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Leg 2, 2019, Update 1

SAILING & ADVENTURES!

June 23, 2019, 1200 hrs, 16.26 S, 152.14, W, Log: 224,137 miles
Baro: 1015.8+, Cabin Temp: 83 F, Cockpit: 91 F, Sea Water: 82 F
At anchor off Maupiti’s main village

On Tuesday, June 11, when our Leg 2 crew came aboard in Marina Taina we instantly moved to a day anchorage just inside the Taapuna Pass channel for safety orientation and lunch. We’d been watching very large surf on either side of the pass, but, because of the angle, couldn’t see the center of the channel and surprisingly, no dive or fishing boats were coming or going. I decided to call Marina Taina and Constance, the assistant manager, assured me that pass wasn’t closed, there was just a large SW swell. During lunch we watched a 30’ Beneteau enter without too much difficulty then spoke with the skipper of a large sport fishing boat anchored next to us who said he’d been out and back in earlier in the morning without difficulty so we raised anchor and mainsail and threaded our way out through the coral.

Whoah...it was a rather spectacular pass exit and certainly rated as one of our more exciting ones especially since it was our new crew’s first hour aboard. Thankfully we then had an excellent, fast sail four-hour sail to the island of Moorea, anchoring just inside Cook’s Bay’s outer reef with time before sunset for a snorkel with rays and tropical fish.


Leg 2 Crew – Susan, Tom, Lesley, Jadie and David

Wednesday was an exciting day, with several of our new crew joining us for a sunrise run or walk before we sailed deep into Cook’s Bay. After lunch crew set off on an extended one way hike up the valley then over the mountain to meet us in the next valley to the west at the head of Opunohu Bay.


Lesley, Jadie, David and Susan in full hiking mode


Scenic Opunohu Valley with Mt Routui

I met them on the beach in the late afternoon and after a refreshing swim we set sail just before sunset to Huahine, the first island in Tahiti’s leeward islands located 90 miles to the WNW. Frequently this passage can be quite light with very deep wind angles, but not this time! We had an excellent broad reach with winds gusting past 30 which required Amanda and the girls to tuck in a second reef before midnight.

Before breakfast we’d entered Huahine’s NW pass and chose to anchor out on the reef for breakfast, a swim and nap. Numerous early afternoon rain squalls washed the boat of salt and when there was a break in the weather we decided it best to relocate and choose an anchorage deep inside Port Bourayne, a large, fjord-like bay with very few houses and rugged tropical shoreline. Lunch and class were on the agenda and with clearing skies we also decided to make Lifesling overboard retrieval under sail our afternoon activity.


Early morning visitor


It’s all hands on deck for Lifesling practice.


Jadie is the MOB spotter for Susan’s retrieval


Paul explains the local fish traps

Friday several of us dinghied ashore to the isthmus separating the two islands of Huahine Nui and Huahine Iti for a morning run that also included the viewing of setting up of the annual agricultural competition in nearby Maroe village. It was then breakfast underway as we headed to town and the anchorage off the relatively new Huahine Yacht Club. We’d booked a half-day tour with Paul Atallah of Island Ecotours mainly to view the Lake Maeva archeological sites and learn more on Polynesian history.

It was then a dash to set sail for Raiatea’s so as to arrive with sufficient daylight for navigation. In expanding our historical knowledge, we choose Opoa Bay for our anchorage; home to Marae Taputaputea, the most important navigational temple in Polynesia, from where Tahitians set sail on 80’ ocean-going catamarans to settle Hawaii and New Zealand.

Jadie:

Taputaputea, holy, holy land.

Taputaputea is a Polynesian word. It refers to a very sacred place, the most sacred place. Taputaputea sites are found on numerous Polynesian islands. Maybe the most sacred of them is on the island of Raiatea, which was considered the most important island in the Polynesian world.

