07/19/2011, Still at Huahine
I've posted a new photo album of some of what we have seen on Tahiti, Moorea and Huahine. Click on the photo to enlarge them for better viewing. Enjoy.
07/18/2011, Avea Bay, Huahine Island, French Polynesia
How to get lost in one easy lesson. It's easy. Just don't know where you are going.
We took off on a hike yesterday morning down to the South point of the island to see the Marae Anini, one of the local holy sights of the island dating back to before the French showed up in the 1700. It's made up of lots of coral slabs that have been hauled off the shoreline and stood up on end. I can't imagine how much work it took to get all those slabs in place. We were greeted by a local guide that had a group of four with him.
After exploring the beach there, we took off for a hike up one of the local mountains, or at least what they refer to as mountains. We heard and read about a path that takes you up the hill for views of Avea Bay as well as the village of Parea on the eastern side of the island. Supposedly, the path wound around and would take you down to the village at the end of the hike. From what we had read, no one has found the rest of the path that takes you to the village but we were game for a try. Up we went along the well traveled path higher and higher reaching several "summits" of different hills as we went. While the views were great, just about every one was blocked by the growth of Australian Pine Trees. Tall spindly trees with long thin needles that hang down from the branches. Lovely really.
Up and up we went till we finally got to the summit. Once past the summit, we traveled a much less warn path. It eventually petered out to just a small path that was barely there. We had a choice to make--continue on and try and find a decent path to the town or turn back. We pressed on!!! Through fern covered areas as well as long vine covered areas that grabbed at your feet and shoes. Oh, by the way, I was wearing a set of Crocs(not designed for hiking) while Tracy had on a pair of shoes with just about no tread left on them. We really were not set up for hiking in the hills. Down we went with no real path or trail to follow. We tried to head down toward the village as we were lead to believe we should find a path but what ever we followed just took us to the edge of a rock cliff. Sorry, wrong way!! So we headed farther north and slowly made our way along the top of the ridge veering toward the west away from the village but back toward where we had started at Avea Bay. The woods got denser with far more decayed trees and vines. On we pressed watching our steps. I'd picked up a "walking stick" that someone had left along the earlier pathways to help me out feeling through the deep carpet of ferns, vines and grasses. Tracy took a wrong step and took a quick landing on her fanny. We slowly made our way down the side of the hill coming out north of where we had started at Avea Bay several hours before. As we looked back up the "mountain", walking along the crest line had helped us get past the steep cliffs that also made up the west sides of the "mountain". We'd come out on the one place where you could come down. OK, we got lucky but we also got down hardly the worse for wear other than shins that had been whipped by the ferns and vines-- oh, and my feet were really dirty.
We retraced our steps down the road we had taken earlier toward one of the "Snacks"(small restaurant) for a well deserved lunch. As we approached, the place was empty. Not a car nor a person. I wandered in(no doors on these places) and finally found a group in the back room. One of the women came forward to take our order. I had chicken and fries($1,000 francs $12.50US) while Tracy had chicken with roquefort cheese and fries($1,300 francs $16.25US). Two bottles of Coke at 225 francs-$2.81 each. Add on two ice cream cones--the first we have found for I don't know how long at 150 francs ($1.87 each) and with another bottle of coke to go, we ended up at over $44.00 for lunch. As we had lunch, a pair of locals came in for a french bread sandwich to go. That's how the locals normally eat. We didn't see any mention of sandwiches on their menu. The food was great and the portions were huge--two breasts on each plate with more fries than either of us could eat along with slices of french bread to have with the meal. We felt we got a great meal for a "reasonable" price. If you eat at a "restaurant", you can expect to pay at least double what we did as they cater more to the tourists than the "snacks" do. When we eat at one, we are normally the only non locals at the tables.
We headed back to Puff for the trip back to Zephyr. We'd tied here up--actually locked her up to a dock at one of the small hotels along the beach. Actually the only hotel along the beach. I checked the prices of a room(little grass shacks along the beach) on the internet and they run over $400US a night--meals not included. YEOW!!!!!! Of course you do get free satellite TV in your room!!
Once back at Zephyr, I started up the generator to recharge the batteries and turned on the water heater so we could have a "hot" shower--a real treat. Since we had eaten such a huge meal at lunch, dinner was just snack food. Neither of us was that hungry.
