Friday, September 30, 2011

093011 Moorea continued

Well its the end of September and we are still in Oponuhu Bay on Moorea.  We have been pretty quiet.  We are working on converting Moondance's dvd's to electronic files.  They have 4 books of dvds, so it is taking all of our computing power to get it done.  My little computer will only rip them, it isn't big enough to compress them, so ripping is my piece of the pie.  Dennis and I did go exploring with Doug and Carla on Monday.  We took one of the rare buses as far as it would go to the west, looked at all the shops and had lunch on the beach.  We caught another bus from there back east to Maharepa.  It is one of the main towns here on Moorea.  We needed an ATM, which they had and of course we had to check out the market.  I scored some smarties (not what they are called here, but you know what I mean) for Josh.  He didn't realize we were actually leaving Tahiti on Friday and didn't stock up.  From there we hitched a ride to the "Jus de Fruits".  It is a fruit juice factory and distillary.  They make boxed rum punches and maitais, flavored rums and liquours.  We tasted quite a few and ended up buying a bottle of vanilla flavored rum cream liquour - quite good in my coffe even as we speak.  From there we were able to hitch another ride back to our dinghy.  All in all a pretty fun day.  Josh was happy with his smarties too.
Tuesday we invited Doug and Carla here for a game of Risk.  Four and a half hours later we declared Doug the winner with the most countries.  Whew!!!  Talk about a marathon.  Definitely fun just long.
Wednesday Josh and Dennis cleaned the bottom of the boat and I procured fresh shrimp for dinner. Josh says the hull is as smooth as a baby's butt now.  We will go fast, fast.  Was a pretty hard job because of the wind and current, but they got it done. The shrimp came from a farm at the head of the bay. Doug and I dinghied over and picked up a kilo each.  I made ours into a creole type of scampi over rice for dinner - yum!!
Josh was going to help Doug with their bottom on Thursday, but between generator issues and more wind they decided to put it off.  We had problems with a fuse on one pump, then the freshwater pump crapped out.  Thankfully we had the spare new pump (thank you Corinne), so it was just a matter of replacing it.  Of course it wasn't as straightforward as it should have been, but by the end of the afternoon we were back in business.  We will see what today brings.  It is still pretty windy and a little cloudy.  We are looking at a possible window to leave here on Monday or Tuesday.

The Hike to the top of Bora Bora by Josh

The hike to the top of Bora Bora (aka THE true hike true hell)

