Sunday, May 31, 2015

Makemo Feast

We did an overnight from Raroia to Makemo. Entered the pass with a strong out going current that looked a bit like a fast river. Maybe 5 knots at times. There were no standing waves, so it was pretty easy. We anchored near the town of about 800 people. The oven in the bakery was temporarily broken, so no baguettes were to be had. But what we really wanted was 'essence', aka gasoline, for the dinghy. No essence till next Sunday's ship shows up. This is kind of a problem because when we left Hiva Oa there was no gas either– it was supposed to be in on the next ship too!
We spent a night in the town anchorage in light winds(16*37.6S 143*34.35W)  . Then sailed down 15 miles through the uncharted lagoon to a nice anchorage on a sand spit(16*31.2S 143* 49.37W). Its pretty tiring watching for reefs as you sail along.
Here's me in my color coordinated conning outfit. You can see the reef we were passing at the time. AS we sail across the lagoon, these babies show up about every 1/2 to 1 mile or so and come straight up out of 60 to 100 feet deep water to about 1 foot deep. They are pretty easy to spot when the light is right, but as soon as the sun gets low in the sky or the clouds cover it, they are deadly.
After a few days in this anchorage we headed to the west end of the atoll near where there is a second pass that we could exit in a few days. We worked our way between the shoals and reefs into a nice anchorage (16*27.11S 143*58.01W). We were sailing with Bob and Mona on Continuum who we met back in Bonaire. As soon as Bob got there he realized that the single local's boat tied up was his buddy he met in the main town, Vanui. Vanui and his fishing partner Jonas immediately invited all the cruisers into a pot luck that evening. They supplied the freshly caught lobster, coconut crab, Mahi Mahi and Wahoo.
Vanui (left) and Jonas BBQing away, Tuamotu style.

This is one of the coconut crabs that the boys had captured. They sell them in town for about US$50 a piece. Even though they were living off what they caught here, they insisted on cooking up the local delicacy for us. The lobsters were a little closer to our normal tastes.
That's the Mahi being pre-BBQed. It is amazing to see how they catch these. They have an outboard powered boat that has its steering station right up in the bow. They go out the pass into the open ocean and look for the Mahi. When they see one they go into a full speed chase. One guy driving, the other holding a long harpoon.  When they get up alongside the fish, in a flick of a second the harpoon is launched and the fish is on its way to dinner.
  This is the harpoon they use. They are in the water cleaning the day's catch here. The harpoon is being used to poke the sharks that keep coming up to get a little of the leftovers or maybe a leg or finger.

One of the black tipped reef sharks coming into the shallows right next to the beach looking for any leftovers
Here's Bob (from Continuum) in his element
The crowded BBQ top
There's an art to opening those coconut crab claws and Mona has it down using the all-purpose machete.
We were short a serving bowl, so Jonas went to work to quickly weave one. No need for extra plastic here.
We were also short of rum mixer, so Vanui climbed the closest coconut tree and knocked down 4 or 5 green coconuts to get the coconut water.
What great hosts these guys were – a time to be remembered.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Burning the Remains of the Kon Tiki Raft

