Mustang Sally
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These are the archived chronicles of the sailing ship Mustang Sally This archive covers French Polynesia and the 3000 mile passage to the Marqueses Islands.  Mustang Sally visited the Marqueses Islands, the Tuamotos Atolls and the Society Islands which includes Tahiti.  Enjoy!





The Society Islands   August 18th to October 1st

The Society Islands are part of French Polynesia in the south Pacific.  The islands were named by Captain James Cook after his 1769 voyage’s sponsor – Great Britain’s Royal Society.  The Society Islands are comprised of two groups.  The major islands in the Leeward group are Raiatea, Huahine, Tahaa, and Bora-Bora.  The Windward islands group includes Tahiti and Moorea.  These islands are spectacular for their natural and human beauty.

The best thing about the Society islands is the Polynesian people.  Generally, the people are good natured, friendly, giving and attractive.  They are laid back, rarely effected by the hustle and bustle that afflicts so much of the world.  Living is easy for the Polynesians.  Time and money lacks importance.  The people seem energetic, honest, generous and gentle.   

As an example of the character of the people, on a bicycle trip around Huahine we stopped at a local farm and asked if we could buy some coconuts and bananas.  The generous Polynesians would take no money and gave us a variety of coconuts (there are 5 different types of coconuts).  And they husked one of the coconuts for us to try to make sure we liked them.  Similar scenes repeated on different islands.   More musings about the Polynesian character here.

Papeete is the only city in the Society Islands and Papeete has some hustle and bustle.  It was the only island where hitch hiking was difficult.  There are some big city problems in Papeete, but there is an underlying gentleness and spirit of fun.  The side streets at night are full of people playing games and socializing.  And by an hour or two after sunset the streets are deserted.   Papeete is a city of about 125 thousand and the entire island of Tahiti is less than 2 hundred thousand. 

While violent crime is rare,  petty theft can occur especially in the few urban areas.  Our friends on the boat Bogtrotter had an outboard stolen and we were the victims of an attempted theft in Papette.  Click here to  read a couple of amusing anecdotes about the thefts.

In the cool of the late afternoon, the Polynesians play in their outrigger canoes.  Gone are the traditional wooden boats.  Now most outrigger canoes are slim, smooth, ultra light fiber glass canoes.  These boats are incredible light and it is surprising to see young men picking up a 20 foot canoe and carry it down the street.  There are also lots of bigger canoes, which carry teams of 4-8 rowers.  It is fun to watch them race around the lagoons.

The energy of the Polynesian character explodes in dance.  Sexy, tribal and haunting, the dancing dazzles.  The pounding drums, the undulating hips, the gorgeous women and men adorned with intricate tattoos costumes and flowers.  The raw energy of the musicians and dancers is all part of the unique Polynesian experience.

The Polynesian and French peoples of the Society Islands handle visitors and growth in a unique way.  The distance of the islands from the more populated parts of the world probably limits the number of visitors and growth pressure.  We were delighted that there were no multistory hotels or buildings outside of Papeette.

This must have been no mean feat on islands like Bora Bora where the international hotels must bring intense pressure and offer big dollars to build upwards like the rest of the world.   Bravo Polynesia for holding your heritage and character!!


To go along with the beautiful character of the people, is the natural beauty of the islands.  The islands are all volcanic with lush tropical growth and fringing of barrier reefs. 


Fringing reefs are a build up of coral that surrounds the islands at a distance of a mile or so.  The fringing reef breaks the big ocean waves leaving beautiful, shallow and protected lagoons inside the reef.  These lagoon waters are a natural habitant for all kinds of marine life.  The lagoons are also a perfect playground for people.   God really did a really fine job in designing these islands to be perfect places to nurture life. 

The gardens and plantations that surround the mostly modest homes along the road sides are delightful.  Flowers, palm trees and lush growth everywhere.  Were delighted by the many gorgeous white sandy beaches where the turquoise green waters lap at the shore.  Where the blue green surf breaks brilliant white on the fringing reef.  Beautifully coloured coral heads dot the green waters.

