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Leg 3 - Update 2

KIA ORANA RAROTONGA!!!

September 2, 2018, 1540 hrs, 21.13 S, 159.49, W, Log: 217,729 miles
Baro: 1018.0, Cabin Temp: 78 F, Cockpit: 81 F, Sea Water: 75.9 F
At anchor off the reef, at Arorangi School with 40’ depths and coral bottom

We (Amanda and I) are currently rolling about in large southerly swells, so much so that Amanda has ended up sleeping athwart ship in the main saloon as we ride bow into a strong easterly wind that’s blowing a lot less here than in the harbor. A safe moorage is often the conundrum of Rarotonga – we love the people and the island, but it is one of the most challenging places that we visit in regard to between expedition mooring. Here off Arorangi it’s not too bad in general but every now and then there’s some large rollers that shoots MT forward dragging the chain under a coral head after which it snaps up short causing a large jerk. There is not a speck of sand to be found in this area, only hard, flat coral.

It’s possible to get ashore through a shallow channel dredged through the coral to a landing ramp and this morning we took a run up the valley and then went to church to hear the unique powerful singing and admire the ladies in their white Sunday finery that includes wonderful hats woven from young coconut leaves. Thankfully the wind and seas are forecasted to start dropping Wednesday night, so we’ll likely return to Avatiu Harbour on Thursday to prepare for our Leg 4 crew’s arrival on Tuesday.

As to our Leg 3 adventures - on Bora Bora, thanks to the calm weather, we all delighted in the snorkeling at the quiet reef anchorages and spectacular starry evenings with the nearly-full moon in between class modules. For their shore leave our crew enjoyed circumnavigating the island on scooters and dune buggies, hiking up to the WWII gun emplacements and exploring deserted beaches and inland vistas on the east coast while Amanda and I dealt with multiple departure formalities and provisioning.


Crew master 3-strand splicing


Looking for tradewinds

As a final farewell to our crew shouted Amanda and I to an excellent dinner at the always colorful Bloody Mary’s restaurant.


We had a great sail to Maupiti, 30 miles and a world away to the west of Bora and an exciting reef pass entrance due to the large southerly swell.

Here we caught up with friends ashore from previous visits while our intrepid crew ALL climbed the highest peak, Mt. Tiriano at 372 meters and a 3.5 hr. round trip. Now that will be a new adventure for us and our hopefully keen crew next year!


Falko, Dana, Alain, Michael and Greg...whew!...


Mountain ridge view of Maupiti pass

After word made it around the island by coconut telegraph that we were leaving shortly for Mopelia, a tiny atoll 100 miles WSW owned by Maupiti, two people asked for rides and three families asked if we would carry food and supplies to their relatives. We ended up with 100 lbs of flour to be stowed which we lowered with the spinnaker halyard in the fore cabin where it sat between the V-berth. Close to 60 lbs of rice loaded into the forward shower and box after box of food and supplies filling both showers and crew hanging lockers thus leaving the dog food cans sitting on bunk room floor, a plastic drum of green mangoes lashed to the granny bars and a sack of pamplemousse lashed to the aft pulpit.


Upon entering the pass with passed this Beneteau 424 crewed by and Italian couple we’d met in the San Blas at Christmas

With excellent broad-reaching conditions we reached Mopelia after breakfast, finding only 1.5 kt ebb current in Vahine Pass where the current can reach 8kts with a large southerly swell. I’d chosen Mopelia as destination to visit in Chris Santell’s book Fifty Places to Sail Before You Die so it’s always a treat to return.

Within a few minutes of anchoring off the northern village Marcello and his daughter Karino came alongside in their rickety plywood skiff to greet us. I’d first met Marcello and his wife Adrienne in 1981 when they were newlyweds living in an attractive thatch house on stilts facing the anchorage.

We then all proceeded to sort through our delivery supplies (some of which had had labels removed in order to stow them) then winch and lower the appropriate packages to Marcello who also offered to distribute the ones to his neighbors.


Unloading supplies to Karino and Marcello


Meanwhile Dana test the water for sharks...yep...PLENTY!