We motored over to the east side of the Raroia atoll, dodging the corals and reef along the way for 7 miles. In between the reefs the water is 80 feet deep. We caught up with some friends on a catamaran --  yes, we do actually have cat friends. The boat’s name and their faces have been obstructed – for soon to be obvious reasons. They invited us over to the small motu(island) that is where the Kon Tiki raft wrecked in 1947 for a bonfire. What we didn’t realize was that they were collecting the left over parts of the raft to burn for the evening!
raroia2IMG_0735 There’s a small monument to the Kon Tiki on the motu. The next night we watched the Hollywood version of Kon Tiki. Pretty tacky movie, but what a great venue for a showing.
raroia2IMG_0737 Here’s the actual reef that the Thor and his buddies crash landed on. He did manage to show that 5 or 6 Norwegians led by a charismatic non-swimmer could take a  leaky raft from Callao, Peru, to the Tuamotus, French Polynesia, in 101 days at sea. Today, most of his theories about Polynesia being settled by early South Americans have been discredited.
 atuonaIMG_0716 Before we left the Marquesas we stocked up on pamplemouse (Polynesian grapefruit) with this 60 lb bag that was harvested for us by tour guide extrodinaire, John, on the north shore of Hiva Oa.
raroia2IMG_0738 Exploring one of the many small cuts between the uninhabited motus that make up the Raroia atoll.
There’s even some pink sand beach walks available.
The Fairy Terns were not too happy about us walking on their motu. They would raise up into the wind and stay in one spot right over our heads keeping a careful eye on us.
raroia2IMG_0749 The blue-gray noddies were not happy about our presence either, but they keep their distance.
raroia2P5140082 We snorkeled a reef just NW of the Kon Tiki island. We weren’t expecting much as it was a bit windy. Turned out to be a really nice snorkel. The shallow corals are a hang-out for small colorful reef fish, you can see some hiding down inside the crevices of this coral.
There were dozens of these Giant Clams. When ever you approached them they closed up and hid most of that blue mantle.
There were a few big fish around, including this shy grouper.
We think this is a Pacific Pearl Oyster, about 10 or more inches across. We didn’t check to see if he had a pearl inside.
The corals were healthy with some amazing colors.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Raroia Pass Drift Dive

We did our first drift snorkel through the pass on the atoll of Raroia, where we are anchored in the Tuamotus (in the east central area of 1700 km chain of atolls). This place is known for its sharks – actually all of the Tuamnotus are known for sharks. So I wanted to get the shark thing out of the way in the first picture.  The drift dives in the pass are just what they sound like. You wait till the current is going into the lagoon, go out to the ocean side in the dinghy and jump in holding a long line to the dink and float through the pass. When we first got there the pass current was probably 3 kts and you  jetted through the pass, floating over the corals, at high speed. By the time we were on our fifth or sixth run in, the current had laid down to a gentle shove.
raroiaP5120021On each drift in we saw three or four sharks cruising around. There is a pretty wide variety of sharks here. The upper photo being a Black Tip Reef Shark, the next one being a White Tip Shark. Both species non-aggressive, or so our book says. The unidentified sharks are the ones that worry you while you are in the water.
raroiaP5120041  The drift dives are really perfect for GoPros. Chris got some good video. A scene like the one above goes flying by you in about 5 seconds when there’s a strong current.
raroiaP5120026 Reticulated Butterfly Fish. You can tell it is a reticulated one by the way she looks at you.

raroiaP5120039A Striped Surgeonfish (front) and a Steephead Parrotfish (back)
raroiaP5120048 Moorish Idle idling away in the cut
Another Parrotfish, uncertain species, probably another Steephead.
raroiaP5120061 Interesting sponge growing among the corals in the pass
taehataP5070001 I snuck this picture in because it is so cool, a Cushion Star we saw in the Marquesas
Did I mention that there are sharks in ‘dem waters?
And the correct direction for a shark to be swimming – away from us.

Monday, May 11, 2015


We made it through our first Tuamotus' pass this morning. Big, wide pass, with a nice set of range lights. Not much current either. Maybe 1kt, in-going. The winds are basically completely calm right now. So it was not a true Tuamotu pass experience- way too easy. We did a walk around the town. Bigger than I expected and with a decent airstrip. Tomorrow we plan to do a drift snorkel into the pass with the folks on Tayrona, the only other boat here.


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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Enroute Tuamotus Day 2

We did an easy 151 miles noon to noon yesterday. Last night things got a little rollier, but not too bad. Saw 2 boats on the AIS. One was Kia Ora, but they didn't answer their radio when we called. Got called by the 79ft sailboat Feelin Good as they past us by. The captain was a nice guy out of Seattle.

