Huahine – July 24-25

Huahine – July 24-25

It is easy to understand why Huahine has such a great reputation among boaters. The harbor by the town of Fare is beautiful. As with all of the islands in the Societies that we are visiting (Tahiti,Moorea,Huahine, Raiatea,Tahaa and Bora Bora) it is ringed by a coral reef which makes the water calm and clear, and it faces beautiful lush green hillsides. It is not as dramatic as Moorea as it is not peaked with tall volcanic peaks, but rather soft, green, palm tree and fern covered hillsides, only slightly mountainous. The little town comes to life in the morning with fruit and vegetable sellers. Yesterday a small cruise ship came in and there were some dance performances in the streets for the small group that went ashore. We noticed a small sign on the grocery store advertising a “spectacle” of dance at the local performing arts area. We decided to go, since we had not yet gone to see any Polynesian dance shows – the stuff in Tahiti looked too touristy and was also too hard to get to at night. So after a second dinner of fine dining at one of the local “roulettes” – the trucks that park by the dock and serve food – we headed off to the show. One rather drunk middle-aged surf bum gave us vague directions which made it sound very close. It turned out to be close to a half an hour walk down the main road. Luckily the road was in good shape, was lit, and there was very little traffic. The outdoor auditorium was perfect – just simple benches surrounding a large sand floor with warm tropical breezes blowing through. Nearly all of the people in the audience were local Huahinian and the show was great. There must have been about 60 dancers – all beautiful young girls and really strong and handsome young men. Just about an hour long, with a couple of fun costume changes, and lots of energy. They were probably not as “professional” as you might see elsewhere, but they were really into it, and the dancing, particularly among the women, was just great. It has been many years since we have seen Polynesian dancing, and it is quite beautiful when done without all the fire and hoopla that sometimes gets thrown in for tourists. For refreshments, the highlight for us was the fresh young coconuts – they had big piles of them and for a buck they would lop off the top and you took it away to drink. We were happy to find a whole string of local buses waiting outside after the show and we just hopped on with everyone else for a ride back to town.
Yesterday, July 25th, we moved to the southern-most part of the island, to Avea Bay. To get here you follow a deep water channel that cuts between the outside reef and the island. It is absolutely beautiful. You see the surf crashing up against the reef, but the water inside the reef (where we motor) is totally calm and various shades of blue. On the other side are the soft lush hills of the island, with assorted bays and white sandbeaches everywhere. The anchorage has a sandy bottom and places to snorkel, or walk on the beach, and it has a few restaurants as well. The swell that come up from the south from large curling waves that break heavily on the reef in this bay which faces southwest. This has made Huahine a favorite spot for surfers who live in cheap pensiones and talk among themselves about the wave forecast.


Moorea to Huahini

Huahine – July 22 – 23

We left Moorea on Sunday the 22nd to sail to Huahine. We left Moorea at
4:45 p.m., less than an hour before sunset. It is about an 85 nm sail
from Moorea to Huahine, just a bit too far to sail within the 11.5 hours
of daylight that we get here, so it is best to do this length of sail at
night. That way, assuming that you sail somewhere around 7 nm per hour,
you can reach your destination in the morning – with the sun high
overhead – and with lots of extra daylight hours available to you in
case of a slow passage.

We left beautiful Moorea at the same time as “Priscilla”, another
American boat in the anchorage. We had met Priscilla at the Shelter Bay
Marina in Panama last March just before our transit of the canal. The
people onboard, Tom and Suzie, are a very nice couple – about our age –
from Marion, Mass. We were glad to have someone to buddy sail with, even
though we were at least 10 nm apart the whole way.

Our sail was uncomfortable for the first few hours with no wind, and
lots of swell. By about 8:00 p.m., however, the wind came up, and with
our jib sail poled out in preparation for a downwind sail, things
improved. We checked in with Priscilla a few times on the VHF radio,
and found that having picked a slightly more southerly course than us,
they were having a terrible time. They just couldn’t get a good angle
to sail, and had to motor, with lots of uncomfortable sideways swells.
Mark took the first night shift and I went below for several hours of
sleep – until nearly 1:00 a.m. – when we had a check-in call with
Priscilla scheduled. They were still having a bad time, but we were
just cruising along comfortably. Mark went down to sleep after 1:00
a.m. and by the time I woke him at 6:00 we were just around the corner
from the anchorage in Huahine. We pulled in to the anchorage near the
town of Fare by 7:30 a.m. and were soon down below fast asleep. When we
finally dragged ourselves out of bed it was already early afternoon. It
took another hour or so to get the dinghy and engine set up, and we were
ready to go check out the town.

