25 May 2019

25/5/2019: Bora Bora

After a lovely lunch yes
terday overlooking the water, and a lazy evening, we're up bright and early this morning to check the weather one last time and it's a go! Niue hear we come ... about a week's passage but hopefully with mainly wind and not engine! There'll be no more blog posts until we arrive there, or maybe even Tonga. Have a good week!

24 May 2019

23/5/2019: Bora Bora

So on the morning of departure day we went ashore early to study the latest weather forecast and the upshot was no wind, and when some develops it will be on the nose. Useless! A discussion broke out over the merits of delaying the departure from Bora Bora until a better weather window materialises and then to head straight for Niue, bypassing Suwarrow. One of our biggest concerns is a lack of fuel. If we head for Suwarrow and have to motor most of the way as the forecast suggests, we would then have insufficient for the onward passage to Nuie should we need it. To compound the problem the refuelling option in Niue isn't easy: no fuel dock, requiring jerry cans to be used to shuttle fuel from the local petrol station by taxi, and a high wharf to have to raise and lower the cans to/from.

While the Niue-direct option is probably the more sensible, the pull of sailing enmasse is a strong draw and 10 of the 13 boats decided to go, leaving just 3 of us behind in Bora Bora. Fortunately the three of us that remained all sail at similar speeds and so we will travel together as soon as the forecast permits.

One of the advantages of remaining was the acquisition of a gold and pearl ring to add to my ever-increasing pearl collection! It's lovely and I'm looking forward to wearing them all tomorrow when we go out for lunch to a local waterfront restaurant that comes highly recommended. We had to check in with customs again at the Gendarmerie having cleared out on Tuesday in anticipation of our Wednesday departure, but they were very flexible and didn't require us to formally clear in again. A refreshing change from some of the bureaucracy we meet.

Before heading into town to the police station this morning we embarked on a hike to scale the mountain in the centre of the island with JF and Marie off Cassiopee.

It had rained overnight and the trail was waterlogged and muddy so we were very soon mud-splattered and wet. We made it to a ridge where  two cannons are rusting away, a legacy of the Americans in the mid-1940s, commanding a great view over both sides of the island.

Not much further on the trail became very overgrown and as we pushed our way through the wet vegetation the thought of dengue fever crossed our minds. The skipper of another WARC boat contracted the disease in Papeete and was ill for a couple of weeks. Because Paul has had it before he can't risk catching it again as the second time it is haemorrhagic and very serious and so we aborted the walk and headed back to the boat.

We'll check the weather again in the morning but it's looking like a departure on Saturday or Sunday is in order. Fortunately there is a small island on the Cook islands chain, Aitutaki, that we can break our journey if the weather permits.

22 May 2019

21/5/2019: Bora Bora

We had a great morning yesterday circumnavigating Bora Bora by dinghy along with two other boats. Such fun …. we stopped off to snorkel at the southern tip of the main island between two small motus where the water was crsytal clear and the corals were beautiful. The most remarkable aspect was the sheer number of fish: it was literally like swimming in an aquarium and we were also lucky enough to see a seahorse.

After lunch on board with friends, and a refuelling trip, the dreaded dental appointment time crept around. Despite all my fears the dentist was the best ever, didn't hurt me at all, but ended up having to pull out the offending tooth as the cavity was too deep. The dentist offered me the tooth but I didn't think the tooth fairy would visit so declined!!

Today has been all about preparation for tomorrow's departure: skippers briefing, provisioning, clearance out of the country etc etc. It's basically taken all day so tonight 22 of us are off to Bloody Mary's to bid Bora Bora farewell in style. It won't be a late night as we all need to get plenty of sleep before the departure at midday tomorrow, especially those boats sailing double-handed like ourselves. The forecast is for very benign weather so a lot of motoring is probably in our horizon. The passage to Suwarrow in light conditions is likely to take 5 days ….

