Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bora Bora

We left Raiatea on Monday the 25th and had a nice day sail to Bora Bora. It was a downwind sail and we went through the hassle of setting up our whisker pole to run wing on wing downwind and it ended up paying off. Two larger sailboats had left Raiatea about 15 minutes before us and we ended up getting to the pass in Bora Bora about 15 minutes before them. We're not racers but we do like it when we can beat boats that are supposed to be faster than us.

We picked up a mooring ball at the Bora Bora Yacht Club. Don't worry, it's not as ritzy as it sounds. It's basically just a restaurant / bar with moorings and a dinghy dock. All the anchorages here are pretty deep. We could anchor but I generally pull our anchor up by hand (we have a manual windlass but it's awkward to use) and pulling up the anchor and chain from 60 feet is not fun and given the fairly low price of a mooring here, it seems totally worth it. So far, we've just been working on boat projects and hanging out with friends while we wait for good weather for the crossing to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. There are some pretty big seas forecast through the weekend. It wouldn't be anything we couldn't handle but, after our very uncomfortable trip to Tahiti, we'd rather just wait a few extra days for smooth sailing rather than charge out into big puke inducing seas with 25 knot winds.

Architeuthis moored at the Bora Bora yacht club.

For those of you who've been confused about where we are, I've updated the map. It now shows our trip as far as Raiatea. I may also try to add our projected path out to Tonga. I also updated the Calendar tab. The calendar now shows when we were in various places along the trip. Of course it'd probably be more useful to show where we're going to be in the future but that would require a level of clairvoyance that I've yet to attain.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Huahine to Raiatea

Our remaining days in Huahine were spent surfing, snorkeling, and hanging out with friends from Takalani, Blue Moon, and Reality. On one evening, we had a little BBQ on the beach and played petanque (the french version of bocci ball). The wind finally backed off a bit by the 20th so we were able to go surfing. It was a fairly long dinghy ride to the surf spot but it was worth it. It was by no means a world class wave that we were surfing but, then again, we are not world class surfers. There are much more powerful, steeper waves elsewhere around Huahine, so we had this one to ourselves. The waves break over sharp coral that's fairly shallow and looks even shallower because the water is so clear but we surfed there for three days in a row and the only injuries sustained were some very small cuts on Christine's hand. On our third day of surfing we took Stoph from Takalani surfing with us. It was his first time surfing but he did great. Later on, Stoph volunteered his dinghy (it's a bit faster than our dinghy) for some tow surfing. We basically just dragged each other around the anchorage for a while. It was a bit silly but quite fun and we got Rob and Jo from Blue Moon to give it a go as well.

Yesterday (the 23rd), we packed up and left Huahine. There wasn't much wind so we ended up motoring most of the way. Ordinarily, we would have just waited a couple of days to leave until the wind picked up again but, unfortunately, we're in a bit of a hurry now. Our visas from French Polynesia will expire on the 26th so we're supposed to check out from Bora Bora on the 25th. We could make the short crossing from Raiatea to Bora Bora today and make it on time except for one thing. We had Rob from Blue Moon take a look at our rigging on our main mast. Rob is a third generation boat builder and he designed and built his own boat. He said that, while our rigging was adjusted about as well as it could be, we could stabilize the main mast by adding some running backstays from the spreader tangs. Rob is a fairly quiet and unassuming guy but he was pretty definite about saying that he would add the running backstays before making the crossing to New Zealand so I'm inclined to take his suggestion seriously. In order to add the running backstays, I need a few more parts from a chandlery and that puts us in a bit of a dilemma. There are a several chandleries here on Raiatea but, as far as we know, none on Bora Bora. However, it's Sunday and everything is closed here. So basically, we either get our parts and check out a day late or we check out on time and don't get our parts. We may be able to get the parts we need in the Cooks or Tonga but we can't really count on it. So, at the moment, I think we're inclined to stay an extra day, get the parts, check out one day late, and hope that the french will forgive us.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Huahine Bike Ride

It's really nice having good internet access right on the boat. It means that I can upload pictures and actually make a blog post about stuff we did today (and the last couple of days). Yay. So, first off we have some pictures from the trip over here.

