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Mahina Expeditions, Offshore Cruising Training

Leg 1 - 2004 Auckland to Tahiti

May 3, 2004, 1130 hrs, 36.46S, 174.53E, Log: 73,490 miles
Baro: 1013, Cabin: 68F
At anchor in Islington Bay, Rangitoto Is,15 miles from Auckland, New Zealand

We presently storm-bound in a good anchorage with gale force winds and torrential rain blasting the city.

Pulling the rig out
In just a week our Leg 1 expedition crew will join us in Auckland for the 2,500 mile passage to the Austral Islands and Tahiti.

Within six hours of arriving in Auckland last week ago a huge mobile crane parked next to Mahina Tiare in the boatyard and with the help of Richard Hulston and his two guys at Waitamata Rigging we started disconnecting rigging to pull the mast. Amanda used to work with Richard at Southern Spars in Auckland and it was great to have pros with a workshop next door helping us. Since I knew we would have our hands full with the rig, the week before I had the local boat painter spray on the bottom paint and cut and wax the topsides. They also had our full boat cover removed, folded and the decks washed down so it was a treat to come back to a clean boat.

Amanda checking the rigging

Damaged mast track due to the metal sail slides

The Antal slugs being lined up for the new track to screw into.

We last pulled the rig in Sweden, four years ago and since then our masthead sheaves have again worn out in the center bushing and our mainsail track became damaged due to the metal slides on the sail. We decided to replace the plastic sheaves with stronger aluminum ones with center bushings and to install Antal external mainsail track. I always expect rigging and boatyard jobs to take longer and cost more than expected, so what a surprise when everything went smoothly! Richard found perfectly fitting replacement sheaves, and Siebe Noodzy at had shipped us all the right parts for installing the track. By Thursday afternoon the mast was back up and Friday afternoon Mahina Tiare was relaunched, a day ahead of schedule.

Richard installing the new sheaves

Replacement metal sheave and worn plastic sheave

Relaunching M.T.

Our program of sailing eight months and returning to work and visit friends during cyclone season is one that many sailors do. There was a sistership to ours stored on a cradle next to us, and Michael and Annie are back visiting grandkids in England. Jimmy Cornell had already re-launched Aventura III and was on his way to Noumea. Hoonah a Cal 40 from Oregon is waiting to go home on Dockwise Yacht Transport, Cabot and Heidi Layman on Chewink had already relaunched and were out crusing the Gulf and a Swedish and French yacht had already set sail for warmer climes.

As soon as we get Mahina Tiare back in the water, we like to set off to a quiet anchorage to put the sails back on, install new gear that we have brought down with us and play catch up. That is what we

View of Rangitoto Island from the Auckland waterfront
have been doing the past three days. Amanda has end-for-ended all running rigging and yesterday we hoisted our gorgeous new 130% genoa from Port Townsend Sails. Today she is removing plastic sail slides on the trysail and sewing on the new sturdy anodized aluminum Antal slides. Replacing the mainsail slides is her last big project. Oh, and the varnish and provisioning.

I've been going through all the boat systems, making sure everything works. The most time consuming chore has been getting the hot water heater to stop leaking. First I replaced the element, but it still

John inserting the new headsail into the furling track ready for hoisting
leaked, so I removed it and epoxied it in place, which slowed the drip. Under close inspection with a magnifying mirror I spotted two tiny pinhole leaks in a weld. This morning I sanded, wire brushed and epoxied that area, so hopefully that will cure the drip. I'm trying to avoid the time consuming chore of removing the tank and having it welded. Now the only other challenge I have is getting our INMARSAT-C to work. It doesn't turn on, but there is power to the unit, I expect there is a problem with the internal power supply board. This happened a few years back, also after leaving the boat, so I hope the same electronics repair shop can fix it again.

Great news is that our new matching Toshiba Tecra computers are working, receiving valuable grib weather files, navigating with the new Nobeltec Visual Navigation Suite and are communicating properly with latest Iridium satcom software. An added bonus is finding that a new software compression service, is a huge saver of satellite airtime. Thanks Jeremy Bonnett at UUPLus and Molly, our computer wizard in Friday Harbor.

