September 1 - October 23, 2006

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HIGHLIGHTS

Near Disaster in Ahe, Tahiti Disneyland, and CRUISER ATTACKED BY GIANT SQUID!!!!???

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Anyone For Calamari?

Ok. Well. This is the strangest story we've ever printed in the web site. In fact, it's the strangest sailing story we've ever heard. If we hadn't seen the evidence ourselves we might not have believed it. You will have to make up your own minds.

Shigeo's boat in Tahiti

You will remember from our last installment that Shigeo Kitano, a Japanese single-hander on "Akitsushima II", had limped into Nuku Hiva after 65 days at sea, with a huge growth of barnacles on his waterline. We ran into Shigeo in Papeete, tied up at the wharf (left) a few weeks after we arrived in Tahiti. And he had some remarkable news.

We reported last time that Shigeo's trip from the Galapagos to the Marquesas had been terrible -- after about 1000 miles his autopilot had failed, something had gone wrong with his steering, his engine water intake had clogged temporarily, blowing his impeller, the intake for one of his heads had clogged, and, most important of all, something had slowed his speed down to 2 knots, even with full sails, a lot of wind, and the engine running. He basically drifted with the current for the last 2700 miles, taking about 8 weeks to cover a distance that his 42-foot Beneteau could easily have sailed in a fraction of that time.

Shigeo said that his boat became so difficult to steer that, at one point, he had to issue a Mayday call to avoid a collision with a Japanese tuna boat. (The tuna boat had ignored his previous Security calls.) Shigeo was physically unable to turn his wheel to maneuver his boat. Then when he finally got to Nuku Hiva, his windlass failed and he had to pull his chain out by hand.

We met him the day after he came to Nuku Hiva. We fed him some dinner, gave him some fresh water, lent him a trimmer so he could get rid of his beard, and then helped sort out his windlass problem. We also observed a hydraulic fluid leak affecting both his Ray Marine autopilot and steering system.

We figured the hydraulic leak might explain the autopilot and steering problems, although the facts didn't quite fit. The autopilot had shut itself off with a message that indicated "too much weather helm" -- meaning the rudder was too hard to turn. And at times Shigeo had been unable to turn the wheel by hand. You would think a loss of hydraulic fluid would make the steering wheel mushy and easy to turn, not hard to turn.

We also thought that "Akitsushima" must have fouled some kind of fishing net or other junk, as no amount of barnacles could slow a modern 42-foot boat to 2 knots. But we left Nuku Hiva before we had time to dive down to look for ourselves.

So now we pick up with the story.

After we left Nuku Hiva, a French doctor, who lives on his boat there, dove under "Akitsushima". He didn't find anything hung up on the keel, but he found hundreds of strange circular marks on the keel, rudder and hull, where the soft bottom paint had been rubbed away. Most of the marks had an outer circle surrounding an inner circle.

The doctor went back to his boat, thought about it, and came back with his camera. He thought the marks looked like suction cup marks. But not just any suction cups. Double cups within cups. Like the ones on a squid. A really, really big squid.

Shigeo patched up his boat and made the run to Tahiti, where we ran into him again. Right away we got out our scuba gear and camera and went down to see for ourselves. Here are our pictures.

Marks on keel and keel bulb:

Sucker-like marks

Sucker-like marks Sucker-like marks

 

Sucker-like marks

Sucker-like marks Sucker-like marks

 

Sucker-like marks

Sucker-like marks Sucker-like marks

 

Sucker-like marks

Sucker-like marks Sucker-like marks

 

Sucker-like marks

Sucker-like marks Sucker-like marks

Marks on rudder:

Sucker-like marks

Sucker-like marks Sucker-like marks

For comparison, here is a link to some giant squid pictures, one of which shows the suction cups... National Geographic Article on Giant Squid.

Ok, here are the pros and cons of this theory, as we see them:

Cons

  • Giant squid definitely exist but are almost never seen alive. Only last year year did researchers finally get some pictures of a live one. And that was from a submarine 2950 feet below the surface.
  • There have been just a handful of reports of squid attacks on boats in the last 200 years.
  • Shigeo didn't report feeling the violent motion, or shaking, which accompanied the other reported attacks.
  • Giant squid suction cups are usually about 5 cm (2"), max. Some of these seem bigger. Some of the edges are blurred, suggesting the cups moved around in the same general spot, enlarging the "footprint". But even some of the sharper outlines are bigger than 5 cm.
  • This squid would have to have stayed with the boat for weeks and weeks. The other reported attacks lasted for minutes.

