Taha’a, Society Islands, French Polynesia

We had intended a day sail to the twin islands of Taha’a and Raiatea, but the weather was not cooperative. Instead of the lovely spinnaker weather in the forecast, we had rain off and on all day. The morning’s showers thrice postponed our fuitile trip to the Super U for the eggs that were not there, so we got a late start. Then the showers stayed on either side of us as we motored, wind-less, between the islands. We aimed for the east side of Taha’a, planning to head south to Raiatea the next day.

As we approached our chosen pass, the rain caught up to us, and we were dumped on almost to grayout as we navigated the choppy waves of an otherwise uncomplicated enterance.

We anchored on the sand shelf behind the barrier reef alongside a half-dozen other boats, and passed the night in safe but uncomfortable roll. In the morning, the clouds remained generously giving, and with no change in sight for days we canceled the next day’s dives in Raiatea. Despite being “protected” about 200 meters behind the reef break, we were nearly burying the bow in big waves and thirty-knot gusts. All the boats around us were clearing out, and we followed suit. We picked the best gap we could find in the rain forecast and motored around the north side of Taha’a to find protection for the predicted winds, swinging between northeast and southeast. We ended up in Tupuamu bay, where we anchored on a shelf and went to shore to hunt eggs and rum. We found only the latter, at a very pleasant shop. The rum was disappointing, but they had Tahitian beers, and a wine from the winery we’d missed in Rangiroa. So we brought some of those home, to be disappointed about them in comfort.

On the way to shore, we’d explored with the dinghy, and found that the satellite imagery that we thought showed a sandy shelf had in fact been showing dirty water, and that we were in swinging distance of several coral heads. We hauled anchor again, and had a very dicey exit from the shelf, before proceeding to the much safer sand shelf on the barrier reef opposite the bay. Check out the sharp color difference in the water as the bottom drops out!

When you’re somewhere this pretty, you basically have to fly the drone. It’s the law.

Why all these shelves, rather than deep water? Because at this point, despite having replaced the motor, our windlass was still not working quite right, turning but not able to apply much force. It was here that Andrew finally got out the manual, and realized that he had put the top portion together wrong, leaving the brake unable to clamp down. A simple re-ordering of parts fixed the problem and we were back in business.

This anchorage was lovely for the night, but in the morning the winds shifted north, and the longer fetch provided big uncomfortable waves. We debated riding it out just long enough that we ended up leaving in the face of a big squall, and sat out another grayout rainstorm just outside the bay, watching the otherwise-invisibile passenger ferry pass us on AIS. When it cleared, we picked up a mooring in the bay, where protection was excellent and we even had some internet signal. The weather continued to suck, and we stayed inside and had a spa day.

Rain continued the next day, and as we watched Sandman with all the windows closed, our second “10-year” smoke detector started its Critical Error, End of Life beeping. Things on boats just do not last.

In the afternoon, the rain broke long enough for us to go to shore for a walk and a visit to the island’s other distillery. They had a nice tour, and there were kittens. The rum was better, though still not worth buying. The white rum is free to taste, but the aged ones carried a fee, which turned out to be $9; we thought that was a little steep for about half a shot of mediocre liquor.

The next day, Acushnet joined us in the bay, and the weather cleared up enough for our “second” scheduled dives, this time on Taha’a. The shop came and picked us up from our boats, and drove us outside the pass and along the reef almost to opposite our anchorage. There was still some significant southern swell, breaking dramatically on the barrier reef.

The dives were good, though not spectacular by French Polynesia standards. Highlights of the first dive included a big school of barracudas and an even bigger school of ocean triggerfish.

The coral was lovely, but the shop’s planning was terrible. Our second dive was a nice craggy coral garden, but all sitting around seventy feet, and given it was our second dive on air, we only had about twenty minutes of bottom time. After spending the same amount as we’d spent on our glorious whale tour, we were pretty disappointed in the lackluster execution. Cool fish though.

Ross found us a dinner reservation at the local resort, on the motu opposite our bay. Their facility is very pretty, at least at golden hour when we arrived, evoking the Western image of Polynesian paradise. As if we were in the Polynesian section of a Disney park. Their “barbecue with entertainment” had given us visions of fire spinning, but turned out to be a ukelele trio and occasional dancing from the hostess. The food was fine, though, and the company excellent, so we had a great evening.

The rain having calmed down a bit in the morning, we sent Jazz up the mast to take down the jib halyard. We had a big passage coming up, and we needed to fix the chaffing we’d found in Mo’orea. (With the sail wrapped on the furler, it was easier to detach the halyard from the top than to take the whole sail down.) With the end in hand, Andrew cut off the chaffed part and proceeded to spend several hours fighting his way through a new eye splice. We learned, halfway through, that older rope is harder to splice, so doing your first splice in old rope is not recommended.

We took a break somewhere in the middle to move the boat back out to the shelf outside the bay, for a better view. The finished product was thus a little uglier than we’d like, but solid, and we sent Jazz back up the mast to re-attach it and watch the sunset. Captain watched from the deck, and we all watched the stingrays passing below.

At this point we were out of time, and with heavy hearts, we left for Bora Bora, having failed to set foot on Raiatea at all. Look, there it is, tantalizingly close, just on the other side of Taha’a!

When we got the anchor up, we discovered we’d almost brought this adorable little stow-away: a baby octopus who had been hiding out in the anchor swivel.

One comment

  1. Love the trails and tribulations, pictures and witty comments. Frustrated along side you with some of the reporting, thanks for the vicarious boat experience. Less fraying and praying this way I’m sure. Hugs, Jon and Pat.

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