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Bill & Mary Return

Relaxing on Ocelot's trampolines in Bora-Bora
Relaxing on Ocelot's tramps in Bora-Bora

February 29 - March 18, 2004

It's always fun to have friends come back to Ocelot for a second visit!  Bill's a Software Engineer and a sailor himself, so he and Jon have lots in common.  Jon's spent many a pleasant day on Bill's San Juan 21' sloop on Lake Washington and Puget Sound (and many a pleasant evening arguing Linux vs. Windows).  Mary has been home-schooling Meredith and Brendan for years, so she knows the kinds of issues we run into schooling Chris and Amanda.

Exploring beaches is always a favorite activity
Exploring beaches is always a favorite activity

The first time Bill & Mary visited in Bonaire, we were supposed to take them to Curacao and on to Aruba.  But Sue was having major back problems and couldn't even walk, so we had to stay in Curacao to get her sorted out.  Bill and Mary and their kids had to fly on to Aruba without us, just to catch their plane home.  We could only do one sail with them in their whole two week visit (but it was a beautiful spinnaker run).

This time, we were determined to show them a better time.  We covered over 200 miles during their 3 weeks with us, sailing from Tahiti to Moorea, Huahine (overnight under the full moon), Raiatea/Tahaa, and on to Bora Bora.  This covered the heart of the Society Islands of French Polynesia, some of our very favorite cruising grounds.

Mary relaxing in the cockpit as we sail past a small motu
Mary in the cockpit as we sail past a small motu

After exploring Tahiti's urban environment (not this family's favorite), we sailed to Moorea where they rented a car and we all did lots of snorkeling.  Bill is credited with finding the underwater tikis lying on the sand in 8' (2.5m) of water, right in our anchorage!  Although Mary and Sue guessed that they were taken from the church site ashore, in truth the original tikis of the site were wood and had been dumped in the pass a century ago by missionaries.  These stone tikis were carved by a local Moorean artist, and put in the water in commemoration of the original sacred site.  One memorable morning was spent snorkeling with stingrays, but Brendan was a bit under-powered for the current, and there were many tourists also trying to feed the rays which meant mass confusion in murky water.  We had better luck snorkeling between two motus on the NW corner of Moorea.  Meredith spent many an hour "on vacation" with her nose in a book, either down below or lounging in the hammock.

Bill loved steering & often relieved Otto the Autopilot
Bill loved steering & often relieved the Autopilot

From Moorea, we sailed west to Huahine, one of the lesser-known French Polynesia islands, and one of our favorites now!  Huahine is about 85 miles from Moorea - possible as either an overnight or day sail, but you can't arrive at night as there are reefs to negotiate.  We don't usually take guests on overnight passages, as most aren't sailors, but Bill had specifically asked for an overnight sail.  The wind was perfect (18 knots from the east) and the moon was almost full, so we had a delightful sail, with Bill taking Chris's sunrise watch.  Another departure from our normal MO with guests is that we usually only take them to places we've already been before.  It can be stressful looking for new passages through reefs and looking for good protected anchorages in new areas, and we prefer not to expose our friends to that, but we'd never been west of Moorea.  So Bill and Mary had to bear with us for all of our explorations of Huahine, Raiatea/Tahaa, and Bora-Bora.

The kids favorite part of a car tour
The kids favorite part of a car tour - Ice Cream!

Mary was especially taken with the small town of Fare, with its one street, one dock, one market, and laid-back feeling.  We spent about ten days on Huahine, anchorage-hopping down the western coast, snorkeling whenever we could in the beautiful clear water, and walking beaches while engaged in shelling and gentle conversation.  We also spent a great day in rental cars exploring all the convoluted bays and beaches and enjoying the views of the island.  We visited a pearl farm and saw blue-eyed eels in one of the streams.  An ice cream stop at a delightful little B&B, sitting in the shade of the palm trees with a gentle breeze cooling us, with great views of the eastern pass in front of us was a lovely refresher on such a hot day.  The next day, the adults explored some of the old trails and archaeological sites, getting some great views in the process.

Exploring up the river in Raiatea
Exploring up the river by dinghy in Raiatea

From Huahine, we had a glorious spinnaker run west to Raiatea/Tahaa, two islands inside one large lagoon.  Our favorite anchorages were on the sand-banks near the outer reef, with small motus nearby for walking and snorkeling.  We did however stop off first at the main island of Raiatea and take a dinghy ride up the only navigable "river" in the Society Islands.  It was a beautiful stream, with huge flowering ginger plants, and long stalks of bananas with their flowers dangling, and cute pirogue docks along the sides, but recent rains meant the water wasn't very clear in the river or in that anchorage.

Riding out to the pearl farm on the Huahine lagoon
Riding out to the pearl farm on the Huahine lagoon

One of the delightful aspects of these islands is that they're surrounded by barrier reefs, so the water is usually very flat and the sailing can be delightful.  After exploring and snorkeling around the 2 motus surrounding our entrance pass, we decided to head up to Tahaa, the other island inside this lagoon.  This gave Bill the thrill of sailing in the flat, protected waters, but we had to keep a sharp lookout to find the marker buoys and avoid the coral heads and pearl farms that abound.  We didn't actually go to the main island of Tahaa, but we sort of circumnavigated it, anchoring instead off some of the small motus on the barrier reef where the snorkeling was better.

Bill & Jon celebrating another glorious sail to Bora-Bora
Bill & Jon celebrating a glorious sail to Bora-Bora

After a couple of nights around Tahaa, we decided it was time to head for Bora-Bora.  The winds were a little strong for the spinnaker, but we put up all plain sail and flew down.  This sail is nice because the beginning part is in flat water behind the reef around Tahaa, and the last part is in flat water behind the Bora-Bora reef (the only entrance to Bora-Bora is on the western side).  There's quite a thrill to roaring along under full sail in flat water with a brisk breeze just a few yards from a barrier reef.

Sunsets are a delightful time to reflect on life
Sunsets are a delightful time to reflect on life

We anchored just inside the pass, in glorious clear water behind a small island that afforded some nice shelling on the beaches.  The coral was close enough to swim to from Ocelot.  We also took the dinghy to the main town (such as it is) to look around and verify plane reservations.  There we found that they didn't mind us taking the ferry out to the airport (US built during WW II on an outer motu) to see our friends off, so we got a free tour of that part of the lagoon.

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