GOING WEST – PALMERSTON ISLAND

We set sail Wednesday, June 15, 2016 leaving Raiatea, French Polynesia and headed to Palmerston Island on a 250◦ heading.  The weather conditions were really good with blue skies, 100% visibility, 20-25 knots of wind.    The first night was a bit rough with big seas.  We had a bit of rain and avoided a few squalls. The next few nights the seas continued to be a bit big and it became a bit rolly.  The first two nights are always the toughest adjusting to the movement and lack of sleep.  Neither of us sleep well on passages.

We arrived at Palmerston Island Sunday, June 19 at 9am,  677nm later.  We had emailed ahead to announce our arrival and our sailing buddies on SV Vimy and SV Cetacea had already arrived on Saturday as they had left the day before us.

You ask exactly where is Palmerston?  We tied up to a mooring ball which turned out to be a fiasco, details to follow, is located at 18◦02.000S  163◦11.000W in the South Pacific.  Palmerston Island is one of the Cook Islands on the way to Niue Island.

Palmerston has a unique history with all the islanders descendants of a William Marsters from England who arrived on the island in 1826 with 3 wives from Penrhyn Island.  Three families still run the island.

We were greeted by Bob, a Palmerston Islander, probably William Marsters, great, great,  grandson.  He directed us to a mooring and would contact us later.  We ended up contacting him within less than an hour,  our mooring line had broke away.  Thank goodness Tony was taking a look at our lines and had just walked back to the cockpit.  If it happened during the night, we would be on the reef.  The moorings are dangerously close to the reef which is fine when the wind is blowing from the East.  Bob came back out to help and directed us where to anchor (on rock!).  We were woken up very early in the morning to our chain stuck on rock and it sounded like it was going to rip out our windlass.  We let out more chain and it eventually stopped rubbing on whatever was down there.

Nevertheless, Monday we were to have lunch with the hosting family and explore the island but unfortunately the winds picked up Sunday morning and would very likely push us onto the reef.  Vimy was turning towards the reef and called and we all instantly decided to leave.  Neither of us would have been comfortable going ashore with the moorings, anchoring and the winds picking up.  We were also all denied access to the island until customs cleared us on Monday.  We were all confident that we made the right decision to leave.  It was unfortunate that we didn’t get to go ashore and experience the kind hospitality of the Palmerston people.  We had come prepared with some provisioning and school supplies for the children.  We managed to give some flour, pasta, and some cooking utensils to Bob when he saw us off.  Perhaps next time.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

FRENCH POLYNESIA – THE SOCIETY ARCHIPELAGO LEEWARD ISLANDS WE VISITED

This is a condensed version of our visit as internet isn’t strong enough for posting pictures and was difficult to find and I’m months behind.

We arrived March 22, in Huahine our first stop in the Leeward islands.  The Leeward islands consist of five volcanic islands.  For the next 3 months we spent visiting Raiatea, Tahaa and Bora Bora.   Unfortunately we didn’t visit Maupiti.  These islands consist of high mountains surrounded by coral barrier reefs which have “safe” anchorages.  However most bays were too deep to anchor and moorings were required and with a heavy boat (32 tons) we didn’t always trust that the moorings were maintained in certain bays.  In anchorages near coral reefs, anchoring needed to be done with the sun above you and watching for coral heads but all well worth the visit.

Tony’s kids spent 3 weeks with us and flew back home from Raiatea.  Tony and I were on our own for 6 weeks before my daughter Evelyn arrived.  Evelyn’s arrival in Raiatea was quite eventful when at the last-minute we found out the airport ground workers in French Polynesia were on strike and she was stuck in Papeete.  After a lot of stress and phone calls Evelyn arrived safely in Raiatea and in need of a good sleep.  Thank fully airport operations were back to normal when she left.

Huahine was very pretty and we spent 5 days exploring the island anchorages.  When we arrived we used the Tiare pass.  It was deep and narrow but the weather conditions were good.

