Thursday, 25 July 2013

they wrote us an epilogue

View of Utuora on Raiatea
We are nearing the end. Actually, we had reached the end. But we tacked on a new conclusion. French Polynesia is not rid of us yet. The weather is the primary culprit. We’ve become intimate with the mara’amu as of late. It’s the season for strong southeasterly winds and big swells. We got stuck (so to speak) in Taha’a as the winds began to build. As a result, a one night stopover became 2 nights. I began worrying as our visas were about to expire and we’d planned to exit from Bora Bora. We decided to head south to Raiatea, it’s also a port of entry and we didn’t have to leave the lagoon to get there. As we were sailing there, we noticed a small tear begin on the leech of our genoa. (Our sails are taking a serious beating out here…) We furled the sail past the tear and kept going.

What next?
We arrived at the Carénage on the NW side of Raiatea, and found a mooring ball in the boatyard’s mooring field. (If you come this way, be aware that there are two boatyards side by side, and that not all moorings belong to them, some are private and if you pick the wrong one, you may be asked to move. Basically, go to shore as soon as possible and figure out who’s mooring ball you took and make sure it's available.) We picked one of Dominique’s mooring balls on the far right, (Raiatea Carénage Services).  And the wind blew and blew. There are a few isolated spots one can anchor in, but we would have ended up too far from shore. (We need an outboard! There, I said it.)

They don't have to worry about visas...
The next day, we had to go to the gendarmerie; we had reached the last day of our tourist visas. We fell upon Mathieu, who was perhaps one of the nicest bureaucrats we’ve met. We discussed checking out, and in passing I said something about waiting for a weather window. He became worried we’d get in trouble if we stayed beyond our visas more than a couple days, (me and my big mouth). He proceeded to make a number of calls and running to the other room to discuss our options with the voices beyond the wall. The powers that be confirmed that the weather would be “bad” for another 10 days. At that moment, I thought to mention our sail. He made a couple more calls and said that a torn sail is a good reason to stick around. Then we were told to get a letter from the boatyard: it’s called an “Attestation d’Avarie” which basically means something on our boat is stopping us from leaving. And it’s up to the boatyard to say that our problem is actually real and how long it would take us to deal with it. Technically, the wind was stopping us from doing the repairs on our genoa (to take it down, it has to be fully unfurled and slid down the foil: a little tricky in 30+ knot winds). 

It's not all about paperwork
We spent a lot of time looking and waiting for Dominique. One of those times we met Daniel, a young Aussie sailor who invited us aboard his boat for Pastis since it was going to be a while before we’d see the boss. We never did see Dominique that day, but we had a good time waiting! Finally, after hunting down Dominique for 24 hours, (he’s a busy man), we showed him photos of the damage. I actually worried it didn’t look serious enough, (up close it sure is: other than two tears in the actual sail, the UV strip needs some love too). Then again, it only takes one small tear in a sail, that’s it. If you still use the sail, the tear will grow very quickly and you can end up with a useless sail. After checking the forecast for himself, he wrote the letter while we discussed our tattoos. I love how tattoos are such a huge part of this culture. You tell your life story with a tattoo that keeps growing over the years. Luckily Dominique had a beautiful one, and talking about it seemed to break the ice.

Our letter in hand, we went to the subdivision of something or other in the building across the gendarmerie. There, Corinne began processing our papers. She cheerfully talked about traveling and regulations while filling out forms. Soon, she told us she would email us to pick up our new papers that will let us stay 2 more weeks. Apparently, the “real” regulations allow only one person to stay with the boat and the other has to fly out of the country… But, we were in Raiatea these bureaucrats said with a smile, we’re more laid back, they added. Island mentality I believe it’s called.

Happy Sailors!
I should mention that the Carénage is pretty far from town. We have been hitchhiking back and forth. Sometimes four(!) of us got picked up at once. But we soon learned to split up: two separate couples get picked up twice as fast. We also noticed that for the most part, the little beat up cars are the ones that pick us up, not the shiny new ones. We have met some lovely people in our travels across the top of the island, including a sail maker who’s partner is about to have a baby.

