Monday, August 13, 2018

Joe and Lisa Visit CINNABAR

Photos by CINNABAR, PANGAEA and Joe/Lisa.

Our friends Joe and Lisa came to visit us and their 3 week visit absolutely flew by. We were on the island of Raiatea so after arriving in Papeete they got a short flight from Tahiti to Raiatea. The Raiatea airport has a dinghy dock so Tom was able to motor right up to the airport to get our guests and their luggage which included numerous bottles of booze for us.

Lisa got a kick out of transport by dinghy.

We planned to start their visit by circumnavigating Raiatea and visit what we were told were some beautiful and uncrowded anchorages.

First sunset aboard CINNABAR. PANGAEA was anchored nearby and we planned to do the island tour with our friends Katie and Mike.

Our first stop was at the famous marae of Taputapuatea on the East side of Raiatea. Luckily both mooring balls were available so CINNABAR and PANGAEA were able to rest side by side.

The next morning we all headed into the beach at Taputapuatea. The significance of this marae is that it was a place of learning where priests and navigators throughout the Pacific would gather to make sacrifices to the gods and share their knowledge of ocean navigation. 

Joe, Lisa, Sylvia, Katie and Mike

Beautiful Wahine

Back on the boat and hopeful for a BBQ, we discovered that the inner grate of our little grill had completely corroded. But fear not, after a bit of head scratching CINNABAR'S 3 engineers pulled a large duck confit can out of the garbage and turned it into a grate. BTW, this was Lisa's idea.

We visited several more anchorages as we continued to travel around the southern end of Raiatea, with our last anchorage being a lovely, secluded spot on the west side, which meant sunsets again!

Clear water, tall green!

Our next destination would be Huahine. We traveled to the nearby island of Taha'a (which shares the fringing reef with Raiatea) and spent the night there posed to set sail for Huahine the next morning. We lucked into perfect weather for our upwind 23 nm sail, mostly sunny, no squalls, fairly flat seas and just enough wind to hoist the sails.

Joe did a terrific job of driving most of the way.

We spent a short amount of time in the town of Fare, just enough to provision, and then we moved down to our favorite anchorage of Avea Bay in SW Huahine.

Lisa, Joe and Sylvia enjoyed an island tour with the same guy who gave a tour to the Obamas, Oprah, and Tom Hanks last year. It was a fascinating tour and we can heartily recommend Eco-Island Tours in Huahine. Paul operates out of Fare (North Huahine) but he had no problem picking us up in Avea Bay (South Huahine).

The tour included a visit to a vanilla plantation that smelled divine.
While in Avea Bay we enjoyed lots of snorkeling...

Pretty day for a snorkel, but these two were game to go in any conditions.

...happy hours at the nearby Le Mahana resort, traditional Tahitian pit-cooked brunch, and Tom's coconut clinic on shore.

Lisa enjoys the fresh coconut. Note Mike in the background with his machete.

The guys even got a bit of kiting in after getting skunked on their first attempt by a massive squall.

Taking shelter under the kite during a squall.

Joe, Tom and Mike kiting on a non-stormy day.

Sadly the end of Joe and Lisa's visit was approaching so we headed back to the town of Fare.  

Anchorage off of Fare

They got to enjoy one last Polynesian sunset before their taxi would pick them up the next morning.

Not bad for a final sunset, Fare Huahine.

Here are a few pictures of Joe and Lisa's visit: Joe and Lisa Visit CINNABAR

Now for the bonus question: A cold one of your choice to the first one who can identify this thing. 

What is this?????

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Kiting in French Poly 2018 - The Societies

Kiting in The Societies - A super day for Shindig, Kaimana, and Cinnabar (looking NNE)
The short version:
  • Kiting chances are few and intermittent in The Societies - this is surprising and frustrating. Best to include a 14m in the quiver.
  • Kiting in The Tuamotus is generally better - more locations and more frequent winds overall.
  • When kiting chances do arrive - right place and weather - it seems extra special (and almost worth the hassle).
  • Kiting in Baja is the best value overall - tons of locations, regular winds, tacos, and tequila.
  • It's good luck to kite with friends who are also drone videographers.

The regular version:

I want to say that almost everyday here is like that in the photo above, but that would be very untrue.

