When we said goodbye to our crew-mate Lydia, on the 25th of June, the plan was to spend another week or so in Tahiti, then continue West. Somehow, today is the 4th of August, and we still find ourselves in French Polynesia. Time, time, time… it moves on and we have learnt to let it flow. Weeks easily slipped by as we poked and prodded at Portal, finding ways to improve her simple mechanics and lady-like appearance. Perhaps we would have hustled more, stopped adding to the list, if our dear friends Jess and Duncan of “Alliance” hadn’t been by our side, also content to relax a while. But they were there, and the water was clear and the shared moments were sweet. We spend several weeks in Moorea, amongst majestic mountains and white sandy beaches. We found friends in the owners of Lilikoi Garden Cafe, a French/Japanese/American family who’s generosity and adorable children didn’t make leaving any easier.
One depressing week slipped by with a dark cloud over Portal, when our bikes were stolen from the beach. Jess and Duncan kept our spirits up and together we searched hi and low for our trusty steeds. We placed posters around town, made reports at the Gendarmerie, spoke with hundreds of locals. Both Charlie and Jess got sick with the flu and our energies dissipated rapidly. At a loss, we’d decided to leave within a few days, unable to stomach the hopeless search any longer. Then, 6 days after they were stolen, our efforts were rewarded and the bikes returned. There they were, leaning against a tree, not far from the one they’d been taken from. My u-lock had held strong – they had tried to pry it open to no avail. Perhaps they’d given up on it, had a change of heart and brought them back. Maybe someone saw the bikes, abandoned in a back-yard, and demanded they return them. We’ll never know, but we didn’t care! Our loves were back! Oh what luck! Moorea’s paradise was restored. In the same way they had shared our pain, Jess and Duncan shared our joy, and it was another few days before the thought of moving came again…
An easy, but very valid excuse for the sailor to stay in port is of course, the weather, and we too, could say the winds kept us in. The month we spent between Tahiti and Moorea was a tumultuous one at sea. Several days of stronger than usual winds saw boats dragging onto reefs, pan-pans and maydays lighting up the radio. Alliance saw 68knots while crossing to Moorea one wild morning, and Portal managed a narrow escape by blowing down the channel at 4knots (with no sail and engine in neutral) into the protected quay. We have therefore been keeping a keen eye on the forecasts, and hesitating when anything but perfect seems predicted.
Slowly though, we made our way back to Papeete, ready for some final provisions and a check-out with the yacht-master. Over a week meandered by as we lay stern to on the docks, finishing projects and enjoying bikes and hikes. Alliance, closer than ever (right next door), were waiting for a package, and every day we prayed it would arrive to set them free. After some serious tramping around, more efforts paid off and they had it in their hands. Now nothing was holding us back – it was time to move!
The weather was clearing up within a few days, so the overnight sail to Huahine was put into action. Barbara, our second crew-mate had jumped onto a speedy catamaran (arriving in Australia just a few weeks after leaving Papeete!) so this passage would be our first without extra hands. Just Charlie, me and Pixel. And Gramps, thank goodness for Gramps, our tiller-pilot. He handled the big messy seas better than ever, and the 25knot winds seemed easy now they were behind us again. We did 6hr night watches, managing some sleep and preparing us for the longer voyage ahead. Huahine was a short stay, just two nights in a blustery anchorage, then onto Tahaa. We left our friends Alliance behind for 2 nights, with final farewells planned for the last island. Tahaa was truly beautiful. Spectacular mountain scapes as usual, but a calmer presence ashore and many cute coves and harbors. Charlie and I did a bike around the perimeter, in awe of the scenery – my favourite so far. Alliance joined us as planned, and we had two final dinners together. Jess and Duncan have really made this trip more meaningful, in many ways, and it was a sad parting when at last we left in different directions.
The next morning I woke up with a cracking migraine AND the flu (the one I thought I had escaped), unable to do anything but sleep, vomit and moan. Charlie became a brave single-hander though, hauling up the anchor in a stiff breeze and motoring us on through the harbor to our next and final port in French Polynesia – Raitea. He docked us expertly against the wall here, despite the freshening breeze and pushing seas, and by 9pm I was getting over the second migraine (2 in a row!), finally able to hold water down – it had been a hellish day.
We’ll rest here another day or two, waiting for the best weather window – then it’s off to Niue. An 11 day sail lies ahead, so we plan on being well rested, healed and provisioned up. That surely couldn’t take more than two days, could it?
Charlie tries his hand at Polynesian palm mats.Pixel’s taking it easy…
Charlie catches a huge Dorado with his homemade lure!
And let’s end with Pixel being VERY cute!