Sunday, July 27, 2008

RadioActive People

RadioActive People

That is not a typo.  I am not talking about people giving off dangerous radiation.  RadioActive is the term I have coined for people who seem to feel a compulsive need to talk on the VHF radio.  They must keep that radio active.

A couple of years ago I followed the logs of a young couple doing a circumnavigation.  Shortly after they moved aboard in Florida they mentioned that they had turned off their VHF radio except for when they needed to place a call – like to a marina or harbormaster.  They did not associate with other cruisers because all the cruisers talked about was boats and weather.  I could certainly understand them not wanting to associate with other cruisers because they were young and well below the age of the average cruiser; but not monitoring VHF channel 16 seemed downright negligent.  For you landlubbers, channel 16 is used worldwide for maritime announcements such as mayday or pan-pan or security (pronounced securitay with a long “A”, not ending in the long “E” sound)..  A mayday call should be placed only when you are in extreme distress and are sinking or are abandoning ship during an emergency situation.  You had better be prepared to pay for the rescue in a large part of the world; not like in the USA where the Coast Guard rescues and the government pays for it.   A pan-pan call should be placed if there is a man overboard or you are in distress and need assistance.  And a security call should be used to notify mariners of an uncharted navigational hazard, such as a sunken vessel or lost cargo container, etc.  Every boat equipped with a VHF radio is supposed to constantly monitor channel 16.  Channel 16 is also used as the international hailing channel.  You hail another boat, they answer and then you both switch to any number of other channels to converse.  You are never supposed to have a conversation on channel 16; that channel is for maritime announcements and hailing only.  Sometimes the hailing gets way out of hand because some people are so chatty.  This young couple turned their VHF radio because the frequent radio chatter of cruisers was driving them crazy.

Now I understand why they stopped listening to the VHF radio.  There seems to be a number of cruisers who are really chatty.  The boats with children are the absolute worst.  It is getting so bad that we would love to simply turn off our radio.  Several times recently we have turned off the radio because the traffic was so annoying.

Since arriving in Papeete and all through Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea & Taha’a, and now in Bora Bora, the VHF airwaves are filled with the same few boats hailing one another or crew members of a single boat hailing each other as they run different errands or visit different friends -– sometimes a dozen times in one hour from the same couple of boats.  I can’t mention the real boat names, but there are a few that are driving both Bill and me to distraction.   One cruising family has multiple handheld radios.  They each take a radio whenever they leave their boat.  Let’s give this boat the assumed name of WHALE since it is named after a particular species whale.  So you will have calls such as:

and so on, and so on, and so on, ad infinitum. 

This nonsense goes on all day long and we really get tired of hearing it.  The very worst are the children, especially teenagers.  We all know how much teenagers like to talk on the phone.  On a boat the VHF radio replaces the phone.  So when there are boats with teenagers aboard visiting the same area, the teenagers dominate the radio airwaves. 

Almost all VHF radios can be set to monitor more than one channel.  If our friends on FREE SPIRIT are in the same area then both boats will set our radios to monitor channel 16 and also monitor another channel such as channel 69.  The radios will automatically switch to channel 69 if there is any traffic on that channel.  We call this our private channel or working channel and we can talk to each other without bothering all the other boats within a 25 mile radius who are monitoring channel 16.

All boats with children should set up their own private channel with their children’s friends.  And crew members going shore or visiting with handheld radios should also set up their own private channel.  If Bill leaves the boat and I stay home, he always takes a handheld set to channel 68 (one of the high-power channels) and I set the main boat radio to monitor Ch 16 and Ch 68.  If we both go ashore, then we each carry a handheld radio set to Ch 68.  That way we don’t annoy every other boat in the area with our discussions or unnecessary hailing on Ch 16.

Heaven help us from RadioActive people.  They don’t have a bit of common sense.

Oh, BTW, we are now in Bora Bora; anchored near the infamous Bloody Mary’s.  Boats are supposed to take a mooring ball at Bloody Mary’s, but there is a shortage of mooring balls.  Yesterday afternoon as we were entering the pass we heard several people on the radio.  One person would announce that he was leaving a mooring and another would announce that he was taking that mooring.  First person to claim it had better get there fast.  We decided not to enter into that foray.  Instead, we anchored in fairly deep water behind the mooring field.  Put out 275 feet of anchor chain – the most chain we have used to date.  There is a large expedition super yacht anchored nearby and he is unknowingly supplying us with free WiFi. 

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Raiatea & Taha’a

Latitude 16.78.22S
Longitude 151.29.20W
Baie Haamane, Ile Taha’a

On Monday, July 21, 2008, we departed from the lovely anchorage at the SW tip of Huahine Iti.  It had rained and the wind had howled for 4 days but the weather had finally passed and the little anchorage was again a millpond.  I wanted to get into the water and clean the scum line on the boat; however, the weather prediction for the week indicated that Monday would be the only day with any wind at all.  So we weighed anchor and headed off for Raiatea with hopes of being able to sail.  It took about 1 1/2 hours to motor through the lagoon back to Passe Avamoa on the NW tip of Huahine Nui and then we were off. 

