Raiatea and Tahaa

Oh my. Kids. Lots of them. Hysteria, mania and joy!

We arrived at Raiatea having had a easy sail across the 15miles from Huahine. We were joined at the entrance pass by two canoeists who wanted to slipstream us to ease their passage and do some training. Both were superbly fit but the older man by far the more efficient and skilled paddler. His paddle stroke was effortless and other than his metronomic arm movement, he was motionless. They kept up with us for about 3 miles whilst we were doing 6kts. Very impressive.  The younger guy asked us if we would speed up and he lasted another half a mile at 7kts, sweating bullets but finishing with a shout, a big grin and a wave. We clapped and cheered him to his great pleasure as he turned away into a village dock.


We motored around to the NW corner of the island to the Raiatea Carenage. This has a few mooring balls of it which neither the yard or Carenage seem particularly interested in managing and picked up just off the entrance to the yard. Be and Be and Sangvind were both there waiting for us and the first dinghy with Dylan and Jayden from Sangvind arrived before we even finished tying up. Eleanor was immediately in difficulty. The mooring was a  short one and we had failed to lift it high enough to get a line through, resulting in her jumping in in just a pair of pale pants and a t-shirt to do so, whilst rescuing the boat hook at the same time. Two boys arriving in a dinghy was almost too much for her but she managed to save her dignity by hightailing it through the hulls to get decent. The boys couldn’t see the problem with her just jumping in to the dinghy!

Be and Be are an Aus boat with a family of six (Peta and Geoff with Shelby, Evie, Harry and Jake – 13, 11, 9 and 8 respectively). They are taking a year out to sail their newly bought boat back from Tahiti to the Gold Coast. Sangvind (Sylvia and Frans with Dylan, 12 and Jayden, 9) have been travelling for a while. Although they stopped in the UK for a couple of years, they have been sailing a long time with Frans and Sylvia already having spent nine years in the W Pacific, buying their first boat in NZ and travelling for 18 years in total. The current trip is partly financed by Frans’s part in the film “In the Heart of the Sea” in which he had a major part and his own death scene. His kids are particularly proud of this fact!

We had two great days there. The eight kids ran feral across all three boats and moved between them by swimming and canoeing as the feeling took them. Meals were made after counting the heads you had on the boat at that moment in time. It was great fun.


Frans organised some wakeboarding and we used the ring from Mary Ann II properly for the first time.


There were a variety of sleepovers including the big kids sleeping on our trampoline – at least until 0430hrs when the rain came – and the move on the third day with the parent’s decision that everyone should have a quiet night on their own boat was greeted with a surprising enthusiasm by the exhausted kids coming down from hyperland!

I managed to get the Carenage to find me an electrician who understood aircon. Our aircon had gone west on us in the Marquesas last year and with our need to run the aircon to load the generator to a point of reasonable efficiency, I wanted it fixed. This is important as at the moment with little wind and not much sun, I am having to run the generator a lot more than I normally do and it can be damaged by under loading it, with a carbonisation of the exhaust system being the biggest issue. At 6kW, our genset needs a lot of loading. It really is too big for us.

I had thought that the aircon water pump had failed. It turned out that a corroded control panel was the issue and the system was simply not getting correct commands so was starting without the pump switching on. The second aircon unit (yes – thanks to the last owner who liked his home comforts, I have two) which supplies the the rest of the boat, has a wiring problem. All the parts work but we need to run new cabling to the pump.  Two hours work and we had the saloon system working and the cabin system diagnosed.  The joy of a cold saloon! Our thanks to Joseph who did the work.

With some variable weather coming in from the NW, we decided to move the 6 miles up to the second island sharing the reef with Raiatea, the island of Tahaa. It is a lot smaller than Raiatea, the anchorages are generally very deep, 30m+, and it has one of the few acknowledged hurricane holes in FP at the top end of Haamene Bay. We took a mooring in 45m off the Hibiscus Restaurant, halfway up on the N side of the bay. Conveniently close to a shop, surrounded by mountains of greenery, it is a magnificent spot. On our evening there with all eight of the kids on Be and Be watching a film, the grown ups had a beer at the Hibiscus, just getting back to the boats before a torrential downpour.