Knowing that we had supplies for the other eight people living three miles away in the SE village, Karino invited us to return the following afternoon for an evening beach barbecue as a way of thanking us for bringing the supplies.

Dodging the occasional waterlogged floats marking failed oyster shell farms we anchored off our friend Hina’s house. Teraitua and Parua soon came alongside in an aluminum skiff to collect their supplies and quickly invited us to a lobster and coconut crab barbecue that evening. Parua has only been on Mopelia a few months but loves everything about this isolated place so plans to try and persuade his family on Maupiti to permanently join him.


Parua, Greg (with coconut crab dinner) and Tera

Hina joined us for the barbecue, after first trouncing Falko at several games of chess. Dinner was over the top! At the same time we watched the sunset while the full moon rose over the opposite side of the lagoon. Parua showed us his coconut crabs which he keeps in plastic barrels, feeding and watering them daily for months at a time until they’re needed for a barbecue, along with how he makes his killer coconut milk and curry coconut sauce.

Tera kept us supplied with young drinking coconuts and tended the fire which cooked pots of coconut crabs and the lobsters he’d caught. Amanda had made several salads, a ton of hot spuds and at Hina’s request heated up our previous night’s dinner of chili chicken. I baked tropical brownies being sure to omit the coconut from Hina’s. She gets plenty of that making copra all day...it’s best to bring her chocolate if you wish a warm welcome.


Check Mate Falko!


Yumm...local kai!


A busy morning servicing the Andersen spinnaker winch.


We’re passionate about feeding our food waste to the pigs

Scott, a keen fisherman accepted Parua’s offer to join him at 0500 on a fishing trip outside the lagoon from which they returned with three large fish. Hina had suggested if they caught a fish, they’d should both clean and prepare the fish then join us aboard MT for lunch, which they did: sashimi, poisson cru (marinated raw fish in coconut milk) and salad.


Lunch time shenanigans

We had to scurry to prepare for our evening barbecue three miles across the lagoon at Adrienne and Marcello’s who had invited the crews of two other yachts ashore as well. We were a total of 16 seated at a long picnic table under the palm trees on a white sand beach complete with heart of palm salad, corned beef pizza and green peppers stuffed with fish. Jim Patek off the Ovni 435 Let’s Go had previously visited at the same time I had nearly 20 years earlier just after Mopelia had been devastated by a cyclone which washed over the atoll, sending 90% of the palm trees into the lagoon, and causing the French navy to send a ship to evacuate all 80 inhabitants back to Maupiti.

We’d planned to enjoy a third night at tiny Mopelia atoll, population 16, but with forecasted 35 – 45 kt winds for the day we planned to make landfall in Rarotonga, we collected more weather information from MetBob.com in Auckland and WeatherGuy.com in Honolulu and decided it was prudent to leave right away. In fact, here’s Rick Sheema’s (WeatherGuy.com) suggestions:

If departing recommend ASAP and best reasonable speed along rhumbline. Goal is to cross cold front over your route as far to the west as possible to minimize time and strength of squash zone winds.

Weather Summary:

Cold front lies between you and Rarotonga. On departure winds variable 10kts or less, waves, 1.5-meter swell, and dry conditions on departure to cold front. Cold front is weak with some rain, gusty, shifty winds. Expect to pass front west of 156W or on Tues 0000-0600UTC. Then high pressure ridges in from the south. Winds shift and settle from the south 10-15 kts and build 15-20 shortly after crossing the front. Waves increase to 2.5 meters. Winds back to SSEerly generally up and down slightly in speed. Then increase SSE-SE 18-23 kts waves 2.5 meters around Tues 2200 UTC; intermittent rain showers. There is a chance of winds 25 kts, waves 2.8 meters.

Apparent winds of 30+ kts may make it seem like true wind is higher.

Voyage Summary
Depart ASAP
Plan: Rhumbline
Distance: 440nm
Average SOG: 7.6
ETE 2 day 10 hrs

Conservatively, expect about 220 nm in the squash zone. Higher initial speed on departure before front may reduce the time in squash zone. Next opportunity to depart is late this week or over the weekend.