Someone must have forgotten to give the weather forecast to the wind gods because the predicted 10 knots never materialized.  We ended up motorsailing the entire day, with the anemometer making circles searching for the true wind direction.  The highest wind we recorded during that passage was 6 knots, certainly too low to sail even with our lightest weight sails. 

We entered Passe Teavapiti on the NE side of Raiatea and motored over the north side of the island and down the west side to what was supposed to be an anchorage at Baie Vaoaara.  This is the last bay that can be reached from the north side of Raiatea because the navigable lagoon does not completely encircle the island.  There are bays farther south but one must go outside the reef and enter from another pass on the south side of the island.  Baie Vaoaara was not at all pretty; looked too commercial or industrial for our tastes.  Plus, it was too deep for us to anchor with any peace of mind.  We carry 100 meters of anchor chain (roughly 300 feet) and that would not allow a scope of even three to one and nowhere remotely near our preferred scope of seven to one.  For you landlubbers: the correct scope for anchoring is seven to one; meaning chain seven times the depth of the water --- measured from the deck or bow roller of your boat, not measured simply from the water surface.  One should always use a minimum scope of five to one but seven to one is preferred.  Using anything less increases the likelihood of the anchor dragging if bad weather or high winds should occur while you are anchored.   During the recent 4 days of high winds in Huahine numerous boats lost their anchor holding and dragged.  We had the correct anchor scope down and stayed securely in place.

Bill pulled out the guide books and paper chart while I drove and retraced our route back to the north side of Raiatea.  Every anchorage we checked was between 80 and 120 feet deep.   Bill finally found a spot for us to anchor in 30-50 feet depth on the island of Taha’a and if we hurried we could make it there before nightfall.  I revved the engine higher and we motored at 7 knots most of the way.  We anchored in the darkening dusk in 32 feet of water.  Now this was much more like it!  Mind you, we had managed to turn a 27 mile passage into 56.3 nautical miles; but we were finally safely anchored and enjoying our usual sunset beverages. 

Haamane Bay is by far the largest bay on the sister islands of Taha’a and Raiatea, and we are anchored way inside at the very head of the bay.  It is flat calm and the view of the mountains on all 3 sides is spectacular.  The mountainsides are blanketed by the low spreading canopies of an unusual type of tree.  Some of the trees are covered in tiny bright red flowers and the birdsong from one area is fairly loud.  There is a small village that appears very modern.   The guide book mentions that this particular bay can experience high gusts of wind due to the topography of the mountainous island, but that shouldn’t be a problem for us this week since there is no wind whatsoever.  A little wind would be nice to help cool the sunny days.  Nights in the South Pacific are cool even without wind, but the days can be hot – nothing like the heat of the Caribbean, but occasionally warmer than comfortable.

Now for our history lesson.

Raiatea is the second-largest island of French Polynesia (Tahiti is the largest).  The main town and port is Uturoa and is the administrative, business and educational center of the Iles Sous-le-Vent (“islands under the wind” or Leeward Islands).  Raiatea’s population of more than 12,000 live in 8 villages around the island.  According to our guide book, the west coast of Raiatea south of Tevaitoa (near where we first tried to anchor) is pure old Polynesia through and through.  The rest of the island is modern.  Raiatea is traditionally the ancient Havai’i or sacred isle from which all of eastern Polynesia was colonized.  The islands of Taha’a on the north and Raiatea on the south are considered sister islands because they are encircled by one very large coral reef.  There are 7 passes to Raiatea through the reef and only 3 passes to Taha’a.  The 2 islands are about 3 kilometers apart and it is easy to follow the marked routes between the 2 islands.  There are no beaches on Raiatea but there are 2 very tiny motus between the 2 islands where one can enjoy tiny spits of white sand beaches. 

Legends tell how the 2 islands were cut apart by a mythical eel.  Another legend tells how Raiatea’s first king, Hiro, built a great canoe that he used to sail to Raratonga in what is now the Southern Cook Islands, roughly 575 miles away.   Legends also maintain that the great Polynesian voyages to Hawaii and New Zealand departed from here.  According to Polynesia mythology the god Oro was born from the eruption of Mt. Temehani on RaiateaMt. Temehani is 772 meters tall and has a continuous cloud cover dominating the northern end of the island.  The sacred white flower called tiare apetahi grows above the 400-meter level on the slopes around the summit.  This special flower exists nowhere else on earth and resists transplantation.  It is a distinctively fragrant, fragile, white one-sided blossom that represents the 5 fingers of a beautiful Polynesian girl who fell in love with the handsome son of a high chief but was unable to marry him because of her lowly birth.  The petals pop open forcefully enough at dawn to make a sound.  Sometimes the more romantic local residents will spend the night on the mountain to hear the petals popping open at dawn.  These flowers are protected and there is a minimum 50,000 CFP (roughly $670 USD) fine for picking one.

Raiatea was originally called Havai’i.  Queen Rainuiatea renamed the island in honor of her parents:  Rai, a warrior from Tahiti, and Atea, queen of Opoa.  Before European encroachment Raiatea was the religious, cultural and political center of what is now called French Polynesia.  Funny to me is that Huahine 30 miles to the east also makes this claim.  Raiatea supposedly was Captain Cook’s favorite island; he visited here 3 times.  In one of his journals he wrote that “Haamanino Harbour” was his favorite anchorage.  I assume that Haamanino Harbour is the same Haamane Baie where we are now anchored.

