Heading south to Opua, New Zealand
22 October 2018
Photo: Minerva Reef Yacht Club Committee
We lifted the anchor at 09:00 Friday 12th October and after saying a quick goodbye to Blue Zulu, headed out of Nukualofa bound for Opua with a possible stop at North Minerva reef. There were several other boats heading out as well, including Josh, Sara and the boys on Rogue, Shawnigan and Pelizeno.
Day 1. The first day out was a real smorgasbord of sail combinations. We had the gennaker up for a couple of hours, 2 sailed, wing on wing and then motor sailed. Pleasant enough just frustrating not having very light air sails or more breeze. The weather update that evening continued to suggest going straight through to Opua, but every download seemed to change and multiple emails were swapped discussing the options.
Day 2 saw heavy rain in the morning and us still motor sailing, however once the rain cleared the sun came out and the breeze gradually increased allowing us to sail, even though it was a little close hauled. Once again the weather download seemed to be suggesting something different, and by 21:00 the decision had been made to go into North Minerva for a couple of days to allow the squash zone to pass below us and the stronger head winds at the top of New Zealand to ease. It also looks like the course from North Minerva with the forecasted weather pattern may be straighter with less westing required.
Day 3. Sunday morning, 14th October, at first light there was ourselves, Bajka, Anila and Rogue outside the entrance of North Minerva for enough light to enter. We were all safely inside with the anchor down by 08:00. Lisa, Peter and Zenon had left from the Ha’apai group in Tonga and were a couple of hours behind us, it is not often we get somewhere before them. That evening we all got together on Rogue for a Mexican night joined by Mirabella.
The wind blew up to 25 knots whilst we were in Minerva, the updates from Shawnigan who carried on indicated it was not “too bad” out there, Blue Zulu who arrived on Tuesday morning said it was lumpy. However, the weather window for a direct path to New Zealand was opening again on Wednesday 17th October, and according to the weather gurus it was the best they had seen for a while. We received an email from friends Paul and Gloria, Scallywag, also Josh, Kuan Yin, telling us they would be departing Fiji the same day heading home. With 10 boats leaving Minerva, sounds like a party next week in Opua. There was one final get together for sundowners on Rogue before we all headed back to our boats for last minute preparations for leaving in the morning.
We left North Minerva Reef at 07:30, Wednesday 17th October and motored across the lagoon. The winds were quite strong the first 24 hours and on the beam which made the going uncomfortable. However we knew this would get better the further south we got. By Friday we had the reefs out of the main and were sailing in company with 3 other yachts, Rogue, Anila and Counting Stars. As the breeze continued to lighten the other boats gradually pulled away from us and disappeared over the horizon. The motor was started at 22:00 on Saturday night as the wind continued to drop and the seas glassed off. We caught up with Anila and headed in to the Bay of Islands arriving at the Q dock, Opua marina at 00:30, with the guys on Rogue, Counting Stars and Mirabella waiting on the dock to take our lines, Anila arrived 40 minutes later. It was then party time on Rogue, with the guys not getting back to their own boats till 04:30 and rumour has it 6 bottles of rum consumed.
The following morning the Customs and Bio Security guys were down at the dock and had all boats cleared very efficiently, including Blue Zulu who had arrived at 06:30. It was great to see Paul and Gloria, Scallywag, on the dock as they had just arrived down from Fiji. The Customs guys loved seeing all the kids charging up and down Q Dock on their scooters. It was then into the marina and a catch up with Emily, Tom, Will and Sam from Bonaire and Christian, Nina and Taj from Shawnigan who had arrived a few days earlier. 14:00 saw about 50 of us drinking champagne on Pelizeno, followed by dinner at Opua Yacht Club, where Luca, Ella, Naial and Ilyian from Bajka joined us having just arrived. The yacht club was great and welcomed us all, including all the kids and family and friends who had arrived.
It is now time to head south to Auckland and back out to the house on Waiheke, reconnect with family and friends and settle back to life ashore. We will start heading south on Wednesday with the aim of being back home at the weekend.
So there it is, a very busy but extremely rewarding 11 months from Grenada to Panama via lower Caribbean islands, the ABC islands and Columbia to San Blas and on to Panama. Through the canal to Galapagos, Marquesas, Tuamotus and French Polynesia, Suwarrow Cook Islands, Niue Tonga and home. No doubt the most rewarding tropic cruise and passage trip of our 8½ years. The Pacific is truly a marvelous cruisers paradise.
Finally we are home, and a big thankyou to everyone who has read our blogs, we hope you enjoyed them as much as we did compiling them. We have made so many friends along the way, many will be friends for life.