Last night, the winds continued to howl through the bay hitting close to 50 knots in one burst. Rains fell off and on just to make it interesting. We had pulled Puff(our dingy) onto the deck for storage rather than dangling her from a hoist along Zephyrs starboard side. With the winds we had already experienced during our stay here, we felt it smarter to have her strapped down on deck that flying along side. Our decision proved correct. Puff was safe and secure this morning. We've seen some people leave their dingies in the water over night and find them upside down or missing the next day, neither of which do we want to experience.
Today, we hope to dingy around the south end of the island and do some snorkeling on the coral reefs that are there. Right now, it's blowing and raining so we will wait for a while and see what comes later this morning.
Stay tuned. More to come.
07/15/2011, Avea Bay, Huahine, French Polynesia
We upped the anchor yesterday at 1500 and took off for Huahine, about 90 miles northwest of Moorea for an easy overnight sail. The weather forecast was for 15 knot winds out of the East and swells to be to be out of the Southeast. It would have made for a nice downwind sail. Instead, both the wind and swells shifted around to the Northeast and we ended up of a broad reach for sailing and a rollie night as the waves hit us off the starboard stern quarter. We rolled back and forth all night long. Both Blue and Snowshoe were not impressed with Blue drooling like she had a Foo Man Choo mustache.
It was a relatively cloudless night with a full moon shining down so bright that we could easily see everything around us so there were no surprises. I took the 1900 to 2300 watch with Tracy coming up to relieve me at 2300 for her 4 hour stint at watch. The winds were shifty through the night so a constant vigil was needed to keep us on course even with James, our Hydrovane doing all the real work on our stern. He proves himself over and over as an important crew member. We sighted Huahine in the early morning about 0300 in the distance. As day break came, she was right off our bow and we pulled into Passe Avamoa on the West side about 0900 after 18 hours underway.
We dropped anchor twice in the bay off the village of Fare but the anchor refused to bite into the sandy bottom. I guess it was just a coating of sand on a coral bottom. Instead, we continued our journey South along the interior of the large coral reef another 10 miles to the large bay of Avea along the South shore of the island. We dropped the anchor again in 35 feet of water and she bit right into the sandy bottom and has held fast.
We'll be here for a couple of days before we set off for Ile Raiatea about 34 miles west of here. Huahine is a VERY laid back island where big business has been discouraged and time moves slowly. There is no bus system on the island. So either hang out and thumb and hitch a ride or put on good walking shoes. There are a few place near here we expect to explore over the next couple of days and will take Puff(our dingy) around the South end of the island to explore over there as the coral reef makes it impossible to get Zephyr in there.
It's been a great sunny day with the temp in the low 80s and the water coming in at 80 degrees. Amazingly, it feels quite cool when you first jump in. It still beats the 60 degrees or lower along the Pacific Northwest coast.
Stay tuned, I'll post more as we move along. Sorry about no pictures but the internet provider provides a nice strong signal but there is no connectivity once you find his signal. It was the same way at Moorea except that we could connect every now and then. For what we paid for the service, we are not getting our monies worth. So I'll continue to post using our SSB radio till I get good internet.
07/12/2011, Oponohu Bay, Moorea
It's been quite a while since I posted a blog so I hope this will get you caught up on what has been happening since the past post. Wednesday of last week, the Yacht Club manager came by our boat to see when we would be checking out as he had other boats that were coming in and since we had told them we would only be a week on the buoy, he wanted to know when it would be free. With that nice kick in the butt, we decided to forgo some of the jobs we had planned (nothing important) and get out of town and head back to Moorea. So we checked out the next day and headed out for the island. We'd thought to delay by one more day as the weather forecast wasn't the best and for once it proved right. We ran into 35 knot winds out of the east--we were going west so that was fine and a bout of showers, one after another all day long. It would pour and then stop and then start all over again for most of the trip. In the end, it was about 25 miles to get over here and when we arrived, we looked at the cove where we had anchored during the Puddle Jump Rally and decided it wasn't the place for us as it was still blowing at 35 knots and while our Duogen would have loved it, it was a bit to much for us. So we just kept on going up into the bay and finally dropped anchor near the head of the bay in pretty much calm water. We had four other boats already here so we made it to five. Four more boats came in after us and decided to join us at our anchorage since it was still blowing at the outside of the bay. By the end of the day, we were up to nine boats. It's a really big bay so there was no problem.
