May 30, 2011, 0530 hrs, 16.49 S, 151.25 W, Log: 147,099 miles
Baro: 1012.7, Cabin Temp: 78 F cockpit 76 F, sea water 83.9 F
At anchor, Baie Faaroa, Raiatea (130 mi W of Tahiti)
SURROUNDED BY BEAUTY!
We are anchored in French Polynesia’s deepest bay which extends in two miles and has the only navigatable river at the head of the bay. The full moon has just set and the roosters that have been sporadically crowing back and forth across the bay are really getting warmed up for dawn after a night of cockle-doodle-doing. Everyone aboard but me is asleep, and I’ve decided that getting up early is the only way I’m going to get an update off as every day has been full of non-stop adventures for the past two weeks!
Our time between Legs 1 & 2 passed in blur. We enjoyed remarkably calm weather for five days while anchored off the entrance to Opunohu Bay on Moorea, having great runs in the morning and working on boat projects during the days. A forecasted frontal passage sent us deep into Opunohu Bay just hours before the area got slammed with winds to 50 kts and blinding rain squalls that nearly filled our dinghy. Mahina Tiare was totally secure and well-protected near the head of the bay, anchored in 40’ with a thick mud bottom. In the height of the squalls Amanda noticed an aluminum cutter short tacking up the bay and our instant reaction was, “Who would ever choose to be out sailing in these conditions?” When the unpainted racy-looking boat anchored nearby curiosity got the best of me so I loaded up some of our Rurutu pamplemouse (sweet grapefruit) and dinghied over to welcome the new boat.
Rosie, a Kiwi dive master, and Lon, a professional yacht captain originally from Maine explained that this was their weekend off from running Askari, (www.charteryachtaskari.com) a handsome 120’ trawler/tug style expedition motor yacht that we had seen many times anchored in Cook’s Bay, four miles to the east. We chatted for hours and they invited us to visit the following day, Sunday, but by the time we were getting ready to head over, they’d raised anchor under sail and were headed out the bay. We jumped in the RIB and chased them thinking we could get some pictures and when we approached they keenly invited Amanda aboard.
Amanda and Rosie immediately hit it off. Rosie had moved from NZ to Vanuatu with her family, who had bought a dive operation there pre-independence, when she was 17 where as Amanda at age 13 had sailed to and lived in Tonga with her family. Time ran out as Rosie and Lon neared the pass of Opunohu Bay so Amanda leapt back into the dinghy while making fast plans to visit again aboard Askari in Cook’s Bay.
Meanwhile Beth and Norm Cooper, Leg 4-2009 & who had hosted our visit to Vancouver and Bluewater Cruising Association two winters ago, had just beaten the squalls into Cooks Bay aboard Sarah Jean II, their Saga 43.
For the past year we’d been looking forward to catching up with them and our rendezvous coincided with Club Bali Hai’s weekly Tahitian dance show and dinner. What a picture-perfect evening, with the crew of another three yachts; traditional dancing and tasty BBQ all while seated under a massive banyan tree and nearly full moon on the edge of the dock with our yachts anchor lights shining across the bay, framed by Moorea’s rugged peaks.
Later the next day before dinner and brownies aboard Sarah Jean we squeezed in a visit with Askari whose crew were scrambling to ready the yacht for a photo shoot and learned that Amanda and Rosie’s parents live just a few miles apart.
Before we knew it, it was time to head back to Tahiti to provision, meet Leg 2 crew, and clear out for Rarotonga! What a bash. With headwinds to 30 kts and steep, short seas, we battled and clawed our way around the windward corner of Moorea and slowly into the lee of Tahiti and back to Marina Taina. Within a few minutes of tying up, we ran ten minutes up the busy road to Carrefour, the huge supermarket/shopping center, and proceeded to completely fill a shopping trolley with US$850 worth of groceries. It was so overloaded that we really struggled to push it back to the marina where Amanda worked flat out trying to get all the goodies stowed before our crew joined us at 4 PM for safety orientation and to drop off their passports. Phew! We had a successful orientation with an eager new crew!
