The best laid plans.....
May 21, 2012, 3:49 pm, 17 09'S:156 12'W, On the way to Niue, no make that Suwarrow
Everything is fine aboard At Last. We have no wind so we are using the engine a lot for the past day. In our last blog post we said that we were skipping the stopover in Suwarrow and heading straight for Niue. Well our plans have chaged. For those of you who are looking at the Wolrd ARC web site and tracking our position, you will see a course change on Monday 5/21 4pm eastern time after travling 230 miles southwest to Niue. We are now heading northwest to Suwarrow to avoid a potentil low pressure system (storm) that is developing and is predicted to cross our path on Saturday from the northwest to the southeast. We are 465 miles or 3 days from Suwarrow. If the storm does not develop we will change course back to Niue. If the storm does develop, we could stay in Suwarrow till it passes. Don't want anyone to be concerned about the reason for the course change.
Bora Bora Epilogue
May 19, 2012, 1:36 pm, Mai Kai Marina, Baie De Vaitape, Bora Bora
We again extended our stay till Saturday morning and decided to skip Suwarrow (aka Suvarov) and head straight the Niue to catch up with the fleet. This gave more time to relax and prepare the boat for the trip but more important, it gave us time to make the pilgrimage to Bloody Mary's which is a "world famous" restaurant and bar here on Bora Bora. Though I never heard of it before, several celebrities have. Take a look at the pictures in the photo gallery.
One last note about Mai Kai Marina and Yacht Club (below). We highly recommend it. They have a great marina, great restaurant and great service all around.
We are leaving Saturday around 6 pm eastern time and have a 1100 mile trip over the next 7-8 days and will try to update the blog along the way. Thanks for all the emails and comments on the blog. It is great to hear from everyone.
Mai Kai Marina and Yacht Club
May 16, 2012, 6:13 pm, Baie De Vaitape, Bora Bora, French Polynesia
We sailed with s/v Juba on the way into Bora Bora and they were kind enough to give us this fantastic picture of At Last making its way into the passage. We didn't have much wind on the way from Tahaa but it was a beautiful day and a quiet sail to the last island we will visit in French Polynesia.
Sadly, we said goodbye to Britt and Heather the day after arriving in Bora Bora. We enjoyed their time on the boat thoroughly. We were able to join them for a lovely dinner out before Heather returned to California and Britt back to s/v Zoe.
We have had a busy several days in Bora Bora! As usual it's a mad dash to catch up with everyone here, attend the rally events, get some laundry done, reprovision, refuel and get the boat ready to leave for our next passage. Half of the fleet left Bora Bora on the 13th while the second half of the fleet will leave today the 16th. There isn't enough room for the whole fleet to anchor at Suvarov and Nuie (they are very small remote islands) so the fleet was split in half.
While here in Bora Bora, the fleet did participate in a dinghy race. The rules were that you could not use your motor and any attempt to sabotage other boats was highly encouraged. The coarse involved rowing around multiple boats in the anchorage. Mark dressed for the event in his bandana which has a good amount of hair attached to it. Many people asked him where his Harley Davidson was. He even won a prize for his "costume." We brought our boat hook to the race and in the pictures you can see me grabbing other boats in an attempt to get ahead of them. Below is a picture of the aftermath of the dinghy race where many people ended up in the water or soaking wet from buckets of water.
We wish we had more time to explore Bora Bora. It seems like there is so much to do and just not enough time. We did decide to stay an extra day in Bora Bora because our house closing was moved up to 5/17/12. We are still receiving emails today finalizing the sale of the condo. It will be quite nice to be able to leave Bora Bora with the house sold and that behind us. We also have a few extra things to do to get the boat ready. There are four other boats still in Bora Bora so we will surely have company on the way to Suvarov. Once there we will shorten our stay there to 48 hours in order to catch up with the rest of the boats.
Here is a picture of the start of the leg to Suvarov by the boats that left today. It was quite a sight watching so many of the boats leave. We are off to refuel and fill our water tank. Then we will leave tomorrow afternoon. We are looking forward to doing some real sailing instead of island hopping!
