Leg 2, 2013 Papeete, Tahiti to Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Update 1
June 29, 2013, 2330 hrs, 20.36 S, 158.19 W, Log: 165,319 miles, 83 miles to Raro!
Baro: 1016.2, Cabin Temp: 83F, cockpit: 81F, seawater: 80.1F

Wing and wing downwind at 6 kts in 14-20 kt ENE tradewinds and smooth seas

Our time between Legs 1 & 2 was magical. Not a drop of rain (ok, one tiny squall) and we got lots of boat projects completed with time to catch up with several old friends; Tahitian and ex-pats. We also enjoyed our favorite morning mountain trail runs, overindulged in French baguettes and I even had time to read a book or two! We so love being at anchor off Moorea that we put off going to Papeete to reprovision until Monday with crew joining on Tuesday.

Marina Taina is generally pretty packed this time of year but the dock guys showed us a tiny slip which the help of their skiff we managed to wedge in to. Within minutes we’d hit the ground sprinting (Amanda even forwent her shopping frock in favor of running gear) up the road to our very favorite mega Carrefour grocery store.

Three hours later we’d navigated $650 of precariously overloaded groceries in a shopping cart back to Mahina Tiare without capsizing.

Amanda managed to stow all of the fresh and frozen provisions (we’d done a dry and canned goods shop 10 days earlier after completing Leg 1) within two hours and we were ready for Leg 2 safety orientation at 4pm. A wonderful treat that evening was a fantastic meal by Karyn aboard RealTime who with Bob Packard had previously joined us for Leg 2-2010 and were now about to sail the same route aboard their Norseman 447 (www.sailblogs.com/member/realtime).

Tuesday morning I took a taxi to downtown Papeete, 20 minutes east of Marina Taina, cleared out with the port captain, stopped by Customs for a duty free fuel certificate, bought a few bits of hardware and returned to ready MT for the start of Leg 2. Crew joined at noon and after fueling and a quick lunch we set sail on an excellent broad reach for Moorea, 17 mi W. We anchored for the evening in a spot we haven’t tried in years, just inside Cooks Bay. Seconds after the anchor touched the bottom in just 9’ of water, everyone was in the water which at 85 degrees F was the warmest we’ve ever seen.

Wednesday morning we continued with orientation then headed into Cooks Bay on a quest for pineapples and bananas while our adventuresome crew hiked three miles over the mountain valley to check out the ice cream and fruit smoothies at the Lycee Agricole (agricultural high school). We met them on the beach in Opunohu Bay then headed for an exposed and windy anchorage 2.5 miles away near Papetoai Village.

We knew that Carla, one of our Leg 2 gang, was a professional quilter and textile artist and a few days earlier Amanda had met with Miri Vidal, (tifaifaipapetoai@yahoo.comwww.facebook.com/tifaifaimir ) to arrange a visit . Miri’s picturesque lagoon-side studio/gallery/home is just a short walk away from Papetoai harbor and is a delightful spot. The girls all enjoyed her art and learning the uniqueness of tifaifia (traditional Tahitian quilting) along with chatting with her daughter-in-law Tehani from the Cook Islands who is just learning to sew.

Shanti, Carla, Amy, Angela Tehani and Miri gather before Miri’s artwork

Miri explaining the origin of her designs

Shortly after dinner we raised anchor and sailed back deeper into Opunohu Bay to tuck two reefs in the main, get lined up on the leading lights and set sail for Huahine. We don’t like exiting a coral reef pass in the dark, but leaving at sunset would have had us arriving at Huahine well before dawn, so we exited slowly out of the pass with everyone watching the well-marked channel. It was then time to hang on as the trades were gusting to 30 kts out of the ENE (normal direction is ESE, placing Huahine dead downwind), the seas were confused and we were in for one mighty sail that proved true when Carla surfed up to 9 kts. Usually we have to gybe downwind to Huahine, but this time we laid a direct course and at sunrise Huahine, Raiatea and Tahaa were all on the horizon. What a night, and what a view!

