Friday, June 14, 2013

Making Friends and Memories in Fatu-Hiva

Luck was on our side today.  As soon I awoke this morning, I saw a dark, heavy cloud looming over the mountains of Fatu-Hiva.  I wondered for a moment if we should just stay onboard and not go out since it was obvious that the rain was going to come at any minute.
However, what seemed like another rainy day in paradise actually worked in our favor.  We decided to venture into town anyway and see what we could see before the rain got too heavy.
AMARA parked in the "Bay of Virgins" at sunrise.
We took the tender into the small town of Hanavave in Fatu-Hiva to explore the small village and see if we could find an adventure.
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I seem to be very serious about something.  I'm probably just thinking to myself, "Don't wreck the tender.  Don't wreck the tender…!"  
Lily enjoying the rain.
The Frey's standing in the rain for a family shot.
Fatu-Hiva is a little town that basically consists of a catholic church, a school, a small health clinic, an even smaller grocery store, one waterfall, two petroglyphs and a population of around 500 people.
From all our choices, we decided to shoot for the waterfall.  However, while on our way to the waterfall, we got caught in the middle of a torrential downpour.  At that point, we decided to just find shelter and wait out the storm.
Just a little rain.  No biggie.
We sought refuge in a small makeshift grocery store where the owner welcomed us in with open arms.  We sat in there and talked to her and she spoke back to us using her best broken english.  Just as the rain was going to let up, in comes our new friend (though we didn't know it yet), Augustina.
Augustina had come to the store to buy bread.  Later, I found out that she was a retired school teacher. When entering the store, Augistina went directly over to Lily and started loving on her.  It was so sweet.  That's when she told me that she was a teacher and had six children of her own.  She said that she just loved little children.  So much so, that she is watching her seven-year-old grandson and her one-year-old grand-daughter full-time since the parents work on different islands and are only able to come home for holidays.  
When Augustina walked up to Lily, she immediately noticed that Lily was delayed and asked me in plain, clear english, "What's wrong with this beautiful little girl?" I explained to her that there is no diagnosis for Lily, that she can't walk or talk and we aren't sure if she ever will.  Then she said something that both Martin and I have shared many times before about Lily.  Augustina said, "Oh, but she talks so clearly with her eyes!"  Of course, I teared up by her remark.  I love it when someone notices Lily and can see how expressive she is with her eyes.  It is true, Lily is very disabled.  Lily isn't able to express herself like we can, but she does talk with her eyes and lets us know often what she wants, how she feels and where she wants to be—just by using her eyes.  Augustina sensed this the minute she walked up to our beautiful little angel.
After that encounter, Augustina asked us what we were doing in the store and if we wanted some fruit from her home.  I caught myself saying, "Uh, YEAH… we'd love some fruit from your house!"  Martin politely asked, "Could we come with you and see all your fruit trees?"  Luckily Augustina had come in her truck.  So, we all piled in and she made room for Lily and me inside the cab and we headed to her brother's home.
Augustina's husband showing us the right way to split open a coconut to get to the water.
Augustina's grandson was also there and she promptly told him to, "Get in the car and take care of Lily."  I stayed in the car for a little bit while everyone started picking fruit because, between you and me, it was a little more rainy than I would have liked. (shhh!)
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Soon guilt got the better of me, and well, at that point they were cracking open coconuts.  Who doesn't want to watch a coconut get cracked open?  So I got out and started enjoying the fun.  Rain and all.
Meredith has been asking for a coconut the entire time she has been with us.  Well, today, she got her wish.
Note: The flower in Meredith's hair is called a "Tiare."  It gives off the most beautiful fragrance  (smells like a gardenia and is from the gardenia family).  Tiare's are often the main flower used in leis.  These flowers were growing wild everywhere.  I could even smell them from the boat as we entered the harbor the night before.
Coconuts for everyone.  
The coconut water was so good!  Once we finished drinking the water, we scraped out the coconut jelly/milk and ate every last drop.  (Note to self: Get rid of the hat!)
David and Sue enjoying the coconut jelly.  You scoop it out like ice cream.  Take it from me, it was really good!
IMG 2763 Meredith and Augustina picking oranges and pamplemousse (from the Grapefruit family).
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David gathering oranges while Augustina's son shakes the tree with a long bamboo stick.
After we got all the oranges, pamplemousse, coconuts and bananas that we could eat we headed for the truck to get back down to the tender.  Augustina's husband casually mentioned that he had just gotten a new outboard engine for his boat and wanted to show it to Martin and David.  He was so proud of it.  In passing conversation, he said that his one setback was that he didn't have the right stainless steel screws to mount the steering wheel on his boat yet and he was trying to figure out which screws he needed and how to get them to him since there are no Home Depots or West Marine stores for about 3,000 miles.  Martin and David's own "wheels" started spinning.  They both knew that they had just the screws that he needed to mount that steering wheel back on AMARA.
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After staying awhile and enjoying Augustina's family, we loaded the fruit into a huge grain sack and had Augustina take us back down to the dock where our dinghy was tied.
When we got back to AMARA, Martin and I quickly loaded into a bag a large bag of M&M's, a French chocolate bar, and David and Martin found the exact screws that Augustina's husband needed.  We even threw in a little cash for all the fruit that she gave to us, even though she had no intention of us compensating her for it.
Once we gathered everything up, Martin and I drove the dinghy back to the dock and saw Augustina and her grandson.  We were so excited to give her the treats and especially the screws to help out with her husband's dilemma.
Note:  What you may not realize is that Fatu-Hiva is in the middle of no where.  It took us 7 hours to get there by boat and there are no airports in Fatu-Hiva.  Augustina's husband would have had to wait for weeks to get the right screws delivered to him.
Augustina was soooo appreciative of our gifts and wanted to give the money back to us.  We said "no" and told her to use it to get something special for herself.
Bananas fresh from Augustina's banana tree.  
It's necessary that before bringing bananas on board, you have to dip them in the sea so that the salt water kills all the critters that are crawling around on the vines.  That way, it keeps you from bringing bugs onto the boat.
What a wonderful day!  It turned out to be just the kind of adventure that Martin and I are always looking for.  We will remember this day for a long time, along with the kindness of our new friend, Augustina from Fatu-Hiva.
Tomorrow's adventure waits...
AMARA at sunset.