Funny thing happened on the way to the airport…
May 10, 2012, 5:35 pm, Baie d’Opunohu, Island of Moorea, French Polynesia
As we were getting ready for the sail over to Raiatea, Mark was on deck and began to hear someone yelling and waving to him from the beach. Mark yelled down to me, "I think we found Britt!" We had been looking for Brittany (s/v Zoe) for several days because her mother Heather was visiting and we heard they were flying to Bora Bora and not sailing on Zoe. We thought we would try to have them sail with us for the trip to Bora Bora. Unfortunately, after multiple attempts to contact Britt through Skype, Facebook, email, calling the hotel where they were staying we had not made contact.
Sure enough it was Britt and her mother on the beach and we took our dinghy ashore to say hello. They were on the way to the airport and just happened to see us in the anchorage. After a very brief discussion, Britt and Heather were on the way to the airport to cancel their flights and jump aboard At Last. After getting their flights refunded, they returned the rental car and were dropped off at the beach in front of where we were anchored. We picked them and their luggage up at the beach in our dinghy and brought them on board.
We stayed an extra night in Moorea to get Britt's mother, Heather, acclimated to the boat. She has never been on a sailboat before. We thought leaving for an overnight sail to Raiatea within hours of her getting on the boat might be a bit too much for a first time sailor. In Moorea the next day, we went snorkeling right off the boat in a nearby coral reef. The highlight of the snorkel was finding an octopus and a stone fish, which is a very poisonous fish. Britt and I would have liked that useful information before we had gotten so close. Fortunately, the fish wasn't bothered by our curiosity.
The sail to Raiatea was a bit rolly with waves hitting our beam for the entire trip. Everyone except for me took a good dose of Dramamine before we left on the trip. Despite not much dinner getting eaten due to some queasiness, no one got sick. In fact, Heather was very excited that she never felt one bit of sea sickness.
We spent the next two days exploring the islands of Raiatea and Tahaa. We had a fantastic time with Britt and Heather. I loved all of the help with the cooking and was grateful not to have to do the dishes while they were on board. It just seemed to be the perfect mix of relaxing and getting to know one another better. For a novice sailor, Heather did remarkably well negotiating the boat and dinghy.
We did find an amazing anchorage off the Motu Tautau in Tahaa. (A motu is a reef islet formed by broken coral and sand surrounding an atoll). We struggled a bit with the pronunciation of the names of many of these islands. Tahaa became Tahahahahaha which seemed infinitely easier to pronounce and much more fun to say. While there we had an amazing view of a very exclusive resort where the over the water bungalows started at $1,500.00 a night. We imagined that we might run into Brad and Angelina or the Kardashians while anchored there.
One afternoon we went snorkeling between the motus and we saw so many different types of fish. The coral formed many caves and interesting structures so that you were always surprised by what you would see around the corner. On the way back to the boat we were in about four feet of water and I was on the bow of the dinghy making sure we didn't hit any coral. Suddenly, a reef shark that was about four feet long swam right in front of the dinghy. I could have reached out and touched it!
We have a quick three hour sail to Bora Bora and will arrive there on Sunday, May 13th. We will then have some activities with the fleet and leave French Polynesia. We will have quite a few four or five day sails over the next several weeks. We will be stopping at the islands of Suvarov and Nuie for less than 72 hours each before moving on. The entire fleet will regroup in Vava'u, Tonga the first week of June and then we will have a free sailing period while in Tonga until we reach Fuji and regroup there with the fleet for July 4th. More amazing places to see...
Gunk Holing in Moorea
May 9, 2012, 5:25 pm, Baie d’Opunohu, Island of Moorea, French Polynesia
After ten days out of the water, we are now back in. I am absolutely thrilled. Mark is relieved that I didn't like the hotel so much that I might change my mind about getting back on the boat. I think that might be why we went to such a modest hotel. Two other wives who stayed in hotels with suites were less anxious to get back on their boats. I am beginning to wonder if Mark didn't pick our hotel very thoughtfully. Isn't my husband smart?