Easter weekend didn’t start well. The shop didn’t keep our ordered bread so Hannah and I whizzed up the two miles to the village at the top of the bay in the hope of getting some at the supermarket there. We got lucky in both bread and entertainment. We came off the dock, walking past the sports hall and had to stop to listen to magnificent Polynesian voices singing lustily, harmonising without instrument accompaniment. It was their Good Friday service and it was glorious noise. We decided it would be good for the kids to see an Easter Service so we planned to dress up and go back in on Sunday.

We snorkelled Pass Toahota, the pass on the E side of Tahaa. The N side of the pass wasn’t up to much. Some old fish traps and a steep wall to the too deep floor meant we quickly decided to move. Be and Be’s dinghy became the workhorse!


The S side proved to be much better and we had a pleasant hour slowly meandering out over reasonable coral and good if small fish in water up to 8m. Frans looked enviously at some local kids surfing at the edge of the pass in the 2m swell. We found a good clump of anemone with a family of Clown fish in it which required us to dive down to it for a good look.


Back by the yachts, Eleanor did well at wakeboarding getting up without problem first on a surf board and then on a proper wakeboard.

Eleanor had fun taking photos of some of the other kids. These ones, I think, came out the best.


Easter Sunday came and there was a sigh of relief from certain grown ups that the service was to be held at 1000hrs rather than the more normal 0800hrs. We dinghied up to Haamene village, all tarted up, to be welcomed with open arms by an elder and, we found out later, the young minister and put in the front row. We had been hoping to hide at the back! The local kids sang beautifully and then all headed out for a egg hunt.


The service was great, good humoured and with lots of laughter, with a mix of small groups of locals singing accompanied with ukuleles and then the whole congregation, with some of the men acting as bass boom boxes (best way I can describe it),  coming together to deafen us with fantastic harmonies.  I took some voice recordings although sadly the Ipod doesn’t do the bass justice at all.  I’ve been failing to work out a way to imbed them to the blog. Can anyone help?


We motor sailed in no wind around the N end of Tahaa to what is known as the Coral Garden, the channel between two motu on the westernmost point of the reef opposite Tapuamau Bay.  The anchorage at 16 36.737S 151 227.337W in 5m of water provides a glorious view of Bora Bora at sunset.


The anchorage is not a reliable one and certainly I wouldn’t want to be at it in any kind of wind. It is a lightly sanded bottom over old coral, covered in bombies, providing poor holding. In the moderate 10kts we had it was fine; with more it would be a very nervous affair. We had one last sleep over with the smalls deciding to sleep on the trampoline. According to them they hardly got “any sleep” but having checked them every couple of hours all I heard were little snores!


The bigger kids stayed on Sangvind. They appeared just after sunrise, asking for the kayak to go for an explore around the motu. The smalls, up a little later, played around the boat and Jayden proved you can row a rubber ring.


The Coral Garden is a major tourist attraction and by the time we hit it at 0930hrs, there were several fast boats already there with their loads from the mainland hotels. We were surprised at how quick the initial current was, maybe 4-5kts but it slowed as you progressed through the reef. It was good to see the number of fish we did, all small and some colours on the coral. Much of what we have seen in the Societies has been bleached and the Garden seems to have been less effected. We enjoyed it so much we went through twice.



We picked up after untangling ourselves from a coral head and drove back S to meet up with our friends of Quatra, last seen in the Galapagos last year. We started to move just in time as the wave bringing the strong SE wind we were expecting turned up. We had 35+kts apparent on our bow for most of the 8miles we had to run, making it unpleasantly choppy, wet and a slow trip back to Raiatea. We took an extra hour to get in and Quatra had been and gone. We made up for it by coming across Kathi and Wolfgang on Plastik Plankton, our friends who had helped us through the Panama Canal, parked 100m outside us and then having an excellent evening with Sangvind.

We met up with Audrey and Adrien the next morning and Lou disappeared off to do a huge shop with the luxury of a car to bring the shopping back in. Adrien and I chewed the fat over coffee on Skylark. They have settled in to life back on land but not without some heartache. The kids are loving school and are doing very well, Arsene having been moved up a class to bring him in line with the level he achieved on the boat. The adults have found the transition after four years on a boat more stressful. Of course, having professions which can be done anywhere (Adrien is a software engineer, building websites amongst other things, Audrey manages their property back in France) has meant that they simply require decent internet for work but Adrien is very keen to move away from IT and start a business on the island where he wouldn’t have to work to other people’s unreasonable and stressful deadlines again. It is obvious that for both of them not having a boat has been emotional.

