last days of french polynesia

September – October 2014

Upon Wil’s return to Tahiti, our days following were a whirlwind of activity.  The day he returned, we spent one last night in “Carrefour Bay” near Marina Taina, where we shared drinks out with s/v Liward and s/v Macha.  This would be the last time to see our dear friends, Steve and Lili (s/v Liward), for a long time to come.

Early the following morning, we sailed for Port Phaeton to do some last minute provisioning, as well as collect rainwater from the 100% chance of daily rain there. In a 24-hour period, we completely filled our 200-gallon capacity, plus all jerry cans!

s/v Macha was also in Port Phaeton wrapping up their season and preparing for their flights back to California.  The boat would remain in Tahiti until their return.  The Macha crew had rented a car, so we were able to have a lift to the fuel station to fill our diesel cans. Hawaii was a lot of miles ahead of us, and we needed enough fuel in the event there were too many no-wind days when crossing the ITCZ (the Intertropical Convergence Zone) near the equator.

From Port Phaeton, we sailed for the Tuamotus. In order to sail comfortably for Hawaii, it’s best to make some easting with respect to the NE trade winds that begin near latitude 10 degrees North.  It is most ideal to sail to Hawaii from the Marquesas.  However, we had already cleared out of French Polynesia, and we did not want to press our luck by overstaying our welcome.

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birds flying past at Fakarava

We made a brief stop in the anchorage at the south end of Fakarava, where we waited on a desired wind. While waiting, we snorkeled the famous Passe Tumakohua where hundreds of sharks can be seen at once.  However, because it was late in the season, we only saw a small handful of sharks.  It was still a heart-pumping experience though!

 

 

goofing off with his new Tahitian ukulele

goofing around with his new Tahitian ukulele

From Fakarava we sailed to Kauehi. We tucked up in the southeast anchorage to sit out some stronger winds.  It was wonderful to revisit this atoll that we love so much.  Every where we turned, we reminisced about specific events or experiences that had happened the previous year with our big group of kid boats.  There were crumbling walls of an abandoned building that still contained year-old chalk drawings from several of the kids.  It was fun to see where the kids had had their wild camping night out on the island.  While it had been great fun with the big group, we were also enjoying the fact that now we were the only cruising boat in the lagoon.  Other than fishermen passing by, or an occasional local family that would come down to play at the beach, we felt completely isolated.  It was peaceful and a perfect time to reflect on the recent loss of Wil’s brother-in-law.

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dark skies beyond the crystal blue lagoon

 

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darkening skies can create such beauty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a developing "café" at the SE anchorage of Kauehi

a developing “café” at the SE anchorage of Kauehi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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what we believe to be a “café” developed to cater to the seasonal cruisers ~ this was not present the year before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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a “café” umbrella made from an old upside-down satellite dish

 

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a toilet with a view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the remains of a building containing chalk drawings from the previous year

the remains of a building containing chalk drawings from the previous year

 

The longer we sat in Kauehi, the more boat issues began to creep up. We were still at least a 3-4 week sail to Hawaii, and our very well-stocked freezer decided to call it quits.  At first, we could turn the freezer off for some time, and then turn it back on.  When we did this, it would run for about 24 hours before it would stop cooling.  After a couple of rounds of the on/off thing, and analyzing line pressures, it was realized that there was probably a blockage within the refrigerant line.  Wil was able to vacuum out the old refrigerant, pump in new refrigerant, and the freezer was as good as new.  However, throughout the whole process, we didn’t want all of our meats (including a Thanksgiving turkey!!) to go to waste, so we were forced to eat meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  For a family who normally only eats meat a few times a week, this was tough to stomach.

The next thing to go was the generator. An electronic sensor for voltage regulation stopped working.  This was a very serious issue because the generator powers our water maker.  We usually try not to run our water tanks low in the event that we can’t refill.  However, this time one tank was empty, and the other tank was very nearly empty.  If we became desperate, we could go the 10 miles to the village and carry jerry cans for water.  Fortunately, Wil was able to by-pass the faulty sensor.  The generator worked again, and the water tanks could be refilled.

