Here you will find tales of voyages past and present on our trusty Pacific Seacraft Dana 24, "Sockdolager," and our Bigfoot29 powerboat, "Raven," from Port Townsend, Washington, USA. In 2009 we sailed north from Puget Sound up the west coast of Vancouver Island to the Queen Charlotte Islands (now called Haida Gwaii.) In 2010 we went back to the west coast of Vancouver Island. In July 2011 we left the Northwest, sailed to Mexico, and in March 2012 we crossed the Pacific to French Polynesia, then on to the Cooks, Niue and Tonga. We spent several months in New Zealand, and in May 2013 loaded Sockdolager (and ourselves) on a container ship for San Francisco. In June and July 2013 we sailed north along the California, Oregon and Washington coasts, and in August we arrived home. In October 2016, Sockdolager found new owners, and we began cruising on Raven, a unique wooden 29' powerboat. In 2018 we cruised up to Glacier Bay, Alaska, and back. But in 2024 we had the chance to buy Sockdolager back (we missed her), so we sold Raven. We hope you enjoy reading about our adventures as much as we enjoy having them. (And there will be more.)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

How Not to Start Your Day

Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva.  Sockdolager is anchored at lower left.  
Ua Pou island is visible in the distance.

The night was cool, and sleep was sound.  No rainstorms rattled on deck to raise the sleepers for the nightly Hatch Dance.  It was a sweet repose.  Morning light, birds sing.  Ahhh, the tropics...

Karen awakens, stretches, looks over at Jim, who’s still asleep.  He’s always asleep at this hour of the morning.  She arises, looks forward to that first cup of coffee.  Quietly so as not to wake Jim, she goes to the coffee locker, which is right under an open porthole.  Hmm, smells good, those coffee beans…

Cue music from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.”

A buzzing sound… a blur… a light pressure on top of her head… oh, she thinks softly, must be a butterfly!  She reaches her hand up there to find it.  Lovely things these Marquesan butterflies.  Uh-oh.  This is not a butterfly.

Then, in quick succession:  BZZZZZZZ.  An ugly brown blur hissing straight down to her bunk.  A giant winged cockroach disappears into her sheets.

A scream:                     AAAAA!  AAAAA!
Jim, startled awake:      What?  What?
Karen, pointing:            AAAAAA!  AAAAAAA!
Jim:                               WHAT?  WHAT?
Karen:                           Abugabugabugabug!  A giant cockroach flew through the porthole and landed on my HEAD, and now he’s in THERE!  (The author wishes to note that there was no actual hysteria in her voice, merely a sharp tone of alarm.)

The foot well at the bottom of her bunk is now the Black Hole of Crunchy Death.  The Thing lurks in, oh my god, her sheets.  She points mutely.

Jim arises, yawns, says:  Good thing you were standing there blocking the porthole, otherwise it could’ve landed on me.

Visualizing the treat of seeing his panicked, catlike jump response, Karen almost wishes it were so.  At this point in her heart rate and blood pressure history, there is absolutely no need for coffee.

But the Thing lurks.  Gingerly, she pulls out the sheets, wads them up, races topside and shakes them over the side.  No dice.

Jim yawns. You want the bug spray? he asks.

In my bunk?  Are you kidding, she says, incredulous.

The Thing lurks.

The Huntress goes into action.  Weapon:  a vicious wad of paper towels.

BAM!  Missed. Oh crap, wheredhego, wheredhego…

BAM!  Ohgrossohgrossohgross, gotum.  Race topside.  Roach overbooooaaard!

I think I’ll have some coffee now, to calm down, she says.  Ahhhh, the tropics.  Shakily she grips her coffee cup, takes her first sip in the cockpit, and watches the resident 7-foot hammerhead shark do its morning feeding routine around the boat.  Fourth morning in a row.  Time to find a harbor we can swim in.  And do laundry in.

For a change of pace, how about something that flies that's nice to look at:  an Up'e, the endangered Marquesan giant pigeon, largest pigeon in the world, endemic only to Nuku Hiva.  
There are about 200 of them left.

And this is the ylang-ylang flower, which came off a small tree.  Ylang-ylang is used in perfumes and herbal medicines.  It smells lovely and unlike anything else.

