Sailing The World's Oceans

Dream ~ Discover ~ Explore


Saturday June 25, 2011 - 14:07 Local Tahiti Time - 155.8 nautical miles NE of Tahiti

We left out through the Rangiroa pass about 6 hours ago.  We’ve had so far anywhere between 9 to 23 knots of wind.  Every now and again a squall line will move through and with it wind.  It gets tough at times constantly managing sail configuration.  Mostly right now it’s been rolling the headsail in and out.  That sounds easier than it is.  Solstice isn’t a big boat as boats go but she’s not small either.  When there is a good 25 knot breeze blowing rolling in the sail can be hard.  So you have to be mindful about what’s happening around the sea and try and act before the wind picks up too much.  Once you get it reefed in.  Then it’s much easier to control.  Because of this, I’m content to keep it rolled up tight and leave it there.  But when the wind drops to 11 knots Solstice demands a bigger headsail.  The tough thing is that you don’t know if the wind is going to pick up again or not so you have to decide if you should you roll it all the way out again.  If it’s going to stay at 11 knots then you need more headsail.  Solstice is a demanding lady.  What I’ve learned is roll it out all the way and once the wind starts piping up to 16-18 knots, roll it up.

I’ve also had a single reef in the main constantly.  We sail just fine and as long as the wind stays below 22 knots.  I’ve also learned that about 22 knots is the gauge for a second reef for the mainsail.  22 knots and 2nd reef.  When the “Deuces are wild” as Vin Scully would say.

The big question right now is when we’ll make landfall in Papeete.  We gambled and left earlier than the tides suggested.  Slack tide was scheduled for 12:30. Our dive guide told us that the tidal change in Rangiroa doesn’t correlate to slack tide in the pass.  That’s just the way it is here.  He said that there are a lot of other influencing factors here that effect the current in the pass from the tradewinds to the direction and size of the swell.  For instance, since we had a huge SE swell the last few days there has been no flooding here of the atoll through the pass.  Basically the water from the swell smashing over the reef and filling in the atoll on the southern side keeps water from flowing in with the tidal currents on the north side.  It makes predicting slack tide a big guess.  Jake, being a very intuitive ocean guy thought earlier would be best.  Our dive guide thought slack water would be near 0930.  Jake guessed 0800.  We arrived at the pass at 0800 and went through easily.  There was a small 1 knot current if any.  Jake was on the money.  So it was a boring exit, not near as exciting as entering.  The time frame works out well as we want to make Papeete before sunset tomorrow evening.  If we don’t make it before sunset; we’re going to have to hove-too outside the reef and wait for daylight.   That could be about a 12 hour wait.  Being winter here we have more hours of darkness than daylight right now.  The idea of being alone, and having to stay awake outside a busy harbor after a 200 mile passage doesn’t sound fun.  Hopefully we’ll make it there by early afternoon tomorrow.  We have a good shot at making that. At least since the solstice the days are slowly getting longer.

As for Rangiroa, Jake and I wanted to dive one last time before we left since our other dive was so amazing.  Also because I felt that Jeep was with me during that dive, I wanted to spread some of his ashes out there too.  The sea is so full of life here.  It’s abundant, clean, and thriving.  There is so much here and so many things that Jeep loved about the sea.  I mentioned my feelings to Jake and he too felt it was a good idea to spread some of his ashes here.  I put a small amount in a ziplock and took them with me under my wetsuit.

This time we had a French girl named Mahelia as our guide.  I don’t know how to spell it but it sort of sounds like Ameilia with the “A” and “M” reversed.  We also had a different French couple and a single French guy along with our Tahitian boat operator.  The difference with this dive from the first is that we were going to dive the pass.  This is what we wanted to do originally but because there has been no flooding tide lately there have been no drift dives.  They don’t do drift dives when the current goes out.  I guess it’s easier to find people drifting into the lagoon rather than drifting out to sea. 

Following Mahelia’s lead we all entered the water in the same cool backward Jacques Cousteau style entry.  My entry was not cool or graceful.  As I rolled back the top of my head and mask hit the water simultaneously.  My mask immediately filled up with water.  All I saw was a blur of light and bubbles.  I righted myself and popped up with a mask full of water.  I shook my head as I was disoriented and I pulled my mask off.  They would’ve edited my entry out of the Jacques Cousteau show.  Once I could see again, I looked around and got my bearings.  By the time I got my mask on all the divers were away and descending.  Like the 1st dive, I was behind the pack.