Upon receiving the above forecast we bid farewell to Marcello and Adrienne, and their daughter Karino and Faimano.

We’d purposefully left the dinghy in the water as we departed and upon reached the pass, four of our guys jumped in the water, wearing masks and fins, and held onto it hoisting lines as the 4kt current swept us through the narrow channel.


Snorkel boys in the pass


Alain and Greg diving the shipwreck

We anchored in the quickly sloping hard coral bottom as close as possible to the WWI wreck of Count Von Luckner’s Sea Adler and snorkeled over the wreckage located in 6’ - 12’ of water on the outside surfline before raising the anchor and setting sail for Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.
We had some excellent sailing with smooth seas, followed by a little motoring before we started to feel the effects of the cold front, giving us time to teach celestial nav, cruising medicine, and electrical systems. In the afternoon we saw a very distinct band of black clouds ahead, and since our crew had just completed a timed team reefing competition, they were keen to tuck ii some reefs.

On Tuesday morning we’d hoped to briefly anchor in the lee of Atiu for a swim, showers and breakfast, but there was little protection from the large southerly swells wrapping around Atiu and crashing on the reef along the entire lee (west) side, so we carried on for Raro, 100 miles SW. Before long our navigator figured we’d need to keep our speed below 7 kts to avoid arriving in Raro in the dark or before the harbourmaster reached his office at 0700, so we tucked in another reef and enjoyed an excellent day and night of sailing. Exactly as the GRIBs had forecasted, the winds went from just forward of the beam to a frisky broad reach. The 3+ meter seas kept our helmspeople focused, but we didn’t have any gybes or even close calls as this team had all perfected helming skills.


Dana and Falko on a tempestuous morning watch


Greg tucks in a third reef and we close on Avatiu Harbour, Rarotonga

Before first light Wednesday we had sighted Raro on radar, and at first light Scott and Michael spotted the rugged green mountains ahead.

By 0730 we entered tiny Avatiu Harbour, dropped the mainsail and prepared to anchor only to witness a struggling 53’ Cheoy Lee motor sailor – her old-fashioned kedge anchor was continually dragging in the gusts and her stern was getting perilously near the concrete harbor wall as the owner tried to reset the bow anchor without slipping stern lines.

Once they had their anchor reset, we dropped MT’s, launched the RIB, ran a long stern line ashore and carefully winched MT in toward the wall, letting out anchor chain at the same time. With lots of able hands, the running of a total of four additional lines went well. We were surprised that there were only two other yachts in the harbor, and no fishing boats, but with the 20-30 kt winds on the beam, it was not a pretty sight at all as MT heeled in the gusts and strained at her anchor. When I snorkeled down to check our 77lb Ultra anchor, I found it so buried that all I could see was one glint of the stainless shackle. The Ultra anchor has exceeded our highest expectations.

Harbour master John Jessie greeted us ashore, informing us he’d already called for the health and bio-security inspectors as well as customs/immigration and within a couple hours we were all checked in and our crew headed ashore for hot showers at the port building. We’d arrived a day early so we had plenty of time to complete our last two classes; working out our Sun LAN sextant shot and Amanda teaching double-braid splicing.


Falko do our “Team Empty Platers” proud winning the chiefs dance completion to receive the grand prize of dance with three maidens

When offered the choice of dinner at Trader Jack’s, a very colorful waterfront bar and seafood place a short walk away or a ride up into the hills to Highland Paradise, a 600 yr old village that offers a feast and cultural music and dance show, they chose culture, and we enjoyed an interesting evening, learning about the village’s warlike history, and their pride at having their young people carrying on their traditional music and dance.

As forecasted, the winds and seas kept increasing and crew did a great job in the challenging conditions helping us tidy up on deck before packing their bags, cleaning cabins and negotiating a challenging landing before setting off to their hotels and more island exploration. In the harbor Amanda and I were kept busy tending lines and watching out for other vessels movements.


