What we’ve been reading…

In case you’re wondering what we’re reading & would like to learn more about these places:

Headhunters on my Doorstep: by J Marten Troost. Comical travelogue about the region, including Marquesas and Tahiti; following the footsteps of famous writer Robert Louis Stevenson (of Treasure Island fame). Very amusing modern perspective!

Kon Tiki: famous book by Thor Heyerdahl about taking a raft from Peru to South Pacific in attempt to prove Polynesians arrived from the east, instead of the west, which is the scientific consensus to date. Aldebaran feels like a big sailing raft itself, so we identify with his voyage! Both the old documentary and modern feature film are excellent (both called Kon Tiki).

Fatu Hiva: a less famous book by Thor Heyerdahl about his attempt to “go back to Nature” and live with his wife for a year among traditional people in the island of Fatu Hiva, back in the 1930s. He endured fascinating trials and tribulations, from mosquito infestations, Catholic priests condemning them, tropical ulcers that nearly cost them limbs, and power dynamics with the local population.

Tahiti Moon Guide: good for background information and sight-seeing, along with archeological and cultural insights about the whole of French Polynesia.

Collapse: by Jared Diamond, touching on archeological studies to understand what causes civilizations to fall apart; we read out loud the section on Pitcairn, Henderson, and Mangareva. It also taught us that our route between Gambier and Marquesas, via Tuamotos, was a traditional trade route around 1000 C.E. during the era of Polynesian expansion.

Trouble in Paradise: Vanity Fair’s 2007 article about the child sex investigation in Pitcairn that caused a stir around the world, shedding light on South Pacific cultural differences and British territorial responsibilities.

(Thanks to Bob Beadle for sending us the previous two e-books via satellite connection, in multiple parts so that we could download them slowly!)

Any book recommendations for us related to the South Pacific?

Photo: the inside cover of Thor Heyerdahl’s book, Fatu Hiva. Thanks to Annelise for gifting it to us, when she visited us in the Galapagos in March!

Pakia Tea in Taravai

Here’s a photo of the unique 53ft ” Pakia Tea” from the air, a Wharram designed catamaran. The traditional Polynesian style design has great airflow on deck for the tropics.

The rigging and cross-braces are all secured with traditional rope seizing. Adding a modern flair is the huge solar array that sits on two roofs, making it the first all-electric vessel we’ve seen in our trip: the boat is propelled by twin electric engines, run by a large lithium battery.

The owners are from Austria: Tom and Sonja (along with five year old son Keanu) who previously taught marine biology, and now welcome guests on their boat (www.planet-earth.at).

Tom helped us get setup with the excellent “Open CPN” navigation software, along with Satellite Overlays, which are super helpful for navigating in shallow coastlines.

We buddy boated with them from the Galapagos to Gambier; although Aldebaran stopped in Pitcairn, and Pakia Tea stopped in Easter Island. Now it was time to say farewell; perhaps we’ll reconnect in the Tuamotos a few months down the line!

Guestbook Art: Cruising Sailboats

By Deena.
Herve and Valerie of Taravai shared their guestbook with us – a sacred compilation of drawings, paintings, collages, letters, and photos from dozens of visiting sailboat over the years. Each boat filled in one or two pages capturing their personalities. The Aldebaran crew was excited to look through and recognize entries from many of the boats they’ve met along their journey. Herve and Valerie ’s book is so special that we were nervous to borrow it for the night, but they insisted, so we could take our time with it and fill in the very last page! Back at the boat, we put our creative heads together, broke out the colored pencils, and marked Aldebaran’s visit expressing our gratitude for the wonderful memories we shared together on Taravai.

Photo: Our entry in the Herve & Valerie’s guestbook

Local Food Harvesting, à la Gambier

By Sabrina

When you go for a walk in Gambier, always bring an empty, big backpack, said Birgit, an Austrian woman from the sailboat Pitufa. There is no food at the store but youll find lots of food on the ground! she laughed.

Birgit and her boyfriend Christian have spent three seasons sailing in Gambier (www.pitufa.at) – so they know a thing or two about the unusual, and rather delightful, quest for food in eastern Polynesia: go harvest your own.

Continue reading

Surprise Storm in Gambier

Spencer was trimming his beard on the back of the boat when the storm hit.

It was calm and cloudy a second ago. Then a vicious gust of wind barreled down out of nowhere and all hell broke loose!

We were at anchor in Rikitea. About 10 sailboats had left the day before, heading towards the Tuamotos with the SE wind (it had finally switched, after almost 3 weeks of northerly winds).

We had been monitoring the weather charts. They had indicated a “high pressure” moving in with strong winds and rain. We interpreted this as “clearing winds” after a low has passed, a phenomenon we are used to in California… but what of the rain?? We weren’t sure why there would be rain ahead of a high pressure.

Our friend Rick on the catamaran Duplicat (which visited Pitcairn for a day with us) left earlier that morning for Taravai island — which is next door to where we are in Mangareva island. Later they reported by satellite email they got hit by 40knot gusts and zero visibility as they were exiting the channel. Quite sketchy! So they said “screw it” and turned north toward the Tuamotos.