At 7AM Friday Amanda joined me as I took the bus to town to clear outbound immigrations and harbor formalities. Amanda thought it must have been at five years since she’d last come into Papeete (she’s not real keen on bustling cities!) but she wanted to check out her favorite fabric and pareau (sarong) shops. As she enjoyed the shops I was drawn to a busy street corner where Tahitians surrounded 15 older men and women from Manihi atoll (in the Tuamotus, 250 mi. NE of Tahiti). The musicians were earnestly playing and singing traditional songs accompanied by guitars, ukuleles, spoons and drums. Their passion was contagious and it reminded me of the old Tahiti from my first visits in the mid ‘70’s.
In what seemed a flash, we caught a cab back to the marina, stowed a few last things, and greeted our crew. We’d planned to anchor off the reef for lunch and a swim but the beckoning of Moorea was too strong so I very slowly steered us toward Taapuna Pass as Amanda briefed crew on deck safety and mainsail procedures.
We always expect a lot of wind for this passage but instead had great sailing conditions with wind in the low 20’s. Even though we had been very conservative, tucking two reefs in the main, Annika hit 8.7 kts! Our first anchorage was an old favorite off Maharepa Village; a very narrow, coral-fringed entrance channel leads to an anchorage with limited swinging room but spectacular view of the mountains, easy reef access all the way to the outer reef providing great snorkeling with the rays in 4’ deep crystal clear water.
Saturday morning four of our crew of six took us up on the offer of a ride ashore to explore, when Amanda and I venture out on our dawn run, and Molly and Baxter passed us on the up mountain road like we were standing still!
After covering bilge, extinguisher and engine room orientation we set sail for Cook’s Bay, just a few miles to leeward. Our crew persevered tacking up the bay in flukey winds and enjoyed exploring ashore as we stocked up on juicy local pineapples and melons. We set sail just after dusk for Huahine, 85 miles west, planning to arrive soon after first light. What a sweet sail we had with fairly steady winds between 20 & 30 kts. Mahina Tiare scooted. Verne and Pehr commented that they never imagined they would be sailing along smoothly under a full tropical moon through the glistening seas in just t-shirt and shorts.
At dawn Huahine was ahead whilst Raiatea and Tahaa which share a fringing reef were clearly visible to leeward. After entering the reef pass we wound our way 7.2 miles south through the twisting coral channel to Baie d’Avea, the crescent-moon shaped bay at the southern tip of Huahine. In this stunning anchorage we were surprised and pleased to Sarah Jean already at anchor, after also completing the same passage, and only three charter cats.
Our crew was pretty tired from the overnight passage so after a swim and a demo aboard Sarah Jean by Beth on sending and receiving email, via SailMail by Pactor modem and SSB radio, everyone enjoyed afternoon naps.
We rarely expect more than one or two to take our dawn offer of shore exploration but for the first time ever all hands were on deck and ready to head ashore in the first light of dawn at 6am. Amanda and I have long been charmed by the incredibly friendly folks in the small villages along Huahine’s south coast.
We passed five men working a traditional fish net from an outrigger canoe along with mask and fins to catch the stray fish, and watched numerous young fit lads head off across the lagoon in needle-nosed one man racing outrigger canoes. When we reached our half-hour turn around time, we started looking and asking about for bananas. The first family, after scurrying around, greatly apologized that didn’t have any ripe ones. We stopped at another house that had an extensive grove of banana trees along the roadside and when I called “Bonjour” I was greeted by a woman who by all respects except for her short blond hair and French face, could have passed for a Tahitian mama. Her ample bosom was partly restrained by a huge threadbare brassiere and she graciously wore a Tahitian pareu wrapped around her ample waist. After I inquired if she might have bananas for sale she rapidly called and gestured to her Tahitian husband who which upon gazing around his plantation proceeded to cut down a HUGE stalk which they refused to take money for.
The generous farmer asked if I’d be ok carrying the stalk the two miles back to where we’d left the dinghy and I assured him that I’d be fine as I heaved the stalk to my shoulder and Amanda and I set off down the road.