We're eager to get going, to sail the 450 miles to the Tuamotus.  Plus, for the past week we've been catching rain and our tanks are almost full - only 10 more gallons are needed.  Instead of sailing to Anaho Bay on Nuku Hiva's north side, we'll either take on water in neighboring Controlleur Bay, or sail over to the lovely island of Ua Pou, where we’ll anchor FAR from shore.  Time to switch to the Ham radio for photo-less posts.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Marquesan Idyll

We are at anchor in a large bay called Taiohae, on the island of Nuku Hiva. 

It’s the capital of the Marquesas, and a nice little “city” it is too, with a harbor full of cruising boats from France, Norway, England, Australia, Germany, the US, Italy, and other countries. 

An enormous, privately-owned cruise ship called “The World” just pulled in and dropped anchor.  It dwarfs all the sailboats into bathtub toys.  One has to wonder about a heady name like “The World,” though.  Imagine if this ship ever called for help: “This is The World, The World!  We’re in trouble!” 

“Yeah, buddy, everyone knows the world’s in trouble.  Tell it to your shrink.”

The small but well-stocked markets in town (our favorite name being “Magasin Bigot”) have everything you could need, except for fresh vegetables, which are what we need most.  You can fill up with onions, potatoes and garlic, but if you want fresh veggies you have to find a house where the owner might be selling them, and ask to purchase some.  We’re not fishing because of the presence of ciguatera, a toxin.  So we ease the lack with gorgeous fresh fruit, French brie, fresh-baked baguettes, and Bordeaux.  Hmm, I’m still not sensing any sympathy from you.

We carry fruit in these nets now—it’s a good way to store it.  And we don’t know if the tree pictured below has any fruit on it, but check out the aerial roots—you could swing on them if it wasn’t over a busy road!

Parlez Vous Eeyew?  Progress in learning French is slow.  We can figure out the weather reports and say Bonjour, Au revoir, Merci and other basics, but it’s much harder than the Spanish was.  Besides, most of the locals we’ve met in villages speak Marquesan, which is all vowels with much hilarity as Jim tries to say something.   For example, we learned that in this language, intonation is everything.  You know how in Chinese it’s the way you say a word that indicates its meaning?  Try to say “mother” but use the wrong tone and you get something like “aardvark,” right?  Well, we were told that if you ask a Marquesan permission to take some fruit from his tree, you need to watch your tone of voice, because if you say it the other way, you are asking permission to take his, um, er… “balls.” 

I think we need a motto here:
Gringos:  Cracking Up Locals For Decades.  

Yes, Karen is soaking wet in this photo.  We'll explain later.  But everyone is very friendly, and sign language goes a long way.  Our customs agent in Papeete, Tahiti emailed all her clients a nice tourist brochure, translated into English by someone who is obviously not a native English speaker.  In glowing descriptions, the brochure invites you to take all kinds of tours, including one in the Tuamotus where, supposedly, you can sneak up on a sleeping whale. 

Now I don’t know about you, but sneaking up on a sleeping whale sounds like a novel way to get face to face in a hurry with a big grouchy mammal, especially when there’s this twist offered by the tour operator:  “Whales don’t move when they are asleep, and your guide will show you how to slide into the water as silently as possible wearing flippers, mask and tuba.”  WHOA!  Flippers, mask and TUBA?  Can you just picture that.  A group of divers with tubas, sneaking up on a sleeping whale.  It sounds like a rather macho South Pacific version of cow tipping.  Ah, but perhaps if we all went on this tour, there’d be no more need to learn French, oui?  The brochure also describes something called the “APNEA Program” for dolphins.  Wow.  Dolphins with sleep problems, who knew? 

This is Sockdolager in full shade mode.

Let’s backtrack to show you photos of where we’ve been since the last photo-post.

This is the lovely Hanamoenoa Beach, where we swam with manta rays and experienced The Blunderment.  (See "Passive-Aggressive Anchor Techniques.")

To anchor in some of these bays is an exercise in rolling, so sometimes we employ our “flopper stopper,” a gift from Capt. Peter Frost, whom we bet wishes he still had it.   You just swing the boom out, dangle it, and watch it work.  There’s an X-shaped opening in the plastic film that opens on the way down and closes on the way up.  It reduces roll but doesn’t eliminate it.  Pete, you can have it back in about ten years.