Wow, sounds like a lot of gear, doesn't it?

Anchoring at this uninhabited (except for the park rangers) island is always a treat. This is the anchorage that Amanda and I sailed to on our first date, ten years ago this week. We've enjoyed hikes and runs ashore, but as yet haven't gotten the nerve up for a dip in the grey windy bay. Hiking in New Zealand bush is different than walking in the woods in North America. Here everything seems more exotic,

View of Auckland City at dusk from Westhaven Marina
the smells and the myriads of different birds, even the light seems different. I went for an hour long walk last night, just before sunset, to give Amanda time and space for yoga. There was some moonlight and the gravel track was easy to follow. As it got darker, a little native owl nicknamed the "more pork" started its call. If I stopped walking, it stopped calling "more pork, more pork".

The winds are dropping now, so I guess it's time to raise anchor and head to the big city where we'll spend the next week in Westhaven Marina. We sure enjoy the quiet and solitude here at Rangi but shall also enjoy seeing friends, eating out at some tasty ethnic restaurants and trying out our new bicycles.

Update 2
May 16, 2004, 0615, 34.19S, 173.50 W, 74,086 miles
Winds: 35-45kts, WSW, Seas 8'-15' and building
Baro: 1004+, up from 990, Cabin Temp: 69F, Cockpit Temp: 63F

Ripping Along on the Edge of the Roaring Forties!

Our crew on this Auckland to Tahiti leg always sign up for heavy weather experience, and we've yet to see anyone disappointed!

We've recently tucked in the third and final reef in the main and rolled up the headsail to handkerchief size, and yet, M.T. keeps speeding up. Stanley just hit 10.5 kts on a big surf as the winds hover around 40. If the wind continues to increase our next sail reduction will be storm trysail and staysail and we're alert and ready for that option.

On the weekend before crew arrived in Auckland, we strapped our new bikes on the back of our rental car and headed for the Tasman coast of New Zealand to Muriwai Beach, where we rode for miles on the wet, black volcanic sand with the waves crashing offshore. The salt spray made visibility hazy, and when two riders on horseback came galloping by out of the mist it was impressive. That night we found a tiny cabin in a hot springs campground and Amanda told me that when her family was building their first boat, for a treat on rainy weekends, they would drive up to these hot pools for a soak.

By the time crew arrived Tuesday noon we had provisions stowed, chores done and were ready to go, except for the weather forecast. After safety briefing on board in the afternoon, we made our annual pilgrimage for the passage weather consultation to Bob McDavitt's MetService office next to Westhaven Marina. With the aid of some incredible satellite imagery, Bob showed us a 984 low that would be crossing over Auckland the following day. Using a new passage routing software, he projected our passage 14 days out, all the way to Raivavae. For the first time ever, he gave us a forecast of favorable winds, abaft the beam, for nearly all of the 2,100 miles. He of course qualified the forecast, saying that after 5-6 days, all bets on the accuracy were off.

Leg 1 crew attending the weather briefing with Bob McDavitt

A happy and satisfied crew after a fun dinner a Turkish Café in Ponsonby. Amanda, Edgar, Eric, Stanley, Ian and Eran

Bob was right. After a crew dinner at a Turkish Café a low hammered Auckland right on queue. With onshore winds to 55 knots in the outer harbor Amanda said that the shallow waters of the Hauraki Gulf would be looking like Cape Horn. We choose to stay happily put for another day and spent our time completing orientation, running a few last minute errands and having a quiet night in preparation for an early departure Thursday.

Stanley navigating our course to clear New Zealand
Thursday morning dawned with no wind and thick fog and after fueling, we arrived at the customs dock early, completed our outbound customs clearance and set sail for Raivavae on what turned out to be a gorgeous sunny day once the fog lifted. By dusk we had cleared the Coromandel Peninsula and were on our way with moderate following winds that held for 36 hours before petering very light winds in which we choose to motor until the wind started to build yesterday.

