Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Journal Entry August 30 - Settling In On Raro

Author: Scott

It is amazing how excited one can get about a garden hose squirting fresh water when you are out cruising. Well, the last time Tournesol got a fresh water bath was in Papeete and boy did she need one now. You could run your finger anywhere across her surface and come up with your finger white and sticky with sea salt. On Tuesday morning, our first full day in Rarotonga (Raro), it was time for Tournesol to get a much needed shower. Now getting the hose over to Tournesol was not such an easy feat, because we were smack dab in the middle of two spigots, with neither very close to us. Fortunately, both Starship and Wallaby Creek were both leaving and they also wanted to clean their boats as well. So that we could all clean our boats we made a giant hose snake by joining all of our hoses together, allowing us to all have access to the glorious fresh water. Once clean we hoisted the Q flag on Tournesol and waited for the Customs and Agriculture inspectors to arrive on our sparkling boat.

The customs inspector arrived very quickly after displaying the quarantine flag and asked for a dinghy ride over to the boat since we were med moored. I jumped into the dinghy and paddled over to get him while he crawled down the precarious rusting steel ladder that hung on to the sea wall by a single support strut. It was a little humorous watching this poor officials hanging on to the ladder like King Kong hanging on the Empire State Building but soon I arrived packing him into the dinghy and providing safety. In a minute we were on the boat and answered all the typical questions like do we have pets, did we bring plants… Everything went along as per usual until he pulled out a spray can and asked us to close all the hatches and windows aboard Tournesol because she had to be sprayed for bugs. We quickly complied and he entered the boat and after a few seconds of shshshshshshshsh he emerged and told us to close the hatch boards and stay out for five minutes. Now we don’t have the slightest idea what was sprayed inside but he assured us it was safe. I figured that if he was spraying boats daily and still had the strength to hang on the sea wall ladder, then we would survive, besides after seeing a few bugs in the past few months anything that may kill them was welcome. That was it, we were all done with Customs, he told us that another man from the Health Department may show up later in the day but left this hanging in the air with complete uncertainty. This is the kind of vagueness that we have come to expect in the South Pacific. We paddled back and I watched Kong climb his way to safety and returned to Tournesol to face the bug carnage and aftermath of the aerosol attack. When we cautiously opened the boat back up we did not know what we would find, maybe legions of dying cockroaches laying on their backs with writhing legs in the air and gasping for their last bug breath, or maybe they would be sitting in a circle wearing tie dye shirts, breathing in deep tokes of the magic mixture and singing “Give Peace a Chance”. Well, when we entered we didn’t find anything like this, not a single pest, and you couldn’t even smell the pesticide. Maybe it’s all a sham and the guy comes on your boat and sprays furniture cleaner and looks official, or maybe the concoction is odorless but Pam and I will turn into giant Palmetto bugs in a few days.

Our next mission was to walk over to the Port Captain and check in. The Port Captain is located in a smart little blue A frame building with showers and toilets available to cruisers on the first floor and the offices upstairs. Starship came with us to check out while we checked in, typical of us to say goodbye to friends just as slow Tournesol arrived. The Port Captain’s name is John and he turned out to be unlike most of the stern and foreboding Port Captains we have met along the way. John was friendly and informative with lots of information about town and Raro. After our Port Captain visit we were off to explore with Frank and Rachel, they were looking for meat for their passage and we were directed to a store called Meat Co. we must be headed for the right place. Meat Co. was our first experience in a store with all the products labeled in English since leaving the states and Pam and I must have looked like screwy Americans as we lovingly fondled the canned spaghetti and jasmine rice, ah - what a luxury to read again. We held off buying groceries for now and settled with some ice and a cold drink. We walked back to the boats but made a quick stop for some fish and chips at this funky “take away” restaurant that was operating out of what looked like a circus trailer. The fish was tasty and we met the local cat that hangs out begging for food, and Pam gave the furry scavenger a snippet, but soon we were off so our ice would not melt.

Back at the boats we had a cold drink over on Starship and caught up on their experiences in Raro, but soon it was time for them to depart. We helped them with their lines and they slowly moved forward away from the sea wall. They didn’t get far however, because when they got out just about thirty feet they realized they had pulled up our anchor chain. In seconds another cruiser was there and they freed Starship and towed our anchor out to be reset in a better position. Once Starship had sailed off we moved Tournesol over to starboard two boat spaces so we would be far enough away from the side sea wall to allow the Navy boat that was arriving on Friday to dock without having to move Tournesol. We were now fully settled in on Raro! In a few short hours there were only us and another boat left at the quay on Raro and all of our friends were gone off to find their next adventure. Well fine, who needs those guys anyways! So what if we are a little slow and pokey, now we have an entire island to explore and we started out in style! After cleaning up we headed off for an almost perfect night. We stopped at Palace Burger for a giant cheeseburger, unfortunately not at the top of the South Pacific burger list, but a worthy burger overall. Then we made our way to the movie theatre to see our first movie since Mexico. We had a little scare when we were informed by the woman selling tickets that we would have to wait until ten people showed up or they would not show the move. We patiently waited in bright red plastic chairs until the all important number ten walked into the lobby and we were all sold tickets. Pam and I bought popcorn and sodas and settled in to watch “The Longest Yard” remake. It was not our first choice but it was what they were playing, and in the end it was light hearted, silly, and lots of fun. We walked back to the boat and I basked in a post cheeseburger popcorn haze.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Journal Entry – August 24 – 29, 2005 Passage from Bora Bora to Rarotonga

Author: Pam

We got up with the sun with the primary goal of getting the rest of the laundry dry before leaving. We spent the morning respectively doing the chores to prepare to leave by late afternoon. We had made plans to have lunch with Warren and Stephanie, they were coming by at 12:30 and we wanted to be all ready to go after lunch. We accomplished everything but stowing the dinghy, that would have to wait until after lunch.

The best part about our stay at the yacht club was the opportunity to use a washing machine. Apparently the yacht club is under new ownership and the business plan left us a bit baffled and disappointed. After being on a mooring ball for free at Bloody Mary's with free access to water and ice, it was a bit difficult to pay $20.00 per night for the ball, $10.00 to do laundry, $10.00 for ice and $10.00 per boat to take a shower. We did not take on any water, but we did take advantage of the rest of the amenities. However, not everything worked out as we had hoped. We were both excited about the opportunity to take a "real shower”. It is amazing how much lower your standards become when opportunities become so limited. The showers were far from beautiful, but at least it was a shower. So after finishing all of our chores we rowed to shore for a shower before we hit the road. I won't go into the gory details, but the experience far surpassed my lowest expectations when the plumbing apparently backed up into the shower I was using. I quickly washed the shampoo out of my hair and bolted. We stopped to pay our tab on the way out and explained with disgust what had just happened. Not much was said, but at least in good form she did not charge us for the shower. We went back to the boat and I finished showering on the bow with the sun shower. I didn't quite finish before Stephanie and Warren arrived to go to lunch. There's another thing I have gotten mostly use to, it seems every time I take a shower on the bow (of course wearing a bathing suit) someone comes by for a chat right in the middle. It's a cozy community.

We had a nice lunch at the yacht club, sharing plans of next stops and when we might meet up again. We will most likely see them in Tonga. They are not going to Rarotonga, they are headed to Penryn in the Cook Islands and then to America Somoa.

They dropped us off back at Tournesol and shortly after Ann and James came over to say so long. They are not going to Rarotonga either. James likes to only go west, so they are going to Aitutaki, another island in the Cooks. We have opted to skip Aitutaki, the pass is 40 feet wide and six feet deep. It is suppose to be very beautiful, but challenging to get into.

After all of our goodbyes we stowed the dinghy and finished the last few details. We raised the main sail with one reef and with the help of the engine sailed off of our mooring and out the pass at 3:45, right on schedule. As we headed west into the sunset we were treated to a perfect rainbow shrouding Bora, it was a very sentimental goodbye to French Polynesia.

We couldn't have asked for more perfect sailing conditions, moderate wind and calm seas had us enjoying our love for sailing on the bow as the sun set. We made tuna sandwiches on the last delicious baguette we had bought yesterday. They love their baguettes in French Polynesia. Yesterday while we were waiting for our ride at the grocery store I watched every person come out of the store with at least two baguettes, usually more. There are always bins or shelves stacked with (sometimes still warm) delicious loaves of freshly baked bread. Well unless they have run out for the day, it pays to go early if you really have a hankering.

As we eased into the watch schedule the evening continued to be calm, until around midnight. The wind increased and so did the seas. This was the end of the perfect sailing for this trip and the beginning of the worst passage so far. We had winds up to 40 knots and unrelenting seas that either crashed over the boat, crashed into the boat or picked Tournesol up and deposited her at the bottom. It was like being on a roller coaster with no end. We had the usual small stream running across the cabin sole when we take on that much water over the side. We could not have the hatch or any ports open and we had to keep the lower hatch board in the companionway. We couldn't be out in the cockpit, because waves were crashing over the side and filling it up like a bathtub. These conditions continued throughout most of the trip, with the seas calming down on the third day, only to pick back up again. One morning I was sleeping on the starboard settee and Scott was sitting on the port side and we had our first near knockdown. Tournesol was hit by a wave that sent her over to at least 70 degrees. We experienced the crashing sounds of anything that is on the loose, the big one was the dish drainer with a few dishes that sailed across and landed on and under the nav station. It happened so fast and because I was lying down on the low side of the boat I had minimal awareness of what happened. I have decided if you are going to get knocked down perhaps laying on the low side of the boat is the place to be. Another morning Scott was sleeping this time on the starboard side, but we had changed tacks shorly before, but not which side we were sleeping on. The heel was manageable and neither one of was keen on the hassle of making a bed on the other side of the boat. The heel wasn't a problem, but those pesky waves threw Scott on the floor twice. He landed in a heap at my feet between the settee and the table, it was quite amazing, because he barely fits. With the boat rolling and pitching it is very difficult to move around, including cooking. We were not our usual creative galley monkies, we cooked a few times, but eating was just no fun. I don't care for the conditions where you can't set your dish down for one second and getting your fork to meet your mouth is an Olympic event. It is a good thing it was only a five day passage, we barely ate anything the last day and a half.

