Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendevzous

Sorry that we have been out of touch - we have been busy.

The Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous started on Friday and it has been a whirlwind of activities and socializing. We are pooped!

Relaxing in Moorea - beautiful
We are anchored in Baie d' Opunhohu and as you can tell, it really is beautiful. If it looks familiar, it is because they filmed South Pacific and Mutiny on the Bounty here. I can see why.

The weekend started off with a reception at Papeete's Town Hall, which included a welcome by the Mayor's office and lots of other folks, plus a blessing by a Tahitian Chief.
Enjoying the Mayor's reception
Channel crossing

Saturday, the Puddle Jumpers get going early and traversed the long channel to start the rally - just outside the harbor. The good news: We didn't run out of fuel in the channel this time. Whew!

Start of the Rally

Unfortunately, there wasn't much wind for the rally, so most boats motor/sailed to Moorea. 9 of the boats sailed all the way - very impressive!

Wonderful Polynesian welcome

Once we arrived in Baie d' Opunhohu, we all headed to the beach for the reception, which included amazing music and dancing, plus cocktails. Lots of fun was had by all!

Making lei's
The next day was filled with lots of activities and events. The Polynesiasns spent the day teaching us some of their culture - making lei's, climbing trees, dancing, tying parea's, and much much more.

Canoe races - lots of fun
The six-person outrigger canoe races were definitely the highlight. 2 natives and 4 cruisers racing across the finish line and those canoes go fast! Our team finished 2nd in our heat, but should have been first. We were just getting the hang of it!

Resting after the canoe race

There were 25 teams racing in 6 heats and it was very competitive. The final was between 2 boats - as they crossed the finish line, one canoe tipped over. A very dramatic finish!

Fruit Race - Doug lost
The Fruit Race was very interesting. You picked up your stick with bananas on each end and ran around the grounds. Definitely harder than it looked and Doug was ready for a break.

Cracking coconuts
Carol and I learned how to remove the husk from the coconut, crack it, and shred the coconut meat.

We will definitely be able to apply these skills - coconuts are everywhere and very tasty.

All the boats received a gift for being in the Rendezvous, plus a lei and a kiss. Doug enjoyed every minute of it!

Closing ceremony
More Polynesian music and dancing to end the Rendezvous. We have fallen in love with the sound of the yukelelis and mesmerized by the dances. We just wish we knew their meaning. The War dance - we figured that one out - it is very intense!

Colorful lei's
We have enjoyed being anchored in Moorea and there is plenty to do. Yesterday, we snorkeled with large stingrays and sunken Tiki's - amazing. Today, we will do the Belvedere hike, which is supposed to have a spectacular view of the bays.

We will be here a few more days and then will sail back to Tahiti to work on a couple of boat projects and provision. Then Huahine and Bora Bora - here we come!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pictures from the Tuamotus - finally!

I know, it took awhile, but I am finally posting some pictures of Tahanea and Fakarava! This is just a glimpse of these beautiful islands/atolls. The clear blue waters (every shade you can imagine) really do take your breath away. We thoroughly enjoyed our adventures in the Tuamtous and we will be sailing through them again in a couple of months. Looking forward to it.

Leaving some of Steve in Tahanea
Steve, our best friend who passed away in March, has been a crew member on Moondance since we left Mexico. We are spreading Steve's ashes as we cruise the South Pacific. We know how much he loved these islands and how much he wanted to visit them again. We miss you Steve!

Ah, Tahanea...
We enjoyed our time in Tahanea, which we spent snorkeling, beach combing, and socializing with the other cruisers. We missed the lobster hunt, but we did get to enjoy the catch - yummy.

Amazing snorkeling
No village here, just a few cruising boats - our kind of place. There was a big coral head close to our boat, so we had to check it out. Lots of fishes of all different shapes, sizes, and colors and only 1 shark. Pretty cool stuff.