As you can guess I did a hike, real surprise there. My family and I were in Bora Bora and we heard about a hike to one of the peaks. My dad being a seasoned hike from hell picker says, “Let’s do it”. The reasons why I did it: I would never hear the end of it if I didn’t go; My friend Jayce who I had recently met was going to do it; We heard some 11 year old girl had done it (that’s why I would never hear the end of it) and I liked a challenge. Bora Bora had three peaks, the highest peak was all cliffs and even with climbing equipment it was volcanic so the rock was crumbly and you couldn’t climb it. The second highest was thirty-five feet higher than the smallest peak. We went to the smallest peak which was 2300 ft high, so it was still really high.
The people going on the hike were my mom and dad, Jayce, our friends Doug and Carla, and I. We all got up at 8:00, to me it felt like 6:00 and it could’ve been for fast I was moving. The fun of it all started before we even got on land. From the anchorage to town and the trailhead was about a mile or two and we had Jayce in our dinghy. With the added weight it was too much for the sacrificial rubber ring on the prop. We were trying to get on a plane and all of a sudden we were going much slower. The ring was there so if something like that happened you don’t lose the gear box and the prop. You still have to replace the prop but it lets you go slow to get to where you’re going. We still went to the hike and Doug and Carla would stick with us on the way back. What a great way to start the day.
 We got to the dinghy dock and got some more food from the store. We got all set and on our way, at first we were along a road through some houses then it turned into the trail. We heard that is was a good idea to get a guide so we wondering how we did that when a local guy standing on the side of the trail near the start just started walking with us, problem solved. My mom and Carla only went for the first tiny bit of it and then turned around to get to the store to get some beer before it stopped selling alcohol. The guide we had was probably around 60 to 65 years old and wore cheap $2 flip flops and he was just casually walking. My friend and I were 13 and 14, had good shoes on, and were doing everything we could to keep up with him. Since we really couldn’t keep up with him he waited for us. My dad and Doug were slower than us so at one point we went ahead because we could easily see the trail and we were careful. I would say that the first part of the trail was around 45 or 50 degrees steep and some places where they had ropes were about 60 to 70 degrees. The second part of the trail was steeper or it just seemed so because we were so high but I’m pretty sure it was steeper.  There were a lot of trees on the side of the trail so there were roots and oh my god I love roots because they were sturdy handholds and sometimes like ladders. On the first place with ropes we were freaking out like “are you sure it’s THAT way” but it wasn’t that bad. During that hike I am pretty sure I broke the world record of how many times you could say the word terrify in any form. I’m sure Jayce wanted to strangle me because I was saying it so much.
When we finally made it to the top it was all worth it by far. We were 2300 ft off the water and had 330 or 340 degrees of clear view around us. We met some people on the way up who said it wasn’t good it was amazing and I would say it wasn’t amazing it was absolutely spectacular. Just below the top we ran into a couple who were from Detroit and had gotten engaged a few days before while they were in Bora Bora. The couple joked that for their honeymoon they would go to mars to top Bora Bora. We spent a pretty long time up there to rest and just look.
When everybody finished taking pictures we all thought “crap now we have to go back down”. In my opinion it was longer and worse because I slid on my butt down a lot of it. I didn’t realize how hungry I was until I stepped down and my leg visibly shook, so next time I sat down to rest I stuffed my face with some peanuts that I brought and it got better. The food may have made me feel better but it didn’t make anything less terrifying. I find it funny that we thought it was scary going up the ropes, until we had to go down them. Jayce and I had gone ahead again and we stopped every once and a while and waited for my dad and Doug with the guide. As we got farther down it got easier and we were going faster so we went on ahead. We were so happy that we were done that we went straight to the store and bought some water and snacks to tide us over until we got back to the boat. Overall it took Jayce and me 5 hours and took my dad and Doug 6 hours.