Pros

  • We can't think of any ocean junk that would leave this kind of pattern. Barnacles and seaweed don't leave these marks. We've never seen fishing floats that would do this. We can't think of any other natural phenomenon that would make such marks. On the other hand, they look just like those squid suckers.
  • Shigeo's keel and rudder are pretty streamlined. There's nothing much that would catch and hold a fishing net or other garbage, unless it tangled in the prop. But there was nothing in the prop.
  • A squid on the rudder would certainly explain why the boat was hard to steer. And why the autopilot reported "weather helm." And a squid could explain why some of Shigeo's water intakes stopped working intermittently.
  • Shigeo was sailing through a very fertile piece of ocean, known for its population of sperm whales. Sperm whales eat giant squid. And often have scars from the suckers.
  • While there is no way to conclusively rule out a hoax, it seems pretty unlikely to us. First, we have gotten to know Shigeo and we don't think he would do that. Second, putting those marks on would be an awful lot of work to impress a few sailing buddies. Third, the growth on Shigeo's boat (and on his face) supports his claim that he spent months at sea. Fourth, we would expect a hoax to claim a violent attack that lasted a few minutes, not a gentle attack that lasted 8 weeks.

So, we think that Shigeo's boat probably got hijacked by a giant squid that wanted something to hang onto. Maybe he was sick, maybe he'd been beat up by a whale. Anyway, poor Shigeo must have carted this thing all the way to the harbor in Nuku Hiva.

Questions

  • Giant squid are super predators, designed to kill big fish. They can be 50 feet long (mostly tentacles), with claws and suction cups, and powerful, bone crushing beaks. So if we catch something on our rudder in the middle of the ocean, do you think Ken should go down to check it out? Maybe 2 knots is fast enough? If we were in a hurry we could have taken a plane.
  • Shigeo's hydraulic autopilot pump sprang a leak on this trip, possible as a result of all this abuse. Do you think that Shigeo should explain the whole situation to Ray Marine when he puts in his warranty claim?
  • Next time you go to Nuku Hiva, will you go swimming in the harbor?

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Back to our trip......

September 1 - September 5, 2006

Passage To Ahe In The Tuamotus

We left Nuku Hiva in a light rain. During the first few days several squalls caught us, but since we always had at least one or two reefs in the main, the boat handled the squalls just fine. Fortunately we had a few periods of nice clear weather and we landed one small (27" long) yellowfin tuna.

The quiet (except for our motor) was eerie

We sailed into a dead calm as we approached the Tuamotus and were forced to turn on the motor for the last few hours of the trip.

The Tuamotus (also known as the "Dangerous Archipelago") are a collection of atolls spread over hundreds of miles. An atoll is a ring of islands ("motus") with an inner lagoon. The motus are the remains of the rim of a volcano and are all that you can see from the surface.

Atolls threaten boats for many reasons: (a) they are hard to see, (b) currents into and out of the passes can be quite fierce, (c) big sections of the inner lagoon may be uncharted so you don't know exactly what to expect, (d) the motus are surrounded by submerged coral reefs, (e) there can be lots of hard stuff to run into (like unmarked coral heads right in the main channel), (f) the options for anchoring can be limited because of coral formations and the burgeoning pearl farms.

But we thought we'd give it a go if the conditions were right.

As we approached Ahe, one of the northernmost atolls, we could see the outlines of the motus glowing eerily like a necklace on the radar. We quickly found the pass into the inner lagoon, but we had to wait for slack current (and daylight) to go in.

Ring of small islands that comprise Ahe

 

Heaving to off of Ahe

We were glad we had radar to help us spot the atoll. The flat motus can be hard to see by eye. Imagine navigating around these things without GPS or radar! No wonder sailors fear them.

We ended up waiting 16 hours for an ebb tide coincident with good light conditions. We'd never attempted an atoll pass and we were a bit apprehensive. But we ended up with perfect wind conditions for an entrance (i.e., NO wind).

We hoped the zero wind would last -- one of the few times we've ever wished for no wind! We know of several other cruisers who had to abandon their attempt to enter because the wind was blowing too hard when they got here. Hard winds bring lots of surf between the motus, and all that water has to rush out through the pass-- making for extreme currents.