Expensive?  Yes indeed.  Most goods and services are particularly dear after arriving from Central or South America where things are very inexpensive.  If you plan to travel to French Polynesia buy as much as you can before you get there.  Bring lots of good rum for trading and you will do OK.  Click here for some examples of Polynesian pricing.



French Polynesia was so much more than we had dreamed it would be. The Marqueses Islands dazzled us with raw rugged beauty and their quaint adopted French customs.  Then the Tuamotu Atolls took our breath away and left us gasping in awe as we swam with the sharks, snorkeled, dove, fished and played in the warm clear blue lagoon waters. 


The best of French Polynesia was last.  Leisurely trade wind sailing in the lovely Society Islands.   Tahiti, Moorea, Hua Hanie, Raiatia, Tahaa and most beautiful of all - Bora Bora.   Incredible inspiring oceanic tropical paradises. 

Click here for a slide show of all the pictures shown on the Society Island section of the page.  If you want, more slide shows can be viewed by clicking the links below: Well, the files are to big for the slow internet here. I will hook these links up later.


Raiatea and Tahaa
Bora Bora

It is now late September and the southern winter is waning.  As the Earth turns its southern face toward the sun, the heat intensifies.  The pleasant winter temperatures are giving way toward the sizzling hot.  We must vamoose before it gets really hot and the potential for tropical storms increases.  The storm season officially begins in December.   

We set sail to the southwest.  The moon smiles a big yellow cheshire cat grin down on us as Mustang Sally gallops over the waves toward the Cooks Islands.  A thousand southern constellations wink at us from above.  The wind is fresh from the north and the seas are still smooth.  We relish the cool breeze in the night air.  We bid farewell to French Polynesia.  We are bound for Aitutaki, the most northerly of the southern Cook Islands. 






The Tuamotu - August 9th - 18th

The Tuamotu Archipelago is comprised of 80 or so atolls and a few islands in the south Pacific.  The atolls are scattered over 800 miles east to west and 250 miles north to south.  The Tuamotu is about 2,200 miles south and a few hundred miles east of the big island of Hawaii. 

An atoll is roughly circular in shape and the enclosed waters are protected from the big ocean swell and waves.  The enclosed waters are surrounded by string of small, low lying islands and coral reef.  The coral reef is often several feet under the water. The Tuamotu atolls are much larger than we expected,  the biggest being 40 miles long and 20 miles wide.

This area is known as the Dangerous Archipelago, because the islands are hard to see and many of the reefs are under water.  Pin point navigation and good charts are very important to safe passage through this area.   The atolls are very lightly populated and many are rarely visited by cruising boats.  This is the outback of French Polynesia.  The waters are crystal clear, the vistas are stunningly beautiful and the environment is pristine. 

The picture above right shows Fakarava atoll from the outside - click the picture to zoom in.  An underwater coral reef connects the islands - or Motu as they are called here.  The picture on the left is a typical scene from inside an atoll.  Where would you rather be?

We visited two atolls in the Tuamotu:  Kauehi and Fakarava.

On Kauehi we re-united with Pacific passage cruising friends.  We enjoyed the atoll with the crew of boats Bogtrotter and Pathfinder.  Bogtrotter is an American boat,  a Kelly Peterson 44 with Captain Tim, Cindy and Ann aboard.  Pathfinder is an Australian boat, built in Richmond, BC - a Scepter 44 with Captain Hub, Rose and Saraya aboard.  We spent our days enjoying each others company, the islands,  swimming and snorkeling, exploring, fishing, feasting and adventuring.

While out exploring,  I saw a man supervising some teenagers trying to use a welder to fabricate some tools for shucking coconut crabs.  They were making a mess of the welds.  Tim said he could weld so I brought him over to help.  He tried to show the boys how it should be done,  but the boys disappeared.  Tim finished the job as best he could with an overheating welder and low current.  The man's name was Ririfatu and we were pleasantly surprised when he thanked us with mother of pearl jewelry. 

Ririfatu asked us to return on Sunday after church and he would make more jewelry for the girls.  Sunday afternoon, when we returned,  Ririfatu and his wife - Johana  had a beautiful meal of coconut crab, fish, coconut milk and rice laid out for us.   Coconut crab is delectable!  We had brought some gifts for them and they had some more for us.  A wonderful exchange of gift giving ensued.  Polynesian people are wonderful.