We have found an idyllic anchorage on Moorea Island which was just a quick day sail from Tahiti. The anchorage has crystal clear water. Even by moonlight we are able to see the bottom in twenty feet of water. It's remarkable!
Mark is really glad that I was so anxious to get back on the boat because we sold our house while we were in Tahiti! Yeah!!! Now we can officially call the boat our one and only home. Many thanks to my brother, my parents, Andrea, our attorney and realtor who are all working on our behalf back in East Longmeadow! We often remark that we could not have done this trip without the support of family and friends. We talked to Andrea and my parents today who were at our house with the movers. All our stuff will be put in storage. The official closing is on May 21, 2012.
After several days of work on the house stuff and enjoying being back on the boat, we decided to take our dinghy out and drive around the anchorage. In sail terms it is called gunk holing. Not sure where that come from but it just means going exploring in your dinghy. It being happy hour, Mark and I took martinis and a plate of cheese and crackers. We spent the next hour and an half taking in the sights on the island and watching the sunset. The views were spectacular. I said that this was one of the best evenings we have spent on this trip.
When we got back to the boat, we had a dinner of filet mignon and opened our last bottle of a very special wine we purchased years ago while in East Longmeadow. We toasted to sailing around the world with the one you love. It was just another perfect day in paradise.
We are leaving tonight for an overnight sail to Raiatea which is another island in the Society Islands. It is about a 15 hour sail and we want to get there during daylight thus the departure time.
We are on the hard!
April 23, 2012, 7:02 pm, Technimarine Shipyard, Papeete, Tahiti
We arrived in Papeete, Tahiti after a rigorous sail from the Tuamotu Islands. On average we had about 25 knot winds with waves of 6-8 feet on our beam (side of the boat). We were reefed (sails reduced) for most of the trip and heeled over quite a bit. We have only been on a port tack since we left the United States. We sure would like to lean the other way!
Before arriving in Tahiti, we thought it would be a tropical paradise perfect for honeymooning couples. We were quite surprised to find that the island which is the capitol of French Polynesia feels more like a big city. We took a bus tour around the island and our guide, Lydia, gave us good honest information about the state in Tahiti. Papeete is the capital of Tahiti and it is surrounded by suburbs. Almost all of the people on the island live in the capitol or in the suburbs surrounding the capital. Like most of the islands in French Polynesia, the majority of the island is uninhabited. Unfortunately, Tahiti has lost approximately 60% of its tourism volume since 2008. This drop has left the island's economy struggling. The political situation is also tense because half of the people on the island are pro French while the other half wishes for independence. Although Tahiti does get a lot of financial support from France, the island also has to follow many of the French laws and ways of functioning which may not work for Tahiti. For example, the school year is based on the French school year and the children are off during the summer. The summer is too hot in Tahiti and many locals wish the school break was during the winter when it is more conducive to vacation and spending time outdoors. The people of Tahiti have no ability to change this situation as long as they are a French territory. Because of the split in the government here, our guide Lydia told us, "Nothing is getting done." This statement should sound quite familiar to our friends and family in America. Currently 25% of the people in Tahiti live below the poverty level and an equivalent percent are unemployed. Unfortunately driving around Tahiti, the extent of the poverty is very evident. Lydia also told us that there is a wide gap between the poor and the rich with there being no real middle class. The highest paid people on the island are government workers, hospital workers, and teachers. Schooling is compulsory until the age of 16 but many families cannot afford to send their children to school beyond age 16. The healthcare is free. Locals pay to go to the doctor but the government reimburses them for almost all of the fees. It does not cost anything to be hospitalized. France did build a new hospital recently but the island is having difficulty affording the cost associated with running the hospital. France is also currently building a new prison because the current prison is filled 400% over capacity but the locals are in grave disagreement about where the prison should be built. Lydia did give us an excellent tour of the island. Her history was quite interesting. She was backpacking through Tahiti 19 years ago and fell in love and subsequently married a Tahitian man. She was originally from Great Britain and now speaks French and Tahitian. She was extremely well educated about the history of the island, local customs and the current struggles the island is facing. Unfortunately, on the day of the tour it was pouring rain so we didn't get any pictures of the beautiful waterfalls, huge blow holes, botanical gardens, museums, and an ancient marae. These are sacred Polynesian grounds which were the sight of ancient religious ceremonies.
