27 July 2012

Manta fly over

VIDEO FRIDAY

For our anniversary, Carol arranged with friends of ours to borrow dive gear and go diving with the mantas in Maupiti. Holy crap. There is a cleaning station in Maupiti where the mantas go to have fish eat the parasites living in their mouth, “scoopers”*, and gill slits. They take turns at the cleaning station and when we went down for our dive, we sat on the white sand nearby watching them. They changed their flight pattern so that after cleaning they flew over our heads. So cool. They are huge.

A short quality downgraded clip for a visual:

In other news, Maupiti is my new favorite place. We posted the views from the top of the mountain already on the blog. If I had the bandwidth I would post the aerial footage we took with our GoPro on our kite yesterday. Fan-freaking-tastic. If I could have the diving/snorkeling/water clarity of South Fakarava and add it to this place, I might never leave - hurricanes be damned.

*I can’t remember the name for the thingamajigs on the side of their big mouths.

18 July 2012

More images from the Society Islands

Hotel Bora Bora and lagoon Mountain in clouds in Bora Bora Hotel on E side of Bora Bora Kiteboarding mural in Tahiti Estrellita on buoy at Bloody Mary's

17 July 2012

Maupiti: Views from on high

Reasons 42 and 91 for bringing your boat to the South Pacific:

Team Giddyup in Maupiti

We took a hike up to the top of the “mountain” on the island of Maupiti and looked down at the pass (above), the lagoon inside the atoll where we are anchored (red arrow). Amazing views of nearly all sides of the island from the summit.

Estrellita in Maupiti

It was a sweaty hike with a bit of unroped scrambling. It felt good to use our legs after being stuck on the boat for a few days of bad weather. Worth the wait as well because we had perfect weather at the summit which we shared with the crew of L’Insousiance (who took the picture of us) and Tereva. There are 5 cruising boats in Maupiti and 3 of them had the same idea for this first sunny day after a few of rain and clouds. The boats gathered that evening for drinks.

The orange arrow in the photo marks the nearby kiting spot which we hope to have the wind to take advantage of soon.

15 July 2012

Logbook: Prideaux Haven

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Can you believe that I found a post from last year that was never uploaded? Blas from the past - here are some BC pictures while we are in French Polynesia!

Prideaux Haven is one of those spots in Desolation Sound that is packed to the rim in the summer season and we had Melanie Cove (one of the 3 main anchorages in the area) either to ourselves or with one other boat each night.

The kayaking was great because the edges of the coves are lined with rock shelves full of critters, there is a large lagoon to paddle through, and a bunch of small islets to paddle around.

IMG_5657 (1280x853) Our last two nights were made even more enjoyable by the presence of Greg and Nicole on SV Baraka who joined us for dinner one evening and who were kind enough to donate some yeast to our pantry so we could made bread. After a few weeks without a grocery store our fresh supplies were still doing OK but we were out of baked goods.

The weather has been 50-50. We are early in the season and Spring has been touch and go in BC. Still, we’ve had enough sunny days mixed in to get some good time kayaking and we don’t mind (as much) transiting or playing in wet weather now that the air temp has come up.

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The great debate aboard SV Estrellita 5.10b is whether we’ll miss having any kind of summer at all if we spend 3 weeks in the Haida Gwaii – to be determined…

14 July 2012

The Estrellita Report: 2012 Update #1

These quick summaries are for non-regular blog readers. Regular readers will see them a few times a year and can tune them out.

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It has been more than a year since our last quick summary and those of you subscribed to that version of our blog have been neglected! For various subscription options, including more regular updates, go here. There should be instructions for removing yourself from this list appended to this email.

In the last update, we had just finished our first loop around Vancouver Island and had spent the winter cruising on and off in British Columbia. We were preparing to head North again for another loop before heading South to California and then Mexico.

We had a great time traveling as far North as the Haida Gwaii and we left from Tofino in July 2010 for San Francisco having a great 6 day passage. We spent a few months traveling in California before entering Mexico in October 2010. We visited some beautiful spots in Mexico but decided to leave in March 2011 for the South Pacific. Our nearly 27 day passage is captured in this 30 minute video.

Since our arrival in the S Pacific we have had a great time visiting beautiful places, doing some weird things and kiteboarding. We are currently reaching the end of our Visa in French Polynesia and will be continuing Westward this year until hurricane season in November. Current plans are to spend that season in New Zealand. Two years of cruising so far!

Feel free to drop us a comment on the blog or an email at s.v.estrellita@gmail.com

13 July 2012

Cheap booze in French Polynesia

Duty Free Booze  When clearing out of Papeete, Tahiti, you are eligible to purchase duty free alcohol which, by law, they must deliver to your boat. Not only do you pay 1/4 or less of the store prices for imported, they deliver the heavy goods to your dock, or in our case, our dinghy dock where we dinghied the goods to our boat.

