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Skipping Huahine, now headed towards Moorea

Good evening –

Beetle Boat is once again at sea, after a brief stop and exploration of the anchorages (there are two) at Fare, the main town of Huahine. The anchorages are narrow shelfs, with deep water on one side and hard coral reef on the other – the object is to get the anchor to stick on the shelf such that you can’t swing into the reef and hopefully you won’t pull the anchor off the shelf into the deep water where the anchor won’t hold.

The north anchorage (north of the pass as you enter) was more or less filled with boats on moorings, the available spot put the boat quite close to the shelf and the red navigation mark.

The south anchorage had one boat in it and they were anchored in close to the reef – not my idea of a good place to be.

I motored around a bit, drifted a bit, reviewed the literature I have regarding Huahine, and the places to anchor mostly seem to have lots of coral in them. The one place that looked interesting is Avea Bay, that’s a 7.5 mile run down the channel to find out if I like that place and that’s not something I want to take on as the sun is getting close to setting – running around reefs in the dark is not a good idea.

I thought about it for a few minutes, decided that I would be happier offshore than up in against a reef, and with the wonderfully calm conditions we’re experiencing right now it seems like a fine idea to make the 80 mile hop back to Moorea. I’m now motoring along around 5 knots and should have most of the distance covered come morning. It’s very pleasant out here, though I must admit I have not been good at whale spotting – haven’t seen one yet.

So Beetle is off into the evening! Should be a nice run across given how calm the ocean is.

– rob


On the way to Huahine

Good morning – it’s Tuesday and I’m up and out of Bora Bora, headed across to the island Huahine. The wind has dropped off to very little and lots of boats are moving around out here – kind of like the stop light has turned green and everybody goes.

Huahine is recommended as a good snorkel spot, a mellow village (Farre), and a nice anchorage in Avea Bay at the south end of the island. I have advice from Eye Candy to use the anchorage on the north side as I enter the pass, and to not use the anchorage to the south as the south side gets a wind vs. current issue that makes the boats lay beam on to either the current or the wind and then you bounce around. So I’ll try out the north anchorage as it should be calmer inside the boat.

Yesterday we had lots of sun and it was a great day for going out to the reef to inspect fishes. I found one of the large puffer fish hiding beneath a large coral formation, and those fish will let you swim right up to them while they stare at you with big wide eyes. After inspecting him for a while I turned and swam to the next coral group and there was a good size octopus holding onto the coral and watching me! – most cool to see an octopus. Turns out it was an Octopus cyanea, a diurnal ocotpus that hunts crabs and fish and most likely other things as well. This guy turns all sorts of colors and patterns very rapidly – he’d go from smooth red to crinkly white and black and then sprout lots of bumps like a coral, then be on the sand and turn white – amazing to watch. The thinking is the octopus uses its eyes a lot (because it is hunting during the day) and continually adjusts its chromatophores to match the background it’s resting on. The one I had was also very curious – the moment I moved out of its sight it would poke its eyes up above the coral to keep watching me. That made it easy to observe it, as it wouldn’t completely hide.

I did a bit of reading about them, and it seems the average octopus is particularly smart – made me think of a bumper sticker: “My octopus is smarter than your dog!” That would work if one had an octopus and a car to put the bumper sticker on, also give people pause for thought.

Now I’m out on the Big Pond, something like 40 miles to go to Huahine, the water maker is running and refilling the thanks, engine turning over and pushing Beetle along smartly. I need to change out the pre-filter again (I suspect the problem is the 20 micron filter, as those filters never had a proper box or cover and probably have dust on them now that has clogged them up, just from sitting in the air). I’ll do that when I’m at anchor tonight, as the water maker is running along just fine now as the filter isn’t completely clogged.

Enjoy the day! I’m going to stay topsides and watch for whales. There are Humpback whales in the area and it sure would be neat to see some.

– rob

Monday morning – no rain this morning!

Yesterday it was all about rain. It rained a lot. It rained and rained rained. Not drizzle, but rain. Bora Bora can be a wet place when it wants to be, that is for certain. Any plans to go snorkeling were put on ice when the grey clouds appeared, sufficient to cover up the sun. Snorkeling is fine in the rain but without the sun all the colors disappear underwater and that’s not so much fun. Instead I stayed indoors and put Beetle ready to go offshore, did some reading, and watched a silly movie. It didn’t stop raining until after dark at which time the clouds cleared and the stars showed up.

Tiger Beetle is now participating in the Polynesian Magellan Net (to use its entire title) as the Sunday Net Controller – the person that moderates and operates the radio net among the cruisers. Roger on Ednbal was the Sunday controller but he’s moved on west and is just about in American Samoa, that’s about the limit of radio communications on 8173 at the time of day the net operates (morning and evening, 1800 and 0400 UTC) – so I’ve stepped in to help out with the net on Sundays. The net has enough boats that the week is divided across seven boats each of whom are responsible for one day’s net control. I won’t be in the area all that long but Beetle has a good SSB radio installation and I was asked if I would take over Sundays, so sure, I can do that.

