Friday, July 30, 2010

Lionfish, & Dolphins, & Caves, Oh My!

Nuie - South Pacific
19N 169 W

We had an excellent two tank dive this morning. First we headed north to Limu Point for what is called "The Twin Caves". The dive started in 30ft, then we went down a large hole to about 70-80, and explored a series the nooks and crannies before heading out a tunnel at the bottom. From there we went to the second cave which was darker before we connected through a smallish tunnel back to the first one. Neat lighting effects as well as some nice fish, including a very cool lionfish, one real big grouper-like fish, and a large puffer fish were the highlights. We finished the dive hanging out in 30ish feet checking out the reef fish.

During our surface interval we headed back south and were going to do a dive at the north end of the bay we are moored in, but the surge was a bit more than the dive master was happy with, so we started heading down to the south end of the mooring field. On our way we found a large pod of Dolphin and Ian had us get in the water... VERY COOL. The dolphin are amazing swimmers, sooooo carefree.

The second dive took us fully into an above waterlevel cave. After a quick visit to an anenomie and a leaf fish we headed in towards the island, and surfaced in a breathable chamber. The surge causes the pressure to fluctuate in the cave, so you had to constantly clear your ears, but the air is breathable, though very damp. The stalactites and stalagmites were amazing as were some other rock formations in there. Felt very Indiana Jones. After 10 mins or so we swam back out, through several "swim throughs" and finished along a wall for a final hang out with reef fish. Mom and I had plenty of air, so we headed down the wall to 60 feet to check some things out, saw a ray, and some other very pretty small fish.

The coral in this northern area is fairly dead after the cyclone several years ago, but rock formations are VERY cool, and the fish life seems to be coming back. Plus there are a TON of sea snakes (not as scarry as they sound, but I don't really like them that much). Fish life is decent, but generally small, and visibility is AWESOME, about as good as Easter Island with 150'+ visibility.

Tomorrow we are having a birthday party for mom and Trish (both turning 42 we hear). Should be fun.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

On to Nuie

20S 170W - Nuie

In hindsight, we were probably a little hasty in leaving Beverage Reef. We dove just outside the pass and were very disappointed to find that all the coral is DEAD and there aren't many fish either. The pass didn't look much better and it was fairly choppy inside the reef, especially at high tide so we decided to cut our losses and enjoy more time in Nuie. Scott & Cindy decided to tough it out another night and headed to the eastern edge of the lagoon where they tell us they found 3-4 wrecks and excellent live coral and fish and sharks. Sounds like it is all inside the reef (haven't found a shortcut out and the dingy ride around would be QUITE long, so depths are shallow.

In any event, we had a decent passage to Nuie...a bit rolly and not quite enough wind to keep the sails from slatting, but good enough. There were 6 boats traveling that night so it kept us on our toes, slaloming through traffic. The moorings here are very nice and the anchorage isn't too rolly (yet at least). People are super friendly and there is supposed to be excellent diving, plus the whales are just starting to arrive. If the weather holds out we should be here about 2 weeks. Plus there is free internet from the Mormons so life is pretty good.

More soon.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Beverage Reef Arrival

20 00.65S 167 46.64W - Middle of Nowhere -- Beverage Reef

We just pulled into Beverage Reef, which is pretty much as close as you can get to anchoring in the middle of the ocean. The closest dry land is 100+ miles away in Nuie. Pretty cool place, and water looks very clear.

I had a miserable passage as I had a flu like illness that kept me in bed with a 103 degree fever for much of the trip. Luckily it was an easy, calm passage and I am doing better now (just a scratchy throat left over). Should be here a few days, then on to Nuie.

Check out our position on the Yotreps position report (link to the right) to see where we are.

en route to Beveridge Reef

19 46.6 S 167 09.0W between Palmerston atoll and Beveridge Reef

Helllo out there...Currently en route from Palmerston atoll to Beveridge Reef in light winds and calmish seas. We left Palmerston Fri afternoon and were able to sail nicely for about 28 hrs with 20-25 k winds but behind us so pretty comfortable. Seas were reasonable which made for a much more enjoyable passage than the last few. By dinner toniight the winds had died so we are now motorsailing for the last 12 -14 hrs. Should reach Beveridge at light Sun morn. We are travelling with 4 other boats on this leg which has been different...neat to see sails in the day and lights at night only a couple of miles away...also reason to pay more attention!!! This convoy heading to Beveridge should prove interesting as there is nowhere to go besides on the boats. There is no land there...just the reef so we will be on board or in the water the whole time Trying to figure out the logistics of socializing with 14 people with this scenario but at least hoping for some good diving for a couple of days. Can only stay there in very settled weather so will most likely be a 3-4 day stop before heading to Niue.

