Sunday 27 July 2014
This waking up early thing is OK occasionally, but it's wholly inappropriate as a lifestyle. Fortunately access to highest levels of sentience unnecessary as anchor was easily retrieved and 6 mile track through lagoon, well marked. Outgoing current in pass should demand little additional focus until a sufficient volume of caffeine has been assimilated.
As preparations progress for traditional Sunday banana pancakes with real Canadian maple syrup (has it ever been mentioned that we have real Canadian maple syrup?), we coast along at 6 knots on course now toward destination with wind angle better than forecast. How did that happen? If caused by rainshowers hope they continue. With little wind last few days, surface is virtually flat, but we soar up, over and down the 2 meter 15 second ocean swells. Soggy, but sanguine we eagerly anticipate arrival in Papeete to see Adam Troy, Inspector Buchard and Tiki.
- Post Breakfast
It was darn pleasant for about an hour then wind went light and veered onto port tack. If caused by rainshowers hope they stop. Mainsail now rubbing on running backstay and auxiliary conveyance device is wreaking havoc on ambiance, but have total confidence that in mere moments clouds will clear, breeze will please and serenity and joy will again envelop the universe.
After clouds did indeed clear and exploitation of long-dead dinosaurs ended, ambient quietude was still interrupted on intermittent rolls as backwinding sails protested their abuse. A few hours of futilely futzing with trim eventually saw breeze pick up just enough to initiate that serenity and joy thing previously alluded to. Now have total confidence that current state of grace will follow all the way to Tahiti. Really.
Leftover stew (it's always better second time around), shower and nap was attended by the soothing sounds and motion of beautiful, easy sailing. Continue to have total confidence... Really.
- Evening, First Watch
So far, so good.
Thursday 24 July 2014
Plans in train for manta ray dive at 0800 tomorrow. Should arrive location on Tikehau mid-afternoon without benefit of sail. A gentleman may "never sail to weather", but dead downwind with three knots over deck directly from exhaust might cause him to reflect on that inclination. GRIB (Glib Reading of Insipid Bullflop) indicates some potential for good sailing to Papeete, Tahiti, Sunday to Monday (175 NM).
If someone hasn't taken a larcenous fancy to spinnaker and it hasn't been sent back for customs fee non-payment, should be in our possession by next week. Also in Papeete, besides the usual and customary debauchery expected whenever possible, expect to fix wind generator cutouts, seal some deck hardware, acquire fuels for auxiliary, outboard & galley and procure various boat, scuba & personal bits as are affordable. Living on the hook and having little opportunity to squander resources has allowed emaciated piggy bank to add some padding to take advantage of increased opportunity to squander resources.
Hate to rhapsodize every time, but today was something special. Dive on manta ray cleaning station at a moribund pearl farm was incredible. The size and grace of these guys as they glide over and around you is amazing, but one would rise up in front of us to get its tummy rubbed. Skin is like sandpaper. Never seen anything like it. Now wish I'd done whatever necessary to acquire another underwater camera after Sealife fried itself.
Spent today awaiting weather window starting tomorrow. If GFS model reasonably accurate.. you in the back there, quit snickering.. should hit a seam in the wind between too little and too much. Heard a rumor it actually happened to someone.. once. Wandered the long beach (sand is somewhat rare in the Tuamotus), had coffee and homemade donuts at a pension and scored baguettes, pain au chocolat, raisin twirls & coconut bread at the boulangerie. Also got a pizza which was made with what looked and tasted like cocktail weenies. Tasted great, but so hungry would have eaten boiled 'possum road-kill. (word is it's better than skunk, but fares poorly against armadillo - fresher is generally better).
If we can get the hook untangled from coral early should get into Papeete by Monday afternoon. Let the profligacy begin.
Monday 21 July 2014
Last evening was as expected except staff were very good, very friendly. Personal server receives an A+ (buffet). Five star expensive with uninspired food, but points should be given for variety and volume. Live entertainment was nice, but singing, unlike everywhere else in Polynesia including small villages and local churches, was just OK. Nevertheless had a great time with good company and waddled, crawled and rolled back to dink for return home. Plop, plop, fizz, fizz hardly made a dent as beached whale impression achieved perfection.