Front row seats for a spectacular sunset

While we waited for daylight, we enjoyed the beautiful colors of the sunset (left). The sunrise (right) the next morning wasn't bad either! Sun peaking over the horizon at sunrise

How To Get Gray Hair

As the morning wore on, we made several reconnaissance runs toward the pass to check out the state of the current. We hadn't found a tide table for Ahe so we used a rule of thumb that relied on the times of moonrise and moonset. We also considered sacrificing someone to Poseidon, but decided that we needed all of the crew.

Going for the pass at Ahe

 

Ken climbing mast for a better look

We finally decided to go for it and Ken quickly climbed the mast up to the whisker pole for a better view of the water. Beth was steering and Ken would look for obstructions and yell out steering directions. Ken getting into position on top of whisker pole

 

Ken in position to spot coral heads and other hazards

From his high perch, Ken had a good view of coral heads. He could also watch for the thousands of floating and submerged floats and lines of the black pearl farms. Fortunately, the islanders keep the five mile channel from the pass to the town open for the weekly supply ship. We had a few close encounters with submerged floats, but we got to the town OK.

We had decided ahead of time that the designated anchorage in the small inner lagoon near the village (Tenukupara) was too small for us, especially if other boats were anchored there. But as we got close we saw no other boats and the spot looked bigger than we expected, so we decided to try going in.

Danger

That was a mistake. As we entered the anchorage, the late afternoon light conditions were quickly deteriorating. Beth was relying on Ken to see the rocks. She couldn't see the computer screen with the chart software from where she stood at the wheel. Ken, up in the rigging, thought that Beth could use the chart software and could see charted hazards. Neither of us realized that the blue water was murky enough to hide the rocks, so that eyeball navigation wasn't going to work very well.

As we slowly edged our way into the lagoon, Ken was shocked to see LARGE coral heads appearing just below the surface on either side. The murky water was making it impossible to see the coral until we were practically on top of it. Ken yelled "REVERSE!!!" and we tried to k-turn our way through the coral. It took at least 20 minutes to work our way out. At times we had the the bow over coral heads that were too shallow for our keel and rudder to pass.

Thank heavens there was no wind to make boat handling difficult.

Afterwards we were amazed (and appalled) by the record of our track, which showed us going over the edge of the inner reef, shallows, and coral heads! We never actually hit anything but we both literally added gray hairs to our heads.

Of course you never want to navigate by chart software alone around coral, but this was one case where the software was spot on. How ironic if we had gone aground!

The red line shows our track, asterisks show coral heads, dark green shows the reef, brown shows land

In later conversations with our cruising friends we heard a lot of horror stories about the Tuamotus. The American catamaran "Cheshire" hit a coral head in poor light conditions and bent one of their rudder shafts. The Americans on "Seducente" got caught in a very strong current as they exited through a pass and narrowly escaped crashing into the reef. The British boat "Kika" dragged onto a reef at night, wrapped their chain around coral heads and had to abandon their anchor and chain to get out. (They buoyed the chain and were later able to recover their tackle.)

Since we couldn't get into the little anchorage, we had to find somewhere else to drop the hook. But most of the good spots were filled with floats from black pearl farms.

Eagles Wings anchored near pearl farm

We finally anchored in a position that exposed us to a lot of fetch. We tried a more protected spot first, but it was right in the channel leading to the town dock and the local police wanted us to move.

Our new anchoring spot looked perfect, except that we could be pushed onto the reef (submerged in the foreground of this picture) if the wind picked up strongly out of the northeast.

September 6 - September 11, 2006

Exquisite Snorkeling

We spent a couple of days in blissful peace. The winds stayed light and the snorkeling was fantastic -- this was our first serious snorkeling since getting to the Pacific and every fish we saw was new to us. We saw about 40 new species of fish in 2 days.

The Pacific holds a stunning variety of marine life. For example, the Caribbean has 5 different types of butterflyfish. The Pacific has almost 60 different types! We saw 7 different butterflyfish species during our stay at Ahe -- more than exist in the whole Caribbean.

Basically, for every species of fish in the Caribbean there are at least 10 species in the Pacific.

We even had a couple of remoras (sharksuckers) clinging to the bottom of our keel. Guess they thought we were a giant shark!

Sharksucker remoras setting up camp under our boat

 

Ken insisted that we had to print this picture

The sun was pretty intense and Beth experimented with super-duper nose protection for snorkeling (black electrical tape affixed to nose). She later improved the design by applying the tape directly to the inside of her mask.

