Reflections

S 16° 36' W 151° 33'

Raiatea and Tahaa

September 01, 2011

A short 20 mile sail from Huahini brought us to Passe Teavamoa on the east side of Raiatea. We entered the wide pass to the lagoon and started looking for a place to drop the anchor in Baie Opoa.

On our last trip through French Polynesia we had little time to explore Raiatea and we were determined not to let that happen again. Our first mission was to visit the well preserved historical site of the Marae Taputapuatea. Marae are large rectangular platforms built of stone and coral. They were a place of worship, war planning and the occasional human sacrifice. This particular marae was one of the most important in Polynesia.

Marae Taputapuatea dates back to the 17th century. It is not the oldest in Polynesia but was certainly one of the most important. It sits on a wide peninsula overlooking the ocean towards Huahini. It is a very tranquil location and is extremely well preserved. It drew chiefs from as far away from the Cook Islands, Hawaii and New Zealand. After this marae was constructed, any new marae that were built on other islands had to incorporate a stone from Taputapuatea. There is even a stone from this marea in a marae that was built in Hawaii.

After our short visit here we sailed south, inside the lagoon, to the southern tip of the island and a little anchorage off Nao Nao Island. The island itself is beautiful and is privately owned by an American. Signs mark all locations around the island barring any visitors. Fortunately, no one owns the beaches in French Polynesia as they are public property, but exploring the interior of the island is a no no.

One of the frustrations of cruising and trying to see so many locations on such a short time frame is having access to current information on various anchorages. There are many cruising guides for French Polynesia, but they quickly become outdated, particularly when you’ve been carrying the same ones on your boat for 10 years.

Before leaving Hawaii we met a couple, Dave & Sherry on the S/V Soggy Paws that were trying to find current information and recording it for their own purposes and to share with other cruisers. They had visited the Marquesas and the Tuamotos before spending cyclone season in Hawaii. They started what has now become almost a replacement for published cruising guides. They are known as Compendiums and they have now produced one for the Marquesas, the Tuamotus, another for the Society Islands and are currently working on another for the Cook Islands and Samoa.

They have solicited reports from other cruisers, and their own experiences, on anchorages and interesting sites to visit and compiled it into wonderful documents that break out these reports by island and even various areas on the islands. They include detailed waypoints, information on transiting passes and other important information for cruisers. They have openly shared this information with everyone and even have a website www.svsoggypaws.com where you can download them for free.

We had quickly fallen to the back of the pack in terms of transiting the islands and anchorages and having Soggy Paws 10 days in front of us turned out to be very advantageous! With internet access readily available we were constantly downloading the latest updates to these compendiums. These compendiums took us to places we would not have visited otherwise, and Nao Nao Island was no exception.

Reviewing the information in the Societies Compendium, we were excited by reports from others about the island and its anchorage. We knew there were 2 good anchorages in this area and the one that interested us most was the one that required you to enter a very narrow, shallow pass and anchor on a sand platform about 7-8 feet in depth. Having anchored in other locations in 10-12 feet of water, and based on reports from others, we knew this would be a safe anchorage. But, I have to admit, the first time you see you depth sounder reading 7 feet it makes you just a little bit nervous!!

This location had a very nice, healthy reef and reports said there were even anenomies, complete with clown fish that swim in and out of their poisonous tentacles. Sure enough, we easily found them and Sheri managed to catch a photo of one that could be on the cover of a dive magazine. We spent a few nights here in quiet solitude before heading back up north to see the rest of the east side of Raiatea. This was one of only 3 locations where we anchored and did not have an internet connection.

The wind was light the day we left Nao Nao Island so we motored inside the lagoon past the location of the marae and into the deep narrow bay of Faaroa. This bay has a unique feature in French Polynesia. At its head is the Faaroa River, the only navigable river in French Polynesia. Always on the lookout for a reason to take a dinghy trip, we were excited to finally get to take a trip up the river. We crossed the narrow bar and soon encountered the smell of mangroves. A smell offensive to some, but we always thought it had a sweet smell and reminded us of the many dinghy trips we took while in Mexico and Central America. We cruised under a total canopy of lush green trees with a shoreline covered with flowers of nearly every color imaginable.

We had been told there was a young man named James, who would meet you in a small canoe and offer to take you for a free tour of a botanical garden. Out of nowhere, as we returned down the river, James appeared in his canoe and we accepted his invitation for a tour. For nearly 2 hours he led us through a maze of trails showing us spectacular local flowers and climbing trees to pick local fruits for us to sample. Many of these fruits we had never seen before. James spoke Tahitian, French and English. He had a funny little saying when he would give us some fruit to taste. He would say, “It’s good for you? No good for me!” We took that to mean that he really didn’t like what he was giving us to sample and wanted to know if we liked it. It’s now a regular phrase in our conversations. After the tour as James paddled down the river with us, he stopped and hacked off a complete bunch of bananas and gave them to us. We gave him a nice tip for sharing his unique garden with us.

No matter where you go on a boat, you’ll always experience the unexpected! It isn’t always dancing dolphins and beautiful sunsets. Only about 30 days after paying almost $80US to fill our propane tank, we discovered we were out of propane! We had a smaller spare tank but knew it was almost impossible to have used that amount of propane in such a short time. After hooking up the small spare tank I found the source of our missing propane. The main hose from the tank to the regulator was leaking at a joint. There was no way to fix it and I had no replacement. Rather than using our electronic solenoid to turn on and off the gas, we would now be manually opening and closing the valve every time we needed propane. Annoying to say the least, but at least we wouldn’t lose any more gas.

We also knew we didn’t have enough propane to reach American Samoa without refilling and had been told the only place you could get US tanks filled was in Papeete on the island of Tahiti. And, that was 140 miles behind us. One cruiser told us the haul out yard on the north end of Raiatea could gravity fill US propane tanks. That was our next stop anyway and we were quite happy when the woman at the haul out yard told us “no problem” when we asked if they could fill the tank. She said we could pick it up after lunch the following day. We were not happy at all when we arrived the next day and she told us they had tried everything but couldn’t get gas into the tank!

For some reason our horizontal propane tanks have an unusual valve that will not let you fill them with a conventional fitting. They have another “fill” valve on them that are relatively new and I imagine that virtually no one in the rest of the world would have an adapter for this fitting. They must have had one in Papeete, but we certainly didn’t want to sail back there, against the wind, to get a propane tank refilled. I saw a boat I recognized in the harbor and decided to ask them if they might have an adapter. Much to my surprise, they did! Not only did they have the adapter, but they also had 2 spare hoses like I needed to fix the leak! We always laugh about carrying spare parts. It seems you never have the spare part you need, but always have the one your fellow cruiser needs. I think we just carry each other’s spare parts. About three hours later our propane tank was filled, the hose replaced, our leak fixed and our minds at rest!

Unfortunately, this was only the first of our “leaks”. These weren’t the kind of leaks we experienced on our way south from Hawaii where we only had to deal with water coming into the boat. No, these were leaks of strange substances and they all happened within about 7 days. We discovered the next one a day or so later while looking for something in the bilge. I saw a strange substance floating around on top of the bilge water. It turned out to be fresh oil from one of my spare jugs that had sprung a pinhole leak. We figured about a half of pint of oil had escaped. Not a big deal, but messy to clean up! A couple days later, I kept smelling what I thought was ether when sitting in the cockpit. It took me a day or two to realize it was starting fluid and opening the propane locker confirmed it, as the fumes were overwhelming, and extremely explosive.

