Taiohae and an overview of Nuku Hiva

A view from the mountains above Taiohae.

Waterfalls cascade down the beautiful and challenging terrain of Nuku Hiva.

Well, here it is folks. Taiohae, the capital of all 12 islands of French Polynesia. The seat of the government, the police and international clearance office, the Bishop, one jail, one gas station, one bank, the biggest hospital, several elementary and junior high schools, one hotel, 2 pensions, 3 small groceries, a hardware store, several Catholic churches, a small museum, coconut flesh, lime, grapefruit, and Noni for export, fishing, a little tourism, and there you have it.

Lush foliage fills every inch of the island.

As for numbers and variety, whereas Nuku Hiva has only 3,000 residents, it boasts 50 different varieties of mangoes, 30 different varieties of hibiscus, 8 kinds of avocado, 10 of bananas, numerous types of sweet basil...I could go on for a while like this. Before the European missionaries, the local culture possessed over 70 different types of dances, 10 of which now remain. The fact that the culture, traditions, and history were transmitted through oral means, combined with influx of Catholic missionaries beginning in the late 1500's, resulted in the loss of most of the Marquesan history and culture, much of which was re-written from self-interested foreigner's viewpoints at later dates. 98% of the population was lost to the introduction by Europeans of diseases never before present in the islands. Cholera, Typhoid, Smallpox, Leprosy, Syphilis, etc etc.

Sure, there's an airport, but not until a two years ago were the roads paved. This meant that even if you had a car, which costs $1500 shipping alone from Tahiti, the smart drivers would carry a shovel and rope so that they could tie themselves to other cars in case they were swept down the mountainside in a mudslide, or if the roads gave away for one reason or another. Imagine driving across these mountains in mudslides!  And how did they get that Virgin Mary statue up there?

A view of the Virgin Mary of Nuku Hiva.

Posted on May 2, 2015 .

The authentic Pacific islands: a mix of plenty and scarcity

Herman Melville jumped ship in this beautiful bay and was taken in by the cannibalistic tribe who lived here.  He earned his way as a translator but left the island, suspecting they may have been fattening him up for a future feast!

This here cauldron was filled with water. You might say it was used for the most powerful potion of all: self-reflection. Whereas most people we know see themselves in the mirror every day, Marquesans did not. One of its uses was to view the tattoo art on their bodies.

When people talk about traveling to the Pacific Islands, they're usually referring to the tourist hubs like Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, and Bora Bora. But if you really want to experience life as a borderline castaway while drifting through daily panoramas of lush landscapes fit for a topographical soap opera, a place where locals really do greet you with flowers and fresh fruit because it is the custom and not because the hotel hostess is paid to do so, where heaven was thought to reside beneath the waters instead of high in the skies, where the roads are only two years of age and people you could have graduated high school with tell you about life before electricity, where horses run wild and flowers are in constant bloom, and waterfalls are more plentiful than are grocery stores, then you might just think the Marquesas is a decent place.

Unlike today, Marquesan tattoos were never a symbol of individuality. Quite the opposite. Not only were they obligatory, the person being tattooed did not have much of a say on what was written on their person. Tattoos were intended to convey tribe identity, social status, rank, family, and identity otherwise imparted to that person by the gods and their community, as written onto them by the priest.

A tween girl would receive her first tattoo after a week of isolation in a hut, away from the community, upon her first menses. The boys were usually tattooed between the ages of 13 and 15, depending on when the chief's son received his. The boys would then be marked in the chief's son's honor, which culminated in a bare naked dance by the chief's son for the rest of the tribe. The “old-fashion” way was “jail-style,” as the artist impelled pigment by tiny individual pigment into the skin, the ink made from berries. Eventually, men were covered from head to toe in tattoos. Coconut oil infused with ginger was used to make the tattoos shine during dance and to prevent infection.
The more tattoos you had, the more important you were!

(Photo credit: Polynesian Maori Tattoo)

All the better if you bring your own boat to enjoy anchorages in uninhabited, or sparsely inhabited bays surrounded by striking rock formations and verdant landscapes, minus light pollution, the sounds of traffic and bar music, litter, and high speed power boats and ferries kicking up waves that send your Passion Fruit juice on a Kamikaze mission across the table and onto the cat's head.

On the other hand, if your boat isn't self-sufficient out here, then you'd be up a creek without a paddle. No watermaker? Welcome to lugging your own water from the spring out to the boat. No solar panels or wind gen? Welcome to shortening the life of your engine by running it every day, or have fun lugging gallons of gas out to the boat for the generator. You need an engine part? It might take two to six weeks to receive it in the mail. You have some sort of health emergency? The hospital here seems quite nice, but there's a good chance you'll have to hold your breath until your flight arrives in Tahiti. You want to go shopping just for fun? There are about three clothing stores and a wonderful local artisan market on Nuku Hiva, but unless you love perusing the hardware store shelves, mall rats and Parisian haute couture addicts are plum out of luck. You know what else there's just about none of here? Crime. 

The market has oodles of delicious fresh produce, much of it new to us. Every variety of banana has its own unique flavor. Or take a walk down the street and pick your own fruit right off the trees. Check out the docks after the fishermen come in with their catches. Barter with a local friend for some chicken. Go surfing with some local kids and you might receive an invitation to the family BBQ and Bocci Ball game. Even if your French is just as bad as your Chinese, we've found the gesture of doing your best to speak the language is more than worth the effort.

Those who wore whale teeth were of high status in their tribes.  Landing a whale meant you were a good provider for the community.

Marquesan kids enjoy the simple pleasures of surfing at the local beach.

Posted on May 2, 2015 .

A visit to ancient Nuku Hiva

Here is the sight of an ancient village.  Houses were constructed on two platforms, the lower one being the porch.  They were centered around a main park, or great common gathering lawn where both every day life and religious celebrations were held.  The priest lived at the highest point in the village, here marked by a banyan tree planted by one of the early priests of the tribe.  In his complex, he oversaw sacrifices and live captives.  The captives were kept in a deep pit in the ground at the roots of the banyan tree until they were fattened enough for sacrifice. 

The foundation of the Cheif's home.

A banyan tree planted at the highest point in the village by one of the early priests.

Ancient petroglyph.

The site of ancient sacrifices.

This hole was used for disposing of human bones.

An ancient jail under a banyan tree.

An ancient stone tiki.

Posted on May 2, 2015 .

Scenes from daily life in Nuku Hiva

Feeding lunch leftovers to the local eels. 

My shower pal.

If this horn blares, head for high land.

Nestled within the patch of tall green grass is a coral boulder carried 200 meters inland by the 1946 tsunami.

Posted on May 2, 2015 .

School and family life, island style: Competing at Tapa Tapa

A dance group prepares to perform at the Tapa Tapa competition. Marquesan children from different islands come together to be judged on how well they sing, dance, and recite legends.

A Marquesan boy performs a traditional dance.

The Tapa Tapa Competition brings together different island families to see their children compete in the art of ancient storytelling.  The kids dress up in their own island's traditional ceremonial attire, sing, dance, and recite legends in Marquesan.  

Forget fumbling around onstage dressed as George Washington, a vegetable, or the ugly duckling in a typically painful school play.  We managed to memorize all 50 States in the Union in alphabetical order for our fourth grade production (which I still win bar bets on to this day by the way), but try memorizing an entire 10 minute monologue that was to be projected at top volume by an ancient warrior, princess, or chief in your culture's native tongue, while dancing around covered in real bird feathers, fruit seeds, and animal bones.  Then add the pressure of representing your island in a competition with many other islands, before you've even reached the stage in life when you do not utter, "Ewwww," at the mention of the opposite sex.

Of course some of the kids were adorably awkward up there on stage, but there were a great few who absolutely blew our minds.  I get goosebumps just talking about it.  

A Marquesan girl performs a traditional dance.

The Tapa Tapa Competition was held in the park along the Taiohae Bay beach.  People set up food stalls, a stage, sound system, and lighting, for this unique and surprisingly-intense evening of entertainment. 

Marquesan children practice their drumming.

Judges score the performances at the Tapa Tapa.

Posted on May 2, 2015 .

School and family life, island style: Why students fly to high school

A Nuku Hiva elementary school. Children on Nuku Hiva attend school on the island until high school when they fly to Tahiti for school.

Young children on Nuku Hiva grow up tending to farm animals and running free on the island until high school when they move to Tahiti and fly home for holidays.

Hey kids, here's one of several Nuku Hiva Elementary Schools!  How would you like to go to school here?  How would you like to have your own horses, pigs, goats, chickens, who roam the neighborhood at will?  How would you like to pick fruit off of your own fruit trees every morning?  How would you like to get into the truck every few days to go collect fresh drinking water from the running stream?  Below is a pic of Justin drinking fresh water from the stream out of a silly rum bottle.  We recycle glass bottles aboard so we don't have to drink out of plastic.  

We wondered why we hadn't seen any high school and college kids, and that's because the high schools and junior university are in Tahiti. The Polynesian government subsidizes the high school kids' airfare back to their home islands for holidays, but college kids must pay their own way. After one year in college in Tahiti, the students must compete for one of two scholarships offered, apply for university in France and secure a student loan, or enlist in the French Polynesian or French armies.

Justin enjoys the fresh stream water that he drinks from a recycled rum bottle. Kids on Nuku Hiva help collect water from streams for their families.

