Journal 16 - More Society Islands
Huahini, Raiatea and Bora Bora
SEPT 2004


LAT 16 deg 43 S    LONG 151 deg 02 W

HUAHINE landfall was welcome after the long night: we entered the pass between the
reef and the island with no problems and anchored with 6 other boats near the village
of Fare.  Huahine is not as grand as Moorea (and nothing is as grand as the
Marquesas!) but at first glance it appears pretty.  Our dinghy excursion took us into the
village which was laid-back, fun and funky – this is the “country town” of the South
Pacific where folks sit on the wharf waiting for boats to arrive and kids frolic in the
crystal water around the bay.  The entry cove is spacious and well marked for boats –
during the night, the local freighter came and went, as the morning docks were thick
with pick-up trucks, huge bags of copra and large pallets of groceries.  The arrival of
the “island packet” or supply ship is a boisterous event in each one of these Pacific
islands – the grocery shop floor is piled with crates of canned and frozen goods again,
and the locals get their eagerly-awaited goodies  from Tahiti, all manner of furniture,
appliances, mattresses, bicycles, construction materials etc, allowing them to take
natives on sight of supply ships Aranui, Taporo or Dory turning into the pass and
coming along-side.  For us, it means a potential replenishing of stores and more
importantly, new icecreams!

We enjoyed the village of Fare –   a 30 minute walk and that was it, but pretty, fun and
colourful with a very friendly feel.  Once again we checked in with the local Gendarmes
(this is a requirement for all cruising boats).  Once again GT was amused by their cute,
tight short shorts!!! (just like Aussie Rules footballers’, girls!).  The magasin here was
excellent and we stocked up on baguettes (again) plus a few other food treats.   We
dink’ed around to a nearby anchorage and caught up with friends aboard Whatever
and Vagabond Blue.  The former told us about an anchorage 3 miles south that was
lovely and opposite a defunct resort where fruit grew wild and was yours for the asking.  
Off we went.  

The island is mango-shaped and we slowly motored south down the west side taking
care to keep the bouyage is the right place.  In this case, the peripheral lagoon was
deep and wide, bordered on one side by green hills and palm-fringed waterfront, and
on the other by the reef.  The visual profile of the reef is quite commanding – shallow
aqua water over sand and coral, the bright white of the surf break then the deep blue
ocean water on the sea side.   The short passage down was enchanting – lovely
colours, a few small homes on the waterfront, a palm-thatched resort on one point, then
a motu (island) after which we sighted our desired anchorage.  We shared it with
Puppeteer with whom we had made friends in Moorea.

What a gorgeous spot!  The bay, entitled Port Bourayne (though this is a misnomer as
there definitely is no port here!) is large, deep, beautiful.  In most places the palm trees
and jungle run down to the beach but we found several white sandy spots and anchored
off one of these in front of what used to be a luxury resort until it was destroyed by a
cyclone in 1998.  It now belongs to the President of Tahiti and the (not insignificant)
estate is managed by one sweet man called Philippe…. or Siki, his Polynesian name.  
We found him gently paddling his home-made outrigger canoe and chatted to him on
the beach after which he invited us to walk around the estate and take whatever fruit we
wanted.  Scott on s/v “Whatever” had taken this opportunity the previous day and asked
us to deliver a small thank-you gift to Siki – we did, to his delight and he asked us to
return tomorrow so he could give us some bananas.  

Siki doesn’t live at the resort estate, rather, about 5 Km down the lagoon and he
paddles to and from “work” every day.  He’s gentle and generous and takes pride in his
job – we found him raking the already pristine beach: not sure why – no-one comes
here anymore, just the odd cruising boat.   He gathers lobster, crab and coconuts
during his day then paddles them home late afternoon to his wife, whom he explains
with pride, is 14 years older than he! The following morning we met him just offshore in
our respective boats and he loaded 2 large hands of bananas and several papayas
aboard our dinghy!  Each hand of bananas weighs about 25 lbs and we passed one on
to Sharon & Gordon of s/v Puppeteer.  The resort itself was probably wonderful before
being destroyed by a cyclone in 1998: what was once the elegant swimming pool is
now home to a crop of water lilies.  The view from the top of the hill – a building likely to
have once been a restaurant – is superb and as we walked through the tropical jungle
to it’s summit, we felt for a little while that we were back in the Marquesas.