After a few minutes of struggling and staggering a young Tahitian guy on a very decrepit scooter stopped asking if he could help. When I said “Oui oui!” he promptly laid the bananas on the runner of his scooter, balanced the jug of gas on top and proceeded
to wobble down the road with Amanda and I running quickly whilst wondering if our new friend had understood where our dinghy was tied. However as we approached the next village our banana courier was sitting in the shade chatting with a friend and waiting for us.
| Molly and Annika enjoying the calm sail
After studying marine weather we set sail for Port Bourayne; a huge, very well-protected bay with a few fales.
Along the way we anchored for lunch and a snorkel exploration via dinghy to the fringing reef where we found more clear water and tropical fish.
Boys being boys...Baxter and Verne designed a chain pulling bottom running event while out checking the anchor set. Pretty cool stuff for Baxter to capture on his dinky GoPro camera.
Yesterday we sailed the six miles to Fare; the little bustling main village/town on Huahine where our entire crew cycled or hitch hiked to the very famous Polynesian archeological site of Maeva, located on the far northern coast.
Molly, Verne and I had a fantastic and completely unexpected cultural experience in Fare.
After a short walk around town, the three of us were separated from the group that was renting bicycles to ride to the marae (ancient temple site) so we decided to try our luck at hitchhiking which is a common and safe practice in French Polynesia. We had only had our thumbs out for a few minutes when an extremely tired and rusty double-cab pick-up truck stopped, which looked like it contained most of the occupant’s worldly possessions. We were soon introduced to Dominic and Leona, Fare locals. Using Molly’s high school French skills and Verne’s Hawaiian mannerisms, we explained that we needed a ride to the marae. Dominic was a thin wiry guy in his mid-30s with long-ish hair that had naturally dreadlocked. Leona was a bit younger with beautiful long black hair and a dark rich complexion. As we bounced down the road with them we all laughed as we tried to converse, in broken French using our hands, where we were from and something about our lives.
Shortly down the road we saw the local Gendarme truck (police) approaching us. Both Dominic and Leona quickly reached for their seatbelt shoulder straps, which they were not wearing, and we all laughed as the Gendarme passed and they both quickly released them.
Ten minutes into the ride Dominic explained that he needed to stop at a local store and he pulled off at a small house. As he was in the store, we learned from Leona that they had been married but were now divorced. They had two daughters and she was excited to show us their photos. Dominic quickly returned with a loaf of coconut bread, a local specialty, which he had purchased for us! Such generosity from a couple that obviously had better things to do with their money than provide a treat to complete strangers they picked up on the side of the road.
As our new friends dropped us off at the marae, Verne gave Dominic his sunglasses as thanks for his kindness and we exchanged hugs and handshakes. Standing at the marae watching Dominic and Leona drive away we were amazed at how such a short interaction with new people could expose us to the overwhelming friendliness of the Tahitian people and the common themes of family, friendship and community we all share.
After a lunch ashore we set sail for this Baie Faaroa, about 25 miles west of Huahine. We had hoped to practice Lifesling overboard rescue and land a nice catch for dinner but with very light following winds and no strikes on our fishing lines we had to make do with practicing landfall navigation. Soon after anchoring everyone was in the water and two six person outrigger racing canoes paddled by gorgeous Tahitian girls kept paddling by. The Tahitian Heiva festival is during the months of July and August and one, three and six person outrigger paddling competition between villages and islands figures heavily in the festivities.
Wednesday morning our crew was all on deck before 6am, ready to explore ashore. For the first time we ran toward the head of the bay
where we passed a large new school and power plant, but no real village It was fun to source the large river at the head of the bay to the stream it became where the road and bridge passed over. Soon after we’d returned and had breakfast, James, a Tahitian who used to work for Sunsail when it was based in Faaroa, came by on his kayak and offered to show us his plantation.
We followed him in our dinghy all the way up to the bridge then on a hiking trip through friends plantation’s as he pointed out different plants. We never quite figured out what he was about as he didn’t ask for anything – I think he just enjoys showing yachties around.
