Huahine, Society Islands, French Polynesia

We left for Huahine at sunset, our last overnight passage in French Polynesia. Wind was lighter than forecast, so we had a pleasant but slightly slower sail, and arrived around noon. Acushnet, faster than us but having stopped to fix an engine problem, entered the pass just ahead of us, and we saw a huge humpback breach startlingly close to their boat. They seem to be our good luck charm for animal sightings.

We initially anchored outside the town dinghy dock. But the anchorage was tight, and another boat we know had been boarded on this island the previous week. As they slept, their dinghy and cell phones were taken off their boat. Dinghies are a few thousand dollars, and that’s bad enough, but they’re also not something you can buy here. Lose your dinghy, and suddenly getting to shore is much more complicated. Knowing about this theft, and others we’d heard about at further remove, colored a lot of our experience of this island. So after only a few minutes anchored off the beach, we decided we would be happier further from shore.

We anchored in “the flats” outside Fare, in a patch of sand that swung from twelve to six feet deep depending on the wind direction. We tried to float our chain, seeing a few isolated rocks dotting the ground under us. But the wind kept dying out, causing the buoys to tangle with each other, and we had to remove the floats and trust our luck. That luck did not hold, and we had to pull our chain out from under a rock a few days later.

On our first day, we brought our dive tanks to a dive shop, and convinced them to fill them for us. Since we had a few more business hours, we checked out the Super U and were reassured to find it well stocked. Grapes, boxed wine, and whole frozen goats! While we’re in the supermarket, some other polynesian oddities: frozen escargot, because you can get surprisingly specific French food. Tiny flowers, sold closed but they open up during the day as you wear them. And of course, the huge fillets of tuna present in every store that sells food, whether it’s a supermarket or gas station.

And we stopped at the local distillery, which turned out to be an infusion shop specializing in strong, sugary flavors that did not do it for us at all. It’s a free tasting from a menu of maybe fifty flavors, so you feel bad and want to buy something, anything, which is probably why there are signs all over the shop telling visitors that the smallest size bottle is unavailable.

On our way back to the dinghy dock we found out that the local “Yacht Club” bar-restaurant had live music once a week. We were exhuasted from our overnight passage, and so was Acushnet, but we convinced each other to rally. We showed up fashionably late for the happy hour, only slightly before the band started. It turned out that a party of four without a reservation could only get a table in the sad back of a sad room, so we got a drink from the bar and stood outside. We were glad we opted out of dinner, because neither the drinks nor the music felt worth staying for. A few hours later, from back on the boat, we heard a better group come on. Apparently we are just too old to stay up past the opening act. This did explain why the nice French girls on the dock had asked us why we were leaving.

The next morning, the four of us rented ebikes for a trip around the island, a 55-kilometer ride around the figure-eight of the two adjacent mountains. This let us hit most of the major tourist destinations in a day, and get a little bit of workout in the mix.

The first shop was a marae museum, the highlight of which was probably the woven floor mat. We also noted a costume that Jazz would have rocked.

Next stop, some fish traps: these jagged rock structures are funnels that channel passing fish into traps in the center.

A little detour from the main loop aimed us at a beach, and we stopped at an art shop run by an American expat. On the way to the unremarkable beach, we passed this guy, spinning a bamboo log on his head as he strolled down the road.

We locked the bikes into a tight bundle and hopped on a little ferry boat to go out to a pearl farm in the middle of a lagoon.

They gave us a nice explanation of the pearl-making process, complete with visual aids. It was quiet as we arrived, but in minutes four big tourist boats arrived and swarmed the place; it’s nice to be the only pearl farm left on an island, apparently. On the boat ride back, a kid paddled his outrigger determinedly in our wake.

Next up, a stop by a river where the sacred blue-eyed eels live.

At this point we were in danger of missing lunch hours, so we booked it to the south end of the island to Le Mahana resort, where we had a delicious lunch. Probably the best food we had in French Polynesia.

But the best part was the ride itself, a series of pleasant views of the bays and mountain-sides, often with the ocean playing backdrop. This was Jazz’s first time on an ebike, and she is a convert. This despite Jazz and Andrew getting the same size bike, so Andrew was hunched over and Jazz couldn’t reach the ground over the bar in the middle. She was bruised.

Back to the boat for a lovely sunset.

After a good night’s recovery sleep, we went out to dive just outside the pass. Once again we went with Acushnet, and towing both our dinghies on long leads.

We had a nice but unspectacular dive, pulling the dinghies against the current along the wall, in what in retrospect was probably the wrong direction.

The highlight of the dive: a nesting pair of huge blue triggerfish, aggressively defending their pile of eggs from a host of hungry scavengers. This brought to Jazz’s mind a warning from her sister Addy from diving in Thailand: during nesting season, ordinarily docile triggerfish will chase you and bite through your fins. Jazz is very protective of her beloved flippers.

In the afternoon, we finally got around to installing the new windlass motor we’d picked up in Tahiti. The old one had stopped again, and while we could keep cleaning the brushes to keep it going, we figured a more permanent solution was in order. While we were at it, we replaced a fan that had finally kicked the bucket and a water filter that had done great work, and we cut into one of our finally-ripe Mo’orea avocados to find the largest pit of our lives.

And then we tried to provision for our next couple of islands, and discovered that we had had unusually good luck on our scouting trip. This time, the U had slim veggie pickings, and no eggs at all. We tried again the next morning with the same result, though we did at least run into a lettuce truck. Note also this other truck: it seems to be a general rule that when we pass a vehicle in French Polynesia, whether car truck or scooter, there are baguettes. The baguettes here are not that good, but everyone seems to love them, or at least treat them as an irreplaceable staple.

There are several other bays that we’ve heard great things about. But our visa was expiring, and the weather was bad and worsening, so we regretfully decided to move on. We hauled anchor, and immediately played host to Protest Panther on our way to Bora Bora.

One comment

  1. I think we must be about as far away from each other as we can get. Had a lovely time in Slovenia, and enjoying your adventures which have removed all thought of ever owning and traveling in a live in Sailboat. Hugs and warm regards, Jon and Pat.

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