4/2017: East Pacific Crossing, Nuku Hiva

4/1 [Day 17, 0:33N, 130:00W]

Over the night winds continued to come down and we motored along in calm conditions, nice and relaxing. In the morning I switched engines and changed the oil in the old one (I tried a new technique and it was far easier than previous oil changes; after three years, I have finally learned how to change the oil properly). We motored the rest of the day, pretty relaxing conditions. In late afternoon we crossed the equator, having a small party with champagne and some treats, really nice.

4/2 [Day 18, 1:14S, 130:59W]

My 34th birthday! In the morning I stopped the engine for an oil change and tried sailing. We were under the main and genoa for a few hours before I put up the spinnaker, which sailed nicely for 15 minutes and then had a failure at the head of the sail and the rest fell in the water, acting like a big sea anchor. I pulled it back aboard and we rinsed it, motored for a bit, and then tried sailing again with the main and genoa. The wind came up a little and we had wonderful sailing the rest of the day and night.

4/3 [Day 19, 2:31S, 132:28W]

The wind came down early in the morning so we started motoring. The morning had several squalls pass close by (we had entered another convergence zone) and the afternoon was sunny with continuing light winds. The squalls returned in the evening and we got rained on.

4/4 [Day 20, 3:55S, 134:00W]

Around midnight the wind came up to 12 knots or so but we motored until I got up at 5am and put up a full main and genoa to sail. A few hours later it started getting squally and I reefed the main. It stayed squally through much of the day and in the afternoon both the squalls and winds died off and we started motoring. A fishing boat passed us a couple miles away, the first boat we’d seen (in person or on the radar) in two weeks. In the early evening we passed through a loud group of gulls and frigate birds and others feeding, with fish jumping out of the water as they hunted. I put out the fishing line and didn’t notice until much later but the entire line ran out before the end snapped, I guess it was a pretty big fish that bit (hmm, I need sturdier fishing gear).

4/5 [Day 21, 5:16S, 135:36W]

Light winds continued through the night so we motored. In mid morning the wind came up to 10-12 on a broad reach so I put up the spinnaker for a bit. It was tricky to get the spinnaker working again after it fell in the water a few days ago, and the first time it went up the inner rope was twisted around the sail and it wouldn’t go up quite all the way. I tried bringing it down and that was very difficult too, and in doing so it got wrapped around another halyard and in general made a big mess. I untangled things and reran the spinnaker through the sock without any twists and it went up all the way this time. We were making 5-6 knots in smooth seas, wonderful sailing. A couple times in the afternoon squalls passed by and I dropped the spinnaker (much easier with the the twists out); after the second time it came down we just went with the genoa, going slow at first but then back to 5 knots as winds picked up a little. In late afternoon we caught a small bonito, great dinner. All in all just a really nice day. In the evening it continued to be squally, and we had sustained winds of up to 30 knots, even away from the squalls. The autopilot was getting overpowered and I went forward to put in the third reef on the mainsail, and in the middle of the night went forward again to drop the main entirely.

4/6 [Day 22, 6:29S, 136:54W]

Winds slowly decreased through the rest of the night and when I got up at 6:30 they were pretty much dead. We started motoring into a headwind of a few knots. The morning was very gray and we seemed to be behind a big squall, which may have been responsible for the lack of wind. In mid morning the squall moved over us and rained on us for two and a half hours. Squalls continued through the early afternoon with more rain, but then they left us behind and the wind set up again. We sailed for the rest of the day and night on the main and genoa, super nice conditions. In the late afternoon we hooked what looked like a nice tuna, beautiful fish. I was excited to get it aboard and tried to lift it out of the water by the leader, which promptly broke and we lost the fish. Ugh. I was kind of inebriated and vowed to think first before doing new or complicated things in such a state in the future.

4/7 [Day 23, 7:43S, 138:25W]

Great sailing conditions continued all day, interrupted by a couple squalls that passed nearby. In the afternoon the fishing rod started spinning off line and I went to tend it, only for the fish to get off the lure quickly. I checked the deck mounted reel and found it also had a fish on it (which may have been there for hours), another nice tuna that was still alive but very weak. This time I was careful about getting it aboard, dropping the sails and getting down on the swim step with a gaff hook to get it out of the water and into a bucket. It was about thirty pounds and by far the largest fish I’ve butchered, but after about an hour I cut it up into two big bags of boneless fillets. We relaxed in the cockpit with some wine for the evening, enjoying the wonderful conditions, and had a few fillets for dinner before going on evening watch, delicious.

