I have created this blog with the hopes that you, my friend, will follow me as I sail around the world (figuratively or literally, not sure yet) with my parents on their Contest 48. Whereas I hope to keep you updated with exciting adventures of exotic ports and epic waves, keep in mind that cruising - that is, traveling by boat in a leisurely fashion - tends to be filled with days of intense boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Please keep this in mind as you read these entries, for this platform will be just as much an attempt for me to maintain my sanity (and connection to the California-based world), as entertainment and reassurance for you. And so, follow me as I sail the world.

P.S. All material on this blog, words and photos alike, are copyrighted by me. Copyright 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. If you decide that this material is worth re-publishing, please give me credit and lots and lots of money.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tahiti-Moorea Rendezvous

A few hours before the first event of the Tahiti-Moorea Rendezvous, a catamaran, Sundowner, went up on the reef behind Tahiti Yacht Club. It had dragged anchor and caught another boat's anchor, and was slowly dragging the other boat onto the reef as well. Dad and I jumped in the dinghy and spent the better part of an hour freeing the anchors and towing the cat off the reef. Fortunately, there was not too much damage to either boat. Later, at the cocktail party for the rendezvous, put on by the sailing magazine Latitude 38, I met Adam, the British 24 year-old who is crewing on Sundowner. Fortunately I had refrained from telling him the story about some idiots who dragged anchor and went up on the reef by the yacht club.

The cocktail party was good fun, particularly because it marked the convergence of about 50 cruising boats, many of whom we had met in Mexico or along the way. Everybody was in good spirits, not only because of the Polynesian punch, but also because this rendezvous marks an important milestone for all of us who crossed the Pacific together. There was music, dancing, lei making, and a dinner down at the Roulottes (my favorite dining experience in Tahiti).

The next day was the rally (not a race, cruisers don't "race") from Tahiti to Moorea. We all tried to sail, but there was absolutely no wind, so the majority of us kicked on our engines and got to Moorea quickly (a few hours) while a diehard few sailed the whole way. I cheered them on when they came in while I was relaxing with a cold beer. The anchorage at Opounohou Bay was packed with the cruising fleet, but it was fun. I paddled around from boat to boat in water that looked like a swimming pool, chatting and enjoying beers, remembering what it is like to have a nice community of friends.

After a dance show on the beach (in which I myself participated- albeit unwillingly), I went to Sundowner for dinner and met a bunch of other nice people. My group of new best friends formed quickly- Adam and I made friends with two other young people who flew here and were visiting their families (cheaters). One of them is a banana slug (UCSC student) so we had lots to talk about. The four of us did all activities together, including consuming copious amounts of beer and rum from early in the morning until late into the night. I had almost forgotten what it was like to hang out with people my own age!

The next day, Sunday, was the big day of the event. There were va'a (traditional canoe) races, swimming races, stone lifting and fruit carrying contests, dance lessons, live music, a traditional Polynesian meal, and all sorts of other fun things to do. Although my team did not do particularly well in the competitions we had a great time, as did everybody who participated. It was fun to be immersed in the games of Polynesian culture for an afternoon without having to wrangle an invitation from a local with whom communication is difficult (although quite possible). Plus, we North Americans are much better off competing against each other, as we are absolutely no match for the Tahitians.

The cruising community is incredibly friendly and welcoming. I have made more friends with "boat neighbors" in 15 minutes than I have with my real neighbors in 15 years. I think this is because we are all in foreign places and feel the need to bond together in order to survive -- or at least have somebody to share a drink with come sunset. It really is quite something. However, the down side of meeting all these wonderful people is that there is a good chance I won't see most of them ever again. Many of us have similar destinations, New Zealand or Australia for cyclone season, but the South Pacific is HUGE and it is easy to miss one another. No worries though. As the saying goes, better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Or, more accurately: better to have kicked it and had some fun and then said goodbye forever than to never have kicked it at all.
At 6/29/2011 12:00 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 17°29.51'S 149°51.17'W

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tahiti: Take II (Deux)

For the most part, every place we go is foreign, in more than one sense. Every time we go someplace new we have to figure out the basics: where am I, where do I want to go, how do I get there, etc. As this is our second time in Tahiti, I feel like I already know the place! which is why I think I am having a much better time the second time around, and because having a bit of local knowledge makes things SO much easier.