Finally but no means least our good Ship Dol’Selene. What a fine yacht she is and yes we are biased. She never let us down once, we had very few, and only minor engineering issues to deal with in all the years. None of which put us in any peril. She deserves a nice rest and time to enjoy the much cooler waters of home. We will of course do local cruising in the summer.
So that is the final chapter of our blog. Thanks again for being with us.
We quoted in our original blog set up, a quote from Mark Twain which said “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in you sails. Explore, Dream and Discover.” We think we have done that in spades and certainly have never regretted for a moment our decision to embark on the journey.
Brian and Gail
Tonga – Ha’apai Group
22 October 2018
Photo: One of many whales
We were up at 05:30 and had the anchor up and underway by 06:00 on Tuesday 25th September, bound for the Ha’apai group 57nms away. Peter and Lisa, Pelizeno, decided to stay in Vava’u for another week, so in company with Josh, Sara and the boys on Rogue we headed off. It was a wonderful close haul sail with lots of whale spouts, a couple of whale breeches, not close but still good. Brian reckoned he saw one whale dive and go under the Dol, either that or it was an enormous fish. We had the anchor down in Pangai by 16:25.
Later we went ashore with Josh, Sara and the boys with the American family from Counting Stars for pizza. Unfortunately they completely messed our order up, so while the others stayed and ate pizza, we went back to the boat for dinner. The following morning we went into Pangai to do the clearance into the Ha’apai Group, again we could not clear out at the same time and will need to go back 24 hrs before we head to Tongatapu. Back to the Dol and a short 5nm motor to drop the anchor off the beautiful, sandy Uoleva Island beach.
We stayed at Uoleva for a week while a squash zone with strong winds went through. Not a bad place to stop, we walked across to the other side of the island and along the white sandy beach with an extensive fringing reef, went to a Tongan dance evening at the Yacht club, snorkeled a reef with many crevices and generally socialised with the other cruisers in the bay, including dinner on Shawnigan with Christian, Josie, Nina and Taj. Brian also took the opportunity to do the annual varnishing, clean the hull and bottom of the Dol as per requirements for entering NZ and other jobs in preparation for our passage to New Zealand.
Brian went into Pangai with Brian from Counting Stars and Patrick from Blue Zulu to do the inter-island clearance. Friday 5th October with the winds easing, it was time to head further south to Nomuku Iti Island, 38nms away. The day started off with rain squalls but morphed into a beautiful, blue sky sunny day. As we motor sailed along we talked of our disappointment at only seeing whales in the distance, this changed as we saw several whales, one surfaced close enough to Dol that we had to reduce speed to avoid getting too close.
We anchored in Nomuku Iti for the night and left the following morning at 06:00 and motored all the way to Tongatapu, 56nm. One thing we have noticed since we were here in 2018 is the accuracy of the electronic charts, previously they were out by up to half a mile, but now the reefs and islands seem to be in the right place. We anchored next to Rogue on the outer reef of Tongatapu at 14:30, having again seen several whales on the way, we even had dolphins as we left Nomuku Iti. It seems all the whales we have seen are heading south, maybe they have started to turn around and are heading back to Antarctica.
Within an hour we were out snorkeling on the reef, probably the best coral we have seen in a while. Lots of variety, all healthy and plenty of small to medium sized fish. Later we had a pot luck dinner on Rogue and a catch up.
With a potential weather window coming, we headed into Pangiamotu outside Big Mamma’s, on Sunday 7th October. The following day we went into Nukualofa to find Customs for the local clearance, which turned into a bit of a mission. The Customs office for yacht clearance is in a porta cabin in the midst of a load of containers. We eventually found it and cleared into Tongatapu, then found out the process for clearing out of Tonga, which involved going to another building. It was then off to the fuel companies to work out how to get duty free fuel. Over the next couple of days we returned to the fuel companies and eventually got comfortable with Total. Brian went ashore with David from Anila and cleared out late afternoon Wednesday 10th October. He then had to organise the duty free fuel certificate and a bunkering license, go to the fuel company and schedule the fuel. 08:30 Thursday morning, ourselves and Anila where over at the FISA wharf waiting for the tanker to arrive. It was possible to organise a tanker to deliver the fuel as between us we needed over 1000 litres of fuel, anything less would have been 200 litre fuel drums, necessitating putting it from the drums into jerry cans and then into the tanks, not ideal.
The decision was made after looking at the weather to depart Friday morning in the direction of North Minerva and make a final decision on whether to stop or not then.
Tonga – Vava’u
22 October 2018
Photo: Celebration Time
Friday 24th August 2018 - We have done it, crossed our outward path from 8½ years ago when our first stop from New Zealand was Tonga. The 2 day passage from Niue was uneventful, the first 24 hrs was glorious sailing, wing on wing with good breezes and we even had a green flash at sunset. Unfortunately at 14:30 the wind died and we ended up motoring the rest of the way into Neiafu, Tonga, tying up at the Customs wharf at 08:00. The Customs officials came aboard at 09:00 and we were cleared quickly.
