14 July, 2006





Much to tell since last contacting everyone.   

Sorry if you’ve been worried, but I’ve been off the grid and moved a fair distance in the mean time. 

Last time I sent off anything was from Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva, in the Marquesas.  Since then I’ve spent time in the most beautiful anchorages I’ve ever seen, the sort of places I sailed all this way for.

The first was Anaho Bay on the north side of Nuku Hiva.  I went there expecting to stay only a couple of days before heading south to Tahiti, but then found it to be the most perfect spot in the Marquesas and stayed probably two weeks instead.  Got addicted to freediving, which is now my communion.

In Anaho we met a man named Hugh and he changed the entire direction of my travels.  I had long been trying to find a way up to Kiribati, but it always seemed a most impractical path, seeing as I don’t plan on going to Taiwan as Herbert and Brian do. 

Since I doubt but a few of you have ever heard of Kiribati (pronounced “Kiribas”) I’ll mention that it is a country of scattered atolls in northwestern Polynesia and eastern Micronesia.  All this means is that it is north of the normal milk run of traveling yachts and very isolated and rarely mentioned by sailors.  It is far enough north that it is out of the typhoon belt and therefore safe in the wet season.  Kiribati is also vastly spread out over a huge area of ocean, but, again, north of the more popular Tonga, Fiji, and Samoas.  Most sailors visit these countries before heading south to New Zealand for the typhoon season, which was my plan as well.


Hugh spent a lot of time there years ago and loved it.  The way he described it, and the sort of travel he likes sounded perfect for me: essentially isolated, pristine, and unvisited.

So I started to sway that way again, which means I would winter in Tarawa instead of New Zealand, then visit NZ at the end of next year instead.

Hugh then told us the he and his family were headed to this island west of the Marquesas called Caroline, the SW’ernmost island of Kiribati, and that it was rarely ever visited, like 2 yachts a year.  It was unpopulated and NW of the Tuomotos which are the more popular area to visit.  Since my engine wasn’t running I wasn’t going to visit the ‘Motus and Caroline sounded great.  The diving, he said, was superb.


So Hugh, Herbert and I took off that way.  Brian headed south, wanting to do some work in Tahiti.  The sail was excellent.  You’ll have to read about it in my journal.  The entrance into Caroline was the most terrifying experience of the last few years of my life.  I hope to never repeat a sailing maneuver like the one I managed there.  (And Herb got it on video.  Ha)

I did fix my engine while I was there, which was a tremendous feat.  (I don’t know how I ever would have managed to escape Caroline without it.)

And from Caroline Herbert and I had a grand sail down to Tahiti.  We stayed within ten miles of each other the whole way and could talk regularly to each other on the VHF, too regularly—my batteries were toast when I arrived.


Tahiti is the antithesis of Caroline: it is big city, it is modern and touristy.  I relished my first cold, fizzy coca-cola and had a Chinese meal for lunch.  There are a few jetskis, a cruise ship.  I miss Caroline already.  I want Kiribati, not Fiji and Tonga and all the honey-mooning dream spots.  Moorea is next door and promises to be wonderful and quiet with good diving.


Don’t get me wrong: internet cafes, restaurants, BIG grocery stores are great.  I am thankful and happy to be here.  The water is actually immaculate, despite the city.  But I like to have the both, one after the other, city then solitude.


It has been great to run into old (relative) friends again.  Old faces from Mexico and the Marquesas.  I just met Akko and Adda, two voices I’ve heard on our morning radio net for months.  Great folks. So many people I thought long lost heading west.  People get stuck here.   Jim, on Aguaja is here.  Paul and Laura will be back within days.  Brian, of course, was here.   There are maybe one-hundred boats in the anchorage, called Maeva Beach. (In Caroline -  3 boats total; Anaho – 5 boats.  See the difference?) 



I’ve written a fair bit about everything and is in my journal if you want to read it: swimming with sharks, eels, sea turtles and other reef fish, caught Ciguatera, a nasty reef-fish disease, lot’s of amazing lost and found adventures—including losing my dinghy at sea; revived the engine, which was huge; ate clams and crabs over the fire—a lot of good stuff to be sure.  Caroline is really one of the most special spots of my life.  The coral and the lagoon there are like nothing I’ve ever dreamed of. . . it was something out of Disney.



From here on to Moorea then Bora Bora.  I’ll have to be quick as I only have three more weeks before I have to leave French Polynesia.  I will likely skip the Cooks and head straight to American Samoa and provision there and move quick to Western Samoa which is much nicer, I hear.

