Time to write a catch up blog, its been a while since I wrote so a little bit to catch up on. Raiatea through to New Zealand. Yes we are back home, no it wasn't a quick sail home. We took the easy option, 4 hours by plane from Apia, Samoa. A couple of weeks at home to see our new granddaughter, Florence with the extra bonus of being able to watch the TV coverage of Team NZ sailing the Americas Cup. So what has been happening since Moorea?
After an overnight sail from Moorea to Raiatea we anchored in Faaroa Bay. Faaroa Bay is where some of the Maori Waka sailed from on their ancient journey to New Zealand. I looked around the hills and up the huge fertile valley and wondered what was it that made them leave this lovely place. Was it over crowding or just a whim to explore the outside world. Leaving the beautiful blue waters of the calm lagoon for the deep blue outside the reef must have been a hard thing to do. At the head of the bay a river meanders through luscious greenery of banana palms, breadfruit trees and mangroves. We took the dinghy through the cool shade up into the valley such a different world than the coral and blue water of the outer reef.
On the way to Apooiti marina where we needed the sailmaker we had a close encounter with' A' the worlds third largest privately owner superyacht. We have been sharing anchorages with A since the Med, I don't think they remember us but we sure cant forget them.
We spent a couple of days near Apooiti marina anchored in clear water not far from the reef, while our genoa was resewn. A quick efficient service from the sailmaker had us moving across to Bora Bora sooner than we had thought. We had allowed 10 days to get the sail fixed it took 3 days so for once we were ahead of time. A good wind across to Bora Bora soon had us looking over the reef at the gorgeous colours of the Bora Bora lagoon. As we stood on the pilot house admiring the scenery something caught our eye ahead of us.
"Wow look at that! "
"Did you see that?"
Right in front of us a huge whale leapt straight out of the water, nose to the sky, tail on the water. It took our breath away, we were still a little stunned when another whale did exactly the same thing, straight up into the air. We had to have sailed nearly all the way around the world to have a close whale experience. I had moaned across the Atlantic and all the way from Panama to the Marquesas about the fact everyone else except us seemed to see whales. But now within a short time we had had two fantastic encounters, as well as our Bora Bora welcome we had had about 5 whales surge past us on our way from the Tuamotus to Tahiti. The whales came from behind and they swam past us, one coming so close it turned on its side and looked me in the eye before it disappeared into the swell in front of us.
Bora Bora is a mix of mountain greenery and lagoon blue as well as rich and poor. Expensive resorts on the motus of the outer reef bring in jetsetters from around the world however little of those riches seem to filter into the locals on the big island. The town of Vaitape seemed to be the poorest as well as the most expensive that we had seen in the Society islands. The anchorage near the town is very deep and most yachts take up the moorings that are available. Unfortunately when we wanted a mooring they were all full as the windy weather had chased everyone in from anchorages. We found 24 metres where we could anchor and had a comfortable night. Many yachts coming from America and Europe have very little anchor chain so have to either take up moorings or spend ages hunting for a shallow spot, some even sail past lovely places because they haven't done their research about anchorage depths in the Pacific and think that 30 to 50 metres of chain is enough, when closer to 100 metres is what is needed. Luckily the East side of Bora Bora is shallow with lovely clear water anchorages along the out reef amongst the expensive resorts. We were able to have a free view of what the jetsetters pay up to $US1000 a night for.
We carefully motored over some very shallow patches and anchored outside the St Regis hotel. We had a gorgeous view of Bora Bora and a front row seat to watch jet skiers, dinghy sailors and exclusive resort ferries moving about over the blue green lagoon. The wind had blown away the clouds and we could see the rocky mountain tops of Bora Bora. A young French friend of Andrew and Gemma is working at the St Regis so we made contact and Alan picked up Svetlana , being careful to use the staff dock, for dinner on board Tuatara. We had a lovely evening and were comforted to know that even Parisians think French Polynesia is expensive.
