Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Huahine, Taha'a, Raiatea: what day of the week is "vendredrink?'

Next stop Huahine, in the Isles du Vent (windward islands) of the Society Islands group which includes Tahiti. This was a 340 mile passage and our first two-handed. Not a problem, under the beautiful full moon. Caught a yellow fin tuna; yum.
The down side of short-handing: cockpit chaos after shaking out a reef

Huahine, Taha’a and Raiatea are surrounded by extensive lagoons, with numerous passes through. There are so many beautiful places; these are islands we’ll explore more on Rumpus’s next excursion.

A bit of exercise at Passe Avamoa, Huahine

In Taha’a, you can pick up a mooring at the Hotel Hibiscus (it’s expected that you’ll visit the bar and restaurant if you do). Joining 4 other cruisers for drinks, we were served by a French version of Basil Fawlty, 30 years older. Our dinner orders were lost in translation. We were told we could have ‘poisson’ (fish) or poisson, and nothing else. No salad or veggies or bread. So we said, no thanks (we’d caught a tuna and had eaten enough poisson for a while). Over an hour later, vegetables and rice arrived. A complete puzzle! 

Next day a visit to Patio village and an offshore island; admiring a four-master with a few hundred happy cruisers.

Our last day out. Slightly damp but wonderful. 

Carenage and ‘Vendredrinks’. 

Rumpus is now happily hauled up, out of the water, in the Raiatea Carenage, awaiting her next adventure. Rupe is back in NZ, and Kristin is doing all those things that you have to do to get a boat maintained, cleaned and ready to be left for a while. Borabora looms tantalisingly in the distance, and daily dealings and socialising are all in French. These have included a boat sale party, meeting Liz Clark on her boat Swell and Friday drinks in the boatyard: aka “Vendredrinks”. So, from the adventures of Rumpus, a bientot! 

A birthday in paradise: the Tuamotus and beyond.

From the Marquesas to the Tuamotus is about 500 miles: 4 days and 3 nights. 
Sunset at sea..

Our weather forecaster Bruce Buckley works from Perth. He emails updates and ideas for our passages; how to avoid thunderstorms, what wind strength and direction to expect. It's like having another crew member. 
So when he foresaw strong winds hitting the Tuamotus, we decided to stay a few more days in the Marquesas, in a secure anchorage at Nuku Hiva with plenty to explore. The month-long July celebrations were still under way, with pop up restaurants and traditional dance competitions. 

We then stole a march on our passage to the Tuamotus by crossing to Ua Pou, where we'd been a week earlier. Slightly south and west, this island was a good departure point.

Rupe's Hat and the 'knock knock magasin'
At Hakahetau, on Ua Pou, there's a tiny shop ('magasin' in French) in the front room of a nondescript house. You have to knock on the door and shout "magasin!!”, then they'll open up to sell bread and other basics. Rupe lost his favourite hat there or thereabouts the previous week. Hoping to retrieve it, we returned  to the 'knock knock magasin' and there it was, resting quietly on a table. Happy Rupe.  

Passage to Tuamotus
We headed round to the west cost of Ua Pou, closest departure point for the passage, but there was no internet signal. A major problem for Nico, who begged us to backtrack to a bay with a signal so that he could chat online with his boyfriend Pablo.  In exchange he promised to be the most responsive, diligent, hardworking crew ever throughout the passage, and happily do whatever was asked of him. Little did he know that in a few days we would be dealing with the perils of the Blocked Holding Tank….
We left slightly ahead of our friends Jenny Jamie and Paul on their  39 foot Lagoon catamaran 'Due West'.

After 3 great days and 2 nights sailing we arrived at the charming atoll of Kauehi. We charged through the pass in the coral reef with a 6 knot current running into the lagoon; big eddies and overfalls. Many of the passes through the reefs of the Tuamotus are tricky and dangerous, so for Rumpus with our deep keel, some islands aren’t accessible. Fortunately Kauehi was. 
Anchoring off Tearavero village, we explored ashore. Three churches, two shops, and some intriguing waterfront dwellings. One had a pig in a cage on stilts over the sea ('to protect him from the dogs') 
We met a pearl farmer with 6 huge live coconut crabs tied with nylon to the rafters of his porch. They dined on chunks of coconut scattered about. These crabs are allegedly delicious and increasingly rare. They can open coconuts with their huge claws; so they can easily sever your finger. 