But we weren’t done yet! The next day, after running the engine to charge up the batteries in the morning there was another toxic smell coming from the engine compartment. It was very unusual and my first thoughts were that something terrible had gone wrong with the engine. I opened the engine compartment to overpowering fumes that immediately made me light headed and I thought I might pass out. At the same time, Sheri was looking in the bilge and the same fumes had made her lightheaded. We opened up the boat and headed outside for some fresh air before trying to figure out where this was coming from.  After the fumes cleared, we found that a can of spray paint had sprung a pinhole leak at the top of the can. Fortunately, it was only the fumes that came out and none of the paint. Nothing like sniffing paint for breakfast in the morning! After that, we went through every locker where we keep toxic chemicals and threw out any cans that had even a spot of rust. It’s a wonder we didn’t blow ourselves up!

With all of our “known” leaks resolved we sailed across the shared lagoon to the island of Tahaa. We spent a good deal of time at Tahaa last time through so we were really only interested in snorkeling a place we missed last time, catching some sunset views of Bora Bora and seeing if the bungalows we anchored off of last time were still there. There was nothing spectacular about the snorkeling, but the sunsets were incredible! And the bungalows were still there but the number of them had at least tripled. We had an internet connection and wanted to see what it cost for a night. It was only $1100US for the cheapest room up to $1700 for top of the line. I find it hard to imagine spending almost $8000 for lodging to stay there and you haven’t even paid for airfare or meals yet. Apparently, paradise doesn’t come cheap!

A couple of days here and it was time to sail to Bora Bora!

 

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S 16° 45' W 150° 57'

Just Arrived in American Samoa

August 29, 2011

Sorry for those strange blog posts. I was experimenting with sending latitude and longitude information via the radio modem while underway so the trip map would get updated. Needless to say… It didn’t work as I expected!!!

I’ll have an updated post on Raiatea and Tahaa in the next couple days. It’s already written, I just need to select some photos to upload along with the story.

We had a great trip from Suwarrow to American Samoa. Comfortable seas, winds were on the light side but the sailing was great!

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S 16° 46' W 150° 57'

Huahini

August 28, 2011

Before leaving Tahiti for Huahini, we had one last project to address. It was time to order a new headsail. On our trip down from Hawaii, we noticed we were having trouble trimming our jib and getting the shape of the sail correct. This little 90% jib was on the boat when we bought her and at that time she looked brand new. It’s the perfect sail for our boat when we have to make passages into the wind. It always had the most beautiful shape and when you unfurl it and point Reflections towards the wind, she comes to life.

We noticed as soon as we first unfurled the sail that something didn’t look right. The sail had been on the boat for about 2 years, with little use, but we didn’t remember it looking the way it did this time. It looked filthy and we just assumed it was from all the dust and dirt in the Ala Wai Harbor. We figured a couple of rain showers would clean it up, but those rain showers came and went and it didn’t improve much. And, then there was that issue we had trying to trim it correctly.

Shortly after arriving in the Tuamotus we took the sail down and replaced it with our bigger, 120% jib, in anticipation of the downwind sailing we would be doing for the next few months. As soon as the sail hit the deck, we realized why it looked so bad and why we had so much difficulty trimming it properly. The sail fell to the deck and it sounded like 10 layers of cellophane rubbing together. The sail cloth was delaminating. What had once been a single sheet of sail cloth were now multiple layers of crinkly fabrics and laminates. This sail was history! We were actually a little shocked as the last time we used the sail it appeared to be in great shape. After thinking about it for awhile we realized we had used that sail for thousands of miles and conceded that being at least 15 years old, it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

There wasn’t even a discussion as to whether we were going to replace it, in unison we declared that the sail must be replaced. And, we wanted one that looked exactly like the old one. We contacted our friends at North Sail in Hawaii to see if they could find the specifications on the original sail, knowing the names of the prior owners and that it would have been made on the west coast. They looked for records, but none could be found so we dragged it to shore at the yacht club, tied it between a few trees and measured it so North could make us a replacement. With measurements in hand, the new sail was ordered and scheduled for completion in time to ship it to American Samoa when we eventually arrive there. Now it was time to get back to the issue at hand, cruising! And off to Huahini we went!

Huahini is probably the most laid back of the Society Islands. For the most part, it’s off the tourist track and is primarily an agricultural island. Many of the local fruits and vegetables available in the islands are grown on the motu surrounding the island. Now would probably be a good time to pause for a geography lesson.

The Society Islands were volcanically formed thousands of years ago in manner very similar to the much younger, Hawaiian Islands. Volcanic eruptions create large islands and over time, coral reefs start to grow along the edges of the islands. Over time, the islands themselves start to wash away leaving a ring of coral reef surrounding the slowly disappearing islands. As the fringing coral reefs continue to grow they begin to break the surface, sand accumulates, vegetation begins to grow and a protected lagoon forms between the surrounding coral reef and the island. As time goes on, the constant effects of the seas and storms carve passes through the coral reef leaving a ring of smaller islands. These small islands are referred to as motu. All the islands of Society are currently in this state. They all have a coral reef and motu surrounding them with an inner lagoon. The much older Tuamotus Archipelago is different in that for the most part, the original volcanic islands have completely washed away, leaving only the fringing coral reef and motu. At this stage they are knows as atolls. One day, the Hawaiian Islands will be surrounded by a lagoon and a fringing coral reef and motu, but don’t hold your breath; you won’t be around to see it! Enough of the geography!

It was an overnight sail to Huahine in light winds that had us motoring at times during the night. On our last trip through we spent very little time at Huahini but were determined that wouldn’t happen again. Our first destination was an anchorage on the east side of the island, inside the reef and behind the large Motu Murimahora. This is large motu and many different fruits and vegetables are grown here including cantaloupes, watermelon, tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers and lettuce.

After entering the pass and heading south through a well marked channel in depths of 50-75’ of water, you can see the bright, light blue water of the preferred anchorage. A large plateau of sand, in only 10’ of water, is the best place to anchor. This area is easily large enough for 25 boats to safely anchor here. It makes you a little nervous as you approach and see the depth sounder go from 60’ to 10’ in a course of a few seconds and it’s nearly impossible to visually guess the depth in the crystal clear water. After slowly searching around on the plateau for a few minutes we found a suitable place and dropped the anchor. In our opinion, anchoring in a shallow area like this is preferable as you only need to put out a small amount of anchor chain to achieve the recommended 7:1 scope for safe anchorage. We let out 75’ of chain and settled into a picturesque anchorage with mountains on one side and a green motu on the other.

We had been told there was good snorkeling here. South of the anchorage to the southern end of the motu is a coral reef that extends for more than a mile. Although most of the coral was dead, as is the case in so many places now, the reef was teaming with fish. There is a slight current in this part of the lagoon that flows from the south end of the motu, so the preferred method for snorkeling this reef is to take the dinghy to the southern end, jump in the water and float back to the anchorage while hanging onto a line attached to the dinghy. This was so enjoyable we couldn’t help but do it over and over again! Much to our surprise, there were many Regal Angle fish here. I think this is one of the most beautiful fish in the oceans. We had only seen them once before when we were in the Tuamotu’s nine years ago diving in one of the passes. They are absolutely beautiful with a bright blue body, bright yellow fins and black, white and orange bands on their sides. They are truly spectacular. There were also many of the colorful giant clams and we were even treated to a visit by a 5’ black tip reef shark.

