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Home Up First Mate's Log Wildlife in Mexico

First Mates Logs

She doesn't write often, but she fills in all the details I neglect...


After three years cruising in Mexico we decided it was time to move on to see some different landfalls and meet some new people.  So, on March 31st, 2007, Mike and two crewmen, John and Bob, sailed Arabella out of Puerto Vallarta headed for Tahiti with the first landfall being in the Marquesas. 

While the boys sailed west, I drove our van north in the company of good friend Marty Marque and new friend Shiera, a fellow cruiser from the boat Moon Shadow.  My mission was to take the car and Buddy (our little dog and faithful companion) back to our house in Yachats, then I would fly out to Tahiti to meet Mike on May 31st.  It was a good ride north as my travel partners were great company and in fact, we never even turned on the radio!  We shared some great stories, insightful conversation and belly laughs that brought tears to our eyes.  Lucky I am to have good friends.

Once we reached the LA area I dropped off Marty and Shiera and headed for my mom’s house where Buddy and I relaxed for the next week.   After that, the time flew by in a blur of hugs and time well spent with family.  Of special note, I spent Easter with my daughter and the following week gave me time to enjoy my grandchildren.  What lovely people they are.  

Before I knew it, Buddy and I were on the last leg of his journey.  That first day we drove all the way from my mom’s house, Granada Hills, CA to Medford, OR.  I don’t know, I guess I kept thinking that I won’t have much time left with my Buddy and I wanted that time to be at the house, so I made haste.  The next day we got to Casa Fulmor but Buck wasn’t there and I couldn’t get my key to work so we jumped back in the car and drove into town. 

Yachats is a fairly small town so it isn’t hard to find someone if you know what their car looks like and Buck’s stands out!  His van was a great deal but the two tone teal and mauve paint job doesn’t exactly match his he-man persona.  Never the less, he deals with it nicely. When I saw his van I also saw our friend Katherine in the parking lot of the newest wine bar in town.  Ha!   Two of my favorite people at an establishment that could only be the perfect end of a long drive; this can’t be wrong.   I pulled in and found not only Buck and Katherine inside but some of my favorite people from Yachats.  It was the perfect homecoming and for the next hour or so I got caught up on the latest gossip and local news while sipping great wine.  Ahaaaa…..

The next couple of weeks slipped by in the comfort of Fulmor Manor puttering about, checking on the fish in the pond, walking around Yachats and visiting with friends.  Buddy was happy to be home and Buck was doing a great job bonding with him.  Then, on Thursday, May 10th, Mike called saying he needed me to come right away.  What?!  I still have two more weeks before I have to travel again, I have everything in place to be in Tahiti on the 31st, besides, I’m not ready!  Sorry says the Captain, but Bob left on his own a few days earlier and John has been ordered off the boat.  Mike was on Arabella by himself, on the island of Nuku Hiva, and the autopilot was broken.  Traveling between Nuku Hiva and Tahiti single handed is tricky business with an autopilot but without one, it’s down right dangerous.  The Tuamotus Island Group is littered with low lying atolls and one must navigate around these atolls to get to Tahiti.  Drat!!  OK, I’ll come.

 Five days, three airlines and two hotels later I stepped off a small plane onto the Island of Nuku Hiva and into my husbands arms.  He greeted me with two beautiful leis, a bottle of good French wine and a rental car to take me back across the island to our anchorage.  It was a beautiful drive and a delight to be back on Arabella once again.  We spent the next two weeks gathering supplies, taking care of business and testing out the boat sailing to some of the most beautiful anchorages I’ve ever seen. 

Our first landfall was the Manihi Atoll, five days from Nuku Hiva and we were ready to sit for a while.  It was a bit tricky getting in but the anchorage was secure.  In fact we were so secure that we couldn’t leave even if we wanted to.  Our anchor chain was wrapped tight around a coral head and the only way we were moving on was with the help of a diver.  Cool.  I’m happy, we are stuck in an anchorage that never rocks and rolls, the snorkeling is great, the local people are genuine and it’s beautiful here.  After a week or so we pulled the anchor with the help of a diver and made our way out of this atoll safe and sound heading for Rangaroa. 

