July 8, 2014
Land Ho!It’s been a month since I updated this blog and most of the time has been spent on land exploring islands, atolls and secret beaches yet to be named! I have been having such a great time that it is hard to stop and write! But I promised I would update at least once a month, so here it is..
The last time I wrote, we had landed on the island of Nuka Hiva located in the northern Marquesas Islands. The coastline of Nuka Hiva is steep-to with high peaks and numerous bays. We tucked Wind Cutter into Taiohae bay and marveled at the lush, green cliffs surrounding us! We ordered a new sail, and roller furling drum (hub) and kicked back to explore the island by foot while we waited for boat parts to arrive (which, by the way they never did, but more on that later)! Kevin and Annabel Ellis from yacht services were a tremendous help and went out of their way to answer questions and make our stay a pleasant one! Kevin is from America and used to be a sailor until he met lovely Annabel on the island and settled down to raise a family! A highlight of our visit was watching their young children Taihowl (7)and Esmeralda (5) perform the “Haka” dance at a school recital. I was touched when Taihowl presented me with his lei after he danced! Later in the week, the town hosted a music and dance festival that included traditional food and entertainment! We also attended the local church and marveled at the marvelous choir, traditional costumes and beautiful carvings! While we loved this little town, we were anxious to see more of the Marquesas and head south. After waiting three weeks for boat parts that didn’t arrive, Craig manufactured a hub using a cutting board, and I hand sewed a patch on the torn main (we are still waiting for the new sail). We hopped over to “Daniel’s Bay” (Hakatea Bay) and dropped the anchor in front of a white sand beach surrounded by 200 meter cliffs (a good shelter from east winds that were blowing)! We hiked to an immense waterfall (the worlds 3rd largest) where wild horses and goats grazed, and tropical flowers lined our path! This was by far the most beautiful hike I have ever been on..the colors (different hues of green and floral colors) were beyond description. I can best describe it by comparing it to the scene in “Wizard of Oz” where the screen suddenly bursts forth in color! We dredged through three streams and dodged mosquitoes but it was well worth the effort! On the way down, we stopped to admire the fruit trees surrounding a small cottage and were quickly invited to dinner by an elderly couple. We dined on raw fish in coconut juice, fried bananas (best bananas ever) and something that resembled a vegetable! Although we didn’t understand a word they were saying, we had a wonderful time looking at family pictures and smiling at one another. I left my necklace with our host, and she presented me with a shelled necklace and a kiss! On our way out, a relative (with interesting tatoos and a bone in his nose) loaded us up with mangos, bananas, starfruit, and papplemouse! After four days exploring this little paradise, we set sail for the Tuamotu Islands, west of the Marquesas.
The Tuamotu islands were first discovered by Spanish navigators around 1605 and named “the dangerous archipelago” because of the numerous reefs that extend around the atolls. While there are 76 islands in this chain, only a few have passes wide or deep enough to allow access into the lagoon for vessels. The benefit of visiting these atolls is the fauna inside the lagoons is rich and plentiful which means amazing snorkeling and diving in clear, warm, water where hundreds of colorful fish abide (it’s like swimming in an aquarium)! Navigating the atolls is risky (reefs are hard to spot) and most don’t attempt it at night! Just last week, a French Polynesian navy ship hit a reef in this area and sank! Popular atolls for sailors include Manihi, Aratika, Fakarava, and Rangiroa. After 4 days of sailing (mostly a beam reach and confused seas), our mail sail ripped again (drat!) yet we managed to hold a beam reach and average 6 knotts! Not wanting to stress the sails, we kept on a reach and sailed too far west to visit Fakarava and Aratika. We arrived in Manihi just after dark and almost threw caution to the wind and entered, (after all, we were tired), but at the last minute Craig steered away and headed safely towards Rangiroa (good call captain!)
Rangiroa is the largest of the Tuamotu atolls and is 45 nautical miles long! We entered through the “Tiputa Pass” on the east with winds blowing up to 35 knots and choppy seas! I tethered myself to the bow, with my handless walkie talkie and pointed to the reefs while Craig navigated us in with gritted teeth and white knuckles! Once inside, the wind stopped and the sun sparkled on a tranquil, turquoise lagoon!
