TOTAL MILES TRAVELED ON SAIL to SEE EXPEDITION: 9556 NM
Total Miles traveled on last passage: 1409 NM
Sail: 1324 NM
Motorsail: 25 NM
Engines: 60 NM
Animal Sightings in South Pacific Ocean: Dolphins, brown boobies, red footed boobies, tropicbirds, black noddies, flying fish
Average Daytime Air Temperature: 83.3 f/ 28.5 c
Average Sea Temperature: 84.7 f/ 29.3 c
Strongest Wind: 19 Knots
Plastics Collection: 7 Plastics Trawls were carried out for ½ hour each – We caught some plastics in all but two of the trawls. Here is a photo of what we collected. You can see how tiny the plastic fragments are. Micro-plastics are a huge problem as they can be swallowed by fish and birds. The micro-plastics result from larger plastics degrading in the sun and breaking down.
The obvious way to solve this is try and keep plastics out of the ocean in the first place.
Iorana! Our leg started in Tahiti with many other sailboats in a marina next to a city. It finished at a small island in Kiribati where we were the only sailboat anchored and maybe the only one that had been there for a while.
We left Tahiti with our two new Australian crew, Chris and Christine, and spent about ten days sailing through the Society Islands in French Polynesia.
We first went back to Moorea and visited a Marine research facility that is run by UC-Berkeley. A group of scientists was working to place small artificial trees in the reef and hang pieces of live coral from them. The hope is that the corals will grow and form around the trees to replace coral that has been damaged by stresses or cyclones. It all tied in nicely with Emma’s research paper on coral reefs that she was just completing and she got to see some marine scientists from UC-Santa Barbara up close and personal.
We sailed overnight to Huahine, one of my favorite islands. It is very low key compared to the other Society Islands. Everyone is friendly and asks about our boat and where we have come from and where we are going. The locals paddle huge waka amas (large racing canoes) around the lagoon for sport and fun. The school kids take them out in the morning.
In the mornings, people set up tables along the main road and sell fresh fruit, fish and coconut milk. They have the most amazing limes – full of juice. We also love the pamplemouse or Tahitian grapefruit which are very green and sweet. I bought a piece of fish and some coconut milk to make Poisson Cru which is a local dish. You cut the fish into small pieces and “cook” it in the lime then add minced veggies and coconut milk to it. It is like a Polynesian version of ceviche.
Richard and I rented a motor scooter and spent a morning riding around the entire island. Other than the few steep hills, it was fairly relaxing and nice to see more of the island than just where we were anchored. We did this while the girls were doing schoolwork with Ollie. The island is surrounded by a turquoise lagoon with some small islands or motu on the outside. It is all very pretty and the tropical flowers along the roadsides are so fragrant.
There were several archaeological sites to see – large stone marae or altars that were used by the early Polynesians. In one area, stones were laid out to make fish traps that would force the fish into channels and then into a small round area where they could be caught. I believe they are still used today.
When we got back to the boat, the girls and I went ashore to the post office to use the internet wifi which, as usual, was not very fast. We had planned to leave in the early afternoon but by the time we got back to the boat, it was too late so we stayed. We swam to and along the beach and saw some nice corals, anemone fish, moray eels but no sharks.
The following day we sailed between Raitea and Ta’haa and did a plastics trawl in the lagoon between the islands and another before we arrived in Bora Bora.
Dolphins greeted us as we entered the pass to Raitea. We sailed close by a shack built right on the top of a small reef - a fishing shack most likely. Not much allowance for sea level rise here. It is real threat for low lying settlements on the motu of low lying atolls.
In Bora Bora we picked up a mooring beneath the towering Mt. Pahia. Like our last time here, we had lunch at Bloody Mary’s Restaurant. It was like I remembered – sand floors, the ceiling is thatched and all of the furniture looks handmade of a local wood. There are tiki statues watching you eat. They have a shoe check (like a coat check) at the door.
Our server was a local guy named Herman (not very Polynesian sounding). He was a real character who engaged Richard in a long conversation about fishing. By his telling, he is a champion spear fisherman who has won world competitions in Tahiti. The local tackle shop is his sponsor. Herman was also a good self-promoter. He makes Youtube movies of himself diving and fishing. He told us which lures will work best and how far to stream them behind the boat. This is all good because we have had terrible fishing luck since before Galapagos. The last thing he told us was that he could pass along some of his “mana” to Richard. This is a Polynesian word meaning “good luck” we think.
