Friday 29 August 2014

Fluenta in September Latitude 38 PPJ Recap

Not much to report but fun to see a Fluenta picture (from the Mexico to Marquesas passage)  in the PPJ Recap in the September Latitude 38 issue.  We are on page 88:  Link

Tuesday 26 August 2014

SWIMEX Bora Bora

Family Selfie
Johnathan jumping off the bow
Yet another selfie
Two little fish gathering sand as proof of their descent

Floating in the current but tethered to Fluenta


Shallow anchorage.

Bora Bora East Anchorage in pictures

Bora Bora
Nice to be able to see our anchor chain and anchor easily from the surface.

12' Water Depth

Benjamin breakfasting with the Meridian in the background

Swimming from the boat

Manta Ray

Johnathan climbing yet another tree

Intrepid Explorers

Johnathan kneeboarding behind Trickle

Victoria kneeboiarding behind Trickle

Family Swim and back to town.


Today was the day to leave our beautiful anchorage in the NE side of the lagoon at Bora Bora, but just as we were about to go, we decided that we could delay for a short while. Victoria had already gone swimming when we had friends come by in their dinghy, and before we knew it, we were all swimming in the turquoise water.

Victoria, Johnathan, and Max had great fun out-doing each other with cannon balls, pencil dives, and various other means of flinging themselves from Fluenta into the water (with or without the GoPro capturing it all). Benjamin and I hung out on our floating chair (tethered by a 20 foot line, as it turned out that there was quite a current flowing by Fluenta, and I didn't want to make an unexpected trip to the nearby resort!) taking it all in. The water was shallow (14 feet or so - the kids dove to the bottom and came up with sand in their hands as proof of their descent) and warm (even Benjamin was happy and comfortable - ok, maybe that is not a good measure: even I was happy and comfortable!) and it really was hard to get back aboard for the transit around the lagoon. We had planned to leave our anchorage at 1100 so we would have lots of time in hand and lots of sunlight to come through the coral fields; as it turned out, we still had lots of time when we left at noon, and we were able to give our kids (and ourselves) a precious memory of a family swim in a spectacularly beautiful place. Max and I are generally pretty no-nonsense when it comes to the scheduling of boat movements, so it was nice to see that perhaps this cruising lifestyle is starting to rub off on us after all :)

Now that we are back in front of the Mai Kai, we have *some* internet again (not much!!) and most importantly, we are back in the land of Happy Hour, baguettes (tomorrow`s treat), and walks to town for cheap (by FP standards) street food. Dinner tonight: I ordered a plate of chicken and fries for the kids (1000 CPF) and asked the girl if it would be enough for two children. She laughed and said that it would be. In fact, the one plate would nearly have fed all of us! We were well satiated when we walked home after poulet-frites, chow-men (chow mein), and poission cru a la chinoise (an especially tasty local specialty)!

Our plan is still to stay here for a couple more days, and then it looks like we will have a weather window late in the week to head for Penrhyn (Northern Cook Islands).

Love to all,
At 8/26/2014 7:18 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°31.32'S 151°45.26'W

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Monday 25 August 2014

Approach to the Bora Bora Anchorage

It is definitely visual navigation coming into our anchorage on the east side of. Bora Bora.  The reefs are completely different than what are on the charts and the hotels that jut out into the water are no marked either.

A few photos:

Four Seasons Hotel

Liz guiding us through the reefs

Worth it once anchored.  The view a few days later.

Manta Ray

We went snorkelling to see the Manta Rays near our anchorage. The kids were quick to point out that the coral seemed dead and the were very few fish.  I guess we are spoiled after the Tuamotus. 

We did find one big Manta Ray gliding around about 20 to 30 feet down.  His wingspan is about six feet across.  They are very gracefull.

