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Friday, August 23, 2013

Tahiti to Tahanea

We departed Baie Phaeton, at the isthmus between Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti, at first light on Tuesday. John had specifically looked for a weather window of next to no wind to get us back to the Tuamotus. In the usual prevailing wind pattern it would be a salty wet bash - which Nakia and her crew do not particularly like. After motoring out of the protective lee of the island the seas were short but close together and we knew we were back on open ocean again.

We got what we wished for and this may have been the most expensive passage, relatively speaking, that we've ever had. John had gone to the gas station and filled one 6.5 gallon jerry jug full of diesel fuel to top our tanks and it cost him about $45 US! Although we tried to sail when we could - even when it meant doing one knot of boat speed - we ended up motoring most of the way here. But when we sailed it was absolutely beautiful, especially at night with the boat gliding along in the moonlight reflecting on the flat surface of the water.

How calm was it, you ask? It was so calm that:

We set our coffee cups down on the table or counter and they didn't tip over (well, John still held on to his out of force of habit; I seized the day and felt like I was living on the edge)...

I sat in one of our plastic patio chairs in the cockpit to watch the sunrise...

We saw a fish swim under the boat..

John saw his reflection in the water as he leaned over to take a...hmmm, uh, you know...

The silence was deafening each time we pulled the kill switch and got some relief from the noise, heat, and vibration of the engine. It made for lots of tippy-toeing around by the on-watch person at night while the off-watch tried to sleep in all that quiet. Woe to the crew who opened a new packet of crackers for a midnight snack. Those plastic wrappers are noisy!

Even though we were paralleling the atoll of Tahanea before dawn when we could see the palm covered motus along the coral reef, we still had another four and a half hours of following the reef to the main pass entrance. As we closed with the pass we watched as huge rain clouds began to form. We had missed the beginning of an ebb tide after high slack by about three hours, and the current was already churning up the far side of the entrance. John wanted to know if I wanted to stay outside the pass and wipe down the boat in the rain but I didn't want to give the current a chance to get any stronger so we headed in. Of course at that moment the clouds converged to block the sun and it started to rain. Fortunately it wasn't so heavy that visibility was impaired, and it was still calm. John hugged the SE side of the pass on our port side to stay out of the current while I stood on the bow making sure we weren't going to hit anything. I glanced up occasionally to watch a rock on shore 120 yards away as we passed at a snail's pace with as much as four knots of counter-current slowing us down. But after only 15 minutes we were through the worst of it and I was wiping the salt and grime off the boat with the fresh rain water.

We finally killed the engine and had the best sail of the whole passage. Unfortunately it was backtracking two hours across the lagoon to the far SE end where we had started - only this time we were inside the reef. We had counted four boats at anchor as we went by outside after sunrise and now we could see two more. The boats are spread out among a handful of atolls for privacy and we split the difference between two of them. I was a bit frantic as John directed me forward out of deep water and over the sand to drop the anchor in seven feet of water (plus two that the depth sounder doesn't know about). That just goes to show how long it's been since we've been in clear water (I'm out of practice). And I thought Tahiti was pretty great - this is way mo' betta! We already have a male Napoleon (Humphead) wrasse in residence who was happy to come to the surface for our fish scraps (see dinner plans below).

Here are the stats, plus or minus a bit since I haven't slept much in three nights:

Motored 42 hours for a total of 222 nautical miles.
Sailed 36 hours for a total of 102 miles.
Average speed over total of 78 hours and 324 miles was 4.1 knots.
Fuel consumed: 25 gallons at $177? We're hoping for around six tenths of a gallon per hour since John kept the RPMs at 1400 which is not much above forward idle speed.
Fish caught: A 20 lb skipjack tuna, the one and only time John put out a line. While the meat looks a disgusting dark blood red, John marinated it in soy sauce, sugar, and garlic chili sauce, and pan fried it. Tonight it goes over cous cous cooked with a sauteed onion and a can of Veg-all.

Ziggy's already had several laps around the boat enjoying our new found calm and quiet (not to mention all the fresh fish). Now it's time for us to get in this beautiful clear lagoon and go for a swim!


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tahiti waypoints

Here are some of the places we've stopped during our stay in Tahiti from our July 29 arrival until now. Until we left Papeete our focus was mostly around restocking the boat and buying supplies for our friends on Toau. Because we only buy what we can carry back to the boat it took several trips to complete our lists.

Point Venus: We arrived here at sunrise with Chris and Lila of Privateer after sailing within sight of them during our entire two day/night sail from Toau. We spent most of our time here grocery shopping, with one trip by bus to Papeete for pearl shopping with Privateer.

