Saturday, November 20, 2010

Catching up in Opua

We've been at the dock in Opua for THREE SOLID WEEKS, working on the boat. It seemed kind of chilly at first, but we've stopped wearing fleece and polypro, and moved on wearing jeans.  We have to keep covered up here because of the midges (itchy biting insects)   Many of our friends are here.  The Opua Cruising Club and the ICA All Points Rally provide nightly food and drink and interesting speakers. Lots of cruisers are buying cars.  We've contented ourselves with renting occasionally.

Apart from that, it's not all bad:  we have beautiful and pleasant surroundings, and Bill can roll out of bed in the morning, drink his latte, then stagger over to the marine store, empty all the money out of his pockets and load up on stuff.  Uh Oh...they let him open an account.  There'll be no stopping him now.
  • Bill installed new batteries. It was a big job, requiring rewiring and carpentry because they're bigger than the old ones..  Ca-ching
  • All the sails have been at the sailmakers (will we ever see them again?) .  Ca-ching 
  • Bill replaced the rusty (but not very old) anchor chain.  GRRR. Ca-ching
          Fortunately, he found some miracle potion that cleaned the rust off the deck.
  • The boat will be hauled out of the water for 6 weeks and painted while we are in Seattle.   CA-CHING
  • And many other tasks to numerous to mention
  • As if this weren't enough, we got a big quote on a new stainless steel arch.  Ca-ching   
  • ...to hold up new solar panels.  Ca-ching 
We have to open a local bank account in order to shovel out the money fast enough.
Ugly rusty anchor chain stained the deck.

Topping Off Tonga

Tonga was beautiful, and each island group had unique geography.  Vava'u had verdant steep sided islands, Ha'apai had more low lying islands with extensive reefs.  Tongatapu to the south, had large and small islands and an actual "city" or big town.   Overall Tonga felt cool and breezy, and the water seemed cooler.  Much of the time, we had blustery weather, so we didn't really get to enjoy snorkeling much at all.  We had hoped to make up for having cut short our stay in the Tuamotus.  But that didn't happen, which was disappointing. 

The capital of Nuku'alofa had some unexpected treats:  fantastic donuts and good Chinese food.  Also, there was a wide variety of fruit for sale and INTERNET CAFES!

Tom arrived November 21st and a good weather window was building for the passage to New Zealand.  So we stepped up the pace of preparations to leave:  provisiong, fueling up, taking on water, and performing the rituals and incantations required to check out of the country.  We had planned to leave October 28th, but we managed to leave the anchorage for another island farther out on October 26th.  That evening, another boat hailed us as they passed by on their way out.  Their trip was more difficult than ours:  they broke 2 shrouds. 

This is where Tom picked up the blog on Thursday, October 28, 2010, at: En route to NZ 
 

Tonga Ha'apai Group

Ha'apai Island Group, Tonga
Tonga is divided into three island groups:  from north to south:  Vava'u, Ha'apai and Tongatapu.

Bill hard at work, using the mostsophisticated navigational tools available.

After a pleasant month in the Vava'u group, we've moved on to the Ha'apai Group.  It's an area of small, low lying islands, with many coral reefs that require careful navigation. Bill has always done a good job at it. 

However, waterspouts are hard to predict

There are two islands connected by a causeway are about 5 miles long.  There must be about 12 churches, big and small along the way.  And services take place several times on Sunday.  At 5 in the afternoon, we stopped to listen to the wonderful singing at several of them.
Between rainstorms, we managed a bike ride on a quiet Sunday afternoon. 








We went on a fantastic dive (sorry no pictures of that)

Peace and calm between storms
After waiting out some stormy weather, we moved down to another island, where we were invited to lunch by a local family, along with other cruisers from Seattle, England and Austria.  The family consisted of three brothers, their wives, children and their own parents.  They treated us to a wonderful lunch of seafood (lobsters ) caught the night before.  In exchange, we all brought various gifts of things we thought they could use.

A couple days later, we moved down to the Nomuka Group, a couple of largish islands with a fairly sheltered bay between them.  Some friends from the Northwest were there as well.  It was calm weather when we went to bed, but the wind switched to the south and kicked up during the night.  At 5am, someone knocked on our boat and called Bill out.  Another boat had blown onto the reef next to shore when the wind changed.  So Bill and the other guys went over in their dinghys, and over several hours managed to kedge the boat enough so it could power itself free.  This was amazing because the tide was going down all the while.  Also amazing the boat was undamaged.  It has a fat winged keel and it was just sitting on flat shelf.  All's well that ends well.

Waving goodbye? 
When we left a few days later, a  humpback whale mother and calf were loitering outside the pass. We stopped as they slowly circled us a couple times before we both moved on our ways.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tonga Retrospective: Vava'u Sea Caves

Some of the outstanding features of Vava'u are the sea caves.  Some are accessible at the surface, such as Swallows Cave.  Here's some photos.  We ended up waiting out a rainstorm while floating in our dinghy in the cave.

Entrance to Swallows Cave
It should be called Bats Cave, because it's full of big brown bats, not cute little swallows.
Colorful interior, notice grafitti


It's open to the sky on top.



More to come...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tonga to NZ, Day 7

Time: 1 November 2010, 1200 NZ time (+13)
Position: At the docks, Opua Marina

Hello, all!

We have safely arrived in Opua. It was a remarkably fast passage.

Some statistics:

Time: 6 days, 3 hours
Total distance: 1023 miles
Distance sailed: 1020 miles
Distance motored: 3 miles
Average speed: 7.0 knots
Fuel used: 3 gallons (12 hours of engine idling for power generation)
Best memory: sailing into the Bay of Isles, hand steering in 25 knots of breeze, watching the sun rise behind us, lighting Cape Brett up in a warm red glow.

We had our share of equipment breakage. Probably the most serious was with the running rigging. A car on the mainsail track failed, creating a flutter in the luff that threated to damage the adjacent cars, but fortunately never did. More serious was the chafing problem on the top spreader that eventually forced us to sail with two reefs in the main the last 2 days. We also had a near disaster with the roller furler. Late on Saturday, Bill noticed a frayed spot on the furling line, up near the bow. When we investigated, there were only a few strands of the line left. If it had parted, the whole sail would have unfurled --- in 25 knots of wind. Not good. We tried fixing it, but the sun was going down and it was very difficult working at the bow. Bill was up at the pointy end (I was cowering at the shrouds 10 feet behind shouting encouraging, but no doubt annoying, words) alternately getting lifted eight feet above the water, then plunged down into the waves, trying to tie a new line on. We finally gave up and decided to sail the rest of the way under just our double reefed main. Despite having so little sail up, we still made good progress, maybe 5.5 knots (instead of the 7.5 or so if the jib was working).

Customs was easy and pleasant (they come out to the boat and even carry your garbage back!)

The first order of business was to get some New Zealand money. There is no ATM in Opua, so I decided to ride Bill's bicycle into the nearby town of Paihai, about 8 km away. Bill's bike is one of those fold-up jobs with tiny 12" wheels. The roads are narrow and windy, so I decided to wear the climbing helmet we have on board. I probably cut quite the amusing figure: tall lanky guy on a clown's bike, legs akimbo, peddling like mad and weaving uncertainly with my bright orange helmet. As I peddled along, I wondered what would happen if I had an accident and the police investigated. They'd find this unshaven guy in filthy clothes who hadn't taken a shower in over a week on this ridiculous bicycle. Total bag guy.

-tk & Bill & Kathy

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Tonga to NZ, Day 6

Time: 31 October 2010, 0800 Tonga time (+13)
Position: 32-58S 176-28E

Hello,all!

Another night in the washing machine, non-delicate cycle.

Last night, about 10pm on Bill's watch our first squall came through. From a pleasant 15-20 knots, the wind came up to the low 30s in seconds while Bill madly scrambled to roll in the jib. It only lasted a half hour or so, but like all squalls, it was impressive. The rest of the night was uneventful, although the winds were in the 25-30 range most of the time. Right now, we're seeing mid 20s. The wind has veered to the southeast, so all that wind is mighty cold. Last night was spent in sleeping bags for the first time. A night watch involves suiting up for a space mission.

With the wind on the beam, the ride has been rough, but even with our more-or-less permanent configuration of two reefs in the main, it's been a fast one. We're continuing to average 150+ mile days. As always, it could be worse. We chatted with nearby boat PROXIMITY out of Fiji, bound for Whangarei, who has spent the last seven days close hauled!

The boat continues to hold up well. No problems except for the chafe on the main.

