In Port Phaeton, Tahiti again

The last leg going back was an overnighter from Huahine to Tahiti. Hard on the wind for the duration of the trip but we made on one tack, and made good speed in 15-20 knots of wind. The forecast was for NE winds backing N then NW. This never happened, we had winds at ENE but our heading was about 110 degrees true, so it worked. Quite a wet ride, the only second time we had water sloshing over the side deck more or less continuously, the first time during the leg to Raiatea a couple weeks ago. Nothing broke and all is well. We’ve got some accumulated practical matters to tend to hear before continuing eastwards, probably within 2-3 weeks.

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Apologize for my latest post, at the last part ‘ going westward’ should obviously be Eastward and nothing else. As a bird flies we are 170 NM east northeast of Tahiti and nothing else.

I should know the points of the compass by now… idea what i had on my mind as I wrote that.

We’re still in Maupiti, such a lovely spot, but will likely start moving back east at the next good weather window.

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Regine, the sailmaker on Raiatea did an excellent job on our genoa, and after a couple of days of explorations on land, the climb of the highest peak on the NW part of the island being a highlight, we got a pretty good weather window for scooting westwards. Mainly thanks to our friends on ‘Parenth’ese’, who has been to Maupiti a couple times before we decided to go with the flow. Raiatea will still be there later on. So, right after breakfast we took off for Bora Bora, some 22 miles to the west. Nice downwind sailing in fine weather and we had the anchor dropped behind a motu just inside the only pass at lunchtime. The forecast predicted light winds and a diminishing swell – down to about a meter- tomorrow, but then the swell will quickly build to 2-3 mtrs, so no time to lose. We relaxed during the afternoon, taking a good look at Bora through the binoculars and then slept a few hours in the evening. Just before midnight we heaved anchor and took off for Maupiti, 28 miles further to the west.
Wind just aft of port beam, full moon on top of us, we enjoyed one of these magical tropical nights at sea. The idea was to arrive just before dawn, to enter between 6 and 7 AM at low slack tide, and before the wind might pick up again.

The only pass is open to south, narrow, and makes a dogleg between two motus before you’re inside the lagoon. There is always an outgoing current, but not too strong, so the only issue is the size of the swells. We circled just outside the pass for 20-30 minutes and it looked good, but it’s always harder to determine the state of the surf from behind, pitchpoling our dinghy on a beach landing in Mexico comes to mind…. Anyway Parenthese offered to go in first, a 50′ alu sloop with a lot more horsepower per ‘ ton of boat’ than Nanna has, so we saw them go in without problem and quickly followed. It was quite easy on the day, but it is a bit daunting with heavy surf both sides of the boat just a couple boat lengths away. We had already heard some horror stories, a few years ago a big catamaran ended up on the reef and even a ferry from Tahiti once. The key is to not negotiate the pass if the swells are over 1-1,5 mtr. Some folks we know arrived here in conditions where the entire pass is nothing but foam and surf, making it impossible. The options then are to chose another destination, or just wait at sea if the forecast suggests the swell might come down. Good visibility obviously helps, and even though it’s well marked and lit, entry at night are for daredevils or locals who do it on a daily basis. On a fast powerboat, it’s another story obviously, since you could ride a wave through the dangerous part of the pass.

Writing this, we’ve been here for almost two weeks, enjoying this gem of a tropical island. Geologically the oldest of the Societies, just a few mtrs over 400 m for the highest peak, 1100 inhabitants, a shallow coral studded lagoon surrounded by loong motus it is very close to the ideal Paradise tropical island.

We’ve climbed the mountains here again, a 7 hour trip, that took us down along a ridge on the opposite side, making it a complete tour of the island. Spectacular view from the top, it took some ropes to ascend the steepest parts, and a good machete to clear an old, rarely used path downhill.

Apart from that we’ve watched yet some more of dancing, singing, and all of those Polynesian sports. The wind has been from due south for a few days, and it’s significantly colder than for many years in this -supposedly strong El Niño year- several of the locals say it’s exceptionally cold. They, and we too, had to dig out long pants and sweaters or jackets for the evening shows.