A marae is a sacred place, like an open church, or huge alter available to the sky. Constructed of very orderly laid stones, generally 1-2 feet across, maraes can cover an area of 100 square feet to more than a couple of thousand. At this marae the stones are dark, volcanic and laid in a manner that all of them have a flat side up so that entire surface has the look of a raised floor. It looked so simple as to seem childish, but it also presented an unexpectedly potent elegance. Although there are many hundred maraes spread across the islands of Polynesia, only a handful are considered Taputaputea.

As we started walking across the marae and viewing its simplicity the experience brought on an unexpected calm and I noticed our crew became a little hushed. I caught up with my wife Leslie and as she pointed out a tall wood carving her voice was lower than just a few minutes earlier. It reminded me of how churches often illicit a curious automatic reverence, not only with the members of a congregation, but even with tourists who upon entering a place of worship instinctively become quieter and start speaking in low tones.
Is there energy here?
People push themselves into the world around them constantly. Even the shyest person unconsciously establishes their presence. We push our energy out. But, at this site, the holiest of holy Polynesian lands, our natural push of our own energy isles seemed subdued. Were we unknowingly not pushing our energy out but pulling, absorbing a rare spiritual energy into ourselves?

While walking around the marae we also saw that people had left offerings; some noticeably nice shells, a necklace and personal items. Clearly these were of value, but they were given, left out in the open, to the elements, to the spiritual essence of the marae.

At this site archeologists have discovered at least 50 marae both large and small. To say the area is breathtaking wouldn’t be quite right as it’s almost too peaceful to be so impactful as “breathtaking”. None the less, impactful it is as it drew us to walk about the site, viewing each marae in its own light.

We left the area where some of the largest marae have been restored, the grounds neatly cleared so the scale and majesty of the area could be absorbed and walked across the narrow road toward the mountainside jungle. Here and there you could see jumbled piles of rock pile but on looking more closely become clear that these, too, were marae. They had merely been invaded by the jungle, the inexorable power of tree roots over time lifting and shifting the rocks, inducing chaos into their graceful order.

As we approached the base of the mountainside, John said “look at that!” My eyes followed the direction in which he was pointing, and through the large leaves of unfamiliar tropical plants I saw a platform about ten meters above us. Before I could further process it he said, “Want to go up?” I couldn’t see a path, just a short sloping jumble of weeds, roots and rocks in front of us. “We could clamber our way up. Sure.”, I confidently replied. John took one step onto the pathless slope, turned to me and said, “You want to go first? Without thinking I said, “Sure”. That should have been my warning.

We made the first platform easily. It was a nice, new looking platform with a woven branch beneath a wide wooden cap board creating a comfortable railing on which to lean. But it was too low in the canopy to see anything. Oh look!, there’s a higher platform just a few steps up! We headed up there. The view out was better, but was still low in the canopy.

Out the other end of the platform a path lead into the jungle. This was the mistake. By now Tom had joined us, leaving our women folk to be devoured by local wild pigs. Tom, John and I momentarily debated the wisdom of the new path. “It must go somewhere”, someone said to which we all agreed. Clearly we were very intelligent men. That was all the affirmation that was required and without hesitation John turned and started up the dark path into the jungle.

“Tom, where did you leave Leslie and Susan?” Tom gestured somewhere towards the lower path saying, “They’ll figure out where we are.” I looked and listened. No sight or sound of either of them or the sound of grousing wild pigs either - a good sign. Being attentive to Leslie is my job. It’s part of our bond. Plus there’s much in my world for which I need Leslie’s knowledge and abilities, for instance, our online banking account being one. I went back to find them.

They were starting up an area less tenable than ours and I thought about suggesting that they give it a miss but Leslie was already scrambling her way up. Susan was wisely less sure but there was not much I can do now but lend encouragement. But sure footed as mountain goats the they were only moments on the slope before joining me on the lower deck with me. Turning I saw that David had joined Tom on the upper deck. Now the five of us were back together but John was nowhere to be seen. He was gone, hopefully consumed by jungle and not by clever rascally pigs.

