Tuesday, May 29, 2012


No bus tours. No taxis. No guides. So how do you sight see in the atolls of the Tuamotus? You get in your dinghy with a full tank of fuel and just head out! We started with "our" motu and the next day walked around the next motu. There we saw some very cool giant clams – not quite as big as the ones that would always grab Tarzan's foot – but certainly bigger than the steamers you get at a New England clambake! The cool part of these clams is the bright colors on the scalloped rim. These were a magnificent bright green.

We watched some black tipped reef sharks feeding off the coral patch near our boat (and now we're supposed to jump in and shower???). There were probably five sharks and you could clearly see the shark fins with their distinctive black tips skimming the top if the water. Michael did go in the water after that sighting to change the zinc on the shaft. He was quick about getting it done!

On Monday, we took a longer dinghy trip past several other motus to the one that the Kon Tiki raft landed upon after 4300 sea miles. There is a small memorial on the motu, buried in the trees, that pays tribute to Thor Heyerdahl and the crew of the raft. We had to do some washing of the plaque so we could read it – so not many visitors to this sight. We did the obligatory photos.

We walked around that motu and it wasn't as rich with sea life as the others – perhaps a different time of day and tidal action. But it's always fun to look and wonder. The island did have a lot of these pretty white sea birds nesting in the trees. We aren't sure exactly what they are – but they are very white, rather small for sea birds and have big black eyes. They are quite magnificent fliers – making quick turns and often flying in formations of two or three – very synchronized.

We worked our way back towards Astarte and stopped at an all sand motu to collect a float that had drifted up on the shore. There are lots of floats on these beaches from all the pearl farms in the area. We are planning on using them to "float" our anchor chain off the bottom to keep it off the coral heads and rocks. This is something we hadn't heard of before – but have read about in all the cruiser information we have about the Tuamotus. So we may try.

Today we were going to do some dinghy repairs – but unfortunately the glue we have has no instructions – so we may have to postpone that project until we can get some info.

Bread baking day – no handy french "patisseries" on the motus so no baguettes or croissants. Bummer.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Our Private “Motu”

The wind was really "hooting" and so we left the "village" side of the lagoon and made our way, very carefully, to the other side. We had to wait until the sun was high enough to see the various coral patches and shallow spots as we made our way across the lagoon (about 7 miles wide) to the other side where we would have better protection from the swells. The islands are low sand/coral islets – not much height for wind protection, but wind we can handle – it's the swells we wanted to escape.

As we got underway, we had to avoid pearl farms and the coral heads. So Barbara positioned herself on the bow railing to get a higher perspective. Michael made some "rat lines" on the side of the boat – these are lines attached to the stays so you can climb them and get a higher view. Barbara will use these for the next watch. Luckily the sun was out and though it was choppy, we did motor our way safely across and found our own little islet to anchor behind. It is what you see in the postcards about the South Pacific. The palm studded, white sandy beached island all to yourselves. Lovely.

Yesterday we did lots of boat projects and then took the afternoon to circum-ambulate our "motu." The walk around was really interesting. The island is covered in coral rock (dead coral chunks) and is not that easy to walk on so we stayed in the shallow water surrounding the island. There were thousands of crabs of various types running around the island. Bright red hermit crabs, some red-eyed crabs, and some "leaping" crabs. They would always manage to startle you. In the water, Michael was doing his typical exploring. That means turning over rocks and sticking his hand in holes. Crazy! An eel sent him jumping at one point. There were lots of various sized eels throughout the rocks – mostly the snowflake or zebra morays, we think. Fun to watch. A few tropicals were close to shore as well. But they would move very quickly out of the way. We collected some very pretty shells – making sure there was nothing living inside (or so we thought.) After we got back to the boat and put the shells out – it seemed almost all of them did indeed have a little crab inside. So unfortunately, back they went. One shell that we were certain was empty (and so got washed in fresh water and set out to dry on the counter – decided to move after about an hour and crawl across the counter. Amazing he survived his soapy bath! But he did and so back he went as well. The shell collection started at 12 shells and ended with five.

We enjoyed the company that night of the folks from "S/V Buena Vista" who dinghied quite a way for sundowners. They have their own little motu nearby – but far enough that we all have our privacy.

