Happy People in Nuku Hiva

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After Tahuata Island, we sail to Nuku Hiva- the biggest Marquisan island (330 sq km) and the second largest in all of French Polynesia after Tahiti. Like all the other islands of the Marquesas hotspot, Nuku Hiva is a young volcano, between 4 million and 400 thousand-years-old, without a barrier coral reef formed around it yet. 400 thousand years make it a baby of an island in geological terms (the Caribbean islands, in contrast, are about 50 million-years-old). Its dramatic jagged pinnacles and strangely shaped volcanic peaks haven’t been made smooth by the effects of weather and time yet.

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Taiohae is the capital and most populated city in the Marquesas, which we decide to skip, and sail instead to two of the island’s most secluded bays.

The first one, Anaho Bay, is on the north side of the island, not far from the place where Robert Louis Stevenson- the author of Treasure Island– first landed on his voyage in 1888.  And Herman Melville  (author of Moby-Dick) wrote his first book Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life based on his experiences in Nuku Hiva.

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This is one of the most beautiful bays in Polynesia we have seen, with sandy beaches, palm trees, sharp rock formations and volcanic ridges in the background creating a dramatic breathtaking landscape.

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It takes us an hour to enter, slowly tacking in the deep bay, with the wind stopping completely at times, changing direction or suddenly descending accelerated from the mountains.

We spend there only a couple of days snorkeling, walking around the beach and looking for coconuts before sailing to Hakaui Bay on the south side, bringing a big yellowfin tuna with us. The waters around these most isolated South Pacific islands are rich with fish- catching large tunas, wahoos, dorados and marlins is not a rare exceptional event.

Once again we sail into the bay without turning on the engines, and drop anchor on sail. We are used to this now, after three years of practice.

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First, we slow down the boat by opening the sails (wind angle) or unclutching and letting out the main sheet completely if the wind is too strong, so that the mainsail catches lass wind. We choose the spot where we will drop the hook and slowly approach it. Ivo furls the jib quickly as we are close to the chosen spot and we turn towards the wind a few meters before we reach it. It takes some time before the boat stops completely. Maya drops the hook and we leave the mainsail up for a while so that the wind pushes it and the boat back- to set the anchor. Then we drop the mainsail. It’s almost the same like dropping anchor on engine, except that there is no margin for errors and maneuvering depends on the wind direction and force.

Here, we find once again our new friends from S/V Mercredi Soir and the German family with the two cute little girls aboard S/V Invictus and we share the big tuna with them aboard Fata Morgana- first of a series of epic parties.

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Hakaui Bay is a river delta and the staging point for hikers to the world’s third highest waterfall. Ivo and I take our awesome orange kayak for a spin, while Maya is in the dinghy with her friends Tom and Sam an hour behind us.

Entering the river from the sea is like entering a different world in the shadow of a green mountain. The kayak sliding silently, the river is dark and still. Large yellow flowers floating over their perfect reflections, a row of palm trees guarding the shores. We disturb a heron on the river bank and an eel beneath the water surface.

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The river flows slow, full and deep for a while until it reaches the garden of a small house and becomes shallow. We leave the kayak here attached to a tree. This land with all its fruit trees and large flowers, and this house surrounded by coconut palms, banana plants and shrubs with tiny red chili peppers belong to one family- an ever-smiling Polynesian woman, her over- hyper Polynesian man with tattooed face and their 12-years-old son.

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The path to Vaipo waterfall cuts through their property and they welcome hikers all the time, guiding them through the mountain, organizing dinners for cruisers and trading fruits.

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It’s late in the day and the path is muddy from the rain in the mountains so we, together with our friends, only hike to the first viewpoint from where we can see the waterfall- thin and tall- cascading down the mountain. To reach the waterfall, you need a guide, the path has to be dryer, and you have to start in the morning, as the hike is long and difficult. We are happy to see the fall from a distance and go back to talk some more with the extravagant locals at their river-farm.

Vaipo Waterfall

Vaipo Waterfall

The Marquesian people are closely and proudly related to the Maori people of New Zealand. In Polynesian mythology, their common ancestors come from Hawaiki – the original home of the Polynesian peoples. The Hawaiki people disperse across Polynesia, to the islands of the Pacific Ocean in open canoes, called waka. This is why even today the Maori and the islanders have so much in common- music, dancing, traditional tattoos, beliefs and mythology.

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The Polynesians are also the most welcoming people who meet strangers with open hearts and smiles on their faces, without prejudice or reservation. It is surprising to find such people after traveling halfway around the world and meeting all kinds of people- we didn’t believe they really exist- honest, open and warm, like happy children. They made us happy too.

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The crazy farmer and his wife are preparing dinner for a group of cruisers. Among them- the Muktuk Family with two boys born and raised on the boat- never lived on land. Their life is an epic never-ending adventure worth of a book.

The Muktuk kids

The Muktuk kids

All the ingredients the local farmers use for the cruisers’ dinner are stuff grown in their own garden or caught in their own backyard, which are the river, the ocean and the mountains. Fish and sea food prepared with fresh coconut milk, roasted chicken and goat meat marinated in fresh coconut milk, and a heartbreaking fruit salad containing unbelievable variety of local fruits soaked in fresh coconut milk.

These guys live off the grid in the most beautiful place on the planet. They have all sorts of fruits and vegetables in their huge garden right next to the river, they have coconuts which they use in all recipes and to make copra; they have pigs, goats, horses and chickens; they fish in the ocean and hunt wild boars and wild goats in the mountain; they organize traditional dinners at their house for cruisers for a few dollars; and they trade.

The next day we return for a visit bringing a few gifts for them and their son. They give us in return a bucket of pamplemousse – which are humongous super tasty grapefruits, piles of star fruits, coconuts, papayas and bananas which we pick from the trees ourselves. Stocked up with a mountain of fresh fruits, we are ready to sail again.

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We stage our crossing from the Marquesas to the blue atolls of the Tuamotu island group from Ua Pou- our last Marquisan Island.

Jilie and Lena S/V Invictus showing Maya the drawings they made for her.

Julie and Lena S/V Invictus showing Maya the drawings they made for her.

 

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*Watch our 12-minute YouTube video Off Grid in Nuku Hiva  – beautiful river delta and a waterfall, and meet our friends, the Muktuk kids, and the local Polynesian guy with face tattoo who lives in paradise. 

Find us on Facebook @The Life Nomadik
Support us on Patreon @The Life Nomadik
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Since you’re here …

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… we have a small favor to ask. More people than ever are regularly reading our stories, but far fewer are supporting us. We have no regular income. And unlike others, we haven’t made our content private – we want to keep posting free stories for everyone. So we think it’s fair to ask people who visit our blog often for their support. Our efforts to research, write and post pictures take a lot of time and hard work. And it’s even harder to do it from a boat with limited internet and electricity. But we do it because we believe our journey and way of life matters – because it might inspire you!

If you regularly read and value our hard work, consider becoming one of our patrons for as little as $1 or $5 dollars a month and help us in our future travels. Thank you!

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The Blue Hanamoenoa Bay in Tahuata

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Across from Hiva Oa, only 2.5 NM away, is Tahuata- the smallest of the inhabited islands in the Marquesas.

We sail to Hanamoenoa Bay- a pretty little bay just for cruisers with a nice glittering beach once visited by Captain Cook. The bay is shallow with white sand and warm, completely transparent turquoise water, like liquid glass. A few other boats are already here and a few more are coming behind us. It’s the time of the year when cruisers are crossing the Pacific Ocean and the Marquesian bays are full with arriving yachts.

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It has been months since we have last anchored in a bay of such clean warm water. I am trying to think… Las Perlas in Panama or San Blas? More than one year? We jump in as soon as we drop anchor and first thing’s first- Ivo starts scrubbing the hulls from all the nasty stuff – algae and barnacles- which have colonized the bottom of our Fata Morgana.