 

We then spent most of our time in Tahaa, Bora Bora and finally our last couple of weeks in Raiatea.  The islands were all so beautiful in their own way.

Raiatea and Tahaa lie within the same coral reef and are about 20 miles west of Huahine.  Our first time arriving in Tahaa and Raiatea we used the Teavapiti Pass.  The pass is wide and good in all-weather conditions.  Once within the reef we headed to Tahaa.

By far our most favourite spot in Tahaa was at the coral gardens between Motu Tautau where the Le Tahaa Private resort is located.  The snorkeling between the motu was fabulous and the Motu Maharare was one of the few motu we were allowed to land and feel ‘terra firma’ without “Tabu” (private) signs.  We also enjoyed the anchorage on the North East side of Tahaa, Motu Mahaea.  For $5 each person we had access to the Motu, a lounge chair, umbrella and pretty good snorkeling.  We enjoyed a great day and picnic with our friends Darryl & Denise S/V Vimy.

Raiatea provided facilities for shopping and boat repairs.  Uturoa the main town had a variety of stores and several grocery stores.  We stayed at the Marina Apooiti which made arrival and departure of family members easy.  Dream Yacht charters were also always very helpful in providing moorings for a few nights stay.

Faaroa Bay was beautiful surrounded by high mountains.  We went up the river with our dingy just before torrential rain hit.  We managed to see several river eels and the lush vegetation.

Our last week in Raiatea, we spent a day touring the island with our friends.  We all shared in the cost of the rental van and it was a great way to see the island.  We stopped at a vanilla farm which was interesting to see how they handled the vanilla and the beautiful aroma.

 

Bora Bora is about 12 nautical miles NW of Tahaa.  Bora Bora lived up to its reputation of being the jewel of the South Seas.  It is also known for having the most beautiful lagoon in the world.   It is indeed very beautiful but Hotel and tourist activities are very developed and it was not as quiet and serene as the other islands.

However considering all of the activity its waters are crystal clear.  We found the coral to be in pretty good condition but if they continue to over develop the island, nature will be affected and you can see it already in the amount of fish in certain areas.  Parrot fish are rare as they are sold in the local markets and restaurants.

We had several snorkeling places we enjoyed. One of our favorites was drifting between the motu at the airport  anchorage.  There was an excellent variety of coral fish.

We managed to anchor on the south east side of Bora Bora once and only once.  We couldn’t handle the stress again of reading 9 inches below our keel.  It’s too close when you can count the grass blades when you’re on bow lookout.

Pointe Faroone had good snorkeling but swimming with the sharks was amazing.  We brought some bread (the sharks don’t go for bread) but the  Butterfly fish were use to humans and swam right to our faces and followed us everywhere.  We have some great Gopro footage.

Another spot also on the south side.  This time we were anchored on the west side of Bora Bora but dingied to the south side.  We stopped between Piti uu Uta and Piti uu Tai.  There were so many variety of fish we hadn’t  seen before along with a huge Mooray.  A local diver had pissed it off and it wasn’t happy and we didn’t want to be its dinner.

There were so many beautiful anchorages and I could go on for pages.  The pictures will speak for themselves.

 

We had a spell of a lot of rain in between our special visitors but were happy that the weather was great during their visit.  We were ready to leave French Polynesia and look forward to our next new destinations heading west.

 

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

SOCIETY ISLANDS –TAHITI AND MOOREA

We were itching to go and explore the Society Islands yet we kept a watchful eye on the weather.  We ended up with almost 4 weeks of rain and decided to wait for the kids to arrive from Calgary.  Hoping and praying that the weather would improve when they arrived.

Once again the sun came out for us on their arrival.  We spent a couple of days before we set sail. We rented a car to pick them up and stock up on food.  Went into Papeete to show them around.  Visited the central market.  I had wanted to buy a floral tiara since I arrived in Tahiti  but decided it would be special to buy one for the three of us once Janine & Hailey arrived.  We had planned to take them out to the Intercontinental to experience the local Polynesian dancing.  We got all dressed up with tiaras on our heads and had a fabulous evening at the Intercontinental.  The dancing was even better than what we had seen New year’s eve.

