Saturday, May 31, 2008

Anchoring in coral

We lifted the anchor today, after watching several boats that have been here over a week unwind their anchor chains from the coral heads on the sandy bottom! It was stuck but with a little gentle persuasion it popped off whatever it was hooked on. We moved into slightly deeper water for an early morning departure. The weather reports indicate 15-20 knots of wind from the East and that would suit us fine for the 250 mile run to Tahiti and the big city of Papeete. We have loaded up on fresh baguettes,
had our final swim and loaded the dinghy on deck so hopefully the weather gods will be kind and we can get through the pass early in the morning.
Fakarava atoll has been a very seductive place to hang around but it is time to move on!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


We are glad we stopped! Each atoll has its own charms. This one, being second in size only to Rangiroa, is quite large, 32 miles long by 15 miles wide, and has several villages along the East side. It is obviously wealthier with a greater population. The bay we are anchored in at the edge of Rotoava village is gorgeous! Today, after a walk in town, including a visit to the bakery for fresh baguettes and a few carrots and some local beer at the store, we blew up the kayaks for the first time.
We paddled along the shore, sandy with palm trees, among coral heads for about 2 miles to the point. Sting rays darting ahead of us along the sandy bottom and small black tipped reef sharks doing whatever little sharks do! The sun was baking us so badly we had to go for a swim!
Still not enough wind to convince us to move on to Papeete and the big city lights! Just as well....the gentle breeze is enough to make the heat bearable!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pearl farming!

Turns out the owner of the only operational pearl farm left on Kauehi, also the owner of the local 'magazin', and the town's newly elected mayor gave us the tour personally! A 20 minute ride in the back of his pickup with stops at the new airport (plane coming in this PM apparently), where he also has the concession stand, and another stop where a local entrepreneur was in the final stages of building a 'pensione' or bungalow to rent to tourists. Quite a nice place on the water! The pearl farm
was very interesting. Our timing could not have been better as he had two young Chinese girls employed for two months to seed the oysters. We were taken through the entire process from growing the 'naissan' or young oysters, harvesting them to implant the synthetically produced bio-chemical nucleus with a dab of irritant taken from another oyster to cause the pearl to form. Some are rejected by the oysters but most become pearls and are harvested after twelve months hanging in the sea. He then
brought out his big 'treasure' case and spread out two piles of black pearls on a white cloth. He was charging 1500f (about $20) for the larger ones and 1000f for the smaller. The other three boats bought quite a few but we only picked out a half dozen. Then he gave everyone a handful for free and had everyone close their eyes and pick one at random from a pile.
Back in town, his wife asked if we would be interested in a dinner! Talk about your pizza deprived yuppies....and she only wanted 700f per person (about $10) so we agreed to return at 7 to their house. Getting in to shore in the dark, navigating around the coral heads, was interesting but we managed, along with three other boats and were treated to two kinds of very nice fish, chicken, a salad of sorts, rice, juice and pears for dessert! It was fun and a nice change from cooking and cleaning on
Met our fisherman friend, RiriFatu on the road in town and the grandmother had woven hats for both of us out of palm leaves! This man was a pleasure to meet and we will miss him but tomorrow we have decided it is definitely time to move on!
We had planned on a direct route to Papeete but after raising the anchor at first light and motoring out the pass (no trauma this time).....we found no wind at all. We motored 30 miles to the next atoll, Fakarava, and pulled in for the night, determined to wait for wind to sail the 200 miles to Tahiti.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Fun in the sun