We then motored around to the Boatyard, a haul out and boat maintenance area that was not here years ago, to drop off our outboard motor for repair. Unfortunately the tidal current running past the mooring buoy was very strong and as we attempted to pick it up off the stern, after unsuccessfully trying to pick it up off the bow, we managed to get a rope caught around the propeller. Luckily Brian stopped the motor quickly, a few radio calls and Chris from Barefeet and Rob from Yonder, came round in their dingy to assist us free the rope. Luckily the rope was easily freed, we dropped the outboard at the boatyard and headed into Neiafu Refuge harbour and picked up a mooring. Keeley and Josh, Kuan Yin, came over for a catch up which was great to hear of their adventures in Palmerston Atoll and American Samoa. It was then dinner and an early night.
Saturday morning we headed into the market for some fresh fruit and veges then off to sort out internet access which took some time. We stopped at Mango Café for a drink with Johan and Lisa, Rubicon before heading back to the Dol for lunch. Early evening we headed ashore to have dinner and watch the All Blacks play the Wallabies with our Australian friends on Raftkin and Barefeet and Phil, Ella and Aiden, Tranquillo. It was a good night with the All Blacks victorious again, maybe next time Aussies.
It was time to go and explore more of Vava’u. Sunday lunchtime, 13:00, ourselves, Raftkin, Barefeet and Tranquillo dropped the mooring lines and headed off to Kenutu Island. The path to Kenutu is through a couple of shallow areas in the reef, can be tricky and we kept in convoy and in constant communication re the depths. As we went through one of the slightly deeper areas there were 5 manta rays playing, never get tired of them. At 15:30 we were all safely anchored behind Kenutu Island.
Several days of socialising, including bonfire dinners on the beach and boat jobs was a great stop. Wednesday there was a mass exodus of 6 boats to Tapana. Unfortunately as we went to drop the anchor the winch suddenly failed, luckily for us a mooring was available nearby so we picked it up. Brian then went to work to try and sort the anchor winch. 4 hours later with some help from David, Raftkin, the anchor winch was working. The earth cable had deteriorated so badly it had broken, once replaced all was good again. Afternoon tea and coffee on La Cigale who had arrived in Tonga earlier in the day, then sundowner drinks ashore.
Friday morning we headed back into the Boatyard to pick up the outboard motor. The repaired motor is usable and will do till we get home, but it needs a new carburetor. A quick stop in Refuge Bay, Nieafu for some supplies and we were back out to Tapana Beach, anchoring late afternoon. The next few days were very social with paddle boarding convoys, drinks on the beach and a champagne party aboard Dol’Selene with Peter and Lisa, Pelizeno, David and Tracey, Raftkin and Chris, Barefeet, to celebrate our circumnavigation. It was a great afternoon/evening with plenty of laughs, tall stories and food. The night previously there had been a large bush fire on the island in the anchorage. It was quite impressive and the crackling of the fire through the woods could be heard clearly from the boats.
Next stop was the Blue Lagoon and a shared BBQ dinner on Raftkin where Hayley, Megan and Zenon surprised us with a Circumnavigation certificate they had made for us, how special.
Our next anchorage was Mala Island. On the way we stopped on the outside of the Coral Gardens for a snorkel. It was not the best day with cloudy skies and not much sun, but the variation of corals was amazing, one of the best coral snorkels we have had in the Pacific so far. From Mala Island we all jumped on board Raftkin and headed to Swallows Cave where everyone jumped in for a snorkel. The big balls of fish inside the cave where amazing and Hayley, Megan and Zenon had great fun diving in amongst them. From there it was back on board Raftkin and off to Mariners Cave, where the guys and Tracey and Hayley took the plunge into the darkness to get inside. It was then back to Mala Island for drinks and nibbles, another great day comes to an end. Over the next couple of days we walked across the island to Port Morelle, swam and snorkeled False Swallows and Swallows Cave again and generally had a good social time.
We also had a chat with a few of the locals about various topics including the Humpback whales who migrate here each year. We had heard from friends who had done the swimming with the whales’ trips and were a bit concerned about how they seemed to be chasing and crowding them. Apparently the feeling amongst the locals is that the practice of swimming with the whales is driving them further out away from the areas they are normally seen. It would be a great shame for Tonga if the whales’ natural breeding habits are changed because of the tourist trade.
It was then time to head back into Refuge Harbour, Neiafu for farewells till next time, for our Australian friends on Raftkin and Barefeet who will be heading off to Fiji in the next couple of days. A sad time for all as we have cruised in company with them since Panama, but we know we will meet again.