We also managed to go swimming in the local swim spot before heading out to Moorea.

We left for Moorea Saturday March 19 at high tide through Passe Taapuna and motored to the Baie D’Opunohu on the Northern side of the island.  It took us almost 3 hours to arrive and drop anchor.  We anchored left of the bay in front of a local beach area.

The swimming was fantastic in shallow waters off the beach.  In the evening we had a pod of dolphins visit.

The views of the lush green mountains and valleys was spectacular.  We were told that there was an area by the resort that you could swim with sharks and stingrays.  It was a long dingy ride with the six of us but we arrived to the spot where there was numerous tour boats.  It was a weekend so it was very busy. However it was well worth our while.

At first we were all apprehensive to get into to the water with all these sharks and stingrays swimming about.  We all gathered courage and in we went.  A tour operator was kind enough to give us some fish to feed the stingrays and show us how to do it without getting eaten.  It was the most amazing and unforgettable experience ever.

 

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Tahiti

Well it’s been many months since I last wrote.  In fact, the last time I wrote I was in the Marquesas.  A lot happened since then which I won’t go into except that there were hopefully a lot of lessons learned.

We visited a couple of islands in the Marquesas and a few in the Tuamotus on the way to Tahiti.  We travelled to Canada and Portugal over the summer to visit family and returned to the boat in November.  We spent Christmas and New Years at the marina and continued to stay at Marina Taina during the cyclone season.  We had to watch the weather before making any further plans.

Thankfully the supposed El Nino was downplayed which made us very happy.  Most people left Tahiti and returned to the Marquesas during the rainy season to avoid any possible cyclones.  We did not want to back track as we’d rather explore the Society islands instead.

The city of Papeete is the main port and administrative center for French Polynesia.  The city itself is rather run down but very busy.  You can find all kinds of services in Papeete.  The local market is big and full of activity, especially when there is a cruise ship in town.  The Carefour a 10 minute walk from the marina had everything you could possibly need.  Similar to a Super Store back home.

The island is pretty and lush but when one thinks of Tahiti the image they associate with is the island of Bora Bora.  There aren’t too many beaches in Tahiti and the sand is black.  The locals swim in shallow areas close to the reef where you can find the turquoise waters with white sand.  On the weekends the locals get into their boats, whether power boats, outriggers, canoes, kayaks and gather in the shallows.  They setup their boom boxes, their barbeques (yes barbeques setup in the water), and have a picnic.  It was quite comical to watch as we had never seen this before.

We found an area for snorkelling where the dive boats take their clients.  It was out by the airport where a small Cessna had crashed and a small sailboat was also in the depths.  The snorkelling was amazing with thousands of fish that hang about, waiting to be fed.

Taking the local bus into Papeete was pretty good but you had to make sure you were ready to take the last bus back 6pm to the marina or else it would be a $45US taxi ride back to Marina Taina.  The city practically starts shutting down at 3pm.  However in the evenings, the waterfront square hosts the waterfront “roulottes”, food trucks.  During high season on weekends, they host events and exhibitions around the bandstand.

We rented a car on numerous occasions and drove around the island.  There are some great surfing spots for those into surfing.  The scenery was very green and lush with peaks and beautiful valleys that were striking to look at.

In total we spent 5 months in Tahiti and they flew by.  We spent our days hiking in the morning when we could get our butts out of bed by 5:30am or else it was too hot.  Had a fabulous Christmas, spent New Year’s Eve at the Intercontinental which had a great seafood buffet and Polynesian dancing and singing.  Experienced a couple of nice local restaurants.  Did some necessary small projects on the boat.  Spent too much time grocery shopping in Carefour.  Attended the South Pacific Film Festival in February, thanks to Corine, Tehani’s aunt from Tahiti crew.  They were always most helpful.  Even took a couple Tahitian dance lessons and met some amazing people which we will never forget.  We will miss Tahiti.

