Society;Taaha, Raiatea, Huahine, Bora Bora
28 September 2013
Taaha, Raiatea, Huahine, Bora Bora
Morning time, I arrived at Haamene Bay, on the east side of Taaha after an uneventful crossing. Had Phil come pick me up in his dinghy, I'm too much in a hurry to get my hug from Big Sis. Besides I would have to pump Leaky up with air before I can use it. One day I'm going to get all those leaks fixed.
That evening we called a few tour guides getting prices and schedules to go see something on land. Made arrangements for a short tour of the vanilla plantation in the morning. As planned the nice lady Lydia pick us up at the post office by the dinghy dock the next morning. First stop was on top of the mountain at a friend's of hers house. Nice view. Then a few more stops before we made it to the family's plantation. Found out everything I ever wanted to know about the vanilla bean; from seed to pollinating to harvesting to drying, but the best thing I learned was how to put the beans in a bottle of rum and let it sit for 6 months, It'll never taste the same now - better, if I can wait 6 months. After the tour it was time for lunch. Ask Lydia were to go? She suggested a place on the other side of the island, way too far to walk. But before we could asked about a taxi she was handing Phil the keys to her car. She would drive us over but she got something else to do. Did she just do that? Here's the keys and the directions, have a nice lunch. Now when was the last time someone you just met gave you their car keys. Guess she wasn't worried about us stealing it, where you gonna go on a small island?
After lunch it's back to the boats to pick up the anchor and go look for another spot to drop it. Found a spot on the Southern end of Taaha in Baie Apu. Not much here, so cook on the boats that night. In the morning we take a walk, just to see what we can see. That evening we take another short sail to downtown Uturoa, Raiatea. Docking for free. Just no services. But what you do get is a warning that if you want to keep it, better lock it up. Petty thief is the norm here. First place since Panama City I'll have to lock the boat when I leave. Now where did I put that lock? Take another walk about and found a store open with beer for sale. Good, I don't have to break open that rum bottle soaking with vanilla beans for my alcohol fix.
Boy do time fly by when you having fun. Aggie is due to fly out of here Saturday and I just got here. Oh well maybe the next visitor won't find me in another island waiting on boat parts. We say our good-byes and put her in the taxi for the short ride to the airport. Now I'll have to put up with my little brother all by myself.
This morning when we woke up someone had untied Silhouette from the dock. If the wind had been blowing from any other direction she would have drifted out to sea with Phil still sleeping, but lucky him the wind just kept him pinned up against the wharf. Before we lose something in Uturoa we decided to sail to Baie Faaroa to navigate the only navigatable river in the French Polynesian Islands. By dinghy. Phil remembers doing this years ago when the Water Babies took a tour of these islands. So off we go using his dinghy of course. Mind might leak all the air out. Up river we run into James. He's the local river guide. Don't charge a thing, just work for tips. He gives us a quick tour of the family's plantation and invites us back for a longer tour in the morning. He has a big group coming including a few other cruisers at anchor. This tour took us through the botanical gardens that Phil and Aggie tried to find when they were doing the Raiatea land tour. No signs, you just have to know it's a public park and not someone's manicured lawn.
After 2 river tours of the same river it's time to go see something that we haven't seen before. Neither one of us has ever been to Huahine, so we set a course for Haapu Bay. Get there, drop anchor, go to sleep, wake up and move to town so we can get off the boats. Fare is another one of those small towns that everyone knows everyone and have one nice restaurant to try. Next day we take a land tour of the place. One thing that sticks out in my memory is everyone had their driveways and parking lots paved with loose coral. How many years and acres of growth did they destroy to make a driveway? When we took the beach tour we found out the answer. None. Hell the whole damn island is coral. That's what an atoll is made of, dummy. The beach did not have one ounce of sand (well maybe a little), just tons of coral. All they had to do was just go pick it up. Or clear off the grass and underneath its coral. Not any fun looking for shells here. They are everywhere. Just tire prints on most of them.
Well it didn't take too long to see this place. I have about a week before another guest arrive in Raiatea and since I haven't been to Bora Bora yet we plot a course to get there. Only we have to past between Raiatea and Taaha again. Picked up a mooring ball outside the Moorings/Sunsail's base on the north side of Raiatea. Left in the morning for Bora Bora before someone came collecting money. Picked up another mooring ball and found out if we ate at the restaurant we didn't have to pay for the balls. Guess where we ate for the next week. BB actually have a "ship's store." Or at least that's the name of it. And they actually have boat parts, no ship parts. My engine start battery isn't doing the job anymore so I buy a new one for about twice the price I would have paid at Wallyworld. After doing hardly nothing for a week, no tours, no diving, no snorkeling, but we did find a fast internet service - we drop the mooring ball and head back to Raiatea to pickup guess.
