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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Checking out for a cruise of the Leeward Islands
07/21/2008, Tahiti

After a relaxing pain au chocolate and a latte at the local bakery (did I mention I love French countries?) we set about getting the final preparations complete for our departure to Huahine. Final preparations for Hideko means shopping, so Hideko set off for the market to stock up on fresh milk and the like. In the mean time Nobu and I checked in with customs and immigration. We were already checked in to the country but the officials seem to want to keep fairly precise tabs on your movements. You are free to wander Tahiti and Moorea when checked in at Tahiti but they ask you to check back with an itinerary if you sail farther afield. This is generally impossible because you never know what your movements will turn out to be exactly, particularly in the face of weather and such a vast landscape of islands. We did out best of course.

You would think that fueling up in the largest city in this part of the world would be easy. Not the case. Asking around the dock I received many pieces of advice from the cruiser contingent. All cruisers (self included) like to help any time they can. Often faced with no relevant first hand data the grape vine is invoked. This is where the most interesting advice comes from. I can certify that there is no truck that will come and fuel you while tied up on the Quai, nor is there a Mobil station available to yachts by the ferry dock, nor can you tie up near the bridge to the barge. In fact, according to the harbormaster, who I interrogated fully, you can not fuel a yacht up anywhere in the principal port of all Polynesia.

Your near by options are south to Marina Taina, which requires clearing your trek around the airport, and the Tahiti Yacht Club to the north, which requires a trip outside the reef. We had been to the Tahiti Yacht Club and the dock was way back in a spot where it would be difficult to squeeze a 50 foot catamaran. The fuel dock there is also about 30 feet long. The average boat in the yacht club is a 25 foot power boat and it is set up perfectly for that.

The two rumored options on Moorea are the ferry quai and Cook's Bay just past the Bali Hai. Nobu and I checked out the Cook's Bay option and found only gas on the dock, no diesel. It is also a very small dock, again designed for jet skis and small power boats. The approach is easy, the dock is sticking out in the bay all by itself, but I saw no diesel and, more interestingly, I saw no one to ask about it.

Prior to taking the big boat to Marina Taina Nobu and I decided to zip over there in the dinghy to make sure it would work out. This was the first trip we took in the new dinghy where there really would have been no way to do it in the old Walker Bay. We got up on a plane and moved very quickly through pretty large chop. It was a nice and quick 4 miles.

Marina Taina is a well polished and new looking facility. It is also pretty large. They have one fancy and one casual restaurant, a nice bar that serves fresh 3 Brasurres beer (2 Ambers please), a small chandlery, Internet access and most other things you'd expect. There's not much outside the marina with the exception of a large supermarket. The fuel dock is situated in an easily accessible spot and was prepared to fill us up whenever.

We also stopped in at the office to check into availability out of curiosity. When we originally emailed from the Marquesas the marina had no availability. It turned out that things were opening up now with the cruising fleet beginning to thin out, various groups of boats headed for the Cook Islands and beyond. The outside had some huge sailboats tied up such as the Marie Cha III and Obsession 2, which we went through the Panama canal with. I watched a guy on Obsession 2 walk to the rail and throw some raw trash into the water as we went by. Bad enough to pollute your own country much worse to come out here and despoil paradise.

The marina is out in the lagoon area so the water is very clear and there are many boats in the anchorage just off the dock. I would even call it crowded. There is a floating bar and what looks like a floating restaurant also out on the bank inside the reef. Many folks use this area for water-sports, playing around on jet skis and wake boards.

The pass just south of the Taina is well marked and said to be good in most conditions. We took a look at it and on this particular day it looked a little dicey. I draw the line when people are surfing between the markers. Kidding of course, but the break in this area was rather big today and there were many surfers out. The pass seemed doable but I think if it looks this way when we come with the big boat I may go back out at Papeete.

After exploring the marina Nobu and I headed back to the big boat. We had another fun ride inside the reef marveling at the wonderful colors of the lagoon. Just snorkeling out on the bank over the sand is fun when the water is so clear. Tahiti has so much to offer I think that it is too bad so many only see only Papeete (which is fun in its own way). You could easily spend a week or more circumnavigating Tahiti and never spend two nights in the same anchorage or see more than a couple of other boats.

Back home we realized that there was no way we were going anywhere today. Such is the cruising life. So off to the Le Roulotte we went for a nice dinner and a tasty chocolate, banana and vanilla ice cream crepe (with lots of whipped cream).