This is really a lovely place. Today, we'll get in the water for some hull cleaning and Michael will replace the zinc on the prop. Tomorrow, the wind should be down enough that we'll try to dinghy our way to the Kon-Tiki landing sight and memorial (it's a few miles away). We'll probably take another walk and tide pool again today as well.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Entering the atolls of Tuamotu

We made it. The anchor is set inside the lagoon of Raroia. Entering the atolls is a challenging, and frankly frightening, experience. First a little about the Tuamotu Archipelago. It is one of the island groups of the French Polynesian Islands and is very different than the Marquesan group we just left. The Tuamotus are coral atolls – one is a raised atoll, others are "true" atolls with unbroken circular coral reefs, and and several small "motus" or islets that make up the circular edge that surrounds a lagoon. Some are very large, others are small. Rain is the only source of fresh water on the seventy-six islands or atolls that comprise the archipelago. Thirty of the atolls are permanently uninhabited and the rest have small populations. Pearl farming is now the big job here and you can see the oysters hanging from lines suspended in the water of the lagoons with floats. On the bad news side – the Tuamotus was where the French conducted 175 nuclear tests both atmospheric and underground starting in 1963. Luckily that is all over now.

Our first stop is Raroia and Sandra C. wins the prize for correctly identifying this place as the location where the raft, "Kon Tiki" captained by Thor Heyerdahl landed in 1947 after his 4,300 mile three and a half month epic journey from Peru. We will visit the actual sight later.

We completed our "epic" four and a half day journey around 1400 today (Thursday). Entering an atoll's pass takes planning, witchcraft, prayers, and a lot of luck. These atolls are all sharp coral reefs and there is sometimes one or perhaps two entrances into the central lagoon. The lagoons are quite large masses of water and so tides really flow in and out of the narrow passages. Add to the tides rushing in and out, wind, current, the location of the cut (windward or leeward side), the width and depth of it and clarity of water to see the fringing coral. Yikes! There are all these various ways to figure it all out – with published tide tables, using mooonrise and moonset calculations, and tons of local information gathered over the years by other boaters. The tide tables are quite general, and never for your exact location. And the moon calculations are pretty general, accurate within a couple hours. The local information is good, but you are never exactly sure of the source or accuracy. Put it all together and get a time window you hope is close. The best of course, is on site-eyeball navigation. Then you take your best shot. We arrived at daybreak and had to wait until the tides was right – we guestimated sometime around noon to 2 pm. We wanted to go in on an outgoing or slack tide. This entrance is actually pretty well marked. We circled watching the water crash over the reefs and waited – and finally after several circles we entered the pass at just after 1 pm. There was still a good current running out – but Astarte and Michael handled it well. Barbara was on the bow watching the water for shallows and coral heads. She also got an incredible dolphin show by five very large dolphins – leading the boat through the pass, leaping out of the water, tail splashing her and swimming acrobatically beneath the boat. Plus, every time they spouted, because of the sun, little rainbows would form. It was very Fellinish or Disneyish depending on your lack of sleep. But dolphins always know when to show up and relax the tense moments.

Once through the cut we were in this giant lagoon that was well marked towards the "village." There are a lot of areas in the lagoon designated for pearl farming – so you have to avoid those – they are quite obvious with hundreds of floats. We anchored and got nice welcoming calls from the other boats here at anchor. Folks who were helpful as we made our way in.

We'll stay put here for a few days at least – or perhaps head to the Kon Tiki sight on the other side of the lagoon. Michael checked the anchor and noted several sharks on the short swim. Hmmm.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Raroia Bound

We left Sunday at 0820 and have been underway from the Marquesas to the Tuamotus. It is a 447 nautical mile trip. We are making good time – covering 130 miles on Day One and 120 Miles on Day Two. Wish we had these speeds crossing the Pacific, it would have taken us a week less! And we are making these good speeds with everything reefed because of all the squalls in the area. And the other great news, Otis, our windvane has been steering the boat most of the way. He "hiccups" regularly when we get a wind increase or shift – but overall, we are pleased. It certainly uses less power (like none).

We are on a beam reach and unfortunately the seas are also right on the beam making it very rolly. This is the bad news – its hard to get anything done especially because we regularly have a monster wave that sets the boat gunnel to gunnel.

