Tuamotu to Society Islands
Leaving beautiful Rangiroa was a bit of a wrench, but we had decided to visit Moorea first before turning back to Tahiti, so that we had more time when we left Tahiti to explore the other Society Islands. One last photo of the bay…
… and we weighed anchor late in the afternoon of the 29th June, and headed out to the pass. We waited for another boat to come in through the pass, just making it in under full sail against the current, and then zoomed out with 4 knots of flow pushing us along. There were some standing waves and chop where the outflow from the lagoon met the sea, but since we were being carried along with the current it was all relatively smooth and we were duly spat out of the lagoon without any problems.
It immediately started to rain torrentially, which was never far away in the next 24 hours, everyone getting a thorough soaking at various points in the crossing to Moorea. The wind was reasonable most of the time, although it wasn't consistent enough with the rain squalls around to sail properly overnight without attention, so a few small sails were employed with engine help. We managed all of five hours without engine during the next day, until the wind eased off again in the afternoon, the sky remaining overcast the entire time.
Running all night under mizzen and medium jib, with engine assistance, we caught our first view of Tahiti and Moorea as dawn broke, passing Tahiti to Port, we carried on to Cook's Bay, Moorea.
This is a map of the Society islands, with our completed journey so far, and the intended route through the rest of the islands.
We were anchored by lunchtime, among another eight boats, and after a wander around being delighted by the availability of supermarkets containing fresh veg and other forgotten items, managed to find a wonky palm tree just in time for sunset.
The next morning Rob and Merryn set off in a 'Bugxster' for an around-the-island drive, Merryn though seemed a little more interested in the shops that the scenery - in fact both Merryn and Jay were finally able to buy new bikinis that morning, a matter which had obviously been disturbing them both for some time. The road tour led to some pretty spectacular views - Tahiti and most of the Society islands have both mountains and fringing coral reefs, a little like the Marquesas and the Tuamotus put together; this allows a good perspective over the beautiful colours in the water!
The road around the island takes no more than several hours, but with a stop at a lookout point in the mountains and a stop at most shops that we passed, Merryn and Rob returned to the boat tired and slightly shaken from the go-kart's suspension.
Mike had threatened to go hiking in the mountains, but was still on board the boat, having made a u-turn and stayed in bed most of the day instead, although the day after he took to the hills and walked all over the island on mountain tracks.
After 4 days we decided that it was time for a change of scenery, so we motored around the North East corner of the island and anchored inside the reef on the East side, in beautiful light blue water.
At this point the camera, which had been rather temperamental for the previous few weeks (causing us to miss most good pictures, hence the worse than usual quality of our pictures) decided to break once and for all - electronic items do not fare very well in salty corrosive sea air, and the inevitable finally happened. Luckily we were able to steal photos off a variety of people to finish off this section!
We spent a few more uneventful days on Moorea, snorkelling over the nearby reef and with Mike and Jay walking to see a waterfall, and then carried on to Pape'ete, Tahiti, a short ten mile journey across the channel. Unfortunately the wind had got up to a reasonable F4-5 that morning, and so we motored directly into the wind and waves, the two-hour journey ending up taking almost double the time. As we were about to enter the main pass into Pape'ete harbour, the fishing line went - we had caught a massive 4-foot long Dorado, which Mike struggled aboard - no picture of our biggest fish by far though, due to the camera problems. It was extremely good eating, doing five people three meals when wastefully filleted!
After all the excitement and the fish was finally subdued we headed down past the airport inside the reef and anchored near the marina, and took a bus up to town to have a look around. The excitement of being near a large city ended up to be too much, and so the next morning we moved up to the dock in the centre of town, very convenient for all the shops and exploring the city, and just like home, next to a main road!
Tahiti has a month-long festival during June and July, and so there were many cultural events going on during our stay, mostly dancing and music based, but also sports such as rowing and stone lifting, which were entertaining to watch, although it was sometimes difficult to work out what was happening and who had won!
Jay left for her 3-week holiday in England after a few days in Pape'ete, and several days later saw the disreputable sailing vessel Skardu turn up ( www.skardu.net ) , who we had met in the Marquesas for a few drinks. Alcohol consumption on a dangerous scale ensued, mostly due to the lethal house cocktail, resulting in many ridiculous antics which included Merryn falling into the dock, and Noel and Jo sleeping in a building site on the way home with Noel's good friend Swampy.
There was plenty of time to try out the famous Tahiti surf; Rob and Morton from Blaatur ( www.blaatur.net ) had a good time in Papara, an hour's hitch away, but hardly got to professional status!
Before running around the island to leave the boat in Port Phaeton, a protected bay on the south side of the island, we finally invited the entire crew of Endelig, the boat that Noel and Jo are on, round to dinner.
Now Merryn and Rob's turn to leave for the UK for wedding attendance, we motored around to the protected bay on the south side, leaving Mike in charge for the duration of our stay in England.
Upon our return, Mike had been very busy and sanded and varnished the entire cockpit, which looked lovely; unfortunately, this also made everything else look awful, so a few days later Jay got to work sanding the rail, only slightly interrupted at times by torrential rain.
