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Leg 2-2012, Update 1

June 14, 2012, 0640 hrs, 16.57 S, 150.48 W,
Log: 155,848 miles, 18 miles to Huahine Baro: 1013.7,
Cabin Temp: 83 F cockpit 82 F, sea water 83.1 F
ESE winds 15-18 kts, colorful sunrise with Huahine ahead!
Broad reaching at 6.7 kts with moderate seas.

HUAHINE, HERE WE COME!

Huahine, one of our all time favorite islands in the world was just visible on the horizon at first light 45 minutes ago. We've had an excellent start to Leg 2, but let me fill you in on the details first.

Amanda and I enjoyed an excellent break between Legs 1 & 2. For the first few days we anchored off Oakland seminar attendees Nicole and Laurent's lagoon-front home on the island of Moorea. Previously (35 years of visiting Moorea) we've always being concerned about where we landed and left the dinghy ashore, so now it was a real delight to beach it a few steps from their front veranda and just a couple minutes from the shops and post office at Maharepa. Over a several enjoyable meals we enjoyed hearing their plans of selling their home, buying a catamaran and heading off on a grand adventure with their boys, Max and Jules.

We then headed off to a couple of our favorite secluded anchorage to complete a ton of chores on MT including Amanda's stripping the next-to-last section of toerail and coating with seven coats of varnish, plus three overall coats. We returned to Marina Taina on the island of Tahiti a day early in order not to rush shopping and with a 15% improvement in the exchange rate, we stocked MT's lockers with all the now reasonably-priced goodies from France that can only find in Tahiti and New Caledonia.

Our crew arrived as requested at 4 PM Monday for our safety orientation and it was the first time we met two of them; Spencer from South Australia and Julian from Bogota, Columbia.

Tuesday morning Amanda and I cleared us out with the harbormaster downtown Papeete and customs at the international airport and had MT sparkling by noon when our crew arrived. Before setting sail for Moorea we stopped by Marina Taina's fuel dock to top up on duty free fuel (US$1.20 per liter instead of $1.80). Our 17 nm sail to Moorea in nearly perfect conditions, tucking a single reef in before clearing the pass. The reef may have seemed unnecessary, but sure enough, once we cleared Tahiti's wind shadow, the wind piped up and we were glad the reef was in.

We squeezed through the tiny pass off Maharepa village with just enough daylight to see the numerous coral patches and were anchored in time for a sunset swim. The start of an expedition is always a busy and intense time for Amanda and I but with the luxury of a first night anchor down opportunity we both breathe a sigh of relief we have the anchor down (on some expeditions a weather window necessitates the first night at sea.). Being anchored off an amazingly stunning island with an excited new crew makes the moment even better.

Yesterday morning we completed orientation, worked on charting our passage to Huahine, then set sail for Cook's Bay where we picked up more pineapple and our crew hiked over the mountain to join us in Opunohu Bay. Amanda had fish tacos waiting when they returned and after a quick swim we set sail for Huahine clearing the pass just before dark.

We've had unusually stable weather the past three weeks, and this 85 mile passage hasn't proven any different. With typical ESE tradewinds we've had to gybe a couple times, but now we can lay a course to clear the southern tip of Huahine, and from there it's all good!

June 18, 2012, 1240 hrs, 16.38 S, 151.31 W,
Log: 155,935 miles, at anchor, Baie Hurepiti, Baro: 1011.7,
Cabin Temp: 81 F cockpit 84 F, sea water 83.1 F

Our steady winds held to Huahine's southernmost pass, and once through the pass, Kat, our navigator of the day, found a sandy shelf to anchor on while we went off snorkeling with the dinghy and then returned to MT for lunch. Later that afternoon we wound our way through the twisting channels as far south as depths permitted to anchor in the broad and crescent shaped Baie d'Avea. In previous years we'd seen 4-5 cruising boat but this year there was only one French cruising cat at anchor.

After anchoring Kat and Gordon swam ashore and walked the beach while the rest of our guys dinghied ashore to the tiny Hotel Mahana for cool tall drinks and another stunning sunset. We were hoping they might be having Tahitian dancers performing that night but were told they no longer do that, and that business was really slow this year.

One of Amanda and my favorite runs is from Avea around the southern tip of Huahine and part way up the island's east coast. The last two years we've been given bananas at the village where we turned around. This year we saw bananas but the owners weren't about and we didn't want to bug them (and honestly, I wasn't wild about carrying the bananas 30 minutes run back to where the dinghy was!) so I thought we'd return fruitless.

However, just before we reached Hotel Mahana, where we had left the dinghy, Amanda flagged down a Tahitian man with a large stock of ripe bananas in the basket of his bicycle, asking if we could buy some. In French he said help yourself as the bananas were only to feed his pig. He then asked if we'd also like papayas and beckoned us to follow him into his plantation. About that time his attractive daughter whom he introduced as Leilani appeared with a perfect stalk of bananas and he (Joel was his name) and Amanda gathered a bagful of papayas. Joel asked how many weeks were planning to stay in the anchorage (almost directly in front of his beach bungalow) and was disappointed when we replied that we'd sailing later in the morning for another bay so we promised we'd return next year. After breakfast we set sail for Pt. Bourayne; a large, bulletproof natural harbor with very few inhabitants. We spent some time having everyone practice Lifesling rescue before dropping anchor in 95' just before dark.

We had a full day planned for the next day, so our runners and hikers, Bobby, Julian and Jim met us a few minutes before dawn and we dinghied up the shallow channel which separates Huahine's two islands to a good dinghy landing spot. We're always impressed at how much pride Huahine's people take in keeping up their homes and gardens and the time ashore is always delightful.