The islands of Taha’a and Raiatea accepted Christianity soon after the Tahitians were converted.  A Protestant missionary named John Williams arrived in 1818.  From Raiatea Williams carried his work to Raratonga in 1823 and then to Samoa in 1830, later moving on to Vanuatu.  The inhabitants of the Vanuatu Islands were not receptive to Christianity at the time and Mr. Williams met a rather ignominious end  -- he was stewed in a pot by the Big Nambas of Vanuatu.

Queen Pomare IV spent the years 1844 to 1847 in exile on Raiatea.  When France annexed the island in 1887, Chief Teraupoo launched a resistance campaign that lasted until 1897, when French troops and warships finally conquered the island.  Chief Teraupoo was captured after 6 weeks of fighting after the French troops arrived, and he was then deported to New Caledonia.  The Queen of Raiatea and 136 of her followers were exiled to the remote Eiao Island in the Marquesas.  It took the French a great many years to do it, but they finally had Polynesia.

Today the Polynesians are trying to revive their culture before it is completely lost.  The revival of tattooing in the Marquesas, after being banned by the European Christians for nearly 200 years, is an example of that.  Several of the temple platforms and marae have been restored on Raiatea.  The largest and most important temple is the Marae Taputapeatea and it has been the best maintained.  Its ahu measures 43 meters long and 7.3 meters wide and between 2 and 3 meters high from the ground.  Stone backrests in the courtyard still mark the seats of high chiefs.  In the old days guests would be received at the welcoming marae when they disembarked from their canoes.  Then they would proceed to a temple where rituals were performed.  Meals would be served in another temple platform called Hiti Tai.   Marae Taputapuatea is directly opposite Teavamoa Pass and fires on the marae once were beacons to navigators in ancient times.  Papa Ofeoro was the place of sacrifice and about 5,000 skulls were discovered during excavations at this site.  Another temple platform called Opu Teina near the shore was where visitors would say their farewells.  Departing chiefs would often take a stone from this marae to be planted in new marae being constructed elsewhere, which would then also be named Marae Taputapuatea.

In 1995 a fleet of traditional Polynesian voyaging canoes, including 3 from Hawaii and 2 each from Cook Islands and Tahiti plus a raft from Easter Island, gathered at Taputaputea to lift a 650-year-old curse and rededicate the marae.  The 7 canoes then left for the Marquesas navigating by the stars and swells.  Some carried on to Hawaii and the west coast of the United States in an amazing demonstration of this aspect of traditional culture.  In April 2000 a Tattoo Festival took place at Marae Taputapuatea.  During important events at the marae, firewalking is practiced at a site near the main temples.

The northern island of Taha’a is smaller and shaped like a hibiscus flower.  Four long fjord-like bays cut into its rugged south side, the largest of which by far is the one where we are anchored.  Mt. Ohiri is the highest point on the island at 590 meters.  Legends maintain that the mountain is named for Hiro, god of thieves, who was born here.  Taha’a is known as the vanilla island for its plantations that produce 70 percent of Polynesia’s “black gold.”  Vanilla is a vine belonging to the orchid family and is locally grown on small family plantations.  Vanilla was brought to Tahiti from Manila in 1848 and later mutated to the current Tahitensis type.  These plants must be hand-pollinated.  They are harvested between April and June, so we have missed that season.  After harvesting, the pods are put out to dry for a couple of months.  Between 1915 and 1933 vanilla production was 50 to 150 tons per year.  This peaked in 1949 at 200 tons, but production continued to remain high until 1966, when a steady decline began because the producers began leaving for higher paid employment in Papeete, Tahiti, related to the French nuclear testing.  By 1990 the vanilla production had fallen to only 39 metric tons, but production has been slowly picking up since then.  It is possible to take vanilla tours but we will skip that since we have missed the growing and harvesting season.  Don’t think looking at a bunch of drying pods would be too interesting.

Each October a festival includes stone fishing – a line of people in canoes herd the fish into a cove by beating stones on the surface of the lagoon.  There is no public transportation on either Raiatea or Taha’a.  Cars are often seen on the larger island of Raiatea but are not so common on Taha’a.  The 4,500 residents on Taha’a use small high-speed motorboats to get to their gardens on the outer reef motus or to go shopping on Raiatea, otherwise they walk.  The entire island comprises only 90-square-kilometers so it is not that difficult to get around and cars are really not necessary.  There are many restaurants and many of them along the shores have mooring balls where a boat can secure overnight if one eats a meal at that restaurant.  With the high price of food in French Polynesia, this probably means that we would easily spend $100 to $200 just to spend a night on a mooring ball and eat a meal that we don’t want.

There are numerous small pearl farms around both Raiatea and Taha’a.  These appear to be much smaller operations that we saw in the Tuamotus.  It is possible to take a full-day outrigger canoe trip and visit a pearl farm and a vanilla plantation, including lunch and snorkeling.  It would cost $400 USD for the 2 of us.  That seems a bit pricey to us; but we couldn’t do it even if we were willing to spend the bucks because the tour can only be arranged by telephone and we don’t have a local cell phone.  Or, for $275 USD we could have a drive across the island in a 4WD and have a canoe ride and picnic lunch.  Thinking we will pass on these excursions.