I might have been a little harsh with my initial judgment of Tahiti, or perhaps I was so overwhelmed with the super markets and so disgusted with the traffic that I was blind sighted. Now that I can get past the Carrefour, I have been able to explore a bit more of the island. Not only that, but now that I have surfed a reef pass I am not quite so hesitant about taking the dinghy out to a pass, anchoring, and surfing a super shallow reef break (if it's small).

My first impression of Tahiti was that it is overrun with tourists and most locals are just here to work; there is not a strong sense of culture or community. However, I have since experienced another side of Tahiti - the side that I was hoping to find all along. Of course, it always takes putting myself out there, and in all honesty it is easier (and less scary) to sit on the boat and hang out with other cruisers all the time, but A. that is boring, and B. it totally defeats the purpose of being in a foreign country.

Our first night back in Papeete I met a really cool, young Dutch couple who invited me to go to a Fete de Musique - an outdoor concert - with the headliners being "Polynesian rock bands". I was intrigued (and it was free). We hitch hiked up to the park and listened to the opening bands which were... well, the concert got better as the night progressed. And this was not because we were drinking, in fact there was no beer to be had. We asked around why there was no beer available (blasphemy!) and a lady told us that if they sold alcohol, the night would end in fighting.

The stand out band was called Toa Ura - a 10+ person band with 4 big burly men singers, a ukulele, electric guitar, percussions, drum set, bass, and traditional dancers. Really interesting music with high energy with Polynesian roots mixed with modern rock. The crowd was predominantly families, with every age from infant to ancient dancing and singing along. I was glad to experience a community event in Tahiti.

The next day Mom, Cinda and I went to the Cost and Co., not to be confused with Costco, although it carried Kirkland Signature goods. We replenished our stocks of pasta, tomato sauce, biscotti and other staples we can't live without. Also, the big score of the month: we got 2 Costco sized bottles of Cholula hot sauce! We ran out a week ago and I was seriously considering flying back to Mexico to get more. No need, now.

After our most successful trip to Cost and Co., we went back to the boat. We had not quite finished lunch when we heard deep, traditional drums start to thump. The natives were restless. Actually it was some sort of community celebration at the apartment complex a few hundred meters from the boat. I got in my kayak to get a closer look (along with most of the other people in the Tahiti Yacht Club anchorage) and we were all invited to join in the celebration. The men dancers were fierce, with thick bands of tattoos around there huge thighs, rippling stomachs, and tiny loincloths. The women were graceful and beautiful, and all of the dancers looked like they came right out of Polynesian history.

Fierce, Tahitian warrior

Having local knowledge is great, especially when it comes from the locals themselves. Last night a few of the boats here organized a pot luck up at the Yacht Club. There was a table of very friendly local guys who invited us to join them. After talking and drinking Hinanos for a few hours with them, through our broken attempts at the opposite language, I indicated that I very much wanted go surf with them in the morning. We made a date to meet up at 7:30 the next morning, although they were all totally wasted and I was unconvinced that they would actually show up.

Regardless, at 7:30 this morning I was up at the Yacht Club and, lo and behold, they were there! Joseph and Nepo told me they took the day off work to take me surfing. What gentlemen! And with such good priorities! The three of us squeezed into Joseph's little truck and took off through Tahiti, eating baguettes and enjoying the local foliage. We stopped at their friend's va'a (outrigger canoe) workshop to say "io rana" and then headed out to a beach break on the west side of the island, called Papara.