The mountain path was clear with neat cut steps containing a braced log across its face. It was a kind gesture but they were awkwardly deep. One long stride, or two very short ones, no normal length step though. And what seemed like a friendly path leading us to John soon turned mean, and steep, and in the jungle. Please note that the jungle is hot, humid, and other than your panting breaths, there is absolutely no air movement.

Soon there was grumbling among the troops.

It became clear very quickly that at the moment we began the trek up, the Earth’s orbit shifted, bringing the planet, and us, closer to the sun. The climb itself was awkwardly steep. There seemed to be no easy way to gain a rhythm, courtesy of the oddly deepish steps. But we pushed on. We were certain John was just ahead. The path up wound back and forth, the jungle between the switchbacks so deep it was impossible to see where or even if the path continued. No sight or sound of John. But no pig trails either so at least we knew they weren’t stalking him.

Perspiration ran heavy. Breathing was deep, our bodies responding to the need to cool with every available resource. Questions arose. “Do you really think he’s up ahead?”, Someone said that it looked like we were almost up, just around this next bend. Of course that turned out to be ridiculous. The twists and bends were endless. I began to wonder if they’d chosen the site as Taputaputea because if you walked long enough you’d get to heaven. Being heaven, they must have A/C.

We all came ashore with our liter water bottles full. Soon we were powering through them. They didn’t last. What if we ran out of water and couldn’t make it back before we expired? We continued the ascent. No sign of John. Only signs saying Trail Closed, Keep Out, No Trespassing. This was proving to be a great idea.

Soon we began to wonder if maybe we’d imagined seeing him head up the mountain. What if he’d walked right past us while warning us not to proceed? What if he’d taken a turn we’d missed and was already back down to where the atmosphere was thicker and had more oxygen and he wasn’t so close to the sun. This group was veteran of the great Belvedere Debacle, in which a critical turn was missed. Badly exhausted during that outing on our second day of the expedition, we managed to drag ourselves into an ecole, a French word that may mean school. The only reason any of us survived was the fresh pineapple juice, no promised ice cream, but a cooling respite none the less.

But that was days earlier so surely our lack of orientation skills had improved. We pressed on. Hotter, meaner and progressively more demoralized - the trail pulled our numb souls. Still no John. By now he must have headed down because we were nearly at the pinnacle. We’d probably climbed 6 or 7 thousand feet in the last 45 agonizing minutes. On the verge of heat stroke all, conversation dwindled to next to nothing. The jungle was too dense to airlift us out or even find us or leave us findable. How long would our clothing hold out, months, years? We might end up lost, roaming the airy heights of this Polynesian mountain like goats for many years, competing with the pigs for jungle forage, eventually becoming cooperative allies with them. We pressed on.

The end of the journey was still always just around the next bend. Bend after bend, until we came around yet another bend and there was another platform! No John, but we’d long since given up ever seeing him again. Pigs probably took him when he followed the cutoff we’d missed. They likely created it to lure the innocent and unsuspecting. Serves him right for setting us on this death climb of heat stroke doom. If we ever made it back thankfully Amanda would take care of us

But then we stepped up on the platform and we saw the view! Wow! We could see the marae, and past them to ole faithful Mahina Tiare riding proudly at anchor in the deep blue cool water of the lagoon and past that the brilliant green blue shallows of the lagoon and past that the open Pacific Ocean. This was breathtaking! And double bonus, up out of the jungle, above the canopy, there was the most glorious breeze!

And then John came marching down the path! Our Captain and old friend John! It was so great to see him again and we all erupted with questions and comments almost immediately. “Where’ve you been?, Are you OK? Do you need help?” He’d found another platform yet higher up the mountain. Susan, now emboldened by having survived to this point was immediately game and she and Tom headed higher up in search of this mythical upper deck. Leslie and I recognized that if everything went south it would be up to us to stage the rescue, so we very happily waited where we were.

The earliest, the simplest to understand, the most direct, the most tactile spiritual beliefs are centered around Mother Earth. The Polynesians understood that they are one of the many living creatures on the world and that all life comes from Earth. That is why they called her Mother Earth. Their air came from the trees she grew. They drank the rain from her skies and found sustenance from her land.