The difficult part is keeping track of the names of each boat’s people; it’s a lot more fun to receive a call from Net control that starts, ‘Hi, Philip! – what’s your position this morning?’ rather than ‘Parotia, go ahead with position information’. So the net does try to keep the people names in the forefront which means the Net controllers keep a list of names on each boat as Net control is the only boat likely to actually talk directly to all the boats. There aren’t that many vessels on the net at the moment; the cruising season here is winding down, by November typhoons become a threat (especially in the Fiji area, which you have to go through on the way to New Zealand), and by December the rainy season begins. If yesterday’s rain was any indication of wet-ness, this will be a wet place in the rainy season – one chart shows rainfall averages November -> February as 18, 39, 47, 26 inches of rain per month, about 10 times the amount that lands on Orcas Island. A significant part of the cruising decision is what to do in the typhoon/wet season – boats are hauling out at the Raiatea Carenage (boat yard) in Raiatea and the owners will fly home for 5-6 months, boats are approaching New Zealand, boats are departing for Hawaii or the Marshall Islands. There are less than 20 boats now in the area participating in the net, of which half might check-in any given radio slot.

For myself, tomorrow morning I’ll be hopping over to Huahine, a 50 mile (less than one Farallones trip) in light air as the winds have shifted around to the NE and dropped. That shift will be around for the next 3-4 days – good time to be moving around out here except for the motoring part. I’ll try running with the sails, success will depend upon the sea state – if it’s lumpy lumpy then the boat will bounce around and the sails will slam in the rigging (not good), if conditions are smooth it could be nice. Unfortunately the expectation is for extra lumpy due to the multiple swell trains running then add in the refraction of waves around the islands and reflection of waves off the islands – makes for a most interesting bippity boppity ride. I’ll find out tomorrow!

Today we’ve got clear skies out here, the rainy bits seem to have moved off. I’d like to visit the fishes again on the reef, make a store stop in town (partly to see if the hardware store has a 3/32″ allen wrench that I dropped into the water and it sank faster then I can could swim after it), and stow the dinghy.

All is good here!

– rob

Saturday and all is well in Bora Bora

Good afternoon – Tiger Beetle is watching the weather and continuing to hang out on the mooring in front of Bloody Mary’s. The thinking is to hop over to Huahine Monday morning. In the meantime there are fish on the coral to inspect and imagery to organize on the computer.

It’s been very much fun to be here, I’ve spent a fair bit of time with Rob on Shindig (very much the intense engineer – most things involve ‘operations’ as in kite-ops or shopping-ops), and Mike and Katey on Pangey (more relaxed, she sings opera and works with singers on managing their instrument, the larynx, he’s a quiet engineer that designed many wiring looms on various spacecraft flown by JPL throughout the solar system). Both boats departed this morning and are making the jaunt around the central island of Bora Bora to check out the anchorages on the east side of the island.

Last night the four of us (Beetle, Pangea, Shindig) dinghied in to Bloody Mary’s to take advantage of the happy hour beer pricing and enjoy a fine dinner of fish (me) and ribs (them). Good food, good folks, lots of newly-weds and entourage were present – oddly enough mostly from Asia this time. I imagine the allure of Bora Bora crosses all cultures, and if you really want to be here all you need to do is show up.

Yesterday we did a joint snorkel-ops (a Shindig term) out to the SE reef and I had a super time in the water with the fishes. The number of sea urchins was staggering, and in the shallow areas you had to be pretty careful to not dip a knee into one while kicking with the fins – I bet that would hurt. The yellow-spotted moray eel had shifted spots, so we could not find him again. I’d found him the day before, a beautiful small moray eel hiding in a crack in a particular coral outcropping which was easy to re-locate as the adjacent bommie had a metal stake set in it as a navigational marker. But the eel had decanted and moved elsewhere despite careful inspection of his prior abode. I guess morays don’t always stay in the same spot. That is the third moray I’ve seen out here, they sure are pretty animals even if they do look particularly dangerous – when they hang still, extend out of their home, and start the mouth open-close behavior while intently studying you at close range they do not look particularly inviting to being scritched behind the ears.