We floated around various anchorages for the next week ending up in Tapana Beach again as the wind increased. Josh, Sara and the boys on Rogue arrived from Niue and arrived in the bay on Wednesday. It was a great afternoon catching up with them, Peter, Lisa and Zenon joined us. The following day we went for a walk across the island and then had a dinghy raft up for sundowners.
Friday we moved around to Port Morelle and all the kids, with parents, went for a snorkel in Swallows Cave. Saturday we went into Nieafu for provisions and to watch the All Black game. Unfortunately after 9 attempts to get the anchor to hold, there were no moorings available, we decided to bail and went back round to Port Morelle. Pelizeno and Rogue were more fortunate and stayed for the game, the next day we all ended up at Nuku Island for a pot luck dinner on Rogue.
Monday 17th September, we all upped anchor and with Rob, Carli and Adrian on Yonder all headed out to Kenutu Island for a few days. The weather has not been very good for the past couple of weeks, lots of wind and rain, this continued out at Kenutu with a few good days. It did not stop us having sundowners on the beach each night with sausages on the fire for the kids.
Again it was time to move so in heavy rain and high winds, which did abate just as we picked up the anchor, we headed into Lisa’s Beach. It was a peaceful night and the following morning we headed into Nieafu for the now familiar “find a mooring” game. Moorings in Nieafu are at a premium and getting one is never easy or guaranteed, but with anchoring difficult due to the coral sea bed and the depth, everyone is keen to get one. Luckily for us Pelizeno had gone ahead the day before and put the word out that we would be in and looking for one. Thanks to Emily and Tom on Bonaire, we managed to secure a mooring as another boat left. Time to go ashore to extend our visa’s, visit the market and do the inter-island clearance for the Ha’apai group.
Later that evening as we were having drinks on Pelizeno with Blue Zulu, Rogue came back into the harbour. One of the boys had had a freak accident and injured one of his fingers, and needed medical assistance. Sunday, after going to church to listen to the singing, Gail accompanied Sara to the hospital where the finger was stitched and dressed, Nathan was ready to continue his “holiday”. We left the harbour and headed out to Nuku Island for the night and a potluck dinner on Rogue with 3 other kiwi yachts. Then onto Avalou Island the following day. This is an easy anchorage to get out of in the morning to head south to the Ha’apai group.
25 August 2018
Photo: Avaiki Cave
We left Suwarrow on Tuesday 14th August, the 3 day passage to Niue was mainly reaching, not the most comfortable sailing angle for the crew, although it did make for a quick trip. The final morning as we made our way toward Alofi, Niue it was raining steadily and the seas where a little confused. Pelizeno arrived first in the early morning and cleared in before we arrived, so gave us the information on procedures.
We arrived with Raftkin at 14:30, called Niue radio and arranged a time to go ashore to meet the Customs officials. Getting ashore is interesting, due to the swell on the wharf you cannot leave your dinghy in the water. You use the crane provided to hoist the dinghy ashore onto a trailer and then park it on the wharf, reversing the process when you return to your boat. Time for dinner ashore at the local Indian restaurant and then back to the Dol for a nights rest. The swell in the anchorage was quite large making for a rolly night which did not interfere with post passage sleeping, by morning it had all calmed down. The anchorage is a roadstead anchorage and if the wind is from the west or strong from other directions is may become extremely uncomfortable.
We all went ashore to the Whale and Coral festival on Saturday morning, then for a coffee at Café Uga where we met Lynn, a lady who had lived on Waiheke Island, and had a daughter living in the same suburb of Sydney where David, Raftkin, grew up, it is a small world. A walk around ashore, then a quick stop back at the boats before going ashore again to pick up the rental cars arranged by Keith of Niue Yacht Club who we had been in contact with prior to arriving. We then visited the supermarket, which had lots of familiar products. Dinner ashore at the Pizza and Sushi bar then back to the boats.
We did not know what to expect of Niue but is has a really friendly feeling and has very close connections to New Zealand. We have only been here 24 hours yet we feel at home, the local currency is the NZ dollar and the people are very friendly and helpful. The highest point on the island is only 69ms with a local population of around 1700.
Sunday morning at 09:00 everyone was ashore for a day of exploration. We started with a visit to Keith’s to pick up bread and donuts he had collected for us and to get some advice on what to see, Keith has a tour operation on the island, and we were off to the first stop at Makefu Sea track. This track had to be done at low tide as the walk is across the coral flats, stopping for a swim in the natural pools along the way. The colours of the water and the natural features where great. Unfortunately the tide was coming in fast, we made our way up to the top of the ridge and then walked the final 500m to Avaiki caves trail, as the boys walked back to collect the cars.