Fresh from a terrific winter in Baja, Mexico with lots of great wind and kitingboarding days (34), I was fired up to continue the good times here in French Polynesia. While the Baja desert scenery has its own distinct beauty, the tropics have the ultimate allure of consistent tradewinds blowing over exotic, smooth, warm, bluewater lagoons. The reality, though, is a little more complex than that. While the ideal conditions can be had on occasion, if one works at it and gets lucky that is, they are surprisingly elusive. Some of the challenges include: finding a good launch beach with soft sand and clear air (most atolls here have concrete-like hardpan coral edges with no beach; ubiquitous palm trees and hills obstruct the wind); the winds are too light/gusty/holey and from the wrong direction (they blow onhore or offshore and inconsistently; sideshore is best). There is excessive current from the ocean crashing over atoll edges and piling up inside the lagoons like an overflowing garden fountain, causing rushing rivers of water trying to escape back to the ocean through only a few channels.

Tom (L) and Rob (R) in paradise 'levitating' on teal hues.
The net result is that my kiting pals and I have been denied our kiting fix about 1 in every 2 or 3 attempts here.  I have logged just 5 days kiting in 10-15 attempts (and 3 months time). It's a little disappointing and wearisome. So why bother at all - why not hangup the harness and focus on other more assured pursuits? Because when the conditions are accidentally really good, the kiting experience is so stimulating that it provokes euphoria and exuberance. 

Ideal conditions like this seem to be the exception.
On one of our coveted lucky kiting days, Shingdig Rob and I joined up with Kaimana Melissa to get some good board time at one of the nicest remote motus in The Societies. The surprise bonus was that Melissa is a professional drone camera videographer and she was kind enough to capture some of the magic of kiting in a warm, picturesque, tropical lagoon. Nothing quite like racing across miles of shallow blueness in bright sunshine, and skimming over startled eagle rays, cruising blacktip sharks, and colorful coral bommies underneath the crystal waters.

Melissa struggling to view her iPhone screen in the bright sunlight as she flies her DJI drone.
Rob is tuning up in the background.

Rob, flying Melissa's kite (13m), and I flying my usual kite (12m), were cruising around trying to be good 'drone models'. I've never been involved in drone video; the closest I came was mounting a GoPro camera on my kite (w/acceptable results, but nothing like from a drone).

Anatomy of a drone video shoot.
Melissa commanded the drone to 'stay' (like Fido) while continuing to film; she then ran to launch Tom before resuming control of the drone..
The only thing better?
This shot with a giant aerial jump involved (someday!).
Frigate's view of the kiting area looking SSW, island pass in the background.
Cinnabar and Kaimana are anchored out of frame to the right. Yes, it's long dinghy ride.

After she was done filming and set aside the drone, Melissa expressed an interest in trying out riding a strapless surfboard (a different type of riding than the usual twin-tip board). Rob happened to have such a board and offered some coaching and dinghy support. Turns out, that really wasn't necessary. On only her 2nd try, Melissa was up and riding on Rob's surfboard like she was born to it. She's an incredibly quick study and set the bar for what's possible in speed learning.

Melissa riding the strapless/directional/surfboard for the first time. Piece of cake!

So we had a memorable session and got some unique pics. For all of the expense and hassle of bluewater cruising, this day was one of the great payoffs that one is always seeking. Hooray!
Rob even edited a fun, short video HERE - 2018 Kiting French Polynesia - Video. But in the final analysis, the greatest kiting bang for the buck, Baja/La Ventana, is tops. However, for the occasional grand splurge in the form of the elusive, novel, and hard to obtain dreamscape type experience, then roll the dice and French Poly, may, just may deliver.

It would be another 1.5 months before similar conditions arrived again. Worth it?
(Open ocean beyond the reef; Tahiti is 90 mn ESE)

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

French Polynesian Lunch To Go

Sylvia in Raiatea

It's very common here for people to pop into the local supermarket to pick up a prepared lunch to go. The most common are the casse croutes or baguette sandwiches. We're also used to seeing various marinated raw fish lunches. But this one really caused me to do a double take. 

Tartare de Boeuf with all the garnishes.

This was the first time I had seen beautifully packaged Steak Tartare complete with garnishes of raw egg yolk, capers, diced onion and tomato and some sort of sauce or dressing. It's flanked by packages of poisson cru, aka Tahitian fish salad (raw). They had just put them out and people were already jostling to grab one. They eat the Tartare with a baguette. 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Missing Captain Coconut

We wanted to do a nice, long post about SHINDIG Rob's visit, but unfortunately we've not had a decent internet connection so a shortie will have to suffice.

