Martha Stewart of Sailing…..

Dear F&F,

June 22, 2010
Martha Stewart of Sailing
Mopelia Day #18

Tuesday morning a boat came into the pass & anchored amidst the 4 of us here in Mopelia atoll. We were quite surprised that any cruising boat would venture here with the weather we have been having. This was not just any Joe Blow cruiser. They are professional mariners who run a business & had 6 clients onboard their 45 foot monohull. They had already sat extra days in Bora Bora with the bad weather. And had to skip Maupiti because the entry was not passable due to big waves. So here they came, to Mopelia. This is a 3 week \”cruising experience\”. The passengers pay for a hands-on learning adventure & get a taste of high seas cruising life. Because they have only a 3 week itinerary, at some point the captain has to decide to press on, even if the weather isn\’t ideal.
The owners have been here 8 times, so are very familiar with the narrow entrance.

We recognized the name of the boat: Mahina Tiare III. Small world story on multiple levels:

#1) The captain/owner is John Neal. He is 9 months older than 56 year old Scott. In 1975 John published a book of his adventures & mishaps as a young, inexperience sailor traveling from S.F. to Hawaii on monohull named Mahina. Book title: \”Log of Mahina\”.
Scott read this book in 1976 as he made his own maiden Pacific crossing from Santa Barbara to Hawaii. He enjoyed this book of sailing follies as he followed (nearly) in John\’s wake.

#2) John\’s wife is Amanda Swan Neal. I bet nearly every American cruising woman with a galley owns Amanda\’s book: The Essential Galley Companion. Good marketing to include the word \”essential\” in a book title! Under the title it says: Recipes and Provisioning Advice for Your Boating Adventures. I bought this book probably before we took delivery of \”Beach House\”. I have perused it, not read it cover to cover. There is a lovely photo of Amanda on the cover with a white hibiscus behind her ear, smiling in a floral dress as she threads a skewer. So, in my mind this is THE Martha Stewart of boating. Look attractive and maintain a sunny attitude, all the while whipping up a tasty meal in a small space with limited supplies. THE Galley Goddess.

#3) John wrote an article about the shipwreck here that Scott downloaded when we had internet in the last island. A lot of good information.

#4) John & Amanda keep a condo in Friday Harbor, WA. He is American, she is from New Zealand & she grew up as a \”cruising kid\”. They run their sailing instruction/charter business about 8 months per year & have been doing this for over 20 years. They have had more than 1000 clients!
They use the same bookkeeper Tracy McClintock to collect their mail & do other business for them, as we do. The Mahina Expeditions business office is in the same building as Tracy\’s. We saw the name on the door when we originally flew up there to meet Tracy. They are probably her most famous/prestigious clients (that we know of).

Scott welcomed them to the lagoon via VHF radio and we were stunned (horrified) to see 8 bodies roaming the deck of a boat less than half our size! OMG!!! John is nearly as tall as Scott, seemed friendly & approachable. Indeed, shortly after their anchor was set, he zoomed over in his dinghy to say hello. I got to the stern first & introduced myself & welcomed him to come aboard. He declined because he needed to shuttle his crew ashore. I asked him how the conditions were outside: 30-35 knots with a \”confused\” swell of 3 meters. Yikes! Interpretation: Godawful uncomfortable conditions that most sailors would try to avoid being caught in. He asked me how long we\’ve been here: 18 days. He seemed shocked & asked if we needed fresh bread. We aren\’t eating bread these days, but I know that the family of 5 would be happy to have a fresh baguette. Or solo Bernard who will be sitting here waiting another 2+ weeks for another boat to deliver him a new battery. His is kaput. I\’ve been giving him rice & yogurt.

Scott quickly came outside & told John of all our connections listed above. We explain our Mission Statement: We are a DIVE BOAT that sails in search of the next great dive site. When Scott mentions that he is an underwater photographer & we have many videos & photos, John sees a \”field trip\” opportunity for his crew. He said he would have to ask Amanda, but after tour/slide show aboard \”Beach House\”, would love to have us aboard their boat for dinner. Dinner Out 2 nights in a row??? I could not believe my good luck. But Martha Stewart coming to my house…I better start tidying up!

Actually we really wanted to go ashore first while the breeze wasn\’t too strong & go look at the windy side again, to compare it to yesterday\’s conditions. As we are passing Mahina in our dinghy, John waves us over. The invitation is extended officially & I meet Amanda for the first time. Well, it should not have been a surprise that she is looking a tad more bedraggled than the photo on her book cover. With shorts, tank & a hat that makes me laugh out loud: \”Out of Chocolate – Life is Crap\”.
This is definitely the cynical flip side to the \”Life is Good\” tagline. Her kiwi accent is charming, but she has sharp edges. Not smooth & poised like Martha Stewart. Example: I ask her, \”How was your trip?\”
She answers, \”Fine. Most of the crew were seasick so they weren\’t a bother\”.

