Home    Journal    Boat    Crew    Articles    Links    Contact

the societies



June 18- Rolling along to Tahiti

After a squally night, we are making good time. Seas are about as forecast, 3 meters in 9 second intervals, yuk. But winds are stronger than forecast, 20's rather than teens, so we are trucking along. We expect to arrive at Pt Venus after dark, and anchor in its lee, then enter Papeete tomorrow.

Our hermit crab, Melville, picked up on the beach because Jan wants the shell, is cruising all over the stern. We found him on the lines to the windvane, hanging out over the water, then on top of an pencil urchin. Feels like we have a second pet aboard, and it is surprising how much entertainment he provides. Maybe that's really a reflection of the boredom of a passage...

Intrepid Melville treks out the windvane line.


June 19- Landfall Tahiti

We arrived safely here and are anchored in the lee of Point Venus. Brett told us so named because Captain Cook set up an observation point here to watch Venus pass in front of the sun. We arrived in a night squall, sideways rain with poor visibility, and thought we might have to hove to or lie ahull until daybreak. But the rain eased, and we nosed in, and found a quiet anchorage. Brett manned the radar and chart-plotter calling out to Dave at the helm. It is reassuring to have the radar confirm the electronic chart. The rain persists, but the hook is down as are the winds, and we will rest well. It is always deeply satisfying to have a passage over. Tomorrow we will move the boat into the anchorage by the marina, and see our first city in nearly 3 months.


June 20 - Papeete

Yesterday we pulled up the anchor at Point Venus and motored into Papeete Harbor, then down the channel inside the reef past Faaa airport. We called Port Control for permission to cross the ends of the landing strip between planes. We re- anchored 3 times before we found a good spot, and good holding.

Ashore we walked to the huge Carrefour grocery and bought fruits and vegetables, brie and baguettes, then sat in the marina and enjoyed a Hinano beer while watching outrigger canoe crews practice.

Today we were up early to meet with Polynesian Yacht Services to complete our check-in formalities. Even though we cleared in in Nuku Hiva, the official check-in happens here in Tahiti. Then we hopped a bus to town and explored the colorful market, buying pareos and souvenirs, and walked around downtown and the waterfront. We are thinking of moving the boat to the quai downtown sometime next week. We visited the cathedral just when a wedding was starting, but peeked though the doors at the interesting stained glass. Brett took us out to dinner at les roulettes, a wonderful treat. The roulettes are vans that open up the sides and set up tables and grills along the waterfront every evening, serving chinese food, seafood, pizza, crepes... We checked out everything then sat down at Chez Marie to dine on huge plates of barbequed veal. After dinner, we caught Le Truck (public transport trucks with benches in the back) to go to the Hotel Inter-Continental for a Polynesian dance show. The music and dancing is very lively, not much like the sleepy Hawaiian hula. I can see why the killjoy missionaries banned it. Fun day!

Baraka at anchor in Papette, Moorea in distance.

Dave and Brett relax after the passage.

We visit the central market. Pamplemousse is no longer free.

The church has flying fish stained glass.

This tiki has 2 heads, but only a single shoulder, holding up the tree.

Every night the roulettes roll out along the waterfront, serving Chinese cuisine, seafood, crepes. We had huge plates for barbequed veal.


June 23 - Papeete anchorage

Yesterday and today have been spent mostly aboard, getting caught up on odds and ends chores. I posted a bunch of pictures to the website (see NEW links on right), Dave fixed a couple deck leaks, and I made a new raincatcher that hopefully will do more rain catching and less flogging in the wind. Melville, the hermit crab, continues to roam the decks. He has gone from stern to bow and back again, and today worked his way forward again along the port deck. Every day we find him in a new place. Tomorrow we visit the chandlery. We are warned to expect sticker shock, but need to replace some chafed lines.


June 25 - Papeete quai

We are having fun in Papeete, catching up with cruising friends, doing small projects, and exploring Papeete. This morning we took on duty free fuel - about $4.50 a gallon. Dave has been reading an article how to turn the boat in its own length, tried the technique and it worked! Ploynesian Yacht Services is getting a pulley pressed on our new water pump, and preparing our clearance papers. Our last port in French Polynesia will be Bora Bora, but this is the only official port, so our exit clearance happens here.

We motored inside the reef back to downtown, crossing the airport runway twice after getting permission to proceed from Port Control. We found an open spot on the town quai, and are now med-moored bow-in, our stern attached to the corps mort (dead bodies - big cement blocks) with sturdy lines. We will stay here 3 nights, enough to top up the batteries, and get some laundry and cleaning done with dock water. And play - the market is a few blocks away, as is the chandlery. Traffic roars by the quai, but it is nice being so close to amenities, and we hear everything quiets down at night. We are just a block from les roulettes, yum, and 3 blocks from a good bakery. We have our priorities.