Avaiki Cave is a large cathedral like cave with pools, perfect for a swim. To access the Avaiki Cave you walk through Palaha Caves with amazing stalagmites and stalactite formations. Once at the Avaiki Cave, the colours of the water and the coral was striking blues, purples and greens. We all enjoyed the swim and the kids found an underwater arch they could swim through, which linked 2 pools. David and Peter took the opportunity while the kids were cave exploring to swim and snorkel onto the outside of the reef.
It was then time for lunch, back to the cars and another drive around the pot holed roads to Avatele Beach and the Wash Away café. Again the view was amazing, with coral reefs and crystal clear water. The Wash Away Café was an interesting place, you wrote your order in a book and took a number, which the chef then prepared. Drinks was self-service, again you wrote what you took out of the refrigerator in a book, a total honesty system.
After lunch we drove to the Togo Chasm. The trail starts through rain forest, then down the escarpment through amazing rock formations to the 28 rung, vertical ladder into the chasm floor. The swamp in the oasis at the bottom used to be a swimming hole before it was sealed off by cyclone Heta in 2004, you would not want to swim in it now.
Time to head back to the mini golf and café in Alofi where we had arrange to pick up rotisserie chicken and salad, originally for lunch but became dinner. When we arrived at the mini golf it transpired the guy that owned it was Mark Blumsky, a former business associate of Brian’s. We had drinks, chatted for a while, made friends with Bingo the puppy, then had a game of mini golf, by which time it was decided to have the chicken and salad “in” and not take-away. What a great way to end a great day, on the hill top overlooking the anchorage with friends old and new.
Monday morning we were all ashore again at 09:30 ready for another day of exploring. We started at the hydroponics farm, another of Mark’s businesses. It was interesting to see how the operation worked and understand the reasons behind it. Mark told us the greatest soil depth on Niue is between 200 -900mm, making it difficult to grow vegetables and herbs in the ground.
From the farm we headed back north to Matapa Chasm via the Niue museum. When we walked out of the trail into the chasm we were amazed, it is best to visit the chasm around midday when the sun is at its peak and we could see why. The chasm is high rock walls and quite narrow and you need the sun high in the sky to appreciate the stunning blue water. We swam and snorkeled to the end of the chasm where it meets the open ocean, although there is a large rock formation which means the swell gets in around the edges. Lunch was a picnic of chicken and salads with fresh bread in the amazing chasm setting.
After lunch we took the snorkel gear back to the cars and walked the second track from the car park to the Talava Arches. The arches are again accessed via a cave with stalagmites and stalactites, which opens to view natural stone arches, through which the ocean ebbs and flows. There were also more caves to explore. Back to the cars and a visit to the supermarket, before a quick trip to the boats for a shower and change, then back ashore to return the cars. Dinner was booked at Fala La La café, arriving at 18:00 and not leaving till 20:00, what a day.
Tuesday was Pete’s birthday and also clear out day for Raftkin and Dol. We started with pancakes and coffee for breakfast on Pelizeno. David and Brian went ashore to clear out, with Raftkin leaving for Tonga at 11:30. We went ashore to do internet and had lunch with Peter, Lisa and Zenon at the mini golf, then dropped the mooring at 15:30, following Raftkin to Tonga.
25 August 2018
Photo: Black Manta Ray
Our last night in Bora Bora we saw the elusive green flash, or as Tracey calls it “the green smudge”, at sunset. The guys on the charter boat nearby all cheered.
Saturday 28th July we lifted the anchor and sailed out through the Bora Bora pass with Pelizeno, Raftkin and Barefeet headed for Suwarrow, Northern Cook Islands, 700nm away. We planned on the passage being 5 days and the departure day and destination looked good as there was a trough predicted to go through the lower Cook Islands and Niue later in the week. Going north avoided the predicted 40 + knot winds. We texted Keeley and Josh, Kuan Yin, who had headed for Niue and they had changed their plans and were on their way to American Samoa, after stopping at Palmerston Atoll. The weather on passage was a real mixed grill with several days of heavy rain and squalls with the final 36 hours motoring in glassy seas, brilliant sunshine and no wind. We again kept in touch with everyone with twice daily position reports and news. We also spoke with 2 yachts on the radio, one a solo sailor who had lost his auto pilot and was hand steering.
We arrived in the anchorage at Suwarrow on Thursday 2 August at 10:00, exactly 5 days after leaving Bora Bora. It took some time to find an anchoring spot as the bottom is coral sand and bombies. We eventually anchored in 18m and floated the anchor chain with 2 buoys to keep it off the bombies. Brian saw several sharks while snorkeling the anchor, looks like it will be an interesting place.