We are the only two boats in this lush and lovely bay.  The four of us embarked on a
dinghy expedition around several coves, wading knee deep through sand and coral till
we were able to tie up to leaning palm trees and do a little seashore exploring.  The
beach is riddled with tennis-ball sized holes, the homes of the coconut crabs.  We’d
read that it takes a coconut crab somewhere between 2 and 3 weeks to worry it’s way
through the outer shell of the fruit to enjoy the white flesh, subsequently the meat of the
crab is sweet and coconut-flavoured.  Our little party plotted sundowner drinks on the
beach followed by a coconut crab hunt with grand plans of a beach fire complete with
cook-up of the catch….luckily for them, the weather turned bad with the arrival of a low
pressure system and we abandoned our crab feast plan: somehow I don’t think the
creatures needed to have quaked in their claws as none of us had a clue how to
capture them nor the inclination to do so.

We continued our dinghy expedition with a short cruise to the nearby motu, dropped
the small anchor (thanks Greg!) and went overboard for a snorkel.  Pretty bright fish,
similar species to those we saw in Ahe, yellow & black and electric blue, swam through
crystal clear water.  It was a great morning.   The low pressure system came in after
lunch and kept us aboard watching the barometer drop.  The sky was the colour of
bruises, dark greys and eventually the rain came.  Visibility dropped but we could see
the heaviest part of the low sat over Bora Bora, west of us by 18 miles.  We confined
ourselves to the boat, catching up on computer work, Henry editing the photos for the
website. GT made another brave baking attempt, this time a packet chocolate cake.  
Mediocre result (at least the bottom didn’t burn this time!).  Had forgotten that there
was weight on the top of the stove at the back, thus the stove gimbled outboard about
20 degrees.  The mixture ran to the “deep end” of the cake pan, eventually cooked and
on removal from the oven had the profile of a ski slope. We had a laugh at it and ate it

The low pressure area eventually cleared early evening but we were concerned about a
young couple on a charter catamaran.  They were inexperienced sailors (by their own
admission) and had decided to leave our anchorage for the next island at midday,
which would have put them at the reef pass into that island during poor visibility through
heavy rain and encroaching night.  We hope they made it OK.  During the day, the
French authorities issued three “Securite” radio alerts related to weather.  

The French have done an outstanding job of marine bouyage throughout the Society
Islands and in fact through their entire South Pacific “empire”.  Tiny Huahine has a
population of 5000 people and about 500 navigational devices!  The island lagoon
markers are tall, sturdy red or green obelisks, solar powered for night lighting with
navigational shapes on top.  These are not cheap devices and the surveying and
installation costs alone are high.  We as sailors appreciate the investment.

Our final day in Huahine was not the normal South Pacific blue hues but grey and wet
with another weather front, so we focused on boat jobs: Henry had the forward head
apart (again!)….we have dubbed him the “Head Master”!  Our neighbours on
Puppeteer braved a wet 2 mile ride in their dinghy to secure baguettes for us – they’re
good folks and we’ll probably have boat drinks with them again before we leave.  They
have decided to store Puppeteer in Raiatea (the next island) during the cyclone
season – it is the only place in the South Pacific that is regarded as “safe” – and return
to Canada for a few months for a family fix.  We may not see them again.  So goes the
downside of cruising – the continuous parting.  The upside of course, is a set of new-
best-friends at each new anchorage.  Re-unions are fun too: we ran into several boats
with whom we anchored  in The Marquesas and it was hugs and warm welcome’s all
around.  The Puddle Jumpers, now a blend of ex-USA and ex-European cruisers, will
split in Tonga, with most voyaging south to New Zealand for the cyclone season and
the remainder (like us) westing into Australia via Fiji and New Caledonia.   Our
information from the Gendarmes in Papeete was that 300 cruising boats had checked
into Tahiti this season, a good indicator of the total number of boats crossing the
Pacific this year.  Approximately 750 crazy sailors.  Many of our original cruising
companions are ahead of us now but we are playing “catch up”, with reduced time in
the Society Islands and a fast track through the Cook Islands (weather allowing) with an
estimated arrival time in Brisbane between mid/late November.  

