Monday, June 30, 2008

I wrote the blog on the vanilla tour about a week ago but just got a chance to post it today. Thought I would do a short update on our activities. We sailed to Tahaa and have been exploring that island. We have anchored in 4 different spots, one of which gave us a beautiful view of the famous twin mountains of Bora Bora. I spent an evening with my camera trying to capture the sunset, it was magnificent, and the picture does not do it justice.
The island of Tahaa is almost bisected by two bays. We anchored in the bay on the east side and then climbed up the road to see what we could see on the west side. We made a sorry looking couple, Barry gimping along with the help of a stick and me slightly limping even though I was wearing the prescribed supportive shoes. My foot is a lot better but still hurts when we walk a lot. Barry’s hip just hurts all the time! We had fun wandering about on this road.
Anchorage on the west side of island
We saw a papaya tree with fruit just falling off it, so helped ourselves to a few. I thought you might be interested to see how they grow.
The anchorage in the picture is on the west side, we sailed around the south side of the island and stopped there the next day. The following day I wanted to anchor near the motus on the north side of the island out by the reef. We tried several different spots but Barry was leery about the holding so we just stayed long enough for a snorkel and then headed off in a different direction. Generally the water is about 100 feet deep and then it shoals very quickly and you see coral and white sand. The trick is to find a spot where it is shallow enough to anchor safely and not too close to the reef so you don’t blow onto it and hit bottom. We had put the anchor down right near the drop off and when I was snorkeling I could see the edge of the coral where it got deep, I really enjoyed swimming around looking at the different types of coral and all the fish.
We are currently back anchored off Raiatea where I knew there was an internet site. We will probably stay here a couple of days and then head to Bora Bora. Hope everyone in Canada has a terrific Canada Day, enjoy.
A church along the edge of Tahaa, notice the boat just leaving the dock and if you look close you will see a bunch of villagers that were greeting the boat.
This was taken June 19, the day after our 34th wedding anniversary
We are in paradise, for the past three days we have been anchored in a gorgeous spot. There is a sandy beach with palm trees, the water is that amazing light blue that you see when you have a white sand bottom and with crystal clear water. It is quiet and serene; if you listen carefully you can hear the waves crashing on the barrier reef. The reef is wonderful, it stops the ocean swells from entering the anchorage and so we have a flat calm spot that allows an uninterrupted sleep. Simply marvelous: we live in our bathing suits and if we get too hot we just dive in and cool off.
We went snorkeling yesterday and the coral was spectacular. I thought I was in the Finding Nemo movie when the Dad was showing Nemo how to hide in the coral. We would swim close to a coral head and all the tiny fish would disappear into the mass of coral, if you just hung there in the water and didn’t move, in a few moments all the colourful little fish would reappear. I had never seen so many different types and colours of coral, I wish I had an underwater camera to capture their beauty. We had seen the stuff that looks like brains before and it is not too exciting but here there are fans and branches and all sorts of other kinds and the colours were exquisite.
A couple of days ago we rented a car with Cathy and Brian from Tarun and toured Huahine. It was a great change of pace and it was super to share the day and the expense with good friends. The island has a number of ruins from ancient times and they had been written up quite well. Barry exclaimed at how thrilled he was to see yet another pile of old rocks but he did admit at the end of the day that there was quite a variety of ruins on the island.
It was our mission to explore every road and we almost managed. At one point we turned around because the road was just a soupy mix of slippery clay. We stopped and fed the fresh water eels at one point. They were pretty creepy and I was glad that they were 10 feet away in very shallow water with no way of touching us.

Vanilla is one of the crops on the island so we stopped with great anticipation at the sign that proclaimed “Vanilla Tour”. We all had visions of the last tour we had taken on the atoll of the pearl farm and what a wonderful experience that had been. We got out of the car and there was one man that was fixing some old piece of machinery in a barn like structure. He eventually acknowledged us and waved us over to a stand he had set up. There was a briefcase on the stand, with great fanfare he opened it and waved it under our noses. We all sniffed with great enthusiasm; there were about 10 packages of vanilla beans in the case. Then he took out a package and opened it and waved it under our noses. Then he said 1000 francs for a package and then pointed at a sign that indicated that you were supposed to remember your guide. THAT was the end of the tour, we were actually quite stunned. We couldn’t believe what had just happened to us and as we drove away one of the other of us would break out into a guffaw and snort out "vanilla tour"!!!!
We are going to head to Tahaa, which is and island just north of Raiatea. Tahaa and Raiatea are surrounded by the same reef. We will spend awhile there and then head on to Bora Bora. We will leave French Polynesia from Bora Bora and we have to be gone by July 19 and we want to be in Bora Bora for Bastille Day, (July 14, I think) which is a huge celebration down here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