Suwarrow is one of the northern Cook Islands and is a National Park. John and Harry, the 2 park rangers came on board to clear us in and give us some information on Suwarrow and to collect our US$50 park fee. The island is only open to visiting boats from 1 June till 1 November, outside this time it is deemed to be inside the cyclone belt and not safe. The environment is pristine and they work to keep it that way, we could see the bottom as clear as anything under Dol. The rangers asked us not to throw food scraps into the water or clean fish as this attracts the more aggressive grey sharks into the lagoon from the pass, not good with everyone enjoying the snorkeling. Anchorage Island is the only island in the atoll that it is permitted to land on, the rangers have made it very cruiser friendly with hammocks, a large table, oil drum bbq and swings for the kids. They regularly rake the sand and pick up any debris, there is also a book exchange room next to the Suwarrow hut.
It was then a quiet afternoon, with an early dinner and sleep.
09:00 the following morning we were off to swim with the manta rays. This is the clearest water we have seen manta rays in, normally it is murky with plankton as they feed, but this was crystal clear and we swam with 2 of them for about 30mins, awesome. They are so graceful.
After coffee on Pelizeno with Peter and Lisa, it was back to the Dol for Brian to continue the generator investigation and Gail went ashore for a yoga class. Raftkin and Barefeet arrived in the anchorage and with Rob, Carli and Adrian, Yonder, already here it will be a social evening with drinks on Pelizeno.
The nice thing about cruising in remote places is the friendliness of fellow cruisers and the activities that are soon arranged. Gail joined the daily yoga on the beach with usually a minimum of 10 other cruisers. The guys got together and helped each other with boat repairs and maintenance, a pot luck lunch ashore was arranged, a music night on Muskoko and many snorkeling trips. One of the snorkel locations was off Bird Island where the Sooty Terns colony resides.
After another great snorkel with the manta rays, the black mantas this time, which, talking with John the ranger are not found in many places, we headed ashore with David, Tracey, Hayley and Megan for some geo-caching. We set off with the instructions and worked our way through various clues and gps co-ordinates until we found the hidden treasure. After adding our names and the boat names, we replaced it for the next hunters. As we worked our way around the island we saw the cairn marking Tom Neale, the guy who lived alone here for many years, the Suwarrow hut where the rangers live and many coconut crabs.
We thought we had seen some fairly large coconut crabs, but the following evening after pizzas ashore, Harry and John, the park rangers, showed us George, a 40 year old coconut crab, he was huge. They then showed us more in the bushes, all quite large, you would not want to cross one of these.
Yonder left for American Samoa on Wednesday morning and on Thursday afternoon, after a night of changing winds, most boats checked their anchors and if they were caught around a bombie or two, started the motor and freed them. We did the same, unfortunately being anchored in 19m it was difficult to see which way the anchor chain was wrapped and after an hour of trying unsuccessfully to free the anchor, with Chris Barefeet in the water, Brian put his scuba gear on and went down to manually do it. With the anchor up we decided to try and find a shallower patch of water to anchor in sand and minimal bombies. The problem with Suwarrow is no matter where you anchor there are lots of coral heads and it is the luck of the draw if you catch your chain. After another hour we finally managed to get the anchor in sand and in slightly shallower water. Time for a drink and pot luck dinner of Raftkin.
Friday 10th August, Brian tried the Northern Lights generator one more time, and decided it was a no go, shut the generator down and declared we are using the Honda till we get back to New Zealand. Chris and Elissa, Barefeet also decided Friday was time to leave, hopefully we will see them again in Tonga before they head further west to Australia. Later in the afternoon we went ashore for a walk and drinks. On the windward side of the island it was amazing to see about 15 black tip, white tip and grey sharks in the shallows, literally in a couple of centimeters of water. During drinks, the guys of Kudo got out their musical instruments and happily played for us all, including Harry and John the rangers who had joined us.
Sunday turned into a busy, social day. After doing laundry early, it was off with Dave, Tracey, Hayley and Megan, Raftkin and Lisa, Peter and Zenon, Pelizeno, 4 miles across the atoll in our dinghy to snorkel Seven Islands. The coral was interesting but there was not as much fish life as we expected and with fishing nets lying on the bottom our guess was in the off season the atoll is fished. After leaving Seven Islands we stopped at the manta ray spot for a great snorkel with 2 mantas, a white bellied one and a black one. Back to the Dol, sort the laundry, reposition the anchor, shower and then off for coffee and banana cake on Maia. Lauren and Dick are just starting out on their circumnavigation and wanted to chat about our experiences. A couple of hours later, back to Dol, cooked a chicken pasta and off to Pelizeno for a pot luck dinner and drinks for the evening.
Monday was check out day in preparation for our departure to Niue, 530nm away, on Tuesday. Brian also had a look at the dinghy motor which had started playing up on our way back from the mantas, it seemed more terminal than he thought. Luckily Peter, Pelizeno has a 2HP spare which he will lend us until we can get ours looked at, hopefully in Tonga.