We had a day of snorkelling! First around the bay we were anchored in. Found some live coral and lots of little fish but not much else. So we dinghied out about a mile to a big reef in the center of the atoll and threw the small anchor out there. Bigger fish and lots of live coral but did not see any sharks! Maybe just as well!
The following day we were being lazy on board. The two small boys paddled out on their surfboard and we let them on board. They were about 10 years old and fairly well behaved, curious about everything on the boat. In the distance I saw someone working in the water on a reef near shore...turned out to be our friend RiriFatu who paddled over in his outrigger and offered us the fruits of his labours! Seems he was shucking these giant clam shells and had a bucket full of the meat. He put a pile
of it into a bowl for us and was invited on board. We sat and talked about lots of things...the community, their happened to be May and every Saturday in May was special to the Catholics. He explained how the town was divided into four sections representing the four Evangelists...Mathew, Mark, Luke and John! I thought there was a Ringo but did not mention it. We gave him lunch and shared our last two Mexican beers before he paddled back to shore. That night we pressure cooked the
shellfish and curried it in coconut milk. It was interesting! Later we walked into town and picked up some fresh baguettes. An airplane had landed this morning but we missed it while re-anchoring...did I mention the chain wrapped around the coral so tight the bow was dipping? Came off fairly easily but with a little coaxing and lots of turning around!
Today was Mother's Day and the service at the church in town was a spectacle! The children sang and everyone had flowers hung on them. The locals were sporting their Sunday best and more jewellery than you would see in Harlem on any night!
Every day we plan to leave but today 'Tin Soldier' arrived and we have not toured the pearl farm yet. We went on board the Dorothy Marie, had drinks with Sally and Glen as well as Dennis and Janet from 'Shilling'. Not long before the guitars and piano and saxophone came out and music was wafting across the pond!
Reading a hilarious book they lent us called "Sex Lives of the Cannibals" by J. Maarten Troost.....if you can get your hands on might enjoy it!
Anyway my job is to get up early and try to set up the pearl farm tour tomorrow for the whole stay tuned!

Thursday, May 22, 2008


RiriFatu is the name of the fisherman we met yesterday. Today we returned to visit him and I gave him my grinding wheel from my disc grinder and a spare blade I had. In return he called his wife over and we walked across the sand spit among the palm trees and the crabs scuttling into their holes to the other side of the lagoon where he had a small outrigger pulled up on the beach. He picked up a net and he and his wife climbed into the outrigger. While a cousin held one end of it on the beach,
they circled a small house on stilts with the net and slowly and silently closed the gap on the fish that were hiding in the shade. Then an older woman came out with a bucket and sharp knife and they proceeded to pull fish out of the net and cut them up on the spot. I was offered one raw that had been gutted and sliced on the outside in a crisscross pattern. Why not? It was the freshest sashimi you could imagine! They watched me as I ate bits of it. We joked and the older lady said to dip
it in the ocean. The salt improved the taste. After a while it was pretty good actually. I consumed a whole small fish.
Back at their house, he presented Linda with a necklace made from mother of pearl and dropped two fresh young coconuts from a tree for us to drink. He gave us a pile of the smaller fish to take home and marinate (make poisson cru) and one of the larger ones for dinner. He removed the dangerous barb from the tail for me!! We plan to filet it and fry it in butter momentarily!
These are very kind people and although they are becoming accustomed to the 'tourists' that come through on the yachts...they are still welcoming and shades of the older Polynesian hospitality remains. Truly another day in paradise!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Finally arrived!