We made excellent time, averaging 7 knots for more than 48 hours. At 0500 on Monday morning Scott heaved to six miles outside the pass to Rarotonga. We had a radio check in scheduled with Starship at 0830 to find out the status of space in the harbor. When we talked the night before they told us the harbor was still very crowded and they didn't know if and where there would be space to come in. At 0830 they suggested we make our way toward the entrance, but stand off until 1000 when the navy ship would leave and space should open up. We began to make way, unfortunately into the wind. Due to the current while we were hove to we were now eight miles out. At 1100 after using the engine for almost two hours we were finally ready to enter the pass. Starship was standing by to direct us to the one spot on the quay they were saving for our arrival. Scott was on the bow and I was at the wheel, our usual configuration for entering ports. The pass is two jetties a tenth of a mile apart. From my perspective it looked smaller than that, but Scott assured me there was plenty of room. We made it through with no problem and were met by Frank just inside the harbor. First impression this is the SMALLEST harbor we have ever seen, much less come into. It looked small on the chart and in the ariel picture in the cruising guide, but we didn't know how small that really was. The harbor is a quarter of a mile wide by a quarter of mile deep and jammed with sailboats and working boats on the very small quay and anchored on the sides. Thanks to Frank and Rachel saving a spot, we were able to squeeze in between them and Wallaby Creek. We first rafter to Wallaby creek while we got the lines ready to med moore to the quay. Frank set our anchor using his dinghy. After four and a half days we were here and we couldn't have been happier to have this passage behind us. The boat looked like a wreck, mostly from the work it took to set up all of the lines, of course the lazerette had to get pulled apart to get to the spare dock lines.

Rachel invited us over and offered to share some of the tuna they had gotten on Saturday from the market. Scott couldn't pass up a cold drink and of course you know who couldn't pass up the tuna. It was nice to be in a different environment and take a little time before we sorted out Tournesol. After lunch we decided to go into town with Rachel and Frank to get the scoop on the lay of the land from them, they are planning to leave tomorrow. We instantly liked the island as soon as our feet hit the ground. We did not go to the Port Captain to check in, he was out of the office today. Our first stop and chance to spend New Zealand dollars was the ice cream shop. We had yummy homemade ice cream, once again a very welcome treat after our lack of food over the past few days. We made a stop at the internet cafe and began the arduous task of checking our land e-mail after more than a month. We checked out the grocery store on the way back, at a glance we found some prices better and some more expensive than French Polynesia. We offered to take Frank and Rachel out to dinner to thank them for their help. We made a plan to meet up in a few hours. On the way back to the boat we ran into Alan the captain of Wallaby Creek on his way back to his boat after a HOT shower. Scott asked if we could borrow his key and after tidying up the boat we headed back to shore to take what proved to be our first real and enjoyable shower in months. It seems there is a limit to the HOT water, but it was still lovely.

We decided to go to dinner at Trader Jacks, a restaurant we had walked by earlier. They specialize in seafood and that worked for everyone except Scott who had his old standby steak. I had green lipped mussels from New Zealand. They were huge, some bigger in the shell as the palm of my hand. After dinner we shared a nip of the end of the bottle of very fine cognac on Starship and fell into bed, it took only moments for sleep to come as Tournesol bounced gently secured to her new home.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Journal Entry August 22 & 23, 2005 Final Days in French Polynesia

Author: Scott

The last two days were our last two full days on Bora Bora. It is strange to think that we are actually leaving French Polynesia soon. We should find some relief from the inflated prices, we will get a break from struggling with French, and soon Tourism will greatly decrease leaving a greater mixture of locals and cruisers.

Monday started by easing into the chores of leaving. We spent the morning cleaning and while Pam was cleaning the deck her jar of cleanser jumped off the boat for a swim. I immediately went to the rescue in the dinghy which still had no motor on it and chased the little yellow plastic rascal across the anchorage. When I finally caught up with the pest I was a good fifty yards down wind of Tournesol, and I started my long and grueling paddle against the wind. I later found out that I made good entertainment for the other boats who sat back and watched the entire performance. Well, at least no one can call the Tournesolians anchorage litter bugs. When I finally reached Tournesol, I held the plastic bottle high in the air and proclaimed that I was indeed the victor. The rest of the morning was spent ferrying water, getting ice, and offloading the trash at Bloody Mary’s.

Just before noon we dropped the mooring ball at Bloody Mary’s and motored two miles to the north to the Bora Bora Yacht Club, so that we could be closer to town for checking out… The trip over went well and we were able to easily hone in on a GPS position given to us from Novia’s last visit to the Yacht Club. We slunk around the anchorage until we spied a mooring ball that was close to the dock, and managed to snag it on the second attempt. Just as we were getting settled I looked up to see a big giant trimaran bearing down on us and I casually told Pam that we were about to be run down. It turned out that the tri was actually Moxie, and they just wanted to wish us a hello as they were heading out to see the island.

Novia pulled into the anchorage about a half hour after us and we decided we would all meet at the Yacht Club for lunch. Lunch turned out to be quite tasty; no cheeseburgers were served at lunchtime, so I had to settle with a yummy steak sandwich and delicious fries.

After lunch Pam and I walked into town and it took a good half hour. The walk allowed us to get a glimpse of the island. Along the way we passed an area where some locals were burning trash, and you would have thought there was a forest fire. You could see and smell smoke from quite a distance. Our main priority in town was to check out with the Gendarmerie and finally get our bond held hostage back, which we hoped to use as our spending money in the Cook Islands. When we reached the Gendarmerie with only about half an hour to spare to get to the bank so we could claim our bond, and of course fate chose this instant to hide all of the checkout forms from the officer. We were left for what seemed like ages while he scurried around looking for forms. I finally asked if he would stamp our bank receipt so we could get our bond and then we would return. Looking relieved the officer quickly agreed and stamped our forms and we were off to the bank. Things at the bank went smoothly although we thought their procedure for returning our bond was interesting, one teller returned our bond in Pacific Francs and another teller then recounted the money and converted it into New Zealand dollars for us. I guess this is one of the checks and balances the bank uses to insure accuracy, and of course charge us a big fat commission fee to convert our money into useful currency. We left with our bond and we were a little poorer due to the commission. We headed back to the Gendarmerie. When we returned we were given a photo copied form with all the spaces filled in with liquid paper, and this would serve as our official departure form. In Bora French efficiency collies with South Pacific Laze fare. We were just happy to be reimbursed and released from the country.

On our way home we stopped by the store to pick up something light for dinner. We settled on baguette, cheese, and some of Pam’s favorite slimy, stinky mussel treats (Yummy, you would think we had a cat on board). Dinner was nice and very French chic with bread, wine, cheese, and Pam’s cat treats.

Today we were up with the chickens or more accurately the roosters. The departure frenzy was mounting with lots of errands on our list. We walked back into town, checked out the other grocery store (and they also had cat treats), and bought lizard pareo for me (who would have ever thought that I would want to wear a skirk, but when in Rome…). We asked for directions to the coiffure while we were paying at the pareo store and a customer asked us if we wanted a ride. While pulling out on the street we were almost sideswiped by another car but the rest of the trip was painless and efficient. We got our hair chopped and I got a foofy head massage while my hair was washed. We pranced through town sporting our new dos, and stopped by the store to pick up some cat food and groceries. Back at the Yacht Club we got everything on board and moved into laundry mode.

Anne from Novia currently had prized possession of the single laundry machine, so we quickly prepped the laundry and rushed over to be next in line after Ann. Now laundry is pretty rudimentary at the Bora Yacht Club. There is only one machine that fills with water very slowly, so the routine is to bring buckets of water in from the bathroom to feed the machine and help it along. Each load of laundry takes about an hour and then there is no dryer so you rush your laundry out to the boat to dry in the sunshine. Just as our laundry was going in, Stephanie from Mico Verde showed up and she took the next spot in the laundry queue. To pass the time we all had a little refreshment at the Yacht Club and waited, and then waited some more. When the laundry finally finished we whisked it away to the boat for the hanging.

Out last dinner in French Polynesia was at the Yacht Club. I had steak with mushroom sauce and Pam had chicken and shrimp curry, onion soup and puffed pastry with spinach and scallops for appetizers. I topped off my dinner with a nice hot cappuccino and we shared a decadent gooey pear tart with crème fresh

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Journal Entry August 18 -21, 2005 Life on the Ball at Bloody Mary’s

Author: Pam

The next four days we spent on the boat doing chores, taking advantage of the amenities offered by Bloody Mary’s restaurant and exploring the surrounding area. I spent the equivalent to two days scrubbing the hull. Between what attaches itself from the sea to your boat, the lines of orange paint from two not so great parking jobs at the fuel dock in Puerto Vallarta in Mexico and blotches of epoxy that was applied the day before we left the Bay Area to cover up the minor nicks and scratches, she was looking a bit dodgey. I was especially determined and quite certain I could remove the orange paint and with some elbow grease I was successful. I also scraped off some of the extra apoxy that dripped and blobbed around the scratches and with Scott’s help around the water line we scrubbed off the sea slime until she was beautiful. It is quite the arm and shoulder workout to sit in the dinghy and hang on to the boat with one arm while the dinghy is bouncing up and down and scrub with the other. I spent so much time out there over a three day period it caused a hull cleaning frenzie throughout the anchorage. I found it quite satisfying and Tournesol really did look like she had had a face lift.

