Tahaa – Island of tough anchoring

Monday August 6th We are still in Tahaa and are now moored just outside of the Taravana Yacht Club (previously known as Marina Iti). We don’t usually pick up moorings – first of all because there are almost none anywhere in French Polynesia, and secondly because we generally prefer to drop the anchor. Picking up a mooring here, however, was very convenient as we have found that this is a hard island to anchor in. The coral reef that fringes the entire island is shallow and when it ends the water depth really just plummets, making it difficult to find a place to anchor. The water depth goes from just a few feet deep at the reef to about 35 meters deep without any gradual shallowing. This makes for difficult anchoring as we (and most people) do not have enough chain to anchor in 35 meters, and the coral reef is too dangerous to anchor in. There are a few anchorages here on Tahaa with reasonable depths of 10 – 20 feet in sand, but you have to be careful as the sandy bottom is often littered with coral heads and you have to make sure that neither your anchor nor your anchor chain gets stuck in the coral. You always have to count on a wind change during the night meaning that the boat will, or at least can, swing around, sometimes as much as 360 degrees. This makes it especially important to set your anchor in a spot as clear as possible from coral heads.

We had a few adventuresome anchoring experiences here, following our friends Rishu Maru who are on a catamaran, and can attempt much shallower anchorages than we can. After spending two terrific evenings in the beautiful sandy anchorage in Tahaa (just off of Mahaea Islet ) we followed them to another anchorage just a few miles farther north, near a pearl farm. The lagoon was very deep when we started, but after we left the main channel, we found ourselves over a rather shallow shelf of coral that proceeded for a long way. At times there was less than a foot of water between our keel and the coral reefs. We finally made it to a more sandy area where we could set our anchor, but still there were numerous coral heads dotting the bottom, making it a rather hair-raising place for us. Once we got settled in and swam around the boat to check the depth of the water, and the height of the coral heads, we rested easy. We were also lucky because there was virtually no wind for the two nights we were there, making it unlikely that we would drag our anchor or wrap around any coral.

When we left the anchorage we followed closely behind Rishu Maru as they slowly picked their way through the coral to the deeper pass. At one point they found themselves in an area so shallow that they almost hit the reef. We continued on our counterclockwise circumnavigation of the island to try another anchorage – this time without Rishu Maru, as their guests were anxious to go for a walk on land .

Our trusty “Guide to Navigation in French Polynesia” listed several anchorages around Tahaa that sounded nice and we decided to try one near Tehotu Islet which afforded incredible views of nearby Bora-Bora. As we started heading from the deep water towards the shallower reef area I climbed up onto my little perch several feet above the deck to keep an eye out for coral heads. The water suddenly went from a seemingly bottomless depth to somewhere about 30 or 40 feet deep and was crystal clear. All looked good until suddenly right under us there appeared an amazingly thick cable, suspended just under the water and stretching out through the water just under our bow. It was really quite horrifying as it looked like the kind of thing that if you got caught on, you might have an awful time getting out of. It was very thick and stretched out under the water with several large mooring balls attached to it, all under the surface, but it was unclear exactly how far under the water it was, and for a minute it was not clear at all that we would be able to pass it. We did pass it however, but within another 30 feet there was another, and then another. We had somehow sailed ourselves into some kind of nightmarish cable area that looked like it was going to grab us – like Medusa. We backed out of there as quickly as we could, but it seemed that the cables were spread everywhere and you just could not see them until you were right on top of them. We finally realized that we were in the middle of a pearl farm and the cables were apparently spread from the shallow reef across a wide expanse of open water to another area – maybe 1/2 mile away – where there were floats holding up the other side. We were so relieved to get out of there safely.

Just a mile away we spotted a nice looking anchorage with lots of boats – very close to an attractive hotel – and still with beautiful views of Bora Bora.

View of Bora Bora from Tahaa

We dropped our anchor there – once again very cautiously – as the sandy bottom was littered with large coral heads (see our pictures). Although our keel was close to several coral heads, we seemed to be safe, and had our anchor securely set in the sand so we decided to stay the night. It was a beautiful spot and although the wind shifted around all night, we found our anchor still secured deeply in the nice sandy spot we had dropped it, with no wraps around the coral, and were able to leave in the morning without incident.

So after all that, when we ran into our friends Rishu Maru again yesterday, and they invited us to join them here at the Taravana Yacht Club, with moorings and a restaurant, we were eager to do so. We had a great time with Rishu Maru yesterday, swimming off the boats together, and then all going in to the restaurant on the beach to treat ourselves to sundowners and a nice dinner with lots of toasts to friendship, sailing and good health. The manager of the restaurant is a young handsome boy who reminds us of Ben . They also make the best “poisson cru” we have yet tasted which is quite a treat, and they sell baguettes for $.50 each, so we are having a good time.