We pulled up to the rivermouth beach break and were greeted with 6-8 foot peeling, barreling lefts. The guys hopped out of the car and took off for the waves, but I was a bit hesitant. It was pretty crowded with very good surfers, catching pretty big waves. However, I managed to psych myself up and paddle out. I watched guys drop into nice barrels and do huge shwacks for about an hour before I caught a wave myself. When I did I felt very accomplished for about a minute, before I felt the need for another, bigger, better, longer, faster wave. So it goes.

It was a very cool experience. I love hanging out with the locals, going the places they like to go, and doing the things they like to do (like surf). However, it can be intimidating. After knowing these guys for an hour or two they were agreeing to ditch work to spend the day with me. It took a lot more energy to communicate with them, and a lot of trust (on both sides) to make it happen. But it was so worth it. That is really, in my opinion, what traveling is all about.
At 6/22/2011 6:13 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 17°31.38'S 149°32.20'W

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Six Months Out

We have been out at sea for exactly 6 months, today. And today I found exactly what I came on this journey for.

We are anchored in one of the most beautiful places in the world. The hills are covered with coconut palms, banana, papaya, and mango trees, and other lush vegetation. The water, which is totally glassy because there is not a breath of wind, ranges from a deep clear blue to bright turquoise in the shallows. The bottom is mostly sandy with coral heads scattered here and there.

This morning we celebrated our 6 month milestone by cleaning the hull of the boat (yeah!). After the hull was sufficiently cleaned I practiced my free diving by pulling myself hand over hand down the anchor chain. I bet I got down about 25 feet, not quite to the bottom, but close! I have not really swam since the Tuamotus, and it feels grrreat to be in the water again.

After lunch I got this restless, pulling feeling that I get when I know there might be a surfable wave nearby. Yesterday I checked out a wave at the pass just to the south of us, and it looked rideable, although nobody was out. I figured I couldn't rightfully ignore it again today, so I talked Dad into going with me to check it out.

We set out in the dinghy and planed at full speed over the sheet-glass water. When we hit the light turquoise water it looked like we were in about 6 inches of water, although it was more like 4 feet deep. The bottom was crystal clear and we watched huge bat rays dart away under water as we sped by. We had to navigate very carefully through the coral heads, some of which stick up to a few inches under the water and are no fun to hit. We managed to make it to the pass without hitting any coral, and came across a very nice looking right (wave) breaking from the point of the reef into the pass. I saw one guy surfing and that was enough for me: back to the boat! I gotta grab my board!

Going back to the boat was a little slower because the tide was going out and the shallow lagoon was getting even more shallow. Back over the coral heads, back over the rays to the boat where I ran around like a whirlwind getting my stuff to go surfing. If you have ever gone surfing with me you know that when I am on my way to surf I get tunnel vision and will run over old ladies and little babies to get in the water.

Fortunately there weren't too many obstructions, except for a few more coral heads on the way back to the pass, and soon enough I was out of the dinghy and into the crystal clear, 80 degree water, surfing nice lined up waves over a coral reef. Yes, this is what I came here for. Granted, the waves were not as good as some of the waves that I have surfed in my own backyard, but the fact that I found this place, sailed here on a boat, and fulfilled a dream, is too fucking cool.

Okay, sorry, sometimes it just... takes me away. Anyway, yes, very cool. On the way back to the boat I navigated through the coral heads while drinking a cold Hinano as the sun set. We also saw a shark (first one I have seen in the Society Islands) and I saw it as a good omen because sharks are a sign of a live reef (Live reef = fish = sharks).

Well, that is one adventure, but let me tell you about yesterday - yes, more adventure!. Yesterday we rented bikes from the dive shop on shore. As we set out down the nicely paved, flat road lined with fruit trees, I couldn't be happier. Except for the fact that my bike was stuck in first gear, which is no bueno for the riding we were doing. First we came across the pass/wave that I surfed today, which is also a ancient, sacred, archeological site. We rode and rode, and although I did not have a map or a good idea of how big the island is, I had it in my mind that I wanted to ride around it.