We anchored in 30 feet of crystal clear water, in front of the Kia Ora hotel where we could tie our dingy to their dock and enjoy the lovely restaurant that overlooked the bay! Rooms at this hotel rent for $2,000 a night! On Father’s Day, I treated Craig to a spectacular dinner and show at the hotel!
We had great time exploring this atoll by bike (we rented them) and boat!<br
We had a few good laughs (well, at least I did!) like when we attended the “Pearl factory” tour and I was selected to “harvest a pearl”. Just as I popped a huge pearl out of the oyster shell, the slimy little thing slipped from my hand and landed in the rocks! We all frantically searched until we found it (yikes!) Or the time Craig climbed into the dinghy while I was holding the keys (on the boat) and dropped the rope into the water. He drifted out to sea pretty far before either of us realized what had happened and had to work extremely hard to hand paddle back to our boat (it didn’t help that I was laughing). But not all of this trip has been a laughing matter.
I have to give credit to Craig. In spite of a “bad hip” (bone on bone), he has managed to hike, bike, swim and climb (in and out of the dinghy) even though I know his pain has been intense and he has regretted not getting it fixed before we left! As I write this, the pain has moved up a notch and so has his tolerance! He is no longer smiling as much and not able to do the things he could do a few weeks ago! Thus, we are planning on returning to the U.S soon to get his hip fixed (as soon as we can find a secure spot for Wind Cutter)! But meanwhile, he is hanging in there and I am elated that he is!
One of his favorite Tuamotu discoveries was “The Blue Lagoon”, a tiny atoll surrounded by a reef, accessible only by dinghy or small motor boat. The beauty of this atoll is indescribable! The atoll is uninhabited. A white beach encircles it and palm trees grow in abundance. You can walk around the island in crystal clear water and gaze at rare birds nesting in palm trees.
Crabs dart around and beautiful coral accent the perimeter. It reminded me of the island in the movie “Guilligan’s Island” that I used to watch as a kid! I kept looking for Ginger, or Mary, or the professor to appear! But the best part of visiting this atoll wasn’t the fact that we were visiting the island of our dreams, it was the thrill of seeing and swimming with so many SHARKS (yes, I said sharks)! Dozens of Black tip and Lemon sharks! We went with friends and took a ‘guide’ (a professional native, blond, handsome guide) who told us that the sharks were friendly (like little puppy dogs) and we could all jump in and swim with them! So of coarse I did (and Craig didn’t…but HE took pictures so that’s ok)! And yes, they were friendly (nose to nose friendly) and no, I didn’t get bit! After we frolicked with our new friends, our handsome guide (Gladimar) showed us how tame our new friends were by hand feeding them and even grabbed one by his fin! Now that’s something my childhood hero Guilligan never did! Anyway, it was a day we will never forget!
On our last night in the Tuamotu Islands, Craig and I found a fabulous restaurant down the bay with a dinghy dock. We tied up and had a wonderful meal. It was dark when we rode the dinghy back to the boat. With a warm breeze in our face and star lit sky above us, we felt so blessed. How is it that we get to do this? As we talked about leaving the next day, we knew we would never forget this magical place and eagerly anticipated our next stop!
On June 21st, we headed for Papeete, Tahiti in the Society Archipelago chain. These islands extend over 400 nautical miles over the most western part of French Polynesia. They are high volcanic islands surrounded by lagoons and considered ideal for cruisers! The Bounty landed here in 1789 and the famous french painter, Paul Gauguin loved it here!