Michael caught and landed a good sized tune yesterday. We think it is a skip-jack tuna and easily 8-10 pounds of meat after cleaning. We'll send photos to our marine scientist relatives for species confirmation. We enjoyed a tuna dinner within an hour of the fish being landed. He put up a good fight and Michael wore our homemade "fighting belt" to save getting a belly bruise. He now thinks the other fish we caught but never landed was also a tuna because the behavior was very similar to this one in the water.

We now have a full refrigerator and freezer thanks to two good catches in the past week – tuna and mahi, yum.

The atoll we are heading for is Raroia. Without "googling" can anyone tell us what this particular atoll is famous for? The answer tomorrow.

We should arrive very early Thursday morning – in fact we have to slow down so we make it in daylight – and good daylight. It is tricky to enter into these atolls through small cuts in the reef – so you need good conditions including tides, waves and visibility. We'll "heave to" and wait it out if we get there too early.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Leaving the Marquesas

On Friday morning, we left Anaho, one of our favorite Marquesan anchorages, and headed back to Taiohae Bay, the hub of Nuku Hiva. We needed to top off on fuel, pick up a few supplies (baquettes!) and try to call our moms before heading out on Sunday to the next stop in the French Polynesian chain of islands. On the way, we caught a good size bull mahi mahi – enough for easily eight to ten servings! It was caught on a "spoon" to Michael's dismay.

We came into the harbor, anchored and went to get fuel and do some of our errands which did include an ice cream stop! On Saturday there was a big local event in the town – a series of races in the traditional Polynesian outrigger canoes. These were teams of men competing in quite long races – more than three hours. We watched as they prepped their boats and took off. We also watched as they finished. This was very cool as they had a group of four drummers – beating a strong rhythm as the teams came towards the finish line. There were also a group of women on the beach dancing and yelling and holding out palm frond leis – welcoming the men back. As they beached their canoes, they were adorned with the leis and kissed on both cheeks, That afternoon, another series of races with the same traditional trappings. What was great is that this was not a tourist event – it was a local sporting event. We see these outriggers practicing at almost every anchorage where we've been. The competitors come from surrounding islands for the races and most "larger" towns have rowing clubs complete with the clubhouse and in some cases, a building where it seems they either build or repair the boats. It was great to see.

Today, Sunday, May 20th, we take off for the Tuamotu Archipelago, home of the Puamotu people. There are 76 islands in this group and it will be significantly different than the Marquesas. These are coral atolls – sea level small islands surrounded by a fringing reef. It will be a whole new experience for us – and a bit scary. More on that later.

But we leave today for the 400 plus mile journey. We think it will take us four to five days depending on wind.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Anaho, Nuku Hiva

We continue to explore the Marquesan island of Nuku Hiva. Yesterday, we motor-sailed around the island to the northeast corner and the bay of Anaho. This is a very pretty spot where you can tuck away in a corner amongst some reef patches and get a relatively calm anchorage despite being on the windward side of the island. There are pretty sandy beaches, clear water (so you can swim) and the dramatic hilly landscape. There are lots of turtles around and they don't seem very shy. One big one comes up a lot and gets quite close to the boat. They are always great to watch.

We came in a little after noon and there were two boats anchored here already, but we found a nice spot. Our friends on Chapter Two told us to anchor in at least 40 feet of water to avoid getting wrapped on coral heads, so we did just that. It was a hot and sunny day so we got in the water immediately for some much needed cooling and hull cleaning.

We invited the two other boats here over for some sundowners and had an interesting evening meeting four new folks. One boat, Gaku is a Japanese boat from Kochi, Japan with Mayumi and Yoshihisa aboard, They speak very good English and they sailed from Japan to Port Rupert, Canada taking 50 days in what sounded like rough seas. And we thought we had a bad 35 day trip! It does put things in perspective. The other boat, Aka, was built and launched in St. Petersburg, FL though Ed and Fran are from Hawaii. Ed and Fran have been cruising the South Pacific for many years so had lots of great info. As usual it was a fun evening of learning, hearing stories and making new friends.

Today is get Michael up the mast day for some repairs. Hopefully it will be flat enough to do that so he doesn't swing from too badly. He'll be up there awhile.

