Category Archives: Eric’s Posts

Sailing West by Eric Rigney

We Kandu with the Rigneyskandu team: Eric Rigney, Captain, Leslie Rigney, Co-Captain, Bryce & Trent Rigney, Crew!

The trip has changed dramatically since leaving Bora-Bora. The larger boat jobs completed in February and March, planned and parts ordered months prior, are behind me. No longer do I shoulder an over-shadowing burden of endless preparatory tasks. So many were completed: haul-out and new bottom paint, re-plumbed some items in the head and galley, revamped electrical system (batteries, solar, monitoring), new standing rigging (hardware, cables and fittings to support the sails and mast), installed an AIS transponder, set up our new dinghy, and more. Kandu feels whole, ready for frequent ocean passages, ready for whatever awaits us.

My captaining tools have improved: additional electronic navigation, weather forecasting, and communication with ports. As a result, after days out at sea, we successfully sailed into two foreign ports at night using tools recommended by a more experienced cruising sailor. My skills have improved as well. The boys are stepping up, particularly Bryce. Getting from point A-to-B, and repairing/maintaining Kandu come easier. Stress levels don’t immediately jump to DEFCON 5 when problems arise: automatic bilge pump counter shows 263 cycles of pumping water out of the boat in 8 hours, starboard side window falls off dodger a second time and shatters, wind vane steering line frays and locks-up the helm toward an accidental jibe in 25 mph winds and 8-foot seas, Custom officers can’t reach us over VHF radio, after changing the oil and replacing all its fuel filters (5) the 44hp diesel engine dies and won’t start, modem fails thus preventing us from emailing via HF and SSB radio. It turns out that stressing over a problem doesn’t resolve it faster. It just ages me. I do the best I can with what I have, “sail the wind I have,” I like to say. With support and assistance from family and friends, I resolve problems and order parts. Our pace, frequent crossings and shorter stays, is possible because our boat is working and with the help of my “team,” problems that arise are typically solved within the available timeframes.

We are seeing places in concentrated fashion, diving in deeply and getting out quickly. We’re seeing cultures new to me and more traditional than French Polynesia. Images from childhood wildlife and adventure television programs come to life, people and culture made real and tangible. This phase of our travel is very rewarding. It’s the trip I envisioned years prior. The two-year stay in French Polynesia was not planned, but proved helpful in terms of ‘finishing’ Kandu and making the boys bilingual. Better still, we deepened existing friendships and established new ones. We also delved deeply into the reviving Marquesan culture. Taking it slow has its rewards. But so does a faster pace. This quickened phase is driving our small family even closer together. We do most everything together, but make efforts to provide the boys “alone” activities ashore.

Our itinerary from this standpoint is:

  • Leave Vanuatu this Saturday for Darwin, sailing 20 days through the Torres Straight.
  • Join the Sail Indonesia Rally and sail through Indonesia over 2.5 months, stopping at 10-12 locations.
  • From there, sail to Singapore, along Malaysia, to Thailand.
  • After Christmas, sail to Sri Lanka and the Maldives before arriving at the Red Sea in late February.
  • From March-September 2018, sail the Med.
  • Make our way to northern South America and Southern Caribbean, and through the Panama Canal.
  • Then home by either coming up the Central American and Mexican coasts, or sailing to Hawaii and then over to North America, arriving in CA the summer of 2019.

When other sailors remark that our pace is too fast, I smile and reply, “Well, then maybe we should just go home and not bother sailing around the world.” It’s not perfect, not even close. But as another sailor noted, “You can’t kiss all the girls.” And with that, I’m happy with what we’ve done, and with what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. Sure, at this speed, we are not able to experience all that we would want. Still I would argue that the bits and pieces we are able to see provide a greater appreciation for the global vastness of culture and natural wonder that exists on our amazing planet, an experience more satisfying than the inspirational one I received watching it as a child at home on TV. Whether we sail one year eastward back across the Pacific or two years westward around the world, we wind up home either way. So why not sail west and kiss a few more girls? Sounds good to me.

by Eric Rigney

Daily Log Notes: Samoa to Fiji, May 2017

Kandu on the ocean blue, healed over +10 degrees.

Friday, May 26, 2017, 7:00 pm

Left Apia Marina, Samoa at 6:30 am. We were supposed to leave at 22h00 the night before but we were too tired. Motored to west point of Upolu, wind picked-up. SE 20 knot winds. Shut off engine at 12-noon. Starboard dodger window popped out again, but this time it shattered. Installed wooden blank board in its place to keep out the weather until we get replacement in Fiji. Sailing well. Reduced main and genoa, but maintained full staysail. Eric

Saturday, May 27, 2017, 2:00 pm

Winds calming, coming more easterly. Boat slowing from 6.2 knots to 5.2 knots. Eric.

Saturday, May 27, 2017, 11:45 pm

Leaving Apia harbor, Samoa was a piece of cake. We had flat waters and no wind for quite awhile, motoring until Upolu Island’s height decreased, then the wind and swell picked-up. Making our way through the island passage, then south of Savai’i, the brunt of the wind and swell hit us. Nausea arrested everyone. Trent and Eric purged several times while Bryce and I held the vomit at bay. None of us ate much. During the night, the wind died down, which was an enormous relief. The boat stopped healing over and calmed from ‘bucking bronco’ to a gentle sway. We added more sail pulling out the genoa immediately increasing our speed. We flew the rest of the day into the night. Our upset stomachs enjoyed vegetable soup and spam. Eric even got some paperwork done. I binged instead on our Outlander video series, season 2. Gee that was great fun! Take me away, to some higher place…..Leslie

Above Video: Air Guitar by Bryce Rigney

Memorial Day, May 29, 2017, 1:00 am

Bryce had taken an extra long nap starting around 4:30 pm, so when he took the first watch, he started counting at 8:00 pm and didn’t wake me until 12 midnight, stating that he still wasn’t tired. Then he stayed and chatted with me for another ½ hour explaining he had been editing some of the pictures I had loaded on his ipad from my computer – ones I thought he might like to post on Facebook or Instagram. He had been very pleased by my choices. He also wanted to share with me his writings about surfing in Raiatea. He had just finished his long recount of his surf camping and read to me the conclusion. He misses his buddies and easy surf life. What I miss is the steadiness of the boat and the familiarity of the surroundings, not to mention the lovely people we befriended, with whom we spent quality time.

We are finally officially experiencing the trade winds – real trade wind weather – where the sailing is comfortable. Sigh of relief! The seas are gentle and the boat is sailing on a beam reach. Today was sunny and trouble-free. If it continues like this, I’ll have to really cook, as we’ll get hungry. I have plenty of fresh vegetables. I just need inspiration and a calm stomach. 2.5 days until we reach Suva, Fiji. Leslie

Tuesday, May 30th, 1:30 am

Crossed the International dateline, longitude 180 degrees. Eric

Above Video: Crossing the International Dateline

Wednesday, June 1, 2017, 8:00 am

Arrived Suva, Fiji in the dark, again. Thanks to the NavX iPhone application from Navionics, we can see quite clearly the hazards. However, waking up this morning, we found ourselves anchored 100 yards away from an 120 foot overturned Chinese industrial fishing boat that we didn’t exactly note during the night. We had seen a pole sticking up marking a hazard….but that didn’t quite explain what was really there in the dark water. Confirmed Eric’s general rule not to enter a foreign port in the dark. Leslie

Note the wreck on the right. Arriving at high tide, we didn’t see it.

Bora to Maupiti to Maupiha’a: 130 nautical miles

Daily Log Notes & Observations by Leslie and Eric

Good friend Bowman Puahio from Bora took the boys spear fishing & scurfing of a jet ski!! Woohoo!

5-5-2017 Friday

We cleared Bora Bora Customs & Immigration after a bit of a run around from the local gendarme (a newby officer misdirected us on several accounts) by 10:30 am and departed Vaitare at 11h30 for a 17h00 arrival in Maupiti. The passage was straightforward yet enlivened at the end while heading through the Maupiti reef pass. It was like ‘Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride’ motoring through the deep but somewhat narrow pass into the lagoon. Trent and Bryce and I were all posted on deck to watch for coral heads while Eric maintained as straight a motor forward as possible.