Dennis and on the Hooka
Doug and Dennis used the Hooka to snorkel through the pass while Carol and I paddled the dinghy trying to keep up with them. Their words "amazing"! So far, that has been the best snorkeling we found.

BBQ in Tahanea
All of the cruisers decided to throw a BBQ on the beach to celebrate a birthday, catching lobsters, and generally just being together in French Polynesia. 3 languages spoken, but we were able to communicate. Mostly due to the Italians and French speaking English so well - thank goodness!

Kids enjoying BBQ and S'mores
The kids had a blast and especially enjoyed their first tastes of S'mores. Not quite the American version, but they were pretty darn good.

Anchor Boy cooling off
Since there is so much coral in the atolls, Doug (Anchor Boy) has to snorkel and make sure that the anchor doesn't wrap around the coral, plus it is a great way to cool off. So clear...

Motu - southern end of Fakarava
Next, we sailed to the southern end of Fakarava. It took a couple of days. Not that it is very far, it is just challenging timing it to hit slack tide. We did good and going through the pass was a piece of cake!

Carol - enjoying the beautiful reef
There is a small village with a hotel/pension, a restaurant, and 2 dive shops. What a place - the restaurant is over the water and surrounded by beautiful coral and lots and lots of sharks.

Fakarava is well-known for all of the sharks in the lagoon and through the pass. Many different kinds of sharks (big and little) and people pay lots of money to dive with them. How crazy is that?

Trash Burning party
We were invited to join the other cruisers in a Trash Burning party on the beach, which turned into a great social event. We even went hunting for coconut crabs with out flashlights. Didn't find any, but it was quite the adventure. We hope to find one eventually. They are supposed to be very tasty.

Bocci Ball competion
Our own private island - beautiful and a great place for a round of Bocci Ball. We spread some of Steve around here too - knew he would like it.

Biking in Fakarava
We motor/sailed through the lagoon about 30 miles to the nortern end of Fakarava. Even though we were in the channel you had to be on watch for big coral heads, but we enjoyed the ride and the view.

Resting at Hotel Fakarava
The Rotoava Village at the northern end of Fakarava was very nice - grocery stores and everything. We enjoyed exploring the village, plus a 12 mile bike ride along the island - good thing it was flat.

We have been in Tahiti a week all ready. Can't believe how fast time is flying by. There are lots of cruisers here and it is very social. We have been exploring the big city of Papeete (by bus) and provisioning, laundry (lots), projects, etc.

Tomorrow starts the Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous. Can't wait!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tahiti - at last!

Of course, we had to make it a little more challenging than necessary, but we are now safely anchored in Papeete, Tahiti!

The passage was fine, we had to dodge some squalls but we are getting used to that. There was no wind, so we had to motor most of the way. Doug had 3 fishing lines in the water, but only caught a big bonita (yuck) and lost several lures. We were really hoping for fresh fish - oh well!

Approaching the island, now that's where we had some issues. Tahiti is surrounded by a coral barrier reef that you have to pass through to get to the anchorages.

Challenge #1 - We chose the wrong passage through the reef the first time (whoops) and ended in a very industrial area of Papeete. Missing channel markers, no anchorages, and a bridge blocking our route - not the right passage for sure. We did a Crazy Ivan and got out of there.

Challenge #2 - The channel into Papeete is very long and curvy and crosses both ends of the airport runway. Before you cross the runaway, you have to call Port Control to get clearance so that the planes don't hit you - that would be bad thing. We were just approaching the last part of the runway, when our engine died and wouldn't start again! Doug should have been a Boy Scout - he was prepared and jumped into action while I was preparing to panic. Doug had all ready prepped the anchor so he quickly dropped it (in 75 feet of water) to hold us in place while he worked on the engine. He changed the fuel filter thinking it was clogged - the engine still didn't start. More troubleshooting and discovered that our new fuel tank had issues - it was empty. Lots of details here, but the short version is that it hadn't been properly field tested (lesson learned here). We quickly grabbed the jerry jug and added fuel to the main tank, bled the lines, and the engine started - finally!