Despite the commotion, Kathy continues to churn out great meals. For yesterday's lunch we had rice with eggplant, ginger, and bok choi, then mushroom gnocci with green salad for dinner. We're on a mission to consume every bit of food that could be quarantined by the Kiwis. We're not going to come close, but it has been a heck of a lot of fun trying.

Cheers,

-tk & Bill & Kathy

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Tonga to New Zealand Day 5

Time: Saturday, 30 October 2010, 0800 Tonga time (+13)
Position: 30-48 S 177-59E

Hello, all!

We continue to make good progress. Yesterday was a 173 nm day, today will be about the same.

Life out here offers up its little dramas, but mostly things have been going very smoothly. But not always. After three straight days of sailing with a single reef in the main, yesterday we noticed that the top spreader was chafing a hole in the sail. Leaving it didn't seem like a good solution, but we didn't like any of the other options either. We tried adjusting the hoist a bit so it would at least wear against a new spot ("freshen the nip," as it were), but that put too much strain against a nearby batten. We finally decided to just drop the sail and put a sticky-back patch on it. We thought it might be tough to dry the sail enough for the adhesive to hold what with all the spray around, but to our surprise once we dropped the sail and headed downwind our bucking bronco of a boat became a docile even-tempered mare. It was rather pleasant drifting downwind slowly in the sunshine for the half hour it took for the patch area to dry. We slapped three layers on the hole, turned the boat back into the wind and our wild bronco of a boat was back.

Update: last night we had to put a second reef in the main. Unfortunately that meant our patch was no longer being held in place by the spreader and it came off. Sigh. I guess we'll just have to sail the rest of the way with two reefs. Should be no problem because the wind is supposed to freshen back up to 25+ knots or so.

Speaking of which, our next challenge is managing our landfall, now about two days out. The forecast shows a very strong high (1047mb!) over the South Island with a low to the east of it. That makes for strong (and cold!) winds out of the SE. We have no appetite for close hauling our way into the Bay of Isles, so we are trying to sail well east of our rhumb line, so our final approach won't be so close to the wind. So far, so good.

Today's amusing incident. I was making scrambled eggs for breakfast and for my serving decided to put some pepper in it. The boat took a lurch, the pepper grinder hit the pan, the top fell off the mill and about 50 peppercorns tumbled in. I thought about throwing the batch away but the thought of starting all over wasn't very appealing either. I ended up gingerly picking the corns out, searching for them with my tongue. Little pepper bombs, each one having to be found and properly disposed of. Now my tongue is singing.

Life at sea.

-tk & Bill & Kathy

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

En route to NZ

Hello, all!

Day 4
Position: 28 31S 170 23E

Broad reaching across the La Nina enhanced trades! How cool is that? Actually, it's pretty wet. The J/42 is not a dry boat, but 2 meter seas on the beam makes for an exceptionally wet ride. Waves roll down the deck and along the coaming, pouring into the cockpit. We huddle behind the dodger and lift our feet to keep them out of the water. Once every hour or so, the watch has to go to the back of the boat to fiddle with the Sailomat self-steering windvane in order to adjust the course. The commotion back there is truly impressive. I zip up the foulies, flip up the hood and keep my back to the wind as spray showers over me.

That's the bad news. The good news is that the J/42 is also a very fast boat, so those same trade wind conditions makes for a very fast ride. We have been consistently doing 180+ mile days, so we are way ahead of schedule. At this moment we have about 480 nautical miles to go, so we are now over half way there, despite being out slightly less than 3 days.

The other good news is that everyone is happy and healthy.. Kathy continues to come up with inventive and impossible meals, despite the trying circumstances. The boat is in good shape with the essentials all in good working order. Because the Lifeline batteries failed in Tonga and we are reduced to using two car batteries we are on a strict energy budget. Fortunately, we have no shortage of propane, so the hot meals keep on coming.

It has been steadily getting colder as we head south. The start of every night watch has me digging a little deeper into my sea bag, looking for something warmer. Last night was silk long johns, polypro top, and what Kathy calls my "Gomer" hat. Tonight will probably have me breaking out the pile jacket and sea boots. As the winds are expected to shift to a little more southerly in the next couple of days, we expect our entrance into the Bay of Islands to be very cold, probably about like our PNW coast in the late spring. But, the sea temperature should be much warmer.

Yesterday Bill was on watch and happened to see some odd looking spray ahead. Taking a closer look, he saw something black and big in the water: a whale, and it was dead ahead! He says he doesn't remember leaping behind the wheel and disengaging the Sailomat, but he managed to steer clear in the nick of time and watch the guy lazily cruise by down our port side. They say that whales can hear a sailboat coming, but you never know...

Tom & Bill & Kathy

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tapana Island, Vava'u Group, Tonga

Sept 15th
The Vava'u island group reminds many of us of the San Juans and the Gulf Islands:  wooded islands, with rocky shores separated by 1/2-1 mile passages.  The bay at Tapana island is enclosed by reefs and islands all around, We were anchored near the NE part of the bay, so it was lightly breezy and very flat water.
In the morning, we woke to birdsong, land birdsong.  It had been a long time since that had happened and it was heavenly.  There is a tiny floating Art gallery there, run by a women from Long Beach, Washington.

The next day we heard on the radio that there was a cruise ship at Neifu.  That meant that the village at Ano Beach put on several song and dance performances on  the beach and there were a few dozen ship passengers around.  The ship is out of Australia, so most passengers were Aussie.  This also meant there were many cars and wee trucks giving taxi service. 

Bill and I and Kay from Pylades went ashore for a walk.  Bill decided to walk to town to do some errands.  Kay and I had a regular comedy of errors getting the dinghy started, after having to anchor as we got blown by the wind and pull by the current into moorings and the wharf.  You could have called us "Lucy and Ethel", though Kay would prefer we didn't.  But I managed to get the dinghy started again when Bill called me to pick him up at the beach.

While Bill was gone, another boat came along and anchored closer to us than was really necessary.  It was funny, because another boat had told us that same boat had anchored over their anchor a couple times before.  I guess they just like to be close. 

Vava'u Island Group in Tonga continued

Nuapapu Island, Sept 9th
We went ashore to drop off a thank you note to the classes for their warm reception the day before.  However, school had been dismissed early for a 2 week break.  Back at the wharf a couple boys helped us with our dinghy and just jumped in.  So we brought them out to the boat.  The older boy asked if we had some rice.  After a pause, I realized he just wanted something to eat.  So I fixed them peanut butter sandwiches and gatorade, and gave them each a granola bar.  The younger boy was well dressed, but the older was raggedy, so I have him a beautiful green t-shirt with a big boy scout insignia and dragon on it. They had a good time helping us raise the anchor and Bill ran them back to shore in the dinghy.

We motored across the bay (1/2 mile?) to the wee island of Lape.  It is a very deep spot and a challenge to anchor.  But we managed.  Lape's little jetty was busted up by the last cyclone, so they are raising money by putting on a monthly feast.  The island was lovely and well-tended. The school is even smaller than Nuapapu's, 5 pupils in 4 grades.  But they have a good one-room school house, a dedicated teacher and a beautiful view of the bay.


The feast was prepared by the several families on the island and was delicious and well organized.  The men had a kava circle and the children performed a dance accompanied by the older women singing.  There were 35 yachties there, and a good time was had by all.  The feast raised approx $1500, to be matched 3 to 1 by the Canadian government.  (I wonder if the wealthy Tongan royal family is chipping in.)

The next day was really blustery and too rough for snorkeling in the nearby "Coral Garden" site.

Kids at the school

More tiny dancers

Monday, Sept 13th
Monday was calm and sunny, so we sailed the long way round to Hunga Island on the west side of Vava'u. There is a tiny, shallow pass into an enclosed bay from the ocean.  We just barely squeaked through (8.5ft!) before low tide. 

Again, the bay is very deep, so you have to nibble around the edge to find a reasonable spot to anchor.  However, it was beautiful and calm and quiet.  No barking dogs, cars, stereos.  Just one old guy paddled up in a canoe to trade for fruit.  He made a killing:  he got 2 cans of Mexican beef and a big pouch of powdered milk.  I got a bunch of green bananas and 2 delicious papayas.

That night we went ashore to the small resort (6-12 guests?) for a delicious dinner.  We chatted with a young British couple on their honeymoon, who had a Sunsail charter.  There's a surprising amount of tide here, and they hadn't secured their dinghy, so it was gone when we came out after dinner.  But no worries.  The bay is almost completely enclosed and the resort fishing guide took them down the beach to retrieve it.  Too bad it was out of gas.  The guide towed them back to their boat.
All this took place in pitch dark, except right in front of the resort.