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

TUAMOTUS

The Tuamotu Archipelago consists of a group of 78 islands, all but two are coral atolls.  You ask “What is a Coral Atoll?” An atoll commonly referred to as a coral atoll is a ring-shaped coral reef including a coral rim that encircles a lagoon partially or completely.

The theory is that an atoll begins as an underwater volcano called seamounts.  Over time and after many eruptions the seamounts grow and eventually an atoll is formed.

In contrast to the Marquesas which is lush and green, the atolls have little greenery except for palm trees and short grass.  One has to be very careful travelling through the Tuamotus  between the atolls, as they are visible only when the vessel is within 8 miles or 10 minutes away.

Within the atolls, there are few navigable passes and when there is strong winds or heavy swells, the current coming out of the passes can climb to 6 knots.  Entering is only possible during slack tide.  Once within the lagoons on-sight navigation is necessary and the sun at your back or straight above so you can see the colors and the coral heads. You also need to look out for pearl farm buoys.

We left Baie Hakahaa, Nuku Hiva at 6am under overcast skies.  The trip took us 3 days, leaving Monday morning 6am and arriving on Thursday, 9:15am.  We travelled with mostly partly cloudy skies, some rain and some big seas.  We averted several squalls on the last couple of days.  Land was visible at sun break  after 541 nm we arrived in Kaeuhi.

Kaeuhi is a low atoll that is green and wooded but very bare on the south western side.  There is only one pass into Kaehui, Passe Arikatamiro.  The pass is about 500 yards wide and the channel is about 300 yards across.  There is a flashing red light indicating the port side of the pass.  We timed it well and entered at slack tide.  There are coral heads scattered in the lagoon necessitating on the bow lookout.

We marked the waypoints from a blog we had read and anchored in this beautiful spot.  The next day we left at noon to go across the lagoon, experiencing high winds to safely anchor in front  of the little village of Terravero.

After a nice break, 4 days in Kaeuhi we visited Fakarava.

Fakarava is the second largest atoll and is 32 miles long by 15 miles wide.  There are two passes into the lagoon (although Charlie’s Charts states there are three).  We took the Passes Garue.  It is a wide pass on the north side of the atoll.  We had no trouble getting through.

Fakarava has a well established community with several little shops, post office, some tourist bungalows and now a few small pension type hotels and a few restaurants and of course a couple of black pearl vendors.

The island use to have many pearl farms but due to the influx of black pearls into the market, the farms have slowly closed down and only a handful have survived on the atoll.  We visited a pearl farm and had the whole process explained too lengthy to go into but sure explains why they’re expensive.

We didn’t visit the south side of the Atoll or any other atolls but hope to go back to the Tuamotus once we finish visiting the Society Archipelago.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

MARQUESAS – NUKA HIVA

Nuka Hiva

We were sad to leave Hanaiapa after such a wonderful experience but we set sail for Island of Ua Pu or Hua Pou (pronounced Wapoo).  We motored for 5 1/2 hours and did 68.7 nm.   We anchored in the Baie de Hakahau.  We bought some tuna from a local that had gone out for the day.  We managed to find a local bakery and stocked up on some goodies.

The island has a spectacular skyline but the mountain spires were unfortunately covered in cloud.

The next morning we set sail for the island of Nuka Hiva and motored for a little over 2 hours.  We arrived and anchored in the Baie de Taiohae which is the most popular bay that cruisers land.  Taiohae is the largest town in the Marquesas and has all the regular amenities, post office, hospital, and several stores.  We visited the main points of interest, the Roman Catholic cathedral “Notre Dame des Illes Marquesas” and a few of the archaeological sites.

We spent a couple of days in Taiohae and then figured we wanted to check a few anchorages.  Next stop Baie de Taioa or Hakatea or also known as Daniel and Antoinette’s Bay, after the friendly Marquesan couple who have lived there for over 60 years.