And just like a person’s relationship with their mother is important, their relationship with Mother Earth was also of paramount importance. When one’s mother may be in need, or ill or elderly a person would take care of their mother. So too did they see their relationship with Mother Earth.

When we are in the womb we are connected to our mother by the umbilical cord. It is through that connection that our mother gives us life. When we are born we leave that world of salt water and come into the outer world. And when we no longer have that connection to our biological mother we begin to build a new connection to Mother Earth. The Polynesians knew that they connect to Mother Earth through their feet, that was their connection. They could feel the connection with every stride.

There is a difference between believing and knowing. When we believe something it becomes a thing we recognize as true, but we also recognize it is knowing an unknowable thing. It might not be. Consequently, belief and the perspectives that accompany it can be malleable. But to know a thing is to have one’s view of themselves and their world contained within the confines of that knowledge. To bend from that known thing is to break the world and one’s place in it.
The Polynesians didn’t believe in their relationship with Mother Earth, they knew it - as well as they knew that day follows night follows day follows night.

What were these marae, these places of perceived spiritual importance? Why were they identified to be in certain places? We’ve seen them now on a few islands and there’s nothing particularly notable about the location. And yet to the Polynesians these were known to be the spot to build marae. Was Mother Earth calling them? ‘I have created places beside my waters. Come, grow flowers, fruits and vegetables and gather seafood, practice your beliefs and let me care for you.”

Wandering the marae, considering the formation of the land on which I strode, thinking about the Polynesians and their knowledge of their relation to Mother Earth I began to understand that every Polynesian island, inhabited or not, is a gift from Mother Earth. I also began to understand the every Polynesian island is Taputaputea - Holy Holy Land.


Hilltop view of Marae Taputaputea

It had long been a goal of mine to circumnavigate Raiatea’s large and very mountainous southern half, and although the weather was unsettled and it was difficult to find any anchorages shallower than 100’, we decided to give it a try.

As we threaded our way between many coral banks to Fetuna, the southernmost village on Raiatea we found both Navionics and C-Map electronics amazingly accurate. Surprisingly there are three mooring although each was occupied by an American boat. With depths going from 110’ to 3’at the edge of the coral shelf the best anchorage we could find was in 110’ mskinh iy onr of the deepest we could remember, anywhere. Even with all 265’ of anchor chain out, our scope was minimal. Fortunately, our new stainless Ultra anchor holds incredibly well, even on very short scope! Mahina Tiare was buffeted by squalls and rain coming down between the valleys, but we never moved.

Sunday morning, we enjoyed having Rob and Sue, Offshore Cruising Seminar grads (they actually took our seminar twice, the second time just before embarking on what has been a four-year cruise so far) from the ketch Athanar over for breakfast. We then all headed in for a church service with beautiful singing before we set sail to round the southern tip of Raiatea, all within the encircling barrier reef. Squally conditions persisted as we threaded our way through numerous small channels. Knowing that the anchorages in the direction we were heading were VERY deep, Rob had brought over a chart and marked two locations where he’d heard that the government had recently set moorings for visiting yachts.

There was no sign of a mooring at the first place, and at Baie Vaiacho we did find three moorings. After trying to anchor with quickly-shoaling, coral-studded water we decided to pick up one of the moorings when our winds continued to gust past 40 kts with occasional rain squalls really restricting visibility and we realized we’d be on anchor watch for the night. I snorkeled down to check the mooring, and it was not impressive – tied, instead of spiced, without chain and a line that just disappeared into sand to which I assumed was attached to a helical screw - a type of mooring common in the Caribbean.

We held a quick crew meeting, as remaining daylight was an issue and as no one was comfortable with the situation we slipped the mooring, unrolled the genoa, sailed out Passe Toamaro and on up the coast eight miles to a good anchorage in only 20’, with 10 knots of wind not far south of Raiatea Careenage boatyard. As we’d made it before dark everyone went snorkeling before an enjoyable dinner in the cockpit with a nearly full moon.