June 29 - Moorea Rendezvous

We enjoyed our 3 days at the downtown Papeete Quai, shopping at the chandlery and grocery. We got our propane refilled when Rudy from Shiva picked Dave up and they dinghied to the tanks at the airport. Mike from Polynesian Yacht Services finally delivered a new water pump with a pulley installed, after finding our old pulley would not fit the new pump. Expensive! But we are happy to have it. Laurent of PYS delivered our Polynesian exit papers. We are ready to move on again.

Yesterday was the Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous, hosted by Polynesian Tourism and Latitude 38. We had agreed to take 3 guests aboard for the crossing to Moorea. We untied from the quai, and promptly backed over the line holding the adjoining boat, Horizon, wrapping their line on our prop. One of our guests jumped in the water and unwrapped the prop, and soon both boats were freed.

We motored out the bay, squeezing by maybe a hundred outrigger crews lining up for a race. Outside the barrier reef we joined 30 sailboats, all bobbing around in zero wind. After an hour, the "race" was called and we were given permission to start our motors. We motored the 10 miles to Moorea, arriving at the narrow pass at the same time as the ferry. We popped in, then turned right, to be greeted by people standing in outrigged canoes, in Polynesian costume, blowing conch horns and calling "iorana", welcome.

We found a good spot to anchor, and settled in with our guests. After a cooling swim over the side, and a cool beer, we were ready to go ashore for the party. On the way in, we passed Horizon, being towed back out in their dinghy. They had hit a coral head and lost their outboard prop. Dave dropped us ashore, and returned to the anchorage to give them a ride in.

We were greeted with flower leis and coconut juice, then fed a gigantic meal. Games were organized, a rock lifting contest. spear throwing at a coconut mounted on a tall pole, and outrigger races. Dave and I climbed into separate 6-man outriggers, each manned by 2 professionals, carrying 4 cruisers. We raced to a mark, turned and raced back. Hard work, but the canoes are swift. One boat forgot to lean left against the outrigger, and flipped over 3 times. Dave participated in a weight carry, 4 coconuts and 4 hands of bananas tied to the ends of a heay pole. He faded fast, but afterwards in looking at the other poles, realized he had picked the heaviest load.

A local group put on Polynesian dance show, lots of great hip flipping, and wonderful drumming from an 8-piece band. They pulled cruisers from the audience to dance, but we obviously don't have the muscles or skill. After an awards ceremony with prizes, we headed home. Fun day!

But our day wasn't over. Arriving in the anchorage we found that one boat had drug, crossing anchor chain with another. Someone came aboard during the day and rafted the two boats together, and dropped a 3rd hook. Soon a man was in the water, in fading daylight, attaching lines to anchors. Dave pulled one free, and both boats were able to re-anchor securely.

We went home, picked up a bottle of wine, then picked up Horizon's crew and dinghied to Pax Vobiscum for "baguette pizza" and a fun evening recounting the events of the day and of cruising in general.

Malinda recently asked me if this is truly "paradise". The answer is yes and no. The people are generous, the scenery is out of this world. Snorkeling is amazing. It is fun learning about a new (to us) culture, and figuring out how to get what we need in a new place, often with compromises, and to discover new foods. But every day also brings challenges, some pretty uncomfortable. I think the challenges are the spice that makes the rest so precious. A perfect life wouldn't be.


July 1 - Opunohu Bay, Moorea

Yesterday we sailed around the corner into Cook's Bay, Moorea. Just how many bays are named after Captain Cook? And how did he manage to make it into this one, through the reef entrance in a square rigger? I know he sent longboats to explore first, but it amazes us that he visited these places with no charts or aids to navigation. The fringing reef is almost continuous, and you thread through at an angle marked by buoys. The bay is spectacular - towering peaks and ridges, draped in mantles of rich greens. The sun and clouds change the view every few minutes. We simple gape in wonder every time we climb up the companionway.

We found a good anchorage at the head of the bay, and explored the tiny hamlet. Moorea has no large town, only small villages around its perimeter rim. Too late for baguettes. A demain.