Challenge #3 - Finding a spot to anchor. There are lots of boats here and it took us some time to find a spot to squeeze into. Besides all of the Puddle Jumpers, there are lots of local boats and some HUGE mega yachts. Can't even imagine being on a boat that big, plus having a crew (in matching outfits). Hah!

But we made it and are very happy to be in Papeete. We have a wonderful view of Tahiti behind us, Moorea across the channel, and big waves crashing into the reef around us. Looks like a postcard picture for sure. These volcanic islands are amazing - lush and green with huge peaks. The tallest mountain in Tahiti is 7321 feet. Quite a site - especially after being in the coral islands of the Tuamotus.

We spent the today exploring - checking out the downtown, getting the hang of the buses, and some provisioning. Tomorrow, off to the Saturday market (Marche) downtown. I think we are going to like it here!

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Motoring to Tahiti!

Yup, no wind out here, so we have been motoring for the last 24 hours. Based on the weather reports, that's what we are expecting the rest of the way. Doug swears we have plenty of fuel - hope so. What a amazing moon last night!

We are over half way there - less than 100 miles to go. We should be there first thing tomorrow morning. First things we have to do - find a place to dock/anchor and check in with the High Commissioner to get approval on our 6-month Visas. Wish us luck on both!

Definitely getting excited about seeing the big city of Papeete and playing tourist, plus meeting up with all of our cruising buddies. Latitude 38 is hosting the Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous next weekend so all of the Puddle Jumpers are converging. The Rendezvous sounds wonderful with lots of native dancing, Polynesian sporting events, and even a cocktail party hosted by the Mayor of Papeete. Gotta to be a good time!

The current plans are to spend about 6 weeks touring Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, and other islands in the Society Archipelago. After that, we will start heading back East - we just aren't sure of our path. It all depends on how the winds are blowing. We definitely will be passing through the Tuamotus again - we loved those beautiful coral islands. Wait till you see the pictures! Hopefully, I will be able to post some this week.

We are thinking of you all and hoping you are all well and happy!

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sailing in the lagoon

A very interesting experience! Yesterday, we sailed from the southern end to the northern end of Fakarava inside the lagoon. It was quite a trip - about 30 miles. There is a well-marked channel that you follow, but you still have to be alert for coral heads (bommies). There are some very big ones right in the middle of the channel!

It was a very nice motor/sail - calm seas and fair winds. Plus, looking at the beautiful homes and resorts along the way.

We are now anchored in the northern end of Fakarava. There is a very nice village - stores, post office, dive shops - but no pizza parlor. We were very disappointed!

Oh well, we decided to make our own pizzas tonight and celebrate Carol's birthday early. Good excuse to throw a party!

We leave Tuesday for Tahiti, which will be two overnighters - about 40 hours. Not bad at all. It will be so strange being in the big city of Papeete with all of the amenities - even internet and laundry. Wahoo!

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Anchored in Fakarava

I hate to say it, but we have found another beautiful island/atoll!

Fakarava is the second largest atoll in the Tuamotus and the lagoon is filled with reefs and coral. We are anchored in the southern end with 3 other boats and the colors and sites we are seeing are just amazing. Lots of small islands (motus) filled with palms, white sandy beaches, and sparkling water of all different shades. We dinghied around yesterday taking pictures - hope they turn out half as good as the real thing.

There is a small village here that we had to check out. 2 dive shops, a pension/lodge, a church, and a restaurant. The restaurant is built over the water with an spectacular view of the "aquarium" below - lots of coral and fish - and about 30 sharks - Carol counted them. Of course, everyone says that they are only black tip reef sharks and not very big, but OH MY!

Last night, we were invited to a bonfire on the beach by our boat neighbors on Savannah and Sudden Stops Necessary. A great opportunity to mingle with other Puddle Jumpers and burn our trash. We had a great time swapping stories and hunting for coconut crabs. We didn't find any crabs, but enjoyed the hunt. Next time though - we heard they were yummy.