One interesting tidbit is that the inhabitants of Taha’a are authentic Maori.  This is the only island in French Polynesia to claim this distinction.  The warrior Maori of New Zealand are more well-known.  The Maori in New Zealand are thought to have emigrated from this area.

July 24, 2008 Thursday
Lattitude 16.40.92S
Longitude 151.29.13W
Baie Apu, Ile Taha’a

Last night the wind changed direction and is now blowing steadily from the WEST.  This is the second time since left Moorea that the wind has switched from the normal trades from the E or SE and blown from the completely opposite direction.  This abnormal wind direction is supposed to last a few days.  We very obviously will not be sailing westward to Bora Bora until the winds change back to normal.

Since we were anchored in a long bay that is known for violent wind gusts when the wind comes from the west, we decided to move before those gusts started.  So first thing this morning we motored round the lagoon to the SW side of Taha’a to what is affectionately called The Yacht Club.  I think the real name of this place is Marina Iti, although there is no marina here.  But there are a dozen or so mooring balls set in water that is 105 to 140 feet deep.  The Yacht Club is closed today and will reopen tomorrow.  They will expect us to at least go to the bar and buy drinks tomorrow night in exchange for the privilege of staying on this mooring ball overnight.  Ioranet WiFi is also available in this mooring field.  We have less than 100 minutes left of prepaid WiFi from our original 30 hours of Ioranet time, so we won’t be browsing the net; but at least we should be able to update the website once before we leave for Bora Bora.

The wind coming from the west and southwest is cold.  You must realize, of course, that anything less than 80F degrees is now considered by us to be cold.  It is now noon and is 80.2F inside the boat and feels very comfortable.  Sitting in the cockpit in the wind feels cold.  We are loving this South Pacific weather.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


2008-7-16 to 20  Wednesday to Saturday

Title: Huahine

Latitude 16.48.626S
Longitude 150.59.62W

The 93 mile overnight passage was easy.  Seemed like most of the boats anchored at Opunohu Bay decided to leave at the same time we did.  Eleven boats departed at about the same time, just before sunset Tuesday.  Two boats set course for either Raiatea or Bora Bora and the other nine headed for Huahine, so we had a little flotilla.  This was the first time we have made a passage accompanied by so many boats and I have to say that I did not really like it.  Some of the boats passed us much too closely during the night for my comfort level.  The winds slacked off during the night and we ended up motoring 49% of the passage, including the motoring a long way inside the lagoon to where we are now anchored.  We went over the north side of Huahine and entered at Avamoa Pass near the NW tip of the island and then followed the lagoon all the way to the very SW tip of the island and anchored in Avea Bay.  This was a bit different for us because our charts ended a mile or so before this anchorage.  The electronic charts and the sailing guide books all indicate that it is not possible to navigate to this area; they show it as all coral reef.  But I had saved The Moorings charts and guide that they give to their charter customers for the Tahitian islands and we followed those.  This is a great little anchorage behind a very wide reef.  Long very white sand beaches all along the bay at the base of the mountain make a beautiful setting.   

Must say that French Polynesia has done a marvelous job of placing navigation markers in the past couple of years.  If you pay attention it is very easy to follow the navigation markers and buoys.   Their system is the ILA-A which is opposite of the US system.  Upon entering a pass from the sea you have green markers to starboard and red to port.  No more “red-right-returning” as used in the US and Caribbean.  Once you enter a pass the lagoon is marked with red to land side and green to reef side.  This is consistent throughout French Polynesia.  So if you are following a lagoon to the right  (counter-clockwise) after entering a pass then the green markers remain on your right.  But if you turn left after entering a pass then the red markers will be on starboard and the green on port.  This did take a bit of getting used to, but now we are old hands at it.  This is a buoyage system unique to French Polynesia, and we think they have done a very good job at placing these navigational aids.

The island of Huahine is approximately 9 miles from north to south and 6 miles from east to west.  Like Tahiti, it is actually comprised of 2 islands.  Huahine Nui is the northernmost and larger of the 2 islands; and Huahine Iti is to the south.  The 2 islands are separated by a shallow narrow channel and are joined by a bridge.  It is possible to navigate this channel by dinghy if done slowly and carefully to avoid the numerous coral heads.  On the western side of Huahine Nui at the location of the beginning of this channel is very deep Port Bourayne.  The large Port Bourayne with high mountains surrounding 90% of it looks very much like a Scottish loch. 

Captain Cook was the first European to visit the island of Huahine.  He made several visits between 1769 and 1773.  In 1777 he stayed here 7 weeks.  An island native stole his sextant during his last visit here.  The guide books do not say what Capt. Cook did in retaliation for this theft but I imagine it was not too pleasant.  Cook had a real hatred of theft and usually was quite violent in his retaliations.  Missionaries from the London Missionary Society arrived on Huahine in 1808 and converted the inhabitants to Protestantism.  (Bill says they ruined everything.)  Huahine was the last of the Leeward Islands to become attached to France in 1888, forty years after Tahiti.  Huahine presented strong resistance to French control and there are monuments to the dead located at various points on the island.  Huahine was the religious center and cultural center of all French Polynesia prior to the arrival of  the Europeans and they did not forfeit their society and religion easily.  Huahine was annexed into French Polynesia in 1897, but French citizenship was not accorded the inhabitants until 1946.  Sounds to me like France wanted to make certain that all the inhabitants who resisted French control were dead before allowing the remaining inhabitants to have French citizenship.