We have had an eventful few days. We moved around the island of Raiatea and I decided to go snorkeling. When I got back to the boat and took off my snorkeling booties I noticed that the ball of my right foot was very large, extremely so, in fact. I showed Barry and he who usually does not react to any of my hurts says “Oh, you had better get that looked at.” Well then I was really worried, I had visions of them cutting holes in my foot and draining buckets of puss out of it and me being on crutches, etc, etc.
We were anchored across the bay, about a mile by dinghy from access to town. It was blowing pretty hard and Barry would not leave the boat and come with me, so off I went in the dinghy with the slow leak! I made it across with no problems, left the dinghy at a lovely looking hotel and hitched a ride into town. I went to the hospital and in my pitiful but understandable French made them aware of the fact that I had a sore foot and wanted to see a doctor. Well I was nicely sent down the corridor, out the door and around the corner to a clinic, where there were a zillion people all apparently waiting to see a doctor. Once again my inadequate French was put to use and I was motioned to sit with the unwashed masses and wait!! Eventually they motioned me into the receptionist’s office and someone was found who could speak some English and after much toing and froing they sent me downtown to a fancier office to see a doctor, I must have been at the free clinic or something and once they looked at me they figured I could pay. Anyway, off I went and found the doctor and got to see him right away. He assured me that he would not have to cut my foot open, that all I had to do was to wear proper shoes, (he also gave me some prescription that I have to put on my foot for 12 days). All that walking that I was doing when we were on the hard to get money to pay the bill, apparently did my foot in. I used to have to come back to the boat and lie down with my feet up because my feet were so sore. I am now taking it easy and keeping my weight off my foot as much as possible.
Okay so I got through all that and then I had to get back to the boat. Well the wind had come up even more, the dinghy was on a lee shore and the waves were crashing into this area where I had it tied up. I had tied it off bow and stern and the waves would crash in under a dock and the dinghy would rear up with the wave and then come to the end of the rope and crash back down. It was rather spectacular to watch but a little daunting to think of getting into it and motoring out of the area!!! The dinghy was full or water and I had left my wonderful lifejacket that only inflates if it gets wet in the bottom of the dinghy. I picked up the lifejacket to put it on and whoosh it inflated. Oh well the cartridge was getting old anyway. I manage to pull the dinghy around the dock and had it tied off at the edge so as soon as I got the motor started I could just zoom away. Well I had a fellow waiting to untie me once I got going and I tried to start the motor, well I pulled and pulled and pulled on that stupid starter. It usually is a very dependable motor. I was nearly at the end of my rope when I realized I had taken the spacer out and without that in the motor was never going to start, man did I feel dumb. I put the spacer in and one pull and vroom! I got the guy to cast off and I set off for the boat. It was upwind and the waves were rolling and whitecapping in the bay. Man did I get wet on the way across, I was absolutely soaked. About 3/4 ‘s of the way across the engine sputtered and I thought, oh no what would I do if it quit, but it only sputtered once and then purred away. When I got back to the boat Barry had thought I had flipped it because my lifejacket was inflated and there was so much water in the dinghy.
A couple of days later we set out for Huahine, pronounced who-a-he-knee, which is east of Raiatea. That meant that we had to go to weather to get there or pound into the wind and waves. The wind was still up, we put a triple reef in and just had a bit of headsail out. It was only 20 miles, by the time we were halfway here, Barry figured we should turn around and go back and he wasn’t sure why we had ever set out in the first place. The boat was handling the weather fine and I was having a gay old time. Every once in a while though I would look at the waves and think man these are pretty big. They are probably the biggest seas we have ever been out in. About 6 miles from the entrance we had the full genoa out and the wind was whacking away at the sail and the poor old genoa just couldn’t take any more. I looked up and noticed that the top of the sail had parted from the halyard and was going to start coming down. We quickly furled it up and motored the rest of the way into the anchorage. Another adventure safely finished with.
Barry hauled me up the mast today and I got the halyard down and we managed to get the sail on the deck without getting it too wet. It has been very windy and rainy here for the past week so the timing of going up the mast was a little tricky, we would wait for a big gust to go by and then he hauled me up. We put on our smaller furling sail, our yankee which looks to be in much better shape than the genoa. The poor old genoa is pretty much beaten up, it is amazing what 3000 miles of ocean sailing will do to a sail. We are hoping to rent a car with the couple from Taran and head off around Huahine in a couple of days. We went to town today and scoped out the place. It was a nice little spot with a great grocery store. I look forward to seeing the rest of the island on Thursday.
If you managed to read this far, just wanted you to know that the picture is when we were approaching Tahiti. It has been too miserable to take any pictures the last few days.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Glory Hallelujah! The mechanic knew what he was doing and the engine started about 30 minutes after he came on board. Apparently it was air in the fuel line, we got a very expensive lesson on how to bleed your motor. We had never had to do it and the process was not described in the manual, so who knew??? We are back at anchor in Raiatea and all is well.
We thought we had troubles! We spent the day helping a couple from New Zealand decommission their boat and put it on the hard. Paul has heart problems, he could hardly walk 20 feet without sitting down and gasping with pain. Gina his wife was having to do all the work on the boat herself as he could not manage anything. They are heading home to New Zealand to where they can hopefully get the problem fixed. Barry and I cleaned and packed up the deck, deflating dinghies, put away sails, covering their bright work everything we could to lend a hand. It felt good to lend a hand where we could. We are going to hang around Raiatea for a few days and then hopefully head for Huahine.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

