Tag Archives: sailing


Our friends in Vaitahu told us that there are both manta rays and dolphins at the next village/bay south, Hapatoni. They said it is a breeding ground for the dolphins, and they are there nearly every day. This morning we motored there (all of about 2 miles). The hills were very steep, and the water depth dropped off quickly. We anchored in about 40 feet, but it felt like we were almost on the rocks. And the wind coming down the hills kept changing direction, so sometimes it was blowing us toward the rocks. We not would want to spend a (sleepless) night like that, but Bill planned to remain aboard, so Tim and I felt safe going exploring in the dinghy. (Later we moved back to our first anchorage further north on Tahuata.)

We went out to the mouth of the bay, where we had seen some black shapes from a distance. But when we got there – nothing. So we headed further south along the coast. And what a coast! Hills more steep and rugged than we had seen, lava cliffs and gullies and chutes and seams down to the waves, caves and odd shapes carved into the lava walls by the sea. Atop the cliffs were shapes that looked like tikis, but I think they were just natural lava protrusions. Either way, the spiritual forces seemed strong and present here. We motored around a point to the southernmost bay on Tahuata (unnamed on our chart), and it seemed we had arrived in the Bay of Eden. Hills and valleys and coco palms and clouds spilling over the mountain tops and cliffs and caves and green and blue…and not one sign of humanity. Well, no, there were some hard-to-make-out letters painted on the rocks, perhaps the name of the place. But no huts, no boats, no buoys, no gardens, no clearings, no trash, no engines… I said to Tim, “If I were a dolphin, this is where I would come to mate.”

We went into the bay just to explore its edges – natural rock carvings; one cave in particular attracting our attention. And then as we turned to go, there were dolphins nearby. I slipped into the water, and there they were — looking up at me from 30 feet below, swimming up to the surface, and swimming away. There were maybe twenty. They mostly kept their distance, and calmly swam in several groups, though twice we saw individuals leap out of the water. We would come close to a group, and shortly after they would disappear. A minute later they would reappear 50 yards away. At one point they seemed to be swimming in a circle about 50 feet in diameter. Was that herding fish to the middle? Was it a defensive stance against us? Was it a way of relating to each other? Or was it just by chance? I don’t know what they were doing or thinking, but it was a treat to be in their midst, an honor to be allowed to view them for a little while in their Eden.

Day 2 at Hiva Oa

Liking things much better a day later, even though I spent a large part of the day trying to do a blog post with some video, with no success (yet). The island’s only gas station is a short walk from the dinghy landing, and it has a “mini-mart” with baguettes and cheese and fruit juice and a reasonable selection of canned/dry foods and…….ice cream. Nice. And the place where I got Internet access is the “signal station” out on a point, high in the air, with an extraordinary view of the ocean and the islands and the approach to the harbor. And a picnic bench in the shade. Wonderful place to struggle with slow Internet access. More cleaning of the hulls today; greeting the next boat in (Chapter Two); dropping off our laundry with a woman who will return it clean in two days.

Next Boat…

I spent an hour or two today sitting atop the pilot house (where it was shady), watching our wake streaming out behind — a continuous river disappearing into the sea. A continuous river stretching some 5,000 miles astern, back home…

Thoughts of “back home” are often about food, and usually a comfy sofa, either in front of a favorite TV show, or overlooking the ocean from our Maine cottage. But this time my thoughts meandered to another favorite topic: boats. What kind of boat will scratch my sailing itch after this adventure…?

Thoughts begin with my little trimaran, sitting in a barn 2/3rds built. If I completed this project, and took it a step further to outfit it thoroughly for backpacker-type cruising, it could satisfy my desire to sail over the horizon — e.g., to Downeast Maine. A huge plus for this boat is cost. Even with complete cruising gear it would be the least expensive option by far. But it has its drawbacks. I’d want a little autopilot, so I don’t have to steer 100% of the time. So I need a battery, and a way to charge the battery. And a little boat like that has no good way to carry a dinghy for getting ashore. I could lash a small kayak on the cross-beams. Ugly, but workable. And potentially the biggest drawback: it would accommodate me only — not a boat for cruising with Hallie.

To get a boat for cruising together, we should have a reasonable galley, and an enclosed (at least by a curtain) head. There’s a big trade-off between interior space and my thought that I’d like to have a trimaran. Trimarans have exciting sailing qualities but very little space. There are some nice ones in the 30 – 35 foot range that probably have enough inside so that the two of us could be reasonably comfortable.

But…only the two of us. What about sailing with friends? If we go a little bigger we could have a “guest room” and be able to accommodate another couple. Probably not a trimaran at this point, as its size would get unwieldy and its expense would be exorbitant. Maybe a catamaran? Hey, maybe like the one I’m on right now?

But if we go that big/expensive, maybe we should be thinking about living aboard. We could migrate along the Intracoastal Waterway, which I found quite enticing on the way south. Living aboard changes the equation in big ways Sailing qualities have to take a back seat to space and comfort. Maybe it wouldn’t even be a sailboat at all. We saw some nice “trawlers” on the ICW that seemed like ideal vessels for that environment, where one has to motor most of the time anyway.

Boats are always a compromise. Whatever we do, I will lust after other boats that can do the other things better. I’ll just have to keep contemplating this question that has no right answer, and kick it around with Hallie a few times…over the next 15,000 miles…