The guide books recommend renting a car and touring both islands.  Since this was the ancient religious center there are many, many marae and some have been restored.  Supposed to be a couple of small museums which might be interesting.  But Bill is not interested in driving around so I do not think we will be renting a car to see the archeological sites.  Winds picked up to 20+ knots last evening and are predicted to remain high for another few days.  Think we will stay on the boat.  Friends are also anchored here and we will do pot luck dinners and visit and just enjoy the scenery for a few days before moving on to the next island. 

Our tentative plan is to leave French Polynesia from Bora Bora around mid-August, weather permitting, of course.  We already completed the departure clearance paperwork in Papeete, Tahiti.  All we have to do for clearance formalities is mail a signed form to Papeete 10 days before our final departure and then get a stamp in our passports at Bora Bora just before leaving.  Our 90 days in French Polynesia is up on August 26 and we could stay until then, but there is still so far to go to New Zealand that we would prefer to start moving again by mid-August.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Opunohu Bay, Moorea

Last Friday we moved over to Opunohu Bay on the northwestern tip of Moorea.  The French sailing guide states that this bay is prettier than Cook’s Bay which is 2 miles to the east, so we wanted to check it out.  Sorry, French guys, but Opunohu Bay does not begin to compete with Cook’s Bay.  Cook’s Bay is far prettier and more dramatic.  We anchored behind the reef not too far from the Sheraton Resort.  There was a pretty beach and a nearby park and they were having a summer day camp where kids participated in every water sport known to man.  There were kids sailing by our boat all day long.  Sounded like a couple hundred Zacharies and Elisabeths.  But it provided entertainment and we did not mind all the kids.  At least they did not run into our boat; some of the other boats were not so lucky and were bumped by hobie cats being sailed by little kids.

Bill went out and swam with the rays on a couple of days.  I did not get into the water but did go there one day and watched the rays from the dinghy.  These rays are just amazing.  They are so docile and gather in one spot because the guides from the local resorts go there and hand-feed them several times daily.  You anchor your dinghy and jump into chest-high water.  The rays swim all around you.  If they think you have fish to feed them, they will come right up to you and even stick their heads and mouths up out of the water to try to get the fish.  Look at the photos of Bill standing up and taking photos of the rays.  The rays were all over him because they thought the camera was a fish that he might feed to them.  There were also black-tipped reef sharks swimming all around and among the rays.  The sharks do not bother the people in the water because they are so accustomed to being hand-fed daily by the resort guides.

We have been waiting since last Friday for a proper weather window to sail to the next island.  Today is good sailing weather.  Just before sunset today we will leave and head to either Huahine or Raiatea.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cook’s Bay, Moorea

July 8, 2008  Tuesday

Minutes after I updated the previous log entry to this website Bill got “herd mentality” and we followed all the other boats into Cook’s Bay.  Probably a good thing that we did move because our anchor popped right up with no resistance whatsoever because the bottom sand is so silty and soft out near the reef.  Bottom inside the bay is sticky mud and really grabs an anchor.  The holding is so good in here that we will have difficulty raising anchor when it is time to move on.  Good thing that we have a heavy-flow anchor/chain wash-down on the bow.  Wouldn’t want that icky stinky mud down inside the anchor chain locker.

Cook’s Bay is breathtakingly beautiful.  Bora Bora has a reputation as Polynesia’s most beautiful island, but Moorea seems worthy of this distinction from what we have seen.  The only negative aspect about Cook’s Bay is that there is no internet service in here.  Moorea is a heart-shaped 125-square-kilometer island with 2 large bays on the northern side; Opunuhu Bay to the west and Cook’s Bay to the east.  Captain Cook visited Opunuhu Bay but never visited the bay named in his honor.  The island of Moorea is the surviving southern rim of a shield volcano once 3,000 meters high.  Moorea is twice as old as her sister island of Tahiti and weathering is noticeably advanced.  There are several mountains on the island and the jagged peaks facing the 2 northern bays form superb scenes.  Polynesian chiefs were once buried in caves along the cliffs of Mt. Tohivea.  The top edges of Mt. Mouaroa are shark-tooth-shaped.  The high peaks of the island protect the north and northwest coasts from the rain-bearing southeast trade winds.  This drier climate and the sheer beauty explain the profusion of hotels along the northern side of the island.   The interior valley slopes of Moorea are filled with large fruit and vegetable plantations and human habitation.

Moorea was called Aimeho at the time of Capt. Cook’s visit.  Legend claimed that the island was formed from the second dorsal fin of the fish that became the island of Tahiti.  The present name of Moorea means “yellow” (rea) “lizard” (moo).  This name derived from a yellow lizard that appeared to a high priest in a dream.  The island has also been called Fe’e or “octopus” for the eight ridges that divide the island into eight segments.  A very small hole through the top of Mt. Mouaputa is said to have been made by the spear of the demigod Pai when he tossed the spear across from Tahiti to prevent Mt. Rotui from being carried off to the island of Raiatea by Hiro, the god of thieves.  Gotta love some of these legends.  We can see 2 small holes in 2 separate mountain peaks from where we are anchored and cannot tell which one is Mt. Mouaputa and have no idea if there is also a legend for the unidentified hole.

