Friday, June 30, 2017

Back to the Yacht Club

0800 Position 16-29S 151-46W. On a mooring at the Bora Bora Yacht Club

It is best to move through these coral filled lagoons when the sun is high and visibility is good, so we waited until 11AM yesterday to weigh anchor and head back to the western side of Bora's lagoon. In addition to the shallow part of the pass I wrote about the other day, we also had to negotiate a narrow and winding channel through the coral to access the eastern lagoon. This channel runs north-south, and we were headed south on our way in. Visibility was great heading south in the channel because here in the southern hemisphere winter the sun is well to the north and behind us. On our way out yesterday we were heading north in the channel, right into the sun, and the glare off of the water made for some sketchy moments. At one point in the channel Rob saw ten feet on the depth sounder, just two feet under the keel, but we never touched.

We found an open mooring off of the Bora Bora Yacht Club, picked it up, and went ashore in the dinghy to use the club's WIFI. I got to have a cold one from the bar and a pleasant video chat with my lovely wife.

Our canoe thief did not put in an appearance last night, but we still had a little bit of excitement. A charter catamaran picked up the mooring next to ours just before sunset. The wind died off completely and the boats were swinging randomly on their moorings. It looks like they installed the mooring too close together in this 100 foot deep bay because the catamaran and Van Diemen swung within a couple of feet of each other a few times. The skipper of the catamaran didn't care. Heck, it is a charter boat, but Rob was concerned about bumping the other boat so he put out all of Van Diemen's fenders to prevent any damage if we did come together. The fenders seemed to do the trick, and we never got close to each other after that.

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Relaxing in Bora

0800 Position 16-32S 151-42W. Anchored at the southeast end of Bora's lagoon.

There wasn't a whole lot of action aboard Van Diemen yesterday. Both Rob and I are having trouble with our feet and we are trying to stay off of them so they will heal. Rob worked on repairing a halyard that had jumped the sheave at the top of the mast and chafed. Mike finished cleaning Van Diemen's waterline. Renee kept feeding us, and I finished reading the third book in the "Game of Thrones" series. I also spent a couple of hours trying to fix the pots and pans drawer under the stove that refuses to slide freely. Rob and I have both spent about ten hours in total working on it without success. It may be possessed.

Late in the afternoon we headed back to Faroona Point in the dinghy to see if the eagle rays were still there. This time I brought my GoPro. We found a smaller school of five rays in the same location they were yesterday. I dove with them for a while and got some good video.

The gentle trade winds that we have been enjoying for the past few days started to disappear yesterday and this morning we awoke to moderate north easterlies. It's time to go find shelter on the leeward side of Bora Bora.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Sting Rays and a Shark

0800 Position 16-32S 151-42W. Anchored at the southeast end of Bora's lagoon.

A while back I wrote about our inability to find a French press here in French Polynesia. George Losey, a friend and reader of this blog, wrote and informed me that we couldn't find one because the French do not use the French press to make their coffee. What's up with that? Is there a conspiracy to misname products? French press, French toast, French fries. I understand there is nothing French about any of these. My English friend Ellie Goldsmith insists that the English do not eat English muffins. Do they eat Danish pastries in Denmark? How about Eskimo Pies, Belgian waffles, Brussel sprouts, Quaker Oats, and the Spanish fly? Solving riddles such as these consume us aboard Van Diemen… Coincidentally, Robbie tells us that as a kid he went to a Quaker school in Hobart, and the Headmaster's name was William Oats.

The water here is lovely, and we are spending a lot of time in it. Mike spent a good part of the morning yesterday scrubbing two months of scum off of Van Diemen's water line. Rob and Renee pumped up their inflatable SUPs and played on them. When the sun was high we moved Van Diemen a half a mile further south, closer to the drift dive on the south end of Motu Piti Aau.

I've done this drift dive half a dozen times before, and it is always different. One year it was full of live sea urchins with their long black spines. The next time it was full of sea urchin shells. Sometimes it is full of fish. The water here is super clear, and visibility is almost 200 feet. This afternoon it seemed empty until we drifted down close to Faroona Point where we encountered a school of nineteen spotted eagle rays. They were just moseying along together and seemed unconcerned about our presence ten feet above them. They would occasionally joust with each other and do loops. It was very cool. We've encountered rays here before, but never in a group. A little later a five foot black tip shark came along. He stuck around for about five minutes and we could get to within about ten feet of him. I picked the wrong day to leave my GoPro camera on the boat.

Renee proposed a picnic dinner on the beach, so we made some grilled chicken, grilled onion, and potato salad bentos, packed them up together with our pre-made rum and juice cocktails, and headed in on the dinghy. The trees blocked the wind on the beach so it was pretty warm in the afternoon sun, but we found some shade to lay out our picnic blanket. We watched the sun set over Bora Bora with Van Diemen sitting regally in the foreground. The ants and mosquitoes enjoyed the picnic as well.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Relaxing in Bora Bora

0800 Position 16-32S 151-42W. Anchored at the southeast end of Bora's lagoon.

After the cup race was over yesterday, Rob, Renee, and Mike took off in the dinghy and went in to town to do some provisioning. Their passage to Vaitape and back was an easy one in the gentle breeze compared with our more challenging dinghy ride the other day. I stayed on the boat to keep off my feet. I have arthritis in my left big toe joint and it has been swollen and bothering me for the past week.

The voyagers returned with a dinghy full of provisions and at 11AM we slipped our mooring and powered around to Bora's eastern lagoon. According to the cruising guides, this part of the lagoon is limited to vessels with drafts of less than eight feet or so because there is a shallow spot that deep in the channel. Our draft is eight feet but we were confident that we could make it. The shallow part of the channel has a sand bottom so there would likely be no damage if we did run aground. We never touched the bottom and made it through with at least a foot of water under the keel.

The only item our shoppers couldn't find in Vaitape was eggs, so we stopped at a village on Bora's eastern shore where Mike and I dinghied ashore to buy some. I minded the dinghy while Mike hiked to the village convenience store to do the shopping. After returning to Van Diemen with the eggs, we continued to the south end of the lagoon where we anchored.