My plan at this stage is to watch the weather swing through. There is a front currently nearby or overhead with the High nearby, which means we’re having clouds, intermittent rain showers (very few of those), and light air. That front is forecast to remain and dissolve into a trough, and that means the wind will drop away to light air from anywhere and that’s a perfect opportunity to exit Bora and bip over to Huahine. I’ve been studying the Soggy Paws Compendium (kind of the cruising guide bible out here) about Huahine and it looks like there are two good places for Beetle: to the south of the pass into Farre (main town in Huahine), and then progress along to Baie Avea in the SW corner. The good snorkeling should be in the SE corner and that’s not a far dinghy trip from Avea. I’m thinking to make that hop Monday morning, it’s 54 miles here to here and I’ve got plenty of diesel fuel to do that in light air and 4′ swell. I still mentally compute distances in units of ‘Farallone runs’ and that’s less than one Farallone run, only I won’t be making the run with a boat-load of bird people perched around the cockpit.

Yesterday I made a trip in to the Super U, got some more goodies, I’ll do the same tomorrow and probably shift over to the anchorage back to the west of motu Toopua and see if another interesting sunset appears there. Today I’m going to go look for more fishes on the reef.


– rob

Continuing to enjoy Bora Bora

It’s Thursday morning, Beetle remains happily riding to the mooring in the lagoon of Bora Bora. Shindig, with Rob on board, arrived yesterday afternoon after dropping off his crew Jeff in Raiatea for an airplane flight back to Jeff’s home. I spotted Shindig’s position on the AIS display, and when he popped in I dinghied over to the mooring and handed the line up to him – makes it much easier for the singlehander as you don’t have to run forward and fish around with the boat hook to capture the mooring eye before the boat drifts too far away to reach it.

The last two nights have been close to clear of clouds, the moon doesn’t arrive until late at night, the result of which is to have the night sky filled with stars. Definitely worth lying down on the deck and staring straight up at the sky, it’s kind of fun to see our corner of the Western Spiral Arm.

During the day I’ve been experimenting with the GoPro video footage I got from my snorkels on the reef, re-learning Adobe’s Premier Pro and After Effects software tools. Also out and about with the dinghy, exploring the town a bit, another visit to the Super U, and spent some time under the boat with the air compressor to clean up the propeller and shaft (no bottom paint on those two items, therefore the harder stuff grows on them and it takes time to scrape everything clean). The Max Prop zinc is in good order, all shiny clean.

Last night Shindig joined Pangea and Beetle for happy hour at Bloody Mary’s, that was fun to catch up and hear about what he’s been up to. About the middle of happy hour we figured it would be fun to have dinner there as well, only they were booked and couldn’t seat us until 8pm. That’s late for the cruisers, so we all departed at 7:30 headed back for the boats. I’ll have to check, but I think Shindig made dinner reservations for Friday evening, so we’ll try again then!

Today’s plan is to hit the water for another round of snorkeling with the GoPro camera (and probably the still camera as well), see what’s down there, and spend some time capturing more footage to run through the video software. An issue with using a video camera while snorkeling is the surface waves bounce you around, and some of that bounce makes it to the camera resulting in jittery images. I’ll try spending more time below the surface and it will be interesting to see if that produces more stable video.

All is good here, enjoying the place, it sure is easy to be here! I particularly like the ring road around the island being set at sea level – all the stores one might want are along that road, right at sea level, and if you’re lucky you can dinghy up to the store and tie up – super convenient for the dinghy people.

I’ve also been talking with the harbor folks in Hawaii, and learned that Keehi Marina (a private marina) is likely too shallow for Beetle’s 8′ draft. The folks at Ala Wai (a state-managed harbor) have sent along information about what I need to do to obtain a transient berth (meaning less than 6 months per year there), I will be printing out a form, filling it out, scanning it and emailing it back to them. Tiger Beetle will be floating office for at least a little while today to do that work, which isn’t as simple as it sounds as I have to get the equipment out, run all the wires, plug everything in, do the work (which is easy), then break everything down again and put it away. Hopefully something will work out with Ala Wai Harbor on Oahu.

Have fun!

– rob

Monday morning and a pleasant day in the lagoon

It’s a most pleasant Monday morning here in Bora Bora, there is a gentle breeze sweeping in through a gap in the island’s mountainous terrain to the west, not many clouds up above, and very few boats running about so far.  While performing the morning dinghy launch a fellow came by in his brightly colored runabout and waved ‘Good morning!’ – always a nice way to start the day.

Kristen was able to visit for two weeks, a lot of fun, and there is less activity today now that she has returned to her home – though I heard last night that Black Cat was rather glad to see her.

The gang at the shrimp farm, at the head of the bay.  Kim is holding one of the tasty shrimps, Sylvia is contemplating the good taste it will have whe​n grilled up.  Got to have your bags to carry the goodies.

Preparing for a snorkel.  The shirt acts a rash guard from things floating in the water, protects the back from the sun a little, and even helps you retain a small amount of body heat.  The stainless steel swim ladder mounted port side has grab rails port and starboard, which makes using the ladder a lot easier than one might think.