Maupiti Island, French Polynesia.

We rode in on the substantial swell at a 6.5 knot over-the-water clip with a 3 knot exiting tide, giving us 3.5 knots of forward way, plenty to steer by. The conjunction of swell and exiting current made for a tumultuous yet thrilling entry. Sometimes Kandu rowdily slid left or right, even under Eric’s steady hand. We were all exhilarated and relieved to have passed successfully into the lagoon, to easily navigate through the lagoons’ large coral heads and to find an empty mooring. Once settled, fellow cruiser comrades Walter and Meryl from s/v Flying Cloud (first met them in Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas) dinghied over to share some refreshments. It was great to discover they were in Maupiti and to catch-up on their latest adventures.

Trent Rigney proud of his part in the Bora Bora spearfishing catch.

While preparing Bryce & Trent’s spearfishing catch from Bora for dinner, the boys and I played a few rounds of our new favorite game, Cribbage, taught to us by Ron and Michele while Eric borrowed Flying Cloud’s dinghy to head ashore in order to meet up with contacts for whom the next day we would be transporting items and mail to atoll Maupiha’a aka Mopelia by French sailors. We slept comfortably in the calm lagoon. Leslie

Maupiti island with s/v Flying Cloud in the distance as seen from Kandu.

5-6-2017 22h00 Maupiti to Maupiha’a (Mopelia)

First night-watch since what seems to be forever. It’s clear out with more than a ¾ moon illuminating the clouds and rolling dark sea. We have the genoa out, but probably only gaining a knot of speed as we’ve got the engine running. Engine sounds normal. Kandu fairs well, but it is pretty rocky and rolly since there’s no wind. Yet we are blessed with light swell and no rain. We have our cockpit canopy up which during the day provides much needed protection from the blazing sun. Hard to believe we’re on the road again after so much time being stationary. I’m not yet adapted to the constant movement. My stomach is a bit off. Leslie

Eric Rigney sending Delorme satellite texts while enjoying the open cockpit air.

5-7-2017 Sunday 2h40 am

Nice motorsail. 5+ knots making good time. Nice stop at Maupiti. Swam with 2 mantas at their cleaning station near pass: beautiful majestic creatures. Picked up supplies for Mopelia families. Had ice cream and spent the last of our French Polynesia money on souvenirs and gifts. Shopkeeper gifted Leslie earrings and a matching purple pencil urchin bracelet!

Ice Cream store/Souvenir shop where Maupiti locals naturally congregate.

Bought our last baguettes for awhile and eggs too. In the center of the very small town, young boys hailed Bryce from Lycee d’Uturoa. (Those boys were home from the high school’s boarding school for the weekend.) Enjoyed visiting with Flying Cloud. Borrowed their dinghy. French elections yesterday. Interesting to see how the small community was buzzing with energy as a result of the elections. Excited to motor through Mopelia’s extremely narrow pass and to meet the families. It’s a Fr. Polynesia site I’ve never visited. Due to our connections, we may just get to gorge on some of their local lobster and coconut crab. We’ll see. Eric

Bryce Rigney, the eyes of Kandu.

5-8-2017 Monday

Motored safely through the narrow Maupiha’a pass with Bryce up the mast at the first spreader to direct us around coral heads. Anchored at 10h00 am quite a distance from the shore to avoid the large coral heads. Due to storms or squalls, shifting winds could blow the boat in any direction dragging our chain and possibly wrapping it around coral heads. Later bringing up anchor tends to be tricky. Right away, a local fishing panga motored over to us by two young women. They had been eagerly anticipating our arrival us being laden with their packages sent from their Maupiti families. Cordiality extended on both sides, we unloaded their things onto their boat brimming over with smiles, happy to have been of service.

Goodies that Kandu offered to each of the two families knowing they rarely get supplies.

They invited us to dinner that evening in thanks. Shortly thereafter, a darling couple, Norma and Harris, motored over to greet and thank us for transporting their belongings. Offering us lunch of island delicacies: seafood coconut cucumber salad and steamed whole fish, they were excited to get to know us and asked us to join them for dinner the following evening also mentioning that they’d like to take us on a 4×4 tour of the atoll. Wow! Trent took one trial bite of the seasnail salad saying, “That’s interesting…” Eric, Bryce and I found it to have a delicious taste with an intriguing texture. Leslie

Norma and Harris from Maupiha’a.
Maupiha’a Coconut crab captured and cooked – ready to eat.

Two Years Abaft Abeam: A Summary

February 2017

Months since I last posted, having just past our anniversary, a recap of the past 2 years seems fitting. The start of the trip’s impact was great and still resonates strongly within my recollection. Much like recalling the bear in the woods at the cost of the forest’s wonder. Although much wonder is to be told of our experiences in the Marquesas, Tuamotus and Society Islands, of New Zealand and Sydney, and of Easter Island, looking back I seem drawn to reflect on the stress of the journey’s start, perhaps in an effort to derive some benefit against the ledger of anguish expended, perhaps as a cautionary tale to those eager to push themselves in a likewise fashion, or maybe like a survivor of any struggle may do. But this, as with most American movies, is developing into a happy circumstance. I had faith that the experience would eventually pay off, but my faith was and is often tested, just as it is for entrepreneurs, parents, and anyone else with a goal to make something worthy happen.

Apologies for those who feel I repeat too often a “woe-is-me” theme. Leslie worries so.  I don’t do so to provoke a response, to get readers to encourage me. I’m just inviting readers into my head as I look back on the past two years. This is, I know, a repeat of what I’ve written before, but see it as a summary, a reduction of my thoughts. Know this: I am at this time pleased and more self-aware than I can recall in recent memory. “Much to learn have I,” as Yoda might phrase it. “Learn I have. Learn I will. But never so much as is to learn.”

Two years ago, on Leslie’s birthday, we left Ventura, California aboard Kandu, our 42-foot expedition type single mast sailboat, now almost 30 years old herself. Motor-sailing out from the marina and into the Pacific Ocean, light haze over an otherwise clear winter sky, friends waved us on from ashore. We slipped eagerly toward the calm harbor entrance, a gentle swell heightened as we neared the breakwaters’ opening, flanked by boulders of rock on either side, then passed the detached breakwater covered in a thick overcoat of seabird guano.

Cast-off and sailing into the Big Blue Yonder with Bryce Rigney as the King-of-the-World – VIDEO.

The crew were excited. Bryce was standing on the forward pulpit pulling off his best Leonardo DiCaprio imitation of “I’m on top of the world!” Trent was below deck, scrambling to find and play the theme song to Titanic crackling over the loudspeaker. Did they not recall how the movie ended? Leslie was glad to be finally moving, having struggled for eighteen months prior to this day, buttoning up our lives as they had been, still frustrated from having walked away from beloved careers, family/friends, and a cozy home. But she was glad to be following through with the dream. After 25 years of talking about it, planning for it, saving for it, we were gliding out of the starting gate. No more having to hear, “You haven’t left yet?” from marina neighbors, yacht club members, and friends: a welcome relief for Leslie. I was more anxious than excited. Having worked full time on the boat for nearly a year and half, I didn’t think Kandu was yet ready for the demands of the first two, possibly four, long distance crossings that would comprise our first and longest passages. We hadn’t yet put Kandu through a significant shakedown; between extended preparations and a closing weather window (May 1st is the first official day of hurricane season for the northern hemisphere), we hadn’t had the time.

Kandu arrived at Marina del Rey, California on February 10th, 2015.

Rather than head directly to Mexico from Ventura, we slipped in and out of Southern California marinas, stopping at reciprocal yacht clubs where we could stay free for 3-5 days at a time. West Marine, the nation’s largest purveyor of marine hardware, mans a store in nearly every Southern California port. I was through their doors like church and everyday was Sunday. Haunted by the knowledge that once we left California, cost and time would be added to each and every project, handicapped by the lack of convenience generously supported by US’s well-oiled consumer culture. The mental stress was heavy. With the safety and comfort of family on the line, “failure was not an option.”