When we arrived here there was only one other boat in the anchorage. Two days later there were 15! This little area is quite a ways from any large town and yet we had wireless internet here. It’s really amazing to us that the internet seems to be everywhere. We have only been in 3 anchorages where we could not get a connection. This particular anchorage was also in a very good location to explore some of the other bays with the dinghy.

Huahini is actually 2 separate islands, separated by about 100’ of water. A small bridge connects the two islands. There are bays on each side of the bridge. On the east side is Baie Maroe and on the west, Port Bourayne. We had already decided that we wouldn’t be exploring the south west side of Huahini as that was the only portion of the island we had seen 9 years ago, but we had not even entered Port Bourayne last time so we decided to see it via a high speed dingy trip! We found the markers leading you through the reef and under the bridge and explored the western portion of the island for a few hours. On returning to the very large and very deep bay of Maroe, we spotted a pier on the southern shore and drove over to take a closer look. The pier seemed almost out of place. There were very few homes located around the area and the pier appeared to have been built fairly recently. Not one boat was tied to the pier. We tied the dinghy up and were looking for a cold drink and maybe a loaf of French bread as we had run out a few days ago, but there were no stores anywhere nearby. We were fortunate enough to find a small little restaurant at the head of the pier that appeared to be closed. We stuck our heads in and in perfect English, the woman asked if we wanted lunch. I wonder how it is they know when to speak in English? It’s not like I’m wearing a sign! She made us a great lunch of fish in vanilla sauce with green beans, fries and salad. But the best part was she sold us a fresh loaf of French bread and a head of lettuce! Perfect! Now we could stay a couple more days in what soon became our favorite anchorage in the Society Islands.

After a few more days and a couple more trips drift snorkeling over the reef, we were running low on provisions and it was time to move on to the main town of Fare on the northwest side of the island. We entered the pass in very calm winds and after contemplating our anchoring options, chose to anchor in an area that is exposed to winds, but not close to any of the reefs. It was probably a good idea as we were able to find a sandy spot in about 15’ of water. It was a little farther from town, but it was private and it beat anchoring in 75’ with a coral reef behind you when the winds picked up. And of course the winds picked up!

Fare is cute little town and the biggest event that goes on here is when the supply ship comes in. Not only does it offload supplies for the people who live there, but it also takes back all those fruits and vegetables they grow on the island and motu. There were trucks lined up at the pier loaded to the brim with fresh cantaloupes and melons. We were actually very surprised to see the quantities of fruit and vegetables being loaded onto the ship. There are a few small restaurants in town. Most of them cheap by French Polynesia standards but you pretty much count on lunch out costing $15 a person without drinks.

Back in the anchorage, the winds really started to pick up and we found ourselves deciding it was better to stay on the boat than go venture around the island while the wind was blowing. As soon as the winds started to blow, other boats started coming into the pass and where we once had a private anchorage, we were now surrounded by 30-35 boats. Many of them were charter boats from Mooring, Sunsail and a couple other charter companies. I’m always a little suspect anchoring near charter boats as you never really know just how qualified the skipper of that charter boat might be.

Those of you reading this that have been around sailing for some time have probably heard some of the stories of dumb things done by people who charter boats. One of my favorites is the guy who radios into the charter base after 2 days requesting they bring him some more anchors because he has used all of the ones that were onboard. Or possibly the other one where a guy on a charter boat can’t find the pass to get back through the reef and runs into it. Rather than look for the pass, he just backs up and runs into it again, going even faster the second time, hoping to finally go over or through it. I never really believed these stories, but after what I witnessed, I’m no longer so sure.

One of the boats that came in and anchored near us was a charter from Moorings. I don’t know how many people were on this 40’ boat, but there were at least 8. I heard the anchor chain as they dropped it and could tell they were waaaayyy to close! Sheri went out on deck and told them they were too close but that didn’t even slow them down. There was a very strong current flowing through this anchorage from the south. At times I’m sure it was close to 5 knots and this boat had anchored just in front of us. To make matters worse, the winds were also blowing from the south and it was raining slightly. And this is when the fun began!

As soon as they got their anchor down, 6 of them all dressed in foul weather gear hopped into the dinghy and took off for town. We watched to see where their boat would finally settle in to see if we were in danger and after a few minutes I surmised that if they were to drag anchor, the strong current would probably move them past us rather than onto us, so we settled in down below.

A few minutes later, I thought I heard someone yelling. I climbed into the cockpit just in time to see a guy, swimming like a madman, go flying past the side of our boat. Yes, you guessed it! The guy decided to go for a swim in a current he had no chance of swimming against. Left by himself, he would have eventually been swept out the pass into the open ocean! Of course, their dinghy was now in town and they had no way to go get him. We were planning on leaving the next day for Raiatea so the outboard was already off the dinghy and on its mount and our dinghy was hoisted up on the side of the boat. There is no way I could get the dinghy in the water, get the engine on and go get him before he was half way to Raiatea. Fortunately, another boat behind me also heard the yelling and was able to get his dinghy off the davits and into the water quickly enough to rescue him. I’ll bet the next time that guy goes for a swim off the back of the boat, he’ll check the current before he jumps in the water!

About an hour later, the winds were really picking up and I just had one of those feelings you get when you think there is something wrong. I look out to see the Moorings boat about 10’ away from our bow. I can tell from the look on the woman’s face that she is as concerned about this as I am, but the rest of the crew is still on shore and I had the distinct feeling she didn’t have a clue in the world what she should do. It was starting to rain harder now and I couldn’t really make out what was happening on the boat as the rest of the crew in the dinghy finally returned. A few minutes later, I hear the unmistakable sound of anchor chain being pulled in. My first thought is that they realize they are way to close and are going to pull up the anchor and move to another location. I was wrong! They simply pulled in some of their chain so they wouldn’t be slow close. For the non-sailors out there, that is the last thing you want to do when the current is flowing and the winds are blowing. As it turned out, this may not have been safer for them, but it was for us. Because the winds were blowing from a slightly different direction than the current was flowing, the amount of chain they pulled in pretty much assured that if they dragged, the current would definitely take them past us rather than onto us.

We slept well that night despite them and much to our surprise they were still there in the morning! It was time to move on to Raiatea!

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S 17° 29' W 149° 49'

Moorea!

July 28, 2011

Moorea must be one of the most beautiful places on earth! There are 2 large bays on the north coast, Baies de Cook and Opunohu, which offer spectacular views and safe anchorage. We spent 2 weeks here and still didn’t feel it was enough time. Equipped with a new Yamaha 15HP 2 stroke motor that we purchased in Papeete, we were now prepared for high speed dinghy trips and explored both of these beautiful bays and surrounding waters.

Our first mission was to partake in the festivities of the Tahiti Moorea Sailing Rendezvous. This event is sponsored by the French government in conjunction with Latitude 38 magazine. It starts with a regatta from Tahiti to Moorea with 2 days of events on the beach in Moorea. There was a kickoff party in Tahiti the night before the regatta which included a blessing of the fleet and even a welcoming speech from the mayor of Papeete. Having come from Hawaii, and still remembering the way the State of Hawaii treats boaters, I was almost stunned when I heard the mayor say, “The French Polynesian government welcomes you, and we are happy to have you here on our islands.” From that moment, I knew this was going to be a great event!

Unfortunately, the wind gods were not cooperating for the regatta and most of the fleet, ourselves included, decided it was better to motor to Moorea and have cocktails on the beach, than go for bragging rights and sail the entire way. We do have our priorities! We anchored inside the reef, on the outside of Opunohu bay along side of a sandy beach. There must have been 60 boats anchored on a large patch of sand.