Raiatea has good schools, all the amenities you need for a simple lifestyle and is less busy and a lot more friendly than Tahiti. There are fewer problems here with the “racism” that exists between Polynesians and French émigrés on the big island, something we recognised back in the Marquesas as well. They are building a house near the main town, up on a hillside with a great view E towards Huahine and plan to stay on the island for at least five years, at least until Arsene leaves school. Life is busy and good.  We had a couple of great days with them as Audrey directed that the kids would do well to go in to school for a day so the girls were kidnapped for a sleepover before that.


I got to use their “proper” internet and catch up with the blog, with posts from as far back as the top of the N island in New Zealand. In my defence, they were all ready to go but the internet we have had has not been good enough to post up the large number of photos I always embed. We had two great evenings with them, dinner being superb both times. We will definitely be staying in touch. They are a great family and it would be very good to see them again down the road. Both boys are extremely musical and I want to hear just how good a pianist Arsene becomes (zero to Chopin and The Entertainer in less than a year) and I’d watch out for Axel’s name in a band coming to you soon.


Of course,  living on a boat never comes easy. In the last couple of days we had two major malfunctions. The first was a starter battery for the generator that died on us. We came back in an evening to find the house bank low, went to start the genset and clunk. A very depressing sound. On investigation the genset battery was a whole 10.2V. We tried to recover it but had no luck. It is more than seven years old so I suppose it was due for replacement but the timing? Infuriating. $230 later we had a new one (which would have cost $90 max in the USA but hey) and I am hoping that the issue is fixed. However, I have this sneaking feeling that all is not well with the port engine alternator too…….

The other problem was the Delorme tracking device we had, decided that the day before we planned to leave was just a perfect time to go tits up on us. Unrepairable and no replacement for 3000miles, it may be a while before we get a replacement. Sorry, Dad and Joyce, but you may need to be nervous and wait for our emails to show we have arrived anywhere for a while at least.

My thanks to Audrey and Adrien for driving us around the last morning to get, battery, petrol and for taking us to the Med Centre in town. It turns out that Elephantitis, carried and passed on by a worm,  is still endemic within French Polynesia. Although the once a year pills to kill the worms have been free for years and all the kids get dosed automatically, it turns out that they are also wonderful at giving fighting cocks, still a popular sport here, a supercharge. This meant that some locals stashed theirs for the alternate use. These days they are handed out and you are supposed to take them in front of the nurse. We were handed ours and told to take them before bedtime as they make you sleepy. Obviously she didn’t think we were in to cock fighting…..

On our last morning, the kids went into school with Arsene and were taught English! Eleanor told us that the kids listened to the teacher talk in English but few would speak it.


With the wind in our favour and lighter than it had been in days, we picked up and headed for the pass.

We said our goodbyes to Sangvind, who are heading for Tonga. We have had a great time with them and I know that the kids will miss their partners in crime, Eleanor especially. However, we should be meeting up with them there so that is only about a month to six weeks away.  Plastik Plankton are heading off too and are going in the direction of the Cook Islands but may go straight through to Tonga if the weather looks good. It is difficult this early in the season to guarantee decent trades and safe stops in the Cooks and Nuie and they are keen to get W without incident or hold up. Again, they will be in Fiji whilst we are there and we should catch up with them there.

We left Raiatea by Pass de Rautoanui and jumped the 25 miles across to Bora Bora to meet back up with Be and Be.


We left Moorea at 1700hrs so we could approach Huahine in daylight. It is only about 80miles between the two islands and we had hoped to have 10-12kts just aft of the beam as we headed NW. Yet again, the forecast let us down. We started with little wind, motored for half an hour, then got just enough wind for the parasail, and then didn’t and eventually got 6-8kts on the beam. It was a bit tedious. However, we played with the sails throughout the night and by first light had sight of Huahine. We ended up running up the W coast just so we could force an extra 20 degrees of apparent. We entered the reef at Pass Avamoa on the NW corner of the island. This is an easy pass, big and wide, but you need to make sure you don’t turn in too early as the only channel markers are well within the reef.We initially anchored in 10’ of water, just to the inside of Phylis who had also travelled up the night before. However, one of the big charter boats pushed off and we picked up one of the free moorings he left of the Fare Yacht Club. They are fixed with a big screw, chain and then hawser and are in good condition.

