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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
New Battens
07/18/2008, Papeete

After a yummy chocolate croissant and latte we headed over to the port captain to check back in. We saw him on the way there doing a morning power walk. He smiled brightly and said, "Swingin'?". I nodded and he said, "you're fine".

Ok, one task down. Next immigration. Normally we wouldn't need to see immigration but we had to redeem Nobu's bond. If you are French you can stay here as long as you like. You will have to import your boat after a couple years for something like 30% duty but the people are a done deal. If you are EU you can stay for 90 days right off and need no bond. If you are US or Japanese you get 30 days and have to post a bond. If you pay 3,000 xfp ( about $40) you can get a guaranteed extension for a total of 90 days. The bond is about the price of a ticket home. Call it $1,000 US.

When we arrived we knew Nobu was going to head home from here but he didn't have his ticket yet so we still had to get a bond for him. Now that he has his ticket we can turn in his bond. Upon seeing the ticket the immigration official handed us over a stamped letter to redeem the bond with and another to keep with the ships papers verifying the change to the crew list.

I hiked back to the main Bank Socredo branch while Hideko and Nobu went back to the boat to finish cleaning things up aboard. It only took me about an hour to redeem the bond (nice compared to how long it took to get it) and other than the bank's vig it was painless. They gave me all xfp but since we'll be here another two months that was fine.

Our next stop was to visit Christophe at API yachting. His shop seems to be the largest rigger, canvas, sailmaker outfit in the area. They had the battens we needed and cut them for us on the spot. Christophe is a nice guy and seems quite knowledgeable. He is French/New York so he speaks perfect English with an entertaining accent.

We bummed around town (carrying two 3 meter battens!) looking in various shops (swim suits, hardware, swimsuits, hardware as Hideko and I exchanged the lead). I found a 5,000 watt transformer (heavy!) that we'll pick up if we decide to stay. The power here is 60Hz which is great but I can't plug into the 220 without adding the transformer.

We stopped at the caravan park for dinner but arrived a little early. It was 6PM and although that is the advertised opening it was a little premature. We relaxed on the quay where the monstrous Maltese Falcon was docked. Once things were cookin' at the eateries we had a nice meal and then watched the grand finale of the Lord of the Rings back at the boat.

French Polynesia
Motoring Back to Tahiti
07/17/2008, Papeete Qaui des Yachts

We set out from the Moorea anchorage fairly early this morning. It is pretty tough to find a day that you can actually sail to Tahiti from Moorea without a whole lot of tacking. We're not interested in a whole lot of tacking on most occasions. So we fired up the Yanmars and motored with two props turning, out of the anchorage. It was nice to have twin screws again. We tested forward and reverse even more carefully than usual this morning.

Exiting the pass was eventless but I had to consciously remind myself not to take the dinghy short cuts I had been using all week. We could have probably cut the corner exit the anchorage but it is safer to go into the bay around the southern most mark.

We towed the dink to Moorea and decided to tow it back as well. We use a bridle attached to both inside stern cleats. This works well and the dinghy planes nicely and stays pretty stable as long as the seas are reasonable. We are using polyprop painters from Panama right now. This is not the best quality line and I look forward to replacing it with the nice stuff we bought at West Marine when we purchased Little Star. The Little Star painter was in better condition than these after a year's more hard use.

A front was passing below the islands today and we were supposed to get some disturbance tomorrow as the sheer line came through. It looked as if it might sit on our head for a few days bringing rain and no wind. The wind was whipping up around low twenties as we rounded the point at the northeast end of Moorea. Things settled progressively as we approached Tahiti, only 10 miles away.

We put the fishing lines out as we crossed the top of Moorea. I was so excited when the line ran I almost didn't notice the jam that fouled up the line (always happens on my cheap real, I need to get a Shimano). I reeled it in over the jam and was delighted to see the bright colors in the water that usually mean Mahi Mahi. As I got it up onto the transom everyone sighed. Great Barracuda. The worst part is the new Rappalla lure I was using has these wicked triple hooks. Once set you have no prayer of getting them out, and particularly not out of the mouth of a toothy Barracuda. We had to take him in the end. I will only use single hook lures from here on out.

The harbor master invited us into the port with no delay and we were tied up on the Qaui des Yachtes in Papeete again in no time. A Finish gentleman that we brought baguettes to in Fatu Hiva helped us get our lines on. After setting the boat up we all headed to the brew pub for a well earned cheeseburger (and a nice freshly brewed Amber of course).

For those interested I post below the exact prices for the Quai des Yachts here:
Monohull: 240 xfp per meter per day (about a buck a foot)
Multihull: 360 xfp per meter per day (about a buck fifty a foot)
One time $10 for trash
$4 a day for power (220v 18a), use all you like
$2.25 a day for water, use all you like
10% tax on everything

Not bad for being two steps from downtown with the best security we've ever experienced in our entire cruise.

French Polynesia
Navigation Diving
07/16/2008, Moorea

Hideko and I kayaked to shore to pick up some baguettes for breakfast this morning. They were all out when we got there though so we came back empty handed. Fortunately Nobu had made some delicious pancakes when we returned.

Nobu did his navigation dive for his advanced open water certification today also. We did the first bit at the big boat, measuring his fin kick distance and timing his progress as well. Then we went out to the dive site on the reef and did some more skills. It was a nice dive with a maximum depth of 90 feet. We went the opposite direction from the last trip and saw some interesting reef formations in the deeper water. The black tip reef sharks were about and a remora tried to attach to Nobu and I for just about the entire dive. He couldn't seem to get suctioned onto our wet suits though.

