Reunited back with Ondular

After a long time of dreaming and waiting for the moment to arrive, it was here and we were all packed and ready to go back to Ondular. We thought this time wouldn’t be that bad going back (weight wise), considering that we’d already lived on the boat for almost two years; what other things could we possibly bring back with us?… I was so wrong! Mick’s luggage was packed full of boat parts, fishing things etc, it was so heavy and we were stopped so many times on the way to Tahiti; they must have thought we were real weirdos. Who travels with a coffee grinder, a pressure cooker and 100 or more fishing hooks and lures? We were also carrying with us, 4 new boards and a stand up paddle. Quite a bit of weight.

Anyway, after almost two days of travel and 500 us dollars in overweight luggage down, we made it to Tahiti with all our belongings, that’s always a plus! We spent a couple of days in Tahiti, we rented a car and went around the island, checked the supermarkets for future food stocking and went to see a local insurer for our boat. We even went to check the port from where our cargo boat would be leaving the next day to make sure there wouldn’t be any problems. We had booked this cargo boat called Hawaiki Nui months in advanced as we’d found out this was one of the only options to get to Raiatea from Tahiti to avoid the expensive airfares. It would take longer than a plane as it would travel  overnight but we were saving lots of money by doing that.

When we arrived to their local offices, there was a sign on the door that said something about jeudi (Thursday in French) but reading it quickly we thought it said that the office was closed today and will open again on Thursday. We left the premises very satisfied with ourselves, thinking that French wasn’t that hard after all and continued touring the island.

Next day came and we went early to the dock to leave all our luggage and have enough time to return the rental car. When we arrived, we saw that the office was still closed and read the message again, this time a bit more carefully and realised that it said that the normal trip to Raiatea was cancelled this Thursday and would resume back next week. We screamed, kicked and almost cried, felt pretty silly …what to do now? We went back to the hotel and asked a nice girl at the reception to help us calling all the other cargo boats or shuttles around. It seemed that there wasn’t any other boat going to Raiatea and that the Hawaiaki nui was our only option.

But then we found out we may have another shot with a different cargo boat called the Tapooro, that apparently didn’t take any passengers but maybe we could send our luggage with them and even see if they could fit us in somehow. We went to their office and found out that this trip they were travelling with diesel and gasoline so definitely no passengers but we were able to send our heavy luggage with them for 50 dollars then rushed to the only airline and managed to buy two tickets to Raiatea that afternoon. It wasn’t cheap but it got us there. We arrived around 6.30 pm and because we were supposed to arrive with the boat the following morning we had no accommodation booked for that night. We decided to rent a car and drove to the Carinage where Ondular was stored. We got a glimpse of the outside of Ondular and spent our first night in Raiatea sleeping in our tiny rental “the panda” outside the marina.

The next morning came and with light we were ready to open up Ondular and have a look inside of her to see in what condition it was in. We were happily surprised to see that all our hard work before leaving her, really paid off. There was a bit of mould especially in our front cabin but nothing like it could’ve been. So for the next few days we cleaned and cleaned and got our boat ready to be liveable again.

We spent the next two weeks in the boatyard, cleaning first and then fixing a few things that we thought were important to do before getting her back in the water , like the boom , setting all the sails and of course doing the antifoul.

Finally the day came when we were ready to do the splash in. Ondular was carefully picked up and put in the slip. We tried the engine but it didn’t start. Tried a few times and nothing happened and figured it might be the starter battery. Because they needed the space for another boat, they moved us and tied us to a stationary old ferry nearby and full of disappointment we left the starter battery charging all night to see what happened.  In hindsight it was the best possible outcome to be tied to the Ferry that night because we had time to test everything else that couldn’t be tested when out of the water, like the anchor , the toilet, etc and even though we weren’t quite ready yet, it felt so good to be back floating in the water.

To avoid making this post too long I’ll just name all the new problems we’ve encountered after storing our boat for over a year and being put back in the water.

The starter battery wasn’t really the problem, but it was actually fuel related and once the fuel got treated we were good to go.

The fridge wasn’t cooling, and the water maker wasn’t working properly: Mick thought of possible solutions and tried the water maker without the little pump that was failing, and it now seems to work fine. With the fridge, once we realised that the evaporator plate had several leaks, we had two options: order a new one from Papeete or try to fix the one we have. Which one do you think Mick chose?

The evaporator plate has an aluminium tube which was the one that had suffered from electrolysis and was full of leaks. Mick being Mick, decided to replace that tube with a copper one and joined it to the plate using fyber glass and later on fusing it properly. We are still in the process of fixing our fridge but I can honestly say that we can survive just fine without one. Our lives would definitely be a bit fancier with one and the fridge saga isn’t over yet but we’ve made sure to not only be stuck here trying to fix everything without enjoying ourselves.