20 May 2019

19/5/2019: Bora Bora

It's been an exciting morning. The first fleet departure for Tonga (via Suwarrow and Niue) left at midday today and Tumi was chosen as the committee boat, hosting the rally organisers (called yellow shirts for obvious reasons). We collected them at 11am to be in position as one end of the start line for 11.30am. Then it was a matter of keeping Tumi in place for 30 minutes as the race countdown began. Stefano the event manager, assisted by Swade, issued timechecks and sounded the horn at 10 minutes and 5 minutes to start. Paul was asked to hoist the appropriate flags to signal the timechecks. All very technical and then at midday the first boat crossed the start line under sail, closely followed by the remaining 12 boats in this departure, a spectacular sight with multicoloured spinnakers flying in the gentle breezes. Our start is on Wednesday but we'll be one of the competitors then rather than the committee boat!

The protective sun strip on the jib (front sail) is in need of replacement having suffered chafe from the parasailor sheets (lines). Nicky, a friend on one of the other boats, has kindly offered to do this for us as she has a marine sewing machine on board. So this afternoon we planned on taking the jib down to start the work, only to find it jammed within a metre of us starting to lower it. We'll try to get it down again tomorrow otherwise it looks like it won't be getting repaired after all ….

It's lovely catching up with all the boats again after the two weeks with Jon and Hannah when we largely did our own thing, rather like being welcomed back into the family fold. A quick drink ashore yesterday afternoon turned into 3 hours of laughter and chat as we caught up on experiences and also plans for the rest of the year.

18 May 2019

17/5/2019: Bora Bora

Today has had its highs and lows … the new dinghy arrived and is smartly tied up behind Tumi, we bought a fabulous new painting and I found out I need root canal surgery on Monday. Two positives have wiped out the one negative for today and hopefully the whole weekend but I am dreading Monday afternoon I have to say, no matter how charming the dentist seemed. Yikes.

Anyway back to the good points, a dinghy that's not deflating …. hurrah … and the new painting. The artist, Jean Pierre Frey, and his wife arrived in Bora Bora on their catamaran 5 years ago and decided to stay and set up a gallery. His work is a collage of many their experiences in the Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean and their journey through the Pacific to French Polynesia and so very much mirrors our own experiences and appeals to us on many fronts. The painting will be shipped home and we won't see it again until November so the photo will bring back happy memories in the meantime.

Tonight is the evening reception for the first group's departure on Sunday and we have been invited to join in. It will be a good dry run for the repeat event on Monday, although we might welll miss that because of the dental appointment, so we'll enjoy tonight instead!

16 May 2019

16/5/2019: Bora Bora

We had a great sail up to Bora Bora, after making a quick return to the pearl farm to get some earrings to complement my necklace ….it seemed rude not to!

Anchoring behind Motu Toopua we had our final night with Jon and Hannah on board in an idyllic setting. Two other WARC boats were there so we all got together for drinks on one of them, nice to be reconnecting after a couple of weeks doing our own thing most of the time.

Bora Bora is one of the oldest Society Islands, a giveaway now we understand their formation so not as mountainous and with a bigger lagoon and reef, as evidenced by the numerous sizeable motu ringing the main island. It’s been inhabited since the 9th century and had a bloody past as tribal kings battled for supremacy. Peace only came just before the arrival of Captain Cook in 1769 (that guy certainly got around, we seem to be following in his footsteps). The Americans turned up in 1942 following the attack on Pearl Harbour and, finding no practicable roads and insufficient drinking water, set about remedying that situation and adding an airport for good measure. Today it is probably the best known of the Society Islands for luxury holidays and is certainly far busier than the last three we have visited.

So yesterday we motored around the north end of the island to drop Jon and Hannah off at their luxury hotel on the chain of motus fringing the lagoon. The security guard wasn't that impressed that we anchored outside the hotel - he zoomed over on his jetski - but relaxed once he understood we were dropping guests off!

Last night we were invited to join a group of participants dining at Bloody Mary's restaurant, a bit of a Bora Bora institution having opened in 1979. The food was good, as was the company, and our planned early night never materialised!

Today is all about jobs: cleaning Tumi inside and out, laundry, food shopping etc, in readiness for our departure on Wednesday 22nd. A trip to the dentist may also be in order as one of my back teeth has become very sensitive to temperature. I hate dental work at the best of times!

The new dinghy is scheduled to arrive on the island tomorrow, fingers crossed it does. We don't want any delays to our departure!