The following day, there were nonstop events starting the morning. There were 6 man canoe races, flower lei making sessions, fruit carrying races, coconut husking, hula lessons, dance and singing demonstrations, great music, and of course… More cocktails!! Sheri decided to go through her second, or maybe it’s her third childhood and she participated in every, and I mean every, event! She started with the lei making and then moved on to the canoe races. The canoe races were made up of 2 locals and 4 cruisers. Mark from Pua’ena and Mike and Sue from Infini made up the cruisers for Sheri’s canoe. All had previous paddling experience, so there were high hopes for a first place finish, but alas, they finished second. At least they didn’t flip the canoe!

Sheri was also entered in the fruit carrying race. Two large bunches of bananas were tied to each end of a long pole. To start, you ran to the banana poles, picked them up and run through a course. Sheri scouted out each of the poles, finding the one that weighed the least, and made sure that would be the one she carried. I didn’t hold much hope for a first place finish here! In fact, I wasn’t sure there would be a finish for her. It turned out I was right. As soon as the race started, one of those young teenagers beat Sheri to her banana pole and took it, leaving the heaviest one for Sheri. She ran almost the whole way to the first mark before throwing the bananas down and retiring from the race. If she had only picked up the bananas and ran to the shore and threw them in our dinghy, she would have won! Well, maybe not, but we would have had fresh bananas!

But, Sheri wasn’t done yet. There were still Tahitian dance lessons! I don’t know where she learned to do this, but she is really great at that hula and shaking your booty thing! Here she excelled and even the locals thought she did a great job. I decided it would be more fun to take photos rather than participate. And yes, I have photos! Lots of them! They had DJ that played some great Tahitian music all day. I was really impressed with the music and nicely asked the man if he could make me a copy of some of the music he was playing. Through the communication issues I was having, I finally understood that if I brought him a thumb drive he would make a copy. I went back to the boat, made him a copy of all the Hawaiian music I had and brought back a 16gb thumb drive. He showed me all the music he had on his computer and asked me what I wanted. I told him all of it! It took almost an hour to copy everything he gave me. I have about 6 gigabytes of Tahitian music! It may take the rest of my life to ever listen to all of it. He gave all of his playlists. I probably have playlists for weddings, funerals, birthday parties and every other occasion. The day ended with a dance and drumming show. And… More cocktails! A great time was had by all who attended. Especially Sheri!

After this event, we settled back into a slower pace and started checking out the island. With our new outboard we were able to explore a little further and get there much faster. Still inside the reef to the north of the bay, the French Government commissioned an artist to create some Tiki’s that were laid in the sand in about 10 feet of water. Since we were here, we had to grab the snorkel gear and take a look for ourselves. There were about 10 of them and by the number of tourist boats that go out there, they must be a popular attraction. We weren’t all that impressed with the Tiki’s, but we were glad we stopped. I found a very unusual fish lying on the sand. Its common name is a Sea Robin and I guess they aren’t all that unusual, but we have only seen one other in all our diving and snorkeling experiences. This one had a wing span of 16-18”, so it was much bigger than the one we had seen before. I imagine the likely reason we haven’t seen many of these, is these fish live on sandy bottoms and most people don’t go diving or snorkeling to see sand.

From the Tiki’s we continued on further up the reef to the next tourist attraction, Sting Rays! The locals have been feeding these Sting Rays in about 4 feet of water, for years. They are very tame and almost like pets. You can touch them and they are just constantly swimming around you. Show a little food and you’ll be run over! Right next to this shallow sand bank, the water depth increases to about 50 feet and black tip reef sharks swim by. This was a great snorkel experience and well worth the free price of admission.

With all this fun, you’d think there wasn’t anything else. But, Sheri is a woman with a mission! She has been diligently learning French with the help of Rosetta Stone’s program. She’s actually learned quite a lot, and I’ve even learned some myself by watching, and listening, while she sits in front of the computer with the headphones on. A typical session sounds something like this:

Sheri:         bon jour

Computer:  Bzzzt!

Sheri:         Bon Jour

Computer:  Bzzzt!

Sheri:         Bon Jour!!!

Computer:  Bzzzt!

Sheri:         BONJOUR!!!

Computer:  Bzzzt!

Sheri:          Damnit!

Computer:  Bzzzt!

Sheri:          Shit!

Computer:  Bzzzt!

 

It goes on like that for awhile, getting even more profane when she gets to the writing section. Then, it’s a flurry of swear words that even makes me blush! I told her it will be impossible for her to spell in French since can’t even spell in English, but she’s actually learned a lot. We were touring Opunohu Bay in the dinghy and came across a group of local kids swimming off a dock. They waved for us to come over and Sheri asked them their names and some other simple questions in French. They all understood and I was actually a little amazed at how much she has learned from this program. I may have to put the headset on and give it a try myself one of these days!

 

We rented a car for a day with Mark and Dot again and did the grand tour of Moorea. There is a lookout point in the mountains that allows you a spectacular view of the 2 bays. There are some well preserved Marae, ancient ruins, on Moorea and other islands and we visited a very nice one here. After a few more days, we moved the boat over to Cook’s Bay and anchored deep inside the bay. The walls of the bay are so steep that you don’t get a full day worth of sunshine. Depending where you are in the bay, the sun might not rise until 10:00AM.

We would have loved to spend even more time here, but all good things must come to an end! And there is still so much to do and see here that it was time to move on. We had decided to return to Tahiti from Moorea as it was still necessary for us to officially check out of Tahiti before heading to the leeward islands of Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa and Bora Bora. We also needed to take on our duty free fuel, only $3.85 a gallon, pick up our paperwork for duty free alcohol and also wanted to see some of the Heiva festival that takes place in Papeete. This festival brings the most talented dancers and athletes from all the islands for a month long competition. It includes canoe races as well as the dance competition we hoped to see. After taking on fuel at Marina Taina, we decided to anchor near the Tahiti Yacht Club and explore another part of the island.

Everyone at the yacht club was very friendly and they even had reasonably priced laundry facilities. It’s not uncommon here to pay $20 to wash and dry a load of laundry. And that’s if you do it yourself! It seemed like a steal at $7 a load and spared Sheri from the 5 gallon bucket and plunger. We decided that we might as well reprovision the boat while we were here with access to the very large supermarkets. Very near the yacht club, we found a store named Cost & Co. You guessed it! Some enterprising individual is importing products from Costco and reselling them here. Albeit at twice the price! This was actually a great find! We had failed to purchase adequate quantities of some items and although this store doesn’t carry anywhere near the full assortment that you would find at your local Costco, they seemed to have every item that we had run short of. We are still amazed at how much easier it is to get fresh produce here. It seems every little store has fresh lettuce and produce. Cruising here is much easier than it was 9 years ago!

We had also run short of wine and found ourselves completely out of Tequila. This, of course, is a major crisis and thankfully we now had our paperwork for duty free booze. It involved going to a distributer, making your selections and then they delivered it right to the yacht club dock. We had figured we wouldn’t be having another margarita until we reached Samoa and could replenish our supply of Tequila. Considering a bottle of Jose Cuervo goes for about $75 in the supermarket, we didn’t think duty free would be enough to bring that price down to a reasonable level. Much to our surprise, they had tequila for $6 a bottle! The label even said it was made from 100% agave, we aren’t sure whether they were referring to the Tequila on the inside of the bottle or the label on the outside, but for $6, who is going to complain?

