Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fun Facts

After spending 6 months in French Polynesia and visiting so many of the islands, we have learned how different the island groups are - the people, the culture, the history, and the geology.  Here, you thought we were just goofing off all this time - hah!

Here's what we have learned from talking to the locals, our personal experiences, plus doing our homework:
Makemo, Tuamotu Islands

The Tuamotu Archipelago has 78 islands - all but 2 of the islands are coral atolls.  For sailors, they are considered the "low and dangerous" islands and difficult to spot - even with radar.  These islands were avoided in the past, but new technology has made sailing through the atolls much safer.  But, you still have to be alert - especially through the passes.

The Tuamotu's are the the "oldest" of the island groups.  The island mass has sank completely leaving a beautiful lagoon surrounded by a coral reef.  The coral reef is made up of many motus/islands.

We visited 5 of the atolls in the Tuamotu's - hope to see more next year.
Bora Bora, Society Islands

There are 14 islands in the Society islands and they are the most famous in French Polynesia - Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, etc..  They are high-steep volcanic mountains and are very striking.

The Societies are the "middle-aged" islands.  The islands are sinking, plus the coral reefs and lagoons have formed.  It is estimated that Tahiti is sinking 4 inches a year - oh my.   

We spent lots of time in the Societies and toured 6 of the islands.
Nuku Hiva, Marquesa Islands

The Marquesa islands are made up of 10 islands.  Like the Societies, they are high-steep volcanic mountains that can been seen for 20 miles.  A great place for sailors to make landfall.

The Marquesas are the "youngest" of the 3 island groups.  The coral reef and lagoons have not formed yet, but will - eventually.

We only visited 2 of the Marquesa islands, but would have loved to have seen more.

All of the islands in French Polynesia have been wonderfully different - hope you get to visit them one of these days!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pictures from Toau - finally!

As you can see, we had a great time in Toau. Gaston and Valentine were excellent hosts and we really appreciated them sharing their beautiful island with us. We hope to visit them again next year. Hope you enjoy the pictures!

PS: Thanks again Carol for sharing.
Valentine, Gaston, and the rest of the gang!

Dinghy caravan through the lagoon

The fish trap - what a variety

Gaston spearing lunch

BBQ fish - very tasty

Baby frigate keeping an eye on us

A day at the beach

Valentine and Carol preparing dinner

Lobsters on the barbie

Carla dressed in a pareo - oh my!

Visiting the Pink Sand motu

Doug and the shark chasing dog

Gaston and Valentine - our hosts

Dennis and Carol at the Pink Sand Motu

Lots of fish

Potluck and Trashing Burning party

Sunset in Toao

Crew of Evergreen exploring

Doug setting the whisker pole

Carol cleaning up the beach

Dinghy ride through the coral

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Made it to Rangiroa!

Fortunately, we had good winds pushing us to Rangiroa and had a nice downwind sail. We were rock'n and roll'n for the 1st half the trip, but the 2nd half smoothed out and was very comfortable. Working with Evergreen, we are getting very good at timing our trips to hit the passes at slack tide. The Tiputa pass is definitely one we wouldn't want to enter any other time - it was a crazy washing machine later in the day.

The Rangiroa atoll is huge - the largest atoll in the Tuamotu. We are safely anchored in the lagoon west of the Tiputa pass. The weather is still unsettled - gusty winds and occasional rains, but we are comfortable.

We found a small store (magasin) and bought a few provisions, but now we need to do some major shopping. Unfortunately, the large grocery stores and banks are about 8 miles away in the Avatoru village. We are going to try and hitchhike down there today and hopefully sweet talk the store owners into bringing us back. If not, maybe a taxi ride. Another option is to move our boats down to Avatoru, but we read that the anchorage isn't very good. Oh well, it will all work out.

Besides the provisioning, we hope to do some exploring while we are here. The lagoon of Rangiroa is beautiful and famous for the Blue Lagoon atoll inside the lagoon. Hope we get to see it.

