Saturday, June 25, 2005


Tahiti is not exactly what we expected, but we will be able to do our errands and shopping, so that is OK. It's very green here and the city of Papeete (pa pay e tay) is bustling and has everything. The selection is good, but the prices are double to triple what I'd pay at home!! There are few beaches on the island. Either the waterfront is mud with shanties or breakwaters with hotels on top. The island itself is steep and plunges right into the ocean like the Marquesas. I'm reading my Society Island Lonely planet diligently to make sure we see all there is to see. We're not used to cars, buses and cities anymore, so our days of just going to the beach for a swim are missed. Apparently the barrier reef around the harbor here is good snorkeling, so we will try that out before we leave. I have a friend coming next week, so we are thinking of heading to Moorea with her as it's more rural, has more beaches and is supposed to be very beautiful. It's just to the north of us about 12 miles and when the sun sets, it's beautiful. A high speed ferry connects the two islands, so many people have their weekend rec. time over there to escape the city.

There are several museums here we'd like to see. Instead of moving Imagine around, we'll probably just take buses. It's about $8-$10 round trip, into the city. We are anchored just outside downtown with maybe 75 other boats. There is a marina here, so we have facilities like water, garbage, book exchange and a place to land the dinghy. Laundry is $16 per load, so I'm still using my buckets. Groceries are close by but expensive. There is a Cash and Carry discount store a few miles away, but the problem of getting them back to the boat has not been solved. Usually we take taxis, but here they are about $50 for a short ride. I guess we'll have to use the bus and just heap them on the seats. The stores are very modern and clean, but they don't have bags, so you have to bring your own. You'd think if they can charge $10 a pound for apricots, they could throw in a few bags.

Ellie is hard at work finishing up her school. I've declared that today is the last day no matter what. We are not leaving this boat until it's done. She was not cooperating too well this morning, but at the present moment the tears have stopped and she's getting math done. Carter and Pete have gone off to a cruiser swap meet so there are no distractions. Wish us luck.


Thursday, June 23, 2005

Winlink anti-spam changes (again)

Winlink, the HAM radio based e-mail provider we use has changed their spam/antivirus approach (again). If you've sent us a message on our Winlink account and hadn't heard back from us, it's possible that the message was blocked. If you suspect we didn't get your message, please forward it to our (petekellie@) mailbox. We should be able to pick up that mail within the next few days.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005


We arrived at Point Venus on the north end of Tahiti early this afternoon. We had to motor the last 10 hours as the wind had completely died. Funny that we'd have our fastest 24 hrs followed by no wind at all.

It's very picturesque here. We're the only boat anchored off a black sand beach, protected from the swell by a fringing reef. The point appears to be a public recreation area - lots of families and teenagers swimming and sunbathing. I think about 50% are French tourists, unfortunately including several middle aged men sporting all-too-revealing thong bathing suits... there's an image I could have done without.

We walked down the street about a mile to a corner grocery store that had - gasp! - EVERYTHING we'd ever want! I'll let Kellie fill you in on the first shopping opportunity in several months (coming soon).

We're a bit apprehensive to venture into the "Big City" after so many months of near isolation, and are enjoying one last peaceful anchorage here before we head into Papetee harbor to check in with customs, immigration and the port captain tomorrow. While there we'll also buy fuel, load up another few months worth of groceries, check out a few interesting things to see, then try to get away again before our pocketbooks are drained.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

New record for Imagine

We made 182 miles in the last 24 hours, which beats our previous 24 hour high of 176 miles, set between the equator and the Marquesas.

This passage has been a bit rough and rolly, and now the wind is lightening faster than the waves are disappearing, making us roll around more than we'd like... it's a tough tradeoff - comfort and longer passage, or less comfort but less time at sea. Fortunately, Kellie firmly believes that less time time at sea is worth a bit of comfort. Going to sea after spending 2-1/2 weeks anchored inside a lagoon with no swell has us all feeling a bit queasy. Not much else to report. The fish aren't biting. Hopefully we'll catch something before we get there, as the freezer is empty other than a couple of Wyndeavor's Otter Pops, and those go lousy on the BBQ.


Monday, June 20, 2005

Tahiti of Bust!