Doug said it was the hardest hike he had ever done, for me it was the scariest I had ever done and right up there with the hardest. Over the summer my dad earned the title of, “not allowed to pick anymore hikes” and only one of them was harder. When we got to the boat we all jumped in the water to clean off and cool off. I took the next couple of days off from doing anything. I decided that no matter what, I wasn’t doing any hikes for another two months and banned my dad permanently from picking hikes.

Here is some visualization

                                                          70 deg     60 deg           45 deg

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday 092511

092111 Wednesday
Finished up most of my provisioning yesterday.  Dennis did epoxy work on several little projects around the boat, but you know how "little" projects are....By the time I got back to the boat from shopping, Dennis was just leaving to go with Doug and Carla to try and buy some fish since we have had no luck catching our own.  Turns out not even the locals are catching fish.  Made us feel a little better, but we still had no fish.  Oh well.  Doug and Carla came over for drinks and dinner and we discussed our action plan for heading out of here.  Seems like we have unfavorable winds for the next 6 days, so we will finish up provisioning here, get our papers together with our agent and then head to Moorea until we get a good window.  The anchorage is nice here, but it is too easy to spend money.  Moorea has internet and baguettes, but the anchorage there just screams "get in the water".  We can work on cleaning the hull, snorkel and hike and not spend money - all good things. 
I haven't commented on the weather lately, but it is quite warm here.  Not exactly sure of the temperature, maybe high 80s/low 90s.  We are very protected in this anchorage, so part of each day we have no breeze which makes a big difference in our comfort level.  Is still pretty good sleeping though - nice and cool at night.  I put up the sunshade Tuesday, and of course it got really windy today.
Thursday 9/22 Did a final Carrefour run and picked up our exit papers.  I made chocolaate chip cookie bars in the solar oven today.  Probably could have picked a better, less windy day, but Dennis had been bugging me for them....After 3 hours, I decided they had to be done and they were mostly.  I got no complaints, so I guess they were okay.  Dennis and Josh worked on replacing the shower sump pump switch all afternoon and I went in and did work on the internet.  Ended up being one of those starving hungry kind of nights as the sump pump project wasn't completed til almost 7pm.
Friday 9/23  Dennis was up at the buttcrack of dawn - finishing wiring the shower sump and then putting away all of his tools.  The wind was not too bad, so we decided to up anchor and head to the fuel dock.  I think our anchor was up before 0800.  Fueling up went welland we were off to Moorea.  We had a good sail over here, kind of a preview of things to come - mostly a reach.  Josh was a little seasick, but didn't want to take any medication.  So we were pretty conservative speed wise.  We made it here by lunchtime and the rest of the day was pretty quiet. 
Saturday was also a quite day.  It was partly cloudy with lots of wind.  I made a big brunch at 1230.  Josh is being a typical teen and sleeping as long as we will let him.  Since there was nothing pressing to do, we let him sleep.  We joined Doug and Carla for dinner at a chinese place.  Was good, but again howling windy - and only outside seating.
By the looks of the weather, we will be here around a week.  We will work on cleaning the boat and rearranging the deck in preparation for the crossing to Hawaii. We will also explore the island some more and maybe go to swim with the rays again. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