Next, we wait for a weather window to sail us to Hawaii. November 1 ends the official hurricane season in the northern hemisphere. We want to wait for that for sure!

PS: We have internet now, so I will be posting some pictures soon - promise.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Stuck between a high and a low...

High and low pressure system that is - four days of lots of wind and rain - so we are still in Toau. We have been hunkered down on the boat with only a few excursions to shore. It sure felt good to get off the boat and stretch our legs!

Unfortunately, due to the weather system, we didn't make it to Fakarava - so now we are officially out of everything fresh and almost everything drinkable. Good thing we have lots and lots of dried beans, rice, and canned goods. We won't got hungry for sure - just thirsty. Plus, we can get fresh fish any time. Gaston taught Doug how to fish the "local" way. For bait, grab a hermit crab, pull him out of his shell, and then pluck a hunk off of the crab's back end. I know, it sounds terrible, but Gaston says it works. We will have to give it a try.

Our current plan is to leave Toau tomorrow and sail directly to Rangiroa (an overnighter), which will be our last atoll/island to visit before we leave for Hawaii. It sounds like Rangiroa has all the modern facilities - grocery stores, banks, post office, and internet. It will be a good place for us to provision and prepare for our big trip north, plus the lagoon is supposed to be beautiful.

We have been working on a few projects this week. Doug wanted to restitch some of the Sunbrella on the jib (head sail). Sounded easy... but the screws on the furler were loose and we couldn't get the jib down. So, my trapeze artist husband, had to climb up the staysail, swing over to the jib, and slide down - tightening screws along the way. Good thing we found the loose screws now versus at sea!

Doug and Josh (Evergreen) got the hooka gear out and scrubbed our bottom. The hooka really makes this project easier, plus it is great for drift dives, checking your anchor, and lots more. A hooka is on our list to bring with us next year - we just need to find room for the gear.

We have had a wonderful time in Toau (even with the weather system), but it is time to get moving again!

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Out of everything (almost)!

We have loved our time here in Toau, but it is time to find a grocery store (magasin) - our fridge and food lockers are bare! Our plans are to motor/sail to Fakarava on Monday, if the weather settles.

We have been "boat potatoes" for two days. A series of squalls have been passing through with winds 20 - 25 knots and lots of rain. We are hooked to a mooring ball and are hoping it is a good one. We keep our anchor alarm set just in case...

Before the squalls hit, we were able to do some more exploring. Carol and Dennis (Evergreen) organized a trip out to the "pink sand beach" motu. Along the way, the gang hooka'd around a big coral head with lots of reef fish and coral, plus a lemon shark - oh my. Valentine and Gaston met us at the motu for a picnic (fresh fish of course). It was an 11 mile dinghy ride (round trip) to the motu, but it was beautiful with lots of soft pink sand and zillions of birds!

Again, Gaston and Valentine invited the cruisers to their place for a trash burning/potluck. They know what the cruises like for sure. What an assortment of food - even got to experience salted fish - the Finnish way. All very tasty.

So the good times continue - just need the weather to cooperate. Hopefully, in Fakarava, we will be able to post some pictures so you can experience Toau with us!

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Still relaxing in Toau

We have decided that Toau is just the place we have been searching for, so why leave? We have been here almost a week and are having a wonderful time exploring the motu's and the lagoon, plus visiting with our hosts and neighbors. Of course, we are running low on the staples: coke zero, wine, beer, eggs, gasoline, and all of the fresh stuff. But, we are making do, plus it sounds like we might be able to do some trading.

One morning, Gaston and Valentine stopped by and asked if we wanted some fresh tuna - YES! Doug quickly seared it in olive oil, sesame seeds, and sesame oil - only a couple of minutes per side. It was perfectly yummy!