Kellie and the kids had made a sign saying "Tahiti or Bust" to put on the stern when we left Mexico. The sign is gone, but we're on our way. We sailed back over to the village to buy some more pearls for a friend of Kellie's, then had a rolicking reach (sail) back across the lagoon under mainsail and staysail in about 22kn of wind, blasted thru the pass and were able to bear off the wind and put up the genoa, currently making about 7kn with the wind on the stern quarter. We're heading around the north side of Fakarava. Once clear of it we'll have to head up into the wind a bit, putting us on a beam reach, so it should be a fast passage. If we can maintain our speed, it should be about 36 hours (275 miles). We left a bit sooner than our latest planned departure (which we've delayed many times) because there is a low pressure disturbance forecast to pass S of Tahiti in about 48 hours that'll goober up the tradewinds between here and there for a few days. We either had to leave today or wait probably a week, which wouldn't work since Kellie's friend, Carrie is coming to visit us in 10 days and we sure wouldn't want to miss her!

'Twas sad leaving all the kid boats, but time to move on. We've only got until July 26th before our French VISAs run out, and so much to still see in the Societies.


Sunday, June 19, 2005


The digital camera took a swim yesterday. It's a weatherproof model, but apparently that's a far cry from waterproof. We were having a birthday party for Wolfgang (from Wet Nose) on the beach and it looked like a good photo-op, so I dinghied back out to the boat to get the camera. We always pack the camera in a ziplock bag for dinghy drips, but I thought I'd get a shot of the "crowded anchorage" (15 or so boats lined up in one of the more remote places in the world with motus and palm trees in the background), so took it back out of the ziplock to be at the ready... then fumbled it while stepping into the dink. I dove right after it (fully clothed - well, at least in shorts and a t-shirt) and managed to catch it somewhere around 5ft down. After climbing back aboard and stripping off wet clothes I disassembled, rinsed carefully and put all the parts in the warm oven to dry. Unfortunately, after re-assembly it only beeps... bummer, especially since Kellie's friend, Carrie, just bought a special underwater housing for it and is bringing it to Tahiti with her in about two weeks. Now hopefully she'll be able to get us another camera to fit in the housing. We've taken over 2000 pictures, so at least it helps a little bit to dwell on the money we've saved by not buying and processing film...

It's feeling like it's time to move on. We'd like to get our "chores" done in Tahiti (provisions, food, water, picking up few spare parts) before Carrie arrives so we can focus on having fun when she's with us. Also, we've only got a little over a month left on our French VISAs and would like to see the Societies (Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine, Bora Bora) before we get kicked out. It's really too bad to be leaving all these kid boats, but now that we've met them, we'll keep in touch and meet up with them again along the way.


Thursday, June 16, 2005

Beautiful, wish you were here!!

The view of palm tree covered coral atolls never gets old. We recently looked through the PC desktop "wallpapers" to give our screen a new look. "Azul" so closely resembles our view, we decided we might mistake the laptop for a porthole. If you're curious about where we are, check it out. Pete decided on an underwater picture of our manta ray friend on the screen instead.

Every Wednesday an Air Tahiti plane stops here. They deliver supplies and people. The small store orders boxes of fresh baguettes and they are available at 10:00. Don't miss them because they are gone by Thurs. For $1.25, there can be crispy bread for lunch. There are 13 boats here now and we're all anchored about 7 miles from the village. One boat with a fast dinghy took orders and ran over there for us all. Several of us also had him bring eggs. I'm happy to say that all 12 eggs survived the ride. Never take grocery shopping for granted. It's been 12 weeks since I've been to a supermarket, but who's counting?

The kids are having a blast. There are 15 kids here now. THey have divided up into girls and boys for fort making. The forts are getting pretty elaborate, as they collect palm fronds and sticks to re-enforce them. Hermit crabs are the most entertaining thing on the beach. Small aquatic crabs cover the sand all day and at night large (golf ball sized) red ones come out to feed. Everyone swims and snorkels daily. We saw "Gill" from Finding Nemo yesterday. It's quite amazing to see a cartoon underwater. :) Apparently Nemo himself lives in Tahiti, so we are looking forward to that. We have discovered where the large spider conches live now, so the search is on for the perfect shell. The best one so far is bigger than my hand span, but quite sun bleached. The live ones are the best, but we haven't wanted to kill them.