4/8 [Day 24]

In the middle of the night some strong winds started coming intermittently; Lisa was on watch but I came out to help her reef the genoa. There were squalls around which were generating some lightning, and I saw two strikes hit the water off in the distance in front of the boat (did not hear thunder, though). I put the lightning ground cable back in the water and we continued sailing, but none of the squalls hit us and things continued like this until dawn. The winds quieted down and we started motoring as Ua Huka and Nuku Hiva came into view. We watched the sheer green cliffsides and jungles as they came into view, and as we passed beneath the southeast end of the island and smelled the very earthy scent of the island. We arrived in Taiohae Bay around 10am, seeing lots of boats anchored and a small cruise ship (which apparently only comes once every three months), but found a quiet place to anchor pretty easily. A couple guys came by not later to give us a few pounds of a blue marlin they had caught, then later we went to shore to walk around on the main street in town and peruse the shops. It felt very different and nice to be on shore. After a while we came back to the boat and relaxed the rest of the evening. It was especially great to finally get a full night’s sleep together again.

4/9

In the morning we went into town, but it was Sunday so things were closed up and we walked around for a bit. Saw some roosters fighting each other, which was neat. We went back to the boat and I fixed a bunch of leaks on the boat, then we went paddleboarding and kayaking together for a bit and had a relaxing evening.

4/10

In the morning we went in to check in to the country, using Nuku Hiva Yacht Services. This all went smoothly, then Lisa stayed on shore to use the internet while I went out for a dive. I went out and found a nice looking spot near the mouth of the bay, inside the east sentinel (the east and west sentinels frame the bay’s entrance). I had a great dive, seeing lots of new fish and some familiar fish, plus a manta ray. Fish life at the site was great, and the coral was pretty good too. Visibility was 45′ or so. On the way back I saw several mantas at the surface deeper in the bay, not far from the anchorage. I returned to the boat, cleaned up, picked up Lisa, and we had lunch at the boat. After that we went out to look for the mantas, finding them in about the same place. Lisa went snorkeling and was blown away, there were dozens of manta rays, probably fifty in total, swooping around and feeding in the murky water. She was in for a little while, then we went back to the boat to get the camera gear, then I swam with them for a bit, then she went again. An awesome experience, the rest of the day we just kind of soaked in the high of the snorkeling.

4/11

I was concerned about anchoring in areas frequented by mantas after the disaster we had last year at San Benedicto. In the morning I fabricated a new, hopefully manta proof anchor system, using an old halyard and some PVC pipe we had brought down from the US for this purpose. I went diving again at the same spot, trying the new system, which worked pretty well though I did not see any mantas. I saw a great octopus, pretty big and out in the open, then in a system of crevices where he couldn’t really get away from me. I watched him for a while as he changed colors and textures to try to hide from me, and then moved away to give him a chance to make his way to a better crevice, where I left him for good. More good fish on the dive, including several small lionfish hiding under a ledge. After the dive we stayed on the boat for the rest of the day. Lisa spent hours photographing some old journals of hers that had gotten wet, then I gave her a massage.

4/12

After breakfast we went into town to get some internet access and see a bit more of things. We walked around town and down some new streets, finding a bunch of houses and fruit bearing trees but not much else. The shops and internet cafe were all closed for some reason and it wasn’t a very productive trip, other than Lisa picking several pampelmousse (a sweet, delicious grapefruit) from trees along the way. We hung around at the boat, then went in for an hour or so for more internet and some food at the cafe near the wharf, then back to the boat for the evening.

4/13

In the morning we took care of a couple errands on shore, then went diving together at the same spot I went to on the previous two dives. We took things slowly but conditions were pretty good, though there was a little more surge than earlier. Fun dive, no great sights but we saw a lionfish, a few morays, lots of fish. After the dive Lisa noticed some mantas nearby. We motored over and I hopped in the water with dive gear and camera to get some photos and footage of them, while Lisa handled the dinghy (she was feeling good after the dive and didn’t need to see more of the mantas from the water). There were five or six feeding together, not interested in me but not avoiding me either, pretty nice. In the afternoon we went ashore for a while for internet and some grocery shopping.

