Logbook: Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea & Tahaa


P1030678Am I seriously going to write a single logbook entry about FOUR of the Society Islands? Yes.

We are truly on “The Giddyup Plan” right now or as we have been calling it, Estrellita is moving “Charter Style” – referring to the fact that charter boats are often in a different anchorage for each meal. We are no longer on the leisurely movement schedule of someone with a long stay visa. We are on the westward slide with the 2014 pack of puddle jumpers trying to pack in as much as we can before we have to escape the hurricane zone.

P1030705We had been to Moorea before and Raiatea before. Mostly we did the same type of things in both places on our recent visit. We had guests in for part of our stay in Moorea (THANKS MOM & DAD!) and we saw stingrays and toured around the island. Raiatea was a short stop at the Uturoa town dock for groceries at the Champion.

Tip: This has to be the best kept provisioning secret in French Polynesia. Easier than a car even, you can roll your cart full of groceries directly alongside your vessel – not even a dinghy ride!

P1030717Huahine was a new stop for us and we arrived in the company of new friends aboard SV Liward. We had hoped to kite but the wind didn’t like that idea and after some fun times and live music we moved on after only a couple of days.

We hit a single anchorage on Tahaa, also a new stop for us. We anchored on a sand ledge, in front of a lovely motu, snorkeled in the strong current of a hoa (false pass) with excellent variety of fish and not bad coral. Really worth the stop.

…then we sailed to Bora TO CHECK OUT OF FRENCH POLYNESIA!

Tahiti Logbook (again) and Pics


P1030605Since our 2012 puddle jump, this visit was our fifth time in Tahiti with our boat (!) and we have also been twice additionally to Tahiti without the boat when flying in and out of the country. This time we had guests (Livia’s parents) and we saw even more of the island than we have seen before. It is true that there always seems to be something new, something more to see even in places that you have spent so much time exploring.

Leaving Tahiti was painful. Over the years we have made some good friends who live in Tahiti and the goodbyes were difficult. Leaving Tahiti behind was also exciting. Sailing out of Tahiti meant westward and new landfalls. Each time we say goodbye to a region of French Polynesia it is a bittersweet mix of sadness and excitement.


Our Weather Routine in French Polynesia

A friend recently asked us which weather files we find most useful in French Polynesia and I thought I would write it up as a post. Notice that we are not claiming to be weather experts, or FP experts. This is not necessarily the state of art, but after two years of being here, this is the state of affairs on Estrellita 5.10b.

subscriptionsFirst, we subscribe to three main files: a spot forecast for wherever we are, the Meteo France region forecast (fr.poly) by zone, and the Nadi Marine forecast for the South Pacific waters (nadi.sopac). We set the time for 0300Z so that when we check email in the good propagation in the evening we have the most recent weather already in our inbox. No need to request it.
Spot forecasts are based on the same models as the gribs and give you the forecast in your grid. If you don’t want to download a full grib they give you a good snapshot. Of course, you can’t see systems forming with a text snapshot of your location. Still, particularly in settled weather, they are enough for us. In the example above, we have requested a spot for our location which gives us a 5-day forecast for every 24 hours. We have subscribed for 7 days so we should get this same spot forecast for the next 7 days without re-requesting it, and it will be sent to us at 0300Z.

While the Meteo France forecast labels are clear for most regions, you will want to download the region map for the Tuamotus or at least memorize which zones you will be passing through. This is a short term forecast but very useful for the swell and for any “BMS” advisories (read at the top). It’s in French but with a few words translated you will be able to get the gist of it. If you don’t speak French, download one before you arrive and google translate a few of the key words. That will be plenty.

The Nadi SP forecast is a way to keep track of the fronts and convergence zones with text and is a great way to figure out if you might get smacked from the wrong direction or whether convergence zones or fronts (and the associated squalls and thunderstorms) are headed your way.

Second, often we also request a grib. We request a grib every few days in settled weather and at least once a day in unsettled weather or on passage. We always get the precipitation layer when we request a grib because the amount of grey (or black) is a good indicator for how squally an area will be.


Tip: If the grib shows light flukey wind switching from one direction to another, in our experience, this is how the models average out a front or some other type of system moving through. What you will often actually get is fairly strong wind, switching from one direction to its polar opposite and/or a lot of squalls.

Other files we request as needed:

There is a Meteo France file we call the "veil" (FRENCH_POLY) because it is weather, written almost in poetry and very difficult for someone who isn't fluent in French to read. It *is* very useful though because it has a longer forecast time period than the other Meteo France file  and also because it talks more about systems and the swell.

We often get the Nadi fleet code (FIJI_FLTCODE). The plug in we have for OpenCPN is very useful to see the fronts. The only problem we have found is that we are running an older version of OpenCPN because our plug in won’t work in the newest version. If someone knows how to fix this, we would love to know.