At least this avoids the Rudolph with a burned out nose syndrome!

 

Beth also invented a new way to cut onions. No tears!

No more tears

More Gray Hair

Bliss turned to anxiety when the wind picked up to over 30 knots out of the dreaded northeast and a wicked chop built during the night. The boat was pitching uncomfortably in the waves that had come up with the wind. We were awakened at 2 a.m. by a "BAM!" noise and Ken rushed on deck in the pouring rain to see what had happened. One of the two snubber lines that takes shock load from our anchor chain had chafed and snapped. He quickly rigged a replacement. A few hours later we both sat bolt upright when we heard another "BAM!" -- the new snubber had chafed right through. Ken rigged another replacement and we agreed to move at first light.

Ken with broken snubber line

We use 3/4" nylon snubber lines, protected by heavy duty spectra chafing gear, but they couldn't take the pounding in the lagoon.

 

Ken came up with a new way to rig the snubber lines, eliminating the chafe points. He put a chain hook at each end of an 8' nylon line, attached it to the chain (with some slack in the chain) and put the whole assembly over the bow (with some additional lines attached for retrieval purposes.) Since none of the nylon came back on board the boat under tension, there was no chafe.

We've never heard of anyone else doing this.

New snubber setup with no chafe

 

Nasty chop built from fetch across the lagoon

We moved the boat to the channel side of the reef, but anchored in a way to leave plenty of room in the channel. The police let us stay there for the rest of our visit. Even on the more protected side, we had some chop when the winds picked up again to 35 knots. The new snubber arrangement worked beautifully.

 

Big power cable dangling in mid air

As if this wasn't enough excitement -- Ken noticed a big live power cable dangling loose in the engine room. Luckily it hadn't shorted with anything. He quickly taped it over (left), disconnected it from the power source and removed the broken lug (right) still left on the alternator terminal. Big metal lug on power cable had snapped in two

We didn't have a lug big enough to replace the broken one, but fortunately we had a spare cable that we could use. Once again, we were awed by the destructive power of a repetitive force -- this time vibration.

But our problems seemed trivial. We heard from our friends Les and Lindy on "Belle Ile II" that they are on their way again to Australia after fixing their broken head stay in Fiji. They described the scene in the harbor at Suva, Fiji: "...Strangely enough, almost every boat here in the harbor has a problem: ripped sails, broken engine, broken steering system etc. Almost everyone we know is either waiting for a part or having something fixed. Two boats were towed in while we were here and the night before last an old steel fishing boat, anchored ahead of us, sank!..." The sea can be a tough, unforgiving place.

Exploring Tenukupara

Atolls don't offer any mountain climbing, but we did hike around the 200 person village. Life was pretty basic. The one grocery store in the village is set up like a Napa Auto store back home -- when you walk into the store, you are faced with a counter. All of the goods are behind the counter and you have to ask for each item. The prices would have knocked our socks off, if we'd been wearing any...

Buying bread from the local baker

When we couldn't find bread at the grocery store, the local policeman suggested we go to the "fourth blue house on the left" and ask the woman there for some bread. We did so and were able to buy several pieces of a figure-eight shaped bread. It tasted like a donut.

Unlike the Marquesas, we did not see the locals driving around in big SUV's. The motus are so small that cars are unnecessary. People on these islands have supposedly gotten rich from the black pearl business, but we didn't see much wealth. (We learned later that most pearl farms are owned by several large companies, rather than local people.) The locals do provide labor to work the farms and this industry has allowed the repopulation of many of these remote areas.

One of the local policemen told us that the crafty Japanese had conspired to drive down black pearl prices. Seems that they had bought so many pearls (at high prices) that they now had a big stock and could reduce their purchases, causing pearl prices to fall. As economists, we thought that the fact that the entire lagoon was filled with pearl floats might have something to do with the low prices. You know ... supply and demand. But we let it go. We were just glad to hear a conspiracy theory that didn't involve the U.S.

 

House with solar array

The houses were small with some modern conveniences like solar panels, satellite dishes, and big water tanks (left) to store scarce fresh water. The lifestyle seems very simple, quiet, and easygoing. Polynesian woman on stoop

We came across a young man practicing his spear throwing technique. Contrary to our preconceived notions, the spear is not thrown over-the-shoulder. The setup almost looks like a bow and arrow -- with the man serving as the bow (below left and middle). The target is a coconut (below right) perched way up high on a pole. We were impressed he could hit such a small object from so far away...