There were several boats in the anchorage but we managed to squeeze in and allow us swinging space.  We viewed the ruins of the old village and walked through the coconut palms.  The kids and George made it up to the valley to Vaipo waterfalls.  The hike takes about 2.5 hours and is presumably the third highest waterfall in the world.  I think I’ve heard that before about other waterfalls.

The day we landed on the beach at Daniels’s house, Jessica and I were eaten alive by the no no’s that Marqesas are famous for.  They’re kind of like the “no see him” and not very pleasant.

Our final anchorage before heading to the Tuamotus was Baie du Controleur.  We anchored at Anse Hakahaa.   The wharf mentioned in Charlie’s charts is impossible to land with a dingy so we had to make a beach landing with the dingy.  The surf was rough and we ended up flipping the dingy with me going in head first with back pack, camera and all.  No more pictures taken by me this day.

We walked along a road that lead into the town of Taipivai a short distance up the river.  We located the ruins of an important archeological site and managed to take a couple of pictures with the working cameras.

Next destination the Tuamotus.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

MARQUESAS-HIVA HOA

Hiva Hoa

After approx 7 hours and an amazing sail we arrived in Hiva Hoa, the largest island of the Marquesas.  We anchored in Baie Tahauku.  It was a bit challenging because we had to put out a stern anchor which we had never done with Joalea.

It isn’t a very attractive anchorage but we had things to do.  Namely clear into the Marquesas.  It was quite a long walk into the town of Atuona. The Gendarmerie was so pleasant to deal with…what a breath of fresh air compared to what we dealt with in the Caribbean.

We celebrated Jessica’s 25th Birthday and wished Evelyn was with us to celebrate too.  We made a special dinner , lamb “Osso Buco” and mom of course baked a chocolate birthday cake for the birthday girl.

We left for the island of Tahuata as we would need to return to Hiva Hoa to pick up Jason arriving in a couple of days.  We anchored in the Bay of Hanamoenoa.  The next day we checked out the next two anchorages, Bay of Vaitahu and Bay of Hanatefau.  The anchorages were very beautiful with a beautiful sunset our first night.

Leaving Tahuata to return to Hiva Hoa we encountered some rough seas and rain.  We didn’t like Tahauku Bay and thought we would check out the other side of the island anchorages.  We passed by Bay of Hanamenu and it was way too exposed under the weather conditions so we continued on to the Bay of Hanaiapa.

Bay of Hanaiapa, by far the best anchorage on Hiva Hoa and what an experience it was.

There is a rough concrete wharf  on the east side which makes landing the dingy very challenging.  We walked along the east side that leads to the tiny village of Hanaiapa.  The tiny village stretched for more than half and mile and we didn’t even realize it was the village.  It was so beautiful and lush.  We had never seen anything like it.  We saw wild goats, wild chickens and roasters and met the most amazing friendliest people we have ever met.  We came back with a huge bag of grapefruits, bananas, papayas, limes that we picked along the roadside that didn’t belong to anyone.  We had star fruit that someone came running after us to give to us and no one wanted anything in return.  We were shown were to pick fresh water crest which we made amazing salads with.

We were greeted by William “William Yacht Club on Hanaiapa”.  He invited us into his humble home.  He showed us photos and had us sign his guest book of all the yachts that had stopped by.  He served us fruit and a special drink that he made.  The next day we went back and had Tony sign and he went through the same ritual.  We brought William a Joalea T-shirt and gave him a pair of flip flops.  We also met a lovely couple that had immigrated from France and had a Vanilla farm.  The husband drove us to the airport the next day to pick up Jason.  He gave us a tour of his beautiful property and showed us the process of preparing vanilla pods.  It was very interesting.

On our final day we had a lady chase us down to give us another huge bag of grapefruits.  The grapefruits are not like the grapefruits we get at home.  These are huge and so sweet.  We also saw a lot of copra.  The harvesting of copra is the main source of income for the people in the area.  There were many copra-drying sheds.

I would go back to the Bay of Hanaiapa in a heartbeat just to see those wonderful people we met.

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment