Hot Bread Guy

5/30/17 continued.

We stop in to pick up our bread after 90 minutes but it’s not done. So we wait with the other customers.  Hot bread guy might be 25.  Shirtless with an apron from the waist down.  He could be the mayor.  Everyone must come to him for their bread.  (Photos later.  This internet connection will not deliver the bandwidth necessary for Hot Bread Guy!)  One patron waiting smokes cigarettes that he rolls from a package covered with skulls and the admonition “Fumé Tué” (smoke kills).  Half dozen locals set up a pleasant chatter.  I get some of their French.  Interestingly I understand islanders speaking French much better than people from France.  They speak more slowly maybe?  Some of the patrons collect 20 baguettes. He must have made 200. The local resorts no doubt like to serve fresh bread. This island runs on tourism and fishing.

We snag something else from the grocery. Then we walk towards the beach where we left the dingy. A guy in a pickup pulls up and offers us a lift. Turns out Serge works at a small resort just onshore from the boat. He suggests we visit his place and consider a tour/snorkel/BBQ. He drops us at the dinghy and I realize I have lost track of some of the groceries. Probably left behind. Serge insists on taking me back to the store to collect the items. And the store staff had them just like he told me they would. 🙂

I row us back to the boat in the dinghy I got from my friend Tom Hill (thank you Tom!) and we swim and enjoy a light dinner on Spill The Wine.

5/31/17

We row to shore for early lunch.  Find our way to Serge’s place Tikihau Village.  Great lunch and as good of internet access as I have seen in French Polynesia.  Not saying much eh?   Then back to the boat for swim, relax and attempt to get this blog updated through the straw of an internet connection we have here.  Be patient grasshopper….  🙂

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A Gentleman Never Sets Sail To Weather…

And I am revealed.  We ended up to weather.  Ay yi yi!

5/28/17

We’ve studied the tides and the weather. Today looks like we go at 130pm or so. Break down the dinghy. Stow loose items. Make water. Move fuel into the primary tank. Wind in the lagoon is fierce at times getting over 20 knots. Boats at anchor don’t love that. Front comes through with wind and rain. Then very quiet. Are we in the eye of a small storm? Perhaps. Wind comes back but more like 15 knots. Nancy asks me “Am I ever going to be sorry I did this crossing to Tahiti?” I wish I knew the answer to this. But I don’t. She does not have to cross. Our plans can change at our will. She decides to give it a go. 40 hours estimated time in transit. Hold on tight. We hoist anchor and head for the pass. Motoring upwind into stiff seas and wind. Making about 2 knots. I could have pushed it harder but nah. Still at 2000 rpm I’d usually be about 5 knots. Shows what a little headwind and waves can do.

Into the pass we go with a 2 or 3 knot current behind us as the tide finishes it’s ebb. Large standing waves greet us at the outer opening of the pass. Now that was more than I expected! Spill The Wine does not care. This is what she does. We escape the chaos on the outside of the pass and head downwind. 15 knots behind us and 6 foot rollers disappearing under the stern. This I think is what fair winds and following seas are all about. Spill The Wine is moving about but gently. Much more gentle than getting beat up by the seas and wind at anchor. Still it’s something to get used to. Nancy is fearless and settles down to assimilate the new rhythm.

We turn the corner and head west in the lee of Rangiroa. Easy seas and generous wind. As the sun goes down we get West of Rangiroa and are now facing the full weight of the swell. Worse yet it’s blowing 20, 25, sometimes 30. And the wind gets forward of the beam as we follow our course to Papeete. That’s the last place you want the wind in these conditions. The sea state is bad. I am not digging it and would not aspire to conditions like this. And this is quite toxic for Nancy. It would be presto Mal de Mer for a lot of people. My first thought was we could divert for Tikihau. But I decided that was a bad option as we would arrive in the middle of the night. As conditions deteriorate and Nancy feels absolutely no better I rethink. We are so far out now that if we head back to Tikehau I would only need to chart a vaguely inefficient course to get us there by dawn. We are 30 hours out from Papeete or 10 hours out from Tikihau. I don’t want to arrive any earlier than dawn to a strange place than that. So Tikehau becomes our Go.

5/29/17

I sail through the night.  Nancy is stable but not in a good place for sure.  It’s mostly downwind now so the ride improves.  I want to go slow so I shorten sail.  Really don’t want to arrive in the dark.  Still too fast.  Put the sails away.  Now making 4 kts with no sails at all.  Just the windage of the boat.  Dodger, solar panels and bimini canvas.  This will still get us there too early but ok, lets make it work.

On arrival I get set to run the pass. Great. All the lights are in the right place. Ready to go. But it’s 4am and damn dark. No good. So I furl the sails and let’s just drift and I can get a nap. It’s been a long night. Set my alarm for 45 minutes or so. When it rings we have not gone far. Our drift was less than a knot. Motor up and line up on the pass again. As I approach the pass I see a sailboat anchored to one side of the pass. What the heck. I’ll radio that guy and see if he’s listening. He is! Bit of a surprise at dawn. This turns out to be Jody on sailboat Strider from Mooloolaba AUS. He’s been to this island many times and explains that the strong easterly winds are causing a strong current to exit the pass 24/7. Until the winds settle it’s not going to be passable. He recommends anchoring next to Strider and waiting. Sounds like the path of least resistance to me. its been a long night and Nancy and I are beat.

Drop the anchor in 15 ft and it sets well. Boat hangs downwind from that in about 20 feet. Sea state on the lee or downwind shore of the island is so much nicer than what we’ve been experiencing. Walk in the park. And time for napping. After the sun comes up it becomes clear the pass is rowdy. Standing waves due to current are in the pass all day. And it’s still blowing 20 or more. But as anchorages go this is pretty smooth water. Very comfortable.

Jody invites me over for a tour of a weather forecasting program called PredictWind. I have it already but there is nothing like some guidance on a strange bit of software. It was hot enough that maybe some snorkeling would be good. It was. 🙂

Mid afternoon a 46 foot catamaran arrives. Tries to cross the tidal stream and as soon as her bows get into the current she gets immediately spun down current. They reconsider taking the pass and anchor.

Nancy and I spent a nice calm night here. Weather forecast predicts less wind tomorrow. We’ll see.

5/30/17

Mr Christian tells me that bout 9am there will be a high tide. That might blunt the current. Jody thinks the wind will moderate too. So that sounds like a good time to take the pass.

It was. We crossed the stream to set up an approach on the North margin of the pass. Decently deep there and just out of the max current. Just before we head in a catamaran is heading out. He is right in the middle of Max current. Looked like a heck of a ride! He reports 5 kts of current carrying him out.

In we go.  Strider goes first.  Spill The Wine is next.  We motor up against the flow on the margin of the pass.  Be patient and it works.  At times I was making as little as 0.5 kts and sometimes less! But we found our way into the lagoon after a maybe 30 minute transit.  Nice sail down the lagoon to the village of Tuherahera.  Great anchorage with good protection.

We split a leftover game hen for lunch and take the dinghy to shore. A resident gives us permission to leave our dinghy on their beach and tells us how to walk to town.

We find a grocery and get a few supplies. The cashier tells us where to get bread. We walk down to a park. There is a school with adults playing Polynesian guitar and adults and children singing. Really nice. A nice French couple clarifies the directions to the boulangerie. We find it and are told the loaves will be ready in 90 minutes. We visit the pier. Two teenagers are listening to French pop/rap. Every once in awhile they giggle no doubt when the lyrics get rude. A supply ship comes in while we watch. Hard to believe they stuffed this maybe 150 foot freighter up the little turbulent pass we just transited this morning. We learn later that it returns every week or two and the grocery stores (2 of them) stock up.

 

Keep your Big Green Egg Hot

5/27/17
BBQ chicken on the egg last night. Leftovers should be awesome! Today we are getting packed to make the crossing to Tahiti. About 200 miles. Slack tide should be about 1pm tomorrow which you want to make your way through the channel from the lagoon to the sea. Tiputa Passe is its name. And when the tide is running you would not want to put your boat through it. Current and standing waves.