Once through the pass we motored five miles to the southernmost bay, Baie d’Avea where we were the only yacht. Following lunch Amy and Carla swam ashore for some beachcombing and the rest of us went snorkeling and had naps.

Friday morning Amy, who is training for a marathon in December joined us (actually, she left us in the dust in about one minute!) for a morning run around Huahine’s dramatic southern tip. On returning our Tahitian friend Joel met us with two stalks of bananas, a huge bag of papayas and some coconuts.

Joel, Amanda and Amy with our yummy fresh tropical bounty

Amy’s hair braiding skills were welcomed aboard

After class we returned back up the west coast with a delightful swim on the reef before lunch.

Angela and Cody prepare to set sail

Amy prepares for a dive to check the anchor

We then spent the afternoon sailing around Port Bourayne for some excellent Lifesling overboard recovery training session with everyone rescuing volunteer victims, no wadded up newspapers for this crew!

Angela and Cody prepare to set sail

Cody happily volunteered to be rescued by the Lifelsing

Early Saturday morning we motored up to Fare, Huahine’s small harbor town, giving our crew time to explore while we did a quick resupply before setting sail for Tahaa, about 25 miles west. Sadly we had very little wind so we charged batteries and gave the watermaker a workout as Amanda taught rigging.

Angela’s sunset image of Bora Bora

Anchoring in Baie Haamene, we enjoyed a calm night and a great early morning run before sailing around the top of Tahaa (all inside the reef). After an afternoon snorkel safari on the outer reef we retreated to Tapuamu Bay for the night where our crew went for a late afternoon walk and enjoyed the spectacular sunset view of Bora Bora 25 miles away.

Monday morning we made an early morning passage of five miles south to Hurepiti Bay where we picked up one of Alain Plantier’s moorings and Amanda and our crew headed by Land Rover to the mountainous interior of Tahaa on our friend Alain’s ethno botanical vanilla tour. Alain explains not only how vanilla cultivation works (it is incredibly labor intensive) but what many of the plants are and how they arrived on Tahaa.

Alain explaining the origins of the travelers palm

Amy amuses us the a Puerto Rican childhood trick that utilizes a hibiscus flower

Alain and Christina in their garden with their friendly dog

That afternoon gusty winds gave us an excellent opportunity to practice reefing inside Grand Banc Central, the extensive coral reef between Tahaa and the larger island of Raiatea, lying three miles south of Tahaa, but encircled by the same barrier reef.

We anchored off Raiatea’s two boatyards and went for a late afternoon boatyard tour. As all of our Leg 2 crew are planning on sailing to the South Pacific on their own boats it was valuable for them to see the repair and storage services available. Local laws now allow owners to leave their boats in bonded customs storage for up to three years without paying import taxes, flying home to work or see family between time spent cruising locally. Both of the yards were chokka with boats, many utilizing this service.

Tuesday we had challenging 25-30 kt headwinds as we motored through narrow coral channels to the duty free fuel dock, then to the port of Raiatea for groceries and internet for crew before zooming downwind to Marina Apooiti, the Moorings/Sunsail base for the night. We were delighted to see that marina manager and liveaboard Jean Paul Nocuse had extended the visitors wharf, adding two more berths, both of which were empty. It is always a delight to tie up where fresh water is available mid-expedition, and in no time, thanks to Angela and Cody’s help MT was salt free and before long was completely festooned with drying laundry.

Our reefs came out and we surfed past the IP Danish-flagged Island Packet 440 Segwen which was only cruising under headsail.

We heard drums at sunset Amanda grabbed Angela, Amy and Cody and went in search of the source. They ended up at the nearby church/school yard here Amanda and Amy eagerly joined in the village dance practice for the upcoming Heiva competition. At the break Angela held an impromptu ballet class for a group of young girls.

After a morning class we set sail for the 27 mile downwind passage to Bora Bora in stiff trades. Our crew got more reefing practice until we spotted a distant sail and their competitive urges surfaced.