On Friday, we decided to go and visit the Stingray City. This is a small section off the main bay up a channel that has a large number of "tame" sting rays in a small area of water. It's a huge attraction on the island with numerous tour boats taking lots of tourists to see, feed and pet the sting rays. When we arrived, there were two tourist boats there as well as two other dingies. We all joined in with the tourists and were swamped by the rays. When I jumped into the water, one immediately came up to me and literally swam up the front of my shirt looking for food. They were all around us. Well over a dozen. Far more tourists than rays but who is counting. Every one was having a great time with them. As we fed them, a group of three black tipped sharks joined in the group to see what they could get-- food wise. After a good hour and a half, we finally piled back into Puff(our dingy) and headed back to Zephyr. It was an amazing experience literally swimming with the rays and sharks and being perfectly safe.
Saturday, we headed over to Cooks Bay, about two miles east of here through a narrow marked channel inside the coral reef that surrounds Moorea. The charts say its a safe trip with a nice deep channel but we hit coral with our outboard twice as we rounded the top of the island. No damage but quite unnerving when it happened. We ran into some folks that had made the crossing that we had originally met in Mexico and they clued us into the place to go for a cheap lunch as well as places to tie up our dingy where she would be safe. The Bali Hai Restaurant and Resort was even having a tattoo fair with lots of tattoo artists showing and doing their work. Just about every stall, and there were lots of them had some one getting another tattoo. We both passed. We toured Cooks Bay(didn't take long) and headed back to Zephyr with a few goods from the local store. We took it quite slowly on our return trip and missed hitting any coral. When we arrived up into the bay where we were anchored, we were greeted by two, yes, two Liberty boats. They only made 35 of them so counting us(though not legally a Liberty) it was great to see some of our children since our boat was the first We motored over to Hakulea to introduce ourselves. Jake and Jackie have had her for 6 years and have been living on board one boat or another for most of the last 15 years. They had been clued in by Evergreen(anther Liberty)that we were some where out in the islands. As we chatted, we were joined by Bill off Solstice, the other Liberty. These two boats have been traveling together for a long time as the owners have been close friends for years. Jake and Jackie decided we should have a Liberty Party on Sunday evening. Drinks would be served at 1630. We've seen several Liberties during our travels but have never been in an anchorage with two at once.
We spend Sunday cleaning Zephyr as just about every business on the island is closed. We started at the bow and slowly worked our way to the stern. We scrubbed and polished and stowed and picked up and cleaned both inside as well as outside. The party on Sunday evening was great. It was wonderful seeing the differences and changes that had taken place over the years as the boats went into production. There were some things we liked and some we didn't . We all decided that we should have the party on Monday evening so everyone could see how the Liberty boats started. What was added and what was left out after our prototype was made. We spent most of Monday continuing the cleaning(Zephyr has to make a good appearance) with more polishing and scrubbing. By the afternoon she looked great. At 1630, Jake, Jackie and Bill all came over for the party as well as the tour. Within 40 minutes it started raining. First just some sprinkles but still annoying. We gathered up our things and drinks and headed below. Then it really started pouring. No one was going anywhere. We traded stories about our boats and ourselves and had a great time. By 1930, it was still raining so Tracy decided to make Chicken Curry with rice for the entire group. It was a great meal with a nice big bottle of wine to go with it. More stories were told and the evening came out great. About 2130, it finally let up enough that they could get off Zephyr without getting soaked. It did start to sprinkle as they boarded their dingy. It rained though most of the rest of the night. All in all, it was a great evening.