The incredible GRIB files that allow us to receive emailed detailed weather charts going out 10 days have proven uncannily accurate. They forecast 30-35 knot southerly winds, and that is what we have, plus more in squalls. There's a large and fairly slow moving 990 mb low that is slowly moving away from us, and we're experiencing compression of the isobars between it and a high pressure cell pressing up on its backside. Yeah. This is making us go fast in the right direction. Last year this time we sailed all the way down to 40S, trying to find the elusive westerly winds. Instead, we found headwinds, nearly the entire way to Raivavae. We are presently 320 miles ahead of our position the same day a year ago.

We have an eager and happy crew, reveling in the high-speed heavy weather helming they are experiencing and trying not to make too much fuss on the noisy, rolly conditions below.

Edgar takes a bucket load
Yesterdays treat was cold salt water bucket showers (and the hope of catching a tuna) but the high speed antics of today have splashed those treats away as we now hang on and watch the miles roll away.

Stanley Ellis, 38, is an architect from Caracas, Venezuela who just purchased a 1985 Swan 371 after three years of looking. He had Coscoroba (the smallest swan species in South America) delivered from Newport, RI to St. Martin and now after he completes Leg 1 is excited about sailing her home the last leg of 900 miles to Venezuela. Stan sailed from Tahiti to Hawaii with our friends Richard and Sherri Crowe aboard Alaska Eagle last year.

Eran Haimberg, 28 is kind of a citizen of the world. Born in South Africa, raised in Israel, he now lives in Bellevue, Washington where he worked until recently for Microsoft. Eran is one of many keen sailors well-trained by the excellent crew at Windworks Sailing School in Seattle that has joined us for an expedition. He would like to buy a sailboat and cruise to Alaska.

Eric Lockard, 39 also lives east of Seattle and also works at Microsoft. Eric and his wife Melissa came aboard Mahina Tiare at the Seattle Boats Afloat Show several years ago and then ordered a new Hallberg-Rassy 53 which they named Sula. Melissa has the cruising bug and joined us for an expedition in Alaska. She will be meeting us in Tahiti for the sail to Moorea in just three weeks! This summer they will set sail from Seattle with their children, RJ, age 9 and Kelsey, age 7 for Mexico, the Marquesas and the South Pacific. You will be able to follow their adventures on, and we are looking forward to a rendezvous with them and several other Seattle area cruising boats in Tahiti on June 20, 2005.

Edgar Faulkner, 47 was born in Belgium, has lived in Chile and now lives north of Seattle. He is learning everything he can about ocean voyaging with a plan on doing this on his own boat soon. He worked in network security until recently. He is excited about having his friend Susan join him soon in Tahiti!

Ian Clark, 51, lived aboard his 28' Bristol Channel Cutter for seven years in Vancouver. In order to grow his company specializing in software for stock brokerages, he moved to Toronto, Ontario. Having recently sold his company and purchased a Van de Stadt 51' Australian-built aluminum cutter, he is evaluating whether to head offshore on it, or look for a smaller boat and move back to BC. His children are 4, 9 & 12 and they sailed with him in the warm waters of Desolation Sound, British Columbia last summer.

Bernard Callebaut of Belgium and Calgary, Canada was signed up to join us, but his wife Francesca had a baby boy a few weeks ago, so he decided he'd better stay home and take care of them.

May 16, 2004, 1830, 33.57S, 172.06 W, 74,177 miles
Winds: 35-45kts, WSW, Seas 10'-20' and building
Baro: 1007+, up from 990, Cabin Temp: 74F, Cockpit Temp: 65F

Stanley catches a big surf in the roaring 40's

Amanda out to break the speed record

Winds have not abated today, and seas are tending toward the liquid Himalayas we remember from several years ago on this passage. Stan had the top speed of 12.5 then Eric and Amanda saw 15.4 knots on the GPS, an all time record for Mahina Tiare! Our noon-to-noon 24 hour run was 172 miles, and the first part of that day we weren't going that fast.

The great news is that we are burning up the miles in the right direction, everyone is mastering steering in large, breaking seas, and no one is seasick! In class today we studied Storm Tactics - how appropriate!