That is what it feels like anyway....we have finally arrived at the kind of place you read about and imagine when you set out on a journey like this. We paid some dues getting here but that is part of the process!
We went into the small village yesterday and met the local constabulary. He was very nice and apologetic about the news that a local islands council had decided to institute fees for anchoring in the atolls. It was the horrendous sum of 40ff per person per day. That is less than .50 in our currency. For that they take your garbage....not a small problem on a strip of sand and palm trees in the middle of the ocean. They burn a lot and maybe send some back on the supply ship but I doubt it. They
are planning to put in moorings for the visitors as well. We went back to his office where his 'secretary' took the boat info and gave us a receipt for our three days! We entered our names and 'Toketie' into the guest book, which they were very proud of! The building was over 100 years old! I spoke to him some more and learned that the other half dozen boats had not understood French and he could not communicate to them that they needed to make this small contribution to their economy so I offered
to spread the word. Today we have a notice posted at the end of the dock, in English, that explains it!
The kids are a riot. Once they realize you are friendly they are all over you. We have lots of pictures as they hammed it up pretty good. Two little girls begged us to go back to the boat and have popcorn and juice! Maybe tomorrow as the sun was setting. Met a very nice man working in his yard, a fisherman who seemed to be carving something. We greeted him and were invited into the yard. He had a small grinder and was trying to shape what looked like mother of pearl into small sailboats and
other things. His grinding wheel was worn down to the end so I will look through my tool box to see if I can find him another. His name was 'Riribatou' spelling!
Had Rose and Robert on 'Tillicum' over for dinner and scrabble last night. They have been living this cruising lifestyle for 20 years and deliver boats when the opportunity arises. We enjoyed the evening and the company and went way beyond our usual bedtimes!
Heard JD twice now on the HF radio, quite clearly, but he could not hear us.
Spent this morning in the water, not playing, but scrubbing the water line which was foul with marine growth. Then I went down below with a chisel and removed the barnacles from the propeller and rudder stock area. A quick scrub of the zincs and I think we are set for another week in this climate!
We are finally feeling relaxed and are enjoying it here so plan to stay a while longer!

Monday, May 19, 2008

At the atoll!

Today was a pretty slow day! The wind howled through here from the NW which is an unusual pattern that can occur in May apparently. It often signifies a frontal system from the S which would leave us exposed. But we are inside the reef and tucked up into a little cul de sac at the N end near a small village. It is very picturesque and if the wind dies down enough to see through the ripples, we are told the coral and sand is visible to 40 feet in the clear turquoise water! In short, it is all
a Robinson Crusoe type island should be....except maybe for the other six boats and the locals on shore! It is not really an island though. It is quite an interesting geological formation. Imagine a low ring of coral but about ten miles long and 4 miles wide. Inside is like a big bathtub. In this atoll, Kauehi, there is only one entrance at the SW end. That is where we had all the bouncy fun yesterday when entering! This entrance is similar to Porlier Pass for all you local BC sailors out
there. The pass itself is 1500' wide but the channel is only 1000' wide with coral on the edges. The currents can run up to 8 knots in some of these passages but it is the overflow turbulence that makes it a bouncy trip as all that seawater tries to get over the reef into the bathtub! Added to that, the wind over tide is always a challenging proposition.
Anyway, the ring of coral forming the atoll has palm trees and sand mostly on the E side but the strip is only hundreds of yards wide and the rest of the ring is awash, or just below the surface of the sea. Occasionally there will be a little clump of trees or sand on this perimeter. Needless to say it is very hard to spot from any distance and the awash part you would not see till you were on the breakers. Quite dramatic actually! But the ring around acts as a breakwater and calms the ocean
swells so on the inside the surface is more or less smooth. Of course, being 10 miles long, there is considerable fetch (distance) so the wind can build up some short steep seas. Today we bounced on our anchor rode so much that I put a kelet on the chain! That is an additional weight that slides down part way off the bow roller to hold the chain at a lower angle and act as a buffer for the wind gusts and swells that lift the bow of the boat. The coral reef is only a few hundred yards downwind
of us and as enticing as it may be, we hope to keep Toketie off of it!
Have not launched the dinghy yet, maybe tomorrow if the rain squalls and high winds settle down. The gendarme in the last Marquesan Island made a point of reminding us to check in with the local 'chief' in the Tuamotus if not an official port of call. Maybe we will look for the 'chief' tomorrow! I wonder if he makes baguettes?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Kauehi atoll

That was probably one of the most difficult passages we have ever done! Light winds, no winds, squalls then motoring for over 60 hours! No fun :( But we made it and it is an incredible place. The full moon shines down on us anchored off a small village at the N end of the atoll. We made a bouncy entry through the pass...and I mean bouncy....shipping water over the decks and at one point did a 360 but managed to push our way through only to be met by 15 to 20 knots of wind dead on the nose for
8 miles to get to the anchorage! But we made it before sundown and got the hook down in sand and coral. We are exhausted but relieved to have arrived!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sloooww progress!

