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Day 1,520 - Rairua, Raivavae (23° 51S 147° 41W)
09:22hrs - July 28th 2011
Little Luxuries

We're excited, because tomorrow we set sail for The Society Islands and Tahiti!

We're excited not just because we're sailing to one of the most enviable destinations in the world - a remote island paradise where tourists flock to relax on champagne beaches, hike wild tropical volcanic canyons, and bathe
in warm azure lagoons, but rather for more practical reasons - like laundry,
a hot shower, and shopping.

You may think that we've lost the plot, after-all, how can we be looking forward to visiting a laundromat or supermarket, more than say the Musée de Tahiti et des îsles, or the tomb of King Pomare V? Well, try living on a small boat for fifty-two days, when twenty-four of those days were at sea, and during this time you haven't had a single hot shower and that all your sheets, towels and clothes, even after being 'thoroughly washed' in a small bucket by the side of the road, are still slightly damp, salty and a little sticky.

We're not complaining, mind you, we know how lucky we are and we love this life, even after 1,520 days, and we wouldn't change it for all the wash cycles, hot baths, fresh produce, and steak dinners in the world. But that doesn't
mean that we don't occasionally miss some of life's little comforts.

But most of all, we're excited to see our nephew, Alistair, who will be joining us from London in a little over a week. And now Raivavae's festival is over, which ended last night, in an exciting drum beating, hip swaying, knee shaking finale, it's time to head off and get Dream Time shipshape, which includes, finally, repairing our broken forestay.

 
 







 


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Day 1,517 - Motu Tuitui, Raivavae (23° 51S 147° 41W)
19:14hrs - July 25th 2011
A Little Paradise

Raivavae is a pretty small island, so to get a better feel for the whole experience we have walked through, cycled around, climbed over, swum in and sailed all the way round this little gem of place in our short time here, and we have enjoyed every last moment. We were even lucky enough to be here for the French Bastille Day holiday on July 14th which was happily combined with a grand traditional Polynesian festival. We got front row seats for men’s and women’s outrigger canoe races, running while balancing 60lbs of taro on your shoulder races, and spear throwing contests where the goal is to hit a small coconut attached to the top of a 25 foot pole from 70 feet away! And of course because it's a polynesian holiday there is lots of feasting, dancing, drumming and general jolliness for everyone. Altogether a wonderful French Polynesian experience. Oh and by the way, if like me, you have a pathetic weakness for those giant impossibly sweet and madly juicy kind of grapefruits they call pamplemousse, that until now I thought you could only find in the Marquesas islands, well they are magically and fantastically here in lovely Raivavae, ahhhh bliss!

Unfortunately our time in this gorgeous little Polynesian lagoon is almost over.  But next week we sail six degrees north to the warmer latitudes of Tahiti to pick up 13 year old nephew number three, Alastair, who is flying in from London to spend a month with us on the boat.  I’m still not sure who is more excited, but we can’t wait!  See you soon Alastair!






 


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Day 1,505 - Motu Vaiamanu, Raivavae (23° 52S 147° 37W)
19:54hrs - July 13th 2011
Discovering Raivavae

Cruising guide and travel books liken Raivavae to Bora Bora - the pearl of the South Pacific. Some even
go as far to describe Raivavae as the most beautiful island in all of Oceania. I would have disputed this claim a week ago, but now we're anchored in the southern lagoon, I think perhaps they may be right.

On the first clear, calm, and sunny day we've had since we arrived from New Zealand, we set off around
the western tip of the main island, under the shadow of Mount Mototea, and into uncharted waters, literally, as much of Raivavae's lagoon is shown to be unnavigable with vast areas of shallows and unsurveyed reef. But with the right light and a good bow watch, most motus (outer islands) and corners of the
lagoon are accessible.

After three hours of meandering our way through endless mine fields of coral bombies tightly scattered across the sandy bottom, we anchored an unscathed Dream Time off Motu Vaiamanu, in a lagoon that indeed rivals that of Bora Bora. But unlike Bora Bora, whose beauty must be shared with hordes of jet-skiing tourists, honeymooners, charter boats, kayakers, fellow cruisers and entire neighborhoods of
over-the-water bungalows that seem to sprout from almost every motu, Raivavae, with its impressive volcanic ridge of Mount Hiro, valleys draped in blankets of lush vegetation, quiet sandy uninhabited motus with swaying palms, and a healthy lagoon brimming with colorful coral, thousands of clams and happy unharassed reef fish, there is practically no one here, in fact we have the entire lagoon completely to ourselves.

So why has Raivavae been spared from overdevelopment, and sun-seeking tourists? - While we are
just 400 miles south of Tahiti, where the tropical sun and steady trade winds promise almost day after uninterrupted day of warm weather, down here, just above the variable wind belt, where high and low weather systems regularly deliver colder southern air to the island, the water temperature is kept at an invigorating 64 degrees Fahrenheit, and if the sun hasn't got its hat on, the air temperature is not much higher.

