Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Navigating through Troubled Waters

June 18, 2008--We are currently anchored in the channel of Huahine near the village of Fare. We left Moorea Monday afternoon around 4 p.m. We spent the day getting the boat ready to go and were careful to have everything stowed away as the weather report indicated that we would have wind and large seas. Steve and I triple-reefed the main and got the reef tied down nice and tight.

We left at 4 p.m. The pass out of Opunohu was no problem except for avoiding the large cruise ship that was anchored in the middle of the bay. Initially we had relatively moderate winds and sea state; however, as we pulled further away from the island, the winds continued to build and the seas became more confused. We had to pull in the jib in order to get the spinnaker pole out and the lines run. We were on a run, which meant the winds were coming from the stern. On that point of sail, the main is large enough, even with a triple reef, that it blankets the jib, and the jib does a lot of slapping, which in turn drives us crazy and will eventually damage the sail. With the pole out the jib is much more controlled. Getting the pole out, especially in rolly seas, is quite a feat. Once Steve got the pole set, we began moving along nicely. We didn't want to go over six knots because we wanted to get to Huahine around 7 o'clock in the morning. Well, even with a triple reef in the main, and the jib furled in a lot, we were still doing over 6 knots.

The winds were not consistent but would hover around 25 knots. Then the gusts would hit anywhere from 30 to 35 knots. The wind alone would not have been so bad, but the seas were very big and confused because of days of high winds. Most waves were about 12 to 16 feet, but during the night when the wind increased, the waves increased to about 20 feet and some were breaking waves. Also, the waves were close together, which meant that the boat would barely recover from one wave before the next wave was on us. Steve had to hand steer, along with the wind vane, for a time in order to minimize the yaw and the roll. We also had rain squalls, some of which were heavy. Steve and I agree that these were the worst conditions we have had since we began cruising. The only good thing was that we knew it would end in the morning when we anchored off of the village of Fare on Huahine in the Society Islands. We were never scared, but there were certainly times when we became apprehensive with the conditions. We did decide, however, that the boat could take a lot more than we were comfortable with.

We arrived at Huahine right around dawn. As we sailed up the west side of the island, a huge rain squall hit, and the rain cloud was so heavy that we could no longer see the lights on the island. Luckily it moved on before we went into the pass. The pass was fairly well marked so we didn't have any problem entering. We ended up anchoring just outside the channel on the reef side in about 10 feet of water. We got the anchor down at 7 a.m., picked up the boat, and went to sleep since Steve had had no sleep and I had just 3 hours.

Around 2 o'clock we unloaded the dinghy and headed into town. There is a main street that is about 100 yards long where you can shop for groceries and, of course, pick up the usual trinkets. The grocery store is very large, and the prices are better than Tahiti or Moorea. We walked around a bit in order to stretch our muscles and then returned to the boat in the late afternoon. When we got back, I noticed that one of the shade coverings I had made for the dodger windows was missing, so I put on my snorkel gear and went to look for it in the water. I was sure that it had floated away; however, I found it lying on the bottom in the sand about 50 feet from the boat. I couldn't believe it!

Today we decided to go on the Maeva Marae Walk. The crew of sv Liberty, Carl, Yvette, Kyle, and Joel, as well as sv Vari with Gordon and Jenine, decided to go with us. We had to walk about 5 miles to get to the museum, which was very interesting. From there, we crossed to the other side of the road to pick up a trail and went uphill through dense forest and vanilla plantations. We then took a side path that led to the multitiered Te Ana or Matairea Huiarii. The complex has "marae," houses and agricultural terraces dating from around 1300 to 1800, with signs of an earlier settlement from around 900 A.D.

A side path wound through the forest to Marae Tefano, where a massive banyan tree overwhelmed one of the ahu or ceremonial platforms. We continued on and reached the Marae Paepae Ofata. This is a marae (or rock platform that was the base structure for home or other building) that is perched on the edge of a hill and had a spectacular view. From there we took the wrong trail and ended up walking through someone's back yard to get to the highway. We then discovered that we were at the end of Lake Fauna Nui, actually an inlet from the sea, that had a number of ancient coral fish traps, which are still being used.

When we returned to the main road, I noticed a large Dodge pickup pulling out onto the road so I put out my thumb, and the driver stopped. We all climbed into the back and enjoyed a free ride back to the wharf. It was a very interesting day and a very good workout for us all. We stopped at the grocery store, and then went back to the boat to swim and take showers. Tomorrow we will head south through the channel along to coast to an anchorage at the south end. A lot of sailboats are coming in here. Most of the sailboats are ending their time in French Polynesia so we are all on the same track.

We have some very nice pictures that we want to share with you; however, the internet service here is like the "old" dial up services. We hope to be able to upload the pictures before we leave French Polynesia on July 7. Unfortunately, all the pictures will be grouped together; but, hopefully, they will make sense if you have been following the blog.

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