This is one of the prettiest anchorages we've seen and not a bad place to sit if we have to wait for a weather window to the Tuomotus. Though there may be one this coming weekend.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Archeological Expedition

It's been rainy the last few days – it is rainy season here after all. The water tanks like it, but it is turning the water in this bay pretty muddy from all the runoff in the surrounding hills.

After a sunny Monday morning, we decided to take a trek to see some ancient tikis in the hills. Tikis are stone carvings used as items of worship as well as for protection. We got a description of where to go to find them from our friends aboard Chapter 2. The description included things like "Go past the market and take your first right and cross the river" Well, we never found the market and ended up taking a right and crossing the river which was flowing pretty well because of all the rain. The description also included: "Take a right on a narrow path right after you pass the parked bus and the pile of cut bamboo and you walk up a path and through the backyard of a house." Well we walked and walked and walked – back and forth through the town looking for the bus and pile of bamboo. We never did find either "landmark." We asked a few people and got pointed in various directions. One woman was funny and used all kind of sign language to tell us to look for a green house and take a right there and made it clear it was quite far. We asked another two guys who called us into their yard to chat (and offered us free bananas). At this point, they told us we had gone past the path and pointed us back in the direction we had just come. So we started to walk back. Then finally, a pickup (all the vehicles here are pick-ups) stopped and the two nice women inside gave us a ride right to the start of the path (which we had walked by). We always have fun trying to communicate – still speaking Spanish instead of French.

We started up the path which was quite muddy and slippery. But it was a path that was nicely built at one point and fairly maintained. It had several switchbacks as we gained altitude slipping and sliding up the hill. Finally, near the ridge was an open area where there were these built up squares of rock with the tikis. They were old and quite worn but incredible. Certainly not the size of Easter Islands statues – but very cool nonetheless.

The trip down was more challenging in the muck but we made it swatting at the bugs that were now finding us tasty. Michael startled a pig on the way down. We are not sure who jumped faster, the pig when it saw Michael, or Michael, when the pig jumped up and scurried off through the brush. Barbara was of course, thinking bacon! The area is very hilly and we walked past hundreds of coconut palm trees – very tall – and obviously being cultivated. Lots of drying sheds for the copra were in the town so this is a business here. The trees had metal rings around the trunks to keep the rats out of the trees. Also, along our walk we saw lots of horses, cows, goats, chickens and roosters running across the street.

In town, there was a boule match going on with several narrow "courts" in what looked like a parking area. The players were quite good as we stopped and watched them play. We also saw a group of men and women practicing a dance and drumming. There was also a very large and well maintained garden as we headed back to where we left the dinghy. It was a huge field well cultivated with rows and rows of various vegetables in various states of growth. Yum.

The fruit trees are everywhere here. The most delicious "pamplemousse" (grapefruit) we've ever eaten and huge fruit. Breadfruit trees are everywhere as are bananas, limes, papayas and noni fruit. The mangoes are just about ripe and plentiful. But every tree is owned by someone – and unfortunately we haven't seen much fruit available in the local markets. We'll get our courage up and go knock on a door and ask if we can buy some at some point – but first we have to figure out how to say that all in French. We are learning how to say a few things in "Marquesan" as well – which is the language most of the Polynesians use amongst themselves. "Ka-ho-ah" is hello.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Hakahaa (you try saying it!)

We enjoyed several days roaming around the town of Taiohae getting fresh baked baguettes, exchanging some dollars for CFPs and getting a few bits at the hardware store. It was calm enough when we put out the stern anchor, to get the wind generator repaired (it needed to have more foam to keep it from wobbling – thanks Eady-san). We heard some local music Saturday night from the boat – and it lasted well past midnight – but was pleasant.

We did have a few good downpours while in Taiohae which created instant waterfalls off the cliffs. We saw five giant waterfalls after one downpour – and after a few hours – they were gone.

On Sunday morning, after a few squalls passed over, we made our way to the next bay. It's called Hakahaa and near the small village of Taipivai. It is a large bay with three finger inlets – each inlet surrounded by cliffs of varying heights. Along the top of one cliff stands a few stone tikis. Other than the warm water, rays and tikis, it sort of reminds us of Barclay Sound in Canada with its fiord-like inlets and rich green hillsides.