Tomorrow the swell is to be over 3 mtrs, so we’ll enjoy being ‘trapped in Paradise’ for a while longer before it’s time to start going back westwards. The transient boats are mostly gone now, we still here some on the VHF, at Bora Bora, and the rest of us, who’ll spend hurricane season in either Marquesas or the Gambiers, will have to backtrack for a few weeks to come. Not too bad, plenty of nice spots to revisit on the way, to make passages during the most favorable conditions.

More later on…

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The Heiva

Heiva is the big party that lasts for about a month until 14 July, the French National Day.

We decided to stay in Huahine for this event. We were already familiar with the place, had friends around, and on Raiatea, our other alternative, it’s a lot less convenient with regards to good anchorages(read lack of) at a reasonable distance from where it all happens.

Seems like we did a good choice and we enjoyed the whole thing immensely.

We visited the dance and song contest no less than 8 nights, and then all the traditional Polynesian sports. How about Beach Wrestling, javelin throwing where the target is a coconut on top of a 12 m pole, carrying big stones, lifting big stones, ‘ the strongest man’ which included big stones too, but also towing heavy sacks with long ropes, a running contest with a 40 kg load of bananas on a yoke made of bamboo, and you’ll get an idea of the ‘traditional’ flavor to all this. And then of course the Va’a or outrigger canoe races. Men, women, and mixed teams in 3-6-12 seaters and of course the V1, for a single paddler. Fishing contests, in the lagoon one day, and ‘au large’ on the ocean another. We were glad to see the team with our friend Kike from the opposite side of the island, my fishing mentor here, win the lagoon fishing trophy.
For the less physically demanding part, a contest in flying kites, the old style in bamboo and thin cloth, flower arrangements and the making of roof- or wall panels in braided Pandanus and coconut palm leafs are but a few…oh and not to forget the hat braiding contest! -all in all a crash course in Polynesian culture.

Unforgettable, what else can I say!?

There’s an end to everything, and after indulging fullheartedly in the Heiva for about three weeks we felt it was time to leave for Raiatea.

A nice following wind of 10-15 knots made for a decent morning sail, the 24 miles across, course due West. Laid back enough we just unfurled the genoa and still made close to six knots average so not bad at all.
This was yesterday, this morning we folded the genoa into a smallest possible size and rowed ashore to meet the sailmaker here. Largely because of the large number of charter boats based here, there’s plenty work for the loft apparently, they are four people at work there on an island with 13000 inhabitants.

After almost five years I the tropical sun, the genoa needed some work. The webbing in the three ‘corners’ of the sail started to deteriorate, due to UV, as the thread on the protective UV strip in particular. I have hand stitched the UV cover a couple times already, now was the time to have it re stitched completely so it could be in service another 4-5 years.

Regine, the sailmaker, wanted about a week to finish that, so in the meantime we’ll try and see as much as we can of the island. Not that easy it seems. The lagoon is very wide, and also deep, so good anchorages with easy access to the shore are not abundant. And where the depth is a bit more agreeable, well, that’s where the mooring balls are placed and with them the crowd.

At any rate, we gotta see the largest Marae ( ancient structures for gatherings and cult) on the SE side of Raiatea, it’s over 3 hectares (30000 square meters). Raiatea was named Hawaii originally ( or Hauaii depending on spelling) and was the seat of the royal family in ancient times. So of course this enormous Marae was constructed here.

According to the latest research, Raiatea/Hauai’i was also the hub in the eastern branch of Polynesia. From here,they voyaged in their big double canoes, and discovered Tahiti, The Tuamotus, Marquesas, Hawaii(the one north of the equator that is) and Rapa Nui (Aka Easter Island) and last but not least New Zealand.

James Cook was fortunate enough to take with him (on his first voyage) as crew a priest from Tahiti, who could without too much problem speak to and understand the peoples of the other islands they called on, including NZ.

For example, here the ‘Polynesians’ call themselves Maohi, compare with Maori of NZ.