It was a fairly easy passage. The seas were a bit lumpier than we'd like but nothing too horrible. Once we got into the lee of Huahine, the seas were nice and calm. The trip to the south end of the island once we got into the lagoon was no problem.

Yesterday (the 16th), we went to shore and walked around for a while. We walked down to the very south end of the island to take a look at the pass we want to surf. Unfortunately, the wind has been blowing a bit too hard and the surf was all choppy and ugly looking. The wind is forecast to drop in a few days so we'll probably stick around and hope things smooth out. This wave is a right (most of the wave around these parts seem to be lefts - and we don't like those) and is supposed to be pretty mellow. After our experience in Tahiti we're looking forward to a mellow wave. We know our limits.

Today, we rented a couple of poorly maintained and too small for us mountain bikes and rode them around Huahine Iti (iti means small). Huahine is actually two islands separated by a very narrow, river sized bit of lagoon. Actually, I guess it's not really separated because there's a bridge that connects the two. At any rate, we just rode around the slightly smaller southern island. Given how out of shape we are from sitting around on a boat all the time, that was plenty. We also ran into our friends Stephen and Heidi from S/V Narama. They had also rented bikes and were riding around the island but they were more ambitious. They were riding around both islands. It was the first we'd seen of them since Tahanea in the Tuamotus so it was good to catch up.

The island is beautiful. It reminds me of a more laid back, more friendly, and less touristy version of Moorea. The people don't seem quite as amazingly friendly as the Marquesians but, then again, almost nobody on earth is that friendly. We haven't really checked out the snorkeling and diving here yet but if that turns out to be as good as it is in Moorea, I can't see any reason to spend a vacation in Moorea rather than here.

On a totally unrelated note, I found a picture of me free diving on a sunken airplane on our friends blog. I tagged along with the folks from Ceilydh (and several other boats) and they took a picture of me and I didn't even know it until I checked their blog this evening.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

We're in Huahine

Just a brief post to let everyone know we made it to Huahine. We're anchored down in the southeast corner and there's internet access from one of the nearby hotels that we're able to get on the boat. It's too windy down here to surf but, other than that, everything is fine. We'll post more later.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Back to the real world, sort of

After an uncomfortable two day passage complete with puking, we arrived in Papeete, Tahiti. Papeete is the biggest city in French Polynesia and as a result is the best place to re-provision and buy miscellaneous boat stuff. The anchorage near Marina Taina was completely packed with at least 150 boats. Many boats were on mooring balls making anchoring nearby even more tricky. We motored around for what felt like forever before settling on the shallow sand shelf out near the inner edge of the reef that forms the lagoon. To make a long story short, we ended up too close to a boat on a mooring ball, had to re-anchor with two anchors so we didn't swing into the shallow coral just offshore or the moored boats just inshore, and then dragged our bow anchor a couple days later when the wind picked up out of the south. That made for a sleepless night involving one failed attempt at re-anchoring in the same spot with help from our friends on Piko, more dragging, apparent resetting, followed by even more wind the next day and more dragging. Since we were getting dangerously close to yet another moored boat, we made an emergency attempt at re-anchoring during the windiest part of the day with the help of 3 dinghies and a bunch of friends. We finally got both anchors up and re-anchored in a new spot with plenty of scope this time and held just fine. Jared blames the lack of bow anchor scope for all the dragging, and the shallow layer of sand covering the reef.

