Day 257, Year 1: Another Change in Plans . . . On Our Way to Raiatea
Date: Saturday, July 1, 2006
Weather: Beautiful Sunny Day
Location: Overnight Passage to Raiatea
You have heard me say many times that sailing is all about flexibility, and that is certainly the case here aboard Windbird. We spent our morning taking showers and doing laundry and then Mark and Lee started working on the auto pilot. The deeper they got into it, the more it became apparent that we have a major repair or replacement at hand. The gears appear to be stripped and we are not sure what else, so we are heading to Raiatea instead of Huahine to see if we can find a replacement. Raiatea has two boat yards that do major yacht repairs and three chartering services that are very helpful to cruisers in need of technical help. In fact, Raiatea is the only place in all of French Polynesia where you can get boat work done. There are no services in Papeete. In addition to the auto pilot problem, I have to be in Raiatea on Monday anyway for blood tests. I was put on a blood thinner when I broke my leg as they always worry about an embolism when you have a limb that is immobile. They wouldn’t let me leave Papeete unless I promised to be in Raiatea on Monday as none of the other islands have a hospital and the capability of doing a blood test. In Bora Bora and all of the other islands, all tests are sent to Papeete to be read. So Raiatea is the destination. We should be there by mid-day tomorrow.
The winds are now about 15 to 20 from the east. The seas are about 3 to 6 feet and we are having a nice sail. We are using the wind vane steering and it is working very nicely evening though this is a downwind sail. We are rolling a bit, but so far Mary Ellen and Lee are doing great. Lee has been a fantastic help to Mark and Mary Ellen is making sure we don’t starve to death. I am getting around okay, but going up and down and up and down and up and down the steps from main cabin to cockpit is difficult in the best circumstances, and even trickier when we are underway. I was able to shower and do the laundry, however, and am feeling more confident about negotiating with this broken leg.
Since we had planned on going to Huahine and not to Raiatea, we have a little research to do on watch tonight. Mark and Lee are on the first watch from 7 to 10 pm and 1 to 4 am. Mary Ellen and I will be on from 10 to 1 am and 4 to 7 am. Lee is our coffee maker, so we will get him at 7 am to start our day.
We really are having a fantastic sail right now. The sun just set and the view of Moorea has been spectacular. We are all looking forward to arrival in Bora Bora on Tuesday and enjoying our time between here and there.
Day 256, Year 1: Uncooperative Weather . . . Another Change in Plans
Date: Friday, June 30, 2006
Weather: Unsettled and Windy with Lumpy Seas
Location: Cook’s Bay, Moorea
Well, here we are back in Cook’s Bay, Moorea. We made a decision last night to leave today for Huihine in the late afternoon, arriving there early on Saturday morning. We kept the rental car for another four hours this morning and did some shopping. The Paul Gauguin cruise ship came in yesterday and was still here today. We knew that meant that the vendors would have their booths set up near the wharf. Since Mark and I were in Papeete all day yesterday we had not gotten to shop with Mary Ellen and Lee, and they wanted us to see some of the wares . . . so off to shopping we went. We found more good deals on black pearls and Mary Ellen found some great South Pacific clothing.
We returned the car around noon and went back to Windbird for lunch and to take a nap before heading out for our overnight trip to Huihine. It continued to be windy in the anchorage, but we really thought it was settling down. Around 4:30 PM, we weighed anchor and motored through the pass. It was much windier and the seas were much lumpier than we expected. It was blowing a steady 28 and although the seas were only eight to ten feet, the period between waves was very close together. And then we discovered that the auto pilot was just not working right. Mary Ellen was at the wheel trying to hold the course while Mark and Lee were trying to figure out the problem. It was very rough and with my leg in a cast, I was not much help. The decision was to go on overnight and hand steer in rough seas or go back to Cook’s Bay. Even though it delays us another day, the decision was an easy one. We got back into the bay after dark with the well lit pass and lighted range lights guiding us.
We had already fixed dinner so all we had to do was reheat and eat. Everyone is now sitting in the cockpit and we are making plans for tomorrow. Hopefully we can get the auto pilot fixed and the winds will calm down. We will try again late tomorrow afternoon to set sail for Huihine. If all goes well, we will arrive there very early on Sunday morning.
Day 255, Year 1: Broken Leg, but All Is Well
Date: Thursday, June 29, 2006
Weather: Stormy Weather
Location: Cook’s Bay, Moorea
My injured leg is in fact broken. What a bummer! But life will go on and I will adjust.
We made a decision this morning to keep the rental car for one more day so we could drive around to Afareaitu. The local hospital is there, but we also knew that today is a holiday here and weren’t sure what services would be available. Due to the language barrier, we don’t know if they could not x-ray because the machine was broken or because there were no x-ray technicians on duty for the holiday. At any rate, we were forced to go to Papeete for diagnosis and treatment, which is probably for the best as they have a very modern hospital.