Of course, there have been some frustrating times trying to sort all these different boat problems when we were so eager to go out and explore.  Being out here in a tiny French speaking island adds to the difficulties, especially if our level of French is saying good-morning and good-afternoon not even at the right time of the day sometimes. But anyway google-translate is our new best friend and we are using duolingo to try and get better at it as we go along. There’s still hope for us and we are definitely learning to be more self-reliant, to persevere and to work on our patience big time.

I guess this is life on a boat. There’s a lot of hard work and it can be really testing at times but that’s what makes the good times even better. I have to say, the Pacific is showing to be so much more challenging than any other place we’ve cruised before. Now that I think back on our time in the Caribbean or Panama and Ecuador how easy it was, everyone spoke English or Spanish, there were all kinds of shops and access to parts and things all around, the cruising books made everything so easy; you knew where to anchor, how to anchor, what to expect, most navigation was straight forward and apart from strong winds there wasn’t much to worry about.

Here is a completely different story; shallow waters filled with coral heads so no more relying only on the charts but keeping a close look on the depth sounder and using our eyes to spot corals and show the way.  A weather, that as our new friend Tom described it, is nothing short of schizophrenic , one minute is calm, the next is stormy then rainy, then sunny, windy, calm.. And in general it feels like a more explorational kind of cruising; it’s not all given to us in extensively researched cruising guides but it’s more dependent on us, where we decide to anchor and how to navigate certain areas. So yes, definitely more challenging.

So far I can tell you I’ve been so very happy to be back on Ondular, the closeness to nature, the sunsets, the rocking while sleeping, the underwater world, the quietness and other days I’ve missed land so much, the safety, the stability, the known.  But what is life without a bit of challenges? They say difficult and unease times are what makes us stronger. Welcome to a new season on Ondular. We hope you enjoy our tales and join us on another go at living free in the sea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to our home in the sea

And here we are a year later and we are still back on land. Here and then, we browse through our photos, those images that remind us that once upon a time, not so long ago, we were out there, floating amongst the ocean. It feels so distant now, so far away. But we keep going because we know that Ondular is still waiting for us and that there are still a few new adventures to be experienced together.
Feelings of exhilaration and freedom are slowly returning to us. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel because we have a return date and tickets have already been bought; on 16th October, we’ll be travelling back to French Polynesia where Ondular is patiently waiting, hopefully not so mouldy and smelly and with all its parts functioning well.
Although we are returning to continue our journey, it feels more like a new beginning. We are different people than when we first started. We’ve grown, our views of the world are more defined. This is not a holiday any more, we are not merely travelling, this is our life, this is who we are, whether is on a boat or on land, we want our lives to be like this: less things, less work, more time, more connections, more meaning.
In the next few weeks we’ll be applying for a long stay visa for French Polynesia so that we aren’t rushed and we can have a slow pace and take our time seeing all the beautiful islands of that part of the world.
We’ve got no set plan, no set journey, we’ll figured it out on the way. Like our good friends Fenja and Roberto once taught us, we’ll be navigating on trust, open to the new adventures and trusting that all is going to be ok. We are just so happy that very soon we’ll  be able to return to our home in the sea.

September

Two days after transiting the canal I left for Ecuador. One of my good friends was getting married so I found a cheap plane ticket and decided to go and be there for the wedding. Before leaving, we moved the boat to the other side of La Playita, to an anchorage called Las Brisas. This is the anchorage you’d like to be if a) you are on a tight budget and b) you are fit enough to climb into some dodgy docks. In La Playita you have to pay $35 dollars a week to dock the dinghy in the marina. We found that those 35 dollars were better spent on paw paws and bananas then on dinghy fees and that’s why we moved. See photos below to understand what I mean about being fit…

I had a great time in Ecuador; spent time with my family, went to my friend’s wedding and got to wear some borrowed high heels that I couldn’t walk with, and that’s why instead of dancing all night, I spent most of the time sitting down but completely impressed by the shoes the other girls were wearing and the amount of makeup they all had on! The bride was beautiful and I was so glad to be there to see them get married.

I was also there for International Coastal Clean Up Day, so we got together with Paula, a friend that is starting her own project called Mi Playa Limpia and we cleaned up a beach called El Pelado with the help of some volunteers from the Red Cross. This, I did the same day of the wedding, so it ended up being a huge day for me.