That little arrow on top of the mast is pointing the direction I want to go - again. Sailing close haul to get to Raiatea, but its SE and I'm heading SW. Then the wind switch, I tack, might be able to make it in one tack. But the sun is moving across the sky faster than I can move across the water and that flipping wind then change directions again. Since I would rather not make landfall in an unfamiliar anchorage at night, I turn on Buddha at cruising rpm's and drop the sails. But instead of Raiatea I'm heading for the pass on the west side of Taaha. Give Phil a call on VHF and let him know about the change of plans. He's about an hour behind trying to catch a fish. I reach the anchorage just before dark. Phil came in about 2 hours later. He's been here before with Aggie so he's not worried about the dark.
There's not much to do here and we want to make it to Marina Apooiti for a slip or mooring ball before the rest of the crowd. Phil gets there first and decided to take a mooring and let me have the only slip available. My house batteries are not holding a charge and I'm thinking of plugging in to get a full charge over night with my new transformer thinghy, except they use a different plug than Tahiti. Lucky me, the harbormaster had one I could borrow and if I don't bring it back he'll charge me twice as much.
Marni, one of my racing crew from the J24 days and the Reality Chicks, is due to arrive at the airport this morning. She has a birthday coming up and wanted to spend the big _0 somewhere other then home. So why not someplace exotic like Bora Bora, especially since you have a friend there with a sailboat and his big 60th birthday is coming up a week later. Mini birthday party in the plans. Launch the dinghy, pump it up full of air, installed motor and off to the airport. If all the air leak out I'm in luck. Marni is bringing a tube of hypalon glue and patches. Can't find that stuff no where here. I was able to find the small channel to the airport, just followed the other boats/ferries doing the same thing. Of course the plane was a little late, only an hour or two, or was I early? But eventually it arrived, loaded up passenger and luggage into old Leaky after pumping it up again and head for home.
After getting crew all settle in, off we go for a walk of the town, or was that a walk to town. Charging the batteries all night didn't help. Next plan is to equalize them, which means charging with 15 volts for several hours to try to bring them back to life. No one wanting to cook, but we did find one of those food vans on the side of the road - best truck stop food on this side of the island, maybe the only one.
Next morning off to Bora Bora for a birthday party. Needing fresh fish, trolled all the way, had a strike and a little fight, but fish got away. Maybe we'll have better luck whale watching. We watch but didn't see any, heck they were here last week, just right outside the cut in the reef. All the moorings were taken at the Mai Tai Yacht Club, so we motored to Bloody Mary's restaurant to pick up one there. Why not anchor you ask? Water depth 20-30 meters which mean dropping a whole lot of anchor rode in the mud and then picking it back up again. That's a mess I would rather do without. Went to inform the restaurant that we are on their mooring, but no one home and the doors are wide open. Wait a minute there are no doors or windows to this place. Sandy floors, plants growing, and a nice breeze for air conditioning. And the rich and famous always stop here for dinner. (see pics) We will have to come back for the birthday dinner because they are close on Sundays.
The batteries are worst now since I equalized them. Read on the internet that I wasn't supposed to equalize West Marine AGMs. One set is now dead. 3 to go.
After a good night's sleep we're up early for a quick stop at the Mai Tai mooring field, then to town looking for snorkel fins for Marni. Found them in a grocery store and off we go -motoring to the east side of the Atoll where we were told the best snorkeling spots are. Drop anchor in the most turquoise colored water I've seen in these islands. Launch the leaky dinghy and off we go looking for the snorkel spot. Couldn't find the 3 buoy's that mark the spot, so we just jump into the water and enjoyed what was there.
Next morning we went looking again, this time we found it. Just follow the tourist boat full of snorkelers. These guys pay money to swim around while the tour guide feed the sharks and stingrays. We stay in the dinghy until the feeding frenzy is over and hopefully the sharks are full. Quite a thrill swimming around with all those sharks until Phil asks, what's that big thing over there? Me and Marni both hurried to get out of the water. He wanted us to swim over to it, yeah right! After lunch we motored back to the west side and pick up a mooring at the Bora Bora Yacht Club. The mission this time is to hike to the top of the mountain. Or at least until the trail becomes a goat's path. We ask directions. We didn't find the road off the main road. We ask directions again. One of us is going to have to learn French or Tahitian because where they tell us to go doesn't exist or we just don't understand simple directions. Then we find a road that goes up hill, this must be it. Wrong, not what we were looking for but we did find some big guns on top of the mountain peak. Left overs from when the USA occupied Bora Bora doing WWII and we got some good exercise and some pictures. Then dinner and a sunset.