Palmerston proved to be an interesting stop. It is a small atoll in the Southern Cook Islands which is English speaking tho' the dialect gave us a few problems. Kind of under the auspices of New Zealand. They use the NZ dollar tho' it did not matter as there is nothing to spend your money on anyway. These folks live off the fish they catch and what stores they can lay in when the supply ship comes which is only every 6-8 about basic. However they were very friendly and hospitable. Actually the cruisers have become their lifeblood with civilization and bring goods to trade and share so we are really welcomed.

There are currently 67 people living there...probably in about 8-10 households (lots of kids per family). I think we heard that 30 kids attend the 1 room schoolhouse. They seem to place education as a priority and use an American program called ACE...accelerated Christian education...definitely no division of church and school exists as we saw many references to Jesus Christ and God within the teaching program and curiculum. The kids seemed bright and well spoken so at least that is a positive. They do have internet which I am sure has changed their reality alot. Story is that one man, William Marsters settled here with a Polynesian wife and two cousins who he also had as "wives" tho they were not ever married. The familiies there now are all descendants of these three famililes and trace their lineage to the three women so there are 3 distinct clans.They all have the last name of Marsters! You must marry outside your own either one of the other families or an outsider. You then belong to the family you have married into. There is a bit of a territorial aspect to all of this and we were each hosted by a family who then had "rights" to us. They took us under their wings while we were there...transporting us in and out of the anchorage thru the pass in their skiffs and feeding us on the island. We had one lunch with all the boats (there were 8 there at the same time) tho' our hosts would not eat with us...oinly after we had finished so some odd customs. They gave us all tours and talked about the history of Palmerston with great pride. Very interesting...Gram said he kept hearing banjos!!

Friday morning Bill and I went on a dive before we left Palmerston. Gram did not feel well so stayed on board. It was a great dive...right off the boat and down the wall of the reef to about 65 or 70 ft. Drop dead gorgeous coral...there were lilac and turquoise patches and even a lime green one that we had never seen before. Good fish and the highlight was a huge turtle that swam with us for awhile. His shell was about 6 ft long and then there were his legs,arms,head and tail so he was a big guy!! Very regal and very cool. Gram had a high fever over the night so we got to experience crusing with only 2 to cover the watch schedule...definitley alot more tiring. Finally by dinner tonight he seems to be on the mend so hopefully will be ready and rearing to go once we reach Beveridge...Well time for me to turn over my watch and get a little more sleep.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Best of the Society Islands Leeward Group (aka The Huahine Chronicals)

Aitutaki, Cook Islands
Anchored outside pass
18 51.35S/159 48.8W

We arrived Aitutaki early yesterday morning and anchored just south of the pass in mixed coral heads and sand ravines - not ideal conditions. We timed our arrival with diminished seas, and are only rolling moderately; all is well on board. We will report more about our re-entry into english speaking islands once our baguette withdrawl recedes (one can sufficate here in a sea of white bread). In the meantime, the following information will be of interest to those who follow us:

Our...Best of the Society Islands Leeward Group (aka The Huahine Chronicals)

1. Huahine

Huahine is the most laid back/quiet large island in FP. An absolute favorite spot (and a great cruising experience) was at the Motu Murimahora anchorage on the east side of the island. We entered Pass Farerea, immediately turning south towards Bai Apoomati and Motu Murimahora. Following a line of island side marks as we proceeded south, we snuck into a narrow channeled harbor on this quiet side of the island. As you approach the middle point of the motu, the line of marks on your right side ends but continues with marks a bit farther down on the (left) motu side. Between the sets of marks you will find a gorgeous anchorage in a 17 foot deep, broad, plateau of sand at 16 45.86S/150 57.56W.

