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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Moorea Tour
07/12/2008, Moorea

We're still in Opanohu Bay and loving it. Moorea is a high island and we've had a fair bit of rain, especially high up in the mountains. The bays are murky as a consequence. Out in the lagoon behind the reef the water is shockingly clear and there's a mild current almost all of the time.
This morning we decided to explore the island. We took the dinghy ashore and beached it near the public park. The tide here is a foot max so we just pulled it up a little bit and tied it to a tree. It was a short walk up the road to the Sheraton. We ate breakfast (which was ok) and then visited the concierge. The woman running the desk was wonderful and lined us up with a 4x4 tour of the island for the afternoon and also booked our friends an Air Tahiti hop from Moorea back to Faa on Tahiti ($40 each) for their flight home tomorrow.

We spent the rest of the morning looking around the resort which is quite nice. They have a water sports shack and dive shop, a great pool, a lovely section of lagoon with wonderful beaches and coral as well as the obligatory over water bungalows.

Our tour was in the standard French Polynesian truck with seats in the back. Our guide Teiva was fantastic. We visited some of the Moorea Maraes, the distillery (tastings of pineapple rum and that sort of thing), the agriculture zone with fruits and flowers, the Belvedere (vista) with wonderful views of both bays, and several other interesting spots. We particularly liked Teiva's great liner notes and in depth knowledge of the places and culture associated with the island.

Back at the boat we finished the day with some home made chili in honor of Pablo's last day aboard. Pablo used to have me make chili for him back home on his birthday but I wasn't sure how I was going to fair ingredient-wise out here. I bought come peppers from a Chinese outfit at the market in Papeete hoping they would give me the kick I needed. The bag came with maybe 20 peppers. I chopped up one for test purposes and nibbled on a small piece. The 5 alarm fire that went off in my mouth reminded me of habaneras. I used two little peppers in the chili and all five of us were sweating.

French Polynesia
Rain on Moorea
07/11/2008, Moorea

The winter fronts usually pass just south of Tahiti but today the tail end of one seemed to affect the islands. At about 3AM it started raining and it kept coming down at a pretty solid pace until mid morning.

Not a problem for us though. We relaxed watched a movie, ate yummy pancakes ala Hideko and cleaned up the boat a bit. The sun was battling with the clouds by mid afternoon but it was hard to tell who was going to win.

We explored a little with the dink when the skies cleared a bit around 3PM. From the anchorage you can get to the dock at the Sheraton Resort situated between the two main bays. The Sheraton is a nice place to visit for drinks or a meal. There are stakes that you need to stay very close to, keeping them on the island side as you go back and forth. Stay well away from the bungalows and keep a good eye out for swimmers. There is also a channel behind the reef, also marked, that you can use to go between Cook and Opanohu bays. This one is a bit deeper but still sketchy for a big boat. There is a dinghy channel from the Sheraton out to the inter-bay channel but it is not marked and unless you can clearly see the sand patch cleared of coral I would not try it. The current can set you on the rocks pretty quickly.

We wrapped up the day with some snorkeling in the crystal clear water and a lively game of Mexican train dominos. Perfect.

French Polynesia
Opuhohu Bay
07/10/2008, Moorea

After some final preparations and running through our 50 item checklist we were set to head out at about 7AM. Our friends on O'Vive helped us get off the dock and we motored out of the docks with one prop for the last time (he said with fingers crossed).

We checked in with the harbor master on the way out of the harbor on channel 12 and he cleared us to exit the pass. On the way in it was a little slippery with maybe 3 knots of current but we were close to slack on the way out. There really wasn't any wind out so we didn't even bother to put the main up though we had the bag unzipped optimistically.

Ferries seem to run non stop from Vaiare on the east coast of Moorea to Papeete. The big catamarans leave quite a wake. We motored close in around point Aroa to enjoy the beautiful coastline of Moorea. The reef around Moorea, like Tahiti, creates a narrow strip of lagoon around the entire island. Some dolphins came to visit as we made our way along.

We passed beautiful Cook bay on out way to Tareu pass. The pass was easy to enter and after clearing the well marked reef we made our way back to the east to anchor behind Point Vaipahu. This is said to be one of the most beautiful anchorages in French Polynesia, and that is saying something! It is certainly striking and the water is transparent.

Once anchored up everyone jumped into the inviting water for a snorkel. Nobu and I checked the anchor and explored the barrier reef a bit. Hideko made a wonderful lunch. Pabs and Lou got their snorkeling chops back in line.

