Friday, June 28, 2013


By Nicole

Tahiti. For many, just reading the name of this South Pacific island conjures up images of tropical sunsets, fruity umbrella drinks and days spent lounging in the shade of palm trees. But for us, it meant a little something different – grocery stores, marine chandleries, hardware stores, a Laundromat and, of course, lunch at McDonald’s (hey, don’t judge!). This was primarily a business and socializing stop, so I’ll warn you now … you won’t find any idyllic beach pictures in this post (our life isn’t totally about sunsets and pina coladas, after all!).

P6131039The Marina Taina mooring field with Moorea, in the distance.

Our two-week three-week stay in Papeete, Tahiti was quite productive. We got some much-needed varnishing done, had the alternator fixed (only $30 for a new bearing!), did a crap load of laundry (wash only due to financial constraints), made lots of trips to the French hypermarket Carrefour (overwhelming, amazing and air conditioned) and had many a drink with friends old and new. All of this while on a cheap mooring in a flat-calm lagoon! Score.

P6191073Keeping it classy. To save money for chocolate croissants and cheese, we opted to dry our laundry the old-fashioned way (at least we hung most of the underpants down below to dry!)

P6221081Gotta love the French influence at the Carrefour supermarket with entire aisles devoted to chocolate bars … and an amazing assortment of French cheese, pâté, butter and duck (lots and lots of canned duck).

P6221084Best view from a McDonald’s table? Perhaps. And, yes, that’s Moorea in the background. We’re lovin’ it.

P6131046 Real beer! After years of drinking Mexican and Central American lagers, theses beers
from Les 3 Brasseurs went down a little too easily. Mmmm … hoppy, malty deliciousness.

P6131042Adam from s/v Bravo and Aaron enjoying the amber.

P1010033Happy hour with Mark from s/v Compass Rosey and Brian from s/v Osprey. More beer! Yeesh.

P6211077Last time we saw these guys was in Seattle at our going-away party! I’m pretty sure it was raining. And I’m pretty sure neither of us really thought we’d actually meet up … in Tahiti.

So we had this idea. What if we do a pub crawl around the mooring field, stopping at different boats for food and drinks. We could call it a “mooring ball crawl!” The idea was pure genius. The night was loads of fun, and we have the pictures to prove it. We even stayed up until 1 a.m.! That’s way past “cruiser’s midnight” (which is actually at like 9:00.)

P1000889P1000890Appetizers and sundowners on Estrellita

P1000892P1000893Dinner and wine on Cariba

P1000895P1000896And dessert and more wine on Bella Star

Tahiti is more than just the working harbor of Papeete, though. Before we’d ever laid eyes on the concrete jungle,  we found charming Tautira Bay. After a month of being completely off-grid in the Tuamotus, the village here proved to be the perfect segue back into civilization. Our cupboards were practically bare, and the well-stocked little market was a welcome sight (lettuce! tomatoes! baguettes!), and for a (short) time, we even had wi-fi in the bay. The anchorage was fairly calm and absolutely lovely, too, with towering mountains draped in velvety green, black-sand beaches flecked with gold and a small river winding its way through the hills.

P6081002Dramatic peaks and a black-sand beach make a pretty backdrop for Bella Star in Tautira Bay

P6091010We hiked up the hill for a grand view of the village and anchorage with Bravo.

P6091019Mid-hike … Hot and sweaty, even on an overcast day (Look! I can do arm shots, too.)

And if you were wondering, we absolutely conquered Tahiti. The next conquering opportunity lies just 15 miles across the Sea of the Moon on Moorea. Stay tuned!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fakarava Atoll, Tuamotus

By Aaron

We left Tahanea Atoll for an 8-hour downwind run to Fakarava in large, confused seas and more than enough wind to keep things interesting.  We were running the engine to charge batteries and were about an hour away from heading into the pass when PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!  The alternator bearing froze up and immediately started to burn up the belt.  Since that belt also turns the water pump for engine cooling, we had to shut down the engine.  I took off the belt, and we fashioned a cheesy bungee cord belt to go over the main pulley and the water pump pulley, but we knew it wouldn’t last for very long before falling apart.  So we sailed through the pass, surrounded by coral reefs.