Aside from the anchoring drama and the sort of culture shock of a bustling metropolis complete with traffic and filth, we had a lot of fun catching up with our friends Krister and Amanda on Britannia, Lauren(guy) and Lauren(girl) on Piko, Vincent and Crispin now crewing for Balquideer, and Dino on Hadar. We attempted to surf at a nearby reef pass break with Krister and pretty much failed (Krister caught some waves though). We are not quite good enough yet to surf world class surf in the company of world class surfers. Jared and Krister played guitar a lot and I attempted to sing at times. We had to say goodbye to Ryan and Alex on Shalimar unfortunately. They have family visiting and they are off to Moorea with them. Ryan's mom was kind enough to deliver a few things we ordered and we look forward to thanking her in person in Bora Bora in a couple of weeks. Jared went snorkeling on some plane wrecks off in the lagoon with the folks from Watchyagonnado, Ceilyhd, Britannia, and Piko, while I put away all of the new food. We did our downtown errands in one day and we were ready to move on a week after arriving. We were sad to be leaving our friends again, but we have very little time left on our visas and we want to explore the leeward Society Islands. We are technically supposed to leave French Polynesia on July 25th. I'm sure we'll cross paths with them again somewhere. I hear there's a really cool full moon party in Vavau, Tonga in September. Maybe we'll all end up there! If anyone has the funds and the time, come visit us in Tonga. It sounds awesome. We'll be there for the months of September and October.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Good Times in Toau

After a nice day sail from Fakarava's north pass we reached the false pass (a pass through the atoll's fringing reef that doesn't go all the way through) on the north western side of Toau called Anse Amyot (anse means cove). It is a unique place in the Tuamotus because not only is it a nice protected cove created by a false pass, but there are also about 15 moorings to tie up to. The moorings were installed by the couple who lives in Anse Amyot, Valentine and Gaston, and the payment they require is simply that you come ashore one night and have a feast with them for a reasonable fee. And what a feast it was with fresh tuna sashimi, fried fish, poisson cru, lobster focaccia, bbq lobster, rice, coconut bread, and a delicious coconut cake for dessert. Gaston catches all the fish and lobster himself with the help of his handy fish traps a lot of skill. Valentine has some killer recipes and is both a gifted cook and hostess. They both welcomed us into their lives as soon as we stepped ashore the first day and treated us like old friends for the rest of the week.

Our first full day in Anse Amyot was Jared's birthday. We did a dive on the wall outside of the lagoon with Ryan and the brits Mike and Hilda from the boat Quicksilver. Jared and I traded off using Ryan's spare tank which is why a lot the photos from the dive have Jared in them free diving. The wall was quite vertical and dropped off from about 20 feet to well beyond what we could see or dive to. There were no sharks but the coral looked pretty healthy. There also seemed to be less fish than we had seen at some other spots. The visibility was awesome as usual and the wow factor was high but it will be hard for any dive to come even close to the wow factor of that dive we did in Fakarava's north pass. We are so spoiled!

Since it happened to be Jared's birthday the day we met Valentine, she invited us to come ashore for a potluck dinner with our friends on Shalimar and Tuatara. Their old friend George was also there with his girlfriend Yael. George is a salty french guy who makes his living as a delivery captain and was bringing a fancy new catamaran to a charter company in Raietea in the Society Islands. A couple days earlier, George was out with Gaston fishing when everyone's worst nightmare happened. As he was placing the bag of bloody fish into the boat it slipped back out and a grey shark started heading right for him. Gaston told him to hold still and throw the bag of fish into the boat, but his fear got the best of him. He leaped half-way out of the water up onto the nearest coral head and the shark probably mistook his wiggling foot for a fleeing fish and went for it. Luckily, the bite was a gentle one and did not sever any major arteries, tendons, or nerves. Yael is a nurse and had all her medical supplies with her. She stitched him up and banned him from entering the water for a long time. She also was afraid to go back in the water for a few days even though all involved agreed that the bite had more to do with the bag full of wriggling bloody fish than with any sort of intensional shark on human violence.