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The boat arriving shortly after us drops anchor and the guy jumps in the water with a spatula to clean the hulls too. EVERYONE with no exception comes to Hanamoenoa Bay on Tahuata to clean the hulls. Spontaneously, this place has become “the cleaning station” for all cruisers.

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While Ivo is busy working, Maya and I snorkel around. It’s such a pleasure to swim in 31C waters. There are a few corals near the rocky shores and colonies of tropical fish. But mostly the shallow bay is covered with white sand. Perfect holding for yachts. We swim to the beach.

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While Maya is joyfully playing with the waves I walk around. We heard that a really friendly guy named Steven lives here alone in a shack on that beach but he is not home. Maybe he gets really bored spending all his life on the beach with cruisers coming and going, so he went to visit his friends in the village further away. In any case, he didn’t come back the entire time we were in Tahuata.

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His house is just a basic wooden construction with open veranda raised from the ground about a meter. There is an outside table, a kitchen area with open fire, containers for storing water and other household stuff.

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There are also lots of fallen coconuts lying around. With a friend from Lithuania- Rugile sailing aboard S/V Moonshine, we decide to try and open a few. But these coconuts are Steven’s and he is not home. Maybe, he wouldn’t mind if we open a few, especially if we leave something in exchange? We bring canned beans and tomato paste which we leave on the property and with clear conscious we begin operation “Girls with Machetes”. Rugile hacks away pretty skillfully for a girl. Four of the big coconuts fill a 1.5L bottle. We stock up on delicious coconut water.

Rugile S/V Moonshine

Rugile S/V Moonshine

Tahuata bacame Maya’s favorite place in all of the Marquesas. Not only because the water is like a swimming pool and she spent more time in the water than outside the water- playing on the beach or snorkeling around, but also because here Maya met a couple of boat kids from Belgium- Tom and his sister Sam, cruising aboard a Catana catamaran Mercredi Soir.

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Here, we met another family aboard a 52 lagoon catamaran Invictus. With S/V Mercredi Soir (Belgium) and S/V Invictus (Germany) we became pretty inseparable and cruised together as a community from one island to the next, sharing fun and beautiful moments and helping each other in times of need.

Maya

Maya

Here, we also met for the first time S/V Moby and S/V Excalibur- two cruising families from France. We became good friends with them too and kept meeting them here and there on the Polynesian islands all the way to New Zealand.

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We shared our most beautiful memories of the South Pacific with our friends- stories and adventures in beautiful places I can’t wait to tell you about.

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tahuata*Watch our 10-minute YouTube video The Girl With The Machete in Tahuata for more beautiful views of the Hanamoenoa Bay and our time there snorkeling, playing on the beach, jumping from the rocks and KILLING COCONUTS WITH MACHETES!

Find us on Facebook @The Life Nomadik
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Since you’re here …

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… we have a small favor to ask. More people than ever are regularly reading our stories, but far fewer are supporting us. We have no regular income. And unlike others, we haven’t made our content private – we want to keep posting free stories for everyone. So we think it’s fair to ask people who visit our blog often for their support. Our efforts to research, write and post pictures take a lot of time and hard work. And it’s even harder to do it from a boat with limited internet and electricity. But we do it because we believe our journey and way of life matters – because it might inspire you!

If you regularly read and value our hard work, consider becoming one of our patrons for as little as $1 or $5 dollars a month and help us in our future travels. Thank you!

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Checking-In in Hiva’Oa. The Island of Paul Gauguin

Atuona Bay, Hiva'Oa

Atuona Bay, Hiva’Oa

From Fatu Hiva we sail to the next Marquesian island some 45 nautical miles away- Hiva Oa.

Hiva Oa is one of the largest and most populated islands in the Marquesas, and the Port of Atuona is one of the official ports of entry for yachts and ships. Here we check-in officially in French Polynesia. The checking-in procedure for French Polynesia is different for different people. If you are traveling with a European passport- it’s free to check in at the local Police station and you can stay 6 months (or forever if you are French). You go to the local Gendarmerie with your passport and boat papers and you sign a form- it takes 15 minutes.

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If you are traveling with Canadian, American, South African and other not so lucky passports- you have a few options: to pay a deposit at the bank (which will be returned to you months later when you leave French Polynesia; payable ONLY by credit card) and show that you have funds (around US$5,000 for a family of three) in case something happens to you and you have to be put on a plane and flown out of the country; or you have to show that you have bought a return airplane ticket- even if you are sailing with a yacht; or you have to hire an agent who will become your guarantor. Americans and Canadians can stay for maximum 3 months, while South Africans- 2 weeks only!

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You lose money in all cases. In the first one (security deposit)- you lose mainly from the money exchange fees and bank fees (over US$150, depending on money exchange rates at the time of the transactions). In the second option, if you buy a ticket for a plane- you can cancel and refund it right after you check-in with a cancellation fee (this is the cheapest option- about US$20-25 cancellation fee). If you hire an agent- you have to pay US$300 for his service and you have to have a valid health insurance.

Aranui

Aranui

Ivo and I are born in Bulgaria (Europe) and Maya is born in Canada, but our Bulgarian passports have expired and we couldn’t renew them, because there were no Bulgarian embassies nowhere on our way. We tried in Panama- at the Bulgarian Consulate, but they don’t have passport service there- so no luck. We are traveling with our Canadian passports.

The guy at the Police station in Atuona tells us, that they cannot recognize our European citizenship which we have by birth right, unless we present a valid European passport (not expired). So we need to go to the bank and pay a deposit, buy a plane ticket or hire an agent.

Our ordeal begins. We start going between the bank, the police and the agent; friends are trying to help us with the many issues that come up.

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At one point, about two weeks later (still not checked-in), I ask at the Police station what will happen if we don’t check-in at all and keep sailing from island to island? Will they arrest us, confiscate our boat? Put us in jail? – No, says the police officer, I don’t know what will happen…

Nothing will happen, most probably. Later we met a couple from the United States who have never checked in and have remained for three years in French Polynesia planning to stay for at least two more.

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Finally our only option is to hire and agent. But we don’t have health insurance. So we get DiverDAN for the family- recommended cheapest option. And we pay the agent fee which is killing us… For a second time we regret not having valid Bulgarian passports- the first time was in Colombia.

More than two weeks after our arrival, we are finally legally checked-in and free to keep sailing and exploring the rest of the islands and atolls of the South Pacific.

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We use our time while stuck on Hiva’Oa to walk around the island and chill.

We hitchhike from the port to the village almost every day. Everywhere in French Polynesia hitchhiking is the best, fastest and free way to go from one place to another (if the island is big enough to have roads). Friendly people on all of the bigger islands gave us rides all the time.

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In the village of Atuona, we marvel at some awesome sacred wood and stone  carvings called tikis. Tiki in Maori and Polynesian mythology, is The First Man- half human half god- created by god Tumatauenga.

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Tikis are protective statues considered the “patron of sculptors”, with huge head, symbolizing power and big eyes representing knowledge. Every tiki has its own personality- some are evil, others are benevolent.

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Tiki is a powerful icon of Polynesian culture, symbolizing spiritual strength, and visitors of the islands buy small tiki figurines or pendants as souvenirs- to protect them in their journey.

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The largest ancient tiki ever discovered is on the island of Hiva’Oa in the Bay of Oipona Puamau.

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The Moai- monumental stone statues on Easter Islands- is a variant of the Tiki.

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As we walk around Atuona marveling at the majestic scenery all around us, we hear music- wild rhythms that make you want to start jumping and dancing around the fire. The kids in the local school are practicing for a school celebration and they let us watch. This is our first glimpse of Polynesian dance and music- savage, sexy and full of stories.