We first went to the ferry terminal, but the holiday schedule did not give us much time in Papeete unless we stayed overnight. So the next stop was the airport. For about $120 both Mark and I were able to fly round-trip to Papeete. The Moorea Airline flies from Moorea to Papeete and back every hour. We arrived Papeete, caught a cab, and got to the hospital by 10:00 AM. The taxi driver was so wonderful. We had only bills for 10,000 francs ($100) and she had no change. She simply gave us her card and said to call her to come back and pick us up. We were impressed. We were also impressed by the ER administration desk. They registered me and never asked for any proof of insurance of money. When Henda told me my leg was broken, I was devastated. But then she told me I needed to go back for another x-ray because she thought another part of the fibula, just below my knee, might also be broken. Evidently it is a common occurrence. If this were the case, she explained that I would have to have a hip-high cast. I was SO happy when I found out this was not broken.
By 2:00 PM I had been x-rayed twice, had a cast on my broken fibula, and we were running around Papeete by cab looking for an open pharmacy to get medication and crutches. It cost only $114 for both x-ray sessions and another $60 for the physician consultation. The physician I was assigned was Henda Gorsane. She is a young resident from France and she was top-notch. It was a very busy day in ER and she was obviously tired, but she gave me wonderful care and did her best to explain as much as possible to me in English. She did her best to accommodate our sailing schedule with her requirements for future visits to island ER facilities, and she did all of this for $60. Absolutely everything in Papeete was closed-except for two pharmacies. Of course, it was 2 PM and they were both closed for lunch until 3 PM . Once prescriptions were filled we caught the 4:00 flight back to Moorea where Lee and Mary Ellen picked us up. Though we had spent money on an extra day of car rental, a flight to Papeete, and cab fares all over town, the total bill was still less than $500, and the hospital accounted for only $180. Plus people tried in every way possible to accommodate our lack of local language. We were very impressed.
We had planned to leave tonight for Raitea but decided to put this off until tomorrow. In fact, now we are thinking of going to Huahine first. We shall see.
Day 254, Year 1: Back to Cook’s Bay—The Big Fall
Date: Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Weather: Another Beautiful Day
Location: Cook’s Bay, Moorea
Early this morning we left Opunohu Bay and came around to Cook’s Bay. We got here in time to head into the Bali Hai Hotel to rent a car for the day to circumnavigate the island. This was the second time around for Mark and me, so not many things were different. We did stop in the town of Afareaitu and drove up a road into the Afareaitu Valley to a high waterfall. We drove part of the way and then walked the last part up the mountain. There was not as much water cascading down the sheer cliff as we had hoped, but is was a great little trip into the interior of this island. Mary Ellen and Lee were both really taken by the beautiful shades of blue in the lagoon on the eastern and southern side of this island. The views of the lagoon on the left and the mountains on our right as we drove around the island were just spectacular. We ended our day by driving up to the Belvedere viewpoint and exploring nearby archeological sites-Marae Titiroa and Marae Ahu o Mahine. The day was coming to an end as we were walking down long paths into the dark woods exploring the different maraes and I think we all convinced ourselves that there are spirits of the past that lurk in the woods of this sacred site.
We got back to the Club Bali Hai Hotel just in time to go out to Windbird and get ready for the traditional Wednesday night dance show at the hotel. The show was great and then we had dinner with Tom, Bette Lee, and Kathleen from Quantum Leap at the Bali Hai. It had been a wonderful day, but on the way from the restaurant to the dock, things took a bad turn for me. There are no lights on the dinghy dock. I was walking with Bette Lee and came to a step down. I thought I was on the end of the dock and was falling into the water. That would have been a good thing. Unfortunately, I was falling down to another level of concrete and I hit hard on the side of my right leg. I have either sprained something in the ankle area or broken something. I am sitting here with wraps around my right foot and ankle and lots of cold packs. Thank goodness we have Nurse Mary Ellen aboard. She thinks I should definitely head to the hospital tomorrow morning for x-rays, so that is the current plan. At least then we will know what we are dealing with. Hopping about on one foot on a boat is no fun, but it is possible. Not sure whether a sprain or a break is easier to deal with, but whichever, I will just have to adjust.
Day 253, Year 1: Fun in Opunohu Bay
Date: Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Weather: Pinch me. I must be dreaming! II (sequel to yesterday)
Location: Opunohau Bay, Moorea
Today was simply the most beautiful day you can possibly imagine. Bright sunshine with not a cloud in the blue sky, moderating temperature (it’s only 74 F tonight), crystal clear turquoise water, and great company. Having Mark’s sister Mary Ellen and her husband Lee aboard has been great. We are having a wonderful time learning more about French Polynesia by reading and experiencing it together. We got up early this morning but didn’t rush into the day. We took it slow and easy, admiring Mt. Mouaroa that looms above Opunohu Bay here in Moorea. It is the craggy peak that is the symbol of the mythical Bali Hai and is sometimes called “the saw tooth or shark’s tooth”. It is fascinating to watch it as the sun rises higher in the sky and casts different shadows across the mountain. While we were doing this, Lee made coffee for us and we then had scrambled eggs with fresh tomatoes and toasted baguettes. Good start to the day. By 10 AM it was time to go to the beach to snorkel the inner reef. We took the dinghy to the sandy beach just across from the anchorage. Beyond the beach is a well-maintained coconut plantation. We got permission from the caretakers to leave our dinghy ashore and then we snorkeled out among the coral “garden” and enjoyed the tropical fish. The fish here are not the most colorful we have seen, but there are lots of brightly colored butterfly fish, different kinds of trigger fish, moray eels, strange sea stars, sea cucumbers, trumpetfish, and enough other creatures to certainly keep your interest. There is a variety of coral and enough color in the fish and other creatures to leave you with the impression of fantastic snorkeling experience.