Next, the Pactor which is used for receiving weather and email through the HF radio began to die. We were getting ready to start the 3-4 week passage to Hawaii, and it was crucial that we be able to receive weather information throughout the trip.  While it would have been possible to find a weather station on the HF radio, or get verbal reports from my dad via a ham frequency, I totally prefer to do our weather routing by studying the grib files for our immediate area.  This allows us to tweak our course daily with respect to forecasted wind direction and strength.  Over time, I discovered that if I allowed the Pactor to warm up prior to use, it would work long enough for me to pull in email and gribs.  Some mornings, I literally covered it with a blanket.  Talk about nursing the equipment!  With the help of a friend over the HF radio, we were able to determine that the Pactor would need to be sent in for repair once we arrived in Hawaii.  Fortunately, the repair would cost significantly less than buying a new one.

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S end of Kauehi ~ looking east

 

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S end of Kauehi ~ looking west

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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road to the village 10 miles away

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what look like gorgeous sand beaches are really made up of sun-bleached coral

 

 

 

 

 

 

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exploring the atoll’s ocean side ~ Surprised at how much trash we found that had washed up from other parts of the world.  Wishing we’d taken more photos of the unsightly stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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brightly colored parrot fish swimming over the coral

 

 

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coral reef keeping the ocean at bay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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fishing eating our food scraps ~ water depth is 15 feet with a coral head below

 

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hard to believe this photo was taken from deck ~ such clear water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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looking below to the anchor, but also seeing to the top of the mast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

excellent at free climbing the mast

excellent at free climbing the mast

 

 

our spotter for coral heads in the lagoon

our spotter for coral heads in the lagoon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In an attempt to replenish some of what had been consumed when our freezer had its trouble, we decided to do a quick day trip to the village of Tearavero.  Unfortunately, the only provisions we purchased were two cans of corned beef.  As sad as we were to have not found more, the corned beef would be a brief, additional sustenance in the event that food stores ran low on the way to Hawaii.

On the brighter side, we got to pass by Motu Toe Toe where we had sought refuge from a storm the previous year.  We also got to stroll around the village taking in the sights.

pearl farm Motu ToeToe

pearl farm at Motu Toe Toe ~ where we took refuge from a storm the previous year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A side note regarding Motu Toe Toe:  Some time later, after we had departed French Polynesia and had been in Hawaii, we were contacted about using some of our Kauehi photos to help promote the new up and coming Blue Pearl Island.  Blue Pearl Island is an eco-friendly lodge located on Motu Toe Toe where one can go for a variety of experiences, including a work exchange program for free lodging.  There is hope that this project will be a source of income for the people of Kauehi, as well as remain in the atoll’s best interest.  You can see some of our Kauehi photos in the Gallery on Blue Pearl Farm’s website!

 

strolling past a school in the village of Tearavero, Kauehi

strolling past a school in the village of Tearavero, Kauehi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since we would be at sea for Halloween, and we had no way of obtaining a pumpkin, the kids got creative with some coconuts.  The Halloween coconuts were left for the local family that would eventually come down for a day at the beach.

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creativity in a tropical paradise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Halloween coconuts waiting to surprise us

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Justine busy with their Halloween creations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Colin’s creations

 

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Arrrrrrr!  &   Meow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Justine’s creations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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this basil plant would have to perish prior to entry into Hawaii

 

 

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a trash burn was necessary before departure

 

 

 

Before the start of the 3-4 week passage to Hawaii, there was one last little bit of fun to be had and energy that needed to be burned.

 

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Skurfing!!

 

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catching some air

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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plenty of fuel was burned, as well

 

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some happy kids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually, we finally had a decent weather window for sailing north. This was a passage that would lead us to the next phase in our lives. French Polynesia had become a true love in our hearts, and we would miss her dearly.  We considered ourselves lucky to have been able to re-visit these beautiful islands for a second time.  There was a strong hope in all of us that we would one day return to French Polynesia again.

gtyrsdtga

anchored in southeastern Kauehi ~ one of our favorite spots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: boat improvement & maintenance, cruising kids, electronics, mechanical, nature & wildlife, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

a self portrait

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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Categories: cruising kids, living aboard | 2 Comments

moorea to tahiti ~ bad decision leads to scariest moment

September 11, 2014

our own 9-11 day & a lesson learned

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a calm day at Passe de Taapuna & entry is no problem ~ when a 3 meter swell breaks on the reef, the thick waves & current are strong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My heart still races when I think about this day.  I have dreaded when the day would come time to write about it.  Nightmares haunted me for weeks afterwards.  To this day, when my ears hear the sound of big surf pounding on a reef, my entire body tenses.  My mind still sees the big waves next to me, and I imagine our boat broken to pieces on the reef . . . and the kids.  I shouldn’t have been there, but I was.  My bad judgment had nearly cost us the boat, and quite possibly our lives.

oahireoihj

ship approaching Opunohu Bay in the early a.m.