We made a shore excursion as we heard there were fruits/veggies for sale. Immediately south of a prominent and fancy "plantation" belonging to the family that owns the large grocery in Fare, we met 2 families and were given cantaloupes, papayas, string beans, bok choy, and fresh herbs; neither family would take money. Pascal is the husband residing in the second house, along with spouse and many children. They hardly accepted the gifts we returned with later that day. The children took chocolates however, and we also gave some veggie seeds to help their burgeoning vegetable growing business, starting soil, a pair of extra reef flip-flops, and 2 nat'l geo mags for the children learning english. Our friends Steve and Trish brought some pens and pencils, sunglasses, and a frisbee for the kids. As a final thank you, we took the children "tubing" the next morning before we left. What a hoot!

Fare was a friendly village. There is one anchorage on your left as you enter off the beach by town. We continued around to the right and anchored at the edge if the channel on either side of the green buoy opposite Bank Taiuriu. There is good provisioning at the grocery although it was a bit more expensive than Papeete, and fresh produce was hit and miss. There is an enjoyable waterfront bar/restaurant by the dinghy landing, and a few crafts shops in town. Roads were flat and newly paved which made for some excellent cycling. We dove Pass Avapehi but coral was not healthy and the dive was just ok.

There is not enough swing room to anchor in the small cove inside Bank Taiuriu. Baie Fiti is a wind tunnel with SE winds. Anchoring inside Port Bourayne was difficult. And we anchored just outside. We did not make it as far as Baie D'Avea, as winds were fresh and the anchorage too exposed.

2. Tahaa/Raitea

The lagoon encompassing these two islands is a large area, and we only explored some of it. We spent several nights on the southern extent of Tahaa at the Taravana YC, located just inside Baie Apu, immediately on your right as you approach. The YC is now owned/operated by Richard, and he can be contacted at 689 656101 (office) or 689 280808 (cell) There is no charge for the moorings if you use the bar and restaurant. Richard hosts a buffet dinner and Polynesian dance presentation Tuesday evenings for 6000f/pp. Dinner includes water and wine, and the performers are young locals with infectious enthusiasm. Note: Tuesday moorings usually require a reservation as they fill quickly.

We took the dingy into the bay and hiked to a vanilla distributor where we saw preparation of the plant and product. There was also good cycling around Tahaa.

Fuel and provisioning are available at the main village of Utaroa. The Shell station has a guest dock nearly in the middle of town, but does not offer duty free fuel. The Total station is located just north at the head of the small inlet adjacent to the municipal marina, and Total does offer duty free diesel. We fueled at Total late morning on Saturday, and then were able to lie there for the afternoon (they operate 7-11AM on Saturdays & Sundays) for the 10 minute walk into town and provisions. Have large and plenty fenders on the ready for either dock.

In town one can provision at a Champion market, or 2 oriental markets. Jean Luc at Liaut market speaks English. A sail down the east side of Raitea was a great day activity as we headed towards Isla Naonao, by Naonao Pass on the south side of the lagoon. We anchored in 20 feet of sand at 16 55.00S/151 25.80W by the NW corner of the island. The snorkeling around Isla Naonao, both by the reef just west of it and in the waters along its southern shore, was fantastic - and some of the best in the Societies.

Unfortunately, we were not welcomed on the island. An American has purchased it and placed caretakers there to chase you off should you choose to land. Although all beaches in FP are open and public, they tried to chase us off the beach as well. We finally said we would leave, but we took our time about it and enjoyed ourselves. They also tried to do the same thing to a group of locals that came out for the day, eliciting a similar response. I do not suppose that actions such as these ingratiate native French Polynesians to the USA.

3. Bora Bora

We did not spend much time in Bora Bora. The village and island were not as tidy as others, and the people simply did not appear to be as friendly and welcoming. The lagoon and the high island are striking and beautiful, however. The BB Yacht Club suffered significant damage in last years typhoon and is still being rebuilt - moorings are still available however. We biked around the island, did some light provisioning, and dove the Teavanui Pass with a dive service. The fish are fed here, and there were numerous large lemon sharks close at hand. Quite arresting, but the experience was tarnished due to the fact that they interfered and fed the reef fish.