We celebrated the happy turn of events by climbing a mountain with SV Cariba. It turns out Cariba extended their stay too, they have to wait for prescription glasses for the captain, (whose old ones fell overboard on the way here). We all breathed a sigh of relief. Bora Bora may still be in the picture. And in two weeks, we will have a happier sail, a more relaxed crew, and hopefully a good weather window to head to the Cook Islands. We wanted more time here. We didn’t want to repair a sail again, but we decided to call it a mixed blessing.

Two days later: there was a short lull in the wind, long enough
for us to pull the sail down and assess the damage. Repairs are
going well! Hourra!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

bouncing into and out of Taha'a

A pretty Cariba, passing us, again!

A lively exit out of the pass was the beginning of a fun and boisterous 6 and a half hour sail to Taha’a’.* Taha’a, is just north of Raiatea, (both islands are surrounded by one reef) and are located east of Bora Bora. Once settled in Haamene Bay, Isabelle and I went for a walk, “pour se dégourdir les jambes”, while the guys did some errands and chilled in the tiny village of Haamene.

The following morning, there were wind gusts to 30 knots and more, but we were well ensconced in mud at the head of the bay. Due to bad weather warnings and such, we had to hold off going to Bora Bora, but the sun was shining, we listened to Gab’s Top 500 songs playlist and brewed ourselves a second cup of coffee. You do what you gotta do…

And since the weather made poking our noses out of the bay unappealing, Isa and I decided to go hiking for the day. The guys were happy to putter aboard Nyon and Cariba. Reassured that the boats would be looked after, we set off. While we were out gallivanting, Rick dusted off his Bodhram and played his little heart out, and later he and Gab had some “guy time”, which means they talked non-stop. In the meantime, Izzy and I soaked in some green energy.

View of Haamene Bay, with Nyon and Cariba hanging out

The entrance of the same bay (it's long)

Izzy as we near the village of Patio
We had a great time hiking the traversée to the northern village of Patio. We wandered around the village and decided we’d hitchhike back to Haamene… Most vehicles were traveling in the other direction, and the 4 or 5 vehicles going our way, didn’t even slow down. A Frenchman riding his bike down the road, told us everyone was in weekend mode. We may not get picked up. We wondered how long it would take us to walk all the way back. That is, until a white pick-up truck with a canvas cover stopped, and asked us where we were going. When we said Haamene (20 km away), the driver initially shook his head and said “We’re full”. Isa looked around the back and said “But there’s room!” As they awkwardly added, “Oh but they’re paying…” We realized they wanted us to offer money for a ride, so we both said in unison, “We’ll pay!”  (We didn't want to walk down the road in the dark after all.) We hopped in the back and found
Going down a country road in Taha'a
ourselves seated with a genial group of French travelers… all in their sixties. They’d chartered a 52’ sailboat captained by one of their sons who is a professional captain in Antarctica, and the conversation went from there, friendly and animated. We managed to bargain a decent price for the ride, and walked the last 2 km over the isthmus to our bay on the east side of the island. (The Frenchies were going to the bay on the west side. But we didn’t get off before the driver and his companion showed us a three headed coconut palm tree. Apparently, they’re rare. It did look a little weird.

View as we walked down the road back to Haamene
(before we got picked up)

The three-headed coconut palm tree
After more rabblerousing aboard Cariba that evening, we woke up the next morning, to more wind warnings (the swell was the big concern for this area), and I began fretting about what to do next. Time was running out, the weather was getting worse, but we had to check out. What to do? Our first step, was to weigh anchor and head south to Raiatea, since it was the nearest port of entry. I'll write more about that later.

*We had decided to break up our trip to Bora Bora with an overnight stop in Taha’a, so we could avoid an overnight passage and make things a little more comfortable for me as my Ankylosing Spondylitis had been kicking my a** these last few days. Turns out we had to stay longer, since Mother Nature had to have a temper tantrum.

mini-post for a pit-stop


Someone's front yard
Huahine is actually two islands joined by a bridge, there is Huahine Iti, and Huhanine Nui. It turns out there are two Maroes as well, one on each island, on opposite sides of the bay. We went to the southern village. Both boats struggled to find a good spot to anchor, but eventually we made do and wandered ashore. (16*45.883’S 150* 59.924’W) Visiting the less frequented spots, allows us to see regular life "in paradise". We like that.