The forecast for the next couple of days is very light wind and we want to be far from land so we can stay cool in what little breeze there is. We are about a third of a mile off of the motu and all by ourselves out here in twenty feet of water over a sand bottom. The water is super clear here. I could see the anchor hit the bottom and the chain pile up around it as I was setting it yesterday. There is a big coral head that comes to within fifteen feet of the surface just astern of us. We all dove on it yesterday afternoon for a look.

We are falling into a routine here in the islands of a beer mid afternoon and a rum and juice drink just before dinner. Van Diemen is a very civilized vessel. Our rum drinks are made with ice and a squeeze of lime. I used the last of the ice while making our cocktails last night though. I am worried about tonight.

We are trying to turn Renee into a sailor. Every once in a while we can bait her enough to get her to swear like a sailor, but we have thus far been unable to get her to drink like one. We will keep trying.

Last night it was barbecued lamb for dinner followed by a movie, "Das Boot 2". Life is goo.

Monday, June 26, 2017

New Zealand Wins the Cup!

0800 Position 16-29S 151-46W. On a mooring at the Bora Bora Yacht Club

We had a slow day yesterday after our America's Cup adventure in the morning. Rob and Renee worked on boat projects, Mike read a book, and I played with the computer.

I have a WIFI amplifier that connects to my computer and allows me to pick up weak WIFI signals. The amplifier is particularly important on the boat when we are sitting at anchor and trying to pick up a WIFI signal from a distant shore station. With my amplifier on, I can get a good signal from Bora Bora Yacht Club's WIFI with my computer, but the rest of the folks aboard are not able to pick up the weak club signal with their smart phones. I have read that there is a way to turn my computer into a WIFI hotspot though, so the rest of the crew can connect their phones to my stronger WIFI signal through my computer. I spent a good part of yesterday working on that, but so far have been unable to make it work.

We had another problem to solve as well. Today's final America's Cup race was not going to be broadcast on network television so Lori would be unable to use WhatsApp at home to help us watch it. My lifelong friend David Brown, with whom I've watched every America's Cup final on television since it was first broadcast in 1984, does get the premium cable channel that was showing the final race. David was going to be at home in Hawaii and was going to watch the race, so Lori went over to David and his wife Karin's house this morning to WhatsApp the race to us from there. It was touch and go right up until the start of the race. Lori couldn't get her phone to log on to David's WIFI, so David downloaded WhatsApp to his phone and we got connected about two minutes before the race started. David and I got to watch the America's Cup finals together one more time. The string remains unbroken.

The word had spread throughout the anchorage yesterday here at the Bora Bora Yacht Club that the final America's Cup race was being watched in the club house today, and we had a crowd of about twenty folks gathered around my little Iphone screen. They were all Kiwis though, and they were ecstatic when New Zealand won the final race to take the cup. It was a lot of fun, and the Kiwis were kind to us poor Yanks and didn't rub it in too badly.

This morning just before 5AM Renee heard a strange sound and sent Rob to investigate. He found a Tahitian male standing in a one man outrigger canoe next to the boat trying to steal whatever he could grab on deck. Rob yelled and scared him away. We didn't find anything missing so Rob must have caught him just as he was getting started. The same thing happened the other day to Trevor and Jill, and when I was here on my boat in 2014 an eighty foot cruising boat was ransacked while the crew was out to dinner. It's almost like being at home…

There's nothing holding us here now that the races are over, so we plan to head over to the other side of Bora Bora today. The strong trade winds that we had for a few days have died off and it is a beautiful sunny day.

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

America’s Cup

0800 Position 16-29S 151-46W.  On a mooring at the Bora Bora Yacht Club


We made friends with a couple on another cruising boat moored here while we were in getting organized with the Bora Bora Yacht Club late in the afternoon the day before yesterday.  Jill was raised in Hobart, Rob's home town, and she and her husband Trevor, a native Kiwi, now live in New Zealand's Bay of Islands.  They just sold their home and bought a relatively new forty foot Hanse cruising boat here in Tahiti.  They are on their way home with their new toy.  They are as interested in the America's Cup as we are, so we invited them over to the boat to watch yesterday morning's races.


Murphy's Law works as well down here in paradise as it does at home, and during the America's Cup pre-start maneuvers the WIFI, which had worked perfectly up to that point, slowed down so badly that the Skype video wasn't working at all, and audio was only working about seventy percent of the time.  It was very frustrating, but we could still follow both races pretty well.  It was nice that Oracle finally won a race, but the Kiwis among us were gloating.  It is sure looking like the cup is going back down under.


We needed to figure out a better way to watch Sunday's two races, so Lori and I figured out how to do a video chat on WhatsApp on our phones.  It looked like WhatsApp would work better than Skype when the WIFI signal was poor, so our plan for this morning was to go ashore to the club house where the WIFI signal would be strongest and connect through Lori to watch the races using both Skype on my PC and WhatsApp on my phone.


Last night we caught a taxi in to Vaitape, Bora's main town, to see the spectacle of the Heiva, a month long party that includes singing and dancing competitions.  It looked to us like the entire population of Bora Bora was there enjoying themselves, and we also had a good time.


This morning the WIFI signal in the club house was a bit better than yesterday on the boat, but Skype still cut out on both audio and video a lot.  However, the WhatsApp audio and video transmission came though perfectly over the cell phone.  It was pretty comical with the six of us, four from Van Diemen and our two Kiwi friends, crowded around watching a single cell phone screen and listening intently to what little sound came out of the phone.  If you had walked into our house in Hawaii you would have seen a PC and a cell phone propped up on a stool in front of the television with the volume on the TV cranked all the way up so we could hear it over the cell phone.  Lori probably had cotton in her ears to keep from going deaf.  Many thanks to Lori for making a bunch of homesick sailors happy.


Our original plan was to head somewhere else today, but we need to watch tomorrow's cup race, or races if Oracle can find a way to win the first one.  So we are staying put for another day.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Rob and Renee and Mike and Noodle's Excellent Adventure

0800 Position 16-29S 151-46W. On a mooring at the Bora Bora Yacht Club

Yesterday dawned clear and sunny, but the wind was still blowing hard out of the south east so our options for the day were limited. We were in the most protected anchorage on Bora Bora, but we had a problem. The next Americas Cup races are Saturday and Sunday and there was no way to watch them from behind Toopua Island where there is no WIFI. After a morning of boat projects, we decided to do some reconnoitering in the dinghy to determine our options for Saturday morning's races.