Still no wind to speak of! Had a bit of lift from the NE today but have been motoring and motor sailing now for a day and a night and it looks like we will motor all night and hopefully make Kauehi tomorrow PM. The moon is almost full so the nights are easier. Although we are still surprised occasionally by a tropical downpour of rain and one of them had 20 knots of wind in it last lasted all of ten minutes though and was gone!
So during the hot sunny day, we did laundry and hung it out to dry! The lamb roast on the barbq was excellent and we had leftovers tonight!
Not much more to say. This is the longest we have ever motored. I think we will have used more diesel in the last few days than in the entire crossing! Glad we scrubbed the fuel and changed all the filters in Mexico. The oil was changed last week in the Marquesas so it is purring pretty nice....touch wood!
At this rate we should be able to send an update about our first 'tomato' experience after tomorrow! Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Underway...sort of!

Well we have made good about 190 miles in 48 hours! Plagued by light wind since we left, we have averaged under 4 knots. On the brighter side, the seas are calm and the skies are blue with fluffy white clouds. Passed through a couple of squalls last night but very little rain and not much wind in them either. At the moment we are practically adrift and have to reef the main just to keep it from slatting from side to side. It's not uncomfortable but it sure is slow! I guess this must be the
'boring' part people warned us about! Only 330 miles to go to Kauehi!
Also, the propagation is not great so I only seem to be able to connect to send these updates after sundown.
Tarun and Cat's Paw IV managed to get into Manihi and really enjoyed it. Talked to them on the SSB and they are leaving today for Papeete. Also spoke to Rose on Tillicum and they expect to arrive at Kauehi at noon today so we should get a report back from them tonight.
Meanwhile the baguettes we stocked up on make great French toast (seemed appropriate here) and we are coping well...but the trashy novels help!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Best laid plans

Like all cruising plans, ours were written in the sand at low tide! It seems we will opt for more challenging places in the Tuamotus! The conservative route is sounding overcrowded and the locals welcome is wearing thinner each year! So based on feedback from friends who passed this way last season and a closer study of charts and tides, we think a more easterly approach is feasible.
JD will appreciate this...we ran into Rose and I think her husband's name was Robert, on a boat called Tillicum! They are from Victoria and have been cruising now off and on for 20 years. They were headed for a Tuamotu called Kauehi and we will follow them and hopefully catch up to them there. We were leaning to Raroia as a first stop but decided it would be almost an extra week which we cannot afford. We may also stop at Toau and/or Fakarava. These are not on the 'beaten path' so we expect
fewer boats in them and perhaps more appreciation from the locals.
But that is planning and written in sand! You will have to tune in to find out where we end up! Meanwhile, after a few days in this little village on Hua Pou, we perhaps had a peak behind the Kimono as far as the French and Marquesan's are concerned. It's a strange little place and although the sound of children's laughter rings out as they play on the beach and families gather on Sunday to cook picnics on barbeque pits, there seems to be an undercurrent of unease. People are polite and helpful
if you direct an inquiry at them, but they are also preoccupied. Then we met Xavier, actually I sort of met him when we anchored as he was swimming across the bay on a boogie board and I spoke to him. Later we ran into him in town and he threw his Kimono so wide open, it near blinded us! Suffice it to say, he is a French national and came to Huku Hiva as a teacher on a two year contract, was run over by a drunk driver, walks with a limp and a cane, has retired and built two houses on land he purchased
here, one to live in and one to rent. Unfortunately something happened and one of the houses burned down. He blames a couple in the community and that's where we decided maybe this was more information than we needed at the time....
So we carried our little plastic bag with four items from the magazin.....peanut butter, a loaf of frozen bread from New Zealand, a liter of juice and a dozen eggs....1900francs worth..or about $27....back to the boat....couldn't find a baguette in the whole town! Apparently the bakery opens at 5AM and if you don't get there by 6AM, you are out of luck. We may attempt that tomorrow!
Today was a busy day! Linda went to refill the rice container from the big Tupperware bin it is stored in and discovered it was crawling with little black bugs. A more careful survey found they had migrated to the Italian pasta and a few other places! So all of the cupboards were small feat....and everything investigated....she then washed them out with bleach and I sprayed them with some heavy duty bug killer left over from San Blas, Mexico. While she was busy eradicating critters,
I was in the cockpit, hiding from the sun and splicing ratlines for the shrouds! More on that when they come into play eh!
The pamplemousse are ripe and are great for cleansing the system!
Next the anchors up and dinghy loaded. Made it to the bakery at 6AM and stocked up on baguettes. Now underway for the Tuamotus!