Fare is probably the cutest town we have seen in the South Pacific.
Very small, but with all the good stuff that we look for: a couple of
restaurants, a great grocery store, a public bathroom, lots of trash
cans, and an easy dinghy dock. We ran into a couple of people we know at
the grocery store, and oohed and aahed over the great selection of
vegetables they had there. We even found a new Melita coffee pot,
something we have been looking for in every store in the South Pacific.
We walked over to the gendarmerie to do our island check-in. You are
supposed to check in at each island, but we normally don’t, as we have
heard that it really only matters that you do an official check-in in
Tahiti, and an official check-out from your last port of call – which
will be Bora-Bora. Some people are very diligent about checking in,
most people don’t do it unless absolutely necessary. We are somewhere
in-between. In this case the gendarmerie was close by and it was very
easy to do, so we did it.

We decided to have dinner at one of the little trucks that parks by the
dock. It turned out to be excellent and very good value. They gave us
so much food that we ended up taking a lot home for lunch the next day.
It is kind of a funny system. You can order chicken, beef, or fish –
which they grill for you on the spot – and one or all of the available
accompaniments. The price doesn’t vary whether you order one or all of
the accompaniments, so we asked for all ( of course). They filled up a
plate with rice, french fries, bread and poisson cru, and then topped it
off with two huge pieces of meat. It was kind of ridiculous, but fun.
Nothing beats truck food. Back to the boat just at sunset, and then an
early bed-time.
P.S. Did I mention that it is pretty here?

Moorea – July 17-22

Check out our slideshows. We have re-organized them, added some labels, and there is a new slideshow for Tahiti and Moorea. To see the labels hold your curser anywhere over the top 1/4 of each picture and the text will show up. Not all slides have labels.
We just got skyped by Robin Ringer and it was so great to hear her and see her! Too bad we don’t have internet access more often. We have been able to talk with Hannah everyday in Moorea using Skype.

Moorea is like a Polynesian Nantucket:
Most people come here by private sailboat or private plane.
Both islands have a renowned fruit juice factory (Rotui Juices: Nantucket Nectars)
All of the hotels are fancy and expensive
Lots of restaurants – all expensive
Great biking
Beautiful harbor (well there are two here and one in Nantucket)

It is like one big huge resort area. We dinghied from Bay D’Oponohu where we are anchored, over to Cook’s Bay a few days ago. It is about a 3 mile dinghy ride. There is a coral reef between us and the other bay that is too shallow to even take the dinghy over , but there is a little path through the reef marked by navigational poles that allows you to go back and forth between the two bays. It is really pretty. It takes you right through the crystal clear water and you can see the fish in the reef as you dinghy by. You also go by the very beautiful thatched roof huts of the Sheraton Hotel which is very picturesque. We found restaurants and two grocery stores in Cook’s Bay, and a few touristy t-shirt and black pearl shops.

Yesterday we rented a car and drove around the island. The rental car agency is very accomodating to boaters and they sent a car over to the beach by the anchorage to pick us up in the morning. We drove around the whole island in just a few hours. The highlights of the trip were a view from Belvedere – a high point which gives you an outstanding view of both bays with the peak of Mount Rotui jutting up between them – and a second view on the other side of the island that looks out over the aquamarine blue of the reef, past crashing surf, over the dark blue of the ocean, and then over to Tahiti. Other than that our drive around the island was kind of disappointing as the road winds around and passes nothing of interest except lots of touristy looking shops and restaurants. We had lunch at a nice Italian restaurant ( $40 pasta anyone?), and bought a few pieces of fruit from one of the grocery stores. Mark was thrilled to find a hardware store open at noon where he could buy a small tube of plumbing cement ($30!). Almost every store, including grocery stores, banks, etc. are closed everyday from noon until about 2:00 or 2:30. We noticed that the big grocery store in Cook’s Bay is open on Sundays, but only from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. Guess you have to shop before church starts. We found that the most beautiful part of the island is the part we are anchored in, and the most beautiful view is the one we have from our own boat. By the end of the day we were anxious to get back on board and watch the sunset from our deck. Rain showers came and went all evening and it was very gusty. Late this afernoon we will depart on an overnight sail to Huahine, the next island in the Societies.

