Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Tahiti, that storied island of the South Pacific. It's history is full of whaling ships and explorers. Men who were seduced by her exotic beauty, compelled to "jump ship", to linger, to stay at all costs. Nothing has changed except ..... our french visas are up in a few weeks and how can you jump your own ship?
From Rangiroa, we dragged our sorry food poisoned asses for an overnight sail into the Tahiti Yacht Club and decided that if you had to be sick then it wasn't a bad place to recover. We were right. One of the largest most comprehensive grocery stores I have ever seen was across the street. I'm not talking upscale, I'm talking French upscale. There wasn't time in the world to try all the different pate's, cheeses, and mouthwatering delicacies prepared and waiting. This on top of fresh breads and reasonably priced Bordeaux was all an elaborate joke to us as we could hardly eat a thing. Well that changed soon enough and we were off and running in no time.
One weekend we rented a car to see the island with a couple from another boat. We circumnavigated the island because thats what we do. On the way we saw museums and botanical gardens, we ate lunch over looking the water inside the reef and watched as the outriggers plied the lagoon. When we got thirsty we bought a bottle of wine and kept exploring. The next day we explored the deep canyons of Tahiti. We drove across rivers and had a delicious picnic overlooking the pounding surf. With our friends one can't just look at the surf, so the next day we tied three surfboards to the roof and did it all again.
If that wasn't enough we managed to have parties nearly every night. When the native were throwing a big bash near the Yacht Club and the pounding drums, singing and dancing threatened to go on into the night we decided to join them. What a night we had with all the beautiful women and massive men dressed to the nines in their boisterous and vibrant colors. Of course always wearing flowers in their hair. We danced all of us and ate and drank and never once felt like we weren't welcome.
We did the usual tourist things especially as it was the time of year for all the Bastille Day festivities. There were outrigger races in the main harbor of Papeete where a hundred boats with teams of six would stab their way upwind in a mad dash. There was a dance extravaganza in a makeshift stadium set up downtown. Some cruisers went twice. The dancers were made up of different teams from all over the South Pacific. Every night there was a new show.
The Yacht Club proved to be a tranquil sanctuary after our hectic loud days in the city looking for parts, propane or dealing with paperwork. Liz even had her first crack at a washing machine in a very long time. We hadn't seen a laundry since the Galapagos. In Tahiti we were able to get our boat repairs done as well as set up the sewing machine and fix not only our sails but those of four other boats. Not bad work if you can get it. The cash took some of the bite out of the Polynesian prices and gained us the appreciation of our fellow sailors. Mark

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Rangiroa, Tuamotos

Over 500 miles away from the Marquisses lies the coral atolls of the Tuamotos. The Tuamotos are a group of over 40 islands nicknamed the "danger islands" because of all the coral fringes and expediante currents going in and out. We decided to visit Rangiroa which is the largest of the atolls in the Tuamotos and the second largest atoll in the world. Entrance is necessary at slack tide so luckily we timed our entrance well and except for the fact that we had a current against us that slowed us down to 0.9 knots at one point we made it in safely and dropped the hook in the clear water. So far the nicest water we have seen anywhere. Tired from a 4.5 day passage we were too excited to sleep so we dropped the dinghy and immediatley headed for land. The island is mostly made up of two small villages that are 6 miles apart. The island is miles long and most is uninhabited. Atolls are not actual islands but groups of mini islands called motus that join together and form a lagoon inside. Most of these atolls only have a few passes where the tides go in and out thus making the tides really fast and it can be dangerous for small vessels ie sailboats to enter and exit. But as I said we made it in. On the shore there is one main road, about seven magasins (small stores) and numerous hotels and pensions. As I said this is the largest island in the Tuamotos and a mecca for divers. One of the most popular dives is a 90 foot drift dive through the pass that allows diver to drift at about 5 knots past huge schools of sharks, barracudas and rays. Since I have trouble getting down that deep because of equalizing we stuck to more shallow dives and we snorked almost everyday. A place in the lagoon they call the Aquairum was always loaded with fish who were waiting to be fed. The locals have spoiled them by feeding them baguettes and fish heads when they bring out the glass bottom boats. This has made them aggressive and one even tried to bite a mole of Mark's back hoping it was a morsel of food. Every dive or snorel was amazing. I felt like an explorer ,as every time we jumped in the water I discovered something I had never seen before. And sharks, yes there were still plenty around even if you did not dive deep. They were always curious and some local said they were shy. I still kept my distance or just kept still and let them pass on by. The wierdest thing we saw were the Remoras, or sucker fish who attach to sharks and other fish with their huge sucker mouths. I have heard stories of these fish attaching to divers and I had more than one instance where I had a remora come really close as if he wanted to stake a claim on my white belly. We ended up spending two weeks in Rangiroa, celebrated my birthday and had a really great time. We departed Rangiroa on June 25th. Next.......on to Tahiti.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Nuku Hiva, Marquisses

Our fourth and final island in the Marquisses was Nuku Hiva. Baie de Taiohae, our first stop was a very large bay on the southern part of the island. The largest village on the island, we felt like it was a metropolis. Three whole restaurants, two groceries stores and even wireless internet (not a great deal at over $5 dollars an hour and slow, but still). Saturdays there was an early market, we are talking over and packing it all up by 6am. Fresh veggies and this is where are bread habit really got out of control. Criossants and pan au chocolat, not to mention creamy French butter. Atkins it's not around here.
After we escaped the bounds of retail and bread we shuffled east five miles to what is known as Daniel's Bay. A dramatic anchorage, we were surrounded by high cliffs and lush vegetation all around. We hiked to what was said to be one of the highest waterfalls in the world but on the way it was amazing to see all that was growing. Bananas, papayas, breadfruit,pamplemousse, limes, mangos and even pomegrantes were all around. Sounds like paradise? Well it pretty much is. We traded some German wine that we had been avoiding in our wine cellar for years for heaps of bananas, pamplemouse and limes we are still enjoying at least three weeks later.
After a stop back at Taiohae Bay for some provisioning we set off for the north end of Nuku Hiva. What we thought would be an easy four hour day sail turned into an all day event with squirrely winds , rough seas and squalls all day long. This made it all the better when we arrived in the flat calm Anaho Bay. One of the prettiest spots we had seen (and this is getting hard to distinguish) we set off the next day with Irie and Guava Jelly to hike over to the next bay which was known for the best restaurant in Nuku Hiva. After a glorious hike we feasted on fresh fish and goat curry before hiking back in the rain. It was welcome believe me as it is hot here in pardise. Luckily I had my backpack and walking stick so I could knock the mangos out of the trees on the way home. I have never been a big mango fan but I am learning because well, here they literally grow on trees. Next......the Tuamotos.