I free dove down to take a few pictures and some video.  Posting video will need to wait until we reach New Zealand but some photos are below:

Manta Ray about 30' down

Johnathan diving down to check out the Manta 

Sunday at Anchor in Bora Bora

Greetings :)

Supper is done (wahoo from our freezer ... making space to catch more on our next passage, we hope), the kids are reading/playing video games, Max is washing dishes, and Benjamin is generally making his presence felt all around the saloon. Nice to be typing a note before midnight!

After a hiatus of many weeks, Victoria made a double batch of "Grampy Biscuits" this morning (doubled so that we wouldn't have to count out each person's ration). With the oven hot, I followed up with a double batch of granola and my first attempt at granola bars (burnt, unfortunately, but I will try them again). On the afternoon docket was a batch of yogurt. Can you tell we are getting ready for a passage ?? Our plan at the moment is to go back around to the main town tomorrow, spend a couple of days doing the last of our provisioning, the catch a weather window this week to head for Penrhyn... we will keep you posted.

Max and the kids had a great afternoon today, sailing Trickle. I stayed aboard Fluenta, so I will let Victoria describe what they were doing:

"We went into a little bay nearby that was absolutely beautiful. There is only one bit of coral that I have seen in the whole thing, and it is all a beautiful turquoise color (6-8 ft deep). There is fairly good wind, so we have been taking Trickle there. The kids rig and sail Trickle over without any help, and Dad drives the dinghy as the safety boat. We anchor the dinghy and sail Trickle around. By the end, Dad is usually having a sail in Trickle, so we take the boogie board and swim away from the dinghy, sit on the boogie board, and hold out the ankle strap. Then when Dad comes sailing by, he grabs the ankle strap and we get towed by Trickle. I have even managed to stand up!"

What more can I say?

As for Benjamin, he is *so* pleased with himself that he can make his requests for "more food" understood. He delights in his mini conversations with us, not only smacking his two hands together with gusto, but also nearly hyper-ventilating in his excitement when we offer him "more" of anything. Such fun!

Anyway, a quick note tonight. I hope you are well, and that you are enjoying some end-of-summer weather.

Love to all,
At 8/24/2014 3:42 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°29.32'S 151°42.12'W

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Sunday 24 August 2014

Still in Bora Bora

Greetings and good morning!

We are in Bora Bora (still) but we have moved to the eastern side of the mountain. This puts us right in front of the Meridian and St Regis hotels and far from wifi. Time for an HF update on our news and happenings :)

We spent just over a week tied up to a mooring near the town of Vaitape, Bora Bora. We spent the first night on a mooring in front of the Bora Bora Yacht Club, then we moved to the "Mai Kai" Marina and Yacht Club. Rather than attempting a 10-day play by play (especially since you have likely already seen lots of the photos that Max has posted) I will give you a few anecdotes and highlights.

The first night we were in front of the Mai Kai, we were the only kid boat, and in fact we (I) were feeling a bit left out; friends had motored past earlier and told us that "all" the kid boats were headed to the other side of the island for a potluck on the beach. We needn't have worried, however: within three days, they were all tied up next to us by the Mai Kai! This proved a lovely spot for a week's "holiday": they had a pool, wifi (reliable enough that we could upload pictures, and best of all, we could access it from the boat using our booster antenna), happy hour every day (that tended to attract all our cruising neighbours), fabulous kitchen (no pressure to eat there, but a memorable dinner when we did), a book exchange, and a safe dinghy dock (not much more than 200 feet from the boat), and lots of kids to play with. In addition to catching up with our cruising friends, it has been fun to talk to some of the tourists who have come to happy hour/dinner from the local hotels (most of them don't seem to be on a meal plan, so they take shuttles to town in the evenings). We even re-encountered one of the couples we met in Moorea. Fun to be in a "small world" situation on the other side of the world!

Of course, the main reason that we were moored in front of the town was so that we could replenish our provisions (the "slow time" approach was nice - we could "stow as we went", buying what we had used up, and stocking up on fresh produce), and do some of the admin for the upcoming school year. We made a few trips into town, enjoying the ease of taking our dinghy to the town dock, walking a few minutes, and being handy to all the necessary shops (there are even two grocery stores, so we can do a bit of comparison shopping). The highlight of every trip to town has been the fresh baguettes: they have often been still warm when we put them into our shopping cart, and we can easily eat two/day.