Mom and Dad weren't opposed to the idea, but soon enough we were all thinking, "who the hell had the stupid idea of circumnavigating the island on these shitty little bikes?!" Not to say that it wasn't cool. On the windward side of the island we saw huge rain squalls over the ocean (which are very fun to see from land, not so fun to see when on a boat); on the north side of the island we rode along the pass in between the 2 islands (Huahine is made of 2 islands surrounded by a reef); on the east side we went up a huge mountain, and nearly collapsed with exhaustion by the time we got back to the south end of the island.

When we got back to the dive shop we stumbled into the restaurant and ordered the "Killer" sandwich - grilled fish, french fries, and coconut vanilla sauce on a baugette, with a cold fruit juice to go with it. We calculated that the bike ride was about 14 miles, which isn't so bad if you have a nice bike, but if your bike is stuck in first gear or the chain keeps popping off or you have been sitting on a boat for the past 6 months, yes, it is a most hearty adventure.

Tired yet?

Six months. It seems like it has been both the fastest and slowest six months of my life; the most interesting and exciting, as well as containing some of the most boring and exasperating times of my life. I just can't wait to see what the next 6 months bring.
At 6/16/2011 12:31 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 16°48.72'S 150°59.57'W

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Wahine to Huahine

You might be thinking that I have not updated my blog in however long because I have been so enchanted/busy/living-it-up in the big city of Papeete, Tahiti. The real reason I have not written recently is that there has been nothing of great interest to report. Museum there, shopping here, a surf over there, and lots of trips to the supermarket. Yes, aside from surfing I think eating has been the most exciting aspect of being in Papeete.

Not only did we make almost daily trips to the Carrefour (aside from having everything you could want - think Walmart - it is air conditioned) but we visited the Roulettes many times. Roulettes are exactly like taco trucks, except they don't sell tacos (unfortunately). They do sell everything else: hamburgers, crepes, chow men and every other Chinese dish you could desire, sushi, curries, poisson cru and fish 100 other ways. There is a plaza in downtown Papeete that is filled with about 25 of these trucks every night and the place is packed every night. My favorite item has been the dessert crepe with chocolate, banana, and whipped cream. Tre delicious!

Aside from eating, internet-ing, shopping and a litttle surfing, Tahiti is... how do I say this without seeming like a pompous you-know-what... well, you could save some money by going to Hawaii instead and probably find more of what you are looking for. There are no really nice beaches in Tahiti. All the coral is dead; snorkeling here is like swimming in a grave yard. Traffic is bad, Papeete is fun but not particularly special, and the water in the lagoon is not super clean (around the city). Granted, there are some magical places in Tahiti - Teahpoo is insane and I am sure on the right day there are epic waves all over the place. There are beautiful waterfalls and hikes, too.

But, after being in the Tuamotus where, well, you have already heard me go on and on about them, Tahiti just seems kind of... like a good place to get groceries and upload pictures onto Facekook (which I hope you enjoyed!). This is why we left Tahiti yesterday and headed for the leeward island of Huahine (still in the Society Islands). After a rolly overnight passage we arrived here this morning, greeted with nice clean blue-green water and rugged hillsides covered thick with vegetation that give one more of a sense of isolation and adventure. The surf is supposed to be amazing, but we came in one pass and it was flat (no surprise, I am used to getting skunked by now). Perhaps the other side of the island will have something. Our friends have been here a few days and say the snorkeling isn't that great here either, but we are spoiled.

Regardless, it feels great to be back in an anchorage with only a few other boats, in water that I feel good about swimming in. There is no Carrefour here, but I think we stocked up sufficiently and can buy the giant stalks of bananas on the beach here (not available at Carrefour).
At 6/13/2011 7:44 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 16°48.04'S 151°00.59'W

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Chuz, Pic-Chuz

For all of you that don't have Facekook, here is a link to an album I posted online... just copy and paste it:

Hooray for a good internet connection!

