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...

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Kitty and Joe Visit CINNABAR

Four Islands in Eighteen Days - Tahiti to Moorea to Huahine to Bora Bora

Our friends Kitty and Joe came to visit us in September/October and we made some epic memories during their visit. Here are some of the highlights:

They started off with a few days in Tahiti enjoying a cool bungalow with views of the sunset and whales off their reef. We did an excellent island tour and drove all the way around the island. 

We hiked up to the Cascades de Faarumai...

...and Kitty discovered soursops at the fruit smoothie stand.

After they checked out of their bungalow and they moved onto CINNABAR, where they deposited the requisite booze and boat parts that they'd brought for us, we readied the boat for the 4-hour sail to Mo'orea.

After sailing to Mo'orea from Tahiti, (and practically sailing right over a mother humpback whale and her calf!) we had a marathon snorkeling day and took Kitty and Joe to all our favorite snorkeling spots. Unfortunately, once back at the boat Kitty came down with a crazy case of hypothermia. We thought. She had a bad case of the shakes and shivers and we warmed her up with some blankets and hot tea. 

Hot shower, hot towel, hot tea, warm Polynesia??

But that night and the next day, which was our scheduled scooter island tour, she still was not herself. Hmmm...

Quintessential OWB shot. Kitty's trying to rally.

Kitty said she was up for the scooter adventure so off we scooted to tour the island, but try as she might, it was obvious she wasn't her usual peppy self, so when we drove by a pharmacy and I saw a doctor's name I recognized we pulled in for a (hopefully) quick check. In French Polynesia there is almost always a doctor's office associated with a pharmacy, in this case I had actually spoken with this particular doctor over the phone about another matter. Long story short, after examining her, Doctor Bouchet announced Kitty had SEPSIS (which is an internal bacterial infection) and he put her on antibiotics. Yikes! Thank goodness we stopped to see him. 

(May I rant for a moment? We stopped at the doctor's office, no appointment, no "pre-approval", just as he was locking up for lunch. He went back into his office to examine kitty, check her vitals, etc. We were there about 30 minutes while he gave Kitty his full attention, made his diagnosis and wrote out the prescriptions. Cost of visit - equal to $36.00. Compare that to a doctor's visit in the USA. Just sayin'.)

After the examination Kitty felt well enough to continue the scooter tour. 

She felt well enough to schmooze with this young hunk and get him to carve out some fresh coconut meat for her. Way to go Kitty!

However, it would be total rest for Kitty for the next few days. 

Unfortunately she would miss one of the epic highlights of their visit. The day after Kitty's diagnosis a group of cruisers in our anchorage had booked a tour on a highly recommended whale-watching boat. The local guide was very in tune with the behavior of the humpbacks and he put us close to a mother and her calf. Even though the day was overcast with big wind chop we all slid quietly into the water and then kicked like crazy, following our guide who led us to the whales. While Mom was taking a nap about 50 feet below us, Baby frolicked on the surface, practicing its turns and dives and trying to engage us in playing with it. It was, and I don't use the "A" words lightly, Amazing and Awesome. 

Joe filming a baby humpback in Mo'orea. 

A very big baby.

We were able to have several encounters with these whales and it was quite an afternoon. We got a lot of exercise with all that kicking in choppy water and I even blew out the purge valve of my snorkel. (Or maybe I just stepped on it.)

The next morning we could see some activity on the nearby beach. People were erecting tents, bringing in armfuls of palm fronds and flowers, and setting up booths for vendors and musicians. We decided to dinghy into the beach to investigate. Turns out it was International Tourist Day in French Polynesia and the Mo'orea tourist bureau was having its festival right on our beach! 

Music all day long

We spent the day sampling food, smelling flowers, listening to a variety of local musical groups, watching studly young men in loincloths climb trees to pick coconuts and learning about the art of making jewelry and flower leis. We even got to paddle with the #1 Mo'orean paddling team. What a fun day!!

Tom gettin' it done.

We had been looking at the weather and felt that an evening departure the following day would be the last chance to do an overnight sail to Huahine before some big winds and swells would hit the islands. 

We left on schedule on a Thursday evening just after sunset in the peaceful lee of Mo'orea (i.e. the island protected us from the wind and waves), but as soon as CINNABAR poked her nose out of Mo'orea's lee we knew we were in for a night of wind and waves. 
Looks so calm. About 10 minutes later it was jackets, harnesses and tethers to keep us attached to the boat.

CINNABAR was was going so fast, even with her mainsail reefed down (sail area reduced by lowering and securing), that we eventually completely stowed the mainsail away and sailed through the night using only the jib (smaller sail in front). 

We took turns being on watch with two up at a time. Tom and Kitty were in charge for a couple of hours and then it was Joe and Sylvia, and so on throughout the night. It was a tiring but fun night when we decided to give the autopilot a break and hand-steer down the big swells. Joe and Kitty did a great job and as we sailed into the calm, familiar anchorage of Fare, Huahine the next morning we all agreed we'd gotten our money's worth with the previous night's E-Ticket ride. 

A rejuvenating lunch at the Mai Tai Lapita Village resort in Huahine

Every island in The Societies has its own personality. While Tahiti and Mo'orea are heavily visited by tourists, Huahine has a more laid-back surf-town type vibe. It does have resorts, just not as many. We saw only one resort with OWBs (Over Water Bungalows) and it was tucked discretely into a private bay. 

A land-tour company had been highly recommended to us. In fact it was the company that had conducted a tour for the Obamas (and group of Oprah, Springsteen, Tom Hanks, etc.) in April of 2017.

Manava feeds the sacred blue-eyed eels.

Manava, our guide, gave us an extensive and personal tour of the island, concentrating on Polynesian culture, history and anthropology. 

Recently a large tree fell over and it exposed a previously unknown ancestral tomb. These skulls are well-hidden from hikers.

After spending a couple of days enjoying the town of Fare we sailed down to Avea Bay on the SW side of the island. We grabbed a mooring next to a resort and enjoyed their free wi-fi and facilities for a few days. Tom even had a chance to get some kiting in. 

Tom teaches Joe how to help him launch the kite.

Kitty and Joe were keen to add Bora Bora to their repertoire. It is only a half-day sail from Huahine and CINNABAR managed to zip over there in only three hours! 

Our friends Katie and Mike on PANGAEA, (last seen in Papeete) were waiting for us in the mooring field anchorage just off the famous Bloody Mary's Tiki Bar so it was fun to see them again and introduce them to Joe and Kitty.

They brought us some croissants and baguettes even though it was pouring rain. (Mike, your baguette's a little limp. Just sayin'.)

PANGAEA had been in Bora Bora for a couple of weeks and had discovered the best snorkeling and kiting spots so it was great to have our own personal adventure guides. Joe and Kitty only had a few days in Bora Bora so we packed as much into those days as we could.

All trips must come to an end, and our friends finished theirs up by treating us to a fantastic farewell dinner at the famous Bloody Mary's Tiki Bar.

Throwin' the shaka at Bloody Mary's. Hey look, even the barender's toasting us.

The next day they caught a taxi into town where they would catch the free ferry to the Bora Bora airport for their short flight back to Papeete to catch their long flight back to Los Angeles.

NOTE: Cruisers have a motto that we can tell visitors WHERE, or WHEN we will be, but rarely can we tell them both where AND when we will be somewhere, so be prepared to island hop one or both ways.

Looking back on this past cruising season we can honestly say we were very blessed with all our visitors. They were incredible guests who actively participated in making our own fun.  

Joe and Kitty, Mike and Linda, Merci Beaucoup for helping to make 2017 a memorable cruising season for CINNABAR.