In fact, baguettes were our initial introduction to food in Bora Bora ... at the first happy hour we attended, we found out that the kitchen didn't open until half an hour after happy hour ended (so much for our easy food/drink for dinner). With a hungry family, I asked Jessica, the restaurant owner, what she would suggest for food. "The grocery store," she said. Thirty minutes later (10 min to walk, 10 min to shop, and 10 min to return - a record!) Benjamin and I were back with baguettes, tomato sauce, and the first fresh veg we had seen in weeks: food to tide us over, and quick supper once we returned to the boat. Jessica proved equally helpful with all of our other questions in the days ahead.

Bora Bora is one of the last places we will be able to eat ashore for quite a while, so we have been enjoying a meal here and there. The first of these was a yummy chicken lunch that we bought from a truck on the main street (we could see the chickens bbq'ing inside the truck as we waited). Max and the kids shared a roasted chicken and fries, while I tried a curried chicken sub with bananas. Stopping to eat in the street also meant stopping to talk to other local vendors; we were quickly ushered to sit at the table of the woman (Deanna) next to the chicken truck (who would otherwise have been sitting there selling her pearl jewelry). Even though my French seems rusty and stilted to my ear, it is certainly an advantage to be able to carry on a conversation (it doesn't hurt to be wearing a baby either!) Deanna was very interested in what we were doing, where we were travelling, what it was like for the kids onboard, etc, etc. Before we left, she pressed some of her jewelry into our hands; she wanted us each to have a little trinket, as a gift, not for money, just because she liked our story. This led to return visits to her table in the days that followed, once to give her something from us, once to ask about a pearl anklet, and once to receive the anklet, also as a gift. I will be making a final visit to her table next week, and this time I am determined to buy something from her!

With our boat so close to the marina, it was easy one evening to have a "date night" ashore. Everyone was happy with the arrangement: V&J ate frozen pizza and watched videos, while Max & I had a lovely dinner. Benjamin (wearing snazzy new hand-me-down duds from another kid boat) was pretty excited by his surroundings, but he eventually fell asleep, and the chairs were big enough that I could just lay him down behind me. When I called on the VHF to check in with V&J, everything was fine ("Of course it's fine - if it wasn't I would have called!")

Trips to town also mean stops at the produce tables that line the street. We have made an arrangement with one of them to come back next week for a bag of pamplemousse and a "regime" of bananas. Can't get much more local/fresh than fruit picked from her backyard on the day that we need it! We have also become fans of the wonderful food trucks (Roulettes) that crop up on the street after 6pm. We had a super tasty supper the other night where everyone could choose their own truck/menu then we all ate together. The total bill was less than one entree on a typical restaurant menu.

Much of my internet time in Vaitape has been dedicated to reading about various methods of homeschooling, most particularly "project based homeschooling" (bought the book) and "unschooling" (bought several books - handy to have a Kindle at hand). We would like some balance between kid-led learning (which often doesn't look like much to school-focused grownups) and curriculum-driven education (which tends to drive my kids under the nearest table and me around the nearest bend!). We have created a starting-point schedule that shows "table-learning" (ie at the kitchen) table five mornings/week, with math/language/the world at large three mornings/week and Victoria/Johnathan choices two mornings/week. Hopefully this will give both the rigour and the flexibility we are looking for. In the meantime, both kids are busy reading everything they can lay hands on (we received a windfall from a boat with girls 11 & 13; they have already read half of those books), answering any question to do with numbers with hardly a pause (except multiplication facts; no one is a fan of the times tables...), and the usual sailing/swimming. We also spent some time emptying and reorganizing the "school" cupboard so that we are ready for 1 Sep (our chosen day to "start school"). I am hopeful that this year we can have both more peace and more tangible "evidence" of their learning. I have realized that part of the equation is that *I* as mom need to keep a more rigourous journal of the learning that I observe. Funny how it all comes back to "being the change we want to see in the world" - if want them to be more rigorous, I need to set the example!

