Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Passage to Huahine

With the tradewinds forecast to fill back in, we prepared for an afternoon departure from Moorea. The passage to Huahine was about 85 miles, and we wanted to arrive in daylight. After motoring out of Avaroa Pass, we found the wind was still too light to sail more than about 1 knot, so we kept motoring on our heading for the NE corner of Huahine. About 5:30 pm, we decided to heave to for a dip in the cobalt-blue sea. As we killed the engine and rounded up, we realized there was now enough tailwind to sail, so after our swim, we unfurled the genoa and literally sailed into the sunset. The moon was nearly full, but its substantial light was soon dimmed by high clouds. In the distant south, lightning lit up a line of squalls, but we remained in a zone of tranquility for most of the night. The wind gradually freshened, and the seas gradually built and became more confused due to the recent change in wind direction. The windvane was put to its first test of the season, or rather we were put to the test of remembering how to trim the sails in order for the vane to do its job. We backwinded the main a few times, but mostly the helm remained locked off. In the middle of the night, the wind backed, so we jibed to a port tack. An hour or so before dawn's first light, a squall approached, so we rolled in part of the genoa and put in 1, and then a 2nd, reef in the main.
I was feeling pretty beat from lack of sleep, so we put into Farerea Pass on the seldom-visited east side of Huahine. After looking in vain for the perfect place to drop the hook, we settled for a sandbar just inside the pass, and decided we would continue around the north end of the island after a snooze. The last 10 miles to Avamoa Pass and the main town of Fare was a delightful sail with sun and calm seas.
Once inside the pass, we were soon settled at anchor off a postcard-perfect beach. The boat right behind us turned out to be the French boat "Xe," whom we met in the Marquesas last year. We enjoyed a swim, a short walk to the sleepy town of Fare, and an unexpected encounter with the crew of another boat that we had seen in the distance during the passage. We found that they hadn't enjoyed their first night passage of the season any more than we had! Amihai and Orly are an Israeli couple on a Lagoon catamaran named "Shibolet." You don't meet too many Israeli cruisers, so we told them about the other Israeli cat we had encountered last year in the Tuamotus with two men aboard. Turns out it was the same boat. Amihai had done the Puddle Jump with his cousin, and Orly had flown in to meet him in Papeete. They had a nasty encounter with some pit bulls while ashore on Tahiti, leaving them with severe bite wounds which soon became infected. They ended up flying home for treatment, and leaving the boat in Papeete for the season.
Our second day in Huahine has been a delight. There is good swimming from the boat, a nice beach ashore,  lots of quiet paths for walking, and a wide choice of cheap eats in the village. Today we bought a fresh coconut for drinking and later eating, some spring rolls, and a coconut confection unlike any we had yet tried, all of which set us back $4. Cathy was given a large canteloupe from someone who had given her a ride back from a long walk she had taken. Amihai and Orly tried to buy us some fresh fish, but it was sold out by the time they got to the stall. We invited them over for bananas, coconut, and pineapple, and sent them home with fresh pamplemousse. Then they invited us to their boat for happy hour. Orly had little Israeli flags planted in the appetizers - nice! So fun to make new friends, too bad they are leaving in the morning for Raiatea. We plan to spend at least 2 weeks here on Huahine.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Moorea again

With the backstay repaired and provisions loaded, our work in Tahiti was done, so we enjoyed our last evening in Papeete by taking in the traditional dance show at the Intercontinental Hotel. We did NOT buy the $100 buffet to go with the show! Instead we got take out sashimi from the Carrefour supermarché, which we wolfed down while sitting on a bench in the shopping mall, much to the amusement of the locals.

We then walked a mile to the hotel, where we had a nice reserved table in the bar with a very good view of the dancing. The cold Hinanos were only $5, and there was a $5 cover, so this was an excellent deal indeed. While the dancing was not as good as at last year's Heiva festival, it was still a beautiful and entertaining show.