Tahiti to Moorea

We are now anchored just behind the reef in Baie D’Opunohu on the north side of the island of Moorea (South 17 minutes 29.57 minutes, West 149 degrees 51.12 minutes). This is a very pretty place with views to the high mountains often shrouded in clouds and to the fringing coral reef that protects the bay from waves. We arrived yesterday (July 17) afternoon after finally finishing up the list of tasks that kept us in Tahiti longer than we had hoped.

On Friday (7/13), we went to Immigration & Customs and the Port Captain in Papeete to do our formal check in (and check out) from French Polynesia. Even though we seemingly did the check-in in the Marquesas, and have 3 month visas in our passports, none of this really is official unless you do it all again in the only official port of entry, Papeete. We took “Le Truck” to town from Faaa along with a German sailor who has been the talk of the anchorage for the previous few days. He lost two fingers in his anchor windlass in the Tuamotus and had to be airlifted to the hospital in Papeete. His wife and someone from another boat then sailed his boat to Tahiti. He was leaving the next day for surgery in Germany and was going in for the customs clearance with his arm and hand covered in a cast.

We forgot to bring with us the piece of paper proving that we had purchased a cash bond, and when our turn came with the Immigration guy we were told to return when we had this paper. It has a hot day and is a real schlep into town, so the thought of going back to the boat and returning was not appealing. We walked into the port district again to return our defective Raymarine Lifetags, a man-overboard alert system that we purchased and installed in Bonaire. The local Raymarine dealer was very nice but took our unit and could not promise a replacement for 3 weeks, so it may be sent to us in Bora-Bora. We had a surprisingly nice lunch at Tom’s Snack Grill, a nondescript place located among marine and auto repair shops in the Fare Ute port district. We then went back to the boat, got our missing piece of paper,and returned for our check-in. Plus we got our check-out paper although that still requires us to appear at Immigration in Bora-Bora within 24 hours of our departure.

Our friends on “Vera” and “Roxi” arrived and we had five nights in a row of “sundowners” and/or dinner together. Sunday, we had a chance to snorkel the reef just 100 yards from where we were anchored and the water was crystal clear with some interesting fish, although the coral looked unhealthy. Monday was to be our last day and there was still lots to be done. We did an enormous shop at Carrefours in the morning. It was the largest single grocery tab we have ever paid. (As an example of the prices, a pack of three medium sized raw chicken breasts on “special” were $25! We passed on buying chicken.) We stocked up on litchi juice, Laura’s new favorite, and paper towels, among other things. Just dragging everything on board the boat took the whole morning. After lunch we picked up repair parts that had arrived for us from Amel in France and then went to pick up our propane tanks that we had left for refilling with the Mobil station near the marina. They did not have them and claimed ignorance of the whole affair. Laura used her “angry” French to finally get some action, but even then it took a second trip and some phone calls before our tanks finally appeared. Without them, we could not have left. All of this took until sundown, and it was too late to haul the dinghy and outboard onto the boat for the next day’s passage. We had a final potluck dinner on Vera, with lots of wine and some bawdy jokes. We may not see Vera again until September in Tonga as they do not have the visa limitation that we do in French Polynesia.

Tuesday morning we filled up on duty-free (but not tax-free) diesel at the bargain rate of $3.75 per gallon (versus $6.75 with duty),and then headed up the Faaa Channel to Papeete and the sea. At each end of the airport runway we halted to ask permission to cross and were immediately given this permission. Both times, we got a radio call 2 minutes later telling us to please turn around because a plane was about to land. Good thing we kept the radio on channel 12. The sail to Moorea was a bit bumpy but fast. The anchorage is quite small and 14 boats are crowded in. The most popular cruising guide calls this the most beautiful anchorage in French Polynesia, so that explains the crowd. Plus, some entrepeneurial soul sells wireless internet service to boats that one pays for with either Paypal, or by visiting the small house of Valerie and Francois on the beach and paying in cash. The signal quality is excellent.

Today, we checked out the Sheraton resort (very posh and snazzy), and then walked up the road to the end of the bay and back, stopping to buy a baguette. Back on the boat before sunset, we opened a bottle of wine to drink with brie and baguette when our Danish neighbors, Anders and Birgit, on “Margarita” stopped by. We had a pleasant couple of hours talking with them. We have seen them repeatedly in various places along our way, but never had a chance to talk at length until tonight. Their youngest daughter, age 16, swam over to join us later. Also on board is their 18 year old daughter and her boyfriend.


