February 13, 2016
Justine has decided it is time to let her voice be heard. She has painted a picture of herself with words. Check out Justine’s most recent blog post by clicking here.
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February 13, 2016
Justine has decided it is time to let her voice be heard. She has painted a picture of herself with words. Check out Justine’s most recent blog post by clicking here.
September 8 – 11, 2014
Next stop . . . swimming with sting rays and sharks again for our third time!
So that we could have a shorter dinghy ride to “sting ray city”, we anchored as far west of Passe Tareu (mouth of Baie d’Opunohu) as possible. s/v Macha has a much shallower draft, so they were able to enter at Passe Taotoi and pick up a mooring.
For the next couple of days, we dinghied back and forth with Macha, enjoying the water activities. While the boys boogie boarded Passe Taotoi, Justine and I snorkeled near the pass. The water was too cloudy and a moray eel caused us to exit the water sooner than expected, so we dinghied out to look for whales instead. One morning, the guys on Macha served us a wonderful pancake breakfast!
All fun things must come to a brief interlude. Soon it was time for us to part ways with s/v Macha. They were going to return to Ha’apiti for some more surfing, and we had a few things to wrap up before returning to Tahiti to pick up Wil. Playing in Moorea during Wil’s absence had been another nice distraction from the pain we had all been feeling.
September 5 – 8, 2014
After a week in the anchorage near Marina Taina, provisioning and spending our final days with s/v Liward, the kids and I finally hoisted the anchor and sailed to Moorea. A strong northeast wind was forecast for the area, so we chose to return to village Ha’apiti on Moorea’s southwest shore. It was a quiet anchorage and there was plenty of good snorkeling. With surfing in mind, as well as keeping the 12-year old boys happy, s/v Macha joined us for the fun.
Since Wil was gone, Colin had become my new anchoring teammate. With myself at the helm and Colin at the bow, it didn’t take us long to perfect our team anchoring skills. Once the anchor was down, Colin would swim on the anchor. One time, we re-anchored because our chain was too close to a teeny tiny coral home for a teeny tiny lionfish.
We managed plenty of great snorkeling before the strong wind arrived.
During the wee hours of the morning, the northeast wind began to build. By about 5 a.m. it maintained itself at a good 30-40 knots. It wasn’t long before our chain was outstretched and we were sitting stern to a handful of coral heads. I immediately put myself at the helm with the engines on and in low gear. As the wind blew, I monitored the situation, and brainstormed through my options.
The coral and sand bank in the Ha’apiti anchorage doesn’t leave much room for dropping the hook. Boats must carefully place their anchor near the edge of the sandy drop-off, and allow for swinging room without hitting any coral heads. We were in our usual spot with the best space available for our boat, but with a 40 knot wind funneling across the mountain and an outstretched chain, there wasn’t an ounce of extra room.
As a “single-hander” with kids, and with a very small anchoring space available, I didn’t want to attempt to re-anchor in the strong wind. I didn’t want to shorten the anchor scope because then I’d sacrifice our holding power. Therefore, I sat near the helm and stern of the boat for several hours, watching the coral heads with each gust of wind.
Finally, there was a small lull in the wind. During the lull, s/v Macha added a stern anchor to prevent themselves from swinging onto the coral. It would take too much time for me to rig our stern anchor, so I made a quick decision. With Colin’s help, we pulled the anchor up and dropped it off the edge of the sand bank. This allowed us to drag the anchor into the bank wall where it immediately held. With the knowledge that the wind would remain northeast for the rest of the day, I knew we wouldn’t move. I could finally take my eyes off our stern and relax a bit.
Twelve hours after the start of the 30-40 knot blow, the wind finally dropped below 30 knots. My entire body was exhausted from the constant tension, and my ears were relieved to not hear the wind howling through the rigging anymore. I was very thankful the wind had blown during the daylight hours (which it never does!), and I would have no trouble sleeping that night.
