Monday, August 20, 2012

Maiao, Society Islands - Off the beaten path.

August 20, 2012
Maiao, Society Islands South Pacific aka Tubuai Manu, Society Islands
Position (tied to quay): 17°38.2275 S 150°38.2229 W
 Panoramic view looking out pass .

Truth be told there are few islands in the South Pacific infrequently visited by yachts these days. Finding warm smiles of greeting and truly authentic experiences is getting tough when you have 400-500? yachts plying a well worn route through the islands each year. Don't get me wrong, the vast majority of these cruisers are super cool travelers, but inevitably the welcome wears thin in the most traveled locals. It could just be me, or perhaps I've broken my own cardinal rule that states: Thou shalt not repeat a trip and expect it to be as good the second time. But, it seems like most of French Polynesia is less friendly this time around. It's been six years since my last visit so 6 X 450 yachts per year is 2700 yacht visits so it's easy to see why locals might not be so warm and welcoming after thousands and thousands of language challenged camera toting visitors invade their small communities.

So getting off the beaten path in the tourism centric Society Islands was not even something that seemed possible until I started to research Maiao island yesterday afternoon. We'd been enjoying many of Moorea's many outstanding anchorages while we waited for wind to sail NW to Huahine, but the wind was not cooperating and so I was looking at the weather chart and noticed Maiao aka Tubuai Manu island lying 50nm to the West. With the light Southerly winds we could easily sail West so I googled Maiao and got close to zero results aside from a brief mention in Lonely Planet and one cloudy goggle earth satellite image. I scoured all the cruising guides aboard and found only brief mention of Maiao. The Google earth satellite image had me interested and so we decided to give it a shot. If we could some how spend a night at Maiao we could potential score an amazing off the beaten path experience and break the overnight sail from Moorea to Huahine into two long day sails.

Winds were around 10-15 out of the South making for a nice fast sail to toward Ile Maiao aka Tubuai Manu which is just 50nm South of West from Moorea. With seas running 2 meters out of the SSW and 15 knots out of the South we found the small slot in the reef easily as it has two channel markers. Low concrete sea-walls protect a tiny dredged basin headed with a small concrete wharf. There is precious little room to maneuver once inside the basin and we were certainly glad to have the enhanced maneuverability of twin engines. When we entered the slot in the coral reef strong currents steamed off the sea walls threatening to first drive us aground on the shoals to port then starboard. I approached the pass like I do ripping off a band-aid and quickly gunned the engines to minimize our exposure to the strong currents. Once inside it was time to slow quickly and get turned around so we could med-moor to the quay. With the South winds blowing on our beam the help of a few local fishermen securing our stern lines was greatly appreciated. Once secured I set a second bow anchor from the dinghy for added insurance.

The locals were all smiles... exactly the reason we ventured off the beaten path. Within minutes we were introducing ourselves to a gather of locals and soon enjoying a smile and laugh filled chat with two local women who spoke a little english. Before long the women had us drinking fresh coconuts while THEY took pirtures of US! It's safe to say they don't get many visitors here. We enjoyed getting to know about the island and it's 400 inhabitants. Perfect!

C-Map charts show Passe Avarei 0.3nm to the ENE (68 degrees) of it's actual position, but with the channel markers the pass is easy to find. Depths along side the quay are in the neighborhood of ~4-5' with the basin showing ~8' over sand and coral rubble at low water. A supply boat is due to arrive tomorrow, Tuesday at 1:30PM so we'll need to clear out before the ship arrives.

Our sailing catamaran s/v LightSpeed is 42' x 23' x 3' draft. With extremely careful placement in a no wind situation there is theoretical room for 3 boats our size med-moor to the quay if they rafted together. However, in real world circumstances, if another boat was already at the quay it would be prudent to evaluate the situation with a dinghy before deciding to sail on or attempting to bring another boat into the basin.

Swimming with Humpback whales!

August 19, 2012
Moorea,  Society Islands South Pacific

Video of swimming with two Humpback whalesGetting close was absolutely exhilarating and as the second whale in the video does a barrel roll and  we were eye to eye for moment.  So cool! Despite being 40' long and weighing 25 tons these creatures move with incredible grace and precision.

In the video a clip below I added a few seconds of swimming with large Manta... this was a different day, but a nice way to fill out this short video clip.   Maybe someday when we get some good Internet we can upload all the HD original video and high res photos we have aboard.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Catch of the Day

We caught this beautiful 41" Mahi Mahi today 15 miles off Tahiti.

