Friday, September 28, 2012

Aitutaki, Cook Islands

September 28, 2012
Aitutaki, Cook Islands
Anchorage Position: 18°51.9141 S    159°48.0349 W
Yachts Pincoyo, LightSpeed and Three Little Birds moored in the Aituttaki Lagoon.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cook Islands

September 24, 2012
Aitutaki, Cook Islands

We're enjoying our stay in Aitutaki. Lots to keep us busy with $20NZD a day scooter rentals, new friends and lots to see. Just got connected to the internet today, so pictures and stories to follow.

That's it for now.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Chugging along

September 21, 2012
Underway position at 1330UTC: 18°04'S 157°34'W

It's 6AM local and I'm on watch for sunrise at the start of our third day at sea. Our cat 'Shell' just jumped on the navigation desk and looks as sleepy as I feel as she curls up to nap. No such luxury for me as I need to keep a lookout for hazards like whales, ships and debris. The wind has gone on us, our light air spinnaker now useless in the non-existent breeze. The latest weather GRIB show more of the same for next 24 hours as a 'trough' becomes the dominant feature for several hundred miles of ocean.

Major bummer as the trough is near stationary the next 24 hours, so we can either sit here becalmed or motor to clear of this patch of windless ocean. The progress will be costly in many respects beyond monetary. Firing up the engine is always a bummer, the persistent drone of the engine drowning out most other sounds like the rapture of a few visiting sea birds or the high pitch squeal of playful dolphins. For now we'll have to keep a sharp lookout for the teltail blow of whales and visually spot groups of feeding birds as the engine chugs along.

In terms of reliability what would you choose? The complication of a internal combustion engine relying on hundreds of individual moving parts or the silent and eloquent simplicity of two sails. Sure our engines are nearly new and super reliable, but a sail only requires needle and thread to run indefinitely. And what of fuel? By the time we clear this windless patch we'll be running low with the next possibility for fuel some 700nm distant at tiny island nation of Nuie. Back in the days of real sailors we'd simply be becalmed until the wind filled back in. Even after 7 years away from the 'Go, Go, Go Rat Race' of life ashore and the inherent cost of motoring, the prospect of drifting about aimlessly waiting for the wind still has less appeal than chugging along.

It'll be a good day for fishing.

That's it for now.

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tears for Maupihaa

September 20, 2012
Underway position at 0800UTC: 16°56'S 154°36'W

Our stay at Maupihaa was so amazing. When it came time to say Bon Voyage it was lump in the throat, tears time. By far our favorite stop in our 5 month visit to French Polynesia. A huge thanks to Hio, Puaiti, Faimano and Adrian for the making us part of their amazing island family. It was also great to spend time with Harry and Christine of s/v Moyo.

Snorkeling outside the pass was the best in French Polynesia as well... Fakarava South pass was a close second, but the remote nature of the Maupihaa combined with the multitude of sharks, rays, turtles, rays, ship wreck, max depth of 20-25 meters in the channel and super clear water made this tops.

Feeling the pressure of the impending cyclone season we are moving on this weather window as the next system looks to be a monster with a 1036 High forecast and a nasty low to boot.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Maupihaa - The makings of a perfect island.

September 18, 2012
Maupihaa SE Anchorage: 16°49.8138'S 153°55.8496'W

So what makes a perfect island?

Sparkling waters lapping shores of silky white sand? Sunny skies and a gentle warm breeze? Two perfectly spaced palm trees to hang a hammock? Solitude? Travel the world on a boat, perfect beaches, palm trees and crystal clear waters are easy to find. Frankly, they become sort of boring... just another perfect beach, one of thousands.

It's people that make for rich memorable experiences. A warm welcoming people greeting visitors with open arms. A people who reject the false happiness of conspicuous consumption, choosing a life of harmony as stewards to one of mother earth's few remaining pristine ecosystems. These are the people of Maupihaa.