4. Mopelia (or Maupihaa)

Mopelia is located approximately 135 nm WSW of Bora Bora. A true atoll, Mopelia has an extremely NARROW entry, but one that is protected as it lies on the NW corner. There is almost always an outflowing current of 3 or more knots; the water is roiled in the pass and just outside, but standing waves over 1 foot rarely will form.

Charts show a village in the NE corner as well as several bouys and marks around the pass, but the village is no longer there and reportedly it was destroyed by a typhoon sometime in the 1990's. You will now find the ruins of several homes and remnants of a pier. The 3 families that inhabit the island in 2010 all live in the SE corner. A large family headed by Calami and Sophie inhabit the "middle" homestead, including Calami's son, daughter-in-law, and several grandchildren . There are two other small families living there as well but we did not meet them.

Mopelia highlights include a very beautiful lagoon, nice beaches, and solitude. The diving just outside the pass is exceptional, the best we had done in the Societies. The snorkeling is good too, although you have to consider snorkeling outside the pass with surge and swells, or just inside the pass with considerable current.

Pass entry information was provided to us by Scott on S/Y Beachhouse, and I present it here with minimal changes, as we could not say it better ourselves.




Of note, there is a chart offset of approximately 220 yards, with the chart shifted to the north. In other words, the pass as seen on the chart will be north of your entry point by this amount – your boat will lie 220 yards south of the charted pass as you enter. Our waypoints were as follows:

Approach – 16 46.868S/153 58.735W
Approach - 16 46.913S/153 58.678W
Pass Outer Entry Point - 16 46.953S/153 58.627W
Inner Pass Exit - 16 47.155S/153 58.381W
Inner Pass Approach - 16 47.317S/153 58.242W

Once inside, navigation is not difficult in good light. There are few reefs to avoid, but numerous abandoned pearl buoys abound, and many are just submerged. Be aware.

One can head down to the SE anchorage area, waypoint 16 49.683S/155 65.63W, or head more or less east to a second anchorage near 16 47.05S/153 56.66W. The SE anchorage is near the inhabited area of the atoll, and provides slightly more protection in winds from the south to east. The eastern anchorage provides better protection from the east to north, and access to the pass for diving. Neither anchorage area would be enjoyable in westerlies.

In light easterlies it is reported that one can anchor just inside the pass by the western motus south of the entry, but winds did not cooperate during our stay. We moved to the eastern anchorage and took the dinghy 1.65 nm across the lagoon to dive. There is quite a bit of current in the pass and a 15 HP or greater engine is best for this as you traverse the pass, and then return to the anchorage against the east wind. There is a buoy just outside the pass on the south side which marks the anchor chain of "The Seadler" shipwreck, and one can tie the dinghy to it for a dive along the wall to the south of the pass. You can begin your dive by dropping 30 feet to the bottom in nice coral, and then proceed a short distance west to the wall. We dove to 70-90 feet and (turned left) swam south against a very light counter current along a beautiful 70 degree wall. Coral was great, fish were large and abundant. We turned around at a ravine about 20 – 25 minutes into the dive (~1800 psi), ascended to 30-40 feet, and drifted back with the current. The dive then continues past the buoy to the edge of the pass, where you hang out and watch the fish and their antics. It was stupendous.

Another time we brought a heavier anchor (mother ship stern anchor) and did a similar dive along the north wall. Also excellent, but perhaps the coral was not quite as healthy and the North wall of the pass has more current and less visability.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Goodbye FP

18 31.2S 159 14.2W
40 miles NE of Aitutaki, Cook Islands

We said goodbye to French Polynesia on Thursday morning (15th) with a 3 boat caravan departure from Mopelia. Besides Curious, a Cat we met the day before (Bubas) was leaving as well, so we started a small "net" to talk a few times a day. The passage has been uneventful, and reasonably pleasant. Sea state is a little rough, but wind has been steady and we are making very good time. For most of the trip we have been able to see Curious, which is very weird, but quite comforting really.

In Aitutaki we willl not be able to enter inside the lagoon (too shallow through the pass) so we are bit weather dependant there. Hopefully our weather window holds and we can spend 3-4 days there.