Right now, there is only one other boat here and plenty of room. After being in a harbor amongst 30 or so boats – this is very nice. In Taiohae, it is fun to watch boats come and go – there is lots of turnover. Here, it'll probably be much less entertaining but very peaceful. You can hear lots of beautiful birds singing (when the roosters aren't crowing) and we already saw a school of giant manta rays swim by the boat. So this should be a pleasant stop and so far it is quite calm. Today is warm but with lots of squalls passing by every few hours – good for rain water collecting and to cool the boat down. As long as the squalls don't have 40 knots of wind!

If the water stays flat, we may get Michael up the mast here tomorrow for the big repair. There is also supposedly a nice hike to see some of the old tikis not far from the village so we may do that as well.

We are now waiting for a good weather window to head to the next group of islands – about 600 miles away. But things seem flat for the next few days – so its just the weather waiting game. Until then we'll enjoy the island of Nuku Hiva with its many pretty bays and anchorages.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Nuku Hiva

Two new picture folders!

We arrived in Taiohae, on Nuku Hiva after a great sail from Ua Pou – about 25 miles away. On this sail, we put our crew member Otis (think Andy Griffith Show) to work. Otis, you may remember is our self-steering wind vane (a piece of equipment that will sail the boat to a specific wind direction once it is set). So far, Otis has served mostly as a hand rail to get on and off the boat from the stern. He has been quite good at that – but in past attempts has failed miserably as a self-steering unit (thus his name).

But we decided on the day run from Ua Pou to Nuku Hiva, we would give him another opportunity to prove his worth beyond very expensive hand hold. And after some experimenting, and perhaps the 12 step program Michael put Otis through, there was a breakthrough. Otis steered a straight course even with wind changes and seas.

We anchored in the large harbor where about 24 boats were already on the hook. Some had two anchors out – others swung on single hooks. We prefer one anchor, so we settled near old friends Karen and Mike aboard Chapter Two. We hadn't seen them since last year in San Blas – so it was great to reconnect.

The anchorage had a big swell coming in though – so it was very rolly. Karen and Mike came over and gave us some great local info. They also gave us an invite for dinner and drinks aboard Chapter Two. We had a wonderful evening catching up on each others' doings over the last year (though we had stayed in e-mail contact). A lovely curry feast (and Barbara's chocolate cake) made for a great night with old friends.

The next morning, they also helped us with getting fuel. It is a three-person job – one person to hold the dinghy off the very surge -ridden, barnacle encrusted dock and the others to get fuel in jerry jugs and then lower it by rope back to the dinghy. Quite an operation but Mike from Chapter Two was a pro having done it multiple times. The good news is we only needed 20 gallons of diesel having sailed just about everywhere. Also good news because it is very expensive here. Fueled up with diesel and gasoline, we then headed into the town. This is the largest population base in the Marquesas and considered the "administrative center.: But it is a lovely small village with a few groceries, a couple of restaurants and snack places, an artisans area, a hardware store, a small hospital, gendarmes and a bank.

Things are very expensive in French Polynesia. For example, a jar of mayonnaise can cost about $12 US. Eggs are $4.80 a dozen. This is not the place to stock up. Fresh veggies and fruit are not as available here as we had hoped – and what you find is also quite expensive (more than in Hiva Oa). A grapefruit here is about $5 though the trees around the town are filled with lovely fruit.

We took a walk to the hardware store – and it was a very lovely short hike through a pretty area. Lots of lovely gardens and yards, packed with mango trees, breadfruit trees and citrus. Plus, so many bright colored, fragrant flowers. Of course, there was the assortment of goats, horses and some of the most beautifully feathered and colored roosters. A few tikis, carved stone figures, were also in various yards and along the road.

When we returned to the wharf, the fishermen were in cleaning their catch – and throwing the bloody bones and bits over the wall. And there were the giant sharks. Lots of them in an eating frenzy with the free, easy to get food. They churned up the water and all you could see were massive fins and tails. Eeeck! No shower in that water tonight!

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Island of Pinnacles

Ua Pou is a very dramatic island. Along its upper ridges are pinnacles of varying sizes. We've yet to see the most dramatic ridge line as it is under a cover of clouds. We arrived in Haka Hetau on the island of Ua Pou after an all night sail.

