster than we think! Truly, we divided our time equally between our two adoptive families. And had some of the most family oriented with warmth and joy along with exceptional food for the last 48 hours. It usually starts with a simple concept, two days of hunting fishing and gathering and it is followed by two days of eating and drinking for some. There were a few pigs to be sacrificed for the feast and fishes to be caught.
We will remember the best slow cooked pig of all time, a pumpkin “pohe” or poke for the Tahitian which melts in the mouth and some unforgettable sashimis.
The oldies as they are called around here on one side and the youth jamming on the other.
Les ancetres ou vieux comme on les appelle sont assis d’un cote de la table et de l’autre les jeunes chantent.
The 4th generation in action.
The next day the swell came up and it became very hazadous to come to shore, we all suceeded nonetheless although our grandmother stayed onboard.
Of course dinner was delivered just in case somebody was dying of hunger which was more than delicious.
A flower bouquet gathered while walking back to the boat,
Thank you Titi, your heart is bigger than this planet!