We also did some spear fishing - with dubious result - but it was a rather good adventure.  If you want you can read a story about what it was like by clicking right here.

Fakarava was a short one day sail from Kwauhi.  Rae had the dive of his life at the north entrance to the Atoll.  This was fantastic scuba diving better than ever before.  This is the kind of diving that is really really exciting.   Clear clear, deep blue water, warm water, with thick coral, thousands of fish. Thick schools of fish swimming overhead, blocking out the light.  The half dozen big grey sharks patrolling the reef took my breath away.  I was so excited I burned up my air rather quickly,  but the dive leader shared her air, extending the best dive of my life by 10 minutes. 

The ride to the reef was almost as good as the dive. On a big 35 foot inflatable, zooming through the rough seas at 20 knots. All in all,  Rae had a very very good time on Fakarava!  But a weather window for the trip to Tahiti was closing,  so we cut the visit to Fakarava a little short and departed for Tahiti with a fresh breeze on our beam.   Whoop whoop wahooo!

For a slide show of the Tuamotu - click here!!



The Marqueses - July 25th to August 9th

The Marqueses are a group of lightly populated rugged islands in the North of French Polynesia.  They are volcanic and mountainous.  The height of the islands causes the prevailing easterly trade winds to drop plenty of rain resulting in lush tropical rain forest on the eastern side and top of the islands with the west sides being somewhat dryer. 

Our 3000 mile Pacific crossing finished at Atuona - a lovely port town on the southern side of the Island of Hiva Oa.  We were delighted with the friendly Polynesians with and their adopted French culture.  After 21 days at sea,  fresh baguettes and vegetables are very very good.  And treating ourselves to meals out seems so very special.  Nothing like a little deprivation to help appreciate civilization!

We rested up at Atuona,  replenished our supplies and gathered our courage.  We also toured the island and visited some tiki's.  Click here for a picture tour of the island and here for a little look around the town of Atuona.  The harbor at Atuona is often effected by ocean swell, which means the boat is rocking and rolling in the water allot. This surprised us and was not very comfortable.

So to get a real rest we took the advice of Kevin and Betty Donhoe, who were here a couple of years ago and went over to the island of Tahuata and anchored in the beautiful Baie Hanamoenoa.  

Some of our friends who had crossed the Pacific with us were there and we enjoyed lots of camaraderie.  The boats, Paulu, Ralph, Champagne Traveler and Gladiolus were there.  The beach barbeques were fun as was the snorkeling and exploring. 

On shore, you can gather as many coconuts and limes as you want.  We had fun learning to break them open for the juice and the meat.  Coconuts and lime juice um um good!  Coconut juice, lime juice and rum - very good.   The living was very easy at Hanamoenoa.  Click here if you want to see more of Hanamoenoa.


From Hanamoenoa, we set sail for the most beautiful and unspoiled place in all the Marqueses - Fatu Hiva's Bay of Virgins.  A day of sailing hard on the wind and we arrived within a few miles of the island then motored into the anchorage.  A tricky place to anchor because of the narrow bay and sloping bottom,  it took several tries and we got the anchor down and set just after dark.

Thor Heyerdahl - a famous Norwegian archeologist - was inspired to spend his life investigating the migrations of early man based on his time on Fatu Hiva.  Thor's grandson recently completed a re-enactment of Thor's famous voyage across the Pacific in a balsa raft - the Con Tiki.  Heyerdahl was also an inspiration to us to voyage the Pacific.  You can learn more about Thor Heyerdahl by clicking here.

Back to Fatu Hiva and the Bay of Virgins, the people are spirited, friendly and kind.  They have a long tradition of trading goods for goods.  We mostly traded for things at the Bay of Virgins.  Sharon got a beautiful Tapa for a few t-shirts.  A Tapa is a hand made tree bark cloth, painted with a Marquesean design.  Rae traded some paint brushes, boat maintenance supplies and some CD's for 125 liters of diesel.  The cheapest fuel we have found!  Also a complete stings of bananas for a few baseball style caps.

