Thursday, September 22, 2011

Still in Tahiti...

But, we are just about finished with all of our provisioning and projects. Plus, our formal checkout from the Society Islands has been completed. We just have one more French formality to go through in the Tuamotu and that's it until next year.

Laundry Day
It might not seem like a treat to folks with washing machines, but finding a good laundromat that is affordable has been a luxury that we taken advantage of here in Tahiti. These machines hold two loads of clothes and give everything a great spin. We still hang everything on the boat to dry, but this sure beats hand washing!

Polynesian fishing boat
The fishing boats are definitely unique to Polynesia and they zoom around the islands. The boat is steered by using a joystick that goes side-to-side versus a wheel. Plus, the pilot is on a raised platform so that he can see the reefs better - makes sense.

Waiting for the fishermen
Since we haven't been able to catch a fish for awhile, we decided to try a different approach. We dinghied down to an area with a lot of fishing boats and waited... No boats came in with any fish while we waited so we gave up. Doug and Carol tried again the next day - still nothing. We aren't sure if there are any fish left, but we will keep trying!

Beautiful Tahitian girls
As we wander around town, it is always a treat to meet some of the young people. Just like kids everywhere, they love to ham it up for the camera.

Hopefully, we will be able to leave Tahiti on Friday and sail over to Moorea. We are waiting on a weather window for our crossing to the Tuamotu. We love Moorea and figured that would be a great place to wait and enjoy some water sports and clean the bottom of the boat and dinghy - it is starting to collect some pond scum. Always some fun to be had somewhere!

PS: We highly recommend using the Papeete Agency that was organized through the Pacific Puddle Jump. It costs us $188 (for two people) for the service, which included clearance into French Poly, bond exemption, and duty free fuel. Plus, the agents in Nuku Hiva and Papeete were so helpful and gave us lots of free advice and drove us around. Very nice people. We figured that the amount of money we saved on fuel alone more than paid for the fees. Next year, the cost will go up a little, but it should still be a great deal.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Shopping and Eating in Tahiti

Waiting for the bus
It is definitely an adventure and we all love going to check out a new store or a new restaurant. Prices in French Polynesia are more expensive than Mexico, but we are learning how to survive on our budgets (almost) - just like the locals.

Fine dining at Taua King
Our favorite Chinese restaurant is Taua King, just down the street from Marina Taina. They make the best fried Nems, (egg rolls) and Cantonese Rice, plus wonderful chow mein. We love watching the flames from the butane burners cooking our food - you know it is coming out hot.

Dining at the Roulettes

Besides Chinese food, French Polynesia is famous for their "roulettes". In the States, we would probably call them "roach coaches", but they do serve great food. They usually setup in the evenings and serve everything - a variety of Chinese dishes, dinner and dessert crepes, roasted veal, hamburgers, french fries, pizza, etc. You just stroll around until you find a good one and have a seat. Remember to bring your own bottle of wine!

Rows of pate's
We have two favorite grocery stores close by. Super Marina has almost everything we need and it is small - perfect for our daily baguette and soda runs, plus it has a great meat selection. Carrefour is a wonderful supermarket and has everything from household items to an extensive selection of French cheeses, pates, salamis, meats, and more - yum.

Fancy French cheeses
Since everything is usually in French (with a few exceptions), it takes us awhile to figure out what we are buying. Some things are easy because they are similar to the Mexican version. Others, not so easy even when we have our French books handy.

Salami's and other good stuff
Sometimes you just don't know what you are buying until you get it back to the boat and taste it. Good thing we love an adventure!

Hauling groceries

One thing that really makes shopping in Tahiti easy - we are allowed to bring our shopping carts back to the Marina. Someone else returns the carts for us. All we have to do is load everything into the dinghy, motor out to the anchorage, and load our goodies onto Moondance. Whew - shopping is definitely a workout and takes up most of the day.

Oh well, what else do we have to do?

If you are interested, below is a sample of the prices that we are paying at the grocery stores. Not too different from California - go figure. Hope you get to check it out yourselves one of these days!

Dozen eggs: $4.17
Hinano beer: $2.40 for a 1/2 liter
Fresh baguette: $.65
Rum: $16.00 a fifth for the Tahitian brand
New Zealand ribeye steak: $11.00 lb for boneless
Fresh green beans: $3.80 lb
Coke Zero: $1.07 per can (tastes better than Diet Coke here)
Roquefort cheese: $19.00 lb (excellent)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Back in Tahiti

We were really sad to leave Huahine - it was a wonderful island. Hope we see it again next year!

Going to miss Huahine
Our overnight passage to Tahiti was nice and easy. Not much wind, but at least it was in our favor and the seas were calm.