Society Islands – Bora Bora
25 August 2018
Photo: Dol anchored in Bora Bora
After dropping the family off for their flight home, we motored back across to Baie Apu and picked up a mooring. Time to sort the boat out, clean up and relax. We drifted around various anchorages on Tahaa and Raiatea for the remainder of the week, including a couple of nights back at the Coral Gardens listening to the sound of Pacific Drums and singing each night.
Friday 6th July we upped anchor and sailed across to Bora Bora, dropping the anchor at Island Topua at 14:00. We timed it just right as we watched a large rain squall obliterate Bora Bora in front of us, but cleared by the time we arrived, not a single rain drop fell on the decks of Dol and the sun was shining when we dropped the anchor in sand. Bora Bora is dominated by the peaks of Mt Temanu and Mt Pahia with the slightly lower Mt Nue nearby, they make quite an impressive arrival into the lagoon. We probably anchored a little close to the channel and had the fast taxi boats from the resorts whizzing past us most of the night, apart from them it was quite peaceful.
Saturday morning we decided to do a tour of the bay and check out the other anchorages, expecting to come back to the same bay. As we neared the Bora Bora Yacht Club, BBYC, we noticed there were free mooring buoys and Mike and Kelly, Dash, were just leaving, so we picked theirs up. Time for a walk ashore to the town of Vaitape, small but has a couple of supermarkets and plenty of tourist shops selling mainly black pearls. We called into the Heiva I Bora office and purchased tickets to one of the competition nights. Heiva is the French Polynesian cultural dance festival and competition where districts from each island compete to represent their island in the grand finale against other island winners from all over French Polynesia. We have been looking forward to attending one of these nights, should be great. It was then back to the Yacht Club for lunch and to clear emails, the first time we have had internet for a while, then back to Dol for a relaxing evening.
As predicted the trade winds increased and we had a bit of rain the following day, time for some boat jobs. Monday we decided to walk up Mt Pahia, we walked into Vaitape, then took the road beside the Pearl shops and car rentals, then turned left at the white house, this was the trail. It was not well used and we wondered if we had the right path, but we persevered and came to a point where 3 trails appeared to meet, we took the right path and found the trees were marked with either white paint or cuts in the bark. The trail was slippery and wet from the rain the day before and steep in some places, one place had a rope to pull yourself up with. We reached the first lookout with the blue flag and decided not to go any further, the top of the Mt appeared to be covered in clouds so the view would not have been any better, so we made our way slowly back down.
Walking back to BBYC we passed a couple of groups of locals building what looked like floats around trucks. They are only permitted to use natural flora and fauna to build the floats, for the framework they were using coconut palm leaves and other plant vegetation to complete the decoration. It was a real community affair with everyone helping, watching or cooking the food. It turned out the floats where for the Heiva festival and would be paraded that evening at 20:00. We met Keely and Josh, Kuan Yin, from Washington State and arranged to go and see them that evening. A taxi from BBYC and after dinner at one of the Roulettes, food vans, yummy chicken Chow Mein, we walked down to the festival grounds and wandered around the floats, we thought they were impressive when we saw them being constructed, the finished truck floats were amazing, don’t know how the driver saw where he was going. Each float represented a district of Bora Bora and where judged by a team of judges and then the group did a musical presentation with ukuleles, drums and singers. It was a good evening, on our way out we saw them starting to dismantle the floats all that work for a few hours of entertainment.
Friday evening we walked down to Mai Kai for dinner. Mai Kai, like BBYC, is cruiser friendly and has moorings available. The moorings are cheaper than BBYC but not as protected when the trade winds blow, however they are closer to town which also means more water movement from the ferries and hotel water taxis using the nearby fuel dock.
After dinner we had tickets for a Heiva competition night, so we walked to the Heiva venue. It was like going to a fairground with colourful lights, music, food stalls, lots of foosball, candy floss, popcorn and “fish for the rubber duck” to get a prize stalls. During the competition part of the Heiva Festival in the main arena, each district group presents their float, which we had already seen, then performs in the Himene, singing and the Otea, dancing sections on separate nights. The first group to perform Himene, was Faanuni. The singing, drums and ukuleles were very good but somewhat static. The second group, Nunue, performed Otea and where very dynamic, changed costumes frequently and the choreography was amazing. It was a great evening, lively and very well attended.
We spent another week on the mooring at BBYC, the weather was wet and windy at times, but a minor problem with our generator saw us having to order a part from NZ and have it shipped up to Bora Bora, it means we are using the little red Honda generator until the part arrives. All part of cruising.
