Our time on Tahaa Island
15 August 2012 | Carenage Raiatea, Society Islands
Since our last post, we have been in 3 different places around Tahaa and are now in Raiatea to do a few chores. We spent 3 days anchored inside of Haamene Bay, which was great. The holding was excellent because of the thick mud and you can anchor in 20-30 feet of water, which we are finding out, is a special treat here in the south pacific. You see, so many anchorages are 70+ feet deep, so you either have to anchor in deep water or find a mooring ball, which usually costs money to rent. Anyway, Haamene Bay has a little sleepy town at the head of the bay, complete with a church, administration buildings, such as police, social services office, post office, a hardware store, a chemist (pharmacy) and a tiny grocery store. We saw a sign for a bank, but when we walked to the front door, it had been turned into a doctor's office; we found an ATM machine at the post office (most post offices have an ATM in Polynesia).
On Day 2, Tom went to work doing some "MacGyver" work, while I hand washed some laundry. MacGyver work: our depth sounder stopped working in Moorea, so we have been using our chart plotter as a guide for the depth of the water we have been anchoring in. The chart plotter is programmed with depths from the old paper charts which were probably charted back in the 1800's, so like I said, the chart plotter is a guide. Anyway, we had bought a new depth sounder in San Diego, because we knew that our original 1979 depth sounder would eventually stop working, it has always been a little temperamental but has always worked up to lately. Being unable to install the transducer in our thru-hull (we need to be pulled out of the water for that), he rigged the transducer to a pole, wired it up, and it works great! When we are looking for that special place to drop the anchor, I hold the pole in the water, and Tom see's the depth on the screen that he mounted at the helm. When we get to New Zealand, we plan on pulling Tanga out of the water to get a new paint job, and then, Tom will install the transducer in the thru-hull.
On the night of day 2, we went to dinner with Rich and Cindy from SV Legacy. We first met them in Daniels Bay in Nuku Hiva, Marquesas. We have found that we "leap frog" along in our sailing with other cruisers. We may anchor near someone that we anchored with 2 bays ago or 2 islands ago, and other times, we all end up at the same place. Here in the Society Islands, a lot of the islands are only 5 miles away, so we find that we are running into other cruisers we haven't seen since Marquesas. Anyway, we had dinner at to the only restaurant in town; good food, just a little pricey. After dinner, when we were motoring back to Tanga, the stars were out in full force and the Milky Way was lit up from one side of the bay all the way to the other side. We both love to see the Milky Way arched through the sky like that.
On day 3 in Haamene Bay, we woke and immediately pulled up anchor. Our mission was to move Tanga to a beautiful coral reef area, in hopes to find some great snorkeling. We motored out of the bay, across the lagoon, towards Toahotu Pass, on the east side of Tahaa. Just north of the pass, there is an anchorage area off of Ile Mahea. The anchorage shelf is in 15 feet of crystal clear aqua blue water, with white coral sand underneath. We had visibility for 60+ feet. After 3 attempts of trying to get the anchor to set, Tom dove down to the anchor and tried to set it by hand. The sand was just too fine, like talcum powder, and the anchor would just lift right out of it. So, with no winds for Tanga to drag the anchor, we decided to check out the reef area, enjoy some lunch, and then spend the night back in Haamene Bay. The snorkeling was pretty barren. We felt like we were just swimming around in the desert. When we did see coral, there was just a small amount of it and just a few fish around the coral. This isn't a place we would recommend as a great snorkeling area. However, it was great to be in the water again and the views of the palm tree lined motu, with Raiatea and Tahaa behind it was picturesque. That night, back in Haamene Bay, we decided to go back to the restaurant for dinner. Unfortunately, when we were dingying across the bay to the restaurant, we noticed it was closed, however we saw what's called in the USA as a "roach coach" set up just outside of the administration buildings. Here, in Polynesia, the roach coaches are extremely popular. In Tahiti at night, they line the streets with every kind of ethic food you could imagine. In the other islands, you will see a few here and there. Anyway, we were one of the first customers of the night, and the locals began to fill in as we waited for our food. The food was great and home cooked. I had chow mein, which could have fed 4 people, and Tom had steak and fries.
The next morning, we pulled anchor again, however, this time, when I was bringing up the anchor and could visually see it in the water, I noticed the anchor had a line attached to it. This was not our line but a line the anchor found on the sea floor. Tom came forward to the bow with the boat hook, and released the line from the anchor as I pulled the anchor up the remainder of the way. Tom said he could tell the line was attached to something down in the water. Ya just don't know what you're going to find out here!
We motored to the northwest side of the Tahaa, to an area called "The Coral Gardens" off of Ile Tautau. It's rumored to be an excellent snorkeling area. Once we had our anchor set, we went about getting our snorkeling gear ready. We saw some friends, Doug and Suelaka from SV La Luz, who came in right behind us and anchored right by us. We dinghied over to them, and they joined us. To access the coral area, we dinghied to the motu, pulled the dinghy up onto the beach, and tied it up. We followed a trail from the lagoon side over to the ocean side of the motu. Once we had our masks and flippers on, we all jumped into one of the clearest waters we have ever seen. The snorkeling was amazing! The coral was alive, with many different colors, the fish were abundant and not shy, and with the water being so clear, the underwater experience was spectacular! Also, because of the current, we just drifted down the reef area with very little of swimming needed.
After snorkeling, Suelaka and I walked over to a small hut that looked like a beach side café. We met a husband and wife who were grilling up tuna kabobs. We asked him if this was his home and he said yes, seeing his two little girls playing in the sand. Then we asked if he served food, again, we got a yes! All four of us sat down on plastic chairs, with our bare feet in the cool sand, surrounded by palm trees, looking out at different shades of green and blue crystal clear lagoon water, with our boats anchored about 300 hundred yards away. It was a great afternoon in another paradise. Food always tastes better in bare feet!
After having a wonderful day, I guess we had to pay our dues for our experience because the winds kicked up last night along with a few squalls. Whenever the winds kick up, we start to get a little nervous about dragging our anchor. We have never had our anchor drag, but with strong winds, it could happen to the best sailors. So, last night, we took turns standing anchor watch. Basically that means, the person on watch, watches our chart plotter for our current position, does visual checks and just makes sure everything looks okay. Like I said, we feel we were paying our dues for having such a great day.
This morning, we pulled anchor, and motored over to Raiatea. Because of the deep anchorage areas, we are in a mooring field. Yep, we picked up a mooring ball for the first time today. It was easy enough, even though I stressed about it all morning. With Tom at the helm, he got us within a few feet of the mooring ball. I took the boat hook, and reached down and grabbed the pedant, pulled it onto the boat, and then used the line that is attached to the pedant to cleat off to the boat. Done! We jumped into the dinghy, and weaved our way around the many sailboats in the mooring area. We stopped and said hello to another boat we know, Larry and Lisa from SV Lisa Kay. They told us the lay of the land and also, informed us, that today is a holiday and everything is closed. Oh well, we won't be filling our propane tanks today. We'll just drop off our trash and be happy we got that chore done!
We also updated our Photo Gallery with pictures from Huahine and Tahaa Islands.