Sunday, August 26, 2018

Passage to Beveridge Reef

[Kyle]The day before we left Suwarrow, I swam on our chain and got it all untangled and lying in a nice channel of sand between Begonia and our anchor. The wind was supposed to be from a constant direction overnight and we were hoping to avoid the necessity of getting one or more of our poor neighbors out of bed early to help us as we departed. Only about one in four boats gets away with this, but we figured a little advance planning might help our chances.

Sail to Beveridge Reef
Views from the passage

It did not. Everything was going great. I got Begonia carefully lined up on the bearing I had pre-scouted between our anchor trip line float and a certain palm tree on the beach (the medium one, with the fronds). Maryanne pulled up the chain without incident and laboriously stripped and stowed all of the intermediate floats. Just as we were nearing our anchor, I left the boat in forward gear just a second or two too long. The chain slackened and sagged and the bight of the loop tucked itself right into a slot between the sand and the underside of a big bommie. That took all of the slack out of the chain. As we rose on the next little wavelet, it pulled really tight. That put way too much strain on our windlass. Maryanne tried to let out more chain to reduce the tension, but all it would do is click, but not turn in either direction. Why does it always have to be more than one thing at a time?

I put out a call for help on the radio. There were plenty of people standing by for such an event, but Nick from Urchin was first in the water almost as soon as I had unkeyed the mic. Maryanne and I swapped places. Nick directed her from the water to get some slack in the chain (which we could do manually) and keep it away from other bommies. Once she had done all of that, he dove down and manhandled it out from under the coral head and surfaced to tell me to hoist. Since the windlass was out of commission and since operating it with the manual backup handle is really slow, I opted to retrieve it hand over hand. I didn’t want to give the anchor time to snag anything else on the way up. Damn, that thing is heavy! 10m of chain and our anchor weighs about 50 kilos (110lbs). That’s a lot of weight to pull up by pulling one hand at a time on a wet chain. When it was up and stowed, I tried the windlass controls again. Up – click! Down – click! No movement.

Maryanne and I switched again. I steered us out of the lagoon while she stood on the bow looking for hazards. Just as we were getting to the narrowest, shallowest part of the pass, Catherine from La Cigale called Maryanne to wish us Bon Voyage. She’s six years old and had decided Maryanne was her new best friend the evening before. She wanted to give us a long farewell, complete with stories that meander in the aimless way of those narrated by six year olds. I think she may have included a little song as well. We were in a bit of a high workload environment at that exact moment, so we couldn’t devote as much of our attention to our end of the conversation as she was, but we were touched nonetheless.

Harlequin departed shortly thereafter and soon we were both outside the reef, ticking off motus and enjoying a fast sail in the calm waters in the lee of the atoll. When we got to its western extreme, we carried on hugging the reef while they continued straight on toward Samoa.

At the southern tip, we met the big ocean swell head on as it wrapped around the other side of the atoll. We bore off and sailed fast across beam seas that rolled us just enough to make it really uncomfortable. We had another day and a half of that until the wind finally let up and we slowly coasted to a stop on a sea with only a hint of a swell from a distant storm tearing up the Roaring Forties almost two thousand miles away.

With the wind and the waves gone, all of the other little noises of the boat floated to the surface. I spent an hour and a half on one watch crawling all over the boat, trying to track down the annoying sound of something that had broken loose. It turned out to be a little container of spices that had fallen over and was rolling around in the space in the cupboard below the rack.

We had a Noon to Noon run of just 27 nautical miles. That’s way below walking speed. 26.5 of those were sailed before 8am. Then it was 0.49, 0.01 (60 feet!), 0.00 and 0.00 each hour thereafter. At least the current was going in the right direction.

A wall of gray clouds approached from the south. There was a blast of wind from that direction, followed shortly by pelting rain. The rain finished a couple of hours later, but left behind the wind for us so we could get moving again. Within a few more hours, we were sailing a little close to a little too much wind. We were back to rolling around in beam seas again and wishing our new wind would taper off just a bit so it was easier for the off watch to sleep.