Tuesday, Sept 14th, Hunga, continued
The next morning was calm, so we dinghied outside the pass into the ocean for a spectacular snorkel.  There was a brisk easterly breeze, but the snorkel site is sheltered from both the east wind and the northerly swell.

The water is cool and very clear.  It seems strange underwater to look to the side and see Bill looking very small, a long ways away.  There were lots of fish and very rugged coral.

We went back to the boat as the weather turned squally, pulled up the anchor and went on our way.  Bill noticed a whale watch boat putting some people in the water and moments later a big humpback swam between them and us.

We arrived at beautiful Ano Beach and Tapana Island and anchored next to our friends on Pylades.   The British honeymooners were anchored on the other side of them.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Vava'u Tonga

Monday September 6th, (Labor Day in the US),
We took the laundry to the Coconet Cafe/Laundry service. It cost half as much as Bora Bora YC, and smells better! When we started this trip, I never dreamed we'd be able to have our laundry done for us once every month or so. But it's worked out well. It's kind of expensive, but it's infrequent enough, that it doesn't seem significant. (Except Bora Bora which was $50! and didn't come out that good.)

Later in the afternoon we met some French friends at a wine bar owned by a Tongan woman and had a nice evening. They sell mainly New Zealand wines and beer. Later, they showed the _Pulp Fiction_ movie out on their covered patio. They had a projector and screen, and it was pretty neat.

Tuesday, September 7th
A Tongan man approached us in his small boat and we invited him aboard. He requested a cup of coffee and presented his array of carved necklaces, pendants on black cord. He didn't want to trade for fishing lures and the items were expensive. He kept asking about pearls, but e couldn't tell if he was asking if we had any or if we wanted to buy some. We got off that subject, and bought a pendant and he went on his way.  We had lunch in town and shopped at the vegetable market. I paid $5 Tongan for a papaya and when I got it home, I noticed it was marked $2. Nice! I wonder if the vendor will try that again next time.

It was treat that night to meet friends at an expat bar for tacos! Yum. We miss Mexican food. The bars and cafes are mostly on the waterfront with big decks with nice tentlike or fixed covers.

Wednesday, September 8th
We were ready to head out to the islands. We set out for Nuapapu, just a few miles away, to meet our friends on Paikea Mist. They had befriended the teachers at the school there and were going back to fix the school's generator. So we tagged along.
The island has a small wharf on the beach. There are often kids around to help you tie up and escort you around. Or boys swim out to the yachts, sometimes a long ways. After a visit and a snack, we take them back to shore in the dinghy. The islands don't have electricity and most homes don't have generators. So often, just the school and maybe the church have generators. There are aging, solar panels around. We're told Japan is donating new ones.

The school is small: 23 students in two classes: grades 1-3 and 4-6. As with our friends who had previously visited the island's school, we were treated to introductions by the young students in English, telling their names, names of their parents and teacher, what grade they are in and what the want to be when they grow up (nurses, soldiers, police, pilots, engineers and teachers). Interestingly, male teacher's class, several boys wanted to be teachers. Also, the class sang for a few girls to perform a traditional dance. It was really lovely.

In the 1-3rd grade class, even younger children wander in and out. The schools have single textbooks, so the teachers are very please to receive a laptop and copier for each school so they can prepare materials for their classes. The equipment is donated by Japan. The school buildings were paid for by the European Community.
The teacher lives next door in a modest home. Attendance in primary school is compulsary and free. After 6th grade, those who continue must go to Neifu for high school. High school is not free and a parent or relative must move with the child, since some are just 12 years old. Not all families can afford it.

We have been told that Japan has been asking the International Whaling Commission to permit commercial whaling. Tonga has voted against this, but Japan has been lobbying them to change their position. Hence the aid to schools, apparently. This has inspired the local whale watch businesses to start taking local school kids out to see and appreciate the visiting humpbacks.
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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tonga, at last

Friday, September 3rd
Vava'u is known for it's humpback whales. But we just saw a really big shark swim under the boat as we approached. The ocean is very deep (several thousand feet deep) right up to the entrance.

We arrived in Neiafu, in the Vava'u group of the Kingdom of Tonga, on a mild sunny day. We found a usable spot at the commercial wharf for the formalities: visits by the Health Officer, (he asked if we were healthy), the Quarantine Officer (biosecurity - he examined our fruits and vegetables and took away the garbage), the Immigration Officer and the Customs Officer.

Fortunately, we was advised by a friend to serve coffee and cookies, so we were prepared. It might have been hard for me to catch on to that necessity. Although now we've learned that Tongans just ask for food and drink, so they probably would have asked if I hadn't offered. In fact, the customs officer asked for a whole bottle of wine. OK, whatever, not a problem. We later found that wasn't the usual "fee". They were all very pleasant to work with.

Neiafu is a pleasant, small town with the necessities near the waterfront: the vegetable and crafts market, banks, stores, restaurants and bars, and internet. Yay! Prices are much lower here, so we feel free to eat out a lot. However, the grocery stores are really limited. The harbor is completely protected and very deep. Fortunately, there are many mooring buoys for rent, so that makes it easy.

There was a church near our mooring and we could often hear the choir singing. And hardly any barking dogs. Yay again!, no jetskis, or loud stereos.

The Vava'u Island group has few coral reefs like we've seen in French Polynesia and Suwarrow. The islands are close together and separated by deep passages, not unlike the San Juan or Gulf Islands. It is very humid here, though not very hot. The waves don't build up much. The weather is windy and showery, but usually the showers are so light and short you don't have time to put on a jacket.

Tongans are very conservative and soft spoken and there are many churches. Sundays are special days and no business is allowed (except bars!). Even the Seventh Day Adventists have church on Sunday! Many Tongans speak some English, communications are not too hard. There is a lively expatriat community here that run many restaurants, charter and dive services. Because Tonga wants to have the same dates as Fiji, we skipped a day ahead when we arrived. So Monday night football is on Tuesday. And because there are so many kiwis and aussies, there is rugby on other days. Cricket hasn't been mentioned, so we don't know when they watch that.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Passage from Niue to Tonga

Thursday, September 2nd

Who knew? An upwind passage is a pleasant change from all the downwind sailing we've done. We were en route from Niue to Tonga. The anchorage is open to all but E wind and had become very annoying when the wind went North. Later the night we left, a number of other boats had to get out when wind and seas switched to the west.

This might be the first upwind leg we've done since Fatu Hiva to Nuku Hiva. (We shoulda skipped FH and gone to directly to NH though). This passage had light wind, mostly SW 8-10kts, 8-10 deg heel, normal wind waves and very long low swells from the south. It started out on Stbd tack on a NNE breeze and tacked when it went south (for a while). Just what the J-42s are made for. We did have to pass through a dead convergence zone. (no mountains required)

However, all good things must come to an end: the wind moved south and gave us a rolly, lumpy beam reach.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

More about Niue

Posted by Bill:
As with anyplace, Niue has its strengths and weaknesses. Niue is independent, but protected by New Zealand and the Niueans enjoy dual citizenship. There is one flight a week to New Zealand and many of the Niueans took it and never came back.

Currently most Niueans live in New Zealand and the islands population is 1/3 what it was in 2004, so there are a lot of empty houses and things are almost too quiet here.

The island is a coral atoll that has been uplifted to a maximum height of about 60 meters. Most of the island has a very steep rugged coastline, then flat all the way across the top. It's really strange to see a coral head sticking up in the middle of a forest! Access to the water is very limited, and there are almost no beaches on the island.

It has a roadstead anchorage at the main town on the west side that it fine as long as we have easterly trade winds, but low pressure systems passing to the South can cause the wind to reverse and the anchorage becomes untenable. It is looking like that will happen to us on Monday or Tuesday, so we will soon be on our way. The island was pounded by a hurricane from the west in 2005 which caused a lot of wind and wave damage to the town (which is at the top of the bluff) and probably contributed to some of the population loss.
I had hoped to do some diving here, but there is only one dive company with a tiny boat and they are booked up, so we're having to take a pass. It's too bad. The water is very clear here, though cooler than our prior stops.

When we were in Mexico, we ran into a number of cruisers who had set off to go around the Pacific or all the way around the world, but never got out of Mexico. From what I've seen on this trip, I think that was a huge mistake for them. Every island seems to offer something new and different.
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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Niue

Thurs, Aug 26th Niue
Niue is a lovely, small, island nation between Cook Islands and Tonga. We had pleasant passage here from Suwarrow. It was a downwind run with very moderate seas, much easier than the 24 hour a day roller coaster of the last few passages.
We arrived in Niue Tuesday morning. Completing the formalities here is easy and the Immigration Officer, Judith, gave us the warmest and most gracious welcome. What a nice way to start our visit.