Maintenance

5/25/17

Yesterday was sheer laziness and reading.  Those days are good too!  Today was laundry.  Sheets.  Pillowcases.  Shirts.  Shorts.  No socks.  🙂

You wash in salt water.  Rinse in salt water.  Then wring out and rinse in fresh water.  Wring out again and hang it all over the boat exterior and let it dry in the wind without any of it blowing away.  There may be better ways to do boat laundry, I just made this up.  It worked. Then I took me poor rusty bicycle down the road to the bank.  The only atm on the island is by the airport.  That done I went a kilometer further and checked out what might pass as a hardware store.  Still searching for solution to propane tanks with US fittings.  Closed.  2pm.  Something like siesta when a lot of things are closed mid day is going on here.  I need to get in sync with the local rhythm here.  That search can continue another day. 

I stopped at another store and the guy there worked his limited English, I worked my limited French, and he introduced me to some Polynesian vocabulary.  After I got across to him what I was up to propane wise (figuring out a way to fill US propane tanks from French Polynesia Butane tanks that have totally different fittings) he shook his head and said enjoy Papeete.  That is the capitol of French Polynesia on the island of Tahiti.  He seemed to think that was the only place I was likely to find the adapters necessary.  S’ok.  I’m not out of gaz yet!  I think I’ll get by. 

I was hot by the time I got back to the boat.  And the lagoon was just as happy to see me as Nancy was.  A hot salty man became a cool one.

Nancy in French Polynesia

5/20
The sun comes up every day at 5:30 am and sets at 5:30 pm. It seems to run backwards, until I get used to the sun’s arc across the north instead of the south. We spend our days not wearing much and not too occupied with activity. Mostly, we read. Once a day we go to shore for wifi, food, or just to be on land. After living in a condo more than 100 stairs above the street, I’m not getting much exercise here. It is 85 degrees, and so is the water. We drop into the lagoon when it gets too hot. There is usually a breeze. It rains occasionally, but never for long.

Everyone here is very friendly, greeting us with “Bonjour!” or “Ça va?”, even when they pass us on dinghies. My French is coming back to me, so it is easier to engage.

The boat has A LOT of food still on it – mostly beans (canned & dried). I’m told it will all have to be disposed of when we get to New Zealand, so I’m trying to be creative. The little grocery store has the basics, plus some lovely French delicacies. What vegetables they have are mostly frozen. We can’t figure out why they don’t grow them here. I really want a fresh tomato.

Living on the boat is easier than I expected. Mostly because I’m with Chris. We are both brown. Our hair is in a perpetual state of wind-blown – his is tipped blond. We have few needs or worries. It’s hard not to be happy. I can’t believe I’m really here.

I have a tendency to get terribly motion sick. Whenever I start feeling queasy, I take some medication we found in Mexico. After several days, I haven’t needed it anymore!

We are sitting in the cockpit drinking wine while Chris plays guitar. The stars are brilliant above us. I’m beginning to think I will try to sail with him to Tahiti instead of flying.

Rangiroa at Tiputa Pass anchorage

5/20/17

Today another supply ship. More of the same kind of supplies. Still no fresh food. The fresh veggies I am starting to think are the local Godot that everyone is perpetually waiting for that never comes.

Maybe the environment being so warm and humid makes it impractical to ship most fresh items. Just frozen and canned things survive the journey. Maybe this culture here just does not do fresh stuff like we are used to. The Marquesas were similar. Grocery stores there offered minimal vegetables and what they had was kinda sad. But the Marquesas had generous and fertile land available for agriculture. So the supply ship was not necessarily their only source. It’s a bit of a mystery.

5/21/17

We woke up this morning and the larger cruise ship is back. Maybe 400 passengers. I’m starting to think this boat is weekly. Frequently there are no boats at all at the aquarium. By mid morning there are 8. The demographic of this boat is interesting. Overwhelmingly couples in their 60s or 70s. Wearing the most unbecoming things to avoid the tropical sun and wandering around town looking lost. To be fair I’ve done my share of that kind of fish out of water wandering in strange places. But not with a hat That ugly for crying out loud!

