06/28/2012, Bora Bora
Hey Folks! I loaded a few new pictures. Our internet is a little slow so only a few loaded up.
06/28/2012, Bora Bora
After a full week of being tied to a cement pier waiting for our compressor parts to come in we've finally loosed the dock lines and hit the road again. After getting a final double scoop or the best ice cream in the world from "Magasin Gaby," We headed over to the total station, filled our fuel tanks, filled our water tanks and headed on out the pass to Bora Bora. It felt SO GOOD to get moving again. As much as I loved our time in Raiatea, I was very ready to move on. Like two or three days ago. We had, probably the best weather and best sailing yet from Raiatea to Bora Bora. Inside the lagoon, we had 15 knots of wind on the beam and totally flat water. Pandion roared along at 9 knots. She felt like a young horse tossing her head, happy to be out on the trail after too many days in her stall. The pass was a little bumpy but no big deal. The weather has cooled considerably. I was actually cold on our passage and had to don a light sweatshirt and a plushie blanket!! But it was sunny, warm enough (not too hot!!!) with just enough wind to scoot us along nicely and flat, very calm seas. I got very mildly seasick when I moved around or went below but was otherwise OK. It was SO BEAUTIFUL OUT! I fell asleep after I had gone below to get Sage some stuff (she was seasick) and I had gotten very mildly woozy and fell asleep. I had the most delicious nap and woke feeling fabulously rested and so excited because Bora Bora was very close now and the light was just starting to change. I love that late afternoon light that makes everything look washed in gold. Really, one of the finest sails of my life.
We entered the pass just as it was getting dark and throttled way up to get to our anchorage before total dark. We got there, got anchored safely without any problems and all of us very content to be swinging at anchor again. I'm not sure what it is, but being at anchor just feels more right than being tied to a dock. We're nose to the wind and the tradewinds are blowing sweet island smells into our open hatches. Our anchor is well set, and our bellies are full of a yummy dinner I whipped up once we got anchored. We shall sleep well and contentedly tonight!
Our time here in French Polynesia is coming to a close and I'm so sad to leave this magical place. At the same time I'm so excited to be moving on to new places and different cultures. We'll explore Bora Bora until we have a good weather window for Maupitit and then we'll hang out in Maupiti until we get a really good weather window for Suwarrow.
Life is good.
Still spider-tied to the town quay in Uturoa. The compressor parts due from Papeete last Saturday, then today are now said certainly to be on the boat arriving tomorrow. We'd stowed Pandion in preparation for our expected departure this AM but instead spent the day doing visa paperwork. The agent we'd used to help with check-in and bond-exemption in the Marquesas had sent a welcome email back in March pointing out that we had through June 27 to enjoy the islands, after which our visas expired. Unfortunately, she seems to have and the date wrong and last night emailed to say that we had already overstayed our visa by a day, that she had notified the gendarme and that we had better go to the gendarmere first thing this AM to straighten things out! So this morning found us hopping from gendarmere to chandlery to local government administration to computer and back. Everyone was helpful and reasonable and having provided the necessary documents (including letters from the chandlery and the fellow who sold us the compressor needing parts, as well as photos, passports, boat documentation and more) it looks as though we may be granted a week-long extension on our visas. The gendarmes in Raiatea do not usually check people out of the county and the one who helped us today jumped at our suggestion that we instead clear out in Bora Bora after our parts come in. So, visa or no, it seems we'll at least get a short glimpse of Bora Bora before heading for Suwarrow. The paper-chasing in the heat was made more bearable by our (daily) stop at the island's only ice cream shop. The tiny downtown here has three grocery stores and perhaps half-dozen small mom-and-pop type stores. I love it that all the groceries and littler stores have prominent racks of spearguns and various heavy-duty fishing gear, along with groceries, produce, hardware, car parts....you name it. Even the gas station near town has spearguns, sardines, butter, cucumbers. Our favorite little store, though, also has ice cream. Real ice cream. Made by hand, by dad. His father bought the machine from Seattle 40 years ago and they have been making ice cream in this little shop in Raiatea ever since. Mango, chocolate, coconut, pineapple, vanilla; all real, all local flavors and New Zealand cream; really good. Doesn't hurt than mom and daughter who serve the ice cream are wonderful; Chinese but very island; mom sparkely smile, daughter shy; both fluent in english, daughter studying business at U of Hawaii (NOT planning on running the store when she grows up). We go in every day and although I'm quite ready to move on we'll miss our ice cream visits! For the last two nights the town square has been alive with drumming and dance practice for the upcoming Heiva celebration and it's truly amazing to watch. The drumming is hard to describe; very powerful and loud, a dozen or more drummers with layered rhythms that shake Pandion in her berth and make it hard to hold still. Dozens of dancers mill about, then form even lines. The men dance with athletic, muscular vibrations of the legs and smoother, forceful sweeping arm gestures. The women alternately vibrate and sinuously writhe their hips, also with sweeping arm movements. They practice together, then separately, then back together; rough at first but even tonight more polished than last. Always there movements seem perfectly matched to the rhythm of the drums, though the fiercer more intense numbers alternate with gentler ones accompanied by singing and ukulele. Sage has found some local kids and overcome her fear of the language barrier to join them in some ball-chasing games. All are clearly energized by the drumming that pervades the atmosphere and I think it will be quite some time until anyone sleeps near here. We're re-stowing the boat in the hopes that the morning brings compressor parts, visa extensions and (after a final ice cream stop) fair winds for Bora Bora.