Hike aound Mt Rotui

August 15, 2012
Cooks Bay, Moorea French Polynesia South Pacific

When headed ashore in Cooks bay there are two landings that work pretty well.  If you're going to the Bali Hai for the weekly Wednesday night dinner and Tahitian dance show it makes sense to tie to their seawall which they kindly allow cruisers to access free of charge.  The only problem is a lack of a secure point to lock up the dinghy which may be OK for short visits, but for a late night out at a nearby restaurant like the tasty pizza place just down the road, this could be risky.  The other option is super convenient to the well stocked supermarket at the head of the bay.  Early morning runs for fresh baguettes are made easy by landing at the small dock at the head of Cooks Bay near the 'Snack' adjacent to the supermarket. The dinghy can be securely locked to the dock pilings for longer outing and the 'Snack' serves up hand scooped ice cream for 200XPF which is a pretty good deal in French Polynesia.

Point A is the dinghy landing at the head of Cooks Bay and B is the head of Opunohu bay.

For this particular outing we had no real plan besides getting off the boat to stretch our legs and burn some calories.  Not twenty steps from the dinghy we had a single scoop of tasty vanilla ice cream in hand as we headed up the road directly across from the supermarket.  This little traveled road winds between pineapple fields and steadily heads uphill for a few kilometers offering a decent view of Cooks Bay before heading mostly downhill toward the turn off to Belvedere lookout at 5.5km.  Having already made the walk to Belvedere the week before we decided to make a loop around Mt Rotui, so we headed down toward Opunohu Bay where we picked up the main road that follows the water.  The road has a decent shoulder for walking, but there are more than a few folks who seem set on dispelling the concept of  'island time' where everyone just takes their time. From the head of Opunohu back to the head of Cooks bay is 8.5km for a total of 14.1km or 8.7 miles.  We made the circuit in 3.5 hours with a few brief stops.  On the loop there are several restaurants you could stop at for lunch or time your trip for a stop at the Rotui juice factory to sample locally made juices and liquors.

On my last sail through the South Pacific in 2006 I climbed to the 990 meter summit of Mt. Rotui.  Click for link to summit photo  As I recall that was a fairly demanding 6 hour round trip.

That's it for now.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Taking a Pet to New Zealand on your sailboat.

Our 1 year old cat Shell helps plot our course to New Zealand.

Taking a pet to New Zealand is complicated, and requires significant per-departure tasks that must be completed 6 months prior to arrival in New Zealand. 

Great Link to New Zealand Biosecurity page concerning Dog and Cats arriving on a yacht.

We started our research into the New Zealand regulations pet importation regulations in June while anchored in the Marquesas. Our thinking at the time was that with 5 months remaining before our arrival in New Zealand we'd have no trouble understanding and satisfying the many requirements. Diving into the details we immediately found that our cat Shell, despite being routinely vaccinated was no where near ready for New Zealand.

First off your pet needs an ISO certified microchip for vaccinations to be considered compliant. Simply, the chip must be implanted before the vaccinations and any vaccinations before the chip are not valid. The real kicker here is the 6 month waiting period required after a compliant rabies vaccination. Since Shell didn't have a microchip her existing rabies vaccination was invalid and the clock wouldn't start ticking until she had a microchip and then another Rabies shot. We immediately looked into finding a veterinarian in the Marquesas. It took some searching on the internet and a few walks around Nuka Hiva over the course of several days before we fully exhausted all possibility of finding a veterinarian in the there.

Timing was now the real issue as the closest veterinarian was in Papeete, Tahiti and our plan was to linger as long as possible in the Tuamotu. At this point we started to consider other cruising options for the season. We looked at sailing south to the Forties and then over to Chile, but that's a long and likely nasty trip. We looked at sailing to Hawaii, but their pet import regulations are equally strict and the waiting period after the rabies blood titre test, is a minimum 4 months, so this would not work too well with cyclone season. We are loathe to rush across the Pacific to the Marshall Islands as we'd skip over too many great places. Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia were too risky due to Cyclones. And only New Caledonia has a lift capable of hauling a catamaran with LightSpeeds 23'-4" beam for storage. But, we couldn't haul the boat with the pet cat aboard as that would be considered 'landing' the cat. All the options had major issues... this is why you need to complete preparations BEFORE crossing the Pacific with your pet aboard.

