Provisioning Complete and some Hard-earned Easting

Since the last update we have:

  • Enjoyed a great day sail from Tahaa to Huahine
  • Spent an entire day at the Super U grocery store in Fare spending every last penny of our monthly budget
  • Topped off our fuel tanks and jugs
  • Had a scare when Alyssa developed a fever and was showing flu-like symptoms and we thought it may be Dengue fever (luckily the fever broke and she miraculously recovered the next day)
  • Spent a wonderful couple nights anchored in Avea Bay, Huahine
  • Alyssa slaved away stowing the ridiculous amount of provisions we bought (I honestly can’t believe she managed to find places to put all that food!)
  • Lewis went on a crazy hike by himself and came back covered in dirt and blood after a tumble down a steep hill whereby he managed to pull a boulder over the top of his legs (the flip flops didn’t help here)
  • Set a course for the Tuamotus with high hopes of light N-NE winds only to find ourselves bashing close-hauled into 25 knots of wind out of the EAST with steep mixed sloppy seas that beat the hell out of us and Ellie
  • Decided to stop putting so much faith in GRIBs
  • Accepted the fact that we are slaves to the weather and set a new course for Moorea, where we are currently anchored awaiting the next ‘weather window’ to head east

Well that about sums up the past few days. What an amazing treat to be anchored back here in our favorite spot in the windward islands. There is a spotted eagle ray flying under the boat as I type these words. The hike to the farm that has amazing coconut ice cream is beckoning and I think we’ll just have to heed the call…

Cheers from Moorea,
Alyssa & Lewis

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Idyllic Sail from Maupiti to Tahaa with VIDEO!

Today we enjoyed some of the best sailing we’ve ever had.  We ran the pass at Maupiti before 7 am and are now enjoying an ice cold Hinano at the Hibiscus restaurant on Tahaa and it’s 6:00 pm.  We covered approximately 50 nautical miles total.  The seas were less than 4 feet with a long period swell from the SE.  The wind was variable 5 – 12 knots out of the NE.  The sail was mostly a close reach and we fully enjoyed the day.  A particular highlight was that after lunch we broke out the home made coconut ice cream that was gifted to us by Mai Ti’s son.  We enjoyed a bowl of home made coconut ice cream mixed with Alyssa’s home-made sugar cookies while sitting in the cockpit listening to the sound of the water rustling past the hull and enjoying the view of the magnificent island of Bora Bora off the port beam.  Today will go down in the log as one of the best days of sailing thus far.

As to our strategy of making easting when the weather cooperates: so far, so great.  Let’s make a few more of these passages happen!  We will leave tomorrow morning for Huahine while the wind is still from the N.

I had to upload this pic of our resident hottie tucking the main sail away.  Life is good.

Cheers,

Lewis

Hibiscus Restaurant, Tahaa, FP

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Let’s do the Milk Run Backwards!

After two wonderful weeks in the amazing island of Maupiti, we have decided to make some easting. Today we said goodbye to Mai Ti and his family. It was a touching moment while they put shell lei after shell lei around our necks with tears in their eyes. We will never forget the family. They are perhaps the most humble, kind and generous people we have ever had the privilege of meeting. Mai Ti told us that the next time we visit Maupiti we should plan to stay forever. I told him that someday we would return.

Today we made Ellie passage-ready and planned our next few legs. Since our next major destination is Hawaii, 2,600 nm due north of our current position, it’s time to start making some easting so that we aren’t bashing to weather for upwards of a month. Remember that south of the equator the prevailing winds are SE and north of the ITCZ the prevailing winds are NE; so if we left from here we would need to sail quite a bit east before we could fall off for Hawaii. Even if we took that tactic there is a decent chance we could be close-hauled for a good portion of the passage. With easting in mind we have decided to take advantage of each weather window and hop a few hundred miles east at a time until we reach the Marquesas again. We plan to leave for Hawaii from Nuku Hiva. That will put the trade winds on our beam or behind us the entire way to Hilo, Hawaii and make for a more comfortable and shorter sail. The total miles from Nuku Hiva to Hawaii is a more palatable 2,000 nm.