Niue has the same relationship with New Zealand as does Cook Islands, so everybody speaks English. People are very friendly and helpful. The island is neat and tidy, with no starving, mangy, pathetic dogs that we have seen previously (Thank God). There is a strong environmental ethic here, and they are attempting to become the first completely organic, pesticide free country.


Niue Yacht Club provides stout moorings in deep water near the town wharf. It's the clearest water we have seen in some time. There is no lagoon enclosed by a reef, like in the Society Islands, so the mooring field is in a shallow bight on the west side of the island. The water is also a cool but refreshing, as we are very near the very deep water of the Tonga trench, which wells up under us.

There many caves around the shore.  The wind comes from off the shore, perpendicular to the swells. Although the swells are very small here, the boat still rocks. Bill rigged a flopper-stopper: a big bucket with the dinghy anchor for weight hanging from the end of the boom as far out as possible over the side of the boat and several feet down in the water. It doesn't completely stop the boat from rocking, but it sure helps. If the weather gets rough, we'll have to leave, though, because there is no protection from swells. We're really mooring right in the ocean.

The tiny yacht club has a hospitable clubhouse and garden with ICE CREAM, ESPRESSO AND NEW ZEALAND BEER! All these make us very happy. The yacht club members provide all kinds of information and assistance and make us feel very welcome. A number of people we've met before are also moored here, so we have lots of company. There are several modest, but good local restaurants, which gives a welcome break from the ship's mess.

Getting ashore is interesting as conditions are similar to the Marquesas, ie, ocean swells at the dinghy landing. Here, however, there is a landing with good footing (not slippery) and a ladder for getting ourselves up on the pier. There is a hoist to lift the tender up onto the dock and a dolly to move it to a parking place.

Niue is known for its visiting whales. We haven't seen them yet, but we can hear them both when swimming, and - get this - in the boat! Last night, after the wind died, the only other sound was the gentle swish of the waves on the coral shelf that serves as a beach. We could clearly hear the whales! It was just magic.
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Passage to Niue

Tuesday, August 24th.
We left Suwarrow on Friday and are en route to Niue. This passage is more pleasant than the last, because the seas are calmer and it's not 5 day roller coaster ride. Also, we are getting a little further south, and temperatures are slightly cooler. It's nearly a full moon, which is beautiful, but it blots out the stars.

We've had to start baking our own bread. We need practice I guess. It comes out pretty heavy. The oven temperature is very hard to regulate so that doesn't help.

We started dragging a fishing line again, but no luck so far. The wind has just died and the autopilot was playing dead too for a while. So we were dreading a night of having to actually steer the boat by hand. Heaven forfend! However, Auto revived, so that's a relief. I hope it lasts.

We should arrive tomorrow. I hope we can find a parking place (a mooring). Anchoring is apparently not great there. Niue is an uplifted coral island, with practically no encircling reef, like the leeward Society Islands (Bora Bora, et al).

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Su-WOW-row and Uh Oh

Submitted by Kathy
Wednesday, August 11th,

Suwarrow has been wonderful. It's beautiful, calm, unspoiled, with only a few boats, 2 rangers and a cat. It's a Cook Islands National Park. The rangers, James and Apii process customs and immigration, and take the visitors exploring and fishing. They host potlucks in the rustic shelter, so everyone gets acquainted.

We slept most of the first day. In late afternoon Bill inflated and launched the dinghy (a big job) and we went ashore for potluck and had a wonderful evening. Mojumbo, a boat cruised by 3 young commercial fishermen from Comox, British Columbia. It was really fun to reminisce about BC. They had speared some grouper and other fish for the potluck, and it was divine!

Yesterday, Thursday, was calm and sunny, and warmer than we had become used to in the Societies. Bill and I walked Anchorage Island and snorkeled the nearby coral heads in shallow water near the anchorage. The variety of coral is lovely.

Friday, August 13th, Uh Oh
Last night, we had a light snack for dinner, which turned out to be a mistake as we ended up on anchor watch all night. The wind and waves built. And no more nice, light, short misty showers. No, now we had the real deal, driving rain and wind. (But, now we're drinking cool rainwater.) Although the wind rarely got above 30kts, things got gnarly. We were anchored in 70 ft and the anchor chain was wrapped under a coral head and was grinding and yanking hard on the boat with each passing wave. It was very loud and we risked the chain breaking or chafing through. Yikes! In pitch darkness and driving rain, we tried to unwrap the chain for over an hour. Finally, it came free. Hmmm, Jaime Gifford had told us to buoy the anchor chain with fenders to keep it off the coral heads. Doh! We wished we followed his advice when we anchored.

So, between 12am and 3am, we managed to get some chain in and attach a couple big fenders to hold it up in the water. The wave motion is also very hard on the snubber, the short rope used to take up the load from the chain and protect the windlass from the shocks. Bill rigged a second, bigger primary snubber. The dinghy was hanging and swinging off the side of the boat, low enough that waves were washing in over its bow. We had to bail it, raise it and secure it. We went below to dry out about 3:30. Bill stayed up the rest of the night monitoring our position on the plotter to make sure we didn't drag. Some of the other boats broke their snubbers and were up late too.

This morning, the squally weather continues. One couple woke to find its dinghy had blown away in the night. Apii, one of the rangers, took the cruisers out in his boat and retrieved it, unharmed from the reef on the far side of the lagoon. What a relief for them.
We spent the day reading and napping. I picked up a copy of _Hotel Pastis_, by Peter Mayle, in the Suwarrow book exchange. It is set in Provence and every few pages the characters open a bottle of wine. So I thought, hmm. Sounds good. So around 11am, I was opening a bottle of wine when Bill got up. I said, "this doesn't look good, does it". He said no. (He still hadn't had breakfast.) But the wine tasted very good with some bread and brie. Yum.
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Passage to Suwarrow

Submitted by Kathy

Friday, August 6th
We left Maupiti on a beautiful, calm, sunny day. We glided on a zephyr under sail to the pass then motored out. The big breakers were gone, the tide was slack and our exit was placid, the opposite of our arrival. Thus began the 650 mile passage to Suwarrow in the Northern Cook Islands.

The first day was quite calm so we motored. We usually are reluctant to motor early in a passage, because we only carry 70 gallons of fuel. But the engine and hull are really efficient, so 70 gallons go a long way, almost 500 miles at 5 knots! Not bad when you think about it.

Anyhoo, that night the wind started coming up and we had a run under fair winds and following seas. The next night we reefed as we often do if there's a chance of much excitement overnight. Winds and seas built. We occasionally saw 30kts and 4m swells, with some wind waves slightly offset. But mostly it was low to mid-20kts. We just had a tiny scrap of jib out to dampen the rolling. There were light, misty, intermittent, rain showers. The breeze only picked up a few knots during the showers, so they weren't even really squalls, certainly nothing to complain about.

In order to avoid seasickness, we both took Meclazine to start, instead of the usual Scopolomine patches. I felt fine and only took the one. Bill need them most of the rest of the trip. They make you feel drowsy and lethargic, so Bill never really felt up to par. But neither of us really enjoyed the trip. We alternate 3 hour watches around the clock, so we get tired from interrupted sleep. After a few days, we usually get somewhat accustomed and can sleep fairly well during the day. Bill gets the least sleep. If things get gnarly while I'm on watch, I have to wake him to help me. He comes on watch at 3am. Normally I would start the next watch at 6am, but Bill usually just stays up to do radio nets and weather from 7:15 to 8:30. So there goes the morning, and Bill doesn't get back to bed until 9-ish.

We get very lethargic in general. The motion of the boat demands extra physical effort for every little thing and we become very lazy. It shows particularly in my cooking. Poor Bill. We don't fish much. If we catch something, it just seems like too much effort to deal with.

For entertainment, we listen to audio books. I listened to _Kabul Beauty School_, by Deborah Rodriquez on my mp3 player. Audio books are great on on night watch, You don't need any light and your eyes can stay adjusted to the darkness. I even cover or turn off the plotters because they are too bright, even on their night settings. We both could listen _Getting Stoned With Savages_ by Maarten Troost by plugging the mp3 player into the stereo to play it out loud. It's an hilarious and ironic recount of the author's time in Vanuatu and Fiji. I'm running out of audiobooks as the last internet connections were never fast enough to download a whole audio book. E-books download quickly, but they have to be read on the computer. Audiobooks are much more convenient.