French Polynesia
Last Night in Tahiti
07/20/2008, Quai des Yachts

We spent our last full day in Tahiti getting caught up on the internet (the blog was getting very behind), provisioning and cleaning the boat up. Hideko did the majority of the cleaning, bless her.

We had to replace our starboard RuleMate 1100, which was only about two months old. On the Pacific crossing when had water coming into the starboard bilge fairly frequently. This is because the bilge pump outlet drains through the bridge deck but has an aft facing scoop to keep out water splashing from the bow. This is the right way to do it of course but when you have 3-4 meter following seas they pass you and pound up under the bridge deck from the wrong direction as they go by. Thus the leeward hull is often getting salt water forced into the scoops. With no check valve (something I will add in the future) water comes straight into the bilge.

The first day I heard the bilge alarm I was concerned and could not figure out where the water was coming from. Extra concerned because the boat was being tested in the big seas and the water was salt. The flow rate was slow though and I happened to catch the process in the act at one point. Once I knew what was happening I was content that all was well.

The 1100, which was new as of Panama, ran for most of the way across but about four days from Fatu Hiva it stopped working and we had to use the manual once or twice a day. I am happy we have the manual Whale pumps but the location of the starboard one makes only a half pump possible due to its proximity to the stairs. Nit picky I know but one always strives for perfection especially given the relative expense and newness of this boat.

The old 1100 seems to have no excuse for failing, much like the last 10 or 15 we have piled up. I still intend to take the factory up on their offer to inspect a few of the deceased to try to get to the bottom of the problem.

It being Sunday, the big market day, we went to the market. The open air market in Papeete is open everyday but Sunday the whole perimeter is packed with distant and local farmers who only come once a week. We picked up lots of nice fruits and vegetables, typically for a discount over store prices. The indoor area has a butcher and lots of fish mongers as well as a nice upstairs bar (ridiculously priced) with a jammin' uke band.

French Polynesia
Tahiti Yacht Club
07/19/2008, Tahiti

We took the dingy out to the Tahiti Yacht Club this afternoon. It is nice to go fast with the new dinghy but you have to be sure you know the channel before you do. The harbor is pretty safe but as soon as you cross under the bridge at the north end of the main port it gets more interesting. The channels behind the reef are marked with red on the island side and green on the ocean side and in general are pretty clear. However the farther you are from primary traffic the few marks there are.

It can also get interesting when there is a channel behind the reef and another close to shore with connectors between. Which side is red on again? You can take a dinghy channel along the shoreline all the way to the yacht club but if you come in with a big boat you need to go outside from the main port, come back in through the pass near the yacht club and then head left (northeast) behind the reef, then right toward shore, then right again toward the yacht club. The large reef in the middle of the lagoon makes this requirement.

The yacht club is a funky little place mainly serving local power boats. That said they have an active sailing club from the looks of it and cruising yachts are found here and there on the moorings (about $10 a day) and sometimes on the dock. It would be a nice get away. There's a bar and grill and a little snack shop with the obligatory Croque Monsieur (Grilled ham and cheese), croissants, ice cream and the other beloved necessities of a French snack.

A short walk down the way from the yacht club is a huge Care Four market. This thing is huge by American standards. It even has small stores inside of it for electronics, banking, hair cuts and the like. Pricey but you could get anything you want there. They even had some stuff for the boat!

Back at the yacht club we found the fuel dock offered diesel and unleaded gas. It would be a tight squeeze for our boat and other than a few metal rings on the side of the hybrid wood/concrete structure there are no cleats or bollards for fast attachment. In a flat calm this would be a great place to fuel. If conditions were difficult I think I would order another Hinano and enjoy the lagoon one more day.

We saw our friends James and Amelia on Rahula tied to a mooring. The were tuning things up and getting ready to head down island. They had stopped by to visit with us on the Quai a couple days ago but the last time I had seen Rahula was when I crewed for James and Amelia on their Panama canal transit. They had made for the Gambier instead of the Marquesas and reported a wonderful time.

We fueled up the dink at the yacht club. We ran our first break in tank at 20 to 1 as per the instructions. Tank two was at 40 to 1. We mixed this tank at 60 to 1. One more tank at 80 to 1 and we'll be fully broken in and ready to run at the much cleaner 100 to 1 which will be very nice (not to mention saving a lot of money on two stroke oil).

We headed back to the big boat just before the sun set and set about prepping the boat for a Monday departure down island.

French Polynesia
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

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