14 May 2019

13/5/2019: Motu Tau Tau, Ta'ha

It's getting somewhat repetitive describing how beautiful the places are that we are anchoring but once again we are anchored off a small motu, just within the reef, overlooking Ta'ha to our right and with distant views of Bora Bora to our left. The motu itself is home to an exclusive resort of bungalows on stilts set over the lagoon with onshore facilities, including a restaurant where we're having lunch today.

We had a super day yesterday. We'd taken a mooring ball in Apu Baie, the property of the nearby pearl farm, and enjoyed one of the best night's sleep we've had for a while, it was so still and calm. The pearl farm offer the balls free of charge but expect you to.visit their farm and so we duly climbed into the ever-deflating dinghy and headed ashore. Being the third pearl farm we have now visited, Paul and I are becoming somewhat experts on grafting smooth beads (made from.Mississippi clam shells) into the muscle of the oyster before leaving them for 18 months to grow.  What was interesting yesterday was that they went on to explain how they grade the pearls depending on shape and the number of imperfections. Only 2 to 3% of pearls are classified as perfect, about 10% of the harvest as grade A (less than 5% imperfection), up to 15% as grade B (5 to 15% imperfection), 30% as grade C and the rest are misshapen or with rings around them.

At this particular pearl farm they set anything grade B or higher in 18ct gold with category C pearls and below in silver or less. After the presentation we entered their showroom and the designer, Monique, presented us her stunning range of gold and pearl jewellery. Pendants, earrings, bracelets, rings, all beautifully set and with lustrous pearls of varying hues. Hannah and I were in our element trying on different necklaces and both bought one: mine a 3-pearl grade A piece in yellow gold and hers a “perfect” pearl in a white gold cage (they don't drill perfect pearls apparently!). So the mooring ball wasn't free after all. In fact it was probably the most expensive mooring ball ever!!

Heading north to the motu, after a celebration lunch, we snorkelled the incredible coral garden for an hour or so. Interestingly the fish were far more timid here than many places we have snorkelled recently, fewer snorkellers perhaps? An onboard bbq rounded off a thoroughly enjoyable day.

12 May 2019

11/5/2019: Baie Apu, Ta'haa

Prior to moving on from Huahine we hired a car for the day to tour the island and it was absolutely beautiful ... lush, scenic, quiet, friendly, definitely somewhere to return to some day. A real getaway from it all sort of place. During the day we visited restored marae, art galleries, fed the blue-eyed sacred eels (big, slimy things they were too!) and helped paint a pareo (sarong) at a small studio.

After an enjoyable few days on Huahine we headed off for Ta'haa yesterday and anchored alongside a number of the boats competing in the Tahiti Pearl Regatta, an annual sailing regatta between various of the Society Islands. Ta'haa itself is enclosed within the same large reef as neighbouring Raiatea, the larger of the two. Ta'haa is famous for vanilla production as well as pearls and is probably the quietest of the islands in this chain. The lagoon makes for calm and easy sailing and the motu (coral islands) offer great snorkelling in clear waters. This morning we snorkelled off one such motu and marvelled at the colourful corals and variety of fish.

9 May 2019

8/5/2019: Huahine Iti, French Polynesia

Happy anniversary to us, married 20 years today! I have to say I never envisioned spending my 20th wedding anniversary in the South Pacific on my own yacht having sailed here from England! But that's exactly where we're celebrating the day in a beautiful bay on a quiet Island, relaxing and enjoying being looked after by Jon and Hannah!

The bay we're anchored in, Avea, has two.colours of water, azure and turquoise, separated by a very distinct line, quite amazing really. The white sand beach is lined with palm-trees and the heavily vegetated mountains form the perfect backdrop.

There are two other WARC boats in the anchorage and last night we were invited on Nikitoo, an Oyster 62, for drinks and dinner. What a beautiful boat, custom built with spacious interiors and beautiful lines. Definitely a case of boat envy!

We're having a lazy day today, a bit of snorkelling and sunbathing in this beautiful bay, a champagne lunch and afternoon snooze, before cocktails and dinner ashore this evening. Jon and Hannah have banished us from the galley so we have been waited on all day. Lovely!