Today I booted Dave out of bed early enough for the baguette run, in drizzling rain. He came back with 4 loaves for us, and 4 for another boat. The store was sold out by 9 am. We had a yum breakfast of banana-walnut pancakes, then went back into shore for a long walk on the perimeter road. This afternoon pulled anchor and motored out through the reef pass, then 2 miles west to the nest entrance into Opunohu Bay, possibly even prettier than Cook's. Just inside the entrance we turned left into a lagoon, joining 20 other boats at anchor. I dropped the hook into 13 feet of water over white coral sand in crystal clear water. We can see every wrinkle of the bottom. Should be great snorkeling here!


July 2 - Hand-feeding stingrays!

Today we had one of those rare omigod-I-can't-believe-this experiences. We are anchored inside the reef at beautiful Opunohu Bay on the north side of Moorea. The day dawned bright and sunny and calm. Our friends, Tom and Dawn on Warm Rain guided us in our dinghies across the bay to a channel, marked by buoys, for a mile or two to an area near the Hotel Inter-Continental. A half-dozen other skiffs and dinghies were already there, anchored in 4 feet of clear water over white coral sand. The attraction is several dozen large stingrays who come to be hand-fed. Dave tied our dinghy's painter to a coral head, then opened a can of Opal's sardines. Soon a half-dozen rays were eating out of his hand and climbing on him looking for more. He learned to hold his hand flat, thumb in, but was still bitten twice, more pinched than chewed, though one slightly broke the skin.

A few larger boats arrived carrying more tourists from the hotel. The rays seemed to recognize these boats and literally swarmed up the backs of the men feeding them raw fish. By this time the rays were everywhere. You could see that some had two stinging barbs in their tails. We waded among them in chest deep water, and Dave continued to feed them sardines. Then the black-tipped reef sharks arrived, cruising among the waders, moving much faster than the graceful rays. Dave feed them too, though not by hand! We stayed an hour, snorkeling and wading among the rays and sharks.

When the sharks began outnumbering the rays, we hopped back in the dinghy and went a little further on to snorkel between two small motus - islets on the outer reef, in beautiful healthy corals with nurseries of tiny tropical fish.

Ok, this IS paradise! We are back home. Dave is scrubbing the hull, swimming around the waterline.

Gigantic pamplemousse sits atop soup bowls.

Beautiful Opunohu Bay.

Boats gather to feed the stingrays.

Dave ties the dinghy to coral, and the first ray comes.

A ray climbs Dave wanting more sardines.

More hungry rays surround Dave.

Shark and stingray.

Black-tipped sharks arrive, and soon outnumber the rays.


July 4 - Belvedere

Cook's and Opunohu Bays from the Belvedere.

This morning after the baguette run, we dinghied into Opunohu Bay to Richardson's Cove and pulled the dinghy ashore. We met Matt, a grad student from Seattle who was setting out sticky rat trap paper to catch small lizards as part of his graduate thesis. We then hiked up the road with Sally from Pax Vobiscum, up the valley past ancient stone platforms, including several for ceremonial archery contests. After a couple miles we came to the agricultural school where we could buy freshly-squeezed fruit drinks and delicious sorbets made from local fruits, a welcome treat on our hot uphill walk. We continued on several more miles, arriving at a lookout point where we could see both bays, Opunohu and Cook's.

We wandered back down, again stopping at the auspiciously-located agricultural school for more refreshments, Back aboard Dave noticed that we were lying too close to another boat. I dove on their anchor, and could see they had 200 feet of scope out in a huge loop. If the wind came up, they could collide with us. We pulled up our hook and re-anchored further away. Normally the wind or current allows boats in an anchorage to have overlapping circles of scope, as we all tend to lay the same direction. But when one boat pays out 3 times the scope of other boats, it can be a problem. In any case, we are re-anchored in a good spot. I dove again, and I could see a coral head only 3 feet below our rudder. With such small tides here, we are fine, and will sleep well. We swam a bit to cool off from the hike, then went to Pax for baguette pizza and a fun evening talking about traveling and life. Fun people, fun day.


July 7 - Huahine landfall

Yesterday we finally said goodbye to beautiful Moorea, and headed out to sea once more, for the overnight passage to Huahine. No moon, rolicking seas, steady 20 knots aft the beam, we made very good time. We arrived at 9am, in good light to make out the entrance marks and find an anchorage. Dave was happy - we only ran the engine to leave and enter the lagoon passes on each end.

The mountainous Society Islands are fringed by lagoons, enclosed in a protective circling reef, with only a few passes through the coral barrier. Once we enter the pass, the anchorages are as calm as a lake, and the scenery takes out breathe away. Huahine is no exception, two steep islands within one reef.