Friday, May 09, 2008

The time has come, the walrus said...

Well, we did the hike and found the old pile of rocks, got bit by the nonos and best of all....met the young doctor at the infirmary who gracefully allowed us to fill a sack with pamplemousse from the tree in the yard!
I think we are "Marequesad out"! You know that feeling you get when you are travelling, that it has been nice but it is time to move on! Well, we have reached that stage here! The islands are interesting and the people have been very kind but they are all starting to look the same. I swear some of those old rocks were moved from the last island and re-stacked for our benefit..... I should not be so jaded as walking among them there really was a feeling that something went on in these abandoned
ruins long ago. But time is passing and our three months in French Polynesia is dwindling and the window to reach New Zealand before the cyclones start presses us to move on. Besides, there is always something more interesting around the next corner!
So we filled the water tanks and the four extra jugs on deck! That was several long dinghy rides and carting them up to the tap where we filtered the water into the tanks and lugged them back to siphon into the main tanks. All of that in rain and sun and heat and humidity and bugs! But its paradise eh!
Tomorrow we plan to make sail for the island of Hua Pou where we will officially check out of the Marquesas and then proceed to the Tuamotus. We have decided to take the conservative passage through these dangerous low lying atolls. It skirts the northern end of them and we plan to stop at Manihi and possibly Rangiroa. That will be enough challenge for this crew! Timing the passes an hour or so after slack water to avoid the 8 knot currents that carry you into the lagoon infested with coral heads!
Sounds like fun! Once inside though, the waters are sheltered and we can play with the sharks in the clear water.
And beyond the Tuamotus lies Tahiti and the Society Islands, which looks like an interesting place to explore before moving to Bora Bora where we will exit French Polynesia for the Cook Islands.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Baie de Controleur

A week in Taiohae on Nuku Hiva was enough! Although spectacular, it was a very crowded and not a particularly clean anchorage. We had done two hikes and met the famous Rose Corser who has been here since the early seventies when she and her husband sailed in and stayed. She is a very gentle soul who lives alone now and has given up the hotel they built and runs a small museum and gift shop with some beautiful artifacts from the islands.
So we dropped in to the local gendarmes and informed them we would be moving on in the morning. They like to keep track of the boats in case someone is looking for one. So we upped the anchors from the sticky mud and beat our way around the corner, about 10 miles, to Baie de Controleur. There was only one other boat when we arrived but by sundown there were five boats anchored. It is a deep bay with mountainous sides and has three smaller bays within which are protected anchorages. So we chose
the center, larger one and dinghied in to the small black sand beach at the head. Here we found potable water from a tap that we were welcome to use so we filled three gerry cans and will do that several more times before our tanks are full. We then walked into the small town and bought the customary baguette at the small store, along with two cans of coconut milk and a couple of other supplies. There was not much to pick from and the prices were a bit higher than Thrifty's! What we really want
is some fruit but we'll have to ask around tomorrow. Rumours of an archaeological site, Paeke, with a ceremonial platform used by priests and chieftains for worship, burial and human sacrifices. It is called a maeae an measures 557 ft by 82 ft. We will go looking for it tomorrow. It is recommended you take your bug spray as the nonos are hungry!
We are travelling alone now as Tarun, our buddy boat from Mexico, has elected to accompany Cat's Paw IV, another Blue Water Cruising boat, who bumped a reef and have unknown damage to their skeg. So the two of them will set a quicker pace for Papeete where they have a haulout scheduled to check the damage. Meanwhile, Toketie will meander along at a slower pace and poke into more corners of this fascinating world.
It is hard to establish any kind of relationship with the locals as it is a very brief season and the cruisers pass through fairly quickly. But they are friendly and helpful and don't seem bothered by us invading their peaceful lives. Talking to cruisers who were here over 25 years ago makes us realize just how much things have changed. There were no roads then and there were as many boats in all of French Polynesia as are anchored now in Taiohae Bay! The locals are fairly well off it seems,
judging by the number of Toyotas and Land Rovers on the few miles of roads!
So we will do some exploring and fill our water tanks. We found butane in the last place rather than propane, and are told it burns the same. Two trips by dinghy to the fuel dock saw the diesel tanks filled at 125 francs a liter (about $1.80). Then we should be ready to plan the next major leg through the Tuamotus where no services are available. They are a string of coral reefs with palm trees on them and also referred to as the "low or dangerous archipelago" as many ships have been lost on
them. It is about 500 miles to the first and we are studying the charts and guide books to decide which we shall attempt to visit.
Knowing how you are all hanging on every word....:)...I will attempt to be more diligent with the reporting!