Carol with empty booze boxesWine for $4, large Heinekens* for $1.50, bottles of rum for $5. We wish we had gone there earlier so we could have taken their menu to the local store, bought some tasters, and bought wine that we knew was good. Instead, because we did the errand last minute, we gambled.

The duty free cannot be consumed until you check out of French Polynesia. So now we have the portion of our wine from Mexico that was sealed by customs and a bunch of other stuff we cannot touch. A party when we leave?

The basic details of the duty free purchase are in “The Societies Compendium” by Soggy Paws – an online resource by cruisers for cruisers.

*Alas, the beer standards have plummeted since leaving Americanada.

12 July 2012

Images from the Society Islands

Hover over images for descriptions

Carol finds Livia being mobbed by sting rays hystericalThe now defunct Hotel Bora Bora Livia working on her free diving   Rays on Vicki Mark and ray

((Last three photos courtesy of Southern Cross))

11 July 2012

Anniversaries

Team Giddyup at Bora Bora In the flow of this cruising season, somehow we missed our two years of cruising anniversary in mid-June. Considering our penchant for celebrating any conceivable event, difficult to believe we missed it!

We are also coming up on one year since we left Tofino – a big event for us heading South finally.

In other anniversary news, happy 5 year wedding anniversary to the best husband in the world – pictured here taking me out on the town in Bora Bora.

10 July 2012

Fun with drop-offs

This is a window into the ways that I amuse myself in tropical paradise.

IMG_6575 (1280x853) This picture was taken in the SE corner of Bora Bora. The line between the light and dark colored water shows that there is a steep drop off in the sand. We anchored our dinghy in the light colored water which was about chest deep and amused ourselves for almost an hour walking around on the shelf, walking off the deep end and swimming back to the shelf. We talked about getting out our camping air mattress, inflating it and anchoring it on the shelf for a day but ended up leaving that anchorage to go elsewhere for kiteboarding. I’m still planning to make the mattress day happen.

09 July 2012

Logbook: Bora Bora

Bloody Mary's dockArriving just ahead of a frontal system, we spent the first few days watching a beautiful motu just South of the pass get rained on. We felt lucky to do this, not just because we were watching rain in Bora Bora rather than rain in Victoria, but because the frontal system hit Moorea, the place we had just left, with more strength, and reportedly caused a bunch of boats in Opunohu Bay (in the same bay as we had been, but in the anchorage in the opposite side from us) to drag.

 Livia in BoraAfter that front, we picked up a free buoy outside of the restaurant Bloody Mary’s, had some drinks (clearly), took a long walk around the point to meet the resident kiteboarding instructor Alban, and went into town for part of the Heiva festivities. As a sidenote, Heiva is a nearly month long festival, culminating on July 14th, for Polynesians, by Polynesians. There are sporting, musical and dancing events. They rock the house. I took video so no photos for now.

Estrellita at Bloody Mary's Carol hiked up the top of a nearby hill to grab a shot of Estrellita on buoy at Bloody Mary’s with the mountains in the background. He also managed to grab a bunch of edible coconuts which he husked, cracked open and grated and I made fresh coconut dark chocolate macaroons. Oh yes, delicious.

We left Bloody Mary’s after a few nights because Bora Bora is really about the motus and the lagoon on the backside. The motus combined with the mountains of Bora Bora are spectacular and when the swell breaks over the SE corner of the island, the water clarity of the lagoon on the E side is very good and the colors…oh the colors. We crept along slowly, very close to the hotels on the E side of Bora Bora with least depths seen of 8 feet (we are 6.5 feet deep). Telling ourselves “it is just sand” we pushed on until we reached the SE area, dropped the hook and then pinched ourselves to see if we were dreaming. A few hours later, without coordination, friends arrived and we had paradise and social time all wrapped together.

Here are our friends aboard the Swiss flagged SV MOMO floating in the blue lagoon.

SV MOMO in Bora Bora

08 July 2012

CFSA

CFSA and TYC

To our readers from our home “yacht club”, this one is for you. Our burgee and the Tahiti Yacht Club, exchanged.

07 July 2012

Logbook: Moorea (Opunohu Bay)

Estrellita in Moorea (Opanohu)

Mark on halyard swing

One concern we had about this season in the South Pacific was how rushed we would be from the large number of mileage and countries to travel before hurricane season. For the most part, we’ve chosen to visit fewer places in French Polynesia and stay in each place longer than we have stayed in places in the past. This is working out well so far. Even though our time here is so short, we don’t feel like we are rushing. Moorea was an exception to this plan.

We spent only a few days at one anchorage in Moorea. It was beautiful, and we thought about staying longer but a frontal system was coming through, followed by no wind, and we knew we could either make some more miles under sail or stay in Moorea for another week or more. With Moorea getting crowded, and scheduled to get more crowded with the PPJ Tahiti-Moorea Rendezvous incoming, we decided to take an overnight sail to Bora Bora and spend some time there.

