Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Onwards to Huihine

Hello to all,


We left Moorea on the 25th. It had been a very nice stay and we ended up spending a couple nights anchored deep into Cook's Bay off the Bali Hi hotel. We could have spent more time in Moorea but there are certain time governing factors involved with French Polynesia, especially for non-EU citizens. First, our visa is good for three months only. Second, if the boat is insured, and most are, the insurance companies require that boat be out of the areas of circular storms during the season for those storms. And third, it is expensive, very, very expensive to hang around here. We liked Moorea a lot but it was time to go. So after a evening Tahitian Dance show at the Bali Hi we departed with 'Shilling' (a very nice English couple's boat) for Huahine, about a 75 mile sail. It was supposed to be a nice night's down wind sail. Wayne, a single hander in 'Moonduster' , had left a couple hours earlier and reported good conditions. However, it turned into a washing machine with winds all over the place. Nothing dangerous, just a long pain in the butt night. We got into Huahine as planned, relaxed and slept for twelve hours.

So we've been enjoying Huahine. We did a couple dives off the reef in Moorea from our dinghy and we did a couple more off the reef here. By the way, just getting your own tank filled here costs about $15! We've had a couple lovely anchorages. Huahine has the reputation of being very quiet and rural. It almost goes without saying it's very beautiful. There is a nice little village with a very excellent store, an important matter to cruisers, and that dive shop with the very lucrative compressor. There is wireless internet at the village anchorage and a great view of the sunset over Raiatea, Tahaa and Bora Bora 20-30 miles to the west. Right now we're at anchor at the very southern tip of the island just west of Point Tiva, the Bay of Avea. It's a lovely anchorage with a palm fringed white sand beach to shoreward and the reef with a big curling break to seaward. Many of the usual suspects are present. These include Moonduster, Elusive, Hannah, Meridian, Blue Plains Drifter, Scarlet O'hara....These are boats we've seen now at various places over the last few months. They're folks who have similar ideas so we circle in the same circle more or less. We were socializing with Shilling night before last and we had Moonduster over to visit last night. We will probably be anchored out at another spot totally to ourselves tonight. There is a social circle amongst the cruising boats but it's very loose and people may disappear forever with just a word of good bye or they may stay in touch for years. It's a very good bunch of people.


We ended up spending another night in Bay of Avea. 'Shilling' invited us and the folks from 'Scarlet O'Hara' over for dinner and we couldn't turn down that invitation. It was a very sociable evening and great fun but we headed north this morning and anchored about half way up the island off a beautiful beach we spotted on the way down a few days ago. We've been social butterflies these past few days and it's time to have a place to ourselves again. That's exactly what we have now...not another boat or person in sight and a lovely anchorage. The sun just set over Raiatea in the distance and Janet is fixing up some nice omelets for dinner. I've a small cognac in hand. Life is good!