We made it to Huahine no problem.  Mostly a motor sail, but did get enough wind to add a knot to our speed.  Was a whole different arrival than our first time.  No wind and rain, just bright blue sunny skies.  We think that the high winds and waves/swell that we saw in BoraBora took out one of the channel markers on the north side of the channel in Fare.  We had no problems with the entrance, but it is kind of weird knowing that there was a mark, and not being able to find it.  The cruise ship Paul Gaugain was moored in the entrance to the bay just south of Fare.  We were pretty sure that the big yellow thing our there was a mooring – and sure enough.  Very unusual to see a ship that size on a mooring. That evening we all went in for happy hour and dinner at the roulettes.
Wednesday morning we had dolphins in the anchorage – way cool.  Dennis jumped in with his mask and snorkel, but there was too much current for him to be able to get close to them.  They did sense him in the water though, so gave me quite the show jumping and spy hopping to check him out.  Later that morning we did some provisioning, and then went for a snorkel.  The snorkel spot we chose had a permanently parked boat there.  When we got in the water, we were inundated by all kinds of fish.  It was obvious that the fish were regularly fed.  Was cool to see all the fish, but it was close to feeding time and the sharks were hungry too.  We hadn't been there long when the tour boat came and we were asked to leave.  We moved about 30 yards away – and big surprise, no fish.  Oh well, I got some great pictures at the first place.  We pretty much drifted with the current back to our boat.  We finalized plans with Doug and Carla to leave for Bourayne Bay the next day and had a quiet evening on the boat.
Thursday morning we took the big boat into the dock in Fare.  The plan was to get some laundry water and take down the big jib.  We will be working more to windward now, so will not need such a big headsail.  Fortunately it was quiet windwise and Doug and Carla were on the dock to catch lines.  The jib came down without a hitch, I got water in the buckets for laundry and scored some zucchini and fresh sliced loaf bread.  All that accomplished, we left the dock and headed to Bourayne Bay about 5 miles south of Fare.
Bourayne Bay according to the guide book was supposed to remind us of a Scottish loch.  We decided that was a bit of a stretch, but it was definitely pretty and not crowded.  Probably because it is a deep anchorage.  It felt weird to go from anchoring in 17 feet to anchoring in 80 feet.  The rest of the day was pretty quiet.
Friday we were going to go on a dinghy ride to the east side of the island but it was way too windy, so we decided to move to Avea Bay and do the dinghy ride on the way back.  Avea bay is very pretty.  Saturday we dinghied with Doug and Carla south to the town of Parea.  On the way there we stopped to watch the surfers at the pass, it looked doable, so we decided to come back the next day to try it out.  We then explored the Marae, which is a sacred pile of rocks and according to a woman we met later one of the few with only original rocks.  The town of Parea wasn't much, but the did have a shop where Carla bought a hand painted pareo. It is really beautiful and the couple who owned the shop (Frank and Miri) were very nice.  She explained the meaning behind the different symbols/figures and demonstrated different ways to tie it.  Afterwards, Frank gave us a ride to the magazine.  As we were leaving they told us that they were giving a pareo show at the hotel near where we were anchored that night and invited us to come.  Which we did.  We probably had a little too much fun, but we survived. 
Sunday was pretty quiet, I cleaned the boat and Josh and Dennis went and tried the surf spot.  It turned out to be pretty scary with lots of outgoing current and breaking on the reef.  I was glad I didn't go.  That night we had Doug and Carla and Frank and Miri over for drinks after dinner.  It was quite educational listening to Miri talk about her family and being raised on Huahine.  Frank is from France (Brittany he likes to say), but has been in Polynesia for 20+ years.
Monday 9/12 - Left Avea bay for Bourayne Bay and our dinghy ride.  The plan was to leave Huahine for Tahiti on Tuesady afternoon (good weather window).  Doug and Carla decided to have a quiet day on the boat so stayed in Avea.  We would meet the next morning on the way to Tahiti.  After we anchored, we set out for the east side of the island in search of the sacred blue eyed eel.  It was quite a long ride, but Josh did a great job of keeping us dry.  As we approached the bay with the eels, we saw two "houses" out in the middle of the water.  On closer inspection they turned out to be built out on reefs.  We stopped at one that turned out to be a pearl farm.  We snacked and listened to the talk about their farm ( not that different than on Tahaa).  Afterwards we went to the small town of Faie and the eels.  The eels do have murky blue eyes - almost like they would be blind.  There was no information there about them - just a sign saying they were the sacred eels.  Kind of underwhelming, definitely a tourist thing.  So, we bought snacks and headed back to the dinghy.  On the way back to the boat the dinghy engine acted up again.  Fortunately we were close to the pearl farm, so we limped there and tied up to their dock while we cleaned out the filter in the carburator.  What a pain.  At least we had the proper tools with us and practice makes perfect.  This was the first time Josh had been with us when it died, so Dennis took the opportunity to show him how to fix it.  After that we got back to the boat with no problem.  The wind was nonexistent, so we put the yankee jib up for the crossing to Tahiti.
Tuesday morning we finished securing the boat and headed to Fare.  Josh and I took the dinghy to get fuel for it in town, the plan being that Dennis would go slow in the big boat and we would meet hime back at the pass.  Sadly the dinghy motor acted up again.  Josh and I were able to fix it, but by then Dennis had caught up to us.  Deciding that fuel wasn't in our karma, we headed on out the pass to Tahiti.
The crossing was uneventful and we made the anchorage by marina Taina and were anchored before noon.  We had breakfast, rested a little then headed in for happy hour then dinner at our favorite chinese restaurant.  YUM!! 
Tuesday 9/20.  Since then we have been pretty busy provisioning and doing projects. We have done a major Carrefour run (groceries), 6 loads of laundry, a cost and co run (cereal), internet time at the Pink Coconut, dinghy engine work, generator muffler repair and the list goes on.  We are hoping for a good weather window to be out of here soon. We haven't finalized a plan, but that is on the list for today......

