Arrival in the Leeward Islands

Monday, July 21, 2003, 7:00 p.m.

At anchor, Huahine, French Polynesia


Our dinghy on the beach at Avea Bay, Huahine

Dear friends and family:

Most of the previous updates have been written by Barbara.  This time Craig is the one who feels inspired, so you may notice a slightly different perspective.

This morning we completed our passage from Moorea to Huahine, in the northwestern group of the Society Islands.  The French Polynesians call them "les Isles Sous le Vent," which sounds rather more exotic than the Leeward Islands.  (Incidentally, if you have real English salt water running in your veins the latter is pronounced loo-ard.)  Sailing downwind is definitely the cruiser's choice;  in the 25-35 knot winds and 8-10' swells we had a wild ride even going downwind but going the other way would have been a hard slog indeed.  Since the passage was only a little more than 100 miles, the only way to arrive midday (to safely enter the pass in the reef with good visibility) is to leave in late afternoon and sail overnight.  We in fact spent the night trying to keep our speed down, so as to not arrive before dawn.  With 3 reefs in the main and only a tiny scrap of our jib rolled out, we were still running at 6-7.5 knots, slightly faster than desired.  But in that much wind it isn't easy to slow down -- dropping the main altogether would have had the boat rolling even more without its steadying influence.  Despite having to hang on at all times in the resulting motion, we had an uneventful passage, taking turns with 3 hour watches and sleeping in the cradle of the lee cloths on the settee below.

This is a different phase of our cruising experience.  After having one or more crew with us all the way from Portland, it is just Barbara and Craig for a change.  The boat seems a bit more spacious and the privacy is nice.  But we miss Mark's energy and enthusiasm, not to mention his doing the dishes! The passage last night was our first of this trip with just the two of us. While it was too rough to be relaxing, we managed just fine.  But a long passage with that much wind would get very tiring.  We took it easy today after our arrival, having a decent meal, taking a nap and reading. The village of Fare beckons on the near shore, nestled at the foot of the verdant mountains, and the ubiquitous pirogue racers were out racing past us this afternoon.  Tomorrow we will explore, and probably move to a less gusty anchorage. (Note for all of the NW sailors who haven't yet been to the tropics:  we are anchored 1/4 mile offshore, in a location that would be untenable in middle lattitudes where one wants to get into a bay to avoid waves.  But we are on the sand shelf inside the barrier reef.  There is a channel about 60' deep between the island shore and the reef, and we dropped the hook in 20' just on the reef side of the channel.  It LOOKS very exposed, but the reef stops all of the ocean swell.  There are numerous narrow bays indenting the coastline, which we will check out, but they are quite deep, 100' or more.  The channel runs along the entire west side of the island and we will probably explore its length.)

And on a more philosophical note, we sometimes wonder what we are doing here and why. I think it is easier to come to terms with our vagabond existence when we set the agenda and schedule ourselves.  We have found that we need a certain amount of structure in our lives, such as a general plan on where we are going and things we want to do.  But it is definitely nice not being held to an exact schedule.  For instance, we had planned to leave Papeete on Saturday afternoon.  I decided we really should get a detailed island chart of Huahine, which necessitated a bus trip downtown.  But Barbara really wanted to see the Tahiti Museum (in the opposite direction), which was having a retrospective on Paul Gaugin, including some original paintings loaned by the Musee D'Orsay in Paris, and various works from private collections in Tahiti.  So the day got so long that it became easier to leave on Sunday.  Doing what we want, and having the necessary flexibility of schedule are very close to the chief virtues of our present lifestyle.  But you might be surprised at how hard it is to adjust to being less frenetic than our past shore-side lives.  Of course, jumping off the back swim step into crystalline 86 degree water is one way to fill the day...

Best regards to all

Craig and Barbara

SV Sequoia

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