The one event we really wanted to see of the Heiva festival was the finals for the dance competition. Unfortunately, the night of the competition, the wind in the anchorage was blowing over 30mph and since we were backed up against a lee shore, we didn’t feel comfortable leaving the boat so we missed it! Now we have an excuse to come back again!

The following morning, it was still blowing 30 and raining. We were surprised to look out and see about 50 canoes paddling around the corner with nearly as many chase boats following them along. Unknown to us at the time, we were anchored right on the edge of the track for the canoe racing competition. We had ringside seats! We actually felt sorry for these competitors. This was some of the worst weather we had seen since we have been here. As the canoes came around the corner, they were headed directly into the wind and waves, by the time they reached our boat, they were sidewise to the wind and the 2 foot waves that were rolling through the anchorage. This ended up being the demise for some of these canoes as a number of them flipped as they passed our boat. But this was only the beginning. This was simply the first wave of canoes. The races continued all day and one fleet must have had at least 100 canoes. I’m sure it went down as one of the wettest and wildest canoe races they have seen!

With time disappearing quickly, it was time to move on again. Next stop… Huahine!

17°29.21S 149°49.10W

 

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S 17° 29' W 149° 51'

Reports of our demise...

May 15, 2011

are greatly exaggerated! It finally came to my attention that I have been neglecting to keep everyone informed on our adventures. When our friends, Mark & Dot on Pua’ena, showed me an email asking if Reflections was lost at sea, I thought it might be time to tear myself away from the majestic beauty of French Polynesia and write a few lines detailing some of our adventures!

It’s hard to believe we have already been here for more than 6 weeks. We made landfall in Manihi in the Tuamotos. Manihi is a beautiful little atoll in the northern section of the Tuamotus and we spent a couple of weeks there decompressing and remembering what the cruising life is all about. This was a great place to make landfall. Not only did one of the local residents deliver baguettes to the boats every morning, but the local stores even had fresh produce like lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and fresh fruit. When we were in the Tuamotus nine years ago, it was essentially impossible to find anything other than fish that was fresh. We expected things would change since we were here last and being able to obtain fresh fruits and vegetables was a very positive improvement.

We also spent a good deal of time identifying and fixing a variety of little leaks that made our passage south a wet and wild adventure. In all, we identified and fixed seven leaks. At least we think we fixed them! The leaks were more of an ongoing annoyance than a crisis. Only one piece of boat gear suffered damage due to the water and that was the monitor we have mounted on the wall for watching movies. Monitors don’t seem to like salt water very much. In fact, they don’t like it at all! It only took a few drops of water and then this big black hole appeared on in the upper right hand corner of the screen. That was followed a few days later by three other spheres rising from the lower portion of the screen. It hasn’t made watching a movie impossible, but we will need to replace this somewhere down the road. And to think that some people complain if their monitor has a few dead pixels?

We then moved on to another little atoll named Toau. There is a very small bay on the northeast corner of the atoll that forms a protected area where you can anchor, or even better, pick up a mooring ball. And pick up a mooring we did! There are only four people who live in this little area and they installed about twelve mooring balls for use by cruisers. The moorings are free provided you come ashore and have a dinner prepared by Valentine and Gaston. They are great hosts and they make a few dollars from cruisers by putting on these dinners. We enjoyed a really great meal of fresh lobsters, pig and raw fish in coconut milk. Earlier that morning I received my first course on how to butcher a small pig. Sheri decided she really didn’t want to see that but since I’d never seen it done before, I had to go and watch. I’ll need a few more courses before I’m ready to try that one on my own! While we were here we also finally had the opportunity to see our first Coconut Crab. These big strong land dwelling crabs have claws that can open coconuts! Watch where you stick your fingers or you might lose them. Now that we’ve seen one, our next move is to have one for dinner. They are supposed to be delicious! But, we’ll leave catching them to those with more experience.

Since we were on a mooring ball, it was a perfect opportunity to figure out what went wrong with another piece of new boat gear. One of our favorite new pieces of gear added during our seven year long refit in Hawaii was a new anchor windless. We also added a control panel in the cockpit to raise and lower the anchor. It included a chain counter showing how much chain had been deployed. Unfortunately, when we went to drop the anchor in Manihi, the windlass worked fine, but the chain counter didn’t. Since we had this fancy new device, we hadn’t bothered to mark the chain any other way and had no idea how much chain we had deployed. We erred on the side of too much rather than too little. After a little diagnosis, I discovered that the idiot who did the soldering of the sensor wire hadn’t done a very good job. A little re-soldering and all was well again. I punished myself for the poor solder job by cutting my daily wine ration in half for a day. I barely survived!

We spent nearly two weeks in Toau and then moved on to Tahiti. It was a two night sail from Toau and we found ourselves trying to slow the boat down so we didn’t arrive in the middle of the night. As it turned out, we arrived at the crack of dawn and entered the pass at first light. We really enjoyed Tahiti on our first visit and were anxious to see what changes had occurred over the past nine years. Immediately on entering the pass, we recognized a new development at the head of the bay. We later found out it was a Hilton hotel that opened a year or so after our first visit and was closed down last year. Yep, the economic crisis even reached Tahiti! On our first visit to Papeete, you were allowed to anchor near the main quay right in the downtown area. Unfortunately, they have built a few new docks and you are no longer allowed to anchor anywhere in the Papeete area. Being the cheapskates that we are, we won’t pay $45 a night to park Reflections in a slip when there is a possibility of anchoring for free somewhere else so we moved around the corner to another area where we had spent a good deal of time.

What we knew as the Maeva Beach area, is now known as the Marina Tiana area. Same place, different name. The marina was there nine years ago, but has been greatly expanded and now accommodates some of the mega yachts so common here. There were at least five sailing yachts there, most of which were at least a hundred feet in length. In my opinion, any sailboat that has a mast so tall that they are required to have a red light at the top of the mast to warn airplanes, is a mega yacht! All of these fine sailing vessels have the requisite red light at the top of the mast. Ahhh… How the other one percent live their lives!!!

Back in civilization again, we were ready for a trip to the super, supermarket Carrefour. We have fond memories of this mega store and all the fresh produce, cheese, meats and other consumables they have in stock. Surprisingly, we weren’t as shocked by the prices as we were on our first trip here. I suspect that has more to do with the fact that we arrived from this time from Hawaii rather than Panama and the Galapagos. After Hawaii, the prices here don’t seem all that high! And fortunately, for carnivores like us, meat prices must still be subsidized by the French government. Although the cuts of beef are slightly different from the US, the prices are very reasonable. We were able to buy whole strips of rib eyes, and these are only the very inner eye of the rib, for about $6.50 a pound. Most of the produce still costs more per pound than beef but they have everything here.

We did something on this trip we had never done in the past. We used the assistance of an agent to clear into French Polynesia. Since we were formally a part of Latitude 38’s Puddle Jump Group, they arranged a special deal with one of the agents for all the boats in the fleet. For a little less than $200, the agent takes care of everything. French Polynesia has some check in procedures that are somewhat burdensome. The biggest being the paying of a bond, equal to the cost of a plane ticket back to your country of residence, for each person aboard the boat. You get the money back when you leave, minus a few fees, but if we could avoid paying the $2500 we certainly would and using an agent allows you to bypass this requirement. As it turned out, using an agent here had more benefits that just bypassing the bond. Since we arrived in the Tuamotus on an atoll that had no police station, we didn’t have to officially check in until we reached Papeete. The agent met us at the Marina, took our passports and did the complete check in procedure for us. We were not required to go anywhere or do anything. She returned the next morning with stamped passports and the form allowing us to purchase fuel duty free. We haven’t taken on fuel yet, but the duty free price is less than $3.90 a gallon. If I remember correctly, we paid $4.50/gal in Hawaii! Checking out is supposed to be just as easy. The agent will come to meet us wherever we are in Tahiti, take the passports, get them stamped, visit all the offices that would normally be required and return our passports the following day. This time, we’ll receive our form for duty free liquor! Since a fifth of Jose Cuervo Tequila costs about $75 here, that form is nearly priceless!