That day had begun with us still anchored near Baie d’Opunohu in northern Moorea.  The plan was to spend the day working on school and getting the boat ready for passage.  There was a 3-meter long period swell out of the southwest for that day, so I had decided the next day would be the best day to return to Tahiti and check in with our agent prior to Wil’s return.

arefra

makes the other boats look small in the anchorage

A single email changed that plan.  Our agent stated that I needed come this day to fill out the necessary clearance forms.  I told her that I was still in Moorea, but that we would sail over immediately.  I estimated that I could be in her office by early afternoon.  The kids and I quickly got the boat ready for the 15-mile hop back to Tahiti.

In the meantime, my biggest concern was just how big the swell could be before making it unsafe to enter the pass at Taapuna.  The west-facing pass was currently receiving the 3-meter swell out of the southwest.  I thought I remembered 3 meters being the cutoff, but I wasn’t sure.  No one I knew was in VHF distance.  I tried a quick internet search, but came up empty.

There were two options in front of me.  Attempt Passe de Taapuna, or sail to Passe de Papeete on the north side.  Many boats would use the pass at Papeete when the swell was wrong for Taapuna.  Going through the Papeete harbor and past the airport would add quite a few hours to the trip, but sometimes nature would allow no choice.  For me, the 3-meter swell was borderline, and my decision was difficult.

Ultimately, I decided we would sail for Passe de Taapuna and assess the situation when we got to its entrance.  If the pass looked too rough, we would sail around to Papeete.  Not a problem.

aterw

west-facing Passe de Taapuna (near pink line on left) and northwest-facing Passe de Papeete

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sail across Chenal de Moorea was absolutely beautiful.  The sun was shining, and the long-period swell was barely noticeable.  I was feeling optimistic that Passe Taapuna would be okay.

As our distance to the pass shortened, we could hear the waves crashing on the reef.  They were big, but they didn’t seem any larger than what we’d grown accustomed to seeing.

It was just before noon when we peered into Passe Taapuna for the first time.  The water was swirly with the strong current, but I’d seen and driven through swirly before.  The pass seemed a bit narrower between the breaking waves, but the pass was open all the way through.

The decision was still difficult.  I tried to think how Wil would think.  Would he choose this?  Or would he say that we needed to go around?  Many times, he and I have pushed limits and gone where many won’t, but at the same time we do what we can to keep ourselves safe.

The idea of traveling another 15 miles in order to enter from the north side didn’t appeal.  The pass looked doable.  I very quickly made up my mind.  I throttled forward.  We were going in.

From the very moment we entered the pass, there was no turning back.  It was all or nothing.  From the very moment we entered the pass, I knew I’d made the wrong choice.

The powerful waves were sucking us toward the reef, and we weren’t even at the “swirly” water yet.  I couldn’t hold the boat in a straight line.  I needed Colin to stand on the port side of the cockpit to let me know how close the reef was to that side of the boat.

Colin recalls thinking he was looking at Baby Teahupo’o when he looked up at the waves from his vantage point.  He also noticed a boogie boarder on a wave to our starboard.  He saw a person sitting in a small aluminum boat with a life jacket on keeping an eye on the boogie boarders.  When does a person see a Polynesian in a life jacket!

Justine came into the cockpit.  Always calm, cool and collected.  Her eyes widened, and she very calmly grabbed hold of the cockpit table and braced herself.  Quietly in her mind, she was repeatedly saying, “Oh God, oh God, oh God . . . ”

There was at least a 5-knot current against us.  Our boat can easily do 9 knots with both engines in full forward.  At times, our SOG was barely a knot and a half.  I kept reaching for more throttle power, but both 50 horsepower engines were giving everything they had.  The water’s power kept stealing the helm from my grip.  I was barely strong enough to hold onto the wheel.  Sometimes I had to press my whole body against the helm to keep it from moving the wrong way.  The boat did not want to proceed in the direction of her bow.

I saw a person paddling a board out with the current.  In my mind, I begged for him to stay out of our way.  There was no way I would be able to avoid him if he got too close.  I remember seeing the unsure expression on his face.

My mind was racing.  My body was shaking.  I couldn’t believe this was happening.  My mind changed.  This was NOT happening!  This would NOT happen!  I would not lose our home, our everything.  It would not end this way.  I would not quit.  I would not give up.  I fought with every ounce of determination and strength that I had.