This is because there are few job opportunities and land ownership opportunities back on the home islands.  This has kept the islands pristine but also encourages younger generations to seek financial stability away from home.  Not until the Europeans came around was the concept of land ownership pertinent to island life.  Unfortunately, now many family lands and homes cannot be enjoyed by anyone because too many family members cannot agree on how to divide up the ownership rites.  Of a family of 100 relatives, who the heck gets the two bedroom house?!

Taking care of cows and horses is part of everyday life for children on Nuku Hiva.

Posted on May 2, 2015 .

Exploring Nuku Hiva: Surrounded by beauty

Some photos of our stay on the island

Pic of the month: “Bone to be a Princess.” Nuku Hiva's resident carver and sculptor has a wee one who likes to play with bones, but they still hold no candle to her trusty pacifier. Her dad uses these old animal bones to craft jewelry items with a dentist's tool, like the mini tiki shown in the next pic. The local Catholic churches commission him to carve hard-wood sculptures, such as the statue of St. Joseph and Jesus.

A local bone carver works on his latest creation, a miniature tiki charm.

It seems the details of international religious figures in different societies are depicted in terms of the local culture. Sometimes Jesus sports different skin tones, clothing, props, body types, and in this case, the Polynesian carving shows Jesus carrying a breadfruit. St. Joseph carries a traditional Polynesian adze, decorated in traditional Marquesan symbols.

A church bell on Nuku Hiva.

Acacia trees frame the mountains of Nuku Hiva.

Posted on April 29, 2015 .

Life in Nuku Hiva: Getting to know the locals

Pension Maive Mai

At Pension Maive Mai, we have a horse, chickens, roosters, lizards, and a very outgoing kitten we've named "Pomplemousse."  He loves to climb our legs with his claws to demand bites of mackerel.  If it weren't for Nina, he would be a grave danger of being cat-napped.

The horse sometimes invites his friends up the hill and they gallop around the yard whinnying!  Justin enjoys rousing the neighborhood roosters by crowing at them.  Then everyone chimes in!

Cultural Crafts Day

The locals taught the rally members how to make leis, seed necklaces, grass hats, and traditional local cuisine.  

Bob, from SV Maggie, fits Jackie, the rally coordinator, for a traditional hat.

A Marquesian specialty is breadfruit beaten and kneaded into freshly-strained coconut cream.  Bob, on Maggie, learned how to make Jackie, our rally coordinator, a fashionable grass hat.  The boys on Ransom, Merko and Martin, made elaborate seed necklaces.  Their mom, Claudia, received the prize for most fabulous lei display.  By the end of the afternoon, everyone, including the guys, was all decked out and looking fabulous.

Polynesians use an ancient process to press fragrant flowers and blend the scents into coconut oil, which is then used as a skin moisturizer and fragrance.  On Nuku Hiva, everyone simply makes their own and puts them into plastic bottles to sell.  All the crafts you see in the picture are made locally.

Insofar as traditional tattoos go, the Marquesas is the most renown of all the Polynesian islands for this kind of craftsmanship.  Almost every local has a limb or four decorated in deep blue ink with abstract or nature-inspired ancient cultural symbols.  

This inspired our rally crew because six of us decided to get one for ourselves!  Terry got a manta ray that wraps around his arm, James now has a sketch of his sailboat underway on his shoulder, Anielle has a tribal anklet, Jess decided on an abstract turtle for the top of her foot...!  They're all absolutely gorgeous, and everyone finds special meaning in their new tattoos, as they commemorate our Marquesan friends and our great Pacific crossing. We decided against it, but now have tattoo envy for sure.

Jess' turtle tattoo has within it the symbol for voyaging, the ocean wave, as well as the ancient Marquesan cross.

The rally crew nationality list continues to grow!  United States, Canada, Colombia, Brazil, England, New Zealand, South Africa, Germany, Slovakia, and now Belgian and Polynesian too.  When you hear us on the VHF, the radio boats use to communicate that is like a walkie-talkie, we're definitely the most diverse crowd on the water so far!"

Rose Corser's famous Marquesas artifact museum and hotel

We visited expat Rose Corser's famous Marquesas artifact museum and hotel, the He'e Tai Inn.  She opens it only on request and is famous all around the world for preserving pieces of local history that may have otherwise been sold to off-island collectors.  
Her website: http://www.marquesas-inn.com/en.html

Farewell Festivities

Some boats have already departed for other islands, but those of us who stayed were treated to the most fun night on the rally so far.  Jackie, Luc, and the locals organized a farewell buffet and traditional dancing.  We had a blast and ended up dancing with the dancers!!!!

Rally members and local, traditional dancers enjoyed a farewell party as the stay in the Marquesas came to an end.

Marquesan dancing is known for having remained untainted by the tourism industry.  The dancers who performed for us still perform these dances at traditional festivals today.  They are not professionals nor have they changed the dancing to please the tourism industry.  

Historically, the focus in dancing was on war.  The warriors would sound the horn, a call to war, and then would gather together to do a fierce dance for the gods.  The women usually danced to commemorate the goddesses in their ancient mythology.  The music is comprised of intense drumming, chanting, and singing, both men and women.

The women and men wear patches of real grasses on their bodies, no leis.  The men don grass headdresses, animal teeth necklaces, and goat skulls.  They look pretty darn fierce!  The women do NOT shake their hips!  Instead, they dance on their toes like ballerinas and gracefully glide as they moves their arms in symbolic formations!  
 

traditional fare was on the menu for the farewell festivities.

The buffet was traditional fare.  Wild goat, wild pig, a variety of plantains, sashimi, salad, sweet potatoes, ceviche, breadfruit and coconut cream, beans, rice, and some kind of sweet fruity goo.  
 

Then there's the "Team Mexican Dress."  At any one point, usually someone is wearing a traditional embroidered Mexican dress.  This is because I gave them to all the gals on the rally.  We love them because they're airy, cheerful, and are always the first piece of laundry to dry on the line.  Here's a pic of Jess, Daphne, and me at the dinner wearing our dresses.  Last night was Jess' last evening on the rally before she flew back to New Zealand.  We are sad to see her go.  We love you, Jess!"

Team Mexican dress.

Posted on April 18, 2015 .

A light and variable crossing: Galapagos to Nuku Hiva

March 8, 2015 - April 4, 2015

Who wouldn't be at a loss as to how to convey the experience of emerging into the cockpit at sunrise over fifteen hundred miles at sea, to a cloud-scattered horizon bursting with rainbow-tinted sunbeams, and sheets of rain shooting downward at a 45 degree angle from a squall cloud five miles off your stern?   I submit the following description:  “The experience of wonderment, and gratefulness for being witness to such brilliance of natural beauty.”  People who don't like squalls might say, “Oh crud, please say that raincloud is downwind of us!”  Others might ask, “What the hell were we doing out here in the first place?!” After weeks at sea, to be precise, the words going through my sleepy head at that moment were something to the tune of, “Yep this is how we rock 'n roll”...

Coconut Woman spent the better part of a month with views similar to this as the crew sailed between the Galapagos islands and the Marquesas islands. Meredith describes a "wonderment, and gratefulness for being witness to such brilliance of natural beauty."

Small squalls such as this were a welcome site during the crossing because they meant stable boat speed and easy sailing as compared to the wobbly light and variable bouncing and rolling they experienced for most of the crossing.

For weeks, we saw nothing but boundless sky and water—with the exceptions of two large cheery dolphin pods, sea birds, and a handful of flying fish who managed to make their way onto the decks, into the cockpit, down the companionway, in between the settee cushions, and even into the head (toilet bowl!).  As my dad said to me, “Well sounds like being stuck at sea for days on end is just like living on an Idaho potato farm.”  I can see his point.  But staring at much of the same thing for as far as the eye can see for weeks on the Pacific definitely defies boredom.  

In between periods of scrambling around and using all our muscles at the same time to quickly haul in the pole, douse or jibe the sails, or hang upside down to reset the wheel-pilot, etc,  the pace of life slows, and we begin to bask in simple pleasures.  A good meal, taking a shower, petting and playing “string” with the cat, sunning on deck, reading a good book, watching the movement of the clouds, or a bird trying to attack your pink squid lure, snuggling while watching a silly movie, futile obsession through hours of observation of the best sail trim according to indecisive winds, fantasizing about an even larger spinnaker, trying to remember what land looks like...

"Off the wind on this heading lie the Marquesas."

"Off the wind on this heading lie the Marquesas."

Underway, a few of the boats saw whales.  We never did, but one did pop up out of Justin's fruit salad, in the form of dried mango.

As mentioned to some of our sailing buds, the voyage experience as a whole was a mixture of peachy keen and hell pie.  We experienced no severe weather, and periodic mild squalls provided us with much-appreciated winds.  Instead, Poseidon presented us with the opposite challenge:  chronic “light and variables,” odd often counter-productive currents, and confused swells.  Try dragging a 30,000lb displacement vessel downwind through wobbly seas in waffling winds of less than 12 knots and you'll see just how much a boat can move—that is, sideways, up and down, and back and forth!  The winds changed directions so often that our wind generator had a nervous breakdown and our flags hung pouting in limp piles for most of the passage--  Albeit on perfectly lovely sunny days with moderate temperatures and a fridge full of long-lasting fresh farmer's market produce.  It wouldn't be a lie to say we weren't in any hurry. 