It was over a mile from our protected anchorage on Toopua to Bora Bora's main island, a long way to go in a dinghy with a four horse power outboard. But we wanted to take the dinghy because we had a couple of stops to make which isn't practical in a sixty four foot sloop. We were looking for TV coverage of the America's Cup, if possible, and strong WIFI if we couldn't watch the races on TV. We went first to the Bora Bora Yacht Club which has moorings and free WIFI, but no TV. We then powered around the point to Vaitape and The Maikai Bora Bora, which also had moorings and WIFI, but no TV. The Maikai was very exposed in the strong tradewinds though, and it would have been uncomfortable there on Van Diemen. With no TV options we decided that our best alternative was going to be the Bora Bora Yacht Club, but first we did some shopping and had lunch in the island's main town of Vaitape.

After lunch we headed back to Toopua in the dinghy. It was a long way and we were concerned about running out of gas for the outboard so we decided to try taking a short cut over the reef at Toopua's north end. That turned out to be a bad idea. We ran aground in the coral and broke the shear pin on the propeller.

We paddled ashore on Toopua to check it out. Of course, we had no tools and no spare shear pin on the dinghy. We spent almost an hour first taking the prop off and then jury rigging a shear pin. We used rocks and some nails we pulled by hand from a rotting pier ashore for tools. It was a feeble fix, but it worked for about a quarter of a mile before failing again.

So there we were, four poor souls in an engineless dinghy more than a half mile dead to leeward of Van Diemen in nearly twenty knot winds. We did have three paddles, but no oars or oarlocks. We spent the next hour paddling and walking the boat over the reef back to Van Diemen. We were exhausted, but we made it.

After taking a few minutes to recover, we weighed anchor and powered over to the Bora Bora Yacht Club where we picked up a mooring right in front of the dingy dock at about 430PM.

The next problem was how we were going to watch the races. They are not available on the internet here in French Polynesia but they are being broadcast on network TV in the US. Lori held her phone up to the TV last Sunday so I could hear the races on my phone using WhatsApp, but we want to see the action too. Someone suggested Skype, which neither Lori nor I have ever used before. I have my WIFI amplifier set up on Van Diemen's boom so we will have a strong signal from the Bora Bora Yacht Club aboard the boat. Late last night Lori and I finally got Skype working and we tested it with a video chat. The plan is that we will connect on Skype this morning and she will put her PC in front of the TV in Hawaii so we can watch the races. Stay tuned....

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Bummer in Bora

0800 Position 16-31S 151-46W. Anchored in the lee of Toopua Island, Bora Bora

The wind was around out of the southeast and blowing close to twenty knots yesterday morning, perfect for a quick downwind sail to Bora Bora, so we pulled the hook just after the sun came up and headed out. With two reefs in the mainsail and a full jib Van Diemen made the twenty mile passage in just a couple of hours and we were inside Bora's lagoon before noon. Rob's cedar plug continues to scare the fish away from my lure.

Toopua is a high island on the western side of Bora Bora's lagoon that offers a shallow anchorage and good protection when the trade winds are strong so we headed there. As we approached the anchorage we could see a thirty five foot sailboat that had sunk on the reef next to the island. Its mast and sails were sticking up out of the water. After we got settled in we inspected it closely with the binoculars. It looked like it had gone down just a few days ago because there was hardly any scum or growth near the tide line.

After a beer, nap, and lunch, in that order, we headed over to dive the wreck. The mainsail was still on the boom and the jib still rolled up on the head stay. Most of the deck gear was in place, a lot of it quite valuable. It didn't look like the owner tried to salvage anything after she went down. I couldn't find where the hull had been holed or determine why she sank. What a shame. Somebody's cruising dream ended abruptly on the reef at Bora Bora.

The sunken boat is apparently the most interesting attraction on Bora Bora because every cruising or charter boat that comes to this part of the lagoon has been diving the wreck like we did. We've seen at least six other parties dinghy over to check it out. I suspect they, like us, are all trying figure out why it went down.

It is technically winter down here now, and the front that passed the night before last brought cool weather with it, the first we have seen since departing California. It is great sleeping weather and I am wearing a sweatshirt as I type this.

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Coral River

0800 Position 16-37S 151-33W. Anchored in Tapuamu Bay, Tahaa

We decided to get an early start, so right after daybreak we continued our counter clockwise tour of Raiatea. It is not a good idea to move around the lagoons when the sun is low as that makes it difficult to see the coral, but we powered slowly and made it out Punaeroa Pass at Raiatea's southwest corner without hitting anything. Once outside the pass we put out the fish lines and put down the pedal as we powered north towards Tahaa.

After losing four good lures between California and Tahiti I have decided to try a different approach. I have collected a lot of lures over the years. There was even a time back in the '70s when I cast my own resin heads. I still have all the rejects buried in my tackle box at home. When I was home last week I dug through the box and picked out the most hideous and ridiculous lures in the collection and brought them along when I flew back to Tahiti. I figure if Rob's simple cedar plug is hooking fish then anything will work, so I will give anything a try. No luck so far. We didn't catch anything during our hour or so of powering north outside of Raiatea's lagoon.

Our destination for the day was The Coral River, a drift dive between two motus out on Tahaa's barrier reef. The southern motu houses the Tahaa Resort, reputedly the best resort in French Polynesia. We anchored right in front of the resort hoping to pick up free WIFI.

A few minutes after we dropped the hook we heard some yelling from the direction of the hotel. At first we thought it was someone telling us that we couldn't anchor there, but it turned out to be somebody in the water. A bit more yelling, and we determined that it was Paulo Schaeffer who the crew had partied with in Huahine a week earlier. It turns out that Paulo and Charlotte had turned in their catamaran and were spending their final few days in French Polynesia at the Tahaa Resort. He recognized Van Diemen immediately and swam out to say hello.