We sailed across to Maupiti the next day. It is one of the smallest and lesser known islands in the Society Islands. The pass into Maupiti is very narrow and it is not possible to go through it if it is too rough or windy. Fortunately, the conditions were perfect so we could go in and anchor on a sand bank that felt like a giant swimming pool. After crepes the next morning, we spent a few hours cleaning the boat - inside and out. We were long overdue for a good cleaning on the bottom especially.
We went ashore to the town next day to spend the last of our French Pacific Francs on pamplemouse and bananas and a few last baguettes. It is a small and very friendly place and more Polynesian than French. All the locals said “Iorana” in greeting instead of Bonjour. It was Monday morning and everyone was busily going to the post office or store or town offices. Emma and I tried to find some internet to upload a few more photos for the latest student logbook entry but found it very frustrating.
We finally gave up and went for a walk instead strolling a couple of miles to a house that we had been to the last time we were in Maupiti. It belongs to a guy who is a Tahitian singer and it is adorned in sea shells. The last time we were here, he sang to me for the NPR radio segments and the crew jokingly referred to him as my “Polynesian prince.” We didn’t meet the prince this time but I think we met his father who sang us some Elvis and Luciano Pavarotti just like the prince did last time!
Click below to watch three minutes of fish, fabulous scenery and fun!!! Emma's latest video - and many thanks to Capt. Ron for the drone footage of Moorea.
In the afternoon we set sail for Christmas Island, Kiribati. It was a lovely sail with 12-14 knots on the beam for most of the passage AND a great big moon. 800 miles along, we made a stop at low, deserted, nearly treeless and uninhabited Malden Island. Everyone went ashore except me. It was too deep to anchor so I stayed aboard and drifted while the others explored. Molly took some really great photos and wrote up a description for the SailtoSee.org website so I will add her text below:
Our first hints of getting close to Malden was a singular coconut tree sticking up from the horizon. Malden was the flattest island I had ever seen, three miles across and by the looks of it, just a couple meters high, if you don’t count the coconut tree, a couple shrubs, and the dilapidated buildings. As we got closer, downwind of the island, the smell of bird guano struck us in the noses. With the hundreds of birds soaring around as we sailed closer, it became evident that birds ruled this island, not man. Gannets, boobies, and frigates all meet in a single flock high over their island.
We landed on the sandy beach and from there, the crew split up to explore Malden. After a while, the smell of bird guano wasn’t too powerful and I got to appreciate the steady feeling of land under my feet. Looking around Malden, I felt like I had just walked into a very rundown area of the Great Plains. There were few trees, all surrounded by ankle high, yellowing grass. In the distance, I could see the lagoon of Malden, a mile or so away. Walking up to one of the shrubs, to my surprise, around fifteen birds flew up from the branches. Scattered on all the trees, there were bird nests. The inhabitants were all red footed and brown boobies, most of them full grown with a couple babies tucked precariously atop the nests.
We explored for a while longer, finding a grave yard, an over turned rail car and many bottles and junk from when Malden was used for mining. Later we found out that the rail car would be loaded with bird guano (which was used for fertilizer) on the East side of the island. A sail would be set and then it would sail back to the West side of the island for loading Richard and I also found scraps of bronze metal and planks of wood that we recognized from old ships that most likely wrecked on the reef surrounding the island. Unfortunately, after an hour, it was time to get back to the boat to keep heading towards Christmas Islands. Looking back, the little excursion went very smoothly compared to some of our other adventures; everyone was safe and well! The crew had a quick swim and then up went the sails and Elcie was off again.
Chris is sorting some of the plastics we picked up one of our trawls on the passage between Maupiti and Christmas Island. The data collected will be sent to 5 Gyres Institute to be added to a world database of oceans plastics. See notes above.
We are not going to have a Saturday because we are crossing the international date line and will turn the clock ahead a full 24 hours. We had to pick a day to miss and since we did not want to miss Easter (and decided that perhaps March has one too many days) we chose Saturday. It also set us up for knowing which day the air flight leaves Christmas Island – the flight our departing crew are joining. There is only one flight per week so we wouldn’t want to miss it.
Along the way, we had to make a courtesy flag for Kiribati as we had never been here before.
Upon arrival, we discovered that the Navionics charts were way off. The small red arrow is us and we are definitely not anchored ON LAND! We are not sure what to expect at all in Christmas Island though boats often stop there and all have good things to say about it. I’m sure it will be very different from the rest of Polynesia.
Here's our fantastic Leg 10 Crew at anchor in Christmas I.
We’ll write about Christmas Island, Kiribati in our next blog entry…stay tuned!