Athanor Expedition

Our exploration of land and sea

Sail, explore, projects (rinse, repeat)

Note: click on the gallery tab for the pretty pretty pictures!

Picking up from our last post, where we didn't know what our 10-week season would bring....we now have more information! It's required us to alter our oh-so-set-in-concrete plans (no surprise there); It's afforded us lots of time to sail (and hand-steer in all of that); We've explored some new places; and we've completed some planned and unplanned projects.
There is a saying among sailors that plans are often written in sand - and below the high tide line. Prior to leaving the states - and for the first week or so in French Polynesia - our mantra was "we're going to get to the boat, quickly pull it together, then sail to the Tuomoto atolls and stay there the entire season." We yearned for new territory, new adventure. Our first clue that this plan might not work out that way was talking with trusted, seasoned cruisers that had arrived back to their boats before us - gently suggesting us to take time, settle in, shake the boat down to make sure everything works. Good thing we listened. After two weeks, it became clear that our autopilot - "Chet" - had given us all he had and would need to be replaced - and that replacement would not happen quickly, if at all this season. While we can hand steer Athanor for four or five hours, that's our limit - sailing overnight is not in the cards (unless in an emergency). We let go of our plans to sail two days/nights to the Tuamotus this season and committed to getting off the anchor to refresh our sailing skills and find new spots in the Society Islands this year. We are reminded that life makes you sit down just when you least want to and quite possibly when you need it most!
In the few weeks since our last post, the rhythm of our days generally includes a pattern of: Sailing, Exploring, and Projects.
SAILING: It's very easy to find a sweet anchorage and sit for days on end! We've certainly done some of that this season, but we've also pushed ourselves to get out sailing. We started with circumnavigating Taha'a. We sailed in the lagoon (inside the reef) with no seas to contend with; we had beautiful 13-15 knot winds which provided me (Susan) a great opportunity to practice with little duress! Next, we sailed from Taha'a to Raiatea to get a better wind angle to sail to Huahine. This is a narrow passage, but typically a mild sail. Not this time! It was blowing 20 knots, upwind, and we had to tack at least 20 times. In the past, we might have chosen to simply motor this route. I was working the lines with each tack and by the time we anchored, we were both exhausted - my arms were noodles. The next day, we headed out the Teavamoa pass, Raiatea, for our first ocean sail in nearly three years. Yes, of course it was a "sporty" sail (code for.. upwind in 20 knot winds and big, choppy seas). Five hours later we entered the Avamoa pass, anchored in 18 feet, pure sand bottom, near the town of Fare and thoroughly enjoyed a cold beer.
EXPLORING: Huahine is a magical little island: it is one of the quietest, least touristed, of the Societies. We looked forward to spending 2+ weeks on the island, revisiting some spots and filling that "new adventure" need as well. Fare is a beautiful, bustling town with a busy dock where the supply ship comes in twice weekly; with locals selling fruit/veggies on the main street; a large "supermarket", and a lovely restaurant on the water aptly named the Huahine Yacht Club.
After a few days of civilization in Fare, we made our way down the west coast of Huahine. During a quick stop anchored near the reef (in the middle of nowhere) a guy on his jet ski came up alongside Athanor asking if we'd like to buy avocados - we were happy to oblige! Turns out his property was just across on the island. He watches as boats go by and makes some money by selling fruits from his property. We continued toward Avea Bay, but when the wind started to blow 23 knots combined with a torrential downpour, we pulled into a bay and picked up a mooring ball, and there we sat for the next 36 hours whilst it rained non-stop! The upshot is we exercised our water capture system and collected so much fresh (and sweet) rainwater! Rob spent a lot of this time exploring options for new autopilot parts, finally sourcing parts, and getting them here most expeditiously.
After a week on the west coast of Huahine, we made our way to the east side of the island. It was a lumpy motor-sail (seas and wind from the east with no island to protect us), but oh my, we were so rewarded once we pulled in the pass. For the next week, we saw only two other boats (both English speaking). We anchored behind Motu Murimahora in 12 feet, pure sand bottom and the most turquoise water I've ever seen. Over the course of the next week, we took the dinghy out to the reef, put on our snorkel gear, and drifted back to the boat, soaking up the vibrant underwater world. We adventured out to a river to witness the ancient fish traps built by those who made this their home long before us. We explored on foot - taking in the wild and colorful landscape, kids on their bikes, vanilla farming, and lots and lots of doggies.
PROJECTS: There are a never-ending list of projects on a boat - just like on land - from polishing the stainless to replacing an autopilot (next post). While sitting at one of these sweet anchorages, I spent the day covering the wheel with new leather. My hands were sore at the end of the day but check out the images - it looks beautiful and feels even better. I've also made modifications to "Hilda", our huge awning, including sewing "curtains" to attach to our awning to keep the sun at bay as it lowers in the sky (it's all about keeping us out of the sun!).
The days are flying by. Our time here is quiet - lots of time for reflection. We've loved reconnecting with these magnificent islands - their beauty and warm, friendly culture fills our hearts. Spending time aboard fellow cruisers' boats is another highlight for us. We've spent time with folks who've been sailing these islands for 40 years, and young couples taking a different path than their parents did. In the background, we're always missing home too. We still haven't answered the question of what's next, but we've felt comfortable settling back into this life and have broadened the list of options going forward.  
Feeling blessed,
Susan & Rob
S/V Athanor