Thursday, September 8, 2011

090511 post


Well, Happy Labor Day. Really cannot believe we have been in French Polynesia almost 5 months. We left BoraBora (finally) on Friday 9/2 - early 0615 - that was a killer. We motor sailed to the Tahaa (Ta ha a) pass without any near misses with either the HawaikiNui or the Taporo 6 freighters. As we approached the pass we had a most excellent whale watching experience. Two or three humpbacks gave us quite a show. They started by waving their pectoral fins, then some breaching and tail slapping. We thought the show was over, but not so - one of them came from our starboard side and crossed in front of the boat - about 20 feet away. Too close for my comfort, but gave us a really good look at him/her. They gave us a few more breaches or spy hops, then the show was over. (I wasn't able to catch any of it on film, so you'll have to take my work for it for now.) Just in time for us to head into the pass. We met up with Moondance in Apu bay. We snagged a mooring ball next to them and settled in.

We got the dinghy back in the water, had some lunch then went with Moondance to the small magazin (store) across the bay. We traded in our case of 500ml Hinanos for some fresh, picked up a couple of cold ones and some rice and headed back to our respective boats to prepare for dinner at Moondance. Carla made yummy chilli with cornbread. I made quesadillas and salsa for appetizers and apple cobbler for dessert. After dinner we played dice - the Morrison's cleaned up. Sadly by 9pm we were fading fast after our 0600 wake up call. We agreed to meet at 1030 the next morning to go to the pearl farm.

Saturday - we met up and walked to the Pearl Farm - just up the road from the dock. See the end of this post for Josh's report on the farming of pearls in French Polynesia. After the tour we were able to look at loose and set pearls. Tahaa and Raiatea produce a coppery colored pearl found only at these islands. Pearls come in different qualites. "A" quality is round with less 10% imperfections, "B" has 30% or less, and "C" more than 30%. Carla picked up a couple of 8mm copper colored pearls - very pretty. I wasn't able to find anything both Dennis and I agreed on, so saved our money for another day. After the pearl farm we decided to walk to the magazin and look for the phone booth on the way. A good ways in, Dennis and I went back for the dinghy, with a stop to buy fruit on the way, we scored some bananas, pamplamousse, limes and papaya, with ripe bananas and 2 green coconuts thrown in for gratis. We dodged another rain storm and met Doug and Carla at the magazin. We hung out in front of the magazin drinking our beers, watching the ground crabs and snacking for about an hour, then headed back to the boats. We agreed to leave the next morning for Haamene bay on the east coast of Tahaa.

Sunday - we were off the mooring ball around 1000 - took Josh a while to undo the macrame the bouy for the mooring ball had made with our line to the main mooring - note to self tie the bouy line up out of the water. Was nice to stay on the mooring, didn't cost anything. Apu bay is quite deep, so anchoring would have been difficult. We made it to Haamene bay by noonish, and were able to pick up another mooring in front of the Hibiscus Hotel (thanks Fiona). After lunch we took the dinghy in to the hotel dock to see if we owed money for the mooring. We had some pleasant surprises. First, no cost for the mooring, then happy hour from 5-7 and finally the Hibiscus hotel itself. The owner, Leo Morou (a Belgian) is the founder of a turtle rescue foundation begun in 1993. Since it was 2 hours until happy hour we decided to go for a walk. We didn't make it to the head of the bay, but we gave it a good try. We got back to the hotel restaurant about 4:20. Dennis took the dinghy to the boat to get Josh and dice, while Doug, Carla and I looked through the log book of guests and information on the turtle rescue and waited for happy hour to start.

Leo and his wife buy turtles from local fisherman that have caught them in their nets. These turtles (green turtles mostly) would otherwise be killed and eaten, or sold on the black market. The turtles are kept in a pen by the restaurant where hotel guests or other tourists can see them and for a fee adopt a turtle and set it free. The turtles are tagged for future study before they are released. I found it interesting to learn that turtles come back to their birth place to breed and lay eggs. The females do not become fertile until they are at least 20 years old, and will lay 2 clutches of eggs during a fertile year. But, they are not fertlie every year, more like once every 3-5 years. When the eggs hatch the hatchlings run the gauntlet from the nest to the water. Even after they reach the water they are easy prey. The lucky ones find a debris current and live in it for a long time. Not much is known about the early life of turtles, because they are not seen again until they are 14-18 inches long. I think to date they have saved in the neighborhood of 4000 turtles.

Monday - As we were leaving the restaurant yesterday, the server asked if we wanted to visit a vanilla plantation - which we did, so we set it up for 0900 Monday.