Capt. Samuel Wallis was the European “discoverer” of the Windward Islands in 1767.  Capt. Wallis stopped in Tahiti but sailed past the northern coast of Moorea, which he named the Duke of York’s Island.  The first European visitor was botanist Joseph Banks, along with 3 other crew from his ship.  Capt. Cook anchored in Opunohu Bay for one week in 1777.  His visit was brutal; he smashed the islanders’ canoes and burned their homes when they refused to return a stolen goat.  If you have read any books about Capt. Cook, you soon see a pattern to his behavior regarding what he looked upon as thievery.  He never understood the Polynesian concept of communal ownership of certain things, like food available for the taking as needed or desired.

In 1792 King Pomare I conquered Moorea using arms obtained from the BOUNTY mutineers.  Moorea had long been a traditional place of refuge for defeated Tahitian warriors.  In 1808 King Pomare II fled into exile on Moorea after his failed attempt to bring all Tahiti under his control.  A party of English missionaries established themselves at the village of Papetoai, Moorea, in 1811; and Moorea soon earned a special place in the history of Christianity.  In 1812 the missionaries finally managed to convert King Pomare II after 15 years of trying.  This led to other conversions until finally on February 14, 1815, Patii (the high priest of Oro) publicly accepted Christianity and burned the old heathen idols at Papetoai.  Today there is an octagonal-shaped church built at the place where the idols were burned.  Shortly afterward the entire population followed Patii’s example.  The marae of Moorea were abandoned and the Opunohu Valley depopulated.  The first Tahitian translation of part of the Bible was printed on Moorea in 1817.  From Moorea, Christianity spread throughout the South Pacific.

After King Pomare II finally managed to reconquer Tahiti in 1815 (with missionary help – the main reason for his “conversion”), Moorea again became a backwater place.  American novelist Herman Melville visited Moorea in 1842 and worked on a sweet-potato farm.  His book “Omoo” beautifully describes Moorea. 

Today Moorea is booming with tourism.  There are many hotel resorts but most have the thatched roof type construction and blend well with the topography.  The islanders continue to fight against golf courses and the chrome and glass type large hotel construction.  One hotel in Opunohu Bay does a daily feeding of rays and you can walk and snorkel among the feeding rays.  Don’t think we will do that activity because of my bronchial infection.

We had planned to leave today for 90-mile passage to the island of Huahine but it is raining and the wind predictions for the foreseeable future are not favorable for sailing.  We really don’t want to have to motor for 24 hours.  I am still sick with upper-respiratory crud and don’t want to smell diesel fumes for the entire passage to either Huahine or Raiatea.  So we are staying put for a few days.

Something that I keep forgetting to mention are the native outrigger canoes that we have seen at every island since arriving in the Marquesas. These things are amazingly fast!  The outrigger canoes range in size and capacity.  Even a single-seater outrigger is pretty long, around 15-feet long.  A 5-person outrigger can easily be 35-feet long.  The canoes are very, very narrow.  A female American friend had the opportunity of paddling one of the single-seater outrigger canoes recently.  She wears tiny size 2 shorts and her hips were too wide to fit down into the seat!  Which makes me think that each canoe is made to individual measurements because some of these native women are pretty large.  When we were in the marina near Papeete the locals were practicing every afternoon for their annual outrigger races and we saw several racing crews that were all female, although by far most of the outriggers are paddled by men.  Anyway, the women were far from a size 2 yet they correctly down inside those canoes so that leads us to assume that the canoes are built to individual measurements.  Some of these things look really slick.  When they paddle they use their entire bodies, not just their shoulders and arms.  Looks like great exercise.

Most of us are beginning to make plans for New Zealand even though there is another 3,000 miles and 5 months before we will reach there.  More than 600 cruising boats annually arrive in New Zealand during November to very early December and stay there until late April or early May of the following year.   Every boat will need to be hauled out for a bottom job and many of us will fly home for a month or more.  People are usually tired of sailing by the time they reach New Zealand.  Certainly Bill and I are really looking forward to that 6-month break.  Like many other cruisers we hope to buy a used car and possibly tour inland in NZ for a couple of months, depending on cost, of course.  We have already purchased our airline tickets from Auckland to Los Angeles and hope to be able to use air miles for the LA to Houston part of our trip.  We are now looking at marinas and boatyards but have not yet made any reservations.  New Zealand allows US visitors to stay for 3 months without a visa.  Since we will be staying longer, we will need to obtain 6-month visas at the NZ embassy either in Niue or in Tonga.  Seems like we are planning and reserving things early but better to be prepared than to arrive and have no place to leave the boat while we fly home.  We fly back to the US on December 10 and will return to NZ on January 9.  Looking forward to seeing everyone during the holidays.

BTW, I have decided that I prefer making one 1,000-mile passage instead of making five 200-mile passages.  It is tiring to make the short passages.  It takes several days to get into the rhythm of watch schedule and it is just easier on the longer passages.