Again, in our case we needed a chip for 'Shell' and then start over on her vaccinations. Three weeks after the Rabies vaccinations you can go to step 2 which is to take a blood sample for a Rabies titration test and send it to Kansas City or Paris (who knows how to send refrigerated blood samples reliably from Tahiti half way across the globe, we do know this can be done from Panama or Mexico). Then IF and when you get the results of the Rabies titre you can start the NZ importation application, BUT the soonest you can start the minimum 10 day quarantine in NZ is 6 months AFTER the Rabies vaccination.

Good veterinarians are available in Tahiti, so if like us you need to get the process started you can do it, but it won't be cheap to haul a French vet out to the boat as we did. The quick house call cost $225USD for three shots and the microchip. Ooh La La.

The good news about New Zealand is that you can keep the pet aboard for the duration of your stay in NZ, up to a maximum of 6 months, IF and only IF you moor in Opua or Auckland, take a mooring (no docks allowed) and pay for weekly inspections by the NZ Biosecurity. Any boat movements, even shifting moorings require advance approval, so forget about actually cruising while in NZ.

Our hybrid plan is to quarantine 'Shell' aboard the boat while we swing on a mooring in Opua, New Zealand. Once we get settled we'll hire a veterinarian to come out to the boat and draw blood for the rabies titration test and then it will just be a matter of completing the MAF pet import paperwork and waiting for the 6 months to pass since 'Shell' got her microchip and rabies shot in Tahiti. When the 6 months have passed we can then choose to import 'Shell' by having her transported to a quarantine facility near Auckland for a minimum of 10 days and then when released from Kitty Prison, Shell will be a Kiwi cat. We estimate the quarantine to cost $1000 plus transportation to the quarantine facility plus the boat visits by Biosecurity plus the boat visits by a veterinarian plus the blood titration plus who knows what else to total around $2000USD. So, maybe we just continue to quarantine 'Shell' aboard LightSpeed for the duration of our visit to New Zealand.

So, now the question is if we sail up to to Fiji with our NZ certified cat and then back down to New Zealand do we need to repeat the process?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Marina Tahina- Thinking about where to spend Cyclone season.

August 11, 2012
Marina Tahina mooring at: 17-34.97S 149-37.32W

Lots of discussion about where we'll be sailing next. We've been looking pretty hard at alternates to New Zealand for cyclone season due to the complications of taking our pet cat 'Shell'.

I'm working on a post to summarize the process of taking a pet to New Zealand aboard a private yacht.

Tonight we're meeting up with the crews of two other boats headed to Hawaii with pets aboard so maybe we'll learn a few new insights.

That's it for now.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Tahiti X 2 Maket and Duty Free

August 10, 2012
Tahiti- Marina Taina mooring field.

I'm pretty sure I mentioned this previously, but all the moorings on the North side of Marina Taina have been FREE as of late.  Apparently, the marina is having some issue with their insurance company and the new moorings and since the new moorings are not yet insured the Marina is not charging rent.  We sure aren't complaining.  But, users beware as some of the moorings may have issues.  One we tied up to on our last visit was definitely compromised as many of the strands of rope had parted near the large concrete anchor. 

Yesterday was exceedingly productive with the rebuild of the watermaker pump and a repair to a loose connection on the headsail furler.  The watermaker pump head on our Spectra Catalina 300 water maker started to leak so I installed the spare which was more involved than it might sound.  As for the furler ours is a Profurl and one of the joints on the lower section of the foil was showing a sizable gap.   The set screw that holds the sections together had stripped-out threads so I tapped two new holes and installed machine screws.  This is a semi-permanent fix except for the fact that the top end of the furler will not slide below the screws making for a more dificult job when loweing the jib.

Today we took the bus downtown and did lots of walking to an fro.  At the marine store we found a few items we could use, but nothing we could afford except a few fish hooks we truely needed.   Then it was off to the market for some fresh fruits and lunch then to the Kim Fa store to buy a few wines to taste test. When we check out of French Poly we can buy 1/2 liter of wine per person per day of passage to the next country at Duty Free prices.  This is a good deal, but so far the wines we opened tonight aren't so good.

It's super windy, like 25-30 knots in the anchorage so we raised the dinghy and are calling it a night.

That's it for now. 

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Cooks Bay, Moorea - Sailing for Tahiti

August 8, 2012
Cooks Bay, Moorea French Polynesia South Pacific

We'll be sailing back down to Papeete, Tahiti today. We still have a few errands like filling our propane bottles, grocery shopping and picking up paperwork from our CMA CGM Papeete Yacht Agent. The last few days here in Cooks Bay have been enjoyable with nice walks up the neighboring valleys and convenient shopping for fresh baguette at a nice sized grocery store at the head of the bay. Life is good.