4/14

I dropped Lisa off in the morning so she could use the internet, then went diving at a new spot. I anchored between the west sentinel and a detached rock on its outside. The swell was low and it was sunny and calm, but this was still pretty adventurous, 70′ of water in a narrow channel between the waves crashing on the two rocks. I went down and found an octopus clutching the anchor, I guess it was fond of shiny things. I shooed it away, set the anchor, and headed counterclockwise around the detached rock, ending at a slightly overhanging wall on its outside. This was a great spot, with several sharks (not interested in me), a turtle, a lot of good sized trevally and some nice schools of surgeonfish and juvenile triggerfish. Great conditions: 50′-70′ of visibility and no current. After getting back from the dive I relaxed a bit, went in to pick up Lisa, and then we left the anchorage for Daniel’s Bay, 5 miles to the west. This is a really beautiful spot, a small and more protected bay than Taiahoe and with spectacular scenery around, mainly a cliff and valley wall stretching back into the island, thousands of feet high. We paddleboarded ashore and I did some moderately exposed scrambling to get to a little high point and take pictures of the boat. On return to the boat I got in the water to cool off and scrub algae off the sides around the waterline, and a little bit later paddleboarded to a nearby beach to scope it out (we’re planning on landing the dinghy there tomorrow) and paddle surf a little bit in the small waves. Lots of fun, and after a nice evening I was exhausted and went to sleep early.

4/15

Lots of little flies outside on the boat in the morning enjoying the dew, but they weren’t biting and weren’t coming inside so weren’t a problem (I kind of miss when we were on passage and had no insects on the boat at all). After breakfast we went ashore to start the hike to Vaipo waterfall. This is the tallest waterfall in Polynesia and one of the tallest in the world. Doing the hike took over five hours and was a great experience. The waterfall itself is very tall and magnificent, and the trail took us to some pools near its base, where we could swim right up to a drop shortly below the waterfall proper. We had great weather up to this point, then it opened up and rained hard most of the way back, a very different experience but still very nice with the warm rain and no need to bundle up. The rest of the hike was pretty interesting too; as we left the beach we passed through a small village with lots of fruit trees, then crossing a river and winding through the jungle past many stone walls and other structures, ruins from hundreds of years ago when this area was more populated. We collected a few mangos and saw some wildlife: an eel swimming down the river, and a large crayfish making its way up. We didn’t see anyone the entire time, excepting several residents in the village. We rested at the boat an hour, then headed back to paddle surf / boogieboard together in the puny swell, and to pick up a big bunch of bananas and some limes from someone in town who we’d paid earlier for access to the falls.

4/16

I went out solo for another dive in the morning, just past point Temokomoko. The surface water color improved markedly as I got to the point and I wanted to do another dive with great visibility. I anchored in 70′ and checked out the steep walls in the area, which had little coral but lots of fish life. The highlights were a few sharks (or the same shark multiple times), and two octopus side by side in a crack. At first I didn’t realize there were two octopus. After watching one of them and petting it a little I noticed what looked like a detached tentacle nearby. I touched it, and it immediately latched onto my hand and started pulling it into the crack. I had to brace on a rock to pull my hand out, and in the process managed to brush my stomach against another rock and get stung, leaving a five inch welt. The octopus around here mean business; I think the second was using its tentacle as a lure for fish, or maybe it was just an asshole. Our outboard was giving some trouble on the dive, with a low speed idle and dying a few times, but I managed to make it back to Magic alright. After resting a bit we wanted to go out and snorkel, but the outboard was still acting up. I installed a new carburetor we had onboard, and it seemed to be fine, so we headed out. At first we stayed near some fringing reefs inside the bay. We saw several sea turtles and Lisa went snorkeling, but the water was very murky so we stopped quickly. The water was rougher, deeper, and still murky outside the bay, so we headed back and went ashore in the eastern lobe of Daniel’s Bay, hiking around and looking at the plethora of crabs making their homes in the sand, mud, and trees along a small stream.

