Monday, May 23, 2011

Mazatlán for the summer

When we got to the boat in La Cruz, all was well after our 2-month absence, but the boat was incredibly dirty - even dirtier than it had been after being stored on the hard in San Carlos for 5 months! We resolved that, no matter how fond we were of La Cruz, we would move the boat north for the summer hurricane season. We sailed out to Punta Mita for the night, then motored most of the way to Matanchen Bay the next day. The following day there was still no wind, so we motored to Isabela and spent the night there. There were no other yachts, but plenty of fishing pangas.

The next afternoon we had a light SW breeze, just enough to sail, so we pulled the anchor, popped the spinnaker, and had a nice overnight run to Mazatlán. We even saw the Green Flash at sunset (I included a link to a scientific explanation of the phenomenon for all you non-believers).

We arrived at first light, anchored off Deer Island for a few hours, then went into the El Cid marina. After a couple of days here, we decided that this would be Southern Cross's home for the hurricane season. Mazatlán has been hit by storms in the past, but so have all the other ports along this coast. The El Cid marina staff did a great job protecting boats during the last storm to hit the area, and there are several liveaboards on our dock, so we feel the boat will be reasonably safe here.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

back in North America

We flew from Tahiti to Los Angeles yesterday, and are continuing on to Puerto Vallarta this morning. Once we are settled back on the boat, I will update the blog. We had a wonderful time in French Polynesia, but Internet connectivity was very slow and very expensive!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Nuku Hiva and Ua Pou (aboard Aranui)

My only regret about this segment of our journey is that we only had about 4 hours to see two of the islands we had not yet seen.

Before we had joined it in Hiva Oa, the Aranui had made an earlier stop here at Nuku Hiva, and passengers had time to explore the island by car. This is the principal island in the Marquesas, with several really good anchorages and a lot to see ashore. Nuku Hiva is where we will make landfall if we ever bring our own boat here.

Taiohae has a much nicer anchorage than Atuona, and a lot more yacht services ashore, that are a lot more convenient to reach. We only had time to stroll along the bay front and visit a few of the more important sites.

We spotted a few familiar boats in the anchorage. Evan, from Ceilidh, and Michael, from Whatcha Gonna Do, happened to be landing their dinghies as we were on the wharf, and I got to ask them about their passages. Ceilidh (a catamaran) had lost a rudder two days out from Taiohae.

The Aranui steamed to its last stop in the Marquesas, which had also been its first stop before we had joined it. Hakatau, like Atuona and Taiohae, is a port of entry and it also has a wharf to which the Aranui can tie up directly instead of anchoring out.

This was our last chance to buy Marquesan crafts, and we took advantage of it. We also had a nice stroll around the town.

As the Aranui got underway for the 500-mile crossing to the Tuamotus, we enjoyed the views of the fantastic skyline of Ua Pou.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ua Huka (aboard Aranui)

Everyone was up early to watch a pretty amazing maneuver. The Aranui steamed straight into the narrow harbor entrance at Vaipaee, dropped an anchor, and proceeded to turn itself around in a space not much larger than the length of the ship!

Once we were stern to, two whaleboat crews carried lines to shore to keep us lined up in the narrow passage.

This turned out to be the highlight of the day. The shoreside activities turned out to be pretty tame (lame?) compared to the three previous stops. We were piled into about 30 vehicles for visits to a small museum, a small arboretum, and a crafts store.

Next we were ferried to a good restaurant for another excellent meal. Still surprising to me that an island with only about 500 inhabitants can muster a lunch for 130 people at one sitting!

While sitting on the beach at Hane, waiting for the ride back to the ship, we enjoyed watching a few of the more athletic locals practicing surf landings in their outrigger canoes. One of them then proceeded to follow one of the Aranui whaleboats on a roundtrip, wake-surfing the whole way. These are impressive craft, with some of the strongest paddlers I’ve ever seen.

After the Aranui pulled anchor, we steamed past a few bird-covered islets on our way to the next island.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Hapatoni (aboard Aranui)

We awoke to find ourselves anchored outside the bay at Hana Moe Noa, where we had enjoyed a beautiful stay the week before. From our new, much higher vantage point, we could see a school of large dorado swimming around near the stern of the ship.

This was another island that we had already seen. But as at earlier stops, we found we were presented with much better opportunities to interact with locals and see interesting sights. After a quick stop at Vaitahu, where some passengers went to church and a few others got tattooed(!),

I elected to walk the road to the next village instead of re-boarding the Aranui for the 3-mile voyage. David, a retired airman from Scotland, accompanied me, while Vicki did a little shopping!

Hapatoni turned out to be a really delightful stop because of the friendly locals. David and I, arriving early, helped hand out palm “crowns” to the rest of the Aranui passengers.

The villagers served us a delicious lunch made with local seafood and fruits, after which we had plenty of time to walk around to look at old paepae (stone platforms for traditional houses) and the not so old church.

Once we were all back on the boat, the anchor was raised and the Aranui headed out to sea. I confidently explained to Vicki how we were now heading to the northern Marquesas, a different group of islands about 70 miles away. However, about ten miles out to sea, the Aranui started turning to port, and soon we had gone full circle, returned to the coast of Tahuata, and dropped the anchor at Hana Moe Noa again! Turned out that this had been merely a chance for the Aranui crew to fish off the stern, during their Sunday afternoon off. We would steam to our next stop during the night, after everyone was asleep.