Normally, Wil and I would be together through a strong blow, and we could rely on each other for support. If he had been there, we could have taken watch turns, worked together to get a stern anchor out during the lull, or even re-anchored in the 40 knots. This was my first experience as a single parent acting as a solo captain (with a bit of help from the kids), and while it was a challenge, I was also reminded of my own capabilities.
August 28 – September 5, 2014
The morning had started out as a beautiful morning. We finally had a good wind for our departure from Huahine. Our s/v Liward friends were also taking advantage of the wind for their return to Tahiti. We were a little unsure about our next destination, but we were headed east for the time being. Hawaii was our eventual destination, and we needed to make some easting in order to have the best angle for the trip north.
We were sailing along side Liward. We would see humpback whales breach. Steve and Lili never saw the whales, and referred to us as the “whale whisperers”. The day was just right.
Everything changed the moment I went to the SSB to check on email.
There were two emails both titled with the name of Wil’s brother-in-law. One was from Wil’s sister, and one was from Wil’s mom. The last time we had received an email titled with a person’s name, it was about an old friend from home who had died. Surely, this wasn’t the case.
I read and re-read the emails. I couldn’t stop from shaking. My mind was in disbelief. Wil was in the cockpit. How was I going to tell him that his brother-in-law had just died? Wil walked in seconds later and saw the look on my face. I couldn’t say a word. I only indicated for him to read the emails. The tears flowed uncontrollably.
We cried and cried. The kids cried too. It was too difficult to focus on sailing. I radioed Liward to explain the reason for our inattentive sailing. They were there for us.
Suddenly, we had a fish on the line. Now we had to focus. We all jumped to attention and fell into our “fish on” duties. Before we knew it, we had our biggest mahi-mahi onboard. We never measured it, but it’s length more than surpassed the width of our transom steps. It was huge! And a nice distraction from our recent news.
The distraction continued. We had barely brought the mahi onboard when suddenly we had another fish on. The next fish was even bigger than the first, and it was a wahoo. Wil barely had room for both himself and the fish on the transom. The wahoo was not going down without a fight. Even out of the water, it wriggled so hard that it kept smacking Wil on the legs. Wil called for our rarely used bat. He did his best to hit the wahoo over the head, but the fish was too tough. With every hit, blood splattered everywhere, and all over Wil. He kept hitting the wahoo, and with every smack, kept yelling “All hail the bat!” We all couldn’t help but laugh. We needed this distraction.
Once both fish were processed and put away, we returned to feeling sad and numb.
What were we going to do? We were on passage, and we had cleared out of French Polynesia. There was only one thing to do. We emailed our agent with Tahiti Crew and explained our situation. Would they let us clear back into French Polynesia, so Wil could fly out to his sister in California? Our agent was going to do what she could. We aimed for Tahiti.
We sailed overnight. In the morning, we didn’t yet have clearance approval from our agent, so we stopped in Moorea, anchoring just outside Baie d’Opunohu. The anchor was barely on the bottom when we got word that we could proceed to Tahiti.
We dropped the hook near Marina Taina and quickly went ashore to meet with the agent. She was quick and effective through the entire process. She drove us to the immigration office at the airport in Papeete and assisted us through all of the paperwork. She even found and purchased plane tickets for Wil, putting him on a flight for that night.
Wil would be gone for two weeks. We had hoped that he could stay with his sister for 3-4 weeks, but the French Polynesian authorities only allowed us 15 days on an emergency visa. We had no choice, and we would take what they gave us.
However, there was a complication on our part. The moment Wil stepped on the plane, he was considered cleared out of French Polynesia . . . again. He would not be using his 15 days while he was in the US. The rest of us would remain in French Polynesia, using up our 15 days. The day Wil was scheduled to return to Tahiti was also the day the kids and I would be required to clear out. Our agent tried to get permission for us to be allowed to stay with our “captain”, but we were denied. I would have to have the boat ready for passage the moment Wil returned.