Two fast days later, we spotted some suspicious looking waves on the horizon. I turned on the radar and played with the gain until it showed just the crests of the breakers as they formed the familiar outline of Beveridge Reef. We hadn’t seen or heard any sign of anybody since Suwarrow and I was starting to hope we might actually get away with having it to ourselves. There’s something nice about having a little patch of international waters to rule over without the burden of keeping watches. Without having to democratically include the inputs of others, we can make a little society using only the rules and traditions we want.

Some examples:

  1. In the Republic of Begonia, no alarm shall be used to wake a sleeping citizen.
  2. No work is to be undertaken prior to the finishing of morning coffee.
  3. Cocktail Hour may be commenced any time following the completion of the work from Rule 2.
  4. On clear nights, stargazing is mandatory.
  5. Certain days may be arbitrarily declared Clothing Optional.

Then an AIS target popped up. It was not moving and it was positioned inside the reef. Aw, Man! So much for Naked Thursday. A little closer in, the rest of the data tag arrived. The boat was Ganesh, home to Cap’n Fatty and Carolyn Goodlander. For those of you that don’t know of him, Cap’n Fatty is the Editor at Large of Cruising World magazine. Maryanne and I have been reading his writing since he was a freelancer who managed to occasionally get a column printed on the third to last page. What I liked about him especially was that he seemed to be the token Cruiser in the magazine. The other columnists were all sellouts who gushed about the expensive yachts advertized in their pages as the perfect boats for whichever niche they were marketed, or they would write segments about cruising in some nice area of the world, which would seem great until you realized little actual sailing was involved and that it was just thinly disguised ad copy for some charter company.

Fatty was different. He was always broke because he cares more about sailing than money, so he has had very little, but he’s been everywhere. Instead of the perfect new winch handle, he writes about sailing into the sunset, tropical landfalls and how free he feels wandering the world as a sea gypsy. Reading one of his columns, it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’ll get a little choked up. If there was going to be another boat in the anchorage, Ganesh was the least likely to offend my imperial ambitions. We’ll take North Beveridge, they can have the South.

Carolyn spotted us and got on the radio to say they were monitoring the frequency. We called to introduce ourselves and they were surprisingly sociable. I expected they had come to get some time to themselves, but they were quite welcoming and promised to get together with us as soon as we had had some rest and the wind died down a bit.

Since our windlass was not working, we did not need to run the port engine running to deploy the anchor. We (I) decided to drop it manually under sail for a little variety. We made a couple of tacks down the western side of the reef to the pass and then sailed in. Once inside, we tightened the sheets and sailed close hauled right at Ganesh. I could imagine they must have been cursing themselves for being so friendly. We had a whole reef to choose from, but we had every appearance of intending to anchor right on top of them.

Just kidding! It’s all part of our anchoring plan. When we got near, we bore off so the wind was now behind us. We then rolled up the jib and headed for a spot near the old wreck of a steel fishing boat. We pulled up on the sand shelf behind the reef, rounded up into the wind to stop the boat, dropped the anchor and drifted back. Once we were done, we “shut down the engines” by meandering back and lowering the mainsail neatly onto its bag on the boom. That’s my kind of arrival!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018


[Kyle]There were eleven boats in the anchorage at Suwarrow, making us number twelve. Right behind us was number thirteen. Last year, I think we got up to nine. It took us over an hour of milling around to find a spot to anchor that wasn’t terrible. There’s really only about three good places to drop the hook here. We ended up on a small patch of sand in lots of bommies, requiring all of our chain floats and frequent swims to untangle the knots made by the last wind shift.

First day back in Suwarrow - we're in paradise again!

In the anchorage were Chris and Elayne from Nemo, John from Hecla of Uist and Toby and Sam from Sweet Chariot. None of them had originally planned to stop at Suwarrow, but then when they got close, they decided it was too good to pass up. We spent the next couple of days mostly with them, getting caught up.