6/9/2019: At sea

After today Paul now has two things on his Christmas list: an ATV and a jetski! We enjoyed yesterday's ATV adventure so much we decided to combine it with the water equivalent and take a jetski tour around the lagoon today, and what an exhilarating experience it was. Flying over the crystal-clear lagoon at up to 60 km/h, admiring the corals beneath the turquoise waters and with the dramatic backdrop of the mountains. Amazing. I drove for the first our and a half as we made our way down the west coast of the island before stopping for a swim at the halfway mark. Then Paul took over with me riding pillion, hanging on tightly as we bounced over the water. It was a thrilling ride.

We stopped off to snorkel a coral garden at a small motu on the way back and had our first 'up close and personal’ experience with sting rays. So close did they come that one female appeared to give Paul a fishy kiss as he wallowed in the water filming! They were like dogs to some extent, hanging around playfully wanting attention. Our guide, Jay again, pointed out the barbs on their tails and said this is what they use in defence to kill a predator. If they use them they then have to grow new ones which takes about three months leaving them defenceless for that period. The females are a lot bigger than the males, the way they manage to survive breeding which sounds a particularly unpleasant affair: the male effectively bites the female on the back of the head to hold her in place. On the day of reproduction the poor female can be bitten over ten times as successive males breed with her. It doesn't sound very romantic to me!

The coral garden was nice but not a patch on that in Rangiroa. That said there were a lot of colourful and attractive fish swimming about so it was a pleasant snorkel.

Back on our jetskis we continued a little further down the coast to an area in the reef where we could swim with blacktip sharks as well as more rays. As soon as Jay got in the water several rays made a beeline for him, obviously recognising him by some means, and almost caressing him with their wings. They are very sociable creatures, like dogs are too. By contrast the blacktip were the cats of the underwater world, coming close to take food but then disappearing off as soon as they'd eaten what they wanted. No real interaction with we humans which, in the case of a shark, is probably not a bad thing!

We sped back to the marine base some three and a half hours later after a thoroughly enjoyable and exciting morning. Mo'orea has certainly ticked a lot of boxes for us all.

Tonight we're sailing overnight to Huahine, ninety miles to the north of Mo’orea. It's a peaceful, starlit sail, perfect for everyone on board.

6 May 2019

4/5/2019: Mo'orea, French Polynesia

We've just had the most amazing day in this stunning island. We booked an 4WD ATV off-road tour this morning and duly turned up at 8.45am to be greeted by Jay, our Belgian guide. After a cursory lesson we were on our way, Hannah driving her and Jon and Paul us. Within no time we had turned off the made road onto a rutted trail and we're crashing through a riverbed amidst pineapple fields with the jagged mountains forming the most startling backdrop.

Mo'orea means yellow lizard in Polynesian and Jay explained how the island became to be known by that name: hundreds of years ago a couple living on a neighbouring island had a baby, not a human one but an egg which, when it hatched, revealed a yellow lizard. The father accepted the lizard as his son and raised him as such, keeping him in a cave, until such time as his wife became scared of him. At that point the man and his wife fled to here but their 'son' searched for them and died innthe process, being washed ashore on this island. The local priest was so impressed by his dedication in finding his parents that he named the island after him in Polynesian .. Mo'orea.

Our first stop was Mount Belvedere, the end of the road in the Opuhoha Valley, with amazing views over Cook's Bay and Opuhoha Bay, separated by Stonefish Mountain.

Our trip back down took us off-road on Rue Des Ananas, aptly named given the number of pineapples being grown.

Our ATVs were surprisingly comfortable given the rugged terrain we were crossing. After one particularly rutted and muddy corner we got sprayed head to foot in mud as soon as we sped up again.

Our final stop was Magic Mountain with the most remarkable views of the lagoon surrounding Mo'orea. Jay explained how the island and it's reef formed: plate tectonics caused the upswelling of the earth into jagged mountains fringed by rocky shores. Over the millenia, as the mountains eroded the rocky shores became home to microorganisms and a reef was born. As the central mountains continued to sink the distance between the reef and the land grew until a reef formed offshore. The passes through the reef into the lagoon behind (where we enter and leave) were formed where rivers flow into the sea with the outflowing fresh water carving a channel in the newly forming reef.