Yesterday was a pretty hectic day by our standards. We hauled anchor and motored up to the village of Fare early. We rented a scooter (I'll quit whining about prices) and drove all over the island. And we heard that the beginning of the July festivities would be that night at just outside of town. A dance contest no less. "Food, vahines...everything you need man!" So that became the plan, we went to the dance contest. It was quite the evening and definitely not a tourist event. It wasn't even very French, this was a Polynesian affair without many round eyes present although we were certainly welcome. Fare has a large public building which is a combination indoor soccer field, market, event platform....just a big steel roof with open sides and a sand floor about 100X40 meters. They had the sides blocked off with palm thatch so they could charge admission and grand stands set up all around the perimeter of the inside. There were bandstands at either end and special seating for dignitaries and announcers, lots of sound system stuff and about four thousand people present. There was a long benediction. There was speechifying by the local pols including the 'president'. There was much ceremony. This consisted mostly of howling old women in white with palm fronds haranguing the audience about the cultural significance of it all....I think. There was drumming at all times coming from seven different groups which I think represented each village or district on the island. And there were lots of dancers in groups, male and female, waiting for the contest. The master of ceremonies was a hilarious fat old man in a lovely white lace dress and heels. Yep, full drag! In Polynesia it's fairly common for a family to decide to raise a male child as a girl. Maybe they don't have a girl, maybe they just want another, but the child is raised as a girl and lives their life as a woman. It's completely accepted and not even cause for comment. You see them everywhere and it's pretty funny to see a fat, tough looking old guy in a nice dress, fully accessorized and carrying on with his real female friends. They even have a kind of semi-official status which I don't completely understand. And several of these guys pretty much ran the show with gusto and humor. The hairy old guy in the dress would announce the goings on and fall into a gay simper at the end of his speech and everybody would crack up. He was very good. And the dancing was spectacular. We think it was just the start of the contest but it was for best solo male and female dancers and best male and female together. Their were seven groups represented and they each had their own drums and music. The girls were all great, very sensuous and pretty and the guys were hunky and a couple even had some talent to go with the girls but the main show was the women. The crowd really gets into it and the drumming is spectacular. There is plenty of sexuality. No tourist show. It's right there very up front and everyone is enjoying the moment. And when the representatives of the seven groups had danced, there was a short announcement, everybody sang a kind of good night song, and it was over. We expected some sort of resolution...didn't happen....maybe later?? But it was a great evening!

Today we may get out of here for Raiatea and Tahaa. LIke I said, sometimes regretfully, we have to move on. Should be a light air sail.

Love to all,
Bill & Janet

Friday, June 20, 2008

In Moorea

Hello to all,

Right now in Upunohu Bay there are ten boats plus Maltese Falcon at anchor. I say, "plus Maltese Falcon" because it's hard to consider such a vessel a boat. It really is a beautiful creation, a modern square rigger with free standing, rotating masts and the most rakish possible appearance. We saw it enter under sail yesterday and it is most impressive. If you're into sailing you know about this ship. I won't bore you any more if you're not...but I will say that pictures do not do it justice. We tool past in the dinghy and wave and they actually wave back. Cool!

Moorea is very beautiful and Upunohu Bay the most beautiful of anchorages. Cook spent seven weeks here in 1769 during his voyage to observe the transit of Venus. The bay named for him is just to our east. He spent his time here but visited "Cook's Bay" by boat. Cook was not a fool. If Tahiti and Papeete were Oahu and Honolulu this would be Maui or Kauai. We like it here.

The escape from Papeete went well. We finished the stay with a lovely lunch with French friends. I believe there were twelve adults and seven children. Hors de vours, roast leg of lamb, pommes de terre, salads, cheeses, deserts, five bottles of red, one white, two champagne, and cognac and Southern Comfort for after dinner liquors. It's a good thing we left Papeete. We'd be broken down drunks after much more hospitality. Sweet, sweet people.

We motored the fifteen miles over to Moorea in company with 'Grace' the 58' cat owned by the South African family we've gotten close to. Very nice people and lovely children on a three year plan for a little fun away from home. The anchorage is very easy by Polynesian standards. We're in twelve feet of nice sand with not a coral head in sight and plenty of swinging room. We're a couple hundred yards from shore which is a lovely beach with a palm grove and a little park behind it. There are a couple small villages within dinghy distance and a couple very swank hotels on the water in the distance. The physical beauty of the island is almost on par with UaPou but there is a little more development. We've got a scooter rented for the day and we'll get a look around the island by land. Still this is French Polynesia and the most expensive place on earth. I inquired about car rental and the cheapest thing I could find was 9500 cfp for FOUR HOURS! That's about $135! The scooter will cost us 5000cfp for eight hours...whatta deal.

We've been here three days now and will spend a few more before heading for Huahine and the windward group of the Society Islands.

I hear the NWA/DAL talks are at the stage where the principals are trying to settle matters. It could be a great company for everyone if, just for once, things go right.