These Society anchorages are sometimes deeper than we prefer, so we poked around until another boat left and took his place in 35 feet. Anchor down, snubber on, mainsail cover on, boat put back into non-cruising mode, we can rest. Dave had the last watch and is already asleep. When he wakes we will go explore the town and look for fresh fruits and vegetables, gasoline for the outboard, the bank, and other town amenities. I would love to find a laundry... after washing everything in a bucket since Mexico, nothing is completely clean. But so far laundries have charged $15-20 a load, so I go back to my bucket!


July 11 - Fare, Huahine

We are anchored off the tiny hamlet of Fare on Huahine with a dozen other boats, just inside the reef entrance. Despite the town's small size it has an excellent grocery, with baguettes all day, and a daily morning farmer's market on the waterfront road, so my produce hammock is again filled with pamplemousse, bananas and papaya. Big supply ships come and go all hours, picking up copra and dropping off supplies. From the anchorage we watch surfers on the pass break just off our stern, though we are inside in calm water. Dave filled the outboard gas jug, and I did an expensive ($13 wash) load of laundry, first washing machine since Mexico. They also had a dryer, but it blew the circuit, so I hung the laundry all over the boat to dry.

We had a cockpit dinner of baguette pizza with Warm Rain and Per's Pro Aim, who told us good places to visit on the island. Pax Vobiscum arrived and is arranging a car rental so we can attend the final night of the Bastille Days dance competition and tour the island.


July 12 - Dance Competition

Together with Brad and Sally, Pax Vobiscum, we rented a car to drive out of town to attend the annual island dance competition, part of the Bastille Day celebrations. Each of the 7 districts submitted a team of dancers and drummers. The winner will go to papeete for finlas on Bastille Day.

When we arrived the roulettes had set up, so we ate a quick dinner of chow mien and steak frites. By the time we were done, 50 drummers had started a pulsating, deafening beat, perfectly synchronized. "Madame Hiva", a local transvestite and comedienne, acted as conductor, pointing to sections to have them take the lead. After a lot of speech-giving in French, Polynesian and English, a procession of young men carrying an outrigger bore the reigning queen into the hall amid blowing conch horns, and the dances could begin.

Each team was decked in elaborate costumes made from leaves, vines, and natural fibers, with fancy headdresses, layered skirts, coconut and leaf bras, fiber pom-poms. The young teenage men did the scissors step with bent legs, while the girls flipped their hips until their leaf bustles were a blur. Each team had 30 to 50 dancers, and a dozen member orchestra, and did 2 dances, one to pulsating drums, and the second to singing, slower and equally sensuous. Amazing talent - the whole island seemed to participate. Fun evening, and another glimpse into the pride Polynesians take in their heritage.

Huahine dance competition.

Each district has a large team of colorful dancers.


July 13 - Blue-eyed Eels!

With our rental car, shared with Pax Vobiscum to split the cost, we toured Huahine today. The island is lovely - beautiful green valleys and hills overlooking turquoise lagoons. We wound around the lake at Maeva where we visited ruins on ancient villages, well documented by signs explaining the structures and customs. A little further on we took a motorized outrigger ride to a pearl farm where we got a small demo of how pearls are seeded and visited the gift shop. Looking at prices, we were glad we bought our pearls in the Tuamotus.

At Faie, we stopped at the bridge to feed the blue-eyed eels. About 20 eels live in several holes in the bank of a shallow stream. The eels are sacred, credited from old times with bringing fresh water to the village. Dave brought some of Opal's sardines, and tossing bits into the water, was able to draw them out of their holes. They were 4 feet long, as thick around as our calves. Yow. Dave would not climb down and hand feed them. We continued on, circumnavigating by car both Huahine Nui and Huahine Iti, seeing the districts that had submitted teams for the dance competition. It is surprising that this thinly populated island could stage such a great show.

Marae ruins at Lac Maeva

Outrigger "docked" at Lac Maeva.

Blue-eyed eels are packed in holes, lured out by Opal's sardines.

Dave refuses to climb down and hand feed the giant eels.


July 13 - Blue-eyed Eels!

Yesterday we wandered south inside the reef on the pretty west side of Huahine, motoring from buoy to buoy, like a slalom course, down to the southernmost anchorage. At one point the keel came close to touching coral (full stop!) when Jan misjudged the chart. Against a glowering grey sky, the emerald-turquoise lagoon looked surreal. We arrived just in time to get the anchor set when the first squall hit. Raincatcher up, we filled part of the port tank. During the night more squalls came, with heavy tropical rain. Dave closed the boat up and put bowls under several culprit leaky hatches.