Success on finding cooking pots

Monday morning Amanda and I led crew on boatyard tours of Chantier Naval and Raiatea Carenage, and ashore, ready to join us on Leg 2 was Diane, who had just arrived from Montreal. On our boatyard tours we pointed out different features of boat design, maintenance and storage before raising anchor and heading into Marina Apooiti. It’s always a treat to stop here – manager John Michelle Nocuse does his best to accommodate visiting yachts and we enjoyed being able to top up our water and batteries plus head into the main town of Uturoa for groceries.

We had a special mission, as our Rarotonga harbourmaster friend had asked us to purchase a set of heavy French Macotte cooking pots which we’d been unable to locate in Papeete due to a holiday, but easily found in Uturoa.

Our crew enjoyed long marina showers, clean laundry and exploring ashore Monday night and Tuesday morning before we set sail north to the island of Tahaa, which shares the same barrier reef as Raiatea. We anchored off what has been dubbed, Coral Gardens”, landed on an uninhabited islet, hiked across, nearly to the outer reef, then donning mask & fins, hopped in the clear, 85F lagoon water to have the current carry us on an amazing E ticket ride. However, for some reason, even though we were exactly at high tide, this year the water seemed much lower than in the past, so we had to be very careful not to scrape along the coral. Even so, it was awesome!


A sunny day makes “Coral Gardens” a colorful event


A school of butterfly fish


Tahaa’s agricultural competition

Wednesday morning found us on a mooring in Hurepiti Bay, ready to join Noe Plantier for the up-country vanilla tour his father Alain started 30 years ago. Amanda and I stayed aboard to catch up on boat chores, but our crew returned with stories of amazing kindness and generosity they’d encountered at Tahaa’s first-ever agricultural competition. We then all enjoyed visiting with Alain and Christina, who were soon off to Papeete for the Heiva dance competitions, and we left their delightful garden property loaded down with exotic fruit.


The girls take the watch as we enter Bora Bora’s lagoon

Thursday we had a blisteringly great sail to Bora Bora, anchoring briefly off Vaitape wharf so I could start the outbound customs clearance at the Gendarmerie, before motoring a mile or two south to anchor off Bloody Mary’s.

Bloody Mary’s is 45-year-old institution (so much more than just a restaurant) I watched a crazy Polish guy who fancied himself a baron, start. It’s changed hands a few times, but it just seems to get better every year! For the first time ever, there was live music – three guys with ukes, guitars and gorgeous voices never once stopped singing the entire time we were there. Amanda, Sue, Leslie and David danced on the sand floor to their music and when Amanda wandered off to check out the gift shop, a waiter hunted her down, saying, “The boys in the band want you to dance some more!”


The head hostess explains Bloody Mary’s “Catch of the Day”

Friday morning four of us headed ashore to run and walk to the spectacular crescent-shaped Matira Beach at the far S tip of Bora before we picked up a mooring near town, giving our crew the chance to explore Bora Bora’s Vaitape village, and Amanda and me the opportunity for a final provisioning run. We all met at the Gendarmerie at 2:30 where we received our outbound clearance and moved to a very protected anchorage not far inside the pass. As we dropped anchor at 1630, we heard someone playing ukulele on the beach. Whomever it was, they were still playing brilliantly when we dropped off to sleep at 22:30!

In order to reach Maupiti’s narrow pass at high slack water (noon every day in this area of solar tides) we raised anchor at 0700, hoisted sail and headed out the pass on the 24 mile run. Again we had brilliant sailing. Normally we have to gybe back and forth with the wind deep astern, but ENE winds meant a fast broad reach, and increasing winds gave our crew some excellent reefing practice.

Although the southerly swell was around one meter which is minimal for here, Maupiti’s pass looked like a caldron. I took the helm as crew called out directions (and breaking seas) and with maximum throttle Mahina Tiare surfed through the narrow entry like a freight train. Not long before arrival, we landed the largest mahimahi we’ve seen in years, and everyone took turns learning how to cut off fillets from Amanda once we’d anchored just inside the pass.

