A Pocket Lagoon
06 September 2020 | Vaiaeho Bay, Raiatea
Saturday: Since we were on a mooring in Tapuamu and hadn't splashed the dinghy, departing Tapuamu required only an engine check, starting the engine and electronics, and slipping the mooring, all done quickly. We motored down the lagoon toward the area between Taha'a and Raiatea, and each time that we crossed the head of a major bay, the wind spilling over the central mountains created white caps and laid us over a bit. We measured that wind at 25 knots at times, so the storm that hammered us on Thursday wasn't done, yet. All of our instruments and the engine worked perfectly, thankfully. This was a day, though, that we'd have appreciated having wind information from a dedicated masthead wind instrument. As we mentioned, Covid delays prevented our receiving it prior to departure from Anchorage, so next year, I'll have at least one trip up the mast to install the new instrument. The saving grace is that it sends its data to our network with Wifi, so there are no cables to drag down the mast.
For several seasons, we've planned to visit a "pocket lagoon" on Raiatea, the primary reason being that we'd seen them from the car but never visited one. A pocket lagoon is one that cannot be reached by traveling through the main lagoon (the region between the reef and the island proper), but must be entered only from the sea. During our drives around Raiatea, we'd spotted several, and have been interested in visiting one, but this year, we made it a priority. We chose Baie Vaiaeho, or Vaiaeho Bay, on Raiatea's SW corner.
We departed Tapuamu at 1015 Friday morning, made it down Taha'a's lagoon to Apooiti, on Raiatea, by 1215, and out the MiriMiri Pass into blue water by 1245. After a motor sail parallel to the shore about 2 miles offshore from the reef, we entered the bay by 1400, explored a bit, and by 1430, the hook was down. The water is SHALLOW, here, as befits a pocket lagoon. It can't be reached from a traverse of the main lagoon because it's too shallow! We anchored with about 4-feet under the keel: enough, of course, but not completely comfortable. As we were deciding where and if we could anchor there, a nice fellow sailor from a neighboring boat visited us by dinghy and told us about the anchoring there: good holding bottom of hard sand over coral, but shallow water. With that in mind, we dropped the hook, and by the third try had it in the location and orientation that we wanted. Anchor placement is too important not to do correctly, so we commonly retrieve the anchor and re-set it if it's not what we want. The night remained calm, but we were glad to have a good anchor set.
There were three boats here when we arrived, two American monohulls, both carrying families with young kids aboard, and a Scandinavian catamaran, also with a young child. The American boat whose male member was kind enough to motor over with anchor advice is from Ventura California, and of course, carried a surf board on the foredeck. The lagoon has a pond-sized deep section surrounded by very shallow water, and we're all anchored on the surrounding shallow shelf of that deep area.
After normal boat chores, we settled to see the sights. Truly, this is one of the most beautiful places that we've visited. The mountainous shore is reminiscent of Hawai'i, with its very steep volcanic ridges, covered in verdant growth. There's not much shore on which to live, so there are few people here. That made for a quiet night's rest, and this far from civilization on Raiatea, there is almost no traffic.
The pass itself is spectacular, with palm-covered motus on both sides. There's a single entry section of shallow water that's about 30-feet deep, but it's mostly 50-60 feet deep, although narrow. Since we'd never entered it before, we took every precaution, but it was dicier inside than entering. Giving Conni a rest from her wheel duties yesterday, I was at the helm. I trust our charts, but my final trust is in our two depth finder's data: the foward-looking sonar and the "look down" new sonar. It's always unsettling when we can look overboard and see the bottom so clearly! We could see the anchor dug in on the bottom, the chain as it sweeps along the bottom as the boat swings in the wind, it's just shallow. It was a challenge just turning the boat around without grounding!
Conni and I shared a beer at 1500, and at 1700, she hauled out the evening's cocktail treats: baguette, good French cheese and olives, and sliced saucisse. Our friend, Jonathan, had kindly sent us some wine and beer, so we opened the red and savored the friendship that provided it and the beautiful surroundings that we were celebrating. Thanks, JG.
Saturday: We enjoyed the beautiful surroundings today, and I worked on replacing that damned chock that's been awaiting my attention for a year. It got ripped from the boat last year in Papeete's Marina Taina, found by a kind-hearted diver, and returned to us. I worked for a long time to arrange a procedure to replace it, including much advice from Conni's father, LaVerne. LaVerne, thanks for the advice. I took LaVerne's advice on drill size but moved up 1/64" to 13/64". It ensured that the epoxy wouldn't crack by having a #12 wood screw inserted, and also allowed a failure point: we want to lose the screws rather than the teak cap rail! With the better hole size, screws went in easily with no hint of epoxy trouble. When it cooled a bit, and HAVE MERCY it's been hot, we smeared on a 1/2 tube of black 3M 4000UV, an all purpose adhesive/caulk that's my go-to material. I had applied tape to all possible surfaces so after the caulk was applied, I tightened the screws and then smoothed the seams. The screws are #12 silicon bronze Philips-head wood screws, so easy to drive. We'll wait for the caulk to cure then see how things look. At least we have a solid cap rail, now. I can smooth the caulk or add as needed, but at least it's in place now.
And hot...we were both hiding down below and even there it was 90°F and no breeze. Outside, it was stiflingly hot. No one on any boat was out and about until later in the afternoon.
Sunday: We had a slow day today. There is one mooring in the lagoon and one of the American boats was hanging on it when we arrived. This morning, it dropped the mooring and headed out. After breakfast, we decided that a mooring with its short leash was better for our boat, so we cranked the engine and Conni went forward to pull the anchor. About halfway up, about 15-feet into the 30-feet that she had set, the windlass stopped. She took the helm and I went forward and hauled the remaining chain and our 65-pound anchor to deck. Later, I messed with the foot switch a bit and it runs now, but needs to be replaced. Something else on the list for next year...
We are on the mooring, well attached to the bottom. Relaxing! This is such a beautiful place that we regret not having visited before. It's Sunday afternoon and there are 3-4 cars on a sandy part of shore. There's a group of 10-12 locals sitting in the water just laughing and carrying on. Small children are held by both genders and a smaller group of adults is nearer shore talking, too. The inevitable local music in playing. The singing utilizes a device that Conni says is called an "Autotune", that allows the singer to sound like he (in most cases) is singing through an instrument. It must be the rage of the day since we never hear Polynesian music without that effect. There were a few blankets on the ground near the vehicles, each with a group of young girls on them, and lots of local food. For this group, staying cool in the water with family and friends was the way to spend the Sunday afternoon.
I went snorkeling today, finally. We had few boat chores so I spent a few hours head down watching the sand go by. There is always something to see, of course, but it's obvious from remains that a fine garden of staghorn coral has died here. The bleached pieces are scattered around. I saw some puffer fish and a large stingray, near the deeper section. The water is truly gin-clear and a pleasure to snorkel in. I can say for certain that Wings has fewer than 3-feet of water under her keel, though! Otherwise, she looks fine and her new paint job is holding up well: she shows no growth at all.
We plan to depart tomorrow and move to Haamene Bay on Taha'a. We enjoy the place and haven't visited in a few years: since 2017, actually. Conni wants to visit the other side of the lagoon before heading out the pass to blue water.
As I type this, it's 1800 hours and the orange-yellow tropical sun is setting. The surf is pounding on the reef that's a mile away: a wide reef, here. There's a huge expanse of reef on the western horizon, with the traveling mounds of surf spraying.