We spent Wednesday night anchored not too far inside Bora’s only entrance pass, behind Motu Toopua. Gusty winds kept MT dancing a bit and after sunset we could hear the sounds of drumming coming from the main village a couple miles upwind and across the lagoon. We were invited for a sunset tour aboard a nearly new Lagoon 50 cat Sophie sailed by a family from Seattle and crew enjoyed hearing their perspective of the cruising life.

Thursday we worked on coral piloting as our crew navigated us through narrow coral channels before working on sail handling and reefing once we were in the main lagoon.

That evening we all went ashore to Bloody Mary’s, a famous seafood restaurant that provides moorings for customers, and were joined by Jenna, Jamie and their kids Leo and Hazel from Sophie.

Jenna, Hazel. Amanda, Carla and Shanti selecting dinner from Bloody Mary’s impressive fresh catch of the day display

Friday morning several of us enjoyed a spectacular beach run along Matira Point, the southern tip of Bora Bora, before sailing to a more protected anchorage near the main town of Vaitape. Led by Amy, most of our keen crew rented a car and circled Bora Bora while I did an oil change and Amanda and I did a final fresh fruit and veg shop.

That evening was the first night of dance competition of the month long Tahitian Heiva festival. We bought bleacher seat tickets for $15 and were in for a real treat. Bora Bora’s individual villages compete against each other to represent the island in the final competition in Tahiti in late July and Faanui, the second village to compete had 165 dancers and drummers and changed between three elaborate costumes. The dancing under the full moon was spectacular and the music continued until the festival grounds closed at 3 am.

Heiva dance celebrations in full swing

Carla enjoys a moment with two of the Heiva dancers

Saturday morning we set sail for Maupiti, but again had light winds. A powerful low east of NZ was sending up a southerly swell forecasted to increase to 3.7 meters by Monday. Maupiti’s south-facing reef is low and any large southerly swell dumps over the reef which can make the south-facing entrance pass impassible due to breakers and very strong current.

Upon arrival we saw breakers on either side, but not across the entrance and Amy carefully motorsailed us in against several knots of ebb current while crew checked our alignment on the ranges.

Normally we find 2-3 hearty cruisers anchored in Maupiti’s lagoon, but this time we were surprised to find eight yachts! It looks like the world economy must be improving. Our crew all rented bikes, cycling around this dramatic little island and Sunday morning they attended church, enjoying the powerful and harmonious singing.

We set sail for the pass right after church, wanting to hit the pass as close to the daily noon high slack water (the Society Islands have solar instead of lunar tides; high slack water is noon and midnight every day). We were surprised to find conditions much calmer and to see no sign of the forecasted 2.7 m southerly swell.

Unlike in many previous years, light winds prevailed again, so we ended up motoring to Mopelia, the furthest west of the Society Islands, and had to slow down so not to arrive in the dark. At 7am we eyed the pass and perhaps we should have anchored off and waited until noon slack water as the current was boiling out of the pass, but we cautiously motored in against it, being mindful of large rollers on our stern which Amanda called to the helmsman. Maximum current reached 5.5 kts so we had to use about 70 of MT’s available 95 hp. Markers on either side show the steep edges of the pass where the depth drops from 6” to 45’ and the islanders have attached three sets of fishing floats to shallow coral patches. Each of these three sets of floats should be kept to port (north) upon entering.

The tradewinds were still missing, so we took the opportunity of anchoring just inside the pass to visit one of several small, brush-covered motus (islets) covered with nesting birds. When we went ashore thousands of birds flew up and were circling. Amanda sat very still in the bush and slowly the terns landed next to their eggs which are incubated on the ground. The frigates lay a single white egg on a nest in the trees and their landings and take off are rather comical.

Carla, Shanti, Simon, Amanda, Any, Angela and Cody on the bird motu

Cody and Angela explore the motu

We noticed another yacht anchored inside the reef in a distance corner of the lagoon and when we motored four miles across to the windward side to anchor off our friend Hina’s beach, they joined us.