Love to all,
Bill & Janet

Sunday, June 15, 2008

In the Tuamotus

Rangiroa..Metropolis! 2000 people live here. The second biggest atoll in the world. The island of Tahiti could easily fit inside the lagoon. We had a mostly night time sail over from Apataki since it was going to be about twelve hours (84 NM) and we didn't want to leave or enter the passes at night. It was a nice broad reach in 14-19 knts with about four feet of swell on the quarter. We arrived about 0500 and hove too for a couple hours before entering. Even though it was well after low tide there was still a strong outflow. Not an unusual situation in the Tuamotus. Combined with the incoming swell it made for some nice four foot standing breakers in the pass. No problem but you could see how it could become a problem in tougher conditions.

We enjoyed Fakarava and Toau so much we wanted more of the Tuamotus so we decided to go to Rangiroa and stop at Apataki on the way. Toau was so sweet. We had a few days totally to ourselves in the south of the atoll and then moved north to Anse Amyot, a cove where there is a really charming family who welcome boats. Valentine and Gaston kind of run the show but there are four generations of the family plus a few uncles and cousins around all working on their very rustic pension, dive operation, fishing and pearl farming. One story.. about 0800 the husband of a very nice French couple anchored near us bangs on the hull and tells us at 0830 the family is going out to the pearl farm for the day, "Do we want to go?" Yes! So we dingy over to their dock and eventually everyone piles into two big old home built plywood outboards and we bash several miles out into the lagoon where there is a small deserted moto where they are building up their pearl farm. There are a couple sheds and we clean up the grounds and a few guys go out and pull up a bunch of pearl oysters and spear some fish. We clean oysters for a couple hours, rethread them onto new lines and have lunch...freshly speared parrot fish on a piece of corrugated steel over a fire and rice...and Val gets ready to harvest pearls. We watch her harvest the pearls and reseed the oysters.. a very interesting procedure...and we reset the cleaned oysters and eventually bash back across the lagoon to the cove. A busy day where I worked harder than I have in awhile. We had a nice dinner with the family and two other cruising couples at their "restaurant", a partially enclosed platform over the cove. But they set a very nice table and the lobsters were delicious. A rather full and very enjoyable day. We had a major pearl trading session with Valentine the next morning and I believe we were all satisfied. And we left. Pretty sadly. These are sweet, intelligent, hard working people who we'll probably not see again. The downside of meeting great people in great places is that you're always saying goodbye.

Apataki was nice, another lovely moto, but the wind was building out of the wrong direction for the anchorage. The French boat and an American single hander (Wayne from Moonduster) also anchored there and we had a great conversation over beer and popcorn that night. We all split the next day. Wayne for a more sheltered anchorage on Apataki, the French for Papeete and us for Rangiroa. We should all meet up again in Papeete so it really wasn't goodbye this time, we hope.

We'll spend another day or two here and then head for Tahiti and, initially, Papeete. As I said we are in civilization again. it's Sunday so most things are closed but we're anchored in front of a VERY upscale 'thatched roof over the water' type hotel and we just had a very expensive and picturesque lunch. We may have a drink there are and watch some Tuamotuan dancing this evening. The tourist scene!

Thanks to everyone for their emails. Once we get into the Society Islands (Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, etc.) we should have real internet access and be able to answer properly.

Love to all,
Bill & Janet

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A little Fakarava

Hello to all,

We left Fakarava today after having a goodbye pizza last night. A Tuamotan pizza place consists of a home with an ice cream sign along the road and an open window. Walk up to the window and make yourself known. A pizza person appears and and a menu is produced. We ordered the 'Royal', three cheese with salami and black olives, I think. In the appropriate time a pizza appears and there are a couple plastic chairs to sit in outside, in the dark, no table, but the box across the knees works just fine. It's cool(80F) with the evening trade breeze blowing. The lagoon is fifty feet away. Very comfy. Very delicious! Civilization!

We had a minor round about with a coral head getting the anchor up this morning but the trip out the pass and across the fifteen miles to Toau went very well. But still no fish! The southern pass into Toau is notorious but today it was just a typical tidal outflow, nothing as hazardous as some guides describe. We've had a very quiet day with the anchorage totally to ourselves. Snorkeling. No boats, no village, no homes, no one. Palm trees and an endless strand of white sand. Right now it's Jimmy Buffet and rum and coke time. A lovely sunset is about to occur.

