Thursday, August 16, 2012

Day 3- Malolelei from Tonga!

Time: 0035 Zulu Thurs 8/16 (1335 Samoa time Thurs 8/16)
Position: 18-deg 40-min S 173-deg 59-min W
Rig: moored in Neiafu, Vava'u

Day 3 euphoria held true, we both felt amazing as Tao cruised along swiftly all afternoon in barely existent seas. Chris checked into the PacSea Net and after the net frequency cleared, he managed to upload/download. We have been doing this about 12 hours later as the sun rises, so when Shawn got up early to cook dinner she ended up doing an early weather analyses instead. Conditions looked stable, but sometime between 1900 and 0100 local, winds were forecast to drop from a manageable 7-knots to 3-knots and not expected to fill in enough to sail on again for the next 24-hrs (Thursday night). We had seen this drop in winds in the forecast since before we left Apia, and were hoping either the forecast would change, we would sneak in just before the calm got to Tonga, or that Tao could sail on the light breezes. The GFS model turned out to be correct. The last few hours of Shawn's night watch we moved along in the right direction on breaths of wind of 4-knots or so. It was so calm that we could hear the screech of birds hunting nearby. But winds continued to drop. Once poled out, the jib helped us gain some speed, but the mains'l in its full glory, started to flog loudly from lack of wind.

Decision point. Do we wait for the 24-hr lull in wind to pass as we wallow around a mere 50-nm from our goal and hope it picks up in time for a Friday landfall, possibly chancing not making landfall by close of business for the weekend? Or do we fire up the iron genoa and have a motorboat ride allowing us to be all checked into Tonga by Thursday afternoon. In the past, our MO has been to wait for the wind. Our journey has been about not being in a rush, going with the flow, living by the weather. However, with the short amount of time we have to spend in Tonga on this trip, we decided the time gained was worth it to motor the final distance in. Yannie needed the exercise anyway...

In order to make landfall in plenty of time for the rigmarole of checking into a new country, we decided to start the engine around 0300 for a 10-hr motorboat ride (which we'd jump off of if winds filled in enough to sail, which unfortunately it did not). It always amazes us how calm the ocean gets when wind disappears for any length of time. It has been a long time since we have motored for any sustained period. The wind indicator spun atop the mast, confused without any normal flow. The rhythmic hum of the engine reverberated through the cabin and not quite as loudly outside in the cockpit. Closer to civilization, throughout the night, several boats appeared on the AIS and quickly passed us by. Dawn brought beautiful displays of clouds and land as little Toku Island appeared out of the clouds off our starboard to the West and the Vava'u group of Tongan islands rose straight ahead to the South. As we drew closer, we tuned in to listen to the morning net check in, and still, we motored. Chris went forward to reattach our anchor and found the teak plug would not come out (he had used the back up one that was not as well worn, put it in dry and it had swelled.) After pulling all of our packed gear out of the Vberth to try to access from inside, we decided it was best attacked from above. So, instead of getting a pre-landfall nap, he had to rig a directional to be able to use our windlass to pull out the haus pipe plug. It was a sweaty job, so we decided to rig up the solar shower and take advantage of the comfortable conditions and privacy that a busy harbor wouldn't afford us and enjoy chilled celebratory Coca-cola. Decedent!

As we past our noon point, we were just entering the channel to Neiafu, the Vava'u port of entry. The small swell immediately vanished and it was hard to believe we were in the middle of the Pacific Ocean at all. We were surrounded by land, numerous waterways weaving around small islands everywhere jutting out of the water all around. Strangely reminiscent tropical mix of Penobscot Bay and the St. Lawrence River all at once, yet so different. We slowly continued to motor inland, farther and farther, until we reached the range and channel markers that denote the entrance to Neiafu. A nearly hour long ride in, it was an easy entrance using daylight and eyes, but our electronic charts are indeed about a half mile off. Another boat flying their Q flag passed us as we were between the markers and raced ahead to the public dock to start their check in. A boat with much more freeboard than Tao, they docked in the lower section and we were left with a very high section of dock (made for container ships to tie up to). However, Chris managed to bring Tao right alongside at the perfect spot and Shawn launched herself up the five feet to tie up to the cement dock. We moored her tight to fend at our beamiest part and Shawn stayed aboard while Chris went ashore to visit Customs, Immigration, Quarantine and Health. Overall relatively quick, after 2-hours of checking in, in the end, our less desirable dock spot deterred the Health Inspector from coming aboard Tao and visiting, so our check in was complete while the inspectors lounged on the boat that had raced ahead... Now, time to explore our surroundings and find a place to call home for the night.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Day 2- back in action enjoying idyllic conditions