Our days are truly rich here on Maupiihaa with so much love from our local hosts. Fishing together, cooking together, eating together, playing, dancing, sharing stories, weaving palm frond costumes, small fix-it projects, hunting for lobsters in the wee hours of night. Sailing out the pass for a several hour fishing expedition with 12 people aboard, learning local songs and basic Tahitian. Gathering on the beach for a game of volleyball, sitting in a circle stringing shell necklaces or singing along to island songs accompanied by Ukulele or Guitar. Being part of an island family. Being in the moment. Making memories of a lifetime. Never wanting to leave. This is our experience with Maupihaa. This is a perfect island.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Maupihaa Coconut Crab and Lobster breakfast

September 11, 2012
Anchorage Position: 16°46.6677'S 153°57.0339'W
Maupihaa, Society Islands, French Polynesia, South Pacific

We joined Adrian and her two daughters Faimano 23, Puaiti 21 and son Hio 24 for an amazing breakfast of Lobster, Coconut crab, fresh coconut doughnuts and Kathy's contribution of a fresh loaf of banana bread. Absolutely an incredible spread with more crab and lobster than we could eat at one sitting. Unlike the for profit meals at Anse Amyot, Toau in the Touamotu, this was a genuine show of island hospitality and a reminder that few a pearls of true South Pacific hospitality remain on the fringe of French Polynesia. We reciprocated the kindness with gifts of a sprouting tray and 30lbs of organic sprouting seeds. Kathy gave a lesson on the spouting process and the health benefits of fresh wholesome sprouts. Later the girls presented Kathy with another beautiful shell necklace, this on an extraordinary flower shape constructed of stunning cowrie shells and nearly the size of a large saucer.

To put the remoteness of Maupihaa in context consider it's location near the middle of the Pacific Ocean, lack of an airstrip, non-existent communications links to the outside world, only 12 people and a single supply ship every eight months.

Hio took us for a walk across the motu where we skirted the edge of a mile long rookery of thousands of Terns. Amongst the low scrub with a tenuous grip on the hostile shoreline huge numbers of spotted Tern eggs and fledgling chicks rested under the watchful eye of the wheeling parents aloft. Hio showed off his finely honed skill of spotting a fresh egg vs a ready to hatch visual twin based on scuff marks on the thin veil of sandy soil. With so many sea bird eggs available it's easy to see why the locals don't bother with domesticated chickens.

Today we're taking some of the local guys on an offshore fishing expedition outside the pass in search of Tuna, Mahi Mahi or Wahoo. So far it looks like Hio (Northern motu), Kevin (North central motu) and Mike (South central motu) will be joining us. It sounds like they also want to do some spear fishing which could get interesting.

Like our time anchored at the Tuamotu atoll of Raroia we have enough sharks circling the boat to make us think twice before jumping in the water.

That's it for now.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Magic Maupihaa

September 9, 2012
Anchorage Position: 16°46.6677'S 153°57.0339'W
Maupihaa, Society Islands, French Polynesia, South Pacific

Sailor specifics:
Entering the Maupihaa lagoon pass at 8:45AM (Passe Taihaaru Vahine) located on the NW side of the atoll we observed a seaward center channel location near 16°46.9'S 153°58.6'W. Despite several days of SE to E wind at 20-25+ knots and a ESE ground swell of 3.5M we observed the outflow current in Passe Taihaaru Vahine to be 2.5-3 knots. With Kathy on the bow watching for hazards we utilized LightSpeeds exceptional manouverability and speed under power of nearly 10 knots to quickly and easily negotiated the short pass into the lagoon.  Less manouverable, slower or single engine vessels cold come to grief here in less than ideal sea, wind, current or visibility conditions.

Early morning light conditions were less than optimal with near 100% overcast skies, but we could still easily identify the pass by the outflow current and abrupt water color change at the sharp coral edges.

Our 104nm overnight sail from Maupiti to Maupihaa was a bit rough with 3.5 meter ESE swells on our port quarter. We both were feeling a little seasick which is typical after so many weeks of ultra calm anchorages.

I'd been dreaming about the possibility of visiting Maupihaa for weeks. The guide book's mention of a in frequently visited atoll with narrow technical reef pass  perfectly fit our criteria for an 'Off the beaten path' destination. We've only been here half a day, but Maupihaa is clearly measuring up as a idyllic last vestige of the Society Islands.

Shortly after arriving in the Maupihaa lagoon we anchored in NE corner near the first habitation we could see on the shore. Before long two local girls visited s/v LightSpeed in a small skiff. We welcomed Faimano and Puaiti aboard and were eager to have them identify a fish we'd caught and it's edibility in regards to potential ciguatoxin. We offered half the fish to Faimano and Puaiti and when Kathy pulled out the fillet knife the girls insisted on filleting the fish. (Note:  The fish was a Black Jack [Trevalli family] and was fine to eat we had several over ten days in Maupilla).