So some more history and Maohi culture is in the pipeline, and hopefully a few sessions in and under water too. Right now though the swell is a whopping 3,5-4 mtrs, great for the surfers, but quite uncomfortable in the lagoon. Huge amounts of (relatively cold) water enters the lagoon, and this has to exit through the pass(-es) cuasing some weird currents and flow inside the barrier reef.

After Raiatea, we want to visit Maupiti, but this is only possible when the swell is less than about 1,5 mtr. This time of the year, due to the passing winter storms in the Southern Ocean, the swell is almost always from S-SW so the right conditions aren’t always there. We’ll see how it works out, from Raiatea we will go to Bora-Bora and wait for the right weather window to scoot over to Maupiti, some 25 miles further to west. Hopefully it works out, allowing us to spend a few weeks there before having to start backtracking (back-tacking too) to windward to Tahiti and then The Marquesas for the cyclone season. More about that later.

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Kura skymning

‘kura skymning’ is an age old expression in Swedish. Literally meaning hunching the twilight, the allegorical meaning is more along the lines of gathering in front of the fireplace, as nightfall makes it difficult to do anything useful outdoors. This obviously goes back to the time before electrical lighting, when the dim light from the furnace or stove was what allowed our ancestors to gather in front of it, doing some little ‘handycraft style’ work. Often while telling tales, histories and legends or just chating or singing for that matter.

So why did I come to think of that now?

We are on the western part of Huahine since a few days, at the main village, Fare. The weather is squally and not too inviting to explore those shallow lagoon anchorages so we are spending most of out time onboard, with all those little projects that are a part of life aboard a boat. Our modern version of ‘kura skymning’.
We rented bikes two days ago for a ‘circumpedalation’of the island. At the northern end there’s a fair size salt water lake and a huge ‘Marae'(archeological spot with religious and cultural interest) Here we got stuck for quite a while, magnificent and very interesting and then of course, we got into conversation with some ‘Huahineans’. After this we had to abandon the plan to ride the bikes around the Iti, or smaller of Huahines islands, but little did we care, the Nui was quite enough. The road goes around the entire island so along sea level. Pretty much…but on a few places, it went uphill and then down again, and it’s steep too. Rather crappy rental bicycles without gear made it necessary to walk uphill on several occassions, with backpack, leading the bike, so we had a pretty good leg- and cardiac work-out before arriving at FAre just in time for….that’s right, the twilight. Kura skymning!

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Huahine – Part 2

First a closer position report, we’re anchored off Motu Murimahora(exotic name, right? esp. for fellow swedes) on the southeastern part of this beautiful island, in the leeward group of the Society Islands, French Polynesia.

My new friend, Kike, is taking me to the next level in fishing as in this part of the world. He is thouroughly enjoying all three branches, fishing with rod and line, with speargu/harpoon, and with nets, so who am I not to be sooo happy. Finally I am also to learn the tricks of the trade in finding octopus…one of my favourite dinners. They live in holes and little caves as we all know. We also might know that they change colours instantly, and apparently each and every part of their body independently and instantly, so not that easy to spot. Very interesting specimen, just to watch them move, again all eight tentacles completely indepent of the others, they possess a lot of a particular intelligence in their environment for sure, and it is with very mixed feelings I decide to kill one. That last part is not too difficult, once you’ve made them attach themselves to a spear, stick or even knife you poke into their home, you just swiftly grab it and cut off the head, never mind that all the eight other body parts are all over the place :-D (I am not yet ready to take on a BIG one, I confess)

Again the difficulty is to find them in the first place, since they feed on shellfish solely, spotting a little heap of empty shells on the seabed is a good hint…I will never forget this guy I met while snorkeling in Sea of Cortez, MX. HE had perfected the art, no doubt he made his living on ‘picking up’ octopus. He just swam along the rocky shore, at 2-3,5 mtr depth, a huge net sack over the shoulder and a long stick with a barb in one hand. I folloowed him a minute or so and he caught 3 or 4 while I was clueless at how he found them. It was like he dove about every 25 mtrs, and just poked that stick in one and upp it came and straight down the sack. Incredible! I can only hope he didn’t revisit the same place too often. :-/

Anyway, apart from above mentioned pleasures, this anchorage is so incredibly calm (as in flat water) despite an often strong current coming through, that it allows me to polish the topsides of NANNA while in the water. This being the only second spot making this possible I do take advantage and do a part of the hull early morning.