The next morning we sailed out of Taapuna Pass, while the local surfers enjoyed a wonderful left break just beyond the buoys.

There is a convergence zone parked over the Society Islands, so we didn't have the right winds to sail to Huahine. Instead, we returned to Moorea, which is such a verdant and restful contrast to Tahiti Nui. This time, we anchored right off the Bali Hai hotel in Cook's Bay. This is one of the friendliest and most charming hotels we have visited. They let us park our dinghy at their wharf and walk through their grounds.

The convergence zone dumped a few inches of rain on us during the night. The next morning Cathy used the rainwater in the dinghy to do her laundry.

Later we went ashore to continue provisioning. After stocking up on fresh baguettes, pastries, and veggies at the local market, we wandered up a dirt road into the surrounding hillside.

Near the end of the road, we came upon a local couple working in their garden, and asked if they had any bananas and/or pamplemousse to sell.
Sepli, a local firefighter, and his wife Vanina went into full hospitality mode, grabbing a huge sack and filling it with pamplemousse and limes. They also gave us an enormous stalk of bananas, some star fruit, papayas, and fresh basil and ginger.

There is so much fruit that they had to bring it to us in their truck later in the afternoon. It was way too heavy for us to tote! We tried to repay their hospitality by inviting them to happy hour on the boat.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sewing with Mark and Vicki

We've decided to rename the blog, based on our latest "favorite" boat maintenance activity. While there is not much we can do about the bits of plastic and rubber that are disintegrating all over the place, we can repair the stitching that is steadily giving way on our sails, covers, and other fabrics. We took the genoa to a sailmaker for repair, but the other repairs we do ourselves, one stitch at a time. A good sewing machine is just another of the many tools that we weren't able to find room for on this boat.

We are back in Papeete, and besides repairing canvas, we have just replaced our failed Navtec hydraulic backstay tightener with a short length of wire swaged to toggles and a turnbuckle. After waiting most of the week for assistance from a professional rigger, we finally turned for help to Michel at Tahiti Yacht Accessoire, a small shop here at Marina Taina. He walked me through the steps of taking pressure off the backstay with the main halyard and topping lift, and measuring the correct length for the new assembly. While he attached the terminals holding the wire to a toggle on one end and a turnbuckle at the other, I removed the old backstay. I had to saw through one of the toggles due to a clevis pin that had jammed up.

Although Michel was excited about how much money he had saved me by not replacing the Navtec unit, I was astounded that the turnbuckle, toggle, and terminals cost over US$400. He kindly did not charge me for the wire nor for the labor of attaching the terminals. Now we have a simpler and hopefully more reliable backstay to keep the mast up!

Cruising boats from Europe and North America are starting to appear in the harbor one by one as they make their way across the Pacific from Mexico, Panama, and the Galapagos, but we rarely find anyone who speaks English.

One of the most entertaining parts of the day is near dusk when dozens of traditional outrigger canoes (vakas) stream by in both directions. Some are singles, some carry teams of up to six men or women (we've seen very few co-ed teams so far).

We hope to depart within the next few days for Huahine, 100 nm to the west northwest. At that point we will be in the last major island group in French Polynesia, the Iles Sous le Vent that include Bora Bora.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

First crossing of the season

Our sail to Moorea started out gently enough, with just enough W wind to reach across the 10-mile channel separating the 2 islands. A pod of dolphins and several pilot whales swam past.  Halfway across, the wind died, and we began to buck around rather violently in small but wickedly confused seas. Motoring, the boat swung through 90 degrees, despite my best efforts. After an hour that felt like a day, the wind freshened from the E, and we rounded the NE point on Moorea doing over 7 knots. As we turned downwind, we were soon surfing down swells at up to 10kts at times. Cathy politely suppressed her alarm at how our light-displacement, fin keel boat was misbehaving (in conditions which would have been nothing to the full keel boat in which she had previously sailed), but she wisely donned her lifejacket (as did we)! We reefed the genoa, and should have reefed the main, but the pass through the reef into Opunohu Bay was only about 3 miles away, so we held on for the last bit. 

