Sunday 17 August 2014
Aoppomau River is apparently the only navigable river in this part of the world, so going up was mandatory, right? Except for the type of boats along shore, it could have been San Blas. Anyway fun, no crocs.
Beautiful reach inside lagoon to Uturoa where joined by Rewa just in from Huahine. Went ashore searching for victuals and other, more spirituous, sustenance discovering that this, the second largest city(?) in French Polynesia, folds its sidewalks on Sunday. Finally located a roulotte for pizza to take back to boat where, by happy coincidence, there was "other" sustenance.
Mt. Tapioi, a 294 meter mesa-looking rascal overlooking Uturoa, as implied a considerably smaller place than Papeete, gave us our hike du jour. What with wandering from the approved path, getting assailed by territorial canines and ogling excellent view of all 4 major Leeward islands, it embraced the bulk of usable daylight (which, it must be admitted, is somewhat delimited by torpidity on the front end and happy hour later). While this walking/climbing thing helps maintain our coquettish figures and so is a good thing, the cost in pain and suffering is rather steep (if you're from Pinellas Park, that was a real knee- slapper).
Either nothing happened or we're keeping it a secret, so don't ask.
Vanille de Maison in Apu Bay. Vanilla, what is to be said?
Coral Garden between Ilot Tautau and Ilot Maharare (forthcoming name quiz covering entire 3 months in Polynesia will require at least 70% or you have to read all of it again.. you don't want that). Snorkeling here was a delightful affair with, unsurprisingly, lots of coral and, more surprisingly, fish in the bazillions (this is an indeterminate number somewhere between a few and all of them).
Visit with snorkel to a pearl farm. It was pretty cool watching oysters being harvested, then opened to extract their expensive little nuggets. Explanation of process was much more informative than at the place in Tuamotus. This is likely due tour director speaking a reasonably understandable English being from, although California, San Diego rather than the valley. The whole enterprise including sales is conducted from a stilt house on a reef beside the farm. They cater to charter boats, cruise ships and non-destitute riffraff from cruising boats hoping, presumably, to subsequently make them so. It was partially effective in our case as we purchased a pair of lovely earrings, but nevertheless continue to maintain our extravagantly posh lifestyle.
Saturday 16 August 2014
Having examined passport stamps, located the abacus and sharpened a writing implement for more precise reckoning, discovered that latest possible clear-out date is 30 August, 2 days past previous calculation. This is both good and bad as one must take advantage of every allowed moment, but remaining longer in Polynesia puts extra time pressure on future stops. This is similar to eating every morsel on the dinner plate because one's Depression era mother was ostensibly concerned about starving, faraway children. No matter that these comparable attitudes make both subsequent comprehensive exploration and maintenance of my sleek, alluring physique, respectively, more difficult, one is sometimes a prisoner of his programming.
Keenness to explore Marae Taputaputea, previously identified as most venerated sight in the entirety of French Polynesia, has been dampened, so to speak, by rain. We are periodically lured by blue skies to have hope which is then dashed by a passing shower. An obvious question thus presents itself, "if you've seen one pile of rocks have you seen them all?". The common answer to this and to most of life's great questions, as one often discovers somewhere between the ages of 25 and 99 (the first number is when scientists say the brain's judgment area finally develops and the second can go higher) is "maybe".
Anyway noon is approaching and ennui is prevailing over lack of enthusiasm, so off we go.
Rain-laden clouds took a breather and answer to above question turns out to be "no". Except for Nuku Hiva this is the largest site observed, is the best preserved and is certainly in the most beautiful setting. Impromptu tree-shaded picnic with granola bars and water was wonderfully agreeable. Might have stayed all afternoon contemplating life's simple pleasures and chewing on grass stalks or something else as quaintly bucolic if not for desire to head up to next bay. Just as well due return of rain during short motor to Baie Faaroa, location of the navigable Aoppomau River, tomorrow's potential adventure - if it doesn't rain.