As we knew it is getting close to the Heiva Tahitian dance competition time, Amanda and I zipped ashore as soon as we’d anchored off Maupiti’s main village of Vaiea, to enquire about Tahitian dance rehearsals, and to let the families of our friends on Mopelia know we’d be pleased to carry supplies and provisions to them when we depart Monday. We were in luck, and not long after we’d landed at the mayor’s office, the dance rehearsal began, so I returned to MT to pick up most of our crew who were keen to watch Tahitian dancing for the first time. It was quite a spectacle, and Amanda learned that the three villages will be competing against each other, but none of the groups will be going to Bora Bora to compete this year.


This is one island you don’t want to race around

We landed our crew near the church this morning and following the service they plan to circumnavigate the island on rented bikes stopping to enjoy a picnic lunch at the gorgeous sandy beach before the one and only big hill. It’s just about time for me to take the dinghy in to pick them up, and then, after a swim, it will be time for three-strand splicing class.

Susan:
Sunday morning, the bells on the pretty little seaside church rang out, prompting us to hurry and get ready for the dinghy ride ashore. Donning our best sarongs over our shorts, the Polynesian-style service didn’t disappoint. We were greeted by beautifully dressed local women, all wearing elaborate woven flower-adorned hats woven from pandanas fronds. We were seated in the front row and were serenaded from behind by powerful, exquisite voices belting out the hymns with great gusto. With the trade winds blowing through the open windows, and the turquoise lagoon just outside, it was truly a special experience.

As the service ended, we were bid a warm farewell by the congregation as we headed down the road to the little bike rental shop. Soon we were off – cruising on six identical purple bikes around the 6km island where we encountered very few other cars – just a few bicycles. Virtually every person we passed smiled and waved, often calling out the greeting, “Ia ora na”. Upon reaching the top of the only hill we were rewarded with the most spectacular views across the cerulean blue of the lagoon. Maupiti definitely has a charm all its own!


Leg 2, 2019, Update 2

ADVENTURES & SAILING!

July, 5 2019, 1200 hrs, 21.12 S, 159.47, W, Log: 224,683 miles
Baro: 1010.3, Cabin Temp: 81 F, Cockpit: 83 F, Sea Water: 76 F
Moored Med-style, stern-to in Rarotonga’s Avatiu Harbour

Here’s our gung-ho Leg 2 crew intros:

Leslie, 61
I’m the CEO of an IT company in Northern Virginia. I love nature and exploring new destinations and cultures. My husband Jadie and I have two sailboats, one in the Caribbean and one on the Chesapeake and after this adventure, we want to sell both, buy a proper bluewater boat and sail the South Pacific and the Med!

Jadie, 67
Life is genuinely a big adventure, as is this expedition!

Diane (Coco), 58
I’m from Ottawa, Canada and have enjoyed chartering around the world. This expedition is teaching me the importance of weather planning and reading weatherfax charts. I was really interested in experiencing offshore sailing and Mahina Tiare seems the best training platform where I can feel safe and learn from professionals.

David, 75
I’m a kiwi living in a small town north of Wellington who recently retired after being self-employed in a variety of positions for 50 years. I was a keen centerboard sailor in my youth and have recently dreamed of sailing again. I’m enjoying the expedition learning especially how to use modern navigation instruments and techniques.

Susan, 57
I’m from North Vancouver, Canada and have been sailing for the past 11 years with my husband and two sons aboard our Catalina 34. With the recent purchase of a larger boat, I’m keen to boost my confidence in sailing overall, and to also see how I might enjoy offshore cruising. My husband has been on three previous expeditions aboard MT and was eager for me to experience it. I’ll admit I was pretty nervous, but its proving to be a hugely empowering and confidence-building adventure!