One of our neighbours in Vaitape was "Lil Explorers" with their many "little explorers" on board. We spent an enjoyable afternoon with the dads out diving (most of the dads from the anchorage went) and the moms hanging out, exchanging computer files and advice about provisioning. One idea I learned from Shannon is that when she provisioned for 10 (!) months, she stored many of her items by time rather than by type. In other words, she made 10 piles of her cans, etc, then stored them away by month, rather than storing things by type. This makes it much easier to make sure that all the "yummy" treats are not used up in the first month or so :) I am not sure that I have 6 (or 8 or 10) separate compartments for cans, but it is an interesting thought. It certainly focusses the shopping list to take a month's groceries and then multiply by the number of months away from major supplies (I used six months in Mexico. So far, we have done pretty well, but I have used the opportunity in Nuku Hiva, Papeete, and Bora Bora to keep the boat topped up). This is likely our last big grocery run until Tonga in late October. By then, we will want to have most of the food eaten so that we arrive in NZ with a minimum of goods aboard.

Unlike the Tuomotus, the Society Islands (eg Bora Bora) have a mountainous island that is surrounded by lagoon and motus. In the case of Bora Bora, the pass is on the NW side of the main island, and the town is almost straight ahead across the lagoon. We moved a few days ago to the other side of the island (the NE side) and now we are really in the Bora Bora of the brochures. We are anchored in shallow, clear water, and the visibility is extraordinary. The kids were diving today for coins that we threw, and getting them no problem (the motivation that we told them the could keep what they retrieved probably helped). Other than the tour boats, jet skis, and hotel shuttles (!) we are in a reasonably sheltered bay, so Trickle has been a great source of diversion (and once again, a good way of getting to know other kids in the anchorage). We have even been on our (new in Mexico) paddle board for the first time in French Polynesia. The highlight of yesterday's adventures was a trip across this side of the lagoon to swim with the 6-foot manta rays (the hotel tour guide even beckoned for us to follow his group so that we could see the ray he had found - it turns out that this is a bit out of character, as some other cruisers were chased away by a tour guide at another site). The visibility wasn't what we have seen elsewhere, but the ray (only one) itself was pretty spectacular. Today was a Trickle and "shark baiting" (ie towing kids behind the dinghy) afternoon. Who knows what tomorrow will bring :)

I think the tour guide and Deanna's generosity is exemplary of the best of traditional Polynesian culture; this afternoon, I had an encounter with someone who is perhaps a bit more jaded by all the tourists who come here to the "hotel side" of the lagoon. I was practicing yoga in a beautiful, open-air structure on the only stretch of local beach which is not owned by a big hotel. Half way through my practice, a woman arrived and told me that the whole beach was private; only paying customers were allowed to visit. Oh well, this seems to be the minority, and I can certainly understand why she would want to protect her space (and I'm grateful that she didn't come yesterday so that I could finish my first practice). Johnathan had come ashore with me, and when I asked if he could keep the coconut he had climbed for, she told me he could keep "one". Thankfully, this was all he had picked! {As an aside, Johnathan *loves* to climb trees to collect coconuts. As mom, I am simply grateful that he generally climbs down again unscathed! Trees can be merciless teachers.)

Benjamin is now easily pulling himself to standing (lots of handholds around the boat!) and as of yesterday, he is signing to tell us when he wants "more" food (no surprise that this is his first word!). At first, it just seemed that he was pleased with himself because he had learned to clap, but it wasn't long before we noticed the pattern that he was "clapping" when he wanted more to eat! Hooray! This is the beginning of two-way talking with him, and having some idea of what he is saying/thinking. He is so pleased with himself :) He is also quite funny with some of the other words he understands, one of which is "open" (as in "Open your mouth so I can see what you have just picked up off the floor and put into it !!") When we open our mouths, he will mimic us. Since there is about a 0.5 second delay from him finding something interesting on the floor and then taste-testing it, this is a handy exercise! We have it on our to-do list to rig mesh "gates" around the saloon before we leave Bora Bora, so that we can keep him away from the galley, nav table, and bedrooms/tool room, but it hasn't happened quite yet... instead we are using Victoria and Johnathan as our baby gates at the moment.

