Thursday, 18 August 2016

Arrived in Palmerston, Cook Islands

18 02S 163 11W   Arrived safely at Palmerston Atoll, part of the Cook Islands      We were welcomed into the anchorage by a whale diving right in front of us and we got the most amazing display of its tail as it dove down, wow     It's a little breezy right now, not quite in the forecast but hope to settle soon     Knocked off 666 miles across the mighty Pacific

Friday, 12 August 2016

Heiva Festival on Huahine ….. July 2016

18 – 31 July:  Fare Village, Mt Teapaa & Baie Avea, Huahine – 16 48S 150 59W
underway Moorea to Huahine
Northwest to the Leeward Islands

There are dozens of us cruising yachts milling in the Societies Islands of French Polynesia now, some in the Windwards, some already in the Leewards, most heading westwards with final destinations in the coming months of either New Zealand, Australia, north to the equator or continuing to Asia for the cyclone season.  Every time there is a decent weather window a flotilla sets off, hopping from island to island, nibbling away at the many hundreds of miles ahead of us.

P7220519It’s a 90 mile sail from Moorea to Huahine so with only 12 hours of daylight and reefs at both ends to maneouver through it just can’t be done as a day sail for most yachts, time for an overnighter.  We sat at the Sunken Tikis Anchorage watching the procession of yachts leaving Moorea late afternoon, skipper wanted to leave last so he could spend the night entertaining himself by chasing them all down!  We had perfect downwind conditions, rolly as usual but Balvenie flew along, passing one after another.  As day broke we approached the pass at Huahine, all the fleet had been passed, mission accomplished!P7200365It’s Festival Time

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We timed our stay in Fare Village superbly as the annual July Heiva Festival was in full swing.  Outrigger racing took place almost daily, culmulating in the finals of both individual and team events, these were serious affairs with the canoes being officially weighed before the races, the courses were long and hard fought, the competition fierce.
 
The javelin throwing competition looked quite serious too, a coconut sat high atop a stick that waved in the steady breeze, we think the competition winner was the one that managed to skewer the coconut the most times with his homemade sharpened javelin, while we watched we saw only one successful hit.
P7210373More Song & Dance

P7210457P7210480Although we had already been to the Heiva Dance Festival in Papeete we took the opportunity to see the event on a more local level, so went one evening to watch the local villagers compete.  Each village had one female then one male performer do a solo dance accompanied by village musicians, then there was also a group of singers.  It was all excellent, here’s a collage of the various  performers, different colours represent the various villages.

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P7210376 Big Outing for Little Bikes

There is a well restored marae site on the northern coast of Huahine so we took our folding bikes ashore to go discover it.  It didn’t take us long to get there, the site was interesting with excellent information boards in English and a small museum.  It was located right on the waters edge inside the lagoon, the first we have seen so close to the water.  Instead of turning back we looked at the map - the road was flat except for one mega climb, there was very little traffic and there were several more attractions to see so we just kept going, and going, off we went and circumnavigated Huahine Nui.
P7210381P7210384  P7210393The next attractions were the over water fish traps and then the stone channels created also to divert and trap fish.  Undoubtedly these have been maintained and replaced over the years but the early history of the island depicts these traps as as being a major provider for securing a constant food source.

We kept peddling down the inland water way on the east coast of the island then turned to traverse the southern coast, a huge hill rose ahead of us.  So it was a timely stop when we realised that the small stream on our right was home to Huahine’s famous blue eyed eels.  P7220528There were about 10 chunky eels lurking in the shallows waiting for their next meal of stale baguettes from a passing tourist, we obliged.  You do need to look real hard at the photo but there are 3 eels lying there and you can see their blue eyes.

Then it was decision time, either return the same way on the flat or tackle the big hill with a 45% gradient for 2 km’s ~ no choice really, on we went but we did need to walk most of it up and we took it very slowly going down too, that is one steep hill!

Heading South Inside the Reef

We tore ourselves away from Fare and headed on down the west side of Huahine onboard Balvenie, stopping half way off Mt Teapaa in a delightful sheltered spot with free moorings, P7230554a golden sandy beach ashore, a few coral bommies to snorkel and a short hike up to a magnificent viewing point out across the reef and to neighbouring Raiatea and Tahaa.