Safe yes but not exactly sound.  About 20 minutes after we made our exit from Manihi, Michael went down below to check the engine and quickly called up with an urgent voice, “Shut Down The Engine”!  Seems the exhaust riser had broken in half and we were now just a sailing boat.  Fortunately she waited until the scary part was over before she insisted that we turn off her motor and unfurl her sails.   We continued to sail toward Rangaroa with hopes that the Mike could come up with a fix for the exhaust riser but by the end of the day we realized that our best bet was to get Arabella to a qualified mechanic in Tahiti so we changed course.  We sailed the next three days while Mike tried several fixes for Arabella’s exhaustion.  It was everything I ever dreamed cruising was all about.  We were on our own in the middle of the ocean and it was up to us to get there one way or another and this time we had to use the sails.  The weather was favorable most of the time as we could keep course and even if we were only going 2 knots at times, at least we were making way to our destination. 

When we arrived at Tahiti Mike had operated on Arabella’s broken exhaust riser with an old Mexican can of pineapple slices (we ate the contents) and a lot of spit and chewing gum well enough for us to get to the first safe anchorage.  We set the hook and sat back listening to a Tahitian drum beat in the night sky.  It was beautiful.  The next morning we awoke to a lovely view of small homes on the water and the beautiful lush green hills of Tahiti.  We really liked being the only ones in the anchorage but Arabella needed to hook up to power and I needed an endless water supply to clean our old girl up after two months at sea.  So, Mike took off in the dinghy looking for a new home.  When Mike arrived back at the boat he was all smiles and said that the next day we have a slip waiting for us just around the corner at the yacht club.  Yippeee!  Sure enough, the next morning we got a call from Michel, the club manager, to tell us we could come in.  We started up the engine with hopes that we could coax Arabella to make just one more passage but no…  she wouldn’t have any of it.  Oh well, she’s been a good girl, time to give her a much deserved rest and we called Michel back to inform him that we were dead in the water.  No problem he said, I’ll be right there and sure enough he showed up five minutes later in a giant Zodiac, side tied to Arabella and took us around the corner to expertly put our girl in her slip.

Since our arrival here we have found an excellent mechanic who has not only fixed the problem we came in with but has helped trouble shoot some of Arabella’s “special needs”.  We have also made friends with our next door neighbor Michael who was recently retired after 37 years as the Chief Engineer on a French Customs boat in the Caribbean.  He has been a jewel with boundless energy and knowledge and he loves to practice his English with us.   The best part is that he has a car and a phone and he knows the city and where all the necessary shops are that a boat owner needs.  Thank you Lord!!  

Once our excellent mechanic, Herve, got into trouble-shooting Arabella’s special needs a bit further, we found that it was essential for us to haul out for a week or so.  The packing gland needed work as well as the transmission and in order to accomplish these tasks the prop needed to be pulled.  I was loving life at the Yacht Club and wasn’t pleased.  One of our favorite pass times while at the Yacht Club was to watch the local dance troupe practice for the upcoming Heiva dance festival.  The Yacht club is right next to the high school and every other night or so the dancers would practice on the basketball court.  So, when we heard the drums start up we’d grab a beverage and wander over to sit on the grass to watch the progress.  It’s a great show and we loved to watch these young people so dedicated to performing their local dances. 