Mexico’s would be our first international border to cross. It’s a day sail from San Diego to Ensenada. Having worked frenetically in marinas between Ventura and San Diego, with no more “free-slip” days left having spent our allotted time in 6 different yacht clubs, and that ever present favorable seasonal weather window closing, my hand was forced again. March 21, the spring equinox, would be our last day in the USA.

From Left: Uncle Bill, Bryce Rigney, Jose Houska, Trent Rigney, Eric Rigney in Ensenada, Mexico.

Ensenada was a mini-vacation with no major known boat projects left to tackle. Uncle Bill and our mutual friend, Joe Houska, joined us for the border crossing. They returned to California after a few days of helping us out with tasks. As a family treat, we attended what would be for the next two years our last feature film screening in a movie theater. The coves and bays between Ensenada and Banderas Bay ranged from beautiful and remote, to dirty and corrupt. The crew handled well their watches. I was impressed by their desire to hold up their end. Bryce and Trent found ways to have fun at every place we stopped. I could find no desire within myself to have fun; knowing important tasks needed all my available energy. My humbug attitude frustrated me and the crew.

Banderos Bay, Mexico: Harbors La Cruz and Puerto Vallarta

Coming into Banderas Bay, port La Cruz, two significant problems arose: the newly factory rebuilt hydraulic cylinder that allows the automatic pilot to steer the boat failed due to my improper installation, and the masthead VHF antenna connection failed, severely limiting our radio’s reception and transmission performance to just a mile instead of 8-12. After many stressful days of research and measurements, a replacement hydraulic system was identified, expensive, purchased, delivered, and installed.  The delay meant that Easter Island would likely have to come off the list. It was maybe 10 days since San Diego and I was missing West Marine like a crack addict. Time prevented repairing the VHF masthead antenna connection properly so we installed a new one behind the cockpit until I had time and a steady place where I could tackle the masthead solution. We picked up Uncle Bill at the Puerto Vallarta airport with all the parts I’d ordered, an action in which all future visitors to Kandu would engage. “Hardware mules” is what cruising sailors refer to friends and family who visit, laden with ordered parts and supplies, cheaply freighted and easily passed by customs. With the ticking weather window to sail to the Galapagos rapidly closing (“You should have left 4-6 weeks ago.”), we buttoned up Kandu, and on May 1, left Puerto Nuevo bound for Isla Isabela in the Galapagos with Uncle Bill aboard. Kandu was as ready as I could make her and I was satisfied enough, all things considered.The eighteen-day passage was extremely hot and muggy, seas from several directions, confused and varied winds, and nightly attacks by incessant squalls. Rain forced us to close all hatches and portlights, converting our living space into a tropical sauna.

Far from land, boobie takes a break. Trent investigates.

Sea temperature and air temperature were the same: 89 degrees F. Sweat and grime were immediate. Tempers shortened and mechanical problems continued to develop. This time, the engine’s charging system wasn’t functioning properly and I couldn’t figure out why. The off-again/on-again shifting winds exhausted my patience.The awkward motion of the boat in the three-way swell was annoying. I wondered if we could make it to landfall before running out of diesel fuel. But this wasn’t a weekend trip in some campground. I was in the middle of a remote part of the Pacific with my precious family. Like a scene out of Apollo 13, I must work from the parts and pieces I have on the boat.

Crossing the equator on our way to the Galapagos

Digging deep within my soul, I get hit by the life lesson I’ve discussed before: I can only sail the wind I have, not the wind I want. Somehow the sentiment comforts me. Do with what I’ve got, as best I can, adapting with demands of the moment. Throw shoulda, woulda, coulda out the door; and open myself to what’s possible, and then do that. That’s all I can do, that’s all anyone can do, so do it and move on to the next thing. Leave perfection to the saints.

Galapagos Marine Iguana basking in the Isla Isabella sun.

My experience at Isla Isabela, the largest island in the Columbus Archipelago aka the Galapagos, questioned for me what was becoming the theme of our trip. Should it be about spending time together as a family exploring new lands and cultures, or would it be about me getting the boat ready for the next crossing while the family begged me to join to them on one of their snorkels, bike rides, or other excursions?

Excursion to volcanic park and its beauty help to set aside frustrations of boat challenges.

Turns out, of the fifteen days spent in Puerto Villamil, five were rain-drenched workdays, eight were sunny workdays, and three were amazing excursions. Twenty-percent fun, eighty-percent stress and work. I did not like this version of the 80-20 rule. But what could I do?

Ready to make the passage from Galapagos to the Marquesas.

The conditions of the Mexico to Galapagos crossing proved too much for Uncle Bill, who celebrated his 84th birthday on our Galapagos arrival. He did not join us for the crossing to the Marquesas. Unlike the Galapagos crossing, the 24-day crossing to the Marquesas was swift and dryer. The seas were larger and still a bit confused. In brief, the conditions were not comfortable, but the ride was a bit more pleasant, not as hot and less rain, no squalls. We arrived in Nuku Hiva with a couple more boat issues for me to resolve before heading on.

Nuku Hiva, Marquesas landfall 24 days later.

A late June arrival in the Marquesas meant we were about three months off from the ideal seasonal weather window based on our planned itinerary. In order to catch up and be in New Zealand by November, we would have to cut our French Polynesia stay by several months. Considering that we had pre-established deep relations with many Marquesans friends, leaving so soon would have robbed us from an opportunity too valuable to lose. Our Marquesan friends said we had arrived during a grand Matava’a year, an inter-island cultural event staged in December once every four years. A French sailor familiar with the area and all of French Polynesia advised that an El Nino year was expected and that the Marquesas Islands were the safest place in French Polynesia to avoid hurricanes, also the least expensive and most authentic in terms of Polynesian culture. Another Marquesan friend advised us that they could enroll our boys in the French public school. And two different American cruisers, both with at least one circumnavigation under their belts advised that the elements of French Polynesia combine to create a superior cruising experience: tropical beauty, warm and friendly people, access to French food, and all essential services. Add to the mix that Leslie and I speak French and this all made for a compelling argument set aside the original itinerary and, instead, rest.

Our Marquesan family, the Falchettos, welcome us with an extraordinary feast the day of our arrival.
Polynesian roasted pig, captured and slaughtered that morning.
Denis whips up a batch of fresh roasted breadfruit paste and coconut cream (poi or mako in Marquesan)

Staying in the Marquesas until next season would reset the weather window clock, allow me to catch up with most of the boat projects while having some fun, give us a cultural immersion experience few families can experience in the Marquesas, save some money, and the boys would learn French. On the other hand, to try and catch up with the planned itinerary would have entailed nearly non-stop boat maintenance, missing many of the cultural gifts of each port, just a quick dash through the South Pacific.  Sure, sticking to the five-year plan we’d be able to chalk up more countries visited, spreading the time and cultural exchanges over multiple countries around the world instead of concentrating on French Polynesia. But if I’m working all the time, what I’m getting out of it?  The scale tipped heavily in favor of staying, so stay we did . . . not just for one year, but two.

Kandu anchored in Anaho Bay, Nuku Hiva!
Nuku Hiva communal shower, one of several.
Trent stands before unusual tree trunk roots found along the way to a breathtaking waterfall.
Cultural Heritage Day on Nuku Hiva offers “haka,” dance as well as traditional crafts, foods, and activities.
Hiva Oa is where the Matava’a was held that year. Here’s a northern Hiva Oa bay, typical of the Marquesas.
Northern Hiva Oa means the bay of Pua Mau (flower shade) and its world renowned stone tikis.
The Matava’a opens with great fanfare.
Cyril, sculpture and dance master of Tauhata regally enters the arena.
And of course much dancing.
Back at home in Taiohae, Nuku Hiva, the Petit Quai’s favorite hang out: Chez Henri’s Snack Vaeaki
Henri, like a brother to me, shows off a plate of his poisson cru, lime-marinated raw yellow fin tuna.
A secluded beach cove in Eaio, where friends spearfish and hunt for our meals.
Boys with a Tahitian acquaintance spy over the cliffs of uninhabited Eiao Island in the Marquesas.
Wild mutton, killed, slaughtered, and air-dried before our overnight sail back to Nuku Hiva.