This morning I was happy to see the dinghy half-full of fresh water. Laundry day! I climbed in in my bathing suit, with buckets and detergents, and got to work. Uh oh! One of Dave's undershorts got poured overboard with the sudsy wash water. I yelled for Dave to toss me my mask and dove after it, but it sank too fast, below my range. Dang.

Laundry hung and dinghy now pumped dry, I dove on the anchor, nicely set in 43' of clear water. I could see rays swooping around below me.

I hung the spinnaker to dry, pulling it to the top of the mast. Dave spent the morning forward at his toolbench, rebuilding the rusted-out barbecue, fabricating a stainless part. No handy West Marine out here, and we have a hunk of New Zealand lamb for tonight's dinner. We rarely eat ashore in expensive French Polynesia. The last 4 bananas are overripe, and I have walnuts (thanks, Brett!) so there is now a banana bread in the oven. Dave is alongside in the dinghy, working on the teak which is starting to look a little leprous.

A few days ago I pumped up the kayak, and we will explore the lagoon when chores are done. And soon we will dinghy over to the reef to snorkel. We can't fish here, as there is too much cigueterra, but the sealife and water clarity is amazing.

Pax Vobiscum has become our lending library. Dave and I just finished "Three Cups of Tea" an inspiring true story of a mountain climber, lost and befriended by a remote village, returning to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. And now Dave has started "Resistance" by Anita Shreve, another good book.

Every day is a mixture of chores and play. The setting is magnificent, and every time we go topside we drink it in, and are happy to be here. We don't call it luck, because we know the choices we made to get here, and the effort it takes to keep going. Life is good!


July 16 - Shallow waters

The anchor is down in the southern anchorage of Huahine, and we keep thinking we might move on "tomorrow". The water is perfectly clear, snorkeling and kayaking great. Yesterday we took the dinghy around the south end inside the reef, grazing inches over coral heads, to the village in the next bay. It has an external entrance through the barrier reef, but the books recommend not trying it, and there was a continuous rolling break across it yesterday. Inside the reef the only danger was losing the prop to a coral head. Dave is getting skilled at reading the water depth, so no problems. In the village we found the sole "tourist shop" where Mari and her husband carve unusual items and jewelry from local shells, and paint pareos with traditional designs. We bought a lamp made from a large green shell covered with carving in Marquesan designs, and a carved plug with a tiki face. The large conch shell uses the plug as a door, retracting it to protect itself from predators. We'd found the plugs earlier, but had not understood their function.

Later we snorkeled in the "coral gardens", an extensive forest of standing corals. Clownfish lurked in the feelers of huge pink amenomes, and a gigantic green moral eel was interested in Dave, coming halfway out of his hole. Lots of tropical fish of amazing variety and colors.

My favorites are the butterfly fish, who seem to travel in pairs and come in a wonderful variety of stripes, spots and colors. Last night we enjoyed a potluck dinner on Cop Out, a catamaran from Canada, fun people, and their crew, with Pax Vobiscum. We regaled each other with stories of travels and experiences. The people who come out here by boat are adventurers, and always have interesting stories.

Mari's shop in south Huahine.

Opal goes topside after the squalls to lick the hatches.


July 19 - Crossing to Tahaa

Dave's 59th!!! birthday was celebrated with a party in our cockpit. Sally of Dorothy Marie baked a cake, and we sang. Dave's actual birthday was 2 days later, in Fare, where I baked him a pecan pie (thanks Molly of Tumbleweed!) and gave him a Hinano shirt.

This morning we decided it was time to move on. Between rain squalls we got the anchor up, though it was wrapped on a coral head. Then Dave motored to windward while I raised a reefed main. Outside the barrier reef we headed west 20 miles to Raiatea. The winds piped up to 27 knots, so we reefed the jib, and lurched along in biggish seas. Huahine soon faded into the gloaming, and Raiatea was only visible after we sailed between the two motus guarding the entrance. The planned anchorage in the lee of one of the entrance motus didn't look protected, so we motored north inside the reef to Tahaa, looking for better shelter. In the squally rain, it was hard to see our bow, but the radar and chartplotter gave us a good course, as we threaded our way through the lagoon between Raiatea and Tahaa. We rounded a corner to find 20 boats in the anchorage of Apu bay. The waters are deep here, 130 feet, and we soon realized they were on buoys. We found an available buoy, and Dave gently motored forward until I could catch the mooring with a boathook. Once secured, we put up the raincatcher and dried off below. The rain continues, soft percussion on the cabintop, but a meal of soup, salad and baguette soon warmed us up. Nice to be securely tied after a rough day.