Gradually, the current eased and the boat responded to my demands.  We passed the last set of buoys, and finally arrived in calmer water.  I took my shaking hands off the helm and burst into tears.

oiho

our ingoing zig-zag track through Passe de Taapuna, compared to a smooth exit ~ depth in meters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was no time to dwell.  We needed to focus on the next task at hand and find a spot to anchor in the deep (50-60 feet), rolly, and crowded anchorage.  When Wil and I are the anchor team in this “Carrefour Bay” anchorage, it takes us no less than 3 tries before we’re happy with our situation.  Colin and I achieved a good location and well-set anchor after only 2 tries!

Once the anchor was down, I needed to get to shore immediately.  With the big swell, the anchorage was rocking and rolling more than normal.  It took all three of us to safely lower the dinghy without it swinging wildly out of control.  Getting into the dinghy and unhooking it required careful timing with each wave.

As I approached the dinghy dock, it was apparent that docking the dinghy would prove to be a challenge too.  The entire floating dock was jerking back and forth with the swell.  It looked like it could break apart at any moment.  All the dinghies and their engines were banging into each other and the dock.  Not a good place for the dinghy, but there was no other alternative.

The scene didn’t end there.  Waves were splashing over the outermost wharf, pushing boats dangerously close to the concrete.  Water was pushing up through the dock boards at the inside dinghy docks.  Boats were rocking and rolling inside Marina Taina.  The parking lot drains had mini geysers spraying out of them with the push of each wave into the shore.

I was still shaking when I reached the Tahiti Crew office.  Our agent cheerfully walked up just seconds after my arrival and asked how I was doing.  When my response was, “Not good,” she stopped, looked at me, and asked why.

“I just came through that pass,” I’d said while pointing a shaky finger in the direction of Taapuna.  It took a moment before she realized which pass I was referring to.  “That pass?” she exclaimed.  “No one is going through that pass today!  Everyone is going around.”  And she meant everyone.

I didn’t need to tell her any details.  She immediately understood and proceeded to tell me that whatever the highest yacht masters certificate a person can get is, I had just earned it.  Then, she handed me a cookie.

Moral of the story:

Never be in a hurry.

We tend to be critical of sailors who let the clock (or money) rule their decisions.  Every time we hear of a boat damaged in a storm or on a reef, many times its because the skipper chose not to wait.  I (we) have always known not to be in a rush.  Always wait for daylight before coming too close to land or entering an unfamiliar channel.  Always wait for an appropriate weather window.  Wait for appropriate lighting when navigating among coral heads and near reefs.  Never hesitate to turn around or change direction if Mother Nature dictates it.

As many of us cruise for any length of time, I don’t think you can find a sailor who hasn’t made a stupid mistake.  If they say they haven’t, then they are either lying, haven’t been out there long enough, or are extremely lucky.  Fortunately, for most of us, we learn from the mistake and come out relatively unharmed and with the boat mostly intact.

On this day, I made my biggest mistake.  I did something I have always preached against.  I let time rule my decision, and I chose the shortcut.  Whether it was skill or luck that helped us through (or maybe a guardian angel), I am forever thankful that we still have our boat and our lives.

[Added note:  After describing the appearance of Passe de Taapuna that day to Wil, I asked him what he thought he would have done.  Wil believes he would have chosen to go through the pass too.]

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moorea ~ sting rays, sharks, and a gecko

September 8 – 11, 2014

Opunohu

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!

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butterfly fish amidst sting rays

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eager sting rays immediately swarm

 

 

 

 

 

 

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sting rays seem to enjoy being touched . . . especially when food is available!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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we can stand safely among them

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a dog’s trick ~ flipped food from nose to mouth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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sting rays feel so velvety soft

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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even when the food is gone

 

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just like petting a dog!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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string ray tail & a child’s feet ~ the two happily swimming together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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eventually shark presence grows

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. . . and the sharks get closer

 

 

 

 

 

 

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hmmmm . . . can you hear the Jaws music?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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the more sharks, the more aggression

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shark behavior lesson ~ when pectoral fins are down, the shark is exhibiting aggression, and it’s time to leave the water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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bug-eating stowaway discovered ~ named Sam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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moorea ~ captain mom & the wind

September 5 – 8, 2014

Ha’apiti

ohohi

our Rocna well buried on the sand bank

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.