The Marquesas long-stay experience proved so wonderful that we decided to extend our stay in French Polynesia a second year, this time in the Society Islands, in Raiatea and in a marina.

Marina d’Uturoa, in Raiatea, and island 20 miles from honeymoon famous Bora Bora.

It is from here that I write.  To help make things even easier and more fun, we bought a very used car.

Our beater car purchased in Tahiti, Leslie affectionate named, “la marquisenne.”

From here, we calculate we can get a jump on the weather window in our bid to finish a circumnavigation, but now within a much quicker two years.  We hope to leave this May.  To shorten the distance and save time, we plan to sail up the Red Sea instead of around Africa.  Pirate circumstances have dramatically changed around the horn of Africa in favor of passing through this previously perilous region. From Raiatea, I can calmly finish the last big boat projects, having Kandu ready for the two-year push while the boys complete a second year in French public school and play in a beautiful part of the world in a familiar culture. Through it all, Leslie keeps the family fed, tidy, healthy, and the bills paid, along with other boat projects. We have a nice routine. The municipal marina provides electricity, water, and easy access to land, while fending off swells generated from seasonal storms.  From Raiatea, we can affordably fly to bucket-list locations missed due to our delayed start or to be missed by our new itinerary.

Kandu Tahiti tied in Marina d’Uturoa, Raiatea.

First in line, we flew to New Zealand for a two-week drive-about.

New Zealand jet boat ride!

This important region was removed from our new sailing itinerary as was most of Australia. So from NZ we flew to nearby Sydney for another two weeks.

Iconic Sydney Bridge, had to do it.

After a week in Tahiti, we returned to Raiatea for 10 days, then back to Tahiti for a flight to Easter Island, removed from our itinerary due to boat preparation delays and additional repairs in Mexico.  We stayed two weeks and experienced most of the Tapati Festival.

Moai of Easter Island
Tapait traditional dance contest in full swing.

As such, overall, we had an extraordinary (and much needed) 7-week family vacation exploring New Zealand’s north island, visiting friends old and new; Sydney with my brother Curtis and his partner, Joel; Easter Island and the Tapati Festival with Marquesan and American friends; and more excitement in Tahiti with great Tahitian and American friends. The result: a full decompression from the grueling post-departure months, living on the boat, and the upcoming pre-departure boat preparations. I couldn’t recall when I had last felt so unburdened.

Between the Marquesas and Tahiti, we spent 3 weeks on gorgeous Fakarava atoll in the Tuamotus. Here’s a sunrise from our cockpit.
Even lunch in Fakarava can be transformed into a scenic adventure, a tropical paradise to be sure.

So, the experience up to the Marquesas was unpleasant. The effect: the shadow of the difficult start permeated my being. I didn’t realize how much of it I still shouldered even after we decided to hit the pause button, how the weight of the burden had left an impression and thus continued to shape my perspective and my day-to-day attitude towards the future. After the recent “vacation,” for the first time in too many years, I felt I was in the right place, at the right time, with the right people, and doing it all for the right reasons at the right pace.

Ahu Tongariki at Sunrise, Rapa Nui on February 2, 2017.

In summary, we left our homeport twenty-four months ago. The first four months were frustrating and pressure-filled. The following 20 months have been rewarding, very much so, yet tainted by an overshadowing stress established by the first four months, and the year and half leading up to the departure. Still, that was closer to the 80/20 equation for which I was looking when I originally planned this trip. Unfortunately I allowed the 20 percent pain to blur the 80 percent pleasure. After the vacation, I knew more than ever that this habit needed to end. Better to take a page from Bryce and Trent’s playbook and find ways to have fun wherever we are, whenever we can, not looking for the closest hardware store. What would be the point of all this if I were to allow the emotional turmoil of the past to continue to spoil our adventure any futher?

All smiles near a new Rapa Nui petroglyph

Okay, so the focus now, for me, is to schedule time off from boat projects to have guilt-free fun, especially during the week, even just an hour. This is not easy for me to do.  Another goal is to source an air of joy from within myself, draw out the “vacation” me, especially when I’m working with Leslie and the boys. I want to be less critical, less gruff. This too does not come naturally to me.  To help me with this goal, I picture in my mind the on camera, off stage demeanor of Chris Martin, lead singer of the rock band Coldplay. I want to be more like that, confident, quick to smile, ready for something fun. This will not be easy for me, not by a long shot, but it’s important . . . to me and my family. I want develop joy and happiness more so than even my elusive washboard abs. In other words, wake up and smell the moai.  In a strange way, I feel like the trip I envisioned 40+ years ago is just beginning, and I’m exited about it, and about doing it with Leslie, Bryce, and Trent aboard Kandu. In short, two years after leaving California, I find myself loving to sail the wind I have, . . . although missing a wee bit the convenience of a West Marine.

 

 

Running in Papeete

Attn: Bryce Fan Club Membersb-runningTop cross-country (la crosse in French) runners representing islands among all of French Polynesia: Marquesas, Gambiers, Tuamotus, Australs, and Societies competed Thursday in Tahiti. So, yes, in fact, Bryce got the chance to meet up with some of his school friends from the Marquesas. They were happy to see each other and surprised at how much each had grown. Bryce says it was a very positive interaction.

Racing for his College/Lycee des Iles sous le vent d’Uturoa, Bryce’s age group was the most populated, boys born 1999, 2000, and 2001. We haven’t yet the official stats, but Bryce estimated about 125 runners in his category. He believes he was one of the youngest and smallest runners in the group. He placed 25th individually and his Uturoa boys team placed 3rd in its category. He was pleased with his personal result, hoping at the start that he wouldn’t place last. He says their coach set them up with a strategy that provided a successful result. Bryce overtook many of the school’s faster runners, even those who had beaten him in the Marquesas the year before.

His friend, Mihi took third individually in her category, and her team took 3rd as well.

Mihi Boosie winning the chance to go to Papeete where she won 3rd individually in her category.
Mihi Boosie winning the chance to go to Papeete.

Trent’s friend, Hauari’i Cacelin also took third individually in his category. Hauari’i’s grandfather moved here from Mexico City many years ago. A very nice hombre.

Bryce and Hauari'i at Raiatea Airport after returning back from the race the same day.
Bryce and Hauari’i departing from Raiatea Airport, in route to Papeete.

Overall, Bryce had a great day and a half in Papeete, Tahiti. The first stop for all the Lycee d’Uturoa students was….McDonald’s, or in Tahitian slang “Mac Do” (pronounced “mac-Doh”). Then that night, they went to a movie theater (Bryce’s first movie-going experience since March 2015 in Ensenada, Mexico) saw the recently released Disney animated feature set in Polynesia; it’s titled “Moana” in the states.

b-trophy
Bryce Rigney’s team trophy that each teen got to share for a night. A perfect photo op.

We’re very proud of Bryce for his accomplishment, representing again his school in a territorial wide sporting event, being flown and lodged in Tahiti, sponsored by his community and the French Polynesian Territory.

On a side note, while Bryce was in Tahiti, Leslie and I attended parent-teacher conferences for Bryce and Trent on Wednesday. Bryce’s principal teacher (his French teacher) stated that Bryce, based on his grades so far, could take and would likely pass his “brevet des colleges” exam if he were to take it in mid- June. It’s a scholastic certificate between a ‘middle school’ and ‘high school’ diploma (the French school system is a bit different than in the states). The ‘brevet’ is recognized throughout France as an academic achievement, prior to the “bac.” But, he’d have to stay until mid-June to take it. We’ll see, as we were thinking of continuing  our voyaging starting in May 2017.

Leaving this beautiful place of Raiatea will be difficult.
Leaving this beautiful place of Raiatea will be difficult.

 

Creature Comforts

Marina Uturoa as seen from above.
Marina Uturoa as seen from above. Our new HOME for this next school year!

Video Link: new-digs!