MT secure in Avatiu Harbour

Lady Moana, an ex-Norwegian coast guard vessel, now an inter-island freighter twice took off for Mangaia, 100 miles upwind, complete with a cargo of fuel and a new car lashed on deck but twice was turned around by breaking seas and 35+ kt winds that caused her cargo to shift. The Choey Lee Today (eatlessplastic.com) set sail into boisterous seas and we watched her roll away into dark squalls.

The last remaining yacht Xenia, a 43’ Danish Bianca sloop also choose to leave but while pulling up their anchor the horizontal windlass, mounted on a shelf in the anchor locker, totally busted up its platform falling into the bottom of the locker. I held their bow off the concrete wall with our dinghy while Amanda jumped aboard and helped release stern lines and pull the anchor up by hand. Slightly in shock and looking totally exhausted they decided to sail for Niue, so we wished them a fair passage.

Although the winds and seas went down a little on Saturday, the forecast is for 30+kt winds and 3.5 m seas, so yesterday after filling propane, completing a quick shop at the farmer’s market and grocery store we sailed five miles around to our current Arorangi anchorage.

Leg 3 - Update 1

August 19, 2018, 1130 hrs,
16.31 S, 151.46, W, Log: 217,147 miles
Baro: 1012.7, Cabin Temp: 83 F, Cockpit: 87 F, Sea Water: 80.6 F
At anchor, in the shadow of Mt. Otemanu

BORA BORA'S INCREDIBLE LAGOON!

We’re truly anchored in paradise - away from land, out near the lighthouse marking the furthest SW corner of Bora Bora’s reef with only rays, fish and birds for company in water so shallow we can watch the rays swim by on the white sandy bottom. As today is Sunday not much will be open in Bora Bora’s main township of in Vaitape so hence we decided to choose this tranquil anchorage, especially since the tradewinds are absent.


Dana checks our water depth

Yesterday we sailed from Raiatea on what was a rather slow passage due to a lack of wind but as we closed on Bora’s pass, we suddenly saw two humpback whales, right on the bow, headed our way. We watched the cavorting whales for some time before heading through the pass to choose our current anchorage. As we’re not near land for our usual morning run we’ve all enjoyed long swims out on the reefs sand shallows and currently Amanda is sweating it out end-for-ending the Endura braid main halyard as a class. This involves removing the halyard form the mast and resplicing the shackle; always a tough task with old line.

Backing up a bit, hours after our previous Leg 2 crew departed in Tahiti Amanda and I set sail for Moorea, 21 miles to the WNW where we enjoyed visiting with local friends and a run up the mountain before setting sail 83 miles after sunset for tiny Baie Haamiti on the rarely-visited east cost of Huahine. Although we’d never checked out this bay in 44 years of sailing to Huahine, we’d been dreaming about it over the past four years while we’ve been away. On the charts, it looked to have everything we desire in an anchorage: good protection on all sides, cool breeze (being on the windward side) no resorts and a few distant villages.

What we found was even better than we’d hoped and at first light each morning we ran in different directions, finally running an hour to the south, then hitchhiking back. After a week the weather goddess smiled at us, giving us unusual NW winds for a gorgeous overnight broad reach back to Moorea before the SE trades returned. Back in Marina Taina on Tahiti we stocked up at nearby Carrefour mega grocery store, grateful to see our US dollars going further than ever with the most favorable exchange rate in decades.

Our Leg 3 crew all arrived early to Tahiti with. Greg had a rental a car and after offering exploration drives to Michael and Scott he kindly drove me to Douanes (Customs) to pick up a duty-free fuel authorization.

Leg 3 crew received safety orientation on Thursday afternoon and at noon Friday they officially joined ready to help with fueling before we set sail to Moorea. Set sail...yes!...we hoisted sail, but where were the tradewinds? We had some sailing, but more motorsailing before enjoying a lovely anchorage inside the pass entrance to Cook’s Bay out on the reef. With water so clear, we had just 1’ of water below the keel, we could see shell trails on the sand, and crew were quickly in the water exploring the coral heads and fishes until sunset. What a delight to have their first night onboard in such an idyllic anchorage!