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Monday, August 06, 2012

Pacific Tropical Cyclone Track visualization tool

I took a few screen snips of Cyclone tracks in the South Pacific 1969 to 2010 via an interactive tool found at

The tool allows selection of a date ranges and distances from either a major city in the South Pacific or user keyed GPS coordinates. Additional Information is available by hovering over a track and or double clicking a track to download even more info.   Very cool and by far the best South Pacific Cyclone track visualization tool I've found.

81 Cyclones within 500nm of Vava'u, Tonga 1969-2010.

9 Cyclones within 50nm of Vava'u, Tonga 1969-2010 
 90 Cyclones within 500km of Latoka, Fiji 1969-2010.

8 Cyclones within 50km of Latoka, Fiji between 1969-2010.

 8 Cyclones within 50km of Savu Savu, Fiji between 1969-2010.

Cooks Bay Moorea

August 6, 2012
Anchorage position: 17°30.3092 S 149°49.3357 W

Yesterday, we started the day with the idea of sailing back to Tahiti. This idea was soon a litteral blowout when we pulled out of the Opunohu bay anchorage and found 20-25 knots of wind on on the nose... Tahiti would have to wait. Hoping for a fresh Tuna we deployed our lines and bashed the few miles into nearby Cooks Bay, Moorea. Once inside Cooks the wind disappeared completely as we lay in the protection of the steep surrounding peaks.

We made a round of the anchorage to meet the neighbors and make dinner plans with s/v Tanga with Tom and Monica aboard. Pizza ashore was superb and a great treat.

That's it for now.

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Saturday, August 04, 2012

Belveder overlook

 We took a little walk to the Belvedere overlook on the Island of Mooreat by following the road at the head of Opunohu Bay about 4km up the valley.  Near kilometer 3 you can stop for a refreshing ice cream at Lycee Agricloe.   The road is not too busy and it's a nice walk partly in the shade of large trees.  The Belevdere overlook provides a view into both Cooks Bay and Opunohu bay simultaneously.

Moorea Stingray swim #2

 This photo was taken in the lagoon of Moorea. The water is so clear it looks like Kathy is in a swimming pool. 
 The Stingrays aren't shy.
 Upclose and about to get personal.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Moorea Dolphin and Sting Ray swim

 Kathy closing with a pod of Dolpins who swam within arms reach.
 Calm waters in the lee of Moore, Society Islands
Kathy mixes it up with a Stingray in the Moorea Lagoon, Society Islands.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Opunohu Bay, Moorea

August 2, 2012
Anchored position: 17°29.3497 S 149°51.0176 W

 Track from Tahiti to Moorea

Opunohu Bay Moorea, French Polynesia, South Pacific.

Anchored near the entrance to Opunohu Bay in 5 meters on bright white sand and sparkling waters. Despite being a little more populated and busy Moorea sure does have a serene feel with striking rugged peaks with 'Sharks Tooth' dominating the skyline. A cruise ship pulled into the bay today, so we headed toward the wharf at Papetoai Village where once ashore we mingled with the cruise ship guests to gain access to a free shuttle ride three miles towards a grocery store. On the way back we were offered a ride without even having to stick out our thumb and hitchhike. The water is super clear and nice so we did a little boat maintenance this afternoon scrubbing the waterline to rid it of some grime we picked up over at Tahiti. I also took advantage of the clean waters to run our water maker for a few hours.

Yesterday we sailed from Tahiti to Moorea as strong Southerly winds were making the anchorage off Marina Taina less than ideal. It's only a 15 nautical mile sail across to Moorea so an easy sail back to Tahiti later on. We met Doug and Zuleika of s/v La Luz hailing from Panama and invited them over for a Mahi Mahi dinner aboard s/v LightSpeed. These two are REAL sailors having made the transit in a 26' flush decked sloop.

Speaking of real sailors we recently met 16 year old Laura Dekker who not so long ago became the youngest person to complete a solo circumnavigation. Laura finished her voyage in the Caribbean and having a true passion for sailing is now on her way to New Zealand, just for fun. Very cool!

A few days ago we had a French Polyneisa Veterinarian aboard to get a RFID chip installed in our cat 'Shell' at the same time we also repeated all the vaccinations we had done in Mexico. If you're taking a pet cat to New Zealand none of the previous vaccinations count for anything if your cat doesn't have an ISO standard RFID chip. The 'Boat Call' by the vet cost 2200XPF or something like $230USD. If you're a cruiser headed to New Zealand with a pet you really need to do your homework. We plan to blog more on the topic as we more fully understand the process.

That's it for now.