For a number of days, we were blessed with 15 knots and higher gusts, and Coconut Woman happily galloped along!  We flew our forest green spinnaker for the first time and relished the stability and speed it provided us on the lighter wind days. (a spinnaker is a very light, very large sail that you fly off the front of the boat up high so you can scoop up the light winds whisking around above the boat, almost like a kite)That is, until the whipping on the end of a brand new halyard parted, after which our second new halyard let go its outer sheave and went up the mast to reunite with its friend!  We were left with jibing on the quarter (which is sailing with the wind between the beam and the stern.  This is comfortable but depending on certain variables can make the trip a lot longer), or polling out “wing and wing” (when you put your mainsail out to one side and prop your jib on a pole out on the other side of the boat.  This is often wonderful unless you have light and/or waffling winds, and confused seas) . We tried a bit of everything, always opting for comfort over speed.

Then there was that lovely white smoke emerging from the engine exhaust our first night of departure...followed by our recently repaired transmission gasping its last breath.  Okay, so we don't have an engine for the passage.  No big deal.  But it sure would have been nice to have as a stabilizer during all those bouncy conditions for weeks! 

Other things broke too, like our vang block, small things for which we were ready with replacements, yet all the same were surprised they had broken at all.  Usually, the problem is with chafe, as various gear, most commonly sheets and lines, end up rubbing against something.  Because we regularly check for chafe, this did not present us with problems.  Instead, our autopilot belt broke when an especially large wave jolted the boat, so I lashed it back together with Gorilla Tape, which is basically duct tape on steroids.  Then I sewed it together with sail thread and needle, the process of poking through Gorilla Tape and dense rubber being no easy task.  I used the brass top of our refrigerator as a thimble.  It ended up looking like a scrappy version of a ancient warrior's battle necklace. 

Having lived aboard a small, very bare-bones boat before Coconut Woman, our cat now having over 10,000 miles on the water herself alone, we once again remembered how few bells and whistles you need to pull off a successful sailing adventure.   

Errr, yeah most sailors today consider a sailboat without an engine to be foolish, if not dangerous.  I suppose our regular practice of sailing in and out of anchorages due to the fact we do not 100% trust engines (always with the engine on and ready to use, though!) was about to serve us well.  The fact that Taiohae Bay has the easiest entrance in the Marquesas, also with a gendarmerie and mechanic in town, sealed our choice to make landfall here. Just don't bonk into the cliffs on your way in!  I adore the drama of “ Dead reckoning could be a death reckoning, afterall!” says Luc, one of our rally coordinators. 

Clouds roll in over the view from the pension garden. The beauty of Nuku Hiva made the trials of the crossing quickly fade.

So death-reckoning our way into Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia we sailed, engineless, into the mouth of the harbor.  Having considered the possible conditions we might encounter in an unfamiliar bay approach and entrance, we kept up the canvas to maintain speed and control while also bracing for any running currents, and land-effects such as wind-funnels and gusts along the coast, down the mountain faces, or through the somewhat narrow entrance point of the harbor.

But moreso what we began to suspect would happen, as we gingerly inched our way closer to the coast, maintaining a position just upwind of the harbor entrance, were good winds that would soon die upon entry into the bay.  It is surrounded on all sides, except the narrow southward-facing entrance, by tall cliffs which would most likely block the tradewinds out of the east, from entering it.  This hunch was further bolstered by Kevin Ellis' (owner and manager of Yacht Services Nuku Hiva) report that winds inside the bay tend to be light and shifty.  Whereas there is no designated towing vessel available in Nuku Hiva, there were plenty of yachts who would be able to assist us should we require aid.  In fact, today one of our fellow rally boats, Tom Tom, towed another boat with engine problems into the anchorage.

Our old boat and heavy sails adore strong winds, so we approached the bay with the wind on the quarter until we were lined up with the windward side of the entrance, at which point we rounded up onto a beam reach, gathered speed, and shot right through the slot.  Our momentum carried us well beyond the two sentinel rocks on either side of the entrance.  As we captured our first full-on glimpse of the bay's spectacular beauty, the winds died and the waters became glassy still. 

Wispy light winds tickled both sides of Coconut Woman's nose, but were nothing one could sail by unless we wanted to take a year and half to short-tack several miles back and forth a ¾ mile- wide throughway in quickly diminishing daylight.  So, I took it upon myself to see how far I could short-tack CW before Justin secured Coco Loco, our dinghy, to her hip.  Coco Loco's outboard would power us to the anchorage, with the main up and the jib heavily reefed, just in case.  Think dutiful eleven year old son escorts his one-toddy-too many mum from the car up to her bedroom, and that's pretty much what Coco Loco did for Coconut Woman when puttering her big bottom a mile down the bay.

Justin considers his feast of pomplemous, and a baguette and mackerel sandwich served on the porch of the pension where the crew stayed for the second part of their stop in Nuku HIva.

We even used Coco Loco's outboard to set the anchor just in time to escape our first Polynesian tropical downpour.  But a little bit of rain wasn't going to stop yours truly from hunting down a proper bed and fresh-squeezed pomplemouse cocktail!  (Pomplemousse is a rotund Polynesian citrus fruit that tastes like a cross between a lime and a grapefruit)

So we secured the boat, popped open a can of tuna for the cat as we bid her congratulatory pettings and praises (she looked very proud of herself), and hopped into the dinghy with trashbag-covered backpacks and umbrellas.  We pulled up to the town wharf after dark looking like wet rats and were warmly greeted by a sizable Polynesian man with a striking traditional Polynesian facial tattoo.  You can imagine how surreal it might feel to be at sea for weeks, your first land experience involving a man showing you a table of freshly caught tuna, and as the fishermen are gutting the fish with their bare hands and tossing guts into the water, your new friend happily declares you are just in time for the shark frenzy.  The smell of the fish combined with sensory overload of being on stable land made me dizzy, or what sailors call “landsick.”  Fada, our new friend, chuckled at my wobbly baby giraffe legs as I fumbled my way through fish gut mud puddles.  I felt so loopy, I didn't know whether to “scratch my watch or wind my butt.” (Sailor's Mouth affliction)

Bernard pulled up in the hotel truck and welcomed us with open arms, a flower in her hair.  We when arrived at check-in, she offered to show us to our room.  But when she saw the looks on our faces, she led us straight to a restaurant table instead.  One thing I've always heard from fellow sailors is that after being at sea for weeks, your first meal ashore is always the best meal you've ever had, even they're serving liverwurst and gruel.  We were promptly served with Parmesan encrusted fresh Mahi Mahi, which was met with copious oooh's and aaaahhhs's.  One of the best meals we've ever had!  And of course, freshly squeezed pomplemousse cocktails.

We were so giddy and pleased with ourselves, the meal, being on stable ground, life in general, that the couple sitting next to us struck up a conversation.  Justin mentioned that my wild hair made me look a bit like a castaway.  The couple seemed to get a kick out of it, and the fact we were hailing our plates.

 The view the crew woke to after their first night at the Keikahanui Nuku Hiva Pearl Lodge. The hotel sits on the hill above Taioha'e Bay in Nuku Hiva, where the crew decided to anchor due to it's relatively easy approach and calm, sheltered anchorage.

We made the five minute walk to our bungalow in drizzle, which with exhausted bodies, full bellies and sweet smells of flowers and mud, turned out to be an epic five minute trek to our room.  Arriving inside, we were astonished to see how lovingly rendered it was, complete with breathtaking views of the land and bay from the balcony. 

Another view from the room.

We've heard the Marquises are as yet, “unspoiled” by tourism and development.  Our experience here so far has confirmed this, as the people here are helpful, genuinely friendly, and unpretentious.  The resort itself boasts immaculate bay views, cleanliness, thoughtfully constructed and decorated spaces, and fresh-food-based French/Polynesian fusion menu.  Essentially, what this means is that you get to have fresh fish and produce, but are not left wanting for French cheeses and wines.  

The demand must be low because the prices far from reflect the quality.  For anyone looking to vacation in an astoundingly beautiful place in peace, one can book an entire bay-view bungalow here for less than a quarter of what something like this would cost in the Caribbean, Florida, or California.  We've counted about 8 bungalow's worth of guests here, and 30 sailboats in the harbor.   

Noni fruit.

Taiohae Nuku Hiva has around four restaurants, one hotel, four hostels, two grocery stores, black sand beaches, two markets, an airport, a fish market, a yacht management company, four tour companies, a school, a clinic, and more, but not much.   It is a tiny mellow heaven full of friendly locals, fresh food, emerald peaks, fragrant flowers, hiking trails, unique rock formations, snorkeling, horses-wild and domestic, and loquacious birds and critters. 

We're anchored just off the beach down from the hotel and have been permitted to beach our dinghy there.  Due to the long holiday weekend, we have been instructed by the gendarmerie not to bother them until Tuesday to check into the country!  You gotta love it. 

Three thousand miles across the Pacific!  When I look at a map or chart of the distance we've just covered, I think, “So THAT's what we were doing for the better part of a month!”  Justin is wearing his warrior wheel pilot necklace...

Posted on April 12, 2015 .

The view from the cat box: Nina, the sailing cat, tells it like it is

When the going gets tough, the tough take a nap.
— Tom Hodgkinson

The funny part about being Shanghai'd for a three thousand mile voyage across the ocean with no sight of land or another boat for the better part of one month was that I actually enjoyed myself.  Yes, people, this feline holds a PhD in Napping, the valuable knowledge gleaned from years of study and dedicated practice enabled me to blatantly ignore wobbles, lurches, and thuds of a whale-size vessel being thwacked by waves for weeks. 