Paulo and Charlotte dove The Coral River with us yesterday afternoon under gentle winds and sunny skies, and we decided to have dinner together at the resort. After pupus we dinghied in to meet them.

The weather had been beautiful all day. In normal trade wind weather the anchorage off of the Coral River is a lee shore, but when we arrived a gentle breeze was blowing from the north making it a nice anchorage. The weather forecast we had received yesterday morning predicted that the wind would back around to the south east and increase to fourteen knots just after dark. It looked like a front was coming. We didn't want to mess up our dinner plans though, so we decided to stay put and tough it out.

The wind shifted as forecast and it started raining while we were enjoying dinner. We ended up having to dinghy back to the boat in the rain. We hung out where we were until 11PM when Rob decided that we'd be better off a mile or so away in the shelter of Tapuamu Bay. Moving the boat in the pitch dark and pouring rain is not easy. There were already a bunch of boats anchored in Tapuamu that we would need to avoid, but we have a radar, GPS, and depth sounder to help us feel out way in.

Up came the hook and we worked our way across the lagoon and in past three super yachts that were fortunately lit up like Christmas trees to anchor near the head of the bay. The radar paid for itself helping us locate the poorly lit boats and even the reef markers. By midnight we were put to bed. Mike and I were in our cabins trying to get dry when he said, "Hey Noodle, will you take my picture?" That seemed like a strange request. I looked at him, and his face was covered in blood. He had gone aft earlier to grab a flashlight and had banged his head on the main hatch. It was a minor scrape, but head wounds bleed like crazy and Mike's face looked like a Halloween costume. It would have been a gruesome picture if he hadn't been smiling..

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017


0800 Position 16-55S 151-26W. Anchored off of Naonao Motu, Raiatea

When we checked in with customs in Papeete, Rob was told that there were more cruising boats passing through French Polynesia than normal this season, but that doesn't agree with what we are seeing. The anchorage off of Marina Taina in Papeete was the emptiest I've ever seen, and we aren't encountering as many cruising boats as we normally do out here in the leeward islands. We don't know where all the other boats are. Perhaps we are behind the main surge of boats heading west this season. It's fine with us. We like having paradise all to ourselves.

We spent last night anchored in the lee of Naonao Motu out on the south coast of Raiatea's fringing reef. The anchorage here is in a spot where the surf that comes over the reef flows into the lagoon and scours a twelve foot deep spot in the otherwise shallow sand bottom right next to the island. The snorkeling here is great. The trees on the motu shelter the boat from the trade winds, and the one knot current keeps the boat pointed to the south parallel to the motu's shoreline. It is a pretty small anchorage, but very popular, and I've seen as many as six boats moored here at the same time. I've been here nearly a dozen times before, but I don't recall ever having it to ourselves like we did last night.

All of my previous visits to Naonao have been on my own thirty three and thirty five foot boats, both having just a five foot draft. I've never had a problem with depth here, or anywhere else in French Polynesia. But Van Diemen is twice as long as my little boats, and draws three feet more water. It is amazing what a difference three feet makes. We bumped the sand bottom both entering and leaving Naonao on Van Diemen. It was no big deal as we were just inching along at the time, but it's a reminder that we need to pay closer attention to the depth on this cruise.

The weather remained unsettled yesterday with squalls everywhere on the horizon. We powered south inside the lagoon from Taputapuatea and made it to Naonao between showers. The sky opened up shortly after we were anchored and poured until mid-afternoon when we went in for a drift snorkel. Later in the afternoon Rob and Renee took the dinghy in to the closest village on Raiatea to look for fresh baguettes. No luck on the bread, but Rob did come back with a new Spanish made backpack.

We woke up this morning to clear skies and light winds and we are hoping that the unsettled weather is behind us as we continue our circumnavigation of Raiatea.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Holy Land

0800 Position 16-50S 151-22W. Anchored off of Taputapuatea Marae, Raiatea

On Sunday we had travel brochure weather, four to six knot trade winds and beautiful cumulus clouds. When the trade winds are that light though, it often means that a weather system is coming, and on Monday morning the wind was still light but the sky looked like rain was a possibility. We weighed anchor at first light and powered out of Haamene headed back to Raiatea to fill our propane bottles.

Van Diemen carries two twenty-five pound propane bottles that provide fuel for our stove and barbeque. The first bottle lasted just over a month and ran dry while we were cruising in Tahiti Iti. At that rate the second bottle should last us until the end of July, but we aren't comfortable not having a backup gas supply. You never know when you might have a hose leak or equipment malfunction that drains the tank, and nobody here is fond of iced coffee. So we picked up a mooring and dinghied into the Carrenage Marina on Raiatea, about a half a mile from the site of "the incident", to fill the empty tank and top off the other one.

While the dinghy was ashore it started pouring over the central and leeward coasts of Tahaa and Raiatea. The windward eastern coasts of both islands were still clear and sunny, so that set our itinerary for the rest of the day and after we were done filling propane we powered around to Raiatea's eastern coast and headed south. The rest of the crew had heard of Taputapuatea but hadn't been there so we headed in that direction.

Taputapuatea is easy to find. The ancient center of Polynesian culture, religion, and exploration is right next to the gigantic Christian church…. Typical…. This confluence of religions prompted a discussion on the subject which concluded with the question of exactly which way a Muslim would kneel to face Mecca here in Taputapuatea. Mike opined that there must be a smart phone app for that. If not, here's a real opportunity for some heathen to get rich. I pulled out my OpenCPN navigation software and discovered that the great circle (shortest direct) heading from Taputapuatea to Mecca is 283 degrees true, slightly north of west. A little more research revealed that the furthest one could get from Mecca on planet earth is a spot in the Pacific Ocean where the closest land is the Tuamotu atoll of Mururoa, France's nuclear test site that is just about 750 miles southeast of our current position. Coincidence? I think not!... This is how most discussions progress aboard the good yacht Van Diemen….. Did I mention that there was beer involved?