Poo poo
Day 2, we motored out to the pass to tackle the Blocked Holding Tank on an outgoing current. This Poo Jam involved gloves, hoses, siphons, sponges, buckets, and nasty nasty smells.  Rupe emptied the holding tank manually through the inspection port. We then found that the through-hull outlet was quite blocked. 
Brave Nico dived under the boat with a wire to poke into the hole.....successfully releasing a golden cloud - and swimming super fast to get back aboard! 

Nico was keen to get to Papeete and onwards as soon as possible. Rumpus was heading for Raiatea. So, Nico decided to join the crew of Cannonball, a large sloop with a crew of about 10, due to leave for Papeete the next day. 

Enfin, sailing a deux.
Now there were just two of us on Rumpus. We motored 50 miles to Fakarava, a huge atoll with a lagoon 20 miles long and passes north and the south.
How to store your boat in a calm lagoon.

Pearl farm museum

Rehearsal for the evening's show

After a couple of days in the main village of Rotoava, we threaded our way down the channel to stunning  Harife in the southeast corner.  (Recommendation from Tom and Alex on El Mundo; the guidebook authors clearly want to keep this magical place secret). Agenda for Kristin’s birthday: snorkelling with the black tip sharks, paddle boarding and exploring the outer reef.

Yes this is a swing~

Friendly little black tip reef shark

coral, cowrie shell and intact lightbulb.

Wind and a rainbow on the ocean side

How to spend your 57th birthday. Super lucky. 

Our old friends on Due West and Freja came down the channel to join us for a little party on board with the last of our Caribbean rum, a fabulous birthday cake made by Merete, and a card and decorations from Jenny and Paul! 

The southern pass of Fakarava (Passe Tumukohua) is 5 miles from Harife. There are moorings there, accommodation in little island bungalows, a restaurant, and two dive operators. I recommend Tetamanu Diving. Two incredible dives in the strong current of the pass, with sharks and astonishing numbers and variety of fish.

The most picturesque dive centre I've ever seen: Tetamanu Diving.

Dive boat passenger

We were extra careful getting into our dinghy.
Leaving Fakarava...

Passe Tumukohua has a least depth of just under 3 metres. That’s about the same as Rumpus’s keel. Dilemmas and discussions about whether to spend a day returning to the north (deeper) pass or venture through the south pass. After wide consultation with locals, examining charts and aerial photos, and a generous helping of gumption, we braved the pass; exultation and relief!
Yay, we made it! Off to the Society Islands! 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Quatorze Juillet - Fete Nationale - Bastille Day!

14th July of course is Bastille Day, when France celebrates the overthrow of the monarchy and aristocracy in 1789.
Now, 228 years later, this remote territory of France celebrates with dancing, singing, parades, speeches, flowers and food food food. 

Niku Hiva’s village communities divide according to the valleys where they live. Dance and drum groups practice for their competitions; horses and trucks are decorated, and everyone dresses their best, which usually involves many many flowers as perfume and jewellery. 

The parade of horses with their riders (described by the MC as 'chevaliers' (!) ) was a fabulous display of bareback handling skills. The loud bass pumping through the speakers certainly spooked the horses, challenging the riders to maintain control. 

Firemen, sports teams, fishermen, farmers, all paraded in groups along the waterfront road, before everyone (including us) was invited for an amazing feast in the community hall. 

Fireworks were set up on the beach and a few went off before the tide came in....

Horseman followed by (somewhere under there) a 4 x 4

This cowboy had tattoo designs drawn on his jeans. And impressive skills.

the only woman competing in the horse parade.

Cooling off - Rumpus in the background

Tattooing scene in one of the dance dramas. Very realistic!

Rumpus has been at anchor here for a few days and we have done some exploring. We rented a car and drove to a fresh water source in a neighbouring valley - a couple of trips and we managed to fill our stern tank. For some reason there are a lot of Danish boats here so we have met some great Scandinavians, including Klaus and Gitte who came on our expedition. We saw the cultural centre built in 2011 and some ancient villages and tikis from pre-European times. 
We also saw the most scenic telephone box ever, the wild agricultural west of the island and the "Nuku Hiva grand canyon"