Land Ho!

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We made it to land!
I am writing this post on Thursday, June 6th.  However, this probably won't post for another week or so.  Why?  There is no internet available…anywhere.  My one luxury item that I can't seem to live without is the internet.  (I may have to do a 12-step program upon my return because I did't realize how heavily I depended on it.)

First of all, the Pacific Ocean passage was brutal.  It was brutal on the body.  It was brutal from the lack of sleep and brutal trying to entertain a four-year-old that depends on your constant attention all day long.  If I wasn't at the helm, Lily was there ready and giddy to play with me.  (Unfortunately, she doesn't play by herself, she needs mom, dad or Meredith.)  I'll never do this kind of long passage again.  I won't need to.  Having said this, I am glad I accomplished this ocean crossing and feel like I can draw strength from it when times get tough.  I can tell myself, "Kym, you crossed the Pacific Ocean on a boat, you can do anything if you could do THAT!"
When we finally saw land, the rain was so bad that it was like buckets of water were being poured out on me.  However, this wasn't going to curtail my excitement of FINALLY reaching land.   After 18 days at sea I was giddy to see land regardless of the weather conditions.  (Yes!  That was a record for us-we had planned on 22 days!)
Martin and me celebrating our first sight of land.
The morning that we reached landfall, it started off early and ominous.  I woke up around 5:00am and looked out my window and caught a first glimpse of land, as well as, buckets of rain pouring in every direction.  It was overcast and gloomy and wasn't the paradise that I was hoping to have welcome us after such a long haul.

However, upon seeing land, I immediately smelled "earth" and that was the best fragrance that I had smelled in a LONG time.  Regardless of the rain, I went to the bow of the boat and just sat there taking in the smell.  I never realized until then how much I missed it. Dirt of all things!
Arriving at Hiva-Oa – Our First Attempt
The night before arriving in the Marquesas should go down in our record books as one of the most miserable nights. All of us had survived a long and bumpy night at sea.  The boat was rocking so hard that none of us got a good nights' sleep.  Sue described it as someone "punching her in the face through her pillow" while she was trying to sleep in her bed.  It was miserable.  I was miserable.  By the time we reached the Marquesas, we all just wanted to park the boat and sleep.

The weather was horrible.  Instead of sleeping, we had to get AMARA ready to get into port.  We all put on our foul weather gear and got to work in trying to get AMARA into the harbor at Hiva-Oa where we were to clear customs.