We had a nice beach party/potluck the other night. The kids did great and the grown ups got some socializing time too. We all have different groceries left, so the variety of food is fun. It was such a huge success that even the rats came out to join us after dark. Today we're doing another, but starting much earlier.

It's been quite windy the last few days, but the rain has gone away. Wind is Ok, as we're in the lee of the motu and there is no swell. Rain really puts a damper on our fun and keeps us cooped up. The boats on their way to Tahiti are having a good fast ride. We're not sure when we'll leave. It's best to just stay put when there are kids and fun to be had. The anchorage is great, the people are fun and the view is spectacular. This is why we came, so here we stay. We are getting anxious for Tahiti though. A bit of action, some shopping and a friend to visit are all great things to look forward to.

Happy almost summer to ya all, kellie

Monday, June 13, 2005


We're still staying put here enjoying the peace and the other kid boats. Everyone is having fun playing with kids their own age. There are 9 kids here now and 2 more expected this afternoon. Saturday was calm so we took all the kids and some grownups boogie boarding behind the dinghy. Pete has rigged up a water ski rope and handle so it's pretty fun. Bennett can stand up, Ellie & Taryn can kneel and the rest lay on their tummies. Yesterday the weather changed for the worse and it rained and blew all day. We all tried to get to the beach but got rained out. The kids didn't mind, since they were swimming, but we didn't enjoy it.

Today is overcast and a bit windy with a few sprinkles. It's still hot though. The temperature is pretty much always 86. Day and night it only fluctuates a couple of degrees, even in rainy weather. We caught a bunch of rain water and are doing laundry in buckets on deck. Hopefully we'll get enough sun to dry everything. We've gotten so acclimated to the high temps, that when it does get chilly in the wind we are all goosebumps. Even when we feel cold, it's usually around 80. What will we do at home in the winter time?


Friday, June 10, 2005

Kids, oysters, scallops and sharks

We found another kid boat! "Sea Fever", a Deerfoot 60 with Janice, Antony, Andrea (8) and Iain (5) on board. They're planning on a 2-1/2 year circumnavigation, and have made it from South Carolina to here in 3.5 months. This is the first time they've been able to slow down and stay in one place for awhile. The kids call Kel and I "Mrs Schmidt and Mr Schmidt"... I think that's the first time I've been called that! We had a campfire, hotdog roast and s'mores on the beach last night with Wyndeavor (2 kids), O'Hanna (2 kids) and Sea Fever (2 kids), plus us... thankfully no one got poked by a hot stick, as there were plenty of them waving about. Big hermit crabs (about the size of a small apple) migrate down to the waters's edge after dark, and were quite entertaining.

I dove on a coral head out in the lagoon and got 3 scallops and a pearl oyster the size of a dinner plates. The four of them filled a 5 gallon bucket to the rim! I cooked one of the scallops in the fire to test it out - delicious! The others are "waiting" in the shallows for lunch today. I'm not sure I can bring myself to cook the pearl oyster, but the kids are pretty keen to find out if it's got a pearl in it. While diving, a white tipped reef shark came by to see what I was up to. He was quite a bit bigger than the cute little black tip sharks we've been seeing, and made me a bit nervous when he came back around the 3rd and 4th times. He eventually went on his way. Wish I'd had a camera! Carter wants me to write, "I saw a blacktip shark while I was snorkeling over to the reef." They frequent the shallow water along the shore and are great because the kids can see them when snorkeling off the beach and they're quite harmless. Not too many kids their ages can say they've swam with sharks! We're still talking about how cool the giant mantas were... we may have to go back over to town for another swim with them!