While I was drifting amongst peaceful dream lands of chasing birds and smelling flowers while sunning myself on beaches, my people parents were busy serving me vittles in bed, bowls of purified water in the cockpit, and steering our house through two thousand miles of water.   I do think I should brag about my highly successful endeavor to learn how to gimbal with the movement of the boat so well that I ceased having to think about trying keep from bonking into the settee or slipping off the companionway stairs when begging for tuna. 

My poor mom has always been nap-challenged, so I tried to impart some advice by example.  Simply situate yourself on a neatly folded soft fuzzy blanket on the leeward settee, belly-up and paws out, then close your eyes and think of mice.  But I now understand she never graduated  Napping 101 and has unfortunately proven to have a low IQ on the “Zzzzz Catching” bell curve.  I felt so horrible for her that I took on her share of the napping to try to alleviate my own sense of guilt for being so naturally gifted in this department.

We saw two large pods of dolphins who seemed to find a morbid curiosity in my mom's windward whalings of song selections from Susan Grahams's French arias and Disney's Little Mermaid.  Several times I was presented with what is called a flying fish, but having only a vague inkling of what I was supposed to do with it, I simply gave it a kiss.  I was surprised to find these fish really do have wings, and then I saw a small herd of them flying across the water one day.  Next to dolphins, these strange creatures have become my favorite sea animals because they are part bird.  Birds and bird videos are my absolute favorite entertainment pastimes, so I was quite pleased to find another entertaining ocean critter.  Fish tanks and fish videos make me yawn.  Perhaps I should refer my mom to such sleep aids.

A natural talent one can put toward a Napping PhD is one's lack of sense of time.  I believed this proved to be a great advantage for me on passage.  Now that we are anchored in a peaceful Marquesian bay, I feel wobbly and as if I've had one too many catnip pouches.  Everything is too still!  And why can't I stop gimballing? 

Best news of landfall is fresh tuna caught by the local fishermen who are holding a fishing contest and fiesta this weekend.  Still, I am going to have to get used to seeing all these very still, very massive,  mossy-looking mountains that now tower around me.  I have never before seen rocks this big or shapes this dramatic.  I smell flowers new to my fabulously sensitive nose, fresh fish, rain-drenched earth and leaves.

Although venturing to land seems mildly interesting, I will leave that to my people parents.  I hear they speak several languages in these islands, one being French.    Rather than seeking to find, I prefer to have things brought to me.  “Donc, je prefere rester ici, comme une princesse!”


Posted on April 12, 2015 .

St. Patrick's day may be lucky for Coconut Woman after tough, windless, slog

Coconut Woman is making good progress, but that progress has been hard to come by. They have traveled approximately 750 nautical miles in the past six days, however much of it has been motor sailing as they fight through a lack of wind and ocean swells coming straight at them.

After almost of week of motor sailing through areas of low to no wind and confused seas, St. Patrick's day brought with it a green wind pattern that should carry the boat all the way to the Marquesas.

After almost of week of motor sailing through areas of low to no wind and confused seas, St. Patrick's day brought with it a green wind pattern that should carry the boat all the way to the Marquesas.

On March 17, 2015, the crew sent the following via SailMail:

“Due to a persistent LO, we've had light and variables and/or squall action.  About three squalls per day to dodge, and at least one rainbow to enjoy.

The southerly swell makes for challenging southing.  Winds have typically been out of the SW/SSW.  Some of the fleet chose to bash straight into the waves and wind with their engines on full throttle.

Ours is an engine and quality of life issue, so we sailed as much as possible, following the wind and currents, motor-sailing in light airs (>5 knots wind), which has been most of the time so far.  We'll run out of fuel in a day or two but we've hit a great current and some better wind today.  Forecast and typical winds for this time of year say we should be sailing the rest of the way after today.  But who knows! We weren't supposed to be able to be sailing now or at any time we've sailed so far so we always take the GRIB files with a grain of salt.

Saw a pod of 22 dolphins yesterday, so I got out on the bowsprit with them!  Mer”

Spirits are high, and Coconut Woman remains in the middle of the flotilla of Blue Planet Odyssey boats heading to the Marquesas Isands.

St. Patrick’s day should mark the beginning of lucky winds and currents that will carry them the rest of the way.

Posted on March 17, 2015 .

Puerto Ayora, Galapagos: Tourism and conservation mingle, as do humans and the natural world

March 3-?, 2015

An overview of the place, people, and issues

An iguana poses on the penguin dock .

 How do you preserve the exceptionally-unique wildlife, environmental, and local resources on some of the most historically isolated islands in the world when presented with basic resource challenges, such as water and food supply, while your chief source of income is tourism? 

The Galapagos and its people struggle with these challenges and seem to try desperately to strike a balance.  With an increasing population of over 25,000 and over 150,000 tourists per year, issues such as sewage treatment and the introduction of invasive organisms and species require constant monitoring and care.  Which also happens to be why we were required to sign a form that said the cat could not leave the boat!  The Galapagos has faced problems with cats, dogs, and a rampant goat population eating or destroying endemic wildlife here.

UNESCO, (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Community Organization) and World Heritage Society, have visited the islands and informed its leaders they are failing to protect the environment.  A result has been an influx of international funding and dedicated efforts through the addition of multiple scientific monitoring and education programs.  Local schools provide an entire textbook for students specifically dedicated to protecting their special place.  Tourism businesses have been placed under strict environmental rules. 

Obtaining cruising permits in these islands has become expensive and difficult.  We fear this will eventually become impossible and feel privileged to have visited the Galapagos before these challenges escalate.  Water and fuel must be obtained through scheduled visits by certain provider vessels, and trash must be separated into recycling, organic materials, and basic trash.  We are not permitted to deposit any form of foreign organic materials ashore, and all septic tanks aboard have been checked to make sure we are not pumping overboard.  We are more than happy to accommodate.  But to give you an idea, small private boats are the least of their concerns.

With a population of over 25,000 and annual tourism of over 150,00 visitors, the culture of the Galapagos strikes balance between lively village life and protected natural resources.

That being said, the people of the Galapagos are warm, welcoming, and express awareness of their situation.  John, our local guide in San Cristobal,  the lady at the laundry service who laughed and told us stink bugs are not poisonous,  Danny the panga taxi driver,  Ricardo our helpful local rally contact, Eduardo and his staff at the national park,  Lavinia and the staff at Red Mangrove Inn, Louis at the pharmacy, and many more people we've met in passing, have contributed to our happy experiences here.  Thanks everyone!

As compared to more remote Isabele and San Cristobal islands, Puerto Ayora has become the tourism capital.  Charter boats crowd the anchorage, and people pile onto them for day excursions or two week long charter trips.  The streets are lined with t-shirt shops and restaurants, though not without hand-constructed architecture, artistry, and charm.  Climate change has already devastated the endemic coral population. 

Today, we met with Eduardo Espinoza, head of the Marine Monitoring Program for the Galapagos National Park for a presentation and Skype interactive with one of our rally home schools in Maine.  Through the national park services, people and students from all over the world have opportunities to volunteer their services for anything from geological studies to tagging tortoises or monitoring the hammerhead shark population.   We met some high school graduates who have decided to do some of these programs before entering into university, and they are loving every minute.  All ages and pertinent expertise are welcome. According to the people who do these projects, it makes for a rewarding travel experience.  The minimum required commitment for these programs is two months, and everyone interested must go through an application process.  Here's a link to the volunteer program in case you're interested! You can also Google Volunteer Programs Galapagos.

The Red Mangrove, our eco-inn, is located inside the mangrove swamp and has proven the wildlife here takes precedence.  Not only do we have signs in the rooms to turn off the AC when absent or reuse our towels, but the iguanas and sea lions have decided to reclaim some real estate on the inn's restaurant deck.  They have the signage to prove it, and now the inn guests lounge with the iguanas and sip cocktails alongside bellowing sea lions.  This brings a new meaning to the term “lounge lizards.”

A pleasant walk down the road resides the Darwin Institute, where education and preservation tours along a coastline of giant tortoise and iguana habitats provide fun and helpful education.  There, they breed and study these animals to preserves their populations.  It is also a finch sanctuary and public beach!

And none of this is without a sense of the celebration of life.  Every evening, tourists and locals enjoy the outdoor cafes or amble along the sidewalks mingling.  Pelicans and sea lions sashay up to the fish market stand to demand fish scraps from the fishermen.   Last night, a group of about 20 of us rally nuts celebrated Jess on SV Om's birthday on a restaurant deck overlooking the full moon sky.  Justin's mom, Lisel, flew in from her home on mainland Ecuador, about 600 miles due east, and has joined the crew for a few days.  Other boats have had visiting family, friends, and crew along different legs of the voyage, all who've seemed to embraced our adventures. 

The prevailing feeling we get from everyone in our little group is that we're lucky to be here, together.  Cheers to our absolutely wonderful and diverse rally members, to visiting family and friends, and to all the wonderful locals we have met so far!  After all, it's the people, and the Galapagos animal friends, who truly make the place!

As compared to more remote Isabele and San Cristobal islands, Puerto Ayora has become the tourism capital.  Charter boats crowd the anchorage, and people pile onto them for day excursions or two week long charter trips.  The streets are lined with t-shirt shops and restaurants, though not without hand-constructed architecture, artistry, and charm.  Climate change has already devastated the endemic coral population. 