Amanda made her famous South African dish, Babootie, (page 214 in her Essential Galley Companion) tonight and it was a hit with our hungry crew.

If you're up for an excellent tropical ocean passage learning experience, we still have a couple berths open on our next leg, Leg 2, from Tahiti to Hilo, Hawaii. If you have any questions, call Tracy in our office on 360-378-6131 or email us:

Update 3
May 24, 2004, 1400, 26.40S, 154.50W, Log: 75,195 miles
Baro: 1013-, Winds NNW 20kts, Cockpit temp: 82F, Cabin temp: 82F
Beam reaching at 7.9 knots with just 420 miles to Raivavae!

Waiting For the Next Cold Front

The forecast we received a few hours ago said we a powerful cold front should be bearing down on us; we should have 28-32kt winds, gusting to 40. We are ready, having had a great 36 hour respite from very rough conditions in the two previous frontal passages which brought headwinds to 48 knots, very confused seas and tons of lightning and rain. During the first front the seas were so confused we hove to for

Amanda returns to ground floor after fixing the antenna
several hours, first under backed headsail and triple-reefed main, then under main alone. The second front brought the most rain we have seen in years with the wind speed again pumping from 25-45 knots nearly continuously. When the winds died off yesterday, we couldn't wait to drop the sails, toss the Lifesling overboard and take turns swimming off the stern.

We also hoisted Amanda to the masthead at a calm moment where she tightened the bolt on the VHF antenna that had loosened in the storms and was swinging around. To top a great day off, Eric landed a gorgeous mahi-mahi just before dinner time, caught on the new rig he had made up in Auckland before departure. Speaking of Eric, here's his contribution!

Eric and his (baby, but welcome) mahi
Comments from Eric:

Okay, so trust me on this one: take your seasickness medication before the boat leaves the dock for a windward, offshore passage. Oh sure, just like me you've never gotten seasick before and you've been coastal cruising for decades. Ocean passage making can't be that much worse. Besides, you have an iron stomach; you don't need any little pills to keep dinner down. You're tough. Phooey. I paid the price for toughing it out and blew chunks a few hours after it got dark on the first night. And after such a wonderful dinner too. So, trust me. Your body needs a few days to get used to the new motion and you want to use every tool at your disposure to keep alert and functional during that critical first few days of an offshore passage. Even if you have never been seasick before in your life, find something that works for you or at least doesn't make you drowsy and take it - before you leave the dock. No one even has to know. For me, Stugeron worked wonderfully and a few hours after taking it, I was back in prime form. There are some counter-indications, so that or something different might be the right thing for you, but my advice is finding the right thing before you go offshore and use it. That's one of the first and most important things I've learned on this passage. It wasn't the last.

I'm a relatively experienced coastal cruiser. I grew up sailing with my family in the Pacific Northwest and do a fair bit of racing and cruising with my own family now, so I've seen some heavy weather, can navigate passably and I've tucked in my fair share of reefs over the years though perhaps not in as large seas nor in quite as much wind as we've seen on this passage during the past two weeks. So my goals for going on this expedition were less about gaining rough weather sailing experience and more about gaining open ocean passage experience. Like any complex adventure - camping, mountain climbing, building a house or starting a business - there are hundreds of tips and tricks to passage making that can make things go better, safer, faster, more comfortably. Things you usually only really discover through first hand experience. Things you wish you knew the first time. Things that others who have done it many times before and have perfected passage making to an art form, like John and Amanda have, can teach you. Did you know Windex glass cleaner (the real stuff without lemon, not the imitation stuff) works best for getting salt off of interior surfaces or that putting the left over oatmeal in a bio-degradable brown paper lunch sack and tossing it overboard from the cockpit is a far easier (and safer) way to send it over the side than attempting to dump a pan while hanging over the lifelines? How about that mahi-mahi like the pink octopus lures best and taste wonderful fired in olive oil and spices? Sure, we've seen wind to 50kts and seas over 25ft on this passage and my own rough weather sailing, navigation, weather forecasting skills and personal confidence level have improved as a consequence, but I predict one of the most lasting impacts of this passage for me will be how smoothly my next one goes having learned all the little tips and tricks from John and Amanda the first time.