Gab treated us to a freshly cracked coconut as we explored the surroundings. That night was noisy, the anchor chain dragging over dead coral echoed in our heads and sleep turned out to be elusive. Early the next morning, both crews weighed anchor and headed for Taha’a. 

Coconut addict
These pineapples don't grow on trees either

Something interesting up there...

Monday, 22 July 2013

i'm sticking with you...

sticky folks
‘Cause I’m made out of glue. That could be our theme song. There are a few unusual songs on the Juno soundtrack that suit our quirkiness as a couple. But that lyric is pretty much us in a nutshell. It’s our wedding anniversary today and we’re somewhere in the South Pacific. If I am to be honest, we’re anchored off an island I had never heard of when I married Rick 14 years ago. But on this day, Huahine is our backyard and love (and stubbornness on bad days) has kept us together for 18 years. That’s worth celebrating!
And to celebrate, we went through the Farerea Pass on the east side of the Huahine, and followed a narrow channel to port. We dropped the hook behind motu Murimahora. (16* 45.860’S 150* 57 560’W) This is a lovely spot mentioned in one tiny paragraph of the Soggy Paws Compendium. We looked at our charts, noted the shallows, and along with our buddies on SV Cariba, we decided to give it a go. The chart showed nine feet of water in some spots, that’s deep enough when you have a 6 foot draft, right? (Honestly, it didn’t even end up being that shallow as long as you watched for coral heads on the edges of the channel.)

As we enter the channel, once inside the reef

It didn't take Rick long
Are we ever glad we went! The water was so clear, we could see the ripples in the sand below. Of course it helped that we were anchored on a sandy plateau, in only 17 feet. It was beautiful. There are a few scattered homes on the motu. The island itself has a few houses lining the shore as well, and a road just beyond them that leads to a nearby village. Unlike Cook’s Bay we didn’t notice the traffic noise. We had decided this would be the perfect pit stop before we hit Bora Bora and its busyness. Happily, Isabelle and Gab thought so too. Drift snorkeling and shared meals later, we researched our next stop, our next country, and pondered a little beyond that over coffee with Cariba and as we’d drift off to sleep in the v-berth. 

A somewhat strong current goes through here, he barely noticed

Fun times with SV Cariba
(Kate D. Notice what Rick's eating? TimTams: always makes
us think of you!)
A couple days later, the wind started to pick up and Cariba suggested we go check out the anchorage around the corner, off the tiny village of Maroe. And we said, "Why not?"

A view we are becoming very familiar with...
Up the channel to Maroe, Nyon trailing
behind, as usual

Sunday, 21 July 2013

sometimes, you just need to say: thanks. a lot.

Haamene Bay on Taha'a Island in French Polynesia
We often get kudos for our accomplishments: you know, sailing abroad, crossing the Pacific and whatnot. But, there is something you must understand. Many souls behind the scenes make following our dreams that much easier. We owe a few special people a very big thank you. After nearly two years abroad, we feel lucky to have loved ones whose caring and kindness have helped us along the journey. In no particular order:

To Rick’s parents, Irene and Doug, who sort through our mail, and remind us who to contact or what bill to pay: thank you. It has to be tedious to go through someone else’s piles of letters and decide what’s important and what’s not. Also for getting together packages that other cruisers kindly brought down to Mexico and for sending us things we needed. Thank you for doing your best to understand as we follow our crazy dreams.

To our friends Barb and Bjarne, their generosity is great: We need a boat part, or a something or other and within hours, they’ll have researched and purchased it, and eventually, they’ll somehow have gotten the item to us. Their willingness to jump in and find the best deal  for us on whatever item we can’t seem to find wherever it is we are, is nothing short of awesome.  I’m sure their cheerfulness during the process is not (just) because of the offer of rum that awaits their next visit aboard Nyon! You guys know you're always welcome!

To Kyra’s parents, Catarina and Bernard: so willing to help out, pitching in in big and small ways, they contributed to the purchase of our new Ipad mini and our pancake breakfasts wouldn’t be the same without maple syrup from home. And then, there are the many lovely emails. Thank you: more than once, you’ve turned a blue day into a sunny day.