Today, we met with Eduardo Espinoza, head of the Marine Monitoring Program for the Galapagos National Park for a presentation and Skype interactive with one of our rally home schools in Maine.  Through the national park services, people and students from all over the world have opportunities to volunteer their services for anything from geological studies to tagging tortoises or monitoring the hammerhead shark population.   We met some high school graduates who have decided to do some of these programs before entering into university, and they are loving every minute.  All ages and pertinent expertise are welcome. According to the people who do these projects, it makes for a rewarding travel experience.  The minimum required commitment for these programs is two months, and everyone interested must go through an application process.  Here's a link to the volunteer program in case you're interested! You can also Google Volunteer Programs Galapagos.

The Red Mangrove, our eco-inn, is located inside the mangrove swamp and has proven the wildlife here takes precedence.  Not only do we have signs in the rooms to turn off the AC when absent or reuse our towels, but the iguanas and sea lions have decided to reclaim some real estate on the inn's restaurant deck.  They have the signage to prove it, and now the inn guests lounge with the iguanas and sip cocktails alongside bellowing sea lions.  This brings a new meaning to the term “lounge lizards.”

A pleasant walk down the road resides the Darwin Institute, where education and preservation tours along a coastline of giant tortoise and iguana habitats provide fun and helpful education.  There, they breed and study these animals to preserves their populations.  It is also a finch sanctuary and public beach!

And none of this is without a sense of the celebration of life.  Every evening, tourists and locals enjoy the outdoor cafes or amble along the sidewalks mingling.  Pelicans and sea lions sashay up to the fish market stand to demand fish scraps from the fishermen.   Last night, a group of about 20 of us rally nuts celebrated Jess on SV Om's birthday on a restaurant deck overlooking the full moon sky.  Justin's mom, Lisel, flew in from her home on mainland Ecuador, about 600 miles due east, and has joined the crew for a few days.  Other boats have had visiting family, friends, and crew along different legs of the voyage, all who've seemed to embraced our adventures. 

The prevailing feeling we get from everyone in our little group is that we're lucky to be here, together.  Cheers to our absolutely wonderful and diverse rally members, to visiting family and friends, and to all the wonderful locals we have met so far!  After all, it's the people, and the Galapagos animal friends, who truly make the place!

Sea lions seem to rule in some areas of the Galapagos.

The Red Mangrove, our eco-inn, is located inside the mangrove swamp and has proven the wildlife here takes precedence.  Not only do we have signs in the rooms to turn off the AC when absent or reuse our towels, but the iguanas and sea lions have decided to reclaim some real estate on the inn's restaurant deck.  They have the signage to prove it, and now the inn guests lounge with the iguanas and sip cocktails alongside bellowing sea lions.  This brings a new meaning to the term “lounge lizards.”

A pleasant walk down the road resides the Darwin Institute, where education and preservation tours along a coastline of giant tortoise and iguana habitats provide fun and helpful education.  There, they breed and study these animals to preserves their populations.  It is also a finch sanctuary and public beach!

And none of this is without a sense of the celebration of life.  Every evening, tourists and locals enjoy the outdoor cafes or amble along the sidewalks mingling.  Pelicans and sea lions sashay up to the fish market stand to demand fish scraps from the fishermen.   Last night, a group of about 20 of us rally nuts celebrated Jess on SV Om's birthday on a restaurant deck overlooking the full moon sky.  Justin's mom, Lisel, flew in from her home on mainland Ecuador, about 600 miles due east, and has joined the crew for a few days.  Other boats have had visiting family, friends, and crew along different legs of the voyage, all who've seemed to embraced our adventures. 

The prevailing feeling we get from everyone in our little group is that we're lucky to be here, together.  Cheers to our absolutely wonderful and diverse rally members, to visiting family and friends, and to all the wonderful locals we have met so far!  After all, it's the people, and the Galapagos animal friends, who truly make the place!

Rally crew Pip, Daphne, Lisel, Justin, Mer, Mierko, Martin, Claudia, Debbie, Deana, Terry, Carol, Barb, Rob, and Bob on Lookout Platform, Isabela Island.

View photos and video from the Galapagos below

Culture and natural surroundings entwine 

Galapagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) -Isabela2" by putneymark - originally posted to Flickr as Galapagos penguin Isabela Elizabeth Bay. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Galapagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) -Isabela2" by putneymark - originally posted to Flickr as Galapagos penguin Isabela Elizabeth Bay. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Galapagos Cactus tree is a uniquely endemic adaptation of padded, spiny cactus leaves.  As the cactus grows, its pads become bark, the spines fall off, and new pads begin to grow above the trunk.  Yellow cactus tree trunks indicate an age of over 100 years, some of them live to over 300.  So in effect, it really is a cactus tree!  In the dry season, giant tortoises gnaw their way through this tough bark and take down the entire tree, sort of like elephants.  These longtime locals know the pads carry large amounts of water.

When visiting Isabel Island, we saw some of the largest cactus tree forests in Galapagos.  They shared space with other trees who share a symbiotic relationship with the lichen that hangs from their branches.  The lichen absorb dew and humidity, then the trees absorb the water from them.  In the rainy season, the barren branches sprout leaves.

Flamingos, socially-fearless black iguanas, finches, and fish were on the roster for our day trip to Isabele.  But the most exciting locals we met were the swimming penguins, who lay claim to being the only breeding penguins in the world living as far north as the equator.  The marine iguanas seemed to enjoy swimming alongside us while we snorkeled!  The chilly Humbolt Current running northward from Antarctica is responsible for carrying them to these islands many thousands of years ago.

Flamingos feast on Isabel island.

A visit to the Wall of tears, a remnant from the days when the Galapagos were used as a prison.

At the lava beach, we saw a local family netting some fish next to the blue-footed booby roosting rock.    Claudia and Norm on Tahawus's boys, Mierko and Martin, helped the fishermen sift through their catch.  They had a hoot of a time throwing back small puffer fish and tossing little fish to the frigates and pelicans.

We visited the Wall of Tears, created by the Ecuadorian prisoners in an old prison camp that is said to be the Ecuadorian version of Alcatraz.  In order to increase their suffering in the dry and barren countryside, the guards forced them to build a wall of rocks—without any mortar!  This meant prisoners were killed by falling rocks or by falling off the rocks, as they struggled to place them in stable positions.  There was never any purpose whatsoever to building this wall. It had always been intended solely for the torture of the prisoners.  This gives us pause when we play with our complimentary oversized set of Jenga blocks the hotel provides for its guests.

For many centuries, Galapagos was said to be a cursed place.  Poisonous manchineel trees with sweet-smelling, seemingly benign apple fruit could kill with one bite.  The lack of water and food made it a place to send unwanted people, or a place for crooked real estate brokers to lure unsuspecting Europeans into buying land in a supposedly very affordable “paradise.”

Nowadays, the Puerto Ayora square is full of locals and tourists celebrating local music and culture on weekend nights .  Bands and dancers light up the square as families and friends ride by on bicycles or stroll with their ice creams.  The number of t-shirt shops is downright obnoxious, but they also carry local crafts such as embroideries, trinkets, jewelry, and textiles.  At least not everything here is made in China!

Galapagos teems with gorgeous local art work and craftsmanship, specifically in mosaic and mural paintings.  If you stop to look, you will see many special little flourishes around every corner here, and the Red Mangrove Inn is no exception.  Not only do we have a mosaic glass dome with a mural painting inside of it on our balcony, we have hand-carved dugout canoes for flower pots, local art and antique carvings all over the walls, sea lions and iguanas lounging under our windows, kids swimming along in the lava rock beach, and a fresh ocean breeze.  Next door is the “Jardin del Mar” a long wall of breathtaking mosaics with items embedded in it such as cups, figurines, and a bathroom sink!  The hotel is constructed with a red-colored lava adobe material, and the mangroves grow up through and around its roofs and decks.

Tonight will be Lisel's farewell dinner, so we have decided to dine on the balcony under our dome next to the laughing seagulls who roost and poop on the solar panels, while we enjoy the grunts and bellows of the sea lions below.  We'll depart Puerto Ayora in several days sporting a newly-installed watermaker!

 

Posted on March 10, 2015 .

Flags and a question about Dolphins

 Students from the Frank M. Sokolowski school in Chelsea, Massachusetts, U.S.A,  are studying up on their flags and getting ready to make their own class flag to send to Coconut Woman to fly on her shrouds.

Here's a few of their creations and a question from one of the students.

Eric's flag

Eric's flag

A Question

The Answer

Lesly, thanks for your question!  Yes, there are lots of dolphins in many places we sail.  Just for you, I will post a short video of our trip from Panama to Galapagos with a pod of 20 or more dolphins swimming alongside our boat!  The little ones like to play in our bow waves.  Every time we see a dolphin, I will let you know, Lesly! 

Posted on March 6, 2015 .

San Cristobal: A wild first encounter with the Galapagos

The best thing about San Cristobal? Sea Lions.

Sea lions lounge in a flotilla just off Coconut Woman's port bow in San Cristobal.

A sea lion objects to Meredith sharing his bench.

A sea lion objects to Meredith sharing his bench.

They're everywhere here, even lounging on the bench at the bus stop. They're sociable, argumentative, loud, smelly, and provide fabulous comic relief.

Some of them enjoy going up the transom stairs of some of our friends' catamarans and lounging and pooping on their decks. Our friend, Lucy, was forced to prod one with a broom just to get him off the boat.

Taxi Pangas must run everyone into the harbor docks because otherwise, sea lions would pile into the dinghies and most likely, sink them.

As for their noises, think “loquacious sheep meets loud, drunk, obnoxious, belching, flatulent, belligerent large caveman,” and you've got it just about right.

Se lion lounges on park bench in middle of San Cristobal.

Se lion lounges on park bench in middle of San Cristobal.

