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Monday, July 26, 2010


So before we got halfway to Raiatea from Huahine last Tuesday John hooked a mahi mahi (dorado) on one of the hand lines. Most people would assume this was a "good thing" but it ended up causing all kinds of trials and tribulations. We were sailing wing and wing which is downwind with the jib poled out to one side and the main on a preventer (tied down) on the opposite side. It's very hard to stop or even slow the boat in this configuration. John pulled the fish in to the boat, gaffed it, and tried to put it head first into a 5-gallon bucket to subdue it. The fish was unusually calm until the bucket part, when it became very upset and thrashed out of the bucket into the cockpit well where we had all kinds of junk stowed. There was immediately blood everywhere: splattered on the teak combings, the helm seat, the wheel, the cockpit sole, the cockpit well and all its contents - sun shower, swimming trunks, snorkeling T-shirt, snorkel gear, dinghy lock, water siphon hose, oh, and don't forget the main sheet (a very long rope).

Meanwhile another mahi mahi hooked up on the fly John had tied to a fishing pole on the stern pushpit. He rarely bothers to use the fishing pole anymore, let alone with a fly on it, but he thought maybe he could get a small bonito type fish with it. After struggling with the first fish in the cockpit John finally managed to get it head down into the bucket in the cockpit well. I gripped the base of its tail with both hands to keep it from thrashing out of the bucket while John started reeling in the second fish. Eventually the colors faded from the fish I held, and after a few more gentle pumps from its muscles it expired and I could let go. John had me pull in the second hand line before anything had a chance to hook up there, while he kept reeling in the second fish on the pole. The pole he was using is not sufficient for the size fish that was hooked because it's only 20 lb test line. So it was quite a fight. In the end, after 20 minutes, John was able to get the fish near the boat three times but never close enough to gaff it. The third time the line broke and the fish swam away.

Then the excitement was over and we had a chance to really survey the damage. John went to work on the side deck cleaning the 15 lb fish and, after putting all the blood soaked clothing in the galley sinks to rinse in fresh water, I went to work with a bucket of salt water cleaning everything else. We weren't happy cruisers from all this messy activity, and it was very good to finally put the anchor down in Baie Hotopuu.

After lunch our spirits were raised when some kids on a paddle boat came out to give us some little fingerling fish they had caught in a net. They shared some of their fried fish patties, bananas, and a perfumey local apple with us and delighted in feeding Ziggy pieces of their fish cakes. The two pre-schoolers eventually couldn't resist climbing aboard while their older brothers and sister kept an eye on them from the paddle boat. Finally it was time for them to leave and I dug out a ball to give to the youngest boy who was in tears when he realized the fun was over.

Except for dogs barking overnight and the ever present roosters crowing at dawn, we spent a quiet night all by ourselves in the anchorage. While I did my exercises up on deck the next morning I watched a woman in a small skiff setting traps with her young son; a man working a small fishing net from chest high in the water at the head of the bay; a scooter stop at one of the houses to give someone else a ride to work; a kid riding a bicycle in circles behind his house; and I could hear the clinking of dishes and cutlery as breakfast was prepared. All this activity and it wasn't even 7 AM!

{GMST}16|50.715|S|151|22.052|W|Baie Hotopuu|Raiatea{GEND}

From Hotopuu we sailed to Baie Opoa to visit Marae Taputapuatea, one of the most important of the traditional temples in French Polynesia. We had a lovely ending to the day when the canoe replica we'd seen in Huahine sailed through the pass blowing their conch shell to announce their arrival. I convinced John to blow his horn in reply, and a small group of people gathered on shore to welcome them.

{GMST}16|50.105|S|151|22.080|W|Baie Opoa|Raiatea{GEND}

We spent another day at Opoa to meet up with Don and Kim of S/V Gloria Maris for another visit to the marae before enjoying a celebratory birthday lunch for Kim at the Hotel Atiapiti. After a round of rum punches, we ordered lobster for Kim, poisson crue for Don, crab salad with lots of leafy green lettuce for me, and chicken in soy/cola sauce for John. We shamelessly topped it all off with two pieces of coconut cake topped with coconut ice cream and garnished with star fruit and tea roses for dessert. It was a lovely meal but we have to chuckle when we realize that we are so well trained to French Polynesia prices by now that we think nothing of taking the equivalent of $90 to shore with us - and hoping it will be enough to pay for lunch.