We spent but three days here. Lou and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary and the girls baked a surprise cake which we shared with Emma Louise. It was lovely. Lou and I got dressed up and had a lovely dinner in one of the posh boutique hotels on the beach. We headed into town for a drink afterwards to find everything closed at 2030hrs. We had forgotten it was Sunday! Our grateful thanks go to Sheryl and Steve on Emma Louise for having the girls for the night. Peace!


It was great to see some locals come in on a adapted outrigger, this one a trimaran. I was baffled at quickly they were going in the almost still air until I realised that they were paddling her back into the bay. I’d love to see how quick she was with wind.


To be honest, we haven’t done a great deal here and certainly haven’t done the island justice. We watched the villagers have a day of races, the boat house being close by us. It was less expert than we have used to and there were a good number of capsizes accompanied with hoots of good natured laughter from the crowd.


With little wind, Saturday was gloriously clear and we could see Raiatea, Tahaa and in the distance, the peak of Bora Bora which will be our final island to visit within French Polynesia. Seeing it was a reminder of how little sailing we have to do to get there. A whole 40 miles with three weeks to do it!

We have done a little socialising with Emma Louise and discussed routes through the Cooks with Phylis. We went snorkelling through Pass Avepehi but it was overcast, we got a glimpse of one big Eagle Ray and saw a lot of dead coral. The bay in front of the village of FARE is lovely and the village itself is small but well provisioned. The Super U is very good for most things other than vegetables. The misnamed Fare Yacht Club, the bar and restaurant by the dinghy dock has an excellent happy hour and provides spectacular views W at sunset.

Eleanor loved the effect of the sun on the water reflecting on to Skylarks hull.


Two memorable events here. Mick and Kym went out for the day renting a car to go round the island and passed a gaggle of cyclists in the midst of which was none other than President Obama. We had seen an enormous super yacht (130m+ – yes, metres) come in via Pass Avepehi the night before and suspected it was the same one that Aron had seen at Moorea a couple of days ago. The President is using it to tour the Socieities. He was, says Kym, looking cool and relaxed, a lot more so than the fat hangers on and the entourage were!

The other is slightly more mundane. I had failed every morning in getting bread and for our last morning was determined to be at the supermarket early enough. I arrived just after 0600hrs, before the bread arrived and had to wait 20mins before it was put out. They obviously don’t get enough as it was all gone within minutes of being put out. I left the supermarket just as a squall and some rain came through. Throwing the bread into the fore locker, I headed back to Skylark to be astounded by the site of her  (and just her) illuminated by an extraordinarily bright vertical strip of rainbow from the water to perhaps double her mast height.The effect lasted for a minute or so and was gone by the time I was half way back to the boat. I didn’t have a camera with me but I’ll long remember the image.

The pull to move on has been intense as Be and Be and Sangvind, both kid boats we met in Tahiti, reported being in Raiatea, just 20miles to the W. Time to move



What a beautiful place! With little wind we motor sailed around to the N side of Moorea and went in to Cooks Bay and anchored well up the bay at 17 30.271S 149 49.224W in 40’ of water. Ironically the good Capt Cook didn’t actually use this anchorage but I think he would be pleased as it is beautiful.


We only stayed for a night as whilst the anchorage was deep and safe with a good mud base, the bay was brown with the run off following some heavy rain. We left Phylis and headed around to the far prettier anchorage behind the reef at Opunohu Bay, two miles W of Cooks Bay.


And what an anchorage! We joined about a dozen other yachts anchored in 12’ on white sand 100m behind the reef at 17 28.976S 149 48.737W. We finally got to meet Avatar and Jacaranda, names I’d been hearing on the SSB net for more than a year. And within a day or so, we met up again with Emma Louise and then Reao as they arrived in as well.   Moorea is a popular stop and not just for the cruiser fleet. We had a succession of superyachts and cruise liners in. I think that Wind Spirit is the prettiest of them. It does have sails and will even occasionally run them out.