Our trip was slower than Bill planned, setting a nighttime ETA at Suwarrow, which was completely out of the question. So we slowed the boat down, leaving the 2nd reef in even in 12kts of breeze. The motion was more gentle as a result. Five days after departing Maupiti we arrived at Suwarrow at 9am, Wednesday, August 11th.

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Goodbye Maupiti

Friday, Aug 6th

Today, we say goodbye to Maupiti and begin our passage to Suwarrow.
The snorkeling here has been so so. We're really spoiled.








However, I am pleased to award the best sound ratings so far:



Barking Dogs: ***** (practically nil)
Roosters Crowing: **** (1 or 2, who cares)
Automobile Traffic Sounds: **** (nil)
Loud Music: **** (heard only church choir practice. hoping for more)
Jetskis: ***** (None!, That said, they were really quiet in Bora Bora, must be 4 stroke, not bad)
Outboards: *** (a fair amount, as that's the main form of transportation here. It's good to hear them coming, to warn us of the wake)
Radio Chatter: *** (still can hear the fleet Bora Bora, but not constantly)
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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Marvelous Maupiti

Tue, Aug 3rd,
We can still see the mountain of Bora Bora across the sea and hear the BBYC VHF conversations, so we don't feel too far away. I wish we could post some pictures.

We'd never heard of this island before coming to the Societies. It's the place we've been looking for: beautiful island and lagoon, few boats, tidy village, drinkable water, beautiful beach, no hotels, but a few pensions spread around. What a joy. It's our Polynesian Mayberry. And - the boulangerie sells bread and doughnuts ALL DAY! (most other islands run out by 10:30 am)

Wed, Aug 4th
I biked around the island with the other sailors, and Bill walked. He didn't take much longer
than we did, it's only 11km around. There are a number of cars and small trucks. There are
more bikes than cars. Many bikes are available for rent.

Thurs, Aug 5th,
Anthem and Inspiration Lady are leaving for Rarotonga. The Spirit of Nyumi Nyumi (yes, it's a
boat) is still here with us. We spent a marvelous afternoon roaming the kilometers of warm,
shallow sand bars, that seem to stretch on forever. Paradise. sigh... we hate to leave.

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Bye Bye Bora Bora, Really this time

Mon, 2 Aug.
We're finally leaving Bora Bora. Really. We really mean it this time!
We finally departed beautiful Bora Bora for Maupiti. Three other boats were also en route for the 25mi passage. We had a lovely run, arriving at the turbulent and spectacular pass about the same time as our traveling companions. There were huge turquoise breakers and 3-4kt outflow. We kept the main up and motorsailed, hammer down into the lagoon. It was quite exciting.

The pass was shallow, crooked and turbulent, but well marked, as is the channel to the village. There were lots of snorkel boats along the pass, a reminder that perhaps it wasn't really the jaws of death. There were just 2 cruising boats anchored inside the pass. We pressed on the 1 mile to the village anchorage where we were the only boats. We got acquainted with our fellow travelers: Inspriration Lady (Ontario, Can) and Anthem (FL).

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Bora Bora, not done yet

Fri, July 30th.
We checked out of the country with the gendarmes, got fuel and groceries. Ready to go. hmmm wind too light or too strong, I forget. Bill finished lubing all our winches - Yay! They were making scary noises, so it's a relief.

Sat, July 31st. Still at BBYC.
We became acquainted with Caspar & Maud (Dutch) on Sueno Azul (Gibralter flag). They had hilarious stories about the Texas expats in Rio Dulce, Guatamala. We went back to the village for roulotte pizza and the Heiva.

It was another huge group, est 80, including chorus, musicians, drummers and dancers. Almost all ages participate: the elders in the chorus, mixed ages musicians, and the teenage dancers. One toddler kept wandering on to the field, and was retrieved by the security guard several times. I had wondered why then needed uniformed security.

The dancers were quite tired from performing, so things went a little south. One chunky guy lost his pareu and then his headdress. The girls were wearing these spectacular red grass skirts with white "baggy-wrinkle" bustles. Some of the skirts turned themselves around to the front despite the girls' struggles to keep them straight. And another headdress was on the ground. Nonetheless, it was a wonderful performance and a nice farewell for us.

Sun, Aug 1st, still BBYC
I discovered 12 bottles of wine and a bottle of gin stowed in the bow. Holy Smokes! Unfortunately, we've gotten used to French wine (tho admittedly not at it's best), so the Argentine wine purchased in Mexico took some getting used to again. But we apply ourselves diligently to the task.

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Friday, August 6, 2010

How to Enjoy a Beer

How to Enjoy a Beer

Submitted by Bill

While we were in Bora Bora, we spent an evening with the Irish couple Furgus and Kay aboard their yacht Pylades. One of the many topics of the evening's conversations dealt with drinking in Irish Pubs. This led to Furgus' explanation of how to properly enjoy a Guiness, which I will try to summarize here.

First, the beer must be properly poured. This means clean taps, proper temperature, etc, etc.

The beer cannot be consumed immediately, but must be contemplated for some time.

The weather outside must be cold and miserable with the sound of driven rain on the windows.

It should be warm and comfortable inside with a fire burning in the fireplace and a faint smell of wood smoke in the air.

A television in the room will cause the beer to go flat immediately. Not allowed!

Music is a touchy subject and can easily ruin the experience. Ideally, you would hear the sound of a fiddle tuning up in the corner.

I can only hope that someday I may be able to enjoy a Guiness in this manner. In the meantime, I have to settle for Hinano, which is the local Tahitian beer and bears no resemblance to a Guiness. But it seems appropriate that there be a set of rules for drinking such a beer, so my rules follow.

First, the beer must be very cold. Ideally, there should be a few ice crystals in the can.

The beer needs to be consumed soon after it comes out of the cooler before it gets too warm.

The weather outside should be warm and sunny with a steady trade wind blowing. The boat should be gently rocking on the anchor in the deeper blue water inside the lagoon, with shallower sandy patches around the boat.

You should be comfortably resting under a sun shade or a palm tree on the beach.

A television anywhere around will cause the beer to go flat immediately. Not allowed.

Music is again a touchy subject and can easily ruin the experience. Ideally there should be the sound of ukuleles, guitars and drums nearby, but Jimmy Buffet will do in a pinch.

Fortunately, I am able to enjoy the Hinano experience fairly often. Enough for now. It's time to go do my daily boat project so I can have a beer . . . . . .

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bye Bye Bora Bora, almost

It's been a great couple of weeks, but it's time to move on. 

Friday night we got great pizza from a roulotte (mobile kitchen) and a bottle of wine from the grocery store across the street.  We then went down the quaiside parade ground for Heiva, the traditional Tahitian dance and song performances.  There were about 100 performers, male & female dancers, singers and musicians and throngs of people milling around.  Just as the show started, it rained for 5 minutes.  It was pandamonium for a while.

We sat near an elderly lady and her granddaughter who knew the words and gestures to the songs.  The performance group was from a nearby village and the lady said her other grandchildren performing that night.

We biked back to the boat in the dark.  People don't drive too aggressively, so it was a pleasant ride.

We left BBYC and explored other parts of Bora Bora's big lagoon.  It's odd, as on other islands, the leeward side of the island is very gusty.  The "windward" side, has a fairly consistant 15kt breeze that's much more pleasant.  Since you're within a reef, waves don't build up, but the boat sails back and forth.

We snorkeled a little, but there is lots of current and wind sometimes.  In some locations the fish are fed.  So when you get in the water they mob you.  But they're cute and yellow so no big deal.

We splurged on dinner at Bloody Mary's.  I wish we'd just gone for lunch of bloody marys and fish and chips.  It's a high-volume tourist restaurant, complete with 80s hair band music.  However, we got a free mooring for the night.  For the same $130 we got a much nicer dinner at Kaina Hut up the street.

We've got lots to do before we leave:  provision, lube winches, stow stuff, and make future arrangements for New Zealand. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Huahine to Bora Bora

Thursday, July 15th, 430 am, Fare, Huahine
We woke to very loud music onshore. It started 430am and ran until daylight (they musta got kicked out of somewhere else). They have an extraodinarily powerful car stereo. We fumbled around for earplugs and tried to go back to sleep. But was not to be.  Since the current had subsided, the boat drifted around on the100ft anchor line. Last night, the chain was rubbing on the bow, so Bill let the snubber out all the way. The sound softened to the rode rubbing on the bow....followed by the sound of the chain rubbing on the keel. So that kept us awake. That was bad enough..