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twist ties indicating the amount of chain out

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beautiful snorkeling near Ha’apiti, Moorea

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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checking out the sea anemone

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thrilled to have finally found Nemo!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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gorgeous clown fish & sea anemone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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underwater acrobatics

 

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showing a sea biscuit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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an underwater world reflected

 

 

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beautiful sea slug ~ for Amy

 

sea cucumber ~ photo for my friend, Amy, who loves invertebrates

sea cucumber ~ photo for my invertebrate-loving friend, Amy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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huahine to tahiti ~ bad news received

August 28 – September 5, 2014

oihoh

underway from Huahine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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Categories: living aboard, newsworthy | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

while waiting on wind

August 21 – 28, 2014

While we waited on a favorable wind to take us to our next destination, there was no shortage of fun.

opijaoi

oihoih

oihjoinhj

oinjoejir

oinhjoj

 

oiwehrowei

oihoih

no fear

oihoihj

posing for the camera

 

areafre

oihjoij

at her own pace

oijare

. . . and with grace

 

 

1-001

our own Puddle Jump 2013 reunion ~ Full Monty, Liward, Macha, and Yum Yum, either remaining in or having returned to French Polynesia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: travel | Tags: , | 2 Comments

raiatea ~ work & play

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.

oherio

dubbed “Colin the Invincible”

ouighyiefr

a more conservative form

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

arerer

anchored between the reefs near Uturoa

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.

arerer

Full Monty anchored behind the reef & looking so small

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

arearew

looking northwest from Mt Tapioi, Raiatea towards Tahaa (right) and Bora Bora (furthest)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

arerawer

enjoying the view from Mt Tapioi

areware

standing above Uturoa

 

 

 

 

 

oihohi'

looking east over Passe Teavapiti towards Huahine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

arerwer

Raiatea’s east side

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

oihoihj

an unconcerned bull standing in our path

opiahyuoerihj

eye candy for him & eye candy for her

 

 

 

 

 

 

oihuyoehifrt

carefully-raised vanilla bean plants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ohyoaerihu

local Raiatea flora

 

oihyoh

looking north from Raiatea to Tahaa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

oihuohji

panoramic view of Uturoa village & Tahaa from Mt Tapioi, Raiatea

 

 

 

 

 

 

ouighyioh

Mt Tapioi ~ a fun hike

 

oihohij

a Mercedes school bus

oiho

school would be starting soon in Raiatea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

artetret

convenient provisioning at the Uturoa town wharf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

arawerew

sporting newly pierced ears ~ pierced in Tahiti!

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.

oihohij

Zingaya & Full Monty kids going sailing

oihyweroih

taking off

 

 

 

 

 

 

oaiher

sailing to Tahaa

oahjeroj

a sailing playground between Raiatea & Tahaa

 

 

 

 

 

 

oihoih

kids sailing between Raiatea & Tahaa ~ Bora Bora in the distance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

owierhw

first windsurf experience

 

 

iwehuroqwei

friendly & helpful instructors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

owequirhw

sails & Bora Bora on the horizon ~ a beautiful sight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

ouhefrtw

giant mussel found at while at anchor

oiheor

a nightly visitor looking for scraps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: cruising kids, travel | Tags: , | 2 Comments

huahine ~ kids, kids, kids!

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.

arerew

looking out toward the reef ~ anchored inside Baie d’Avea, southwest Huahine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

on a Nemo hunt ~ sea anemone spotted

sea anemone spotted & hoped to see Nemo!

 

 

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.

 

always nice to see water bead on the bimini after waterproofing

always nice to see water bead on the bimini after waterproofing

finally! ~ nothing like a nice coat of varnish

finally! ~ nothing like a nice coat of varnish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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cake decorated by Colin for his big sister

 

 

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!

 

lighting the candles ~ 14 plus one for good luck

lighting the candles ~ 14 plus one for good luck

getting brighter every year!

getting brighter every year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

mom & babe out for a paddle

mom & babe out for a paddle

 

 

 

 

 

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.

oihohij

looking for humpbacks on the SUPs ~ are we crazy, or what!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

oaheoh

intentional bump

atewrtaew

at least she went down too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

oihjohji

a rainbow in the anchorage at Fare ~ actually IN the anchorage!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ohiohn

is there gold in the anchorage?

oihohirae

local fishing boat returning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: boat improvement & maintenance, cruising kids, travel | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

technical difficulty

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!

 

Categories: uncategorized | 3 Comments