We must have been in the water for almost two hours and then headed back to Windbird for lunch. We are giving the new grill that Lee and Mary Ellen brought to us a real workout. We have grilled out for every dinner and today we grilled for lunch. We were going to relax a bit after lunch before heading to the outer reef for an afternoon snorkel, but Tom from Quantum Leap was out wind surfing and he came over to invite us to give it a try. First Mark, and then Lee, gave it a go. It was a windy day and a bit challenging for beginners, but both were able to get up on the board and at least surf along for a few seconds. I think they both really enjoyed it. I have a new screen saver for my computer-Mark windsurfing underneath Mr. Mouraroa.
After wind surfing, we took the dinghy out toward the outer reef and snorkeled there. We saw the same variety of coral and fish as we had seen on the inner reef, but the eels were larger and there were lots of Christmas tree worms. These little creatures are one of my favorites, so I really enjoyed the afternoon. I snorkeled all the way back to the boat and had a special swim with a spotted eagle ray on the way. I had hoped to swim with the turtles, but none showed up this afternoon. While Mark was out wind surfing and I was out in the dinghy as his support team, Lee and Mary Ellen stayed on Windbird and watched a turtle swim back and forth behind the boat for quite a long time. Evidently they are too shy to stay around once humans are in the water.
Another thing that happened today is that we made water with the new water maker and started filling the tanks. That is fantastic news!
We sat around this evening planning our next few days. We will head to Cook’s Bay early tomorrow morning, rent a car and tour the island, attend the traditional dance show at the Bali Hai tomorrow night, and go to dinner with Quantum Leap. On Thursday, we will do some low key exploring of Paopao in Cook’s Bay and in late afternoon leave here to sail overnight to Raiatea. We should arrive there on Friday morning and by Friday evening we will join a group of sailors who will race to neighboring Tahaa on Saturday morning. The sister islands of Raiatea and Tahaa are having a celebration for sailors and we will join in the fun.
Day 252, Year 1: Tahiti to Moorea
Date: Monday, June 26, 2006
Weather: Pinch me. I must be dreaming!
Location: Opunohau Bay, Moorea
Today was just a perfect day. The weather was beautiful, the sail to Moorea was good, and the anchorage here in Oponuhu Bay, Moorea, is simply fantastic. We are anchored in 12 feet of crystal clear water. There are turtles and manta rays in the water all around, and we understand that the snorkeling is simply fantastic. We’ll let you know about that tomorrow.
We started our day by going in early to do laundry while we still had the luxury of a laundromat on the dock. We got in before 7 AM, but the laundry room was already full of people. Marie from the boat named Ranger and Penny from Long Tall Sally were there. I have heard many stories about Penny of Long Tall Sally out of Texas and was excited to finally meet her. She is a retired physician and was instrumental in the communication with the French doctor who orderrd the evacuation of our friend Randy from Procyon. It was great to finally meet here face to face.
While I was doing the laundry, Mark, Mary Ellen and Lee walked out of the marina to the nearby McDonalds. We all thought it would be great fun to have a McMuffin in Tahiti, but unfortunately they didn’t open until 11 AM. So it was back to Windbird for breakfast then back to the marina to see our agent, Laurent, and get our check out paper for French Polynesia by way of Bora Bora. Laurent was not in as early as he had hoped, but it all worked out and we had our exit paperwork by noon. In the meantime, we all headed to the grocery store armed with back packs, LL Bean carrying bags, and our rolling carts. We shopped for food for the next two weeks, loaded it into our carrying bags and carts, and headed back to Windbird.
By just after noon, we pulled up the anchor and headed back down the Chenal de Faaa to the pass out of Tahiti. We will miss the great Le Truck transportation and carry with us wonderful memories of Tahiti, but we all felt it was time to move on. We arrived in Opunohau Bay around 5 PM and anchored just behind our friends on Quantum Leap. We immediately jumped into the water and headed over to say hello to Quantum Leap. The water here is really crystal clear and you can see the bottom and watch the fish, turtles, and manta rays from the boat. We had a great swim over to Quantum Leap and while there, we got to hear Kathleen’s new skill as a ukulele player.
It was a great day and we look forward to snorkeling in this location tomorrow morning. It really is beautiful here.