Tour and lecture at Gaugin Pearl Farm this morning was excellent and resulted in parting with significantly fewer francs than previous night's dinner for a gorgeous, flawless (one single dimple where post was set), semi-round, green- hued, black pearl ring. Photo to follow in the fullness of time (maybe.. if we all live that long).
Promised dive through Tiputa Pass ended well short after 51 minutes in counter current. Disgruntlement turned to jouissance (no, don't know what it means, but sounds really cool) as Stephanie at Six Passager Plongee offered to make good tomorrow. Tikehau will wait a day. It's not like we're keeping to any version of a schedule. Further gruntled by lunch at favorite restaurant, Josephine's, right on the pass with reasonably quick internet and, later, sundowners on Elysium with 6 buddies, no relation to diving.
Awoke early (for us) to ride bikes for several kilometers along motus east of Tiputa. Arrival at excessively rocky section elicited ugly visions of walking flat-tired bikes back to village so, not feeling the need for a character- building exercise, rationalizing insignificantly enhanced scenery further along, fearing all eggs from morning supply ship would be taken and thus not having to admit laziness as an excuse, retraced tracks. Return trip experience was that rarity in riding (running, sailing, flying, etc.), a tailwind. Eggs successfully scored at favorite magasin where proprietress sells her own garden- grown lettuce (impossible to find elsewhere in Tuamotus), tomatoes and eggplant.
Excellent dive with drift in from east outside corner of pass. Highlights include: big moray, 10 foot grey shark, nudibranch, stonefish, humongous school of foot long silver rascals and trigger fish large enough to bite off a hand. Gruntle (not a real word) reaches new heights.
Friday 18 July 2014
Acute head cold induced sinus pain below 3 meters kept distaff crew from diving, so elected immediate departure to Rangiroa, only 85 NM downwind. Needing to cross Ahe early afternoon to avoid bommies and roped-together pearl buoys, we tacked off overnight for a better ride on the short passage and arrived just after dawn. Used only sails through very easy Tiputa Pass with 3 knot flood to advise S/V Cetacea, just behind, who with 2 engines installed, potentially didn't have a good one. Elysium also here, so it's party night.
In Mexico, after operating properly for awhile, Standard Horizon remote mic in cockpit attached to discontinued VHF radio (came with the Hylas) refused to transmit (just like 2 before it on previous boat) and you can't find one. Original thought was that when coming out with new, incompatible model the company collected them to burn so everyone would replace with 'their' new units (bought an ICOM). Anyway probably unavailable because they all broke. Finally got around to installing the thing after arrival, but was forced (forced I say) to interrupt effort by nos amis who wanted to mess around until happy hour and then what was to be done?
Second morning of installation while suffering from preceding evening resulted in fishing remote mic wire through various nooks and crannies from binnacle to nav station before being forced (forced I say) to ride bikes over to next village, Avatoru, for reconnaissance, snacks and beer. Returned to boat just in time, yet again, for that hour which must not be ignored at risk, apparently, of unhappiness. These little wood ducks are taking no chances.
Cleanup of tool debris from cabin after confirming all 6 electronic bits attached to revised radio panel were operating nominally (each and every one of which had been disconnected and removed with wires wandering willy nilly into electrical locker) would have followed banana pancakes with real Canadian maple syrup (it's Sunday again - they happen rather regularly if we pay attention). However, given that tool locker contents were strewn (there's that word again) about and friskiness was running rampant, decided to organize. Meager aptitude in this area bodes a precarious outcome, but with pen, paper and a Sharpie to mark boxes the deed was done and recorded in computer inventory with no discernible destruction or actual fatalities.
Inveigled into dinner tonight at Kia Ora, from all accounts a 5 star restaurant with 3 star food and 1 star service, by crews of Elysium and Cetacea, we gird ourselves for the engagement. As it's an all-you-can-eat buffet, depression era mother required eating everything available (there are starving kids in *some distant, exotic place*) and pilots are notoriously cheap (did you hear about the pilot who was so cheap other pilots noticed?), craving their money's worth, will wear loose clothing and expect to waddle, crawl or be rolled into dinghy for return home.
Wednesday 16 July 2014
Well, so much for getting through Tuamotus quickly. Must be in Tonga by last week of September and too many places between. Getting to be a quandary. Need to stop by Pago Pago to get boat parts via US Post, but if we can con someone from the US into visiting Tonga we'll pack mule them with all that stuff and save some time, distance (and money) - Rich, Tim, Angela??? Be there or be square.