Hmm, some day our provisions will run short, so the choice will be to either hitch-hike to FAre, the main village, or go there with our boat. We’ll have to ponder a while on that one.

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A New Horizon

and a new favourite bay. Currently anchored inside the lagoon; eastern part of Huahine. Splendid, simply splendid. Within 24 hrs upon arrival we made friends with some local people who took me fishing with them, loaded us with fruit and some veggies fresh from their fields and it just goes on…island life the Tahitian way.

Huahine is less than half the size of Moorea, 85 nM NW of it, so not a huge land mass. Who needs land anyway? It’s all about the lagoon, the lagoon is what has supported this easy-going and hardworking people through a millennia or two, fishing, shelling, octopus and whatever. The lagoon here is wide and except for the well marked coralstudded parts, 3-4 mtrs deep above a very white sand bottom…the most beautiful -and the biggest- swimmingpool I ever seen.

I have to warn you right away, we are very likely to ‘get stuck’ yet another time…but then, why not? Looks like this year could become a strong El Nino event, not good, means tropical cyclones can occur even this far east, but as long as we go to the Marquesas (800-900 miles to windward from here) before mid-November it should be fine. There is an extra big Heiva (festival) there in December this year, so should be an excellent place to spend this coming wet season.

THe overnight passage from Moorea to here was great. 15-20 kts from E-NE making it a quite fast (for once) and enjoyable sail. In fact so enjoyable I never woke Isabelle up for her watch. I spent the entire 19 or so hours in the cockpit, dozing off in between. There was a 2,5 m swell from SW, thus against the waves which made it a bit bumpy, but NANNA is an incredibly dry boat at sea, we still have to figure out what it would take to get her decks flushed underway :-D

About all for now, back soon!

P.S. I checked the stats for this blog while in Moorea, with internet. Poitively surprised by the number of followers and regular visitors. Since the web here is too slow and pricy to be pratical for uploading photos etc. I find the fidelity of you -dear readers- impressing. After all, this blog is mostly like a diary to support my own memory from our wanderings… In due time, with good internet, I will upload photos to my Flickr account, hope you’ll enjoy the text version for the time being. Oh, and comments and questions are ALWAYS welcoom, there,s a link to oour e-mail in the right hand margin on wordpress if you prefer a private contact! D.S.

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Just another Day

Not the perfect weather pattern for heading westward from Moorea. There is at present a convergence(kinda front where the cold southern ocean air meets the tropical warm air mass) ahead of us since a few days, and it is stationary for the moment.
This means winds from N-NW and squally weather with frequent showers. Not so bad right here but more so in the Leeward Islands. Read this morning on Bob MacDavitt’s excellent blog ( where you can subscribe for a weekly newsletter providing the ‘big picture’ outlook for the coming week across the whole SoPac. He mentioned a friend in BoraBora who hasn’t seen the sun now for over a week. That’s the Southern Pacific Convergence Zone in a nutshell. Bora is around 100 nM west northwest of us.

This means we’ll bide our time yet again, looks like a Wednesday departure could be favorable. Even though it’s just 85 miles to Huahine, we’d like it to be a pleasant night at sea….

We had one squall last night, of short duration, providing approx. 5 liter water in our catching setup, and some gusts up towards the 30 kt mark. Just enough to wake us up, to close hatches and portholes – they are otherwise always open 24/7 since the temperature inside the boat oscillates between 25-31C- to then be closed again 15 minutes later and …..back to bed. Just another typical night.

Early this morning I bailed the dinghy, rainwater then used for laundry, and rowed ashore to pick up our fresh bread at the little store. It’ true that French Polynesia is quite expensive, in fact more so than France itself or Sweden for that matter, but that’s really no wonder. Take a look at a world map or G. earth and it becomes clear that there is no place on the planet as remote as here, including Antarctica and the Arctic. What? Did I hit my head or is Mr Alzheimer sneaking up on me?