Young Ahe man preparing to throw spear

Underhanded spear release Spear soaring toward target

 

Small boy way up in coconut tree while his family awaits below

As we walked through the town, we stumbled on this family (left). If you look closely high up in the tall coconut tree on the left, you'll see a small boy. He's kicking at the coconuts (right) to harvest a few, while his mother watches from below.

You wouldn't see this in the States!

Harvesting coconuts

 

Near the town dock we watched some local girls play Double Dutch, a jump rope game Beth remembers from her childhood. Girls demonstrating coordination with Polynesian version of Double Dutch

 

Beth with local Ahe girls at the dock As in the Marquesas, the children (especially the girls) were energetic and uninhibited. Several of the girls climbed into our dinghy with us and it took some coaxing to get them back ashore!

 

Coconut crabs like this one are good to eat if you can catch them. Coconut crab ready to defend his turf

A Problem With Magnetism

GPS has made modern sailing a lot easier, but we still need our old fashioned compasses. But here's a problem you probably didn't know about -- a compass that works in Chicago won't work in the Tuamotus.

 

When a Chicago compass gets south of the equator it tries to point through the earth to aim at the magnetic North Pole. (The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, right?)

But that tilt puts it out of whack with local gravity (which still points at the center of the earth), so it bottoms out and sticks.

Binnacle compass with hood removed

 

Comparing compasses for the northern (left) and southern (right) hemispheres Before we left two years ago, we bought a spare binnacle compass that was balanced for the New Zealand region. Comparing our old compass (left) to the New Zealand compass ( right), you can see how the cards are tipped in opposite directions. We had hoped to just swap the New Zealand compass for our old one, but we were still too far north of New Zealand for that to work.

 

Fortunately, before we left the States, we had Bob Peterson, an expert in compass repair, build us a compass "compensator" designed for this latitude. The compensator consists of four magnets inside a little box, which mounts under the binnacle.

Works great!

Little magnets adjust the tilt of our compass

September 12 - September 14, 2006

On To Tahiti

Our passage to Tahiti was quick and uneventful. We were looking forward to visiting Tahiti -- a place that had an exotic aura of romance and mystery.

Dramatic mountain peak thrusting through the clouds

Our first glimpse of the island did not disappoint. The dramatic peaks hovered in the sky above the clouds as we approached the island.

Volcanic islands follow a life cycle. They start when the volcano first projects above the water. Eventually coral forms on the shoreline. Then the volcano starts to "subside" or sink back into the sea. But the coral on the shoreline can usually grow fast enough to stay near the surface, so the island ends up with a "barrier reef" which encloses a navigable lagoon between the reef and the island. Eventually the central island slips entirely under water, leaving only an atoll made of the fringing coral.

The Marquesas were young, fringing reef islands. The Tuamotus are old atolls. Tahiti is in between -- a barrier reef island.

We arrived too late in the day to make an attempt through the pass in the reef, so we hove to for the night. The next morning we inched our way toward the pass. With ferry and other shipping traffic in abundance, we had to wait our turn. Approaching entrance through the reef at Papeete, the main town on Tahiti

 

Heavy surf pounds the outer reef Many boats dock at the main wharf in downtown Papeete, but we avoided the hustle and bustle of the wharf and continued down the west side of the island to an anchorage near Marina Taina. We appreciated the protection of the reef as we motored south and watched the surf pound the outer reef line.

 

We passed by some over-the-water grass huts.

But don't make the mistake of thinking that the Tahitians live in these things. Tahitians live in nice houses. These hut are for tourists, who pay about $1000 per night to go native at the Hotel Intercontinental!

We like our anchorage at $0/night. (Not counting capital costs and "sweat equity," of course.)

Tourists pay big bucks to live like the natives used to

 

Large, modern Marina Taina We felt like we were back in the Caribbean when we spotted the big, modern marina Taina with its collection of super-yachts. Professional crew polishing mega-yacht

 

We passed boats catering to the tourist trade -- dive boats and excursion boats like the one at right. The Polynesian settlers used boats like this one to cross thousands of miles of open ocean.

Well, maybe the originals were a bit more seaworthy.