July 22 - Tapumanu, Tahaa

Baraka enjoyed two nights on the mooring buoy at Baie Apu. Some of the moorings belong to the yacht club/restaurant, which charges 2000 pacific francs a night - about $26, or else the price of a drink. But our mooring turned out to be private (ergo free). We dinghied in anyway and had drinks and pommes frites with Cop Out, a Canadian catamaran, and Cat Coquette, from Denmark. Fun evening.

Yesterday we dropped the mooring line and motored north inside the reef up the west coast of Tahaa, hoping to anchor off a motu. We couldn't find a good spot in the many coral patches, and instead came across into this bay, dropping the hook in 80 feet next to Cutty Wren, a sister ship Slocum 43 from Boulder, though the couple is Australian. They came for a glass of wine and we swapped stories and boat info - very nice people we hope to know better.

This morning (after the usual bfast of papaya smoothies, pamplemousse and baguette) we dinghied back to the motu we tried to anchor next to yesterday. We dragged the dinghy up onto the beach and walked on a trail to the far (ocean) side of the motu. We slipped into the water with masks and fins, then drifted in shallow waters with a light current over and through the coral garden/river between 2 motus - beautiful corals and the least shy fish we've ever seen. As many times as we've snorkeled, we always see something new. Dave discovered that the spiny urchins have an iridescent blue color on the shells, that flickers in the sunlight. I found a single coral head with hundreds of tiny black and white stripped fish (dunno their name - I call them prisoner fish) and even tinier pale blue fish. When I moved, they all disappeared into the coral, but when I held still, they emerged and swam in front of my mask.

We dinghied to the next town and visited the small grocery after tying the dinghy to a dock with a dozen kids jumping into the water. No luck, baguettes gone, so we returned to the store in the bay where we are anchored, and got some nice steaks, chicken legs and baguettes. These stores aren't Safeway out here - you get whatever is left after the supply boat has come.

Our main topic of conversation these days with other cruising boats is The Dilemma: should we head for the northern Cook's and Suwarrow, or the Southern Cook's (Rarotonga), or skip them and head for Niue or Tonga. Everyone's French Polynesia visas are expiring, so we have a 5-day passage in front of us. We have been listening to the boats underway this past week, and they were hammered by big winds and seas, lots of damage to rigging and sails. We hope that weather was unusual, as we must head out by August 6.

And then there is the Big Dilemma, where to head by Nov. 1 for the south pacific cyclone season. We have to be either in New Zealand (but Opal is a Big Problem) or north of 8 degrees south. Marshals? Papua New Guinea? We don't know and are collecting information.


July 24 - Haamene Baie, Tahaa

We stayed one more night on the west side of Tahaa to meet up with Pax Vobiscum. Sally made a great chili dinner and Brad and Sally told us about delivering planes to Alaska, and gave us logic puzzles. Fun! We have really enjoyed getting to know them. The extra day also allowed us to empty and clean out the starboard water tank. Somehow we got rusty brown water that plugged our filter, so I used it up doing laundry, then we emptied and thoroughly cleaned the tank. Nice to fix this before the next passage!

This morning Pax pulled anchor to head for Bora Bora, and Dave hurriedly paddled over in the kayak to return some borrowed items. At that moment, Sally had a runaway chain - it jumped off the gypsy and several hundred feet dumped rapidly overboard. Fortunately, the end was securely tied and it was not lost, but the chain was so twisted the windlass could not handle raising it in 80 feet of water. Dave went aboard and worked with them for an hour bringing it up manually with a chain hook and winch, a slow but safe process. Once it was fed back below with all the twists out, Pax continued on. It is fun to work together to solve these kind of problems, and we recall being on the receiving end of similar help countless times, so it was nice to pay back.

After they left we carefully raised our own anchor. We don't much like these deep anchorages, but it came up easily. We motored clockwise around Tahaa, a beautiful trip. Along the way we passed a few motus with small fishing shacks that had a direct view of spectacular Bora Bora, 20 miles away. Dave ran the watermaker to refill our empty tank, and replaced a worn seizing on an anchor shackle, while I whipped the bitter ends of some frayed lines. There are always small chores to do, and it is satisfying to fix things.

We arrived here in Haamene mid-afternoon, and anchored in 30 feet. Haamene is a 3-mile deep fjord that cuts more than halfway across the Tahaa. The scenery just knocks our socks off. The anchorage is lovely, very protected. Tonight Polynesian drums are beating along the shore, a rapid percussion that stirs the blood. You can almost visualize the missionary stewing in the pot.

Baguette delivery.

Dorothy Marie hand delivers a fresh baguette to Pax Vobiscum.