Although the Island was beautiful and alluring - far exceeding our expectations,  the anchorage is subject to strong wind gusts.  The gust occur as the trade winds push the air up over the mountains, then the air comes tumbling down the mountain valley and out the anchorage.  Mustang Sally was battered about by gust up to 45 knots.  We were nervous about our anchor dragging in these conditions.  After three pleasant, but nervous days,  we set sail again for the Tuamotu - the so called "dangerous archipelago".  Click here for a picture tour of the Bay of Virgins.






3000 Mile Pacific Passage to Polynesia.  July 2 to July 22, 2006

One of the late 20th century's best known scientists envisioned how our planet would look to passengers aboard an approaching space ship. The title of Carl Sagen's fascinating 1997 book - 'Pale Blue Dot' sums up that vision.

If the passengers on that space ship were traveling at the same time as we crossed and they had a good telescope, they would see a little white spot on the pale blue dot. That little white spot would be us. Crossing the big blue Pacific ocean with our white sails on our little white ship.

The passengers on that space ship might feel a little in common with us in that we both are a long long way from anywhere.  Twenty one days at sea and for twenty of those days we did not see any other human beings, ships or planes.   The passage was a little lonely and we begin to appreciate how very very big the Pacific Ocean is. 

For the most part the sailing conditions on this leg have been fantastico!  Just what one dreams sailing in the tropical south Pacific would be like.  But it is better than the dream because we are doing it instead of dreaming it!  Pinch me to be sure will you?

Optimum sailing conditions in tropical sunshine, pleasant warm winds, never cold, even at night.  Blue sky overhead, stunning sun sets and sun rises. Occasional light showers rinse the sea salt off the boat.  At night, the Southern Cross bright in the sky to port.   Big Dipper stands to starboard, dipping down low like it is going to scoop up a pot of ocean water.  Jeweled sky between.  Milky way glowing like a river.  At night the water exudes bio-luminescence life, setting our dual wakes aglow like silver contrails streaming aft in the dark waters. 

The wind was up most of the time and the boat was moving fast.  Flying fish leap out of the sea.  They skitter in and out of the waves, inches over the water, like a flocks of disturbed birds, dodging away from the on-rushing Mustang Sally.  In the mornings we pick the slow ones off our decks to be used to bait our fishing lines.

Our wakes are loud, sounding forever like gushing torrents of white water leaping down an overflowing mountain stream.  The sound of rushing water is always on - day and night.  The volume varies as the wind strengthens and wanes and boat speed rises and falls.

Being together with a loved one on a passage is a rare opportunity to share everything, enjoying small and large pleasures and perfect weather.  A shared romantic experience with no outside pressures.  Just Sharon and me and Mustang Sally.  Sliding over the waves with the stereo pumping out soft or raunchy tunes depending on our moods.  Lazing around in our bunk, eating crackers and sardines, drinking red wine, whispering sweet platitudes to each other. Very romantic. Especially the crackers and sardines ;-)

Toward the end of the passage, we weary of the constant 3 hour shifts. We do three hour shifts around the clock, one of us on watch and the other resting.  We share lunch and supper and lots of time together. Sharon looks after the domestics, medicine, weather and safety. I look after navigation, communications, motivation and maintenance. 
We fly a spinnaker most days.  White sails at night with a reefed main.  Boat speeds have been in the 6-10 knot range and seas have been big but mostly kindly.

We have a daily and a trip lottery, we guess things like daily mileage, half way point, 1000 mile marks etc. and amass points. Daily winners get chocolate. Grand winners get $1000 bucks to blow on themselves. We also factor in whale sightings, ship sightings, Dolphins etc.  Keeps things interesting.  After 21 days the point spread is 87 to 92.  You can view some statistics about our passage by clicking here.

Daily radio schedules with the 1/2 dozen other boats with high frequency radios provides some social contacts. Sharon's passage personality is Olive Oil.  Me be Popeye - I yam what I yam.  Some silliness to break up the monotony.  I wrote some music and lyrics to commemorate the voyage.  I put the lyrics here.

For a slide show of our Pacific passage pictures, click here.  Hiva Oa is our destination island in the Marqueses in French Polynesia.  I can't tell you how excited we are to see it on the horizon.



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