I have been watching the weather patterns ever since we reached the SE trades and there is a pattern that we should be able to take advantage of. Each time a low crosses to the south of our position the trades clock around to the NE then N then NW before the front line overtakes us and the wind dies for a day and then the SE trades strengthen again. So our plan is to use each low to make a day or two east and then hide out until the next low. I figure if we are flexible and patient we can make it back to Ellie Island on Raroia without too much heartburn (overnight to Huahine and then a two day sail to Toau and then an overnight to Raroia). Then we wait until we have a decent three-day window of moderate easterlies to sail the 380 miles north to the Marquesas. That’s the idea at least. You’ll have to stay tuned for the actual account!

Tomorrow we plan to rise with the sun and make a dash for Tahaa, 43 nm east. We may or may not make it to the pass before we lose sunlight. If we make it we will happily tie to a mooring ball for the night and then push on to Huahine the next morning. If not then we will accept a night at sea and reach Huahine the next morning.

Once in Huahine we plan to do a huge provisioning run and stock up for two and a half months so if we decide to hide out in Raroia for a month we will have the luxury. The idea is to have enough food and supplies to get us all the way to Hawaii. If we make it to the Marquesas then of course we’ll have to pick up a stock of bananas, arm fulls of pamplemouse and other produce!

For those who are just catching up. We have decided to sail for Hawaii before the onset of the southern cyclone season that officially starts in November. While here in Maupiti we weighed our options. The distance to Opua, New Zealand and the distance to Majuro in the Marshall Islands were both greater than the distance to Hawaii. Additionally, we would have had to rush through the rest of the South Pacific to reach either destination before November 1st. Hawaii on the other hand is due north. So when we return to the South Pacific next year we can take a leisurely pace visiting the rest of the islands between here and Australia. The sail to Hawaii is mostly a beam reach in moderate conditions. We made a reservation at the nicest marina in Oahu so Ellie will be safe. We already have cheap airfare back to CA in December to visit family. 

We have an early morning tomorrow so have to put in. It’s raining hard right now. Did I mention that sailing east during low pressure systems means sailing in the rain? Good thing we’re not afraid of getting wet.

Here’s a picture of our nemesis, the Maupiti pass. If it’s breaking tomorrow we’re waiting for the next low!

-Lewis & Alyssa

Maupiti, FP

Maupiti Pass 2

Maupiti – The Offer with a Catch

I know on occasion we have landed on certain islands and made a statement to the effect of “we’re never leaving here.” Well this time, through the incredible generosity of the local family that has ‘adopted us’, that is on the table. Of course it would involve marriage to a local and let’s just say that Alyssa is not exactly sold on the whole idea! Let me back up a few days…

A few days ago I loaded up the dinghy with my fishing arsenal and headed out to procure some protein. I made a stop at the small fuel station on the edge of town to try and buy some gasoline with the only cash I had onboard, US dollars. After speaking with the nice older gentleman at the station, he finally agreed to sell my 19 Liters of fuel for $40 US. We topped off my 5 gallon fuel tank and brought it back to my dinghy. The tank only took 17 liters so when he seemed very confused on how much change (in francs) to give me, I motioned that I would take the cucumbers and eggplant instead. He was happy with the idea and immediately motioned to his daughter to bring me the vegetables. He then took interest in my spear gun and asked to see it. He then asked how much I wanted for it. I told him it was a gift and sorry it was not for sale. Then he wanted to see my Penn reel that Allan (Alyssa’s Father) gave us. I again told him it was a gift and that I could not sell it. He explained through hand gestures that he goes out in the ocean and fishes for tuna. I showed him some of my tuna lures. I then pulled out one of my cedar plugs and gifted it to him. He was very grateful and again motioned to his daughter to give me a huge watermelon. He asked who else was on my boat and I said “ma femme” or my wife/girlfriend. Here Hia, his daughter, who speaks some English, told me that he would like to give us some tuna. I graciously accepted. She said he wanted to give us tuna in the form of dinner at his house. He asked we return at 6pm. I said we would be there.

That evening we returned to the dock with a fresh baked spice cake that Alyssa whipped up. He was waiting for us. We hopped in his truck and off we went to his home. What a great experience. We were treated like royalty. We sat around the living room with a dozen of his extended family while he played the ukulele and the entire family sung along in unison. We all got down on our knees and prayed before dinner and then each of the family members recited a verse from the bible, in Tahitian. Note to ourselves: Learn a bible verse. When it got to us it was a bit awkward.. We enjoyed a nice dinner and then he drove us back to the dinghy. He invited us to return for a huge Polynesian feast on Sunday at noon. We said we would be there.