Baie de Taiohae

A hike to the top of the ridge!

Friday, May 02, 2008


a hike in the hills....leads to fascinating stuff!


a hike in the hills....leads to fascinating stuff!


final resting place....

fish for dinner!



unwelcome guest.....


Becalmed on a glassy sea!

Nuku Hiva - Baie de Taiohae

The last of the Mexican potatoes and carrots went on the barbecue today surrounded by the ancient volcanic mountains where Herman Melville jumped a whaling ship! Talk about a place for inspiration!

But I'm getting ahead of myself....after our hike on Fatu Hiva to the waterfall and dealing with French officialdom in Hiva Oa, we spent close to a week at several anchorages on Tahuata and leaving there for a bay on the north end of Hiva Oa, we were hit by a squall in early afternoon and abandoned that idea to go directly to Nuku Hiva. It was another 70 miles so would be an overnight sail but the wind was great and saw us flying on a broad reach all day and as the sun set the wind lightened slightly as dark clouds were forming all around us. We were making such good time, hitting over 7 knots at times, we reefed once, then twice and eventually reduced the headsail to slow us down. As it was we arrived two hours before dawn and hove to awaiting the light to enter the famous Taiohaie Bay. It was as spectacular as expected....guarded by the twin sentinel rocks at the entrance, the long deep bay with towering volcanic mountains all around was worth being up all night to experience!

A neighbouring boat offered to pick up fresh baguettes for us as the bakery usually ran out early. We gratefully accepted and by afternoon were organized and rested enough to go into town and check in with the local constabulary. The young woman was very friendly and joked about trading passports with Linda so she could live in Canada! Banking to policing...probably not that big a transition!

Next day we hiked for a few hours into the valley and found some very old, overgrown ruins. Looked like a ceremonial site where perhaps the dinner victims were sacrificed on the stone altar! Huge banyan trees gave it a majestic air while eroded stone tikis and moai (as in Rapa Nui) were scattered about in the dense foliage and high grass that covered the site. Not sure how old this place was but the trail to it was not clear and we were the only ones wandering around in it. On the walk back we were soaked by heavy rains that can occur here at any time of day or night! But it was warm and its only water!

Tomorrow apparently there is a dance performance at sunset and Saturday morning we will try to catch the fruit and vegetable market that starts at 4AM! They say that by 6AM, everything is gone!

Propane here is replaced by butane but we are told it burns as well, if under less pressure. The warm climate might make that irrelevant. Am also searching for internet access and diesel. It is recommended that the water here be boiled so that might be a problem too. Rumours of a fresh water stream in neighbouring Daniel's Bay will have to be explored!