After three nights of gorgeous views and shallow water we crept over the sand and made our way back to the deep water outside Vaitape. A couple of days of, don't look at the prices, laundry and provisioning before we continued west across the Pacific The weather forecast as well as Bob McDavitt indicated a good weather window for our 700 mile sail to Suwarrow. While many dithered about the weather, analysing it so much they missed the opening, we took the favourable 25knot wind and had a great sail, only using the motor for 10 hours. Those that dithered missed the wind and motored for days.
Suwarrow is one of the most northern atolls of the Cook Islands, only a few miles off the course to Samoa. Suwarrow was made famous through the book written by Tom Neale, An island to Oneself. Neale, part Cook islander part Kiwi lived a hermit life there from 1952 until the late 70s. The Cook Islanders have mixed opinions about him on one hand they respect his ability to have lived and survived on an isolated island by himself but on the other hand they do not like that he abandoned his family to do so. His family apparently consisted of 29 children from 3 different woman.
Today Suwarrow is a marine reserve visited mainly by yachts crossing the Pacific. During the season 2 Rangers live on the main island of Anchorage Island signing in cruisers to the Cook Islands and giving tours around the atoll as well as keeping an eye on the safety of both cruisers and the reserve. The Rangers stay between 6 and 8months they bring all their food and petrol etc with them and do not get any more supplies during that time. The only contact to Rarotonga is via a daily report via Satphone. Contact with the yachties is always welcome plus a few extras from us is always welcome. Petrol is always in short supply as its needed for the tours as well as fishing and for their generators.
There are several islands dotted around the atoll most with nesting sea birds and at least one with coconut crabs. The two rangers this year are Harry and Charlie. The chief ranger Harry is serving his second year as chief ranger he comes from an island near by ...well not that near a 100 miles or so, but he still feels that he is in home territory. Charlie his assistant takes yachties for a tour across the atoll to see birds and crabs as well as helping with anchoring, bbqs and coconut wine tasting! Charlie grew up on the atoll so know his way around. They advise against swimming on the outer reef because the tiger and grey sharks are dangerous but the black tip sharks that swim around the anchorage are harmless. I wasn't entirely convinced about the black tips but they did seem to swim away when people were in the water. I made sure there wasn't one in sight when I had my quick dips.
Being Kiwis we got a great welcome as NZ provides the majority of the funds for the reserve and being Cook islanders the men have many family connections with New Zealand. Charlie was pleased to get one of our old Silver Fern flags to fly in the Welcome and sign in area.
There is a BBQ area ashore where yachties can gather for meals and sundowners as the sun sinks into the west. The rangers host bbqs especially the night before cruisers leave. Yachties can stay up to 2 weeks, some come for a day or two but find the place so beautiful they inevitably stay longer. Gerry, arrived a couple of days before us intending to stay a night but was still there when we arrived and stayed a week, we stayed 5 days instead of 3. The weather was beautiful. For once we got it right we had the wind for the passage arriving at Suwarrow in time for several days of calm and left again as the wind came back again. We loved Suwarrow, Alan swam with manta rays, Charlie took us to see Frigate chicks and nesting terns as well as a Robinson Crusoe island where we drank out of cool coconuts leaving the flesh for the numerous coconut crabs. Charlie took a couple of guys fishing and that night we had a bbq with the delicious Wahoo they had caught. The big fish fed twenty of us.
We were reluctant to leave but we had been telling the family at home we would be coming home "soon". We had been saying this for weeks and the pull of a little baby to meet meant we sailed away to Samoa saying, "we will be back"'. With a little effort we could easily come back up from NZ.
"Good bye Kiwis" came from Charlie and Harry across the VHF.
Yes the Pacific is beautiful and friendly, the best in the world. I will be interested to see how many of the cruisers we have met coming across the Pacific stay longer than they think, those ones that say ,
"We are only staying one season in the Pacific next year we are going to South Africa/Asia. "
In Asia and Europe we met many cruisers who came to the Pacific/ New Zealand "just for one season and stayed 3 (4, 5, 6 or more)seasons" many wished they could stay forever.
The Pacific weaves it magic spell over everyone including us.