06/23/2012, Uturoa, Raiatea, French Polynesia
For the last few days we've been tied to the town quay in Uturoa, Raiatea. We sailed over from Huahine on Tuesday, arriving at dusk and spending a very stressful night anchored on a sand shelf off a moto inside the pass as currents swung us back and forth. Wednesday morning we made the short hop to the downtown quay to reprovision and disembark our guests for their flight back to the States.
Uturoa is a pleasant town. A distant second to Papeete in size, it's got a nice downtown area with active small boat ferry traffic, a marche with fresh produce and a central square that has had live music or dancing for much of our few days here. We'd initially planned on leaving after Oscar and Aimee flew out but a fortunate coincidence has kept us a bit longer. A canadian ex-pat named Richard who makes a slim living doing boat electrical work was making his solicitation rounds of the newly arrived boats and asked Aimee if we needed any work done. She mentioned that our dive compressor had died and as luck would have it, Richard had an old one stuffed away in a storage shed. Lola and I had priced new ones at the small local Nautisport branch. They were quite helpful, willing to sell us one duty-free and have it sent from Papeete within days. Unfortunately, the smallest compressor would still cost over $5000, well out of our range.
I drove with Richard out to his trailer a few miles from town, where a 1985 Bauer compressor sat amongst piles of rubish and discarded boat parts. Its belt was the wrong size, its filter leaked air and the ancient Honda engine dripped gasoline from the carburator bowl. RIchard's description had been a little more glowing, but we settled on $700 IF it would reach 3000psi. Despite appearances, the German Bauer compressor unit looked to be in very good shape and had spotless oil. Richard had one foil-wrapped new fiter cartridge and after installing this, replacing an o-ring and lubing a few things we got the unit running. Though the trial was short (the 1/2" belt kept jumping it's 3/8" sheaves), it made full pressure and had to be considered a success. We lugged it and a box of spares back to Pandion and bundled it up with tarps against the rain.
Yesterday morning I did some work on the compressor, after which Lola and I scowered the town and found correct belts and gasket material for the dripping carburator. The Nautisport owner seemed a bit disappointed to lose a $5000 sale but was quite helpful nonetheless, agreeing to have three spare breathing-air filters and synthetic compressor oil sent over from the Papeete store on today's (or perhaps Tuesday's) boat. So I'm now cautiously optimistic that we'll have a functional compressor for Suvarov, Niue and beyond, reportedly some of the best diving in the world.
We'd planned on being in Bora Bora by now but instead have been exploring locally as we wait for parts. The weather has been a bit stinky anyway, gusty winds and rain squalls day and night. Sage and I took a steep hike up the hill behind town yesterday (pictured). We sat on the summit massaging our burning calves, buffeted by winds and watching kite surfers make great jumps in the lagoon below. With a little imagination you might see Pandion's mast at the town quay behind my right ear.
In the evening Momo arrived and we dined aboard with them, serenaded by singers in the square a couple hundred yards away.
The rain may end Sunday and if our parts have arrived we'll likely make the 20-mile crossing to Bora Bora. Our visas expire Wednesday so our time is French Polynesia is rapidly winding down. 90 days was definitively insufficient to explore this area but we've gotten a good taste and there is a LOT of Pacific to cover between now and December.