Here’s the island supply and passenger ship Aranui, anchoring near us in Vaitahu Bay on Tahuata Island.  

Their passengers attended the same church service as we did, in a church built of ballast stones from 19th century sailing ships. 

Vaitahu Bay was named “Resolution Bay” by Captain Cook, and here’s what it looked like when he sailed in, in an engraving from their delightful little museum.  Compare it with a modern view of Aranui dwarfing Sockdolager.

These are stone anchors used in ancient times.

Here are some photos from the village, which we enjoyed.

Here’s Brian from Zulu, with a juvenile tropicbird on his head.  Some kids had found it unable to fly, and were taking “care” of it.  Unfortunately, when birds fall out of the nest or break wings, they’re usually goners.  We all did our best to tell them to be gentle with it.  We've been enjoying time with Brian, Marlene and and their crew, John.

These piggies were merrily nursing away about fifteen feet from the village’s pool table, which was crowded with adolescents shooting pool, and dogs laying around under the table.  

From Tahuata we had that flat-sea sail up to the north side of the next island, Hiva Oa, where we anchored in a canyon-like bay called Hanamenu, which was wide open to the north. 

Early the next morning the wind came out of the northeast and made Hanamenu a lee shore, so we left, intending to sail to the next bay east, but on getting to sea we found that was not going to happen—a ten-mile bash to windward to anchor on another lee shore seemed like a bad idea, so we said, well, looks like we’re sailing overnight the 85 miles to Nuku Hiva, and did.   Here’s where we went first—a bay called Hakatea, better known among cruising sailors as Daniel’s Bay, on the SW side of Nuku HIva.  What a garden isle we happened into!  We also happened into the best Bloody Marys on the planet aboard Buena Vista.  Deb and Don scooped us up as soon as we arrived.

Daniel’s Bay is familiar to American TV watchers as the scene of the first “Survivor” series.  But it is a true paradise.  There’s a path to a tiny village of a few homes surrounded by luxurious gardens, and amazingly, there’s a tidy little phone booth that works.

Check out these gardens!  We thought our northern friends might enjoy seeing what the trees look like that some of these fruits and grow on.

Bananas are sweet and everywhere.  Hang a stalk of 'em in your yard (or off the boat) and let 'em ripen.


Pamplemousse:  What grapefruit want to be when they grow up.

Papayas, yum!

The original red hot chili peppers.

A mini-constellation of starfruit.

The Hike That Roared:  There’s this waterfall everyone says you absolutely must see, and it’s a 3.5 to 4 mile hike up a rocky but not steep jungle trail, so we set out late one morning to see it.  Why not join us?  Let's go.  There are rock ruins everywhere along the trail, and we’re told 4000 people once lived in this valley.  White men’s diseases decimated the hundred thousand original Marquesans to less than a thousand.  Tribes also warred with and often ate each other.  We came across what looked like an ancient firepit.  Don’t look too closely inside it.  (Kidding, kidding.)

Today there are maybe 8,000 Marquesans, and they don’t seem to like or pay much attention to their French government. 

The Marquesans had obsidian tools for cutting stone, and they built some enormous stone walls, pa’e-pa’es (home foundations) and what seemed like roads, that still haunt the jungle.  As we walked past an elaborate stone village structure, it was sobering to think of all the lives that were lived there—we were probably walking through someone’s living room!

The cliffs lining the valley got closer as the valley grew narrower.

There were several stream fordings.

Views are spectacular—what an overused and inadequate word to describe something as unique as this.

Trees were right out of a fairy tale.

This waterfall is inside a small volcano that sits inside a giant caldera that includes the bay and half the island.   The black basaltic rock walls all around it are 2,000 feet high, so high, in fact, that the walls nearly meet overhead!  This is the view looking straight up:

There’s a deep freshwater pool where lava once bubbled at the bottom.  We swam with some little critters nibbling eerily at our toes, but it was so cool and lovely we didn’t care, after 4 miles of stumbling over the rocky path. 

Here’s the outer pool (it’s deep, too.)  That’s Jim atop the big rock.

Go behind the big rocks to reach the inner chamber.

