Cruising in a COVID-ravaged world has proven, and continues to prove, both inconvenient and challenging. We are truly blessed that our lives are merely inconvenienced with thwarted plans while so many others around the world are suffering terribly. For those of you who don’t know, COVID took my mother in January 2021. For Mom, COVID was a merciful end to her advancing dementia but for the family, we lost a matriarch. The hardest part was that she had to die alone in her memory care facility after a life well-lived, largely serving others. So unfair.
But we continue adventuring, as Mom would have wanted, and in her memory.
We returned to Pazzo in Honolulu in February, 2021 after receiving two doses of the Pfizer vaccine in Seattle. At the time the vaccine roll-out was crawling along but we were full of hope that these amazing vaccines would “quickly” restore traveling to some sort of new normal. Little did we suspect that the Delta Variant would throw the world into another tailspin.
For about 6 months, Pazzo roamed the State of Hawaii, discovering new anchorages and re-visiting our favorite ones on Oahu, Molokai, Maui, and the Big Island. We thoroughly enjoyed time spent with our many friends in Honolulu, Kaneohe Bay, and Kona. Chloe and Kyra with B/F Jack, as well as Ken and Kathy Evans joined us (separately, thankfully) for sailing getaways around Oahu. Snorkeling with dolphins in Makua Bay was, of course, the main attraction but all of us appreciated the warm hospitality we found at both the Kaneohe and Waikiki Yacht Clubs.
Bill “Noodle” Leary showed me the countless details that go into brewing incredible pale ale at the Coconut Island Brewery. Issac Gillette was kind enough to show us the process of producing Kona’s amazing coffee, despite the recent soggy years in the hills above the seaside town of Kona. Pazzo spent a week in early April at the foul Keehi Marine Boatyard in Honolulu. Despite the filth, she splashed a gleaming beauty with fresh bottom paint and polished topsides. Huge thanks to Don and Sharry Stabbert who made their lovely condominium available to us during our haulout. If there’s one thing worse than living in a boatyard, it’s living in a filthy one.
In mid July, we secured permission from the French Maritime Authority for a “stop-over” in French Polynesia while we await a decision by New Zealand’s Ministry of Health on our application to enter New Zealand, despite their border closure. So, we topped up our diesel, propane, and provisions, threw a thank-you farewell party at the WYC, and sailed out of Honolulu on July 20, 2021.
The channel crossings leaving Oahu and Maui were both wet and wild affairs with plenty of adverse wind and waves. In Kona, we addressed a few leaks and took stock of the weather, including the enhanced trade winds that we’d be facing after sailing SE from Hawaii, and a couple of potential hurricanes brewing off Mexico. Well, 2 hurricanes turned into 3, then 4, then 5, each spaced about a week apart as we awaited a break to get southward across the paths of these storms. Finally, after waiting almost 3 weeks, storms 4 and 5 spread apart to allow a southeast course toward the safety of the equator. Hurricanes don’t haunt the equator.
We expected a 2-week beat or close-reach to Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas Island group of French Polynesia. Another COVID inconvenience: the French authorities closed all of their ports of entry except 3, Papeete (where DELTA was raging), Rikitea in the far east Gambier Islands, and Nuku Hiva in the difficult-to-reach Marquesas. We badly underestimated the difficulty of this passage in two respects. First, we didn’t anticipate the strong southerly winds along the southern edge of the ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone) AKA the doldrums. The confused and impossible conditions caused a halt in our progress as we hunkered down (Hove-to) for a night waiting for better conditions the following day. Second, we failed to allow for a day of very strong (4-knots!) NW setting equatorial current. We spent most of a day crabbing southward with our motor to get across this dastardly band of foul current. Short and steep waves that accompanied the headwinds south of the Equator added yet another day to what became a slow 17-day passage. We were relieved to arrive in rolly Taiohae Bay on the south coast of Nuku Hiva. Fresh Baguettes awaited.
Due to the officially closed borders in French Polynesia, we used an agent to help with our entry. With his help, our arrival and paperwork were all in good order for an easy official welcome. While en route, Delta had planted its nasty seeds in the Marquesas with 45 cases of infection on Nuku Hiva. We arrived to a night time curfew and talk of a possible confinement. Wow! Such rotten timing. The astute reader will note that in March 2020, we arrived in Hiva Oa (Marquesas) to an imminent lock-down Here we go again, although this time well-stocked with heart meds.
So, we spent only a few days resting and provisioning in Taiohae before making the short trip westward along the coast to Daniel’s Bay where we had the pleasure of meeting Earl and Diane on the Australian yacht, “Dunracin’”. Less rolly than Taiohae, beautiful Daniels Bay boasts a delightful though rigorous hike to the tallest waterfall in the South Pacific – 300 meters. Unfortunately, the geography of the narrow valley and steep cliffs precludes a view of the entire cascade in one eyeful. Nevertheless, Cindy scored some great shots of the natural wonder. Following our 4-hour round trip hike to the falls, we treated ourselves to a delicious Marquesan lunch at the “restaurant” home of Kua and Taike, a local family who call Daniel’s Bay home. Kua cooked marinated fish over an open fire, prepared a fresh green papaya salad, and made guava smoothies! Everything fresh from her garden and the sea. A delicious feast!
After a few days in Daniel’s bay, we set our fishing lines for a 25 mile sail south to the Island of Ua Pou. It had been such a long time since we caught a decent fish, we were first shocked, and then fumbled around a bit landing a 44lb Ono (Wahoo). Frequently, these guys are able to shake themselves off our barbless hooks, but this guy thoroughly swallowed our entire lure so he sealed his fate. OK, what do two skinny sailors with a full freezer do with such a big fish? Make friends in the next anchorage! After securing the boat and tidying up from our sail, we towed our catch to the concrete pier that serves as the social center of Hakahetau. The flock of children playing in the surging sea behind the pier came running to see the crazy Americans towing a large and highly prized fish behind their rubber dinghy. They were keen to help heft it out of the water… just before a 6-8’ shark who’d been following the scent made his move! We filleted half the fish, filled a few gallon-sized ziplock baggies for ourselves and the Spanish family aboard a 1968 Columbia 50 sharing the bay, and gave the rest of the fish to the children. An older girl whose father is a fisherman, finished the job of filleting, then partitioned the proceeds and sent a handful of children scurrying home with the evening meal. Big smiles all around!
In Hakahetau, one mustn’t miss a visit to Manfred the German chocolatier who lives a couple of miles up the valley. Through years of hard work, Manfred created his own garden of Eden beside a stream that feeds a picturesque waterfall down the valley. Manfred generously gave us a full tour of his “estate” which includes a few rough pools, coffee bushes, cocoa bushes, limes, pomplemousse, assorted vegetables, bananas, and a menagerie including dogs, cats, ducks, chickens, pigs, horses, and whoever else cares to live there. Power comes from a few solar panels which augment a home-made hydrogenerator consisting of a rudimentary paddle wheel driving an automotive alternator – elegant in its simplicity. But the main show is the Chocolate! Manfred won’t divulge a single detail about his chocolate factory but the product is exquisite. The bars are tightly wrapped in foil and must be refrigerated to prevent melting. Paper labels are “an un-necessary source of additional cost and garbage.” The flavor is written on the foil with a sharpie. Manfred was mum about his production numbers but we believe he makes thousands of bars annually for sale on Ua Pou and in Papeete where he has a 2nd production facility. After buying a dozen bars, we returned the following day to bring Manfred a nice hunk on Wahoo for his dinner.
After a leisurely 4-day visit to Ua Pou, we hauled our anchor on September 7 and set a course SW to the Tuomotus – exact destination unknown.