After a short nap we headed to shore to where Faimano and Puaiti and their mother Adrian greeted us on the beach with fresh drinking coconuts and adorned us with sea shell leis. Wow! Incredible island hospitality. Then a tour of the family's very modest home and fledgling garden to which we hope to contribute some soil enriching ideas and possibly some seeds.

Faimano and Puaiti and their brother Hio are for both lobster and coconut crabs tonight and have invited us to join them for breakfast ashore at 8AM. Lobster and Coconut crab for breakfast! It's good to get off the beaten path!

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Surprise attack

Waiting for weather to sail West

September 8 ,2012
Maupiti, French Polynesia

Waiting for weather to sail West. 
This snip from the NOAA WW3 (wave model) we simply call this a  'Wave GRIB' or 'WW3' (GRIdded Binary).  This GRIB shows Easterly winds at 20 knots and East South East swell at 3.2 meters.  

This snip from the NOAA GFS (General Forecast System model) we simply call this a  'GRIB' or 'GFS'  This GRIB gives an idea of the larger pressure systems at work which is helpful in planning a longer voyage.

Having lots of fun in Maupiti... a miniature version of Bora Bora less the tourists.

That's it for now.

Maupihaa Mopelia special delivery

It's been a while since we've done a special delivery see: (Chief William gets a ride to Port Villa).  But, we are always eager to help out.  So when a local man approached s/v LightSpeed in a outrigger canoe and asked if we'd deliver some supplies to the atoll of Maupihaa some 100nm to the West of Maupiti.  We were happy to oblige.  A few hours later the man returned with a huge 200 liter water barrel, several heavy boxes, 50kg of rice and a full size mattress for special delivery aboard s/v LightSpeed to Maupihaa. 

The exact spelling of the islands name could be Maupihaa, Mopelia, Maupelia, Mopihaa or Maupihoa depending on whom you ask.  All the more suiting for a atoll on the frontier of French Polynesia with a sketchy pass and population of only around 10. 

Since arriving in Tahiti I have been less than enthused with the tourist centric core islands of French Polynesia after being spoiled yet again by the wild Marquesas and Tuamotu.  For over a month have been dreaming about a wild side of the Society islands.  The unfettered Maupihaa with it's dangerous, weather sensitive narrow pass and miniscule population whom largely live off the land as they harvest Copra (coconut meat).

 Overview of Mauphiaa or Mopelia
Close up of the pass at Mauphiaa thanks to Google earth and Digital Globe.

Hiking to the Summit of Maupiti and a look at the Maupiti Pass

 Dave and Kathy half way up Maupiti, French Polynesia.
Kathy makes here way up a more technical section of rock.
Jose, Kirin, Kathy and Russel take a break on a ledge of the ancient volcanic plug.

A view of the infamous Maupiti pass.  Even with  several days of 20 knot winds and 3.5 meter SE swell the pass remained open for business. 
Crews of s/v Moon Walker, s/v Capstres and s/v LightSpeed on the near summit of Maupiti. 

Near the summit of Maupiti

Maupiti one of the most Westerly island of French Polynesia is a mini Bora Bora less the blight of tourism fueled development.   Kathy and Dave of s/v LightSpeed take a photo op near the summit of Maupiti.  Below a cluster of yacht bask in the sparkling waters wait favorable weather to sail West. 

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Island fun

 Dave takes a Hobie tri sailing kayak for a spin in Bora Bora.  A big thanks to Colin of s/v Segue (Chris White Atlantic 55' sailing catamaran) for hosting a day sail around Bora Bora to swim with giant Manta Rays.
Cat pad for mouse.  Our cat Shell loves to lounge on LightSpeed's navigation desk.
 Approach to Bora Bora
 Cruisers night out at Bora Bora's infamous Bloody Mary restaurant.
 Bloody Mary Feast
 Dave trims the main on the the Atlantic 55 s/v Segue as we sail the lagoon of Bora Bora.  
 Happy hour on LightSpeed

 Innumerable perfect tropical flowers at every turn on Maupiti.
Idyllic island home on Maupiti