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How awesome is that these kids get to learn to play the drums and belly dance in school since age 5!

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A short hike away through the outskirts of the village at the foot of the volcano is the old cemetery.

Old cemetery, Hiva'Oa

Old cemetery, Hiva’Oa

But another cemetery attracts far more visitors.

Paul Gauguin's grave on Hiva'Oa

Paul Gauguin’s grave on Hiva’Oa

On a hill overlooking the bay is the grave of post-impressionist painter Paul Gauguin. Calvary cemetery  has become a major tourist attraction, besides the Gauguin Museum down in the village with reproductions of his paintings. All tourists coming here climb the hill in heat or rain to pay homage to the famous painter who “escaped western influences” and returned to nature to find paradise lost. Yet, the locals are not too sure about Gauguin and his legacy. What were this French man true motives to buy a house and live in Hiva’Oa?

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The Marquesan islands became famous shortly after their discovery by early European explorers as “haven of free love”. The islanders’ unique culture and way of life included a very different attitude towards sexuality. Children and parents shared quarters and it was OK for kids to witness their parents having intercourse. The adults even found it amusing and funny when children simulated sexual acts, and encourage them to do so from very early age. This explains why European ships were met with swarms of young girls, for whom virginity or chastity was not a social construct, climbing aboard to have sex with the sailors. It also explains why a middle-aged painter whose many Marquesan lovers were barely adult girls, died of syphilis in 1903.

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.*Watch our 10-minute YouTube video More Sushi in Hiva’Oa for more stories from the island- meeting a guitar maker, the arrival of Aranui, looking for an ancient petroglyph in the forest and sharing some MORE SUSHI with friends!

Find us on Facebook @The Life Nomadik
Support us on Patreon @The Life Nomadik
Watch us on YouTube @Fata Morgana


Since you’re here …

.

… we have a small favor to ask. More people than ever are regularly reading our stories, but far fewer are supporting us. We have no regular income. And unlike others, we haven’t made our content private – we want to keep posting free stories for everyone. So we think it’s fair to ask people who visit our blog often for their support. Our efforts to research, write and post pictures take a lot of time and hard work. And it’s even harder to do it from a boat with limited internet and electricity. But we do it because we believe our journey and way of life matters – because it might inspire you!

If you regularly read and value our hard work, consider becoming one of our patrons for as little as $1 or $5 dollars a month and help us in our future travels. Thank you!


 

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Back to Nature in Fatu Hiva

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We sailed 3000 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean.
Our average speed- about 5-6 kts- the speed you have when you go jogging casually in the morning. We honestly thought that upon our arrival in the first of the Polynesian islands, we will have “crossed the ocean”. Not really.

After 23 days of uneventful sailing, a few squalls, too much sushi, and the most spectacular sunsets, we arrive in the middle of the ocean- a tiny speck of land that you can’t even see on the map without a magnifying glass. Fatu Hiva- the first land on the path of sailors doing the Pacific Crossing from Galapagos- a place beyond reality.

Bay of Virgins, Fatu Hiva

Bay of Virgins, Fatu Hiva

We arrive at night and drop anchor between few other sleeping boats in the Bay of Virgins. The moon is full and bright and we can make out silhouettes of tall cliffs all around us. The smell of flowers and green earth. For the first time in almost a month we sleep at anchor, the boat still, land right next to us.

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In the morning we wake up in the shadow of a strange Jurassic world. Maya says it looks like the Khajiit Realm from her favorite game- Skyrim. The Khajiits are cat people who live in a place called Elsewhere and their king has three sons who are the three moons of this magical world. Fatu Hiva is much like Elsewhere of the Khajiits.

Jagged cliffs of frozen magma plunging into the sea; jungle-covered mountains bathed in pink morning mist rising over a thousand meters; soft folds of green valleys carved by rivers and ancient waterfalls.

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We won’t be surprised if a bunch of dinosaurs pop up from the forest. Actually, a velociraptor just swooped over the palm trees and we saw King Kong climbing up the cliffs on the west side of the bay!

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Right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 12 degrees south of the equator, Fatu Hiva is the southernmost island of the Marquesas island group at the north-eastern extremity of French Polynesia, and the most isolated one. It is only 85 square kilometers in territory with two small villages of a few hundred people and there is no airport. The island is accessible only by boat and tourism is virtually non-existent and limited mainly to cruisers, like us.

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We jump in our three-person awesome kayak and paddle to shore. Land feels strangely new and shaky. It’s hard to keep the balance. Our knees are startled. Our joints awake with disbelief. Our legs are utterly surprised at the forgotten act of walking.

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The dry warm air full of exotic smells is overwhelming.

The village near the bay is but a cluster of a few neat houses almost hidden behind drifts of bougainvillea and hibiscus. Lush gardens with papaya, banana and palm trees, large flowers the color of fire. Pigs, goats and chickens looking at the ground in search of goodies, a sleepy dog walking aimlessly under the bright tropical sun.

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The first Polynesian we meet is a woman sitting on a low concrete fence near the road. She looks like a mixture of Latin-American and Asian race, yet distinctly particular for the Marquisan islands. Dark long very thick hair, a large red flower behind the left ear, she smiles “Bonjour, bienvenues a Polynesie Francaise!” and asks us if we have some perfumes or makeup to exchange for fruits from her garden. Her French has a distinctive islanders’ accent. On these remote Pacific islands with small populations and no shops, where all goods arrive by boat a few times a year, people need all sorts of things, so easily obtained in continental countries. Anything basic- from makeup, clothes, household objects, food and spices- is difficult and expensive to get, and cruisers are always welcome to trade whatever they can spare in exchange for local fruits, vegetables and fish. But we didn’t bring anything to trade.

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We keep walking up a steep road looking for a small waterfall in the forest. Right before we left the boat, a fellow cruiser told us how to find the waterfall. You take the main road and walk up until you reach a curve. Keep walking on the path to your left, past the school and the bridge, through the forest. The path will get narrow and steep and difficult at places. You can’t get lost.

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We got lost. We keep walking on the road up the mountain under the burning sun and it feels the wrong way. There is absolutely no one to ask if we are on the right way to the waterfall. Maya is tired, complaining that her legs hurt. My legs hurt too, and the pain is intense- it has been 23 days of sitting on our butts most of the time and zero walking.

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We reach the top of the hill overlooking the village and the Bay of Virgins. Fata Morgana and her friends look like toy-boats in a calm blue lake below us. The view is spectacular. White birds with long tails like bridal veils soaring among majestic cathedral-like volcanic pinnacles gathering clouds in their crowns, dramatically shaped red and grey cliffs, lush green forests and valleys, and beyond- the endless blue of the ocean.

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Here, in 1937, Norwegian explorer and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl and his wife found paradise. Here, they lead for one year and a half “a primitive life in the wilderness, away from the artificial civilization, independent of everything except nature”, as he wrote in his book “Fatu-Hiva: Back to Nature”- an experience for which I envy them.

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To our left, far in the distance on the opposite side of the mountain we spot the waterfall. We have been walking away from it for the past one hour and a half but the view from this hill is worth the detour. And now we have a better idea where it is. We go back down and meet an old guy walking next to an old horse carrying heavy bags full of dried coconuts. He tells us how to find the way.

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An hour later and one more time getting lost this time in some farmlands, we are finally on the right path.

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It has been a wild dream to see this place, to walk among a jungle full of flowers, to reach the waterfall. And now we are here. Bathing in the cool sweet waters of the deep green pool of our dreams.

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There are not so many places left in the world- awe-inspiring places of extreme natural beauty, unspoiled by civilization and mass tourism like the remote island Fatu Hiva and its elusive waterfall.

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*Watch our 10-minute YouTube video Fatu Hiva- Back To Nature for amazing views of the island and the waterfall!