Tom, 61
This was my fourth expedition, and first with my wife Susan, which was awesome. Now our entire family including our sons Jason and Steve have completed a MT expedition! This one in the South pacific was a blast – seeing iconic islands, treacherous passes and great potluck dinners ashore with the locals. I’m still learning new things each expedition!

On Maupiti, following our crew’s cycling around the island after Sunday church, calm conditions proved the perfect time for Amanda to pull out our Sailrite sewing machine and teach sail repair. Monday morning, we stocked up with 12 baguettes’ from our friend Teheni’s store. We also rendezvoused with the father of another friend Hina, who lives on Mopelia which was our next destination. Hina’s dad gave us several boxes of food for her as there is no stores or supply ships to Mopelia.


David takes the lead on sail repair


Collecting our 12 baguettes and more bananas from Tehini’s store.

Our exit through Maupiti’s narrow pass was a little less hair-raising than our entrance, and once again we had a brilliant downwind overnight sail, never having to gybe and rarely touching the sheets. Not long after sunrise our crew spotted the green fringe of palm trees marking Mopelia’s rugged windward coast. Mopelia’s pass is far narrower than Maupiti’s but it is fortunately located on the lee side of the atoll. We battled nearly five knots of ebbing current before motoring across to the protected windward SE corner of the lagoon, anchoring off our friend Hina’s house.


Lesley, Hina and Amanda enjoying a round of coconut drinks

Almost as soon as we landed, Hina said, “Eat here tonight!”. We agreed and before beach and bush exploring, crew helped cook up our contribution for the potluck, Ghirardelli Triple-Chocolate brownies, taboule salad and Mexican chipotle chicken chili. We gathered at Hina’s on sunset with Amanda’s new ukulele, purchased in Hawaii, which was a huge hit with Hina as she had loaned hers out. With a roaring grill Hina barbequed sausages and served fresh coconuts before we all ate and sang with Hina - we were all struggling to keep our eyes open after a few hours.


Susi and Coco nailed going aloft and really enjoyed the spectacular views and the sharks below.

Wednesday morning, Amanda taught safe Going Aloft procedures for rig inspection and I taught Diesel Engines and Storm Tactics before we had a fun snorkel. We then bid farewell to Hina and set off for the northern corner of the lagoon to our friends Adrienne and Marcello and their daughters Faimano and Karina.


We’re very sorry for the owner as there looks to be no feasible chance of salvaging his yacht.

Marcello instantly invited us to a beach barbecue they were hosting as a way of saying thanks to couples aboard Swiss and Spanish/Brazilian yachts who had just delivered fuel and groceries from Maupiti. A few minutes later, he mentioned a new shipwreck, just over one week old, on the windward shore, just a few minutes’ walk from their compound. Sadly, the 82-year-old owner was a friend of theirs who, with his granddaughter, was on his way visit them. He overslept and hence crashed onto the windward coral reef.

Dinner was amazing – again we’d set too baking and creating, this time  bringing ashore smoked chicken pesto pasta, another round of taboule salad and yet another batch of very popular brownies. Colored lights (24 volts, powered by solar panels and batteries) swung overhead as we dined on local fare of coconut crabs and fish grilled on the open fire – with desert of chilled watermelon. Alberto, a close neighbor, also arrive and serenaded us all evening long on our ukulele while French-speaking Susan, Diane, and Adrienne sung French songs they’d all learnt in primary school. We were also joined by a young French family on a catamaran enroute to Sydney, Australia where they had jobs waiting.


Katrina and Faimano and their tropical dinner table.


Our international beach dinner party


Oh...such a magical dining scene

Thursday morning crew carefully analyzed the excellent weather information we’d assembled and following Cruising Medicine class they made the decision that we should set sail that afternoon, a day early. Their reasoning for the eminent departure was to hopefully cover the passage to Rarotonga before winds built to 35 knots and the seas to 5.8 meters, the highest we’ve ever seen forecasted in this area.

