Opunohu Bay, Moorea

We have been in Opunohu Bay, Moorea for the last week after leaving Tahiti. Had a fantastic 2 hour lively sail, hand steered through the tall waves just for the thrill of it and dropped anchor in beautiful coral sand behind the reef.  Sandy beaches lined with coconut and palm trees, clear water, and peaceful surroundings. Opunoa bay  It was cloudy most of the time, had a couple of howling windy days, gusting 25 – 35 knots, enough that we took 3 hour anchor watches throughout the first night. Easy to sit up and read or watch movies compared to night watches on passage. A catamaran came in and dropped his anchor very close to us. Even in the best conditions we are nervous when the reef is so close to our anchored position and to have this guy swinging our way made the sleepless night even worse.

We snorkeled 3 days out on the ocean side reef and along the shoreline. The coral appears to be stagnant, covered with a growing, muddy algae crop across the tops of the heads. We suspect the nutrient rich water may be aiding the algae growth.  The village runoff, ski doos, lagoon tour boats, cruising yachts, and the commercial princess line cruising yachts are taking the toll on the coral’s demise.

Across the top of the water are large clusters of floating dead algae with prickly stems all strung together like long stringers of rope.  It was entwined in our arms and legs as we glided across the water surface.

In a few spots we viewed a few patches of healthy anemones. They were about 3’ in diameter, beautiful white and light brown ones attached to the sides of the coral heads with long waving tentacles and had orange, brown and purple Nemos swimming through them. We even saw a couple of light pink anemones.  We hope the camera was able to pick up the coral heads as the lighting wasn’t very good on the snorkeling days. We saw some different fish compared to Fakarava. The red squirrel eyed fish, a star eyed fish (had 4-5 lines streaking back from his eyes, looked like long eyelashes), an eel, sea a yellow conch that was nearly 12” long, giant sea cucumbers, and schools of tiny bright purple fish and so many others. We saw several rays sitting quietly on the bottom, the spotted ray was gliding peacefully with large bottom fish trailing him.

We motored the dinghy around the reef channel, nearly 2 miles to Cook’s Bay. Incredible scenery with the deep bay lined with the tall basalt craggy mountains. Coconut, banyan trees and palm trees grow along the banks and mountain sides. Cooks bay A pineapple farm travels upward along the steep hillside. (they sell bunches of 5 small ones tied together, fragrant and delicious).  An archeological site is visible from the water, a marae (a ceremonial stone platform with walls used for religious and human sacrifices) stands out vividly. We tried to imagine what it must have been like for Captain Cook to sail into the pristine bay with only the natives standing along the sandy shores waiting for newcomers. Perhaps some of them gleefully clapping awaiting their next meal.

Greg Clark – we did see the Mines of Moorea,  strained our eyes but didn’t catch a glimpse of the Balrog, think he sunk into the 118′ water depth below us.  The mountains are SO cool, can’t wait to show you the pictures!

Today the dark, muddy bay is lined with a half demolished hotel, old concrete wharfs, homes of the rich and famous, an “upscale” hotel chain with those glass bottom rooms overlooking the water,  a snack bar, and lagoon tour boats moored at the Mobil gas station dock.  The water along the shoreline is muddy with clumps of dead algae. We’re glad we didn’t anchor in the bay despite the very calm water.

We’re stowed and ready to depart for Raiteaa.  It’s about 100 miles to our next anchorage. It will be an overnighter, 18 hours of light winds and small 1.8 Meter waves. As two of our solar panels have quit, the housebank batteries need a deep cycle charge so we’ll unfortunately need to motor for at least 6 hours, pushing us along at 5 – 6 kts and burning 15 gallons of diesel. With the wind coming from behind us the fumes generally blow into the cabin causing a headache.

We get lonely sometimes, think of our family and friends everyday, miss the conveniences of a house when we want clean laundry and a shower but we’re doing well and very grateful for our life style.  We’ve met nice cruisers and made new friends, continue to say “good-bye” to them and move on knowing there are other cruisers like us looking to make a connection.

Oh, and a really exciting note, I repaired the sunbrella cover on a headsail for a cruising boat the other day with my heavy duty sewing machine, I made $100 !!! paid for 10 hours of wifi, ice cream and 15 gallons of fuel. Seriously, there went $100.00

We’ll see you later, and if you have time look up Hotopuu Bay, Raiteaa on google earth, that’s where we’re headed for a few days as we migrate north from various anchorages to Taha’a.

Waiting For The Big Waves To Move Off

It was a quick 2 night, uneventful passage from Fakarava to Papeete, Tahiti on May 28th. We had a lucky motor/sail as the wind never picked up enough to sail the entire distance but we outran the SPCZ as it moved south.  It has been a productive week in the Papeete Marina with wifi, shopping, shower facilities all so close, stepping off the boat onto the dock has been wonderful – no salty dinghy ride to shore.

We were able to FaceTime with Mom, my sister and sons, that was a treat I didn’t anticipate. We had some boat projects to work on – lost a dinghy oar in rolly conditions back in Nuku Hiva – a French boat gave us an old one he had, traded for some chocolate bars –  nice guy; the dinghy motor fell apart while in Fakarava – purchased a new one in Tahiti and cheaper than US for Japanese manufactured Tohatsu 2 stroke that is unavailable in the US;  2 solar panels went dead – no replacement available, new laptop broke just as we left Nuku Hiva – needs to be shipped back to the US, the Bluetooth keyboard for the IPad broke- too expensive to buy a new one,  ordered a new raw water pump for engine – have a small but irritating leak.  We’re in the process of ordering all these replacement parts to be sent to American Samoa where there are no customs taxes for parts and can be shipped via US  Express mail service.  A huge dent to the cruising budget but it’s the cost of living just like home and driving a used car, something needs to be repaired or replaced.

We had planned to sail to Moorea today but the weather system south of us turned into a gale. 018The winds are suppose to pick up to 25 kts with 4 meter waves on Wednesday/Thursday moving NE. Just above the multi-colored hook shape are the Society Islands where we are. We’ve done that wild sail before, hell no we’re not sailing it if we don’t have to.  Honestly – not a lot of fun!  And its just about the time we were planning on snorkeling the reefs and paddle boarding around Cook’s Bay. This weather system is suppose to move off by NEXT Monday.

The wind was blowing out of the northwest today sending waves right into the Marina, white caps were in the harbor. By tomorrow the wind should subside enough so that we can motor around the island into Taina anchorage until the gale bows off.

Marina life is great for a few days, after that, sensory overload. The cars, people, noise and shops become overwhelming. Aside from the convenient Marina life in Tahiti, we’ve had a great time people watching, Grottotouring the island via car.  This is a grotto, one of many along the west coast of Tahiti. Beautiful scenery and coastline.

Shopping,  buying beautiful Tahitian print fabrics, eating very expensive ordinary meals – $63 for a small plate of pesto spagetti, 10′ pizza, and 2 beers.     Wifi with speed just a little above the old dial up is spotty and frustrating but better than no wifi on the ocean.

We’ve said our goodbyes to buddy boats Sababa and Athanor, each boat heading their own direction. Our newest friends on SV Chevalde whom we met in Hiva Oa, Marquesas happened to be walking along the malecon and spotted our boat. We had a happy reunion with them. They are anchored in the Taina anchorage where we’re going tomorrow, maybe we’ll sail together until our visa expires. Never know who you meet along the way but it always turns out to be a strong bond between cruisers.

Waiting and watching the weather forecast everyday to depart Tahiti. We are ready for our next adventure!

 

Birthday Vacation in Fakarava Atoll

We survived the torrential downpour on the last night of passage but I think John must’ve sprouted a beard overnight in all that rain. We are entering the S. Fakarava pass, it was an awesome feeling getting in safely, happy to be in paradise!Fakarava landfall Picked up a mooring ball in the anchorage area.  These are the latest additions, free to cruisers, safe and secure from getting the anchor and chain fouled on bommies – coral heads that are nearly 25-30 feet tall. It was our first time picking up the ball from Konami. A little finessing the boat by Diane; John was on the bow with the boat hook reaching over to grab the ball’s eye line. He nearly lost the pole overboard as the boat was gliding by too quickly, but held steadfastly and grabbed the boat bow line to loop through the eye. Once secure in the eye he then tied it off through the hawse pipe. We slept so well that night for the first time since  La Cruz, Mexico dock. The water was totally flat, no waves, no worries about dragging anchor!   34′ of water, coral and sand, lots of colorful fish, vibrant coral – blue, pink,  purple, bright white, sand colored and red.  Giant wrasse fish, sharks, bright purple and green parrot fish, groupers, needle nose fish, angel, on and on,  swimming under us, an aquatic park all made just for us.Fakarava mooringThe welcoming committee sent an usual sponsor to our boat – forgot to tell us not to throw bits of food into the water. This guy and his 5 buddies all stalked the boat the entire time we were anchored. Most of the time they ignored us, but if they heard splashing they came very quickly to investigate the thrashing feet and hands, smorgasbord on a SUP. They actually headbutted the swimming ladder, swam through one of the rungs and glared upwards looking at us. Wasn’t until the last couple of days snorkeling, SUP, and swimming that I became adjusted to them being around. Black tips were okay, the grey sharks were bigger and a little more aggressive.