Meanwhile on Aldebaran, gusts hit us like bowling balls from the north, south, east and west. When the boat finally turned at anchor to face the last blow, another blow took us broadside. Sheets of pelting rain came down on Spencer like needles. Did he stop trimming his beard? Of course not! In some of the worst beard-trimming conditions known to man, Spencer laughed and hollered like the wild Captain Dan in Forrest Gump, hanging on to the mast in the storm. Until it got too bad.

“Uh-oh!!!” Spencer warned. A full minute of deceptive calm had just passed. Now behind us there was a stretch of smooth water, one of the 40 foot sailboats at anchor was heeling over at 40 degrees due to an incoming gust. The wind was blowing it over!

The wind line approached us like a marching army, kicking up frothy swirls into the air, ripping up the previously calm water into shreds. Next thing you know, our vynil windows were flapping violently as rain drove horizontally into the cockpit. Across the way, the neighbor’s skiff caught air with the katabatic-like gust, and flipped upside down, outboard engine in the water! What a bummer!

“Is that one of our surfboards in the water??” Spencer cried over the din of the wind. A white object floated 100 feet away. We jumped into the skiff and motored over there, covering our eyes from the stinging pellets of rain, but it was just the outrigger of a canoe, certainly owned by some locals. We secured it in Aldebaran, and side-tied the dinghy to keep it safe.

After a full 45 minutes,
the chaotic, tornado-like wind finally veered to the SE, and blew like stink. A 30 foot sailboat rain aground on the reef, his mast stuck at an angle like the wing of a wounded eagle. A few powerboats came to the rescue and pulled the boat successfully into deeper water.

We later got a report from our friends on Pakia Tea that they had anchored in a bay in Taravai for protection from the strong SE wind that was forecasted, and then got hit during that chaotic hour by a westerly wind of over 40 knots which would have landed their boat on the reef, had the anchor not re-set properly.

The Gendarme (local police & port captain) said that at the weather station located at the top of Mangareva, a gust of 120mph was recorded. Crazy!

This was the storm that forced Deena’s flight to turn around. It blew steadily for two days with rain and poor visibility. Aldebaran remained comfortable at anchor, hanging onto Mr. Bruce, our 66lb hook with 230feet of chain. We collected rainwater and watched the new Kon Tiki movie inside our cozy cabin.

We now have new respect for strong winds that come with high pressures here in the tropics. Its not just low pressures that can bring fronts of rain and wind.

Food Patrol

Dealing with food in a cruising sailboat is (in general) a huge task; and reviewing our food stocks is one of the first things to do after a passage. We often purchase cart-loads of food, which we have to sort and store in awkward compartments that can sometimes get wet or damaged by motion underway, or infested with moths.

So upon arriving in port, the task is to remove and review all the items from food benches, bilges, and pantries; and re-pack it all. This is equivalent to unloading everything from your attic, via the tiny trap door, in order to sort it. Not necessarily that easy!

Sabrina tackled this food review with enormous diligence. Our strategy to save money & have good provisions for quality meals on Green Coconut Run has been to “pack the boat to the gills” with food from Ecuador (and Pitcairn, once we realized what a good deal it was there!) This was in preparation for the exorbitant costs and limited supplies in French Polynesia.

Walking around the stores here in town, we are almighty pleased that we took this approach! A bottle of rum: in Ecuador $6, in Rikitea $80. Kingston cookies (my favorite!): in Pitcairn $3, in Rikitea $4.50. Olive Oil: in Panama $30, in Rikitea $60. The supply ship only comes to Rikitea every three weeks, and even then people say: come the next day at 7am, or else everything is bought up! So we are very glad we’ve packed as much as possible into Aldebaran for this coming season in French Polynesia, but the downside is that we have to review our stocks to check for damage or spoilage once a month or so.

Pizza at Silverland

We got a special treat tor Michael’s last night with us: a pizza party in an amazing 1957 brigantine sailboat called “Silverland”. 


   
Photo: The Brigantine “Silverland” illuminated at the night of our party. By Camilla Penderson. 

The owners are a Dutch couple (Marco and Marieh) with a 9 year old son (Matis). They are avid kitesurfers and Marieh is also a keen surfer. They literally rebuilt the boat in the Netherlands and are now sailing the world and doing charters along the way, ranging from scientific trips to cruises around islands for a few days. 


    

     

The pizza place in Rikitea is only open Friday thru Sunday nights, at which time they are flooded with orders. So we went early at 5pm and waited 45 minutes for the pizza, and took the dinghy ride back to Silverland. 

Nobody could help but be impressed by the ship, with its incredible array of lines, old school bronze windows, and a 6 foot tall engine that sounds like a tractor. 



    

    
Photos: by Camilla Penderson.   

“You guys run this boat alone??” We asked, flabbergasted. 

Marco and Marieh are quite energetic and manage the ship on their own, apparently. Meanwhile, their 9 year old son Matis runs around. It must be quite a spectacle at sea!