Once through the pass, we dropped the sails and motored into one of our favorite anchorages from the previous season. We like it even more this time, with only 10 boats at anchor instead of the 60 or so that were here last June. There is a nice beach backed by grassy park, a fresh water shower (and non-functional toilets), good holding for the anchor, beautiful snorkeling along a small reef between the boat and the beach, and killer views of Moorea's jagged peaks.

We enjoyed a very restful night and day here, and made plans for a long hike on Saturday. We packed lunch, water, and umbrellas to block the mid-day sun. As we were ready to head ashore, the Star Princess cruise ship came through the pass and anchored at the mouth of the bay. The first 4km of our walk followed the ring road, with plenty of traffic (though far less than Tahiti). Then we turned up the side road leading to the Belvedere, a hillside viewpoint we had visited on previous trips. We had to step off the narrow road to make way for large tour buses full of cruise ship passengers, but the times between vehicles were peaceful, and the surrounding countryside was verdantly beautiful.

Halfway up the hill, we stopped to sample tropical fruit jams being offered for sale at the Agricultural Lycee (high school) and re-filled our water bottles. The friendly young women staffing the counter seemed somewhat dubious of our intention to walk up the rest of the way to the viewpoint. Indeed, we saw no other hikers on our way up, only a seemingly endless stream of buses, pickups with bench seats in back, rental cars, scooters, and ATVs (and 2 cyclists). At the top, an obliging tourist snapped our photo. 

I told Vicki and Cathy that I would attempt to follow the trail down to Cook's Bay, and that I would meet them back at the boat. While beautiful, my hike was shorter than planned. The rocks underfoot were treacherously slimy from the recent rains, and on flat sections I gingerly dodged mud bogs that looked to be at least ankle-deep. I took a side path back to the Agricultural Lycee where I was soon reunited with Vicki and Cathy.

While the next section of our walk promised to be the most delightful (and most lightly traveled by motor vehicles), we soon ran out of energy in the still, mid-day heat and high humidity. A friendly Tahitian family gave us a ride in the back of their pickup, and we were soon enjoying the breeze and shade and tasty snacks at the Rotui snack bar at the head of Cook's Bay. I tried to take pictures of the blue-eyed eel swimming in a nearby drainage ditch. The eel seemed hopeful that I would share my spring roll with her!

Fortified by our rest stop, we started marching the last 4 miles home, anticipating another stop at the fruit juice factory. But a single kilometer was all we could manage before admitting defeat and flagging down a bus, for which we gladly paid $3 each.

After a swim and a leisurely afternoon back on the boat, we serenaded the setting sun with a playlist of sailing ballads, and briefly lost ourselves in a romantic reverie of our idyllic lives. We were brought to our senses by a sudden and violent rain squall, which was strangely unaccompanied by wind. For the rest of the night, we mopped up water from a growing number of leaky hatches and portlights, as the rain pounded down in extreme but intermittent bursts.

This morning it is still raining, so we have put off plans to visit "Stingray City" across the lagoon.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Taking on crew

 We spent a few days anchored in Port Phaeton making sure the boat was ready for sea. On Monday the 8th, we set out for Papeete, a 30nm sail. 

As we motored out through Teputo Pass, it was odd to feel the motion of the sea for the first time since last July. After an hour or so, the wind had filled in from the starboard quarter and we were sailing nicely along, with the peaks of Tahiti Nui looming to starboard, and the gentler slopes of Tahiti Iti falling behind to port. Ahead we could begin to see clouds of mist rising from where the south swell was breaking on the barrier reef. In another couple of hours we rounded the point near Maraa.

