Here’s all the pics from the Society Islands
Well I’m back here sitting in front of Bloody Mary’s bar on Bora Bora. This is going to be it for the Society Islands. Next stop, the Cook Islands. I left Utaroa about a week ago and went up to the Coral Gardens on the NW corner of Tahaa. There’s a ridiculously nice hotel out on a motu where rumor has it that the rooms go for $2000 a night and Bill and Melinda Gates stayed there on their honeymoon. Well between that motu and another there’s a stretch of water with a ripping current and some great coral. They only problem is that the pass is really shallow. With a 4 knot current pushing you along, you really have to watch where you’re going and pick you path through the coral. There are some reasonably defined passes through, but you often find yourself off to the side looking at something cool and then you have to swim like hell to get away from some coral head or huge urchins that want to tear you apart. Still it was some of the best snorkeling I’ve done. We snorkeled it 3 times. The last time, Ben off Valeda compared to the Death Star scene in Star Wars. The current was ripping so hard that we just put our arms out in front of us and flew through the canyons of coral occasionally looking back to make sure that there were no Tie Fighters behind us.
From the Coral Gardens, Willow and I sailed over to Bora Bora and anchored in 90 feet of water off of town along with Fearless, Maya, and Little Wing. Anchoring in that much water sucks! especially for Willow with only 125 feet of chain. But we needed to be next to town to clear out of French Polynesia and get our bonds back. We were welcomed back to Bora Bora with a pizza party on Myah, a 1.8 million dollar Nordhaven 55 powerboat with it’s amazing accommodations. We ate pizza, played some music and then sat down to watch Airplane on the enormous plasma screen that retracts down behind Myah’s dinette seat. It was great sitting in what basically amounts to a really nice living room, watching a movie on a big screen tv. I can’t remember the last time I did that, but the dancing was about to start in Viatape, so we stopped to movie half way and all went into town to check out the festivities.
The next morning, Fearless, Little Wing, Willow and I all went in and cleared out of the country and cashed in our bonds that we were required to buy in the Marquesas to make sure that we’d have enough money to buy a plane ticket out if we overstayed our visas. I got back $1460 of the original $1600 bond I had to post, losing $140 to commissions and the difference in the exchange rate. In the end that’s not to bad, and it’s sure nice having that money back in the cruising kitty. So now we’re all hanging out here in Bora waiting for a weather window to open up to make our crossing to the Cooks. I’m saying goodbye to a lot of folks here. The fleet is going to be splitting up with most people heading up to Samoa, some heading to Rarotonga and the smaller shallow draft boats like myself heading to Aitutaki. I think that Aitutaki will have internet access, so I should get a post off when I get there in the next 5-10 days.
I’m sitting here on a dock for the first time in 5 months in the town of Utaroa on Raietea. It’s actually a free dock, though it is exposed to the prevailing winds which keeps the turnover reasonable. A few days before I got here Willow, Little Wing and Fearless got pounded by 25 knot winds and white caps hitting them broadsides along the quay. Fortuanately for me, they’d cleared out and I had the scoop on the one protected spot on the quay opening up a few hours after I got in, so when the 50 foot Tin Soldier cleared out, Willow and I hopped into the prime position and have been here for a week.
I had two reasons to come to Utaroa. First, Alex and Trevor were flying out from Raiatea and even though they had to walk most of the way, the airport is easy to get to from here. Secondly, this is the last place to get parts and work done before New Zealand. So I’ve been in full on project mode for the last week. I’ve finally gotten around to building and arch for my solar panels and to support the aft end of my awning. My Dad had brought down a bunch of fittings to me in Mexico, so it wasn’t that hard to do once I had a local fabricator bend up a couple 20′ pieces of stainless for me. It still needs a bit of bracing, but it should really help get my solar output up. I’ve also been busy making slip covers for my cushions. It’s pretty much impossible to clean my seat covers in the sink and there just aren’t any laundromats along my cruising route. I’ve also got my anchor chain re-marked to 25′ intervals and taken care of some wiring work.
I’m here for a couple more days at most, then it’s off to Bora Bora for a bit before I check out of French Polynesia.
Well Trevor and Alex are still with me for a few more days. Since my last posting, we spent a few days down at the south end of Huahine, but we kinda shutdown on account of weather. Lots of wind and lots of rain. The south end of Huahine had a promising looking surf break inside the reef over sand, but was blown out the two days we were down there.
My brothers really wanted to get to Bora Bora before they took off, so we broke company with the rest of the company that I’d been buddy boating with and went back up to Fare to get ready to head across to Tahaa and then Bora Bora. The trip to Tahaa was a bit rainy, but we had decent wind and easily made the 25 mile passage from Huahine. The wind actually made it easier to go to Raietea and then motor up to Tahaa inside their shared barrier reef. We spent one night on Tahaa in a horrible anchorage where after scouting around for an hour or so I found one little pactch of 67 foot water surrounded by 100 foot water with a reef well in swinging distance if the wind ever changed. Fortunately it was just for one night.