Herb, Brian and I may head further west to Fiji to see Hugh again, but will likely head north toward Kiribati.  I haven’t really looked that far ahead and don’t really know what is on the way.  Nui, perhaps.  Tilikum wanted to go there. 



NOTE:  Jamie Blythe and Jeremy Wood are getting / just got married.

            I hope Widge was the Best Man.  He wouldn’t make much of a bride’s maid.

            Congrats.  I love you guys and my heart is always, always with you.

Marquesas to the stern



Anaho Bay_________


I have already written about my lost dink and the recovery, Herb’s spear loss and recovery, I said a little something about our friend Mike and his amazing catamaran, “the Good News”—he has airconditioning, ice cubes, world-wide internet, air compressor—it is a floating house, but with more electronics.  Since anchoring in Anaho we’ve spent a fair bit of time there.  He is a good friend with lots of hospitality. 

But all of this doesn’t say a thing about Anaho Bay, which, in itself, is as fine a bay as I’ve every anchored in.

It is beautifully mushroom-shaped with a shallow reef fringing its perimeter.  Every morning I wake up, throw on the fins and snorkel and jump over and swim with sea creatures right under the boat.  We’ve seen sea turtles and I saw a manta ray over six feet across.

There are some houses around the bay, but no village.  There is a trail up and over the ridge behind the bay that finds a village after an hour of hiking in the next bay to the west.  We’ve gone there a couple of times for bread and eggs.

A strange thing is that Anaho is empty except for friends: There is me and Brian and Herb, then Mike on the Good News and Hugh, a new friend on Bean Nuir.  In a bay like this, so close to Taiohae it is amazing there is no one here.


When Herb and I came the idea was to only stay for a couple of days until Brian showed up and then we’d leave for Tahiti.  But that was over a week ago.  Once we arrived, we realized that Anaho was what we had been looking for all along.  This was the S. Pacific; this was island life.  Why leave??  So we didn’t.


As we became better friends with Hugh and his family he taught us about some out of the way islands that aren’t on the “milk run” of the S Pac.  Hugh wasn’t going to Tahiti, but was staying north, first visiting a little island called Caroline Island.  It is currently uninhabited; it is five-hundred miles from anywhere; it has boo-coos of reef fish and crystal clear water.  Perfect diving.  And no one—I mean no one—ever goes there.  Maybe a couple of boats a year!


Herb and I decided Tahiti would have to wait just a bit longer.  Brian could not be swayed.  The lure of the internet cafes was too much for him.    Herb and I are more interested in diving and beach bonfires roasting our daily catch.

So after a week and a half…or so…it is hard to say how long… we part with Brian and follow Hugh the 600 miles to Caroline Island. 



Caroline Island____________



The winds were perfect: brisk and dead after.  I set my sails wing-on-wing and left them for five days.  I didn’t feel well this trip at all.  It was a bit rolly, but not so bad.  Again, rather perfect conditions, made 120 – 148 miles every day, all very easily sailed.

However, on arriving to Caroline, Hugh is the first to reach the lagoon entrance.  It is a blind pass, which means that it is a cul-de-sac of sorts, a dead end—but it would be a safe anchorage and easy access to the island.

But the first word was disparaging: It was only 30-50 feet wide.  Hugh strong suggested that I not try and enter under sail.   This was sad, but I had known that this was a possibility.  The pass was a question mark.

Hugh made it safely through and then Herbert—both, of course, under motor power.  I thought, perhaps I could check the leeward side of the island for any protected shelves off the reef.  It was a long shot, and a poor thought at that, but, why not?  The entrance did look terrifying: breaking waves everywhere you could see—it was hard to even make out the pass.  So it wasn’t hard to swallow Hugh’s advice.  So I set off around the island for a bit of exploring if nothing else.


Fate was not yet finished with the situation however.  Herbert believed I could make it or perhaps if I waited to high tide, he thought.  I said I’d consider it, but I already was mostly… mostly set on turning south for Tahiti, another 500 miles.

The sail around the island was beautiful but afforded no safe harbor.  The morning was still young and Hugh now even agreed with Herbert that indeed I could sail in the pass, but the real trick would be leaving again.  It would be almost impossible  The wind is nearly always easterly this time of year and the pass faces dead into the east.  To this Herbert countered that if I was willing to take the risk of sailing in, then he would risk towing me out (which still would be a risk to me).  The problem here is that Bamboo only has a ten-horse Yanmar—not much power for a dangerous spot.


What to do?

It was a tough tough call.  I went back and forth.  The prudent sailor. . .  “There are old sailors and there are bold sailors but there are no old bold sailors.”  But I wanted this experience.  I knew the S. Pac wouldn’t offer me this opportunity again for months, an isolated pristine island, that is.  Was I willing to let it pass. . . for prudence?