We had some more rain. Lots of it. With torrential rain we had the advantage of free showers and the waterfalls on the cliffs above us sprang into life and looked great for a day or so. As the anchorage at Opunohu Bay is right at the edge of the reef we weren’t bothered by run off and we kept our clean white sand surround throughout. MooreaMoorea

With the wild weather came glorious sunsets. My thanks to Sheryl on Emma Louise for one of the best we have ever had taken of Skylark. I’m pretty sure she is taking a picture of me taking a picture of the paddler!


The kids played with a new toy – a big drag ring that Mary Ann II passed on to us after it failed to help Julia in her search for an easy way to get in to the dinghy. It is greatly appreciated and is being well used and abused.


And then, joy! A kids boat! Lou had put where we were up on the Kids4sail Facebook page and a CA boat, Stop Work Order, had followed through and came to meet up. The whole family was a delight. Truly and Hannah hit it off and Eleanor and Cameron hung out too. I think big sister, Ciara, enjoyed a bit of peace from the smalls too but did come across for the sleepover we had when Pat and Corise headed ashore to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. One morning, Truly came to do school with us. Most afternoons were spent exploring the local area and throwing themselves in off one of the boats.

Eleanor and I had gone to ask Top Dive about diving with them and for refilling our bottles. $85 a single dive and $30 for a refill is the highest we have encountered anywhere, Pacific or Caribbean. We left in the huff. However, we found out that Pat and Corice dive and in Cameron, we found another junior diver. We managed to get one dive in on the outside of the reef and Pat was kind enough to refill our bottles. The dive sight we choose was 400m to the E of the Opunohu Bay entrance (look for a string of white buoys placed out by the dive boats). We dropped in with a fair amount of surge and enjoyed rolling over the banks of coral running out as spines from the reef. We were a little surprised by a big Silvertip coming to have a look at us. 10’ of shark which the book says is in the “dangerous” category always looks big close up!

We also did some snorkelling. When the missionaries got their teeth into the locals, tiki, the revered carved in stone representations of their ancestors overnight became “heathen idols”. Rather than just destroy them, some of the locals rebelled and moved three huge tiki out to the edge of the reef where they remain. In just ten feet of water, they are in great condition. Find them at  a white ball near 17 29.224S 149 52.735W. Swim N towards the reef. They are within 30m.


Just 400m W of the Intercontinental Hotel is a sandbank on the edge of the inside channel where rays and sharks have become used to tourists feeding them at 0830hrs each morning. It was a long dinghy ride around but so worth it. We had lots of over friendly Stingrays mobbing us and the Black Tip Reef sharks cruised around us without ever getting too close. It was marvellous. Whilst we didn’t have the chunks of fresh tuna that Plastik Plankton suggested were favourites, the tinned stuff we had seemed to go down pretty well too. Word of advice  – if you don’t want to be jumped by Stingrays stay horizontal in the water. As soon as you go upright, they crawl all over you!


We had one major expedition towards the Belvedere view point, a high point between Cooks and Opunohu bays. We didn’t quite make it but got some great views on the way and courtesy of the café at the Agricultural Research Station, some of the best vanilla ice-cream ever. A mistake in route selection on the way down turned out to be a fortunate one as we found a river with good pools to jump in to to cool off.


I stayed behind to help Craig and Steve track down the problem with Craig’s engine which had suddenly just decided to stop working. It took several hours to track down a split pipe, very slowly leaking  in a difficult to see spot, letting air into the system. Once we found the leak it was quickly fixed. We celebrated with a spot of lunch at the nearby Hilton.


We said our goodbyes as we choose to move before a new system bringing wind from N arrived, exactly where we wouldn’t want it from for the overnight passage up to Huahine. There were tears when we said goodbye to Stop Work Order as they are heading back to Tahiti to pick up some parts but we hope that our routes will intertwine again sooner rather than later.


Moorea is spectacular. If I was to describe the views in the bay then I’d say think Fatu Hiva and the Bay of Virgins and think BIGGER! We enjoyed being back on a white sand anchorage after the deep Rangiroa and the not so clean Tahiti. It is just a joy walking off the back of the boat into warm clear water. And a pleasure to be back into a cruising community again – we have missed it. We are looking forward to being around a lot more boats this year as we travel continue our travels W.