Time: 2300 Zulu Tues 8/14 (noon Samoa time Wed 8/15)
Position: 17-deg 00-min S 173-deg 26-min W
Wind: ESE 10-12 Seas: ESE 3-4-ft
Avg. Course: 201-deg T
Avg. Speed: 4.9-knots
Rig: 80% jib, full mains'l
24-hr distance noon to noon: 118-nm

The past 24-hrs is what sailing dreams are made of, skimming along with plenty of sail under a cloudless star-filled sky, continuing into the day with innocuous puffy white clouds. Ten knots of breeze, small seas, and averaging nearly 5-knots of speed. The combination of Tao's size and design allows her to really shine in these light wind abeam conditions. We easily reach our theoretical hull speed without much swell to slow us down. Blissful. And now as Day 2 draws to a close, both of us have shed our seasickness so life is good. After the brief intermission, Shawn is completely back in action, appetite even motivating a little cooking, which makes both of us much happier.

Last night's excitement fell during Chris' watch. As forecast, winds relaxed allowing him to put the mains'l all the way up. About 0500 the tiny sliver of moon rose as he spotted a ship off our starboard bow. Before it even beeped into our AIS, Chris had already taken bearings and knew which direction it was going, closest point of approach was 6.5-nm. 0700 and Shawn was awake and down/uploading our weather data and e-mails. Although there is a stationary front a little E of us, we hope the high pressure will keep it at bay. It is still amazing to realize that the air is moving around the High in the opposite direction down here as we ride SE breezes off the north edge of one centered south of Tonga. Later in the morning we passed about 40-nm due E of the Niuas Group and Niuatoputapu where we had originally hoped to check into Tonga. However, since the weather window has stayed open, we are staying upwind and continuing south. We can literally feel the climate change as we sail farther south. Sea water temperatures drop, air temps drop during nights, and there is over all less humidity in the air allowing things to dry. Hopefully these beautiful conditions will hold another day for us, enough to make landfall in Neiafu of the Vava'u Group.

Day 1- gorgeous sailing despite early passage seasickness

Time: 2300 Zulu Mon 8/13 (noon Samoa time Tues 8/14)
Position: 15-deg 10-min S 172-deg 41-min W
Wind: ESE 15 Seas: ESE 5-ft
Avg. Course: 207-deg T
Avg. Speed: 4.1-knots
Rig: 80% jib, triple reefed mains'l
24-hr distance noon to noon: 98.2-nm

Apolima Straight was gorgeous. We lucked out with the busy ferry schedule and watched the 1400 ferries pass ahead of us and sailed by in time for the 1600 ferrys to cross behind. Seas were calm, breeze was light, and clouds were stunning creating gorgeous views of the Apolima Island, possibly an old volcanic cinder cone or caldera, just sticking its peak above water. We put the mains'l up to its 2nd reef and enjoyed the island beauty. The shallowest depths we saw were 204-ft before the ferry crossing and we made it out the other side around 1700. This provided us over an hour of good daylight which we used well as out of the lee of Upolu Island the seas and winds picked up. A mix of a slightly above the beam heading, promontory effect and sunset, winds and seas picked up enough to motivate a sail change. Down came the 80% and up went the storm jib for a conservative night of sailing.

It had been too beautiful to nap through the afternoon, so Shawn grabbed a couple quick moments of sleep before awaking for night watch and to make dinner in the last rays of sun. Chris, taking Dramamine, has continued to feel decent this entire trip and that is good, because all of a sudden, Shawn shot up from the galley and took her turn retching over the side. Luckily the night was kind and under starry skies, Tao and Moni have continued without pause needing little help from the seasick crew. Horizon scans noted lights from Upolu into the wee hours of the morning and dawn came bringing a gorgeous day. After download/uploading and examining the weather, we decided to upgrade sail area. Down came the potato chip storms'l and back up went the 80% and Tao raced along under non-threatening fluffy white clouds, nearly making up for the slow nights lost mileage by our noon point. Shawn, now taking Dramamine as well, feels less sick but more drowsy and Chris continues to enjoy having more energy than usual. Forecast shows that the center of a high is covering Tonga, so sunny days and light winds ahead as we take advantage of the current beautiful conditions.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Day 0- Savoring sailing in Samoan waters