I felt I could sail in.  Herb could tow me out.  It shouldn’t be a problem, but somehow ther was this lurking fear.  I knew, somehow, that I could really fuck this up.  With the tide up, it was much trickier to see the edges of the reef. . . and it was so so narrow.  What was more, coming in under a jib alone, I wouldn’t be able to slow down effectively and there was no room to spare—none.  I’d have to shoot the pass like a roller-coaster ride, blow the jib to de-power and then drop anchor while still making good way, no room to even turn-to-wind.

Indeed it was a dodgy manuevre.  But my friend’s were egging me on and somehow I couldn’t refuse the challenge, the risk—I could feel the fear coursing through my blood and I couldn’t back away from it.


“Okay,” I said, “Hugh, talk me in.”  Hugh had climbed up his mast and sat perched on his spreaders with his handheld VHF.  He could see the reef perfectly.

I dropped the mainsail and prepared the anchor and jib sheets.  I took some deep breaths.  I headed for the breakers and the pass I knew lurked behind.


I know that my initial approach frightened the boys.  To them it appeared as though I was making a v-line right for the reef.  In reality all I was doing was trying to get myself in a bit closer to help my visibility.

Once just wide of the reef I again turned up and paralleled the reef until Hugh gave the word that I was lined up with the pass.  It was still invisible to me.  All I could see were breakers everywhere.  I knew there were none (or few) breakers in the pass, so I figured that it was an illusion.

And sure enough I hear Hugh on the VHF,  “Okay, Jonah, that’s it.  Turn downwind and jibe the jib over to a port tack.”  My heart was racing.  I was ready do anything Hugh said.  I was at the brink of panic.  I still couldn’t make out the reef to starboard, where the reef to port was auspiciously marked by a rusted hulk of a wreck.

But there it was.

Out of nowhere, all of a sudden there is a path—the waters parted—there it was!  A pass.  No breakers (never mind the swell).  But it had the feeling of a luge.  Once entering there was no turning back—all downhill and I was turning, falling into the hole.

I stuck with what I knew.  I jibed the jib, set it.  I could see well the port-side reef and I stuck to it.  Hugh was still talking; he kept me sane: “a bit to port, “ he’d say or, “take in that jib.”  Actually, that was the only thing I ignored.  I was trying to slow down and I let the jib fly.  I think he thought I had roller furling or something.

When I though I was still in the pass I look up and I am already closing on Herb and Hugh.

“Alright, it’s time to drop.  You’ve got to drop, Jonah. . .now!”

I was still racing along.  How?  Shouldn’t I turn head-to-wind?  I didn’t care to think about it.  Hugh was flight control.  He says drop, I drop.

I ran forward and dropped. It was so shallow it was on the bottom instantly.  It drug as I let out the scope and then I felt it snag and bite.   I set the chain and it went taught and swung the boat nicely around to starboard. 

I jumped up and doused the jib, laid it on deck.  Ran to the tiller and turned it hard to port to help the boat around.          And then I took a deep breathe!


There I was.

I heard Herb Cheering!  I was anchored perfectly in front of him.  I let out a loud howl.  I wailed it out.   My hands must have been shaking with the energy that was pulsing through my body.  I can’t remember the last time I was so pumped—so full!  I could rage, I could crush a diamond in my bare hand.

And there I was.  I was in.

I got applause and “A job well done” from Hugh and Rashni (his wife).







The second morning after arriving to Caroline Island, we all woke up with spear poles in our hands.  The morning was bright and warm and below us swarmed fish that have never known man.

The coral pass we anchored in was extremely narrow and is perhaps the only access to the lagoon so it is teaming with life.  I had never seen anything like this.  Schools with dozens of glowing fish: bonefish, parrotfish, jacks, butterflies of yellow, yellow and black, white and black, black; napoleons, rays, groper, snapper, tubefish, sea turtles, blacktip reef sharks, and I have seen my first moray eel.and so many others that I just don’t know, but marvel at.

Hugh shot first and took a big jack—unfortunately plenty big enough to fill us all.  I was bummed because I wanted to shoot my first fish.  I’d have to wait.  We took it ashore and started a fire to grill it for lunch.

A feast was had.  I brought rice; Herb brought some juice and the fish cooked up nicely.  There was so much food that I couldn’t hold back and didn’t have to.  I had waited for this moment anxiously: finally sitting on a beach grilling fresh caught fish.  I could do this forever.  We relished the afternoon.