Nancy and I head for the grocery. Still searching for those fresh veggies. We did score some red potatoes and a frozen duck breast. And the last two croissants in town!

Getting crowded. Time to leave town. We sail upwind which is towards the south end of the lagoon. I was thinking if we got further south the already mild seas would be even more so. Nancy is reading and she looks at me after a few hours and asks me if I notice anything unusual? “Well the most beautiful woman in the world is sailing with me in French Polynesia. That’s unusual!” I replied. Nancy offers “And she is not taking any seasickness medication and she feels just fine.” This is extremely unusual. Maybe living on the boat for a week or two made a difference. I hope it lasts forever.

We anchored on the shore of another uninhabited Barrier island. Still no sign of Gilligan. Smoked a large duck breast on the Big Green Egg. Served it with brown rice and French Wine by starlight. We’ve never had a better day? I’m running out of hyperbolic closings.

5/22/17

As peaceful spot like this we don’t want to leave. Getting a lot of reading in. Swimming. Being amazed at the environment. Took a walk on shore and gave Nancy a tour of how the dingy engine works. I was worried she would have a hard time starting a 9.9 hp engine. God help me I underestimated her again! Slow learner me.

5/23/17

We decided the cruise ship probably left the anchorage by now. So we sail back. Nice broad reach all the way. We passed a tiny island called Nao Nao. Very pretty but we declined going ashore. Lets just say it was popular with birds. Back at the anchorage and we are ready for groceries. At the store we score. Romaine lettuce. Celery. Tomatoes. These items were cold and on an unrefrigerated shelf. Which is to say the had been there for maybe 15 minutes. These are the first fresh green veggies we’d seen since we got to Rangiroa. Back on Spill The Wine Nancy made a fantastic green salad with beans.

Captain Chris Barry

Rangiroa

5/18/17

We stopped by the grocery today.  Did not expect much as the supply ship comes a few days.  So if they were out last week they still are.  Except for Eggs!  They had some so we stocked up.  Fair bit of swimming off the boat in the heat of the day.  In the middle of that a dingy comes along and suggests hosrdevours (which I can never spell!) at their boat Southern Cross at 5pm.  Bring your guitar.  And prepare to sing.  Great fun.  Richard , Phil and Carole were great hosts.  Retired people not acting their age. My favorite. Dr. Phil and his wife Carole just accomplished retiring from ophthalmology at Kaiser. Richard and Phil had been in a band together in medical school so many years ago. I offered a few pieces on my backpacker guitar. But Richard had a remarkable encyclopedia of music in his head. And everybody sang. Especially Nancy with her unnatural memory for lyrics. They left the next day but I expect to see them at the Puddle Jump Rendezvous on the island of Moorea, about 10 miles from Tahiti. Nancy and I went home before we ran them out of wine.  Very little was spilled….  🙂

5/19/17

Today I bent myself of getting acquainted with the batteries and charging scene.  I think something has been out of order for awhile and I have not been getting good information on my battery state.  I suspect undercharging since I left Mexico.  May need to equalize to get around sulfation that is known to be associated with undercharging.  That is another day’s project…  For now I think I have things under control.

And a supply ship came.  Yay!  The restaurants have been running out of food.  Pretty interesting.  Hundreds of islanders descended on the pier at the end of a dead end road. It was a bit of a cluster. All sorts of goods. Air conditioners, diapers, cases of canned things, 20 liter (5g) jugs of water, leaf blower, pallets of beer, pallets of butane, huge tanks of petrol, on and on. Most of it showed up in maybe 8×10 ft containers. Odd things people had ordered online perhaps. But the veggies that were rumored to be coming were not present. Oh that would be tomorrow’s boat….

5/15/17

Nice sail back east to Avatoru.  When we got there the chart marked some anchorages.  Um no.  Way too shallow, way too much current.  We picked a different spot.  I dingy to shore to see if there are eggs or yogurt.  Um no.  It’s Monday and the supply ship is due Friday.  Interesting way to run a railroad.  So we head back South to Tiputa pass anchorage.