Both Solstice and Hakulea had decided to head for Cooks Bay this morning(Tuesday) to see it. We made arrangements to see Bill's boat Solstice before they took off. Again, lots of subtle changes as the boat were made. Again, some we liked and some we didn't. Once we finished the tour, we took off for shore and headed for the bus stop so we could take a nice bus tour of the island. We were passed by a bus heading east but saw it to late to get it to stop. The next bus we saw as headed west so we jumped on board. We got off at La Petite Village(a small town along the coast) and toured the town and had a nice lunch. We waited for the next to continue our trip but the next bus that was headed west zoomed right past us with the driver waving at us as he passed. He didn't want to stop so he didn't. Not knowing the schedule, we finally decided to hike back to Zephyr about 1430 figuring we could grab a bus as it passed us. Every bus that passed us, and there were few of them, just kept right on going with a wave to us. Not a one would stop. We finally got back to Puff(our dingy) about 1730 as the Sun was setting. It was a long hike to get back here. I'm sure we will pay for it tomorrow(heck we are already hurting now). Tomorrow, we plan in heading out to the other anchorage as the winds have let up some and make another trip down to see the sting rays again. When I get internet, I'll post some of the photos we took of our trip.
07/05/2011, Papeete, Tahiti
We've finally seen the real island of Tahiti and what a sight it is. We signed up for a 4 X 4 off road trip up into the mountains for last Saturday and had a great time. Two guides picked us up about 0945 at the Yacht Club and we headed out on a converted four wheel drive pick up truck with a big bed on the back with bench seating for about 8 people. We were the only two for this trip!! We had it all to our selves. We stopped at the Radison Hotel to see if there was anyone else interested but we ended up being the only two for the trip. As we sat in the back of the truck, we talked about Tahiti and all the changes it has gone through in these guys life times. As recent as ten years ago, the Tahitian language was forbidden in schools. It has gone through a reawakening since then and is now allowed and is even encouraged. Many of the old traditions that had been thought lost are now coming back(cannabalism not included). One of our guides has four part time jobs to make ends meet as it is so expensive.
We rounded the north top of the island and headed inland up into the mountains. They have installed a traffic light at the beginning of the road to let people know if they are allowed to go up it. Apparently, there has been a big problem with locals going up into the mountains and playing loud music and getting drunk. The police are trying to discourage it any way they can. While the light was red when we got there, as a tour we headed up anyway. Now the road we were traveling on was just built about 1997 so that the French government could build three hydro electric plants along the river that flows out of the valley. The two men we had as our guides could not have been nicer. Being just the two of us, we stopped along the road to take lots of pictures. We saw an incredible waterfall ahead of us across the valley towering far into the mountain side. The guides wanted to know if we wanted to hike up to it. DUH!!! You betcha! We turned off the road a short time later and headed for the river. We locked everything in the truck(theft is a problem with the economy being so bad) and the guides cut down(they carry a machete) some small trees to make walking sticks for all four of us and we headed out. One of the guides looked at Tracys feet and decided her shoes(flip flops) were not good for the hike so he took off his shoes and gave them to her to use. The other guide wasn't even wearing shoes. These guys have tough feet!!! Over the rocks and through the water we went. Up the stream from the waterfall and up the hill. I think the guys were amazed that we did so well climbing the hills and streams. About 30 minutes later we arrived at the base of the falls. WOW!!! What a rush. The water was falling so fast that it created a huge rush of wind from the base of the falls. Water and spray were everywhere as well as the crashing sounds of the water hitting the pool and rocks at the bottom. It was amazing. One of the guides as well as Tracy went all the way up to the pool. I took pictures with our water proof camera. After a while discussing these falls--known as Princess Falls, we headed back. One of the guides comes here off and on just to relax and get in touch with nature and the Gods of the valley. Once back at the truck, we headed farther up into the hills. There was a tarp over the top of the sitting area in the back and they offered to remove it so we could see better. Off it came and we stood on the seats hanging on for dear life as we headed up the road. While it is a concrete road, there were lots of pot holes along the way. It was an amazing trip seeing what the valley was really about as trees whipped past our heads as we made our way South into the heart of the volcanic valley that formed Tahiti millions of years ago. We saw all three of the hydro electric plants along the way. Before they were built, they used diesel powered generators for electricity.
We stopped for lunch at the Maroto Hotel. We'd packed a lunch of cheese, Summer Sausage and French bread along with some cokes. We lounged around for a while and toured the small grounds of the hotel. This place was built back in the mid 90's for the construction crews that built the hydro electric plants. It would have been a long trip back and forth to their homes each day with out it. Even though it is only about 15 years old, it looks like it was built 40 years ago and the elements--water and wind--in the valley had done a job on it. Rust is every where along with moss clinging to everything. It is truly an out of the way place. It does have satellite TV, but it is a place to really rest and relax as you are out in the middle of no where up there.