June 17, 2011, 1600 hrs, 16.37 S, 151.33 W, Log: 147,128 miles
Baro: 1014.1, Cabin Temp: 82 F cockpit 80 F, sea water 84.2 F
Anchored South of Motu Tautau near Tahaa’s Western Reef
Amanda gave the crew more pointers on reefing as we motored in windless lagoon to Uturoa; the second largest town in French Polynesia, after Papeete. The GRIB files and weatherfax charts showed that the light winds would persist over the region for a few more days followed by the resumption of fresh tradewinds. At the fuel dock to the west of the municipal marina we topped up the main fuel tank and our seven six-gallon jerry jugs with duty free fuel, knowing that the next time we would be able to fuel dockside would be six countries and several months later. We found the attractive two-storied public market nearly full with stalls and the top floor housing traditional artisans and their work. We were surprised to see no other cruising boats around, only a very few charter boats.
In preparation for our vanilla plantation tour we headed north to Baie Hurepiti where we picked up a mooring in front of Alain and Christina Plantier’s dock but when Amanda swam a gift of bananas over to a Moorings charter cat that they too said they were booked to go on Alain’s tour. Humm?….in reviewing my emails I realized I’d gotten my days mixed up. Never mind - we enjoyed a lovely evening with full moon in this deep and protected bay
Early the next morning we spent quite awhile searching the shoreline for shore access for our explorations before Molly spotted a vacant lot with a dinghy dock that we were able to land at. We hiked up the steep hills and enjoyed the rain drenched foliage whilst admiring views of the bay and outer reef. Back in the bay we’d spotted a little sign on a dock that announced “Sophie’s Boutique” and so we met Sophie, a very energetic French woman who showed us her artwork and demonstrated to Amanda a new way to tie her pareu utilizing a buckle carved from coconut shell.
| Baxter's view of Molly taking a morning swim
This crew is fairly keen snorkelers, so Molly carefully navigated us through reef passages to a place on the outer east motus cruisers have dubbed, “Coral Gardens”.
We anchored a half mile or so off the small motus and dinghied ashore to a tiny islet that looks to have only one family living in a thatch house. We then walked up the beach nearly to the outer reef, hopped in the water and propelled by at times by fairly strong current, floated down-current through shallow coral passages over brilliantly healthy coral reefs surrounded at times by clouds of exotic tropical fish.
It is challenging to aim for the deep channels and avoid getting pinned on coral heads and a couple crew members returned with some nicks and scrapes, but most everyone enjoyed the challenge. I caught up with Pehr who was taking a breather while hanging onto a rock and asked, “So, what do you think?” and his wide-eyed reply was, “There are just SO many fish, why are they all here?”
| Annika and Molly taking a break from fish viewing
Tahaa is a small island of only 5,000 people but produces over 25 tons of vanilla annually. It seemed appropriate to understand a bit more of the island culture and economy so the crew set out for a Vanilla Tour with Alain and Christina Plantier.
Alain began the tour describing a traditional Tahitian housing structure and the methods of construction using coconut leaves and bamboo. The communities would build structures by function (one for laundry, one for cooking, and another for sleeping) and the entire village would live together within the structures. Considering this was the first ten minutes of the tour, we were excited to hear more. Alain continued to discuss the varieties of plants and trees that are indigenous as well as those introduced by early Polynesian migration and European and Asian settlers. It turns out that of the 2,800 species of plants on the island, only 250 were originally grown on the island and the first people to arrive on the island were from Taiwan.
We then jumped into the Land Rover truck and headed out to the vanilla farm. As we climbed a steep jungle-like hillside, we looked for vanilla trees or vanilla bushes, but as it turns out, vanilla is actually a vine that is grown using another tree as support and shade. It produces a beautiful white flower that has no aroma. Vanilla originates from Mexico and is very sought after in many countries because it can thrive in a tropical climate and become a valuable agricultural industry. The requirements for a successful vanilla crop include a winter that dips below 68 degrees and a good source of pollination. Many countries such as India have even attempted to import Mexican bees as the indigenous insects were not interested in the vanilla plant. Those imported bees died and the result has been a labor intensive cross pollination process where each flower has the pollen removed from the stigma and inserted into the stamen by hand. After two days the flower begins to develop fruit and nine months later a brown vanilla bean is produced. The beans are picked individually by hand and then still need to be dried correctly in order not to mold. It is hard to believe the quantity of vanilla produced with the care the vines require and the lengthy process of producing the vanilla bean.