On Thursday morning we decided to pull Tournesol up to the dock and fill up with the free water. James from Novia offered to come along to help, parking is always a bit of a challenge, but pulling up to a dock with corral heads is entirely different and was on our list of we won’t being doing that. However, when water becomes challenging to come by, you do find you are willing to consider modifying that list. We were only moored 100 yards from the dock, it should be a piece of cake we decided, especially with James to help. All went well going in and we filled every receptacle on board. The wind was not our friend as we pulled away from the dock and before we could escape Tournesol kissed a corral head. Upon inspection by James when we got back on the mooring she had two minor boo boos on the keel which we covered with some underwater apoxy. We decided we would put that kind of scenario back on the list of things we were not keen on doing and go back to schlepping jerry cans.

After the water debacle we headed over to Starship to go for a sail with them to explore the other side of the island. As we were heading out towards the pass a huge squall engulfed the boat with rain that was so heavy there was zero visibility. It became clear soon after it started it was not one of your garden variety squalls that lasts for less than five minutes, so we decided to turn back and hoped we could find the mooring ball they had vacated, so much for a nice afternoon sail. We were grateful that it had not happened while we were on the side of the mountain or we would have ended up swimming home in mud instead of trudging home in the dust.

After hanging out with Frank and Rachel waiting for the rain to let up we headed back to Tournesol to get ready to go ashore for happy hour. We had plans to meet up with Novia, Mico Verde and Starship. It was a really nice evening, great atmosphere and lots of silliness.

On board Chet Tournesol we made tacos for dinner. These tacos are noteworthy because we finally tried the vacuumed packed ground beef I had bought on a trip back to SF, Scott was a little scared of it. Much to his surprise it made very tasty tacos. We had splurged in Huahine and bought a package of tortillas for $650 francs, ouch that is about $7.00 American dollars. There certainly hasn’t been any Mexican food in the South Pacific and after spending six months in Mexico we have been desperately missing the food, hence our justification for the tortillas that were apparently laced with gold.

On Friday in between hull cleaning we went to Bloody Mary’s for lunch, of course Scott had to try their cheeseburger, he can’t miss one since we have decided he must be doing a worldwide survey. Bloody Mary’s got good marks. After lunch Scott headed out to go snorkeling with Stephanie and Warren and I stayed on the boat for some alone time. It didn’t last long, they were back in a flash with a sick outboard motor. Scott was bummed, it meant back to hull scrubbing, but it was a lovely afternoon. While we were scrubbing away a dinghy pulled up and Quinn and Kameron from Tequila introduced themselves and invited us over in a bit to hang out for the sunset. Scott was thrilled, any excuse to escape from the hull project.

After hanging out until just after sundown and the moonrise with Tequila and Mico Verde we decided to go over to Bloody Mary’s for a drink with Quinn and Kameron before they headed off for their Bloody Mary’s dinner experience. Well let’s just say we were still there when they finished dinner and the evening became about the girls wanting to go home and the boys wanting to stay out and play. So, Stephanie and I went back to Tournesol and made pasta with clams and the boys had a night gone wild. It was a nice chance for Scott to spend time with someone other than me, he had a great time.

On Saturday we were treated with the discovery of the beach down the way and the most beautiful water we have seen so far. We keep thinking it can’t get more beautiful and then you look out over a white sandy beach at water that has varying grades of turquoise. With the monocular we could take in how it changed as it went from very shallow to a bit deeper, it was amazing. We had lunch at Ben’s the only other restaurant in the vicinity. Ben is from Hawaii and his wife is from the mid west in the states. The food was mediocre, but the location is primo. We decided to finally plan our first beach day and that we would come back the next day to be lounge lizards.

With plans to head off to the beach after lunch it was back to finishing up the hull in the morning. Since I was going to be spending time in the dinghy I decided to tie the large green tarp off the side we had used on the bow to try to keep the rusty anchor chain off the deck. There were two knots tied by both crew members and one of them did not hold. Little did I know the green beast had slipped away and was delivered home by the boat Nike, they had seen it escape and brought it back dragging behind their dinghy. I wouldn’t have known it was gone until I went to bring it in and only found the piece of rope. I was happy to not have contributed that non bio degradable item to the environment.

As planned we headed off after lunch with Novia and Mico Verde to the beach. Everyone decided a beach day was in order. Once there Stephanie pulled out a scrabble board and she, James and I played. I love to play scrabble and though I was a bit rusty it was tons of fun. James gave us a run for our money, he is a very serious scrabblaholic. Scott snorkeled and butchered a coconut with his leatherman, he has been dying to find one and drink the coconut water on the spot. That task kept him occupied for quite some time, it looked like the coconut was going to win at one point. It was one of the most relaxing days we have had in a very long time, which I am sure sounds a bit odd considering our current lifestyle, but there truly isn’t anything like an afternoon on a white sandy beach surrounded by water that is almost too beautiful to be real.

Back on the boat a sun shower was in order. While I was on the bow Des from Nike came by to invite us over for a visit later, he was inviting Mico Verde and Novia as well. We had only said hello to him and his family briefly on our way to the beach, they were snorkeling by the dock. Sure, we would love to come by. Just when you think you will have a nice quiet evening at home an invitation comes out of nowhere from someone you don’t even know. Des and Sharon on Nike are from Ireland and they are sailing with their six and nine year old son and daughter. It was a delightful evening and we hope to cross paths with them again, they are tons of fun.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Journal Entry August 17, 2005 The Legend of the Mountain Yachties

Author: Scott and Pam

A word of caution, if anyone ever asks “Would you like to go for a hike?” Ponder the offer with careful deliberation, know the source, and assess if they have local knowledge, or if they are possible health junkies caught in a frenzied Jack La Lane time warp. Bottom line; beware of the benign day hike.

Today we went for a little hike! It wasn’t going to be that bad of a hike, we were assured by the Warren on Mico Verde that it was billed by the guide book as “a moderate trek sometimes requiring the use of trees and rocks as handholds”. No problemo, we are fit world sailors and athletes, battling the raging sea for the past eleven months; we can handle a simple day hike up a 2,000 foot peak on Bora. After all, our blind comrade Erik Weihenmayer climbed up Mr. Everest a few years back, and we had to keep up the momentum. Erik old chap we are going to do you proud.

We had dazzling weather for our trot up Mt. Pahia (661 meters). The sun was glowing warm in the early morning with hardly a cloud in the sky. Pam and I were lean, mean, and ready to scream. We had spent so much time on boats lately that a good ramble in the bush sounded great. Our advanced climbing assent team consisted of Mico Verde with the renowned American climbers Warren and Stephanie, and Novia with the surly British team of Ann, James and Elysia (the visiting 18 year old whippersnapper). Our team consisted of Pam the goat and of course little old me, the agile urban climber meticulously trained twenty-five years ago as a youth conquering the streets and rooftops of Santa Monica. With an experienced expedition like this, we were in for a walk in the park, or so we thought.

We met Noiva at the Bloody Mary’s dock with plans of hitching into town, but unbelievably our elite crack unit was passed by time and time again. We sat on the roadside pumped with adrenaline, growling and scratching our toes in the dirt in anticipation of our challenge that lay ahead. Finally, a taxi approached and agreed to bring us into town for 1,500 francs for a ten minute ride. Our plan was to meet Mico Verde at the bank since it was a central landmark and to exist in Bora for more than a few minutes one needs to know where a bank is located. Soon Warren and Stephanie showed up looking frisky and ready for the adventure. Our first order of business was some reconnaissance, since not a single one of us had a clue where the trailhead was located. We asked some locals and learned the trail started near the snack bar that specializes in cheeseburgers (a very good sign). We made our way over to the trail and massed at together for the first assault. If you were to view our formidable team as a bystander, you would have seen seven energetic climbers, decked out in the finest mountain footwear, forget boots and crampons, those are for sissies , we were shoed in the latest flip flops, reef walkers and even a few pairs of high tech walking sneakers. Our substation provisions included a few bottles of water, an apple or two and at least two of us thought to bring a bag lunch, plenty of food, no one would be resorting to survival cannibalism on this trip. We were dressed in the latest wilderness clothing for battling the bush, I think that at least James was wearing long pants, the rest of us opted for the lightweight approach dressed in various sun wear, besides you never know when you might need your bathing suit on a mountain top.

Off we went up a gentle sloping hill, traveling through a back neighborhood of Bora. Gone were the fancy storefronts and rental cars, this was real Bora with dirt roads, wild fruit growing, dilapidated cars, and the occasional short, stubby, growling dwarf dog to threaten us. The trail was well maintained and winded on up ahead, that is until we reached the fork in the road. Which way do we go? At first none of us were quite sure what we should do, to the left was a safer looking level path, and to the right was a path making an abrupt turn uphill. Warren quickly studied his information and made the determination that of course we needed to proceed up the more intimidating option, so up we went. Quickly our trail deteriorated into a goat track, with switchbacks turning every twenty or thirty yards. It was about at this point we first started to use rocks and trees to pull ourselves up the trail, just as Warren’s guide book had promised, and on and on we went. Prior to the hike Pam had expressed some concern about hiking hills because of her poor depth perception seeing the terrain on the return trip, and I kept thinking about how she was getting far more than she probably had planned. I had also agreed to return with her at any point if the trip got to be too hazardous, but for now she was plowing ahead with gusto.

Up and up we went for what felt like hours and we had now adjusted to crawling on all fours as opposed to hiking as two legged creatures. Anything was fair game if it helped us to make forward progress, rocks, trees, roots and grass also turned out to be quite effective for pulling ourselves up the mountain. We were all doggedly making slow progress and we were resigned to crawling like lizards when we encountered our first rope to climb.