We really liked Mopelia and would hightly suggest it for any divers in our wake. The wall dives on either side of the pass are excellent, especially the southern wall. There is a bouy to pick up, tied to a long length of chain on the botom just south of the pass in about 25 feet of water. From there you decend down the wall anywhere from 60 to 100+ feet depending on how long you want to stay and travel south. We maxed out at about 90 feet, staying mostly around 70 feet till we got to about 1800 psi. In this area we saw lots of larger palagic fish, including tuna, jacks, & pompano, as well as nice reef fish in the healthy coral. Also, at this depth there is almost no current along the wall. From there you can turn up the wall onto the coral shelf in 40-25' where there is a nice gentle counter current to bring you back to the pass along the top. Here, lots of colorful coral, some sharks, and still lots of fish (palagic and reef). In just a few minutes you will be back at the mooring. From there we traveled all the way to the wall of the pass. Here the southern side is much better with pretty decent visability and a very cool overhanging wall. We held on here till be were down to 750psi and saw lots of large parrot fish, jacks, and many others swimming in the current or hanging out along the wall. The North side had way more current on the wall and not much to see, but the south was relavitely calm (at times could let go for a few minutes without going anywhere) and very cool coral formations to explore. Probably our best dive yet. Not quite as dramatic a wall as Toau, but better fish, and with the coral flat and pass, it has more interest overall. Viz was excellent everywhere other than in the pass itself. We dicided not to bother diving the pass as it is VERY fast and viz was quite limited. In more settled conditions, the pass might be great.

We were giving the compressor quite the workout, with two dives the first day and another on the second day for a total of 11 tank fills (mom skipped the first dive), so I had to change out the filter. Usually not a big deal, but the top fo the filter stack was being quite stuborn and my wrench slipped off it, causing my face to implant itself on the corner of the fan cage (OWWW!). Now I look like my dad at my college graduation (he closed the rear gate of his Explorer on his forehead).

All is well. We are on a bit of a schedule now to get to NUI for Mom & Trish's Birthdays (1st & 2nd of August) and then on the American Samoa for Mom's flight on the 15th. It means we only get about 3 days in each of the next 3 stops (Aitutaki, Palmerston Atol, and Beverage Reef). Thats all for now.

midnight watch-version 10

18 30.4 S 159 12.8W between Mopelia and Aitutaki

Good morning from the nav(navigation) staion here at 1 am. It's a beautiful clear starry night and I am on watch on a 2 day, 2 night passage from Mopelia to Aitutaki in the southern Cook Islands. This has been one of our kindest passages with fair weather and long wave trains that are only 7-8 ft seas. A small roll but none of the herky jerky stuff that throws us around and otherwise makes us a bit miserable. We have been making 7-10k speeds for the bulk of the trip and have flown a combo of full to double reefed main with either the jib or the larger reacher out on the pole (our version of a spinnaker). True downwind sailing and much more what the Pacific is supposed to be like. Not bad!!!

We have officially left French Polynesia . So sad to be sailing away from the land of baguettes and ripe cheeses. The good news is we think we will be in English speaking territories for the remainder of our trip. As fun as the stumbling and bumbling of Spanish and French has been for the last year it will be nice to be able to just talk to peiople without all the thought and frustrations. If I could do it all over the one thing I would change or encourage other cruisers would be to be better prepared language wise. Really wish I had of had the time to take a few classes at the Penobscot school and been more fluent in both Spanish and French.We got by but I can only imagine what we missed and how much more we might have experienced with a better command of the native tongues in these foreign places.