Marina Taina anchorage: Here we continued our provisioning which was made very easy with access to a free dinghy dock and a full-sized Carrefour shopping center only a 10 minute walk away. We also made use of the marina's laundry facilities at a very reasonable 800 CFP for a 10 kg washing machine.

Papeete Quay: Located in downtown Papeete we were able to make several visits to marine and hardware stores, order our duty-free alcohol, walk almost daily to the grocery store, buy inexpensive lunches in the open-air Market, eat one night at the Roulottes, do more laundry (this time by hand) on the quay, and replenish our supplies of gasoline and propane. On the fun side of things we also managed to take a hike up through Fautaua Valley to a waterfall and spend an afternoon at the nearby waterfront park. I highly recommend the pearl shopping at Mihiarii Pearls, especially if you can work with the very helpful (and English) Jessica at their outlet upstairs in the Marche (Market). They have loose, undrilled pearls for every budget.

Maraa Grotto: From Papeete we made another short stop at the Marina Taina anchorage. We took the local bus down to visit the Maraa Grottos and a few beach parks. The next day we motored to an anchor spot out in front of the grottos to make our way towards Port Phaeton. The grottos are not really worth making a special trip for, but the beach parks were nice.

Baie Phaeton: Another easy shopping stop with a place to tie up the dinghy for a short walk to another huge Carrefour. A Hyper Champion and a Super U are a farther walk through town.

{GMST}17|30.210|S|149|29.844|W|Tahiti|Point Venus{GEND}
{GMST}17|34.832|S|149|37.104|W|Tahiti|Marina Taina anchorage{GEND}
{GMST}17|33.425|S|149|34.224|W|Tahiti|Papeete Quay{GEND}
{GMST}17|44.775|S|149|34.434|W|Tahiti|Maraa Grotto{GEND}
{GMST}17|43.809|S|149|19.542|W|Tahiti|Baie Phaeton{GEND}

Friday, August 16, 2013

Tuamotus waypoints

Some of you have missed "seeing" where we've been in French Polynesia this season so I'll do a brief rundown on our stops in the Tuamotus from June 17 to July 27.

Fakarava South Pass (West): This was a favorite of ours in 2010 when we were one of a handful of boats who ventured over to this side of the pass. Most cruisers opt to anchor in deeper water to the east of the pass in front of Manihi's lovely pension/restaurant amidst the fir trees he and his wife planted on their motu. But this season we found many more boats were anchoring on the west side in spite of the longer dinghy ride for snorkeling/diving the pass. Neville and Catherine of Dream Time, along with help from several other cruisers, created the Fakarava Yacht Club beach "bar" on a sandy motu. We enjoyed many bonfire evenings there and we hope it survives cyclone season to open in time for next season's visitors.

Fakarava lagoon: On our first day of lagoon transit from the South Pass to the North we hit a period of incredibly calm weather. We anchored in 70' in mirror flat water. This is not a tenable stop in anything but perfect conditions. The reward here is a fantastic low tide reef walk. Two kinds of live cowries were in abundance along with many other interesting forms of marine life to observe (but not touch).

Fakarava near Tonae: This was a nice stop to stretch our legs and explore on the coral "road" which is more like a track. We chose to hike north where we found spurs leading to the outer reef for a nice beach walk at low tide.

Anse Amyot, Toau: This was a favorite stop of ours in 2010 when we had calm and settled weather. Unfortunately this year there was much more wind and we were hunkered down for almost 10 of the 28 days we spent here. Instead of daily snorkeling we escaped the wind out on the boat by going ashore. John was drafted to build Valentine a chicken coop. This is not the kind of thing he normally enjoys doing (give him a piece of electronics to fix and he's a happy camper), but it turned out great and it let Gaston get on with the jobs that are more important to him like clearing more of Motu Kai for planting palm trees for producing copra. A by-product of clearing the land of brush is turning up old garbage burn piles. I helped sift through these to separate out (broken) glass and aluminum. We think (hope) the latter is sent to Papeete for recycling. Gaston asked John and Chris of Privateer to help dig a pit in which to bury the glass. This was a difficult job and we all agreed that it might be better to bury the glass out at sea... As a reward for everyone's hard work, Gaston and Valentine took us out to Motu Pagnoi in their go-fast boat for a picnic. This turned out to be the calmest day of our stay there.


{GMST}16|31.244|S|145|28.368|W|Tuamotus|Fakarava South Pass (West){GEND}
{GMST}16|22.678|S|145|26.368|W|Tuamotus|Fakarava lagoon{GEND}
{GMST}16|15.583|S|145|32.837|W|Tuamotus|Fakarava near Tonae{GEND}
{GMST}16|03.552|S|145|37.248|W|Tuamotus|Fakarava North Pass{GEND}
{GMST}15|48.221|S|146|09.141|W|Tuamotus|Anse Amyot, Toau{GEND}