May 23, 2020 ; 7:46 AM
17°49’S, 149°85’W – Opunohu Bay
A note to our hometown: Before we dig into our adventures aboard Amazing Grace, we extend our deepest love and prayers for the people of Midland, MI. Yet again, many of the people we love are in crisis back home. We’re sad that we’re unable to be there to help muck out your houses and provide support in the way we wish we could. Thank you for standing by each other, we’ve heard incredible stories of selflessness from the amazing community we know you are! For anyone else wishing there was more they could do to help, here’s a way to donate from afar: https://unitedwaymidland.org/resources/flood-resources/
THE BIG NEWS ABOARD AMAZING GRACE
We are free, free at last!! A few days ago, we received approval from the French Polynesian government to sail within the islands of French Polynesia. That means our exploration area increased by 107 island- and it feels oh, so good.
After saying goodbye to Papeete in fanfare, we set sail for beautiful Moorea, where we are anchored until the wind is right to sail back to the Tuamotus. Predict Wind tells us we should be able to head that way within the week. Since we sailed past the Tuamotus on our way here (due to a Covid-19 request to not pass go, not collect any coconuts, and head straight for Papeete), getting back to some of the most remote and unique islands in the world means sailing against the trade winds. We are, of course, determined to explore those islands and are lucky to be planning our passage with other (and more experienced) sailors here in Moorea (Celtic Star and Influencer).
MAURUURU, PAPEETE MARINA
We were incredibly lucky to get a spot in Papeete Marina upon being redirected to Tahiti for confinement. It meant being surrounded by World ARC friends and having freedom to exercise on land, go to the grocery store, etc. at our leisure. When confinement lifted, it gave us opportunities to connect with locals like Tracey, who took us in and showed us their island in a special way. We now know a virtually tourist-free Tahiti, which is a rare and magical thing.
Still, after almost 7 weeks in the same slip with our sails furled, we are ecstatic to say THANK YOU, NEXT to Papeete Marina.
Before we left (when we were still only allowed to sail within this archipelago), we spent a couple days getting the boat ready to sail, provisioning, and saying “see you soon” to a lot of our friends in Papeete. This meant happy hours on the dock, games of bananagrams, final workout classes, and even a day out at the Belvedere to enjoy their infinity pool and view. We swam and laughed and drank pina coladas, topping off the night with good friends (Amari, Remedy, Bellevie).
Maximillian set up surfing lessons (and schooled us all) on a pretty, white sand beach on the northeast side of the island. Our guide was wonderful, and everyone at least stood on the board before the end of the day. Captain Dave and I really surfed! I mean rode the wave all the way to where I had to bail or hit the rocks surfed. Caught a wave and I was sittin’ on top of the world.
On our last night, Tracey arranged for us to visit a beautiful beach bar and eat traditional Tahitian cuisine with performances from a local dance group and her lovely daughter, Pearl. We were lucky because the dance groups aren’t performing as the resorts and large restaurants are still closed. But Tracey was brokenhearted that we weren’t greeted on the docks with lays and dancing (usual Polynesian welcome) due to the crisis. Now that I’ve experienced it, I know I would have been brokenhearted to miss it, too.
It was a perfect night and the Amazing Grace captain and first mate got a little too much attention…
THE ADVENTURE BEGINS AGAIN
Gracie Girl got out and stretched her sails on Wednesday, May 20 for the first time in almost 7 weeks. IT WAS GLORIOUS. We were actually planning to sail around Tahiti and see some of the remote anchorages, but a shift in wind led to a mid-sail decision (led by Celtic Star) to check out Moorea first, instead. Then a ¾-sail decision (led by Amazing Grace) meant anchoring in Opunohu Bay instead of Cook’s Bay for a better reef and different view.
When you’re sailing, you have to be flexible, and our flexibility paid off because this bay is BREATHTAKING and the snorkeling is out of this world.
Our first night here we reconnected with some old ARC friends who were in the other marina in Tahiti (Milanto, Ariel, Sea Lover) at a beach happy hour. While we loved our little crew in Papeete Marina, we so enjoy hearing about the past 7 weeks on the other side of the island from people who had different experiences than us. My friend who lived aboard Gracie Girl for a week in Papeete is also here, working on a superyacht as a nanny, so she has good stories to tell as well 😊.
Influencer took us to their favorite snorkel spot, complete with rays, large fish, and reef sharks. It’s an area where the tour boats typically come and feed the fish, which means they’re friendly and many. We took the dinghy around the island to see it and had the best time.
One of the rays got a little fresh with Captain Dave, swimming up his body to give him a little kiss! It was a magical morning.
We’ve also been swimming with Influencer in our own little pacific sailor swim team. Yesterday morning started with about a mile swim to the water huts of the Hilton. Just out and around those huts is the most incredible, beautiful coral with huge schools of fish to swim with. It was my favorite proper exercise swim ever. We followed a reef the whole way there and saw all kinds of things. Anteater fish, kindergarten fish, trumpet fish, maize ‘n blue fish, and parrot fish were everywhere (at least two of those are actual, official fish names). On the way back, we even spotted some spotted eagle rays! I may never be able to do laps in a pool again.
Anchorage life is a lot of swimming, sunning on the beach, reading books, grilling, and meeting up with Influencer and Celtic Star for sundowners and passage planning. We are seriously back to LIVING THE DREAM out here, now that we are free to sail and anchor where we please (within French Polynesia).
First mate, Amazing Grace
TLDR: We are FINALLY free (free at last) to sail around French Polynesia! Captain Dave was overheard on his dinghy yesterday saying, “I don’t know if you know this, but this has been my dream since I was about 5. Always in a swimsuit, swimming off the back of my boat, taking my dinghy to go see my friends and plan adventures…” I’ll spare you the rest of the monologue.