5/16/17

Time to investigate the Aquarium.  Why not?  No one else is!  Short dingy ride to it.  Probably more fish than any other snorkeling spot I’ve seen.  Nancy wears a mask with yellow details.  The little yellow fish seem to like her perhaps as a result?   It’s a good day.  Dinner at a French restaurant deck overlooking the pass into the lagoon.  Even from there we can see many fish and many sharks.   And the menu is… Fish!  It’s what’s for dinner.

5/17/17
Boat chores in the morning.  Swimming and a trip to shore in the afternoon.  No aquarium.  Medium cruise ship brings 140 people and the aquarium is crowded. They left just before sunset.  Bean salad chez Spill The Wine followed by some guitar closes the day.

5/14/17

Time to snorkel off Gilligan’s island.  There is a pass on each side of the island.  So that means current.  But off the shore facing the Lagoon there is not much current and a cool reef.  Then we hiked around the island and out to the reef that is swallowing the surf.  It’s like Mars.  Back to STW for dinner.  The wind is up so I reset the anchor to give us more shelter from the island.  The stars come out seriously.  No moon yet and few clouds.  Fascination with the stars does not seem to wear off.

5/15/17

Nice sail back east to Avatoru.  When we got there the chart marked some anchorages.  Um no.  Way too shallow, way too much current.  We picked a different spot.  I dingy to shore to see if there are eggs or yogurt.  Um no.  It’s Monday and the supply ship is due Friday.  Interesting way to run a railroad.  So we head back South to Tiputa pass anchorage.

There goes the neighborhood

5/10 -11 [Wifi access is only periodic here, so no telling when we can post updates!]

Three flights, four time zones and nearly 24 hours later, I (and my suitcase!) finally reached Rangiroa. Chris & I agreed immediately that the time apart had been TOO LONG. I saw Lynn only long enough to say “hi” & “goodbye”, as she was flying out on the same plane.

It’s beautiful – just like every postcard you’ve ever seen. The water is a shade of blue I thought could only exist with a filter, and it’s clear all the way to the bottom.

I want to explore the local area. My brain is still in Spanish mode. I need to dredge up my French. You can buy sarongs and pearls. There seem to be quite a few restaurants, and so far, the food is great – especially the bread. Chris reports the local wine isn’t very good, but French wine is available.

5/12 – 13

We spent a couple of nights at anchor. In the morning, two cruise ships arrive. We sail across the “lagoon” about 15 miles to another side and anchor off some motus. Only one other boat nearby. No one on shore. No Wifi. Just us.

At night, we sit on deck and look at more stars than I knew were out there. We have no place else to be until 6/20.

Catching up

5/8/17

The wind has been East or maybe SE since we arrived in southern hemisphere. Now it has shifted North. And that works for Spill The Wine. Making good time.

Just as we approach Rangiroa a squall blows through. Nice to arrive with a clean boat! Tide info predicts we are on mild flood. As we enter the pass there are moderate breaking seas to the east. Smooth to the west side of the channel. So we go west. 2-3 knots of current push us through the pass at a good clip. In a twinkling we are in the Lagoon. Magic. We round a small islet and turn west. Anchor down and relax. Nick and Taylor dingy over and share some local knowledge and a cold IPA I bootlegged in from Seattle. More boat settling and catch up on sleep.

5/9/17

Biker day. We bring my bike to shore and rent one for Lynn. And off to Avatoru. It’s about 6 miles. Goes right by the airport. Rained a bit. Seems like rain 3x daily is how it comes on Rangiroa. But the rain is 86 degrees just like the water. Wear a hat to keep the rain out of your eyes!

Avatoru has a pass through the reef similar to the one we transited. They also have a Tahiti Air office where Lynn went to buy her ticket to Tahiti. Air from there to US had to be arranged from the US. We have not found reliable Internet here. Too close to the end if the earth I’m thinking. Dragons must be here somewhere. I’d like to see one before we fall off the edge!