We have had the good fortune of buddy boating with a lovely English (they actually live in So. Wales) couple on their Oyster 56. The boats are amazingly well matched and these past 2 days we have pretty much been within a few miles of each other. Definitely changes the whole feeling of being (or not in this case) out here all alone with nothing but ocean ocean everywhere. Rather comforting and their company is fabulous to boot. Lots of shared dinners and laughs ( when at anchor that is) and some fun excursions during the day as well. Trish does not dive so for Steve it was really great to have us to go out with as it was all on our own diving in Mopelia. We did 3 (2 for me) dives in 2 days and found it to be the best diving since the Tuomotus. The coral was alive and well/very beautiful and the water clarity exceptional. Saw some very larg pelagic fish which was different as well as lots of the beautiful colorful butterflies, angels,wrasses, and surgeonfish that these waters are famous for. Amazing just amazing colors and a bunch of new species to add to our list of fish sighted. Only a few sharks which actually is fine with me. We dove outside the pass which I had described on our entry in as narrow and hairy. It was that, though not as intimidating in a dinghy as in the big boat . A wet and wild dinghy ride back however as the fetch did have a chance to kick up the seas in the lagoon. We had taken two dinghies and Gram and I were airborne and so soaked that he had to wear his snorkle mask to be able to see...very funny! Spent both afternnoons on the beach ( a lovely white sand palm lined stretch) playing some boules and going for walks with Steve and Trish. There are only a handful of people on Mopelia (one man , his wife and a grown son with child and another woman who lives by herself supposedly). We only met the one man and actually moved down the beach to the deserted anchorage in the north to be closer to the pass and the diving. There we did find the remains of a couple of homes that were destroyed in a cyclone in the past year or two. Strangely enough there were still a bunch of chickens and a mama pig with two piglets roaming the beach. Guess there is a male pig somewhere nearby too.

We are praying for a bunch of calm days as the next few places we are headed will not have much protection and we will be uncomfortable if the seas are rough or rolly. Will see how lucky we get and move on if not. Time to wake Gram up and get a few more hours of sleep myself.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Le Toura de Bora (Bora that is)

Mopelia - 16 49.7 S 153 55.7 W

Hello from the entry into the pass at Mopelia..this looks like one of our nerviest passes yet so I have come down below to occupy myself with something other than watching and getting all anxious. We left Bora Bora mid afternoon yesterday to go the 120 miles to Mopelia a small atoll at the end of French Polynesia. It was windy so we got here too early and had to anchor outside the pass and wait for better light. Once again it was a rolly nite out to sea but we were spared anything too exciting and just had a bit of uncomfortableness. We are starting to feel pinched for time as we want to get thru the Cook Islands and on to Nuie for my birthday at the beginning of Aug. We were not crazy about Bora Bora so stayed there for just a couple of days. It is built up and kind of dirty and the natives not nearly as nice as on the smaller thinks they see too many tourists and rudeness has rubbed off on them. I tell you my perspective for the difference we in a tourist driven economy can make if we take the time to be courteous and kind to the people visiting has gotten ever more enforced. They weren't so welcoming to us so we just left and didn't spend time or money on their island....

The one draw Bora Bora has is that it has all its fancy hotels are out on motus so the people that are out there are incognito and only will see other people at that resort...hence the movie stars and famous and wealthy that don't want anything but their privacy. Obviously we did not get to do any stargazing as we would not be able to get onto those properties. There was a 200 ft yacht anchored a mile or so from us tho' that had fireworks one of the evenings. It was quite a spectacular show and so in a way we got a belated 4th of July fireworks celebration. Very nice over the water and it must have gone on for over a half an hour. The one fun thing we did on our full day in Bora was get out our bikes and do an around the island tour with Steve and Trish from Curious. It was a great ride(about 20 miles-our rendition of the Tour) and I was pleased that the only thing that hurt was my bumbum(an Emma term) and my neck. Guess my quads have kept in shape from all the snorkeling! Had a relaxed lunch overlooking the water before heading back to the boats.

That is the latest but going back to where I left off on my previous email...On the 4th of July we had gone back to Taravana Yacht Club as the owner has said he would organize a potluck bbque for all the boats. It was loads of fun..there were only us and one other American boat so our British and Australian friends helped us celebrate our independence from them...rather funny. He had also invited all his neighbors so we met many fun and boisterous locals and a good time was had by all. Next day Curious and we left to go to the southern motus in Raiitea. We had a lovely sail across and down the bay with lots of tacking but no engine and just a good time. Got to a very pretty anchorage that we had been told of from Richard who owned the yacht club on Tahaa. It's name is NaoNao and looked like we would be in snorkel heaven. The reefs there were the first live and healthy ones we have seen since the Tuomotus so we were all happy campers. Gram and I borrowed a kayak from Curious and did a circumnavigation of the island while Bill did a swim to check out the various reefs. Next morning decided to make a picnic lunch and go to the beach so we could snorkel both reefs. They were deep with larger fish and the other a drift all the way down the edge of the island with coral bombies thruout. Tons of fish and beautifully colored coral made for an hour and a half in the water. Next morning Trish and Gram and I had to go back and do it over again while the captains did some planning to get us to our next stop-Bora Bora a 5 hr. sail.