The next day we went fishing down at the pass. I caught 8 fish and unlucky Princess Lyss caught 0. The famous line of the day was: “I never said I wanted to go fishing. I said I wanted to catch a fish.” haha That evening we had a fish fry on SKABENGA. Marcello grilled the fish to perfection with garlic and butter and let me tell you, that grouper is delicious!

On Sunday we returned to Mai Ti’s home and enjoyed a proper Tahitian feast complete with curried fish from the lagoon, poisson cru, taro, kifa, manioc and banana desserts. Alyssa’s fresh-baked sugar cookies were a huge hit and we paired them with the home-made coconut ice cream that his son makes. After lunch he offered to drive us around the island for a tour. We hopped in his truck and enjoyed a lovely drive around the island. We stopped a few places for some pictures. I asked the daughter how much a house here costs and she looked at me a bit puzzled and replied “no for sale, we build our houses.” That makes sense. So a few kilometers later I asked her “But how much is property? If I wanted to build a house.” In Tahitian she told her father what I was asking. He looked at me and said (in broken English and mostly Tahitian, with much hand gesturing) that if I wanted to stay he would parcel off his land and the family would help build us a house. He was serious! I then said that the French Government would never let me stay. I explained we only had a three month visa. He said “pa problem Louis” and then motioned that I was to marry his daughter so I could stay forever and THEN we would send for Alyssa! We all laughed and I asked Alyssa if she was good with the plan. To which she exclaimed, “NO!!!” haha So I guess there may be a few flaws in the plan, since there is no way I can trade in the Princess!! But wow, it was amazing to hear this man offer me his daughter, some of his property and to join his family. And make no mistake, he was being serious.

The family is coming to the boat for lunch today so we better start preparing. There are a lot of them! It took a few times to convince Mai Ti to come visit the boat. His daughter explained that he is hesitant to come visit in fear of taking a liking to the boat and wanting one for himself. She said he dreams of seeing the world via sailboat. I told him I would trade for his home, straight up. He laughed and said we could trade for a few weeks so he could take his family around the Leeward Islands. I apologized but said it’s not for rent, only for permanent trade. Today should be more fun with the family.

We’re loving it here and in no hurry to leave. You can eat any fish caught in the lagoon (no ciguatera). We ran out of francs so we can’t spend money. The people are all so friendly and always have huge smiles. There is no theft (Mai Ti doesn’t even put away his vegetables at night). The water in the lagoon is very protected which allows for a very restful nights sleep. The visibility in the lagoon is awesome making for some great diving. Lastly, we have no schedule. We’ll leave when it feels right, and that may be a while longer.

Na Na from Maupiti,

Lewis & Alyssa

August 18, 2014

Maupiti, Leeward Society Islands, French Polynesia

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Maupiti Adventures and our Revised Cruising Plan

We’ve been in Maupiti about a week and are loving it here. The people are very welcoming and friendly and the vibe is super laid back. We met a local guy named John who is originally from CA. I’m pretty sure he spends all day in a hammock because he may be the most tranquilo guy we’ve ever met. We managed to find some fresh veggies, eggs and baguettes to replenish our dwindling fresh food selection. You have to walk the entire length of the town to gather a single bag of groceries. It’s pretty fun though strolling along the main path and stopping and the locals homes to pick up a couple cucumbers here and some green beans there. It took a day to procure baguettes, with having to put in an order and all. There is not a single ATM on the island so when the rest of our francs disappear it will be time to push on to Mopelia where not a single thing is for sale!