We took off again heading farther up into the mountains and their sheer rock sides to a tunnel near the top. It was literally bored through the mountain side. At about 100 yards long, it was amazing to drive through with lots of water seeping through to top of the tunnel. As we came out the other side, it was like we had entered another world and moved to a different island. While the North section of the island was all sunny and covered with lots of vegetation, the South side was enshrouded in clouds with the look of rain. Even more moss and waterfalls with a huge fresh water lake(the only one on the island) near the bottom. While the signs along the road told us we were approaching a 15% to 20% incline on the road, let me tell you, their protractors are WAY OFF!!! We hit grades approaching 40 percent in many places. It was everything the poor truck could do to get down as well as back up the road. There were numerous culverts in the road for the water that falls along the roadside to get past the road with out washing it out. We declined slowly into the valley. We parked at the bottom near the lake and the two of us hiked along a small road(term used loosely) to the lake. As the water from the hills came across the "road" it made large patches of mud and muck to walk through. It got so deep at some times that it sucked the shoes right off Tracys feet. The back of her pants had a nice covering of mud as she walked along. Since she was wearing a swim suit, she pealed off her pants and stuck them under the falling water to get them clean. It was an amazing valley truly in the heart of Tahiti.
We were now close to the South edge of the island and figured we would just continue to the main road. Oh no, that's not the way it works in the island. One land owner in the valley owns the right to the land that the road covers and he doesn't allow anyone to use the road to get out of the valley. Try that in the US and see what happens. So we reversed course and headed back up the mountain side towards the tunnel the same way we had entered. It was just as amazing on the way out as it was on the way in.
When we left the hotel after lunch, one of the guides stayed behind and we were joined by one of the local girls for the trip in. When we returned to the hotel, our second guide wasn't back yet(he's headed up into the hills I guess) so we took off again(with a new girl) and headed back for town. I guess the second guide will find his own way back to town. As back in the mountains as this is, there was really no shortage of trucks going in and out of the mountains. We finally got back to Yacht Club about 1830 after a marvelous day in the mountains. We have now seen the real Tahiti and not just the big city of Papeete. What a difference a few miles makes.
One thing I forgot, as we made our way along the road, stopping from time to time, we came across wild raspberry plants. The berries are not as hairy as what we have back home, but one of the last things we thought we would see was a raspberry bush in Polynesia.
It's time to get caught up on what has been happening on board and ashore while we have been here in Papeete as well as Moorea.
Well, it took a week but we finally tracked down some people that could fix our poor alternator. It's the one that charges the batteries for all the house electrical needs--lights, refrigerator, fans, etc. It took a lot of walking and asking questions and help from the kind locals to get just the help we needed. In the end, it took two companies to get the job done. One rewound all the stator wires in the alternator(don't ask me what it does) and the second to put it all together again and test it to make sure what the first company did worked and fixed the problem.
Now here is the real problem here in Tahiti. No one uses address nor in many instances puts signs out in front of their business. Their business cards only list a phone number but not where they are. Street names change every now and then as you walk down them. If you call and ask for directions, they tell you to go to a particular round about(big intersection) and turn right, go past a certain store and on the right is a branch of a bank, turn left at the next corner and go 100 meters and you will be at the store. They can't seen to grasp the concept of "We're located at 1700 Remparts Ave." Most times, with no sign out front(there may be a sign inside the store) you have to look in windows and doors to see what some places do. The people that rewound the stator wire couldn't give me an address as to where to go to get the alternator put back together so they took me in their car(not going to happen in the US). Sure enough, no sign out front, just a bunch of tour busses. In this country, you have to know where to go to get things fixed.
So anyway, the alternator is fixed and stowed away under the port settee cushion. As a good cruiser, I keep a spare on board at all times and with the old one out, I installed the new one so we could at least start the engine if need be. Since there was a party and rally set for June 24th through the 26 both here in Papeete as well as over in Moorea, we needed to make sure our engine would start so we could get over there. There was a big party at the Mayor's office in Papeete on the 24th for all the "Puddle Jumpers" that made it across from the mainland. Drinks, talks, stories as well as dances put on by "natives" put on a heck of a show. There were well over 100 of us that showed up for the festivities.