New Slideshows

We have posted some new slideshows on our web site covering the last two months of our travels. Important among these slide shows are photos from the visit of Hannah and Mia to the Marquesas.

Spazolas and Birthdays

Tahiti- July 9 -11th

Mark spent most of the day, July 9th, working on the fresh water pump and figuring out exactly how it works and trying everything possible to resurrect it. He only had one page of documentation, and it was in Italian, since it is an Italian pump. He had a maintenance kit that contained replacements for all of the moving parts of the pump. He replaced all the existing parts with the new parts, but it still did not work at more than half pressure. We went to shore late in the day to see if we could find Michel, a mechanic who works at the docks.  When we were there we ran into Karin and Jean-Francois from Intiaq, coming back from the Carrefour with their son-in-law and a huge pile of groceries. Their daughter, son-in-law and 3 year old grand-child are all visiting for a few weeks and they have been stuck here waiting for their luggage to arrive for 4 days. Jean-Francois is always so nice about offering to help on the boat, and despite having his special guests on board, he offered his assistance the next day if we needed. The mechanic, Michel, said he would come by the boat at 6:00 P.M., so we went back to the boat to wait. It was a gorgeous sun-set over Moorea, but Michel didn’t come.

On the 10th, my birthday, Jean-Francois called to offer his assistance. He came over with a birthday gift for me – a Swiss chocolate bar all wrapped up as only Karin knows how to do it – including sprigs of fresh basil from her little on-board garden. Mark had already gotten the pump going at half pressure, and when J.F. came over to help, the both worked on the problem for an hour and a half.  J.F. helped reset the top pressure for the system to one-half of what it is so the pump would shut down when that pressure was reached.  J.F. had to leave as his daughter was very anxious to get going – their luggage had been delivered at 3:00 a.m. and they were all ready to sail to Moorea. As they sailed away, J.F. talked with Mark on the VHF, with Karin translating, still trying to help resolve the problem. I had slipped away to shore to call Ben and Hannah for my birthday.

Later, Mark and I set out for town to try to find a new U.S. made pump, as it seemed that was the best solution. All of the chandleries are a bit out of town, so we took “le truck” into Papeete, but then had to
walk through a very industrial part of town to find the stores. It was the port area, filled with warehouses and trucks and dirty exhaust fumes.The first 3 chandleries we went to did not have what we wanted (of course), so we set out for the 4th and furthest one. After walking a little bit and not finding it, we  stopped at a coiffeur to ask about the address. The proprieter was so friendly – he looked up the phone number of the place, called them, and then told us it was too far to walk and he offered to drive us there. Thank goodness he did, as it was quite far, and we never would have found it. The store was excellent, and they had a very good pump for us – at only twice the price it sells for in the U.S. – a real bargain around here. We bought it and then found a bus back to town, and eventually back to the marina. With pump in hand we stopped at one of the restaurants at the marina ( Pink Coconuts), and enjoyed a delicious birthday dinner. An entreprenuriel young woman with a nice digital camera was taking pictures of the diners, and she took a great picture of us, which we bought as a souvenir of my 54th birthday.

Today, when Mark was putting away some of the spare parts from the Italian pump he noticed that the maintenance parts list included two items called “Spazolas”. These spazolas had not been included in our
maintenance kit as they should have been. Mark opened up the motor that drives the pump to check the status of the existing spazolas, and lo and behold, found that one of them was extremely well worn and suffering from overheating. Mark cleaned up the worn spazola as well as he could, and put it back in, and found that the pump now worked at nearly full pressure. Eureka! We could now shower (which we did!), and then the hunt was on for matching spazolas, since the worn one on the pump will not be reliable. So off we went to town again, to try to find these parts – they are actually carbon brushes, but they need to be the exact right size to work on our pump. We retraced our steps to all the stores we went to  yesterday, plus a whole bunch more – and found only a few spazolas, and none that were a perfect match. We will have to make do with the existing pump, and worn spazolas for now – and will replace the whole thing with the new pump once it fails again.


