21 September 2004 - Nuku Hiva to Tongareva

We left Nuku Hiva September 12 in some pretty windy weather - up to 30 knots in gusts. Two things kept our spirits up however: dolphins showed up soon after we left Taiohae Bay, and we were heading downwind.  We didn't feel up to a 26 hour upwind sail so we skipped Fatu Hiva.  Each point of sail has its benefits and detractions. Downwind sailing is easier on the boat and people as there is no pounding into the waves. We also go faster.  We've had the mainsail stowed for several days now and used only one or two headsails. However the swell tends to roll the boat more on a downwind tack, and this side-to-side motion makes it hard to cook, move about on deck, and even sit in a braced spot. 

The rolling caused one accident that could have been much worse. Barb was just finishing preparing soup for supper, and was ladling it into bowls when Freya lurched, launching the soup into the air. Barb managed to catch most of it on her front before it hit the floor. She ended up with a painful burn that took a couple of days to heal. Luckily only one spot blistered.

Bread has been on the table (actually the cockpit floor - more on this later) each meal for the first few days. With metre-long french baguettes costing only 43 polynesian francs (about 50 cents), we stocked up before we left.  Speaking as a bread connoisseur, it's pretty good stuff, but it lacks the bird seed, fibre and fruits that one can get back home. It makes dandy french toast, grilled cheese sandwiches, and garlic toast. Three other items we have been pigging out on are bananas, pamplemousse, and coconut.  Daniel in Nuku Hiva kindly supplied us with a stalk of green bananas which we hung off the stern rail, and they have been rapidly ripening. One hand we separated from the stalk and kept inside the cabin; these seem to be ripening slower. From the restaurant in Taiohae Bay that we enjoyed our departure lunch at we received five pamplemouse.  With each fruit the size of a bowling ball, we have plenty of yummy citrus to ward off scurvy :-) As for coconuts, well, they literally fall from the trees here. Barb discovered that after the husk is removed, if the nut is left in the sun for an hour or so it will crack, making it much easier to get inside. We use the milk for cooking and break the meat into crunchy pieces to snack on. As a bonus, coconut is high in vitamin K.

So - our eating arrangements. Underway it is usually too hot to eat below in the cabin, so we take our meals in the cockpit. This also makes it easier for the acting captain to keep a lookout, rather than having to pop up every 10 - 15 minutes. When not in our laps, we set our plates/bowls/cutlery on a non-skid mat (our tablecloth) placed on the cockpit floor. This is where the stuff will fall anyway, should we try setting it elsewhere, so we just save gravity some work. Fancier boats might have a gimballed table in the cockpit...we don't, but we do have gimballed drink holders now.  Barb sewed up two cloth bags, with cut-up margarine tubs inside to hold the shape, and suspended them with laces from the lifelines. We can now put our cups into the holders and no rum is lost! Yay!

We left Nuku Hiva with our water tank about half full; this is a 3 week supply without rationing. Since we enjoy having baths and clean clothes, we decided to rig a tarp and catch some of the ever-present rain. Wouldn't you know it - clouds that were happy to dump rain on us earlier, now suddenly became shy. We would look behind us, figure we were in the precipitating path of a cloud, and get ready with the buckets. Hah! The cloud would dry up, dodge, or disappear before reaching us. How rude! Eventually we found that the best strategy was to ignore the clouds - certainly not try to steer in front of them - and some of them would deign to give us rain. Over the last four days of the passage we managed to bring our water supply up to more than half, and have some baths.

Since Tongareva is a low coral atoll (max height is the palm trees), we followed a conservative course the night of 20th Sep to close with the island around dawn. Barb spied the island first and we altered course to head for the main pass through the coral. Many atolls have one channel in the coral ring through which a boat can pass into the central lagoon; Tongareva has three, and most yachts use the easiest one. As we were three hours after low tide, there was a reasonably strong current running, but our motor was well able to keep up. It is a bit intimidating, going through our first atoll pass even though this one ranks as easy, wide (100 metres), and deep (6 metres). Mistakes in running a pass can easily strand one's boat on the coral, where the breaking waves will quickly pound it to bits. Once through the pass, occasional poles marked coral heads and we threaded our way between them to anchor in front of Omoka village. Woohoo!