SharkThis was our view every morning! The “pension”, a resort owned and operated by Tila & Manihi Salmon.  Take a look if you’re curious, it was very beautiful, 30 years of hard work building this place. We had fabulous pizza one night – Tuna pizza and Ham pizza. Amazing woodfired pizza oven, bring your own drinks and dessert! http://www.fakarava.org to see their place.

Manihi Pension   Fakarava sunriseSunrise over the tallest trees in the atoll, part of the everyday view from our boat deck.

 

 

The day before John’s birthday we did our chores. It was the perfect day to get in and change the zincs on the propeller. I kept watch in the dinghy for sharks lurking about John so could enjoy his next birthday cake.  Had the oar ready while handing off parts to him. Two days later a front moved in and we spent a couple of days on the boat waiting for the wind and water to calm down so we could snorkel. Again, we were so happy to be attached to the new mooring ball.

Boat work

The rising coral reef continues to build but the old reef gets pushed up out of the water leaving everything to die in the open. The lighter color water in the background is actually the new coral reef building up. It was about 1000 yards out to the edge of the reef, slippery with algae and rocky. The ocean is breaking on the edge of the reef, the dark blue ocean one step away – about 1500′ drop off.  Edge of the reefDiane looking for shellsCollecting shells and coral in the wasteland.

The tide pool in the old reef is mostly

 

 

stagnant sea water.

 

coral reeg wasteland

We could’ve spent much more time in S. Fakarava, we didn’t want to leave the beauty, solitude, and mesmerizing ocean park.  But time is moving on without us, our visa will expire soon.  We had a wonderful 10 days drift snorkeling the pass, snorkeling over the bommies, paddle boarding through the lagoons and over the tops of bommies while watching the fish and green turtle.  We made every effort to compost our trash on board to keep the coral alive and healthy. 2 weeks of compost begins to smell even in enclosed in large plastic jugs.

This is passage out of Fakarava. The tide was high slack current but the swell was huge. Konami just passed over the tops, fully capable and smooth. The breakers are actually breaking over the reef off to the left of the channel. We were in deep water when we went out that morning.

Breakers leaving Fakarava

Wahoo Fish Tale to Tuamotu Atolls

We departed Nuku Hiva on May 12, bound for Kauehi Motu part of the Tuamotu Island group, roughly 535 nm, 4-5 day passage southwest of NH.  The morning squalls rolled across the island mountaintop just as we upped anchor. Our buddy boat, Sababa of Portland, departed an hour before us and reported back  “lumpy seas and rain”.

We headed out of the harbor,  sure enough right into 6’ lumpy seas with 8 second swells, heavy rain and 15 knots of wind. Konami rolled and pitched as we got the autopilot set (AP), sails in order, tidied up the cockpit and checked for loose items in the cabin. John unwound the fish line and 15 minutes later we had a large fish on, jumping out of the water.  It was a Wahoo, 45” long, about 30 pounds of mean fish, two rows of nasty teeth, with a 6” dorsal fin similar to dangerous porcupine like needles. A delicious, very mild tasting, firm white meat fish much like the NW Halibut.  We didn’t expect to catch a Wahoo and had no idea how to deal with it, but speaking from experience, we knew NOT to bring a conscious fish aboard!  John pulled it along side the boat and just looking at his piercing eyes made me shudder.

Please stop reading if you’re squeamish or a vegetarian. But for those cruisers and fishing wannabe people like us, follow along to learn more about landing a crazy Wahoo in rough conditions.

With the boat on autopilot we focused on landing the fish. We struggled with the fish net (first item purchased in Tahiti) to get him up out of the water to wrap a rope around his tail; nearly lost him as he thrashed and jerked backwards, leaving him dangling and wiggling violently from the leader line. The boat rolled from side to side, rubrail in the water, throwing us around as we changed places to get a better grip.  Determined not to lose him, we firmly pulled him back towards the boat and took a couple more swipes at him with the net. Finally, John swooped it down under him and caught him balanced in the flopping net.  He was ferocious – jumping, thrashing and snapping his jaw.  I was afraid of him. With both of us pulling on the fish net and pole end John managed to get a rope tied to the tail with one hand. That made the fish even madder, slime, slobber (not sure who was slobbering) and blood was spraying everywhere! At this point I thought maybe WE should give up and clip the hook before we became injured.