The marae of Taputapuatea are quite impressive, and after wandering around there for an hour or so we headed back to the boat, arriving just before the sky opened up and poured on us for most of the rest of the afternoon. It cleared enough just before sunset for a dinghy ride around the bay to explore, and after dinner we decided to have a movie night and watched "The King's Speech" which I had stored on my laptop.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Return of the Blogger

0800 Position 16-38S 151-29W. Anchored at the head end of Haamene Bay, Tahaa

I had a wonderful week at home with Lori. I arrived in Hawaii early Sunday morning and after stopping at home for a shower and a haircut, headed off to the last event of my 45th high school reunion, a picnic in Hakipuu valley. Hakipuu, is one of the spots I mentioned last week on my list of the most beautiful places on earth. How lucky I am to get to spend time at two spots on that list in the same week.

My at home to-do list was long and I wasn't sure there would be time to get it all done, but I did and still had time to socialize at the yacht club, go out to dinner with friends, and play tennis. Lori and I even carved out a day to take Moku pe'a out to the sandbar. It certainly helped that Lori had everything ship shape at home. The yard was in better shape than when I am home and taking care of it myself. Perhaps I should let her take over that responsibility permanently? What do you think, gentlemen?

On Saturday morning Lori, Kara, and I got together to watch the first two races of the America's Cup finals on TV before my afternoon flight to Papeette. I really love that stuff, and wanted to watch the next two races Sunday morning. I thought I had a chance because I had to overnight in a motel near the airport and hoped that the races might be on TV here. Apparently the French weren't interested after their boat got eliminated from the series though because it wasn't on TV in Papeete. I did have WIFI in the motel though, so I called Lori on WhatsApp over the internet and she put her phone next to the TV so I could at least hear the commentary from the racing.

In the meantime, Van Diemen has been busy. A week ago Sunday she sailed from Moorea to Huahine and spent a couple of days anchored in the lee of Motu Muri Mahora on the windward side of the island. This is an idyllic seldom visited anchorage with great drift diving and relaxing. From there they headed around to Huahine's western or leeward coast where they spent a couple of more days anchored in Avea Bay at the southern end of the lagoon. On Huahine's leeward coast they ran into Paulo Schaeffer, the brother of one of Mike's roommates from years past. Paulo and his wife Charlotte were there on a charter catamaran and they ended up having dinner aboard Van Diemen one evening. Rob said that Huahine is currently winning the "Best Island of the Voyage" award.

Raiatea's airport runway is built out on the reef on the north end of the island. The terminal is right on the water and the best way for visiting yachts to meet or deliver passengers is to take the dinghy right into the dock there. The dinghy dock is even closer to the terminal than the taxi cabs are. It is also a lot of fun. Where else do you get to dinghy in to baggage claim? Rob had planned to pick me up there yesterday with the dinghy, so at my scheduled arrival time he took Van Diemen in to the end of the runway and sent the dinghy to fetch me. Now, one is not supposed to take vessels with tall masts anywhere near either end of the runway. It is clearly so stated on the charts and there are standoff buoys off the ends of the runway to mark the restricted area. Van Diemen's intrusion into the restricted area got a predictable response. An official in a large red truck with flashing lights appeared and he gestured wildly for Van Diemen to vacate the area just as Renee and Mike were departing to pick me up. He had binoculars and it looked like he was trying to see the name on Van Diemen's stern. Fortunately, the swim step was down so the ship's name was illegible. By the time the three of us had returned in the dingy Rob had taken the boat outside of the restricted area, but the Gendarmes may be looking for us. This morning Rob switched the red Australian ensign, which was flying on the stern during "the incident" with the green fighting Kangaroo ensign to throw them off the scent.

As soon as the crew was back aboard yesterday after "the incident", Van Diemen powered north to Tahaa and anchored at the head of Haamene Bay. This is my favorite spot in all of French Polynesia, a two mile long fjord like bay that cuts right into the middle of Tahaa. Lori and I had a number of great times here on our 2011 and 2014 cruises. After getting settled, we dinghied in to the Tahaa Maitai restaurant to see if they were going to be open for dinner. They weren't, but Chef Bruno was still there cleaning up from Sunday brunch and I got to speak to him for a few minutes. We will have to come back and have dinner there later in the trip. A hike up to the pass in the hills above the valley seemed like a good idea, but we didn't get going until 430PM. At 515 we decided to turn around so we wouldn't find ourselves stuck out in the wilderness after dark and made it back to the village just before it got too dark to see where we were stepping. Another great day in paradise.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Cruise Pictures

King Neptune welcomes the new shellbacks at the equator
I've been unable to post pictures from the cruise because we don't  have internet access aboard Van Diemen.  I'm back in Hawaii for a week though, and finally have WIFI.  Here are a sampling of photos from the first two months of cruising.

Longy's first aku

Rob searching for virgins in The Bay of Virgins

Van Diemen at anchor in The Bay of Virgins

The fleet at anchor in The Bay of Virgins

Mike's Watermelon Papaya

The pier at Ua Pou

Bill Barsz SUPping on Tahiti Iti

Van Diemen at anchor off Tautira

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Cook's Bay

0800 Position 17-30S 149-49W. Anchored at the head end of Cook's Bay, Moorea

A Windjammer cruise ship anchored just inside the mouth of the bay during the night and it filled the northern opening in morning. We had a leisurely morning enjoying the beauty of Oponohu Bay. Rob, Renee, and Mike went for a dinghy tour after breakfast. They checked out the fleet anchored at the other end of the bay and the scenery in between.

After lunch we powered two miles east to Cook's Bay and anchored near its head end. Cook's is similar to Oponohu, but is almost fully developed along its shores with resorts, stores, and homes. There are more boats moored here as well, which we normally don't seek out, but Rob agreed to come over to make it easier for me to find transportation to the ferry on the other side of Moorea today.

I am flying to Hawaii tonight to spend a week with Lori and take care of business at home after being away for more than two months. Van Diemen will likely depart Moorea tomorrow, spend a few days in Huahine, and then head over to Raiatea where I will meet her on 6/18. I hope to post some pictures of our adventures since leaving Californa in the blog next week when I have internet access, but daily reports on the cruise likely won't be posted until I return.