Time: 2300 Zulu Sun 8/12 (noon Samoa time Mon 8/13)
Position: 13-deg 42-min S 171-deg 54-min W
Wind: ESE 14 Seas: ESE 4-5-ft
Rig: 80% jib alone
Distance from slip B16 in Apia: 11.4-nm
Approx. distance traveled: 25-nm

We were ready (almost) to leave the slip at 0600 local, but there was heavy traffic in the Apia Harbor on this Monday/Labor-Day-turned-Father's-Day Samoan holiday. At that moment, a very large ketch named Christopher had just entered the harbor looking for anchorage and a 515-ft cargo ship was just outside the harbor entrance awaiting tug assistance. So we chose to wait for the traffic to pass- which took over 2-hrs. Though it did delay us (an acceptable amount) from our plans (set to allow us enough day light time to make passage between the two main Samoan islands), it gave the sun time to come up and allowed us to download and check weather one more time.

Once underway, the harbor is so small that we were quickly past all of the secured traffic and outside the breakwall into the swell once again. We raised our 80%, turned off the engine, and hoisted our triple reefed mains'l as we exited the reef-flanked pass. With seas on our beam, it was immediately uncomfortable conditions and wind piped up enough for us to drop the main so Chris could go on deck to disconnect our anchor and plug our haus pipe for passage. Quite soon we were able to fall off to head around the west end of Upolu Island. An hour after, we jibed to port tack to head toward the straight between Upolu and Savaii and put up the awning to protect us from the pounding sun. This tack brought us more into the lee of Upolu and surprisingly comfortable sailing conditions. Fluffy white clouds floating over the sun-dappled volcanic island, small swell, and noticeably lighter winds were slightly reminiscent of the Kona coast of Hawaii. After the first few moments of feeling green, these conditions have kept the seasickness at bay for Chris' first time ever to enjoy the beginning moments of a passage. We will keep our fingers crossed that this continues. At the noon point, we were 35-nm from our waypoint on the other side of the straight which we hope to reach before the sun completely sets. Until then, we'll keep a sharp watch for the ferry traffic connecting the two islands. Onward toward Tonga!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Almost Day 0- Samoa to Tonga

Apia Harbor traffic as Tao prepares to exit
We are as prepped and ready as we're going to be to push off from Samoa today (13 Monday) en route to Tonga. Not quite sure which island group will be our destination, that all depends on time and weather. If the weather window closes, we will likely set course for the closer more remote Niuatoputapu group, an approximately 2 day passage, if the window stays open, then Neiafu in the Vava'u group, approximately 3 days away. We shall see. After being ready at 0600 Samoa time (1700 UTC) to let go the docklines, we were stalled a bit by some large container traffic in the harbor exit. Again, we wait and discuss staying just one more day. However, the weather looks good, so as long as it holds, we should still have time to get through the pass between Upolo and Savaii Islands by nightfall, so after the container ship is berthed, we will get underway.

Overarching everything, we continue to struggle with the dwindling amount of time we have to get to Australia before hurricane season and the infinite amount of things we would like to do between here and there. In a perfect world, we could either head to NZ (staying upwind) or leave Tao in Tonga or Fiji this hurricane season and stretch our South Pacific exploration another season. But we are more and more feeling the pressure of time and money, trying to fit other things into our lives in addition to this sailing adventure, things that require a shift of focus and energy. So, we continue on and promise to help each other to work at enjoying the small amount we have time to see and not get frustrated with all that we don’t have time to do- at our pace. We constantly reassess our plans and talk about alternative ideas for what islands we will visit. We are now on “the milk run” (though in our opinion Western Samoa is still a little off the track because so many people stop in American Samoa with purportedly more services and then skip this beautiful island with twice the amount of land and half the amount of people). After 3-months completely disconnected, we find ourselves in a marina, barraged with the fleet of cruisers moving through together. It has been refreshing, however, to be the only US vessel among German, Danish, Swedish, Swiss, Italian, Japanese, New Zealand, and Australian cruisers. Among several very interesting cruisers, early in our time here we enjoyed meeting John and Amanda Neal, owners of sailing school aboard Mahina Tiare flagged from the Southern Cook Islands, and Amanda the author of one of the few useful cookbooks we have aboard. And the folks from s/v Convivia, another fun young cruising couple from the Bay Area that we have heard of through the cruising grapevine from friends, have just showed up so we look forward to getting to know them. We welcome socialization and relish having deeper conversations about more than just the weather. However, we still chafe at being in a large pack and search for options a little off the beaten path. It is a balance and as we reorganize our schedule (once again) to include more visiting time, we remind ourselves, it is about the journey and not necessarily the endpoint destination.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fa'a Samoa