Dropped the mooring early in the morning for a short sail over to Bloody Mary's again. This time someone was there and we made reservations for dinner. Pump the dinghy up with air again, patches are beginning to leak now, so will be patching the patches next. The other best snorkel spot is about a mile away, loaded up old Leaky and off we go looking for that perfect spot using a hand drawn map. This one was a lot easier to find, just look for the dive boats, pick up an empty mooring ball, ask one of the dive operators if it was okay, jump in for the best snorkel spot yet - Eagle rays, big fish and little fish of all colors, then the underwater camera quit. Should have bought our SCUBA tanks and follow the rays to the bottom. Oh well maybe next time.
Back to the boats to dry off, change cloths, switched to Phil's dinghy, at least it won't leak all the air out while we be ashore. Took a walk to the Funny Farm for more pictures and window shopping. Had plenty of jewelry for sale but none of us could afford those strings of black pearls. Then dinner, the menu is just inside the entrance all laid out on a table of ice. Mahi Mahi, Parrot fish, Lobster, steak, ribs, chicken, lamb, etc., see something you like just tell the nice lady then have a seat. A few hours later fresh fish is now cooked fish. Then sign a dollar bill and staple it to the wall with the other million bills of all type of currency. Must have been at least 2 inches thick. Now how come no one has come in and stole all this money? This place has no doors to lock. Must be a bad dog around somewhere.
Seen enough of Bora Bora and before the weather turn nasty we raise sails for the trip back to Taaha. No fish and no whales on this trip. Even Phil can't catch anything and can't hear him very well on the VHF either. He's only 6 miles away, but another boat Honu who are also on the way back from Bora Bora offered to do a radio relay. Later we tried a radio call again, this time Silhouette is closer to me then Honu and I can't hear him. Something must be wrong with his radio. Made it to Haamene Bay again and called Lydia to arrange another tour in the morning.
This time we take the 4-wheel drive tour in the morning. I'm thinking mud and stuff like that - the kind of 4-wheeling you do in TX, but you need 4-wheel drive on this tour because the road doesn't exist in some places. We make it to the top (almost) of the mountain for a spectacular view where the guides give us a demonstration of just some of the things you can do to a coconut. Marni and Phil participated while I took pictures. A quick lunch/snack and everything downhill from here. Then Joe stop by this special tree, chopped off a branch and with his pocket knife he makes a flute. Now that was really cool. We are going to keep it for a souvenir, but by morning it had dried out and would make better fire wood then a musical instrument. Part of the 4-wheel drive tour was to stop at the vanilla plantation. These guys don't miss an opportunity to pollinate the flowers. They are only open for a few hours a day and if they don't get pollinated in that short period then no babies. All pollinations are done by hand. Then we move on to the Black Pearl farm. Get another demonstration on how to grow pearls.
Was offered the car again to go get dinner but we need to move on before it gets dark. Said our good-byes and let them know we will be back, maybe. Next destination - the river tour, again. Raised anchor and tried to wash off some of that mud, that anchor locker must be full of mud by now and nowhere to drain it, except the bilge - not good.
Started off sailing but half way there turned on the motor. Will be arriving after sunset at this speed. Not a big problem, we have been there before and have all the GPS waypoints entered into the GPS. Even have the previous tracks/paths saved on the chart plotter. Got Radar. Got a big spot light and a night vision scope and an extra set of eyes. I'm ready. As we enter the bay the Radar picks up the outline of the shore. It also picks up a couple of things in the bay that I assume are boats. As we get closer to the anchorage the 2 blots on the radar merge into one. I only see one anchor light. And I see this blinking red light, which means an Aid To Navigation to most boaters. But there were no buoys or lights here last week, so I'm thinking it must be something on land, like a car's turn signal. So I'm watching for the one boat at anchor, then I see a shadow in the dark, quickly turn on the spotlight and right in front of me is this big 55' boat using a red blinking light as his anchor light. Hard reverse (breaks) and a sharp turn to port, almost hit Phil because he had seen the same thing (didn't see a boat) but didn't need to make that sharp turn to miss that dummy. I kept my spotlight on him hoping to wake somebody up. Then another light comes on in the cockpit. A nice big bright green light, maybe he's underway, still not the require anchor light. It's supposed to be an all around white light mounted where it's visible from 360°.
Well that close-call will keep me up for awhile. Now what went wrong? Besides that dummy using the wrong lights, my radar was not tune-in for close up work. I'm gonna have to remember to retune that soon. And the night vision scope stayed in its case making it very hard to see thru it.
Next morning I recognized the boat with the proper lights, it's Beez Neez who I met in the Galapagos and Tahiti. Bear came over to say hi and all that. I began to tell him about last night excitement. He was aboard that boat while all this was going on and he mention to the captain about proper anchor lights. That's when the dummy turn on the green light. He left my boat and went over to Millennium, I met that boat while at anchor in Panama City and in Nuka Hiva. Sound travel well over water and we could hear part of the conversation between them. Bear was explaining to dummy how confusing it was last night with him and his blinking light. Then we heard dummy say "well if they had half a brain they would have figured it out." Phil's reply "if he was displaying the correct lights we wouldn't need a brain to figure it out." So this guy and everyone like him are now called Brainless. We even call them Brainless on the VHF, hoping it will give them a hint that they are not using their brains for navigating according to the rules set by some treaty between all countries or something like that. And if you don't know the rules, please take a class OR STAY OFF THE F____ WATER.