On another happy note, we appear to have been successful with our extermination efforts in Papeete. It is so much less stressful to be in the boat in the evenings, and not bracing for bugs on every glance around the cabin! Lovely.

The weather seems to follow a cyclical pattern; earlier this week (the day that we transitted) it was grey and overcast. Yesterday and today it was clear and sunny. We are starting to watch the weather for our next passage, but we will likely stay here for a few more days.

Anyway, after a long hiatus, it feels good to catch you up with our comings and goings. I hope you are well as the summer winds towards September :)

Love to all,
At 8/24/2014 3:42 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°29.32'S 151°42.12'W
At 8/24/2014 3:42 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°29.32'S 151°42.12'W

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Thursday 21 August 2014

A Sort of SAR at Bora Bora

A few days ago our morning coffee was disrupted by a call on the VHF radio "This is yacht whatever, we are stuck on the south reef and need help urgently".  Oh.  The call was very clear so sounded very close.  We waited a few moments to see if MRCC Papeete (Rescue Coord for this part of the world and who have a repeater on Bora Bora) would reply.  They did not hear the transmission so a neigbouring French boat call MRCC to reply.  We tried to hail yacht whatever but they did not reply.  So ... it was either really serious and they couldn't manage another more detailed transmission, it was a spoof, or something else ...  The kids and I loaded up some supplies and launched the RHIB to see if we find the boat.  Liz coordinated with MRCC (en francais bien sur) as there was no some confusion with some of the unrelated hailing on Ch16.

Rescue Kids

Of course, there is no "South Reef" and while Bora Bora is not very big we had to guess where he might have meant.  After about an hour driving at a pretty good speed at potential "south reefs" the yacht in question responded to a call from MRCC to say that they were off the reef and okay.   Liz relayed the coordinates to me and, as we were close, we continued on to see if we could lend a hand even if was not an emergency.  

It turned out they had hit some coral on one of the very tight passes within the lagoon but were not ever in any immediate danger.  A local fisherman had helped guide them to safe water and they suffered only minor damage - nice the have a metal boat !

Not bad scenery though.
We showed up and helped scout out an exit back into the lagoon and to pickup the fisherman again to guide them out.  It was pretty anticlimactic, which is exactly the way you hope these things end.  It was a good experience for the kids though, and an excuse to discuss how important it is to help others in our community and also what we would pack in the RHIB if we needed to do something like this again. 
A tough boat - only a few scratches
After three hours we were home on Fluenta again - a lot quicker than the Flying Dragon excitement of the previous year in Mexico.

The local fisherman who got them off the reef swimming home after we dropped him off,

The local fisherman with his bottle of whiskey from the yacht.  A nice sentiment, but it was not really the most appropriate gift in Polynesia.

Sunday 17 August 2014

More Moorea Photos - Belevdere Hike, A Wedding, and Infiltration of the Tourist Facility

Cook's Bay from the Belvedere

Cook's Bay from the Belvedere

Hiking back from the Belvedere.

Bamboo Forest

View from the Anchorage

The Europeans like to anchor close ...

And yet more sharks

and more sharks ...

Qi's Wedding on the beach

The cake Victoria made for the wedding.

Hard day ...

The commute

Hotel in the distance
Not in the Tuamotus anymore... A few tourists ...

The beach at the Intercontinental

Benjamin dining at the Intercontinental

Not our usual fare - dining at the Intercontinental

Hanging Out at the Pool

Johnathan securing the dingy painter

Benjamin helping with projects

Some bigger sailboats around: this one is 440' long ...