Not even counting a stop by the village and then the pass for diving, figure we have at least 15 different islands, most with multiple anchorages, before Vava'u. Two months sounds like plenty of time. This is a cruel hoax. There's quite a disadvantage in not being Superman who can fly around the world faster than the speed of light and add on a couple more. "What? Nobody can do that", you say. Yes he can! Saved Lois in a movie that way. Saw him do it.
Also getting perilously short of wine which is unaccountably and regrettably expensive. Is this really 'French' Polynesia? Obviously not all staples are subsidized. Guess we'll have to bite the bullet and fork over some francs. Think there may be a duty free liquor store in Papeete. Don't quite remember. Man cannot live by gin & tonic alone.
Original forest was remarkably different. Tall canopy of deciduous-looking trees, ground littered with bird effluvium, no palm trees. Coast on ocean side is a long, red rock pool with crabs, sea cucumbers and a few tiny fish. Picture may or may not follow in the fullness of time.
Dinner last night at Cocopearl Lodge got the adrenals operating again (after being moribund from so many sharks) as we dinghied across a kilometer of bommie- strewn water after dark. Return was especially intriguing following termination of a bottle of Cotes du Rhone vin rouge. Dinner was very good and outrageously expensive. Four other diners spoke nearly as good English as we spoke French and this helped provide entertainment all evening.
Next stop is Tenukupara village about 8.5 NM away. We leave soon through the bestrewn lagoon.
Monday 14 July 2014
Weather system passing south with veering wind gave us port tack sail, windward motor, then starboard tack motor-sail and got us to Manihi Sunday morning around 0645 when current was suppose to be slack an hour after high tide. That supposition needs to be re-supposed. Up to 5 knots going out kept engine roaring past some fish pens at a knot as we clawed upstream about a half meter from the bottom. Then, so happy to have missed a distressing consequence, we ran up on a bommie while proceeding to an anchorage dead into the rising sun. Subsequently unwilling to let the day pass without at least one more harrowing experience, rebed starboard, aft, lower shroud with a completely inadequate compound. Dave from S/V Elysium, only other boat here, has butyl tape so it can be done again, but just in case this works, only after another round of leaking onto pilot berth.
Entire village of Paeua was celebrating the revolution as we explored and had lunch at the only snack (for some odd reason they use this English term to describe a place not a cafe and too small for a restaurant). Both magazins and boulangerie were closed, so we're SOL until Rangiroa. No worries, we're fat for food.
Contacted a fellow (call him Ishmael) who traded us a pant-load of pearls for 3 bottles of 100% agave, reposada tequila. Claims it costs $200 a liter in Papeete. Family owns a black pearl farm. Have attended the lecture, but still don't know much about the things and these may not be the creme de la creme, but most of them are beautiful, lustrous, perfect for Jan's jewelry operation and may help save our livers.
Xavier Michel, former commander of the French Pacific fleet and delightful fellow, operates the Sailmail station in Manihi and invited us over. Given the idea by an English Naval Officer, he bought a small motu near Paeua in 2008 specifically to set it up. Besides the station, he built a house, landscaped everything and stays there 3 weeks out of 4. Otherwise he's in Tahiti where his wife, Anne, works as an attorney. The place is absolutely idyllic with the ocean on one side and lagoon on the other. If you ever want to retire to a South Pacific island, come here first to see how it's done.
Left the lagoon at 0740, 30 minutes after high tide, and still had 3.5 knots outgoing current. Tide times are easy, currents are a crap shoot due many variables. Dead downwind, but with 6 hours for the 18 NM to Ahe, we tacked off for beautiful sailing. An hour early we tried the pass anyway and it was a pussy cat. Went to eastern end of lagoon, dodging multitudinous pearl buoys, to see the only primary forest in Tuamotus - tomorrow. Diving also planned for nearby reef. Dive instructor, Gilles, who lives on his boat with Kathy and services 2 nearby resorts (there's nothing else around), volunteered use of his dinghy dive moorings here and in the pass. Way cool.
Dinner scheduled at resort tomorrow evening. Tonight is lamb at home. Beautiful scenery; beautiful sunset. This just does not suck.. at all.