A couple days ago we went down to the pass for some fishing. We tied up the dinks to the stern of the St. Francis 44 catamaran SKABENGA and cruised across the lagoon and anchored in the 4 knot current just before the pass. We gathered up our fishing poles and spear guns and went hunting for some dinner. I drifted the pass a couple times on the surface to check out our prey. There were hundred of fish but they were all in the middle of the pass and deeper than I could reach with my spear gun from the surface. This mission necessitated SCUBA tanks. Luckily I brought a tank so we returned to the mother ship to get the gear. Once I was suited up I dropped off the back of SKABENGA and immediately started flying down the pass at 4-5 knots in the swift current. The plan was for Alyssa to drift in the dinghy and pick me up before the breakers so I wouldn’t get sucked out into the the open ocean and/or drop into the abyss. I was cruising along trying to avoid being slammed into the coral heads all the while picking out the unlucky fish that would become our dinner. Halfway down the pass I saw a huge coral head and behind it were hundred of fish hiding from the current. I quickly maneuvered behind the coral head and found it was perfectly protected from the swift current. Upon my arrival most of the fish took off….they have been hunted before. I decided to hang out there for a few minutes and wait for an unlucky fish big enough to justify the effort of firing at. I was hanging on the the coral head with my left hand and aiming my speargun with the right. After a couple minutes of waiting I realized that very soon poor Alyssa would start freaking out that I hadn’t surfaced and she would be thinking the worse and initiating a multi agency search of the Pacific. Just when I was about to let go of the coral head and make my way to the surface I saw Bruce (of SKABENGA) fly by in the current and he waved to me. OK I thought to myself, he’ll surface soon and tell Alyssa I’m still down and that I am alright. I decided to stay a while longer and try to get a big one. We haven’t had fish in over a week and I wanted to bring home dinner! A couple minutes later, out of the corner of my eye I saw a massive big eye Jack cruise through the gap in the coral head. He must have been 3.5 – 4 feet long. As I quickly swung the spear gun around to aim at him the current whipped the gun downstream and he bolted. Another couple unsuccessful shots later I looked at my air gauge and I was down to 500 psi signaling it was time to surface. I let go of the coral and was immediately sucked downstream. I was making my way up to the surface as quickly as it was safe but the current was incredibly strong. I was concerned that I wouldn’t break the surface before reaching the breakers. I broke the surface and to my relief I was not yet at the breakers. I signaled to Alyssa and she zoomed over to pick me up. She was really upset at me! I thought that Bruce had surfaced 10 minutes ago but it turns out that he found a coral head further downstream and had hid there for almost as long as I did. I felt terrible for scaring her like that. Poor Alyssa thought I had been washed out into the Pacific and was lost forever!

Yesterday we hiked to the top of the island in what must have been the best hike we have ever been on. The views were breathtaking. Maupiti is one spectacular place. There were a couple tricky sections where we had to use ropes (that were already there). Once we reached the top and climbed on to the flat pinnacle rock our jaws dropped and we spent the next minute in awe. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

We’re not sure how much longer we’ll stay but we’re in no hurry to leave. Today was an excellent day to transit the pass but we are not ready to leave so we’ll have to watch for the next good window. There is some heavy weather coming in from the SE so the pass will most likely close out for another week or so. Looks like we’re stuck in paradise…..oh damn :-)

On another note we have decided that after Mopelia (100 nm west of here) we are going to delay further westward progress until next season. We will spend about a month in Mopelia before sailing back to windward to load Ellie up with a month’s worth of provisions. Some time in October we will point her bow NE and sail non-stop to Hawaii for the winter. It’s a 2,500 nm run and should take us about 20 days. If we hit our planned waypoints the wind should be on the beam most of the way. We will ride the SE trades up to the ITCZ at about 5N and then once we hit 10N we should find the NE trades to fall off for the Big Island of Hawaii. We plan to fly home in December to visit family. When we return to Hawaii in January we will prep the boat and sail south sometime in Feb. We’ll visit the Line Islands (Palmyra, Fanning, Christmas) and then Penrhyn in the Northern Cooks. We plan to hit Suwarrow as soon as the cyclone season comes to an official close and then make our way west towards Tonga and Fiji. That’s the current plan. Written in sand at the low tide mark.

We also wanted to say congratulations to Ian and Dori, who were married last weekend, and to Brian and Liz of PURA VIDA who are getting married today!! Wish we were there guys. Are you still doing the HaHa this year?

Cheers from Maupiti,
Lewis & Alyssa

Maupiti Lewis Tree Ellie in Background on Left

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Lastly, check out the August issue of Latitude 38.  Awesome article about our time in Raroia and encounters with sharks!