Time was sliding by as we continued to learn the town of Apia and chip away at our ever growing lists. We were getting sucked into the easy dock life when our BadBoy wifi antenna decided to stop working. It was definitely time to get off the boat and to explore Upolu Island a little bit outside of Apia. First, we visited the flea market and haggled over a few souvenirs. Next, we took the self guided walking tour around the peninsula on the west end of Apia Harbor. Our big exploration of Upolo was taking the local buses to the SE side of the island. Most people that come here decide to rent car for a day (125T minimum) or take a day long guided taxi ride around the entire island (200 T was the least expensive price that we were repeatedly offered away from the taxi shack at the harbor). However, that is not how we tend to like to explore, so we decided to try out the bus system. The buses here are not set up for touring, there is no schedule and times change daily but we made it work by picking just one goal to explore on the other side. The bus was an adventure in itself- set up to bring people from the other side into Apia to shop, the earliest bus we could catch was at 1030 (not quite an early morning), leaving us a mere half hour to enjoy our goal before that bus headed to Apia once again for the last trip of the day. We decided to take our chances that we could find another way to get home that evening, and really, would it be so bad if we had to find place to stay on the other side for a night?

The brightly painted old school bus, packed with locals, assured us that Jesus was the man, and sported varnished ceiling, wooden seats, and the forward area was hung with feather boas and lights flashing with the beat of the fun loud mostly American music. After a quick detour to the hardware store to pick up several bags of cement for one of the passengers, at 1030 we were finally underway. The bus took us about 15-miles literally along the water’s edge of the E coast of Upolo Island, slowing frequently at speed bumps that marked village limits and stopping at several smaller towns along the way. We were reminded of Nicaragua as we watched a mother feeding her infant Samoan Coca-cola straight from the glass bottle. Eventually we turned away from the ocean onto Le Mafa Pass Road that took us up, up, and up into waterfall filled steep tropical forests before dropping us back down, again literally to the waters edge, where we were driven along the southern coast of the windward side of the island. Not surprisingly, the bus raced by our “stop,” but a local nicely pulled the stop wire and the driver reversed the several hundred yards back to the turn off for our destination: To Sua Ocean Trench.

To Sua is made up of two deep trenches. One is accessible for swimming and connects underground to the other trench as well as the ocean. A sturdy wooden ladder leads from the surface down into a brackish-water-filled pool. Strong currents flow in and out through a small tube connecting to the ocean and cold water filters above ground creating the unique environment. Since we were there at low tide, Chris adventured with his snorkel out to the ocean and back again through the tight water filled cave. The above ground area surrounding the trenches have been turned into an idyllic tourism destination with lovely gardens surround the trenches and superb views from small huts overlooking the ocean. A nearly indistinguishable footpath to the W drops into a tiny secluded beach and one to the E leads to huge blowhole at high tide as well as views of Nuutele and Nuulua Islands off the SE edge of Upolo Island.


It was an easy decision not to attempt to catch the bus a half hour later back to Apia. Instead, we enjoyed an idyllic lunch (that we had gratefully packed, because there were no restaurants or stores), swimming and exploring To Sua. After this, we headed west along the highway on foot in hopes of hitching a ride to Siumu, a town in the center of the south coast that we heard had a later last bus back to Apia. Very few vehicles passed, and after about 2-miles, we turned off following signs to the small town of Matatufu where there was supposedly a taxi driver that could take us the additional 15-miles to Siumu. After meeting several of the curious townfolk, we found the taxi driver who could not speak English, but was happy to drive us to catch the 1700 bus back to the city. While awaiting the bus, our G10 Canon camera decided to stop working giving us a Lens Error and refusing to shut down. As we were dealing with this, a bus came by to the other corner and was gone before we had time to think. Chris assumed this was not the right bus as it was going a different direction than we were told it would go, but Shawn was not so sure. After questioning a few more passersby, indeed, that was the final bus and was headed to Apia, but via the long route around the W side of the island, not the short route over the mountain that we had expected. At least we were at a relatively busy crossroad with cars passing every few minutes- several different taxi’s stopped, but we decline still hoping that another bus would appear. Finally we started walking N and the first vehicle by stopped for Chris’ thumb. A nice relatively young (our age) local in a beat up Toyota LandRover pulled over. He hopped out to move some scary looking saw blades from the back seat to the trunk to make room for both of us. Turns out that he works for the lumber industry in Samoa, and was on the south side of the island to weld some equipment, headed back to Apia at just the right time for us. After some good conversation, in which we found he was raised palagi-style, he let us out at his office in Apia and we made it back to Tao perfectly as the sun set.