Since leaving Mexico’s Banderas Bay (La Cruz/Puerto Vallarta) and arriving in the Leeward Islands of the Societies, comforts of everyday Southern California, such as power, water, communication, and transportation morphed into sought-after luxuries. Easy electricity, washing machines, toasters, microwave ovens, potable water, showering facilities, hot water, flush toilets, internet access, and cars are the stuff of which cruisers’ dreams are made. Here’s a run down of what each port provided:

Galapagos, Isabel Island, Port Villamil

Galapagos Marine Iguanas lined the walkway to the dinghy dock
Galapagos Marine Iguanas lined the walkway to the dinghy dock.
  • Anchored, $2000 for 2 weeks, (permits, etc.)
  • No electricity, except at the cafes
  • Potable water near dinghy dock, (I think, but we used our desalinator)
  • No showers
  • Flush toilets at some cafes
  • Internet access included at some cafes, one in particular: Boob Trap (daily)

    galapagos-booby-trap
    Booby Trap Cafe as seen from the beach road on the opposite side of town from the port.
  • Laundry service: $50 for three loads, (we used)
  • Paved roads outside of town and packed sand smooth enough to bicycle inside town (we used our fold-ups & rented)
  • Affordable taxis
  • Trash bins provided

Marquesas, Nuku Hiva, Taiohae

  • Anchored, free

    eric-pointing-taiohae
    Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva. We anchored in the little inlet for almost a year: June 2015-May 2016.
  • No electricity, except at the cafes and at friends’ houses
  • Potable water at three specific filtering stations, free (we used our desalinator)
  • Intermittent public showers for $1 at the wharf and at friends’ houses (some had hot water)
  • Public flush toilets were $1 and usually gross; restaurant toilets were fine (no toilet paper provided at either)
  • Internet access included at some cafes, one in particular, Snack Vaeaki (daily)
    Eating together at our favorite Snack Cafe: Snack Vaeaki otherwise known as Chez Henri
    Eating together at our favorite Taiohae Snack Cafe: Snack Vaeaki otherwise known as Chez Henri

    Order counter at Snack Vaeaki
    Order counter at Snack Vaeaki
  • Laundry service: $15/small 5 kg load, but we went to a friend’s house

    Leslie doing the weekly laundry at a friend's house
    Leslie doing the weekly laundry at a friend’s house in Taiohae.
  • Roads smooth enough to bicycle (bought bikes for the boys and later donated them to a charity)
  • Occasionally borrowed friends’ cars
  • Trash bins provided

Tuamotus, Fakarava, South Pass

We were very happy to attach to a mooring to avoid hooking on coral heads
In the South Fakarava Pass, we were very happy to attach to this mooring to avoid wrapping around coral heads with our anchor chain. The moorings are provided free by the local community to guard Fakarava’s UNESCO standing .
  • Mooring buoy, free
  • No electricity, except at the cafe

    dsc00300
    Bryce watching the lagoon sunset on a calm evening at the South Fakarava Pass.
  • No showers, except a hose at the dive center
  • Potable water, near the dinghy dock, but they don’t have much (we made ours)
  • Flush toilets at the cafes (no toilet paper provided)
  • Internet access available (fee, $5/hr) at one cafe in particular: Tetamanu

    Tetamanu Village Pension, Dive Center and Cafe
    South Fakarava’s Tetamanu Village Pension, Dive Center and Cafe.
  • Laundry service likely, but expensive so we used buckets and elbow grease
  • Small motu with walking paths
  • Received permission to leave trash at cafe’s burn pile
tahiti-marina-kandu
Kandu was tied to the Marina de Papeete guest dock for six weeks. It was an ideal location in Tahiti where we had easy access to warm showers, clean bathrooms, inexpensive water and electricity, and excellent views of the marina.

Societies, Tahiti, Papeete

  • Docked, $230/wk
  • Electricity at the dock (220v), about $3/day
  • Potable water at the dock, included
  • Showers (solar hot water), included
  • Marina flush toilets, included (toilet paper provided, except when a sailor stole the stash for his boat)
  • Internet access included (7h-16h, not always operational, moderate bandwidth)
  • Laundry machine provided (usually out of service): $8/sm load, but we went to a friend’s house
  • Great roads smooth enough to bicycle (bought bikes for the boys) or scooter

    Eric scooting around the center of Papeete on Bryce's EcoReco Electric scooter
    Eric scooting around the center of Papeete on Bryce’s Ecoreco Electric scooter.
  • Bought a used car (wow, that speeded up getting things done in a day and opened up the island!!!)
  • Trash bins provided
Med-moored or Tahiti tied together like sardines
Med-moored or Tahiti-tied together like sardines in Marina d’Uturoa, Raiatea. Thank goodness for respectful neighbors ’cause we’re close.

Societies, Raiatea, Uturoa

  • Docked, $210/mo.
  • Electricity at the dock (220v), included
  • Potable water at the dock, included
  • Showers (air temp), included (poorly maintained)
  • Marina flush toilets, included (poorly maintained & of course no toilet paper provided)
  • Wifi Internet access on the boat, a monthly service, $80 (24/7, good bandwidth)
  • Laundry service: bought into the co-op, ($30/yr, 2 2-hr sessions/wk)
  • Roads smooth enough to bicycle (boys have their bikes from Tahiti or can walk to school)

    Our little Tahitienne beater car!
    Our little Tahitienne beater car!
  • Ferried our used car over (oh, yeah . . . .)
  • Trash bins provided

Creature comforts working and well-maintained aboard Kandu

  • Solar panels, wind turbine, and a portable AC generator for electricity (1.5hr/gal of gas when making water, or 4-5 hrs when not)
  • Lots of battery storage (900 Ah)
  • Lots of LED lighting
  • Inverter to convert DC electricity into AC
  • Transformer to convert 220AC to 110AC (America’s standard)
  • Microwave (small and seldom used except when docked)
  • Electric toaster and teapot (used only when docked)

    Happy to pull out of storage our handy dandy toaster!
    Happy to pull out of storage our handy dandy toaster!
  • Watermaker/desalinator to make potable water (30 gal/hr)
  • Electric fresh water pump (can turn on faucets in both heads and galley like at home)
  • Drinking water filter (to abate chlorine)
  • Hot water heater (10 gal, engine driven and AC)
  • Separate refrigerator and freezer, both very cold
  • Propane oven with three burners
  • Two heads, fore and aft
  • Two showers (the cockpit shower (lagoon water temp only) is the only one available; the other is usually a storage closet)
  • Two folding bicycles

    Plank & Bicycles...a tenuous descent for sure
    Plank & Bicycles…a tenuous descent for sure
  • Electric scooter
  • A wifi booster antenna (YES!)
  • Five-man dinghy with a 10 horse outboard motor
  • Four hatches and 13 port lights all leak free with screens!!

Things we take for granted now: tropical beauty such as unfettered sunrises and sunsets; clear warm water lagoons; isolated islets; colorful fish; fresh inexpensive tuna and exotic fruits; just baked baguettes daily $0.53 each; clean air; quality time we spend together as a family every day; immersing in another culture; making our own schedule; good health, regular exercise and inexpensive health care; safe and secure environment (except some petty theft), and making new life-long friends each month.

Idyllic Sunset in Fakarava!
Idyllic Sunset in South Fakarava!

 

 

Leave No Trace?

When hiking or camping, there’s an expression, “Leave nothing behind but footprints, take nothing but pictures and memories.” For global cruising sailors, there’s a similar expression, “Let their culture change you, don’t let your culture change them.” In essence . . . listen more than you talk. The emphasis is to not interject foreign perspectives or values for fear such may fundamentally alter their unique culture, thus eroding what is special and wonderful about another community of people, the experience of which is an essential reason why many of us travel to other, often remote, regions. It falls in line with the Star Trek, Next Generation television series’s stated “prime directive,” which “prohibits Starfleet personnel from interfering with the internal development of alien civilizations [Wikipedia],” to not alter another society’s culture by introducing technologies or philosophies. For example, today we may unintentionally introduce soft drinks to a community that only knows fruit juices, or ice cubes to a culture that only knows room temperature beverages. Or we may describe forms of marketing and commercialism that could alter currently commercial-free awnings and canopies. So the leave-no-trace recommendation would be to listen, understand, but don’t suggest Southern Californian solutions to Polynesian problems, a very reasonable stance, especially for the casual visitor.