Nyon in Opunohu, Moorea
To Kyra’s sister, Anouk: when I landed on your doorstep in California with a list as long as my arm in preparation for our Pacific crossing, you were amazing. You drove me around, made invaluable suggestions, and bailed me out. You let me borrow your car and your credit card when only an American card would do. I mean, seriously: who does that? My big sister does, that’s who: thank you for the hugs and for helping me keep at least some of my sanity.

To our siblings, friends, and relatives: the little notes and messages along the way make us feel a little closer to home when we feel homesick. Thanks for that!

To our posse, you know who you are. You have not forgotten us, and you forgive us for not being in touch as much as we’d like. We feel the love! And for all the goodies you’ve sent along when one or two or three of you have come aboard Nyon for a visit. Every time we burn incense, look at the art on our bulkhead or our mascots scattered about, or even when we use our hippy soap, we think of you. Thank you for being you!

To other cruisers, who in their travels to Canada or the States, were able to bring down stuff for us, from rigging hardware to old fishing rods. Thank you!

To the voyagers we’ve met along the way, for commiserating with us when things get tough, and for reminding us why we do this: the utter amazingness of this wild, wild world. The wonderful kindness of near strangers and new friends has amazed us over and over.

So yeah, there are only two of us in a small boat and we worked hard to sail this far. Funnily enough, we don’t feel like we did it alone. Many times, we had a shoulder to lean on, a loving voice or note to encourage us, or simply, some practical help. Apparently, it takes a village to send a couple of dreamers sailing over the horizon.

And for that, we say thank you.

Monday, 15 July 2013

looking back on our leap forward

Not long ago, we crossed a vast ocean and arrived in French Polynesia. I say not long ago, but it already feels like a lifetime ago. After some delay, here is a recap of that voyage:

If you want to see our friends Annie and Chris' awesome video of their passage on SV Starship, complete with underwater dolphin footage: click here

making friends with stingrays

Cook's Bay, during the Friday races:
this is the first all-female team we have ever seen

Nyon, swarmed by paddlers:
front row seats!
Cook's Bay had us fooled. We scoffed at the weather forecast, what 20+ knot winds? It was so calm and comfy there, we figured they were mistaken. Then, we decided to leave with SV Cariba for the "next door" anchorage of Opunohu. Yeah, we found those 20+ knot winds. As soon as Nyon nosed her way through the pass, the wind made itself known. We unfurled half our genoa and headed west, and after a quick sail, we anchored just east of the pass, in crystal clear waters.

SV Cariba (trust us) on the way to Opunohu

Sailing dinghies from a nearby
school, lots of happy kids

After a quick lunch, we gathered our snorkeling gear and hopped in Gab and Isabelle's dinghy for the long ride to where the stingrays hang out. It was a wet and bumpy trip, but oh so worth it. 

By the time we were in the right area, there were no big tourists boats, and we only realized we'd arrived when we nearly ran over a stingray. (We didn't come close, but it surprised the hell out of us.)

No, Rick is not trying to pick a mini-ray as a pet, just a fun shot

Can you see Isabelle's (SV Cariba's) excitement?
This was a pretty unique experience

This one was dubbed Sally by Gabriel
(She was the friendliest of the bunch)

Rick and Sally sharing a moment
We wasted no time jumping in, and: "Oh wow." 6 or so stingrays, averaging 3 feet across, crowded around the dinghy to see if we had any food for them. They crawled on us or cruised by, one kept going up to Rick and he'd push him back, it was pretty funny. One bit me, just a nibble when it thought I had food in my hand. (See video below.) It was pretty surreal. Of course, we didn't have the right food (they don't like tuna), but they seemed curious (or hopeful) about us anyhow. Black tipped reef sharks were weaving among the rays and swimmers. A few more swimmers came over a little while later, but we didn't experience the cheesy touristy chaos that so many had described. The whole experience was very chill. It was fabulous.

Pretty evening, that's Nyon on the right

Gab and Isa
Seeing as it was Bastille Day, we joined SV Cariba on the beach that night over wine and dinner at one of the picnic tables scattered near shore. Lots of laughs and stories later, we finished the evening with Pastis aboard Cariba, a perfect ending to a very French day.