We have now been out of the water for one week. We are staying in a hotel room in downtown Papeete. Let's just say that it isn't exactly a five star hotel. We are staying there because it's convenient - it takes about 30 minutes to walk to the boat. We have been going to the boat every day to work on our to do lists. We did take one day off to tour the island and another afternoon/evening off for a rally get together. At the event, the seven boats (out of 29) who were double handed for the 21 day trip from the Galapagos to the Marquesas were recognized. It was a great feeling to think that we made it that long at sea, just the two of us.
You would think that we would love being off the boat and in a hotel room. It actually feels like we are back to work. Every day we get up, eat breakfast, walk to the boat, work on the boat until 4:00pm, walk back to the hotel, go get some dinner and then go to bed. I think it's the routine of this that is more discouraging than anything. We were only supposed to be out of the water for three days but it has been raining so the bottom has not been able to be painted. It has rained for the past four days straight. This has been the most rain we have seen since leaving the United States. All of our food is now at the ship yard manager's friend's house because our batteries cannot be charged and our food was about to spoil. We are an American boat and the shipyard's electrical hookups are all European. So no food, no cool drinks, no ice, etc. We are tired of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. Am I complaining too much?
There are some very good things about staying in a hotel:
1. Flushing the toilet and not having it go into a holding tank which will need to be dumped.
2. Being able to spin around in the shower without hitting a wall.
3. Air conditioning - sleeping in it and better yet getting out of the shower, getting dressed and not sweating before you leave the room.
4. Sleeping underneath a sheet, blanket and a light comforter without getting hot.
5. The best croissants I have ever eaten which Mark often brings to me in bed with a diet coke with lots of ice.
6. Having an ice machine and not having to make ice.
7. Complete silence when you go to sleep.
8. Sleeping in a bed big enough that I can roll over in the middle of the night and not accidently hit Mark and wake him.
Some not so good things about staying in a hotel:
1. European outlets - it has been at least two months since I last used a blow dryer.
2. A television where all the stations are in French or Tahitian - it was fun to flip the channels for a while but that has worn off quickly.
3. Not having what you need - like no umbrella or rain coats to go on the island tour when it was pouring rain.
4. Eating out every meal when you are exhausted at the end of the day. We did find McDonalds last night behind our hotel and took it back to the room to eat. Yes, it tastes about the same as in the United States.
We had quite a bit of fun in both the Marquesas Islands and the Tuamotu Islands so our to do lists were getting a bit long. We also had some things needing fixing that we couldn't do. Here is an idea of what we have been doing:
Ship Yard Work:
Clean and paint the bottom of the boat. Australia is very particular about coming into the country with a clean bottom. They are very concerned about any algae, marine life, barnacles, etc. that you may bring into the country. You need a specific type of bottom paint on the boat and be able to show that the bottom has been painted in the past six months.
Fix a broken stanchion which we broke on the way into the shipyard. We had way too much current and wind coming in. Our stanchion met up with the corner of the concrete dock. Whoops!
Grease and clean the washers on the rudder post. It has been squeaking since the trip to the Marquesas.
Rebolt the jib car which has also been squeaking.
Replace the swim platform with the new one that we received from Island Packet. The new ones have hinged openings where the water can come through the platform in case we take big waves underneath it. Nice service and innovation from Island Packet Yachts as usual!!
Fix the heads. I broke the lever on the aft head when flushing it quite a while ago. Mark took the working head apart to figure out how to fix the one that was broken. Then we got a spare part from s/v Anastasia. Mark fixed the broken one with the spare part we received, couldn't put back together the one that was working, and then with help from Lee (s/v Samsara) got them both working again and were able to return the spare parts back to Anastasia. It was a saga that lasted for days. Yes, Mark spent 2 whole days breaking and fixing the toilets!
