Thursday, March 19, 2015

Cruising - It’s All about the Weather

“Sailing means freedom” is a misconception that Mark and I have realized over the years. Don’t get me wrong, you have a lot of freedom when you live on a boat and cruise the world; you just don’t have the freedom to choose when to leave, where to go, how long to stay or when to arrive. The comfort of an anchorage is also not to be taken for granted. All this is determined by the main domination in a sailor’s life: the weather.

Even when keeping a close eye on the forecasts, here in the Pacific, doesn’t necessarily mean that you “get what you ordered”, like during our trip from delightful Huahine to the metropolis of Tahiti. In between bouncing at anchor and being suffocated by poisonous smoke (which appeared to have been from an accidental fire in the recycling plant of Punaauia) in the Taina Marina area, we dealt with some errands on shore and ran from one doctor to another, and from one lab to the next, not forgetting about our initial appointment at the hospital. Without finding an answer to one of our health issues and having to decline a birthday drink invitation, both because of another unfavorable weather forecast, we crossed the channel to Moorea – under motor – to hide for the predicted 30-40 knot NW winds.

The anchorage areas on the east side of Moorea, near Vaiare, were new to us and – based on reviews of friends - we had been looking forward to spending some time on the eastern faced reef anchorages, in shallow, clear water over a sandy bottom. Facing outward, meant no mosquitoes, no smoke and a refreshing breeze. The current, however, is very strong here and from the moment we arrived, Irie didn’t stop moving about, the water rushing along the hulls as if we were underway. But, we did find a big spot for ourselves, with plenty of swinging room and none of the other boats close by, to sit out the inclement weather.

The storm from last weekend, albeit short in duration – just one night – would become the strongest one we have experienced in eight years of cruising. The wind gusts made the seawater airborne, and topped at over 50 knots. The lagoon was filled with white caps and all the anchored boats resembled hobby horses. Irie behaved splendidly, however, and was not one of the four cruising boats that dragged that dreadful night. The holding was great, we had 10:1 scope out in 7ft of water, and our Manson Supreme anchor, once again, performed perfectly.

The following afternoon, the sun stood bright in the sky as if nothing had happened. Life returned to its usual business, and taking a shower in the ocean was preceded by a snorkel with stingrays and colorful fish and coral in the clear waters of the lagoon. Another depression was looming on the weather charts. A day before it was predicted to hit us, we moved to the northern reef anchorage of Vaiare. And, good we did, since the nasty weather system arrived a day earlier than planned (always at night), having us pinned down on the boat again.

This time, the wind is supposed to keep coming out of the NNE and, as I write this, it is blowing a steady 25-30 knots, with gusts to 40 knots, and we can see the seas building in the channel between Tahiti and Moorea, on the other side of the fringing reef. The wind generator is happy, and so are our computers. Plenty of electricity and based on the forecast, plenty of rain to come as well. This, we welcome, since our fresh water tank needs filling. As long as the anchor holds – the bottom is less trustworthy here – we’ll be fine for the next four days or so… Then, more fun activities can fill our days again! If the weather cooperates. :-)

Marina Taina anchorage

Sunset over Moorea, seen from Tahiti
Mark fixing some rips in the sail bag, after the major storm

One of our geckos, surviving the salty trips and the bad weather

The "best thing" about being in Moorea: It is Tahiti on the horizon and not Moorea! :-) Tahiti at noon...

Tahiti at dusk...

Tahiti at sunset...
Tahiti at night!

Motoring past Vaiare and its marina...

... being accompanied by playful dolphins in the lagoon.

Beach near the Sofitel resort, north of Vaiare

Tahiti, on the other side of the channel

Fishing in the lagoon


Lisa Dorenfest said...

I didn't realize that you got hit by a second storm! Glad you are okay. The photos in this post are AMAZING!

Liesbet said...

Thank you Lisa! No more storms at the moment! :-) And, speaking of photos - you have been doing an amazing job on your blog!

Unknown said...

I'm surprised at how much you 'trash' Tahiti ! I always thought it was much more desirable than you describe it.
But burning 'trash'/ garbage etc in the open to produce noxious smoke, smells, etc. must be pretty bad !!! You have always written of the 'good' on your travels --- how about a dissertation on the 'bad' and the 'ugly' ; to put the whole thing in perspective and give us information on the other side of the coin.
I realize that the Health problems you've experienced are the top priority , and overshadow everything else. Hope you hear the best, soon.
What's next !!?

Liesbet said...

Thanks for your comment, Murray. I have always tried to be honest about the places we visit and mention the beauties and the annoyances, hoping it doesn't come across as complaining...

Tahiti is an interesting concept. The best known and glorified island of French Polynesia, it really is not that special compared to all the other islands. Because it is so well-known, people fantasize about it. Cruisers don't usually like Tahiti and only stop to fix their boats, stock-up on food and fuel or leave to their home countries for a visit. There are nice areas on the island, away from the hustle and bustle of Papeete, but it is easier and more rewarding to just hop over to Moorea and enjoy its beauty, sights and excitement. As for other land-based tourists, we have met many that were disappointed in Tahiti and most - luckily for them - combine the visit with other destinations in FP. Tahiti would not be an island we would recommend to spend time in when visiting the area. Of course, this is where your international flight ends, but a couple of days (in a rental car) is enough to see its highlights. Then, you want to head out to the more peaceful and interesting parts of the archipelagos! :-)

I like your suggestion about mentioning all experiences - good, bad and ugly - and I try to capture it all in my articles and writing. It's not what everyone wants to hear, unfortunately...

About a year ago, I actually wrote a blog post about Tahiti- the good, the bad and the ugly ( Check it out! :-)

We don't know what is next for us. We really need to sell Irie first, before we start the next big adventure. In the meantime, we will focus on our business and my writing. For that, we crave decent internet, though!!