Saturday, June 4, 2011


The word "Tahiti" conjures up images of a lush, palm tree covered island surrounded by a live coral barrier reef, crystal clear water and beautiful, friendly people. This is a (somewhat) accurate description of the island, but industrialization has certainly left its mark on this little piece of paradise.

We are currently sitting at anchor inside the lagoon of the island of Tahiti with 30 knot winds howling outside. A few days ago a guy came up to the boat and told us the winds could blow as hard as 70 knots in the next few days, but I doubt it, and I hope not because that will keep us trapped on the boat until the winds die down. I am not too stir crazy yet because I got to surf this morning. Yes, that's right: surf! And I surfed the 2 previous days, too.

We arrived in Tahiti on June 1. After getting permission to sail past the airport we found a spot to anchor inside the reef, just outside the marina. Soon after getting settled, Mom, Dad and I headed out into the (what seemed like a) huge city of the outskirts of Papeete. Crossing the highway was way more intimidating than I remember (2 lanes each way, with a crosswalk for the peds), and our first walk through the Carrefour supermarket was mind boggling. I have since learned to navigate the market, as well as the highway.

Our second day Mom and Dad went to do our official check-in to Papeete, while I stayed on the boat. Mom came back very excited and told me she landed me a surf date for the afternoon. Normally I do not let her set me up on dates, but these guys had rented a car and were going to drive around the island looking for surf. How could I resist?!

Pat and Mike off the catamaran Tiger picked me up at the boat around noon, and we set off. Pat is very Australian and after spending the past 3 days wave hunting and surfing with them, I am thinking about getting pissed with my mates. There has been a huge swell in the water the past few days and I have spent hours sitting in the cockpit watching the waves break on the outer reef- huge spitting barrels and nasty close-outs sending whitewash 50 feet into the air. Even the passes have been too gnarly, so we were looking for a beach break that would be nice and tamed by the outside reef.

We looked at a bunch of spots while heading south, often finding them because we saw a surfer or sponger (boogie boarder) disappear into a bunch of trees. The waves on the west side of the island were not looking so good, so we decided to go down to Teahupoo to check things out. Teahupoo is an insane wave that breaks at the pass about 1/2 mile off shore (Google image it). We had no intention of surfing it, of course, but it's kind of a pilgrimage every surfer that finds them self in Tahiti should take on. Even from the shore I could see the wave with a big enough barrel to fit a car inside. Just a huge, round, pitting, pitching barrel. A few people were tow in surfing it, and they looked like little black dots that dropped into the wave then launched out the top. I don't think the wave was very good that day, but it was BIG.

After deciding that Teahupoo wasn't good enough for us, we chose to drive around the island instead of going back the way we came. On the north side of the island we found a bunch of spots with nice little waves, but it seemed like everybody and their grandmother was in the water. Literally, entire families were playing in the surf pretty much everywhere we went. A very water oriented people.

Finally Mike found us a nice rivermouth wave called Papenoo. Although the waves were small, inconsistent and crowded, I was so stoked to get in the water. After not surfing for 2+ months it felt great to finally be on my board again, even though I could hardly get to my feet. Since then I have surfed twice at another beach break on the north side of the island that has a powerful little shore break wave. Today I surfed way better than I did the previous days and have reconfirmed my identity as a surfer.

The past couple days have been a bit of a whirlwind, especially in comparison to the slow pace of the more remote islands. Whereas I am not thrilled about sitting in traffic jams and listening to police sirens, I must admit it was pretty awesome to be able to drive around the island (in a few hours, no less!) and check surf spots from a car. Tahiti is an interesting place - the contrast of the city and everything that entails with the serene beauty that is found everywhere in French Polynesia. And I know there is so much more to be discovered.
At 6/5/2011 3:07 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 17°34.81'S 149°37.14'W

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