Survivalist Cruising at Castaway Island and the Planned Departure for Hawaii

After two amazing weeks at Castaway Island a weather window has opened up and in a few days we have decided we’ll sail north.

The past two weeks have been fun, relaxing and peaceful.  We haven’t pulled the hook since we dropped it upon arrival here.  We have only seen one local boat and they didn’t seem interested in us so did not stop to say Ia Orana.  We spent days scouring the reef for treasure, knocking coconuts down, fishing and kayaking.  Catching fish from the boat became more difficult once the sharks figured out where the action was at.  It became so difficult to pull in a whole fish that once I hooked one I had less than 15-20 seconds to get it onto the boat before the sharks tore it to pieces.  The other day I hooked a 20″ snapper and was fighting to get it in when the sharks went nuts and one big shark took a bite out of him and all I was able to pull in was his head!  Since then I have lost many hooks because I have to reel them in so quick that they snap the line.  It still hasn’t prevented us from eating fresh fish every other day.  We also found an old fish trap on the beach that I converted to a lobster trap, baited with the carcass of a fish I caught and then took it out onto the reef flat and tied it to a rock at low tide.  A couple days later we ventured back out to the reef to gather a bucket full of lobster.  Instead of delicious lobster we had caught a baby shark, a dead fish and two small snapper.  I guess there is a reason that the locals don’t use traps to catch lobster..

We ran out of vegetables a while ago so Alyssa has been cultivating quite the garden in the galley.  She grew sprouts and wheat grass.  She also made yogurt from scratch, which is quite delicious.  We have been quite the survivalist cruisers over the past two weeks (or as Phil, Alyssa’s Uncle,  would call it: Extreme Boondocking); catching and growing our own food.  Between catching fish and making yogurt for protein, husking and shaving coconuts for curry and poisson cru to growing sprouts and wheat grass for live veggies and baking baguettes and foccacia we have all we need here.  It’s cool to be living a part of the simple existence of the early inhabitants of these atolls.  You spend your days procuring and cultivating food, eating delicious fresh meals and then just relaxing.  We have enjoyed it very much.

Alyssa has been sewing up a storm.  She made a great looking canvas cover for the small outboard and fixed some of our older canvas covers.  I’m thinking we may be able to put her new found skills to good use with a new boat card along the lines of “Ellie Canvas Works.”  Ok, we’ll work on the name.

We found another raft while out exploring the reef.  This one had a small plastic dome with solar panels on top.  It looks like it was built to send data.  The raft also has marking from Ecuador on it.  We assume this was an experiment to see where the raft would land.  The markings on top of the dome were a bar code and serial number: DSL+55548  Maybe someone can do some googling and try and find out who is behind it?  I for one am just glad to know that people are sending out unmanned navigational hazards for us to hit while on passage.  Thanks academia!

As for the weather:  There is a high pressure zone to the south of us right now that is causing the trades to blow with force.  We are dancing on our anchor with 20 knots whistling through the rig.  We can hear the roar of the big southern swells mixed with wind waves punishing the windward side of the reef.  In a few days the high pressure will move east and behind it our oh-so-unreliable GRIB files are promising light easterlies.  We are hopeful they are telling the truth and we can glide blissfully up to the Marquesas.  It’s a 4 day sail to Nuku Hiva, the northernmost island in the chain.  On account of Alyssa’s wonderful provisioning in Huahine and our rationing of fuel thus far, we are in good shape to sail past the Marquesas and set a course directly to Hilo, Hawaii if the near-term forecast looks great.  If the weather turns on us we’ll duck into a quiet bay and wait until a better window opens up.  Once we sail north from the Marquesas it’s a 2,000 nm run to Hawaii with no islands in between.  We are estimating the sail will take us about 16-17 days once we leave Nuku Hiva in our wake.

Ellie is ready for another long passage.  I went up the rig yesterday and everything looks great.  We are sure glad we have a Tartan and not a yogurt cup.  I keep finding strength aspects of her build that make me smile and help us sleep well in rough weather.  I have stripped the weather cloths for better windward performance and plan to stow the jerry jugs below (empty diesel and water) and strapped in the cockpit (gasoline).  The yankee is attached and ready for action.  The kayak is stowed away below deck.  We have greased up the primary winches.  We took the paddle off the Monitor windavane and I did some dremel surgery to open up the gap in the stainless tube so that we can tighten the paddle more securely in place.  It has been giving us trouble by moving out of alignment.  The fix was a success and the paddle is now locked in place on the centerline.  I tightened up the steering cables and also took apart the electronic autopilot to inspect it.  It is on it’s last leg and starts to slip when it get’s wet.  Those wheel pilots are POS and should not be relied on for ocean duty.  We have another one on board if this one craps out completely.  Good thing we don’t rely on the wheel pilot for primary steering duty.  That honor is bestowed upon our trusty crew member Monitor who steers a rock-solid course day and night and doesn’t ask for anything.

We plan to ride the SE trades due north from Nuku Hiva on about 141 W until we cross the ITCZ and find the NE trades at about 8N or so.  Once we reach the NE trades we’ll fall off and sail on a course that puts us just north of the Big Island of Hawaii.  We plan to make landfall at Hilo on the North side of the island.

I have mixed emotions about heading for Hawaii but Alyssa could not be more excited.  Just the thought of real grocery stores, farmers markets, starbucks, movie theaters and restaurants has butterflies in her stomach.  I am looking forward to seeing the active volcano and possibly renting a motorcycle and riding for the first time in over a year.  It should be a fun detour and a change of pace to have all the amenities of home.  We are also very excited to visit all our friends and family in CA over the holiday’s.

We leave in three days so there is more to be done in preparation, not to mention the mandatory hammock time.  We’ll write en route.

Lewis & Alyssa

September 28, 2014

Castaway Island, Tuamotus

Thank You

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