When the weather shifted to the east a few of days later, seven boats left, mostly for American Samoa. Probably two thirds of them needed swimmers in the water to help them get their anchors unwrapped.

With the group size down to a more manageable level, Maryanne the Activities Director arranged with Ranger John for palm frond weaving lessons on the beach. He taught us how to make plates and baskets, either of which can be used as emergency hats in the event of sudden downpours. He also demonstrated how to weave watertight roofing too - he was VERY patient with us.

The next evening, Maryanne organized our first pot luck. We got really lucky because that morning, a new boat arrived with a young singlehander, Nick. He had caught a 50 kilo tuna just before arriving and showed up with a salad bowl full of Poisson Cru and more than enough big tuna steaks for the rest us. We all left feeling like we had just had a Beach Thanksgiving.

A very busy social life in the middle of nowhere

The following morning, we swam over to Hecla and Nemo to help them untangle their anchors and then bid them both fair winds for their trip to Samoa. We were on our way to a new snorkeling spot when we decided to alter course and say hi to a new arrival. They were nervous about sharks, so we offered to show them where the mantas were and accompany them as bait. We managed to find two for their first outing and only one disinterested black tip shark, which they never saw trying to sneak up on them, so they were happy.

And don't forget the Manta Rays!
We visited them most days

Everyone took it easy for the next couple of days while it rained off and on. We went to the beach to forage for coconuts and stopped occasionally at other boats to say hi. No one seemed up for an all-boat get together, fearing the clear skies between showers wouldn’t hold. We were able to catch enough water for a big laundry day at the end. It had been piling up for a while and it was good to get the big job out of the way.

The weather afterward was clear and calm. We took the opportunity to take the Pudgy a couple of miles into the lagoon to snorkel on a couple of reefs marked on the chart. I was excited about getting to see some stuff away from the vicinity of the anchorage, where we knew it was likely no one has been for years. I was hoping for lots of big fish and pristine coral, but all we ended up finding was two big mounds of gravel rising from the black depths and topped with only sparse life. Well, now we know for next time. The snorkeling near the anchorage is much better.

After going home and changing, we went over to Nauta d, to whom we had shown the mantas the day after they arrived, and spent some time with them. We had been invited for drinks, but were offered a few “snacks” as well. They kept handing us bowl after bowl of delicious ceviche and gazpacho, prepared by Uxoa, their Spanish (Catalan) crew. Our snacks took care of dinner for us and then some.

While we ate and rolled our eyes back in their sockets with pleasure, they told us about their journey from their home port in Germany. It was fascinating. Of all of the European boats that we have met, they surely have set the record for fastest trip to Suwarrow. Instead of the usual one to three years, they had done the trip in four months. How? They did it by sticking as closely as they could to the great circle route from the Baltic. They sailed to Greenland, up the Davis Strait to the Arctic Ocean, and crossed over Canada to the Bering Strait. The season up there was coming to a quick close, so they high-tailed it to Hawaii, made a brief stop and got out of there before Hurricane season got too established. After a quick stop in the Gilbert Islands, near the equator, they arrived at Suwarrow, where they could slow down and join the part of the crowd heading for Australia. Their route was less than half of the distance of going around Cape Horn and about two-thirds that of the route through the Panama Canal.

Plenty of exploring - ashore and underwater
Boobies were still nesting

That wasn’t why they did it. They did it for the adventure of transiting the Northwest Passage. Their photos were amazing! The giant bergs with their million shades of blue and white and the crystal clear air reminded us of Antarctica and had us sighing with nostalgia for the opposite side of the globe. Instead of penguins, though, they saw Walrus, Narwhal and Polar Bears. Uxoa got a particularly good photo of a mother and her two fluffy cubs sitting on a floe and we were transfixed by masthead video she took of Nauta d crunching through patches of slushy ice. It was nice to experience the trip vicariously through them. Ice and catamarans don’t go well together.