I suppose though that it might not be quite fair just yet to say that domestic passage making tips are the highlight of the trip. After all, so far, we've spent a fair amount of time in rain and squalls in the 40's and 30's bucking headwinds. I've yet to see a tropical island or enjoy a downwind passage, but that is about to change. As I write this, we are 3 days out from Raivavae - one of the most picturesque islands in the South Pacific - and our runs after that to Tubuai and Tahiti are both short and downhill. So while the journey itself often proves to be the real adventure, perhaps the destination in this case may prove at least as equally rewarding and personally impactful. But at this stage, I can tell you one thing along these lines I know already: sunsets and sun rises on the open ocean can be spectacular and make it all worth it, even if you do happen to blow chunks the first night.

Update 4
May 27, 2004 0430 23.50S, 147.46W 75,617 miles
Winds E @ 15kts, seas 1', Baro: 1018, Cabin Temp: 81F, Cockpit: 75F
Hove to 4 miles west of Raivavae, waiting for dawn to enter lagoon

The predicted high winds and seas from the cold front never materialized. We sailed north as quickly as possible, and the front moved south, so that with the frontal passage we had overcast, some drizzle and a sudden 120 degree wind shift. Surprisingly our winds stayed in the SE quadrant until this afternoon, allowing us to beam reach at 170 miles per day in very comfortable conditions. We kept waiting to get headed with a predicted shift to E and NE, so we gained extra easting. It never happened! We kept zooming along at 7.6 - 8.5 knots in ideal conditions, stopping only for a swim today. At 0400 this morning hove-to, quietly slipping at three knots under a sky is ablaze with stars. Ian just spotted a red flashing navigation light in the lagoon but we'll wait until daylight to enter the pass.

For class yesterday morning we discussed landfall options and tactics and looked closely at several reference books. Everyone is excited about exploring this island that all the guides agree is one of the most beautiful and isolated in Polynesia. The isolation was due in large part to the previous mayor who for 20 years resisted French offers to build a runway on the island, to provide easier access than the monthly freighter visits from Papeete. That far sighted mayor passed away a few years ago, and the new airport had just opened when we visited a year ago. There were no visible signs of change last year. No tourists, no hotels or restaurants, and few of the locals can afford the expensive flight to Papeete.

May 30, 2004 1100 23.18S, 149.23W Log: 75,746 miles
Winds E @ 14kts, seas 1.5', Baro: 1016, Cabin Temp: 83F, Cockpit Temp: 86F
Sailing sweetly, just 5 miles from Tubuai

Landfall at Raivavae
Our heaving-to worked well, keeping us clear of Raivavae until daybreak when we shook out the reefs and set sail again, reaching the marked pass in good light at 0800. Winding our way through the coral we arrived and tied to the empty wharf by 0830. As the wharf is rough concrete we also laid an anchor off our beam to hold us off the wall. The gendarmes stopped by briefly, saying to stop by and clear in with them in the next couple of days. There is no hurry on this island. They mentioned that the twice monthly supply ship from Papeete was due to dock the following night, and that we should anchor out before the ship arrived.

No one came down to the wharf to visit us but when we walked through the village of Rairua, everyone smiled and waved. The shelves on the two tiny stores were just as bare as in previous visits, but we were delighted to buy an armload of fresh baguettes lunch. Phone cards and calls home kept our crew

Weather chart analysis made all the more enjoyable with fresh baguettes
lined up for a time before they headed off exploring in all directions. Eric and I hiked 40 minutes down the road to visit Edmond, a Frenchman who had married a Raivavae woman 35 years earlier, and from whom we have purchased fruit and vegetables in earlier visits.

On our walk we passed a very powerful and important stone tiki (religious statue) one of few remaining from pre-European contact times. When the Spanish first discovered Raivavae in 1775, they found a crowded island with a population of around 3000, a highly developed social and religious order and a lot of voyaging catamarans as the local Polynesians regularly sailed to Tahiti and even as far as New Zealand, 2100 miles away.