Martin dealing with the elements.
Me, pretending to "deal" in the elements.  Honestly, I just wanted to get on land and get a cup of hot chocolate and sit by a fire.  Wishful thinking.
David, Sue and Meredith assessing the marina.
Our first attempt to get into the harbor was a major disaster due to the weather and mudslides in Hiva-Oa.  It seemed like everything that had been on land was now in the bay.  We saw full trees floating by us, coconuts, wood... everything.
Boats were fouling everywhere (their anchors were coming undone down below making boats swing in towards each other).
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Our first glimpse to the harbor in Hiva-Oa where we needed to check in with customs.  
We knew we had to get out of there and attempt entering again the next morning.  So, we left the harbor and went up about 10 miles and found a little inlet and tucked ourselves in for the night.  Talk about deflating.
Attempt #2
 At the helm.  
What a difference a day makes.
The same harbor, but this time, a little more like paradise.  
The next day we headed back to the marina in Hiva-Oa.  It was amazing to see what a difference a day could make.  The sun was out, the water was clear, and a lot of the debris had already made it's way out into the sea.  This time we knew we could get into Hiva-Oa and clear customs.  
AMARA out in the bay.
The night before, two of David and Sue's friends, Lili and Steve, had already anchored in the marina and called ahead to tell us to anchor in the bay just outside the marina.  There were still a lot of boats and it would be easier if we anchored out there.  Knowing the conditions at the dock and knowing it would be difficult to tie our dinghy to it, Steve volunteered to taxi us over to the side of a makeshift pier (that was barely a pier) where we all quickly jumped off onto land.  Steve then took our dinghy back to his boat to wait for us once we cleared customs and did some quick (very quick shopping for provisions).

Once on land, we hired a taxi that took us up to the police station where we checked in with customs and got our legal documents that allow us to stay in French Polynesia for 3 months.
Martin and Lily waiting to clear customs.
After clearing customs, we headed straight for the grocery store where we stocked up on foods that we had really grown to miss on our passage.  
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One can never have enough condiments. 
While trying to get through town, it was evident that this was not the best day to do any sight seeing.  The streets of the town were a mess and it looked as if the entire town was out helping to get the roads back in order.  We decided it was better to just leave and head for Fatu-Hiva which is known to be one of the most beautiful anchorages in the Marqueses.  .
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Before we left, we did a little "meet and greet" at Lili and Steve's boat, LI WARD.  Great people.
If I don't say this enough, the sailing community is an amazing community.  EVERYONE that we come across is willing to help out their fellow yachtsman.  The day before, right in the middle of the storm, we had fellow cruisers talking to us on our VHF telling us where to park our boat outside in the bay. We had people moving their boats to make room for us.  Others brought us fresh baguettes.  I get a little teary thinking about all the support we get from other cruisers welcoming us at every port.  Wouldn't it be great if this happened more often in our daily life?  It really is an amazing thing to feel as if you belong to a little community where it only requires a boat.  I am loving this part of the experience.  I hope to take this kind of spirit of friendship home with me.

Just a tree floating by us in the middle of the ocean.  Part of the aftermath of the storm.

We arrived in Fatu-Hiva late into the evening, barely able to see much other than a few hundred feet in front of us.  Again, we were met by a fellow cruiser on his dinghy and he helped us find the right anchorage for AMARA.  It never fails how often others are willing to help.

Knowing this is one of the most beautiful anchorages in the South Pacific, I was eager to wake up the next morning and see this so-called "beautiful anchorage."  So I woke up early the next morning to get my first glimpse of Fatu-Hiva.  

This was my view from AMARA'S bow.  Now imagine the fragrance of Hibiscus and Tiare (which smell just like gardenias) flowers in the air.  It looked and smelled like heaven.  I am amazed at the beauty in this world of ours.  Especially amazed at this little treasure.  
Fatu-Hiva - As close to paradise as you can get.
We plan to walk into town today to purchase some local crafts and then head up to a beautiful waterfall.  
I'll keep you posted!

PS.  Trying new posting application.  So sorry if things don't come out quite as well as I would like.  Internet here is almost non-exisitent and I am taking what I can get!

Quick Update

Many of you have emailed me wanting to know if we made it across the "puddle."  Actually, we made it to Hiva-Oa, in the Marquesas, last Thursday, June 5.  It was a torrential downpour when we arrived but we made it in 19 days!

I have actually written three posts.  One about our arrival to Hiva-Oa.  Another about the island, Fatu-Hiva, and another abouy where we are currently anchored (Takaroa in the Tuamotos).  However, with little internet service it will be hard to post these entries for a few more days. 

We are loving Takaroa.  Oh, how I wish that all my friends and family could join us here.  We have made dear friends here.  Our neighbor back home, Joey Buchan, flew out to meet us while also checking in on his pearl harvast.  He has been nothing but the most amazing tour guide and host.  I wish everyone could experience this time we are having with him.  He has showed us around the island.  We have visited his pearl farm, and even got to choose a black pearl as a keepsake.  All so interesting.  He has also set us up with every place that we HAVE to visit while in French Polynesia.  Joey served a LDS mission (Mormon) in Tahiti  and comes back around 3 times a year.  Joey knows most of the islands in French Polynesia and is giving us firsthand insight about where to anchor.  Where to visit.  Where to snorkel and dive.  You name it, he's done it and letting us in on his secrets.  His insight has been invaluable. How lucky are we to have a neighbor like Joey?