Another beautiful day in paradise, but alas we need to head back to Tahiti to wrap up some boat business and prep for our trip out to Bora Bora tomorrow. We began breaking down all of the toys and inflatables in the afternoon, rinsing and drying things off so that they can go back into their assorted bags and lockers. We wrapped up the day with LotR Two Towers and another yummy pasta selection.

French Polynesia
Day Off
07/15/2008, Oponohu Bay

We took the day off today and just relaxed on the boat. If was a nice day though sometimes cloudy. It is amazing to just relax in such a beautiful place and marvel at the scenery.

O'Vive and their entourage of about 8 other boats left for Huahine at the end of the day for an overnight. At the end of the day we had a nice pasta dinner and watch the Lord of the Rings extended edition. Doesn't get much better...

French Polynesia
Kayaking Cook Bay
07/14/2008, Cook Bay

Nobu and I took off this morning in the two man kayak. We headed to windward mostly so we could take it easy on the way back but also because we wanted to explore Cook's Bay. Our Kayak is a Clear Blue Hawaii with see through plastic in the foot wells so that you can see down into the ocean. After a couple of years on the road the clear plastic is a little fogged up but it is still useful for checking the bottom. The kayak draws about 4 inches with two adults in it so you can pretty much paddle anywhere that things aren't breaking through the surface. It also has little rubber strakes underneath which make it track pretty good. Not as high performance as a hard plastic job but the best of the inflatables and it is really nice to be able to fold it up and put it away.

We paddled up to the Sheraton resort and around the outermost overwater bungalows. The water was amazingly clear and the coral was simply vivid from the perspective of the kayak. We noticed lots of Polynesians out on the water enjoying themselves. I couldn't blame them but thought it was weird this being Monday, a normal work day. Then I remembered that it is Bastille Day. Like us, the locals were certainly making the best of it, enjoying the sun and the beautiful water.

As we rounded the point into Cook bay I noticed that, like Opanohu, it is a very deep and fairly wide bay with lots of room. Unlike Opanohu however, Cook Bay is pretty built up, with resorts and houses all along the waterfront. We paddled down to the Bali Hai resort on the east side near the end of the bay. It is a very traditional looking Polynesian resort, not as fancy as the Sheraton, but perhaps more authentic. The water in the bay is not as dazzling as the water out in the lagoon but it didn't seem to bother the many swimmers enjoying the beach and bay.

Some pleasant folks directed us to the fuel dock. I had been wanting to check the fuel dock out because it is getting to be that time. If I can fuel in an un-crowded paradise for the same price as Papeete I certainly will. Unfortunately, as best as my limited French could tell, they only pump gasoline on the dock. The Mobile station has diesel but there was no one around to ask if it could be had on the dock so we just headed back.

It was a three hour paddle round trip and a great work out. I think Nobu needed about three minutes to recover while I needed about three days. No mind, when we returned to the boat we set about using the forward halyard to swing over the rail and drop into the water for a bit. Shortly thereafter we got out the bong (10 foot diameter giant inner tube with a trampoline on it). We got to play on it for just a few minutes before the cruiser kids in the anchorage came and took over.

Shortly thereafter Dave on O'Vive came by and invited us to go diving. We were planning a dive ourselves so we happily joined the group. Hideko, Nobu and I buddied up in a group of about 10 cruisers. Just northeast of the Opanohu pass there are two blue dive moorings. We all tied up to the moorings and dove up current and back. It was a nice dive site with lots of coral (it is of course a barrier reef) and we had a wonderful visit from a fearless turtle who inspected Nobu very closely. We saw a black tip reef shark and lots of other fish.

It had been a great and very active day.

French Polynesia
Pabs and Lou leave Moorea
07/13/2008, Oponohu Bay

We made Eggs Benedict with croissants instead of English muffins (of course) this morning for breakfast and spent the rest of the day snorkeling. Pablo and I went all the way up to the Sheraton and then warmed up on the hotel's beach. The reefy bits running all along the shoreline provide ample entertainment. We saw a large variety of fish and invertebrates and even a school of tasty looking two foot long Blue Fin Trevalley. Nobu ran across a Manta Ray and we had a Green Turtle visit late in the day.

It was a slow last day with some rain here and there. The skies cleared though when it was time to take Pabs and Lou ashore. Teiva had helped us arrange a cab ride from the beach landing to the airport (3,000 xfp). We got a sim for our cell phone in Papeete and are glad we did. Unlike the Caribbean where you need a new sim every island (country) and the coverage is often poor, we have had great luck with our cell here on both Tahiti and Moorea.

We took Pabs and Lou ashore around 4:30PM so that they could make their 5:45 hop to Tahiti (7 minutes flight time) and eventual 10PM red eye home to LA. It was sad to see them go, it was as if they had just arrived. They seemed to enjoy their trip though and it was heart warming to see them after almost two years.

French Polynesia
07/31/2008 | Pablo
Dude! That flight out of Moorea was a trip. It was such a small plain and it was packed. I didn't thin we'd get off the ground. 7 minutes on the dot and 4 hours at the Tahiti airport Lou and I just browsed around the shops. Lou bought herself a mother of pearl necklace, very pretty and she got me a wooden Tiki necklace. Folks here at work tripped out when they saw how dark I got. Everyone that's seen your page here loves it. I'll have to make plans to see you guys again in a couple of years. Next trip for Lou and I is Colombia to visit my parents and then head to Boston to meet my half brother and sister that live there. Oye!!! More plains... Geesh! Tahiti was a blast, thanks again! Miss you guys, love you guys!
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

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