Boat catering to the tourist trade

 

Moorea was a beautiful backdrop to our anchorage

We loved our spacious anchorage spot (left) which had front row seats for gorgeous sunsets over Moorea (right), sister island to Tahiti.

Beautiful sunset on Moorea

But the anchoring was deep -- we dropped in 62 feet of water! (In the Caribbean we never went much over 40 feet.)

Tahiti resembles the Caribbean with its Disney-like atmosphere, but it is a heck of lot less crowded, cleaner, and friendlier than the Caribbean. More expensive, too.

September 15 - October 23, 2006

The Big City

We got a bit of a shock going ashore and exploring the town after being in small villages for so long. A visit to Papeete will convince you that the wild native culture is definitely gone forever. These folks are firmly in the 21st century. They are just as attached to their cars as Americans, and they pay a hefty price to run those cars -- about $7/gallon for gasoline!

Heavy traffic in downtown Papeete Tahiti has all the energy and congestion of a big city. A Big Mac in Paradise

But one thing stood out -- the people, young and old alike -- were friendly and happy. They also displayed a quiet self-assurance. For example, while we waited for a bus a young woman stopped her car, told us the buses weren't running because of a strike and offered us a ride to town! That wouldn't happen back home.

(The bus drivers, who own their vehicles, were striking over the high gasoline taxes. We can see their point.)

Cars stop immeditately when a pedestrian steps into the crosswalk

 

There aren't any traffic lights in Papeete. When you want to cross a busy street on foot, you just step out into a cross walk and the cars stop politely.

If you tried this in Chicago, the ambulance crew would need a paint scraper to separate you from the pavement.

 

 

The young people love their music. Headphones and ipods are everywhere -- Steve Jobs must be proud!

These guys are wearing hip-hop styles, but they haven't figured out the attitude thing. Instead they smiled pleasantly at us and said "bon jour."

Young Tahitians with ever present CD or MP3 player

We thought the easy, languid pace of the Marquesas was pretty much what most hard-working Americans would view as paradise. Funny thing, though, the young people from all over French Polynesia come to Tahiti to go to college, get addicted to the fast life and stay. So the outer islands are slowly losing their populations.

Seems that Americans want to live like Polynesians, but Polynesians want to live like Americans.

Crowns and necklaces made of flowers for sale at the flower market Tahitians love flowers and flower markets. Gorgeous flowers everywhere

 

The girl on the ground was very adamant about where her friend in the tree should find flowers We watched these girls collect flowers. The little one directed the older girl to the best spots. Fragrant bouquet

A Supermarket!!!!

We hadn't been in a real supermarket since Panama, back in May. So we almost hyper-ventilated in the big market near our anchorage.

Meters and meters of cheeses and sausages A cheese counter almost 60 feet long! With about 200 pounds of brie! Not to mention every other cheese you could imagine. An abundance of brie

 

Wine as far as the eye can see

Pretty good wine selection too! But only the French wines were affordable. Everything else paid a 100 percent duty, with VAT of 6% to 16% on top of that.

In fact everything imported into French Polynesia pays those taxes.

A small bottle of Jack Daniels was going for the equivalent of $51!

Jack Daniels was unaffordable

 

We couldn't find our favorite chocolate chip cookies (Chocolate Chunk Chips Ahoy) in Tahiti (guess they are still primitive in some ways) so we consoled ourselves by buying large quantities of giant chocolate bars (baker's chocolate turns out to be quite scrumptious). Once we got a sample of these bars, M&M's suddenly became less appealing. Anybody interested in 8 lbs of M&M's? Refreshed chocolate supply

 

Our salon converted to sausage and onion storage Ken couldn't resist the abundance of sausage at the supermarket and bought several. He wrapped a paper towel diaper around the active one (right) to prevent messy leaks onto the floor. The only trouble with this arrangement is we keep whacking our heads on the sausage when we pass through the salon.

 

We got a small stalk of bananas at a local fruit stand, but we couldn't use Ken's banana branch holder© because the stalk was too short. We did find a good use for one of Ken's old dress work shirts -- it make a perfect sunshade for the bananas. New meaning to the term stuffed shirt

Exploring The Back Country

Enjoying scenery on our day trip to the interior We took an all-day tour to see the wild interior with our friends Lada, Rob, and Henry from "Paulu" and Shigeo from "Akitsushima II".