The remainder of our day was spent going over things I would need to attend to in Wil’s absence, as well as getting him packed for the trip. After having come off an overnight passage, we were mentally and physically exhausted, but there was no time to stop. That evening, Steve (s/v Liward) picked Wil up by dinghy and then drove him to the airport in their rental car.
Wil was gone, and suddenly the kids and I had the boat to ourselves in Tahiti. While I was sad that I couldn’t go with him, and sad for the loss of his brother-in-law, I didn’t feel like we were alone. Liward was in the anchorage for about a week until they hauled out, and Macha would arrive the next day.
Macha had family visiting for about 6 weeks, which to Colin’s good fortune, included 12-year old Griffin. They had played together in Huahine, and now would get to be together again in Tahiti.
Regardless of Wil’s absence, I knew that I didn’t want to stay in the “Carrefour Bay” anchorage near Marina Taina for the entire time Wil was gone. I would go crazy in the crowded anchorage and preferred to be a bit more secluded. Moorea was the island of choice until his return.
August 21 – 28, 2014
While we waited on a favorable wind to take us to our next destination, there was no shortage of fun.
August 7 – 21, 2014
Raiatea was to be our final stop in French Polynesia. The kids’ school books would be arriving in Raiatea soon. We were also eager to see our friends on s/v Zingaya who had returned home to Raiatea and were transitioning into their new jobs there. And, it was time for the family aboard s/v Malia (Colin’s burfing buddy, Kea) to be flying home to Kauai (Hawai’i), and they needed to place Malia in one of the Raiatea marinas. Therefore, along with Malia, we made the short day hop from Huahine over to Raiatea. Once there, we spent a few days of play on Raiatea’s west side.
After bidding farewell to Malia’s visiting crew, we moved around to an anchorage area near Uturoa on the northeast side of Raiatea. There we could be near s/v Zingaya, as well as some extra provisioning. While we waited for the school books to arrive, we spent time with the Zingaya crew, toured a bit of the Uturoa area, and prepared the boat for departure from French Polynesia. Texas friend boats, s/v Liward and s/v Irie II, also popped in for a brief visit.
We were due to clear out of French Polynesia on a Sunday. This meant we needed to get our clearance papers from the Gendarmerie on Friday at the latest. We were down to our last days in French Polynesia, and busy with passage preparations, when we suddenly found ourselves with a leak in the raw water intake for the starboard engine. There was a possibility that we would have to order a new part, so we immediately began the process of filing for a visa extension. At the same time, we moved the boat to the Uturoa town wharf, so we could be available for inspection by proper authorities and a mechanic. Wil was quite capable of fixing the leak himself, but we were required to have a local mechanic verify our situation.
We spent one day and a night docked at the town wharf trying to sort out our troubles. Our extension was filed, but because it was a Friday, we would need to wait until the Monday (one day after our visa would expire) to receive approval. Therefore, rather than sit at the busy wharf, we returned to anchor for the weekend. In the meantime, Wil managed to fix the leak before Monday, and we didn’t need the extension after all.
During the weekend, s/v Zingaya informed us that a local sailing school was hosting a free sailing day in order to recruit new students. While the rest of the adults were busy with work or chores, I dinghied the kids over to the sailing school for the day. There were a variety of Hobie cats, optimist sailing dinghies, and windsurfers available to anyone who wanted to give it a try or have some fun. Instructors were also available and on standby for any necessary instruction or help. Our kids went straight for the Hobie, and then later gave the windsurfers a try.
On the Monday, we returned to the Gendarmerie for our final clearance. We were surprised when the officer asked us when we would be leaving. Therefore, we took advantage of this fact, and stated that we would need to wait on a favorable wind. We remained in Raiatea for 2 more days before returning to Huahine to wait on that favorable wind.
July 17 – 31, 2014 ~ Baie d’Avea
After an incredible morning with the voyaging canoes, we hoisted anchor and headed to Baie d’Avea at the southwestern end of Huahine. Baie d’Avea had been our first destination of choice for Huahine. Now, two weeks later, we were finally dropping the hook in this remote anchorage. While we had been completely enjoying the amazing culture of Huahine, we were ready for some alone time. Also, the boat needed some attention, and we had a birthday to celebrate.