Replace the spinnaker halyard which had become frayed. Luckily we had a spare on board. We still need to go up the mast to figure out what frayed it.
The rest of the projects seem to be exercises in frustration. Mark (often with my help) has tried to fix a bunch of other things but we seem to keep hitting stumbling blocks. Our arch light is broken and needs to be replaced but we cannot find the right part we need. Our steaming light is not turning on. We checked the connections and they seem to be fine but we need to go up the mast to replace the bulb which will hopefully resolve it. We need to tighten the stay sail (for the second time) but it's been raining or too windy to do it. We tried to fix the steering connection at the helm which has been squeaking but we took it apart as much as we could but were unable to fix it. Much frustration, little progress.
Clean the entire inside of the boat. Top to bottom. I have made quite a bit of progress but without electricity for the vacuum and without running water cleaning becomes difficult. Sometimes it feels like all I do is clean. Those who know I had Tracy clean our home in MA may not be feeling that sorry for me. It is amazing how dirty a boat gets when you live on it every day! I miss Tracy.
When we get put back into the water on Wednesday we will return to Taina Marina where we stayed for a few days before we were hauled out. It's a very nice marina. There we will finish cleaning the boat, go grocery shopping, do some laundry and then set sail for Bora Bora. We will visit a few islands between Tahiti and Bora Bora. We will leave Bora Bora for the Cook Islands on May 16, 2012.
By the way, we have a new yellow brick GPS tracker which now properly displays our location updated four times daily on the World ARC web site. To see our location just click on the link on the left side of this page "View Location of World ARC Fleet Boat in Real Time".
Can it get any better than this?
April 15, 2012, 6:12 pm, Rangiroa, Tuamotu Islands, French Polynesia
We had a fantastic sail to the Tuamotu Islands with lots of wind. We were together with s/v Zoe and s/v Southern Cross the entire way so we chatted with them on the SSB radio once or twice per day. We were planning on going to the island Manihi first but were unable to reach the island before sunset so we kept sailing on to Rangiroa. These islands are the largest group of coral atolls in the world. Each island is a band of land with a lagoon in the middle. Typically, each has a channel which you enter through to reach the lagoon. The channels can carry large amounts of current going in and out. You should only enter the islands during the day due to the incredible amount of coral reefs you need to avoid. When we entered Rangiroa we had about 5 knots of current going through the channel. The lagoon is large enough (78 km long and 24 km wide) that the entire island of Tahiti would fit inside its reef. We anchored in front of the Kiaora Resort which had hotel rooms (huts) right over the water for only $1,000 per night. The view was spectacular and the Resort offered some of the most beautiful sunsets we had ever seen. Happy hour became a must even if a pina colada was $13.00, yes, French Polynesia is very expensive.
The next day in Rangiroa, we went snorkeling at 8:00 am with our friends on s/v Zoe. We got there early so the tide was slack and we wouldn't drift away. The snorkeling area was nick named the "Aquarium" and it lived up to its name. As soon as we tied our dinghies to the mooring balls there were hundreds of fish around our boat. We dropped in the water and the fish weren't very bothered by our presence but instead seemed quite curious. They would come right up to you and some would even give you a nibble. We saw huge moray eels on this trip which usually stay in their caves but instead would swim right below us. The eels were about five feet long and seemed to be 8 -10 inches around. They weren't very attractive but were quite a site. I felt as if we were in the water in the movie "Finding Nemo" where all of the fish were bright colors and beautiful. There had to be dozens upon dozens of different varieties of fish. And yes, we again were swimming with sharks. They are black tip sharks and are reportedly harmless. Mark had one come up to him within a few feet and harmless or not, he has had enough of shark watching. The coral was also magnificent with so many oysters you couldn't count them.