Lots of talk in these parts about the upcoming eclipse tomorrow morning. In fact some boats are going miles and miles out of their way to get to the zone of totality where it will be a full eclipse. From where we are it will probably be 90% and we decided to settle for that. Should be cool tho'. Plan is to stay here a few days and then head to Aitutaki, Palmerston atoll, and then Beveridge Reef...we will need to stay outside all of these places so are hoping that the winds calm down and we have some moderate weather so we can do this. The diving is all three of these places should be good and we actually hope to find one or two places to dive here in Mopelia. We just anchored and I hear a cry from Gram saying that there is a magnificent beach calling to us so will say bye bye for now and try to get a nap in the sand...l

Friday, July 9, 2010

Le Tour de Bora Bora

Bora Bora

Yesterday mom, Trish, and I redid the snorkel at Nao Nao, this time with a working camera (see pics added to last entry) and decided this is the best snorkel of the trip so far. We tried to find a spot to anchor near the southwestern pass, but it didn't look good so we left Raiatea and sailed to Bora Bora in time to grap a mooring at the BBYC (Bora Bora Yacht Club) before dark.

Today we pulled out the bikes and took a ride around the island with Steve and Trish. It was a lovely 32k ride, almost all flat (one hill with a crazy switchback decent) and decent scenery with mostly nice smooth pavement. We got to see lots of this island of south-pacific fame, including Bloody Mary's Bar (dun-dun-dun-dun-Bloody Mary's is the place to be-dun-dun-dun-dun) but have to say it is way overdeveloped and the people are not nearly as friendly as most of FP. Still a wonderful ride. Bill won the green sprinters jersey, zipping around us in circles to get a better workout. Trish won the polkadot-climbers jersey, but was stripped of it after testing positive for doping (the bike she rented had electric assist), so that award was given to Steve who followed her closely up the climb. Mom won the gray jersey-for riders over 60 thanks to the help of her domestic Gram who paced her along the ride (though she didn't like the idea of drafting too much as she was afraid she would run into my rear tire).

Tomorrow we dive in the morning then leave around 2 for Mopelia, about 130 miles which should take us between 17 and 20 hours.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Nao for Some Real Fun

Motu Naonao, Southern Tip Raiatea, Society Islands, French Polynesia

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.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Rain rain go away

Raiatea, French Polynesia

Now into our 4th day of rain and today it is torrential rain at that. We are in the midst of trying to dock the boat and get fuel and it is so wet and miserable that I have had to come down below to do some of the cleaning and emailing that I have been neglecting. Spent the better part of 2 days using a frustratingly slow internet to put together a complex itinerary to get me home in Aug. As it turns out it will take me 2 red eyes to get from American Samoa to Portland, Maine and I can only imagine the shape I will be in when I land. The return is not quite as bad as I will stop in San Fran for a day and a half and 2 nites and visit my brother and family. Also it is alot easier going West in regards to time changes and it will be split up. So I depart here on Aug 15(arrive PWM 8/17) and return from Aug 27-29. In the midst of that short time I will help pack my Zakkie up and deliver him to McGill in Montreal...should be a whirlwind tour for sure!

The So. Pacific convergence zone has put a weird spin into the weather here and we are looking to change our itinerary to go further north and try to get out of this rain and wind that has been going on almost since the kids left mid June. We are lucky that we have been travelling with a wonderful couple from England (boat is Curious/Steve and Trish). They are alot of fun and have kept us from going either stir crazy or killing each other/great distraction from funky moods due to funky weather! We have shared many happy hours and dinners and done some excursions together and get along quite well. We are currently in Raiatea which is an island that shares a lagoon with Tahaa. Spent 4 nites at the "Taravana Yacht Club" and will probably go back ther tomorrow to have a 4th of July celebration. Richard the owner is origiinally from the Bay Are (Cal) but has been in the So. Pacific for 40 years. He had a charter business out of Bora Bora until a year or so ago when he bought the Yacht club. He has a doz. moorings and caters to the yachties/ a wonderful wevice as the anchorage there is 112 ft and would make for an impossible place to anchor. Nice bay and very protected which was great when the winds were blowing 30-35. Hey, have you ever tried to hang sheets and towels out in those conditions...thought I might just be taking up kite surfing without even a board!

