Thursday, June 4, 2015

Land Ho! Tahiti is in sight at sunrise!

Good Morning to everyone! Family Circus has sighted land! Tahiti is dead ahead, maybe 24 miles out. Its quite a mountainous island, and the largest in French Polynesia and quite a visible change from the atolls of the Tuamotus, where the first sight you'd see would be palm trees, and only when you were within a few miles of them.

Sighting land for the first time never seems to get old, even though this trip we've been on is very short- only 230 miles and one overnight. (Its funny how our family now gauges trips by "How many nights, Daddy?" - Alina and Amaia I cant imagine what it would have been like for sailors who would have been for see for multiple months, in crappy conditions, hoping that their navigation was right. We've had a very easy passage from Toau, having left yesterday morning at 0345 in sparkling moonlight, flat seas and unfortunately no wind.

Our starboard engine (we generally only run one on passage to conserve fuel) has gotten a workout over the last 27 hours, but I just was able to turn it off for this final run in to Papeete. The wind is up to 9-11 knots and Family Circus is moving along smartly at 7-8 knots on a close reach. Heather took the 11-2 shift, Mykaela 2-5, and I got to sight land at 6am- with Tristan and Lexi sleeping in the cockpit, Amaia we moved to the couch, and Alina crawled in to our bed. (Tristan got up for 2 groggy minutes to see land and is now back asleep). I am sitting on the aft deck, in a bean bag, with a coffee at my side, a blanket wrapped around me as the temperature has dropped a bit, the sun rising over some squally clouds to my left, and Tahiti getting closer to my right - I have had much worse mornings.

We're running out of time!!!!! Thats the realization I'm coming to. The French government allows us a 90 day visa for the visit unless we apply for a long term visa ahead of time in an embassy in the US. Given our plan to sail through much of the vast Pacific and arriving in New Zealand this winter, we cant afford much more time anyway, but just the same, it feels rushed to do the "Society Islands" (Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Bora Bora, Maupiti) in one month and four days, which is all we have left on our visa. I probably shouldnt complain too publicly, as I do remember the "real world" from just 9 months ago, but nevertheless, thats whats running through my mind.

Several cruisers have minimized the Tuamotus in conversations with us, while others raved about them and I am glad we listened to the latter. Pristine water with visibility past 100 feet, endless fish and coral to peruse, nobody around - it was an easy environment to get used to. Unfortunately our underwater cameras dont seem to capture the visible experience close to what our own eyes do, but they'll have to do. We also got much more used to sharks than I expected us to, although on the second to last day a grey shark reminded us that we are guests in their world.

After talking with the locals about which fish would have ciguetera (none in this atoll- its an atoll by atoll thing) and which fish were good eating, we decided to try spear fishing. We had done much less than I had hoped since starting this trip. Back home, when I dove with my brother Mike, the main challenges are going deep enough, finding the fish and staying warm. Here staying warm was replaced by "you have somewhere between 30 seconds and a minute to get the fish out of the water after you spear it" - it was an interesting new wrinkle. I also had heard that some people think that the sharks now know the sound of speargun triggers firing, or spears hitting coral, and they start paying a visit. We had picked a fairly rough first day to hunt around with the boys from Shine, but it was exciting for Tristan to be hunting as well. I finally hit a flounder/flat fish and landed it in the boat without an issue, so I started feeling good about it.

About 10 minutes later, I was chasing a grouper, and popped up to check on where the dinghy was so that I knew where to swim to. Everyone was back in the dinghy and Tristan was beckoning me over with a frantic wave. I put my head down and started kicking over, and when I was within 6 feet I saw a large movement in the periphery of my goggles. I glanced over and saw a very large grey shark making circles and eyeing the neighborhood- he was probably only 5 or 6 feet long, but unlike the other svelte black tips, he was a very portly, powerful looking beast. Apparently, Patrick had hit a grouper, and the boys were poking at another one, when the shark turned up and started nosing really closely to where the boys were. Patrick said the boys jumped in to the dinghy powered purely by strong leg kicks, barely using their hands. I kept glancing down as I jumped in to the dinghy myself, and we decided to end our hunting for the day. It was a lasting memory, and one that Tristan wont forget soon- what at adventure!

Well, the sun is now revealing the green hillsides of Tahiti, and I've got to go put the fishing lines in the water, read about port entry and get the kids breakfast, but we hope to write and send pictures soon. We hope you are all doing great and emnjoying your adventures! CHRIS

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  1. How exciting to be arriving in Tahiti! I remember commercials for Tahiti Punch during Saturday morning cartoons as a kid. Now you are there and we need to get there! Someday...not too far in the future... Thanks for creating great visual pictures in my mind with your writings - so inspirational! Sail on!

  2. You guy need to check out Teahupo! One of the heaviest waves on the planet and you can sail right up and watch the surfers!