"Indecision may or may not be my problem". - Jimmy Buffett
Friday 15 August 2014
Despite some progress early Wednesday toward alleviating a chronic sloth deficiency, we explored the Super Huahine-Nui (the thing is big and includes, besides comestibles, hardware, household crap and garden implements) for further provisioning. Where does it all go? Surely (don't call me that) we don't eat all the stuff we buy. In this case we did deplete most of an irresistibly beautiful chunk of fresh white tuna while entertaining friends for dinner.
Yesterday, not having learned our lesson from Tuesday, we, along with crew of Rewa and following consumption of pain au chocolat uniquely made with coconut bread, biked back to Maeva for hike up tall hill to Mata'irea, Huahine equivalent of a gated community and original, now moribund, village of the former high muckamucks. Besides experiencing a steep, muddy, but always coveted, character building climb we saw an assortment of marae, had a beautiful view east & south to Huahine-iti (Little Huahine) and sheltered under a massive banyon tree when Jan let it rain (she's in charge of preventing that sort of thing plus making the sun shine; I've been enjoined to provide proper wind for sailing - record in each case has been a tad spotty).
So now, after accomplishing on Huahine everything that can conceivably be imagined (really?), we roll along, wing on wing with poled-out genny, toward southeastern Raiatea to visit out-of-the-way site of most sacred marae in all of Polynesia (really) and, not unintentionally, avoid the Gotham (really?) that is Uturoa on a holiday weekend where we might expect, as prior to departure from Mo'orea, hip-hop, boom box hell (really!).
Monday 11 August 2014
Another cool snorkel Sunday morning with sharks and rays. A tour boat gave out fish munchies so anyone who wished could hand feed the the rapacious rays who would climb all over you to get a morsel. Black tips didn't show the same interest and nobody, including the frenetic prepubescents, stepped on a stinger, so the experience was less entertaining than it might otherwise have been. Unlike mantas, stingers are smooth top and bottom. Also way, way less timid.
Hip-hop or the Polynesian equivalent has seemingly replaced beautiful harmonies that once graced these islands. After a couple of early afternoon hours listening to pounding partying ashore we hauled anchor and closely associated derrieres for the 85 NM overnight to Huahine in the Leewards. Except for 2 hours at midnight the entire operation was accomplished with Rudolf Diesel's noisy invention. Thanks Rudy, sort of.
After post-arrival nappage and the ever popular sloth, entire crew went ashore in le petite bateau (this brings up a quirk in the French language where everything is gendered and boats, always female, are preceded by the masculine 'le'.. very untidy) for dinner at the Huahine Yacht Club (really) and subsequently to find a huge supermarket in this relatively small village. As we are getting disastrously short of wine and prices here are extravagant, we were pleased to discover several examples of a more reasonable and yet not entirely lamentable Chateau Carton.
Broke fast this morning at Snack Ida where distaff members had jambon (ham) and other oriented crew had omelet, both on baguettes (the French incorporate baguettes, a particularly poor type of bread for nearly any use, with nearly every meal, but then they eat frogs and snails so there you go). Having not recovered since childhood from leaving food all over her face it's a good thing Jan has no beard to catch orts. While this is utterly appropriate, it does limit any post meal snacks and closes off an obvious avenue for adding to the cruising kitty with an itinerant carnival or circus.
Having now been fortified we biked around Huahine-nui, the larger of two closely interconnected islands to encounter marae of the 8 district chiefs in Maeva, blue-eyed eels in Faie and a big honking 2 km hill thereafter. History of this island is interesting with lots of warring and human sacrifice, the 1+ meter eels were as creepy as one might expect and any positive aspects of the long climb were more than made up for by the amusement eroding trepidation that brakes would give out on the shorter, steeper descent. Nevertheless and in spite of revisiting knowledge that padded bike shorts are a good idea, a lovely time was had by all and we live to ride again.