After lunch Nobu, Hideko and I installed the replacement prop on the port side drive leg. Hideko put blue loctite on the bolts topside and Nobu ferried them down to me where we both worked on things with SCUBA. The loctite will stay on for the trip if you protect the bolts from the current on the way down. I could tell it was working as I tightened the bolts up and saw a small bit of blue goop squeezing from around the bolt head.

We made sure that the shaft seal was still good by checking the sail drive oil and then gave it a try. Everything was working perfectly. She backed and moved forward just like in the old days. We will be carefully checking things underwater after motoring for the next several weeks of course. We don't plan to haul out for another year.

We got some good use out of Shooting Star in the afternoon taking everyone on a tour of Opunohu Bay. It is a beautiful bay surrounded by spectacular mountains coated in greenery. I gave it a shot a couple of times but we couldn't get up on a plane motoring into the wind with the five of us aboard. That said, Shooting Star made good way in displacement mode.

We wrapped up the day with the Swingin' on a Star version of Steak Frites. Hideko had picked up some great steaks at the market before we left and I grilled them on the BBQ while Hideko made the fries in the galley. We served it all up with a tasty Béarnaise sauce and some wonderfully fresh green beans. We enjoyed the end of a wonderful day with glasses of Beaujolais and heated game of Mexican Train Dominoes.

French Polynesia
Preping the boat
07/09/2008, Tahiti

We had planned to head off to Moorea today. The boat was a long way from being ready for sea however. The city dock is not a place to try to keep you boat clean. We ended up taking the entire day to prep the boat.

Pablo, Nobu and I re-stitched the trampoline shock cord, which made the feel of the tramps much more enjoyable. We washed down the decks stowed everything below and finished up some business on the Internet.

The port captain requests you check with them prior to heading to Moorea, and we had to pay our bill anyway. By noon the wind was up and that pretty much settled it. We would stay one more night and leave at first light. I considered putting our port prop on here but the water quality is just too nasty. With a new monohull to starboard (and a nice Moody 64 at that) and our friends on O'Vive to port, I was not comfortable trying to make an exit with one prop and 15 knots of breeze pushing the bow around.

Hideko and I decided to hit the Heiva again while everyone else relaxed. The second night was troop performances and choral music. The troop performances include drums and sometimes other instruments with Polynesian dance in a story telling format with various groups of men and women and mixed dancers. There were solo dancers and singers and often choral bits. Hideko enjoyed these performance the most out of everything we saw over the two nights.

The choral singing performances were interesting as well but a bit repetitive and long. I would love to listen to the music while working or doing something else but it is a little slow for me as a point of focus at the end of the day. Curiously the performers are all seated with the exception of the director. The women also place their chins in their left hands forefingers on their cheeks. I'm sure there is some cultural significance to all of this but I will have to do some more research before I know what it is.

French Polynesia
Heiva Tahiti
07/08/2008, Tahiti

We used our last day with the car to visit the big Ace Hardware and the Nautisport chandlery. The Ace is well stocked but the chandlery is a little more modest. Not bad, but similar in selection to a Budget Marine or Island Water World. We picked up a spool of shock cord to replace the threadbare lot precariously holding our trampolines in place and some lures among other things. They also directed me to a man named Christophe who handles rigging, sails and canvas. He speaks fluent English and has the battens we need.

We ate lunch at a place called 3 Brassueres (sp?) on the water front. It is a brew pub with some very tasty freshly brewed beer and great cheese burgers.

The Heiva takes place in an open air stadium just south of the Quai, an easy walk. We attended the opening night tonight which consisted of the contestants for best individual dancer, male and female, in Tahiti. They had a Kava ceremony at the start of the show. The costumes and music were fantastic of course and the dancing was equally impressive. I do not understand how the girls get their lower anatomy to move so fast.

There is an Italian restaurant on the way back to the Quai with a wood fire pizza oven where we stopped for dinner after the show. We arrived at 10PM, their closing time, but in typical Polynesian style they welcomed us. It was the end of a perfect evening.

French Polynesia
Hiking the Peaks of Tahiti
07/07/2008, Tahiti

We went to the farmers market this morning. You can find a huge selection of fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and other meats here. We purchased some freshly ground beef, pork, corn on the cob, pamplemouse, oranges, bananas, dill, parsley, spring onions and much more.