We all turned in somewhat early which is rather common these days.  But as I rowed up to the boat I noticed some discomfort in my belly.  “Perhaps” I ate a bit much, “ I thought.  But soon it was clear it was a bit more to it than that.  I got that ‘tingly skin” feeling and my stomach was slowly knotting itself up tight.

I didn’t sleep to well.  I got up to use the bucket about every hour.  At least I wasn’t throwing up.  By the morning my legs became very sore and I felt like I had run a marathon.

I concluded that the fish we ate had Ciguatera, a disease that some reef fish have in certain parts of the S. Pacific.  Someone had said that Caroline was safe, but apparently that has changed.

Ciguatera is a strange disease that affects people differently.  Supposedly it can build up in your system and can be mild or serious depending on the case.  Since the first night I have been sore and tired. The second day I had some tingling in my feet and hands.  The forth day I had itchy skin.  There are occasional headaches and alcohol seems to intensify the symptoms.

All of us who ate were effected but in slightly different ways.  Herb never had diarrhea and didn’t feel really bad until the second day when I was already starting to recover a bit.


Anyway, that’s life.  We’re all lucky that it wasn’t any worse than it has been.  It can be terrible sometimes.  It was simply bad luck.  Eating fresh fish is risky, especially when there aren’t any locals to tell you if it is safe or not.  (We had info from another boat that it was safe.) 

 Live and learn, live to risk another day.







Finally made Tahiti.  I haven’t seen a city like this (Papeete) since leaving La Paz.  There are grocery stores, stop lights, round abouts—the big city life, in short.  This is quite a change.

The sail was strange—wind in all the unusual places.  Still a little lingering Ciguatera.  But the weather was grand until the last night out—a little squall.

More to come.





10 July, 2006




Paul and Laura and Jim and Martine have left for the Tuomotos and Tahiti, and Brian wants to stay in Taiohae Bay for a bit and work on his boat.  Tilikum flew out this weekend for Hawaii to make some money, leaving Laurabelle on anchor in Taiohae Bay indefinitely.  So the fellowship is sundered.

Herb and I have been anxious to start moving again, having been in T-bay for a week maybe, though the passage of time has become somewhat unnoticed.  Brian, for instance, has never changed his clocks.  For the crossing he set them to GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) and refuses to use local time (or is to lazy to do so).  It doesn’t really matter.


Before heading to Tahiti, Herb and I figured we needed to see more of the Marquesas.  The more I see of Nuku Hiva the more I realize that this is one of the most stunning places I’ve ever seen.  The spectrum of greens and the rise of the mountains and ridges from the water, the rocky crags, the coconut trees walking high up the hillside.

The villages are the cleanest kept I’ve ever seen.  The horses and chickens are great landscapers—not a motorized lawnmower anywhere—and perfect grass.


So we decided to sail out to Controleur Bay and then to Anaho Bay (reputed as being “one of the prettiest bays in the world”).  I wanted to get back in that feel of moving.  Sailing, anchoring, staying a few days, then sailing on again to the next spot.  This was how the San Juans were in Washington, short sails between hundreds of islands.

The sail from Taiohae to Controleur is only six miles, from Controleur to Anaho is fifteen to twenty.


Because I don’t have an engine it is best if I can catch the end of the nightly land breeze that blows out to sea.  This makes it easier to sail out.  (In the afternoons there is a sea breeze.)  So I woke up at 4:30 and prepped the boat and was pulling chain by six.  The wind was faint and it took nearly an hour to get out of the bay.

But luckily I was rewarded by a good wind on the outside.  I reefed down the sail for comfort’s sake and tacked far out for the upwind passage to Controleur which was only one bay over, but upwind.

Because of the short distance I unfortunately decided it best to tow my dinghy behind the boat.  This is only ever prudent for short passages as bad things can occur: swamped dink, broken painter (bow line), lost dink, or dink ramming the stern—I don’t know what else, but it is a bit of a liability.  And today it would certainly become so.


The sail was great.  I took some good photos of Bamboo (Herb’s boat) and was rather enjoying the sail, wishing it were a bit longer.   But after anchoring we were going to hike up to another waterfall for the afternoon.

At some point I glance back toward the dinghy.  I keep my head there, looking, waiting, assuming that it is behind the windvane or the stern, just waiting to bob back to this side of the boat where I can see it.  Waiting.  And then I see the cleat where the dink had been tied.  Nothing.  No line.  Nothing.  Perhaps, I thought, I didn’t tie the dink to the stern after all, maybe it’s on deck and I hallucinated the whole thing.  This thought passed quickly, but the period of doubt lasted longer than one would think. 

The dink was gone!