To decompress and get back into the cruising mode we load up Leaky and put on the old motor for a fresh water rinse up the river. Met up with James again and he have a boat load of tourist from some hotel to take on "the tour." We wait and we go. Interesting we have been on 3 tours with this guy and he manages to change it up just a little each time. Now the guys English isn't that bad, but this time he let a Canadian do the translating for his fellow countrymen. Since we heard about all the plants and things before and knew the story we also knew a lot got left out in the translation.
Another difference on this trip is we are using my dinghy/motor with me driving instead of Phil. I hit a big rock. After pushing off with the paddles no propulsion from the engine. Damn it, I done sheared the pin on the prop. Mel & Karlyn (Granada WBSC), We glad the paddles are aboard. ;-). Rowed over to James and he towed us the rest of the way. Stopped at the family's plantation again, but this time instead of them giving us all the bananas and coconuts that we wanted they were for sale. Damn tourist form the hotel, there to spend money and I don't blame them for taking it either. But the cute little girl did give Marni a nice bouquet of flowers. I think they are called the birds of paradise. In return Marni gave her the orchid branch/tree that we have had aboard since Taaha and wow, her eyes light up.
Anchor aweigh and off to the next bay where the only waterfalls in these islands are located - 3 of them. Who needs a guide? We have all the directions from the cruising guide and local info from other cruisers. We find the telephone booth turn left on the road to the waterfalls, big sign "no passé" , the book say ask for permission, I call the number on the sign - no answer. We then asked someone who stayed in the house nearby, he said sure go up, have a good time. First part of the trail was easy, even a car can go up it. Then we follow the trail until the Y. No one said anything about this, so we take the fork that goes up river until we get to the bamboo forest. No more trail turn around and I take another trail up the mountain, no waterfalls there. Getting dark search tomorrow. On the way back we meet the same guy that gave us permission. He ask how was it, we say we didn't make it, he say I take you in the morning, we say what time?
We only had to wait an hour after the time. We followed the same trail as before except this time we turn right at the Y. And made it to the same bamboo forest but when you know where the trail is you can find the other side. On the other side was the first waterfall, then up the mountain and another and up the mountain and the last one. It hadn't rain here in a few weeks so the falls are nothing like the big ones on the other islands. The trip downhill was just as exciting as going up.
Once back to the house we offer to pay, our guides wouldn't take a cent. We offer them a tour of our boats and a boat ride to Othera. At first they declined, then after thinking about it they change their minds, we ferry over the bikes so they can have a ride back home and off we go to town. Phil says Marvin will be talking about steering a yacht for years to come. After tying up to the wharf I head over to the store to buy some beer but they don't sell beer own Sunday, only alcoholic drink aboard is that bottle of rum with the vanilla beans soaking. So much for waiting 6 months for the flavor to sink in.
Marni leaves today, Marvin comes by doing his school break to say good-bye. Taxi ride this time to the airport. Phil borrows one of my radio's antennas for a test, test proved his antenna at the top of his mast ain't working. Lucky him the guy Pete who walks by the wharf passing out his business cards actually have the antenna he needs, for a few dollars more than West Marine. I think I just lost another battery or two.
It's time we start planning on leaving French Polynesia, my Visa is about to expire and Phil have already checked out of the country in Raiatea. We hear that Bora Bora is a better place to lay low then Raiatea so off we go to Bora Bora, again. This time instead of hanging out in plain view of the officials we anchor out and meet up with Itchabon from Marquesas, Almancante and Beez Neez from Galapagos and Jehol from Panama, all hanging out getting ready to check out. Small world on the sea it is. Besides checking out the other thing we need to do is go scuba diving and celebrate my big 60, back to Bloody Mary's.
The batteries have been failing at least one a week. I'm down now to just 2 good ones. This might be the last place to replace them even at twice the cost. The Ship Store had some deep cycles and for that price they better be good. Then we filled up with fuel and supplies and wait on the weather window to open up for a short sail over to Maupiti. Maupiti is one of those places that you just got to see. But by the time the weather/wind/waves calmed down enough so we can make it through the cut in the reef the list of boats going that way was over a dozen and the book said the anchorage could only accommodate 12. And since the weather window to Penrhyn is perfect, Maupiti will just have to wait until next time.
On the morning of the 28th we make ready and off we go in very light winds. Just what's needed to get into Maupiti but not today.