On Saturday, a "Rally" was held for all of us that wanted to go over to Moorea for more partying and games as well as to experience lots of the native culture(food and dancing). Now it wasn't a "race" but they sure ran it like one. Tracy and I have never been in an organized race in all the years that we have been sailing. It's just not our thing. Here we were in a crowd of 39 boats all floating around near the mouth of Papeetes harbor waiting for the horn to blow before we could take off. It was a mad house since they changed the start times without telling most of the cruisers. We got there an hour before the race was to start so we just sat. There was just about no wind so everyone was motoring around in circles just trying to stay away from the other boats. Once the "Rally"(race) started, we all took off---in the wrong direction. The wind was right from Moorea so none of us could head for the island and with it only being about 3 to 5 knots, we were going the wrong direction slowly. After about 90 minutes we, as well as the majority of the rest of the boats. gave up and started our motors again and just headed to the island. Nine boats held out and actually sailed all the way. It took them the rest of the day to get there.
The party was great with lots of dancing by the "natives" as well as a big spread of food that is typical of the islands. God help them if this is what they have to live on. Most we couldn't identify. There was a pumpkin dish that was more of a gelatinous goo that you had to cut with a knife and was tough to get down. Hard to describe everything that was served. Games--canoes races, stone lifting, banana carry races were held through the afternoon with everyone retiring to their boats for a late dinner.
On Monday, we headed back to the Yacht Club since we had made arrangements to get our new "start" batteries on Tuesday morning. As will always be the case, the wind was right at us so we had to motor all the way back to Papeete--21 miles, in 25 to 30 knot winds with water coming over the bow. That was tough but we couldn't put up the mainsail as while we were on the way to Moorea, I found that the bottom two grommets that hold the sail to the mast had begun to tear out of the sail. I was going to have to take them all the way out and stitch in two new ones. I'd learned how to do it while we were in Port Townsend three years ago. Now I was going to get to put into practice what I had been taught. That is one of tomorrows projects.
For this last week, we have been doing other projects as well as going into town to get more parts and supplies. On Tuesday, I walked into town to buy the much needed "start" batteries. I'd found the store with the help of our agent here in Papeete(got us checked in with Customs). Again, no address was given. She drew an X on the map as to where they were(sort of). I'd visited the store the previous Thursday to see what they had. The salesman that helped me even promised that he would deliver them to the yacht club since he saw that I was walking. He even gave me 15% off the cost of the batteries!!!! I was at the store promptly on Tuesday morning and bought the batteries. He loaded them into his truck and delivered them and myself back to the club. Good luck getting that kind of service in the United States!! I got the batteries changed out that afternoon. Unlike the US, there is no "core charge" for the batteries. You take the old ones ashore and some one comes by once a week or so and picks them up and takes them to the recycle station.
I strapped on our scuba tanks on Wednsday and headed down to the propellor to replace all the zincs on the prop as well as the rudder. They had been replaced while we were in Puerto Vallarta and needed to be replace again. They are good for about four months. These little jewels(cost a bunch) help keep the sea water from attacking the stainless steel parts of the boat that are under water. It's lots cheaper to replace a zinc than a big hunk of stainless steel. While diving, we found that both of our inflatable vests that hold the air tanks had developed leaks so now we get to fix them. It just goes on and on fixing things out here but that's just the way of the cruising lifestyle. As soon as you fix one thing, another will break. You just hope that what breaks is small.
Our plan is to take an off road 4 X 4 tour today up into the mountains to see the back lands of Tahiti and swim in one of the mountain lakes. It's an all day trip so it will be fun to see some of Tahiti other than the down town sections of Papeete.
With luck, we hope to be out of here and on our way back to Moorea(to really see the island) on Monday. We still have a few repairs to do plus topping off our fuel tanks(for what we used on the trip to Moorea) as well as filling the water tanks again. Add in a trip to the local grocery store for the last minute supplies of food and we will be ready to get out of here again. Westward again to see more of the Society Islands. We've already checked out with Customs so we just have to let our agent know where we are from time to time till we "officially" leave their islands by August 8th(when our visa expires).