Aloha, Noodle

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Most Beautiful Spot on Earth

0800 Position 17-31S 149-51W. Anchored at the head end of Opunohu Bay, Moorea

The crew had great success at the open market yesterday morning finding all the fresh fruits and vegetables they were seeking. After they returned we left the Papeete Marina and moved five miles west to Marina Taina where it would be easier to do the rest of our shopping. We picked up a mooring there, dinghied into the marina, and all walked the quarter mile to Carrefour, the French equivalent to Costco, only better. Carrefour has everything, and at a good price. We completed our mid-voyage provisioning, went back to the boat, and departed for Moorea at about 2PM.

I am lucky enough to have had the opportunity to sail all around the world over the past forty years. I believe I've seen most of the best, and I feel qualified to participate in any discussion on the most beautiful spot on earth, at least from sea level. There is Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas, Keawanui on the north shore of Molokai in Hawaii, and Hakepuu, just seven miles from my home in Kaneohe. But vying for the top of the list is always Oponouhu Bay on the island of Moorea.

As we sit here at anchor under the full moon there is only one other boat here at the head end of the bay, a super yacht that is moored a quarter mile outside of us. I do not understand why this paradise is so underutilized. We counted 150 boats moored off of Marina Taina in Tahiti, just fifteen miles away. At the entrance to the bay a mile and a half away we counted twenty boats packed in together anchored off the beach park.

The silhouette of the infamous Shark's Tooth is clear in the moonlight ahead of us. 2,800 foot Mt. Papetoai and its sheer cliffs tower above us to port. They are so steep and so close. It appears that any kind of landslide there will end up in our cockpit. The infamous Robinson's Cove where you anchor the bow and tie the stern to the coconut trees ashore is one hundred yards to port. It is empty so we could have moored there, but we didn't want to risk exposure to mosquitoes overnight so we anchored further offshore. The water here is smooth as silk, and the cool evening offshore thermal ensures a good night's sleep.

Perhaps it is the memories that make this place so beautiful to me. When I first sailed here with Rob forty one years ago, I recall taking the dinghy out for a midnight paddle under the full moon. It was so calm that the moonlight reflecting off of the sand bottom ten feet below me made the water disappear completely, and it appeared that the dinghy was floating on air. In 1986 we anchored off of a friend's house here in the bay and enjoyed movies and ice cream every night. Not a big deal normally, but at the time we hadn't enjoyed either refrigeration or television for six months. In 2011 I got to share Oponohu with my daughter Kara, who earned her ticket to paradise by completing the toughest seventeen day ocean passage that I have ever been on. Lori and I relaxed here for a week in 2014 and even got to take some friends from Hawaii, who Lori bumped into on the flight down, out for a sail. We encountered a school of dolphin here in the bay that day, and Mitch jumped in to swim with them. This place is magic.

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Thursday, June 8, 2017


0800 Position 17-32S 149-34W. In a slip at Papeete Marina, Tahiti

Yesterday was full of running around Papeete getting things done. Rob got our duty free fuel certificate from customs, a valuable piece of paper that will save us $1/liter, about fifty percent, when we have to buy diesel fuel anywhere in French Polynesia. Mike and Bill hit the Air Tahiti Nui office to organize their flights home. Renee took a spill on one of our folding bicycles, but she is fine. I went in search of a replacement French Press for the glass one that I broke while cleaning it early in the trip. You'd think it would be easy to find a French Press in the largest city in French Polynesia. No luck so far, but we haven't been to Carrefour, the French equivalent to Costco, yet. I'm hoping to get lucky there today.

Bill departed for the airport at about 2PM to head for home. His flight wasn't until later in the evening, but he had to get his $1,000 bond back before he departed and he figured it would be a challenge. He was told that he had to have his boarding pass in hand before the bank would return his money to him. There is a bank branch at the airport to facilitate this, but they close at 4PM.

Dinner at the roulettes the night before disagreed with some of the crew's digestive systems, so we decided to try something else. We ended up back at the downtown brew pub for dinner, which was great.

The sun is just rising as I write this, and the rest of the crew are off to the Papeete Open Market to buy fruit and vegitables. The open market here is two stories and about two acres of organized chaos where all manner of products, primarily fresh fish and produce, change hands every day. It is particularly busy in the mornings and Van Diemen is in the thick of it.

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Elephant Graveyard

0800 Position 17-32S 149-34W.  In a slip at Papeete Marina, Tahiti

When I was a little kid we used to watch Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins on television.  He would explore the mysteries of deepest darkest Africa, and I remember one of those mysteries being the mythical elephant graveyard where elephants would go to die.

A similar mystery exists today.  We keep building more and more fiberglass boats.  There are only a finite number of places to keep them though.  Where do the old ones go to die?  Well, we believe we’ve found the elephant graveyard for fiberglass boats.  It’s right here in Port Phaeton.  This place is full of derelict fiberglass and aluminum boats, many of which do not look like they’ve been touched in years.  There are even a few that have sunk in the shallows and are partially exposed above the water’s surface.

We went ashore this morning to explore the nearby marina and drydocking facility.  It too was full of boats worth less than $1,000.  Many of the boats on the hard look like they have been there for many years.

Other than being surrounded by derelicts, Port Phaeton was a very pleasant anchorage.  A couple of us were buzzed by mosquitoes during the night, but the cool breeze flowing down from the mountains of Tahiti Nui made for great sleeping.

We weighed anchor after our walk around the boat yard and headed for Papeete.  There wasn’t much wind, so we powered west just outside the reef.  Papeete is the big city, and a busy place.  The port is so busy that you need to request clearance on the VHF radio to enter the harbor.  We did that, got approval, and entered just as a high speed ferry was departing for Moorea.  Once in the harbor we headed left for the Papeete Marina, a new secure marina right in the heart of town.  I recall there being plenty of empty slips there when I was here in 2014, and the marina manager directed us to a great slip when we called him yesterday on the VHF.  At 3PM we were secured and ready to check out the town.