Because the painter was gone I knew that it had become untied and not sunk or otherwise destroyed.  This was truly poor form on my part: not making something fast properly, especially the dink, such an important and necessary part of sailing life (not to mention expensive).  It is easy to underestimate the power of the swell constantly jerking the dink around.

My cleats are difficult to describe; they aren’t normal horn cleats; they are more like mini-bollards between which I wrap a line in a figure-eight.  On a smarter day I would have done this then tied the bitter end to a stanchion as last defense.  But perhaps the early morning, the fact that I wanted as long a painter as possible, something left me with too short a line and I left it as a satisfactory job.

And now, as I looked back over an empty sea, the dink has departed.


The fortunate part of the story thus far is the predictability of the dink.  Being an inflatable, it will drift with the wind, not the current.  Sense it hasn’t been more than an hour I have a good general idea of where it is.  However, the misery is that it is grey and will therefore be nearly invisible in the seas and swell.  Not to mention that I can’t see past my nose.

I hailed Herb on the VHF and appraised him of my situation and he offered to turn around and help in the search.  This was a blessing, because I am aware that I can’t see.  His eyes would be the key.


I was strangely confident, because of the proximity factor I think, and I didn’t feel like it was real.  This was an adventure:  The race to save the dink!

So Herb flanked me closer to shore and we scanned, running downwind the way which we had come back toward Taiohae Bay.  I put out an “all vessels alert” on channel 16 and heard back from one British yacht coming in from the south.  They said they’d gladly be on the lookout.

We searched and searched and it slowly dawned on me that the odds were bad, very bad.  It is rare to find a lost dink, especially out in open water.  But the wind seemed to be pushing the dink back against Nuku Hiva so maybe Herb would spot it near shore.

Then a ray of hope:

The British vessel  had recently bisected our paths as they made for T-Bay and then they came on the VHF and said they spotted something they thought may be my dink near a cave toward the mouth of Taiohae Bay.  I jibed and said I’d follow. 

But five minutes later they said they’d lost it and said no more.  Herb was now passing that spot and saw nothing.  We waited.

After five to ten minutes I called again and asked if they thought it had been a false alarm.        Nothing.

Then I notice them change course: they turned hard to starboard, away from T-Bay and toward where I thought they had sighted the dink.  My heart picked up a notch. Then I saw a man reaching down into the waves……and I saw it.  There it was, the dink, my dink, floating along side their boat—totally invisible.

It must have passed right in between Herb and me and we totally missed it—even when we had already been warned.  And somehow these strangers had seen it, seen it twice, and had taken it upon themselves to track it down and pick it up.  Amazing, but there you go.  That is the world out here.

I had other boats in Controleur that asked to come out and help us but I declined them.  I didn’t know what more could be done.  A man I had met the day before had come out unasked from Taiohae Bay and was searching with his nice motor dinghy.  And then these strangers found it.


I hove-to and they came along side and made a hand off of sorts.  (they actually nearly t-boned my boat—off-shore boat engagement is very risky business.)  But that was it.  The dink was back. 

I tied her on. . . properly, and headed up and set course, again, for Controleur.  I got what I wanted in the sense of a longer sail—we made three laps—and it was a gorgeous day.  And the dink returned against all odds.

And what is almost better:  Herbert abstained from mocking me heavily.  I brought over a bottle of rum which seemed to be well earned and we drank a couple of glasses.  





Since then, Herb has lost his speargun and found it (see, "Snorkel land") and just now, had his flip-flops stollen, then found a kid wearing them.  So funny.

Lots of lost and found.

Anaho Bay

Greatest Day Ever


Yes, it is a blatant and undefendable exaggeration, but the simple emotion draws me toward it.  It was such a wonderous day—much easy pleasure and one spectacular event.

I woke and went spearfishing for a bit.  We didn’t have any luck…then, but Herb managed to lose his spear on his first shot ever.  So that was a drag.  But we went back to our friend Mike’s boat, an amazing 55” cat, snorkeled for an hour, then ate ham sandwiches then decided to get the dive tanks and go back for Herb’s spear.

This was an absurd unlikelihood, but one must try these things.  After all, I found my dinghy, and that was one in a gazillion odds.  SO we went after the spear too.  And of course, Herb finds it.  Some how it hadn’t plunged into the unforgivable depths of the cliffs we were fishing, but had wound up on a ledge, and he had dove right to it.  This was a wonderful stroke of fortune and took all three of us over the brink

into a euphoric experience of the afternoon—which we all dedicated to boat work.  But what wonderful work it was.  Delightful.  Then Brian came into the anchorage as the sun was dipping low.  And then the wind picked up to a howl and here we are.


It was a fine day.  I swear.