Hold on just a minute, now we may all be super studly mountaineers prepared for just about anything, but the guide book never said anything about scaling up nearly vertical rock faces using untested ropes of unknown origin. With none of us willing to be deemed wimpy chicken livers, we all took the situation in stride and started climbing the rope. Okay, so maybe we weren’t quite the mountain going Sherpas I have been billing us to be, because as we climbed the rope a number of less orthodox climbing styles immerged. There was the frontal press and hang on for dear life method, the wiggle and jiggle shimmy, and the one hand one leg inch at a time method, just to name a few of our elite climbing styles. If a helicopter flew over at that second they may have been a little alarmed at the not so Spiderman-like tourists pressed up against the rock walls or dangling in midair just seconds away from starting a chain reaction tumble down the hill with those unfortunate enough to be in the rear. In the end we all made it, but the path just kept on going up. We were all growing numb to the bumps scrapes and ever increasing exhaustion, we were all possessed with the drive to continue and finally we were rewarded with our first panoramic view of Bora Bora. We reached a small clearing with a fallen log that served as a perfect perch to look down on the white sandy beaches of the island’s motus and many different colored waters inside the reef. The ocean surrounding the island blended almost imperceptibly with the sky above giving us the feeling that we were goldfish swimming up our little rock formation inside of our big blue bubble bowl. Time for a water break and we all dipped into our precious stores of water, which in the heat tasted better and sweeter than the finest wine. We all drank greedily and I had the feeling that soon we may come to regret this luxury. As the hike continued our landscape started changing from the rugged jungle terrain to a more open rocky and barren surface. We had massive rock walls and narrow ledges to traverse, and unpredictable rocky steps jumping out without warning. One minute you might be walking along fine and the next you are shocked with a tongue biting lurch hanging on with one leg dangling down a few feet over a steep drop off below, pass the Tiger Balm because there are going to be some sore old dogs tomorrow morning. Just as we were slowing down, Elysia called back to us and asked if we were having a Mother’s Meeting (derogatory British saying). Energized with Elysia’s taunting we all picked up our pace, not to be outdone by the little Whippersnapper (a title she will hold forever). We continued to climb and encountered a second rope that we determinedly scaled with little regard for how we would ever get down, and still the trail continued on and upwards. We were now getting close to the top, we could see the top of the other peak giving us a perspective on our summit. The other peak is Bora’s tallest peak, and only a few meters lower than our goal. Then we came upon the treacherous third rope that continued nearly straight up for at least 150 feet. It was then that some of the group considered an early retreat. Warren, Stephanie, and I had already started up the rope and so we called down with the VHF radio to check on the others and that is when we learned that Ann, Pam and the Whippersnapper had decided to call it a day. Pam told me to go ahead and get to the top since she had Ann and Elysia to start the descent with, and I continued the journey up the mountain while the three ladies embarked on a new adventure of their own.

Scott’s Continued Story Up The Mountain (in Scott’s words) - There were now four of us continuing up the mountain. The new summit assault team consisted of Warren, Stephanie, James and I. After climbing the third rope we soon came upon a fourth and final rope that stretched up the longest vertical climb so far, all the way up to the first summit. Warren took the lead, I followed, next came Stephanie who almost turned back but bravely decided to continue, and finally came James in the rear making the whole climb look like a piece of cake. There we stood almost at the top on the lower summit, catching our breath and basking in the glory of accomplishment. Bora Bora stretched out below us looking like a tiny kingdom with little boats scurrying about that I could only see with a telescope. We probably would have been content staying right where we were draining our water bottles dangerously low and sharing an orange, but just then a group of hikers came down the trail from the upper summit and their guide said “you can’t quit now, it is beautiful up there”. Shame brought on our final burst of energy and we scrambled up the narrow path through dense scratchy bushes leading to the top of the mountain. At last we were there! We did it, we reached the top, and as we were promised, the view was spectacular! Just next to us we could see the spire of the peak that was just slightly higher than us, but all around us in every other direction was aqua blue ocean and sky. We could not have had better weather for admiring the dazzling scenery below. We weren’t there too long when the thought of descending this great beast crept into all of our minds. I guess whatever goes up must come down, but down was not going to be easy. I remember thinking to myself how odd it would be to climb Mt. Everest to only be allowed minutes to experience the accomplishment before the cold and lack of oxygen drove you back down the mountain to face a whole new series of perils.

We worked our way down to the first summit and met up with the other hiking group. On closer inspection we had a chance to see how varied their group was. One of their party was well into his seventies and looked a little peaked, but he had just battled his way up the same mountain. Giving his group no mercy the guide herded his flock together and they were off ahead of us. We took another few minutes to catch our breath, then we turned our back to the vastness and inched our way down rope number four. At this point Warren asked James if he wanted to take over as the leader and we continued onward. Not long after the change of the guard we all joined up together on the path and someone uttered those three words you never want to hear while trekking in the outdoors, “Are we lost?” Apparently, either before we switched leaders or after we had wandered off of the main trail. Looking back I can see how easy it was for whoever steered us astray to get lost, because the trail is certainly hard for anyone to see, however at that moment I mercilessly teased my group about how the sighted people managed to get the visually impaired hiker lost… It was at this point that we made our next error. We could have doubled back and found the trail but instead we thought that maybe we could get down quicker if we continued on, and so we did. By the time we knew we had made a mistake it seemed almost impossible to double back so again we continued on. Soon we lost any semblance of a trail and found ourselves wandering down a steep creek bed. If the trip up the mountain was difficult the trip down was surely treacherous, we had very poor footing with many loose rocks and a thinning number of hand holds. At one point we reached a cliff and thought we were completely out of luck when James realized that we could climb down a tree to get past the cliff. Down the tree we went just to find ourselves back in the creek bed with an increasing number of coconut husks to wade through and trip over. We now took a quick break to polish off the last of our precious water and then we trudged on through the coconuts. Time seemed to drag on and on at this point and I thought for sure that we would never get down the god forsaken hill. There were many false alarms that we had reached the end of our march, when we would soon realize we were in fact not at the bottom of the hill. But throughout all of this madness one of our group laboriously pressed on, and that was James the mule. From somewhere James drew on an unending supply of energy and urged us all on. At one point we were resting in a heap of dirty coconut shells, desperately trying to open a coconut for a drink of coconut water when James was the only thing that probably got us going again. It was then that James said he could throw a rock to the end of the trail, and that we would all be there soon. We burst forward with the thought of the end of the hike when we just continued on and on. I remember thinking that if James could throw a rock as far as we had continued since making his statement then perhaps he should join the English shot-put team, because we still weren’t there yet, and we were now reaching the point where we were all winging and whining. But at last we emerged out into a pineapple plantation. We were still lost, but at least we saw signs of civilization ahead. James was off somewhere ahead and I was hoping that if he found civilization then hopefully he would find some water. We rambled through the plantation, got even more lost, doubled back, crawled over a creek on a log on our hands and knees, but finally we came to a small house. James was already there and he was speaking to a woman who brought out a sparkling pitcher of the best water I have ever drank in my entire life. I just sat there on her porch, with her dog sticking his tongue in my face, drinking glass after glass of cool water. When my thirst was finally abated, I tuned into the conversation and learned the woman lived on the land and had never seen anyone come down the mountain the way we had. She seemed amazed we got lost in the first place, but we assured her that we were well qualified in this department. We graciously thanked her, and with some clear directions we made our way to the main road where we thankfully managed to hitch a ride in a pickup truck back to town. That was it, we did it, it was the most grueling hike of our lives, and we lived to tell the tale. When we reached town we almost immediately found the girls and we learned while we were off battling the mountain they had their own adventure as well.

Down The Mountain (in Pam’s words) – Yes, what goes up must come down, which is all I could think about on the way up. I had decided when I was 18 years old after climbing Beehive Mountain on Mount Desert Island (where I am from) that I didn’t like mountain climbing and it did not fit on my list of fun ways to spend my time. True to my word, I have not climbed anything steeper than the nice rolling hills in the Marin Headlands. When the third rock face with a rope was approached to my great relief Ann and Elysia announced they had seen enough of the magnificent view from the height attained and were ready to start the trek down. We sent James up the rock to meet up with the rest of the group. They were supposedly very close and would catch up with us shortly, so we slowly started slipping and sliding mostly on our backsides down the trail. Ann was the best guide I could have asked for, patiently pointing out roots, rocks, steep edges, holes, tree branches… I slipped several times and nearly careened over the edge as I not so gracefully grabbed for dead coconut fauna, I am sure I probably nearly gave her a heart attack. However, she remained her calm, cool and collected self and barely acknowledged the near tumble into the depths. There was not much conversation, just lots of concentration and the occasional whine from Elysia, as she was now focused on the cheeseburger she planned to have at the bottom. We kept a steady pace, but slow enough since we were sure the four musketeers would be nipping at our heels any minute. We thought for sure they would show up before the first rope descent, but there was no sign or cracking branches in the distance. Our combined experience was next to none, I have been rock climbing once, but that was with my very experienced friend Andy. Well, it was either sit and wait or go for it, so down we went and all felt quite proud of ourselves when we reached the end of the rope. The next one would be no problem. After swinging down the second rope, we were starting to wonder what happened to the others. It was a good time to start regretting separating in the way it all happened. Scott and James had the backpacks, leaving us with no water, food or handheld radio. I was dying of thirst and quite ready to be at the bottom of this bloody mountain, of course just about that time we made a wrong turn and ended up going down a very steep and overgrown rocky patch. Halfway down with the three of us at varying stages on our supposed path, we deducted this was not the way we had come up. We opted to go back up before we got further a field. Clearly some better decision making, but I won’t rub it in. Once back on what we believed was the trail we encountered three young local boys about 13 years old running up the mountain in their bare feet. A few minutes later while we were resting, now really wondering where the heck the thrill seekers were and practically dying of thirst we could hear a bunch of chopping noises and the sounds of falling coconuts. The next thing we knew one of the boys came along the trail and presented each of us with a young coconut to drink, it was better than any water I have ever had and immediately quenched our thirst. Next he presented us each with a cracked young coconut and “spoon” made out of a coconut shell, the meat was sweet and juicy. He was ready with more coconuts, but by this time I was full and quite satisfied. As we got up to leave he stood on the trail and as we passed him he poured the water from a coconut so we could wash our hands, full coconut service on the side of a mountain. We thanked him and I resumed my slipping, sliding and crawling on all fours position. A few minutes later our coconut saint joined us with his friends and he took my hand and led me the rest of the way down the trail. I was overcome by the generosity and kindness from this young man, I couldn’t imagine a young American boy being that comfortable to approach a complete stranger and offer such an act of kindness. Though holding his hand took away my ability to get low to the ground which is where I had spent most of the day, there was no better way for one of the most grueling days of my life to end. I am here to tell you this experience would not turn me back into a land lubber. The boys deposited us safely back exactly where we had started. We walked back by houses with growling dogs to send us on our way, out to the snack bar and much to Elysia’s dismay only to find it closed. Next disappointment, not that we expected to see them there was no sign of Scott and the troops. It was now 4:30 and the hike that was supposed to take four to five hours had taken seven. Elysia needed to immediately feed her hunger so she and I headed down the street to a nearby café where she did not find a cheeseburger, but was satisfied with ice cream and a chicken panini. After we had placed her order and bought some water, the man behind the counter asked if we had climbed the mountain. We were filthy, I haven’t been that dirty since I rode 60 miles on the back of tandem bicycle in the rain. We were very happy to finally see the weary hikers coming down the road from the wrong direction and to all share our saga which for this bunch of sailors will definitely make Bora memorable.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Journal Entry – August 16, 2005 Bora and the Big Blue Tiki