Stone Tiki
No large canoes exist today but we did pass eight small dugout outrigger canoes, all in excellent order and one looking like it had just been built. The only other boats were a small aluminum dinghy and the gendarme's fiberglass speedboat. The outrigger canoes are the main method of transport to the outer islets and for fishing.

Canoes on the waterfront
As we passed the large man-made taro swamps near Mahanatoa, we saw a dozen bikes parked alongside the road, and back in the swamps was a line of men working, cooperatively harvesting taro. As there are few vehicles on Raivavae, the bicycle and wheelbarrow take the place of pickup trucks and cars.

Edmond was in fine form, pleased that the 25' spritsail cutter he had been building for the past ten years was nearing launching time. He showed us that all he had left to do was to build and install the rudder one the stainless rudder fittings arrived on the next ship from Papeete. He gathered us several heads of lettuce, some papayas and tomatoes, all for the equivalent of US $3.00.

Ian sewing up a ditty bag during class
The following day the slow-moving front that we had been watching on the weatherfax charts moved over the island, obscuring the sun and bringing a serious tropical downpour. We had sewing class while waiting for the rain to stop then went ashore to watch the arrival of the Tuhaa Pae II, whose twice-monthly arrival with supplies from Tahiti is the biggest event on the island. At least half of the island's population of 1000 showed up to greet the ship. Building supplies, an outboard motor, food and fuel, pigs in hand made wooden crates, taro and potatoes were high on the unload list. Two well dressed Frenchmen with what looked like television cameras in cases arrived - maybe they are coming to make a documentary about this quiet island. A few locals got off the ship to be instantly surrounded by relatives, and a few were leaving to tears and many goodbyes from family and friends. By late afternoon the ship pulled up its loading ramp and steamed off toward Tahiti.

Ship arriving at the wharf

Shore side unloading activities

With a break in the rain and resumption of modest easterly tradewinds, we decided to set sail for Tubuai Sunday night. We covered the 100 miles easily during the night, dodging a few rain squalls to arrive before noon.

Landfall at Tubuai
Tubuai, discovered by Captain Cook on his third voyage to Tahiti was the site of the first attempted settlement of the Bounty mutineers before they sailed on to Pitcairn. Today Tubuai is the administrative head of the Austral islands boasts a boarding high school, a clinic, four Chinese stores and a population of around 2000. I fell in love with this island many years ago and cleared some land that I planned to purchase from Larry, an eccentric Canadian artist. In the end I decided that as lovely as the island is, it was just too isolated - but I still fondly look forward to each visit. The special part about the Austral Islands is that they seem to be from a different era. Horses, used for transportation to mountain farming plots graze along the side of the road, bicycles outnumber cars, and it isn't unusual to see entire families on their bikes, headed to or from town. Although there are three flights a week to Tahiti, tourism has never caught on here and only a couple of yachts visit each year.

The boys washing brigade
After the water shortage on Raivavae, our crew was delighted to hear that Larry agreed to let us use the water tap behind his gas station (the only one) for clothes washing. Salty, stinky clothes were soon sweet smelling and festooned the rigging! Eran and Ian rented bikes and circumnavigated the island before sunset and we all enjoyed visiting with Don and Jeanette Travers. Don sailed to Tubuai in 1975 on his home-built Piver trimaran where he met and married Jeanette who had been crowned Miss Tubuai that year. I met Don in the post office line in Papeete that year, and he raved about the beauty and isolation of the Austral Islands.

One horse main road

Town foreshore

We planned to set sail for Tahiti Tuesday morning, but on Monday we received a grib file forecast that showed we would have light headwinds for 18-24 hours unless we set sail that evening to take advantage of dying tradewinds.I put it to a vote - another day with more time for hiking and exploring, but 18-24 hours of motorsailing or tacking into light headwinds, or set sail that afternoon and hopefully make it up to the tradewind belt before a front passing below turned the winds contrary. Crew voted to set sail.