Next it was just a few more miles down to the south west corner to Baie d’Avea, another one of those spots where we just can sit for hours and marvel at the colours of the waters around us.baie d'avea, huahine  To stretch our legs we ventured ashore and made our way south to an ancient marae site then took a path opposite it and climbed high along the ridge overlooking the anchorage, some bush whacking was required when the trail disappeared from time to time but it was an adventure, great exercise and offered another stunning view.
    
Music Time Back in Fare

It’s been 4 years since we have seen our friends Steve and Lili off American yacht Liward, that was in Panama the first time we visited there.P7280584  We had been talking on our daily cruisers net on our SSB Radios and a rendezvous was planned in Fare, Steve’s a musician and he organized to play at the excellent Huahine Yacht Club, it was time to rock the dock!

It was a great night, all the cruisers turned up for the event, as did most of the locals, this is a small place but I’d say everyone on the island was there to enjoy the live music with Steve leading and accompanied by several local musicians.  P7250568
Huahine, Such an Unexpected Delight in the Societies

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Moorea c’est Magnifique ….. July 2016

08–18 July:  Cooks Bay Sandbar to Sunken Tikis, Moorea – 17 29S 149 52W
the flying dinghy

Getting Whacked Underway

It’s just 21 miles from the Papeete Yacht Club where we were anchored in Tahiti to the anchorage area around Cooks Bay on Moorea.  Light winds were forecast and we waited until late morning for the wind to reach 6 knots.   Off we went with full main up and full headsail flying at the bow, the breeze increased enough for us to coast along in flat seas, one of those magic sails.
 
We were in the shadow of Tahiti for about 15 miles, then the wind went fickle and died, the current between the two islands churned the water this way and that and the magic turned to downright trickery.  P7120178As we were discussing whether all those whitecaps in front of us were really caused by the current or was it wind our question was answered, wind hit us – and lots of it!
 
For the next half hour it was “hang on to your hats”(and whatever else we could find) as we flew along in wind gusts up to 38 knots whilst surfing down 3 metre seas that had built from nowhere.  As our boat speed hit 12 knots we both looked longingly at the calmer water in the distance and prayed the gusts wouldn’t get any stronger.  At least at these speeds you do get there quicker and we reefed sails as soon as we found flatter water then finished our sail in somewhat more control, phew!
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The waves were whipping through our intended anchorage in Cooks Bay, white water flicking off the tops as the katabatic winds funnelled through, so we stayed outside in much calmer water on the sandbar inside the reef.
All night long the stars sparkled above us but the clouds hung over the high peaks and a fine mist blew down on us until daybreak.  The Sandbar was a gorgeous spot though but oh so shallow with just half a metre under our keel, the water so clear that it actually looked like we were sitting on the sand, somewhat surreal. 
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The Bay with no Cooks

The unforecast wild winds eventually eased and Cooks Bay was transformed into a pond, the majestic mountains reflecting into the glassy seas, a far more appealing anchorage.P7100112
Now the interesting fact about Cooks Bay is that it is named after Captain Cook who visited Moorea on his third voyage to French Polynesia, however he never anchored there.  They made their base in neighbouring Opunohu Bay which had a better fresh water supply, no one knows why this bay was named after him, but Cooks Bay it is!P7120176

Tourists, Tourists Everywhere

This northern coast of Moorea is one of the most touristy areas in French Polynesia, from our next anchorage at the head of Opunohu Bay we watched convoys of cycle tours or dune buggies drive by for their half day sightseeing tours.  Most headed up to the belvedere for a few snaps of the bays before re-mounting their chosen mode of transport and continuing on round the island.

We however decided to stretch our legs and took advantage of the excellent trails available and hiked up to a well P7120190restored historical marae site before continuing up to the lookout area.  We enjoyed the birds eye view then headed back into the bush on one of the marked trails, somehow we missed our first two downhill turnoffs and ended up on the longest returning option, a 7km walk through some verdant tropical bush, not unlike what we have in New Zealand.  It was shady and cool, a well worn trail but we didn’t see another soul, it’s likely it is just us exercise starved cruisers that keep these trails trodden!