When we arrived in Baie d’Avea, there were only a few other boats in the anchorage. We immediately enjoyed some snorkeling, standup paddle boarding, and skurfing. When we weren’t playing, boat maintenance was getting done.
When s/y Breeze, a gorgeous Moody 64 under Swedish flag, dropped anchor in the bay, our kids finally got to have some kid time. Two months ago, we’d sadly said good-bye to our kid boat friends in New Zealand, so our kids were quite happy to meet and play with Ella. Unfortunately for us, Breeze was only there for a few days. They had been in French Polynesia for a year, and they were approaching the end of their visa. We wished we’d met them a lot sooner, but little did we know, Breeze would have a big influence in our lives further down the road.
Eventually, we got wind that a large group of kid boats would be arriving in Huahine. They were of the next season of boats to pass through French Polynesia, and they were on their way to Baie d’Avea! We had been hearing them on the SSB and VHF, but had not yet crossed paths. Before we knew it, the anchorage was full of kid boats, and at one point we had 19 kids in the anchorage!
During the kid invasion, we must have been so busy playing that we forgot to take any photos. In addition to ourselves, the other kid boats present were Field Trip, Moana Roa, Lil Explorers, Dafne, Elena, and Lochmarin. A volleyball net was set up on the shore, and there always seemed to be a game going. There were also the usual water activities, but this time I got to have my first experience noodling. Sarah (s/v Field Trip) led all of the ladies in this water aerobics exercise that involved foam noodles usually found at swimming pools. Yes, many of us already have noodles onboard! There were also a couple of mornings that involved a dinghy ride around the southern tip of Huahine to the inside surf break of Passe Araara at Baie Parea. The inside break is the perfect spot for beginners . . . if you disregard the fire coral beneath you!
Amidst all of the kid activity, we celebrated Justine’s 14th birthday. Even though we had an anchorage full of kid boats, Justine chose to have a small and quiet celebration with only our family. Her big gift had already been received a few weeks earlier when I took her to get her ears pierced in Papeete. How fun to be able to say you got your ears pierced in Tahiti!
August 1 – 7, 2014
Most of the kid boats departed Baie d’Avea on the same day, including ourselves. We needed to return to Fare, and our time in French Polynesia was also coming to an end.
Once back in Fare, we ended up meeting a family from Hawai’i who was boat sitting for a family member. Colin and Kea hit it off and spent many hours “burfing” . . . surfing on a boogie board. While the younger kids were pulled behind a dinghy, Justine and the ladies paddled out in hopes of catching sight of a passing whale.
During our remaining days in Huahine, we were at a major indecision. We knew we needed to leave French Polynesia soon. However, it was hurricane season north of the equator. We were supposed to be headed for Hawai’i, but it was too soon. We took screen shots of the major hurricanes moving across the North Pacific and took them to the Gendarme’s office, begging for an extension. After many tries, we had to give up. Pitcairn was our only other choice, but that was in the opposite direction and would mean a lot of sailing for a short time. We weren’t sure exactly what we were going to do. In the meantime, we had school books being delivered to Raiatea, and it was time to make the short hop across the channel.
For some reason, the previous blog post, Huahine ~ the Hōkūleʻa, is having technical difficulty. Comments and Twitter links aren’t working properly. Therefore, I’m using this post to help identify the problem. In the meantime, it’s possible to leave comments or tweet from this post. Sorry for the inconvenience!
July 16 – 17, 2014
On Wednesday, July 16th, voyaging canoes Hōkūleʻa, Hikianalia, and Faafaite graced Huahini with their presence. We may have been the first to notice the set of double masts on the horizon. We peered through our binoculars and radioed s/v Liward for verification. At the same time, a local who had been pulling a bunch of kids on boogie boards behind his motor boat noticed our commotion. He stopped to ask us if it was the Hōkūleʻa we saw. When we told him we thought it was the Hōkūleʻa, all the kids cheered. Immediately, the little motor boat zoomed throughout the anchorage with the children voices shouting, “The Hōkūleʻa’s coming!! The Hōkūleʻa’s coming!!” The moment touched our hearts.