July 27 - Marina Apotiti, Raiatea

Haamene was great, really serene anchorage, nice village, a Sunday market. We strolled around town and found lots of giant eels in a stream, then hiked halfway to Patio, up a long sometimes muddy dirt road that wound high into the hills. On the way we met a elderly Polynesian on a motorbike. With our limited French, we understood he had an ancestor that came here as a London missionary. Or perhaps his grandfather ate the missionary. In any case, he was part English. The road continued on, past a banana plantation and beautiful lush greenery, and finally emerged at the lookout where we could see a 180 degree panorama that encompassed 3 bays. Back in the bay we met a couple from New Zealand who are just now completing a 14-year circumnavigation, and are on the home stretch. They came over for a beer and told us great stories of their travels, and offered advice of some favorite places ahead of us.

This morning the clock alarmed us awake at 6 am to hit the Sunday market, where we bought croissants and pain au chocolats. Then we pulled up anchor, said goodbye to our new friends, and motored around the corner and across the lagoon, to Raiatea. We are tied to a mooring ball outside the marina and hope to spend the night. I am completing the food inventory, to figure out what we need before leaving French Polynesia. In a few days we will go into Uturoa to visit a relatively large grocery. The critical shortage is cat litter! Time to row to the nearest motu and fill a bucket with coral sand.

Beautiful Bora Bora looms 20 miles away, across Tahaa's barrier reef.

Locals pull their boats out of the water with a simple spool and wheel.

Tahaa panorama.

Worth the hike.

The green barrier reef with white breakers completely surrounds Tahaa, allowing boats to circumnavigate in lake-calm waters.

Looking north, the barrier reef is dotted with motus.

At Haamene, the Hibiscus Foundation provides a turtle sanctuary.


July 29 - Uturoa, Raiatea - Civilization!

We tied up to the quai at Marina Apooiti for one expensive night. The moorage wasn't too bad (about $30) but the handy laundry did 3 loads for me for another $35. It was great being dockside to do a few chores. Dave spent an hour up the mast, making sure all is secure, and caulking some holes. Then we motored around the north end of Raiatea to the town quai at Uturoa. It's free, and we are right "downtown", within a few blocks of 3 grocery stores and a few feet from the fuel dock. This will be handy as our last provisioning stop before the next series of passages.

We have decided to send Opal, ship's cat, home. Both Tonga and New Zealand have restrictions to protect their islands. So we walked today to a vet's shop and bought a cat carrier, and are trying to work out a way to get her to Seattle where Joel and Nina will take her.

On the way here friends Ralph and Glenda of Our Country Home heard us on the radio. We last saw them in the Marquesas and will try to see them tomorrow. We also plan to meet Pax Vobiscum at Baie Ahu on Tahaa. Countdown now - we only have a week left on our visas and suddenly there seems to be a lot to do.

Dave at top of mast, checking the rigging.

Baraka tied to Uturoa town quai.

A fish stall at Uturoa town market.

The Uturoa town market is brand new, a two-story building with produce below, crafts above. I bought pamplemousse and papaya from one lady, who sold me what I wanted, then proceeded to fill the bag with gifts of other produce, often amounting to more than I'd purchased. Polynesia has been expensive, but we also have been overwhelmed by the generousity of people.


July 31 - Carenage, Raiatea

Yesterday we enjoyed a fun reunion with Pax Vobiscum and Per's Pro Aim at Ahu Bay, Tahaa. I had some fresh tuna from the Uturoa market, and Pro's Per Aim, Guy and Isabel, had caught a mahi mahi that morning on their passage from Bora Bora, so we had a seafood feast. Good food, good friends.

We motored 3 miles south here to the Raiatea carenage to catch up with Ralph and Glenda, of Our Country Home. OCH became friends over the radio on our passage from Mexico, and we met them again in Tahuata, Marquesas. Lots to catch up on, so we are enjoying a good visit.

We also needed the wi-fi here at the carenage, as we are trying to figure out how to get Opal home. Pax's guest from Seattle is willing to fly her home next week. To pull that off, we need to get a visa extension and sail the boat back to Papeete where Opal can be put into quarantine. We cannot transport her via plane or boat (other than ours) to Papeete, as she is not supposed to touch Polynesian soil. Unfortunately it will be a tough 118 miles to windward for us, against steep seas and stronger than normal winds. The winds start to lay down next Wednesday, but the seas stay high a few more days, and Eric's flight leaves Saturday the 9th. Joel and Nina in Seattle are getting more information for us, and tomorrow we go to immigration and grovel for a visa extension. Wish us luck!