4/17

We left the anchorage in the morning, observing on the way out that the swell had increased considerably from the previous couple of days. I regretted not going for more surfing in the morning, and should pay more attention to the swell and swell forecast. We got into Taiahoe Bay a couple hours later and anchored close to the wharf. After using the internet for a while we tried to go out diving. There were bigger waves than we liked at the spot inside the east sentinel, so we tried one further back. Visibility was terrible (less than 10′) and we surfaced, then tried the wavy spot again. I went down alone, found generally poor conditions, surfaced and told Lisa, who wasn’t interested in diving, then went down again for fifteen minutes before finally giving up. We headed back to the boat to work on our computers. Later in the day an intense squall came through; we tried to collect rainwater using our sun shades and got about fifteen gallons.

4/18

Rested most of the day and did some work. In the afternoon I kayaked to the bay to the west to see if there were any surfing options there but did not find anything.

4/19

We tried diving in the morning but the swell was still up. We went back to Magic and I dropped Lisa off, then went out by myself. I dove off a wall inside the west sentinel, anchoring in 70′. Right after descending I saw a big marble ray coming towards me, then right after two manta rays approached as well. One was swimming towards the anchor line (which was not yet secured to the bottom) and I tried to catch up with it but it saw the line, reared up and left. The rest of the dive was pretty uneventful, lots of rubble, a little structure and a fair amount of fish.

4/20

We got a 24 hour car rental from Yacht Services Nuku Hiva, picking it up when they opened at 8:30. We spent all day driving around the island. Well, Lisa did; the car had a stick shift, which I don’t know how to use. It was really interesting seeing the rest of the island. Generally good concrete roads twisted around through the jungle with lots of great views of the ocean and coastline. We stopped at a couple of sites with ruins, one of which was quite extensive and had some interesting petroglyphs. We went up to the north coast first, came back to Taiahoe bay for lunch (the place we wanted to eat at, Chez Yvonne, was full of tourists from the supply ship, which is also a small cruise ship), then went most of the way to the airport at the northwest end of the island, turning around after we climbed up into the clouds and ran out of views. The upper elevation stuff in the later part of the day was especially interesting, this part of the island has very different flora with lots of conifers and even tree ferns higher up.

4/21

Early in the morning we used the rental car and filled up a bunch of jerry cans and got some groceries. Lisa had some more tasks ashore (brought the bike ashore and carried it up onto the wharf for her to use, which went ok) and around noon we started getting ready to leave the anchorage. The rain started right then and continued for a while. We left while it was still raining but after it had started to clear; outside the bay conditions were a little lumpy but winds were pretty light and we made good time to the west lobe of Bahie Controleur, a few miles to the east. Waves were crashing but the anchorage we picked was pretty smooth; we passed by two mantas as we came in, one was right next to the boat. Lots of goats and pigs and other farm animals browsing the hillsides. I went for a short paddlesurf in the afternoon, but it was a rocky bottom and I didn’t get aggressive. I scouted the middle lobe by dinghy and found a nicer looking wave with a sand bottom (Kevin at Nuku Hiva Yacht Services told us about this wave). I started getting ready to go surf this but it was getting late so we paddleboarded together for a bit and had a nice evening.

4/22

I got up around first light and left to go surf the middle lobe of the bay. This was fun and I was in the water for an hour and a half or so and got some good rides. About two thirds of the way through I fell off on the wrong side of the board and the wave drove it into my ribs. I doubled over in pain and had trouble breathing for a couple minutes as I walked into the beach (my leash had broken earlier in the session and I didn’t have the board anymore). After resting for several minutes I felt better and tried surfing again, getting another ride but it was hard to paddle aggressively with my discomfort. I went back to the dinghy and returned to Magic to rest; a few hours later I was having a lot of trouble moving (presumably my tissues were inflamed as my body started to heal). I probably cracked a rib, and spent the rest of the day playing videogames and hanging out.

4/23

I felt better in the morning but moving around was still painful and the sensible thing seemed to be to continue to rest. So I did for the rest of the day. We thought about going kayaking/paddleboarding in the afternoon but then there was some wind so we didn’t. I don’t think we left the boat all day.

4/24

I continued to feel better. We left in the morning for Taiahoe in nice southeast trade winds, though we just motored. A big fish got hooked up but broke the leader quickly after it pulled out all the line on the reel. In Taiahoe we did some work, and went diving in the afternoon. The swell was down but the spot inside the east sentinel was still unappealing so we went back to the spot with horrible visibility the last time we tried it out (4/17). Visibility was much better, 35′ or so, and we had a nice dive with good coral and lots of fish. It was great to do a mellow dive with Lisa, that had been missing from our trip so far and we had a nice evening relaxing afterwards.