We set sail with our friends Jeff and Chari aboard Grasshopper. It was fun sailing with another boat. We took pictures of each other sailing and pretended to race (they passed us twice, once in the night during Craig and Jeff’s watch and neither saw it happen LOL!) We anchored at Marina Taina where we enjoyed meeting other cruisers who had crossed the Pacific during the “Puddle Jump”. To humble ourselves, we attended a “Mega Yacht” party. We watched dance rehearsals for an upcoming Polynesian Festival and attended a lecture (in french and english) about the canoes that race each year from Hawaii to Tahiti. We attended several polynesian dance shows including fire dance. Carol was thrilled to get “picked” at two shows to “learn” polynesian dance (well, thrilled at ‘one’ of the shows…not at the show where her sticky bra failed her and dropped to her knees!) Carol and Cheri (Grasshopper), and Diane (Sea Monkey) got dressed up and had a fun girl’s night out attending the “Miss Tahiti Election” (best part was the gowns made of real flowers and the bare chested tahitian men modeling black pearls!) We didn’t explore much of this island (except for the bus and cab rides into town) because of the mass number of people and our overloaded senses. We didn’t stay long, (the crowds made us anxious…it’s not what we came for) but we could see the island had lots of fun activities for the socially adept.
We left Papeete a day BEFORE the Puddle Jump annual Tahiti to Moorea sailing rendezvous race! Most of the fleet (other Puddle Jumpers) stayed to race, but we decided to get over to “Cooks Bay” and grab a good anchorage before they arrived (a huge event was planned for the following day in Cook’s Bay). We anchored in front a cute little church with a red steeple and grinned at our cleverness. The next day, we dined at the yacht club while the rest of the fleet arrived, thinking how lucky we were that we didn’t have to clamber for a good spot.
You can imagine our horror, when we returned to the boat to find it GONE! Looking around, we found her several feet away..only inches from a reef! Our anchor had dragged and Wind Cutter had drifted! This is the part of the story that reflects the awesome comradely sailors have! If it were not for the crew aboard Ruby Slippers, and the captain aboard “Alba”, Wind Cutter might have been reefed! Seeing that we were not on our boat, one man jumped aboard Wind Cutter and dropped a second anchor to stop her from floating into the reef while the other used his dinghy to motor Wind Cutter out of harms way! Craig and I were speechless and owe these men a great deed! This is the part of sailing that I love the most….it’s like a big family; everyone takes care of each other!
The day after Wind Cutter drifted away (and we safely re-anchored near Bali Hai hotel), we had an amazing day with the fleet! Canoe races, fire dances, rope pulling contests, coconut opening contests, traditional feast and dancing (and yes, more lessons lol).
The next day, we rented a car and toured the island of Moorea. This island is spectacular! Located ten miles west of Tahiti, it is eight nautical miles with two deep bays, Opunohu and Cooks bay (named after Captain Cook who arrived in 1769 aboard the Endeavour). What makes Moorea special is that it is not overly developed! There is one road around the island and several hiking trails. It is spotted with lush, green mountains and beautiful bays and beaches. The people are friendly and the streets are clean. I can see why it is a favorite honeymoon destination!
Well, that’s where we are so far! Future plans?
We hope to sail this week to Huahine, (in the Society Archipelago Islands), then Raiatea, Tahaa and Bora Bora
As I mentioned before, Craig’s hip is not doing well and we know he has to go back to the USA to get it fixed. I mentioned in my past blog about his father (who had a stroke). He is recovering but we are anxious to see him as well. We have decided to be in Bora Bora by the end of the month and make a decision by then.
Will we continue on this journey (Cook islands, Tonga, Fiji, Austrailia or New Zealand) or make a U turn and head towards Hawaii, and eventually home. I have to say, I never dreamed we would turn back. We sold our home. I gave up a job I loved. I don’t have a jacket anymore…. No matter what happens… I absolutely love this and do not regret doing it no matter what the future holds! I am hopeful we can continue (that we can put WInd Cutter somewhere safe so that we can fly home and get Craig’s hip fixed, and that his dad will continue to fully recover!) But, I love my husband and family more than sailing and want to do what is best for all of them.
Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers. You can’t always plan what you are going to do or where you are going to go, but you can plan to ride the waves of life with grace. I want God’s will for our lives…I know Craig does too.
I will keep you posted…
Update: We just got word that our main sail will not be ready to be shipped to us until the end of the month! We shouldn’t cross the Pacific without it…but if we are going towards Hawaii need to leave by then to avoid Alaskan storms…