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Pearls and mantas

Cruising life is slow paced and most of the time, the clock is irrelevant. We joke about getting one thing accomplished each day and that's about all we can handle. Sometimes it's a boat chore, sometimes a sight to see and sometimes an activity. Today we managed two things. We came over to the village yesterday in the hopes of getting some black pearls. The only two industries here are coconut and pearls. From the anchorage we can see huts built on stilts over the water where they harvest and seed the oysters. After getting our nerve up and figuring out a few phrases in French, we dinghied over to one of the huts and asked if they had pearls to sell. They invited us in and it was a huge success. The farm is family owned, one patriarch, his son, his daughter and their spouses and the children. When we arrived, the father was harvesting pearls and re-seeding them with small white balls. The oysters can be used twice for pearl making and then they eat them. Dental type tools are used to pry open the shells, extract the finished pearl and insert a new form. A small incision is made in the flesh to accomplish that. If the oyster is sick it is culled into one bin, if it's not productive it's put in the "dinner" bin and if it's successful, it's re-seeded for next year. Each pearl takes 10-14 months to make. There is no guarantee as to how the pearl will turn out. Perfect ones are round, smooth and dark green or black. Imperfect ones are misshapen, light in color or have dimples in the enamel. We asked to buy some and he dumped out the bowl that he had just harvested and we picked through. The perfect ones were about $120 and the imperfect ones were as low as $10. We let the kids each pick a $10 one and I got one in the middle. It's quite pretty, tear dropped shaped and has a dark color. It'll be nice to have it mounted into a necklace when we get home. We had a bunch of lemons given to us in the Marquesas to use for trading here. When we brought those out of the backpack, his prices came down and he gave Ellie 6 seed pearls to make a bracelet out of. I gave his grandkids a jar of bubble solution and I think everyone came away happy. To our benefit, he spoke good English, so we learned a good amount.

Yesterday, when we arrived here, we were greeted by manta rays. We have been seeing them around the boats all day. After pearl shopping we dinghied closer to them and hopped in the water with our snorkel gear. The mantas are about 5-8' across, white on the belly and black on the top. They swim in graceful loops with huge gaping mouths swallowing plankton. I found it quite unnerving at first, as they come very close. Pete actually touched a few. Ellie expressed how lucky she was to be swimming with mantas instead of home at school. Carter felt frightened and didn't last long. There were 5 in the group we watched and as long as we didn't chase them, they were happy to do their underwater dance all around us. It's an experience we'll never forget. Now Pete is all jazzed up to buy an underwater housing for our digital camera.

All in all, I think we had a great cruising day. They do exist and boy are they fabulous. When chore time and sailing time rolls around I question what were doing out here, but the fun is getting more fun and the scenery is getting more spectacular. This is what we came all this way for!!


Oh yeah, and when we dinghied in to the town wharf this morning, I hopped out (about 12� of water) to move the dinghy alongside, looked down and about 2� away was a stonefish nestled in between two chunks of mossy coral. I didn�t expect to ever see one, as they�re incredibly well camouflaged. It�s one of the ugliest, grumpiest looking fish on the planet... and also one that�ll really ruin your day if you step on one (sometimes fatally). We�ll definitly post pictures of it and the manta rays next time we get web access (in about a month in Tahiti).


Monday, June 06, 2005

potluck in paradise

--So, what do you make for a potluck when the cupboards are bare? There are 5 boats here in the atoll and we know all of them, so we had a group dinner last night. No one has anything left except cans and dry goods, so the possibilities are limited. I made a version of tuna noodle casserole out of my "Can Opener Gourmet" cookbook, Kelly served canned chicken with Teriyaki sauce and rice, Jennifer made brownies and Becky made black beans and rice. I must say, we were all full, but I'm really excited to go to a well stocked grocery store and buy something fresh. We're all low on drinks too, so we all bring our own. Then there is the plate and fork issue. We all bring our own since no one has enough for everyone and we usually don't get to stock up on paper plates, not to mention there are no garbage cans here. We all laughed about our limitations, told sailing stories and the kids played. There are 6 kids here now, all in the range of 4-7. It's great fun, especially on O'Hana, a 50 catamaran that makes our boat look like a weekender. They have 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a huge salon & galley and their cockpit is about as big as our cockpit and salon combined. It's perfect for a party.

Yesterday we saw eagle rays from the beach, and I was able to snorkel with one. He gave me about a 10 foot buffer, but wasn't too shy. The visibility is good, I could just float and watch him glide around. He was about 3 feet across. Pete found a moray eel and the kids are excited to see "Bubbles and Gill" from Finding Nemo. There are no anemones here, so Nemo himself must live somewhere else.

Ellie has made a shell museum on the couch. It is a creative use of the shell collection and the kids are enjoying touching and examining all the shapes. However, I have to be very patient because the living area is so small that even a tray full of shells makes it a big mess in here. I lasted 2 days, and I think they have to be put away again.