A few boats left. A few others arrived. One Canadian boat brought a music teacher, Lisa, her family and a handful of instruments. We met them when we went ashore the next morning to clear out for the day after. They and a few others were making noises about sundowners on the beach later. We had to decline because we would be leaving early and our dinghy would be trussed up in lifeboat mode. They solved that problem by offering to come over and pick us up on their way to the beach.

After her daughter Robin dropped us off at the beach, she went back to their boat to collect her parents. Lisa brought her guitar ashore that night, sang a few songs with Robin as backup and handed the instrument over to Ranger John. Man, John can play! He has an enormous repertoire of traditional and modern songs in his head, which he seems to be able to play by ear. While going through a section of tunes by The Eagles, he even did an impressive job of duplicating Eric Clapton’s more difficult riffs.

Ranger Harry showed up with the guitar he and John usually have to share and joined in, playing harmony. Being able to play at the same time is a rare treat and the moonlight streaming through a gap in the palm fronds revealed a big smile on Harry’s face. He also plays beautifully. He has an incredible voice and when he finished the evening plucking out and singing a Polynesian song about the sea, we all got a little choked up and only narrowly avoided a group hug. I’m sure there wasn’t a single person on that beach at that moment who would have wanted to be anywhere else that night. For us, it was the perfect last evening for us on Suwarrow.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Passage to Suwarrow

[Kyle]On the morning we left Maupiti for Suwarrow, we were more than a little apprehensive about the pass. The swell had been decreasing for the last few days and by the time we exited, it was just as calm as inside the lagoon.

sail from Maupiti to Suwarrow

We had three fast days on a close reach in north winds. Then a front approached. We got one crazy, rainy, swirly watch each and then we were back to fast sailing on the other tack in south winds. We arrived on the exact same date as we had the year before. I checked the log; 15,808 nautical miles in just over 3,000 hours. That meant that since we were here last year, we have spent over a third of the time underway getting back here. Half of that was on the one long sail from New Zealand to Chile.

Harry, the Ranger was back. In Katu’s place was John, who had last been nine years ago. Harry recognized us and gave us a warm welcome.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Maupiti - Waiting out the weather

[Kyle]From Bora Bora, we had been planning to go to Maupiha’a, a day or so to the WSW. Maupiha’a has a pass less than three times the width of Begonia which has the reputation of being tricky on a good day. By the morning we left Bora Bora, the forecasts were all converging on big seas from the southwest, which would spill over into the lagoon and make the current going out of the pass very strong. They also were saying there would be strong winds from the northeast, which would pretty much ensure big, standing waves across the entrance. We decided to abandon our plan and have a look at Maupiti instead. Maupiti is only twenty-five miles from Bora Bora and has a tricky south-facing entrance. We had been there the year before, so we decided to head for the anchorage at the town for some variety.

Arriving in Maupiti - pass conditions were a bit rough

Since we had originally planned to be up in time to sail to Maupiha’a, we were the first boat out of the pass at Bora Bora. We cleared the pass, hoisted the spinnaker and had twenty minutes of great sailing. Then the wind all but disappeared and we had a very slow, frustrating, floppy couple of hours while everybody that left after us went motoring by. We were just starting to think we might have to reach for the start button ourselves if we were going to get in by nightfall when we finally got some real wind and took off way faster than we could have motored.

We arrived at Maupiti with about four hours of daylight left. The area around the pass looked pretty scary from edge on. We could see big breakers with lots of spray being blown off of their tops. When we got aligned with the entrance, we could see a definite gap in the surf. We studied it for a bit and then headed in.

Maupiti’s pass isn’t as narrow as Muapiha’a’s, but it’s pretty narrow. It was important to keep exactly on the centerline, as marked by two big range markers, to keep off of the drying reefs to either side. Occasionally, a breaker from one of the bigger waves would sneak into the channel and try to slew us sideways, requiring three quarters of the rudder travel to keep us straight. As we were approaching the narrowest, shallowest part, a really big wave passed just to starboard and cut in front of us. As it passed ahead, the channel, the range markers, everything below palm tree height disappeared behind the crest. All we could see was a turquoise outline at the top and the white spray being blown back towards us. It was probably five long seconds before it receded and we could see that we were still in the middle of the range. We didn’t have enough room to turn around without stopping first and the current was strengthening, increasing our chances of being swept out of the channel until we could get some water moving over the rudders. We decided we had to keep going.