We also spent a day on our bikes exploring, didn’t quite pull off the 65 km circumnavigation of the island, maybe just a little too much for our little folding bikes, not to mention our legs but we followed the coastline and clicked over 30 kms, good effort.

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After a particularly blustery “anchor watch” night at the head of Opunohu Bay we decided to head back out to the shallow areas inside the reef, find the Sunken Tiki Anchorage and enjoy all the underwater tourist attractions.

Who Threw The Tikis Overboard?

On the half day water based tourist sightseeing tour there are stops made at the sunken tikis and opportunities to swim with and feed rays and black tipped sharks.  Happy holiday makers jump overboard by the boat load on these excellent excursions to view these underwater delights, but of course they are unable to chose a quiet time or stay as long as they want, that’s where we are lucky.
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It’s a long while since we have been anywhere with so many tourists so had forgotten how fortunate we are to be able to chose a time between tour boats, jet ski and kayak convoys to be able to share the same experiences but without the crowds, P7150268but hey, remember we did have to endure those winds to get here!

We found the sunken tikis, they were lying quietly in the shallows only 100 metres from where we anchored Balvenie.  We understand they are a reasonably new addition to the neighbourhood, carved by a local sculpture and laid to rest on the busy tourist trail as another attraction, what a great idea.

Time to Feed the Rays

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Last on our list of “Moorea Must Do’s” was to dinghy along to the crystal clear shallow waters near the Intercontinental Hotel and feed the resident rays and black tipped sharks.  Now this gets VERY busy so we got along there by 8.30am, the first of the tour boats arrived at 9am and it is non stop all day long.
Look carefully at the photo below, all the white part is the underbelly of a ray as it came up vertically out of the water to be fed, it was all soft and slippery underneath, the pinky part just above the water is its mouth. P7150251
There were rays everywhere, and the black tipped sharks and other fish don’t miss out on the free food either, felt like we were swimming inside an aquarium at feeding time, but watch out – they do nibble the odd unsuspecting tourist!
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Time To Head North to Huahine – North? But That’s The Wrong Way!! 

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Projects & Provisioning in Papeete …. June/July 2016