We learned that Kareem, Valerie and their three daughters had been enjoying the last five days on Mopelia, and that they were keen to join us for a barbecue the following night ashore at Hina’s. Kareem, originally from Algeria and Valerie from France had moved to Tahiti 11 years ago where Kareem works as an orthopedic surgeon and taught himself sailing after purchasing an ex-charter boat.

Hina, one of only seven people currently living on Mopelia has been a longtime friend of ours and we’ve had a joke going for the past several years. When we ask Hina what we can bring her on our annual visits, she always says ICE CREAM! We’ve forgotten it several years, and last year Amanda asked, “What flavor, taro or coconut?” Hina says neither, but growls before snarling she wants CHOCOLATE!. We no longer found locally produced taro or coconut ice cream on Bora Bora, but Amanda did a welcome/challenging haka Maori greeting dance, presenting Hina with a giant taro root that had been given our crew on Maupiti. Hina thought this was great fun, and later we produced ice cream bars fist coconut then chocolate. With no generator, fridge or freezer and only a speedboat or small supply boat every 6-8 months Hina lives mainly off coconuts and fish and gets $70 per 100 lb sack of split, dried coconut meat.

Hina challenges Cody to a game to chess and wins

For our beach barbecue the following night Kareem and Elise caught several fish and Valerie made poisson cru (Tahitian marinated raw fish). Hina contributed rice and a roasted a huge coconut crab, Amanda made cole slaw and a giant pot of Mexican beans and chicken and I baked a double batch of brownies. What a magical evening we had with with conversations in French, English and Tahitian.

Kareem who is fairly new to sailing but very keen to learn everything along with Valerie and their eldest daughter Elise attended our Diesel Engines PowerPoint seminar and filled us in on the repairs he’s had to make on his 8,000 hour, ex-Mooring charter boat Yanmar engine.

We enjoyed the calm anchorage and put our sun awning up before our diesel engine class on Tuesday.

Amanda also covered sail trim and repair, with most of our gang having a go on our Sailrite sewing machine.

Carla and John overhaul the Sailrite sewing machine with Amanda getting a reprimand in machine maintenance. It was interesting to learn that Carla, a professional quilter, oils her sewing machines daily.

Elise was fascinated by her new friend Angela and keen to practice their English so we invited her to sail across the lagoon to another anchorage on Wednesday. Mopelia’s lagoon has hundreds of partly submerged floats from old pearl shell growing era, as well as many coral heads closer to shore so our crew gained valuable piloting experience as they practiced reefing.

Our final anchorage was in the north shore of the lagoon off Adrienne and Marcello’s house. I’d met them 30+ years ago when they were newlyweds living in a stilt thatch house on the edge of the lagoon. Now their children Hio and Faimano are in their 20’s and Marcello is temporarily back on Maupiti until their youngest daughter finishes school. Ashore their compound is always a circus and this time a goat had been added to the menagerie of pigs, dogs and cats. We found a bucket of leatherback turtles which they had caught after hatching and were raising for three months before releasing them into the lagoon. Hio said they would have a much better chance against the birds and sharks when they were a little bigger.

Amy, Angelique, Eugenie, Elise Amanda, Adrienne and Faimano gather outside NorthShore’s newly completed thatched fare.

Angela has a visit from her new French sisters; Eugene 13, Elise 17 and Angelique 12

Carla marvels at the underwater sights of sharks and wreck

Thursday morning we went for a long run on the beach, said goodbyes to those ashore and to Kareem and Valerie.

Upon exiting the pass Simon and Cody leap in the water and got an E-ticket ride by holding on to the dinghy stern lines as the now 2.5 kt current whisked us out the pass. We anchored just south of the pass entrance, all piled into the dinghy with masks and snorkels and had a swim over the wreck of the WWI German sailing/raiding ship Sea Adder.