There are many examples of the opposite perspective as well, where cruisers bring gifts of school supplies, fresh water, materials and skill sets to help solve problems. Often cruisers participate in community service days, picking up trash, running 5k’s for causes, etc. Sometimes cruisers group together to provide an organized effort to assist a community, especially in areas where they reside for several months.

Take our example: we currently live aboard our Tayana 42, Kandu, in Taiohae Bay on Nuku Hiva Island in the Marquesas archipelago. We have “Certificates of Residence” for Taiohae, which allows our sons to attend the public secondary school here. As with most any society, with kids in school, we are internalized within the community, interacting the many friends and acquaintances time and time again. After I get to know, trust and admire a person, I find I don’t see this person as his or her culture, but as a friend with whom I share the planet. The leave-no-trace position perhaps supposes that people from another culture need protection from ideas that may be unnecessarily complicated, perverse, and/or possibly irreversible corruptive, which may be true. But once I get to know someone, I approach cultural immersion from a different paradigm: treat others as I wish to be treated. If someone from another culture who knew and cared about me were made aware of a particular challenge of mine, and had a solution to offer, I’d want him or her to share it. Let me and the regulations of my community decide its merits. I don’t want to be “protected” from foreign ideas. Under these circumstances, sheltering a community from outside influences, by not sharing with them, could be considered patronizing; that a more technologically and commercially exposed culture needs to guard its solution from simpler cultures. I am attracted to entrepreneurial, community service type people. They are extraordinary, intelligent, kind, multi-talented, creative people who crave options. I am less attracted to the economically or politically ambitious. I do not suggest that a Southern California alternative is preferable. I only suggest that, if applicable, it be placed on the table. It may be a bad idea, but let the receiver decide. Let’s trust their sensibilities, their life experience to decide the fate of a given proposal, indigenous or foreign. I often work with them, helping them calculate the pros and cons of various options to determine what may be the most appropriate response for them. I avoid “selling” them an idea as I have an incomplete understanding of the complexities of their society.

Here’s an example. For decades, Marie Antoinette and her husband, Jean Baptiste, harvested coconuts for copra, a common labor-intensive way to earn a living in French Polynesia. Into their 50’s, Jean Baptiste wanted to find another, less back-breaking way for his wife to earn a living. Being that she’s an excellent cook, they decided to open a restaurant together, something neither had any experience doing. As with any business, there are challenges. Locals frequent her restaurant foreigners do not. Without foreign customers, she’s barely breaking even. Her competitor next door, Henri, has a thriving clientele of foreigners. He speaks English, Spanish, and German as well as the local French and Marquesan. And he offers free Wi-Fi. All the visiting sailors frequent his establishment. When cruise ships pull into port, many of their passengers come to take advantage of his Wi-Fi. When Henri’s “Snack Café” is bursting with people trying to find a place to sit, Marie Antoinette’s has only a table or two of locals, wishing to avoid the hubbub of foreigners. If she is not able to increase business, Marie will have to close the café and return to harvesting coconuts. Marie is a friend of a close friend of ours. She asked Leslie to stand outside her restaurant and help pull cruise ship passengers, mostly English-speaking, into her place. So Leslie did. In the process, we learned how Marie might be able to attract more foreign business, simple things like offering on her printed menu an English translation of her dishes, taking and posting pictures of her plates so foreigners could point to what they wanted, holding and placing flatware and napkins on the table to show that it is a café, and making a deal with her beverage provider to paint her café’s name on a canopy with the beverage logo, so visitors could recognize immediately that her establishment is a restaurant, and not just a bunch of tables outside a communal fishermen’s shack. These simple practices are commonplace in Los Angeles, but not so in the Marquesas. Had she more funds, she could hire an English-speaking server and install a WiFi service as well. Will Marie’s café lose some of its local charm by adopting proven urban practices? Yes, but practices acceptable to locals may prove detrimental for her. Having a successful business, keeping Marie out of the coconut groves, is more important to me than guarding a more “local” experience that bankrupts.

In addition to offering local businesses ideas on attracting more American/Euro business, we find other way to “interfere” with the local culture. We support the community through community acts. Here’s a list to help me remember as well:

  • Conduct free English language classes to locals, three times a week.
  • Offer choral instruction, direction, and chorography for the secondary school’s bid to perform in the island’s annual music festival
  • Assist in weekly dining room instruction and support in the community’s restaurant vocational training center.
  • Connected the secondary school’s English class with a class of similar age group in Southern California, a cultural exchange opportunity
  • Assisted in demonstrating and teaching young school kids how to make their own yogurt in an electric rice cooker, a common household appliance here
  • Assisted in repairing outrigger canoes for use by the secondary school as part of an after-school paddling program.
  • Participated in Career Day, presenting options in cinema and television
  • Provide free Friday movie nights with popcorn at the secondary school for the boarding students who don’t leave school for the weekend
  • Produced 3 radio spots and provided presentation support for the island’s two community breast cancer awareness seminars.
  • Produced 12 individual video spots and a consolidate spot of, and for, the adult graduating class of state-supported entrepreneurs
  • Supported the local documentary film festival, offering gratis labor and use of our projection equipment.
  • Photographed and videotaped communal festivals, offering the images and videos free of charge to the community via the City Hall and city library
  • Shared the photos and videos of the community’s largest festival to draw locals to participate in a charitable affair. The proceeds aided a family with an 18 yr.-old son being treated in Paris for a rare form of cancer.
  • Recovered a 36’ Marquesan fishing boat, adrift 120 nautical miles in open-ocean, helping four families earn a living.

When it comes to leaving Nuku Hiva untouched, we’ve failed miserably. The mayor even has our cell phone number in his mobile phone’s contact list. But I’m proud of the service we’ve provided “our” community. Although we offered more, not all offers were accepted. Ideas tend to be met with greater enthusiasm than follow-through. We’ve lived in Taiohae, Nuku Hiva for eight months now, with our kids attending school, and plenty of time to get to know people and help them, and to follow through the obstacles. It’s a different set of circumstances when a sailboat and its crew are here for a few days or weeks, especially if no one speaks the local language. Leaving a community to its own devices to solve its problems, especially when one doesn’t have the time or communication capacities to make a difference, is a reasonable approach.  That said, cruisers often come together to support a myriad of local causes, especially those sailors enjoying a prolonged stay for whichever seasonal reason. So if one has time, ability, and fortitude, helping a community is often well received and very rewarding.

Eric Rigney is a former vice president from Sony Pictures in the United States. Having arrived several months ago with his wife and two kids aboard their sailboat, Kandu, Eric quickly adapted to local life and participates regularly in Taiohae events. Here, at the Career Day seminar, he answers students'  questions related to audio-visual careers (film and television).
Posted in La Depeche newspaper, translates to “Eric Rigney is a former vice president from Sony Pictures in the United States. Having arrived several months ago with his wife and two kids aboard their sailboat, Kandu, Eric quickly adapted to local life and participates regularly in Taiohae events. Here, at the Career Day seminar, he answers students’ questions related to audio-visual careers (film and television).”

Eric Rigney

The “C” Word

Self-reliance helped catch several MahiMahi between Galapagos and Marquesas.
Self-reliance helped catch several MahiMahi between Galapagos and Marquesas.

Sailing between Galapagos and the Marquesas, an uncomfortable 24-day crossing for us, I reflect on features missed of my life recently left behind. Departing California for Mexico and the South Pacific on a 42-foot sailboat, life significantly changes as one would expect, but exactly what changes and how these changes affect a person one cannot know until engulfed in the new circumstance. In the cost-benefit analysis, we would only leave if, by leaving, we calculate a better overall outcome for ourselves, ultimately gaining more than we forfeit. But I find one particular adjustment difficult to make: “Convenience,” specifically the lack thereof.

Convenience is seductive. I miss her. She gets me what I want, when I want. All I have to do is figure out what I want, something I’m exceedingly good at, and she comes through for me. Dressed in Amazon Prime, 24hr grocery stores, next day parts from West Marine, Jack’n the Box drive thru, the big box stores, Costco, Walmart, Target, or the mall; she gives me what I want, when I want . . . and I am capable of wanting so much.