Tahiti – July 7 – 9

As I write this, Mark is down on his sore knees in the engine
room trying to fix our water pump that suddenly stopped working
this morning. Having no water on the boat is about as bad as
having a broken toilet – so it is pretty high priority for him
to fix it. Unfortunately our boat came with an Italian made pump
that came with no directions, so Mark has to get this worked out
on his own. Quite a challenge, and I am certainly no help at
all. We are anchored out in the harbor, having decided that
there was no advantage to moving into the marina – at least not
until our pump stopped working. We may try to move into the
marina tomorrow so we can at least use their showers and hoses
until this gets fixed. We have been to the town of Papeete a
few times now and we are not too thrilled with it. To get there
you catch “le truck” – one of a stream of badly driven and
rickety trucks that pick up passengers and take them between the
marina area and downtown Papeete. It is about a 20 minute drive
and the road is filled with cars and exhaust and it is a very
shabby looking place (except for the tourist resorts that we
drive by which do look very beautiful). The town of Papeete is
filled with shops and restaurants and entertainment of all
sorts, but we are not really that interested in all the hustle
and bustle -and there are just way too many cars. We had heard
that there were lots of activities going on this month in
celebration of Bastille Day, but the events we have seen so far
have been pretty threadbare – for example, the tourist guide
talks about multitudes of food stalls operating by the
waterfront, but they are just trucks selling very expensive,
very bad looking semi-Chinese food.

One of the pluses of being here is the terrific, huge grocery
store – one of the French Carrefour chain – just a few blocks
away, and we have already been there 4 times trying to stock up
on everything we can. They let you take the carts back to the
marina which is incredibly helpful. It is fun going there just
because we run into so many people we know. All the boaters are
doing a lot of shopping and it is pretty much impossible to walk
over there without running into at least 3 couples we know.
There are a ton of American boats here and most of them know
each other. We are definitely not in the “in group” here – since
we have spent most of our time on the trip so far with a handful
of boats which are all European, but we do recognize the names
of the American boats, and have at least met many of them at
some point along the way.

The Carrefour store is in a mall with several other stores
including a hairdresser – so we were finally able to get
haircuts. The hairdresser was good, but very very quick with the
scissors and I think my head looks a little too much like Daffy
Duck, but at least it is better than before. He went a little
scissor happy with Mark and proceeded to shear off almost all
his hair, plus most of his beard and mustache. I think it looks
good, but it does take some getting used to. It may be months
again before we get to treat ourselves to a “coiffeur” again.

Prices here are absolutely crazy. We passed by some fruit
vendors on our way to Papeete yesterday and they were selling
small watermelons for $15 each. We actually walked out of a
restaurant on the dock the other day when we saw the prices, and
even the local MacDonald’s sells their meals for about $10 each.
Cheap looking skirts in the mall sell for $60 and flip-flops
range from $15 to $40 – and I am not talking about fancy
designer styles either. Wine and beer are heavily taxed, and a
small bottle of coke is about $2.50. It is hard to imagine how
people can afford to live here. Even the fruit, which was almost
free in the Marquesas, is extremely expensive – several dollars
for a small bag of lemons.

Will keep you posted on our water situation…..

Safe arrival in Tahiti – July 5, 2007

Thursday, July 5th

We arrived safely in Papeete, Tahiti at about 2:00 p.m. today.
We are actually staying in a little lagoon just west of
Papeete,Lagon de Punaauia. To get there you have to navigate
through a 4 mile long channel that is bordered by a reef which
takes you right by the airport. You have to call the port
captain and ask for permission to cross the water in front of
the runway before you proceed. There are at least 100 boats
anchored here so it took us some time to find a spot and get
ourselves safely tucked away. We saw Intiaq but it was too
crowded near them to anchor. We heard several people calling on
the radio, and they were all boats we have seen and/or met in
other places on our trip, and all around us are familiar boats.
I guess this is one spot that no one can bypass if they do a
circumnavigation. Papeete is a big town (over 100,000 people)
and we hope to get a lot of work and shopping done – we also
hope we can see some of the festivities that are going on in
preparation for Bastille Day. Our passage here from Taou was 230
miles and took about 32 hours. It was a fast and windy passage.
One other boat, “Madam”, left the little bay in Taou at the
same time we did, and we established radio contact with them
during the trip. They are a French boat – owned by Katherine and
Bruno – who are on their second circumnavigation – their first
one being completed over a several year period, with breaks to
go home and work.