Last night, we got dressed up and went to Gaston and Valentine's house/restaurant for dinner. We dined under the stars eating lobster, Poisson Cru, grilled tuna, tuna sushimi (with olive oil and ginger), plus fresh coconut cake and coconut bread. All very good, plus good company. There are a total of 4 boats in the bay and we all attended. 2 American boats, 1 Finnish, 1 French, plus our 2 Polynesian hosts - very continental - hah!

What a treat - we were relaxing in the cockpit (again) and had a wonderful whale show - humpbacks breaching and tale slapping just outside the pass. They didn't stay long so we hope they come back.

We have also started to explore the motu's/islands that make up the Toau atoll - there are lots of them. One of them is supposed to have a beautiful pink beach - looking forward to seeing that. Plus, the lagoon has some big coral heads that we plan on snorkeling.

Dinner tonight - fresh grouper - thanks to Josh (Evergreen). He has had a wonderful time spearfishing in the bay. Our hosts even said it was all right to catch fish out of their trap. Now, that is easy pickins for sure.

Lots more to see and do...

Poisson Cru recipe

1 pound fresh tuna (mahi mahi works but not as good)
Juice of one lime (maybe two)
1 cup fresh coconut milk
1 tsp oregano
1 sliced green pepper or minced jalapeno or 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 small onion thinly sliced
1 chopped tomato or cucumber
2 cloves minced garlic

Cut the fish into bite-sized pieces and place them in a non-corrosive dish with the lime juice. Sprinkle the fish lightly with the salt and marinate for at least 1 hour, turning the pieces occasionally. The fish will whiten as the acid from the lime juice cooks the flesh. Stir in the coconut milk, oregano, chilies, onion, tomato or cucumber, and garlic. Marinate for 1 hour more.

Serve over rice.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Toau - what a place!

The cruisers are right - Toau is a very special place and Gaston and Valentine are excellent hosts and have been sharing their island with us.

Friday nights Trash Burning party turned out to be a cruisers potluck hosted by Gaston and Valentine. Besides Moondance and Evergreen, there are two other boats moored in the pass (Elan and Kindred Spirit) and we all joined in on the fun. Lots of good food and wine were consumed and lots of storytelling (in 4 different languages) and lots of laughter.

Saturday, we all got in our dinghy's and followed our hosts through the lagoon to the motu/island where they have their pearl farm. We helped them clean up the island; they provided fresh fish for the picnic. We know the fish were fresh, we watched Gaston spear them in the fish trap - quite a show. Besides the pearl farm, the motu is a nesting place for the boobies, frigates, and other birds. The motu is also a good place to snorkel and cool off after working so hard - hah!

Sunday, we spent the day snorkeling in the pass where we are anchored. We have to say, Toau has the best snorkeling and the most fish we have seen in French Polynesia - by far - just incredible. Lots of big fish - over 4 footers, plus lots of little guys (my kind) - snappers, big Napolean wrasse, grouper, parrot fish, and lots of moray eels and wonderful coral.

Gaston and Valentine's fish trap is an amazing site - like looking into a big aquarium - sharks and all. The fish swim in, but can't get out - perfect. There are too many fish to count and too many different types to identify - just mesmerizing.

Josh and Dennis on Evergreen did some spear fishing and stabbed a parrot fish and a grouper - very tasty. Spear fishing is a challenge here. After you spear a fish, you have to get it out of the water immediately because the sharks start circling. Spooky! Doug wants to try it today. I would prefer to just do some fishing.

We also did some bartering with Valentine for black pearls and jewelry: tomato juice, champagne, wine, TP, soap, engine oil, etc. Gaston and Valentine live approximately 2 hours (by boat) from the nearest village that has a store so they are always needing provisions. It was a very successful trade for all.

Tonight, we are invited to their restaurant for dinner - we think we are having lobster. Yum! Plus, we want to do some walking around some of the islands. Busy day!

Can't wait for you to see the pictures - as soon as we have internet!