We took an all day tour in a fast motorboat all the way around the island with Chris and Jess from Om, and some other fun people. Within less than 24 hours of our arrival, we snorkeled with sea turtles, rays, eel, puffer and many other fish, tormented crabs, saw the rare red­footed booby nesting grounds, voyeured frigate mating rituals, and took in the astoundingly gorgeous volcanic shapes and forms of the countryside. Not bad for our first day out of the Galapagos gates.

Today, we went hiking in the countryside just outside of town to climb the large mountainous rock where the frigates fly and roost. The path then led us to a Galapagos Natural History museum, and on the way back into town, we watched the local social scene which is centered around outdoor activities: The beach, bike­riding, yammering together at a cafe on the sidewalk, strolling, and snacking along the way at small food stands. We estimate Justin has ordered fresh ceviche every day for two of his three daily meals, sometimes for breakfast! Aside from Justin being assaulted by a stink bug and me having been curtly reprimanded by a sea lion, life here is pretty grand.

This waterfall is one of the rare constantly ­flowing sources of water that flows down to the arid coast from the lush and rainy high mountain area.

crab
Turtle Lagoon.jpg

The Galapagos was formed by volcanic explosions around 5 million years ago, as a land of barren lava and rock. Over millions of years, winds blew seeds over 600 miles from mainland Ecuador to the islands. Pioneer plants such as lichens and cacti, that could survive with little water, created enough soil for other plants and animals to flourish. Galapagos is a strange meeting place of winds and currents, and though on the Equator, sports little evidence of the typical tropical environment. It is more like the high plains, or high desert, some of it covered with lush grasses or barren volcanic outcroppings.

 


More photos from our adventures in San Cristobal and Frigate Rock

Posted on March 6, 2015 .

Pollywogs no more: Coconut Woman crosses the line, arrives in Galapagos

February 26 - March 3, 2015

Coconut Woman picks its way through cargo ships off Panama City.

 Leaving Panama City, we made our way through the minefield of large anchored vessels, which dotted the bay for up to four miles out.  Here began what sailors fondly refer to as “the Coconut Milk Run,” the trade wind-driven passage across the Pacific Ocean, and what many boats are specifically designed to do. Winds on, or just aft of the beam will carry you along a paradise pathway.  

When examining the AC intake strainer, Justin noticed numerous pairs of large eyes staring back up at him. Puffy, Poofy, Poopy, and Squirt were politely asking to be rescued from certain death.  We couldn't turn down three tiny baby puffer fish and their minnow friend, so into a glass they went for a photo shoot and a play-date with the cat.  

About two hundred miles off the coast of Colombia resides a very disconcerting random rock just begging to be bonked into with a boat.  Over 900 feet high and one mile long, Malpelo, we suppose, was named after someone who had a bad hair day, seeing as the word literally translates as “bad hair.”  We hear the manned lighthouse enjoys scolding boats for sailing too close to Badhair, seeing as this involves unauthorized entry into Colombian waters just to catch a close-up view of a rock, which of course, should incite concern on the part of Colombian authorities.

Puffer fish rescued from the intake strainer.

As the southerly-flowing winds dissipated, the 5-8 knot north-easterly flowing winds filled in. This is a rarity in terms of wind direction on this route, and a pain in the transom.  Wimpy winds right on the nose is not what Coconut Woman prefers!  So we turned on the engine and motor-pinched to windward, which she does like, as the increase in apparent wind gives her sails some giddy-up.  

But what luck we had to happen upon a squall line that stayed with us all the night and kicked CW up to 7-9 knots engine-free.  As the winds slowly backed southward, we were able to sail again, and cranked out some serious mileage during the evening wind increases on flat waters.  Our passage to Galapagos gave us the most comfortable upwind sail of our lives so far, and marked the first time the entire crew of Coconut Woman has crossed the Equator.

This, of course, predicated the obligatory Equator Ceremony.

 Originally the Equator Ceremony flourished in the British navy as a form of hazing “Pollywogs,” or mariners who had yet to cross the Equator for the first time.  Apparently, this often involved things such as blind-folding crew members then pushing them overboard, which doesn't seem very amusing.  Thankfully, they would fill a sail with water and secure it overboard so the men would simply fall into a tub of water, so to speak.  

Other absurdities include dressing up as Neptune or a bunch of bears.  Yes, bears.   Neptune and the bears then sentence all the pollywogs to various forms of mild torture, sometimes going as far as tar and feathering, or worse.

So we took it upon ourselves to do the only sensible thing in this scenario, and haze the cat.  We dressed up as Neptune and his goddess wife, Amphitrite.  The cat hates dogs, so we dressed her up as a mutt, with floppy spotted ears and a big tongue.  Then Neptune took his beer-on-a-boathook trident, stood on the bowsprit, and sentenced the cat to walk the plank.  This did involved mild pet torture because the cat does not like to be on deck in the first place, let alone in the middle of the ocean.

Afterward, we took a dip in the southern ocean to cleanse ourselves of the dirty waters of the north.  As the sun descended, we toasted with fresh passion-fruit rum libations and tried to figure out how I managed to bring so much bling onto a small vessel and happened to be wearing all of it.  The cat received tuna and apologetic scritchers.

goddess

Before our final approach to Galapagos, Justin went overboard to clean the bottom, as we had been warned the officials bring divers to inspect it before entry into the country.  That's not all they bring when they caravan onto your boat.  Try having 11 people on board a yacht built for four!

Sailing into the Baquerizo Moreno Harbor, we experienced a distinct feeling of being in a special place.  “Other-wordly” describes Galapagos, with its volcanic rock formations, wildly differing topography, and generally, the look of a mix between California dessert and grassy-hilled Ireland.  The cold Humbolt current arrives to the islands, preventing coral growth but failing to deter the presence of tropical fish and many marine animals.  We have a flotilla piled high with sea lions just off our port bow, bellowing and quibbling over who stepped on who's flipper.  We can hardly believe we are here!





            

Posted on March 4, 2015 .

Position Update - Coconut Woman begins crossing to Galapagos

Coconut Woman has begun the crossing from Panama to the Galapagos islands.

At 1:34 pm EST on February 25, 2015, Coconut Woman reports leaving the Causeway islands on February 24, 2015 at 12:00 noon.

The crew has sailed approximately 190 NM of the approximate 1,000 NM they will travel during this crossing.

Posted on February 25, 2015 .

Departing the Causeway islands

Causeway islands, Panama

Latin rhythms interspersed with American classic rock and pop fill the airways as tourists happily peddle covered trolleys for two to four people down the sidewalks.  Taxis stop to honk at us, assuming we can't make the five minute walk to the next shopping center.  

The water dropped its regular tidal range of 15 feet, exposing the sandy beach here in the anchorage marina where a city of tiny crabs dash about shaking their white pincers at each other.  Vultures and seagulls sift through debris and juicy tidbits, discussing their finds.

Mendoza Cafe at low tide with Panama City in the distance.

Justin receives the secret-recipe hot sauce from Jose Mendoza.

Overlooking this exposed beach is Mendoza Cafe, where owner, Jose, delivers us a bottle of homemade hot sauce we ordered from him the day before.  The recipe is a guarded family secret.  After the huge meal we had there yesterday, the hot sauce and cafe latte were on the house.  He has a picture on the wall of his brother, Ramiro Mendoza, who used to be one of the top players for the New York Yankees, and he has named his restaurant for the family name.  

We are still here in Panama because we insisted on being provided with a receipt for the suspicious $200 we were told we had to pay to the clearance office.  They claimed we had not paid for our permit, until Justin produced the receipt from San Blas, which is again, why we always obtain receipts.  Still, we were told by the nervous woman, that we would have to clear out Monday, because she would not agree to give us a receipt for the remainder of the supposed charges.  

Photos of Ramiro Mendoza, the owner's brother, hang on the wall of the Mendoza restaurant.

Our wonderful cab driver, Fred, wanted to get to the bottom of this mystery, so he took Justin to the Flamenco Office and called the port captain, who verified that we should not have been charged anything at all.  On the way there, a sloth held up traffic by dangling from a tree in the middle of the road. Although typically closed Sundays, he arrived at the office and cleared us out himself, and Fred went home with a nice tip.

Justin provided the anchorage with a fireworks show while filing down and fitting our burglar bars for the V-birth hatch.  This way we will be able to leave the hatch open at all times to keep the boat airy and cooler.  The shower pump problem was diagnosed and fixed, as well as two year's worth of fridge coolant purchased.  Thanks to Fred and the information pamphlet from other cruisers, we managed to find everything we needed around town.  

Playita boat ramp at low tide.

The bilge has been cleaned and pumped, after a hilarious accidental miscommunication regarding leaving the head faucet on, thinking it was off, when in fact, it was only off on the control panel.  So when it was switched on via the control panel, and no one was in the bathroom, well, the faucet managed to stay on long enough to flood the bilge!  Well, geez, it needed a good cleaning anyway!

Our new outboard is working beautifully, again.  That is, after some hours of work and worry.  The entire dinghy was completely submerged at the dinghy dock.  We spoke with two other dinghy groups whose inflatables had been severely punctured.  Apparently, the tide was abnormally high that night, and the ferry could have pushed some of the dinghies under the floating ramp as the water rose.  

Playita boat ramp at high tide.

Oodles of fresh provisions have been put away and stored.  Unfortunately, the mechanic never made it out to our boat, so Justin ran more tests and thinks we'll be fine.  Not great, but okay.  We installed another solar panel, which should alleviate most of the concern should the alternator begin to pout again.