We sailed over to Moorea, well actually we motored since there was no wind, as part of the festivities put on for the Puddle Jump group. I’ve written enough already so; I’ll save Moorea for the next time. We were really worried about coming back to French Polynesia for fear that the wonderful memories we had of this magical place might be diluted by the changes that have occurred in the past nine years. Those fears were completely unfounded. We are finding these islands even more magical than they were on our first time through. From the majestic beauty of the lush green islands to the clarity of the gin clear warm tropical water, we are loving French Polynesia even more than we did the first time. I sometimes sit in the cockpit in the morning and have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming!

I’ll try and write more often, but if you don’t hear from us for a few weeks, don’t be concerned. We’re probably just out snorkeling, diving, hiking or watching a beautiful sunset!

Baie d’Opunoho, Moorea, French Polynesia

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N 08° 22' W 148° 29'

Hawaii to French Polynesia, Week 2

May 14, 2011

)

Aloha from the South Pacific! We are only 275 miles and 2 days from making landfall in Manihi in the Tuamotos. If all goes as planned, we’ll arrive before sunrise on Monday morning and enter the pass around 10:00AM, The weather has improved considerably and we have been making great time the last few days. Everything onboard is great and we are really looking forward to getting the anchor set and popping the cork on a bottle of champagne!

Day 8

Date(UTC): 5/5/2011

Time(UTC): 11:05 PM

Latitude: 08°22.03’N

Longitude: 148°29.02’W

Course: 130T

Speed: 6.1

Wet and wild last night! After a slow day of sailing into confused seas, the winds started picking up. They were steady at 30-35 with gusts up to 45. We had a double reefed main and the jib was furled up to the size of a hand towel. Seas were no better. We did have some clearer skies with stars. At least when they weren’t be hidden by squalls.

Things are much better today! Seas have calmed down winds are back 18-20 and we’ve been cruising along at 6.0+ all day. Let’s see if it holds through the night!

Everything on board is great! Salty, but great!

Day 9

Date(UTC): 5/6/2011

Time(UTC): 1:04 PM

Latitude: 07°23.48’N

Longitude: 147°32.30’W

Course: 142T

Speed: 6.7

After the rough night, the winds dropped this morning to 18 -20 knots and have stayed that way all afternoon and into the night. We are not content with the amount of easting we have made and have altered course to sail directly towards our waypoint at the equator. We plan to cross the equator at longitude 142-143W.

Altering our course has also flattened the boat out, reduced the amount of water coming over the decks and into the cockpit and increased our speed! We have averaged over 6 knots all day and into the night. This should be our best daily run for the trip. We should make somewhere near 150 miles in this 24 hour period.

It was sunny and clear all day today and, so far, no squalls tonight! A great day of sailing!

We are approaching the ITCZ which will bring us some thunderstorms. Based on reports from 2 boats in front of us, they thunderstorms were not much of a problem, but the lack of wind forced everyone to motor for a few hours. Just a few days ago the ITCZ was 240 miles across. It’s currently only 90 miles wide and a little further south. Still a day or two away from crossing it, then we cross the equator, alter our course to the southwest and start the finally leg to Manihi in the Tuamotus. Manihi is located at approximately 14.24S / 145.56W. Landfall will still be another 12 days or so.

Everything on board is fine and the crew is happy and well fed. We have found a couple small leaks. One chain plate is leaking and a port is weeping a drop or two of water when it gets slammed by a big wave. Should be able to quickly fix those when we get to Manihi!

Day 10

Date(UTC): 5/7/2011

Time(UTC): 2:11 PM

Latitude: 05°13.49’N

Longitude: 145°58.53’W

Course: 146T

Speed: 6.2

Another fantastic day of sailing! Our 24 hour run yesterday was the best of the trip. We made 139 miles. Not bad for going against the wind. Today’s run should be even better. Anticipating a 150-160 mile day. Winds were steady at 15-18 all day and we averaged 6.5 to 7.5 knots all day. Winds picked up a little this evening, as did the seas. We’ve slowed some, but still making better than 6.0 kts sustained.

According to the weather forecast, we should be on the northern edge of the ITCZ. Based on the number of squalls that are popping up on the radar, I’d say the forecast is accurate! The ITCZ is currently about 150 miles across. The next days sailing should be interesting!

There’s an old saying that says the definition of a sailboat race is 2 sailboats headed in the same direction in sight of each other. I don’t really think that is true. I think the definition should be expanded to some thing along the lines of, 2 sailboats headed in the same direction within radio range of each other! I told myself that this time out I was going to slow down and not race against every boat that is in the same ocean with us.

Well, I was wrong! I can’t help myself and I don’t think there is a cure. There are 3 other boats out here with us. 2 in front of us and one behind. We’re the smallest of the group. We talk with everyone twice a day to share our position and weather info. The 2 boats in front of us both left a full week before us and we’ve already made up a couple days on each of them. I’m hoping to actually pass one of them before we make landfall.

I probably should let them know they are in a sailboat race, but since we’re the smallest boat, I need all the advantages I can get!

I’m sure they’ll eventually figure it out! Oh no!! Boat speed just dropped below 6.5 knots, I’ve got to go trim the sails!

Everything on board is fine!

Day 11

Date(UTC): 5/8/2011

Time(UTC): 11:54 AM

Latitude: 03°46.41’N

Longitude: 145°01.12’W

Course: 147T

Speed: 5.4

The ITCZ welcoming committee was out in full force yesterday when we made our arrival. They were nice enough to bring along a squall that immediately brought on 30 knot winds and some rain showers. But, that was just to say welcome. 2 hours later we were engulfed by a 20 mile diameter wide squall. Big boy! 35 kts of wind and after spinning us in a circle, proceeded to pressure wash the boat with fresh water. And, I mean lots and lots of fresh water. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it rain that hard, for that long. There is not one grain of salt left on Reflections. In fact, I suspect it’s washed off salt that I’ve had on the boat for a decade.

Aside from the occasional squall, the winds have been less than 5 knots and we’ve been motoring to get south as fast as possible so we can join the other 2 boats in the southern hemisphere that are currently experiencing squally weather down there! We can hardly wait! We spent most of the day dodging squalls and there has been one after another marching down the radar screen all day. It seems to have settled down tonight but we still have another 120 miles to go before we are clear of the ITCZ.

Speaking of squalls, there’s another one on the radar screen! Time for a course correction! Everything onboard is fine, however, we did find a couple small leaks in yesterdays deluge!

Day 12

Date(UTC): 5/9/2011

Time(UTC): 12:35 PM

Latitude: 01°44.56’N

Longitude: 144°11.17’W

Course: 172T

Speed: 5.7

What a difference a day makes. After a day with squalls, rain and high winds, we were greeted by a surprise yesterday morning. I downloaded the latest high seas report to find that the ITCZ had moved north and rather than have another 200 miles of squally weather, we were now on the southern edge of the ITCZ. We started the morning with clear skies and a light, 10-12kt breeze. This continued all day, making for one of the most pleasant sailing days I can remember! We sailed all day in light 8-10kt winds, making 5.0kts on flat seas, with nearly a cloud in sight and music playing all day. People would actually pay for sailing experiences like this one!