 

Most of the time the road was really rough and wet. The road wound through some very steep areas and rock slides made a new section of the road difficult to travel. Rock slide on new section of road

 

Use your imagination to see the lion's head in the hillside greenery

We got rained on (not surprising given that the high country is a rainforest).

If you look real hard, you can you a lion's head formation in the hillside (at left).

The mist and light rain added an element of mystery

 

Misty river valley Our road wound right above a deeply cut river valley (left). We never saw so many waterfalls in one place (right). Waterfalls cascading from everywhere

A Bit Of History

Captain Cook made Tahiti famous with his captivating descriptions of the island and its people. Captain Bligh later anchored here in the ship "Bounty" while he collected breadfruit plants for the Caribbean. All those plants were lost when Bligh's crew mutinied. The crew of the "Bounty" sought refuge on Tahiti before fleeing to Pitcairn.

Small fishing boats at dry dock at Venus Point Captain Cook observed the transit of Venus from this point (left). Matavai Bay just off Venus Point (right) provided a secure anchorage for Cook and later explorers, including the Bounty. Baie de Matavai, where Captain Cook anchored

 

Entrance to sacred cave Long before the explorers arrived, this cave (left) held a sacred shrine. The Tahitians thought the water in the cave had healing properties. Nowadays it is a favorite spot to cool off in the tropical heat. It rains continuously in the sacred cave as water seeps through the rock

Dancing For Tourists

If you want to see Polynesian dancing in Tahiti, you have to check out the shows at local hotels and restaurants. The shows are more "touristy" than the one we saw in Ua Pou, but the dancing is probably more polished.

Energetic Tahitian dancers We don't know how traditional the dances really were, but they were totally entrancing. Many of the dancers sported intricate tatoos

 

This dancer floated across the floor with incredible grace Most of the women's dances consisted of rigorous hip shaking. But there was one dancer who glided around the dance floor in a very slow, fluid motion. The dance was a beautiful combination of hand, feet, and body movements. This might possibly have been the most beautiful dance we've ever seen. We could have watched her for hours.

Usually the shows end with the performers picking members of the audience to come and dance with them. When Beth asked Ken if he was going to do it, he said "absolutely no way." Just then a beautiful Tahitian woman sashayed up to Ken and said "Will you dance with me?" He said "sure!" He held his own but came back panting pretty hard. Its a lot of work to do some of those maneuvers!

Another night, Beth tried to look invisible but was spotted and lassoed. Her costume may not have been up to the task, but she gave it her all. She came back all sweated up and panting, but she claimed it had nothing to do with all these gorgeous men. Beth shaking it up Tahitian style

Underwater Delights

Even though we were in a densely populated place, the quality of the water in the lagoon was surprisingly good. The inflow of water over the reef constantly refreshes the water and we enjoyed some terrific snorkeling, diving, and picture-taking.

Longhorn cowfish (below left), spotted tobies (below middle), orangespine unicornfish (below right):

Longhorn cowfish Tiny spotted tobies hiding under wreck Orangespine unicornfish

Vagabond butterflyfish (below left), lemon peel angelfish (below middle), threadfin butterflyfish (below right):

Pair of vagabond butterflyfish Shy lemon peel angelfish Threadfin butterflyfish

 

Mimic surgeonfish youngster Two different phases of the mimic surgeonfish: juvenile (left), adult (right). Mimic surgeonfish all grown up

Picasso triggerfish (below left), trumpetfish (below middle), orange-lined triggerfish (below right):

Picasso triggerfish Trumpetfish Orange-lined triggerfish

 

Anemonefish peaking out from the anemone

Some of the fish, like this orange-finned anemonefish (left) stay close to shelter.

Don't brush up against sea urchins (right). Those spines are really nasty. A friend of ours stepped on one and ended up in the hospital having 40 spines removed from his foot!

Don't tread on me

 

Beth insisted that we had to include this picture! After our dives Ken uses a mixture of vinegar and alcohol to prevent diver's ear. Then he uses paper towels to wick the moisture out. It works great, but he kind of looks like Shrek for a few minutes.

Next Stop: New Zealand

Shigeo took this serene picture of Eagle's Wings (rightmost boat) in the early morning light. Hard as it is to pull ourselves away from this place, we know we have to get moving. The hurricane season is fast approaching -- there already is a cyclone brewing to the west. We have to get further west before making the jump to New Zealand, but that will happen soon. Eagle's Wings with Moorea early one moonlit morning