As we headed up the west coast, we eventually reached the lee of the island, where the wind died and we had to motor the last 6 miles to Taapuna Pass. Once inside the pass, we were surrounded by speedboats, floating restaurants, outrigger canoes, and a forest of sailboats attached to mooring balls. Virtually all of these were local boats, some inhabited by young Europeans working ashore. As soon as we had picked up an empty mooring, a young Belgian woman dinghied over with a flyer for her "traditional Tahitian jewelry making course" - 55 Euros/hour!

The next morning, we were up at 0400 to meet our friend Cathy's plane. We dinghied ashore in the darkness, and hopped a bus to the airport. Our timing was perfect - as we approached the "arrivals" door, Cathy was the first one to emerge! She came bearing gifts - duty free rum and a replacement pump for our marine toilet, the housing of which had developed a crack during our long layup.

We spent another day in Papeete provisioning, doing errands, and showing Cathy a few sights, such as the public market, where you can find the best selection of fresh fish and produce, handicrafts, and tasty, inexpensive snacks. Vicki and I had poisson cru for $4 each, and Cathy got a small quiche for $3.50.

On Thursday (4/11), were ready to leave Papeete. We had hoped not to return, but our propane tank would not be filled until the following Wednesday, so nstead we planned a 5-day excursion to nearby Moorea. I had neglected to put together a gravity-fill hose for transferring propane from local cylinders into our incompatible North American cylinder, because it had been fairly easy to get our cylinders filled here last year. Only one of many things I had neglected to do during the past 9 months!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Launch Day

We had an uneventful trip back to the Tahiti Nautic Center, flying to Papeete aboard Air Tahiti Nui, and using a rental car to transport our 4 checked bags and 4 carry-ons to Taravao. We arrived to find the boat in pretty good shape, considering she had been left in the tropics for 9 months, including 4 months of record-setting rains. There was a fair amount of mold and mildew inside, but we had bagged up all fabrics, books, and other delicate items, and Yvan (the boatyard manager) had done a great job keeping the dehumidifier crystals changed, pumping the bilge as needed, and topping up the battery water. The main work was wiping down surfaces with vinegar and water, unbagging and re-stowing all of our stuff, and airing the boat out thoroughly. The boatyard had already applied bottom paint, because the only available launch date was the day after we arrived. Otherwise we would have had to spend an extra week on the hard. I checked through hulls, changed zincs, lubricated the Max-Prop, and put up the dodger and bimini for shade. In the morning, the boatyard crew hooked up a long trailer to a small tractor, and maneuvered it up to the bow end of our cradle, which has solid supports along the port side of the boat. The rear wheels were removed, and the trailer sides were slid back under the cradle. All the extra supports were cut away, and the trailer and cradle were bolted together. Then the whole thing was jacked up so the rear wheels coulod be reattached. At this point it was time for us to get off the boat. The trailer was pulled out into the driveway, then backed through the yard toward the slipway ramp. Once the trailer started down the ramp, the tractor was chained to a strong point. Then the trailer was disconnected from the tractor, and allowed to slowly back down into the water, by means of a cable attached to a winch. Once the boat was partway in the water, Yvan (boatyard manager) removed the last supports ahead and behind the keel, and climbed aboard the boat for the last part of the descent. Once the boat was afloat, I climbed aboard and checked through hulls, and the shaftlog for leaks. Once the trailer was removed, and the boat was secured to the slipway, I started the engine, checked the windlass, depth sounder, and other systems needed for maneuvering. We'll stay alongside the slipway tonight, as its easier to provision the boat from here. It feels great to have the boat back in the water in such a beautiful place. We look forward to spending some time with Rupert and Judy on Khaya, one of the few other non-French boats that spent the hurricane season laid up here.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Sailing roots

As we get ready to head back to Southern Cross for another season in the South Pacific, I try to remember where I got this crazy idea. Guess it has been in my blood for a long time. Here's me on a different "Southern Cross" a lifetime ago...