After a few weeks of working on CINNABAR we were all itching to take a break from the dreaded boat work. The weather was pretty much agreeable for a sail to Huahine, one of our favorite islands in the Societies. We got out of the anchorage a bit too late for the sail to Huahine so we motored over to Tahaa (another island that shares the same lagoon as Raiatea) and anchored just inside the pass, ready for a morning departure. It was Captain Coconut's birthday so on the way over I baked up a batch of chocolate cupcakes for the celebration later that night.

Shhh...he had two. Don't tell Nancy.

It was an upwind sail to Huahine but the winds and seas were pleasant, Rob drove the whole way, the motor was off for most of the trip, and Rob did an outstanding job of dodging the squalls on the way. Six hours after leaving Raiatea we anchored near the town of Fare in Huahine, ready for a festive Friday night at the Huahine Yacht Club (a bar and restaurant, not really a YC).

Just before Rob managed to convince Tom to turn over the wheel.

That night after Tom and Rob had gone to bed, I heard some frantic whistling outside and popped my head out to see an out-of-control traditional sailing canoe heading toward CINNABAR ready to spear us with the hull and two amas. The guys on board were shouting "Throw us a rope!". I yelled, "Don't hit the boat!" and called for Tom and Rob to come up. The canoe sailed by, sails flapping loudly, and luckily they missed the boat. Tom and Rob dropped the dinghy in the water and managed to help the canoe get to shore. Disaster averted. 

The next day (Saturday) we weighed anchor and headed down to Avea Bay at the south end of the island, hopefully so the guys could find some winds for kiting. Which they did. More about that later from Tom. 

A restaurant in the bay, Chez Tara, is known for its traditional pit-cooked Polynesian Sunday Brunch buffet. The patrons were a combination of tourists and locals and every table was taken. It turned out to be a terrific meal, lots of succulent meats, poisson cru (Polynesian ceviche), and other traditional dishes. One plateful of food was more than enough for me but I saw a couple of local guys go back FOUR TIMES. And then they served up a dessert buffet! Wow, what a meal.

Pulling the various meats and veg out of the fire pit.

Friendly hosts dish up to grub.

Luckily the winds were willing to accommodate a couple of kiters. Tom and Rob got in a day or two of kiting. We also dinghied way out onto the reef for some snorkeling.

Alas, Rob was on a schedule and we had to return to Raiatea so he could fly home. 

In Raiatea you can dinghy straight up to the airport, which has its own dinghy dock. So cool!

Captain Coconut, you were a wonderful guest and you are welcome on CINNABAR any time.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Raiatea Rising

We are anchored in NW Raiatea catching up on boat projects. The weather has been settled and calm (unusual in the tropics), and for the last few days we've enjoyed some beautiful sunsets next to Bora Bora-in-the-distance (about 23 miles west of us). 

With the recent full moon we have also enjoyed some unusually lovely moon-rises as well...

Our Memorial Day full moon rising over Raiatea.

Our internet in this location is terribly slow, so more later on SHINDIG Rob's visit aboard Cinnabar. We had a fabulous time including a sail over to Huahine for a few days. Coming up: Sailing, Traditional Island Feast, Kiting!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Welcome Aboard!

Cinnabar is in the water! After 2.5 weeks of hot, sweaty, dirty labor we (Tom, Sylvia and Rob) are now floating in an anchorage near the boatyard. 

While working on the boat we were fortunate enough to stay in a nearby bungalow where we would wait out the morning showers before heading to the boatyard.

No wonder the garden is so green.

On the day that we splashed Cinnabar we moved out of the bungalow and onto the boat.

It's always a little nerve-wracking to lift the boat over the water and gently put her in, but it all went off without a hitch.

With Rob (SHINDIG) on board for a couple of weeks I've noticed one or two changes on the boat. When I opened the coffee/tea cupboard the first morning this is what I saw.

No, Rob does not have a shot of Don Julio with his morning coffee, but he does like to keep it handy.

Did I say changes? I meant to say improvements. 

Welcome aboard Rob!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

What We Did On Our Southern Hemisphere Summer Vacation

It's been a while, so if you've got the time to catch up get comfy, grab a cold one and read on...

NOVEMBER: We put CINNABAR away in the Raiatea Carenage for the second year in a row.