Another thing that I keep forgetting to mention is the McDonald’s in Papeete.  There is McDonald’s in downtown Papeete and another location out next to Marina Tahina where we were docked.  We visited the location by the marina several times.  We weren’t after the burgers but I wanted a chocolate milkshake and Bill wanted French fries.  Neither of us is a McDonald’s fan and I am not familiar with their menu, but I was surprised at what we found.  They had 3 Happy Meal combos for the kids.  The most popular one appeared to be a salad, small French fries and orange juice.  Another one was the Croque McDo, which was a ham and cheese sandwich that was heated on a grill but no butter or oil added so it was lower fat than normal fast food.  Another surprise was the Royal Burgers – bet they don’t sell Royal Burgers at any McDonald’s in the states.  Another unusual item was the pannini sandwich.  A Happy Meal cost $9.20 USD.  A Boss Burger with no fries or drink was also $9.20.  My medium-sized chocolate shake was $3.60.  The place was filled with locals, not tourists; so you can tell that they must make decent wages in Tahiti to afford those prices.  BTW, the McDonald’s next to the marina had its own private beach and a playground that looked like a park.  Wonder if any other McDonald’s has its own beach?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

July 4th in Moorea

Title:  July 4th in Moorea

The 22 mile trip from the southern pass near Marina Tahina on Tahiti Nui to Cook's Bay on Moorea turned out to be directly into the wind.  So, yet again, we motored.  Didn't even bother to unfurl the sails since even motor-sailing was out of the question with the wind angle.  

There was a paperwork snafu at the fuel dock that delayed us for almost an hour.  We finally got our agent on the phone and he talked with the fuel dock attendant and got everything straightened out and we did receive the duty free fuel price.  Regular price of diesel in Tahiti now is 153 francs per liter; that converts to $7.85 USD per gallon.  Duty free diesel price is 103 francs per liter, which converts to $5.28 USD per gallon.  We needed about 75 gallons so you can see why we wanted the duty free price.  No reason to give up that additional $193 when we were legally entitled to the duty free price.  OTOH, gasoline is not duty free; and the current price of gasoline here is $9.15 USD.  And you think gas is expensive in the USA!!!  Good thing we don't use the dinghy very often here because it could quickly get expensive.

Cook's Bay on Moorea is very dramatic in appearance.  It is a long, deep bay and the high craggy mountains around it cause strong wind gusts.  There are a couple of places to anchor down at the end of the bay, but the wind often gusts 30 to 35 knots.  That does not appeal to us.  The best anchorage is actually outside the bay on the east side behind the very, very large reef.  There is a narrow finger-like "trench" between the island and the reef.  It is deep but it is still the best anchorage.  We are anchored in around 60-feet.  When the wind changes direction we sometimes move stern-to the reef and then there is less than 3-feet of water beneath our keel.  That should give you an idea of the narrow width of this trench.  There are about a dozen boats anchored out here.

Barbara & Frank on S/V DESTINY and Sandy & Andy on S/V IMAGINE coordinated a dinghy raft-up to celebrate July 4th.  (BTW, Barbara is from the Cy-Fair area of Houston and they are in a gorgeous Island Packet 480)  I will attempt to explain a dinghy raft-up for you non-cruisers and landlubbers.  It is exactly what it sounds like.  We went out very close to the reef; a few dinghies put down anchors; we tied all the dinghies together as tightly as possible; and we shared hamburgers, hot dogs, cake, and other good nibbles while visiting for a few hours.  We were treated to a gorgeous sunset over the ocean.  It was a fun way to celebrate the 4th.

Today the wind picked up pretty strong and most of the boats have left this anchorage.  Wind is from the right direction to sail farther westward in the Tahitian islands so several boats are taking advantage of it.  There are only 5 of us left this afternoon.  We are not in any hurry to leave since we just arrived here 2 days ago.  Our anchor is well set and we are not worried about dragging.  The WASI Buegel anchor is fantastic.  It absolutely does not drag.  Highly recommend it over any other anchor (except maybe the Rocna which is a knock-off of the Buegel).  We do not find the motion caused by the wind to be uncomfortable so we are staying put.
We had planned to snorkel on the reef today but that is out since it is only 79F and that is way too cold for us to get into the water.  Plus the wind disturbs the water too much.  So we are cocooning it today.  We were very surprised to find free WiFi service out here in this anchorage.  Life is good.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Tahiti to Moorea Rendevous

2008-06-27 to 07-03-08  Friday to Thursday

Title:  Tahiti to Moorea Rendevous

The tourism department of French Polynesia goes all-out to welcome sailors each year and sponsor the Tahiti to Moorea Rendevous.  The Rendevous is like a rally in that boats “race” across from Papeete Harbor to a tiny bay on the eastern coast of Moorea.  This is only about 10 miles in distance and only takes a couple of hours or less.  The Rendevous is also promoted by magazine Latitude 38 and several other well-known entities in the sailing community.  Last winter we had signed up with the Yahoo! Group known as the Pacific Puddle Jumpers.  The annual fleet of cruisers departing from Central America enroute to French Polynesia is known as the puddle jumpers.  Almost all the PPJ folks depart from Mexico and skip the Galapagos Islands.  As you know, we opted to depart from Panama and visit the Galapagos on our way to French Polynesia.  Only 3 of the PPJ group departed from Panama.  At any rate, we have all arrived in French Polynesia by now; so it is a good time to have a party.