LINK TO MAGAZINE  (Pages 126 – 128)

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Surfing into Paradise! Maupiti

Holy sh*t, what a rush! Yesterday we sailed out of Bora Bora bound for the island known as the miniature Bora Bora, Maupiti. We have heard horror stories of boats going aground on the reef near the pass and some with the loss of all lives, so the decision to try the pass was not to be taken lightly. I read and studied the pass extensively, and the consensus was that it was definitely safe in anything under a 2.0 meter swell. I watched the weather and when my GRIBS were calling for a 1.6 meter swell (yesterday) we went for it. There was not much wind and it was squally. I thought it would be better to burn the diesel but have a safer entrance to the lagoon than wait for the wind to fill in but have a bigger swell. After a somewhat rough passage with rain and squally wind we found ourselves 1/2 a mile off the SE corner of Maupiti staring at the massive swells pounding the reef in a huge concession of rollers with tall plumes of spray reaching halfway up the lush mountain in the background. Uh, it looks like they are definitely breaking across the pass. What should we do?

I called on VHF for any vessel that can provide conditions at the pass. A nice American guy came back and told me that he wasn’t at the pass but that he entered a couple days ago and the conditions were worse. I confirmed that when he entered that the waves were NOT breaking in the middle of the pass. He also said that it was very narrow and that the breakers would likely be only 50 feet off the port and starboard beam but to stay with the leading marks at all cost.

At this point we had a decision to make. We could bag it and just push on to Mopelia and miss out on the amazing island off our bow. Or we could push Ellie hard, stay with the marks and try not to freak out too much.

We decided to go for it.

The feeling we had as we approached the pass is hard to describe but I will try my best. To say that we were scared would be a gross understatement. I was shaking. There were enormous barrels to port and to starboard and the pass was extremely narrow with a very strong current flowing out and mixing with the waves, creating a very scary approach. I had Alyssa concentrate on the leading marks and she was yelling, “More port! Now starboard! You’re off the marks!!” I replied to her, “Not helpful! I need you to say port or starboard!” This exercise was made exponentially more difficult as each huge roller buried us in the trough and half the time we couldn’t even see the damn leading marks! So when we rose up on the crest we had to line ourselves up again. Mind you the entire time I am fighting the wheel trying to keep her lined up with the pass and not get pushed beam-to the waves. Just as we were at the line of breakers I felt Ellie rise up on top of a particularly large wave and we started to surf! “Oh sh*t, oh sh*t, oh sh*t!!” Our faces were both pale white in terror. As we were being pushed down the wave Ellie rose up over the crest and the massive wave broke 10 feet in front of our bow! I yelled “Oh sh*t, is there another one of those coming?!?!” Lyss replied, “No! That was it. They look smaller. Go for it!” I pushed the throttle up to 2,000 RPM and kept pushing through the surf while Ellie was yawing violently from the waves mixing with the 4 knot current flowing out of the pass. We were making 2-3 knots against the current and were through the surf break. Then there was a shift to starboard and we had to line up another set of leading marks. We were still pushing against strong current but the main show was over and we were once again in flat water and making our way towards the majestic island of Maupiti.

We dropped the hook behind a motu near the pass and watched the anchor drop all the way to 40 feet and land in the powdery sand that we loved so much in Bora. We let out our chain and buoyed the anchor while watching huge manta rays flying over the coral heads below. We both breathed a huge sigh of relief, congratulated ourselves on our stellar communication under extreme duress, and then promptly poured a glass of wine in a feeble attempt to calm our shaking bodies. We made it and our home is safe. Another successful pass. We concluded that this was ranked the second scariest pass so far. The first being Fakarava North in the Tuamotus, but only due to the fact that our ordeal at Fakarava North lasted much longer with much more strain on the engine.

We plan to stay here for a long while. The visibility will allow for some world class diving. We are excited to hike to the top of the mountain. The locals were all waving and welcoming us in. Our friends on SKABENGA and PRINCESS DEL MAR are here and Bruce has a bunch of kiteboarding gear. Last but not least we don’t want to run that pass in anything at or above the conditions we had yesterday.

Alyssa made the comment yesterday “At least the only boats in here are real sailors.” To which I replied, “I guess so. Or idiots with huge cajones!”

We’re happy to be anchored in another spectacular setting with a whole new island to explore.

**I wrote this a few days ago. As an update, we have been really enjoying the island. We are filling our days with activities such as snorkeling with the giant manta rays, diving the coral heads in the lagoon, spear fishing, wakeboarding, kiteboarding, beachcombing, swimming and relaxing. Here are some pics of our anchorage and the past few days.**

Cheers from Maupiti,

Lewis and Alyssa

August 6, 2014

Motu Pitiahe, Maupiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia

16 28.39 S
152 14.99 W

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