Find us on Facebook @The Life Nomadik
Support us on Patreon @The Life Nomadik
Watch us on YouTube @Fata Morgana

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Pacific Ocean Passage Days 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 & 23

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Pacific Ocean Passage Day 1
Pacific Ocean Passage Day 2, 3 & 4
Pacific Ocean Passage Day 5, 6, 7 & 8
Pacific Ocean Passage Day 9, 10, 11 & 12
Pacific Ocean Passage Day 13, 14, 15, 16 & 17

Day 18

May 15, 2016 – S 09 21’ 50’’ W 127 05’ 28’’ Dist to Dest 690 NM, GPS heading 265, wind E8-10 kts, cloudy, air temp 28 C

Very calm sea. Slow progress with 3-4 kts. No fish.

I cook potatoes with corned beef for lunch. We wish we had some fresh fruits and vegetables. Some fresh meet. Almost nothing left to eat, except canned and dried foods. Most of the 100 eggs we got in Galapagos have gone bad, even though I kept them in the fridge. I think, half were already bad when we bought them. Who knows how long they have been traveling before reaching the small stuffed shop on Isabela Island. The fresh stuff finished after about 10 days of sailing, except the potatoes. We love potatoes. But they are starting to go bad too- soft, wrinkly, with dark spots and some stink like hell- these go in the ocean.

Cabbage, carrots and onions keep the longest, as well as apples and oranges. In the fridge, they can easily last for over a month, but outside the fridge, when the air temperature is 30 C day and night- couple of weeks is the max. Too bad there is not enough space for all fresh provisions in the fridge. Our boat fridge is not the same as your fridge at home. Our boat fridge is a box half the size of normal fridges and you have to open it horizontally. If you need to take out something from the fridge (like a block of cheese), you have to remove all the stuff that’s on top (like cartons with eggs, bottles, salads, tomatoes, open jars with olives or strawberry jam) to reach the thing that you need on the bottom. Because the thing that you need is always at the bottom of the fridge.

Good thing we have tons of flour- I make pretty good bread.

No fish.

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Day 19

May 16, 2016 – S 09 27’45’’ W 129 03’42’’ Dist to Dest 573 NM, GPS heading 265, wind E8-10 kts, a few clouds, air temp 28 C

Another beautiful night with bright moon. Calm sailing. It’s getting too hot.

Ivo pulled out a nice tuna! Sushi is once again on the menu today! And tomorrow…

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It feels kind of lonely in the middle of the ocean, yet, we are never alone. We’ve been seeing birds- day and sometimes even at night- almost every day of this passage. We thought there will be no birds in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but there are. Not many- just one or two at a time. And they don’t seem lost or tired. They fly low, looking for fish, or float on the water and rest; they even come to check us out with curiosity before flying away to wherever they are going.

Even when there are no birds in sight, we know the sea beneath us is alive with creatures. Dolphins come up for air every now and then and play around the boat, even whales occasionally. Entire schools of flying fish suddenly emerge with panic from the sea surface all around the boat. They fly in long curves sometimes up to a meter high like huge dragonflies making helicopter sounds and splash with tiny belly flaps as they enter the sea again. We find dead flying fish and squid all dried up on the deck almost every morning. And then there are all the fish and other sea creature which we never see but we know they are there, right under the boat- fishes of all kinds and sizes, and sharks too. Deep underneath us.

Hostile environment in which humans are unable to survive, the sea is vastly unexplored. It’s unnatural for people to be in the sea- we need air and land. Yet, here we are.

Day after day- in the sea.

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Day 20

May 17, 2016 – S 09 45’09’’ W 130n52’47’’ Dist to Dest 464 NM, GPS heading 260, wind E6-8 kts, clear, air temp 28 C

Slowest progress since the beginning. It has been 19 days. Alone in the ocean. With only birds and sea creatures around us.

We’ve been moving the watch adding an hour every few days a few times already.

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It somehow doesn’t feel like we’ve been moving at all, or going somewhere. Not because of the slow speed. It’s as if we are staying in one spot- at the center of a big blue never-changing circle defined by the horizon. Never getting closer to or further from anywhere.

The blue circle around us doesn’t move; remains the same day after day. Sometimes it feels as if the Galapagos Islands are just behind the eastern horizon, and it was yesterday we last saw them. Or that the Marquesas Islands are just behind the western horizon and we will spot them any minute now. And sometimes it feels like there are no islands at all and we are sailing forever on a planet made entirely by oceans. We have lost the sense of time and distance.

Imagine… Some things are hard to imagine- watching out of a window of a slow-moving train crossing an endless desert.

If it’s not the GPS to determine our position on the chart, we would be completely confused about time and space.

The art of determining your exact position by looking at the stars have been almost entirely lost our days. And many other arts… The connection Man-Nature has been replaced by Man-Technology, and sailing has become so much easier, but also- we have become so much more dependable on gadgets that can break any minute.

Maya finally finished her math book and all 23 tests at the end- a huge accomplishment! It’s been two years of torture with this thick boring math book we got in Trinidad and Tobago and now it’s finished. No math for Maya for the next few weeks.

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Day 21

May 18, 2016 – S 10 02’37’’ W 133 05’40’’ Dist to Dest 332 NM, GPS heading 265, wind ENE 12-14 kts, clear, air temp 29 C

Good progress with 5-6 kts and smooth sailing. Spinnaker day and night.

We are washing the boat, cleaning, doing laundry (by hand in the big orange buckets). Our freshwater tanks hold 800L and the Catalina MK II Spectra Watermaker desalinates 42L drinkable water per hour. We keep the water tanks half full in order to reduce the weight on the front, but we still have enough water for cleaning, washing and showers. The solar panels produce enough electricity for the watermarker and all other electronics aboard, so we haven’t used the engines at all, not for a single second.

Last time we used the engines was in Galapagos, during the tsunami alert. There was a major earthquake in Ecuador- about 500NM away and we had a tsunami warning just after sunset one evening, so we had to evacuate the anchorage in a hurry with all the rest of the boats- about 20-30 vessels of all sorts- and wait for a few hours in deeper waters away from land. The tsunami never reached us, or was so insignificant, that we didn’t feel it, so we all motored back to the anchorage, and went to bed. That’s the last time we used the engines.

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Day 22

May 19, 2016 – S 10 21’07’’ W 135 11’38’’ Dist to Dest 207 NM, GPS heading 270, wind ENE 14-16 kts, cloudy, air temp 29 C

We are getting really close to the Marquesas, it’s exciting.

Six squalls one after another. We call it “the squall tournament”. They are not too strong and now we have the beer crates ready, so we are not worried.

After the “big squall”, we attached long ropes to the two yellow plastic beer crates we got in Galapagos- big and sturdy , for 1-litre bottles- and we used them as drogues deployed from the stern in strong wind and waves to prevent surfing and stabilize the boat. We prepared them after the big squall a few days ago and we tried them already in one squall. They perform amazingly. I wish we had them ready earlier.

It’s extremely hot. Suffocating. The thermometer reached 31 C. it’s not much cooler at night. We are cooling ourselves pouring buckets of seawater on our heads.

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Day 23

May 20, 2016 – S 10 26’52’’ W 137 56’08’’ Dist to Dest 44 NM, GPS heading 275, wind E6-8 kts, cloudy, air temp 30 C

At noon, there are only 44 nautical miles left to the first island of the Marquesas.

A strange thing is happening with the three of us. We are kind of nostalgic, rather than excited. Instead of happy and ecstatic, we feel profoundly sad and reluctant at the thought of land and civilization. Maya even cried a tiny little bit. We wish we could just keep sailing. Maybe there is some scientific explanation for this unusual psychological state of mind.

Ivo pulled out another tuna. Two others got away.