I define remote in this case as far from major habitated cities and areas.

From here, a flight to France is over 24 hrs, and for Stockholm add a few more. It would be significantly faster from New Zealand for instance. Pretty much everything, except local fruit and fish and small amounts of locally bred pork is imported. Lots from France naturally, but also from NZ, Aus, China, and South America and the US too, mainly for fruits and veggies. Though the surface area of FrPol is as big as Western Europe, the land area is infinitely small in comparison, a few hundred atolls and then the ‘bigger’ islands of volcanic origin. On top of that the interior of the volcanic islands is mostly inaccessible do to the topography and dense vegetation. To support the 250′ inhabitants, import is absolutely necessary.

Fortunately, living on our home afloat, we do not spend much except for food, and that’s not likely going to ruin even the poorest.

Back to my morning bread run, it’s so nice that here,like in France,the bread is subsidized making the pleasure of not expensive, fresh bread available to everyone. On the beach while returning to my dinghy I met a local guy who was cooling off in the water an had a chat with him before rowing back to Nanna for breakfast. Small, simple pleasures…after coffee I climbed aloft to reeve the spinnaker halyard, it’s been out since I left for Sweden last year in order to protect it from the tropical sun. Since then, we’ve mostly sailed to windward so no need for it. Now I am dreaming of a leisurely nightly cruise under spinnaker to Huahine in a few days, we’ll see how it works out.

´Comme d’habitude’ (as usual) we’ll do a swimming/diving session before lunch and then another in the afternoon, also simple pleasures, making it so easy to feel gooood here!

All for now/Magnus

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Enjoying it IN the water @ Moorea again

Seems like I have to repeat myself, and once again say, time flies… I just scrolled back and realized it’s just over two months since the last post.

In between, nothing much of significance, just the quiet but good life afloat. We sailed back to Tahiti shortly after the last posting, but this time we stayed anchored off Marina Tahina on the NW side of the island. A very nice close hauled sail in 15-18 kts apparent all across the 15 nM between Tahiti and her little sister to the west. About a mile and a half from the pass, the wind died in less than 20 meters due to the 1500-2000m mountains ahead of us. Hence a little motorboat trip into the lagoon and the anchorage.

We do not care much for big crowded marinas, and were just going to stay a few days, to try and get a replacement for our inner head stay on NANNA. Yeah, right. Almost on the day one month later we enjoyed a reach and broad reach sail in a stiff breeze back to Moorea and Baie Opunohu, our favoured anchorage. Here, we have now enjoyed a couple weeks again with two sessions in the water each day. A couple miles of swimming, some snorkeling and skin diving and the appetite gets enhanced in a nice and natural way.

As a matter of fact, being on a boat in tropical waters without being able to dive in is torture, I know! Once while at Taina I had a little seemingly harmless piece of skin rubbed off, probably against our swim ladder, and overnight it became a red crater with pus. It’s a curse, antibiotics again, and firm orders from the doctor NOT to go in the water until fully healed. in Taina, it was hot, practically never any wind thru the anchorage, so it was particularly miserable not being able to cool off in the clear water.

On the other hand, we provisioned as much as we could at the huge Carrefour supermarket there, to keep our larder filled before heading out to the leeward islands of the Society Group( Iles sous le vent) . We also reconnected with some people we met in the Gambiers, and got to know some new folks too.

They inner stay? Well, just another of those stories. It was a 1/4″ stay which is between 6and 7 mm, so none of the local riggers had any mechanical fittings to make up a new one. We had a spare stay, never used onboard, but it turned out to be 9 cm too long, so same story there, no fittings available, not even swage fittings. So after a few calls back and forth I decided to buy a length of Dyneema line and to splice it and use for the time being. Also a good way of getting aquainted with this material, since I am considering replacing the whole gang with heat-stretched annealed Dyneema before we leave FrPol.

More on this later.