Our successful day came to a crashing halt when we realized that not only was our wifi antenna not working, but our main camera was dead, and to top it all off, we had left SPOT sending out a signal all the way back in To Sua… It was a miracle that Chris was able to get back to To Sua the next day and recover SPOT (who is not allowed to leave the boat again without a leash!) and returned to Tao, via the hardware store, of course. The following day we enjoyed a sail around Apia's small harbor in Fatty. Just as a cargo ship was headed out, we crossed to the local Fish Market, and returned to the marina at sunset, where we met nearly all the new cruising boats that had arrived over the past few days as we slowly tacked upwind to Tao. After another day of work, we managed to get our wifi antenna working by scraping, drying with alcohol, and generally cleaning the connectors and we were back in action only to realize from our weather analyses that our Tuesday leave date would take us right into some weather between Samoa and Tonga. Maybe this would provide us time to visit the other island, Savaii in Tao, but we seem to have plenty still to do, and so we find ourselves still here in Apia. Fa'a Samoa, loosely translated such is life in Samoa (more directly translates to "the Samoan way").

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Samoa (Western) from Apia Part 1

We have been quiet on the blog since we made landfall here in Samoa (pronounced Sah-moah with the accent on the first part) so there is much to report. Checking in to Samoa (along with the recent time change and switching to driving on the left side of the road, they have dropped the “Western” descriptor) was an all day affair. Having spent the whole of Sunday tidying up, we were ready at the stated 0900 time. When 1000 rolled around, we were happy to see an obviously official man in what looked like a solid print sarong and an aloha shirt headed to one of the other boats also awaiting check in. This turns out to be traditional dress for a male- the sarong, however, is a “lavalava” and the aloha shirt is actually printed with traditional Samoan designs. Another official in traditional dress, who turned out to be the Quarantine Inspector spoke little. He just handed us a form to fill out and requested us to bag our trash and take it to the quarantine facility right next to the marina for proper disposal for a minimal fee of 3-Tala (divided by 2.25 = US dollar amount) no matter the size of the bag. The next lavalava wearing official to our boat turned out to be the very nice Ministry of Health official. After visiting other boats that had gotten here before us, he boarded our boat where we filled out several forms while he looked around Tao defining it healthy, and answered Shawn’s pressing questions about appropriate dress for tourists (we want to be respectful, but also comfortable). A thin strapped dress ending just above the knees was deemed plenty respectful- at least within the city of Apia. Down came our yellow Quarrantine flag, and finally the more severe looking Customs officer made his way to our boat. We quickly showed our passports and filled out more paperwork and he informed us that Immigration was quite backed up so we needed to go to their office in town for the next step of check in.

As we stepped ashore from the docks, the taxi drivers jumped to offer us a ride, but we opted to walk along the waterfront the mile or so to the Immigration office instead. Once we found the office, we took a number- like at a US post office, and patiently awaited our turn amongst a large number of locals apparently all renewing passports at the same time (there is a lot of travel between American and Western Samoa requiring stops to Immigration). Soon enough it was our turn and we filled out more paperwork, received our passport stamps, and were on our way back to the marina and our final stop at the Port Authority to pay for our slip. Just before 1700, the end of the work day, two Port Authority officials came to our boat to supply us with required Apia Marina tags and proceeded to want to chat for nearly an hour. We made a little mis-step when we told them we were scientists as it became apparent that they think scientists believe in Darwin and not God and they drilled us with questions about religion, the start of life, etc. Chris fielded them well and finally they relented and took our USCG vessel documentation to make copies and told us we pay upon checking out. We sat down and breathed a sigh of relief as the sun set on our first busy day in Samoa.

