September 14 2015 2100 UTC, 16°43'S, 151°28'W Marina Apooiti, Raiatea

Yeah, haven't touched my web editing software in quite a while. But I have an excuse. We spent all this time in Society Island, mostly on Tahiti and whatever was interesting I already reported on our first visit last year. So why did we spend all this time here? We had visitors from different continents joining us on Levana. Lynn and Johnny from MA spend almost two weeks with us. We took them to Bora Bora on a direct sail from Tahiti and then returned to Papeete with stops on Raiatea and Moorea. We did see some new spots on the tour around Bora Bora, the big cannons left here from the WWII, for instance. And Taozi's sister with her family came from China and spent three weeks with us, mostly lounging around Moorea, enjoying the beach, the sea and the food. Their kids, Muzi (15) and Zimu (4) really enjoyed warm Polynesian water. With them we rented a mini van and toured Moorea island, where we discovered Polynesian village, a tourist setup with a nice dance and fire dance show which we just happened onto.

We missed this year's Heiva but we were able to catch the spear throwing and stone lifting competition. There are always some interesting characters participating and worth showing on the pictures. We also saw a local dance and drums competition in Raiatea which may have lacked the quality of Tahiti performers but certainly had the same if not more enthusiasm performing.

The new experience this year was marina in Papeete. We tied up there twice for a short time - it comes to about 50 USD per day for Levana, with water and electricity extra. It is very convenient though, right downtown with steps to the city market, waterfront stores and bars and is well protected with floating docks removed from the shore and only accessible through one gate.

We are spending time now tied up on the visitors' dock at Apooiti marina, right next to our Swedish friends who have been here for a while now, repairing the schooner that got damaged in the storm off Penrhyn island while sailing down to Bora Bora. Through them we met this fabulous lady, Valerie, who is a chef extraordinaire, French by origin and living on the island for 25 years now. She invited us to her house a few times and on each occasion she prepared a feast. Today's (September 13) lunch, for instance, had 7 (seven) courses!

June 26 2015 2100 UTC, 17°35'S, 149°37'W Marina Taina, Tahiti

That was quite some passage! We have seen it all, howling winds that would not go below 25 knots for the first two days, pleasant but rather slow easterly in the middle part and quite strong northerly for the last day and a half that brought us to Bora Bora screaming at 7.5 knots on Friday morning, after six days and twenty hours.
The size is not quite obvious on this picture but this is a BIG fish, and heavy to pull out!
The first two days we sailed with half of main and staysail, beating into 25 knots of southeasterly wind and barely making 3 to 3.5 knots, drifting quite strongly into the west. Staysail wasn't meant for such sailing, but I kept it there to minimize the load and to keep the boat upright as much as possible. Comfort is a very important part of sailing and tasking the boat and sailors with unnecessary wear and tear makes for unsafe and tiresome passage. Amen! But the passage had some exciting fishing moments. On the fourth day we pulled up a wahu (they call it ono in Hawaii) about three feet long. We had a very nice sashimi lunch with an excellent sauce that has become Taozi's specialty and the rest of the fish went into the freezer. And the next day there was even bigger wahu on the line - at about five feet long and about 40 pounds I think it is the biggest fish we ever pulled on Levana's deck. More sashimi and more fish in the freezer.

We stopped at Bora Bora because a front was coming through the next day but also to see Sjostrom with our Swedish friends. They arrived two days before us although they left Penrhyn a week before we did. They didn't wait for the wind shift that was in forecast and that we got on our third day at sea. We tied to a mooring buoy in front of the Maikai Marine Yacht Club as we did a year ago and rested for a while before we went ashore and had a cool amber beer at the club.

The weather cleared on Wednesday and we left Bora Bora for Tahiti in calm seas, smooth 5 feet waves with 11 seconds period and practically no wind. Motoring of course and making water on the way.

June 12 2015 2100 UTC, 08°57'S, 157°56'W Te Tautua, Penhryn Island, Cook Islands

Still anchored in the same spot. Enjoying the weather, beautiful water, hospitality of islanders, kai kais
Loading and unloading becomes much easier when you have working hydraulics on your truck!
(celebrations for one reason or another) with plenty of food and games with school children. And meanwhile I fixed villagers' tractor, hydraulics on their truck, helped install water tanks on the roof, fixed Mr. T's electric tool and his electric blender (with my mere touch) and fixed couple of broken sunglasses. I think they will sing songs about me after I leave.