Carol having a happier interaction with a sting ray than Los AngelesIn Moorea we did two things: play with sting rays and hang out with Mark and Vicki on Southern Cross who came over from Papeete to play with us.

The sting rays have been fed for decades in the same location and come to your dinghy as soon as they hear your propeller and/or the sound of your dinghy anchor dropping. If you have a piece of fish, they mob you, flapping their wings and climbing up your body, begging for the treat. Feeding wild animals is, of course, not usually a great idea for their own health and safety. In this instance, we were not worried about our personal impact. It was hugely fun, they feel like wet mushrooms and act like begging dogs – begging dogs with barbs.

In this land of crystal clear water, we are occasionally setting up our spinnaker pole and spinnaker halyard so that we can swing out and drop into the water off of the boat (see picture of Mark above). Fun, fun times.

Southern Cross & Estrellita

01 July 2012

More questions from readers

Happy Canada Day!

Thanks to everyone who commented to let us know they are out there, to tell us what they think of the videos or posts and to ask questions. I’m writing this from Bora Bora. We’re bobbing about on a windless day in 15 feet of crystal clear light blue water with motus on one side and mountains on the other. Of course, this is Bora Bora so we also have all of the tourist activities imaginable around us (snorkelers, divers, jet skis, tour boats) but unlike many cruisers, we enjoy being part of the hustle and bustle part of the time.

I often wonder what it will be like to swim in a reef with sharks...Did you have any close encounters?

Well, at first, all encounters felt like close encounters. After a while we could tell if the shark was actually approaching us, or if it hadn’t realized we were there yet. Sometimes a shark would be swimming and then it would see us, do a u-turn and speed away, particularly the small ones. But sometimes it would be clearly checking us out. In Fakarava South they feed the sharks so sometimes I think they were coming close enough to see if we had food and when they saw we didn’t, they left. I saw the reef sharks swimming jerkily when fish blood was in the water (when friends were spear fishing and I was safely in the dinghy with my head in the water) and we never saw them swim like that around us when we were snorkeling. Probably closest was a white tip shark that kept circling me when I was diving. When my back was to it, it would approach and when I turned toward it, it would swim away. I definitely didn’t like that and we went back in the dinghy.

When you say the journey was good, but hard, could you write a little bit about what was hard? Emotionally? (discouraged by lack of wind? isolation? fear?) Physically? (Sleep deprivation?) We'd love to hear more on that if you're willing to share. Thanks!

From Carol: Sleep deprivation for sure. I like my sleep. The lack of wind obviously was a big factor. It became a mental game because of the lack of progress. You become frustrated. When the boat is not happy (sails slapping, or rolling or the wind comes up in a squall and the spinnaker is getting overstressed), you are not happy. You feel fear when you get lightning around you. From Livia: The biggest issue for me was the light wind we experienced. When we were sailing nicely my mental state was very positive. I didn’t get frustrated or bored. I could see the miles speeding by and I busied myself with tasks. When we wallowed about in no wind, I wallowed about emotionally. I would get so angry with the wind (which is absurd, granted). Also, in the last week, I found myself bored of it all. I had enough of fighting for miles. I wanted to do something different. With an SSB and modem, I didn’t feel isolated. As a HAM, we were able to get phone patches to our family via the Pacific Seafarers Net so I talked to home while near the equator! I emailed everyone on night watches to pass the time and listened to two nets every evening. I wrote and posted blog posts via the modem. Not a lot of fear - I only felt mild fear during the squalls and more fear during the lightning storms. We didn’t have much lightning but we had a few nights that were tense. Sleep deprivation was huge. You kind of get used to it but it is still affecting you. I felt like I had adjusted but I had much less energy than normal. Small tasks like sail adjustments became big tasks and small problems like spilling something or stubbing my toe caused emotional turmoil out of proportion to the problem.

Was your Fortress simply "stuck in the mud" (that's some mud!) or something else?

According to Michael who dove on it, it was just stuck in the mud. Soft, sticky, suctioning mud that our other friend’s powerful electric windlass could not remove the Fortress from. Michael just had to break the seal by scooping some out from underneath with his hands and the anchor itself is so light that he could then just pick it up and swim to the surface. An ad for Fortress, and also a kick in our butts for not setting a trip line.

"Making bread on sticks over a fire." When you get WiFi you'll have to educate us on how-to.

Post with pictures forthcoming.

that's just wrong...you can't post a picture of a boat like that with out some details!! Fill us in on that beauty. You do know that this is pure jealousy speaking.

Hi Tom! Her name was “Marie” but otherwise we don’t know much about her. She has an elevator on the forward mast for the crows nest where you see the guy drinking his coffee and the crew (or maybe owners/guests) wave, slow down, and go downwind of us when they motor past us when we’re sailing. Classy behavior from a classy boat. We saw her in Fakarava Atoll in the Tuamotus.