Late afternoon we motored out the pass, where the outflow current had dropped to 4 kts, before anchoring just outside, off the wreck of the WWI German raiding/sailing ship, Seadler. Tom took me up on the offer of swimming on the wreck of this ship that had sunk more than a dozen allied vessels at the start of WWII. Although we discovered that the building swell and strong currents restricted visibility near the surf line we still found a couple rusty wreck parts.


David and Lesley on watch in boisterous conditions

As planned, we had the mainsail hoisted, the boom prevented and watches set in moderate reaching conditions with 14-18 kt SE winds before dark. As evening progressed the wind came forward until it was on the beam, giving the watch standers some impressive KABOOSHES when the wind gusted to 30 in the rain squalls, but with three reefs in the main, Mahina Tiare was sailing as comfortably as possible.

Early Saturday afternoon we spotted Mitiaro, one of the Southern Cook Islands, first on radar, then visually, and by 1700 we sailed very close by Atiu’s landing. We had filed Cook Islands Customs Pre-Arrival forms, stating that we hoped to clear customs on Atiu, weather permitting, and were surprised when the police skiff came out, asking if we’d like to anchor and clear customs the next morning. Sadly, because of the large swell, we declined, but did heave-to in the relatively calm of the lee of the island so that everyone could enjoy showers on the aft deck before setting sail for Raro, 109 miles to the WSW.


Land Ho!...Rarotonga here we come.

Saturday night/Sunday morning were dark and bouncy as the swell built but by 0500 we could see the glow of Raro’s lights and by 1100 we were tucked inside tiny Avatiu Harbour, dropping anchor between the gorgeous100’ sail-training schooner Argo and a small local dive boat.

With Tom playing tugboat with our RIB, the help of our excellent SidePower bow thruster plus a long stern line to heave ourselves in with, it all worked well to situate us in a Med moor. Harbourmaster John Jessie was on hand to take our stern lines and said he’d already called Customs and BioSecurity, neither of which arrived until the following morning, but John did give us permission to go ashore for dinner.

Sunday on Raro is a very, very quiet day, with no restaurants open, only fish & chip/ burger takeaways but we still enjoyed a walk through the deserted town introducing crew to the key points of Avarua town such as car rental, money exchange and where to buy SIM cards.

Monday was a busy day with Customs & BioSecurity arriving before noon and finishing up our teaching schedule including taking sextant sights, but the highlight of the day was meeting at Trader Jack’s, an infamous restaurant/bar for Hash House Harriers – a crazy running club we love. The run was in celebration of Canada Day, so many were decked out in red and white, with an added touch of maple leaf temporary tattoos.


Lesley is totally dedicated to mastering all the aspects of offshore sailing including taking sextant sights


OK...we’re ready to sing “Oh Canada”

Monday night/Tuesday morning the winds kept building and at 0300 I popped on deck to see several of Argo’s crew scurrying around, checking anchor and stern lines. At 0400 we awoke to the sound of their engine in gear and windlass grinding in chain as the 100’ schooner heeled in the strong gusts, coming closer and closer to MT’s bow. Captain Ian advised us that none of their three anchors were holding so we quickly ditched our stern lines, buoyed and dropped our second bow anchor, and pulled up our unbeatable 35kg Ultra primary anchor. We decided that it would be best to re anchor in the lee of the main wharf and swing free in the middle of the harbor basin until daylight.


MT and Argo in Avatiu Harbour

Ian later told us that just as we were leaving they felt and heard a BANG which proved to be the connecting link between their chain and primary anchor snapping. Argo’s crew then spent the next two days, with up to three divers in the water at a time, locating, retrieving and resetting that anchor. They also rigged two bow lines across the entire harbor to a large bollard forward of an inter-island freighter which they temporarily dropped. With permission from the harbormaster, we re-anchored further upwind of Argo and also took our 350’ longest line across the harbor to the same bollard for additional security.

Today is the first day the wind hasn’t been howling, and with our crew happily departed on to more shoreside adventures Amanda and I are working on boat projects and looking forward to evenings ashore with local friends.


Leg 2 Itinerary

 

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