06/15/2012, Motu Murimahora, Huahine
We arrived at Huahine's Motu Murimahora yesterday after a long, exhausting passage from Moorea. We anchored Pandion in about 10 feet of crystal clear turquoise water. After spending nearly two weeks in big cities it's so nice to be anchored in a sleepy, rural place. We anchored on the West side of the motu, got the boat settled and spent the rest of the morning rather zombie-like from a sleepless night. Oscar and Aimee didn't sleep so well either with the boat rolling about all night. The kids sort of slept. Lorca napped; Aimee and Oscar miraculously managed to get the kids fed while I wandered about trying to get my wits back. The passage was not at all difficult but for some reason Lorca and I were trashed and felt like hell after. Likely because we spent the entire day either playing or stowing the boat which, with 7 people aboard (3 of them children), had become quite a disaster. All of our other night passages have been after we'd been on passage all day and not expending a lot of energy. Anyway, we were a wreck by the time we finally arrived and were grateful that we could drop the hook and relax a little and recover. After Lorca woke from his nap he and I went snorkeling and found a beautiful area just North of the boat that was full of live coral and stunning structure. There were LOTS of gorgeous reef fish and the coral heads were bustling with fishy activity. Lorca saw one Crown of Thorns but hadn't brought his knife along to kill it. There are no napoleon wrasses here nor have we seen any triton snails and with the coral clearly making a comeback we feel a sense of duty to the coral and all the life it sustains by killing off coral predators that lack their own predators. When we were in Moorea I was talking to one of the operators of the dive shop (who was filling our tanks for us since our darn compressor up n died) and he said that there were thousands of Crown of Thorns Starfish since the Napoleon Wrasses and Triton snails had been fished out. He told me that he'd take a group diving one morning and coral would be alive but the next morning he'd take another group to the same place and the coral would be mostly dead from the crown of thorns. Overnight they would kills huge section of coral. This is what happens when we take take take without consideration of the consequences. SO SAD! Then the 2010 cyclone came and wiped the rest of the reef out. the upside is that with the reef gone, the Crown of Thorns are also gone and the reef is starting to make a comeback with little patches here and there of live coral teeming with life. Anyway, there's a lot of dead coral here but there seems to be enough live coral to sustain many species of marine critters.
After lunch, we all went to shore (on the island side as the motu side seems to be mostly private residences and we didn't want to disturb folks) for a walk. We walked South along the road of this sleepy and lush village. We happened upon a big group of kids somewhere around Sage's age. Simply put, these were the most charming group of Island kids I had, do date, met. They were completely taken with us. I had first come upon a younger kid who was sitting by himself and I asked him if there was a store nearby. He was incredibly odd, this one. He first scowled at me and then addressed me in the formal (which is polite in french) and told me which way the store was but I didn't understand him so he totally yelled at me, then he cursde me in French using the informal and then he switcehd back to being super polite but really loud. I was mostly amused because most every single Island kid I've met had been incredibly polite. I thanked him anyway and we were on our way back along the road where we met the larger group of kids who were totally fascinated by us. I'm the only one of our group that speaks French but one of the bigger kids called out, "ENGLISH?" And Lorca and Oscar said, "YES!" Then they said to me, "TAHITIENNE?" thinking that I was Tahitian which cracked me up. When I told them that I only speak English and French they seemed confused and kept asking me, "Why don't you speak Tahitian?" I finally said, in French, "Well, I do...I know, "URU, IAORANA, and MARURU" which translates as, "Breadfruit, Hello and thank you." They thought that was totally hilarious. Lorca and Oscar walked up at this point and three of the boys saw the scar across Lorca's chest and his heart beating proudly through his skin. The were so BOLD and instantly started poking at Lorca's heart with fair vigor. He's my love and my life and I immediately went into protective mode and tried to block their hands from my husband but Lorca said, "No, it's OK." so I simply told them to be gentle. I explained that he had had cancer as a child and that two ribs had to be removed and that what they were looking at was his heart. They were BLOWN AWAY. We chatted with them and exchanged names and pleasantries. I learned some of the meanings of their Tahitian names: Clear water, spring water, tropic bird, king's crown, and warrior. They were so delightful! I asked them if anyone sells fruit nearby or if there was a store nearby and they said, in effect, "no." But they did know where to get some, "glace." I never know what "glace" means here...sometimes it means "ice," other times it means, "ice cream," and