The trip from Tahaa to Bora Bora was a bit rolly with the wind right on our stern, but again we had good wind most of the way, and amazingly enough some sunny skies for the first time in maybe 5 days. I can’t believe how many charter boats there are out here. The charters are all out of Raietea and most of them go and spend time on Bora Bora. Basically no one I’ve been hanging out with for the last 3 months has had to do anything less than a 3000 mile passage to get here, so I was astonished to watch all these “go fast” boats struggling to go downwind. It was kind of fun watching them drop into my wake while I was able to sail the rhumb line using a jib and whisker pole never even bothering to put up my main for the little 20 mile crossing to Bora Bora
So far Bora Bora seems to be mainly hotels with cool little bungalows on stilts out over the water. We anchored for the night off one of these resorts last night. Pulled up the hook this morning and anchored near an excellent snorkeling spot for a few hours. Now we’ve picked up a mooring in front of Bloody Mary’s bar. Rick, the proprietor, is nice enough to provide mooring for free and clewed us into some festivities in town tonight. After we go in and buy some more drinks at his bar of course. Tomorrow we wake up early and beat 20 miles dead to weather against the trades to get back to Raietea to get Alex and Trevor off on the 1st. Hopefully I’ll pick back up with Willow and the gang there.
Rough sailing, hiking, snorkeling, music and tattoos, Huahine has it all. The crossing from Moorea to Huahine is about 90 miles. Too long for a single day, so we took off in the afternoon and made most of the crossing at night. The swell we had fled from on Tahiti had been built upon by the wind that we were hiding from on Moorea to create a pretty nasty cross swell. To make matters worse we had to motor 12 miles to get out of the lee of the island before we could start sailing and steady the boat a bit. It’s too bad that it was such a rolly and squally night for Alex’s first night sail, but morning found us at the south end of Huahine and we made our way around to the town of Fare and anchored in company with Willow, Vari, Fearless and Little Wing.
We had heard from Vari that there was an archaeological site and hiking trail a couple of miles walk from town, so the crews from all the boats set out to get a little culture and exercise. Turns out that the trailhead was further than we thought and by the time we recovered from our wrong turn on the trail, finally found the overlook and got back to the road, we were all too tired to check out the museum and archaeological site. We did however see some great, very prehistoric looking eels in a creek on the way to the trail. The biggest one was about 4′ long and supposedly they have blue eyes and are sacred, but none of us bothered to check.
Other than that, business is proceeding as usual. The snorkeling is good right off the boat and Trevor saw a Lion Fish the other day. There’s a bar right by the quay where we can go get $7 beers. There are a few food trucks here where we can almost afford to eat and we’ve been playing a bit of music. Apparently there’s a French tradition of playing music on the solstice and so there was supposed to be a music festival at the elementary school, but we never found it. There were however lots of people out and about and so we played with some guys next to a truck for a few hours until someone came up with their car bumping out music and we moved to the back of a fishing boat for the rest of the night. It seems harder to get the locals to play here than other places, but we eventually got them going and a raucous night was had by all.
Finally, Greg and I have been talking about getting Tattoos ever since we got to the Marquesas. Traditionally when you cross the equator you become a “Shellback,” so I wanted to get a turtle to commemorate the crossing. The stars had just never been in alignment and it didn’t happen in the Marquesas or Tahiti. On the way back from the hike, we saw a sign for a Tattoo artist, so we checked him out the next day. He was in the middle of a 3 hour session working on a guy who had been coming in for 3 hours a day for the last two weeks getting his entire body inked. Couldn’t recommend it for most people, but it just looks so cool on a Tahitian. Anyway, after seeing this guys work and looking through books for a couple of hours, I decided on a sea turtle shape and made an appointment for the next day. Tihoti, the tattoo artist was great. I told him the meaning behind the tattoo and he came up with the design. It was pretty sketchy as he only drew the basic shape on my leg before starting with the gun and I had no idea what it was going to look like until I got up after an hour of intense discomfort and saw it for the first time. Thank God it turned out great!
Here’s my first tattoo:
The turtle with waves drawn into it’s flippers symbolizes my trip across the equator. The petroglyph in the middle is my essence surrounded by wind on the left, waves on the right with the clouds and stars above. The triangles and sun symbolizes my landfall in the Maquesas and the symbol beneath, Tihoti through in on his own. It’s the symbol for luck. I’m not sure if it’s the luck I needed to sail 3000 miles by myself or good luck to come, but I’ll take it either way.