One morning we walked up the hill nearby to two guns built in 1907 by the Bethlehem Steel Company, overlooking the bay. The trail started when we went left out of BBYC and walked past the commercial quay, at the second power post that was marked with bright orange paint, we took the trail up. Although some of the trail was moderately steep, the rest was a gentle rise and not that challenging, a nice walk with some good views. It was pretty muddy following the rains but the guns were worth the walk, they were in good order although covered in graffiti. Once back down the hill we had to wash our feet and walking shoes in the bay, we couldn’t walk through the yacht club in them. That evening we had a lovely dinner at the Yacht Club with Josh and Keely, Kuan Yin, as they were leaving the following day to sail to Niue.
Yachts we had met since coming through the Panama started arriving as everyone’s time to clear out of French Polynesia was getting closer. We caught up with Johan and Lisa, Rubicon, Chris and Elissa, Barefeet and David, Tracey, Hailey and Megan, Raftkin.
Friday 20th July we finally dropped the mooring and motored carefully through the coral to the SE anchorage behind Motu Piti Aau passing the hotels with the bungalows over the water. Looks a lovely spot and with the wind predicted to ease we should enjoy it. Over the next couple of days we had several snorkels with Barefeet, Raftkin and Adagio, Mike and Katie. The snorkel on the outer reef we saw black tip sharks and stingrays while the snorkel behind Piti uu Uta and Piti, uu Tai was lots of fish, clams and coral and a couple of moray eels, one of which was very large.
After 3 lovely days we slowly made our way up to anchor behind Motu Tape and Motu Tupe. It was not long before we were in the water snorkeling with manta rays in the pass. The manta rays were deep, so it required some diving down to see them but they are very graceful creatures and worth the effort. Later we watched as a barge anchored in the shallows nearby had a group of workers loading sand by hand and later taking the sand to replenish one of the resorts beaches. They were back the following day as with the labour intensive method of getting sand they could only do one load in a day.
After seeing 3 small manta rays while we picked up the anchor we motored around to BBYC to be met by Peter, Pelizeno, and picked up a mooring. Time to go ashore and see where the generator part is up to. Oh the frustrations of getting parts sent to a boat in transit. When we checked the tracking number it stated the package was in Papeete awaiting clearance. Brian then went around to Mai Kai to talk to the lady who was dealing with us, Brian phoned DHL to be told they needed the boat registration, our inward clearance papers into French Polynesia and a copy of Brian’s passport. Back to the boat, scan the documents and email them. Several phone calls later we get confirmation the documents have been received but DHL Papeete is closed for the day, call back tomorrow. It was dinner ashore that night with Lisa, Peter and Zenon, Pelizeno, David, Tracey, Hayley and Megan, Raftkin, Mike and Katie, Adagio and Emily, Tom, William and Sam, Bonaire. A very nice evening catching up with everyone’s adventures.
The next morning we phoned DHL to be informed the package had been cleared but there was a fee to pay, phone back in half an hour for the amount. An hour later we finally had the clearance cost, it was more than the item was worth, and the package would be taken to the airport the next day and sent to Bora Bora where we could pick it up. However, Bora Bora airport is on a motu and not easily accessible, which is why we had addressed the parcel to Mai Kai marina. Off we went to Mai Kai and the lady told us it would be delivered to Air Tahiti offices in Vaitape, off to their office we went. The guys there were very helpful and hopefully we can pick the package up tomorrow. Trusting our information and with a good weather window opening for the passage to Suwarrow, we went to the Gendarmerie and completed the forms for clearing out at the weekend.
Back to Dol for lunch and then we dropped the mooring and motored around to Isla Topua and dropped the anchor in clear turquoise water. That evening, Thursday 26th July, we all met on Raftkin for a wonderful pot luck dinner.
Friday morning Brian went into Vaitape to collect the generator part only to be told that because they had miscalculated the duty and tax so the part had not been sent until it could be sorted out. Brian then had to catch the water taxi out to the airport, to hopefully pick up the package. As almost expected the package was not at the airport but having spoken to the guys there Brian was semi confident it would arrive on the last flight Friday night and he could collect it from Air Tahiti office in Vaitape on Saturday morning. The only good news was that our clearance papers were ready at the gendarmerie to be collected. Gail hitched a ride in with Peter and Lisa, Pelizeno and met Brian then went and cleared out. Next stop was the supermarket for last minute provisions and Brian took the dinghy back into the fuel wharf to fill the jerry cans with duty free diesel and petrol, for which we needed our clearance papers. Back at the Dol, fueled and provisioned we had a quiet evening in anticipation of the package being there 08:00 Saturday morning and once the part had been fitted in the generator, we could leave for Suwarrow, 700nm away.
Saturday morning Brian again took the dinghy into Vaitape and finally collected the package with the replacement sensor for the generator. Back to the Dol to fit the new part, if it solves the problem, fantastic, if not we continue with the petrol Honda generator till we get home. Either way we are off to Suwarrow.