We just finished one of our best snorkels of the trip. Certainly the best since "The Aquarium" in Tahanea, and possibly better than that. We are anchored along the north shore of Motu Naonao along a gentle slope in 25-30 feet of water with enough room to swing 360 degrees. Along the south-western edge of the island is a nice sandy beach with a deep trench and decent coral wall down to about 50 feet. It would make a decent dive, or a nice snorkel for a decent free diver. We did that this morning, had lunch on the beach before being asked to vacate the island. Apparently an American recently bought the Motu and is trying to kick everyone off the beach. Fortunately, we know that all beaches in FP are public and told the caretaker this. She was in a quandary and since we were finishing lunch anyway, we said we would go for a swim and stay on the beach only. The family visiting from Raitea just down the beach moved their coolers onto their boats and their table just into the water and this also appeased the caretaker. We then walked east along the south shore of the island to drift west along the coral heads. The coral started good and just got better, becoming more dense, healthier, and bigger as we went. I had to finish the snorkel because I was somewhat cold, quite pruny, and rather tired from 2+ hours of time in the water, but I want to go back tomorrow with charged batteries in the camera. I saw some of the deepest red anenomies yet, with some sizable clownfish (think Nemo), lots of colorful damsels, some cool rockfish, and lots more. Mostly smaller reef fish, but some larger reef fish as well, and the most varied coral species we have seen in the Pacific. It made for a great day, and this after several other good ones.
Yesterday we sailed along the eastern shore from the Taravana Yacht Club (Taravana means Crazy) where Richard had hosted a very cool pot-luck 4th of July party. There were only 2 american boats there, but the Brits and Ausies helped us celebrate our independence from their ancestors. No-one had any fireworks but it was still a wonderful night. Our sail was largely upwind till we rounded the corner, short tacking up the shore between the bold coast and the barrier reef. Some tacks were just 2 mins long as we threaded our way along, but the sun was out (mostly), we only got one small rain shower, and we had a very pleasant 12 knots of wind.
Last Saturday we headed to town to get fuel, where you literally tie up to a 40' pier on the back side of a gas station, right on the main road. The image was quite funny with two boats rafted next to the highway gas station. The station closed just as we finished fueling so we left the boats there and walked to town for lunch and some grocery shopping, after first finding some battery cable lugs so I could finish the inverter install. After lunch we got groceries and then headed back to Tahaa for the afternoon where I got the inverter working which is quite nice as besides allowing us to use the microwave again, it adds 70 amps of battery charging so we are back down to 3 hours of gen-set time a day. Unfortunately our Newmar chargers continue to degrade and now only put out 70 amps combined (two chargers rated at 95 amps each) so doubling our charging is a real boon. Plus now we are loading the genset much more evenly and the resultant voltages are much happier. One of my next projects will be to figure out what to replace the Newmars with (Victron has multiple choices of charger lines), but hopefully we can make this work till New Zealand.
I think that brings us up to date. Next we head to Bora Bora for a few days before going to Mopelia (sp?) and then saying goodbye to French Polynesia. We have gone back and forth, but are finally committed to a route west via Aitutaki, Palmerston Atol, Beverage Reef, then Nui before heading up to American Samoa to send mom home in August to help Zak head off to school. Then we will go down to Tonga for September and October before the final passage to New Zealand.