We hustled back to the boats for a short sail to Faaroa where we enjoyed a home brewed beer happy hour with Don and Kim. They can brew 23 liters for very little money and John is considering giving up one of our water jerry jugs to do the same! Don whipped up a batch of plum duff right out of Patrick O'Brien for a surprise birthday dessert later. But I think the biggest surprise was in how well it came out when this was the first time he'd ever made it. Delish!

Friday morning we took the dinghies to explore the Apoomau river. On our way past a wooden dock we got a pitch from a man in a kayak for a plantation tour. We continued up river until we had to turn around at a house in front of a shallow little rapids. We met back up with James at the dock to take what we suspect was a completely unofficial tour of someone's farm. But he knew the names of most of the plants and flowers in French, Tahitian, and English and treated us to contraband bananas, coconut, sticky purple fruit, and fern "tattoos" made by placing a fern against your skin and smacking it to leave the pattern behind in white pollen. We got a kick out of his style of teaching (he usually asked us for the name of plants before telling us what they were) and his unusual patter about many of the flowers and fruits - "Is good for you?" "Is no good for me." - which we've now incorporated into our daily routine.

On a sad note we feel it's important to report that a dinghy and outboard left trailing behind an anchored boat overnight was most likely stolen in this bay after we left. Always raise or lock those dinghies and motors!

{GMST}16|49.052|S|151|24.870|W|Baie Faaroa|Raiatea{GEND}

On Friday Nakia and Gloria Maris were happy to find a calm, protected bay for a change at Vairahi. It's been very windy and we're on the windward side of the island so this was a welcome respite. Saturday morning we invited John and Kara of Orca to join us for a hike to the three waterfalls. Per the 2006 edition of Lonely Planet we walked up the road just north of the 6km mark (at a telephone booth and big sign for L'Excursion Bleue) to start the trail at a small parking lot where two cars which had passed us were parked. Unfortunately after crossing one small stream we were thwarted by a brand new chain strung across the opposite side of a bigger stream with no less than three hand drawn signs on it saying things like Piste Privee (private path), Propriete Privee (private property), and Something Interdit (forbidden). Now normally we might ignore something old and faded, but this was so obviously "in your face" that we elected to respect the signs. Since we knew people were already on the trail, my feeling is that it's been put off limits to do-it-yourselfers like us in favor of squeezing more tourist dollars out of shoreside sightseeing opportunities. Even though they weren't marked the cars passing us held one or two locals with one or more tourist types as passengers. We'd like to know if Lonely Planet has a more current version of this hike in print yet.

{GMST}16|46.554|S|151|25.174|W|Baie Vairahi|Raiatea{GEND}

Tired of what I've begun calling "dark water" where we can't see the bottom, we hopped across the lagoon to motu Taoru where Dilan and Gloria Maris were already anchored and Orca was right behind us. Ideally it's a one or two boat anchorage so we stern tied Nakia and Orca to trees on shore. As I swam along the shore I was dissuaded from sitting on one of the tiny strips of sand by two big black barking dogs who came out to greet me. The motu is the private reserve of Pension Manava, but even in so remote and uninhabited a place we woke to roosters crowing the next morning. We only found one live coral head complete with three big anemones, anemonefish and lionfish close to shore and it was too rough to snorkel either side of the pass (the motu actually sits in the middle of the pass). Plus the mosquitoes ensured we wouldn't spend another night there.

{GMST}16|44.728|S|151|25.506|W|Ile Taoru|Raiatea{GEND}

We're currently on a mooring outside the entrance to Marina Uturoa enjoying Hotspot's Wi-Fi to the boat, water from the docks to top our tanks, and grocery stores nearby for provisioning. We plan to spend a second night on the mooring before crossing to Tahaa tomorrow (Tuesday).

{GMST}16|43.404|S|151|26.834|W|Marina Uturoa|Raiatea{GEND}