4/25

We provisioned in the morning at the market and store, which went fine. In the afternoon we hung out and I did some work.

4/26

We got up at first light and prepared to leave the anchorage for Anaho Bay, which we thought was about five hours away. After waiting out a short squall we left with conditions looking pretty good. At the mouth of the bay the front attachment on the dinghy broke and the front fell down to the water. I got into the dinghy and got things sorted without too much trouble, and no lost gear. As we continued east weather was pretty but unsettled. We had headwinds which got gradually stronger and then became very strong (25 knots apparent) as we rounded the southeast tip of the island — there was the compression at the cape here, and also a squall passing to the north which was generating additional winds. Waves weren’t too large and the boat handled it fine, so whatever. As we continued north a group of dolphins started following us and were around the boat on and off for about an hour, very cool. Conditions were pleasant as we approached Anaho Bay, and I hooked and then landed a nice tuna, maybe fifteen pounds — the second largest fish I’ve ever caught, but it seemed almost tiny compared to the one we caught at the end of our passage. As we entered Anaho we saw some rain activity at the back of the bay, and as we got about halfway in we were dramatically hit by a wall of rain and wind. The wind came up to 30 knots (per the masthead anemometer, it seemed stronger on the deck) and the rain was at times painful to be in as it pelted me. Visibility was shot and we could barely see the sides of the bay anymore, and we quickly decided to back off and wait in the outer parts of the bay for the weather to pass. The heavy weather continued for about half an hour, then it gradually improved while we waited to make sure and I finished filleting the tuna. It was a relief when we finally got in and anchored and had a wonderful fish burrito lunch. We went kayaking/paddleboarding in the afternoon for a little bit but the weather continued to suck so we mostly relaxed.

4/27

After breakfast we motored around with snorkel gear to check out the coral reef in Anaho but found terrible visibility. We went back to Magic and then brought the dinghy to shore using a little channel at the town and tied up to a mooring in knee deep water. We walked around town and across the bay and talked to a few people, then came back along the beach. It was low tide and below the beach there was one long tide pool, which was the best I’ve ever walked through. A few minutes in I spotted an octopus swimming away from me. I followed it and saw it camoflauge itself, then captured it. It inked me several times but wasn’t able to get away, and I brought it back into shallow water so that Lisa and I could watch and play with it. After a bit I returned it to deeper water and watched it swim off. There were also a lot of fish, mostly juveniles but some medium sized parrotfish and pufferfish that fled at my approach and sometimes swam into water so shallow their backs broke the surface. There was also a nice sized moray, and many small eels and crabs.

4/28

It rained all night but was pretty calm in the morning. We got ready for our passage to the Tuamotus and left in the morning, making our way around the island back the way we came. Some bottlenose dolphins visited as we approached the northeast end of the island, and we got a hookup from a big fish which got off the hook along the west side, but otherwise things were pretty mellow. A southeast wind picked up as we continued south and we sailed close hauled for a ways into the lee of Ua Pou, where we had to motor a bit before the wind picked back up.

4/29

We had good wind most of the night, though it dropped a bit towards dawn. Some squalls came through in the morning and we had intermittent light and gusty winds early on, but then the squalls left and the trades came back in for great sailing the rest of the day. I was busy almost all day with sail changes, dinghy repairs, and two tuna we caught (15 lb and 30 lb maybe) in the afternoon. I got too much sun and maybe as a result was getting pretty stressy and tossed a few things around, and went inside to cool off. Late in the afternoon a booby landed on the solar panel and stayed for hours, preening and staring at us with its beady alien eyes. It stayed on the solar panel through the night, roosting with its head tucked into its feathers and getting up to stare at me and make clucking noises when I went out into the cockpit. It started raining around 11pm and continued all night.

4/30

Around dawn it stopped raining, and the booby flew away not long after. There were isolated squalls in the morning, but it got clearer and clearer, and most of the day we had wonderful sailing. After the flurry of activity yesterday I wanted to take it easy, and spent most of the day relaxing and playing videogames. The wind continued through the night; at midnight during watch change I went forward to reef the sail, and got aggravated with a winch handle and hit it with my palm, injuring my hand. I think I was still getting stressy because it was hard for me to sleep comfortably with some back pain and continuing issues from my rib injury a week ago.

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