We sailed to Moorea, an island just 12 miles away from Tahiti last week. We really enjoyed our stay there. We went to see Polynesian dancing at the Bali Hi Hotel there, they get everyone to participate. It is amazing the way those women’s hips gyrate, I did it for a few minutes and it was a real workout. Barry did get on his feet but could not manage the knees in and out motion, but he did get up and participate so good for him. His hip has been getting progressively worse and some days I wince as I watch him walk.

While in Moorea we rented a car and drove around the island. It has some spectacular views and we would not have been able to see them on foot. While driving around we found the road to the waterfall. It kept getting smaller and rougher the further up the hill we went. Barry finally refused to go any further when it got quite muddy. I headed up to the falls on my own as it was not a good hip day for Barry. It was a nice 20 minute stroll although I think I liked the small 2 foot waterfall in the jungle better than the huge falls. Well, there wasn’t hardly any water coming over the falls, it is dry season here, so that may have influenced my decision, hmmmm! We stopped and had lunch and did some shopping and then went down to a beach on the island so it was a good day; very busy.

I have a cookbook from the Bluewater Cruising Assoc. and at the start of every section is a picture. While I was paging through it awhile ago I noticed that there was a picture of Cat’s-Paw IV at the start of the dessert section. The picture was taken in Cook’s Bay, Moorea about 10 years ago when Cat’s-Paw was here with her former owners. I decided to have a dessert party once we were in Cook’s Bay so Saturday was the day. We had people from every boat in the bay onboard and I cooked 4 desserts and Cathy from Tarun brought another, so we had sugary sweet stuff and rum punch all afternoon. There was an English couple, an American trio, a Danish couple, a Spanish girl as well as 4 Canucks on board, a great mix. It went quite well, but I have too many desserts left. I froze some of the carrot cake so hopefully it will still be good in a couple of weeks when we can look a dessert in the face again!!

We left Moorea yesterday thinking we were just going to go to the next bay, but when we were in the pass on the way out of Cook’s Bay, the motor decided to quit. Luckily we had the sails ready and the wind was on the beam, so out we sailed into 20 knots of wind and 10 foot seas. Poor Barry had to check the fuel line, change the fuel filter and bleed the lines in an attempt to get the motor going. He was looking pretty green for awhile there. I just sailed away from land waiting until he could trouble shoot the problem. Well, shit, (sorry Mom) he couldn’t get the damn thing started so then we had to decide the best plan of action. There is a boat yard in Raitea so we headed that way; it was about an 85 mile sail. The seas did not let up and we both did not eat any supper and were pretty green about the gills, probably the most uncomfortable night I have spent aboard. Using the Sat phone we managed to get a hold of someone who was willing to come out and give us a tow. We sailed right up to the entrance to the reef and a boat came out and we tied up and he pulled us in. At the moment we are tied bow and stern to the boatyard jetty and someone is supposed to come this afternoon and help us get the motor going. We are glad we got here safe and sound and hopefully our problem will be solved later today.