Our pre-feast feast was delicious and full of laughter. Valentine speaks pretty good english and Gaston knows a few words, but his body language says it all. He's a total goof ball and very entertaining. George and Yael both spoke very good english, like most french people do thanks to their schooling, and we enjoyed their company thoroughly. Alex made brownies and Ryan made his now famous chocolate chip cookies. Yael made a cake and we sang happy birthday in french. We all pulled out our last bottles of booze and drank every last drop. Gaston had one too many drops and Valentine had to put him to bed early.

The next day we had our official feast after a perfect day of snorkeling and R&R. After stuffing ourselves to the gills we went inside to thank Valentine and Gaston and they invited to stay and hang out with them and an Austrian couple named Fleurian and Birgitte from the catamaran Fidelio. We shared many stories and laughed a lot. We learned that Anse Amyot has been in Valentine's family for as long as she can remember, or maybe it was her grandfather that first came there, I forget. Gaston came to help Valentine's brother with the fishing about 20 years ago and that's when Valentine met him. Gaston grew up on Tahiti near Port Phaeton. Valentine left the island to go live and work in Papeete for a while but then came back to help run the place when her brother became ill. She's been running the show with Gaston ever since. They harvest copra, fish, and pearls. They recently cut back on the pearling because catering to the cruising community has started taking up such a big part of their time. Ten years ago they would only see a handful of boats anchor in their little cove every year, now they have hundreds! Valentine's sister runs a small pension (hotel) on the island too with help from her nieces and cousins, but they all live in Fakarava most of the time it seems. Valentine told us about the good old days when they were all champion spear fishers. Her brother in particular was one of the best, able to dive very deep and spear very big fish. She also told us about one time when she saw a shark heading straight for her pregnant sister during a spear fishing competition and she had to spear the shark to save her!

The rest of the week is a blur of swimming, snorkeling, hiking, eating, singing, ukuleles, and just hanging out in paradise. We offered to give Valentine a hand with the preparations and serving of the next feast, a day that started with the ear splitting squeals of a pig in peril. Pork was on the menu for that evening. Alex and I helped prepare and serve the feast while Jared and Ryan sat around drinking beer. They were on dishes duty. Valentine's niece and cousins were on the island for the evening and after we were done with the dinner, we moved the party outside. Out came the ukuleles, and Kevin brought his guitar and his accordion. We sat around listening to some first class tahitian singing and music under a warm starry night. Our friend Vincent, who was crewing on a boat that was at the feast that night, joined us and donated a bottle of rum. Valentine mixed up some punch and the already very intoxicated Vincent drank some more. After pulling a couple of hilarious but painful looking stunts, we took him back to his boat. I only wish we had had a camera to preserve those moments and help sober Vincent understand why his face was swollen.

After a lunch time feast one day, we checked out Valentine's collection of black pearls, learned about pearl farming, and then played some petanque. Petanque is basically bocce ball but the balls are metal. All the islands around here are very serious about their pentaque and inter-island competitions are commonplace. It sounds like it's a big deal in France too. They also play for fun though, like Americans and bocce ball. Valentine and Gaston were both very good, as was George the salty frenchman. Ryan and Alex both turned out to be pretty good as well and Jared and I were definitely the worst of the lot. The last game we played I was teamed up with Valentine and we called ourselves the shark team. My competitive streak shone through at last and with the help of Valentine's superior skill we managed to defeat Gaston and Alex. I think Gaston is even more competitive than me and he was very surprised that we won. It was a great way to end the day.

After a couple of weather delays, we were finally set to leave. We spent one final happy hour with Gaston and Valentine. Valentine broke out the ukulele once again and Gaston rigged up a primitive bass with a bucket, a wooden broom handle, and a piece of rubbery line. Jared gave it a try and was a natural at it. Hopefully we can rig one up for our boat one of these days. I really wish we had ukulele too. Maybe we'll come across one down the road. Valentine talked about happy hours in the past where everyone brought a ukulele and had a big jam session/lesson. Sounds like a fun way to learn. Oh well, maybe next time! I sure hope we can make it back to Anse Amyot some day. Such an amazing place with amazing people and so many good times! Thank you Valentine and Gaston!