On our last day in Taou it was extremely windy and most of the
people in the harbor went into shore to hang out at Valentine
and Gaston’s guest-house. We had become friendly with pretty
much everyone there, and the afternoon turned out to be a very
fun informal party. Valentine likes to trade the black pearls
they harvest for goods from yachters, and she spent much of the
afternoon with all of us – letting us pick out a higher quality
pearl or two in exchange for goods such as rum or good kitchen
utensils, and lesser quality pearls in exchange for whatever the
heck we can come up with. We gave her a bottle of rum and some
of the other stuff they needed such as toilet paper, soap,
toothpaste and some super-glue. Valentine had Gaston drill a
little hole in the nicer of the pearls I got so I could wear it
right away as a necklace – a nice souvenir of our lovely time
spent in Taou. We were sorry we had to get ready to leave the
next day as we liked all the yachties who were there – and our
friends on Yara had just arrived. Gaston and Valentine are also
truly hospitable people. It is just incredible how welcoming
they are to all the boaters there. They are happy to accept
gifts, but they give a tremendous amount in return. As an
example I had asked Gaston if they had a small amount of
filleted fish that I could cook for dinner. At sunset Gaston
came out to the boat with about 3 pounds of beautifully cleaned
and filleted parrot-fish – and didn’t ask for a thing in return.
– although I did run below and grab a big bar of chocolate for
him. Parrot fish is not something I would normally want to eat
– the parrot fish are so beautiful, it doesn’t seem right, but
that is what they eat here. It was actually very delicious. It
was sad to leave Taou.

leaving for Tahiti

We are leaving for Tahiti at dawn tomorrow (July 4). The winds are currently quite strong but the weather forecast shows less strong winds tomorrow and then they rapidly diminish to essentially nothing over the next two days, and then continue that way for at least the next five days. No wind makes for great snorkeling on the reef, but then we would have to remain here in Toau at least a week more and who knows what the weather might bring then. So it is time to savor the delights of the Society Islands (Tahiti, Huahine, Moorea, Raiatea, Tahaa, and Bora-Bora). We leave French Polynesia from Bora-Bora, and have only 5 weeks left on our visas.

On departure from Toau, we pass between Niau and Kaukura, and then our course takes us southwest from the Tuamotus on a heading of 231 degrees magnetic all the way to Passe de Papeete, across the harbor, and then down the Chenal de Faaa to the Marina Taina, we were may be able tom get a berth, or anchor nearby in the lagoon or across from the Maeva Beach Hotel. There is a large Carrefours supermarket (our favorite from La Rochelle, Martinique, and Guadeloupe) only 1/4 mile away, and internet access.  as about 120,000 residents, more than half the population of all of French Polynesia. We are told (by Rishu Maru) that you can see a McDonalds from the anchorage (they have an 7 year old, so they look for those things).

After a very rainy and gusty few days, Sunday morning saw high barometric pressure, clear blue skies, and a return to tradewinds from the ESE. We took the opportunity to snorkel the reefs extensively. The coral is beautiful as is the diversity of sea life. Early on we spotted a lemon yellow fish with black stripes that we had not seen before. The fish was smallish and pretty but certainly not the prettiest fish in the reef. Five minutes later we saw another just like it. As I followed Laura through gaps in the reef, I realized that
this fish was following Laura where ever she went — the first fish we saw was probably this same fish. For the next 30 minutes, this fish never moved more than 6 inches from Laura’s or my thighs. We would occasionally bump fish head and thigh. He would always follow one of us very closely. Finally, we returned to the anchored dinghy. Laura got in first and the fish immediately returned to nuzzle my thighs. Then I got into the dinghy and we motored 1/4 mile away to another part of the reef. As we got in the water, he was there again — he was right up to our thighs and began to follow us again. Later, we
took the dinghy again to another part of the reef, and we got in the water, and there he was. We are quite certain it was the same fish. He had followed the dinghy in order to stay close to us. We had now developed a real affection for our little fish friend. The return to the boat took us 3/4 of a mile across an open and deep channel where  predators could lurk, but we hoped that he would follow. I motored at the slowest possible speed, but to our disappointment, he was gone. Someone told us that he is a Sargeant Major” fish. These fish fixate on something, like a snorkel mask, and faithfully follow.

Sunday evening we hosted a “Pride and Prejudice” party with “Vera” and “Roxi” as guests. The weather changed and squalls brought heavy rain. Even though the winds were strong Monday (yesterday), we spend the day cleaning the boat hull. First we cleaned the seaweed and little critters off of and just below the waterline. Then, using the “electric hookah” and a scuba regulator, I dove under the boat the cleaned the prop, rudder, and keel. I kept bumping into the remora fish who attach their heads to the hull bottom in order to eat the crud that grows on it. If they would do their eating faster, I would not have to work so hard.