The tour continued for another hour as we took a dirt road that meandered across the island for amazing panoramic views where you could see three bays. The road has been used to cross the interior of the island for hundreds of years and had bumps and potholes filled with water. Alain stopped along one of the lookouts and prepared a feast for us of star fruit, bananas, lychee, and more.
| The gang enjoying a refreshing drink - Pehr, Alain, Mike, Verne, Baxter, Molly, Annika & Amanda
He even chopped fresh coconuts so we could sample the water and meat. The wild chickens at his feet knew him well and appreciated the fresh coconut scraps. As we drove back to the boat along the riverside with copra, vanilla and taro plantations along with jungle, we all felt that we were extremely privileged to be seeing and learning about parts of the island that most visitors never realize exists.
That evening at anchor off Tapuamu village the sound of serious Tahitian drumming drew us ashore after dinner. Nearly the entire village was involved in either drumming, strumming, singing or practicing Tahitian tamure dance for the upcoming Heiva festival.
June 19, 2011, 1600 hrs, 16.34 S, 151.48 W, Log: 147,162 miles
Baro: 1015.1, Cabin Temp: 85 F cockpit 84 F, sea water 83.3 F
Surfing Along Bora Bora’s Spectacular Outer Reef!
We’ve had a spectacular sail from Raiatea to the corner of Bora Bora with Mahina Tiare hitting mid 8’s thanks to 20-25 kt ENE winds. Our eager crew first tucked in, then recently shook out two reefs in both the main and genoa and now we have the impressive breakers on the southerly reef clearly in sight.
Yesterday we sailed down from a new (for us) and quite isolated reef anchorage on Tahaa to Marina Apooiti on Raiatea. This gave our crew the chance to check out the two boatyards located nearby, see The Moorings first-class operation, enjoy showers and cold beer and gave us the last opportunity to top up fresh water and do a bit of laundry before we reach Rarotonga.
June 23, 2011, 1400 hrs, 16.27 S, 152.15 W, Log: 147,221 miles
Baro: 1014.0, Cabin Temp: 86 F cockpit 84 F, sea water 83.4 F
At Anchor in Maupiti’s Lagoon - As Good As it Gets!
Bora Bora was gorgeous and unusually quiet with only a handful of cruising boats, a few charter cats and relatively few visitors ashore. We anchored just inside the pass off Motu Toopua for the night heading around Toopua’s south end and then sailing across the lagoon to anchor near Vaitape’s town wharf Tuesday morning. Baxter and Molly hiked up to a WWII gun emplacement with a panoramic view of the pass and lagoon while the rest of our gang circumnavigated the island by rental car. Meanwhile Amanda and I did a last minute fresh veggie top up before meeting all the crew at Bora Bora Yacht Club in the late afternoon. The club has new owners again and wasn’t quite open so crew choose to dine ashore at Bora Bora’s famous island-style Bloody Mary’s.
Tuesday the heavy breakers driven by an 11’ SW swell were still crashing on Bora Bora’s southern outer reef and we thought this would possibly make the pass of the next island, Maupiti, impassable, so we spent the day practicing Lifesling overboard, tacking and swimming with the rays.
Our passage to Maupiti was perfect. With 18-28 kts we arrived off the narrow, frequently difficult pass right at noon which is high slack water in this area of solar tides.
At first it looked like there were breakers right across the entrance, as was the situation last year, which make it impossible to enter but once we were lined up on the entrance range marks we could see that the middle was free of breakers, although a ton of current was boiling out. With Mike’s careful navigation, Pehr’s steady hand on the helm and a bit of patience we powered through the narrow channel.