Saturday morning, we completed safety orientation going through bilge pumps, alarms, extinguishers before pumping the fuel tank’s sump (it was totally clean – thank you Marina Taina for being conscientious on checking your sumps and filters) before someone mentioned our Jabsco electric head was making funny sounds when they pushed the “fill” button, with little water filling. This (and many) reef anchorages occasionally have reef flowers which break away from the parent plant to then floating about, often in large clumps. Some of these had had plugged the intake hose and filter, first time ever, so I made a class as I cleaning it out to get it working again.


Here’s our intrepid Leg 3 crew: Alain, Greg, Falko, Michael, Scott and Dana

Alain, 54
I’m a lawyer and finance professional from Montreal, Canada and am now CFO of a software company. I started sailing as a teen on Lasers and 470’s and later progressed to chartering in the Caribbean, Mexico and the med. My wife Dana and I recently purchased a Boreal 47 in Southern France and earlier this summer enjoyed sailing in Croatia and Corsica. We’ll be returning to the boat fairly soon.

Dana, 51
I’m a telecommunications engineer, originally from Romania, but now living in Montreal. My first-time sailing was nine years ago when Alain and I were invited by friends for a weekend of sailing on Lake Champlain. Since then we’ve sailed as often as time allowed and now look forward to retiring and cruising extensively.

Scott, 56
I’m a general surgeon living in Sarasota, Florida. I don’t own a sailboat but have my inshore fishing boat on the market. I sailed Sunfish dinghies as a kid, then raced Hobie Cats as a teenager. Most of my cruising experience has been bareboat charters in the Bahamas and Caribbean. I’m exploring the idea of a three-year sailing sabbatical to sail with my wife and family before returning to work/land life.

Greg, 62
I’m a recently retired electrical supervisor from Laguna Niguel, CA and look forward to cruising Southern California and Mexico aboard my Pacific Seacraft 31. This expedition is a retirement present from my wife.

Falko, 50
I am responsible for clinical and regulatory affairs for a medical device company in Sydney, Australia. Our company makes defibulators and stents. Originally from East Berlin, I now sail with my wife in Pittwater on our Bavararia 32. We’ve enjoyed coastal sailing and chartering in the Whitsundays.

Michael, 57
I’m a 57-year-old orthopedic surgeon who coastal cruises my Tartan 37c out of Florida. I aspire to longer distances and durations of cruising on my own sailing vessel.

Saturday noon our crew had lunch in Paopao village before hiking up and over the mountain to the Lycee Agricole fruit juice stand and down to scenic valley to Papetoai Bay while Amanda and I took the boat around the headland. After a swim we set sail before sunset for Huahine.


Falko adjusts the vang after reefing as we approach Huahine

Modest then light winds again prevailed and after entering Huahine’s Passe Avapehi we anchored out by the reef for lunch and a snorkel before carefully navigating 4.5 miles south to the spectacular Baie d’Avea which is bordered by a 1.5-mile-long crescent white sandy beach.

Monday we sailed up to the spacious Port Bourayne bay where everyone practiced Lifesling overboard rescue before we anchored, enjoying a sunset sing-along while celebrating Falko’s birthday. Dana sang with a lovely, strong voice, and knew all the words to Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul and Mary songs as when growing up in Romania, her neighbors had smuggled forbidden cassette tapes in from the decadent West!

Tuesday morning three of us dinghied through the isthmus between Huahine Nui and Iti to enjoy runs ashore – for us in a totally new direction where we met several friendly Tahitians setting off to work in their gardens. We had breakfast underway enroute to Fare, Huahine’s principal town and anchored off the Huahine Yacht Club, a new establishment with a secure new dinghy dock.


The charming Huahine Yacht Club


Huahine Yacht Club dinghy dock

We’d been given a recommendation of a guide: www.greentourshuahine.com and three of our crew enjoyed learning about the botany, plants and ecology of Huahine while the other three rented bikes and had a lot of fun circumnavigating Huahine Nui, the larger of the two islands.


This hill is rather a killer on a bike...best to push your bike up it.