I let the air out of my BC and followed after them.  Our entry was closer to the pass than our first dive.  We entered right at that fringe of the reef and the big deep vast blue of the Pacific.  Right where we saw the tiger shark.  When I got about 40 feet down I thought it was the perfect place to release Jeep’s ashes.  I pulled out the ziplock from under my wetsuit.  I held it up to where the sunlight was sparkling on it and unzipped it.  Clean ocean water poured into the bag and swirled around and mixed with the ashes.  I turned the bag inside out.  Slowly they danced out into the sea in a beautiful vortex of sunlight, ashes and the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean.  I watched as they drifted off into the clear Rangiroa water.

Thanks, Jeep.  I love you,
I said in my mind as they drifted away.

I turned back around to where the others were swimming off.  Immediately a big looming dark shadow emerged from the deep blue and approached quickly.  A dolphin.  Chills went through my whole body.  I couldn’t believe it.

Those of you who knew Jeep will recall the day after he died; the area around PV and Redondo Beach in Santa Monica Bay became a gathering place of Blue Whales.  At one point it was estimated that over 60 blue whales were off PV and Redondo Beach.  They stayed there for about 6 weeks and left the day after Jeep’s funeral.  Scientist said there was an unusual gathering of krill and they came into the bay there to feed.  That may be true but on some other level I believe Jeep’s passing had something to do with it too.  The whales were there for him and all of us.

I’ve been snorkeling with dolphins before but never in my 18 years of diving have I seen them while diving.  He drifted in without any movement from his fins but he just sort of torpedoed through our small group.  He then moved very slowly amongst us.  It was like he knew what awkward things we were in the water and he had to be careful swimming around us.  He was soon joined by four more that came from nowhere too right out of the blue.  For the next 8 minutes they swam in and around us.  At one point all five came with in an arm’s length of me.  I gingerly reached out to touch the one closest but as he saw my hand he slowly just moved inches away to keep me from touching him.  Teasing me just like Jeep would do.  Like the tiger shark, the dolphin turned his head and looked right at me.  I was overwhelmed by his energy.  An it was a completely different energy than that of the tiger shark. 

Like many people, I have a kinship with dolphins.  I can recall the first time I saw them when I was about 5 years old.  We’re old friends.  This moment was about pure peace, joy, beauty, love and laughter.  We almost just smiled at one another like old friends reunited.  It was a magical moment and my heart was full and overwhelmed.  After a long swim side by side he darted off with the others into the blue.


I shouted as loud as I could.  I knew Jeep could hear me.

Soon after, the current picked up and we began to drift through the pass.  The pass was filled with the same beautiful fish as the day before.  The current was swift though and we didn’t have the opportunity to stop.  We flew over the pass too fast to take in the sights.  One of the French divers picked up a piece of coral and was hand feeding a turtle.  She continued to lure the turtle in and wouldn’t let go of the food.  At one point the turtle grew frustrated and was a bit forceful trying to get at it.  I’m not a fan of interacting beyond natural ways with the animals.  I don’t believe in shark dives where feeding frenzies are created through chumming and people jump in cages trying to get the perfect “Jaws-esque” photo.  In my humble opinion, it’s much more natural to go down and just see what’s there.  And who knows what will happen, perhaps a dolphin will swim up to say hello to you. 

I moved away from the girl feeding the turtle and trying to video tape it.  I was hoping to see the congregation of gray reef sharks that were supposed to be arriving at the bottom of the pass to mate.  We flew over a couple of canyons but they were too deep to get a good look.  There were many sharks on the bottom moving about amongst one another.  Not the carpeting of sharks we had heard about from the guys at the dive shop but at least several dozen.  I think perhaps we were a couple of days too early and like a block party the gathering was just starting.

But for me the two dives could not have been anymore fantastic.  I got out of the water filled with the emotion of the dolphins and Jeep was alive in my heart and soul.  He was very near there and I leave Rangiroa with a full heart and a spirit rejuvenated.  I am sorry to leave Rangiroa as soon as we have but it does feel to me to be the right time to move on.

Lots of boat maintenance things to take care of in Papeete this next week and more importantly a time to get back to the Society Islands.

More after we make landfall.

Much Aloha,




Solstice Log