We've managed to sail at 6 knots in 7.5 - 8 knots of wind with very little motoring, and are now 150 miles from Tahiti. The light air gave us an excellent opportunity for everyone to practice Lifesling overboard recovery procedures and for a nice long swim while hove-to yesterday afternoon.

Eran Practices Lifeslign

John and Stanley working on the deck seams

Sunset at Sea

Stanley has been asking me about how to care for his 25 year old teak decks on the Swan 37 he just purchased, so I brought out the chisels and diamond sharpening stone. Although we have never scrubbed or acid-cleaned the teak decks, after 75,000 miles and seven years of sea water and rain, the teak has naturally eroded, leaving the rubber seams standing higher. With a sharp chisel and steady hand we trim the rubber then lightly sand the teak with a high-speed random orbital sander. The key is in not removing too much material, but just lightly smoothing out the wood. In a couple of hours we had trimmed back nearly all the seams on the cabin top.

Antal track

Antal slide webbed onto the main
On another maintenance note, we thoroughly checked the new Antal slides and track on Raivavae and are pleased with how it's working. There is some wear on the nylon webbing securing the sail to the slide at the headboard, but Amanda has an idea for a different way of sewing the webbing so that the sail can pivot without pulling at the stitching. We also need to order a new sail cover (or modify our existing one) as the slides stack higher on track.

Update 5
June 10, 2004 0945 17.28S, 149.46W Log: 76,192 miles
Winds E @ 10kts, Baro: 1017, Cabin Temp: 83F, Cockpit: 90F
At anchor near Moorea's Pearl Beach Hotel

Our winds held most of the way to Tahiti, and by dawn Thursday, Tahiti loomed to starboard. By 0700 we were trying to distinguish the range marks of Taapuna Pass through the sun rising directly ahead of us over the mountains of Punaauia. Within an hour and a half we had anchored, made breakfast, dived in the azure-colored lagoon water for a refreshing swim, and Amanda and I were on the bus headed downtown Papeete to clear customs.

Ian shooting Sun LAN sight with sextant

In efforts to simplify the process I had photocopied all our passports and crew's homeward airline tickets, as well as the ship's document and outbound clearance from Auckland. We carry the smallest Canon PC 425 copy machine onboard ($229 at Office Max) and it runs off the inverter. Having the necessary paper copies makes the immigration officer's job easier and generally speeds up the process. However, immigration, customs and port captain officials were all huddling in the customs office, watching the election of the president of the territorial assembly. They explained that a coalition of three parties, led by Oscar Tenaru, whom I met 30 years ago when he worked in the exact same yacht-customs office had just had their representative elected as president of the territorial assembly. If all went according to plans, Oscar will become the president of French Polynesia today, sending the present corrupt (according to them) president into retirement. They were all very excited, and couldn't get our papers stamped quickly enough so they could return to watching the proceedings.

We returned by bus to Marina Taina, near where Mahina Tiare was anchored and showed our crew which bus to catch, making plans to meet in Papeete that evening for dinner. Meanwhile Amanda and I did a massive shop at Carrefour, the largest grocery store in Tahiti (a French version of WalMart) and managed to wheel an overflowing shopping cart half a mile back to the marina. By the time we got all the goodies stored it was time to hop back on the bus and meet our crew for drinks at Le Retro, on the waterfront. Shopping show and tell came after cold drinks; pearls, pareus, necklaces had been purchased for family and friends, and Ian showed up with a very odd looking tiki that bore some resemblance to him after 3 weeks at sea. (Sorry Ian!)

Ian with his strange tiki

Always outrageos: Mario making pizza at Lou Pescadou

Fantastic dinner at Lou Pescadou Restaurant

Le Trucks lined up on Papeete waterfront

Desert time for Mahina Tiare's crew

Desert menu selection; can we just have one of each?

Typical le truck

Amanda looking for Nemo!