We ask John if we should offer drinks aboard our boat (I had already made extra ice & calculated I had enough gin & tonic to offer one short drink per guest.) He says No, they are a dry boat. Well, that makes a lot of sense. You can\’t risk people not being alert while on watch etc & it\’s only 3 weeks anyway so no great hardship. Terrific! We can focus on the tour & video show. Scott & I strategize that we will each take 4 people on tour, then when the sun goes down show 3 videos plus a few slides. Voila!

We have a nice walk ashore. The place we walk across the atoll is reminiscent of the Galapagos. Volcanic rocky reef, dry scrub brush. The wind strength is down a bit, but the breaking waves are still quite impressive and help us decide to wait two more days leave, in order to allow the wind whipped swell to calm down.

The great thing about having company (ESPECIALLY someone I view as a Martha Stewart equivalent) is that it provides a strong impetus to clean house. When we return to \”Beach House\” I get in a 1 hour nap, which has become a new delicious habit since my index finger vs starfish incident. More rest needed to heal perhaps. I then have exactly 1 hour to spit & polish. Hiding things I normally let lie about. Scott is testing the audio visual system. It is 5:30 p.m. and they are loading their dinghy. I have pulled out my Amanda Swan Neal cookbook for her to sign & only feel a twinge of regret that it still looks brand new. At least I have a couple of post-it notes stuck in, marking key pages for \”Passage Preparation\” and \”Pressure Cooker Bread\” (nope, never tried it).

1)Single guy from Vancouver in his late 20s comments that I am wearing Lululemon label yoga wear. The company was started by a friend of his – cool. I am flattered that a man under 50 notices me!

2&3) Married couple from Long Beach who own a boat & plan to leave for Mexico in about a year. She is the only other woman aboard, besides Amanda.
4&5) Man from New York with 18 year old (godson?) family friend. It is a High School graduation present. He will be attending college at Puget Sound University.

6) Married man whose wife will not let him buy a boat because she does NOT want to go cruising. This is his 8th trip with Mahina Tiare.

The \”divide & conquer\” method worked very well. Scott & I each had roughly 4 people at a time, avoided crowding any space by maneuvering them bow, cockpit, port, starboard & salon/galley. Timing worked very well as the touring was done just as the sun set, which made for better viewing of the computer screen. I chose the video/slide sequence & Scott acquiesced to my suggestions.

Videos: #1 Whale Shark, #2 Fins of Bora Bora, #3 Manta Magic
Followed by: about 30 slides of the shipwreck here and another 30 slides of sea life here & on the last island. Perfect. They\’d had enough, those who were enthusiastic took our cards & may subscribe to our website. It was about 7:00 p.m. & time to go to their boat for dinner, to keep the evening moving along. We took our own dinghy plus a couple of their guests to help balance the load.

I have hosted many more elegant dinners, but not for a party of 10. Just getting everyone\’s belly full is the main goal. I tried to chat with her a bit as I cleared the table & she began the dishes. Scott & John swapped more small world stories & the other guests joined in. I had set my watch to beep at 8:30 p.m. & that was just about right to take our leave. They already have 8 people to get showered & settled for the night. Two of the single men sleep on the seats where we ate dinner! I was quite tired, but content to return to our spacious \”Beach House\”, counting my blessings that we are not required to take crew for pay in to afford this lifestyle. John & Amanda MUST love it to do it for so long. Like I said, she is a salty dog & he seems a big teddy bear, so they probably make a great team for teaching & introducing newbies to the sea.

Today they and the red boat left. \”Mahina Tiare III\” planned to anchor just outside the pass to let their crew snorkel over the shallow parts of the shipwreck then proceed to their next destination (different than ours, but same general direction). They asked us if they could make our website a link to their website, & took photos of us on our boat, so I suspect we will get a few more subscribers through them. It would be fun to cross paths again. Which is possible as they will return to New Zealand in December, which is our plan also.

More stories about Bernard, Jerome, our generator, etc but need to wind down for a last full nights sleep before 2 days/nights full moon passage. It should be a great sail. Hopefully our patience with the weather has paid off. For sure it has given my fingers time to heal. I can do many more things than even 2 days ago. It seems that time has taken on new dimensions: only 8 days of diving & tomorrow we depart on day #19 & it does not feel like we have been here too long. Just about right. Even if my fingers were not hurt we would not have been able to dive due to the weather. Having an owie made me somewhat less restless & (eventually) more resigned. We certainly had plenty of socializing between Jerome & family, Bernard & lastly the gang aboard \”Mahina Tiare III\”. A memorable final French Polynesian island experience. Here we come Cooks!!!

Cindy & Scott