Windward Society Islands
The distance from Moorea to Raiatea is 100 miles, we left early evening so we could arrive during daytime. Toboggan with Nancy and Steve, left 3 hours before us. They contacted us on VHF a few miles out to say that there was a nice breeze and calm seas out there. Then we lost contact. During the night we caught up as we are lighter and faster. From then on we kept a steady 6 miles away from each other all the way until Raiatea. We anchored in Faaroa Bay, on the east coast of Raiatea.
Close encounter with Polynesians! After dropping the hook in front of one of the motus (islets) on the east coast of Tahaa, we decided to go snorkelling. Half of the island belongs to a very exclusive hotel. The other half is occupied by Polynesian families mainly working with copra, as we found out later. We were looking for a good snorkelling spot in the dinghy. While motoring around we heard some guys playing the ukulele so we stopped to listen. They invited us to come ashore, shortly after that they offered some beer. The guys were drinking fast and were already quite drunk. After couple of hours chatting with some difficulty, since only one of chaps spoke reasonable English, listening to music and beer flowing much faster than we wanted, the atmosphere changed drastically. Some shouting went on the back, two people advised us to leave. The guys playing music assured us that there was no problem at all. Then invited us to see a vanilla plantation. The alarm bells were ringing then. Luckily we left at the right time and got back to the boat with no problem. The 6 guys playing music followed us on their boat insisting to take us to the plantation. I refused politely while Graham was on the radio with Fliss debriefing her of our adventure and the fact that we did not feel safe. Pete and Fliss were anchored in a bay one hour away, without hesitation they came to anchor near us and we kept radio contact in case we needed help. Thanks a lot Pete and Fliss. The 6 guys never came back and we rather think that they had no bad intentions.
Time to move away, better to be safe. We sailed around Tahaa. The island is really lush, hardly habited; there are lots of motus used for pearl farm.
We paid a visit to a pearl farm, it is a must around here. We were greeted by Moeata and she explained the growing process of the black pearls. The oysters are grown in Mouphelia, a flat island 200 miles from here. When the oyster reaches 6 months , they are transported by boat to this island. In the process the farm loose 30% of the crop. Then the oysters have to acclimatize, as the sea here is colder due to deeper water. The oysters are brushed every week to prevent growth on the shells. Finally at the age of 2 years the oysters are ready to produce the pearls. This specific farm uses a Japanese technician to insert the nucleus and flesh from a donor oyster. It is a laborious job requiring a lot of patience, which the Tahitians do not have. At this stage the farm loose another 40% of the production, a lot of the oysters reject the nucleus. Then probably 2% are perfectly rounded and the right size. Sounds a lot of work! We asked about vanilla production which has an even more laborious process of production. The flowers of the orchid plant open only once during the blooming season, usually happening early hours of the morning. So the farmers go out there in the mountains with torches and reading glasses pollinating the flowers. When the pods grow, they have to be dried in the sun and massaged for a couple of hours a day! This takes over 6 months of intense labour.
Graham cooked his legendary Vindaloo for Pete and Fliss, of course that was accompanied by a lot of rum and a late night. We all agreed to race over to Bora Bora, the looser would pay a round of drinks in Bloody Mary's.
The race was on. With a sore head, we knew that this would not be a pleasant sail. But we left at 10.30 am, with lots of wind. Gradually the wind died down and Nadezhda took off leaving us well behind. Feeling a bit seasick, I could not get motivated to fly a cruising chute, Graham was up for everything. Rounding around Bora Bora we got a great push and we were surfing on the waves. Nomad Life caught up with Nadezhda but unfortunately the wind died again. They won by a very small margin. Coming around the anchorage a very special boat was waiting for us. Kyrie, with Noel and Nat, our Kiwi friends had arrived earlier the same day. There was no time to nurse our hangovers, as soon as the anchor was in the water, they came over for some drinks. Then we headed over to Bloody Mary's. The bar is a Bora Bora institution. The ambience is unbeatable, coconut-tree stools, thatched roof and a floor of sand, no need for shoes here. Nancy and Steve from Toboggan were also there. We had the chance to say our goodbyes to both as they left the following day to Tonga.
Bora Bora is the place for the rich and famous and the dream holiday destination. We found it over hyped. We paid a visit to one of the most expensive hotels; one night in a bungalow costs 800 Euros. It is fantastic ambience but ridiculously expensive.
Spectacular views over Bora Bora. Four boats got together to hire one car, as it is so expensive. We took the car in the afternoon. Bora is definitely a lot more impressive seen from a yacht, when you can appreciate the colours of the water and the little bays. By car, we drove through nice villages, but in areas it is quite dirty with open sewers and rats running around. Unfortunately the maraes- ancient sacred temples- are in ruins. In the evening after having a Bloody Mary or two in Bloody Mary's, Graham and I headed back to Kyrie, were we got spoiled by Nat with a beef stew followed by a dessert. Then we watched for the first time in a while, a film on a real television with surround sound, what a treat! Meanwhile Pete and Fliss were on the booze, as usual, with Terry and Lynne, on yacht Resolve. Resolve left from South Africa heading to New Zealand where they have just be granted residency.
Visiting Matira, we couldn’t help noticing that most of the houses have a tomb on their front garden, it seems to be usual to bury they beloved ones next to your house! The weather has been the main topic of conversation between yachties. We have been waiting for a good weather pattern to leave, but there are very high seas and big winds south of the Societies. Toboggan, who left last Friday, should be in the middle of this front.
Terry spoke via SSB to Steve on Toboggan. They are safely anchored in Palmerston, but they experienced 40 knots of wind and seas that they never seen before. There is a break of 5 days until the next front comes through, so it is time to leave. Following the old sailors superstition, Noel and Nat refused to leave tomorrow, Friday, as it supposed to bring bad luck. Kyrie, Resolve and Nomad Life now are leaving Saturday to Rarotonga.
After 10 weeks in French Polynesia, time has come to leave. Our bank balances have taken a hitting, but Wow!