Love to all,
Bill & Janet

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Dinghy Drama in Fakarava

Hello to all,

Yesterday was an interesting day...and started out as one of those 'interesting times'. It had been blowing 15-20 knots out of the NW all night and the boat seemed to be bouncing round a little more than usual at anchor so I got up to check on the anchor snubbers and look for chafe,etc. Skipper paranoia occurs most often anchored on a lee shore with a building wind. I went forward with a big flashlight and everything was fine. I went aft to look at the dinghy and it was gone! It's hard to over stress the importance of the dink to a cruising sailor. It's your car at the trailhead after a long hike, it's your horse out on the great plains 150 years ago, etc, etc. There aren't any marinas or even docks to tie up to on shore and there aren't any replacements available. People who steal dinks are hung from the masthead if caught, which they never are...In this case theft was the last thing I was worried about. I'm sure you could leave your dinghy, or anything else, lying around on Fakarava for weeks and all that would happen is that someone would cover it up from the rain and secure it from blowing away. Very nice folks here. What I could not recall was how I had secured the little beast after Janet and I got back the evening before. We kind of rushed into the boat and I'm sure now I did not secure it as usual, which is with a round turn and multiple half hitches around a stanchion. (if you don't know knots, use lots) Since the wind was onshore I was pretty sure the dink had been blown ashore somewhere(but where)and that it would suffer considerably from wave action and coral. It looked bad. Come first light I started glassing the coast and another boat (there were five, all Americans, in the anchorage) offered to run me around in his dinghy and search the shore. But, low and behold, it looked like a gray Achilles dink with a black motor was hauled up on a beach a little south of us! As it got lighter it looked certain so I swam the few hundred yards to shore and there was our beautiful dink, in good condition, hauled up on a nice little beach beside a fisherman's house and tied to a tree. The engine started and we had a dinghy again, yea! We went back at a decent hour, gave them a bottle of wine and thanked them and had a good laugh. They had seen it bouncing around on their reef and brought it in. Like I said, these are very nice people. And we were very lucky.

We got Ken and his gear on a ride to the airport (Fakarava Intergalactic) and he was off. He had injured his back ashore the day before and could barely move so we had got him a pension for the night. Ken has been a very good guy and good company and now he's headed over to Tahiti and Bora Bora to vacation a little with his wife before returning to the real world. Thanks Ken!

So we hauled anchor and moved about fifteen miles down the inside of the lagoon where we just spent the night. An empty beach with palm trees, one old shack back amongst the palms, no boats, no people, very nice. We'll move a little south again today. Life is good.

Love to all,
Bill And Janet

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Great Dives in Fakarava

Hello to all,

The Tuamotus are known for great diving and black pearls. We're haven't got into the pearl trading yet but we have had three very good dives, one of which is up there in my top ten. Being coral atolls you'd think there would be good coral and you'd be right. This is the best I've seen since the Red Sea a long time ago. The coral gardens seem to have no limit and they're as rich and unspoiled as one could ever imagine. The really great dives are drift dives through the passes into the atoll. You go down to 115 feet and hang on as the current builds. There is a cloud of big pelagics and sharks all in formation, head into the current. At the signal from the dive master you let go and just fly with the current up over the entrance to the lagoon into about 50 feet of relatively calm water for more coral gardens. This is truly a thrilling dive and we're going back to do it again tomorrow morning. These French dive masters are very professional and personable and they let us do some stuff that probably wouldn't be done some places...good for them!

We'll be in the Tuamotus a few more weeks with pleasure..the only problem being that we don't have many francs left and there are no banks,or ATM's and most places don't take credit cards...American dollars..forget it! We may have to go into the cruiser black market for dollars...ah to have some chocolate, Ghirardelli? For you, today, a special deal!!

Love to all,
Bill, Janet and Ken