Our friend, Mark, held a party aboard for his daughter, Megan's “Sweet 13” birthday. Five kids swarmed the decks shouting in French, and it was lots of fun to watch young kids enjoying themselves on a boat. Matthew, Mark's son, was particularly fond of swinging on the bow in his hammock chair, while we swapped charts and chatted the sun to bed with friend and father of three, Simone. Homemade cake and defrosted fudge all the way from Annapolis were offered up.  

Our forecast for our crossing to the Galapagos looks crummy.  Light winds, then winds on the nose.  We could wait for a better weather window, but this is one of the tradeoffs of having a tight schedule on a rally.  This area of the waters is known for doldrums/light winds anyhow, and we're looking forward to reuniting with the fleet!

One last 20 minute shower, and one more night in a bed that doesn't move, and then we're outa here!!!

So long Jose, and thanks for all the stuffed tostones and hand-cut yucca fries.

 


Seamanship in Action

When currents take over: Anchoring in a crowded anchorage with no wind

Sailboats live where the forces of wind and water collide. Making way is all about balancing and harnessing these forces. Staying put while riding anchor or on a mooring also involves dealing with these forces. In a crowded anchorage, all of the boats will point or vane in the same direction into the wind if the force of the wind is strong enough. However, if there is no wind, the forces of water prevail. Click on the photos below to learn more.

Posted on February 22, 2015 .

A Post-Carnival Town

Causeway islands, Panama

Coconut Woman stops at the Causeway Islands, preparing for their crossing to the Galapagos Islands. Photo - "Isla Naos e Isla Perico" by Ayaita - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Coconut Woman stops at the Causeway Islands, preparing for their crossing to the Galapagos Islands. Photo - "Isla Naos e Isla Perico" by Ayaita - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

A stinky flooded bilge provided the excuse to spring for a hotel room.  Luckily, the post-Carnival rates glad-handed us into booking two nights.   Plus, Justin has thrown out his back and needed to sleep in a proper bed.   Onboard, we have 4 inch memory foam over a series of modular waterproof, leather-like hard cushions.  The super soft and the super hard manage to create a decent comfort medium (and anti-microbial, washable factor) , but we've learned its less than ideal for back problems.  He's wearing a brace.

We met Lucia from New Jersey on the balcony who told us she had returned for her birthday, after spending 30 years away from Panama.  “The skyline,” she said, “And all you see around you in the causeway islands was not here when I was!”  

Now these islands are teeming with stores, hotels, and American chain restaurants.  Why travel all this way to go to a TGI Friday's or Bennigan's?!  But most of the area was built up with Panamanian vacationers in mind, and due to the United States influence, the country seems to have followed in some of her footsteps.  As someone stated, “It's balls hot here and locals are wearing skinny jeans!”

Great Lebanese food to be found at "Beirut" as an alternative to the American chain restaurants found throughout the touristy area.

After Nick's heroic organization of the decks, lines, and gear, we took him out to dinner.  As we ambled along the causeway, we noticed that most restaurants were closed for their post-Carnival hangover recovery.  However, we did happen upon a Lebanese restaurant on the water called “Beirut,” where we spent the entire evening eating some of the best food we've had in months.  The restaurant ships everything in from Lebanon, including sesame seeds, and they make their hummus from scratch.  Heaven.  After dinner, the manager offered us free desserts, tea, and an apple flavored hookah.  For three famished sailors who spent hours stuffing their faces, we got out of there for less than it costs Justin and myself to eat a normal meal for two.

Locating a working post-carnival mechanic has proven fruitless, despite the fact our friend, Mark, who we met in the BVI and ran into here on the Pacific side of Panama  (!!) provided us with a 40 page cruiser's information packet, compiled by fellow cruisers and passed around to fellow boats.  In it were about eight mechanics and their contact information.

Of course, tonight we're getting take-out from Beirut and spending it in bed so Justin can get off his back.  “Looks like you'll be doing the heavy-lifting to get us out of port,” he says.

I can't wait to show him up.

After recovering from our food comas, Nick bid us farewell and headed for the airport.  We were sad to see him go.  He was a wonderful, unexpected, last minute addition to the rally and to our boat.  We're looking forward to seeing what he might do with his newly-revived love of sailing.

 

  

Posted on February 20, 2015 .

The view from the cat box: Nina, the sailing cat, tells it like it is

It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.
— Niccolo Machiavelli

Reason to Paws

Greetings, earthlings.  I am the creature known as “cat” who resides aboard Coconut Woman.  Some have referred to my crew position as “boat cushion,” though I prefer the term “Admiral.”  My given name is “Nina,” after fellow diva, Nina Simone.

I do not condone my “mom's” choice to give anyone attention except for me, though if she had to marry anyone, I am beginning to develop a fondness for Justin against my own will, chiefly because he serves me water in the cockpit and gives me scritchers.  

Whereas I do not condone life aboard, I have come to appreciate the ease with which I am able to be the center of attention in a small space without putting forth much effort.  That being said, however, I do not condone the heeling of the boat more than ten degrees, nor do I sanction any actual movement of the vessel.  

Water has a special way of finding its way through windows onto my head.  At times, when feeling particularly resentful or addled, I have committed egregious acts of bio-terrorism.  In order to maintain a sense of self-empowerment and to communicate stern reminders, I consider these acts a natural born right as a feline.

All in all, as a geriatric, I believe it was a simple, sane act to protest this ridiculous life-change forced upon me by my endearing yet light-headed mother. I should have known it was all down-hill after she met Justin and made me live with ducks.  The insanity soon went exponential, so she thought the sensible thing to do was sell all of our belongings and transfer our lives from my comfy loft with a fabulous balcony view to a 26 foot daysailor.  She made me sleep on the same bed with Justin's filthy Philistine canine!  Not until Bear made her way to dog heaven and they bought a proper boat, could I possibly renege my multiple filings to PETA.  Coconut Woman seems to be the best compromise I can expect to receive.  At least we all have our separate bathrooms now, and an oven in which to bake my chicken, on this godforsaken thing.

I shall never admit it, but my own sense of adventure, love of the smells of the ocean, fish, and new places, a veritable real-life HD theater of wildlife PBS documentaries viewed from the comfort of my own cockpit, and regularly replenished small cardboard boxes in which to nap, give me reason to pause.  When the weather in the cockpit is rainy, I retire to the V-birth and am provided with youtube videos about birds, which are my absolute favorite.  Thank the gods I am too much of a coward to chase after the ones I see flying off the side of the boat!  Whereas I do very much appreciate a prepared dish of fish or rotisserie chicken, fresh raw flying fish confuse and repulse me.  How base of the crew to have offered me one in the first place.  Who do they think I am?

The large gray fishes with the rounded snouts like to jump out of the water to examine me.  I suspect they are aliens from another planet because they always appear as if they're getting a huge laugh at my expense.  And I've yet to meet another creature on this earth who is more intelligent than am I.   How otherwise could they know that I know “the joke is on me”?

Ah, the crosses one must bear for flapping-head humans.  And yet, I am happy.  Kindly never convey this fact to my crew.  All I know is that without me, the morons would probably sink the boat.

Cheerio and all that malarkey,
The Admiral  

Posted on February 20, 2015 .

Transiting the Panama Canal

February 17-18, 2015

Climbing to Gatun

I never thought I would climb a mountain in a sailboat.  Ever.  

When you're awake alone at night out on the water, thoughts such as these have a way springing forth in all their simplistic brilliance.  Then there are little things that bring you back to earth, like stubbing your toe on a cleat, or trying to share said sappy sentiment with a cat who just wants a fresh can of sardines. If you're slapped with these kinds of juxtapositions, then you're pretty much stuck with some kind of Chesire cat grin on your face.   The joke's on you, and for some twisted reason, you think it's hilarious.

As usual, the crew of Coconut Woman experienced our typical ration of warmed-over absurdities, but also as usual, the experience was extremely interesting.  Over 100 years old, the Gatun locks take us up 85 feet in a series of three steps.  Then, the Miraflores locks on the other side bring us back down again.  In between, we traverse Gatun Lake by night, finding our way to the rafting buoys in what feels like a peaceful puddle in the middle of nowhere.  

After a routine medley of conflicting information from various sources, we picked up our line handlers and rushed out to the Flats, the on-deck anchorage for boats scheduled to lock-through.  On the way, we managed to use the awning we hadn't yet taken down as a sail!  

Censo, our pilot-adviser, skillfully guides Coconut Woman and Hooligan into the Gatun Locks.

Our Gatun Locks pilot-adviser,  Censo, arrived just after dark.  Professional and likeable, Censo was a former first mate aboard an ocean liner and now is in the  Panama canal training program for large vessel pilots.    He casually informed Justin that Coconut Woman would be both helming and powering ourselves and another boat through the Gutun Locks.  Our 1981 Volvo Penta, in charge of not one but two 45 foot vessels , in a major lock-through?!  We laughed and gave fair warning to all!

Next, we joined forces with “Hooligan,” a lovely 1986 Beneteau.  Destined for a short life in the Californian charter business, she lucked into some loving owners, who took her and made a break for the Caribbean.  This would be her second time traversing the Panama Canal.  

Rafting-up into a “nest” aids small vessels in stability during the turbulent in-pour of gushing water within the locks, and reduces the amount of lines and line-handlers required, although every boat is required to have a pilot (the boat's captain), 4 line-handlers and a pilot-adviser on board in case of any emergencies.   Typically, these nests are from 2-4 boats across, all buffered along their hullsides with large trash-bag covered tires available for rent.   