There was a song and dance performance at Papeete Harbor and several exhibitors on Friday afternoon.  We received tee-shirts and a pack of tourist literature.  There was a large family from the Tuamotu who performed for us.  The men sang and played instruments while the women danced.  The two youngest men did a few dances.  The men’s dances are totally different from the women’s dances, as you would expect.  They also gave a Blessing of the Fleet for all of us who were to participate in the rally on Saturday morning.  It was a very Christian prayer led by the oldest male family member while we all stood in a large circle and held hands.  Then the women sang acapelo while we continued to hold hands.  Their voices were incredibly beautiful.  Would have loved to get that singing on a short video but could not do that since we were all holding hands.  I did get a few short videos of their dancing later, but nothing compared to their singing during the Blessing of the Fleet.

Then we left those festivities and walked around Papeete for a couple of hours before going to the Skippers’ Briefing and cocktail party.  Met a few new people, all of whom were from either Oregon or Washington.  There are a lot of cruisers out here who are from the Pacific Northwest of the USA.  They basically do a circle of the Pacific by visiting French Polynesia and then up to Hawaii.  Usually they then go up to Alaska and return to PNW.  Others go directly from Hawaii to San Francisco.  There was a dinner after the cocktail party and then dancing, but we opted not to participate in that. 

Instead, we joined another couple (one of whom was from Houston) and went to The Roulette.  The Roulette is the place to eat in Papeete – actually, it is the only reasonably priced place to eat on this island.  Dozens and dozens of food vans congregate around the outdoor performance area near the tourist center on the edge of Papeete Harbor.  They come there each evening.  You can find any type of food that you might want (no Mexican, of course).  They had various types of Chinese foods, sashimi, sushi, pizza, French foods, steaks – you name it.  Bill had a veal steak with Roquefort sauce for less than the price of a McDonald’s hamburger.  It was all very good.

Unfortunately, both Bill and I caught the cruiser crud from the other couple.  There is a respiratory virus going around and we both caught it.  That squelched our participation in the rally on Saturday.  I was disappointed that we could not attend because we had been looking forward to all the activities.  They had outrigger races and a traditional Polynesian lunch cooked in a ground pit on the beach, as well as other silly activities which would have been fun.  But neither of us was in any shape to deal with any of that on that particular day.  Bill recovered after only 3 days but I am still sick.  I developed an upper respiratory infection and am now taking antibiotics from our med kit.

So we have not seen much of Tahiti Nui and absolutely nothing of Tahiti Iti because we were sick.  We had wanted to attend one of the Polynesian dance performances at one of the large hotel resorts but just did not feel up to it.  As Bill said last night, “here we are in beautiful Tahiti and we are sitting on the boat doing nothing – we could do that anywhere – what a waste.” 

Today we are sailing over to Moorea.  Plan is to anchor somewhere in Cook’s Bay if there is room.  There probably will not be internet service available in Cook’s Bay, so we won’t be updating the website again soon.

A little about Tahitian Dance:

Like the tattoo, Tahitian dancing was associated with nudity and indecency and the Christian missionaries convinced King Pomare to ban both in 1819.  However, unlike tattoo which was documented by sketches by many sailors of that time period, the dances was not documented.  So no one really knows much about the ancient Tahitian dances.  Only oral tradition has preserved some of the dances.  The “renewal” of Tahitian dance dates from the 1950s when a woman named Madeleine Moua and her Heiva group began performed their interpretation of Tahitian dance.  This revived interest and grew with the tourist industry that also arrived in Tahiti since the 1950s.  Guess all those sailors who visited Tahiti during WWII went home and talked a lot about this place, because tourism started growing rapidly after that time. 

There are 4 major types of dance in today’s Tahitian dancing.  The Otea is performed by men and women and probably was originally a somewhat warlike dance.  It is one of the most famous Tahitian dances.  The Aparima is a dance wherein the hands mime a story.  It is like a pantomime and is usually performed kneeling and accompanied by a band.  Singing might also accompany the Aparima.  The Hivinau dance is thought to have derived from the English “heave now” that sailors of yesteryear called out while maneuvering the capstan or anchor winch.  Male and female dancers move in a circle and a male soloist gives a phrase that the choir takes over.  They are accompanied by a band.  The Pa’o’a dance seems to come from gestures used in tapa-making.  Male and female dancers squat in a semi-circle.  A vocal soloist gives a them that the choir answers to.  A couple rises and performs a short dance in the half circle while the other dancers chant sounds of “hi” and “ha.”  All the dances except the Otea have one thing in common:  the feet are kept together and motion radiates from the hips, either slowly or quite fast.

Sorry we didn’t get to see one of the elaborate dance performances while we were in Tahiti Nui.  But we can console ourselves with our memories of the Tongan dances at the festival we attended there back in 2002.  The dances were probably similar.

BTW, we were in the group photo taken at the Skippers Briefing for the Rendevous.  So we might be in a photo in Latittude 38 soon.   We were near the back row on the left side of the large group of people.