We started thinking it would be one of those magical night sails – a full moon, clear skies and a nice breeze – at least a good breeze as we pulled up anchor around 1630 (4:30 pm) and left Tahuata. We did miss a good swim with the manta rays – who were just arriving as we were preparing to leave. We set up the whisker pole before we left the anchorage but didn't use the pole for the first hour or so We were going between two islands and figured the winds would change after clearing Hiva Oa. So we sailed with just the main on a nice reach. We were making a steady 4.5 knots and it was very comfortable. As we cleared the point of Hiva Oa, we then put up the headsail on the pole and were sailing along at 5 to 6 knots. The seas weren't great – but it was a nice sail. Unfortunately going that fast meant we'd arrive at the harbor way too early. It was about a 70 mile trip. The moon was up and there were several sailboats out – we saw three– two we knew were headed to Nuku Hiva and we weren't sure about the 3rd. He wasn't running lights – so it was a bit challenging keeping track of him even with the full moon. .

The winds started to really pick up so we reefed in more main and headsail and were still flying along at well over 5 knots. Then we dropped the pole and sailed on the other tack reaching. If the seas didn't have swell from two directions and very close together – it would have been a great night. But the seas meant there was no place below to get a few hours sleep without getting tossed from the bunk.

We arrived at 0830 and there were two other boats in the anchorage – both with bow and stern anchors. So we settled between the two and deployed the same anchor set-up.

Soon after we were anchored, another sailboat arrived and then the BIG ship. A cargo boat, the Taporo IX arrived and it was exciting to watch him maneuver in the tight quarters and tie to the dock. This boat we found out arrives once every three weeks to supply the town. The town is the third largest in the Marquesas.

After making sure we were anchored safely with the gusty wind off the magnificent hills, we headed into town. Its a small place with a few groceries – but we couldn't find a restaurant open for a bite. So we ended up sitting in the front yard of one of the groceries and chatting with Keith. Keith is an 80 year old Australian who has lived here for a bit more than three years. He's married to a local woman who seems to be related to everyone. He filled us in on the town and the local relatives. It was a hoot listening to his stories. Boy could he talk! But we did learn a lot.

Back to Astarte, we watched the big ship untie and take off – he seemed mighty close to us. The captain was a pro. We'll hope to see the rest of the pinnacles tomorrow or even tonight under moonlight. It is a very dramatic ridge line. We can also see goats up in the rocks – how they get there is anyone's guess.

It'll be an early night after our all-night sail.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Anchored in Hapatoni, Tahuata

We enjoyed a festive Wednesday evening aboard the British flagged sailboat Daramy with Sue and Brian and the gang from Namani. Daramy just arrived after a nice quick Pacific passage – and they had scored a giant wahoo. They had no room in their freezer, so we all benefited. Not only did we have a wonderful meal aboard, we went home with wahoo gift packs – yum! We provided the much desired green salad with locally grown fresh veggies. That's always a treat after weeks afloat.

On Thursday, we departed from Atuona, Hiva Oa for the nearby island of Tahuata. It's a short distance and we tried to sail – but there was no wind (that seems to be our fate in the Pacific). So we sailed about an hour and motored about an hour. We did manage to pull up our stern then bow anchor with aplomb. Too bad not many boats were around to see our stylish retrieval – but they are always there when you screw up!

We anchored in Hapatoni Bay – a really pretty spot with a long white sand beach with coconut palms. The bay is surrounded by high hills that are very green and a rocky shoreline where there is no beach. When we arrived there were four other boats in the tiny bay and we snuck in – probably closer than we prefer to other boats. In the evening one boat left so we thought we'd snag the closer, more roomy spot in the morning. We got up bright and early to move only to find our anchor chain wrapped around a rocky ledge. Michael had to dive down to try to untangle it while Barbara stood ready to haul up chain when it was freed. We got out – but had to get another boat to move so we could retrieve the anchor. Bummer. But we found our nice sandy spot away from everyone.

As we entered the bay, we were greeted by about ten giant manta rays swimming near the boat. It was quite a sight. And since we've been at anchor, they come quite close to the boat. When we snorkeled today over a reef, we saw one on the water as well. Now the challenge is to grab a good photo of one when we're in the water.