18 Jun-07 Jul:  Taina Anch, City Marina, Yacht Club Anch – 17 31S 149 31W 
Sensory Overload in the CityP6190008
We arrived just after dark at Point Venus on the North Coast of Tahiti.  It was a joy to awake to clear blue skies above and verdant green peaks ashore.  After the low lying atolls of the Tuamotus we could smell the land again and we also took in the splendour of the lush interior, our senses were overloaded. 
Our morning motor along the outside of the reef was rather lively, the wind had really filled in and with it a choppy sea but it was a short distance to the main pass entrance into Papeete - the vista of the neighbouring island Moorea was a dramatic backdrop. P6290020 Once through the pass we headed for the Taina Marina Mooring & Anchorage area.  This short run inside the reef passes both ends of the airport so clearance to proceed must be obtained from Air Traffic Control so you don’t get your mast tangled in a low flying plane!!
We attached to the last available  mooring buoy and the urgent business of food shopping was addressed.  The giant French supermarket chain of Carrefour is throughout Tahiti and one hypermarket is conveniently located a short walk from the anchorage.  Our overloaded senses were about to go into total meltdown.  P6290011Outside the marina area the traffic passed by at speeds we hadn’t seen since Panama, traffic lights were sighted for the first time in a year, and the aisles and aisles of goods in Carrefour, well quite frankly it was all just a little to much after 10 months in the sleepy Marquesas & Tuamotus!
Ticking Off Things on “The List
During our week in the mooring field we moved into project & provisioning mode.  We re-adjusted quickly to the buzz of city life and almost set fire to our credit cards with so much use.  Trips were made into all the chandleries to source a new battery bank, 80 metres of anchor chain and other smaller more manageable items.
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Oranges & Bananas in the Parade plus Storm troopers in case the fruit get unruly!
20160625_121203The logistics of getting the old items off the boat by dinghy, disposing of them and bringing the new back and installing them kept us busy, this was heavy and tiring work. 
  • Any spare minute skipper didn't need me I made trips to Carrefour and other grocery stores.   Just to paint a picture on buying the groceries:
  • Calculate how many of everything we will need for the next 5 months and make a very big list20160625_132423
  • visit multiple supermarkets we have never been to before & have most of the labels in French
  • shop until trolley full
  • pay & pack into strong bags then wheel the trolley on very uneven surface back to marina
  • transfer goods onto dock then into dinghy
  • prepare for possible wet dinghy ride back to Balvenie then unload onto deck, move into cockpit then lastly down below
  • unpack & carefully stow in lockers – noting where it has gone 
Then do it all again in various supermarkets till all items have been crossed off list (except marmite and easyyo yogurt mix!).  After filling many grocery trolleys and contributing thousands of francs to the local economy provisioning for the next 5 months was completed, eventually space onboard was found to stow everything – we had food and drink again
P6300037Luxury – A Week in the Marina 
Conditions in the mooring field had not been very comfortable with a slop coming over the reef so we decided to treat ourselves to a week in the new City Marina.  Located right downtown with new docks, excellent security & facilities and an affordable price it encouraged us to have a weeks ”city break” after our seriously hard work. 
Papeete surprised us, we’d heard some negative comments about the downtown harbour area and maybe they have had a recent major clean up and redevelopment but we’d have to say the area was superb.P6300024
The waterfront promenade was palm tree lined with cycle paths and wide footpaths, large tree filled parks adjoined the marina at both ends, there were playgrounds, picnic areas, an adjacent open air arena and even a huge underground parking area.  It was an extremely well thought out and developed area, one Papeete should be very proud of, and it was certainly well used by the cities inhabitants.P7010041 
Each evening in a large area within one park “le roulette trucks” sell a huge assortment of tasty meals, there were a few tourists dining but this seems mainly frequented by the locals which was great to see.  The shopping and market area opposite were very handy, quite compact but functional, open air cafes added that French feel, all was clean & tidy and it felt very safe.  
Time to Play Now
June and July are festival months and we enjoyed watching street parades, performing dancers, garland making competitions, wood carving workshops – there were even basket weaving classes.  P6300029The Heiva Festival is an annual event throughout French Polynesia and on each Thursday, Friday and Saturday night in July there are excellent song and dance performances in the open arena near the marina.  With tickets costing less than a meal out it made an excellent evenings entertainment, and each night had different groups performing.  The winners are decided at the end of the month.P7010049 
Exploring Further Afield
We shared a car hire one day with David & Betty Anne off Canadian boat Confidence and off we went to explore the island.  First we stopped at Point Venus where Captain Cook had been sent on his first voyage into the Pacific with astrologers to record the transit of Venus across Sun in 1769, a failed mission as they did not see the transit due to having the wrong timing information.  20160701_162153
Then we followed the coast road down the east coast and crossed the isthmus to smaller Tahiti Iti.  We continued up onto the plateau, a surprising open area with cows grazing in green pastures, fields planted in vegetables, all looked just like home, quite a change from all the nearby tropical vegetation.  After a picnic lunch at the belvedere (lookout) we made our way back across to Tahiti Nui and up the west coast to Papeete.
Catching Up with Old FriendsP7040090
Our remaining few days in Papeete were spent at the excellent anchorage outside the Papeete Yacht Club, tucked behind a deep drying reef on the north coast,20160705_083552 just a stones throw from Point Venus.  We had a great few days here, surrounded by Australians and New Zealanders (we just sort of took over the anchorage really). 
We hooked up with our longtime friend Tony on Tactical Directions, first met in Darwin 2006 and since shared many an anchorage in Asia, The Red Sea, Turkey, the Caribbean and most recently the Bahamas in 2014.  Just great to see him, Out of the Bag & Ednbal again and to meet new friends who we have been talking to previously only via our SSB Radio net, now we can all put faces to voices and names.
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Time To Follow in Captain Cook’s Wake