If we do 1.5 lessons of school per day, we can be done by the end of the month. That is my goal, as we'd like to have a nice summer vacation and enjoy Tahiti with no school. Ellie is cooperating to the very minimum of her ability, but at least we're making progress. I made her a chart to check off when she finishes a lesson, so I'm hoping a visual motivation will help. I'm considering bribing her with a trip to McDonald in Tahiti if she finishes, but I heard that hamburgers are $8.50, so maybe not. Hopefully that is a vicious rumor, but it wouldn't surprise me.

We've heard from Mystic Rhythms that the shelling and snorkeling on a nearby motu are great. This afternoon after school, we'll take the dinghy over there. The atoll is made up of a ring of motus, small islands all around the crater mouth. They are coral beaches with a few plants. They are divided by very shallow passes out to the ocean and one pass is deep enough to bring in a boat. The shallow passes are great for swimming. The motus are flat and the only thing visible from a distance are the palm trees. This lagoon is about 10 miles across, so the other side is barely visible in some areas and not at all in others. The distance between the lagoon side and the ocean side varies from 100 yards to 1/4 mile. There is a village on the north side that we will take Imagine to in the next couple of days. The supply plane comes on Wednesday, so we might see what they bring. I'd also like to see what they have to trade here. I still want some large shells and maybe some pearls. The only industry here are the pearl farms and coconut.


Friday, June 03, 2005

anchored in an aquarium

It's quite beautiful here, and the anchorage is fairly calm. We moved to the south side of the lagoon to get some protection from the trades and then the next day it blew 15 from the north. The waves stayed under 18" though and we had a nice day anyways. There are battalions of mosquitos here in certain places at certain times. We had just gotten rid of all our itches on the passage and are now covered in bites again. Today we'll go to a different beach and look for shells on the ocean side. The shelling is not very good so far. Mostly small cowries and we already have at least 100. Yesterday I collected a large handful of a pretty snail shells and then when we got back to the boat and laid them out, they all walked away. I couldn't see the hermit crabs when I collected them, but I have to take them all back to the beach today. So much for shelling. I'm determined to get a spider conch before we go, so I might have to buy one from someone who ate the snail. We saw lots of broken ones in Ua Pu, since they bust open the shell to harvest the animal.

We're not in any hurry to move on. We've had way too much sailing in the last 2 months. Wyndeavor and us are just going to hang out and enjoy the fruits of our hard work for a while. We will try to visit at least 2 other atolls and need to be in Tahiti by the 30th to meet a friend. Luckily it's not far from here to there, so it's not a big passage. Supposedly there are 3 more kid boats on their way here now, so it might get more fun soon.

The visibility is great here, about 60-100 feet unless it's rough. We snorkeled with parrot fish, butterfly fish, and misc various creatures. Carter spotted a dinner plate sized octopus from the beach. He was very matter a fact about it, apparently not realizing how special a find it was. It's uninhabited here and quite peaceful.

Kelly and I are getting quite creative on our meal options, after not having much shopping in 2 months. We're making stove top bread in our pressure cookers, so we don't have to heat up the oven. It's working fairly well. We're out of all frozen meat, and are now strictly on cans. I've been making fish cakes, spaghetti, teriyaki etc. I really miss tortillas. There is a small village here, with nothing much to buy apparently. We might try to trade for pearls there before we leave.

All for now, school time. kelie

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

We've arrived!

We had a great sail all last night and arrived at the pass into Kauehi this morning just as the sun was coming over the horizon. One tack just outside the pass lined us up and we were able sail right in (even against the 4kn current flowing out! The pass here is nice and wide with no obstructions, but there are a few coral heads in the lagoon, so we ducked to one side and dropped anchor in 75ft to wait for the sun to rise high enough so we can see the coral heads. Wyndeavor is about 3 hours behind us, so we'll probably wait for them to shoot the pass and cross the lagoon together (it's about 8 miles wide).

It's absolutely gorgeous here. The water is crystal clear - we can see bottom at 70ft, and are sure looking forward to going for a swim!

I'd have to say that this was one of my favorite passages so far. Other than motoring for about 6 hours yesterday the sailing was supurb, especially last night as the seas were very calm and we had about 10-12kn of wind on the beam which makes us go fast (6-7kn). 528 miles, average speed 6kn.