And, well, we weren't in 15ft of water anymore. Doh! The wind blew us farther onto sandbank. So we were in 7ft of water, same as our draft. We knew that because we could feel the keel rubbing on the sand, or... sometimes scraping on small pieces (1-2ft) of broken coral. Yikes! We were just talking about having the bottom paint redone....
It still wasn't light, but we got up, Bill took in some anchor line that gave us another foot of depth. The water is so clear (and shallow) you can see the bottom in the dark. When it was barely light, we fired up the engine, pulled up the anchor and thought we would slowly glide away from the shallows. But no, a big puff hit us, so we had get away fast managing to stay off the bottom.

We motored over to the anchorage close to town. Uma Tulu, an 80 footer (British flagged, belongs to Lord Hamish Somebody Or Other) had left in the night. Their spot, fairly close to shore was open. We dropped the hook in 60ft. Of course another puff hit us, so we drifted back a little closer to the next boat than desired, but not so far that we had to reset. Whew!

We hung out on the boat til midday. We had heard on Mahina Radio that the balisage (channel markers) were under maintenance here. A small barge (<20ft) with 3 guys on it were replacing the top of the red channel marker. A guy would stand on the petdestal and place the metal panel on top. Then he jumped in the water and swam back to the barge. A much simpler process than in the US, it seems. This clearly showed the anchorage was somewhat in the channel. More about this later...

We went ashore to explore the village and enjoyed the amazingly vast offerings at the grocery store. The Upoo, voyaging pirogue replica was at the quai. We adjourned to the waterfront restaurant for delicious cheeseburger and fish burger. The restaurant was busy and the women working there were really rushing around (contrary to the the slow paced, polynesian stereotype). But they were still smiling and gracious. The Society Islanders are enterprising and really know how to carry off "petite tourisme".

We thought we'd come back for the Maitai Happy Hour at 5:30, but very wet squally weather set in. So we stayed aboard reading and felt right at home (only warmer). Bill was reading _The Coming Generational Storm_. This was ironic because it was to be "a dark and stormy night". Hmm, I was reading _The Big Bang_....At 230 amidst the ongoing clamour of the wind, I heard the unmistakable throb of a large engine. I looked out to see the caboteur (the regular island delivery ship) passing close by on its way out of the harbor. It's a bit unnerving when you know you're anchored in the margins of the channel.

Friday, July 16th, Fare, Huahine
We had planned to leave for Bora Bora today, but were not ready to leave early enough. So we just moved south towards the bay between Huahine Nui and Iti.  We anchored at the side of the channel next to Teapaa Motu. Although it's open to the bay to the east, the winds are much lighter here. We anchored in 30 ft of water among huge coral heads. We tried to set the anchor down in a patch of sand, but it's hard to do in lots of current.

Unfortunately, the chain drags around the big coral heads and grates. Sometimes the boat jerks loose with a clunk as the wind and current change. It damages the coral, but there are very few anchorages without coral, other than the vary shallow and very deep (>50ft). It's hard to avoid.

It's very peaceful here. There's only one other boat, no road nearby and just a few scattered buildings onshore. Paradise, just like I pictured it!

Sound Rating
No barking dogs: *****
No jetskis *****
No loud music *****
Waves lapping *****
Surf crashing on the distant reef *****
Wind sighing in the trees *****
Wind humming in the rig ***
Anchor chain grating on coral * Ugh!

July 17th - Bora Bora

We had a great sail from Huahine to Bora Bora: 15-25kts, downwind, moderate swell & wind waves (well maybe a few big ones), sunny, etc. We had a reef in the main and no jib. didn't need the reef after a while, but were too lazy to shake it out and the boat was moving fine.



We pulled into Bora Bora Yacht Club and picked up a buoy. Jaime Gifford of the local welcome wagon came by to .. welcome.. us and fill us in on the local conditions.
The yacht club is basically a cool outdoor bar and moorings. The bad February 2010 storm damaged their restaurant and other facilities. They're rebuilding as best they can. The showers are served with a garden hose.
   
The bartender got us a restaurant reservation at Kaina Hut. Many restaurants send a car to pick you up along with other patrons, so we got to chat with some charming yuppie hotel guests for the US and UK. Since the restaurant was called a "hut" I thought, how expensive could it be? Well guess what! Actually it was a lovely dinner with good wine by the glass. However, the food was so rich, I was sick all the next day. Oh well.

The anchorage is in the lee of the island but is still very gusty. We only have 10 days left on our visa and we're feeling the clock ticking. One by one our friends are moving on, either to Hawaii or the Cook Islands.
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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Wednesday in Huahine

But first, Monday July 12th
Bill did boat projects most of the day. Huahine is actually two islands inside the same reef: Huahine Nui and Huanine Iti, connected by a small low bridge. Huanhine specializes in Petite Tourisme. There are a few hotels, consisting of shore and over water bungalows, small pensions and family restaurants. Fare has backpacker pensions. The islands are lush with a variety of trees and plants. It's been showery off and on. As the other Societies, it's mountainous in the middle with a fairly level road all the way around.

Tuesday, July 13th
We went snorkeling near one of the channel markers. The current was really strong, so we drifted with the dinghy. There were beautiful, large, undamaged coral heads and a big variety of fish. We must get an underwater camera.  Afterwards, we went ashore for a lovely lunch on the beach at Chez Tara and a long walk through the village of Parea around the southern tip of the island. The shoreline undulates and there are motus, backed by crashing surf on the reef, creating beautiful bays.. It's a beautiful, quiet, uncommercialized place. I call it "petite tourisme". In addition to small pensions, there are campgrounds and a kids vacation camp.  Holly and Dennis invited us aboard their sleek catamaran, Tango, for a delightful evening of sangria and hors d'oeuvres. They leave for Hawaii August 10th, headed for Victoria for the winter.  What a perfect day!


OK, now it's Wednesday in Huahine, July 14th 2010
We moved from Avae Bay up to the village of Fare at the north end of Huahine. We anchored in 15ft on 100ft of chain on a sandbar. There was 2-3kts of strong current running and strong wind gusts blowing 90deg different. It was an interesting set. There were range of boats there: charter cats, French, British, Aussie, American and Canadian cruisers, and a couple mega-sailing yachts (Juliet and Uma Tulu).
We dinghied out towards the reef into 5-8ft depth, to the local "swimming pool/aquarium). It's full of a variety of round coral heads (like underwater shrubs) and lots of small fish. It's like swimming through a barely submerged garden. Between the coral heads, the bottom is small coral rubble, showing the storm destruction that occurs over the years.
We fixed our favorite pig-out dinner: Lamb, potatoes, green beans, green salad with pears and bleu cheese, french bread, pastry and chocolate. Oh yeah, and wine.. Oink!
I thought there might be some Fete de la Bastille fireworks or something, but nada. So instead, Bill is watching the convergence of Mercury, Mars, Venus and Saturn, near the new moon in the night sky. As usual, the stars are brilliant as we're in the new moon.
All's quiet, then the boat starts shaking, the flags flap, the bimini squeaks, the zippers on our cockpit cover jingle, the neighbor's halyards bang and the wind howls for 1-3 minutes, and all's quiet again. This goes on day and night. 
Fare Noise Rating (We're a ways from shore)
Wind: ***
Breezy and gusty, the rig is humming
Birdsong ***
It sounds like a big flock of birds on shore in the morning, a few too many compared to normal conditions. It reminds me of starlings at home.)
Jet Skis *
There's a few, they like to go fast.
Loud Music - *
It started 430am and ran until daylight (they musta got kicked out of somewhere else). They have an extraordinarily powerful car stereo)
Dogs Barking **
(It didn't start til late, sounded like a pack barking, then yelping, then howling. but we were far enough away could hardly hear it)
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Monday, July 12, 2010

Tahiti, July 8th-11th

Thursday July 8th - minor medical adventure
Medical Issue #1:
Hurray! Bill performed surgery on the plotter and it was successful! Yay! I forget what it was. Some corroded something. So no need to order a new one. What a relief.
Medical Issue #2
I had a small medical problem and needed to see a doctor. It was pretty straightforward. I found a clinic in the tour guide, called and got a same day appointment. The doctor seemed to call a new patient every five minutes. That's about how long I saw him. No lab work, he just gave me the rx and sent me on my way. It was $46, probably about the same as a routine US clinic visit. However, an initial visit and lab work is usually more in the US.
In the process I got an rx for Scopolomine for mal de mer. A patch lasts 3 days and works great to start a passage. Cowabunga! It was $72 for 5 patches. (If you get seasick, you'll pay any price to cure it. So I paid it.) Anyhow when I got back to the boat, I found I had more than I had thought, so I guess it wasn't necessary. Doh! I can get them cheap in the US, but I couldn't figure out (or didn't adequately plan) to get them to me here. For short passages, we just take a Meclazine, good for 24 hours. That usually does the trick.
Friday, July 9th - Failure to Launch
I felt lousy most of the next day. I wondered if it was the medication. We were trying to get ready to leave Tahiti for Huahine. We started prepping the boat, and went to Carrefour, the giant grocery store nearby for our final provisions (beer). It was mid-afternoon when we got back to the boat, so were in a big hurry to get fuel and leave. Of course, that's the perfect time to drop a bottle of coke down the companionway, because it explodes and just goes EVERYWHERE.
Launch was scrubbed that day. It gave me more time to divide up the groceries, vacuum pack and freeze things.