Getting towed into Raitea!!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Pictures as promised from the atoll Manihi and the pearl farm tour.
Cathy ( from Tarun) and I on a pass through the reef in Manihi, I wouldn't want to try this on in Cat's-Paw IV!!LLooking for the very beginnings of the oysters out in the water. Barry on the dock leading to the building where the oysters and hopefully pearls are harvested.

Our guide examining the pearls to figure out thier quality.

Aren't they beautiful.

Looking in the pass into Manihi, thank goodness for GPS and good cruising guides. A boat that came in a couple of days before us touched bottom twice on the way in!!
The view from the back of the boat yard, see the moat and the seawall.

Our home for eight days. I hated the mosquitoes, they ate me alive. Damage to the keel, yech!
The view from the bottom
Damage to the skeg, looks worse than it is, we were quite worried about this crack.Repairs to the keel and skeg, the boatyard came in under budget and it looks great, time will tell if it truly is as good as it looks but we are back in the water and very happy to be there!!! It's been several days since I composed the last blog. We have been busy and are ready to leave Papeete tomorrow, I think. We checked out officially today and will head to Moorea an island about 12 miles away, not far. I forgot to tell you that Barry has shorn his locks. He couldn't take the heat and said that his hair was too hot on the back of his neck and those beautiful silver ( not golden anymore) locks are all gone as is the wildman beard, it is much shorter now so he looks quite civilized. I am going to try and upload some pics so wish me luck.
We are going back into the water shortly. The repairs are completed and the boat looks pretty good. We managed to clean her up and do some varnishing as well as get some welding done. Barry had a new connection for the boom vang made, it goes halfway around the mast, not all the way as he wished but hopefully it will hold better than the last 2 brackets have. He has to make more holes in the mast to connect it and he is not thrilled about that. We also had parts of the wind vane welded, a connecting strut had rusted and rather than just do a simple spot weld that may not have held, the struts are now welded to the vane so hopefully they won’t fall apart, knowing salt water and it’s corrosive actions I imagine it will go to work on a different part of the vane.
We had a SMALL part for the wind vane (I am talking 6 inches by 4 inches by 4 inches) shipped here. The part cost $90, the shipping $110, outrageous. Unlike Mexico you can get stufF shipped here it is just soooo expensive, unless you really need it you don’t bother ordering it.
Okay enough complaining did I tell you much about Papeete. It is a city of 170,000 people so it was a bit of culture shock the first time we came ashore after 2 months of being on the boat and going ashore in tiny villages. It has everything a city has, there are lots of traffic jams in the downtown area, the infrastructure has not kept up with the growth. The hotels in the downtown core are a bit seedy looking, needing a coat of paint and some upgrading of furnishings. Every third store downtown sells pearls, black, green, silver and shades of purple, they are gorgeous. There is a market that takes over a city block, inside there are all sorts of tourist treats, necklaces, fresh flowers which are made into wreaths for your hair, beautiful printed cloth that is made into clothing as well as coverups, palm fronds woven into hats and bags as well as fresh fruit, fresh fish and places where you can get baguette sandwiches (they are really good).
The women here are beautiful, the South Sea’s maiden come to life. There is a huge Chinese population here and the mixture of the 2 races, Polynesian and Chinese is often stunning. There is also an obvious French influence, the attitude just exudes from these women as they strut around in their long form fitting dresses with slits up to mid thigh and their high heels, it is all I can do to keep myself out of the stores, what do I need a dress like that for??? It helps that everything is “tres cher”! My limited French is coming in very handy and most times I can make myself understood. I find when in stressful situations though the words just fly out of my head. Most of the Americans here can not speak a word of French, so after Mexico where most Americans had a decent knowledge of Spanish, I feel vaguely superior in a linguistic sense.
Oh, I should tell you about the public transportation. It is called Le Truc and is a flat bed truck with bench seating down each side and a roof. The roof is not tall enough for you to stand up so you get in and hunch as you shuffle down the isle. There are usually only Polynesian people on board, no other white people unless they are other cruisers. The larger Truc’s have a extra bench seat down the middle and you straddle that seat and sit facing the front or back. The sides have half windows so you have some built in air-conditioning. The price per person is 130 francs or the equivalent of $1.50, this is a real deal and they run fairly often, every ten minutes or so. It is 45 minutes on Le Truc to get from downtown to marina Taina where we will anchor the boat once we get lifted in. At the marina you can dock your dinghy for free, there is free potable water and showers and there is a laundry, as well as good access to Le Truc, all any cruisers could really want. We haven’t made any plans on where we are going next but we will keep in touch.