Today, we're headed for Huahine, 80 nautical miles away.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

it's all part of the adventure

Leaving Tahiti for Moorea, that's Moorea in the background

The occasional rainbow added colour to the scenery
Moorea didn't want to let us go. So we said, "Okay. We'll stay a while longer." We did have what turned out to be time consuming sail repairs to tackle, but we also wanted to play. And we did. We rented bikes: one speed beach cruisers (complete with baskets on the front). Single speed bikes are confusing, I haven't stopped a bike using pedals since I was 12 years old. I kept squeezing the handlebars to break. Eventually we got used to the bikes and started pedaling down the road, with the wind in our hair.... I haven't done that since I was 12 either.*

Rick and I took turns hand stitching patches on a tear in
our mainsail (I'd like to point out I only drew blood once.)
The lovely and well protected Cook's Bay Anchorage

Where people with money stay (more money than us anyhow)
Looks pretty doesn't it?

Contrasting ways to experience Moorea afloat: by sailboat or
by cruise ship. (Opunohu Bay) \

Mom, this is your kind of bicycle!
After a quick stop to sample drinks at the Rotui juice factory, we continued on with big silly grins and dreams of mango juice goodness until the chain on Rick's bicycle broke. I nearly got upset by the unexpected turn of events, but Rick just said, "Oh well, it's part of the adventure." Somehow it diffused the disappointment just like that. The phrase has become our motto since then. It helps to say it with a smile.

A nearby Scientific Centre let us use their phone to call the rental company, and a half hour later Rick was back in the saddle again, this time on a different bike.

We followed the shore line and eventually turned back to ride inland toward Belvedere. To my surprise, Rick was struggling riding up the hill. We soon understood why, he had a flat tire. Right. It's all part of the adventure. (Although we both said, "Wish we'd gone Naked!" Our friends Sam and Andrea's awsome bikes would have been great here!) Since we happened to be next to the Lycee Agricole (Agriculture School), we locked  up our bikes there and continued on foot toward the Belvedere viewpoint. We stopped at some archeological sites along the way. Once we arrived at the top, we saw trails that lead off from the viewpoint and picked the "Sentier des Cocotiers". We were the only ones on the trail. The tourists that showed up while we were there seemed to spend something like 5 minutes on the viewing platform and then they were off to the next tourist attraction. The more they seemed to be in a rush, the more we felt like slowing down.

Rick riding while he can!

History buff in his element

View of Cook's Bay from Belvedere.
If you look closely you can see where the reef divides the lagoon
and the open sea, the water is very flat inside the reef.

In her happy place: sweaty and dirty in "la
Le sentier des cocotiers

Opunohu Bay on the left, Cook's Bay on the right

Pineapple plantation. No, they don't grow
on trees

Rick walking his bike on Pineapple Road (Route d'Ananas)

Tired legs later, we headed back down and tried to call the bike rental place from a lone phone booth near the school, but the line was busy. After a half hour, worried we'd be stuck out there after dark, we began to make our way down to Cook's Bay. Rick pushed his bike beside him while I rode circles around him. An hour and a half later, we made it to the bay. As we neared the small store, Rick piped up: "I think we need to have some ice cream now." So we did.

We met Isabelle and Gabriel on SV Cariba through SV Estrellita in Papeete, and both our  boats ended up in Cook's Bay. It's been fun getting to know these two French Canadians over drinks and stories.The night after we biked and walked on the island, they had found a roulotte restaurant that looked promising (that's a roadside trailer kitchen) and invited us along. Thoughts of no cooking and no dishes were a no brainer for these two tired bodies.

A colourful spotted boxfish
The rest of our time here has been leisurely (in between boat jobs). We ran into Gina, whom we'd met in Mexico and went snorkeling with her and Gerry, the skipper of the boat she's crewing on. The coral reefs here are underwhelming, but we still had fun chasing fish.

Moorea, we slowed down because of you. Tomorrow or the day after, we hope to make a brief stop in Opunohu to go see those famous rays, and then it's off to Huahine and Bora Bora! We are running out of days on our visa.... And oh, how we wish we weren't.

*My friends would say I'm fanatic about wearing a cycling helmet. I've been known to ramble on about that. There were none to be had here, and I chose to go riding anyway... Yes Dana, you can shake your head at me!


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