Last night we had a pot luck on shore. Laura made her famous Indonesian beef (rendang), using the last of our Panamanian beef in the freezer. Valentine and Gaston, our hosts, contributed bread and chicken they prepared over an open fire. Also present were the boats Vera, Roxi, Betsy, Serenade (an Amel), Esperanza, and Ironie. Today is dedicated to preparations for our sail tomorrow and to thanking Valentine and Gaston for their generosity.

We will send an update while enroute.


Taou – June 25th to June 30

We have been in Toau for nearly six days now. We arrived last Monday morning, June 25th at about 7:00 a.m. We were thrilled to be met at the entrance of the anchorage by our friends Michael and Britta on “Vera”. The family who lives here normally comes out to help boats, but they were not monitering their VHF radio at the time, and when we called, it was Vera who answered. Toau is an atoll, and like all the atolls in the Tuomotos, it consists of a coral reef that ranges from lurking just under the surface to as high as a few feet above sea level, surrounding a lagoon. It is considered a moderately sized  lagoon – several miles across. Some of the other atolls have lagoons that are much
larger, like the one in Rangiroa which is 45 miles long and in Fakarava which is 30 miles long and 10 miles wide! Most of these atolls are very sparsely populated, and Taou has only 40 inhabitants. The anchorage is not actually in the lagoon, but in a nice sheltered cove on the northwest side, just outside a break in the reef. The anchorage has 9 mooring lines chained to large pieces of coral and each one is taken by a cruising boat. It is an extremely safe place to be if the winds change direction, and rather unusual, as most of the other atolls have no moorings at all – people simply drop anchor and if the winds change direction one has to pick up anchor and move so as not to be blown into the coral. Gaston and Valentine are a married couple who run the operations here – maintaining the mooring lines, helping the new yachties, and arranging delicious fish dinners several times a week on shore. They also have a small black pearl business.The lagoon is full of fish, including sharks and lots of moray eels are sticking their heads out from the coral heads on the bottom. When the wind is not blowing too hard the water is crystal clear.

We had some very unsettled weather here the past few days with winds shifting to the north, then 36 hours of squalls from the west, and now a “maramu” — strong outherlies and rain. In the Marquesas, the wind never came out of a direction that did not have the word “east” in it. We are lucky to be where we are. We actually had to move to a different mooring on our second day here, as there was a large coral bombie about 100 feet away from the boat, and as the winds started switching around we realized that  ooner or later that big thing would be directly under our boat, and it was very likely to do some serious damage to our hull. This is a snug little lagoon but even then we were getting tossed around a bit. In the huge lagoon in Fakarava (next door) many boats
(including our friends on Intiaq) were suffering since this unusual wind shift left them anchored on the wrong side of things – too close to coral heads and the lee shore of the atoll. Mark chose Toau in part because it would not leave us in danger if an unusual wind shift occurred.

A few nights ago we had dinner at Gaston and Valentine’s seaside “restaurant”. They do not charge for use of the moorings, but the expectation is that you will come to dinner at least once during your stay and they charge a nice fat sum for that. It was a fun dinner – Vera was there as well, along with their very good friends on Roxi (a British couple who are supposed to be doing the circumnavigation with Vera, but who kind of fell behind in Panama when they decided to go hiking for a few weeks, and didn’t catch up with Vera until this week), an American boat captained by a very flower child-like young man, and some Austrian friends on the boat Esperanza. They serve a terrific  meal, but you have to like seafood – there was langostine, poisson cru ( raw fish marinated in coconut milk), parrot fish, and at least 2 other types of fish – plus coconut bread, rice, and a huge coconut cream pie for desert. Quite a feast. Yesterday as we tied up the dinghy at the very nice dock here we were surprised to see a 5 foot long dead shark sitting at the edge of the dock. Gaston had apparently caught it and had left it on the dock . I am not exactly sure what he intended to do with it, but we have seen them making necklaces out of all sorts of fish bones and teeth.

We expect to leave for Tahiti sometime next week, if the weather cooperates. We are in dire need of a real supermarket and a list of things for the boat. We are really going mostly to re-provision and then move on. Our visas expire on Aug 11 and we have to go all the way to Bora-Bora before we leave as that is where our “bond” will be waiting ($2800 in cash that we had to post to get a 90 day visa).