There were several sailboats, freighters, and ferries cruising between the islands, so we had to stay alert, but nothing came too close - thank goodness!

Sunset over Moorea from our anchorage
Now, we are back in Tahiti anchored by Marina Taina. We have to go through a formal process to check out of Tahiti.

Also, we need to provision, work on projects, fill up with fuel and propane, and a bunch of laundry - yuck!

We hope to find a weather window next week and start sailing back to the Tuamotu. We aren't sure which islands we are going to visit this time - all depends on the wind.

Our time in French Polynesia is going way too fast!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Too much fun in Huahine!

Well, we finally made it back to the island of Huahine and we are having a great time - can you tell?

Evergreen motoring thru the Huahine lagoon
Huahine is our favorite island in the Societies Archipelago. It is beautiful, peaceful, and a wonderful place to explore. Very few tourists visit Huahine, but the cruisers love it.

Snorkeling with Sharks!
Found a great snorkeling spot - just off the town of Fare. Unfortunately, there is a Shark Feeding tour that ties up here, so as soon as the gang hopped in the water, all the fishes (including sharks) started circling. It was pretty amazing - just don't tie up to the boat that is anchored there. We got chased off!

Fishing - not catching
We motored through the lagoon to the big bay of Port Bourayne for a night and tried to catch some fish - no luck. We did get some tips from the locals and are going to keep trying.

Avea Bay - beautiful
Next stop, Avea Bay, which is at the southern end of Huahine. There were 12 boats here when we arrived - now there are only 2 of us left. So quiet... we are really having a relaxing day.

Enjoying the beach
We joined Evergreen in a dinghy tour around Point Tiva to check out the village of Perea and watch the surfers.

Carol modeling
There is a wonderful artisan shop in Perea owned by Miri and Frank. They hand-paint all of their pareos and they are beautiful - as you can see - Carol too!

Marea Anini
We checked out Marea Anini (sacred Polynesian site). This marea had petroglyphs and was recently restored - using only original stones. Very interesting. Miri tells us that in each corner of the Marea, a body was buried alive - yikes!

Pareo fashion show
Miri and Frank invited us to their Pareo show at one of the Pensions. They used the crowd as models to demonstrate all the ways to tie a parea. Doesn't Doug look handsome!

Too much fun!
It was wonderful to hang out with the locals - we learned lots of Polynesian history, plus had a wonderful time. We invited them over to our boats the next night so they can see how the crazy cruisers live.

Tomorrow, we travel back to Tahiti. We have had a wonderful time, but we need to get moving East. Our time in French Polynesia has gone by way too fast!

** Thanks for sharing your pictures, Carol!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Tahaa - Vanilla Farm excursion

Next anchorage, Haamene Bay, free mooring balls if you visit the Hibiscus restaurant - which we did. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday they have a great Happy Hour from 5 - 7. We had fun playing Liar's dice with Evergreen - always nice to get off the boats!
Enjoying the Vanilla Farm

Plus, the restaurant will arrange free transportation to the Vanilla Farm. Free too, unless you buy something...

Tahaa is called the "Vanilla Island" and we had to check it out. The farm was a beautiful place and offered a buffett of bananas, fresh coconut, and fruit juice - what a treat.

Vanilla plant growing on a tree

The Vanilla Farm has been in Moeata's family for 3 generations. Moeata and Brian commercialized it and now ship most of their vanilla harvest to Denmark and have been very successful. Their vanilla is organic and the vanilla plant grows around a host tree - all natural. Most vanilla farms are grown in green houses grown in pots, which requires fertlizer and chemicals.

Vanilla flower
Brian explained some facts about the vanilla plants:
  • Vanilla is part of the orchid family
  • There are 30,000 species of orchids
  • The vanilla plant is the only one that produces food

Vanilla beans drying

Each vanilla flower is hand-pollinated to ensure it produces a vanilla bean. It takes 3 years before a plant produces a bean and requires that they trim the host trees to provide 60% sunlight; 40% of shade.

Then the beans are hand-picked and dried to remove all but 20% of the moisture. During the last 15 days of the drying process, they are massaged daily to bring out the vanilla smell.

It's a lot of work, but worth it. The vanilla smelled wonderful. Can't wait to make some vanilla pancakes, or vanilla sugar, or vanilla extract - whatever!

PS:  We are now anchored in Huahini off the town of Fare.  We will be sailing the lagoon south to Avea Bay in the next day or so to do some more exploring!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tahaa - trip to the Pearl Farm

The Bay of Apu, on the southern end of Tahaa, has free mooring balls to tie up to if... you rent a buggy, go diving, or visit the Pearl Farm. We chose the pearl farm and we are glad we did - we learned a lot.