CINNABAR next to her pal SHINDIG. (Left, blue bottom and red outboard, on which we sailed across the Pacific in 2017. No not that little boat sitting on cans!)

We flew home to the USA for a quick visit with family and friends and to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday.

Summer in the Southern Hemisphere is winter in the Northern; we were too used to tropical temps and it was way too cold for us in CA, so...

DECEMBER: We drove down to Baja, MX and stopped in Bahia Concepcion along the way to enjoy Christmas with the McGuire/Matatyaou/Hudnut families. It was a fun combination of Christian and Jewish holiday with matzoh ball soup, roast turkey, traditional sides, and homemade Challah bread. So good!

On Boxing Day (Dec 26) we drove to La Paz to move into our spiffy apartment (nicknamed Funkytown) and reconnect with our ex-dock neighbors Manny and Lola.

With bay area pals Lou and Mary (visiting La Paz), and neighbors Lola and Manny

Tom drove to Scorpion Bay to meet up with the McGuire group for a surfing adventure while I stayed in La Paz to hang out with friends.

Kelston and Tom hangin' loose in Scorpion Bay.

The nice, long rides were enjoyed by all including Asaf and his kids, a first for them in Baja.

JANUARY: We went to Cabo for a week to enjoy a life of luxury with our good friends the Beltons. Huge thanks to Heather, Wynn, Ava and Kellen for the deluxe accommodations. 

Toe-side view of our complex, not too shabby!

Tom takes Kellen and Ava for a kayak, our complex in the background.

Hanging out with Long John Silver in Cabo, aaaargh!

We decided one week was not enough so they made plans to visit us in La Paz during the kids' spring break in February.

LA VENTANA: Tom started his kiting vacation, yay!! And did a lot of downwinders with his friends from Oregon Nigel and Brenda, and their kids Fred and Joules.

View from Tom's GoPro with friend Nigel in the distance.

An extra activity: Tom reconnected with a couple of cyclists he'd met when he was surfing in Scorpion Bay and one day they rode from La Paz to La Ventana.

Michelle and Mike, from NY state, were off-road cycling from San Diego to Cabo.

SHINDIG: Rob and Nancy came to La Ventana for six weeks and had a slew of friends parade down for mini-vacations. We spent a few days with them in La Ventana, and after Tom, Rob, Nancy and their friends (Josh and Ralph) went kiting for the day, Josh gave everyone salsa lessons. It was a shindig!

L to R Joules and Fred, Brenda with teacher Josh, Nancy (SHINDIG) and Ralph. 

FEBRUARY: Girlfriends Dina and Claire came to visit for a long weekend. They timed it perfectly with Carnaval where we overdid the Margaritas and then recovered at beautiful Tecolote beach.

A perfect day in Tecolote with Sylvia, Claire and Dina.

The Beltons returned to Baja and we had a wonderful week of beaches, shell-collecting and touring around La Paz. 

Kellen and Wynn enjoying a game of chess.

Ava gets into the local art.

Many more visits to La Ventana.

Post-kiting hanging out with friends at Brenda and Nigel's place. Rob (SHINDIG), Brenda, Ralph, Nigel, Sue (visiting Rob and Nancy).

MARCH: Our friends Sally and Stan invited us to transit the Panama Canal with them and their friend Kerry aboard their Cal 40 ILLUSION. We couldn't resist so we made arrangements to travel from La Paz to Panama City. Not knowing much about Panama we were surprised to discover that Panama City is a huge metropolis! 

Sally, Sylvia and Tom enjoying Panama City

In order to transit the narrow isthmus in Panama one must begin at sea level, transit through the first sets of locks up to Gatun Lake which is 85 ft (26M) above sea level, and then through the last set of locks back down to sea level. 
We spent a couple of days preparing Illusion... 

Kerry and Stan sort through the humongous dock lines that were provided for the journey.

...and then pre-sunrise one morning left the dock and motored to the mouth of the river to wait for our guides. 

The Advisor and his assistant were brought out to ILLUSION on a tender.
We spent the entire day transiting the locks. Sailboats get to squeeze in with big container or cruise ships.

Illusion motors into place behind a container ship. Sally and Panama ex-pat Dave have sent their lines to the professiosnal line handlers.

The Panama Canal professionals take our lines and walk us through the locks.

At one point we had to tie up next to a tugboat. This is why we were provided gigantic fenders.

The lock has filled and the gates open to let us exit at a higher altitude.