The wind is dying out. We are slowing down. We can see a mysterious, almost transparent silhouette of an island slowly emerging from the western horizon. Our perfect blue circle has suddenly changed to become a diamond ring. We are staring at Fatu Hiva shining not too far away.

Sunset. We will arrive at night.

In a place beyond reality.

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Pacific ocean Passage. Days 13, 14, 15, 16 &17

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Pacific Ocean Passage Day 1
Pacific Ocean Passage Day 2, 3 & 4
Pacific Ocean Passage Day 5, 6, 7 & 8
Pacific Ocean Passage Day 9, 10, 11 & 12

Day 13

May 10, 2016 – S 07 55’40’’ W 115 40’34’’ Dist to Dest 1373 NM, GPS heading 245, wind ESE 16-22kts, clear, air temp 26 C

We are in the middle! Maya released the bottle with the messages (in four languages) shaped as a scroll wrapped in a fake 100-dollar bill to attract attention, in case someone finds the bottle and decides not to open it.

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The wind and waves have picked up a lot. We are sailing with 7-8 kts. It’s bumpy now with 4-meter waves and it’s getting uncomfortable.

When it’s bumpy and you try to sleep, bouncing up and down in your bed, you wake up and your whole body hurts and it feels bruised, as if you have been in a fight, and lost. I can’t sleep well in bad weather; I wake up with panic at every sound and I tend to dream a lot if I fall asleep at all. There is so much happening and so many people visiting me in my dreams; I wake up exhausted.

When it’s bumpy and you try to cook, you have to be really careful not to spill things or cut yourself, as the whole galley becomes alive and everything is in motion- the dishes, the food, the stove. Making soup or anything liquidy is impossible and ridiculous. Even poring water in a glass is a challenge. Once, an entire bottle of oil fell down and the floor became deadly for a long time.

When it’s bumpy and you try to go to the toiled, you have to be really careful and skillful too, or you might hurt yourself. I have developed a strategy. First, I stand outside the tiny toilet with my back propped on the wall opposite the open door. Now, with both my hands, which until this moment I have used for holding on while walking towards the toilet (you can’t stand up or move around freely on a shaky boat without holding on to something), I pull down my pants without falling. With my pants down, I use my hands for holding on again, and I make the step inside the toilet. I flush while I am still sitting (we have two electrical toilets and flushing is easy enough with a push of a button), and I step outside to pull my pants up with my back to the wall again.

Ivo decided to restart the Iridium Go Satellite and now it works just fine! We can finally not only receive but also send messages!

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Day 14

May 11, 2016 – S 09 01’54’’ W 118 18’32’’ Dist to Dest 1210 NM, GPS heading 230, wind E 20-30kts, cloudy, air temp 27, barometer dropping

The wind picked up even more and worse is predicted for tomorrow. The waves have built up and are coming from all directions. The main is reefed and we are moving with only 6 kts.
Squalls. Gusts to 32 kts. I am scared. In such moments I think I should stop sailing.

The sky is dark, covered in thick low clouds and there is a strange glow in the distance- some orange-pink light. Looks like fire on the water. Could be some opening through the clouds and the sun playing tricks on the sea, but I don’t know…

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Day 15

May 12, 2016 – S 10 11’57’’ W 120 36’54’’ Dist to Dest 1068 NM, GPS heading 275, wind E 20-26kts, cloudy, air temp 26

We are tired. Didn’t sleep much last night and the night before. The sea keeps building up; we are kind of used to the constant movement now.

At 05:00, still dark, a squall hits us with 40 kt winds and rain. We ride it with the main and jib reefed. The waves are huge- they are the scary part. The autopilot fails and Ivo is hand steering through the shit. A few times he thinks the boat will turn over and cannot hold her. Surfing with 12 kts.

The boat is too heavy on the front. It’s filled with books. Hundreds of books, which I couldn’t throw away (because I love them too much- pathetic) and we are carrying them around the world like idiots for four years now. And now we are in big trouble. When the boat is heavy on the front and the waves and wind are pushing from the back, the bow could dive under the water and we could turtle. We need something to stop us from surfing and going so fast, like a drogue or sea anchor, but we don’t have anything.

We decide to drop the main and leave just a bit of the jib out. But this means turning against the wind and waves quickly. Big waves, as big as the boat. We do that successfully.

I send messages to Mel and Krisha with our position, in case of search and rescue. 40 knots wind for one hour is not a huge deal, but for me is supper scary and seams like a deadly storm. For a more experienced sailor 40 kts is “a fresh breeze”.

One hour later, the storm has passed. Sunrise. We are OK. Ivo is fixing the autopilot.

Squalls all the rest of the day, but nothing over 25-30kts. We prepare two big plastic yellow beer crates we got in Galapagos (now empty) attached to long ropes and we use them as drogues in the next squall. They work perfectly, stabilizing the boat and prevent surfing. Now it feels much safer.

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Day 16

May 13, 2016 – S 09 22’58’’ W 122 35’33’’ Dist to Dest 955 NM, GPS heading 305, wind E 16-20kts, clear, air temp 26 C

A fishing boat 11 NM north! Yahatamaru. GPS heading 182. We are not alone for a few minutes!

Finally smooth sea and gentle slow sail. Spinnaker is up again. (It took a while to lift it, but we are getting the hang of it.)

Ivo and Maya are fixing the old jib (16-years old, original sail), which got another 40 cm gash during the big squall. This is the eightieth time we are fixing the jib since we got the boat so the sail looks like an abstract quilt now- patches all over it. Definitely need a new jib.

Another day in the Pacific.

We need fish again.

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Day 17

May 14, 2016 – S 09 23’22’’ W 124 36’13’’ Dist to Dest 836 NM, GPS heading 265, wind E8-10 kts, cloudy, air temp 27 C

Ivo slept all night, exhausted after the storm and squalls and bad weather in the past few days.

I stay behind the wheel trying to remain awake for 6 hours. I don’t mind staying awake; I just don’t want any more storms and squalls. We are moving slowly, the wind is calm and that’s OK.

The night is spectacular. Tiny organisms explode with green light around the boat and in the foam behind it, flickering magically among the reflections of billion stars. We are in space, suspended in the center of a black glass sphere filling with bioluminescence, when you shake it gently.

The moon in this liquid universe is bright and friendly. When the moon is round and big like that it feels like there is someone watching over you and you are not alone. The moon is also the saddest most tragic of faces I’ve known. I have always talked to the moon, since I was a kid and my dad was away on a big cargo ship for a long time, somewhere on the other side of the Black Sea. I used to send messages to the moon and she would relate them to him. That’s how we used to communicate, me and my dad. With the help of the moon. That’s how we still communicate, me and my dad, now that he is no longer with us…

“Tell him, that I miss him…”

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DAY 18
To be continued…

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Pacific Ocean Passage Days 9, 10, 11&12

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Pacific Ocean Passage Day 1
Pacific Ocean Passage Day 2, 3 & 4
Pacific Ocean Passage Day 5,6,7 & 8

Day 9

May 6, 2016 –S06 26’28’’ W 105 43’06’’ Dist to Dest 1974 NM, GPS heading 260, wind ESE 12-14kts, few clouds, air temp 27 C

One third of the way!

We are now time-traveling, going back in the past.

2012 nautical miles to destination- the year we left Canada and started this journey around the world.
2003 NM to destination- the year Maya was born. It was a rainy afternoon and she came out all purple and hairy- the most beautiful thing!
2001 NM to destination – terrorist attacks in USA.
2000 NM to destination – the year we left Bulgaria.
1997 NM to destination – the year Vik was born. Our son. We miss him so much…
1994 NM to destination – the year Ivo and I met.
1989 NM to destination – the year Bulgaria stopped being communist.
1976 NM to destination – the year Ivo and I were born.
1944 NM to destination – Second World War

We will keep counting nautical miles through, the Russian Revolution, the French Revolution, the industrial revolution, the middle ages, the foundation of Bulgaria, all the way back to the beginning of time- our destination.