Saturday July 10th - Try again
We spent the morning getting more organized. We went to the fuel dock at midday, got fuel and water out of a hose! (vs Bill humping 5-10gal jugs via dinghy to the boat)
Brad and PJ Baker helped us get the boat in and out of tight quarters. We said our good byes, because they leave for Hawaii and Seattle in a few days. We'll REALLY miss them. They and their boys have been terrific on and off traveling companions.
We left Arue around 3pm in a balmy, sunny breeze, hoisted the main with a single reef and sailed a broad reach bareheaded (no jib) overnight to Huahine. Between Tahiti and Moorea the wind was up between 25 and 32kts. On night watches, I listen to audio books on my mp3 player. They're downloaded from Seattle Public Library. I don't always have a good internet connection, but it's well worth the time, effort and wifi cost. Last night, I finished listening to Treasure Island. The version I listened to was read by a good actor who could do the voices and accents of the various characters. Since it's about seafaring adventures, it's really fun to listen to while at sea. Sometimes I get so buried in the story, I forget where I am. I'm often surprised to "come to" and realize how windy it is.
Later that night the wind lightened to 15-18kts, but we just kept the same arrangement, as we didn't want to arrive before daylight. There were other boats around us making the same trip.

Sunday, July 11th

The sun and moon both rose about the same time that morning, creating a solar eclipse an hour or so later. We arrived at Huahine around 730 when the eclipse was starting. We had the special viewing glasses, so we slowly sailed along the west coast of Huahine watching the eclipse.




We entered the pass and slowly motored down the west side of the lagoon. On the way we passed Delos, Ghost and Pylades. It seems like we see and hear as many or more familiar boats here as we would on a sunny summer day in Seattle!
We anchored in Avae Bay at the south end of the island around noon. Bill was up most of the night, so he needed to sleep most of the afternoon. I caught a catnap and just enjoyed the bay.
 
Sound Rating:
Birds singing in the trees *****
Children playing in the water *****
Dog howling locked in somebody's garage *
Jet skiis *
Loud Tahiitan rock music *** (we consider it local color)
Rainstorm **** (short lived, but stopped jetski and rock music)
Crashing surf on the reef *****
Running the engine to charge batteries *
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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Arue Bay, north shore of Tahiti

Sunday, July 4th 
Our friends on Delos over at the yacht quai downtown had  a "pool party" on the dock.  They set up a couple of inflatable kiddy pools on the dock to sit in.  It's quite warm there during the day because it's very sheltered from the breeze.  There were a few americans, with some canadians, english and aussies to keep us company.

After dark, we followed Capaz in our dinghy back to our moorings.  Although the  channels are well marked, it's pretty confusing in the dark.  If you go astray, you end up on top of the coral.  So we're both blasting along, trying to follow our gps.  Bill tried to follow Bakers close enough to not lose them yet not too close to run into them if they suddenly slowed.  PJ was yelling at Brad, I was yelling at Bill.  It was a challenge.
 
Monday, July 5th
Our big adventure to "Just get propane".  I thought we'd be gone an hour. Par contre, we were gone all day schlepping all over town.  To get propane, you go by dinghy to the gas plant (no dock access).  It's easy to spot from shore, as one of they tanks looks like a giant Chia Egg.  You have to run the dinghy up to the rock shore, climb up, crawl through a hole in the fence, cross the highway and enter the complex.

Anyhow, Bill got the propane ok.  Next was a "quick trip" downtown to drop off the
laundry.  Fat chance.  The laundry was closed, despite their sign to the contrary.  So we lugged two big bags of laundry several blocks to another laundry.  Once free of our burden, we grabbed a sandwich (mine was mostly air), and Bill started a search for a new backpack.  Then we thought, OK we'll go to Nautisport, a combination chandlery and dive shop. 

Of course, about every store we try to go to is closed for 2 hours for lunch.  Fortunately, we bought a Tahitian cell phone, so we can call first to check. Most businesses have an English speaker on hand, so we can communicate, once I've garbled the French.  So we had to kill some time at the 3Brasseurs brewery where Bill was able to get a decent beer and I had a cider.

At Nautisport, Bill bought fins, a dive knife and we both got weights, which Bill lugged around the rest of the day,  After we emptied the bank account, we started a circuitous search for the outboard motor parts store.  Their listing in the yachtsman's guide directory from Tahiti Tourism only gave their neighborhood, so we asked several different people for directions, none of which seemed to work.  We had given up but one set of directions mentioned "les pompiers", the firemen,. we passed the fire station and were able find the shop around the corner.  The big Tahitian guy was very knowledgeable and really nice.  He said he could order a carburator from Australia, but it would take 3 weeks.  We passed on that, but were able to get various other stuff.  We somehow made it back to our boat before dark.

Tuesday, July 6th 
We went diving.  Eric, the dive master, picked us up downtown and took us their base at the Hilton.  We dove Moray Plateau to 25 meters.  Yes, there were plenty of morays.  The guide swims around with a giant fish head and attracts quite a following.  A very large Picasso Triggerfish stayed right with us, with a bevy of yellow fish trailing along.  The guide uses the fish head to lure the morays out of their holes.  Sometimes that's not even necessary.  They just swim around.  You really have to stay off the bottom.

They really treated us well there,  The base has nice outdoor showers and provide towels too!  When we were done, Eric drove us back downtown.

Wedneday, July 7th
We stayed on the boat all day.  We did lots of computer stuff, Bill tried to diagnose the faulty plotter and I defrosted the refer.  Thanks to PJ on Capaz, it went really fast.  She lent me the all purpose garden sprayer.  It just cuts right through the ice and then you can pry it off with an oyster knife.  In my life, that is a big thrill.

Par contre, the plotter is DOA and we'll be ordering another one from the US.  (There are no international dealers.  Doh!).  Once we  track down our yacht agent to figure out how to receive it, we can pull the trigger.  We're not hanging around here waiting for it for days or weeks.

Thursday, July 8th.
We've been here in Arue, a suburb of Papeete on a mooring ball at Tahiti Yacht Club for several days..  We're supposed to leave today, but it ain't gonna happen.

Capaz is also here preparing for their trip north to Hawaii.  There's always lots of activity in the water here.  There are lots of pirogues, both singles and 6 man boats.  There is a big canoe race this coming weekend, with up to 2000 paddlers (rameurs) according to Mahina Radio (the Tahiti coastal government radio).

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Goodbye Moorea

July 3rd we finally left after two beautiful weeks on the north shore of Moorea.  After waiting out a several days of 20-30kt winds, we headed back to Papeete.  It took a couple tacks in 10-12kt winds and lumpy seas to reach the pass into Arue to moor at Tahiti Yacht Club, arriving around 1330.  That was the perfect time for the C-Map chip to crash our both plotters!  Doh! 

Usually you radio TYC and they send a dinghy out to guide you in.  (Some of the inner marks are a little off,)  But the manager was busy and didn't hear our hail.  Our friends on Capaz and Blue Bottle also didn't hear us (we wanted to ask the pass coordinates, because the GPS still worked).  We rummaged around for the paper chart (among the dozens on board).  But we didn't find that particular chart.  Our French cruising guide has a detail of the bay, but it's cut off right at the entrance pass...Great!

Eventually Bill got the nav station plotter to read the chip, so he could guide me (Kathi) to drive in, ever so slowly.  We found our mooring ball, tied up and got the canvas set up before the deluge started.

We made a quick trip to Carrefour (Food Heaven).  Not quite quick enough as it turned out, as the next deluge started as we walked back.  We found a bus shelter to wait out the worst.  I finally got to use the umbrella I bought in Papeete last time at the "rainstorm price"  ($15).