Upon our return to Mahina Tiare, Gordon, our anchor master of the day, had the anchor up and we were headed to Fare, Huahine's largest port and village, anchoring a little distance off the wharf near the pass. Town was busting and a school kid's series of canoe and stand-up-paddleboard races took center stage complete with loud speaker announcements and food stands. Crew rented bikes and took off to explore the sacred marae (temple) on the lagoon at the outskirts of town.

The 18 mile passage to Tahaa Island was fast with consistent easterly winds and we used the time to complete our marine weather class. Our goal is to always try and have the anchor down by 1630 and we nearly made it as we anchored in Tahaa's Baie Haamene. Almost before the anchor was down Mahina Tiare was surrounded by eight 10-12 year old boys, each sporting a very cool fiberglass racing canoe. Amanda asked one boy if she could try his canoe, so he bailed out and Amanda swam over between the ama and canoe and pulled herself aboard, much to the amusement of the boys. She took off paddling at quite a clip, but when she tried to turn the canoe around to return, she flipped. This bought much amusement and laughter from the kids. After righting and bailing it, she returned it and the kids headed off home to their respective homes located in several directions around the bay.

Yesterday I taught anchoring using our Powerpoint module before we set sail, then as we sailed around Tahaa's northern end, Amanda taught knots and splicing. The tradewinds were amazing, and we stayed on the same broad reach as the winds wrapped right around the northern end of the island, giving us flat smooth sailing with speeds close to 8 kts!

In the early afternoon we anchored off Ilot Tautau, a small islet on the outer barrier reef that has an amazing snorkeling channel. The water rushes over the outer reef and barrels through a narrow, shallow channel into the lagoon. Normally we hike up the beach to the ocean end, jump in and get whisked along at several knots through myriads of tropical fish and coral. Last year some of our crew got a bit scraped up on the coral, so Amanda had the idea of having everyone follow her, as she normally swims the length of the channel against the current, then turns around and whooshes down-current. Unfortunately we discovered the current stronger than ever before with the water unusually shallow. After 15 minutes of flat out swimming we'd only made it about 1/3 of the way up with no prospect of improvement in conditions so we decided to turn around and zoom along out.

This morning we motored 3.5 miles south to our current location so our crew and Amanda could join Alain Plantier on his famous Vanilla Tour. Alain and his wife Christina sailed from France to Tahaa 28 years ago on a 30' home-built plywood sloop, he purchased land in the bay and built traditional thatched dwellings each with a specific purpose whilst planting an exotic garden and vanilla plantation. They raised two children and seem to have an idyllic life.

Alain takes yachties and anyone else who can find him on half-day ethno-botanical tours of this amazingly rugged and beautiful island with his Land Rover, stopping very frequently to explain how the different plants arrived, how they are used by Tahitians, and also showing the entire process of cultivating and processing vanilla.

June 21, 2012, 1240 hrs, 16.30 S, 151.46 W,
Log: 155,986 miles, at anchor, Bora Bora, Baro: 1014.1,
Cabin Temp: 83 F cockpit 85 F, sea water 83.1 F

Our plan of crossing from Tahaa to anchor off Uturoa, Raiatea's principle port, was abruptly changed when a 25 kt rain-packed squall blew in on what would have been a lee-shore anchorage, so we turned and ran a couple miles downwind to Marina Apooiti, the Moorings/Sunsail/Tahiti Yacht Charters base. Jean Michelle Nocuse, the marina manager, always keeps two berths at the entrance available for visiting cruisers and when Jim and I whizzed into the marina in the RIB I was surprised to see Jean Michelle standing on the wharf. An Amel about to take the second berthing spot so JM asked them to moor further into the marina basin. This created space for MT to side-tie with her bow extending out of the harbor entrance.

Jean Michelle proudly showed us the new 220 volt shore power outlet which meant we could totally top up our batteries as well as our water tanks. Our crew was pleased to find spotless marina showers and heads ashore along with being able to do their laundry in buckets on the wharf.

Tuesday we focused on docking procedures and as we motored first to a duty free fuel dock and then to the Uturoa town dock our crew wrote up a guide for our docking procedures to assist future expedition members. Both dockings were with 18+ kts of wind forward of the beam with minimal amount of maneuvering space so I was very pleased that crew had gleaned a good understanding of docking. It also helped to have our bow thruster working again as last year it wasn't due to a faulty control relay. It's amazing how much drama the thruster relieves by allowing the squeezing a 38,000 lb boat into small spaces in fresh winds.

Our crew enjoyed Uturoa's shops and internet café while Amanda and I did a top-up of fruit and veggies at the very-convenient Champion supermarket next to the wharf. Our time constraint was finding a secure anchorage before about 5pm when the sun becomes too low for coral piloting. Many of Raiatea's anchorages are 80-130' but Jim, the days navigator, found a 35' mostly sandy bottom very protected anchorage beyond Marina Apooiti and the two boatyards located on the NW coast of Raiatea. The bonus was we were able to find a dinghy channel through the extensive shore reef to the sports court adjacent to Raiatea Careenage to the enable us for our daily sunrise run before breakfast

Yesterday after completing our abandon ship class Bora Bora beckoned so we set sail. The 30 mile passage to Bora Bora started calm but as soon as we were clear of Raiatea's wind shadow the breeze freshened to 25 kts and after surfing over 8 kts repeatedly it was time for Amanda to teaching reefing. Spencer was our navigator had his hands full plotting our hourly position and setting waypoints for Bora Bora's narrow channel entrance and anchorage. Anchor master Jim chose a superb spot not far inside the pass with a perfect 35' sandy bottom out of the gusty winds and seconds after the anchor snubber was set we were all in the water for a refreshing snorkel.

 

mahina expeditions

Leg 2 - 2012 Itinerary


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