Author: Scott

Our first full day on Bora Bora, or just Bora as the locals call it, was busy and exhausting. First thing in morning we had to end our night of snuggling up to Mico Verde to find a more suitable long-term mooring. Frank and Rachel called over and suggested we try the moorings over by them at Bloody Mary’s restaurant, where you can moor for free, and they also have free water and ice. Our other option was the Bora Bora Yacht Club, but they have a $20 per day mooring charge and all the extras like water, ice have an extra charge. They also have laundry and showers but again they come with a charge. Frank and Rachel’s argument was persuasive so we pushed off from our green and white sister ship and motored the mile and a half south to Bloody Mary’s. When we arrived Rachel was in her dinghy vigilantly guarding a mooring ball for us, and it turned out to be the closest mooring ball to the dock. We scooted up to the ball and Rachel helped us with the lines. Tournesol had found a more permanent home on Bora and we were free to explore.

The main town in Bora is a good hour walk or a twenty minute dinghy ride from Bloody Mary’s, and then there is always the option of a taxi for a mere $20 for a ten minute ride. We did not know if the outboard was up for the task after its last performance in Huahine, but again Frank and Rachel on Starship came through with an offer to dingy us into town with them. We meekly accepted the ride and soon we were off gurgling along atop the blue waters of Bora, the four of us squished into their dinghy, enjoying the warm sunshine and perfect blue sky above.

Our first mission in town was to visit the Gendarmerie to check in. On our way we passed Frank’s example of Bora’s purely touristy personality, next to the duty free store was a giant powder blue eight foot tall Tiki made of fiberglass, it screamed out TACKY to all the passers by. After waiting at the Gendarmerie we learned that it was not necessary to check in, but it was necessary to check out. I guess they know you will check out before leaving the county if you want your $1250 per person bond back. Our next stop was the post office, and then we made our way over to the grocery store in town. We wandered around the store for a few minutes, looking for exciting new things to eat and actually found something. At the meat counter Pam found packages of flavored smoked mussels. The seafood eater reared its head and Pam snatched up her pack of those shriveled, grey/orangy, slimy looking snot balls that she just loves. Onboard Tournesol Pam is offended by the smell of corn nuts. Tell me, how can the same person who is squeamish over the aroma of corn nuts survive ingesting those putrid smelling smoked mollusks?

With our initial survey of the town complete, we headed back to the dinghy dock. When we approached the dock we noticed that the cruise ship Paul Gaughgan had followed us to yet another tropical island paradise, and soon the occupants would be swarming the town, making it a great time to return to the seclusion of our boats. Don’t get me wrong, I think cruise ships are wonderful as long as you are a passenger on one and not subjected to the crowds and higher prices that merchants charge when one is in port. While we were at the dinghy landing Pam and Rachel took the opportunity to chat up the lady soliciting tours of a pearl store who was offering free mother of pearl shells. They each got a coupon and ran across the street to get their free shells.

The dinghy ride back to the boats was pleasant under the warm tropical sun. It was a perfect day for a swim so when we got back we got into our suits, and remembered to break out my green blowup alligator we had purchased in Zihautanejo. The water was wonderfully warm, blue and crystal clear. I crawled atop my alligator friend and paddled over to Novia to say hello. Everyone on Novia came on deck to say hello and while we were chatting Alysia noticed some possible jelly fish and called out a warning to Pam. You would have thought Pam had turned into the bionic swimmer, because no sooner had the words left Alysia’s mouth then Pam was flying through the water and back on Tournesol in a flash. I guess Pam had had enough of jellies in Mexico. A few minutes later we determined that it was a false jelly alarm, and my swimming must have been infectious because all of the Novia crew was soon in the water. We all swam back over to Pam who was sitting safely from all jellies on Tournesol’s deck. We all paddled, splashed and thoroughly enjoyed the swim. I invented the new sport of alligator rolling, where the rider of the alligator tries to roll under and then back on top of the alligator. In the end we had all tried alligator rolling with not one success, but we all shared lots of laughs. We agreed to have dinner together at Bloody Mary’s and all headed back to our own boats to get ready.

The Novia crew returned later to give us a quick lift over to the dingy dock for dinner. Walking into Bloody Mary’s restaurant is like walking into the Disney version of Gilligan’s Island. White sand covers the entire floor, they even have a shoe check. The counters, bars, and tables are all highly varnished tropical woods, and all of this is under a thatched roof. In the bathrooms there are some special secrets that I will let you experience when you make your way to Bora some day. When it is time to be seated for dinner you are ushered to a big counter where extravagant samples of the entire menu are displayed. There were sumptuous fresh fish, sushi, a multitude of shish kabobs, plump steak, and tantalizing side dishes. The food looked so good that the prices just seemed to breeze by as I stood there in a gastronomic induced haze. “I’ll have the whole lot”, I thought to myself. However, I settled for “the special”, mahi mahi wrapped in foil and grilled in a ranch dressing, and accompanied with warm vanilla sauce. Pam ordered the grilled wahoo. We were then taken to our table where we sat teetering in the sand on little wooden stumps. We sat at a low table and in seconds a waiter appeared offering cold libations. We really enjoyed the experience of Boody Mary’s they certainly get an A for friendly service and ambiance. I really enjoyed my food, but some of the meals were only given an acceptable rating. As we sat in the afterglow of our coconut cake with coconut ice cream, the manager of the restraint sheepishly approached us and asked if we would mind moving to the bar to free up the table, and of course the restaurant would like to buy us a drink of our choice. With cocktails costing an average of $15 a piece we were not the least bit offended and merrily moved over to the bar to receive our beverage windfall. It was a nice finish to a super day on Bora. We all waddled back to the boat in the balmy night air, guided by the charming yellow lights lining Bloody Mary’s long and beautifully maintained dock.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Journal Entry August 15, 2005 Passage from Tahaa to Bora Bora

Author: Pam

We woke up at 0600 to make the last preparations to be ready to go by 0730. At 0715 we checked in with Mico Verde and found we had all been efficient and were ready to head out for what we hoped would be a one day sail of 40 miles. We put up the main sail with one reef and with the engine running sailed off of the mooring just behind Mico Verde. Once we were out of the pass we were sailing at 4-5 knots and life was looking good. I spent the morning finishing and proofreading the document for Sail magazine and sent it off on schedule.

The challenge of sailing between two islands presented itself around 1300 and we lost the wind almost entirely. In total we ran the engine for five hours intermittently for the rest of the trip. This was the longest we had used it with the external pump. Despite our nervousness the temperature never went above 140 degrees, which is actually very low. As we crawled along toward Bora Bora the hope of arriving before dark was getting bleaker and the idea of heaving to outside for the night was not very appealing either. We decided to head toward the pass and make our decision based on the daylight we had left when we were at the entrance. As we approached the sun was very low in the sky, but MicoVerde came to the rescue. They gave us the heading and offered to come out in their dinghy to guide us in. We decided to go for it and by the time we were half way through the pass it was dark. Stephanie and Warren had anchored in a cove just to the right of the entrance, so we decided we would anchor near them for the night and move to a mooring at the yacht club in the morning. With their help we slowly started poking around in the very small and as we soon found out very deep cove looking for a spot to anchor under 60 feet. After a few minutes of going around in circles we were also met by Trevor on Last Call and Dot’s husband on Neliandrah, both were alongside in their dinghies making suggestions. After several passes we determined Mico Verde may have gotten the last spot shallow enough for our ground tackle, so it was decided we would raft up to them for the night. It ended up being a smooth and painless process with our dinghy heros helping with handling the lines. As mentioned before Mico Verde is a 32’ Westsail, she turned out to be a perfect partner in crime for Tournesol. Phew, what an adrenal rush to come into an unknown port after dark, I keep saying we are never going to do that again and of course we would never have attempted it without assistance. Mico Verde had arrived two hours earlier, they of course had no worries with their engine and drove straight through when they lost the wind.

We made a simple dinner of beef stew and instant mashed potatoes (another one of Scott’s favorites) and then walked the four steps over to Mico Verde’s cockpit to decompress. The one day sails are probably the most stressful, there is never enough room for light wind if you don’t want to or can’t use the engine. None the less we are thrilled to be in Bora Bora, our last stop in the Society Islands.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Journal Entry – August 14, 2005 One Day on Tahaa (ta-ha-ah)

Author Pam:

After a good night’s sleep dancing on our mooring ball we woke up early to get started on another writing assignment. We have been invited by a journalist at Sail magazine to be featured as part of an article she is writing about sailors with disabilities. She sent a list of questions to answer via e-mail, we had not been able to connect on the telephone. It is always an interesting exercise to answer questions about the bigger picture of how the trip is going, challenges, successes, our motivation… It will be interesting to see how our thoughts and experiences change over time. The article will run in the November issue of Sail and we are very excited to be included in perhaps the first article of this nature and in such a well respected sailing journal.