The markets here are also fully stocked. I love French countries for many reasons but the food is certainly one of them. We have fresh milk for the first time in a while, lots of yummy cheeses, good steaks, etceteras.

After a lazy morning we finally piled in the car at around noon ready for a repeat of our search for the Belvedere. With the help of various folks on the street and a sign here and there we finally made it. The drive is incredible. You spend quite a bit of time winding along a single lane road going up at a fairly steep angle with sheer drop offs on either side. The vistas are fantastic. We had to back up once for a quarter mile to find a spot to pull over to allow another car to pass. The road was so steep that Nobu and Pablo had to get out and push to get the little Citroen going again. I was in first gear for the entire last half of the drive.

The restaurant is situated high above Papeete and provides breathtaking views of the lower areas of Tahiti and her reefs and lagoons as well as a lovely outlook on Moorea. If you get lucky and visit on a day without clouds on the horizon you would no doubt be able to easily see Huahine and Tetiaroa.

Hideko and I shared a wonderful lunch of cheese and steak fondue. The food is a little expensive as you might expect but if you order the right things it is also very tasty.

After lunch we decided to explore the mountains above the Belvedere. The Belvedere marks the base of the trails that lead to the tops of three progressively higher peaks, the last of which, I believe, is the tallest on Tahiti.

This is not a hike to take lightly! You first make your way up to a French Military training facility with lots of obstacles and physical training structures, a sight in and of itself. This leads you to the trail head and things are all dirt, rock and roots from there on. We passed a three cable bridge over a deep ravine (part of the French training setup) and, bearing right followed the trail up into the hills. Shortly thereafter you confront two hillsides with ropes hanging down to assist you in mounting the rise. This would be even more tricky to navigate if it had rained heavily recently.

We hiked on for about three hours. We weren't even close to the first peak. At point where we decided to turn back to ensure that we would have enough light to get down we were still a ways off of the first of three vistas. It was still well worth the effort. We hiked across ridges with stunning views of both the interior valleys and the waters around Tahiti. As we gained elevation we could see the bands of habitat change from hardwood to pine forest and then on to ferns and moss in the upper elevations where the clouds shroud the hills in moisture most days.

This hike would be my number one recommendation for sights to see on Tahiti. Not only is it great exercise but you will not see more of the natural beauty of the island any other way. This hike has it all, vistas of the lagoons and sea, waterfalls, sheer peaks and pinnacles as well as all of the varieties of plants and trees.

French Polynesia
The Tahiti Museum
07/06/2008, Tahiti

We rented a car today and took a ride around the island. After leaving the boat we walked into town and a kind gentleman helped us locate the Le Truck to take us to the airport. The Le Truck is a, well, truck. They have converted the back of the truck into a covered but open seating area and you pay about 150 francs by day and 200 by night to go just about anywhere. They are locals, not express, in function and stop a lot but are fun to ride and allow you to make friends with the Polynesians you may find yourself sitting next to.

At the airport we rented a little Citroen with room for five from Avis. With full insurance and fuel it was about $150 per day. Not cheap. I used my US license and did not need to produce an international driver's license as I have heard some agencies require.

We set out to circumnavigate. Our first stop was the Tahiti and her islands museum. It is a great museum and really gives you a nice overview of the Polynesian history and culture. It is all in French with a little bit of English translation on most exhibits but still a must see. A lot of surfers ride the break off of the beach at the museum and there is a nice park there.

As we drove around the island we realized just the view from the car is an attraction. The road around Tahiti is very scenic especially if you turn off often to enjoy the coastline or take a random road up into the hills to enjoy a vista. The grottoes and waterfalls right along the coast on the south side and the Marea (ancient sacred Polynesian site) up the hill near the main road are all fun to see.

We drove by Port Phaeton nestled deep in the natural bay formed between Tahiti Iti and Tahiti Nui. It is the most protected harbor in Tahiti (perhaps Polynesia). The road is no more than a foot above water in some places.

We came around the north side of the island as the sun was setting. There is some construction going on in this area and the roads require more care to navigate safely. Many surfers worked hard to get a ride on the less than optimal breaks along the coast here.

We had planned to eat dinner at the Belvedere high up in the hills above Papeete. After an hour of driving around in the heights a pleasant man informed us that we were on the wrong mountain. We still had great views of the islands. We packed it in for the day and had another yummy dinner at the Roulottes.

French Polynesia

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