Sounds like everyone (maybe not me) will do the drift snorkel through the pass on the Hooka tomorrow. From what we have heard, the pass is amazing and that you even get used to all of the sharks. Yeah, right!

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

On the move again...

Well, we ended up staying in Tahanea a little longer than we anticipated. A big weather front came rolling in and kept us hunkered down on our boats for a couple of days. Nothing scary, just lots of rain and wind and the water in the lagoon was pretty choppy. Good thing we are getting used to those kind of conditions!

We finally got a weather window this morning and headed West. We sailed about 40 miles and had a pretty good sail. Of course, Doug (sailor boy) had to make it interesting and kept us on our toes changing sail configurations. Gotta go fast, ya know!

Moondance and Evergreen are currently anchored off the island of Faaite. Wish we had time to explore this beautiful island, but we leave at 5am heading to the southern end of Fakarava. The pass into the lagoon of Fakarava is supposed to be a little challenging, so we want to make sure we make slack tide, which is at 8am. Plus, we should have good light so that we can spot the coral heads. Oh my!

Fakarava has lots of amenities, so we will be able to provision, plus do some exploring. It is also famous with the cruisers for the drift dive/snorkel through the pass - it is supposed to be amazing. Doug is excited to try it. Me, well... we shall see!

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Still in Tahanea

And still having a wonderful time!

Tahanea is a great place to be anchored - so much to see and do, surrounded by our friends, and no place to spend money - life is good! There are 6 boats here: 2) American boats; 2) French boats; 1) Italian boat; and 1) 1/2 American 1/2 French, and between them 9 kids. So there is lots of activity and lots of interesting conversations, plus it is a very social group. We have had a birthday party, happy hours, and a BBQ on the beach (s'mores where a big hit).

The last two days we have spent snorkeling. Yesterday, we snorkeled on the big coral heads (bommies) near our boat. Lots of fish - all different shapes and sizes - and the coral was beautiful. Trumpetfish, butterflyfish, parrotfish, a big moral eel (oh my), and one lone shark (which was plenty) and lots more sea life that I can't even name. Hope our pictures turn out.

Today, Doug and Dennis hooked on to the Hooka and drifted through the pass at about 30' while Carol and I rowed the dinghy trying to catch up with them. They both said it was amazing. Dennis popped up once shocked/stunned by the 12' manta ray that was soaring by. They are thinking the girls should try it tomorrow. I am not sure I can muster the courage (pluck, pluck), but you never know.

We haven't done any spearfishing yet, even though we are surrounded by fish. Some of the atolls have fish poisoning (ciguatera), which affects some of the reef fish. Since there aren't any locals in Tahanea to ask, we decided not to take any chances. Of course, the cruisers love catching the spiny lobsters!

None of us are in a hurry to leave this place, plus we aren't sure where we are going next. Guess we need to come up with a plan - one of these days...

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Paradise found!

We are anchored in Tahanea atoll and it is truly paradise. We are surrounded by crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches, and no signs of civilization - just a few cruisers! Doug jumped into the water and said that the visibility is incredible. Looking forward to doing some snorkeling tomorrow. Lots of big coral heads and lots of fish. Hope we catch some dinner!

We had a rock-n-roll overnighter from Makemo, plus ran into some squalls. Nothing scary, just uncomfortable. So we didn't get much sleep, but the trip was worth it. Tahanea is just what we have been looking for.

This afternoon, we dinghy'd to shore with the crew from Evergreen. We decided that Tahanea was the perfect place to spread some of Steve's ashes and raise a toast - he would have loved it here. Miss you, Steve!

We aren't sure how long we will be here. We want to do some exploring, plus the guys want to use the Hooka to drift through the pass. The passes are always filled with an amazing amount of sea life (and big fish!). I am not sure I am up to it, but the guys are going to love it.

We will post pictures as soon as we find an internet connection...

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