​Kristen on the prowl, heavily armed with camera.  The shallow water snorkeling around the reefs in Moorea and Bora Bora made for good picture opportunities as the sunlight can only penetrate so far before a lot of colors are gone.

A big part of the pleasure of her presence is her interest in doing things off the boat, something I don’t do so much of.  She was helped in this regard with Sylvia (Cinnabar) and Kim (Maluhia) as they went as a team to visit the shrimp farm in Opunohu and acquire shrimp, which can be made up in all sorts of interesting ways.  They also hit the local distillery/jam factory in Cook’s Bay, which manufactures Rotui fruit juices and jams and Manutea fruit spirits.

We also hit the water a lot, snorkeling from the dinghy (maybe daily?), in search of interesting aquatic critters.

​Herding anenome fish is not easy and takes practice.  These little dark guys (and the orange one hiding in the middle) would scoot into the anenome’s tentacles when you got too close, and then turn to stare at you until you had moved off enough to make them feel safe.

​Snorkeling when a passing squall goes by is part of the program.  You’re already wet, what with being in the water, but the rainwater is much colder than the saltwater you’re floating in.

​Hanging out on Cinnabar in the evening and watching the sun set over the ocean’s horizon is a great way to meet people and get to know them.  Here we’re hanging out on Cinnabar, where everyone brought really good munchies.

Plus the evening sundowners gatherings on various boats: Beetle, Cinnabar, Maluhia come to mind.

​Toes up on the hammock rigged on Beetle’s foredeck is as great way to watch the sunset from Bora Bora.

Much fun to have Kristen here, it’s sad to see her go, but she shall return!

– rob

Snorkeling in Bora, enjoying the sunset

It’s been a very pleasant stay so far in Bora Bora, Kristen and I went on a number of snorkel trips on the SE part of the lagoon.  Now that I’ve got the Vini cellular modem working, I can try to put some of the images into this post.  The wonders of Android applications interfacing with images managed through Lightroom on the large laptop, sent to Zenfolio through Vini, and now trying to reference them from within the WordPress Android application.  At least I was able to get the Apple keyboard to work with the Note 2 phone… so lots of wires and charging devices spread about the boat at the moment.

Kristen has flown back to California, and now Beetle is back to one person on board (me).  She definitely enjoyed the water and underwater activities here in Bora Bora.  And her Olympus Tough camera did a great job underwater – most impressive camera.  One fun part of the airport in Bora Bora is the ‘bus terminal’ is in fact a set of docks, complete with specific fingers with signs on them reserving them for specific resorts.  There was room behind one of the gleaming ‘limousines’ to squeeze Beetle’s dinghy in and deposit Kristen and her luggage directly on the dock, a short stroll from the check-in terminal.

Yesterday I made a quick run over to the grocery store, and on the trip back from the airport I had seen the large sign for ‘Super U’ (the big grocery store) on their roof where it faces the water.  It is a long walk from the Vaitape main dock basin to Super U, and it appeared there might be a way to duck in with the dinghy and get close to the shore – turns out there is!  I tied the dinghy off to someone’s fence and walked down a narrow abandoned bit of concrete retaining wall to the road, with the store directly across the road.  15 minutes later I was done with shopping and back on the road to Beetle.

Friday Kristen and I had dinner with Mike and Katy on Pangea; the evening started out as a visit to Bloody Mary’s to take advantage of their two for one happy hour (Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays)… and that segued into dinner for all of us in their very nice restaurant.  Not inexpensive, but very good appetizers and food, mostly fish-oriented (I had sashimi and the Wahoo steak for dinner).  This afternoon I went out with Pangea, this time to snorkel on the coral and see what we could find.  We visited the two sites Kristen and I had found, and then went to a deeper water area recommended by Katy’s kite boarding instructor.  Mike and I each have GoPro cameras with a small underwater housing, so we were trying those out today.  I’ll need to take a look at the footage to see what the camera might have recorded.  I did run across a wonderful large Moray Eel in the deep water snorkel – he was huge, maybe five feet long and was a light brown color.  They look very agressive as they resemble a snake in shape and are curious, will turn watch you as you approach, all the while continuing opening and closing their mouths (which makes them look like a snake preparing to strike).  Turns out the mouth movement is just to keep water pumping over their gills, and they’re not preparing to bite you.  A local guide with a boat load of tourists went down and showed how close you can get to them – he put his hand about ten inches from the Moray and the eel just watched him, backed up, then slowly glided  through the rocks and coral to a new hidey hole.

It’s a beautiful evening tonight, very calm here inside the lagoon.  I’m listening to the radio net while typing this, and boats are moving towards Tonga and Niue, then aiming for New Zealand.  The reception this evening is quite good, the lack of static makes it a pleasaure to listen to the radio (it’s not so much fun when there is big crashing static in the foreground).

Enjoy the evening!

– rob