Up entering the tranquil turquoise we anchored at the nearby motu for lunch, a swim and Amanda’s rig check and rigging spares class. In the late afternoon, while we still had good light, we crossed the lagoon to anchor off the small village on the main island of Maupiti.
Just like on Tahaa, once we were done with dinner, the sound of Tahitian drums echoing across the lagoon soon had our gang ready to launch the dinghy and head ashore. It seemed like a fair portion of the island’s population of 1100 were either dancing, drumming or watching the practice for Heiva.
This morning Amanda covered sail repair and construction and Molly, who had never sewn before, got to try her hand on the Sailrite sewing machine. I followed by electrical power systems. Now our group is off to rent bikes and cycle round the island, and tomorrow we’ll set sail for tiny Mopelia.
| Mopelia’s south coast and lagoon in early morning shadow
June 27, 2011, 0530 hrs, 16.49 S, 153.55 W, Log: 147,345 miles
Baro: 1013.1, Cabin Temp: 78 F cockpit 76 F, sea water 83.4 F
At anchor, Mopelia Atoll (250 mi W of Tahiti)
Our 100 mile overnight passage from Maupiti to Mopelia was downwind and fast; with wind varying between 18 and 30 kts we double reefed both sails to keep from arriving before dawn. Previously we’ve caught fish just upon arrival at Mopelia, but no luck this time. The 60’ wide Pass Vahine can be extremely difficult to enter at times. As Verne piloted us in the narrow entry Molly, our navigator for the day, called depths and continually calculated the current which maxed out at only 1.7 kts, the least we’ve seen in the approximate eight times we’ve visited.
We only saw one patch of drying coral reef as we crossed the 3.5 mile lagoon to the generally protected SE corner where we’ve enjoyed some great beach potlucks and bonfires with local Tahitian friends and cruisers.
When I first sailed to Mopelia about 30 years ago the population was over 100, with many people from Maupiti busy cultivating pearl shell which was then shipped to the Tuamotus. There was even a French weather station ashore on the NE corner of the atoll and there were always several yachts anchored at various places in the protected lagoon.
For the first time in 30 years there were no yachts in the SE anchorage. Bummer! No one to visit and organize a beachside potluck with. In fact, other than one inboard-powered open fishing boat on a mooring, there were no signs of life on the island. Normally Kalami’s kids and dogs are racing up and down the beach upon the arrival of a yacht. Our crew was pretty tired following the overnight passage so after lunch they had a swim and nap before diesel maintenance PowerPoint class.
Molly and Baxter Gillespie, 39 & 45We live in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains when we are not on our recently-purchased Tartan 37 which we keep in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. While we are relatively young for cruisers, our goals are to sail the East Coast and the Caribbean in the next year. We are very much outdoor enthusiasts and look forward to using our boat as a conduit for travel, exploration and experiencing new cultures throughout the world. (Molly is a web administrator for a ski area and Baxter is a base jump and sky diving instructor).
Verne Wood, 57
I’ve been an avid boater since my father taught me to sail at age nine and have raced and cruised a variety of boats from dinghies to keelboats. Throughout many years I’ve maintained a dream of sailing the South Pacific. I live in Hilo, Hawaii and as surfing is one of my passions I operate an 80’ liveaboard surf charter boat in Indonesia, www.surfinindonesia.com.
Pehr, 52, from Stockholm:
My interest in life aboard and at sea started as a 10 year old crew aboard my father’s motorboat cruising around in the Baltic archipelagos. Since then reading about world sailing adventures has always interested me. Where this will lead me now, 40 years later, I do not know but two weeks into this three week Mahina Expedition I can certainly say that it has been a very valuable experience. I learn a lot. I have the opportunity to try these waters without having to take the full responsibility. And it is beautiful.
So far we have only experienced winds of up to 30 knots and the boat we sail at home in the Baltics, our Najad 390 is smaller than this HR 46. Having said that, the difference between sailing in these waters compared to at home is quite a big one. Down here the winds do not “feel” that strong. I think one factor is the climate and another is the blue water. The sea looks friendlier.