Our friend and crew member, Nick, had taken our fellow rally boat, “Windwalker,” through the Canal the day before our transit and was amazing enough to catch a cab back across the isthmus to do it all over again for us.  This meant we would require only two professional line-handlers.  

Meredith starts some Yucca frying and shows the view from the galley and the cockpit as Justin, line handlers and the transit crew navigate into the first set of locks from the Caribbean side.

We were told it would be $100 for each line-handler,  plus several meals for the advisers and line-handlers.  I prepared closer to five. Including Justin and Nick, they  ploughed through five packages of cheese, 16 eggs and an entire bottle of hot sauce!  Hungry men!  Beef and bean tacos, chicken and cheese quesadillas, nachos, fried yucca, popcorn, nuts, homemade and store-bought salsas, sausage and eggs, fresh mango, papaya, pineapple, Cokes, juices, water, and a partridge in a pear tree!   All compliments of “Chez Coco.”

The Yucca is almost finished as the boats near the top of the lock.

Entering the chamber, the locks loom overhead like draconian dungeon doors.  Lights brighten the night sky, but the fact we were performing a procedure of this kind in the dark made for a real sense of adventure.  As soon as the boats reach the Panamanian onshore line-handlers, everyone on deck braces for the great tossing of the monkey-fists, hoping the guys on land are former baseball pitchers.   The monkey-fists are whipped into the end of the lines, the added weight on the end ensuring an accurate throw of long lengths of somewhat heavy rope.  The crew catches the lines and fasten them to cleats.  The onshore line-handlers then walk with the boats as they proceed into the locks, all the while, Censo shouts out orders to Justin, “Engage! Steer to port!”  To which Justin parrots back, “Engaging!  Steering to port!”  This is ancient maritime procedure that has stuck around for so long because it tells the captain the crew has correctly heard his orders.  

“Neutral!  Now reverse!”  

“In neutral!  Now reversing!”

The nest comes to a complete stop behind the large vessel Altis Valletta as we notice the silhouettes of her crew peering down at us from her giant stern.  The onshore line-handlers fasten the ropes to cleats the size of our cockpit.  The pilot advisers radio the locks, a horn sounds, and the giant 7 foot thick dungeon doors begin to close behind us.  No turning back now!  Coconut Woman is Pacific-bound!

We found it interesting that small craft are required to sign papers stating their vessels do not have adequate cleats and gear aboard to transit the Panama Canal.  As Nick joked, “Yeah, we'd have to be one giant cleat.”

As the water begins to pour into the locks, creating swirling currents and bits of foam, the nest of boats begins to quickly rise.  Line-handlers and the pilot-adviser yell line adjustment orders to keep the boats centered.  In the span of ten minutes, we have floated 40 feet toward the sky and can now see over the dungeon doors into the Caribbean.  One down, two more Gatun lock-throughs to go.

After the evening's final lock-through and freeing the boats from the nest, we soon arrive in Gatun Lake.  We say goodbye to Censo as Nick offers up a celebratory cigar.  Soon afterward, the crew retires for the evening, draping tired bodies across the deck and settees.  I volunteer for night watch because sadly, we do not trust one of our line-handlers.

The history of the Panama Canal is typically celebrated as the United State's official debut as a world power.  Nothing about building the  Canal was easy.  The canal is a symbol of diligence and stubborn resolve, but it's also a symbol of malaria, yellow fever, death by explosives or train derailments, low wages and  poor quality living conditions, for many West Indians, Chinese, and American workers who toiled their way through  billions of pounds of rock and dirt.

It has been compared to the building of the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids.   Now our little Coconut Woman is sitting 85 feet higher in the middle of a lake created by flooding several river systems.  In spite of the light-pollution, our never-failing Orion hangs above us in the sky.  The winds are gentle and the lake waters calm.   

A humbling sight to behold and a truly memorable experience thus far, this wee crew member is finally going to try to catch some Z's.  More to come soon.


        The Flipside - Miraflores

Well, by cheating nature, we made it from the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean in two days!  

After our night on Gatun Lake, our next pilot-adviser, Edwin, arrived promptly at six in the morning, and the boat was again underway in less than fifteen minutes.  The morning was spent motoring across the rest of the lake, then entering into the western canal cut.  Wide enough for ships to pass one another, we were surrounded by sun-drenched uninhabited wilderness of the isthmus.  In places where the canal was cut through hillsides were carved steps reaching up to their tops, reminding us of step-pyramids.  Morning traffic was, as usual, busy with passing tugs and ships.

Edwin professionally guides Coconut Woman through the Miraflores locks.

For most of this morning's  journey, Nick took the helm.  Everyone was tired from a short and crummy night's rest.  While I was asleep, Justin served up eggs, Italian sausage, and fresh fruit to great praise from all.  

The remainder of our trip became one of stamina and odd little adventures aboard.  One of our line-handlers, Papaya, who couldn't have been a year over 16 and spoke only Spanish, proved to be problematic.  From the dangerous city of Colon, poor Papaya was carrying a colostomy bag taped around his middle.  For one reason or another, he had been attacked and had fought back, incurring five bullet wounds.  The one on his thigh was visible.  Shortly after departure for the Flats the day before, he became ill and spent much of the trip lounging on the settee.  Although he demanded to eat at every meal, he was unable to keep most it down.  He ripped the shower chord off the connector in attempt to clean to toilet but instead only managed to get water all over the bathroom.   He also failed to follow Eddie's orders to close the portlights before washing the deck, thereby dumping gallons of water onto the settees, pillows, Molas, and the cat.  

Justin did not particularly appreciate his gangsta-rap he enjoyed playing out loud on his iPhone, and he generally tried to do as little work as possible, even when it was clear that he was over-milking the pity factor.  He spent the rest of his time on deck taking pictures with his phone, napping with his mouth open, texting, and playing with the cat, which solidified our suspicion that this was his first time as a line-handler.  We had been warned of inexperienced line-handlers on the canal.  This being the time of the Panamanian Carnival, some boats' canal transits had been delayed due to “sick” aka “hung-over” pilot advisors and line-handlers!  We expect he was a last-minute edition to our transit.

All this being said, he had an air about him that predicated distrust.  The final straw was when he flung himself onto the settee, almost breaking the cat's leg.  It quickly became clear that he was a liability as a line-handler, so Nick took up the slack and instructed him to stay out of the way.  Justin gave him a stern talking-to and he cowered in a corner for the remainder of the transit.  For a number of reasons, he did not belong aboard a boat.

Edwin, our pilot-adviser for the second day, was amicable and laid back.  We arrived early to the day's first lock and rafted up to a buoy until Edwin got the green light to begin nesting the boats.  In the meantime, Edwin regaled us with fun facts such as the reason Americans switched the “red and green” buoyage system for entering ports.  This typically infuriates Europeans, and typically, we Americans find this amusing.  Edwin reminded us the reason for this change was during America's fight for independence, when they flipped the color code from “keep green to starboard” to “red right return” in order to lead British ships up onto the rocks.  

Today, we were fortunate to raft up with some fellow rally boats, Om and Maggie.  Om would be the chief guide and power vessel for the locks this time, so Coconut Woman tethered herself to Om's large catamaran starboardside and served as an adjusting flank vessel, with Maggie, the other monohull, on Om's opposite hull.  

Again, as we approached the lock chamber, the shore-side line-handlers tossed the monkey-fists into the air.  We caught great footage of Nick bravely catching a poorly thrown one, from a possibly-hung-over line-handler.  Usually, these guys peg you right in the palm, but Nick managed to reach out and make a good save.

From BPOMiraflores Lock web cam: catamaran NO REGRETS closest to the camera; catamaran OM rafted up with MAGGIE & COCONUT WOMAN.

Going down was less dramatic than going up, in part because we had daylight and in part because the waters create less turbulence draining from the locks than they do entering them.  As we made our final 45 foot descent at the Miraflores Lock, we provided a gaggle of onlooking tourists on the visitor's center balcony with a small spectacle.  Freeing ourselves from the nest, we gave one last look at the locks, as we made our way toward the end of the canal.  Four miles later, Edwin made the precarious jump onto a jet-ski style power vessel that was threatening to gouge our boat, and the line-handlers dropped themselves into a small launcha, carrying the tires with them.  We sent Edwin and Eddie away with smiles and hugs, plus an official complaint to the Canal authorities concerning Papaya.  He assured us Papaya would no longer be handling lines.  Actually, I don't think he ever did handle one on our boat.  We hope his future will be brighter than has been his past.

We continued on to the anchorage here in the Causeway Islands, and boats coordinated with one another to avoid being charged the $30 dinghy dockage fee.  Dead tired, after three hours of wasted time trying to clear out of the country, boat captains returned without their clearance papers and were forced to delay their departures.  Our boat had already planned to stay a few days for repairs and fresh provisions.   In spite of the desire to socialize with our fellow rally members, we made dinner and zonked out.  No sailor on the water will ever say this is an easy way to live.  We assume it requires a certain level of mild insanity and a heck of a lot of sense of humor.

MVP of the transit:  Nick Madden catches the monkey fist.

Cheers to an eye-opening Panama Canal transit and to the Pacific Ocean!  She will be our home waters for the months to come and the longest passages we have ever made aboard Coconut Woman!


View photos of the transit of the canal from Shelter Bay to Flamenco in the Pacific





Posted on February 19, 2015 .