Looks like we will slow down over night tonight in order to time getting into the pass sometime in the morning after 10am. This should get us some decent sun up high to see the coral and have the out-going pass current down to a mild roar. The passes into these atolls have some very strong and at times dangerous tidal currents. If you are a US boat you usually carefully plan to get there and rush in during one of the brief slacks. Alternately, you could pretend to be French, raise a French flag on the stern and just barrel on in whenever you get there.

Happy Mothers Day!


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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Enroutoe to the Tomatoes

We left the Marquesas yesterday morning about 10am for a 3 or 4 day passage to the Tuamotu Islands. These are the large group of very low atolls that make up the center set of islands in French Polynesia. We are currently headed for the atoll of Raroia. It has a decent pass into the interior of the atoll and looks like a good place to start the passage through the other atolls, on the way to Tahiti.

Its been a good sail so far, with the winds at about 130 off the stern. We have been making 6-8 knots with not to much roll. All is well onboard.


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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Hey Mister Douane Man….

Just as we were picking up our anchor to leave Nuka Hiva for the 25 miles sail south to Ua Pau, the French Polynesian Customs, aka the Doune, decided to board us. We had seen them going around the anchorage the day before boarding boats. They came by our boat, took pictures and left us alone. One of the boats that they boarded was fined US$200 and a case of wine was seized for under-reporting the amount of alcohol they had onboard when they cleared in.
I was a little concerned about them boarding us because when we cleared-in in Hiva Oa in the section for alcohol on the declarations form I put “Ship’s Stores” and didn’t detail anything else. The Gendarme who took the form was happy with it. When the customs guys saw it, they knew what it meant. They sent Chris off to go below and count every bit of alcohol onboard. 15 minutes later she came up with a list. The customs guy said read it out. “161 cans of beer, 5 bottles of gin ……”. He was fine with it all and didn’t even bother to write it down, it just wasn’t enough to bother with. 25 minutes later we were on our way.
tahautuIMG_0709 Here’s the Navy boat that carried the Customs folks coming around the corner, in the rain. Last year the customs had its own boat, but it was lost on a reef in the Tuamotos under curious circumstances. It’s no wonder they care about the alcohol onboard. The exact same bottle of Gordon’s Gin that we bought in Panama for $17 sells in the Marquesas for $55.
uapauIMG_0683 We sailed down to Ua Pau (Wah Pooh) for a few days after our circumnavigation of Nuka Hiva. This is the Austrian steel ketch Le Belle Epoque anchored next to us, enjoying some tropical sailing after completing an east to west transit of the Northwest Passage.
uapauIMG_0628 We did a land tour around the island with Juergen and Claudia from Le Belle Epoque.  I think Chris is pointing at goats from the mountain top.
uapauIMG_0660 That’s why I agreed to go on the tour – so I could go goat spotting. This billie demands respect.
uapauIMG_0649 Sometimes you spot the goats – other times the goat spots you.
upauIMG_0648 This is what a goat sees when it is spotting from the mountain side.
More early Google Glass design prototypes.
Claudia using her ice-climbing skills to get some fresh coconuts.

Back in the harbor, the locals were out in their outriggers catching some short but serious waves.
The young boys, maybe 10 years old, were out practicing too.
We sailed back south, or should I say motored into it, to Tahuata to catch up with our friends on Cattiva, who had arrived from Panama after their 40-day Pacific passage. We love the anchorage in Baie Hanamoenoa, it’s where the mantas can frequently be spotted. We had a chance to get together again with friends on Tallulah Ruby and Endorphin, as well. We had a barbeque on the beach, hosted by the friendly local Marquesan, Stephen, who lives here tending the coconut grove.
Tomorrow we will go back over to Hiva Oa to do a little provisioning, then its off to the Tuamoto Islands, the next group in French Polynesia. It’s about a 3 day, or so, sail from here.