I was completely fixated on doing whatever I could to keep us in the middle of the range as the currents swirled us to the left and right. Maryanne looked behind us and told me another really big wave was just forming in the deep water about nine waves back. She kept watching it and all of the others in between while I focused ahead on the range markers and keeping us aligned. By the time she said we had about three waves to go, we were almost at the first marker, which was a post mounted on the reef at the pinch point. A wave later, I was staring at the range marks when she told me we weren’t moving forward except when surfing. She said, “I know you don’t want to hear this, but we need more power.”

I definitely didn’t want to hear that. Years of flying has conditioned me to always treat engines as gently as possible because lives depend on them. Reserve power is for emergencies only. Use it if you need it, but understand it comes at a much higher risk. Components working near their maximum designed load suffer a much higher chance of catastrophic failure. A bent valve, a broken belt or an overheated bearing anywhere between the engines and the props could easily have resulted in disaster. It was with no small degree of anxiety that I pushed the throttles forward and then pushed them some more and then listened intently for any telltale clunk, whine or cough. We went from moving forward just under half of the time to moving forward most of the time. The next wave shoved us a couple of boat lengths until we were abeam the marker. The big one came next. It curled up and broke. The curler advanced towards us and didn’t collapse until it had nearly gone over the dinghy into the cockpit. At the other end of the boat, our bows were already in flat water, pushing through eddies. We surfed down what was left of the wave and we were in. Holeeee Buckets!

It was a few more minutes before we were going reliably forward enough for me to back off the power. Going straight was still my main challenge, but I managed to sneak a glance at out tachometers. Even after the reduction, we were still at over 3,000rpm. We cruise at 2,400 and redline at 3,400. I definitely avoided hitting the stops, but we must have been close to the latter value. A mile or so later, the lagoon widened out and we were able to reduce to a normal rpm and come on in like it was any nice, sunny day in paradise. It took my personal rpm a lot longer to start winding down after that. We checked over the engines carefully afterward and they seem to have suffered no ill effects. That’s why we baby them in the first place, so they’re there when we need them.

We picked our way up the shallow channel to the anchorage near the town. We had read that there were three mooring balls there, but we could not find them and the other four boats were anchored. We felt our way as far past the end of the channel as we dared and dropped the anchor in three meters of murky water. I was worried the bottom would be all bommies beneath the silt, but when I swam on the anchor later, I was pleased to find us resting over a sandy bottom so fine that it was almost like sand-colored mud.

The guy from the nearest boat came by to introduce himself and invite us to drinks the next night. We met almost everybody else there. Most, it turned out, were planning on leaving for Maupiha’a in a day or two. Conditions were not supposed to have changed much, but they were all going to give it a try. I suddenly started to wonder if we had ducked out too easily. I looked at it again and decided definitely not. That, plus the place was about to have twice as many boats in the anchorage for the amount of space they have. We wished them well and stuck around another couple of days.

We were thinking of de-lifeboating the dinghy and going ashore, but Rob, the guy next door, kept showing up first thing to tell us he just got back from the village and found everything shut. He also offered to take us in his dinghy if anything did open. It never did, so we just spent a couple of quiet days aboard enjoying the view.