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Ivo is trying to hoist the spinnaker. We got it second hand from a loft of a marine shop in Martinique two years ago for 150 Euro. We tried to bargain down the price- it’s a second hand undersized spinnaker. A new spinnaker can cost a few thousand dollars and the guy at the loft knows that. He is laughing at our bargaining attempts. We won’t ever find a better price for a spinnaker. So we bought it.

It’s the second time Ivo is trying to hoist the spinnaker, which is very particular and can only be used in specific weather conditions: when the wind is behind you and is not too strong. In such conditions, it’s hard, sometimes even impossible to use the jib and mainsail. So that’s when you need the spinnaker. The spinnaker is made of very fine light material, it’s big and colorful (ours is yellow and blue and has one 15×20 cm patch), and looks like a parachute – catching a lot of wind. If the wind shifts from the side, the spinnaker will collapse, as it can only be filled from behind. If the wind is too strong- the spinnaker will explode, or burst and tear, as it is made of very thin fabric and cannot take a hard blow. But in light winds from behind, which are the prevailing trades in the Pacific when sailing west, the spinnaker is the ideal sail, especially for a catamaran.

Ivo has to figure out how to hoist it. The thing is in a sleeve and has to be pulled all the way up to the top of the mast, and two ropes are spreading it on the sides. It’s a three-people job. One pulling up, the other two cranking the side winches. But the whole operation is a big epic fail. The ropes are all messed up, the thing is twisting at the top inside the sleeve and will not open, Ivo is bitching, trying to blame Maya and me for everything. No one ever showed him how to hoist a spinnaker, so he has to figure it out by himself and this will take some time. So no spinnaker. Gloom.

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Day 10

May 7, 2016 –S 06 49’12’’ W108 00’ 40’’ Dist to Dest 1835 NM, GPS heading 260, wind ESE 16-20kts, clear, air temp 27 C

The wind is picking up a bit. We tried the spinnaker again. It took us half an hour to finally hoist it with lots of drama again. We are screaming at each other, accusing each other, offending each other not even caring if the neighbors will hear us. I truly hate this fucking sail. I am planning to secretly cut it in shreds with the scissors.

We lost another lure. No sushi on the menu for the first time since days. We celebrate this event with baked potatoes and sausages with Galapagos beers. Chocolate muffins and orange sunset for dessert.

Ivo and I are sitting on the trampoline staring at the western horizon and laughing at how much we hated each other a few minutes ago. Maya thinks we are crazy.

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Day 11

May 8, 2016 –S 07 06’ 56’’ W110 24’ 37’’, Dist to Dest 1691 NM, GPS heading 260, wind ESE 16-20kts, clear, air temp 27 C

Smooth sailing and another calm night. I slept all night in our cabin, while Ivo slept all night in the cockpit, checking the electronics and sails every now and then. He has moved out in the cockpit since the start of this passage and has furnished the long bench with pillows and blankets – made a cozy bunk for himself.

To imagine sailing at night- imagine driving a car (a convertible; slowly and on cruise control) in a vast, uneven, bumpy field, in complete silence and in complete darkness, with no headlights or any other lights. And the field is soft, reflecting the stars, smelling of seaweed.

In the afternoon we pull out a beautiful mahi-mahi or dorado or dolphin- all names used for the same golden-green-and-blue slender fish of white juicy flesh- our favorite. Maya, who didn’t like fish at all, is now eating grilled tuna and breaded dorado and loving it!

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Day 12

May 9, 2016 – S 07 27’ 37’’ W 113 00’ 20’’ Dist to Dest 1535 NM, GPS heading 260, wind ESE 16-20kts, clear, air temp 26 C

Approaching the middle.

Maya is preparing a message in a bottle in the four languages she knows: English, French, Spanish and Bulgarian. The message is to be released in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and to be found on the shores of any English, French, Spanish or Bulgarian-speaking country. The release is scheduled for when we reach 1500 NM to destination, which is not at all the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but rather- the middle of the passage between Galapagos and Marquesas. Actually, when we reach the Marquesas we will be in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with a few more thousand nautical miles to go before we actually cross it. But for us, 1500 NM to destination represents The Middle right now and the message in a bottle will then be released, as it is the custom. Considering that oceanic currents pick up trash and debris from the east coast of Asia and west coast of the Americas to bring them in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean where they swirl eternally in a big garbage gyre, there is less chance our message in a bottle to ever reach any shore and more chance our message in a bottle to get stuck in a big garbage patch. There, in the huge vortex of trash- as big as a continent- swirling and swirling among fishing nets, Coca-Cola bottles, left flip-flops, milk crates, kids’ toys, and old fridges are probably millions upon millions of messages in bottles- a whole library of friendly notes and desperate calls for help- stuck forever, swirling and swirling, round and round, bumping into each other, never to be found, never to be read. I will name this gyre of millions of messages in bottles: The Pacific Ocean Message-in-a-Bottle Vortex.

We watch Werner Herzog’s Encounter’s at The End of The World. It’s an awesome surreal documentary about Antarctica- very intimate interviews with people who are stationed on the frozen continent for months to do all sorts of works- scientific and maintenance. Herzog is our favorite film director and we’ve seen most of his films- documentaries and fiction. He even has a film named Fata Morgana. We are also reading a great National Geographic-type of book about Antarctica, and now Maya is dreaming of going there some day. Maybe not with Fata Morgana. But Antarctica is definitely on Maya’s Bucket List.

It’s fascinating what kind of dreams people have, especially people who are living their dreams, like people sailing around the world for example. You would think that such people- those who have visited tropical islands, have tasted exotic coconut crabs, have met indigenous people and entered caves with them, who have observed anteaters in the jungles of Costa Rica- are all set and there is nothing more they would want from this life. But this is not the case. Such people- those who have traveled across Africa by train, those who have crossed Mexico by bicycles, those who have awoken in a rice field in India surrounded by hundreds of people squatting silently around their tent- have plans and dreams just like regular folks.

Our friend Rainheart for example, who has toured Europe, Africa, Australia and Asia on a motorbike (kids in Sofia stole his motorbike, so he has rather bad memories from Bulgaria) and is currently sailing around the world on a 40-foot catamaran S/V Runaway (that’s how we met him in Galapagos) is dreaming of –planning to – visit the moon. ASAP. This might sound insane to you but so are most of the things and places Rainharth has already done and visited! Just wait and watch! Watch towards the moon, and one of these days you might see a big smile shining down on you.
Dreams must be flamboyant.

We had to drink wine in order to have a bottle for the message.

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DAY 13
To be continued…

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Pacific Ocean Passage- Days 5, 6, 7 & 8

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Pacific Ocean Passage Day 1
Pacific Ocean Passage Day 2, 3 & 4

DAY 5

May 2, 2016 –S 04 29’24” W095 55’23’’ – Dist to Dest 2572NM, GPS heading 245, wind ESE 10-16 kts, clouds, air temp 26C

The wind is picking up and we are making better progress with 6kts speed, the jib and mainsail on a broad reach. We headed more south the first couple of days and now we are sailing west. The seawater temperature is rising. The nights no longer cool and humid.

We had a few hours of stronger winds- over 20 kts doing 7-8 kts speed with bumpy sea. During that faster sail we hooked a heavy fish. Panic on board. Ivo holding the fishing pole and fighting with the beast; Maya and I handling sails and boat. We furl the jib and drop the main, as the fish is about to take all the line soon, so we have to really stop the boat, even follow the fish if we can. All that work and stress for nothing. Fish got away together with the lure. It was a good lure. Probably it was a good fish too. Wind dropped to 14kts.