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Back in the Tuamotu Islands!

We finally left Moorea. We loved it there, but it was time to get moving east.

It was a 2-day sail from Moorea to the Tuamotu atolls/islands. We were fortunate that we were able to sail most of the way, but it was a lumpy, noisy trip because the seas were a little confused and Moondance was rocking around. So, not much sleep!

We are now moored in the Toau atoll in the Anse Amyot pass - between the deep waters of the Pacific and the crystal blue waters of the lagoon - it is beautiful.

There is one family that lives here - Gaston and Valentine. They run a small restaurant, pearl farm, fish traps, and all of the cruisers love them. They have installed mooring balls where we can moor for free as long as we have dinner at their restaurant one night. It is supposed to be an excellent fish dinner. We are looking forward to it, plus learning more about their atoll.

You know you are in a wonderful place when...
-- you motor into a bay and one cruiser leaves early so you can grab their mooring ball
-- another cruiser helps you grab the mooring ball
-- and another cruiser dinghy's over to tell you about the great snorkeling

Plus, we get invited to a trash burning party tonight. Cruisers are great!

We will stay in Toau for awhile and do some exploring, plus the snorkeling and diving are supposed to be excellent.

Hopefully, we will be able to visit a few more atolls before starting our big sail to Hawaii around the 1st of November. Oh my!

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Enjoying Moorea (again)

This is our 3rd visit to the island of Moorea and we are loving it more each time. We keep finding more treasures as we expand our explorations.

Happy Birthday Doug - you look marvelous!

Moorea was a wonderful place to celebrate Doug's 58th birthday too. His present - kite surfing lessons. He might be the oldest one out there, but I am proud of him for trying!

Expert Kite Surfer!

As you can see, he has got some serious competition. I hope to post some good pictures of my surfer dude soon - we are waiting for some wind so that Doug can take his 2nd lesson. Too fun.

Moondance is the small boat!

We are anchored in the beautiful Opunohu bay again in 20 feet of water with an amazing view of the spire of Mt. Mouaroa behind us. Cruise ships show up once in awhile - they seem a bit big for our bay. Good thing they don't stay long.

What a bike ride!

We decided to unpack our bikes and tour some of the island. We had heard of a shortcut to Cook's bay over the ridge. It was not a short cut, mostly dirt road, and had a steep grade, but we made it and loved the view.

Church in Cook's Bay

We decided not to take the shortcut back (go figure), but continued along the main road. We had hope to find a place to watch some football, but there is nothing open on Sundays - nothing except Church! Oh well, we got some good exercise and enjoyed the ride.

Distillery - why not?

There is a pineapple (ananas) plantation along the shortcut - lots of pineapple. So, we were happy to find that there was also a distillery: Jus de Fruits de Moorea. Open every day and free tastings. We loved the coconut (coco) liqueur and just had to buy some.

Sailing school

These guys are so entertaining! There is a sailing school off the beach and most mornings you can see these boats racing around and the kids laughing (love those belly laughs) and screaming. Keeps the owner busy for sure!

Shrimp farming

Carol and Doug decided to check out the shrimp (crevettes) farm, which is open to the public on Wednesday from 10 - 2. It was quite a process to see them rounding up the shrimp. The shrimp were good, but not as good as the shrimp in Mazatlan. Miss those!

Moondance surrounded by palm trees

We are have finally figured out Moorea's public transportation. The buses only run when the ferry from Tahiti runs - you just have to know the ferry schedule. The bus is $300 francs and, as far as we can tell, it only goes part way around the island.

Hitchhiking also works well on Moorea and we have met some very nice folks - nice enough to take us past their destination just to please us. Love it.

Short cut?

We will be leaving Moorea in the next couple of days. We are waiting for a weather window to motor/sail to the Tuamotu islands. We "think" we will visit the island of Toau - all the cruisers tell us it is wonderful. We shall see!

Thanks for sharing your photos, Carol.