The fish book says “club it to death before bringing it into the cockpit since the Wahoo has been known to bite and thrash about so violently that a fisherman was seriously injured.” Great, get the bronze winch handle… Now, some people use methods of spraying alcohol into the gills or covering the heads with a bag to calm them down, either way, we couldn’t get close enough to his head and weren’t taking any chances of a drunken or half suffocated fish biting us.   Sounded really cruel but we followed the instructions, and 20 minutes after the catch we hauled the unconscious fish aboard. wahoo1Doesn’t look so big and threatening here though.

Even after cutting through his gills, his heart continued to beat. Oh that was awful, we felt really bad but this is the food chain here.  We struggled to get it onto the cutting board attached to our stern pulpit, the darn thing wanted to slip away while the boat continued to roll and pitch as we hung onto everything within our grasp to stay upright. An hour or so after the initial catch, we had 6 large bags of beautiful fish in the empty freezer.

As we dealt with the fish, the seas had continued to build and the wind shifted.  The boat was headed nearly 15 degrees off course, the swells were hitting directly on the beam, and the wind had slightly decreased. It’s no wonder why we were rolling so badly but the fish had taken all of our attention.  We regained course and settled down.  Another boat hailed us as they had just departed the harbor and were reporting wild squalls of 30 knots and steep seas. We looked back and watched nearly 15 miles of squall line spanning between us and them.  Wow, we had good timing of getting out when we did and caught the fish just before the mother of squalls hit!

We were lucky to stay just enough ahead of the monster squall line for the next 24 hours. The other boat should’ve turned around, his wife was sick and they had the stuffing pounded out of them. As the passage continued the seas improved and we had a lovely sail for the next 2 days. The sun came out, winds were perfect 10 – 15 knots, we sailed fast and easy. On the 3rd night at 11:30 John came on for watch. I had just gotten into bed when a muffled “bang” brought me upright. I listened for other sounds, nothing. Sounded like we hit something, a metallic “boing”.  We never want to hear a metallic sound, especially at night! John was already looking around as I came up. All deck lights came on as he went forward to check the rigging. The inner stay wire (sail hanks onto it) was loose and dangling. It is attached to an eyebolt that goes through the bowsprit. Crevice corrosion had caused the end of the bolt head to break off . Fortunately we didn’t have a sail hanked on at the time and we had a spare – thanks Dave King!  Heavy breathing subsided and we continued on.

Also on the 3rd day out we had decided to change direction and enter the S. Fakarava pass to stay with Sababa. It added another day to our passage, and the timing of tide and current meant we had to slow down to no more than 4 knots the remaining distance to avoid standing offshore in the dark for 10 hours.  Of course the weather wouldn’t cooperate. Great winds and sea conditions and we have to slow down.  When we want to get there asap – shitty conditions! That is the sailing way.  We reduced forward sails, still going too fast, we reduced the mainsail even more.

The frustrations of sailing- just when you think you’ve got it made, mother nature lets you know who is really in charge.  The last evening out, the rain squalls set in. No significant wind – good thing there, but the rain was torrential. John was shivering in wet clothes and got out his rain gear, not sure why as he was totally soaked in those too. I came on watch at 12:30 a.m. and huddled in the cockpit in just my underwear. No sense in having 2 sets of soaked rain gear to clean and dry.  There wasn’t a dry place on the boat, the rain came straight up our aft end – right into the cockpit, beating on the cabin doors, hard onto the cabin top, rain water sprayed upwards and outwards. The raindrops flattened the waves and there weren’t any other sounds besides the rain. I couldn’t hear the wind, the sounds of the boat moving through the water nor the rigging sounds. Nothing, nada but rain and water. The entire ocean seemed to be overwhelmed.  It lasted until 4:30 a.m.

At 10:00 a.m. we had sight of Fakarava, just coconut trees jutting upwards out of the ocean.  By 11:00 we had the entrance timing made, the sea condition had settled down enough that we didn’t have breaking waves . Coral reefs on both sides of the pass, in 19’ – 25’ of water above the reef line we were on high alert as we scanned the water ahead for bommies (coral heads), watched our chartplotter, and followed the channel in. The pristine blue water was breathtaking, transitioning from deep ocean dark blue to emerald green to light brown coral, and white sand.  We got lucky and picked up a mooring ball so had no worry about snagging or wrapping the anchor and chain around a bommie. Safely tied to the ball, we shut down the engine and gave our hugs and thanks to each other for a great passage, thanks for the easy pass entry, not hitting the coral reef, a freezer full of yummy fish, good friends tied next to us, and PARADISE waiting for our arrival!