5/10/17

Today will be aquarium for snorkeling and then finish cleaning the boat. Nancy arrives tomorrow yay! She will need to catch up on sleep from her long voyage on three planes then meet the aquarium. Lynn flies out on the same plane. She was great crew crew and gets invited back.

¡Hasta Luego!

The low season is creeping up on La Cruz. The festivals have passed. Gringos are heading to cooler, less humid places, – or like Chris, the South Pacific, – and the town belongs more to the Mexicans. Flowers are really starting to come out, as are the flies. There are clouds where it’s usually clear. And the pool is GREEN.  ew.

I’m organizing myself to travel tomorrow: Cleaning out the fridge. Getting laundry done. Saying “good-bye” to people & places I’ve gotten to know. Putting my temporary home in order. I know we will come back to this place sometime. No telling when, at this point. But I have LOTS of memories to take with me to Rangiroa, where my love waits for me. That makes leaving much easier.

Motus and Atolls

5/7/17

Day is winding down.  Sunset in an hour then watches begin.  Passing by the north side of Manihi island as we make our way to Rangiroa.  100 miles to go.

Our present speed should see us there at 2pm local. This will be in time for high tide. And that is both important and a good thing. There is a pass that allows you through the break in the reef.  If you are there on the outgoing tide its some serious upstream work.  Even with the current behind you on a flood tide you can get into trouble with too much current.  The “islands” are ring-like entities that have lagoons in the center.  And the lagoons can take up 95% or so of the area defined by the reef.  I think this is a common arrangement for atolls.   Unusual for sure.  It’s like they are hollow.  See what Google Earth can show you regarding these things.  Now what is the difference between a motu and an atoll?  This is the Tuamotu archipelago.   Not having Internet I’ll find out about this later… 🙂

Moon comes up and it’s big.  Has a celestial bright thingy just by it. This would be Jupiter says Mr. Christian. Moon is great for spotting squalls in the distance.  Radar helps too.  Not that you can really run from these things,  but it’s best not to be caught with too much sail up.  We are motoring as there has been no wind of consequence. But the wind is finally filling in as my jib-I’ve-been-fishing-for-wind-with is now filling in and pulling.  One thing about motoring is it does make our speed more predictable.  Especially useful here as there is no value in showing up to Rangiroa just after sun set when the current is starting to exit the Lagoon.  Best get there on time I’m thinking.  With luck tonight will be our last night at sea for awhile.

STW Spa Day

5/7/17

This morning Lynn announced that Spill The Wine was getting a spa day.  Need to clean her up to get her ready for Nancy who will be joining shortly.  We had some laundry done at Hiva Oa,  but today we discovered an unfortunate lot of clothing that had been seawatered. That’s what happens when you leave ports open with high seas.  Which is to say it’s not the first time.  So that’s done.  Bunch of things put away.  More to do but shipshape is within sight!

I went off watch at 9pm.  It was quite cloudy.  Now back on at midnight and the clouds are gone.  And every night the moon gets bigger.  I can use the light.  Not that there are any other boats out here.   Big Empty.  Not complaining about anything.  No clouds means no squalls.

Banana pancakes are on the horizon.  Because all the bananas ripen at once eh?  Don’t come down here if you don’t like bananas.

Beyond pancakes and cleaning is planning the arrival to Rangiroa.  No night arrival. Mid-day would be optimal.  So need to figure out if we need to go faster or slower to time the arrival.  And we have all day to do that figuring.  I will consult with the wind…

Cinqo de Mayo

5/5/17 1830 (630pm)

I wanted to arrive Rangiroa on the 9th and I think we are on track for that.  Barely a cloud in the sky tonight.  The moon lights up the neighborhood nicely.  After it sets the stars should sing.

Lynn ended up with a sore throat. That’ll sit on your good time.  We start watches at 6pm and she has gone down to sleep until 9pm.   But sore throat did not stop her from making awesome eggplant Parmesan.  Food on a boat is the best! We both got a lot of reading done today.  Amazing what happens when nothing is broken.

Nice 11 knot breeze all day.  Main and jib deliver 5-6 knots all day.  Will it last all night?  I’ll ask the Southern Cross….