The first order of business was finding WIFI.  Free WIFI comes with the slip, but we were told it was temporarily disabled.  A nice gal on one of the boats near us told us about free WIFI at a brew pub.  I recall having an excellent beer at a downtown brew pub with my daughter Kara in 2011, so Bill  and I headed there.  That was the spot.  The beer is still excellent, the WIFI is free, and the smell of barley and hops from the brewing process was heavenly.

One of Papeete’s favorite attractions is the roulettes, the dozen or so food trucks that mass every evening on the waterfront about a block from the marina.  You can get everything imaginable there, pizza, Chinese, steak, crepes, fish, etc.  We all headed over there for dinner last night and it was great.  We will likely be there again tonight.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Port Phaeton

0800 Position 17-44S 149-20W. At anchor in Port Phaeton, Tahiti

Part of Van Diemen's pre-cruise refit was the replacement of all of her sailing instruments. The new instrument package has just about every sailing instrument available, but there are only a few that I consider really useful. The apparent wind indicator is one of them. Unfortunately, it wasn't working when we left California, and countless hours of effort by Longy and Rob along the way were unsuccessful in fixing the problem. Before Longy left they had discussed switching two of the three wires that come from the sensor on the top of the mast as a possible fix. Yesterday morning after breakfast Rob switched the wires and "Sacrebleu! A miracle, Messieur! She is working!"

At 11AM we weighed anchor and headed out Teaianui Pass bound for Teahupoo, Tahiti Iti's famous surf break on the southern barrier reef. The wind was light so we powered around the south east end of Tahiti Iti to get there. When we arrived at Teahupoo we found the waves to be quite small, but there was still a crowd of folks out trying to catch them.

Most of us have seen videos of big wave surfers riding the waves at Teahupoo, and in the videos the channel into the lagoon on the west side of the break looks wide and deep. Rob wanted to take Van Diemen into the lagoon through that channel. The cruising guides said that it was impassable, but we were going to give it a go anyway. The closer we got the worse it looked. We bailed out at the last minute and headed west for Port Phaeton, a large deep river system estuary that lies in the isthmus between Tahiti Iti and Tahiti Nui.

We dropped the hook at 230PM near the head of the almost landlocked bay, having successfully cheated death one more time.

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Monday, June 5, 2017

Life Past the End of the Road

0800 Position 17-49S 149-08W. At anchor under Mt. Puatava, Tahiti Iti

Vaitepiha Valley, a steep sided gorge that looks like it cuts Tahiti Iti in half, emptied into Tautira Bay where we were anchored. We could see waterfalls at the back of the valley from our anchorage, and one of our cruising guides said that the valley had a great eight kilometer hike. So after breakfast we all piled in the dinghy and went ashore to give it a go.

We walked for a couple of hours next to a river, winding our way back until we couldn't tell that we were on a little island in the middle of the ocean. Our decision on a turn around point was made for us when we encountered a chain across the road with signs in French and Tahitian that we couldn't read but seemed to indicate that we might be cooked and eaten if we continued.

The wind had died off completely, and it was hot hiking back in the hills. Hinano seemed like a good rehydration vehicle once we got back to the boat.

After lunch we pulled the hook and powered around the corner to the eastern end of Tahiti Iti. This end of the island is fully protected by a barrier reef, but there are two good channels through it. We passed through the reef and entered the lagoon through Vaionifa Pass, the northernmost entrance. Once inside we powered south in the lagoon with 3,000 foot cliffs on one side and the reef on the other.

We had intended to anchor in a favorite spot of mine just south of Teaianui Pass, the southern entrance channel. I had anchored there on both my thirty three and thirty five foot boats. I recall the channel just to the north of the anchorage as being challenging, but I didn't have any problems getting through. Just before we got there though, a small power boat came along side and the skipper gestured to us that the pass was not suitable for a boat as large as Van Diemen. We decided to turn around and anchor instead in a large open area between the reef and mountain. Just as well. In the spot we were headed for we'd have to anchor close to shore and in the calm conditions we'd probably suffer mosquitoes on the boat.

In the flat calm of the late afternoon we busted out the stand up paddle boards and explored the coast line. The local dogs don't get excited about passing power boats, but they are apparently not used to seeing haoles on SUPs. Every pier we passed had a couple of canines on it barking hysterically.

It started raining after dinner, and poured off and on all night long. It was a good opportunity to have a movie night, so we all chuckled over "A Fish Called Wanda" that I had stored on my laptop. We enjoyed a mosquito free evening.

It must be some kind of a holiday or vacation period, because we haven't seen the "school bus" come by this morning. I'm disappointed. I wanted the guys to see it. On weekday mornings and afternoons a large power skiff built to carry a couple dozen people drives up and down the lagoon ferrying kids to and from school.

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Sunday, June 4, 2017


0800 Position 17-45S 149-10W. At anchor in Tautira Bay, Tahiti Iti

This is the fifth time I've sailed across the ocean on a small sailboat and made landfall on the island of Tahiti. It is one of the most iconic sailing destinations in the world, and arriving here is always memorable. First one, and then the other of Tahiti's two mountains rose out of the sea looking like separate islands. As we got closer more features appeared, the deep valleys that are cut into the mountains, the old cores of volcanos that remain now as spires, and steep cliffs. Closer still, and the island started to turn green and the two mountains merged into a single island. Manmade structures came into view, and there was a debate about what they were. We saw a sailboat that turned into a barge that turned into a church as we got closer. The water became smooth as we passed through the barrier reef. We tucked up under the reef and behind a peninsula and dropped anchor in twenty five feet over a black sand bottom. There wasn't another large boat in sight, just a dozen or so one man outrigger canoes that the locals are playing with near the beach.

We had planned to anchor on the eastern end of Tahiti Iti, but the wind shifted unexpectedly to the southeast overnight and we couldn't lay that end of the island. No problem. I dug out the cruising guide and saw that we were headed for Tautira. We anchored there when I circumnavigated Tahiti on my Ranger 33 in 1986, and I recall it being a pleasant and protected spot. So we decided to go to Tautira instead, and it turned out to be even nicer than I remembered.

Tautira marks the end of the coastal road around the island of Tahiti. The cliffs are too steep and coastal plain too narrow east of Tautira to build roads, but people still live there. Their highway is the protected lagoon between the barrier reef and the cliffs and boats are their vehicles. That's where we were headed yesterday before the wind shifted. We'll head over that way later today.