We are receiving messages via the IridiumGo Satellite- a few friends are sending us the weather forecast: Krisha a Bulgarian friend living on a boat in Australia, Mel a friend we met in the Caribbean who is now also in Australia and another friend- Boyko, who we’ve only met via Facebook. The weather forecast looks good. Mel is somehow tracking us using the MarineTraffic website and knows exactly where we are, even though we cannot reply to any of his messages and cannot send exact position or let anyone know how we are doing. Bummer.

The booby is gone. He slept on the solar panels, made a big mess pooping all over the place and left in the morning. We are sad that he left us so soon.

On the AIS we detect a ship heading northwest, about 8 NM away from us- too far to actually see it. It’s a big containership Hanjin Isabel. The AIS gives us information about the ship’s name, position, dimensions, GPS heading and destination, speed and time to nearest approach. We also have an alarm that sounds if the AIS detects any vessel within 2-mile radius- very useful at night. We contact them on the VHF radio and ask them if they can send an e-mail to our friends Mel and Krisha. The officer on the radio has a funny accent and is really polite. He says, most of the ship’s crew are from the Philippines, that they are heading to Singapore and will be back home in a couple of months. And no problem, he will send our message. I spell our friend’s e-mails and a couple of lines: “We are receiving your sat messages, but cannot reply. Keep sending weather up-dates.”

In the afternoon, our booby is back on board! We are happy.

The night is calm.

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DAY 6

May 3, 2016 – S05 11’10’’ W098 13’35’’ Dist to Dest 2428NM, GPS heading 255, wind ESE 14-18, few clouds, air temp 26 C

Last night we celebrated one sixed of the way. We have divided the distance in small portions. First, we have rounded the total to 3000 nautical miles and then divided it in 6, 5, 4, 3 and 2 equal parts. 2500NM left is a sixed of the way. 2400NM is a fifth of the way. 2250NM is a quarter of the way. 2000NM is a third of the way and 1500 is half. Counting nautical miles while crossing the Pacific Ocean is like counting the days in jail, I suppose.

It’s a nice calm perfect sailing all day, 1 meter waves, smooth, 5-6 kts speed. Sunny. Good progress finally! Also – fish finally! A small tuna. Sushi for lunch.

We got messages from Mel and Krisha. They got our news from MV Hanjin Isabel. Weather forecast looks fine.

Maya is reading a book in Bulgarian. She did an excellent job in geometry today too.

I have discovered about 30 packets of Betty Crocker cake mix deep in our stores- four different flavors: chocolate, vanilla, lemon and strawberry. We must have them since two years at least. They are all expired and smell of mildew- some more than others. But we are determined to eat as many as possible. Now I make muffins sometimes twice a day. The chocolate and vanilla ones are pretty good, only slightly smelling of mildew. The lemon ones are worse but I mix in large pieces of chocolate for better results. Maya eats them holding her nose. The trick is not to smell them. Taste is OK. The strawberry ones are beyond the beyonds, completely uneatable. I guess the strawberry mix has more moisture in it and has created better conditions for mold. Good thing we only have 3 of these. So we disperse the pink powder stinking of mildewed strawberries in the sea. The inner plastic packets from the cake mix we keep with the rest of the garbage in a big black garbage bag which we store next to the water tanks, and the outer packets made of recycled cardboard we tear in 2-inch pieces and throw overboard. There is not enough space on board to accumulate all the garbage we produce for a month. Any paper, glass or metal packaging and containers can go overboard and will eventually biodegrade on the bottom of the ocean, except plastic. So anything organic, paper, glass bottles and tins we send to the bottom of the sea legally and with clear conscience, doing our best not to pollute. But sadly, the ocean is already full with plastic due to improper waste disposal and waste management. Even though our path is not crossing the pacific garbage patch or trash vortex, we often see fishing buoys, plastic bottles and jerry cans floating on the current. Trash and manufacturing products, including plastics are being dumped illegally in great quantities on land at marinas, ports, rivers, harbors, docks, and storm drains, or generated at sea from fishing boats, platforms and cargo ships. The trash floats on the sea surface to create high concentrations of marine debris accumulating in regions governed by ocean currents. Today there are five distinctive oceanic gyres- the largest one being the North Pacific Gyre.

Another calm and uneventful night. We move the watch one hour.

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DAY 7

May 4 2016, S 05 36’ 45’’ W 100 37’ 56’’, Dist to Dest 2282NM, GPS heading 260, wind ESE 16-20, sunny, air temp 27 C

It’s getting much hotter.

I am having lots of dreams at night.

In the morning, we found a few small squids and flying fishes on the trampoline, all dried up.

Ivo managed to hook and pull out a big tuna. No screaming this time. I made lots of sushi. Our booby bird is eating all the fish guts and skin directly from Maya’s hands. He is still with us, feeling confident, walking around the boat, leaving to fish and coming back after a few hours, and if we let him he will enter inside the boat. He is now acting rather cheeky.

The wind is getting stronger 20-24 kts, we are doing 7-8 kts with big waves. I wish the wind and waves drop down again.

Quarter of the way.

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DAY 8

May 5, 2016 –S 06 04’ 59’’ W 103 14’ 42’’, Dist to Dest 2123, GPS heading 260, wind SE 16-20, air temp 25 C

Choppy bumpy seas all night and morning.

Calm day with less wind.

I make bread in the morning and muffins in the afternoon. The boat smells like bakery, leaving a sweet, slightly mildew trail behind, and surely those following us will be wondering where this vanilla-chocolate smell is coming from in the middle of the ocean. We know there are other boats sailing west, so there must be someone not too far. The radar and AIS can detect boats up to 20-30 NM away, but there may be someone 40 or 60NM behind us. At this time of the year, from May to August, lots of sailboats are doing the passage west. Probably at least 20 boats are crossing the Pacific at the same time as us. But this ocean is so vast, the distances are so great and sailboats are so small and so slow, that even those who leave together get separated by the difference in speed after 1-2 days. Many cruisers keep in touch via SSB radio and now we have the affordable IridiumGo Satellite option to chat between boats. We don’t have an SSB radio and our IridiumGo is not sending messages, so our communication with land and other boats is restricted to receiving messages only. Ivo cannot figure out the problem. We feel pretty isolated and alone.

Our booby-bird is gone. We imagined he will sail with us the whole way. But he didn’t. Hope he will be OK and find another boat, as he is now too far away from land. We miss him.

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DAY 9
To be continued…

Watch our newest YouTube video: Pacific Ocean Passage

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Pacific Ocean Passage -Days 2, 3&4

Pacific Ocean Passage

Day 1

Cerro Azul

Cerro Azul

DAY 2

April 29, 2016 – S01 28’49’’ W091 25’ 40’’ Dist to Dest 2887NM, wind 6-8kts, clear sky, air temp 25C.

In the morning we can still see Cerro Azul behind us. The wind is too light and we are barely moving. All night we have been drifting with 1-2 knots. Sails are flapping. We furl the jib and leave only the mainsail up. Our progress is about 50 NM for 24 hours.

The sea is calm. A few booby birds are flying low looking for fish and one gentle storm petrel- the soul of a drowned sailor doomed to spend eternity flying over the sea – is fluttering on the water surface around the boat. These tiniest of seabirds have the elegance of flamenco dancers on water and I can spend hours watching them, their skinny legs barely touching the surface, skimming the sea for tiny planktons. It’s nice to see a living creature near us.

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DAY 3

April 30, 2016 – S02 44’ 06’’ W092 29’ 06’’ Dist to Dest 2811 NM, wind 1-2 kts, few clouds, air temp 27C.

Our speed is 1-2 kts, sails are flapping. We barely move. We had better progress last night with 4-5 kts and a bit more wind behind us. We are tired from flapping sails.