Pearl Factory

The oysters are actually stored in nets along the reef, but the Pearl Factory (named by me) is where the work is done. We actually got to watch the pro's in action. They gently open the oyster, remove the pearl, and insert a "nucleus", which is the same size as the pearl and made out of shells from the Mississippi River. Kind of strange, but it works.

Oyster that didn't pass the test!

If an oyster produces an inferior pearl, its life is over and someone is eating it for dinner. The shells are sold to make buttons, jewelry, etc. All of the parts are used up!

Pearl Farm

Some interesting facts about a pearl farm:
  • The process for culturing pearls was created in Japan by Mikimoto
  • This pearl farms maintains 100,000 oysters
  • There is a 5-year investment before any pearls are harvested
  • It is 18 months (always) after the nucleus is inserted into the oyster and the pearl is harvested
  • Pearls have 3 grades depending on the shape, luster, and number of defects - A, B, and C

Pretty pearls

And the long process and investment are worth it. Tahitian black pearls are beautiful (and expensive) and come in all different colors - peacock, copper, eggplant, black, and more. They are named "black pearls" because they come from the black-lipped oysters. You never know what size of pearl or color you are going to find. Always a surprise when you open the oyster.

If you get a chance, check out a Pearl Farm!

PS: We actually splurged and bought two of the copper pearls (C grade of course) that are only grown in Raiatea and Tahaa. They are beautiful!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Hope you have a wonderful celebration - we will be sure to toast a Hinano (Tahiti beer) in your honor!

Looking good!

Love you guys and wish you were here with us sailing the South Pacific!

Carla and Doug

Friday, September 2, 2011

Rewind, Baby!

This line always makes me laugh. It was from a surfing couple on a sailboat we met in Oxnard, CA. Instead of "Reverse" it was "Rewind, Baby" and that's what we are doing now!

Moondance anchored in Bora Bora
We finally left Bora Bora after almost a month (hard to believe).

After sailing over 4100 miles, it is time to start our trip East back through the Society islands and then Tuamotus and maybe the Marquesas. Our plans are to leave either the Tuamotus or the Marquesas around the 1st of November - depending on the weather - heading to Hawaii.

Enjoying a day at the beach
Bora Bora was a wonderful place to hang out, relax, explore, and shop. It is a beautiful island surrounded by an amazing lagoon and reef and we got to see some amazing sites, plus the locals were very warm and friendly.

Love watching the canoes
One of our favorite past times is sitting in the cockpit at sunset watching the canoer's paddle past us. The canoes are much more high-tech now, but it makes you think about island transportation long ago. Plus, it keeps these canoer's in shape - Buff!

Nina arrives in Bora Bora
We were fortunate that our friends on Nina caught up to us. Nina is a classic wooden boat built in the 1920's and is famous for winning races along the East coast and she is beautiful. Rosemary, Daniel, and crew had us over for dinner and it was fun catching up.

More snorkeling
Of course, we had to take them snorkeling with the Stingrays - more squealing! Nina is on her way to New Zealand. Hopefully, we will see them again somewhere in the South Pacific next year.

Bananas anyone?
It is amazing the amount of fruit along the roads - mangos, breadfruit, pamplemousse, and lots and lots of bananas. Wish we could just help ourselves, but the trees usually have an owner. But we don't mind asking!

Looking at Mt Otemanu
We are now island hopping between Raiatea and Tahaa. You know you are surrounded by nice people when you don't even have to hitchhike to get a ride and we appreciated it - we were sweaty and they had A/C. The ladies were very sweet and their English was much better than our French (of course).

Anchored in Tahaa looking over at Raiatea
Free moorings in Apu Bay on Tahaa - you just have to visit the Pearl Farm, go diving, or rent a buggy. We chose the Peal Farm and it was very interesting to learn how the famous black pearls are cultured. We couldn't afford to buy any pearls, but it was worth the visit. I will have to write a separate blog about that.

Just watch out for the crazy fish around the boat. We are surrounded by millions of little tiny fish. The bigger fish wait underneath Moondance and suddenly jump out (splashing alot) and gobble up the little guys. Fun to watch!

Taking inventory
We plan to sail to Huahine in the next couple of days and then on to Tahiti, where we will do some major provisioning, round up some boat parts, and visit our favorite Chinese restaurant - yum!

So, I decided to inventory our pantries. I was amazed at how much food we still have on board from Mexico! French Polynesia has so much wonderful fresh food, our canned and dried goods haven't been needed. Oh well, maybe we will eat them on the way to Hawaii. Chili anyone?