August 2 - Feeding frenzy

Feeding frenzy.

The small fish overlooked by the bigger fish fall victim to the gulls. Out here you can see the food chain in action.

We are still working through the details of sending Opal home with a friend. Lots of formalities, but may be possible. We'll know more Monday. Right now it looks like we must sail back to Papeete to put her into quarantine directly from our boat for the flight. By the middle of next week the winds will lay down enough to make the 118-mile trip possible, though leftover seas will give a bumpy ride.

Our Country Home is hauled out here at Raiatea Carenage. A small yard, but they did a great job and the boat looks very secure in a metal cradle.

This morning we awoke to violent splashing around our boat, tied to a carenage buoy. Schools of one-inch blue fish are being driven to the surface by larger fish which Dave thinks may be a mackerel. The small fish are trying to hide in our boat's shadow. Opportunistic gulls swoop in and feast as the small fish are driven up. This has been going on several hours and we are surprised any of the small fish are left.


August 4 - The Cat Saga

Today we made it over the big hurdle. Immigration would not grant us a visa extension to return to Papeete and put Opal into quarantine, but the helpful officer made several calls, including to the Chief of Police de l'Air et Frontiers (Borders) in Papeete. He asked that we fax him a letter explaining our situation and request. He promptly replied, granting us permission to come to Papeete.

So tomorrow we nail down details with Derryl at Air Tahiti Nui cargo, and with Vetea at the Service du Developpment Rural. Derryl is making our transport reservation, and Vetea will place Opal in quarantine at the dock, and help us get a health certificate, then transport us to the airport to meet Derryl. This all happens Friday, and right now there appears to be a favorable weather window Weds-Thurs to make the 118-mile slog to windward.

We had a lot of help from Amandine here in the carenage office, making calls in French on our behalf to find the right people. We are impressed that although no one will bend the rules, they will go way out of their way to help us. Several of these people confess to having cats, which might explain their sympathy.

We have a few more calls to make tomorrow, then we will head a few miles north, back to Ahu Bay to meet Pax Vobiscum one last time.


August 8 - Papeete

Dave does the scissors dance with a pretty vahine.

After the performance, the dancers pull victims from the audience. This demonstrates that only Polynesians can do the moves, though it is fun to try.

Since the last update, we had one more fun evening with Pax Vobiscum and Per's Pro Aim at Marina Iti, Ahu Bay. Pax signed us up for the dinner and Polynesian show, both of which were excellent. The star was a kid, maybe 9, who eclipsed the young Michael Jackson, with great drumming and great dance moves, including the flaming baton show.

In the morning we said sad "see you laters" (never say goodbye), and took on Eric, Pax's guest to head to Papeete. The winds and seas had died down as predicted, so we had an easy sail, arriving yesterday morning. The Police aux Frontiers looked at our expired visas, and the permission we had received, and created new exit papers, to leave French Polynesia by next Thursday. We will not be allowed to make any stops after Papeete. Today we met with the official from the Service du Developpment Rural who will put Opal into quarantine on the boat Monday, by sealing her carrier, then take us with her to the airport to clear her through customs and pay for shipping to LAX. This has been a long, convoluted process. Moral of the story, don't head across the Pacific with pets of any kind. Many island nations are rabies free and justifiably go to great measures to stay that way. Opal has been to maybe 20 countries by boat, but none were as stringent. We should have done better research before we left Mexico.

The upside is now we are free to visit more places, including New Zealand. Meanwhile, we have a few days more here in Papeete, and will look for obscure boat parts, maybe top off propane, and take advantage of being in a city of this size.


August 11 - Goodbye Opal and French Polynesia

Vetea seals Opal into her carrier.

Opal is placed into quarantine to allow transport to the airport for shipment home to Seattle.

Today ship's cat Opal was sealed into her carrier and we accompanied her to the airport. With a lot of patient help from Vetea, we made it through cargo and customs, and she is on her way home, Whew! She is being met by cousin Rick in Los Angeles, who will put her on the flight to Seattle, where she will be met by Malinda and delivered to Joel. Opal has been to about 20 countries. Time for her to settle down. We will miss her, but I don't think she was very fond of passages.

We have topped off propane, water, and tomorrow fuel. One last trip to the grocery store, and then we will be on our way to the Cook Islands, about 5 days away. French Polynesia has been wonderful, generous people, gorgeous scenery and some real adventures with sharks and rays, fun shopping for pareos and pearls, and we are coming away with tattoos to remind us of this special place.

Copyright 2008. All Rights Reserved.