It was such a pleasant day sailing that we even accomplished a few projects. The leak at the chain plate was annoying, so yesterday was a perfect day to apply an underway fix. I managed to clean it up, dry it out and apply enough silicon chalking to the outside to keep us dry until I can fix it properly. It seems like it is nearly impossible to make a passage without finding at least one leak you

didn’t know you had.

In the evening the winds made a sudden shift to the southeast and increased to about 15. We are now sailing just about due south. We were planning on crossing the equator at longitude 142-143. If these winds hold, we’ll just sail with the wind and cross around 144. According to the GPS, we should be crossing in about 26 hours or 5:30AM Hawaii time tomorrow morning. Both of our other equatorial crossings have occurred in the middle of the night. We want to do this one in the daylight as we hear there is a big pink line visible right on the equator. The guy that told us that was drunk, but what the hell! That’s one reason. The other being a good excuse to drink rum at sunrise! Stand by! We’re about to go to the other side!

Everything onboard is wonderful!!

Day 13

Special Report

Date(UTC): 5/10/2011

Time(UTC): 12:18 AM

Latitude: 00°38.93’N

Longitude: 143°43.07’W

Course: 160T

Speed: 6.7

Unbelievable! My GPS was wrong! Well, maybe it wasn’t wrong, but it sure didn’t know anything about the extra 2 to 3 knots of wind we have today. Yesterday, I told Sheri it would have been the perfect day if the wind was blowing 12-15 rather than 10-12. I got my wish.

Today is another absolutely beautiful day. This morning there was not a cloud in the sky in any direction and the seas are still calm. To top it all, we have been making 6.5 to 7.5 kts all day and need to adjust our ETA at the equator a little. Actually, we need to adjust it a lot! Rather than crossing around sunrise tomorrow, it looks like we’ll make it around 9:00PM Hawaii time tonight.

It’s just perfect out here today!

Date(UTC): 5/10/2011

Time(UTC): 1:03 PM

Latitude: 00°32.79’S

Longitude: 143°29.31’W

Course: 174T

Speed: 5.4

Crossed over the equator at 9:01:57PM at longitude 143.30. About 850 miles left to go for landfall.

It took us 11 days, 14 hours to make it to the equator. The 2 boats in front of us took 14 and 16 days, so we have already gained a couple days on them. It’s conceivable that we could even pass the second boat before the trip is over. He is only a few hundred miles ahead of us. Reflections appears to be much faster than the other boats, despite being the smallest.

I think the other boats are beginning to realize they are in a race. They have mentioned a couple times on the radio that we are gaining on them. The one boat even mentioned the possibility we might pass him.

Everything onboard is fine. The wind is still blowing 15, seas are still calm and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. The moon has come back and the Southern Cross is high in the sky! Life is good!!

Day 14

Date(UTC): 5/11/2011

Time(UTC): 2:55 PM

Latitude: 02°52.00’S

Longitude: 143°28.76’W

Course: 183T

Speed: 3.9

Here’s the final statistics on the trip to the equator:

Total Miles Sailed 1609

Total Time 11 Days, 14 hours, 1 minute

Average Speed 5.79 knots

It’s pretty amazing that we could average 5.79kts on a passage against the wind. It really shouldn’t be considering it blew 20-25 most of the time.

We’ve turned the corner and are now sailing a course of about 185. Those clear skies we had for the past 2 days disappeared and were replaced by a complete overcast and we had light rain on and off all day. No squalls, just regular old rain.

The winds have held up, but not as consistent as they have been. Winds have been anywhere from 8 to 25 causing us to put a reef in the mainsail, then take the reef out, then put it back in then take it out again. At least it gives us something to do! Consequently, our speed today has also been all over the place. Anywhere from 3.5 to 7.5 kts depending on the wind and how much mainsail we had up at the time. We,re back to 10 knots of wind and speed is under 4kts. It feels like we’re standing still.

We’ve got less than 700 miles left to go to Manihi. Starting to think about getting the anchor set and popping the cork on a bottle of champagne!!

All’s well here!

Day 15

Date(UTC): 5/12/2011

Time(UTC): 1:01 PM

Latitude: 04°46.73’S

Longitude: 143°40.47’W

Course: 191T

Speed: 5.7

More rainy weather today and squalls. The day started out clear and we could see Mercury, Venus and Jupiter rising in the early morning eastern sky, Quite a sight to see these 3 planets come up together. After that, it was overcast all day, but we had very consistent winds of about 15kts out of the southeast all day. We made 6.0 to 6.5 kts most of the day.

We have a regular radio net with the other boats at 8:00AM every morning and we are all checking in with another net of cruisers from Mexico in the late afternoon. We have friends, Mark & Dot of S/V Puu’ena who left Hawaii last summer and sailed to California and then Mexico. They also sailed to the Marquesas and arrived just a week or so ago. This afternoon they checked into the late afternoon net and we discovered that they are now underway en route to Manihi and will be there just a couple days before we arrive!

It’s an interesting story on how we first met Mark & Dot and one I love telling! Last time we went through French Polynesia we stopped for 3 weeks at Mopelia, the furthest west atoll in French Polynesia. A boat, Mahina Tiara that does charters, pulled in and dropped anchor in the late afternoon. All the other cruisers were having a potluck on the beach with the locals and Sheri and I went over to invite everyone to dinner. Mark & Dot were on the boat.

They left the next day and we never thought much about it again. When we arrived in Hawaii we obtained a slip at the Waikiki Yacht Club and about a week after arriving, the people on the boat directly across from us, said they remembered us from when they were in Mopelia. Needless to say, we were stunned!! It truly is a small world! We have been good friends ever since. How fitting we will once again be reunited at a little atoll in French Polynesia!

Mark & Dot, Since you’ve been getting a copy of these, keep a light on for us! We’ll be there in a few days!

end

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N 19° 41' W 157° 32'

Hawaii to French Polynesia, Week 1

May 06, 2011

Greetings from the Pacific! We’re still headed south. Another 500 miles to the equator and another 850 to make landfall on Manihi Atoll in the Touamotus. The wet, wild weather conditions have kept us busy with little time to write. In the meantime, I thought I’d post our daily reports for those that don’t receive them. Enjoy!

Day 1

Date(UTC): 4/28/2011

Time(UTC): 12:10 PM

Latitude: 19°41.74’N

Longitude: 157°32.73’W

Course: 152T

Speed: 6.0

We’ve had winds from 0 to 30 knots and sunny skies on our first day out. We had some great sailing early in the day followed by no wind for 4 hours and then up to 30 as we crossed the channel between Maui and the big island. Glad we passed by here 100 miles offshore. It took us a while to get our sea legs back, but we’re now moving around the boat easily. Amazing how quickly it comes back! The boat has been performing extremely well. All systems operating as they should and the crew is happy. We even managed to get some good sleep on our first day out. We won’t do any fishing for a few days until we manage to get through some of the huge amount of pre-made meals we have onboard. It looks like we’ll make about 140 miles in the first 24 hours. Not bad for our first day!