The vanilla plantation tour was pretty cool. Brian (from Denmark) and his wife (from Tahaa) grow vanilla organically on her family's property. Another educational day for us. Vanilla is of the orchid family of which there are 33,000 different varieties. The vanilla plant does not produce a seed pod unless it is manually pollinated. The process was discovered by an Englishman watching a butterfly in Madagascar. Most of the vanilla we see in stores etc is not from French Polynesia. According to Brian, Tahitian vanilla is different and in France it is called black gold. Regardless, it is a very time consuming process to grow vanilla, and even more so to grow it organically. The vine is planted at the base of a tree and covered with coconut husks, when the vine is 18 months old, they start cutting the ends, to force more sprouting, this is done every 3 months until the plant blooms. At some point the tree which has been shading the plant is cut back so the vine gets about 60% sunlight. When the plant blooms - usually about 15 flowers per cluster- 2/3rds of the flowers are pollinated (by hand), then 9 months later the pods are ready for harvest. the pod clusters are harvested in total and taken to drying sheds. As the pods dry and turn brown, they drop of the stem naturally, this causes the least amount of harm to the pod. The drying process is also long and tedious. The pods are separated by length and quality (blemish free) then set out in the sun for 24 hours. They are then set in baskets by size, dried some more and finally they are massaged every day for 15 days, this releases the vanilla smelling molecule. All in all it is about 3 years from initial planting to final product. Here in Tahaa a kilo of vanilla beans is 22,000 FPFr, or 244 USD. Brian and his wife export primarily to Denmark for distribution to the rest of Europe. I am looking forward to putting a bean into a bag of good coffee to make my own vanilla flavored coffee.

This afternoon we explored the town of Haamene (10 minutes from end to end). It was a 20 minute dinghy ride from the boats, but always interesting. Tomorrow we are moving to Huahine. We will start in Fare - where we were before, then move south to Avea bay.

Pearl farming

While I was on an island called Tahaa we went to a pearl farm. Pearls were the first gems man ever discovered. Natural pearls happen when an oyster gets a piece of sand inside of it and it's mantle starts layering it with a material called Nacre which its shell is made out of. If you have ever seen the inside of an oyster shell or seen one that has been polished they are very shiny and smooth so that's what gets layered around the sand. Natural pearls are always small and not very good quality. In the beginning of pearl farming people harvested them and found them naturally but only 1 in 2000 oysters had pearls naturally. Since oysters with pearls became very scarce a Japanese man named Mokimoto developed a way to make oysters have pearls. That development gave birth to pearl farms all over the Pacific

On the farm we went to there were two separate places, one was where they had the oysters and one was where they had the processing center. The actual farm where they had the oysters was far away out on the reef surrounding the island. The oysters were hung on little ropes that were hung from one larger rope. There were ten oysters to each little rope and many little ropes to every big rope. All the ropes were hung 10 to 15 meters under the water and off the ground and there were a lot of the larger ropes so they had around 100,000 oysters on that farm.

 When the oyster is old enough they open it just enough to cut into its egg sack and place a tiny round piece of clam shell and a piece of mantle which creates the nacre. For every batch of new oysters they have to sacrifice one with a good colored shell so the mantle makes a good color on the pearl. They cut up the mantle of the sacrificed animal so they can put a little bit of the mantle in with the shell for the other oysters. It's international law that the clam shell has to be from the Mississippi river because it's strong enough so that any jeweler knows that if they drill the pearl it will not break apart. When the oyster notices the foreign object it starts to layer it with nacre and after a while you get your pearl. If you cut open a pearl you can see the various layers of pearl and even the round shell in the middle. After they put the shell in the egg sack they wait a year and half then look at it. If it is nice, round, and big enough they can sell it. When they take out the pearl and they like it they put another round piece of clam shell in and they don't have to put the mantle in because the previous one is still there. When they put the clam shell in, it has to be the same size because that's the size the egg sack is so the piece can make a bigger pearl. Sometimes the pearl comes out in weird shapes such as ovals, flat, and just random, they call those barroque pearls and are considered bad. They are much cheaper because they aren't round and shiny.

Some problems that they have are predators eating the oyster but if they lose a few here and there it's not that bad. The only animals that can get at them are manta rays, turtles, parrotfish, and triggerfish. Every two weeks they take the oyster out and scrape anything growing on it off. Oysters eat plankton and anything growing on it gives competition so the pearl doesn't grow as much. If an oyster gives a barroque pearl or a bad quality pearl they use it to sacrifice the mantle then they eat it and send its shell to make buttons so nothing is wasted. It was cool to learn about how they make pearls and know they do it way different than I had thought they did.