{Maryanne: Bob was extremely kind and every day attempted to deliver bread from town to all the cruisers... It never quite happened but not for want on trying on his part. We were grateful nevertheless - intent being just as kind as achievement.}

Views of Maupiti
including cooking up a BBQ and the almost bread delivery

Friday, August 03, 2018

Bora Bora – Ashore

[Kyle]After departing Fareone Motu, we wanted to go a couple of miles away to the mooring field at Bloody Mary’s. Bloody Mary’s is a restaurant with a long history and a sand-floor tiki and thatched-roof theme that has successfully managed to get themselves in all of the brochures as one of the must-do things in Bora Bora. We went there last year and found the food to be a little better than average and surprisingly reasonably priced, considering the place’s cache {Maryanne: Expensive for us, but reasonable for Bora Bora}. Honestly, we were not that bothered about repeating our meal there, but they have medium-slow wifi, which is super fast for the Pacific, AND they have free water for yacht customers (see later comments). The water is a bit of a pain, because it has to be ferried with the dinghy in jugs, but the price is right. The only other water is at the Bora Bora Yacht Club, which charges a lot for theirs and only offer it in 500 liter lots. If you need 70L, you pay for 500L. They burned us last year with that and we won’t be letting them do it again. We’ll row our water, thank you.

In order to go the two miles, though, we had to do a whole counter-clockwise circuit around the island as the southern bit of the lagoon is too shallow to be navigable. The wind was just right for us to do the whole sail with just a reefed jib. This allowed us to slowly glide closely by all of those fancy resorts with the over-water cabanas. Those places look really nice. Most of the ones on the ends are whole multi-story houses with multiple shaded balconies, fire pits and fresh water swimming pools inexplicably perched above the equally beautiful water of the lagoon. That and the view of Mt. Otemanu would make for a pretty romantic stay.

"sailing" to Bloody Mary's Bar

We arrived at Bloody Mary’s and found all of their mooring balls appeared to be occupied. The depths there are about 28m, which would require us to put out all of our chain and rode, Easter Island style, which is a huge kerfuffle, so we weren’t about to do that. On to plan B: go to town.

Just as we were making our turn, we noticed that a big charter cat on one of the moorings appeared to be in the final stages of getting ready to leave. We eased up close enough to ask them if in fact they were leaving, but they seemed to make a point of ignoring us like a bunch of airlines gate agents, even though we were right there. Eventually, they just went inside. We figured we must have misjudged their actions and they had just been on deck fiddling with things.

As we were leaving them, someone on a Swedish boat ahead motioned towards a double secret mooring that was unoccupied. It was covered in slime that was the same color as the water and just barely broke the surface. It was going to be a long row to the dock from where it was, but at least we had one.

We got the lines attached to the pendant trailing from the ball. As I was walking back to the cockpit to shut down the engines, I noticed the big charter cat pulling away from their ball, which was much closer to the dock, accelerating at full power. We’ve noticed that one of the unwritten rules about chartering a boat seems to be ‘always use full power for everything’. Oh, charter people, why do you make it so hard to like you?

Since we still had our engines running (inexplicably at idle), we slipped our lines and picked up the closer mooring. Since the restaurant was closed for the day, we rowed ashore to check their hours and were greeted by their very nice security guard, Manu. We chatted with him for a bit and then he let us wander around the place. I hadn’t noticed the year before that Bloody Mary’s has no doors. I just assumed they were big and propped open but, nope, they don’t have any. No wonder they post a guard when they’re closed.

We rowed back via the other boats to introduce ourselves and were quickly invited to dinner the following day by Toby and Sam on Sweet Chariot. We explained we were planning on eating at the restaurant as payment for the mooring ball, so they negotiated it down to drinks afterwards.

We rowed ashore the next day for a late-ish lunch with a backpack full of computers. Once we got seated, we picked out something tasty for lunch and then found that we couldn’t get the restaurant’s wifi. Our waiter explained that we were too far out to get wifi.

”Could we move closer?”

”That section is closed.”

”Does the bar have wifi?”

”Yes, but you can’t order off of the lunch menu there.”

”Can we get any food at the bar?”

”Yes, there’s a Bar Menu.”

”Okay, we’re terribly sorry, but we will be going to the bar.”

At the bar, we learned that they offered a wide variety of alcoholic beverages, plus either nachos or fries. So much for our well-balanced meal. We drank our beers and nibbled on our fries as slowly as we could while watching data come in and go out at about the speed of writing a bunch of ones and zeros on a napkin and handing it back and forth to the bartender.