Dinner was at our all time favorite restaurant in Tahiti, Lou Pescadou's. Mario, the very eccentric owner sings and shouts as he makes the best pizzas by hand, cooking them in a wood-fired pizza oven in full view of everyone. The busier the place gets, the funnier he gets. Maybe it has something to do with his frequent trips to the bar! Anyway, we had a great time, and afterwards walked across town to le trucks, a landmark of Papeete. On the edge of the waterfront next to the Moorea ferry dock, dozens of food vans park every evening, fire up huge barbecues made out of 55 gallon drums cut in half, cooking everything from fish to dog in front of you. The smells are amazing, the food is interesting and every van has its own theme. A fish tank in the corner of one had Amanda looking for Nemo. We enjoyed selecting a deserts truck and listening to live Tahitian music in this attractive cool and entertaining setting.

Friday we filled up with water and fuel and washed the boat down at Marina Taina before crew took off to explore more ashore. By early afternoon everyone decided they had had enough of the big city and that sailing to Moorea sounded appealing. So we set sail on a great broad reach for Cooks Bay, 20 miles away. Halfway crew spotted a good-looking sloop, charging along to windward. Soon Eric said, "Look at the blue

eeting Autumn Mist on the passage to Moorea
stripe, I think it might be a Hallberg-Rassy" As we quickly closed on the mystery boat, someone else said, "Look at the sail logo, they have Port Townsend Sails, too!" Eran luffed up as we passed, the other boat, an exact sistership of Mahina Tiare fell off toward us with the owners were smiling and waving vigorously!

It turns out that Autumn Mist is the HR 46 owned by Richard and Patty Gordon of Salt Lake City. They had taken our weekend seminar several years ago, purchased and sailed an HR 36 with their six children, then moved up to the HR 46 a couple of years ago. After a summer circumnavigation of Vancouver Island, they signed up for our consultation services to help them prepare for a South Pacific voyage. I purchased and organized all necessary charts for a passage from Seattle to Auckland, then they flew up to Friday Harbor and in six hours of consultation ($100 per hr.) we went through weather, passage, and port planning and annotated the charts for an entire South Pacific voyage. We next met in January 2004 at our free Seattle Boat Show seminars. They weren't hard to miss, always sitting in the front row and taking copious notes.

Stanley with fresh Moorea pineapples

Rig check, one of our last classes on Moorea

Tahitian dancers

Tahitian dance band

Eran surrounded by Tahitian tamure dancers

After a couple of relaxing days finishing up on class, taking in some great Tahitian dancing and exploring Moorea, we sailed back to Papeete to pick up Melissa Lockard, Eric's wife and to visit with the Gordons. Patty said they had a fast and easy 22 day passage from San Francisco direct to the Marquesas. Two of their teenage children had just returned home, and Amanda enjoyed visiting with Madison, age 11 and Megan, age 8. Patty and Richard were thinking about sailing back to Hawaii and the Northwest, but we think we convinced them that the best lays ahead for them: the Cooks, Niue, Samoa, Fiji and New Zealand. Rich needs to get back to his medical practice, so they are thinking about leaving Autumn Mist on the hard in Fiji this fall. It is sure exciting and rewarding to see our students and consultation clients out realizing their dreams!

Megan, Patty, Richard and Madison Gordon

Sisterships, Autumn Mist and Mahina Tiare

Before we knew it the expedition was over and crew were catching ferries and planes to explore more islands before heading home. Now we are enjoying one of our favorite anchorages, and crossing maintenance jobs off the list, including the varnishing. We have just two more coats to go on cap and handrails. As the varnishing only takes a couple of hours, there is plenty of time for snorkeling, shopping - Amanda is on a quest for an Tahitian pareau (fabric wrap) and tomorrow we are looking forward to renting a car (for the first time here) and exploring more of the island.

Sailing back to Moorea with Eric and Melissa and crew

Opunohu Bay, one of our all time favorite places

If any of you readers are keen for a challenging passage next year, we presently have five berths available on Leg 1, 2005 next year. We are changing the itinerary to stop at isolated Rurutu Island as we've just met a Kiwi yacht who were the first yacht to clear in there in two years They raved about the island and it's people saying that they were showered with fruit and friendship when they tied up inside the new small harbor. It's also been 24 years since I visited there.

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