But if you're searching for a unique experience in a remote South Pacific island, one that's as unspoiled today as it would have been when Captain Cook was cruising the neighborhood, Raivavae will not disappoint. And even though the locals will be sure to greet you with warm smiles when you arrive,
be sure to pack a fleece and a wetsuit, because you'll probably need them.





     
 


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Day 1,499 - Rairua, Raivavae (23° 51S 147° 41W)
11:42hrs - July 7th 2011
Stuck!

Local legend tells of two giant stone tiki statues (which are thought to protect those they watch over) that lived on Raivavae Island, and how they were removed - shipped to Tahiti and imprisoned in a museum. The story goes that a third tiki existed, son of the two great tikis, which managed to escape, throwing himself into the lagoon before being loaded onto the transport vessel. And although no trace has ever been found of the third tiki, many believe the tale. Many too, believe the curse of the tikis - claiming that all those who touched the great tikis, those responsible for their removal, have all died mysterious deaths.

 

Yesterday I dove down to the depths of the lagoon off Rairu village, not to search for the lost tiki, although
I did keep an eye out for him, but rather to free ourselves from the anchorage. The weather - strong trade winds squashed together by a passing high pressure system, have prevented us from exploring the southern side of the Raivavae, and with a virtual minefield of coral 'bombies', both sunshine and calm conditions are necessary to safely navigate the lagoon. But even if the conditions had been favorable,
we would have been unable to leave.

For the last four days the combination of strong winds and currents through the anchorage have been spinning Dream Time around in circles, and our anchor chain had found and wrapped itself three times around a rock. Now, we've had a fouled anchor chain before, but we've always managed to free ourselves by motoring Dream Time around the obstruction. But this time no amount of maneuvering, tugging or cursing could unwind the chain, which was encircling and wedged tightly under two layers of rock shaped like a snowman - or perhaps a tiki if you used your imagination.

At 45 feet, the chain was too deep to free dive and unwind, but thanks to our neighbors Michel and Christine on Inia, who were kind enough to lend us their scuba gear, I made my first emergency solo dive from Dream Time.

Unwinding the chain by hand was easy enough, and I'm happy to report that we are free from the offending rock, have reanchored, and are now ready to explore the other side of Raivavae. But with 35 knots of wind gusting over the island, we're still stuck here, so it looks like, for the next few days at least, we won't be going anywhere.





 
 


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Day 1,495 - Rairua, Raivavae (23° 51S 147° 41W)
10:48hrs - July 3rd 2011
Back to the Basics

Except for our forestay and headsail which, lashed to our starboard side, remain an unfortunate reminder of the eventful portion of our passage, all signs of our twenty four days at sea have been cleaned, packed, or stowed away, and life on Dream Time is slowly returning to normal - 'normal' being a relative term when cruising.

For five days we have been anchored in the protective waters of Raivavae next to our friends Ding, Emily and Miranda on Chiquita - who arrived ten days before us and just happened to be our berth buddies back in New Zealand last month.

Raivavae is definitely off the milk run (the 'coconut milk run' that is - the tropical trade wind route followed by most cruisers). There are few businesses here, virtually no tourism on the island, no banks, no restaurants, no cafes and certainly no gift shops. There are just a handful of stores which carry a limited inventory of goods, and it seems everyone relies almost exclusively on Tuhaa Pae II - a 30 year old supply ship that delivers everything from diesel to deodorant once every 2-3 weeks, and as luck would have it, arrived yesterday.

We are definitely back to basic cruising again. As there are no petrol stations in Raivavae we got diesel pumped directly from Tuhaa Pae II into our jerry cans, which the crew lowered by rope over the ship's stern into our dinghy. We're doing our laundry in a bucket by the side of the road, using water that trickles out of a hose which is plumbed directly into a nearby stream. And on Friday we walked over two hours to a neighboring town to find a local farmer, just to buy a bag of fresh tomatoes and a bunch of bananas.

But we actually enjoy the inconvenience of it all, it's part of the adventure. You never quite know what's going to happen, where you'll end up or who you'll meet. You can go ashore to buy a stamp (from a post office that never seems to be open) only to find yourself in the middle of a dance festival. And the locals want to include us in everything - from rowing in a six-person outrigger canoe during afternoon training, learning to dance Polynesian style, to playing bongos or a ukulele during an evening jam session. And as there are only 800 or so residents on the island, we feel as though we know most of them already.

Next week we will sail around the southern side of Raivavae to explore the uninhabited motus and the wilder side of this remote island, and as the cruising fleet is to the north, chances are we'll have the lagoon entirely to ourselves.