We worked on our project until 1100 and then headed to shore with Stephanie and Warren to go explore the fourth Society Island we have the privilege to visit. As on most of the islands so far there is one road that leads around the perimeter of the island, the question is whether you turn right or left. We opted for left and started walking toward the head of the bay where a few sailboats were reportedly anchored. It was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for a Sunday stroll. We found the streets virtually empty, only an occasional car, scooter or bicycle. We walked by a large flat wooden box full of dried coconut, we finally got to see copra up close. At one time copra was the largest exported product from the islands, this apparently isn’t as true anymore. Copra is the source for coconut oil used in everything from cooking to soap. It smells a bit funky during the drying process.

As we approached the head of the bay we walked through the town. The bank is open Tuesday and Thursday from 0800 to 1000 and there was no access to an ATM on Sunday and perhaps there is only access during business hours. There was a very attractive church, a school and one small café. If there were other businesses they were not obvious. The street, waterfront and private homes were all immaculate, there was no trash and lots of flowers.

As our hike progressed so did our hunger. I wasn’t feeling very optimistic we would find a restaurant open on Sunday. In French Polynesia most everything is closed on Sunday or if it was open it closes before church services start. As we were walking by an inconspicuous building we heard the sound of dishes clinking and smelled garlic wafting from inside, it seemed promising or perhaps we would walk in on a family Sunday dinner. We walked alongside the building toward the water and discovered a very quaint patio café and it was open for lunch. The food was good, beautiful view and the service slow which was very relaxing.

We all probably felt like a nap, but there was still the hike back to the boats. On the way back we happened on a pearl farm that was open and poked our heads in. For sure if Scott and I had been out and about alone, we probably wouldn’t have discovered the restaurant or the pearl farm. We were invited in by a woman with an Australian accent who offered to give us a short pearl farming 101 lecture. It is a very complex and costly process to grow pearls involving many steps including surgery performed usually by a professional from Japan. When we arrived back to the boats Warren and Stephanie came over for a closer look and comparison of Tournesol to Mico Verde and a cold drink. We made a plan to buddy boat to Bora Bora the next morning and agreed on a 0730 departure. Scott and I spent the evening in full circle continuing to answer the questions for Sail and cooking pasta with clam sauce for dinner.

Tahaa is a beautiful little island well worth a visit. The craggy peaks combined with the lush vegetation make it another striking south pacific slice of paradise. There is a vanilla plantation on the other side of the island that offers tours, but we opted to keep moving and not pay a visit. Maybe next time.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Journal Entry – August 13, 2005 – One Of Those Days…

Author: Scott

We should have just stayed in bed. As the day wore on, this became my mantra for the day. Some days are absolutely superb, like the day we swam with the sharks and rays. Then some days start out badly and just keep getting worse, and today was one of those days.

We woke up with lots to do as we were leaving Huahine and heading over to Tahaa. Tahaa is a bonus because we had decided to mark it off our list because it was inside a barrier reef that it shared with Raiatea and our first instinct was to just sail around the reef to Bora Bora, but with some input from Mico Verde and a little chart work we decided the pass into the reef was safe for us. The pass lies directly between two motus (small islands) making a very clear channel for us to enter the barrier reef.

We should have taken the hint when we looked over the side of Tournesol and saw the lagoon percolating with angry wavelets and the winds were starting to howl, and maybe we should have more closely considered the unpredictable state of our dinghy engine, but we threw caution to the wind (quite literally) and jumped in the dinghy with our backpack and camera to get a few final pictures of Huahine and to make one last stop at the grocery store in town, though neither of these missions was a high priority.

The grocery store visit was routine, but we did manage to find canned beets and black olives, fixings as good as gold to doctor up a salad (in my opinion). We got our intended photos, mostly of completely useless things like the grocery store and internet café. Back at the town dock we jumped in the dinghy and guess what, I bet you guessed it, the ------ engine would not start - BIG SURPRISE. After many pulls of the starter cord, much tender stroking and cooing, and a few pointed obscenities, the creature came to life, but with only about half the normal power of its already humble four horsepower. If the engine wanted to take it easy today, that was good enough for us, and we headed back to Tournesol. While we were shopping the wind had continued to build and the fetch in the lagoon continued to increase and it soon became obvious we were in for a very wet ride back to the boat. We kept our heads held high as the dingy filled with water as we putted agonizingly slowly across the lagoon, with bottles and jars sneaking out of their grocery bags for a refreshing morning swim in the tub. Every few seconds a wave would come rolling over the bow of the dink and into our laps filling our traveling baby pool even more. When we finally inched up to Tournesol the dinghy must have been over half full of salt water. While Pam tied our painter line to the boat, I happened to glance down and noticed our bright yellow camera case floating in the dinghy like debris from a vessel lost at sea. No worries because we keep our camera in a watertight, waterproof, expensive, and reliable Pelican case. We heaved our waterlogged groceries aboard and looked around in disgust to see what could be salvaged from our soggy purchases. One of Pam’s prized boxes of angel hair pasta was transformed into tangles of slippery slimy worms. Just then I piped up with my relief that our new camera was so well protected in the Pelican case, and opened it to show off the fully functional and preserved gadget, but to my horror the foam on the inside of the case was suspiciously damp. “No problem”, I said to myself, “it is only a little damp”. I tentatively tried to power on our new baby and it lay cold and quiet in my hands, there was no little electronic tune and the whir of the camera coming alive and focusing, just a dead camera carcass staring back at me. “Oh no”, I moaned, “it can’t be damaged; it was in a Pelican case”. Both Pam and I stood there among the wreckage of our groceries, in shock, holding the lifeless body of our camera and looking down at it like it was the shattered body of a baby bird that had dropped out of the sky. Maybe we can… Well there were lots of maybe attempts that morning and they all led to one conclusion, the death of our new and beloved camera.

We finally managed to get things stowed and we headed out from Huahine at 1130. The passage over to Tahaa was only 18 miles, but we had rough conditions under a cloudy sky the entire trip. We managed to make 5.5 knots with only a partially furled headsail flying, and the turbulent conditions did nothing to lift our sour mood. When we came to the pass, I took up my station on the bow of the boat to issue steering commands back to Pam over the walkie-talkie. Normally I have a lot of gear to help with this task, and today I was holding a walkie-talkie, monocular, VHF radio, and GPS. As our bad luck would have it, no sooner had I stepped up to the bow when a renegade jib sheet smacked my left hand, giving me a perfect view of our bright yellow GPS sailing six feet in the air, with the battery compartment door and batteries dramatically exploding away from the mother ship, then all of the debris plummeting downward for their eventual splash down. Now we could add the demise of our GPS to our earlier camera loss.

The entry through the reef, with swirling surf on either side and the lush motus, would normally have been a stunning scene but all I could think of was the second loss of the day. Once through the pass we sailed into the bay and were given radio instructions from our friends on Mico Verde to find the mooring balls in front of the Hibiscus Restaurant. This would be our first experience catching a mooring ball together since we practiced this skill in class, and the exercise went smoothly, only requiring two attempts, not bad for a blustery day. We had officially arrived the island of Tahaa at 1630.

We quickly got settled, both a little shell shocked from the grueling trip and loss of our camera and GPS. We invited Warren and Stephanie over for a refreshment and recounted our journey and losses to them, an experience that all sailors can relate to. Later we all met for dinner at the restaurant. The Hibiscus Restaurant is well known in the islands for their role as a turtle sanctuary. The owner takes in injured turtles from fishermen and revives them to later be released in the sea. On our way into the restaurant we had a look at the turtle pens and saw a few of the gentle creatures paddling around in the clear water. Dinner was a set menu of fresh caparccio, grilled parrot fish with fresh vegetables (our first lagoon fish served whole) and a choice of delectable desserts (I had the vanilla Creme Brule). While we enjoyed our dinner we all marveled at how expertly Pam picked every morsel of meat from her fish body, leaving only the bare frame intact. It reminded me of my childhood, watching a cartoon cat hold a fish by the tail, dip it into his mouth and pull out the spotless white skeleton. Pam is undoubtedly the most talented and refined Maine blooded seafood machine that I have ever seen. During dinner we were also asked to sign the log of all visiting yachts, and we had good fun looking back on other cruisers entries from past years. The dinner helped rebuild our attitudes, making it easier to survive one of our toughest days out cruising.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Journal Entry August 9 - 12, 2005 R&R on Huahine (hoo-ah-heen-ay)

Author: Pam

First of all when you are trying to pronounce the places we are visiting, keep the following in mind. You pronounce each vowel and boy are there a lot sometimes in one word. A is ah, E is ay, I is ee, O is o, U is oo, well at least this is close. Before we left Mexico we heard the names of many of the places we would soon visit and they went flying over the top of our head. I have found out I might as well wait until I am going there to try to attempt pronouncing something with fourteen vowels.

Huahine is the place visited so far that gets the prize for seeing the least square miles. Between the weather, the dinghy engine, boat chores and perhaps laziness we did not venture past the main street through the very small town. There is a decent sized and stocked grocery store, so we were able to get a few provisions. We are becoming more and more uncertain about our food options between here and New Zealand. Without another trip to the store we could make it to NZ on what we have on board, but we will be bored by the time we get there.

The outboard engine continued to give us trouble during our entire stay. The positive side is Scott now knows how to perform surgery on all of the internal parts of the engine, including taking apart and of course putting back together the carborator. It looks like this diagnosis is proving to be true. Klaus from Wanderlust spent at least an hour helping Scott trouble shout the beast on Tuesday. He was very determined to help us get it going so we could all meet up at the Snack Bar later. We were looking forward to getting to know him and his wife Florence, they are on their way home to France. As irony would have it, they did not make it into shore later that day, their outboard died on their way in. Hopefully our outboard ailment isn’t contagious. On their way out of the lagoon the next day they drove right up beside Tournesol (a maneuver we would never attempt) to give us their contact info, hopefully we will see them again along the way.