It was an exciting and fascinating experience to be in the Pacific Ocean in the a.m. and then the Atlantic Ocean that night. 

We approach the Atlantic Ocean at sunset.

Once we got Illusion comfortably settled at Shelter Bay Marina we spent the next few days touring the area...

Sylvia, Kerry, Sally and Stan enjoy the Shelter Bay Marina facilities.

...and traveling back to Panama City visiting museums along the way and learning all about the engineering marvel that is the Panama Canal. 

Land tour on the way back to Panama City to catch our flight home.

Fun Fascinating Panama Canal Facts:
This is truly a wonder of modern (industrial age) engineering. Every curious person should find the chance to do the transit (and visit the excellent related museums).

· The French tried and failed to build the canal in the 1880s (squandered about $350 M).

· The USA built the canal from 1904 to 1914 and succeeded mostly via mosquito eradication (malaria and yellow fever control), bigger and more efficient machinery and building processes, and less mismanagement thanks to Teddy Roosevelt and a military chief engineer's efforts.

· About 92 countries contributed workers to the canal building effort, but most came from the West Indies in the Caribbean.

· About 14,000 ships per year transit the canal (about a 1 million total since opening).

· The USA operated the canal until 1999 when the Panamanians took over control. The US operated the canal as break-even/not for profit. The Panamanians make about $5B per year.

· Transit fees cost up to $1,000,000 USD for one ship, or about $1,500 for a small sailboat. The cheapest fee ($0.36 (cents) was for a guy who SWAM the canal in 1928. The average fee is about $54,000 per ship.

· The Panamanians built a 3rd lane on the outer 2 locks from 2006 to 2016 to handle extra-large ships.

· The canal runs mostly In the North-South direction; cutting across the mostly East-West Panamanian Isthmus. The canal waterway is about 48 nm long.

· About 36,000 people total died building the canal (French and US efforts)

APRIL: Sadly, it was time to wrap up our vacation in La Paz and prepare to head home. All in all Tom was able to get 34 days of kiting under his belt. We said our last goodbyes...

Final La Paz sunset with neighbors and good friends.

...and rendezvoused with our La Ventana friend Nigel and his three dogs to caravan back to the border. We spent several outstanding nights camping at beaches on the Pacific and Sea of Cortez sides of Baja, lollylagging as much as possible to delay our entrance into the USA.

Nigel and Tom review the route. We did a lot of off-roading and exploring.

We stopped in a remote fishing village on the Pacific side and purchased a filleted halibut for $10.

We crossed the Baja and in Gonzaga Bay in the Sea of Cortez Tom and Nigel dug a bucket full of clams.
Happily cooking the fresh clams which were outstanding.

Nigel, Tom and the dogs enjoy coffee and kibble.

We crossed the border and bid farewell to Nigel who planned to drive north many more hours than we did. Our plans to camp near Joshua Tree were thwarted by a huge wind event and dust storm. We wisely decided to motel it for the night and the next day we were pummeled by wind and dust as we drove north.

Sylvia and Teddy (Ava forgot her Teddy!) getting blown in 50 mph winds.
Emerging from the dust storm that enveloped the Tundra. We had to drive very slowly.

We had one week in the SF Bay Area to take care of business. We put the Tundra away and somehow managed to fit all of our luggage which was the carry-ons, three 49.9# bags and one 7' long batten wrapped in Sunbrella disguised as a fishing pole, into our Uber and made it to the airport EARLY for a change. All the luggage was accepted with no extra charge. We only had to change planes 2 more times and we wondered if all our luggage would actually show up at our destination.

April 23: After changing planes at LAX and a red-eye to Tahiti we arrived in Papeete. And so did all of our luggage! We re-checked all luggage to Raiatea and only had to pay $19 for our excess luggage. We were told our "fishing pole" was too long but in typical French Poly fashion they shrugged and took it anyway. It all arrived in Raiatea and miraculously fit easily into our rented Fiat Panda.

And that is where we are now, back in the Carenage (boatyard) working hard to get Cinnabar back into the water. Our friend Rob from SHINDIG is here to check on his on boat and then join us on a mini-vacation. He's been a godsend.

We're working on the problems we knew about and, as usual, the "new" problems that surprised us upon our arrival. But at least Cinnabar was dry and non-mildewy on the inside, an improvement over last year. 

More later, but in the meanwhile here is a bonus question. A cold one of your choice to whoever can correctly identify this boat project...