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Four weeks of pure joy

Time flies, it’s a month since my last post. We’ve been enjoying Moorea, sharing our time between Baie de Opunohu and Vaiare, the latter on the E coast of the island. On average we spend close to four hours a day in the water, one session in the morning and another in the a-noon. The two lagoon anchorages at Vaiare offers particularly nice snorkeling with colorful forests of coral, and a fabulous variety of fish. We’ve had some strong trade wind conditions lately(yeah, during cyclone season!) so quite a current in the lagoon always keeping the boat pointed in the same direction night and day. No need to spend much time directing solar panels!

Due to the current, a typical snorkel session starts with a swim to the reef, to windward and against the current about half a mile or so, and then we just drift back with the current while diving on an off to check whatever pops up on our way. The water is about 28C so the wetsuits not needed, it’s simply wonderful to be able to really ‘skin dive’. Not even cold after a couple of hours in- and under- water. I’ve started playing around with the ‘submarine camera’ a bit, but internet access is more scarce than ever. Hope to be able to upload some photos to Flickr soon enough.
In about a week it’s time for Isa to revisit her doctor again, and we will probably head over to Tahiti soon, and definitely before the end of March. I am in the process of getting quotes for our new standing rigging( all the wires, and other hardware holding the mast upright and straight, quite important stuff on a boat and pricy too, unfortunately). The plan is to replace it all before the official end of the hurricane season and then go exploring the Leeward Islands, Raiatea, Huahine and others. We’ll see how it works out.


Chikungunya –
almost over, we both still have some pain in feet and hands, but definitely manageable.

Anti fouling:
the cupruous bottom paint that’s supposed to keep marine life from sticking to, and growing on, Nannas hull. A bit over three months since we relaunched after the haul-out, and nothing yet! Actually seems like we finally might have got a paint worth the name…. ‘ antifouling’…. To be followed

My free diving record:
Very pleased to be able to say that I daily descend to 20-25 ft (6-7 m) quite effortlessly, seems like my left ear finally got ‘unplugged’ of sorts. This brings me great pleasure, since I just love to be underwater, swimming upside down, playing around like a dolphin. The feeling of being relieved of the effects of gravity never stops thrilling me. Thanks to a strong heart and big lungs, I can hold my breath 2 minutes which is perfectly fine, albeit a wee bit shy of a dolphin ;)
The deepest spot I found so far was our anchor at 25ft or 7,5 mts to go deeper I would need to dive in the deepest parts of the lagoon, around 30-35 mrs, but I could do with longer fins to descend, the ones I have now, bought in a thrift store in Portugal, are just for swimming around a bit really. I checked the gear of some of our friends in the Gambiers who regularly descend to 30-40 mrs working on the pearl farms and those fins are 2-3 times longer than my toys! Will take a look at the store in Papeete which are specialized in this kind of gear and spear guns.

Fishing underwater:

Talking about spearguns, btw, quite a few people here go fishing ‘sous-marine’ at night(!) with a strong headlamp. Now this seems a bit spooky to me, what with those big sharkies and their impressive teeth?! Some do this at a professional level, and they tell me the fish are ‘asleep’ ( or perhaps just blinded by the light?) and thus easier to catch…. Others tell me that it’s due to this night fishing, that there’s less and less fish in the lagoon of Tahiti. Sounds plausible to me, and we can easily see that there are rarely a fish over 20-25cm on the lagoon side of the reef, just what I would call the limit for a Pansize fish. Go figure…
I believe PGEM, who are taking steps to protect the marine life, will have to completely protect larger parts of the lagoons in order to keep the diversity of species.

Sea turtles:

On another note, the last few weeks, the gendarmerie(police) have arrested a few people for poaching sea turtles. If found guilty, they’ll find themselves behind bars for about a year. This is a bit controversial, since sea turtles are a part of the traditional diet in Polynesia, and everyone I’ve had the pleasure of spending some time with, have confirmed how tasty the meat is, and that it’s always been regarded as the most delicious ‘beef’ there is. It’s worth noting here that historically, meat has been very rare at a dinner party. They had pigs here, but they were considered property of the royals in the old days, much like the moose, and other big game, back in Sweden. So except for an occasional chicken, fish was the major source of animal protein on the islands.


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