The restaurant closed for the gap between lunch and dinner. Although no one explicitly asked us to wrap it up, we stayed until well after the music had stopped and the lights were turned off. We feared the wifi would be next, but they let us finish our last task without cutting it off in the middle.

Maryanne asked about the procedure for getting the key to the water at the dock and was told it was now 3,000 francs for water, regardless of quantity. Gaarrgh! Not gonna happen. I guess it’s back to the stinkin’ Yacht Club, where at least we could pull up to a dock, use a hose, and run out the rest of our allotment giving Begonia a good scrub.

Not nearly as full as we had expected to be by then, we stopped off at Sweet Chariot for sun-downers. Along with Toby and Sam, we met John from Hecla of Uist. Toby and Sam are both retired Royal Navy. Both joined up very young and both retired the minute they could draw a pension, so they’ll get the unusual experience of having their mid-life crises during their Golden Years. Toby was a Navigator and Sam had something to do with managing the provisioning. After getting out, they met at some function or another and realized they recognized each other from the one time they were aboard the same ship. Their boat, Sweet Chariot, was once owned by Walter Cronkite.

John is a solo sailor who first met Toby and Sam in the Caribbean and has been loosely sailing in company with them ever since. He was in the Army and for some reason, his first order of business after getting out was to get a boat and go someplace warm.

The five of us managed to successfully sort out the world’s troubles, which we will summarize in a letter to be distributed to various important leaders. Expect the milk and honey to start flowing any day now.

In the morning, we let go the lines to our ball and moved over to the wharf at the main town of Viatape, where we could do some provisioning and go through the clearing out process for French Polynesia. We were also hoping to sneak in some fun, although that always seems to get lost in the mix of more pressing matters when going to a town.

We started with what I’ve come to think of as The Awful Stuff: Shopping and Internet. Both almost always take longer than hoped and both invariably end in a frustration/triumph ratio that is too high. We topped that off with a visit to the Gendarmerie to collect our paperwork. The officer there was very nice and actually managed to ease the tedium of a long, hot day.

Viatape: Beautiful sunsets and some cool murals

For our “fun” day, we decided to climb the trail to the top of Mt. Otemanu. Usually, such things are my idea, but this time, I think it may have been Maryanne’s. My enthusiasm was a bit tepid after a day of lugging groceries through the midday tropical heat, but she kept making noises about feeling like it has been too long since she got any real exercise, so I agreed to let her drag me along.

Mt. Otemanu is imposing when viewed from the wharf at its base. The top of the cliff at the summit can’t be seen from the boat unless you come out on deck from under the bimini and crane your neck up to look at it. We stared at it for quite a while and could not figure out how a trail could even get up there.

Pass the church on the way to the climb with a view

The walk started out nice and easy. The first step from the boat was down and the main road though town was nice and flat. When we got almost to the grocery store, we took a right turn away from the water and things deteriorated pretty quickly. The road got steep. Then it turned into a mud track, which got steeper. Then it the jungle encroached and the trail narrowed further. We had the sense to bring our hiking poles this time, but we were wishing we had brought our machete as well.

At some point, the trail just seemed to stop. We poked around for a bit before we realized it carried on on the other side of a giant boulder that had to be scaled while simultaneously squeezing under a bunch of low branches. After that, the trails turned into what I once read a British climber refer to as “a real hands-and knees job”. The slope stayed relentlessly over forty-five degrees – often way over. In a few places, ropes had been fixed, but in most they weren’t. We climbed by pulling ourselves up on tree roots and cracks in the rock and leaning heavily on our poles, carefully testing each hand and foothold before trusting them with our weight. We knew getting down was going to be even worse, but we chose not to think about it for the moment.

There was no breeze at all making it to the surface and we climbed through hot, humid air like what fills the bathroom after a long, hot shower. In no time, we were completely soaked through with perspiration and covered in leaves and mud that stuck to us as we brushed by. The only saving grace was that the sun doesn’t clear our side of the mountain until afternoon, so we were spared having to bake in its direct rays.