After lunch at the yacht club we set sail for Tahaa, again enjoying a nice bit of sailing before the winds again petered out. On this expedition leg we’ve always have great tradewind sailing with lots of reefing and trimming practice, but, possibly because of the effects of a modest El Nino episode currently occurring, the winds are currently lighter, infrequent and contain drizzle.

We miss the trade winds! Tahaa, shares a barrier reef with Raiatea and is more isolated and less populated island than it’s sister to the south.


A paddler draughts in our wake as we enter the bay

On Wednesday, after circling the top of Tahaa, we anchored off the outer west reef at Ilot Tautau, to snorkeling what has been dubbed, “Coral Gardens”. For the first time ever, we purposefully arrived before high water (noon and midnight every day) and were rewarded with slightly more depth and less current than we’d previously seen.

We landed on a small islet and walked the five minutes to cross over to the ocean side where you hop into the water to float back into the lagoon through a channel containing a kaleidoscope of colors in the form of coral, fishes and anemones. Even though dozens of snorkelers make this drift snorkel daily, the coral looked just as vibrant and healthy as when we first saw it 30 years ago.


Early morning start for our Tahaa island circuit


Falko capturing the underwater extravaganza


Noe in his garden explaining the origins of the candle nut

We anchored in nearby Tapuamu Bay Wednesday night then Thursday morning motored a few miles south to Hurepiti Bay where we picked up a mooring and went ashore to meet Noe Plantier, son of Alain Plantier of Vanilla Tours. Alain and Linda sailed from France on a 30’ –pink plywood sloop to settle on Tahaa 40 years ago and for most of the past years Alain has been leading daily


Noe in his garden explaining the origins of the candle nut

ethno-botanical tours in the mountains of Tahaa for visiting sailors. Recently Alain retired, turning the business over to his son who was born and schooled on Tahaa before going to France for university training, then working as an aeronautical engineer for Airbus.

Noe related how the 900 plants of Polynesia had arrived, brought by winds, birds and the ocean and told how the plants are used by Tahitians today, as well as visiting a vanilla plantation, showing how the vanilla blossoms must be hand pollinated. After the tour we motored to the outer reef choosing an anchorage that offered an amazing view of Bora Bora.

Friday morning, we headed five miles SSE to the main town of Uturoa where we purchased fuel, explored town and topped up groceries before heading to Marina Apooiti: home base of The Moorings, Sunsail and Tahiti Yacht Charters. Although the small marina looked full, marina manager and long-time friend Jean Michel Nocuse helped us squeeze into a Med-mooring between two helpful liveaboards. We were thankful to top up with water, send off laundry and wander about the marina chatting with the many lively liveaboards.


Javier, “The Spaniard” and local charter captain, explains the intricacies of the passes at Maupiti and Mopelia.

Jean Michel loaned me a new book on geolletes (local sailing and motor freighters) of Tahiti that he had contributed to. When I (and Jean Michel, who arrived in 1975 to do his French military service) arrived in French Polynesia in 1974, several of the wooden 100’+ sailing copra schooners were still afloat, serving as bars and restaurants and several of the wooden motor vessels shown in the book were still carrying cargo and collecting dried coconut meat in the Tuamotus and Marquesas.

Each of these copra boats had small stores aboard and I recall going aboard in the Marquesas and Tuamotus to purchase food and chat with the skippers about currents and the lagoon passes in the Tuamotus.


Learning the mechanisms of the Ovni rudder

After dinner we enjoyed visiting Voile d’Or, a small restaurant/bar inside the marina where we listened to a group of elderly friends who met weekly to sing, play guitar and trumpet. The next morning after departing Marina Apooiti we made a stop at the nearby boatyards Raiatea Careenage and Chantier Naval to tour the yards. I enjoyed meeting with consultation clients from seven years ago plus some Offshore Seminar grads who are living the dream. We also chatted with an elderly French couple who were doing an annual haulout on their Ovni 435 before setting returning to the Marquesas.

Tomorrow will be Monday and we’ll start the outbound clearance process with the local Gendarmerie Nationale, giving our keen crew time to explore Bora Bora while we do a final provision before setting sail for Maupiti, Mopelia and Rarotonga!


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