The night we got there they had a buffet and dance performance. It was both tasty food and a wonderful night of local entertainment. This group was very young/local teenagers from a few neighboring towns on Tahaa. They were awesome! Girls were beautiful and move those hips and fannies in the most unusual way. Their arms flow like willows and the rest of their upper bodies stay perfectly immobile. The young men (if you can call an 11 year old boy that) did not dance quite so nicely but when they did the fire dance it took our breaths away. From what we hear this traditonal Polynesian dancing was all but done in for until a few years back when heritage overtook the desire to be western and modern and has made a resurgence. Very good view of pride in one's culture that we are lucky enough to be able to enjoy. At the end of the performance they called up some of the audience including Gram and me to try our hand at their dance. If we got any decent pics will post them in the near future...I am sure they would be worth a chuckle or day we were a bit sore...both our legs and our cheeks from laughing so hard!

Yesterday we walked (in the rain) up to a vanilla plantation to see how they process the vanilla. 2/3 of the So Pacific's vanilla comes from Tahaa and probably 90% of the world's vanilla comes from the So. Pacific. It is quite a labor intensive process. Once the beans are picked they are washed and dried over a period of 4 months. Then by hand they are straightened and sorted by size. The aroma was magnificent and we made tapioca pudding with vanilla bean flavoring for dessert last night. YUM!!! Have not done much swimming besides cleaning the bottom of the boat as all the rain has made the water pretty murky. We did have some great water days before we came over here while in Huahine last week. Huahine was a very beautiful island/lush and unspoiled. We first anchored in a little pass between the island a couple of motus(little islands). The water was the most incrdible color of turquoise as it was a white sand bottom only 11 ft. under us. The people on the motu were very kind and even more generous. We were given melons, herbs, green onions, green beans, and a whole kitchen garbage bag of Bok Choy(even tho' it cooks down by alot we had 2 huge meals from it). When we tried to give them chocolate, blueberry jam and some trinkets for their kids they kept refusing us. After much insistence we finally got them to agree to accept our gifts. The better gift that we came up with to give them was to arrange the next morning to come get the kids (about 5 of them in one family) ages 8-12 or 13 and take them tubing on this water toy we can tow behind the dinghy. Steve and Bill proved to be the biggest kids of all and had alot of fun with the gang. They came on our boats and were very courteous and interested...great kids and left us with huge hugs and smiles and great memories for us to savor.

We spent 4 days there , did some really nice drift snorkeling and partied with Curious and another boat (Rhianne Marie from Scotland that we had met in Fakarava) The highlite of the partying was a 5 1/2 hour Happy hour on Curious with all three boats complete with some pole dancing on the backstay by they call that 3 sheets to the wind? . We left there to head to Fare the main town of Huahine and check out the big market we had read about. It was a really good supermarket and we bought enough fresh stuff and a few Chinese specialty products they had to complete our larder. Got the bikes out and went for a nice ride to visit the Maerae( ancient temple platforms) As we pedalled back to town we were able to see the finish of a 3 hour canoe race that was going on. These guys are awesome and have the most beautiful strokes in synchonized form imaginable. There was alot of colorful activity and music going on that afternoon which was cool to be able to witness. Next day we headed down towards the southern bay in search of what is said to be the best beach in French Polynesia but that is when the bad weather started. We were hit with 35 k winds coming from a direction that made that southern area untennable. Waited another day to see if it was going to clear but bad luck prevailed and we decided to cut our losses and move to Tahaa.

Well the suckers are done filling our fuel tanks so I will sign off so we can head to town and see what Raiatea has to offer on a rainy Sat. morning. Happy 4th of July...