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Thursday, July 17, 2014

TAHITI to Moorea, French Polynesia - Day 75 - 81

When weather wouldn't cooperate for sailing away, we stayed a few more days in Tahiti. We checked into renting a car – but no cars available. Thought about taking a bus down to see one of the most awesome surf beaches known to mankind (I would have really LOVED to see one of those muscly surfer dudes ride the pipeline!) - but it rained instead.

Jim took a hike that wasn't too muddy and got some incredible photos! Carolyne and I took a bus into Papeete and looked at some magnificent black pearls at Mihiarii Pearls. I bought one for Carolyne that she picked out with a soft sea-green hue... lovely. It was very fun perusing through all the colors and sizes and shapes. Mihiarii will drill a hole in your pearl for free if you like and you can even pick a setting for it, although the prices were inflated. Carolyne also got herself a "pareo" – basically a sarong – to remember our trip to French Polynesia... not that she could ever forget it!

My nasty head cold has moved on and now we are battling impetigo. We noticed that Carolyne had several sores on her legs that "bloomed" into a worrisome bacterial patch. We jumped on them with rubbing alcohol and triple antibiotic creams. These types of staph infections are common in the tropics, very contagious and we didn't want it to get out of control. Keeping the area clean and treating them once or twice a day seemed to do the trick.

We had hoped to enjoy Bastille Day in Papeete – but the buses weren't running for the entire weekend or on Monday and our 15HP outboard is overheating. We were stuck. So, I worked on a large canvas repair job and modification for another cruiser before we left for Moorea. What a beautiful island! I so wished we had left Tahiti days ago and could spend more time in the various bays in Moorea. It is beyond describing – except to say that it looks exactly like one might imagine when thinking of the South Pacific. It is fairytale beautiful!

In the morning we cut up some of our frozen skipjack that we had in the freezer and dinghied down the very narrow channel (dodging numerous bommies!) to an area where the hotels bring tourists to feed the stingrays. It was a gray day with large clouds threatening rain, so there were very few people there.

We forgot our anchor, so tied off on one of the channel markers and snorkeled over to a shallow area, holding our tupperware full of fish chunks above the water. Numerous black tipped sharks swam around the perimeter... thus, why we had our fish out of the water!

Once we arrived at the spot, we were waist deep and stood on the sandy bottom when 6 or so enormous sting rays swam up to us. I hardly had time to remove the lid off the container before one poked his head out of the water and began to climb on top of me. His table manners were atrocious as he began sucking and slurping – literally slurping! - toward my face. I quickly gave the ray a chunk of fish hoping to satisfy him when all his friends came galloping over to also get some kibble. They almost knocked me over! It was thrilling!

Carolyne also fed the giant beggars – she was wearing a bikini and so really got to experience sting rays slurping at bare skin. They allow you to pet their slick, smooth wings. At times we had to push some of them away because they were crowding and pushing. We had to be very careful to avoid stepping on them – they liked to swirl around our ankles and feet – and we didn't want them to sting us with their very large barbs.

The sharks came in very close but never challenged the rays for food. Instead, they circled or came within a foot of our legs, but waited patiently for a scrap to float by. It is the first time I have ever felt comfortable feeding the sea life during swimming. There was a very large stingray, however, that had a nice bloody bite mark on her face... clearly she had an earlier scuffle with a shark!

Jim took some amazing video – I mean AMAZING! I can't wait to get it downloaded to Youtube so we can share. If you ever get the chance to experience feeding sting rays in Moorea, remember that they like to eat fresh fish. We were told by several others who brought sardines that the rays put their finicky noses in the air and ignored all canned offerings.

For all my complaining of catching nothing but "stinkin' skipjack tuna" in French Polynesia, I am forever grateful to them for an experience of a lifetime! We're going back in the morning for another feeding with some of our cruising friends who have yet to have the privilege.

We hoped for a hike today, but it rained several times during the afternoon and into the evening. Maybe tomorrow. Carolyne and I did dive on some submerged tikis – rumor has it that one of the hotels put them in the water to attract tourists. And I guess the tourists do come... I found a very nice silk headband and buterfly hair clippy that someone lost! And we spotted a tiger reef eel (?) – completely albino white decorated with a scattering of black circles.

Friday shows a good weather window, so we'll probably take off then towards Bora Bora... maybe stopping along the way – or maybe not. What we don't want is to be too far away from Bora Bora when we have to check out of the country on the 24th and then have bad weather - forcing us to sail in unseemly conditions. The French authorities, we have been told, are not flexible when it comes to getting out of their territory on time.

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