We dinghied in to the black sand beach and walked around town finding the supermarket where we had to sample some ice cream and pick up some fresh produce. On the way back we found a local entrepreneur selling fruit at the end of his driveway and bought his entire stock.

The wind died off completely later in the afternoon, so out came the inflatable stand up paddle boards. The rum came out at about the same time. Our preliminary research indicates that SUP performance is inversely proportional to rum consumption.

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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Tahiti Bound

0800 Position 17-14S 148-49W. 36 miles northeast of Tahiti Iti

After more than a week of strong trades we woke up yesterday to find that the wind had died down to less than ten knots. That matched the forecast, but the direction was still unfavorable for the trip to Fakarava so we changed our plans and decided to head instead for Tahiti. After a quick trip ashore for last minute provisions and a coffee at Chez Lili we raised the anchor at 10AM and headed out.

We had to motor sail out the pass and west around the end of Rangiroa before we could head south towards our destination. The trade winds did not fill in enough for us to sail until 6PM when we shut down the engine for the night.

Just before sunset we caught a fifteen pound aku, but we already had some fresh ahi ready for dinner so we let him go.

I think last night was the most pleasant night sail I've ever seen. Close reaching at eight knots under full sail in the same amount of wind with an almost absolutely flat sea. Van Diemen was loving it, sliding along effortlessly with hardly a murmur in the moonlight.

Just after dark we had to alter course to avoid running into Makatea, probably the most unique of the Tuamotus, an uplifted coral slab 360 feet above sea level. It was once mined for phosphate. We could just see the silhouette of the island as we slipped by a mile and a half offshore.

As I write this the island of Tahiti has just come up over the horizon ahead of us. We are looking forward to dropping the anchor in the lagoon off of Tahiti Iti at about noon.

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Friday, June 2, 2017

The Blue Lagoon

0800 Position 14-58S 147-38W. At anchor in the lee of Reporepo Motu, Rangiroa

A couple of days ago I mentioned the "Askari", a large power boat that I have seen down here in French Polynesia on each of my last three trips. One of our blog readers did some research and found out that Askari is a charter boat out of Papeete. She could be yours too for the paltry sum of $75,000 per week. That explains why we've been seeing her so often.

Rob, Renee, and Bill wanted to see what village life was like in the Tuamotus when there aren't any tourist around, so after breakfast they dinghied in and caught the ferry across Tiputa Pass to the motu on the east side. They wandered around for a while, watched some kind of a kid's sporting event, and came back about 10AM.

Both of our cruising guides talked about "The Blue Lagoon", a large hole in the reef at the western end of Rangiroa. Still trying to kill time and stay entertained, we decided to go have a look. Our anchor became hopelessly entangled with a submerged mooring that we hadn't noticed previously while we were trying to pull it up. I ended up having to jump overboard with a dive mask to sort it out. When we were done entertaining the other boats in the anchorage, we headed off for the Blue Lagoon, twenty miles away.

On the way we sailed by Paio Motu, also called Bird Island, a circular fifty yard wide patch of forest in the middle of the Rangiroa lagoon. Further along we were visited by some dolphin. The chart recommended anchoring to the east of the Blue Lagoon, and showed the lagoon to be impassable to the west, but when we arrived it looked like we could get around to the west side and a more protected anchorage. As we picked our way along it became clear why the chart said not to go there. It was a mine field of coral heads that came to within about five feet of the surface – too shallow for Van Diemen but too deep to see clearly until we were nearly on top of them. Yikes! But Rob managed to thread his way through them to a fair anchorage. It wasn't as protected as we had hoped but it would do.

Bill and Renee elected to stay aboard, so Rob, Mike, and I hopped in the dinghy and headed over toward the Blue Lagoon with our snorkel gear. We had hoped to dinghy right in and do some diving, but we found the water over the reef to be too shallow for the dinghy's outboard. An even bigger problem was the six or so black tip sharks that circled the dinghy continuously. We tried paddling the dinghy, but it didn't want to go straight in the strong wind. Poor Mike was the only one who brought shoes, so he got to get out and walk the dingy along. He didn't get bit, but that doesn't mean he wasn't thinking about it.

It became apparent to us that there was no way we could get into the Blue Lagoon without walking on the sharp coral, and diving had lost its appeal with so many sharks around. We decided to head back for the boat, found a deeper way than we came in, and made it back safely. The sharks followed us out, and Van Diemen was surrounded by a dozen or so sharks until we got organized and departed.

The trip back out through the maze of coral heads was just as sketchy as the trip in. Once through into deeper water Rob said "I think we're out of the shallow stuff. It should be clear sailing for the rest of the way."

Mike pointed and said, "What about that reef over there?" We all looked over at what appeared to be another shallow spot, but then it moved.

"That's not a reef, it's Manta Rays!" I yelled. We had stumbled on a school of four gigantic manta rays feeding in the lagoon. They each had to have at least a ten foot wing span. We did a circle around them, shot videos and took some pictures, and continued on.

We arrived back at our anchorage off of Reporepo motu just as the sun was setting, and finished off the day with rum drinks and a viewing of the feature film "Captain Ron" in Van Diemen's Saloon. Another great day in paradise.

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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Relaxing in Rangiroa

0800 Position 14-58S 147-38W. At anchor in the lee of Reporepo Motu, Rangiroa

I messed up the title of yesterday's blog. There's too many "R" islands here in paradise – Raiatea, Rarotonga, Raraka, Raivavae, Rangiroa…. We won't be getting to Raiatea for a while.

We are still in a holding pattern due to the weather so we had a lazy day yesterday. We spent much of the morning in the Chez Lili café sipping coffee and using the internet. Afterwards we went for a hike around the island, built up a thirst, and went back to Chez Lili for a beer. Life is not easy here.

We are getting restless though. It doesn't look like the trade winds will shift or die off enough for us to work our way east to Fakarava anytime soon so we are looking at alternatives. Our current plan is to explore some more of the Rangiroa lagoon today and then head for the eastern end of the island of Tahiti tomorrow.

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