We have received a message on the satellite from our friend Scot on S/V Beach House. He is only 2 degrees south of us some 150 NM ahead and is sailing with 8 kts! We can’t answer back. Something is wrong with our IridiumGo and we cannot send any messages but at least we can receive messages and can download the weather forecast. No idea what is going on. This is strange. Ivo is trying to find out what the problem is and how to fix it.

I spotted a giant mantaray following the boat. At first I thought it was a shark- a big triangle fin sticking out of the water- but then I saw the whole creature- big and square as a table!

We are getting used to our new routine, which by the way is not much different from our routine when at anchor. Preparing breakfast, then school with Maya- she is doing one math test every day from the end of her math book- 23 more tests to go. We play cards, make food, sleep, talk, watch films in the evening with dinner. At night Ivo and I give 2-3 hour shifts, but mostly we sleep and check the electronics and chart plotter every now and then to see if something has changed or if there is another boat nearby. There are o other boats. We are alone.

Pacific Ocean Sunset

Pacific Ocean Sunset

DAY 4

May 1, 2016 –S03 29’08’’ W093 33’41’’ Dist to Dest 2738NM, ind 8-12 kts, few clouds, air temp 25C.

A booby bird landed on board! We are extremely happy to have a visitor. He is as big as a chicken but more slender and aerodynamic, grey, with duck feet and ugly face, mostly because of his bill- thick at the base, wide and long, getting thinner and pointy at the end like a grey carrot. A curious funny expression.

There are many species of boobies. There are blue-footed boobies, which have baby-blue feet as if they have stepped in a bucket of baby-blue paint, with snow-white bellies, brown wings and yellow eyes. There are red-footed boobies with bright red feet as if they have stepped in a bucket of bright red paint- with darker bodies (the brown version) or white bodies (the white version), their red feet contrasting marvelously with their blue bills and colorful faces- strikingly beautiful birds. Our friend Scot from S/V Beach House wrote that he has a red-footed booby resting on his deck since couple of days. Ours is neither blue-footed nor red-footed, but rather a colorless-footed, somber, uglier version of a more boring brown booby or some other uninteresting discolored kind of the same species. We like him all the same, even more, for being so ugly and in need of company and a place to rest. When a seabird finds you in the middle of the ocean and lands on your boat it’s a privilege. It kind of feels safer with a bird on board- because the bird thinks it’s safe and trusts the boat. It also feels like you are helping a fellow traveler – someone who needs a place to rest- an oasis in a vast blue desert of nothing but sea.

Our Booby-bird

Our Booby-bird

A whale passed directly under the boat. Another one took a slow breath in the distance. Wow! Seeing whales so close to the boat is a miracle and we are blessed to witness it. It’s also a bit scary- the story of Moby Dick always at the back of your mind.

Then we saw them. A small red one-person helicopter buzzing like an insect low above the sea- a spotter, and four speed boats racing under it. Further- a floating city- a big fishing boat with tall cranes reaching high up in the air- cranes capable of lifting heavy catch. They have no AIS. They don’t answer our VHF radio calls. We realize they are after the whales, hunting them in international waters, most probably illegally, unless there are tunas at the same time at the same place. The whales that we have just seen are probably fugitives from a horrible, illegal hunt. This is so sad. Our excitement and joy are drowned in painful mournful sadness. Damn you, whale-eating monsters!

Whale

Whale

DAY 5
To be continued…

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Pacific Ocean Passage – Day 1

Pacific Ocean Passage

Day 1

April 28, 2016. Position S 00 57’53” W 090 57’45” Isabela Island, Galapagos. Wind 5-8, swell 0, sunny, air temp 25C, distance to destination 2923NM.

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We are lifting anchor on sail, without engines. Mainsail up, bring the anchor, drift backwards to open the wind angle, open the jib, sail away. Pretty simple if there is enough space and enough wind. But the spot is tight, we are between many other anchored boats, and there is a shallow sandy patch not too far ahead. And no wind. The main is up and Ivo starts bringing in the anchor chain. Anchor out. No wind. We start drifting and the current is pushing us sideways towards the catamaran to our port S/V Free Spirit. I am freaking out, preparing a fender. The guy from Free Spirit is out looking at us puzzled, asking if our engines are broken as we pass by silently less than a meter away. I don’t know what to answer. The engines work fine, this is just Ivo’s stupid principle not to use them, including when dropping and lifting anchor. For me, these are the scariest moments of our life at sea, besides storms. I wish we are like normal people, motoring in and out of crowded anchorages and bays. I don’t think the risk is worth it. Ivo doesn’t think there is a risk…

Jib out. We are now picking up a bit of speed with very light wind and are heading directly for the shallow sand. S/V Free Spirit is now safely behind us, but I can still hear her skipper shouting in our direction: “It’s shallow there, you will run aground!” I am beyond freaked out, expecting the boat to bump on the bottom and get stuck any second now. We tack, just as I am about to faint, and we sail away from the dangerous shallows, passing too close in front of another boat, and then clear away, heading for the bay’s entrance and out to open sea.

The wind arrow on top of the mast is missing, after a frigate bird landed on it and broke it. Maybe the frigate bird chopped it off and stole it; maybe it flew away caring our wind arrow in its claws to his nest in the mangroves. In any case, Ivo couldn’t find it, even though he spent the whole afternoon the day before diving around the boat looking for it. Damn frigate bird! Hope he uses it as a Japanese sward to perform hara-kiri. This means we will be crossing the ocean without wind angle and direction indicator. We’ll have to rely on the good old ways- tying tale-tales (small light threads) on a few visible places on the shrouds. They will show us where the wind is coming from.

Frigate Bird

Frigate Bird

Thus, stressed, we begin the long journey across the biggest of oceans- the Pacific. We have been planning and preparing for this passage and we have been worrying (especially me) for many months now. We have been stocking up provisions since Puerto Rico- two years ago (some of which have already expired); we have been talking to more experienced sailors about strategies. We have been imagining how it will be. But some thinks you cannot imagine. Being in a tiny boat in the vastest of oceans, alone for over three weeks is one such thing.

A family of Galapagos sea lions are playing around the boat, escorting us. We will miss them so much. Maya said, on land they remind her of hobos- lazy, clumsy, dirty, rude and completely inappropriate. They sleep all day occupying the most comfortable benches in the park, stink terribly of rotten fish, poop in public places, make loud vomiting noises, fight for the best spots on the benches, act mean to each other and to random people, breastfeed their unruly kids on the steps at the pier, and always board- completely uninvited- people’s boats, especially at night. They will steel your fish, if you have any, they will bark at you, poop on your deck, sleep on your cushions, and runaway reluctantly leaving a trail of stink behind if you chase them (which is not easy to do), ready to return as soon as you are not watching. Yet, we never hated them for their trespassings.

In the water, they transform completely to become gentle, graceful, enchanted creatures possessing the agility of world famous aquatic acrobats. We love them.

That morning I realize that the hardest part about leaving Galapagos is not the fact that we won’t see land and civilization for many days- there will be no green trees, no brown earth, no red roofs, no yellow butterflies- only blue and black seas and skies. It’s not the uncertainty of what lies ahead- maybe storm will break our boat, maybe Fata Morgana will hit a sleeping whale or a lost container at night and will sink, along with her three helpless passengers. These are all things I have been worrying about for so long now that I am kind of used to, kind of accepted these ideas. I am ready for this passage, let’s get it over with. What is really making me sad right in this moment, when the sun is rising with purple light as the dark crater of Cerro Azul is shrinking behind us, is the fact that we won’t see the sea lions anymore… If I am crying, it is certainly for the sea lions.

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Day 2…
To be continued…

Watch our newest YouTube video: Pacific Ocean Passage

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