It’s weird but refreshing to swim there.  Although falling rocks are a hazard, wild horses would not have kept us from a cool dip.

On the way back, the skies opened up and poured like we’ve never seen.  Drops nearly an inch across, and close enough together to make you think about guarding your nose or donning scuba gear.  It was deafening, and it turned the narrow path into a stream.  We walked for a couple hours in the downpour, soaked through and loving the coolness of the warm rain, but also listening for signs of flash flooding. 

We met a young-ish Marquesan couple named Tikei and O’a, who asked us if we wanted fruit.  Tikei is the guy in the earlier photo, and what a character!  Half his face is elaborately tattooed, and it looks great on him, with his outrageous boar’s tooth, sheep horn, obsidian chisel, cone shell necklace and his warrior demeanor.  They served us a whole papaya sliced into juicy pieces, and asked us if we wanted more.  We were thereby saved the ignominy of mispronouncing the word “fruit.” 

What we really appreciated about this couple was that they handed us a price list—most of the time you hesitate to ask for fruit because you never know what to give them for it, and half the time they won’t accept anything, and you feel like you’re taking advantage.  Their fruits were cheap, so we bought all the mangoes and limes we could carry, then gave them each a gift—a fishing lure for him, bright pink nail polish for her.  They were thrilled.  She turned around and gave us a breadfruit and some long fresh string beans, and he grabbed his machete and whacked off a bunch of bananas! 

We laughed and groaned at the load, but fresh fruit is so delicious and abundant here, and vegetables so scarce, that eating local is the only thing that makes sense.  We trekked back to the dinghy, which was filled with water, dumped it out, rowed back to the boat in the rain, and felt, for once, clean and cool, happy, and well-adventured. 

So how to prepare a breadfruit when you can’t dig a six-foot deep luau pit in the ground?  With a knife, peel off the bumpy green covering, slice the white flesh razor-thin, fry the “chips” in olive oil til they're light brown, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and enjoy.  They really are good.

We took the breadfruit chips over to Ladybug for an enjoyable evening of sea chanteys and golden oldies with Chris and Rani plus Mike and Karen from Chapter Two.  We also enjoyed a visit from the crew of Beau Soleil.  Check out the review of their new Cordon Rouge Cook Book on the Book Reviews page at the left.

You can see from the photos how beautiful it is here in the Marquesas.  But swimming in many places is not advised because of sharks.  For example, we were told that a six-meter tiger shark patrols the mouth of Daniel’s Bay, and a lot of smaller ones swim around inside.  SIX meters?  That’s nearly 20 feet. Okay, no swimming there.  We can swim in Taiohae, where we are now, right?  Well, maybe not.  Last night we watched fishermen throwing tuna carcasses off the pier right next to where we tie up our dinghies—and the water roiled with sharks.  Yeesh. 

First a piranha-like school of small fish snapped instantly at the scraps, then everything turned into a frothing whitewater rapid as half a dozen bull sharks about 6 or 7 feet long attacked whatever was in their way, even, at one point, the end of an inflatable dinghy!  Luckily, it was not ours.  Here’s a photo of the feeding frenzy as it was getting cranked up.  I’m standing over the dinghies, and note there’s no railing on the pier.  If you fall in, it’s over.

I was not happy at the prospect of climbing down a slippery steel ladder and across a bunch of rocking dinghies during a shark-feeding frenzy, but that’s exactly what we did.  At the pizza restaurant last night there was a woman with her arm in a twisted cast.  She had been bitten by a shark a couple of days ago.  We aren’t in Kansas anymore.

The next few days will be spent here—except for the sharks it really is a lovely town, and we've enjoyed more time with old friends and new ones, from Buena Vista, Gato Go, Zulu, Picara, and Condesa del Mar.    In a few days we will sail around to the NE side of the island, to Anaho Bay, where we’re told there is good fresh water, and, we hope, no big sharks.  Then we’ll sail to Ua Pou to see that gorgeous island.  Once a weather window opens we’ll make the 450-mile passage to the Tuamotus.  We wanted to post lots of photos now, since it may be awhile before we have a real internet connection again.  It'll be back to word pictures via Ham radio for awhile, until we get to Tahiti.  Thanks for all the comments and emails, we really enjoy them.

One more lousy sunset for you: