Tumultuous Uproar

A cruising boat with a racing problem...

Thanksgiving Haapo Bay, Huahine

27 November 2020
Russ Whitford
"Just tie my head above water and I'll sleep out here,"

I don't think I have ever been as comfortable in water, We had a memorable Thanksgiving dinner with Kjell and Kaia. We have sailed with our Norwegian friends for about a year. This was their first American Thanksgiving. I told the stories of the first Thanksgiving as I know them. We were surprisingly able to buy a turkey a week ago. Thawed, rubbed with herbs and grilled on our tiny grill, it came out better than I would have imagined. Lisa went to town on her Italian heritage stuffing. Local haricot vert was a fresh substitute for green bean casserole. Pumpkin pie was replaced by Key Lime pie, using local limes. One of the best parts of the evening was when we hailed a Brazilian sailor over to join us in the feast. Bruno helped make our eveining.

After the meal and dessert was consumed, Lisa and Kaia dinghied out to the reef to watch the vivid colors of the sunset. The guys on Uproar sampled the various bottles of rum and swapped stories. And more rum. Bruno interrupted, "Are the girls OK out there?" Truthfully, Kjell and I hadn't given it a thought. We explained to Bruno the expertise of our ladies. Then we too were worried. We searched westward into the setting sun and saw a dingy returning. OK, more rum.

After everyone left, I slipped into the water to cool off after helping to cook a big meal and clean up. Au naturel bien sur. Quite rare for French Polynesia, the wind was absolutely still. I could easily soak in Haapo Bay and just be. I don't believe I have ever been so comfortable in water. Why would I ever come back to being dry. Well, Lisa called, "Are you alright there?" "Yes, I couldn't be better."

I'm not quite sure why us humans insist on being dry. I'm not sure we have that right. But the fact that I'm writing this attests to the fact that I too gravitate to being dry........Until tomorrow. I will return to the sea, from which I have emerged.

It has been a wonderful Thanksgiving on Uproar. We are blessed with great friends to share it with and this beautiful part of the world we live in. We feel the love of family and friends that sustains us. We truly have a lot to be thankful for.

Seeadler (Sea Eagle)

26 November 2020
Russ Whitford
I've written a lot about the remote atoll, Mopelia. Our last experience there was a surprise snorkeling on the reef, outside the pass.

Atolls usually have a pass or two where water flows into the lagoon and back out with the change of tide. Trade winds also blow water over the eastern side of the reef. When the pass is on the western side of the atoll, that water is almost always flowing out. Sometimes with strong winds and tide the current flowing out can be up to six knots. Sailors try to time the pass so they are not caught in these strong currents. It can be dangerous!

We decided to snorkel through the pass and explore the outer reef on a calm day. The current in the pass was still about two knots. But that can be great for snorkeling. One of us just hangs onto the dinghy line as we drift through the pass. We can always climb back into the dinghy for safety.

Another "adventure" associated with atoll passes are the abundance of sharks. The current brings nutrients that work right up the food chain. As we drifted through the pass, a large, gray shark (nastiest species in FP) came up from the depths to check us out. The minute he saw us, he bolted right back down. Good thing!

Outside the pass we snorkeled south. We saw a rare school of barracuda, jacks and parrot fish. Then we spotted a length of old anchor chain, an anchor and lots of other ship debris. Pretty soon we were looking at cannon and huge, steam engine parts. All of this was in 15 to 20 feet deep and crystal clear water. The wreckage provided a base for beautiful coral and abundant fish too.

At the time, we did not know what we were seeing. There were a lot of long, steel poles among the wreckage. We spent about an hour enjoying the swim.

Back in the village, Henry and Norma explained it was the wreck of the Seeadler, German WWI ghost ship. The internet filled in the rest of the details (much later when we had internet, hence my delay in writing about this, well that and procrastination).

The Seeadler was built in 1888 in the UK, 273 feet and rigged with three masts. She was captured by a German U boat in 1914. She was converted to a warship, disguised as a merchant ship. She carried a variety of flags which allowed her to stealthily capture or sink 15 enemy merchant vessels in the 225 days she was in service for the German navy. She was wrecked on Mopelia where she stopped to clean her hull. She couldn't enter the narrow pass so anchored just outside. A storm and wind shift from the west drove her on the reef. There are local stories how the German soldiers were quite intimidating to the Polynesians living there until they were rescued by another German ship.

The Seeadler provided a bonus to our snorkeling in the beautiful Polynesian reef.

There is more to the fascinating story of the Seeadler on Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMS_Seeadler_(1888)

Mopelia, day 18, Kjell and I fix two more boats and......

30 October 2020
Russ Whitford
Mopelia, day 18, October 6.

Terai was on day four of his three day bender. We helped!

As previously promised, Kjell and I dinghied supplies ashore to help fix Mana and Terai's boats. We had previously hauled Mana's wood skiff ashore and turned it over. The keel had been eaten by termites and was leaking. We told Mana to remove all the old wood and clean the surface under.

Kjell and I arrived and found the boat all ready for us to work on. Albert, neighbor, was there with his diesel generator. Soon, Terai, Pierre and Kevin showed up to watch us work. Kjell and I work well together. We quickly sorted out some wood for the new keel. There was a stone bruise in the plywood bottom that we needed to fiberglass over. Using the generator, we ground away paint in that area.

I supplied four tubes of precious 5200 adhesive for the new keel and a rare piece of teak needed to bend for the bow. The 5200 was the usual, unholy mess. That stuff goes everywhere. Mana, Kjell and I were covered with it as well as our tools. The rest of the repair was unremarkable. We were pleased that we could make an effective repair with limited materials.

Later we learned that Mana's boat is essential to the community. They use it to transport copra to the cargo boat that comes once/year. The cargo boat can't get into the lagoon so Mana's boat transports 1 ½ tons of copra the two mile distance. It takes a dozen trips to load the season's production.

Next we dinghied to Terai's homestead to try to fix his aluminum skiff. Terai and Kevin had pulled it into the shade for our comfort. Kjell and I fashioned some aluminum pieces to simply glue with 5200 in place. This boat had numerous, welded repairs. We hope our patch job will work for awhile. Terai understood that we had done our best. Again, an unremarkable fix job. We worked a total of a few hours but it wasn't until three or four hours later that we returned to Uproar and 2K.

Terai offered us some Tahitian beer. We foolishly agreed. This is the local brew made from water, yeast and sugar. That's it! After a few days or a few weeks, it is drunk as is, warm. They claim it is 14% alcohol. We were thankfully served the few weeks old brew. Age helps....a little.

Terai was at the Saturday picnic at his big brother, Mana's. Terai and his wife, Rava didn't eat at all. They just drank “beer.” We had witnessed this before. Apparently, they don't want food to interfere with the drunken stupor. We saw Terai on Monday and he was still drunk. When we arrived just before noon today, Tuesday, he and Kevin were still at it. Kevin asked if we heard him howling in the jungle last night. We had heard him!

We spent the hours accepting more and more beer and chatting away like....well like guys do. They speak no English but even Kjell, who speaks little French, was able to engage in the conversation. We concluded hours of more beer, dirty jokes and general guy talk with the realization that we are all brothers. Terai gave Kjell and me necklaces of carved coral and shells. Rava had killed and cooked three coconut crabs for us to take back for dinner. With thanks all around, Kjell and I departed.

The girls knew well what kept us ashore so long. We quickly became heroes (in our own minds) for presenting the cooked crabs for dinner.

I awoke around midnight for my usual reading hour in the cockpit. Again, I heard a few faint howls from the jungle.

Mopelia, day 13 through 16, giant coconut crabs

29 October 2020
Russ Whitford
Mopelia September 30 through October 4

I'm getting just as bored writing this as I'm sure the reader is...that is if you are still with me. We have discovered many of the mysteries of this atoll and its gregarious people. But new experiences crop up every day.

We were invited to a Saturday noon meal at Mana and Maureen's. Shortly after, 2K and Le Pukeko were invited as well as Rava, Terai and Hina. Mana promised us coconut crab which we have come to enjoy. But first, he invited us to join him for a crab hunt. We met on the beach at 8:30 with flashlights. Mana and Maureen led us through the jungle to a place where there was a small fresh water hole. We saw a few, small crabs on the way, too small to eat. But when we got in the neighborhood, we started spotting bigger ones. Kjell caught a nice one and put it in the five gallon bucket I was carrying.

Then he spotted a bigger one. We dumped the small one out and in went his big brother. Big brother was pissed off. He was also big enough to reach the rim with a leg and crawl out. I kept stuffing him down but it became clear he would not submit. We then attempted to tie his legs and claws up with a small rope. Mana had shown us how. We got him trussed up but it wasn't pretty.

Magali spotted a big, white one and pointed it out to me. I scrambled through the jungle and paralyzed it with my flashlight. You have only one, quick grab of the back of the shell to capture a coconut crab. Any hesitation or timidity and they can not only escape, but they can crush a finger right to the bone! I got him. Mana stepped in and again showed us how to truss up a crab. I think mine weighted three pounds.

The dinner was a real show with twice as much food as we could eat. Maureen and Mana served coconut crab, benetea (giant Pacific clam), poison cru (raw fish in coconut milk), rice and salad.

Polynesian beer (water, yeast and sugar fermented) was served throughout the afternoon. We drank it sparingly, knowing the power and potential poisons it contains. Strangely enough, Terai, Rava and Hina didn't eat anything. They just drank.....and to excess! Terai explained, "We will eat tomorrow." I guess they didn't want the food to interfere with their intoxication. Again, piles of and food were wrapped for us to take back to our boats.

We hauled Mana's boat on shore and turned it over. Termites had eaten the keel and it leaked badly. Chris, professional boat builder confirmed that my 5200 and some new wood could make the repair. I told Mana if he removed the rotten keel, we would replace it for him with the 5200. He was excited to get his boat operational again. Then Terai mentioned his aluminum skiff had a crack. We will take a look at his boat and try to fix it with a patch, pop riveted in place and sealed with 5200.

That was yesterday. Today, Sunday was a day to sober up and eat for Rava, Terai and Hina. But we heard quite a party on shore at Hina's well into midnight. Kjell and I will visit tomorrow and see if any progress has been made on the boats or if they are sleeping off another party night.

Mopelia, day eleven, Lunch in the jungle

28 October 2020
Russ Whitford
Anouk and Alize were anxious to finish their boxes. We had taken a day off working on them yesterday. Today, they called on the radio right at 8:00 to ask if I was ready for them. They rowed their dinghy over (Chris is a minimalist, no motor). We sawed the lids off the boxes, hinged and inserted the magnets for a latch. I roughly sanded them smooth and rounded the corners with the power sander. The girls then began enthusiastically sanding them by hand.

They dinghied back to Le Pukeko with their boxes and some sandpaper. They will do finish sanding and pick out shells to apply to the lid. We had a total of about nine hours of “class” building these boxes. I am lucky to have two bright, enthusiastic students to work with. It was pleasing to see their progress each day and how hard they tried to do accurate work. My hope is that these simple skills will encourage them to continue building things. Chris, being a professional boat builder will certainly encourage them. Now it is Lisa's turn to help them decorate the box lids with her technique.

Lisa returned from another shore excursion just as the girls left. We had time for Lisa to bake a loaf of her special, sourdough bread she and clean up for our lunch on shore.

It is pretty windy today. But we easily found the buoys guiding us into the beach where Angelique and Terehau live. Their homestead if quite modest, even compared to the other, open-air houses. While most are right on the lagoon beach, theirs is tucked away in the jungle, on a large clearing. Huge palm trees surround their homestead.

We had offered to bring Terehau and Angelique from Maupiti to Mopelia on Uproar. They found another ride but invited us to lunch as a thank you. Angelique set up a beautiful table with red, flowered tablecloth. Pierre joined us and a bit later, Hina rode up on her bike. Hina didn't eat, she just sat away from the table, drinking her home made beer. But that's all we ever see Hina doing! Lunch was curried coconut crab and grilled parrot fish. Terehau was able to wade out in the reef and spear two large parrot fish in spite of the crashing waves. But Terehau is a Vaa'a paddler and racer. He sure has some skills and strength.

The fish is marinated with an Asian sauce and slow grilled, almost smoked. They sometimes use a special wood or coconut shells for grilling. The smoke flavor is better than any Mesquite or Hickory. My piece of parrot fish was one of the best fish I have ever eaten! The curried coconut crab was equally delicious. They prepared a huge bowl but none of them ate it. It was strictly for us. We hardly made a dent and they insisted we take the rest back with us.

We talked for about two hours after lunch. They told us all about their lives and families and we did the same. They wanted to know about our homes and were amazed by my descriptions of Wisconsin winters. Pierre and Hina speak some English but all helped Lisa and me with our French. Terehau had mentioned that he raced Vaa'a. I asked if he had one on Mopelia. He used to but a shark bit the outrigger and crushed it! They are pretty aggressive here.

We returned to Uproar with the bowl of crab and plate of Papaya with shredded coconut for desert. Fortunately, we had planned dinner on Le Pukeko and had two dishes ready to share. We played Farkle dice, laughed and drank some wine and rum and had one of many, enjoyable evenings with our cruising friends.

Mopelia, day ten, Happy Birthday Lisa!

27 October 2020
Russ Whitford
Mopelia, day 10, September 28

Happy Birthday, Lisa!

The girls from Le Pukeko called early to ask about resuming wood shop class. We resumed the lesson by marking out and cutting the pins from the previously cut tails. Their skills with the saw had improved a lot from the previous day. It is so pleasing to work with eager students. Alize doesn't like to sit still. She whittled away at the back edge of my workbench while I was working with Anouk. I don't mind the "customization" that kept her busy.

I started Anouk chiseling out the parts of the ends that were to be removed on the back seat of the cockpit. This freed up the workbench to cut the pins with Alize. Suddenly I heard, "Popeye, I have a problem." I looked up and blood was streaming down her arm! We washed it up downstairs and tried to contain most of the blood splatter. She sliced a clean cut across her finger tip. My chisels are sharp! After washing her arm, the cut would stop bleeding when held closed. One band aid thankfully did the trick.

But then Anouk's eyes started to swim. She said, "Everything is spinning around." I laid her on the settee berth and got her a glass of water. We held her hand up to relieve the blood pressure some. I sat and talked with her for awhile and her color returned. A short while later, she was up and working on her box again.

Meanwhile, Alize was planing away on a scrap of Pis Pis I said she could use. She had it clamped in the workbench vice and was vigorously planing shavings with my hand-made jointer plane. It is really fun to sweep curly shavings with a sharp, well adjusted plane. She made quite a pile of Pis Pis curly-ques.

Anouk resumed work like nothing had happened and the girls finally fitted and glued the boxes together. This was another three hour session. One more would be necessary to cut the boxes apart, hinge and finish sand.

Lisa had returned from another beach walk with the ladies. We cleaned up ready for her party. She had baked a flourless, chocolate cake with raspberry and chocolate grenache. I made a pot of duck curry and green Papaya salad. Lisa prepared a pitcher of Margaritas with fresh lime juice. We had been making ice balls in our freezer for days in anticipation of a fun boat drink.

Just give cruisers a reason to party and look out! Festive hardly describes the mood. Kaia had knitted wool/silk socks for our winter return to the US. They also gave Lisa a 2K tank top. Magali sewed together a Le Pukeko bird from colorful cloth with elaborate decorations. It was stuffed with Lavender. Anouk made a wind chime from a coconut shell and urchin spines. Alize wove a colorful bracelet.

We ate nearly every scrap of food and went from Martaritas to wine and rum. Lisa put on her infamous dance mix music and the ladies really got in the spirit. This became too much for the teen age girls, being embarrassed by their mother's gyrations. They retired to the forward cabin to watch videos. The guys retreated to the cockpit to talk boats, fishing, etc. waiting for the ladies to get danced out. They just kept dancing. Kjell fell asleep and we decided to beg the ladies to call it a night.

What fun! The pile of dishes and glasses attested to the depth and length of the celebration! Lisa is officially a year older!
Vessel Name: Tumultuous Uproar
Vessel Make/Model: Beneteau 42s7
Hailing Port: Milwaukee, WI
Crew: Russ Whitford & Lisa Alberte plus Sophie our Jack Russell Terrier
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