Capaz invited us over for french bread pizza and we had a wonderful feast and a fun visit  in their spacious boat.  ;-)

TYC Sunday Noise Rating:
Faraway barking dogs (faint)  *** 
Only 1 rooster  ***
No traffic noise  ****
Few passing boat wakes  ***
Pitter patter of rain on the roof *****
Softly Crashing Surf *****

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pictures added to Mexico Post

I've gone back and added some pictures to the April 2010 post of our experiences on the Mexican Riviera.

Bill

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More about dive lessons

Wednesday
I had my second dive (Aquarium, Depth 6m) and Bill joined in.  This time we dove outside the pass (yes, in the ocean).  There were more fish, sharks and coral.  The reef is fairly damaged there, so you can see it's shape.  It's like a long sloping ridge, that undulates and curves like the Cascade Mountains (only way smaller).

Thursday, Wash, Rinse, RepeatI dove twice again the next morning (Moorea Crater, 12m), Bill came along for one dive.  The conditions were more calm and there was yet more coral, fish, sharks, etc.  The dive boat had American (me) and Italian clients, and the French instructors.  They seem to know all the necessary languages.

Photo left to right:  A mexican diver, Tomas an instructor, Laurent, an instructor and gendarme we met the day before when he came around the anchorage to remind everybody our stay is limited to 7 days.

Afterwards we dinghied over to Cooks Bay, bought some fish and two jugs of diesel and explored.

Friday, the Big Day:  
A checkout dive (Tiki,18m), by another instructor our last lesson (Taotoi, 18m) and the Final Exam for our PADI Open Water Certification 

We went to the NW corner of Moorea (Taotoi, 18m) outside the reef into Shark Soup.  Bill counted 19 sharks!  The dive masters seem to know them all.  Some get petted.  One was preggers too.  Wowie!  Holy Moly!  Cowabunga!  There were also Moray eels.  One wasn't too shy and came out of his hole to menace us.  A real highlight was feeding a hawksbill turtle.  We've got great underwater pictures and video.  Will post soon.

Then we went back to our boat to warm up and eat lunch and cram for the final that afternoon.  We managed to pass the written test, and despite botching some of the in the water dive skills, we passed.  That was a relief.  We're looking forward to spending yet mo'money and enjoying the underwater attractions here in the Society Islands, Tonga and eventually Fiji.

After a week of lovely sunny, breezy weather, the torrential tropical downpours returned.
Yay!   More free fresh water!!

Cooks Bay, still Moorea


Last Friday afternoon, we moved to next door to Cooks Bay.  You have to exit the pass in the reef out in the ocean and enter at the next pass.  The sea outside was unexpectedly rough, so it was a wet trip.  We were towing the dinghy with the outboard on it (again), but we managed not to flip it (again).  The outer anchorage was really windy, so we moved deeper into the bay. 

We had only planned to go out to dinner and leave Monday morning for Tahiti.  However, the weather continued very rough and windy in the region, so we stayed on.  We went out for one of the better dinners we've had for a long time.  What a treat.  After dinner, we walked a mile or so back to the dinghy.  It was  after dark of course.  But the road was very well lit and there was practically no traffic.   It was a pleasant walk, and we feel very safe.  People are very friendly and easy going and we always feel at ease.

Biking is very pleasant here, as the roads are pretty good, traffic is light and doesn't go very fast.  There are few hills and the scenery is beautiful and the air is balmy, not too hot.  It's a great way to get around. 

We explored and found more businesses here than Opunohu Bay, with good grocery stores, a great pastry and ice cream shop, a pretty good electronics shop, hardware, building materials, clothing and the ubiquitous black pearl shops.  The local fishermen sell fish along side the road.  They have a rack that they can hang a couple rows of whole fish from.  There are also fruit and vegetable stands.   And, Gasp!  a gas and marine fuel station, with a small boat dock!  We haven't seen one of those since....  Mexico????!  We still got diesel in 5gal jugs via the dinghy,  The water at the dock doesn't seem deep enough for our boat.

There are several good restaurants, including more than one that serves pizza.  Life is good!

Sounds of French Polynesia

In all the pictures you don't imagine all the actual sounds. 

Sounds of Nature:
Of course, there's the  soft sound of distant surf on the reef.   And the wind ruffling the palms and waves lapping on the sand.  There's the sound of wind in the rig, wave lapping against the hull and sometimes the sound of fish jumping or splashing.  On shore, you hear the birds in the trees sometimes.  There aren't many seabirds and they don't make much sound..

(In Mexico's Sea of Cortez, the waters teemed with fish and you could hear them at the surface all the time)

Sounds of Man
On the boat we usually have the VHF radio on, so sometimes you hear the neighboring boats hailing each other.  Sometimes, Mahina Radio, Tahiti's coast guard radio announces weather, boats in trouble or snotices of special events (manifastions) like the Rendezvous.

There are the engine sounds of passing dinghies, motor boats and jetskis.  This part of Moorea's lagoon is a protected environmental area,  the jetskis don't play around the anchorage.  However, there are jetski tours.  So a couple times a day, a line of 4-6 jetskis pass through.  These islands are mountainous, so settlement and roads are on the shore.  So there's the ocasional sound of a passing car, truck or scooter.

Near our anchorage, somebody runs a disco in their home or yard on Saturday and Sunday nights.  They play sort of techno-lite.  Of course they have a nightclub quality sounds system.  It starts in the afternoon and runs until...3am, 4am, or 5am in the morning.  Ugh.

Other Sounds
Under water you hear the constant sound of your own breathing through the regulator.  On a calm day, when I come to the surface, it sounds so quiet, until someone speaks or an engine starts up.

The sounds you might not expect are constant crowing roosters.  There are chickens everywhere.  Also, the sounds of barking dogs.  There's a huge overpopulation of dogs in the Tuamotus and Society Islands.  A few stray dogs live in the park at the anchorage.  During the day, they're quiet and docile.  At night, it sounds like another pack of dogs comes around and there's lots of barking and fights.  You can hear the smaller park dog yelping.

In Cooks Bay, there's a big dog that starts barking in the evening.  Later some of his neighbors join in.  Sometimes, it sounds like a pack of dogs comes around and they all start in.  It makes you wish for the disco instead.

Tea Time


At the kitchen store in Papeete, on impulse I bought a couple decorative china cups and saucers that were on sale.  Behan Gifford on Totem from Seattle came by for tea.  We had tea (in a teapot) on a tray, sugar lumps and canned cream from Mexico. (There's great cream in the stores here, I should buy that and toss out the Mexican stuff.)  It was a change from the mugs or insulated car mugs we normally use, and a reminder of "gracious living" back home.

Behan remarked that the blue and white shell motif on the cups looked like the tile trim SYC ladies rooms.  Actually, they match a plate I bought in Friday Harbor, which of course, is in storage.

We're easily entertained.

Monday in Moorea

 
After the Party
 
As the fleet gradually filtered away, we were drying the boat out and I was feeling better.  The gendarmes dropped by to remind us that we were only allowed to stay a week in the anchorage.  They were quite nice.  Several seemed to be newbies that spent all their time looking over the side of their boat at the clear waters below us.

We dinghied our bikes to the beach, assembled them and biked around Opunohu Bay to explore.  Biking was nice on a quiet two lane road.  Kids were coming home from school and laughed at our funny bikes.

Bill had been interested in continuing his dive certification.  Andrew from Mulan had signed up for classes with a local shop, so we signed on too.  Bill had started his course in Mexico, so I had to catch up by taking the debutant (beginner) classes on my own.  The next day, I had my first dive class since 1975!  Omigod!  They strapped on what felt like 100lbs of armor.  They had to help me stand up and walk backwards with my fins on to the edge of the boat where I was supposed to fall off backwards.  I was terrified!

I later figured out why they had us put our fins on first before donning the rest of the gear.  If you bent over to put on your fins with all that stuff on your back, you'd fall over on and smash your face on the deck.


Anyhow, Nicolas, my instructor, was so kind.  After I floundered and huffed and puffed for awhile, he calmed me down.  It seemed to take lots of force to breath via the regulator (mouthpiece).  I knew I wasn't going to die, because I had survived this insanity in the cold dark waters of Puget Sound.  But still, I ain't as young as I used to be.   Nicolas led me around by the hand for the next several dives, even when Bill was along..  We worked with several French dive instructors and they were all really professional.  Also, the French training regime is much more "by the book" than the Mexican courses were that Bill took.

More about this later....