The landing on Mauke looked welcoming but the anchorage deep and tenuous

Finally the trades had returned so we tucked a reef in and left Mopelia late yesterday afternoon surfing downwind at close to 8 kts. What a night! Half a moon and then millions of stars, air warm enough to stand watch in t-shirt and shorts and fairly good sea conditions.

The current ENE wind angle had us a little south of the direct course to Atiu and Rarotonga, so we’d hoped to be able to anchor off Mauke for a swim and lunch today, but found no soundings even quite close to the reef, so carried on toward Raro.

The ENE winds had been predicted on the GRIB files to die out tonight, but instead they’ve averaged 15-20 kts and we’ve been rocketing through the night, wing and wing, straight on course for Raro!

Amy mastering her celestial navigation calculations

An empty Avatiu Harbor

Leg 2 crew:  Amy, Carla, Angela, Cody, Shanti and Simon

A full southern harbor wall; MT in the foreground with Picton Castle on the left

Here’s our Leg 2 crew:

Angela, 30
Up until a few months ago, I was a project manager for a design and branding firm in New York City. I have since left that career and city in search of a more nature-oriented lifestyle…hopefully aboard a sailboat! I’m still a sailing novice with two years of self-guided education and experience on J-24’s under my belt. I joined MT III to get more hands-on experience and to see if I would enjoy the cruising lifestyle before my partner Cody and I buy our first boat and set off for the Caribbean. Our blogsite is: www.yourfinsareshowing.com.

Click HERE for Angela’s description of COUCHSURFING, an option they enjoyed in Tahiti instead of staying in a hotel.

Cody, 30
As an accountant in NYC I sat at my desk for years planning a blue water voyage after reading Joshua Slocom’s “Sailing Alone Around the World”. My girlfriend and I quit our jobs and joined this expedition to determine if cruising was for us. We planned on using the expedition as a litmus test to indicate whether we should take the next step and buy a boat. What a fun test it has turned out to be! (Angela and Cody met in high school in Amarillo, TX)

Amy, 46 from Puerto Rico and now Seattle
I run my own interior design firm in Seattle, WA with an emphasis on commercial design and multi-family housing (www.arroyo-id.com) My husband Jim who is joining MT for Leg 7 and I are planning to set sail from Seattle in 2015 aboard our custom aluminum sloop, Millie J Gult (www.milliej.com). I chose Leg 2 to learn about ocean passagemaking and coral piloting.

Carla, 54
I am a quilting and mixed media artist (www.carlabarrett.com) from El Dorado, CA. My husband Joe sailed on Leg 5-2012 and we plan on upgrading our O’Day 23 to a bluewater cruiser so we can cruise Mexico, Caribbean and the South Pacific following our retirement.

Simon, 61
I live with my wife, Shanti in Hawkes Bay, NZ and work as a radiologist in Australia. I have done some sailing pre-family and some chartering abroad and joined this expedition to learn more about blue water cruising which we hope to do in the future.

Shanti, 56
I am from rural Hawkes Bay, NZ and am the mother of four and take care of many four-legged critters, mostly horses. This has been my time to pursue my love of the sea, finally. To do an ocean passage has been on my bucket lies and so here I am. I can now look to the future with living on a boat as a realistic option.

Final update

We had a perfect afternoon arrival in tiny Avatiu Harbour, Rarotonga and Med-tied next to the Island Packet 44 we had raced alongside in Bora Bora. Argo, the very handsome and quite new 100’ traditional sail-training schooner (www.seamester.com) with dozens of 18-20 year old students was in the harbor and we enjoyed chatting with skipper Sam and some of the students. Sau Rasmussen, the new harbourmaster (originally from Penrhyn Island) helped show us a good mooring spot and caught our stern lines. We enjoyed an excellent meal ashore at a great Indian restaurant (thanks Sau, for allowing us off the boat before clearing in!) and completed clearing in Monday morning.

Fuel, water and propane tanks are now filled and we’re very much looking forward to Raro’s famous Saturday morning market which is held adjacent to the harbour to complete our provisioning for Leg 3.

Leg 2 – 2013, Sailing Itinerary