In hurricane season we get the tropical disturbance (TD_SUMMARY) and tropical cyclone (TC_ADVISRY)  summaries. It is useful to subscribe to those and then they will only be sent to you if they are updated. It’s a little unnerving if you haven’t received one in a while (is my subscription still working?) so we will occasionally request a single one just to check for a return email to our request saying “no updated file available”.

4 Year of Cruising & Dolphins on Our Bow

Wednesday of this week was four years of cruising for us. Wowzers! Difficult to believe we cut the dock lines that long ago.


Here is just under 4 minutes of a close up and personal dolphin encounter - where we actually had time to get the camera out, inside of Rangiroa Atoll, Tuamotus, French Polynesia.

Direct link here.

Gear Review: Odyssey batteries were…underwhelming


Based purely on conversations with other full time cruisers, I believe that we treat our batteries within a fairly normal range  – if there can be such a thing as “average battery use for a full time cruiser in the South Pacific” I think we fit the bill.  That is to say, like most cruisers, we treat our batteries in ways they were not designed to be treated. Our batteries don’t die on us, we beat them to death.

IMG_9054Estrellita’s battery bank cycles mostly between 70 and 90 percent of capacity. We rarely discharge to 50% but we rarely bring our batteries to 100%. AGMs like to be charged to 100% regularly. This was just not practical for us for the most part. Running the Honda until our battery bank is 100% charged (or nearly) happened only occasionally and we haven’t plugged into shore power for two years. Our haul out facilities (when they had power at all) had different voltages than we use and no converters. We could add more solar or add wind but for various reasons (real estate mostly) we haven’t made that decision yet. Our solar does a good job and our regular use of our Honda EU2000 generator brings things up whenever we make water (details on the system here).

Our Sears Diehard Platinum Marine batteries (made by Odyssey) lasted 4 years before they stopped holding useful voltages at moderate levels of discharge.

That is…OK…not bad even.

It’s not terrible. Nothing to complain about, but nothing to get excited about. 600 Amp hours of batteries retailed for $1500 at the time we purchased (we had a coupon to knock that down a bit). That puts the cost at $375/year of service at full price.

Note: The customer service at Odyssey was delightful. Email responses from knowledgeable tech people that were detailed, fast and on target, even though we had purchased our batteries from Sears with the Sears brand. Sears basically wanted us to bring the batteries in. If you live/boat in the US, that would be actually very useful.

A Souvenir of French Polynesia



After seeing the sand paintings done by our friend Valerie on Taravai in the Gambiers, we promptly commissioned her to make one for us. We looked at pictures of her work and showed her our favorites, but left the entire design up to her. We only asked that she include our boat name on the piece. It wasn’t finished when we left the Gambiers and she promised to mail it to us in Tahiti. Yesterday we picked it up and we are absolutely delighted.

All of the substances (sand, dirt, ash) that she uses for her “paint” are from the island of Taravai and are the natural color of the found material – no color added. We are currently in the process of finding some hard poster type board to mount it on and we will be hanging it when we do.

Logbook: Fakarava (again)



P1030371Ahhhh…Fakarava. Having spent so much time in the area, with more time in Fakarava than any other atoll, it was a delight to try two new anchorages, both of which we loved as our last stops in the Tuamotus.

P1030281Hirifa, in the SE corner of Fakarava, about 5 miles from the S pass, was a kiteboarding paradise. Long sand spits for launching, almost no coral heads to hit, and we could anchor either in the protection of the motu or right by a sand bar to shorten our “daily commute”. Add to that, there is a NEW RESTAURANT in HIrifa, run by Liza and her family, who will make delicious meals for anyone with a little advance notice (the day before or perhaps the morning of). We were there for the opening (more on that later) and the feast was spectacular.

We also anchored not far from the N pass in Fakarava. The reef by the first marker as you are heading into the pass toward Rotoava had some excellent snorkeling and the beaches were long and sandy.


Fakarava is a great place to have guests which we did for two weeks (again, more on that separately).

Liquid Motivation: The Blog Machine


P1030575The super attentive or supremely bored might have noticed that we haven’t mentioned our use of our Google Ad money in a while. This is because, when our main computer died, we decided to save our Ad pennies up for a new workhorse laptop. We had several hand-me-down netbooks from family and those sufficed for navigation, airmail and weather, email and photo/blog posting. However, I was unable to edit video which is why we have taken such a long hiatus from posting any until recently.

We have a new computer (woohoo!) – with enough memory and processing power to make videos lickety split and a large screen for use as our in boat “television”. With a DC-DC voltage converter in hand and freeware in hand we are back in business.

Thank you all again for putting up with the ads on the blog, and for occasionally visiting the vendors. The rewards are real for us and I hope by putting them toward a new computer with which I can continue making silly movies, the rewards will be real for you as well.


Click on the dollar and buy Livia and Carol a cold frosty one:


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