On the other hand factors affecting the sea are different. Here we have to figure out how the lows hundreds of miles south will affect the swells we will have where we are now. Can we get into a certain pass with the prevailing swell? A swell that can come from a totally different direction than the wind induces waves on top of the swell. Sailing downwind is a rollercoaster because we have winds from one direction and swells from another. At home these “wave battles” are normally sorted out in half a day.
The big picture in terms of the forces affecting your sailing conditions here gives a certain respect for the value of weather forecasting. On the other hand, Mother Nature has prepared for you an almost perfect setting for your anchorage. A protecting ring of coral reef around your island just high enough to guard against the sometimes huge waves, with a beautiful sunset and a palm tree nearby.
I live outside Stockholm where I am an ER nurse and my passion is horses, which I ride three times per week. Besides that my husband Pehr and I go sailing on our boat in the Baltic. I came to this expedition to learn more about participating when we sail. My favorite topics have been heavy weather steering and use of radar.
Michael Kidd, 68
Since retiring from the software business in the UK 14 years ago, my wife and I have been living at 4000’ in the French Alps, not the best place for a sailing nut. I’ve chartered but have never owned a cruising boat but have lusted after an HR for the past 25 years. We recently sold our home in France, moved to England’s South Coast to be closer to our children and grandkids, and ordered a new HR 40 which I’ll take delivery of in March 2012 and set sail for the Baltic.
At first light yesterday we all headed ashore for a hike along the beach. We knew that someone was living ashore because we’d seen the glow of a solar-powered light in one of the houses but we steered clear in case the owner was still sleeping. The windward beach was magnificent – surf crashing ashore, clouds racing overhead and all kinds of interesting stuff washed up on the beach.
Class was going aloft for rig check and Baxter, the base jump instructor and skydiver could not resist asking if he could jump off the first spreader into the water. He said, “I’ll be really careful!” Other crew members had been feeding the numerous black-tipped sharks that had been hanging out around the boat and so Baxter was just a blur from the time he hit the water until he swam to the swim step.
Annika reassuring Mike that he’ll survive the mast experience
Heave Ho! Crew send Baxter aloft
Baxter’s leap of faith
Baxter’s splash down into shark infested waters
Crew focused on rope work...except...Pehr what are you doing with your splicing fid?
We made plans to go ashore after end-of-line whipping class and thank whoever was living ashore for letting us anchor off their beach and gathered up some newspapers and a magazine from Tahiti.
As we headed towards the small house from where we’d seen the light, I was very pleasantly surprised to see Hina; a lovely Tahitian girl I’d met nearly 20 years earlier! She greeted us and told us she was the only person left in the village and that the only other inhabitants of the island were Freddy, also from Maupiti and Monique, his French wife who still live a mile or so N along the island. Kalami, who had lived next door to Hina with his wife and many, many children and friends had moved back to Maupiti, leaving his shacks, pigs and truck. Kalami had hosted hundreds of lobster barbecue and potlucks for visiting on the beach for dozens of years.
Pehr attempts to split a coconut with a axe, much to Hina’s amusement
Hina had grown up on the motu (outer islet) near the airport on Maupiti where her parents still live and enjoys living alone and working copra on this nearly-deserted island.
Copra is tough work! Two to three days of work net Hina a back-breaking 100 lb bag of dried coconut meat worth US$70.
Verne, Pehr and Annika inspect Hina’s copra drying trays
Verne and Amanda admire Hina’s garden for which she creates the soil from coconut husks and fish guts. The long green beans she gave us made a tasty salad.
Hina opening refreshing drinking coconuts aboard MT.
Although we had planned to practice Lifesling overboard rescue and sail to the NE abandoned village site, I couldn’t resist inviting Hina to dinner, anxious to learn more about what it was like to live on such a tiny, idyllic isolated island. So, we set sail, practiced upwind, beam reach and downwind rescues, came back and anchored and brought Hina aboard for dinner. What a night!