Car is great too; a cozy cocoon, it entertains, it comforts, and it takes me where I want. It asks little of me. Entertainment, I miss too: movies, television, theater, art galleries, music, opera, dining out, etc. It, too, asks little. I merely have to decide what it is I wish to see . . . Car takes me there.

Convenience has a bathroom near your bedroom, a large shower, washing machine, dryer and dishwasher. She’s water, power, gas, phone, sanitation, and Internet. She’s so there, so ready to serve. I miss Convenience.

I left Convenience for a more challenging relationship with Self-reliance. This new one taps me for everything I’ve got: brain, heart, body, and soul. I don’t demand of her . . . she demands of me. Convenience never asked for anything. Each day with Self-reliance, I’m spent. I bed and rise early. I’m uncomfortable, and yet somehow I no longer seem to need to work out or visit medical specialists. I no longer ache. I’m thinner. I’m fit. With Self-reliance, I don’t get to buy things. I must watch what I spend, and try not to. She requires that I wait to get the things I want, and/or do without. Entertainment under Self-reliance is simple too; cards and board games with wife and sons, watching together a video on a 9” screen, meeting new and fascinating people from around the world of all walks of life, walking or swimming by exotic animals and plants, hiking active volcanoes, picking unusual produce from a local farmer’s field, but mostly, just solving problems. I chose this new relationship because she’s supposed to offer my family and me more substantive rewards, but who knows? It’s too soon to tell. Still, the other relationship was pretty good. Learning to live with less is not as much fun as learning to live with more. I miss Convenience. Fortunately for me, she harbors another easy-going quality: Convenience never gets jealous. No matter how long I’m away from her, she’s always willing to take me back.

School Daze

Trent's class photo with the ubiquitious "bird" captured in this Kodak moment, the student at the front-left corner.
Trent’s class’s Kodak moment captures the student at the front left corner sporting the playground’s ubiquitous “bird” on his righthand.

Leslie and I dreamed of Bryce and Trent learning to some day speak fluent French. Although it was not our original intention when setting off to sail around the world, the new emphasis toward cultural immersion in lieu of sailing around the world affords us this opportunity. It is one of the main reasons for our extended stay in French Polynesia, allowing us to enroll Bryce and Trent in a French public school; first in Nuku Hiva, Marquesas, then maybe in Raiatea, Society.

At first, we were all excited to start school, all of us except Trent. He was, and remains, less convinced of the benefits surrounding the acquisition of a new language. For Leslie and I, learning to speak French has become a requirement of them. In August of this year, Bryce and Trent made Nuku Hiva history, perhaps even Marquesas history, becoming the first Americans ever to attend school here. At first, Bryce welcomed the attention his unique circumstances offered. Everyone watched his every move. Girls flocked to him, requesting instant girlfriend status (being a small island of limited population, many kids are related, making it difficult to date, so new blood represents new possibilities). He was instantly popular. Trent on the other hand did not welcome the global attention. No matter where he went, on campus or off, he felt the inquisitive gaze of locals. When at the store, what products would he buy, what items interested him? At school, kids stared to see what clothes he wore, what technology he brought, what skills and attitudes he might introduce. He did not welcome the unsolicited attention that being a blond-haired, blue-eyed, white-skinned American brought him in a school 98% brown-haired, brown-eyed, brown-skinned Polynesian. Conspicuous simply for his differences was an uncomfortable circumstance for Trent. I tell the boys to remember how it feels to be different in appearance from the general population and to be treated like a freak, so that when they find themselves in a circumstance where they see someone different being introduced into their cultural, that they reach out to them to help them feel at ease, to welcome them in a more constructive and caring manner than their current classmates are.

Another challenge for the boys is entering a scholastic social structure unable to communicate. Not understanding what kids are saying to you or each other, not understanding what the teachers are saying when they are teaching, describing the assignments, the homework, and handing out the tests is akin to living a nightmare for an honor roll student like Bryce, or a student like Trent who likes to please others, especially his teachers. “They think because we don’t speak French that we’re idiots. They can’t believe we’re so dumb, coming from America. It’s not fair. We know more about most of these subjects then they do. Just because we don’t speak their language, doesn’t mean we’re dumb. Even little kids think they’re smarter than us just because we can’t answer even simple questions,” they protest. Again, I ask that they always remember this injustice so that when they meet someone learning English, or even a new skill, that they accord them the same allowances that they feel the Marquesan students, and even some of the French teachers, should extend them. For the first 6 weeks, most all the teachers were sympathetic to their circumstance. After the first school break, a one-week vacation, patience ran out. Nearly all of their teachers began treating them as if the grace period for learning to speak French were over. Apparently for many, six weeks is all it should take to be able to speak French.

The boys were learning. And as in when learning any language, they were beginning to understand what was being said, more than they could speak, especially when others made the effort to speak very slowly and deliberately. When a debutant linguist asks a native speaker to speak slowly, he or she slows down from 70 mph to 55 mph, but still freeway speed. What a very beginning student of a language wants is for a person to speak at 5-10 mph, crowded parking lot speed. You want each word clearly spoken and separated from each other with a fair pause in between. Only someone in the process of learning a new language seems to appreciate this requirement. Others soon tire of the effort and slowly ramp back up to freeway speeds. As parents introducing non-speaking students to their class, it’s not fair to ask teachers to teach their class in a manner necessary for Bryce and Trent to understand, either by translating in English or by slowing speech to a snail’s pace. So, to assist their learning, we hired a professional French-as-a-second-language teacher, experienced in teaching French to Americans. Bryce and Trent meet with him outside of school, 3 times a week. In a constructive environment, he instructs them in basic French, addresses their language questions related to any recent experiences, and helps them with their homework.

Language is not the only challenge confronting Bryce and Trent’s introduction to school in the Marquesas. Cultural differences make for difficult and unpleasant social lessons. Petty theft, lying, vulgar acts and language, and threats of violence are commonplace behaviors in Taiohae’s secondary school. The boys’ backpacks are pilfered through when they’re not looking, during recess, lunch, or physical ed. Bryce and Trent’s stationary supplies are taken from their desk when the walk away to approach the teacher with a question. Locker locks are picked open and items removed. Those whom Bryce thought were his frie

Course Adjustment

Kandu" floating" on the hard.
Kandu in Ventura, all ready to go . . . so I would have wished

Years of preparation for a five-year circumnavigation were expected. The labor and cost to update systems on an older boat were expected. The amount of time it would take and the “discoveries” of unintended repairs/upgrades/costs were unexpected. We planned to start our circumnavigation leaving within a community of 125 cruising boats, a fun way to force our departure date while meeting other like-minded families and forging new lifelong friendships. The Baja Ha-ha Rally departs San Diego for Baja California, Mexico in late October.

BajaMap
Baja Ha-ha Cruiser’s Rally route

Appreciating that the further away from Southern California we got, the more time-consuming and expensive working on the boat would become: thus our plans changed. With the five-year picture in mind, we forewent departing with the Baja Ha-ha Rally, preferring to have a more comfortable, less stressful departure and subsequent ocean crossings. The five-month delay would also mean not stopping in Central or South America–bummer. After missing the Ha-ha departure, we delayed still further our departure into Mexico in San Diego. Sailing down the Southern California coast revealed more “discoveries.” Delaying our San Diego departure was a calculated gamble.

Cutting diesel impervious nitrile into inspection plate gaskets for Kandu's fuel tanks at the Silver Gate Yacht Club guest dock.
Cutting gaskets for Kandu’s fuel tanks in San Diego.
Controller: the brains between wind generation and batteries. This one will be replaced.
Controller: the brains between wind generation and batteries. This one was replaced in San Diego.

In exchange for more stable boat systems (diesel flow to engine, wind generation of electricity, etc.), we would cut short our stay in Mexico, sailing directly to the Galapagos from Puerto Vallarta.

 

Costly autopilot actuator failure due to my ignorance in its installation parameters.
Costly autopilot actuator failure due to my ignorance in its installation parameters.
Time consuming VHF antenna connection repair. Learned more than I wanted.
Time consuming VHF antenna connection repair. Learned more than I wanted.