We waited for a reasonable weather window and forecast says it is in the works. We are leaving Saturday, the 13th, through the east pass. We checked out and paid the negotiated 2.50 NZD per day. The fee for the boats coming after us will be 2 NZD per meter for their first night and 5 NZD per boat per night after that. Still somewhat high but at least within reasonable limits. We had very nice last days with Mr.T and his family and with Rio and his family although they were all very busy with preparations for the big song and dance competition in Rarotonga at the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the constitution of Cook Islands. Some 120 people from Penrhyn go there for celebration. We went diving for oysters - for dinner, not for pearls - and clams. We also got our parting gifts from Mr.T and his wife Aloha - two beautiful hats for which Penrhyn is known and necklaces made of shells. Ladies hats are really unique on this island and women make them to sell them in Rarotonga or even Tahiti.

May 28 2015 2100 UTC, 08°57'S, 157°56'W Te Tautua, Penhryn Island, Cook Islands

After almost a week at Omoka village we decided to move 7 Nm to the east side of the lagoon - to lee shore of the motu of Te Tautua village. While still getting nice wind we are anchored in almost flat water, over 20 feet sandy bottom. We met Lonnie and Bona on Good News - they spent already two months here. And Doni arrived with his schooner and shortly after him Eleutheria and Drina. They too made it over to east side and so all the crowd from Fanning Island is here (except Eric who went to Samoa)!
This is one of Isam's designs in pearls, shells and diamonds

People are extremely nice and hospitable here - but almost everyone has something to be fixed or a missing part or something else that a boater can provide or fix. And while drinking coffee after nice lunch with a village family you certainly try to do your best to oblige. Fish are in abundance and every crew goes out to spear fish - even Taozi killed her first fish with the Hawaiian sling. That is much easier tool to use than our spear guns. Snorkeling at the east passage was also very interesting. Mountains of corals and all kinds of fish - and of course a lot of black tip fin sharks which are quite peaceful unless you have a fish on your spear.

Penhryn lagoon is known for its 'golden' pearls. Their color is mostly yellow(ish) but there are some white and some purple and even some green. The shells that produce them are much smaller that oysters used in cultivating pearls in Tuamotu's pearl farms and consequently the pearls are much smaller. And they are of course natural since the shell would not survive the forced opening and insertion of the nucleus. I met Isam, an Iraqi guy from Australia who is a wholesale trader for natural pearls and comes here to buy them. Interesting guy with an artist side - he painted some frescos on houses here and supposedly one of his paintings is hanging in Sydney airport.

May 20 2015 2100 UTC, 08°59'S, 158°03'W Omoka, Penhryn Island, Cook Islands

Yes, we skipped Christmas Island. Decided that there is really nothing for us to see, actually this decision was based more on the fact that the wind was right on the nose, going from Fanning to Christmas. And that would mean a lot of motoring on those 200 or so Nm.

I haven't mentioned my beer brewing experiment. I've bought several brewing kits from a shop in Honolulu (Home Brewing Paradise - what a name) and halved all the quantities to make just one single gallon. It came out surprisingly good. I brew it on Fanning and it was fermenting on the way to Penrhyn. I bottled it, some ten bottles, and let it rest and cool for few days. At some point I didn't know what I was drinking, Samuel Adams which bottle I used, or my own brew - it was my brew, of course. The success raised my enthusiasm for brewing and right now I have two one gallon bottles fermenting.

The night before our departure was quite exciting. We woke up towards the morning by the wind howling around the shrouds and our dinghy jumping wildly on the waves and almost full of water. We got the outboard out of it and bailed some water and then it floated somewhat easier. But the wind gusted up to 40 knots and our anchor started dragging. No other way, I turned on the motor and drove Levana into the wind to compensate and keep us from bearing down on Drina behind us. After wind settled down a little we were able to reset the anchor and then it held.
Cook Islands prime minister came to open this solar power plant few days before our arrival.

Passage to Penrhyn was an exercise in patience. The best day was the first day of sailing with 134 Nm in 24 hours, all the rest was around 100 and the slowest even had 91 Nm. It is a good way to explore yourself and your attitude toward the sea and the wind. And to study the weather and use the available data to try to predict the best path of the passage. Well, in this case the straight line would be the best if the wind would allow, but we were being pushed west and on once occasion we motored straight 14 hours to make way and to make it in good direction. We made it to the entrance on the west side of the atoll in the morning, just little before the low tide. We went it against 1/2 a knot current and found enough water in the passage to get through very comfortably. There was a different story finding a good place to anchor at Omoka village but given some description of a good sandy place we put our new Rocna down in 44 feet of water.

The health inspector and immigration officer/police officer boarder Levana for inspection. All went well until police officer told us that there is a island council imposed anchoring fee in the lagoon - at 2 NZD (New Zealand dollars) per meter per day! That would amount to 26 NZD per day and 364 NZD for the two week stay that we planned. I was paying that much in Honolulu marina for a slip with fresh water and electricity and showers and toilets. I told Ben (police guy) that if that is the case we would leave! Then we somehow negotiated the fee to 2.50 NZD per day, what it was in previous times, before he assumed his position here - which was rather recently, since our friends on Good News, anchoring here for six weeks, paid that much. And talking to some council members they all agreed that this is the right fee and the exuberant one was somehow accepted in confusion. Nice story. I am sure that the new exuberant fee would make it all over the internet and cruising boats would make a big circle avoiding Penrhyn in that case.

May 01 2015 2100 UTC, 03°51'N, 159°21'W Fanning Island, Kiribati

The first landfall on the way to Tahiti is Fanning Island in the Republic of Kiribati. One week of rather smooth and fast sailing - actually exactly 7 days and 4 hours for 1065 Nm that we covered. We had several days of 150+ nautical miles, which makes for 6.5 knots average. For few days we had winds constantly between 22 and 28 knots. Our new crew member, Monitor, the wind vane pilot, worked very diligently and quite accurately. This is the best addition to Levana and worth every penny (it was expensive). And when in port or at anchor it swings open to starboard side and allows the use of our swim platform and ladder.

Fanning Island is a very interesting community of about 3000 people. Belonging to Kiribati Republic with capital Tarawa some 2000 miles away it is quite lonesome. Christmas Island with weekly flights to Tarawa and Honolulu is about 200 miles away towards southeast and into prevailing winds and only reachable by boat - and not a scheduled one. There is a freight boat coming to pick up local exports of sea weed and copra once in a while and there is a supply ship coming every few months from Hawaii.
Isn't she beautiful?

We made friends on the island - which is not hard since everyone is so friendly. Chief of police - I think the only policeman on the island - became my drinking buddy. Interestingly, the island itself is a dry island by the island council decree (one councilor from each of the seven villages on motus around the lagoon). You cannot buy alcohol but you can cut into coconut palm sprouting leaf and in some four days drain about a quart of sap into a bottle. Very sweet juice! And in another three to four days it ferments into a drinkable coconut beer (or wine, I have no idea which). Alcohol contents and sourness vary with the time it has been left to ferment. It is strong enough to get locals shit faced in the middle of the day - but there are only a few of them that go overboard with the drink. Most of them drink responsibly but they like beer and wine from boats that anchor inside the lagoon.

On Saturday Doni from the Swedish schooner organized a pig roast for all four boats' crew at Tyron's kava bar. Apart from the pig the local side dishes were delicious. Too bad we didn't have cold beer to drink with the dinner on this "dry" island. But the evening was a great success in part thanks to local singers that sang with the two man band.

And Sunday was a church day. Not that I care about any particular denominations ("religion is the source of all evil" - says Martin's tattoo on his back), but if I go, I go to catholic church to see the Golgota stations. And in these islands I go for singing. And the singing was surprisingly good and everyone joined in (not us, foreigners, of course). A lot of kids at the service, behaving very well and singing along. Kids are really happy creatures in these South Pacific islands. And very beautiful...

Apr. 14 2015 2000 UTC, 21°17'N, 157°50'W Honolulu, Oahu

Yes, we are still in Hawaii, on Oahu, but we are leaving tomorrow morning at dawn, sailing south to Fanning Island, on to Christmas Island, then to Penhryn Island and finally to Tahiti. With all stops I expect to arrive to Tahiti sometime at the end of May or in early June

We didn't see much of Oahu, made only one drive around the island. Mostly we worked on Levana - Taozi varnished almost all wood inside the cabin and around the deck. I replaced corroded windlass - the first installation wasn't done right and obviously there was no insulation between steel bolts that hold windlass in place and aluminum spacer. Only one of four bolts was still holding other three threaded holes were chipped away! I was really lucky to discover that now and not in some remote anchorage with wind pushing me towards the shore and windlass breaking.

Levana has new bottom paint, three coats, one black and two blue. When I start seeing black it will be time to haul out again and repaint. I also added Monitor wind vane to help us steer the boat. It was quite a undertaking doing it myself. I did end up with two surplus holes on the swimming platform but that was the only problem with the installation. We did a test run with it and it behaved really well. It does need some fine tuning and we'll do this while under way.
This is the building. Our balcony is on the near corner of seventh floor.

To sleep better while anchored I moved our primary 35 lbs Spade anchor and replaced it with 73 lbs Rocna, also enhancing the whole anchoring system with 300 feet new 3/8" high test chain. That should hold Levana in place even in gale winds.

Another quite expensive upgrade was top down furling system for our butterfly spinnaker. We only tested it at the dock in very light wind and it furled just fine. Have yet to see how it behaves under way. But it should allow us to use the spinnaker more often since it can be quickly furled in front of the jib.

Oh yes, and we bought a condo in Waikiki, some 5 minutes walk to the famous Waikiki beach on one side and two minutes to Ala Wai Canal and park on the other side - with a golf course across the canal. Too bad that I don't play it :-).