Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Societies - Six Islands in Nine Days

After leaving the tranquil Marquesas forty-five years ago when John arrived in one of the South Pacific's busiest cities, Papeete, it felt like we'd sailed into Los Angeles.  This time around a very fast passage transported us from Hirifa, a motu on the Fakarava atoll, population 3, to Papeete, population ah, well... a lot.   Our mission was to reprovision after two months cruising and prepare Moonshadow for guests, but first we had to take a moment to adjust to the contrast between island living and this.  

At Marina Taina, we found ourselves able to access all the conveniences of a big city, like internet, supermarkets, laundry facilities, boat parts and car rental.

But we didn't expect a few things, like being able to drive our rental car right up to Moonshadow's boarding gate with propane and groceries. 

Deb also learned that at the Carrefour grocery, one must find and collect the toilet paper they think they'll need from the returns department before entering the restroom.  

 Before we knew it Scott and Deanna were at the Faaa Airport terminal right on time at 5:00 AM.  We didn't waste any time getting right to the fun.  After a quick tour of Papeete in the rental car, we cast off and were on our way across the short channel between Tahiti and Moorea, where we encountered some of the biggest waves we've seen in four and a half years.  Fortunately, these waves were sent from storms far away in the southern Pacific and weren't steep or breaking, but definitely big.

At Moorea's Opunohu Bay, we found the 97 foot cousin to Moonshadow, Iceberg.  After Steve Dashew built the Deerfoot and Sundeer cruising sailboats, he developed a special breed of offshore cruising powerboat he calls FPB, or Fast Patrol Boat.  His prototype, an 83 footer named Wind Horse was in Beaufort NC when we were there with Moonshadow, and again in Maine, where we got to meet Steve and his wife Linda. 

So it was fun to lay eyes on the next generation of Steve's creations, which look a lot like the Deerfoot, except for the big windows, fly bridge, no mast, no sails...  

... let's just say there's a family resemblance.

Rather than anchor in 90 feet of water with Iceberg in Opunohu Bay, we followed the narrow but well marked channel in the lagoon to the west between the reef and the island until the lagoon became too shallow for anything but dinghies and jet skis.  Here, we anchored in shallow water with a sand bottom.

The kids seemed to enjoy the transition they'd just experienced flying from LAX, then sailing to this spot.

Yep, we're in paradise!

I should have prepared Scott before he dove in...

...hey kid, that water isn't very deep!

Visibility?  well over 62 feet!

This anchorage sits in the wind-shadow of the rugged mountains so it's a great place for paddling...

...or anything you want to do on a paddle-board.

I could have prepared Scott and Dee for what was in the water too!

These species of huge rays tend to hang out in sand bottoms where the water is shallow, so you stand on the bottom and watch them swim right at you.

We had just the remedy for all the tension of flying, sailing, swimming, paddle-boarding, and not getting eaten by big sea animals.

Now, take your medicine...

Feeling better!

Full disclosure time.  It rains here.  But there's a rainbow around every cloud.

 We found a guy with a 4 x 4 truck who drove us around, mostly up and down.

Moorea has some incredible scenery in it's interior.

Including a big pineapple farm.

After a particularly steep section...

... we found ourselves high above Moonshadow in the lagoon...

 ...and the pass through the reef into Opunohu Bay on our right.

When we sailed the 85 miles from Moorea to Huahini, we saw some more of those big waves.  Moonshadow likes to surf and that's just what we did with winds in the high twenties and gusts to the low thirties, we flew along topping out at 17.8 knots.

The Societies are so different from the Marquesas and Tuamotus.  Here, you have deep lagoons inside a barrier reef that surround mountainous islands.  The only problem with these deep lagoons is that they are really deep.  So, boats are always looking for a sandy spot that's not too deep yet not too shallow.

Back in the old days, the ships that anchored here had to anchor in the deep lagoons and deal with monster anchors like this.

Scott and Deanna are avid fans of the Golden State Warriors, so our mission in Huahine was to find someplace to watch the NBA finals on television.  We asked at the Yacht Club, no dice.  We asked at grocery where they looked at us like we had three heads.  Finally at a gift shop where Deb bought a dress, Jenn, who was there filling in for the shopkeeper, thought for a moment and said "Come over to my house.  My husband Peter worked for the Warriors, so he'll be watching for sure!"

So we followed Jenn's map to Pete and Jenn's house on the water about 15 minutes from the town dock and found ourselves sitting in the bedroom of the cozy home where they've lived for 17 years.  We learned how Pete, a New Yorker, travelled to California and asked for a job with Oakland's Golden State Warriors.  He was hired the next day and spent several years there loving his job where he could shoot hoops with his buddies on the same court we were watching on television.  Eventually, Pete chucked it all to travel the world forty years ago.  He met Jenn and settled here in Huahini.

Alas, the last piece of the puzzle didn't fall into place.  GSW lost.  But we figure we won, coming away with new friends we didn't plan or expect to find.  

It was really easy to console Scott.  Hey, just look around!

An easy sail from Huahine brings you to two islands, Raiatea, and Tahaa, which are surrounded by one large reef.  Most of the lagoon is safe for navigation, so we entered through a pass on the east shore of Raiatea, stopped for fuel and groceries then proceeded 20 miles beyond to Tahaa.

Our destination was this band of sand on the northwest corner where if you get it right, you can anchor in 25 feet and stand on the sand just off your stern.  

But the real reason to come here is a dinghy ride...

... to someplace called the Coral Gardens...

 ... which should be called the aquarium!  These were the tamest tropical fish we've ever seen, willing to swim right up to your facemask!

Next to the Coral Garden is a gorgeous five star hotel where we were allowed to sample their rum drinks and eat their restaurant fare, all of which received high marks.

The surrounding sandy playground is spectacular.

We found that the local internet company had a very fast signal pointed right at the resort, so we were able to stream the next game of the NBA finals, while enjoying John's delicious margaritas.

From our anchorage aboard Moonshadow we could watch the sunset behind Bora Bora, our next stop, just 17 miles away, 

Bora Bora has changed a lot since John's visit here in 1971 when, from the pass through the reef, the only evidence of mankind's presence was a church steeple poking up through the palms.  Now Bora Bora is a honeymoon destination for those willing to pay $1,500 a night.  Evidently, there are a lot of those.  

On a drive around the island with Paul, who knew every single person we encountered, we stopped at a white sand beach for a post card photo op.

That evening Scott and Deanna's whirlwind tour of the Societies was capped off with dinner at Bloody Mary's famous restaurant, where we spent our 25th wedding anniversary.  

It's still a great place.

We took Scott and Deanna  in the dinghy to Bora Bora's town dock where they boarded a ferry to the airport which sits on a motu (small island on a reef) across the lagoon.  From there they caught a plane back to Papeete, then boarded a red-eye to LAX, then drove 200 miles down to San Diego where their employers expected them to make an appearance the next day.  

Whew!  Just thinking about all that travel makes us tired.  All we had to do was sail Moonshadow 130 miles upwind back to Papeete.

1 comment:

Aidan Barrett said...

Hi J and D
Great new blog. What a nice visit from Scott and Deanna. Terrific photos of all those beautiful places. Seems a long way from the non stop political whirl here.
Keep safe and bon voyage.
Aidan and Robin

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