Unfortunately, problems cropped up on our way to La Cruz, Mexico (autopilot, VHF radio, etc.) and we were held up longer in Mexico than intended. Repairing a boat in Mexico is more time and cost effective than in the Galapagos or the Marquesas. The additional delay caused Easter Island, one of Leslie’s bucket list destinations, to be removed from our itinerary. All of a sudden, the additional costs, combined with an unexpected substantial tax bill, threatened to reduce our trip from five years to three, perhaps only two, years. It was a depressing set of circumstances for me.

Squalls on route to Galapagos
Squalls on route to Galapagos

Additionally, along the way we kept missing events and weather windows, sometimes by a week, sometimes by a few days. It was more than frustrating to learn we’d missed petting the grey whales, “There were so many last week, but they all left four days ago.” We missed a very animated Mexican village’s St. Patrick’s patron saint’s celebration by two weeks. We missed the favorable weather window between Mexico and Galapagos, and when we arrived in the Galapagos, the customary sunny and calm weather of Puerto Villamil turned unusually rainy with a large sea surge. The family was growing somewhat discouraged by the prospect of our future travels, especially Leslie. I was not spending the promised time of adventure and exploration with the boys.

These weighty circumstances were not the expected outcome of so much thoughtful effort and planning. By the time we reached the Galapagos, the combination of rough passages, missed opportunities, and troubling breakdowns caused me to reflect and re-evaluate my goals. An optimist (generally), I often find opportunity within crises. I was digging deep to find the good, sifting through the weeks to recognize events worthy of the sacrifice. It is under these conditions, after 24 days of uncomfortable sailing, that we arrived in the Marquesas (cue revelation music cue, the kind you hear with sun rays bursting around a cloud).

Rounding the southeast corner of Nuku Hiva
Rounding the southeast corner of Nuku Hiva

Sailing around the rugged castle-like southeastern corner of Nuku Hiva, the island was greener than I’d ever seen it. I’ve been to the Marquesas twice before, in 1976-77 and in 1990, both times aboard a sailboat.

Kandu in Anaho Bay, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas
Kandu in Anaho Bay, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas

As a result, the Marquesas were a familiar and welcoming place. We have Marquesan friends on the main administrative island of Nuku Hiva. The Marquesas consist of six inhabited islands with a population of 9000. Nuku Hiva is the most northerly. Most sailboats, taking advantage of the southerly winds and seas, clear into the southern Marquesas and work their way north. But considering our Marquesan friends are part of our extended family and were eagerly awaiting our arrival, we headed directly to Nuku Hiva. Via satellite text, they knew exactly when we were to arrive. What a grand and warm welcome they provided. Sebastien and a French friend of his, Guy, came to help us drop anchor. At the wharf, Denis and Chantale waited the 90 minutes it took for us to pull out the inflatable dingy that was packed below deck for the long crossing. Once we motored up to the wharf, scaled ourselves up the stainless steel ladder and tied off the dinghy, we were greeted with kisses and fragrant flower leis. There were boxes and bags of fresh fruit and a grand stalk of bananas offered to take back to Kandu. At the table of an open air “snack” restaurant situated on the wharf waited a plate of poisson cru, a favorite French Polynesian dish of lime marinated raw fish served in coconut milk over rice, and glasses of fresh squeezed pamplemousse juice made from a large thick-skinned, yellow-green citrus fruit similar to grapefruit, but sweeter with a hint of lime. That night, we were driven (automobile travel is a luxury for us these days) to a lovely villa high above the beach, overlooking the bay.

Marquesas Taiohae from Heloise
View of Taiohae Bay from our friends’ home.

We feasted with two-dozen family members over a potluck of various Marquesan, French, and Chinese dishes, lovingly prepared. We were told that we had arrived in time to enjoy the month long period of “festival,” and that we were invited to participate in a rare visit to the uninhabited island of Eaio in a way most Marquesans only dream, let alone a non-Marquesan family.

Dawn at Eaio, before the hunt.
Dawn at Eaio, on the plateau, before the hunt.
Eaio, after the hunt.
Eaio, on the beach, after the hunt.

Over the next couple weeks, we learned that Bryce and Trent could be admitted into their public “college” (6th-11th grade), where they could learn French, a dream of Leslie’s and mine. We could become “Certified Residents” of Taiohae, Nuku Hiva with benefits coming to the residents of the town.

Trent starts French public secondary school in Taiohae, Marquesas
Trent starts French public secondary school in Taiohae, Marquesas

There would be beautiful hikes, hunting of boar and wild sheep, horseback riding on secluded beaches, dance and song soirees, and more local food. In short, we would be immersed in the Marquesan culture in a way rare for most sailing families. And it would all be at little expense. Our friends are farmers and fishermen, so they told us to not buy these fruits and fish, that they would provide them to us. Anchoring in the bay is free. We made arrangements to purchase diesel duty-free. One of our “family members” offered the use of their house, with our own room and access to laundry machines. With much buzz about the likelihood of an El Nino weather year, I asked Guy, Sebastien’s French friend who has lived throughout much of French Polynesia over 8 years aboard his sailboat, where he would stay if he had only one year to live in French Polynesia. Without missing a beat, he said, right here in Taiohae, Nuku Hiva. As the next few weeks passed, and through the generosity of our Marquesan family members we experienced many wonderful things it became apparent that my desire to see as much of the world in five years as possible needed revision. Rather than touch down in as many countries as possible, more appealing had become the pace and benefits of staying in a wonderful place for months at a time. Rather than spend my days repairing Kandu, I would be able to take frequent breaks and enjoy the places, the people, and their cultures. After so many years of having been taxed physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially, the Marquesas is serving as a turning point, an opportunity to experience a fascinating lifestyle in a way few get a chance, especially for our sons. Bryce, seeing first-hand the strength and versatility of our Marquesan friends, expressed disappointment in that his friends would not know all that a “real man” can do.

Bryce climbing coconut tree to bring down "drinking" nuts.
Bryce climbing coconut tree to bring down “drinking” nuts.

This change in focus is probably an obvious adjustment for most to expect. “Of course, it’s about having cultural immersion and great experiences with your family and not about sailing around the world,” you think. But for forty years I’ve wanted to sail around the world. It is not easy to have to re-evaluate my reasons for wanting it so. Ultimately, the main emphasis came down to wanting to recreate the revelatory experiences of my adolescence, of having the world opened up within my kids’ minds, to alternative ways of seeing the world and our place in it. In my pre-departure calculation I figured the more cultures, the more mind openings, right? It’s like the captain’s oath from Star Trek: to seek out new places and cultures, to boldly go where few have gone before. That notion greatly attracts. What was not attracting was getting the boat ready for the next long passage while not visiting the current location. Are you kidding me??? Yet, that was where I was headed. With finances dwindling, it looked like I had to make a choice, sail around the world within three years, or maybe take three years to get to Australia before selling the boat, or something in-between. But, if I could live cheaply for two years, we could still travel for 5 years, just not around the world. I had to get creative with having experiences without spending money.

Rustic Marquesan beehives produce exceptional honey, a metaphor for life.
Rustic Marquesan beehives produce exceptional honey, a metaphor for life.

The Marquesas was showing me how. If you like fresh fruit and fish more than French fries and beef, and juice more than alcohol, you can live quite modestly in this remote island group. So what if we stayed one year in the Marquesas and a second year in Raiatea (Guy’s next best place to stay in French Polynesia), or which ever Societal Island opportunity grabs our imagination. Then maybe the third year we go through the South Pacific to Fiji before cutting down to New Zealand for 5 months during the hurricane season. NZ is expensive, but maybe something will work out to offset costs. It’s only 5 months. From there, pushing into the fourth year, we could pick up from which ever South Pacific islands we left off, but this time for hurricane season we could head north to the more rustic locations like Solomon and Marshal Islands, going really native, before dropping down to Australia just before the beginning of the fifth year. If we have to sell the boat, then so be it. We could then drive a camping car around Australia, and/or rent a house in Indonesia or Thailand, a base from which to travel to other parts of SE Asia and beyond. Who knows?

Our Marquesan friends offer wonderful examples of what men can really do if they push themselves.  Perhaps in exercising flexibility, I teach my sons strength of reformation, doing my best to sail the wind I have . . .

by Eric Rigney