Today, the older islands have small, if any mountains, remaining such as the Tuamotos where the outlying reef has grown to an extent that small islands (Motu) have formed whereas the younger islands have the highest mountains and no reef, such as the Marquesas. The Society Islands are midway age-wise.

5 May 2019

4/5/2019: Mo'orea, French Polynesia

We finally escaped Papeete yesterday after the dinghy was returned and the winds died down and Paul's ear had settled down somewhat. After refuelling just south of the airport (we had to radio to request permission to cross both ends of the runway so a low-flying aircraft didn't dismast us!) we ventured outside the reef for the short trip across to Moorea. After a week of very high winds we were expecting a residual swell and still reasonably windy conditions but it was as benign as can be and we ended up motorsailing. Typical!

We anchored last night in Cook's Bay, named after Captain James Cook we first arrived here in 1769. The reality is Cook actually anchored in neighbouring Opunohu Bay where we have moved to today. Finally free of the marina we sat out under the stars last night and had a bbq and put the world to rights.

This morning after snorkelling over the reef at the entrance to Cook's Bay we moved around to Opunohu Bay, a beautiful bay on the north coast of Mo'orea with the most spectacular backdrop of Mount Tautuapae, another excellent French Polynesian word with far too many vowels to twist your tongue around!  

More snorkelling this afternoon revealed an enormous spotted eagle ray which must have easily been over two metres across with a similar length tail. And then shortly after getting back on board a very large turtle surfaced alongside Tumi. Another treat. Life doesn't get much better than this!

2 May 2019

2/5/2019: Papeete Tahiti

Sadly Paul has developed an acute middle ear infection and is in quite a lot of pain so decided to stay on board today and not join the rest of us touring the north and east of the island. We kicked off at Pointe Venus, the place where Captain Cook took one of the three measurements used when the Venus passed in front of the sun to try to determine the distance the earth is from the sun back in 1769. There is also a lighthouse here dating from 1867.

It's a popular spot with locals being on a black sand promontory and today was no exception being a national holiday. It's also a base for local outrigger canoe racing, the single hulls being for fishing and local transport, whereas the double hulls were used for inter-island transport and war!

After stopping off at the Arahoho blowhole we continued to the 300 feet high Faarumai waterfalls. A breathtaking cascade of water tumbling down the cliff face. It's over 300 feet tall and is the tallest in Tahiti and seemed very tall but in reality is only a tenth of the height of the tallest waterfall in the world.

We're keeping our fingers crossed that we can leave on Friday. We're ready for some white sand beaches again!

1 May 2019

1/5/2019: Papeete, Tahiti

What a contrast and shock this place is after two months of sailing around some of the most remote and beautiful islands in the world. Where do we start? Papeete: noisy, busy, scruffy, no attractive architecture. Whoa. On the upside the first place since Panama City to be able to get good provisions (at a price!), boat repairs done and even go to the movies if we want to, albeit in French! It's also lovely to catch up with the rest of the fleet.

We've hired a car for a couple of days to tour the island and explored the south and west coasts yesterday. There is basically one round circling the island alongside the ocean with sheer mountain faces rising up to great heights within a mile or so of the coast. Lush and impenetrable, shrouded in mist and cloud, they dominate the landscape.

As with the rest of French Polynesia, the traditional marae (ceremonial sites) and tikis play a big part in Tahitian heritage. We kicked off our tour with a visit to the museum where a number of ancient artefacts are on display.

Our next stop was an ancient marae (ceremonial site) complete with tikis, altars and platforms, all set in a tropical valley at the base of the mountains. The place dated from the 14th century and was very atmospheric.

We continued along the coast passing the grottoes at Mara'a, lush gardens, overhung caverns and crystal clear pools and ferny grottoes.

After a delicious lunch at a beachside restaurant we headed up into the hills on Tahiti Iti, passing through green fields and some very un-Tahitian- looking herds of cows to a covered lookout. Sadly we were up in the mist by then and the view wasn't as spectacular as it could have been.

After a big shop in the Carrefour hypermarket we returned to Tumi some 8 hours later, tired after a great day out!