Once we were inside the lagoon, Carol from Estrellita approached with Chris in Namaste’s dinghy, matched speeds, and boarded like a French Canadian James Bond.  Carol had a handheld GPS with a track to the anchorage so we followed that in under sail while waves crashed on the reefs all around us.  Once we got close to where we wanted to anchor, we fired up the engine and got into position to drop the hook without any problems.  But what to do about the alternator?  It sure wasn’t going to get fixed on Fakarava.  Not to worry, we had offers from several boats to take their spare alternator.  We ended up trading SV Honu their spare alternator for 3 eggs.  Not a bad deal!  Thanks Honu! 

With the drama concluded, we set about enjoying another Tuamotus paradise.

For days on end the wind blew 20-25 knots and howled through the rigging all night. 

Beautiful clear blue water and little deserted islands dot the lagoon.






We visited many motus while we were here, and the prop on the outboard is looking a little worse for wear from the shallow approaches.

Should have brought the hammock ashore – the palm tree wasn’t quite curved enough to be comfy.  That was the worst problem I faced that day.


Waves crash over the outer reef and water flows into the lagoon in the channels between the motus.

Large swell brought in a floating dock from somewhere.  SV Estrellita, Cariba, Namaste and Dream Time went to work disassembling the dock and rebuilding it into the Sud Bar.  Since this beach is sometimes under water, the bar hangs from a couple trees.  They also built a nice table around a palm tree and several benches for the semi nightly bonfires.  You won’t find the Sud Bar on Yelp, but it’s located here: 16° 31’ 16.83” S  145° 28’ 05.40” W. 

Of course it’s the perfect place to carve in our boat names.  We used the same template that we used on our board at Hot Springs Cove. Only I just did the outline on this one and didn’t carve out the letters.  Mostly because it’s likely that this bar is going to be destroyed by Mother Nature in short order. 

At the Sud Bar it’s always happy hour, the coconuts are free, and we don’t check ID.

Livia and Carol, our buddies from Estrellita.  These guys have a long-stay visa and are spending the whole season in French Poly.  They’re just as fun now as they were on Vancouver Island.  A little more tan though.

Carol even gave Nicole a few kite boarding lessons.

We really like coconut water.  Of course it needs 2 ounces of rum to sweeten it up.  If only they grew on the tree with the rum already in them, THAT would make it paradise. (Yes, the girls are wearing glow sticks.)

Bella Star, Estrellita, Cariba, Dream Time, and Namaste getting together for a potluck and bonfire.

We’re all a long way from home.  And everybody has stories on how they ended up at this remote place, in this vast ocean, at this particular time to cross paths.  I always find it interesting to hear of everyone’s adventures.  All that was missing was Dave Calhoun to play some tunes.

Also we conquered a ton of islands.  We’re really stepping up the pace on this to maintain our lead, as the island conquering hacks on SV Palarran make their feeble attempt to surpass our total by jumping up on any damned nameless rock they see sticking out of the water.  Also (and not surprisingly) they cheat, as is shown on their blog with Tawn standing on an “island” that has no leafy vegetation or grass.

The sea cucumber thingies were quite abundant.  Of course I let Nicole know that the shape and color made them look like something else.       (poop)

It’s fun to freedive down here with the water so clear.  I can make it down to about 60 feet with some time left over to hang out.  I could easily make it to over 100 feet, but it would be a one way trip.  The main activity is to dinghy out to the pass at low water slack.  Then you get in the water and drift snorkel the pass with the incoming current.  You can get about 3 runs in and then it starts running a little fast.  But it sure is fun to fly over the coral at high speed!

Swimming around here means swimming with sharks.  This one passed right between Nicole and I.  It’s a little unnerving.  We pay attention and don’t go snorkeling with a pulled pork sandwich. 

The coral and fish were much more colorful and beautiful than I was able to capture with my GoPro, but trust me that riding through the pass over a carpet of coral is one of the highlights of our entire cruise.  It’s only going to get harder and harder to find big swaths of healthy coral to snorkel over.  Get out here before it’s too late.

These guys are my favorite.

Holy Fakarava – it’s an arm shot!