Within minutes, people began to collect on the beach and docks. A conch horn began blowing from the shore. The news of the Hōkūleʻa’s arrival spread like wild fire. We contributed to the announcement with the sound of our own conch horn. Some people took to the water to greet the arriving canoes.
Faafaite, a voyaging canoe of French Polynesia, was the first canoe to arrive. As she got closer, we realized that it was not the Hōkūleʻa, but the air was still filled with excitement.
The dark red canvas sails of the Hōkūleʻa were a sight to behold on the horizon. For every conch horn that sounded from the shore or a boat, the Hōkūleʻa answered each song with her own conch horn filling the air. Again, our hearts were touched, and we felt so extremely lucky to be a part of something so sacred to the Polynesian community.
The Hōkūleʻa has no engine, so they approached slowly in the slight breeze. As they neared the reef entrance at Fare, a boat went out to tow them the remaining distance. At the same time, more and more people were finding their way out to greet the Hōkūleʻa and her crew. They were using whatever means necessary to get themselves to the beloved canoe. There were small boats, outrigger va’as, kayaks, dinghies, surfboards, and even swimmers.
The Hikianalia, sister ship to the Hōkūleʻa, was the next and final canoe to arrive. Hikianalia has photovoltaic-driven electric motors, as well as modern navigational, communications, and scientific equipment. She sails along side the Hōkūleʻa as they gather ocean research data and transmit their experiences to the rest of the world. However, the Hikianalia has her own sail plan during the worldwide voyage, and will only be sailing with the Hōkūleʻa during the first and last legs of the journey.
Once all three voyaging canoes had entered the lagoon, they continued to Bourayne Bay where the welcoming ceremony and celebrations would occur. Ceremonies would begin about 0800 the following morning, and we planned to be there.
At 0730, we hauled anchor and motored to Bourayne Bay. However, by the time we arrived and found a good spot to drop the hook, we were late for the opening ceremony. Being late didn’t matter though, as we were still able to have an incredible, up-close and personal experience with these special canoes and their crew.
After viewing the tail-end of the ceremony, we returned to the dock to have a closer look at the canoes. Every crew member we spoke with was extremely friendly and eager to share their experiences. One even offered us the use of his home, laundry, and shower for when we reached Hawai’i. And then, to our surprise, we were invited aboard for a tour of Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia. We felt extremely honored.
The Hōkūleʻa’s ki’i “embody the spirit of Hawai’i and watch over the canoe while it voyages.” The male and female ki’i work together to guide the canoe.
Eddie Aikau was a renowned big wave surfer and the first lifeguard at Waimea Bay (Oahu, Hawai’i). In 1978, he joined the crew of the Hōkūleʻa. Sadly, at the start of the voyage, and just 12 miles south of Molokai, the Hōkūleʻa was overturned in nasty seas. Eddie attempted to paddle his surfboard to shore for help, but he was never seen again. Today, Eddie’s legend lives on, and throughout Hawai’i, the local saying “Eddie would go” helps many to face the impossible and to live with Aloha.
Words cannot express how truly incredible this experience was to us. We were the only cruising boat in the anchorage at Bourayne Bay. Seeing the Hōkūleʻa and her crew in such a personal setting, as well as the Hikianalia and Faafaite, couldn’t have been more special. Little did we know at this point in time, the Hōkūleʻa and the Hikianalia would continue to touch our lives in many ways as we continued our journey through Polynesia and the Pacific Ocean.
“In order to be a Navigator, you have to be fierce” ~ Mau Piailug
Watch “The Talk of the Sea Video” and learn more about the Hokule’a and the Polynesian Voyaging Society.