After the snorkeling, we did a drift dive through the channel. This was our first drift dive. You tied yourself to your dinghy with a long line and then snorkel through the channel allowing the current to take you through. Although the fish watching wasn't as good as at the aquarium, it was quite an experience to drift through the channel.
And then, we went into town to see the sites. Most of the towns in the Tuamotu Islands consist of one concrete main street with a church, couple of small grocery stores, a building selling local crafts and a couple of very small restaurants. We weren't planning on going into town so we had little money and not everyone had shoes. We figured we could afford a beer for each of us and a couple of bags of chips so that became our 11:30 am lunch. We sat at the picnic table outside the grocery store and several local men on their lunch break joined us. One gentleman spoke a little English and the rest of us practiced our French. We have been finding everyone in French Polynesia to be very friendly. We enjoyed their company greatly.
That evening the WARC boats in the lagoon were invited over to Zoe for a movie. They had a projector and let out their main sail. They projected the movie "Master and Commander" onto the sail for an 8:00 pm show time. Five dinghies arrived with beer and popcorn. Zoe handed out fresh baked brownies. All of us sat in our dinghies tied to Zoe and watched the movie. What an incredible experience! We have to do this at home with the Cruising Club of New England!!
While we were in Rangiroa, we also visited one of the Pearl Farms. We received quite an education about how they cultivate and harvest the pearls which is quite a scientific process. The farm we visited produced 1/12 of the pearls in French Polynesia. They produced approximately 300,000 pearls per year but only one to two percent of them were of the highest quality. Pearl farms are quite regulated so they are only allowed to use oyster shells that they catch in a special netting. Once the oyster shells are caught they take three years to become ready to make a pearl. In order to make the pearl, the shell is implanted with a round piece of mother of pearl which is made from another oyster's shell from Mississippi. Attached to this round ball is what is called a host. The host is a piece of another oyster which will actually grow around the mother of pearl ball to make the full pearl. This host gives the pearl its color. It takes two years for the pearl to be made. Once the pearl is fully grown, it is removed from the oyster by prying the oyster open by a couple of centimeters. They cannot be opened more than this amount otherwise the shell will crack. Once the pearl is removed, another mother of pearl ball is placed in the oyster but no new host is needed. The new pearl ball is a larger size ball which the oyster can now accommodate. The total number of times that an oyster can produce a pearl is three times. The final time would produce the largest size pearl. We were able to see the dozen technicians at work adding the balls and hosts to the oysters at a rate of 450 oysters per person per day. It was quite fascinating! Then of course we were allowed to shop in their store. I didn't feel the need to buy any Tahitian pearls because they were quite expensive. I did see a necklace I liked and Simone on s/v Serendipity encouraged me to find out how much it cost. I am usually very adept at picking out the most expensive jewelry in the store. The woman handed me the necklace and showed me the price. It wasn't too bad but still too expensive. Then she pointed to a sign which was in French indicating that all of the necklaces in the case were half off. She got out the calculator and punched in some numbers to give me the cost of the necklace in dollars. Suddenly, the necklace was an irresistible deal of the century.
A Pearl Being Harvested from the Oyster
Before we left the Pearl Farm we were given the edible part of one of the oysters which had produced its last pearl. Yes, I had a piece and was more enthusiastic than Mark about trying it. While in Rangiroa, we went to a barbeque at the Kiaora Resort with Magali and David (s/v Ensemble) and I had eaten several oysters which were quite good. The food at the barbeque was very French so we tried all sorts of new things like blood sausage and pig intestine. Since we have been in countries where English is not the primary language for the past several months, we have become accustomed to interpreting menus which are in another language. It's not uncommon for Mark to turn to me after ordering and ask me if I know what I ordered. My typical response is that I am not exactly sure but I am sure that I will like it. It does make for some interesting eating!
Sadly, we left Rangiroa on April 19th for the day and a half sail to Tahiti. We have made arrangements to have our boat hauled out to get the bottom painted. We also have some repair work to be done at the shipyard. Even more sadly, much of our time in Tahiti will be doing work on the boat. We have heard from many people that while circumnavigating you just get to do boat work with a better view.