The chore here is to get the bottom and sides of the boat cleaned. It is clear water here so there is less danger of sharks – or at least you can see them coming. Michael did much of the sides while in Hiva Oa using the dinghy – but it was quite difficult with the roll. So we can get the water line cleaned and beneath the hull. The first day we did the cleaning, there were lots of stinging siphonophores – these are long translucent jelly fish that have a toxic sting. They were everywhere – and even with dive suits on, we each took a few stings. Some of the floating critters looked pretty scary – one had two lime green filled bubbles trailing a deep red tentacle. We expect our marine scientists to tell us what these were. We tried to avoid them as somehow they looked painful. Today when we went to continue our boat hull cleaning project, there were no stinging jellies at all and the water was crystal clear. It's amazing the difference a day or tide cycle makes.

We snorkeled around a nearby reef – but it is quite deep and the visibility wasn't great the first day (today it was much better). Some interesting looking fish and the manta ray were sighted.

We also rowed our dinghy to shore to walk the sandy beach. There is a big surf break as you get to the beach, so it was tricky landing the dinghy cleanly. We didn't. We caught a wave after Michael jumped off the dinghy sending it rolling into shore. Oh, Barbara was still aboard. She got tumbled pretty well and was now soaking wet and covered in sand. Luckily the underwater camera was still aboard. We explored the beach which has nice soft sand and saw several different types of hermit crabs in fabulous shells, some leaping crabs and some lung fish(we think) which seem to be able to walk on water as they travel from rock to rock – very cool to watch. They stay out of the water on top of the rocks and seem to be eating algae.

It was rainy yesterday and this morning, so we did manage to collect some good rainwater for laundry and drinking. It has cleared off and is quite hot in the sun.

We bought a large stalk of green bananas from our agent Sandra while in Hiva Oa on Wednesday (plus she gifted us with a giant bag of ripe bananas). Somehow in two days the green stalk bananas have all managed to ripen at once. We are baking everything we can that uses bananas in the recipe...and giving bunches away. So far we've baked banana bread and black bottom banana bars. Tonight it'll be banana bread pudding. Plus, you're required to eat at least three bananas a day! We'll enjoy them while we've got them.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Old Friends Arrive

First, a note. Some new pics are up. Galap/Hivaoa!

Markus from "Namani" together with his wife Nana and son, Nicki, arrived into Hiva Oa yesterday. He was one of our line-handlers through the Panama Canal. It was great to see them and we greeted them with some fresh baguettes, a bouquet of lovely green lettuce and some bananas and grapefruit that we got from another boat. We did stock up on really ripe bananas from a catamaran – because all of their huge stalk ripened at once. They also had these huge grapefruits that they couldn't eat. So we scored and shared.

We had the Namani clan over for dinner after their long passage and Barbara made the Rossetti clan's "Eggplant Parmesan" because the eggplant from the veggie truck was really nice. It was a nice evening as we all compared notes about the Pacific Passage. Theirs was quicker than ours as they had more wind form the beginning and after talking to us on the radio avoided the counter currents early by heading south sooner.

Its always fun to reconnect with folks – that is one of the most pleasurable things about cruising.

We went into town on Monday to do our final clearance with the Gendarmes, and got our passport stamps giving us three months in the French Polynesian Islands. It was all easy and having the agent made it so we didn't have to post the bond. Sandra, the agent, was lovely and provided lots of good information.

Then we did a bit of veggie shopping and tried to figure out how to get propane (actually butane here) for our cooking. We were down a tank and needed to fill up. Michael went to every store looking for the "French" tank adapter – we are getting quite good at getting the hook-up to the local tank and gravity feeding the fuel into our "US" tanks. But it usually takes some doing. This time, none of the stores had the adapter, but luckily a French boat had one and we borrowed it and split the cost of a tank with another boater. So it took most of the afternoon – but Michael got our tank re-filled. We'll have to return the tank and get the deposit back tomorrow.

It's a holiday here today – May Day – or the worker's holiday as its called here. So things are closed. So its chore day aboard. More cleaning, tightening the rig, putting fuel jugs from deck into the tank and more hull cleaning. Hey, it's supposed to be worker's day – why are we working?