Thanks to Cecilia, my friend that is helping me run the facebook page for Mingas por el Mar and also is organizing other beach clean ups in Ecuador while I’m not there, we got to visit a university called Universidad del Pacifico, did a small talk and presented the documentary Bag It. This was my first time ever talking in front of university students and it wasn’t as daunting I as I thought it would be.

Mick spent the 10 days I was away working madly on the boat. Getting around Panama City is easy enough, but it’s still a big city and going into town is always a mission. We got the metro/bus card and with it you can get onto the metro bus and the metro for 25 cents and 35 cents each ride, so it’s really convenient.

I got back to the boat reenergized but found a demoralized and tired Mick. We then spent the following week going to the supermarkets and the market to buy the last of our food shopping hopefully for the year. Ecuador is getting expensive because of the government’s ban on importation and some products are difficult to find. Then once we cross the Pacific, prices are going to double up, so Panama is the best place to stock up for the boat.

During our last days in the city, I got to see an old friend of mine, Santiago, who is Panamanian but lived in Ecuador while studying his university degree ten years ago. He’s now married and has a beautiful 18 months old boy. We had lunch with him one day and he helped us by getting us to a different supermarket to finish our food shopping.

 I also got to meet Ilona, who is sort of an aunt on my mum’s side. She’s Ecuadorian but has lived in Washington DC for the last 25 years. She’s recently moved to Panama City with her husband and youngest son and we got to have lunch with her one day and see the ruins of Old Panama. They were so nice to invite us over for dinner on our last night there and we had a great time getting to know them.

Last thing to sort out was our auto pilot panel which got too wet in Bocas and isn’t working properly anymore. We had to order the part but instead of waiting more days in the city we decided to go explore a little.

Saturday morning we left Las Brisas and headed to Taboga Island which is the nearest island from the city. The place was beautiful and when we arrived there, around 9am we were the only boat there. But by 12 pm , there were like 10 boats and all playing different music, with people dancing, singing, and having fun. We were so tired, that we were happy to just sit around the cockpit, jump in the water and observe the party people around us.

The next morning we sailed to Las Perlas Islands, which lay 30 miles from Panama City. We arrived at la Isla Contadora around 4pm and before we reached our anchorage it started to rain. We looked up and saw whales. There was a mother and its calf lifting their tails, jumping and swimming around the boat. It was a great welcoming sight to the islands.

Isla contadora is the most developed island of Las Perlas. It has several houses and resorts, so in the morning we walked around the island, explored a little and the next morning we sailed to isla Espiritu Santo. It was a nice sail and we saw a few more whales, not quite as close as the one on the first day, but still nice. The area is full of life, lots of bait fish around and it’s just so stunning. When we arrived at Espiritu Santo we thought we were definitely going to be the only boat around but to our surprise there was not only another boat but two.

We soon realized one of the boats was Manfred’s, a nice German, solo sailing, that we met before crossing the canal and that had left Panama City a couple of weeks before, planning to stop in Las Perlas on his way across the Pacific, but he hadn’t managed to find any good weather to start his passage so was still at Las Perlas. The other boat was a couple from Canada who have been living in Panama for a few years now and come to Las Perlas to spend a few weeks away from everything. There were really nice too.

We ended up staying 3 nights in Espiritu Santo. It was an amazing area, so peaceful and green, with fresh water streams and empty beaches. The sad thing was the amount of rubbish on the beach. We think it was due to the recent full moon and the big tides, because there was so much of it and it was stinking muddy plastic pieces that looked like they had been under the mud for a long time up a river or somewhere and just came out due to the big tides. We picked up so many bottle tops and they have been the hardest ones so far to get clean, really disgusting!

After those nice relaxing days, we sailed back to Contadora area and while we were passing one of the islands, we saw a familiar boat anchored; it was our Irish friends, Amy and Shane, that we had met before crossing the canal. We were so happy to see them, so we pulled next to them to say hi and talked for a bit. We said we would continue on to Contadora to check internet there and would be back at the end of the afternoon to have a proper catch up. We were so disappointed when we were back at the end of the day and Amy and Shane were gone! (Apparently it got really bumpy so they decided to move on and sent us a message that we never got, so we were so sad to have missed them and it remained a mystery what had happened to them!)

We spent a few more days in Las Perlas, moved to another little island for the last two nights, saw a few more whales and decided to go back to Panama City and hope for the best about our parts.

At the end, everything worked out really well. We only spent three days in the city, picked up our part and did some more shopping. It was good to see Manfred (the German solo sailor) again; he had found a French couple with sailing experience that wanted to cross the pacific with him so we got to say good bye to him, knowing that he was now fully ready for his passage. On Saturday 17 October we left the city for Santa Catalina.