I will try and post soon, so keep coming back!  The adventures never stop!  We are having an amazing time and want everyone to enjoy this time with us.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Fish Tales - Part II

On Thursday this past week, Sue put in a request that we needed to catch a Yellow Fin tuna.  “If it isn’t a Yellow Fin, then throw it back,” she said.

Around 4:00pm we heard the reel screeching from one of the fishing rods and we knew that we had another big fish on the end of the line. We had been catching a lot of Blue Marlin during the week (nothing as big as Martin’s first legendary one) but still they were pretty large.  Meredith caught a Spearfish the day before and so we thought that it might be another one (which we release since the meat on them isn’t good to eat). 
Meredith's 5-foot Spearfish. 
Now, I don’t want to sound “picky” but I’ll admit I was a little frustrated because every time we do catch a Marlin, it takes forever to reel them in and remove the hook in order to release them.  I was just hoping that it would be smart enough to pull itself off the hook, so we didn’t have to put in the time.
 Meredith helping Martin reel in the motherload.
Martin grabbed the rod and he could instantly tell from the weight and bend in the rod that this was ONE BIG FISH!  So, he started reeling it in.  It took him a good hour and 45 minutes get the fish up to the boat.  By then, Martin’s arm muscles were beyond exhausted and we were all so curious to see what it was.  We knew by then that it might not be another billfish because most of the ones that we had caught earlier would jump clean out of the water shaking their swords trying to get unhooked.  They always gave themselves away pretty quickly after getting hooked.  This fish just dove deep and took out line whenever he felt like going for a stroll.
 Our first sighting!
Finally, the “fish” came to the surface and we all caught a first glimpse of what was at the end of the rod.  All of us squealed with delight when we saw the “Yellow Fin.” Sue was especially happy.  Remembering Sue’s request earlier in the day, Martin said to her rather jokingly, “Sue, I got you your fish!”  Sue was quick to reply, “Well if you can get me a Yellow Fin that quick, I’d like to put in an order for a quart of ice cream!”  We all laughed and then got busy trying to bring the Yellow Fin on board.    That’s right around the time we noticed that this was no ordinary Yellow Fin tuna.  This guy was HUGE!

We pulled him out of the water and quickly assessed that he was approximately 90 lbs.  Then we grabbed the measuring tape and got a length of 51 ¾ inches with a girth of 37 inches.  He was the size of about 5 tunas that we had caught in the past! 

Martin and David quickly started slicing into him and cutting out beautiful 30-pound tuna filets.  Then Meredith and I started cutting them into steaks and packing them and sealing the meat in airtight bags getting them ready for the freezer.  Sue got busy making fresh sashimi and frying up some of the steaks. 

Lily slept her way through the fish frenzy.
We have been feasting on this amazing tuna for the past 4 days.  What was once a “Bananafest” has now turned into a “Tunafest” and Sue is pulling out the big guns making up different kinds of recipes that can incorporate tuna.  It’s been lovely.
 Bye-bye Bananas!
Speaking of bananas, we had a "banana ceremony” earlier that same day and threw out the remaining ripe bananas out into the deep blue.  Nothing felt more liberating than knowing we weren’t going to be eating anything laced in banana for a while.  What a relief.

Last night we celebrated being at sea for a solid two weeks.  Just as the celebration was about to begin, we saw our first ship!  We haven’t seen a single ship the entire time during this Pacific crossing.  So, we all just went up to Amara’s flybridge and watched the freighter as it came into view and passed within a half mile of us.  Then we called it up and introduced ourselves to them.  They were a Japanese car carrier coming from Peru and heading back to Japan.  For us, it was all very exciting.  Something about realizing that you AREN’T alone in the world is very comforting after not seeing anything (other than fish) for two weeks. 

Other News:
So, we decided yesterday that we were ready for land and changed course (again) and are now
heading for the Marquesas. Going there should get us in to the island of Hiva Oa on the 5th (fingers crossed).  We’ll stay there to check into customs, get some laundry done and then take off to Takaroa (which is another 3 day sail).  Takaroa is a unique island and it just so happens that our neighbor back home in Utah, Joey Buchan, owns a pearl farm there.  So, we are going there to meet his partners and watch them harvesting pearls.  We’re super excited to do this.  From Takaroa, we will head to Fakarava where we will have to say goodbye to Meredith as she heads back home to Utah.  From Fakarava we’ll head to Tahiti, so that I can finally buy my “little grass skirt.”  I can hardly wait to get back to society.  Maybe that's why they call them the Society Islands.