Monday, July 15, 2019

Our last weeks

This years's adventure for the Bliss crew is reaching it's final stage. Thinking about the whole trip, we can divide it up in 4 parts: 2 months of prep for the ocean crossing in Mexico; almost one month underway to reach French Polynesia; 3 months of living, boat schooling and maintaining/fixing the boat in these amazing islands; and finally prepping the boat again for long term storage. Bliss will go out of the water in less than two weeks in Raiatea, and will be stored on land. After all these years, Tod has become an expert in putting Bliss to bed. The female crew will stay in a house close by until we all fly to Tahiti at the end of the month, and catch two flights back home the next day. Amazing to think that it will "only" take 18 hours of travel time to get back versus the 24 days it took us to get to the Marquesas!

No doubt Tod will be happy to end the "cruising is working on your boat in exotic locations" part of this adventure, and go back to the ease of land/home living. But I'm sure we will also miss the beauty of these islands, the friendly people, and the joy that jumping off our floating home brings to see amazing sea life. As I'm writing this, we are anchored all by ourselves in just a spat of shallow water in the midst of deeper water, with spectacular views of the volcano mountains of Raiatea on one side, and an enormous infiniti pool on the other side. We are in kayak distance of the largest marae, ancient Polynesian temples.

We got to this anchor spot by eyeball navigation, searching this part of the lagoon for patches of lighter blue, but not too light of a blue, indicating too shallow water. You need clear overhead sun to do that, and fortunately we had that today. We had been holed up for a week with a bad weather storm, the only bonus was that Tod discovered some sources of our leaks, and fixed them. With the winter in full swing here, we have noticed the cooler temperature at night, no more just a sheet for sleeping, and the water temp has dropped a few degrees from 85 to 81.

Most of the boats we have met this season are leaving French Polynesia now and heading west to sail another 4000 miles to spend cyclone season, starting in November, in New Zealand or Australia. It will be fun to follow along our cruising friends, and getting some ideas of what we plan to do during the summer months of 2020, when we plan to make more westing as well.
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At 2019-July-15 06:40 UTC the position of Bliss was 16°38.27'S 151°25.78'W, on the east side of the island Tahaa, in the Society island group of French Polynesia

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Stingrays, Heiva and seeing red

Orange/ red is the color we are seeing on the weather charts for the next few days, meaning we can expect sustained winds of 30 knots, and waves of 5 meters (15 ft) in 9 seconds interval on the ocean. For sailors that means time to find a good anchorage, stay put and don't go out on the ocean if you don't have to! Winter started here on June 21st, and these are months for the Maraamu, strong local winds. We are happy to have our wind generator putting back a good amount of amps back in our battery bank, as our solar panels are less effective with the heavy clouds.

We arrived on the laid back island of Huahine a week ago, and are at an anchorage we like. It's of the town of Fare, and we can see the islands of Bora Bora and Raiatea 20 miles away. These islands are part of the Leeward islands of the Societies. All islands of the Societies have a big reef around their land mass, and you have to go through passes to enter the blue lagoons. Google earth has some amazing pictures of them from above to really get a feel for these surroundings. Once you are inside the reef, like here in Huahine, you see the crashing waves of the Pacific from your anchorage. We are anchored in 12 ft of water, on a sandy bottom, a first shallow anchorage for us, and quite unique in the Societies, as most anchorages are deep, 60 ft or more is not uncommon.

Tahiti was our first stop in the Societies on June 10th, and we stayed in a marina for the first time after months. Right in the midst of Papeete, its capital. Although it was quite nice to step off your boat and not have to jump in our dinghy to go to shore, we called it quits after 3 days. Papeete is busy, touristy, and feels a bit grim and even grimy. We indulged in ice creams, visited the food trucks one night, and loaded up on fresh groceries. We hadn't seen a big grocery store in a while, so we felt like kids in a candy store. It was only a 15 minutes walk to the store, and we came well prepared with our little foldable trolley. Of course we bought more than we planned, so I asked for a taxi. When they asked $90 for this very short drive back to the marina, we politely declined and slugged our stuff back.

The island of Moorea is just 7 miles off Tahiti, and feels a world apart. You can take a short ferry ride there, and it has become a destination for vacationers who want to experience a lagoon-like setting. We anchored close to a beach/park in Opunohu Bay, next to Cook's Bay. Both bays are jaw dropping beautiful, with high volcanic mountains. We liked the bay of Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas better, but only because it's smaller, and we had fewer boats there. In Opunohu Bay there were at least 30 boats anchored, a fair amount of French boats, and Tessa got to play "sign language style" with French boat kids on the beach.

One highlight in Moorea was swimming with sting rays and black tip reef sharks at the same time. There is an area called Sting Ray City, and tour operators go there with a bunch of boats. The operators feed fish to the sting rays, and the rays come up to you very close. Pictures and videos just have to wait with the almost non existent internet here, but it for sure was memorable. We saw several sting rays crawling up the back of the local tour operators, they just must recognize them. Another highlight was the hike up to Belvedere, where you have a beautiful view point of both bays. We partly hitch hiked to the top, then wandered for a couple of hours through dense rain forest back to the valley.

Orange/red, green and many other colors are the ones we saw during the start of Heiva yesterday. Heiva is a month-long, local, and non-commercial celebration of Polynesian culture, including dance, drumming, singing, and traditional sports (outrigger canoe races, coconut tree climbing among others). It was a joy to see the flower parade, with many different groups dancing and drumming. There is something on the calendar every day, so in between schooling, boat projects and rain showers, we jump in the dinghy to be part of this celebration.

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At 2019-July-01 01:14 UTC the position of Bliss was 16°43.25'S 151°02.39'W, at the village Fare on the island Huahine, in the Society island group of French Polynesia