Tuesday afternoon Scott was swimming and giving the tarp we had used for the anchor a bath when the couple from a boat anchored nearby swam over to say hello. Unbeknownst to us there was a green and white 32’ Westsail anchored just a few feet away, also from the US. Stephanie, Warren and Scott treaded water like seals while I sat on the side of the boat and we began what was clearly the beginning of a new friendship. There was a nice connection almost immediately, which I would attribute to our closeness in age. We don’t meet a lot of people close to our age, most everyone is older. We are looking forward to getting to know Mico Verde (little monkey), we have very similar itineraries for the near future so crossing paths or even making a passage together is likely. We hung out with Stephanie, Warren and Jack from Fleetwood on Tuesday evening. Incidentally Jack is single handing from Los Angeles to Vietnam.

Thursday we seemed to be wearing our meet the local’s magnet. In the morning we jumped in the dinghy and headed in what we thought was the general direction of a water tap on shore that Warren had told us about. I remembered it was supposed to be near canoes, Scott remembered it was supposed to be near fishing boats. Hmmmm, it didn’t help that we didn’t even remember the same bits of information. When we got close to shore we actually came across canoes on racks and a fishing boat in close proximity, well this seemed promising. We crawled up on shore and began to walk along the shoreline looking for a water tap. It became clear fairly quickly we might as well be looking for a needle in haystack. We walked back and forth along a stretch of beach front that felt promising, but produced nothing. I don’t even know how many times we each walked in both directions, but I can only imagine how it must have looked to an onlooker and sure enough there was at least one. After I am not sure how long we had been there a young woman approached me and I assumed was asking me in French what we were looking for. Ugh, I don’t even know the word for water in French or Tahitian, so I resorted to my usual attempt at charades. I only got a blank stare until we brought the two jerry cans out of the dinghy. The light went on and she motioned for Scott to move the dinghy to the boat landing and for me to follow her. The next thing I knew we were in her yard and she was filling the jerry cans with her hose. She motioned it was ok to drink and told me the word for water in Tahitian is oh (spelling). Who would think getting ten gallons of water could turn into such an adventure. We would have liked to get more water, but we will wait for the next convenient and perhaps more obvious opportunity.

We went to shore for dinner at the Snack Bar and just as we were thinking about leaving the two guys who were performing local music struck up a conversation. One of them spoke quite good English and clearly liked the opportunity to practice. The other guy was expressive and passionate about “his” island and insisted on sharing his French fries with Scott (who had just eaten a pile of his own), both are natives. Before we knew it we were surrounded by friends of theirs and were filled with stories of the past. One of the musicians worked for the vanilla plantation and said he wanted to bring me some vanilla the next day. We said we would come by to say hello. We got back to the dinghy, holding our breath Scott gave the now infamous pull, nothing. He turned on his charm, but to no avail. The beast barely even coughed. There was a young local girl sitting on the dock talking on her cell phone when we got in the dinghy. When it wouldn’t start after the umpteenth try, she leaned over and asked if we needed help and the next thing we knew she called to one of her friends nearby. In a matter of minutes our dinghy woes turned into the evening entertainment for the teenage population of Huahine, it was like they were multiplying. Every time I looked up on the dock there were more kids laying on their stomachs, leaning over the edge of the dock and staring down at us. The next thing we knew their was a teenage boy and a boy of maybe ten in the dinghy with us, the ten year old was pulling on the starter cord with all of his might. It was quite the scene. Finally Scott said lets move away from the dock and see what I can do. I didn’t exactly hear it that way, I thought he was suggesting we row back to the boat, which was fine with me. We said goodbye to our support team and began rowing. Once we were a few feet from the dock Scott wanted to stop. With the current that was pushing us into the pass and the fishing boat that I was aware was preparing to leave I found I was not comfortable sitting out there while he continued to troubleshoot. After some frustration with one another we ended up paddling all the way back to the boat. Fortunately it wasn’t windy and I like the exercise. Scott was less than amused, even with all of his cleaning, blowing and sucking on hoses, dissecting the innards it looks like the outboard is going to be the bane of our existence until we get to New Zealand. Ugh.

The weather was beautiful when we first arrived, the boat hardly moved at anchor. Late Thursday night the wind picked up and by Friday it was blowing a hoolie as our friends on Novia would say. It rained off and on all day. We stayed on the boat all day on Friday, in case the anchor dragged and of course Scott spent more time performing voo doo on the outboard. We did chance it and go to shore Friday evening since we said we would come by for the vanilla. True to his word I was presented with fresh vanilla pods and the lei he was wearing. I have to admit I assumed it was going to be of the bottled variety, but come to find out the pods are far more precious than the already processed potion. I now have in my possession at least $25.00 worth of vanilla pods. I am hoping to get Rachel’s recipe for vanilla sauce, it is apparently to die for. As we were leaving a couple from Australia said hello and invited us to join them. Why not. We sat down and watched the Snack Bar turn into the Friday night dance party. Scott’s dance partner was a local woman of probably seventy years old and boy could she shake her boody. After he danced with her once, she was his new best friend and kept his name on her dance card. My dance partner wasn’t a day over sixty, he was from Tahiti and was visiting his daughter. The couple we were chatting with had house swapped with a family and were leaving on Sunday after chillin in Huahine for three weeks. Hopefully we will see Robbie and Don again in Australia, they were a hoot.

The people who live on Huahine are very proud and friendly. It was easy to fall into the relaxed pace and environment and before we knew it five days have gone by.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Journal Entry – August 9, 2005 - Update Message, Out of Order

Author: Scott and Pam

This is just a quick update on our current location and situation. As I write this message we are about 30 miles from Huahine Island, and about 50 miles from Moorea Island and our last anchorage. It is 0430 and we are sailing under full main and 80% jib at 5 knots. We were FINALLY able to leave Tahiti on July 26! We were not able to properly repair our internal water pump problem, but we believe we have a work around that will suffice until we reach New Zealand. We do have a functional engine and the ability to recharge our batteries with the alternator. We are making great progress on turning our journal notes into journal postings, now that we are able to focus on other things besides the engine, and we should be current with the journal soon. We have had some very exciting things happen in the last few weeks including: extensive media coverage in Tahiti, an opportunity to spend time with the local association for the blind, and swimming with manta rays. If we are able to access an affordable and adequate Internet connection in Huahine, we will be posting a number of new photos and a few videos to the website. Thanks for following our adventure!

Scott and Pam

Monday, August 08, 2005

Journal Entry – August 8, 2005 – Cheeseburger in Paradise

Author: Scott

This morning we were both a little groggy from lack of sleep. We both struggle with sleep on the first night of a passage after time at anchor. We can not complain about the wind. We sailed at 4 to 5 knots with a single reef in the main and 80% jib until we reached Huahine. I spent the day a little nervous because for some reason I remember the puddle jumpers in Mexico talking about sailing through passes and for some reason Huahine’s passes stuck out in my mind. There are two passes into the lagoon at Fare Village, the main southern pass and the northern pass. After examining our cruising guides and speaking with Starship on the radio, we decided to opt for the less traveled northern pass. When I visualized passes through reefs when I was back in Mexico, I pictured giant walls of coral with small clefts chiseled through to make a skinny opening, making transiting a pass like entering a walled city. What I have come to learn is that most passes are very unimpressive and yet still very threatening, with very low lying coral, often only visible by the presence of breaking waves. The reality of these passes is no doubt less ominous, but from a visually impaired person’s perspective they are far more menacing because they are less visually daunting. I would gladly take a fifty foot high wall of coral to thread my way past rather than the sneaky hidden reefs, lurking ready to tear the keel off Tournesol. Today’s trip into the Huahine lagoon turned out to be a little nail biting but fairly straightforward. On the land there were two white leading markers that I could see with a telescope from the bow. We also had assistance from Starship, Frank and Rachel met us in their dinghy as we entered the lagoon and led us over to where many of the boats were anchored.

I know we have expounded on the clear and beautiful water of the South Pacific quite a bit, but it seems to me as we travel to each new island we find water even more pristine than the last place, overtaking the rank of the most incredible water we have ever seen. Huahine is no exception, as we entered the lagoon there was a stark difference between the deep blue of the channel and the baby blue water of the lagoon. As we approached the lagoon we could see all of the cruising boats hovering with their anchors biting into the fringe of the lagoon, while the boats floated over the shallow blue water. I yelled to Frank and asked if it was too shallow to anchor and he said that it was shallow but would be fine, there is only a six inch tidal difference in the lagoon, so if we find an acceptable spot with a few feet to spare under the keel, we are home free. Our first attempt at anchoring left us with only about eight inches between the boat and the sandy bottom, so we gave it a second attempt and settled in eight feet of water, leaving two feet eight inches to spare. Plenty of room! Tournesol is now anchored in the shallowest water she has experienced since I have owned her.

As soon as the hook was down I took my usual plunge to check the anchor and marvel at the unbelievable water. I took a swim around the entire radius of our anchor looking for coral heads that could potentially injure Tournesol if we were to swing into them, but we were free and clear. Our next order of business was to clean up the boat and get settled so we would not be late for a very important event, HAPPY HOUR! Long before we actually got to Huahine, we had heard from other cruisers that Huahine has one of the best bars in the South Pacific and libations are half price between five and six each evening, this is huge in the land of six dollar beer.

Settled into Huahine, we jumped in the dinghy and zoomed over to the “Snack Bar” the famous happy hour spot. We were soon joined by Frank and Rachel from Starship. No sooner had we got down to some serious yarn spinning when a guy walks up to us and tells us that he is celebrating because he just got out of the hospital. Now we don’t have a clue who this guy is and Frank and Rachel are showing only vague recollection but we go with it and listen to his story. Apparently our new friend was hit while on a motorcycle by a car passing too close and got smacked upside the head with the passing cars side rearview mirror. He ended up staggering to the hospital, where he spent the night, and now he was back at the bar to anesthetize his injuries. The whole story sounded like a Jimmy Buffet song. Speaking of Jimmy, we also were told that this very bar was the place where JB wrote “That One Particular Harbor”. Now, I do take stores like this with a grain of salt, since I think I have eaten in at least three bars that are the home of the song “Cheeseburger in Paradise”. Speaking of cheeseburgers, guess what the “Snack Bar” specializes in? You probably guessed it, cheeseburgers, and not just any cheeseburger, but the best cheeseburger we have eaten in French Polynesia and it is only $6.00. What a place! We sat there with our toes in the sand, chowing down on cheeseburgers and perfect fries, savoring the Hinano, and watching the sun set over the “that one particular harbor”.