After another hour or so, we emerged at a small clearing most of the way to the top. The canopy opened up and we were rewarded with wide views of the lagoon, the reef and the ocean beyond. Wow! The view was amazing, but for once, I wasn’t sure it was worth it to get up here.

We were almost at the top. Our trail continued along a narrow ledge with a big drop on one side and only a few blades of grass for support on the other. I suggested to Maryanne that we call our progress good enough and she agreed as if she were just about to say the same thing herself. We turned and started the laborious task of carefully picking our way back down. It was even slower going than the way up because each hand and foothold was far below, instead of at chest level like when going up.

We emerged from the jungle at the bottom looking like we had been raised by beasts within, limping and dragging our sore limbs as if their use in the normal upright, bipedal way was alien to us. When we got to the boat, we stripped off all but the minimum necessary to preserve our modesty and jumped in, right at the wharf, leaving clouds of mud slowly falling to the bottom. Aaah, that feels good!

We were too tired to cook or clean up, but also too tired to go looking for food. While we were trying to figure out what to do, we walked over to the Gendarmerie and collected our outbound clearance papers. Since we were already out and about by then, we decided on a meal out after all. Viatape is a strange town in that it has NO bars or restaurants. I suppose most of the island’s tourists eat at their fancy hotels, but it’s strange to see a place with pearl shops, souvenir shops, rental car agencies and hardware shops, but no restaurants. If you want something to eat, you pretty much have to go to the grocery store and buy a baguette. If you can wait until it’s dark, one of the lots that hosts a craft market turns into a plaza of roulettes (food trucks).

The one exception to all of this is during the Heiva, when a whole pavilion of sit-down restaurants is constructed just for the festival. The Heiva was pretty much finished in Bora Bora, except for a couple remaining beach volleyball tournaments somewhere else on the island. Most of the infrastructure was well into the tearing down and packing up stages, but most of the restaurants were still open for just one more night.

Gambling and games at the Heiva funfair

Lucky us! We had no waiting to get a candlelit table on the edge of a balcony over the water. We shared a big dish of Poisson Cru, Tahitian style, and a big salad with crunchy vegetables and everything. It’s been a while since we’ve had a decent salad, so that was a real treat.

Afterwards, as we were walking home, we came across a troupe of musicians and dancers who were apparently already practicing for next year’s Heiva. Bonus!

In the morning, we were just getting ready to cast off and head for the Yacht Club, where we could buy tap water at Perrier prices, when the boat ahead of us, who also needed to do the same thing, but also really didn’t want to, finagled a source of free water from a guy at the Parks Department. The only problem was that it was kinda far away and their hose wouldn’t reach. No problem! Use some of ours and we’ll fill the tanks on both boats! Take that, Yacht Club! We used the time saved from not having to get water to get fuel. We only needed two jugs worth, which should have been fast, but we were trying to buy it at the duty free price for transiting vessels, which involves a certain amount of paperwork. The guy clearly didn’t like going through all of that hassle for two jugs, so he cut us no slack whatsoever. He wanted a copy of our outbound clearance, but wouldn’t make a copy on his machine. He directed Maryanne to a place way down the street that was closed for lunch. It was clear he was hoping we’d just give up and pay the full price, but we had already invested quite a bit of time and energy into getting our discount, so we weren’t giving up. Eventually, Maryanne had to dig out our printer, fire it up and make the copies herself. In the end, getting ten gallons of diesel turned into a two-hour errand.

We got the bad taste of that experience out of our mouths with a couple of full price ice cream bars and headed for an anchorage near the pass. There, we found Nemo, who we had first encountered in Easter Island. Chris was busy helping another boat in the anchorage fix their hydraulic system, but he and Elayne managed to squeeze in some time to come over and catch up before the night was over.

One last snorkel in Bora Bora (Motu Attuna)