Day 2

Date(UTC): 4/29/2011

Time(UTC): 12:20 PM

Latitude: 17°37.35’N

Longitude: 156°49.96’W

Course: 147T

Speed: 4.8

Lots of wind today, 20-25kts. After crossing the channel between Maui and the big island the winds came from the southeast, forcing us to sail due south and even a little west. Not great when you need to go southeast. But on this heading we also had a 1.5kt favorable current that kicked our speed up to 7.5-8.0kts most of the morning and afternoon so we passed quickly by the south end of the big island. Once south of that point, the winds are slowly changing and we turning more to the southeast but that current is and we’re back down to 5.0kts. Still sailing close to the wind, but it’s been a fairly comfortable ride!

Day 3

Date(UTC): 4/30/2011

Time(UTC): 12:59 PM

Latitude: 15°58.51’N

Longitude: 155°48.52’W

Course: 174T

Speed: 4.9

Still have winds 20-25 with the occasional 30-35 to keep things interesting. We’ve been sailing with double reefed main and furled in jib so our speed has slowed down to about 5 kts but it’s more comfortable that way! We are now making some progress sailing to the east, so all is good! We added lots of new equipment to the boat in Hawaii. We increased our solar power by 15% and added a wind generator. When we were out last time, we could make about 120 amps of power a day, but that wasn’t enough to be self sufficient. Over the past 24 hours, I’ve tracked the amount of power we have generated from solar panels and the new wind generator. In 24 hours we made an incredible 348 amps! At least 220 amps from the wind generator. I think we’ll like having that aboard. I feel like a floating electric plant!

Day 4

Date(UTC): 5/1/2011

Time(UTC): 12:34 PM

Latitude: 14°14.91’N

Longitude: 154°52.76’W

Course: 124T

Speed: 5.4

Winds are still 20-25, and the occasional 30-35, but we’ve added some new fun! Squalls. Had quite a few of them last night! From 20 to 35 in six seconds flat!! Some have rain. This is a good thing. You can at least see them coming on the radar and our headsail needs to be washed. It’s filthy. But, it’s the squalls without rain that are really interesting! You never see them coming. Fortunately, most of the squalls have occurred on Sheri’s watch while I was sleeping, so it hasn’t been too bad! (I’ll probably regret writing that!) Seas have been surprisingly calm for the amount of wind we have had. A 6 foot gentle swell and a little wind chop. We think we have found a foolproof way to make you think your sea conditions are far better than they actually are. We’ve been watching an episode of Deadliest Catch with dinner each evening. In comparison, our conditions are fantastic! These would be water ski and sail boarding conditions on the Bearing Sea. Last nights squalls forced us to sail due south again for a few hours. But, just a couple of hours ago, we had a big 25 degree wind shift towards the northeast. For the past few hours we’ve been sailing with more east in our direction than south. And we’ve picked up some speed. Yahoo!! The weather forecasts have been predicting this for 2 days now. Looks like it finally happened. Hope it lasts for awhile! All’s well onboard!

Day 5

Date(UTC): 5/2/2011

Time(UTC): 12:50 PM

Latitude: 12°50.62’N

Longitude: 153°06.87’W

Course: 125T

Speed: 4.8

The wind gods smiled on us today. About mid-morning there was a 25 degree wind shift that brought the winds from the northeast. We were able to turn east an equal amount. We spent most of the day and evening sailing at 6.5 – 7.0 kts in steady 20kt wind. It was a great day of sailing and we moved east quickly. We are in a good position now to cross the equator at 145W. Once we get on the other side, the prevailing winds will be from the southeast and we need to be far enough east so we don’t have to sail against those winds too. A few more days like this and we can have our choice of where to cross. Of course, you can’t count on the wind gods to give you good wind all the time.

Shortly after dark the winds kicked up to 25 – 30 forcing us to slow down to a more reasonable 5 knots and alter our course for a more comfortable ride. And, what would night be without squalls? They seem particularly nasty tonight. There’s another one on the radar screen 1 mile ahead. Time to get back on deck!!

Day 6

Date(UTC): 5/3/2011

Time(UTC): 1:26 PM

Latitude: 11°32.13’N

Longitude: 151°57.39’W

Course: 121T

Speed: 5.3 

After such a great day of sailing yesterday, last night wasn’t nearly as much fun. Winds kicked up to 25 to 30 and the seas built up to 6-8’. The ride was uncomfottable, wet & wild! Things settled down toda, but seas remain 6-8’. We had another wind shift, allowing us to continue to sail east. Tonight it’s even better, winds have dropped to 18-20. Unfurled a little more of the jib and now making 5-5.5kts in comfortable conditions. One thing that hasn’t been needed much on this trip is the engine. We’ve had plenty of wind and after passing the south end of the big island, we have only motored about 4 hours. With Mr. Wind Generator spinning wildly and generating all that electricity there just hasn’t been much need for engine. That will probably change in a few days as we approach the ITCZ where the souther trade winds meet the northern trade winds. It’s commonly known as the doldrums and right now its located about 5-6 degrees north. It’s an area of light winds and unsettled(squally)weather. We’ll probably be happy we have all that fuel on board. Conditions have been completely overcast for the past 4 days. I don’t know where the moon went. I saw a sliver 4 nights ago and haven’t seen it since. It will be nice to sail with moonlight if it ever comes back again! Everything onboard is fine! We’ve had 2 major water leaks on the boat since we bought it and I was sure I had finally found and fixed them when I was in Hawaii. I was right!! They’re fixed!! We may be wet on the outside, but we’re dry down below!

Day 7

Date(UTC): 5/4/2011

Time(UTC): 1:20 PM

Latitude: 10°10.17’N

Longitude: 150°19.69’W

Course: 137T

Speed: 3.8

Great day of sailing today! We made good speed all day and in the right direction. Winds dropped to 18-20 and the seas calmed down making for a comfortable ride. We we’re sailing so much more to the east, on a heading of about 110, that we decided to ease the sails and sail in a little more southerly direction. That was much more comfortable and we were making around 6.5 kts for most of the late morning and all afternoon. Of course, it switched back as soon as it became dark. Speaking of dark… Have I told you how dark it is out here at night? We have only had a couple of nights, early on, when it was not 100% cloud cover. For the past 5 nights, we haven’t seen a star in the sky or the moon. It’s dark! Tonight we have stars in the sky! There’s still clouds, but there’s also stars. We haven’t seen the moon yet, but if it comes up tonight, we’ll see it and things will light up again. We’ll have the moon with us for the rest of the trip south. We might get lucky and have a full moon for making landfall. Perfect!!

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N 21° 17' W 157° 50'

Preparing to Get Underway

April 08, 2011

Hard to believe we’ve been in Hawaii for 7 years. We’ve enjoyed our time here, but really miss the cruising life! And, we’re preparing to take off once again!

Reflections has undergone a major refit, inside and out. All rigging and everything on the mast has been replaced, new windlass, new decks, new mainsail, cushions, woodwork, radios and more. If we don’t leave soon, we’ll have to start over.

We’ll be heading southeast towards the Marquesas for another pass through French Polynesia. We have decided to go where the wind blows and won’t beat ourselves up to get to the Marquesas. If we make it, great! If not, the Tuamotos or Society Islands will be just fine!

From there, we plan to head west and revisit Samoa, on to Wallis and Fortuna and then north through Tuvalu to the Marshall Islands for cyclone season. Beyond that, we have no definite plans, but are looking at the possibility of Palau, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. We’ll let you know just as soon as we decide. All we need now is a good weather window so we can get moving again.

In the meantime, welcome to our new blog! If you enter your email address, we’ll send you a quick email every time we post a new story. I can even update the blog from the middle of the ocean using the Ham radio. This should be fun! Hope you can join us!

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