Port Phaeton is certainly the wetter side of the island, but the smooth still water is lovely and calm as an anchorage, and creates beautiful reflections of the sunrise.
After four or five days of boat maintenance by all, with Rob fitting all of the difficult to obtain parts that he had brought back from England, we retraced our course back to Pape'ete and anchored off the marina near the airport, ready for our next set of guests - Ian, Matt and Polly due to arrive a few days later.
In the meantime Mike had decided that it was time to move onto other things, so he left the boat just before Ian, Matt and Polly arrived early the next morning. Although the weather was bad overnight, with strong wind and rain, by the next morning it was bright again, although the wind was still very strong, and we were grateful to be tied up safely to the wall of the marina!
We took a few days to get everyone settled in, and after stocking up with beer and food, and showing the new crew around the now familiar sights of Pape'ete, such as the colourful market, we sailed across to Moorea.
We anchored at the mouth of Cook's Bay in shallow tuquiose water, where we were able to take a short dingy ride to the reef or just look out for rays gliding past the boat.
Some light exercise and a climb up the nearby mountain Rotui turned into a sweaty scramble up steep and slippery paths and walks along razor-back ridges, but gave fantastic views over the reef and other mountains of Moorea.
Video - panoramic view from top of the mountain
We were forced to turn back without making it to the top, and slid back down to a nice cool drink at the Sheritan hotel at the bottom.
After another day relaxing we set sail in the evening for Huahine, making fairly slow progress with light breeze overnight, skirting around the bottom of the island and sailing well for the last hour with a stiff land breeze.
We followed the channel between the reef and the land down to the bottom corner of the island, where we anchored in a quiet bay with a few other boats, and went out to a local bar for a few drinks that evening.
Off again the next morning we travelled up to the main town on Huahine for a different anchorage at the side of the northern pass, and after a good snorkel took a walk into the forest that afternoon to find some vanilla plants, which Huahine is famous for. After a good climb into the jungle we still hadn't found anything, so we hurried back down to the town to catch happy hour at the dockside bar, which soon turned into several more drinks as we waited out some heavy rain.
Soon after dawn the following morning we were motoring out of the pass towards Raiatea; we raised mizzen, staysail, jib and double reefed main (due to light wind flapping rather than strong wind) and made it across in less than three hours. After entering through pass Iriru, we followed Noel's reccomendation and anchored behind a lovely little motu, anchoring stern-to the shore and running a line to a palm tree since the beach was steeply shelving.
There was much lazing about and exploring of the motu, and that evening Matt and Rob made a huge fire, which cooked sausages and home-made burgers, all washed down by a few beers.
The stiff breeze that had fanned the flames of the beach fire the night before disappeared during next morning, and so swarms of mosquitos and tiny flies made the short journey to the boat, hastening our departure just after breakfast to follow the channel all the way up around the top of Raiatea, and then up the west side of Tahaa to anchor in Bay Hurepiti, narrowly missing going aground on a shelf at the head of the bay by some sharp looking-out and a rather hastily applied full astern.
Ian, Matt, Merryn and Rob took a 4km walk over the steep hill to the other side of the island to find some fresh food for the night's meal, giving a good view of the bays either side of the island.
Off at the crack of dawn the next morning, we motor sailed across to Bora Bora, around the bottom and up to the pass on the west side, admiring the view of the reef and the mountain behind.
The route to the out-of-the-way south-eastern anchorage took us all the way round the top and back down the other side of Bora Bora, through some scarilly shallow channels at only 0.8m depth below us at one point, but more beautiful colours in the shallow waters.
We eventually found our way to the anchorage, where Rob finally got to practice kite surfing again with Morten (sadly the last time we will see him) and we were able to practice our Sambucca drinking skills with Noel, Jo and Morten that evening, which as usual turned out to be a very bad idea the next day.
Time was pressing so we were off again that afternoon, back along the shallow channel around Bora Bora and anchored off the reef just before sunset.
We were up with the dawn the next morning, and having completed the journey to the main town, Vitape, we were anchored and had set off by 8am to climb the Bora Bora mountain.
The first part of the climb was an arduous hour-long steep climb through the forest…
…followed by scrambling along narrow paths and up steep sections where helpful people had strung ropes for support, with occasional glimpses of the view through the trees.
We finally arrived at the first summit, hot and sweaty, after an hour and a half of solid climbing, and had a short rest…
…before carrying on along the ridge to the top of the climbable part of the mountain.
The views from the top were amazing, and we managed to get a few photos in just before a cloud rolled in and blanketed us and the view.
We could just about make out Lista Light, at full camera zoom, anchored below us in the bay.
After our mountain climb, and Matt and Polly's day-long bike ride around the island, there was call for refreshment that evening, so we moved a few miles down to the south end of the island, and anchored near Bloody Mary's Bar. It was a bit cheesy, with boards naming all the famous guests that had ate there, but the barbequed fish was extremely good eating and we all enjoyed our dinner immensely.
A late start the next morning (especially by Matt!) and taking on of water and diesel through the day set us up for an evening departure towards Raratonga, 535 miles away.
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