Turns out we didn’t get to see them dance in costume.  Whaaaa!   When they preformed on stage we were in the boat yard.  The boat yard is pretty isolated in an industrial area that once the sun goes down, and the gate is locked and we are on the boat to stay.  Outside the gate we heard and saw the local hoodlums hanging out with their boom blasters cranked up full volume.  Fortunately, the hoodlums didn’t hang out too late and when the real music, the Heiva festival started up, we could hear it just fine and it was wonderful.  The boat yard is located on the jetty at the entrance to Papeete and Arabella was sitting next to the bay with a great view of the city.  When the drums started up we would settle in the cock pit and imagine how beautiful the sight must be.  The music was wonderful.  Another plus being at the yard that week was being able to see the fire works for the Polynesian Autonomy Day celebration.  Both Mike and I (the only spectators in the yard) were hooting and hollering watching the best fireworks display either one of us had ever seen.  We saw all the normal big color blasters and lots of bright sparklers but for this show gold was big.  We saw lots of weeping willow types of fire works shot straight up and then streaking straight down in a rain of gold, then a blast of sound shot a glitter of gold to cover the sky.  Not just once but many times.  WOW!  Still, my favorites were the multi colored ones.  Like someone took a handful of jelly bellies and tossed them in the air, all colors exploding at once, really fun to watch.

Now we are back at the Yacht Club fine tuning and sprucing up Arabella to continue on.  We only have two weeks left on our visas and we still want to spend some time in Moorea, Raietea and Bora Bora.  Oh well, we hear that if we are a day or two late leaving all is well as long as we are leaving…. Yes, we are.  L   One thing I hear over and over by cruisers is that everyone wants to stay.  I do too!  This is a special place and we would love to stay.  In this short time we have made many great friends and grown to love the culture. 

 A few days after we got back to the Yacht Club our good friend and excellent mechanic Herve came by the boat for a visit.  Over some good wine and pu pu’s we talked about all the festivities going on for the Heiva festival.  We were bummed that our head sail was still in the shop and we couldn’t participate in the cruisers race from Tahiti to Moorea the next day.  Herve understood our dismay and offered to take us into town to pick up the ferry for Moorea the next morning so at least we could watch the other cruising boats race.  Great!  At least we could be spectators.  Sure to his word Herve got us to the ferry landing in time to ride the 9:30 boat over to Moorea.  We thought that was perfect as the race was to start at 9:30.  Once on the ferry, Mike and I placed ourselves on the top deck to listen on the hand held VHS for the start of the race.  We saw the pack milling around ready to start but for what ever reason we were getting farther away and the race wasn’t starting.  Just as we landed we heard the race had begun.  Oh well, maybe we can see the finish. 

 Stepping off the boat we had to figure out what now?  Mike saw the dune buggy’s, I saw the cars.  We walked up to Avis and rented a little pod, (what we called it) a car just big enough for the two of us to fit into and set out to circumnavigate the island.  It turned out to be a splendid choice.  Once we turned the corner and couldn’t hear the Tahiti radio station any longer Mike wanted to find some Polynesian CD’s to play.  Sure enough we found a little shop selling music and Mike went in and asked the little Polynesian gal to pick out her favorites for us.  They were great listening as we checked out some of our future anchorages and the rest of this beautiful island.  Traveling on the far side of the island we noticed a bunch of men standing by the road looking out to sea.  We noticed a lot of boats and paddlers so we pulled over to watch an amazing site.  It was part of the Heiva festival, the paddler’s race from Tahiti around Moorea and back again, approximately 40 miles!  The canoes and all of the support boats along side were really something to see. 

Back in our car we were just about back to town when Mike said STOP!  I was the driver because Mike lost his wallet and drivers license back in Barra de Navidad when we ran aground, prop fouled, long story… Anyway, I stopped the car and we happily ran back to greet our friends from the boat Wintersea.  Jack and Linda were anchored in Moorea and wanted to see the island and had rented a pod too!  We told them we were going back to town to watch the race come in so they followed us and we watched the boats come into the bay.  So many beautiful sights on this island and seeing boats under sail in pristine waters is really something special. 

Tomorrow, Michael’s daughter Lucy arrives to sail with us as far as Bora Bora.  Before we leave we will take Lucy and our good friend and dock mate Michael and his wife Alexendra out to dinner on Saturday night.  Our friend Michael has suggested a place to eat where we can see a good show of Polynesian dancing.  I can’t wait.

This coming Monday Mike, Lucy and I plan to make the short passage to Moorea to spend a day or two then we look forward to a safe and happy passage to Raietea and Bora Bora. 


To Be Continued…….