Samoa, approximately 2,250-miles south of Hawaii consists of two main islands formed from extinct volcanoes rising to 6,000-ft on Savaii and 3,600-ft on Upolo. Of the approximately 177K total Samoan inhabitants, 25% live on Savaii, 20% live in the capital and commercial center of Apia on Upolo, and just under 2% are European. Fanning was a poor Micronesian island and Suwarrow had only 2 Northern Cook Island residents, so Apia with approximately 36,000 residents is our first foray into South Pacific Polynesia. It is a mix of big city yet traditional and everyone is welcoming with a smile. Although some are quite portly, most Islanders are medium sized and dark skinned. Many of the men sport beautiful tattoos sharing their family stories on their arms and traditionally dressed women almost always have flowers in their hair. When they speak English, it is a crazy fusion of Crocodile Dundee’s Australian accent in a Polynesian body. Although Samoans have tended to retain their traditional ways despite exposure to European influence (most Samoans live within traditional social system based on the extended family headed by a chief), tourists of all sizes and shapes are welcomed with open arms. The first questions everyone asks is where are you from, where are you staying, and how long will you be here? Here we are “palagi” (pronounced pah-lahn-ghee), tourists of white descent, and most Samoans are surprised when they hear we are from the US as the bulk of white tourists they meet are from Australia and New Zealand.

As far as we can tell, Samoans tend to be quite religious, 55% belonging to the Congregational Church and 40% divided between Roman Catholic and Methodist Churches. We observed many homes outside of Apia flanked by well decorated family crypts and on Sundays nobody works. It is so quiet at the harbor, that Chris worried doing some drill work that someone would come ask him to stop work. Education is free but not required, though most primary school children attend classes. Many learn English in school, but not everyone seems to understand when we explain we sailed here, and others eyes just get really big. Author of Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson, chose to spend the last years of his life here and is buried atop the beautiful hills above Apia with a memorial and museum. The town is an interesting balance of traditional Samoan and 2012 world influence. Locals are nearly all adorned in lavalavas and puletasi (the woman’s version), but there are also Digicel offices on nearly every corner.
With several boat projects, many tasks requiring internet, and complete re-provision required, we have spent most of our time thus far in Samoa figuring out Apia. During the days, there is a traditional veggie market where women manage the sales and men can be seen sitting in quiet circles drinking traditional kava. There are also grocery stores with dry goods ranging from corner store to upscale air-conditioned and filled with imported goods. Frankies is the local’s choice for inexpensive goods and there are 4 of them around Apia including the wholesale store that supplies them. Chan Mao provides groceries for the large Asian population here and sports the largest assortment of fabrics in town. Lucky Foodtown (we love this name) and Farmer Joe’s (the name is so reminiscent of Trader Joes in the US but the store of course not the same at all) carry most of the imported goods that us palagi search for. Hardware stores range from a familiar looking ACE hardware store to more local Bluebird Hardware and finally on the outskirts of town we found the widest variety and selection of parts at SMI Hardware. We have managed to take several evenings off to watch traditional dancing and fire throwing ceremonies at the bar/ice cream shop across from the harbor as well as at the historically significant Aggie Grey’s Hotel. Both were fantastic experiences.

We spent the first week of our stay ensuring that the tropical bugs were not able to take residence on Tao by pulling out gear we hadn’t seen in months, cleaning areas, spraying all inaccessible pathways throughout the boat and generally reorganizing. After trying out the cafes of the two wifi providers in town (LavaSpot and PostNet) and finding little difference, we chose to use our wifi antenna and the least expensive internet cards purchased in town from PostNet. Back at Tao, we suffered through the slow connection, but were able to take care of basic internet tasks and have computer to computer (no video) Skype calls with our families to catch up a little bit. In the second week, Chris re-did the hatch project with silicone that he had found in town (he had used 4200 in Suwarrow when our silicone was found to be hardened already), changed the engine oil and zincs, and finally finished building the cockpit bed while Shawn took multiple loads of laundry to a local mat and sent e-mails out requesting RSVPs to our March 2013 Mexico destination wedding. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until this final week that we decided to pay the twice as high rate to see if the other wifi connection was any better, and indeed it is worth every penny. Usually with a little extra leg work we can find how the locals get by, but in this case, other cruisers research was correct. LavaSpot hotspot is the way to go if you want to get internet done efficiently (137Tala for 20-hrs at LavaSpot versus 80T at PostNet). Hindsight is 20/20, but we know now in this case, you really get what you pay for.