sometimes is means "frozen sweet thing." It had been a very hot stroll down a paved road so any of those options sounded good so I asked them, "Well, where do I get it?" They were very excited to show me so they walked us down a block or so and up a long drive way to a louvered window that, between the slats, revealed two old women sitting and chatting. They smiled warmly as I walked up and I said that I'd like some "glace." ALL of the children had come to show us the way and I had counted 17 glaces that we needed. Before I offered one to each kid, I asked the woman how many she had and she said, somewhat indignantly, "A LOT!" So I asked the kids if they wanted one and in a raucous chorus they all screamed, "OUI!!!!" They were SO EXCITED! So I counted them and asked the woman for 17 and her eyes got very big and suddenly my strange question made sense. I paid 50 cents for a dixie cup of frozen red sweet stuff. It was SO SWEET! The flavor was...wel...red flavor. Nothing distinct but very red tasting. It was awesome. It was cold and it was local and I'd never have figured out how to get it or what it was (I had seen several kids walking about with them) unless we had stopped to chat with the local kids. They were so grateful and appreciative that we got them for them! We walked back down the driveway slurping our red-flavored frozen things and the kids bantered and chatted with me and amongst themselves. I could have spent the afternoon with them learning more about them and their lives and their village but we needed to get back. The little boy who had cursed me earlier had joined us at one point and, of course every time he would talk it was very loud. And I said to a friend of his, "Does he always yell like this?" The friend rolled his eyes and said, "Oh, yes, ALL THE TIME!" To which the little boy yelled, "IT IS NECESSARY TO SPEAK IN A LOWER VOICE!!!" My next thoughts were, "Tourette's?" But the kids didn't tease him or cast him out. He was totally accepted by all the other kids despite his obvious social challenges. Very cool.
We walked back to the boat and swam a little, read a little and did more relaxing and then Oscar made a KILLER curry lentil soup. I ate until my belly felt like it would burst. We all went to bed VERY early and slept hard until we had to do the rain dance when it started raining. The rain dance consists of jumping out of bed to rapidly close all the hatches in the boat so the rain doesn't soak everything. We have to sleep with hatches open because it's pretty darn hot here.
Today we dinghied out to the point of the motu and walked along the ocean side of the reef and did some exploring and tide-pooling. Pretty fabulous with lots of gobies, two species of anemone, lots of little fishes, chinese-donut slug-type things, a gorgeous pink sea slug that Lorca saved from the shallows, lots of urchins, hermit crabs, sea snails etc etc. It was a really nice walk. We had brought all of our snorkeling gear a long so that we could do a drift snorkel back to the boat. The water is really clear and the snorkel was fantastic. There was tons of dead coral but lots of new coral growing on the dead stuff as well - heartening. Sage and I found an octopus den with its resident INSIDE!!! We had seen to halves of a shell laying on either side of a hole in the sand and we both dove down at the same time, when we got there the sand flashed a different color and moved! Holy mackerel! We looked at each other with big eyes, surfaced, discussed it and dove back down to see more. Way cool.
Sage has been collecting nacreous and calcareous shells that she can carve with a dremel tool so she spends lots of time diving and her bottom time at 20 feet is close to 30 seconds. Not too bad.
The rest of the afternoon was the same but today is Friday and that means family movie night! I made fresh flour tortillas (best tortillas EVER!) and we had burritos and homemade chocolate chip cookies. I put too much butter in (hard to measure two sticks of butter when the butter comes tinned) and they came out super flat, super chewy and way delicious. We watched, "Despicable Me" and now everyone is in the midst of getting ready for bed. It's pretty hectic having 7 people aboard even on a 68 foot boat! I can't imagine how the family aboard s/v Nadejda stays organized! Nadejda is a really cool (one of the coolest boats I've ever seen) 46 foot steel sailboat that has a family of 9 aboard. Despite the hectic fun, bedtime always seems to go smoothly since we're all so wiped out by day's end. Fun overdose is a good way to end the day.
Tomorrow we head to Fare for provisions, water, white sand beaches, maybe some boogie-boarding, maybe some diving, some good hiking, swimming, snorkeling, etc. More amazing fun with our good friends before they leave in just FOUR days. I can't believe it's almost over!! BOO! :(
Sorry not to BLOG so much... we're just so tired at the end of our super busy days. We'll likely have internet soon and I'll post some pics then.
06/14/2012, Motu Murimahora, Huahine
After an exhausting sail to Motu Murimahora, Huahine, we're safely anchored in 10 feet of crystal clear turquoise water. Neither Lorca nor I slept last night due to the roll that the South Pacific seems to be intent on delivering us every sail so we'll have a mellow day. Can't wait to snorkel though!!