As we sat there enjoying the South Pacific evening we were introduced to another local character, one of Huahine’s founding mothers (so we were told). She had heard our tale, because she was definitely in the know. I got the feeling nothing happened in French Polynesia without our new friend having the skinny. We were given hugs of welcome and then she flitted off wearing her giant hat and sheik outfit.

When the time came to make our way home, we headed to the dock with Rachel and Frank. You have to remember that we had no problem with the dinghy on our inbound trip and absolutely flawless results with the beast in Moorea, but just when we were feeling a little confidence in the wicked weasel, no go Joe. We pulled and pulled and all we got was a tired arm. Eventually we gave in and Starship gave us a tow back to the boat. We went to bed happy for making another landfall but apprehensive of the newest dinghy dilemma.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Journal Entry August 6th & 7th, 2005 Moving on from Moorea

Author: Pam

We thought we might stay five days when we first arrived in Moorea, it has now been twelve and it is time to continue moving through the Society Islands. It has been nice to experience another side of the island. It is amazing how different this bay is from Cooks Bay, the road is better maintained and there is more room to walk (in most places) on the shoulder, however the cars still drive like the Indie 500. There are no businesses except for the Sheraton and another Pension that we heard about, but did not actually see. There is a very small store near the beach where you land the dinghy, very reminiscent of the stores in Nuku Hiva, there really isn't anything we would want to buy, except for maybe a baguette.

After bacon and eggs for breakfast we spent the morning beginning the boat chores to prepare to leave, this is all quite routine now and usually goes smoothly unless we have an unusual project to complete before heading back to sea. We spent some time roaming around in the dinghy taking pictures of Tournesol as she sat proudly in the most beautiful water we have seen so far on this trip. It is so clear I also just wanted to take pictures looking into the water to try to capture the magnificent color. In the early afternoon we went to shore and turned right on the road to walk to the head of Oponuhu bay. It was a beautiful walk along the waterfront. When we reached the head of the bay we discovered a couple of boats anchored there as well. There is nothing, but a small beach area, like at the mouth of the bay there are no businesses. On the way back we walked by a woman and her daughter selling non other than fresh tuna at the end of their driveway, but with much dismay we had to pass up the opportunity for a tuna fix. We already had steak for dinner and not enough ice to keep it until tomorrow. I was sad, but Scott was probably relieved, he has been an excellent fish trooper.

It was still warm and beautiful when we got back to the boat. We decided to go for a swim and take a shower. We had filled up the sun shower and it had been sitting on the deck for a couple of days and was nice and warm. We hung it from a ring on the mast at a height we could stand under. In our bathing suits we stood on the bow and took the first warm shower we have had in quite awhile. It was lovely and comes out ahead of the bug shower for me. Though you are wearing your bathing suit it will still take some getting use to standing on the bow for the world to see. Not that I think anyone much cares, most everything goes when it comes to getting the life stuff accomplished. The day ended with that yummy steak dinner with rice and corn on the side, the tuna was a distant memory.

On Sunday we pulled up the hook at 1130 and headed out of the pass of Oponuhu Bay on our way to Huihine, our first overnight passage in a while (120 miles). The sail started off slow, with very little wind for the first twenty miles. We did not want to use the engine so we crawled along. Most of the other cruisers we had talked to in Moorea plan to leave around 4:30 to make landfall before dark the next day, we decided with limited use of the engine we wanted more of a margin. We were passed by two other sailboats shortly after dark, they were obviously motor sailing. The boat Promises hailed us on the VHF to say hello, they were motoring and making water. We have heard that is often the justification for motoring.

The wind picked up steadily during the night and with that came some squalls with rain. By early morning we were making good speed. Neither one of us slept well, a combination of the first night at sea, squally weather and the most boat traffic we have seen in the South Pacific.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Journal Entry August 5, 2005 - Swimming with Sting Rays and Sharks

Author: Scott

Today was one of the best experiences we have had on the journey to date. We woke up with plans to go with Last Call to swim with the sting rays. We had heard a lot about the experience from other cruisers and from Trevor on Last Call, we also had the experience the other night where we got to feed them from the steps of the restaurant, but today we were going to actually get in the water and swim with the big guys. Trevor and his wife Leslie showed up in their big dinghy along with Trevor’s brother and sister in law. We looked down at the dinghy unsure if we would comfortably fit, but also knowing our dinghy was most likely not up to the challenge of driving around the island to the lagoon. Trevor said we would all fit with no problem, so we piled in, and he was right. Trevor has the biggest dingy we have ridden in yet. We all sped off towards the lagoon, motoring through incredibly clear and beautiful water. It looked like you could just reach down and touch the coral that was really twelve feet down. Trevor drove the dinghy fearlessly; not needing to slow down even when the corral looked like it was just inches below the dinghy. We could see colorful fish darting around the coral heads, and about half way to the lagoon we were all treated to an incredible sight. Just outside of the reef there was a whale jumping high into the air. Normally when something like this happens Pam and I get to watch the sighted people full of excitement relaying the details to us, because it is next to impossible to catch something like a whale doing tricks in a monocular, but as fate would have it, as I put the monocular to my eye and zeroed in the whale broke the surface right in my small field of vision. I was able to see him thrust his body out of the water almost to its tail, then fall back to the water with a huge splash. A second later I caught his tail sticking straight out of the water. I handed the monocular to Pam and she was also able to catch a glimpse of the majestic mammal. What a treat!

As we approached the lagoon the water changed colors until the dinghy was hovering over water bluer than the most pristine swimming pool. As soon as we had the dinghy anchor overboard our visitors started to arrive. The sting rays were beautiful. Imagine creatures that are in pure harmony with the water, fluid movement effortlessly gliding silently. They were splendid examples of elegance and they were right below us waiting for us to come and play with them. Their topsides were a dull gray on curving diamond shaped bodes, with long stringy tales aerodynamically following behind them. They have eyes on the top of their bodies that give you the impression they can see everything above and around them all at once. I was in the water, dawning full frog gear in seconds. This was Trevor’s fourth visit to the rays and he was as delighted as though it was his first experience ever. Trevor grabbed a plastic bag full of raw fish and started handing out snacks for the rays. Now, the rays obviously knew what we were up to, because no sooner did I put my hand under the water than a four foot ray swam up to me, lifted its body out of the water, and came down with its mouth right on top of my hand. With a quick and powerful vacuum slurp, the piece of fish in my hand was transported into the stomach of the ray. This gave me my first chance to feel the velvet soft white underside of these placid animals. We learned we did have to be cautious about where we stepped because although the rays are very calm normally, if we were to accidentally step on their long rat like tails, they would immediately whip them up and sting the backs of our legs, a pain that is supposed to be excruciating. After about ten minutes of swimming with the rays Pam abandoned the camera and tentatively joined us in the water. Pam never quite got to the feeding of the rays, but did muster up the courage to pet them while others fed. While we were feeding the rays a group of black tipped reef sharks were lurking in the deeper water just a few yards away from the dinghy. Apparently the rays manage to keep them away while they are feeding. Once I learned the sharks were harmless to humans I was off in search of my first up close and personal interaction with a shark. I was able to get within a few feet of these serious looking dudes. What a day, whales, sharks and rays at the same time! The experience is up there on my list of most incredible life experiences. After at least an hour of frolicking with sea life we all returned to the dinghy.

Trevor wanted to take us over to walk on the motus and to see the pristine water. Motus are small islands, often making up part of a barrier reef of a larger island. We had two motus in close proximity to the lagoon where we were feeding the rays. We beached the dinghy and all walked ashore and set off on an attempt to circumnavigate the motu. The trip was a little challenging at times, but we had a wonderful walk around the small island. This place was just what I always imagined it to be like if we were marooned on a tropical island, Gilligan and the Skipper would be right at home. We also had an opportunity to take some of the most striking South Pacific pictures thus far.

Our trip back in the dinghy was even faster than our trip in the morning; we were back to Tournesol in a flash. We said goodbye to Trevor and his crew, as they were going to pull up the hook and move on to Huahine. Pam and I decided we would spend the rest of the day exploring land in our new surroundings. We paddled our dinghy to shore, and actually met up with Trevor a final time, as he was also visiting land before his departure. Trevor clued us in on a place to tie our dinghy to a tree, but we opted to roll it ashore with the new dinghy wheels. On shore there was a sunbather who greeted us, we learned her name was Dot from Neliandrah, and she and her husband were soon ending a ten year circumnavigation in Australia (her husband is 76, not sure of her age). Dot gave us the skinny on the area, and we all agreed we should get together on one of our two boats.

Dot gave us directions to the Moorea Sheraton, a hotel we have heard much about, and so we set off down the road in search of the Sheraton and maybe a little lunch. Along the way we had great views of a coconut farm, and the beautiful lagoon. At the Sheraton we walked out to the beach and took a look at their famous over the water bungalows (some with glass floors) and admired the property before settling down for a beachside lunch. Lunch turned out to be less expensive for French Polynesia than I had expected. Although almost everything is exorbitant here, there seems to a smaller difference in price between mediocre food and fine food. Of course I sampled the cheeseburger and Pam had a steak sandwich. After lunch we made our way over to the hotel’s business center for a quick email update, and had to pay $10 for fifteen minutes, ouch!

The rest of the afternoon was spent on Tournesol. We went for a refreshing swim, and enjoyed a clear and lovely evening on the boat.