Sharks & Rays
Friday 8 August 2014
At dusk on a parking lot-like section of waterfront in downtown Papeete a herd of trucks pull up, offload tables & chairs and set up restaurants. It's called the Roulotte. Excellent food at reasonable-ish prices with sun setting over the harbor as a backdrop. Not the peak of Jan's Tahiti experience as she got sick both times, but entire balance of crew loved it.
Knew it was coming in near future, but didn't get the Mo'orea wedding time for Thomas & Gaylynn (from Qi, pronounced Chee) until an hour and a half prior. Scraped our stuff together and headed out for the 3 hour sail from Tahiti. No worries as ceremony was late and, although missing the actual event, arrived for the more critical post-nuptial drinking and carousing.
Expecting to motor the entire way due no wind, about a mile off Tahiti with a mere zephyr from the NNW, it veered and filled in on opposite tack for a great sail to Opunohu Bay. Although half the cruising population in French Poly appears to be in residence, it's beautiful with clear water and a magnificent view of Mo'orea. Snorkeling inside the reef on the other side of entrance with stingrays and black tips gave GoPro a workout.
Feeling that a smidgen of self-abuse was in order we, along with several others needing a similar character building experience, hiked up to a place called Belvedere this morning for a magnificent view of both Opunohu and Cook's Bay. Two+ hours there via road (which goes nowhere but the lookout) and similar back on a trail left the lower extremities begging for mercy. After an all too short rest, dinked over to Hilton resort for happy hour with crew of Rewa to discovered how much enjoyment we could wrest from a couple each $9 happy hour maitais and mojitos before returning home after dark through a mine field of coral.
Original plan for diving on outer reef tomorrow was forestalled by reports indicating a bust, so new improved idea is to go back to stingrays & sharks earlier in the day while they're still in a frenzy from getting fed. Meantime dinner with second to last unwatched Adventures in Paradise episode will precede an attempt to pack 24 hours of sleep into a mere 12.. we continue to suffer from a sloth (one of three favorite deadly sins) deficiency.
Thursday 7 August 2014
Beautiful sailing all the way to the maw of Papeete Harbor. Decided to go onto the Quai des Yachts in downtown for proximity to Sin Tung Hing chandlery, Sin Tung Hing Ace Hardware, One Hung Low Nautisport, Apple reseller store and GoPro Camera shop to facilitate squandering of pent-up assets. Counting provisioning, dockage, fuel, boat parts and camera (at prices higher even than Australia) would have blown the entire nest egg if it weren't for credit cards. Fortunately many merchants accept these rectangles of plastic instead of money, then give them back, so there's no cost and the only problem is the letters Visa keeps sending. I don't read them, but the exclamation marks, large type and red print make them look terribly ill-humored.
Despite our belief system vows of sloth we have walked more kilometers (for folks in Pinellas Park these are somewhat shorter than miles, but there were a pant load of them) than since distaff crew got that new knee. We did find, however, nearly all the critical boat crap we wanted and have even performed some actual work to make some of it useable. There is a store called USCenter that has gigantic jars of Skippy Super Chunky peanut butter and great bags of Starbuck's French roast beans along with an impressively large price, but contentment just can't be measured in French Polynesian francs. Unfortunately it can be measured in dollars, so we don't do the arithmetic and anyway it was free (see previous paragraph).
Lots of old friends, new friends and acquaintances in the large and tightly packed anchorage abeam Marina Taina, about 5 NM from Papeete, where we moved Monday after a week of futilely searching in downtown for the schooner Tiki. The huge Carrefour supermarket within walking (again with the walking) distance enabled us to max out the fridge, freezer & pantry and would have simultaneously shrunk the sailing kitty to a mewling skeleton of its former self had we been forced to pay (see previous paragraph).
If you are particularly unlucky this dispatch will be followed by more details of Tahiti at some point after we've left later today. The sloth thing was not abandoned concerning writing this blather, but wanted to at least have one entry in the hub of Polynesee Francais for the map.
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.