She told us (in rapid-fire French which we couldn’t always follow) stories of Count Felix Von Luckner, the WWI raider responsible for sinking countless Allied ships in the Atlantic whose bid to hide from the English ended in 1917 when his square-rigged sailing ship drug ashore next to Mopelia’s pass in a squall. We had previously read that Seadler had been carrying massive amounts of gold bullion seized from an Allied ship and that Von Luckner had captured.
I brought out Black Wave, the true story of a recent catamaran shipwrecked on Manuae, an even tinier atoll 40 miles WNW of Mopelia and Hina explained that Taputu, the man who had helped rescue Silverwood family, was Kalami’s brother.
Verne and Baxter taking a scenic tour of the pass or are they just shark bait?
June 30, 2011, 0730 hrs, 20.55 S, 159.23 W, Log: 147,763 miles
Baro: 1013.5, Cabin Temp: 78 F Cockpit 71 F, Sea water 82.6 F
27 Miles to Rarotonga!
Baxter and Verne, always ready for new adventures, asked if they could hang off the back of the dinghy as we exited Mopelia’s narrow and crystal-clear pass to then anchor just south of the entrance at the wreck of the Seadler. The current in the pass had increased to a maximum of 3.2 kts, so we decided to drift out only occasionally putting MT’s engine in gear for steerage.
On the outside reef Verne scouted for wreckage and we anchored within swimming distance of parts of the wreck in 35’. Baxter reported seeing large parts of iron hull plating at the outer end of the pass and we all swam or held onto the dinghy as we explored engine parts, shafts and possibly the windlass resting in just 10-15’ of water. It’s amazing so much wreckage remains nearly 100 years later!
We’ve had a mixed bag of weather on the 425 mile passage from Mopelia to Raro, starting out with some great broad reaching. We had our first frontal passage in 24 days (a record to go so long between fronts) last night and it was as mild as they come. With a single reef in the main and three in the genoa Mahina Tiare charged along at 6.5-7.5 kts through the weak cold front which had little rain and very moderate seas. We found moderate headwinds on the backside of the front, so now we are motorsailing in 9 kt headwinds to ensure arriving in Raro today.
Molly finishing up turks head on her ankle as we take a closer look at Mitiaro Island
These moderate conditions provided a great time for our crew to practice celestial navigation and learn how to weave turks heads for the steering wheels on their own boats.
We had looked forward to stopping and anchoring off sparsely-populated Atiu or Mitiaro Islands for lunch, but with the lighter-than-normal wind conditions we had to pass them by in order to reach Avitiu in time for customs clearance.
We’re not sure what to expect once we reach Avitiu harbor; the long-planned $30 million harbor realignment and dredging started a month ago and now all vessels must ask the harbour master for permission to enter.
July 1, 2011, 1900 hrs, 21.12 S, 159 47 W, Log: 147,792
Baro: 1015.1, Cabin Temp: 80F, Sea Water: 80.4
MED-MOORED, AVATIU HARBOUR, RAROTONGA!
We received permission to enter Avatiu Harbour from Isau, the new harbour master upon our arrival at noon and by 12:30 we’d dropped our main anchor and had a line around a bollard on the harbour wall to pull ourselves in, stern-to or Med moored. We were surprised to find only two yachts in the harbor-no doubt others have skipped Raro after hearing of the major harbour reconstruction. In fact, at times it sounds like a war zone with huge cranes operating pile drivers and giant vibrating machines to set the shutter piling between cemented pilings. We’re just happy there’s room for us and that there aren’t any northerly winds forecasted for our seven day stay.
After waiting a couple hours for the last of the three official visits for clearance we were all set and our crew headed off to explore and satisfy their thirsts. We shared an excellent and laugh-filled dinner at Trader Jacks; a crazy waterfront restaurant/bar that has survived many hurricanes and features a décor of shipwreck memorabilia. Yesterday following breakfast and boat cleaning the expedition ended with everyone packing up to head ashore for new adventures.
For the first time in ages neither Amanda nor I have any significant boat projects so we’re looking forward to catching up with friends ashore, doing some cycling, kayaking and running with our crazy mates from Hash House Harriers, along with checking out the local art scene and studios.
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