From Huahine to Tahaa
Wednesday evening, July 25, we had drinks on “Priscilla” with Tom and Susan from Washington DC whom we first met in the Shelter Bay Marina outside Colon, Panama. The next day we had some great snorkeling and also walked along the beach road checking out the two hotels (we used the dock of Relais Mahana as our dinghy dock) and other establishments. We had a great poisson cru lunch at a small snack (“Snack Avea Parea”) and walked to a marae (temple ruin) on the road to Parea. That evening there was a big potluck party on “Scholarship.” Hosting were Mark and Liz from Phoenix (he is a dentist who continues to practice his trade on the boat for the benefit of cruisers). Attending were “Chiquita Bonita” (Mike and Heather from the US) who were in the Galapagos with us, “Robyn’s Nest” (John, Scott, and Dave from South Africa, Lucy from France, and Chris from Canada) who we met on Isla Isabella in the Galapagos, and Tom and Susie from “Priscilla.”
The next morning all of these boats left for Raiatea, leaving us almost alone in Avea Bay. The wind picked up considerably that afternoon and a series of squalls passed through. The strong winds and squalls persisted for three days, limiting our time off the boat and making snorkeling impossible. While the fringing reef provided us with decent protection from the high seas generated by this weather, we could see huge waves breaking only 1/2 mile away, Avea Bay provided us no protection from the winds. We did get ashore on Saturday and found a beautiful necklace for Laura. It is made from mother-of-pearl made into the shape of a traditional Polynesian fishing hook with a black pearl attached.
Sunday morning, July 29th, the winds moderated slightly and we were finally were able to snorkel in the lee of the low peninsula forming the southern boundary of the bay. We then took the dinghy to shore to check out the Polynesian Buffet at the little restaurant on the beach. We thought that we would just have a look and then head over to the “snack” for light fare. When we landed the dinghy on the beach directly in front of the restaurant we could see that it was packed. There were tables set out on either side with people eating heaps of interesting looking food, and a line of people waiting at the buffet — and all of them were local Polynesians. Plus, there was live music. So we quickly jettisoned the idea of eating light and joined in. We are not sure what everything we ate was but most of it was very good. On our second trip to the buffet we concentrated on what we liked the most in our first plate. Our third pretty trip was mostly sweet stickly dishes made from breadfruit and red bananas. People hung out at the restaurant pretty much all day — the music went on without stop until 10 pm. They did not just eat, there was serious bocce ball playing in the back, some couples danced, others swam with their children. All the food plus the large bottles of Hinano beer kept us glued to our chairs for longer than we expected.
Monday we headed back north to Fare, following the marked channel between the fringing reef and the island. For the first part of the way, which is poorly charted, Laura goes up the mast as far as the spinnaker pole, and sits on the inboard end of the pole to scan the water for coral bombies. We decided to spend the day in Fare rather than go on immediately to Raiatea so that I could fix a problem with the main sail furling, and to do some more provisioning at the excellent market in town. We were too late for good fruits and veggies, but bought some excellent fresh tuna from a fisherman. We had another filling meal at one of the “roulettes” parked in from of the wharf.
Close Encounters with Sharks
In the afternoon, we had time to snorkel in the reef between the two passes into Fare. We snorkeled there the week before and found wonderful coral and abundant fish, particularly under and near a flat metal boat that was permanently moored just behind the fringing reef. There is so much coral that we could not find a way to get the dinghy too close to this area, we had to swim most of the way. Halfway to the moored boat, two 8 foot black-tipped sharks zoomed by us. We knew that there were sharks about, and since these two seemed to have no interest in us, we continued on. A few minutes later we saw another small shark, but we continued on. As we got within 50 yards of the flat boat, an impressive 12 foot shark came our way. We decided to head directly back to the dinghy. When we got to the dinghy we reconsidered again — the day was beautiful, the water clear, and the coral and sea life abundant. We headed back out determined to swim to our destination. Once again, when we were only 50 yards away we saw sharks again. Four of them swimming around with that menacing look that sharks always have. One huge one that I had not seen was just behind a bombie and Laura yelled “Shark!” which was enough to frighten the poor shark away from us. Now we headed back to the dinghy and gave up our quest to get to the flat boat. What we have discovered is that the flat boat is used to feed sharks for the amusement of tourists. The sharks were hanging out in that area hoping for a free meal. Black-tipped sharks are not supposed to be particularly dangerous, but anyone denied an anticipated free meal might get a bit cranky.
Tuesday, July 31, we sailed off to the west in the direction of Raiatea and Tahaa in a dying breeze. I charted three places for us to go with the idea that we would choose our destination depending on the wind angle. It seemed at first that heading on the most northerly course would be best, so our destination became the eastern pass through the fringing reef in front of the island of Tahaa. As it turns out, the wind fell below eight knots and after 90 minutes of slow sailing we turned on the engine so that we could get through the pass in good light. The pass was a bit scary with waves breaking on either side but very well marked. Laura got up on the spinnaker pole and kept watch. Just as we came through the pass into the lagoon we got a call from our good friends on “Rishu Maru.” They were anchored on just the other side of the motu that defined one side of the pass and had seen us enter. This was just the place that Laura and I hoped to anchor except that it was poorly charted and we were concerned with depths and coral bombies. Peter of Rishu Maru gave us all the info we needed to anchor directly behind them. Peter and his wife Alex came out in the dinghy for a reunion aboard Sabbatical III. We had not seen them for almost two months, although we had stayed in occasional email contact. They had Alex’s mother (Ricki) and sister (Sol) on-board for a three week visit.
That evening we had sundowners on Rishu Maru and caught up on things. Peter’s and Alex’s son Finn showed us the new Legos he had received from his grandmother and Alex prepared her Aztec Love Potion aphrodisiac drink. Last night we had the most intense rainfall that we have experienced from many months. The inside of the boat sounded like a freight train as the rain pounded the deck. The boat shifted during the storm and the anchor chain was totally wrapped around a coral bombie. The water is so clear that every detail is visible even 20 feet down. We used that visibility to good advantage as I maneuvered the boat around in response to Laura’s directions from the bow and got our chain unwrapped.
Today (Aug 2), we all piled into two dinghies to snorkel in the pass. Peter brought his spear gun along in hopes of finding grouper. The current in the pass made swimming a bit difficult but it was worth it. The water was crystal clear and it was most impressive to swim to the drop-off where the bottom drops off a cliff from 20 feet to hundreds of feet of depth. We saw an enormous moray eel and lots of fish, but nothing to spear for dinner. We then snorkeled the fringing reef with just Peter and Finn and saw eels, stone fish, and interesting coral in crystal clear water. Tonight we had the Rishu Maru group over for sundowners on Sabbatical III. The mango juice and rum was a big hit. Tomorrow, our two boats will head north inside the reef to another motu. Current position is South 16 degrees 38 minutes, West 151 degrees 25 minutes.