We departed Huahine for the 4-hour crossing to Raiatea and were delighted to sight a
large whale off our port bow – he executed a breach, roll and tail flip with a flourish!  
Entry into the pass at Raiatea was once again well marked but a strong north flowing
current kept pushing us off our entry track, additionally a 2 knot outflow current between
the entry bouys gave us a turbulent ride for about 100 meters.  Once inside the lagoon,
the view was lush and pretty.  We motored past the town which sported some smart
looking red-roofed buildings fronting what appeared to be a very nice dock.  One of the
small island cruise ships was at the quay, but we moved on in search of the cruising

We found them about a mile around the bend and anchored with s/v Whatever and s/v
Vagabond Blues.   Raiatea is wed to it’s smaller sister island Tahaa by a common
barrier reef: the pair look like a figure of eight from the air, both lower profile than the
high island of Moorea but very pretty with it.   We anchored on Saturday afternoon and
were keen not to miss the shops as everything closes on Sunday for church and family
– in fact, most French Polynesian enterprises observe siesta hours, closing between
11.30 and 1.30pm and often closing very early on Friday and Saturday.  Our
predicament was that we were out of libations!!!   No cruising lifestyle is complete
without a proper cocktail hour and we needed to rectify this pronto!  We quickly found
the road and were only walking for a few minutes when we got a lift.  Given the
shortage of regular public transport in these small islands, hitch-hiking is a common
and accepted practice for those without vehicles.  This means the entire cruising
community.  Fortunately the locals are sympathetic and generous in this regard so we
quickly found ourselves in the back of a truck with 3 kids!  They suggested we wait till
they’d finished the family provisioning so they could give us a lift back.  We did,  and
found ourselves with 3 kids plus about 30 kilos of groceries in the back of the truck!

The next few days at Raiatea were pleasantly spent mixing with “Whatever” and
“Vagabond Blues”.  We swapped boat bits, books, recipes and stories.  Once again
we took the dinghy on a long ride, back into town where we’d been with the family.  The
town docks at Raiatea are pretty, sophisticated and well designed : we’d been
tempted to take the big boat around there but were concerned about being pinned to
the dock in a prevailing easterly.  We returned to Dreamcatcher on the dink in a
headwind, absolutely drenched and ready for a shower and cocktail!  Another dinghy
sortie saw us driving the ridge between the deep blue water and the pale shallow
green water adjacent to the reef.  A pretty ride with its conclusion near the western
pass so as to check it out for our next day departure to Bora Bora.

Bora Bora  tends to get a bad rap from cruisers because of its resort reputation, but  
we were so close, how could we not go there?  Besides, it’s haunting, craggy skyline
beckoned to us each day from Raiatea.  We motored the 18 miles and lined up the
pass.  The coral reef around Bora Bora is quite wide, giving the “island” a square
appearance on the navigational charts.  The land bit, however, is really only scraps of
high volcano rim with one larger than the other dozen or so islets.  So it appears very
different visually from sea level to what one is expecting after studying the charts.  
There is only one reef entry pass (as opposed to 9 on Raiatea) and we watched the
big WindStar exit.  She seemed to stay a long course on the exit bearing before turning
south for her return to Tahiti.   So, we cautiously nosed our way to the waypoint on the
bearing line and then cruised in between the entry markers.  There is always a certain
amount of pre-landfall anxiety that’s particularly excacerbated by the presence of a
submerged coral reef. So, we breathed relief when we were through (even though the
pass is big enough to fit an ocean liner!) and came to settle on a mooring bouy out
front of the Bora Bora Yacht Club, in good company with s/v Cest La Vie, cruising
friends from Mexico and with whom we’d crossed the Pacific.

We knew several boats at this location and happily paid visits in our dinghy: we were
the newcomers and they were all keen to pass on information they’d gleaned over the
past couple of days….having been in an anchorage for a few days just about qualifies
you as a permanent resident in the cruising life!  Info about best supermarket, best way
to get a lift, best dinghy dock, mood of the Gendarme….. is all eagerly passed from
existing “resident” to newcomer: there’s nothing like the coconut telegraph!  It turns out
that the Bora Bora Yacht Club is closing its doors: too much friction between the
Austrian owners and the French council on insurance and other matters: such a pity as
it is an idyllic spot for cruisers – smooth wooden docks with good cleats (such things
are paramount to the sailor!), a bar and a washing machine: all that smooths the
bumps for the passage weary cruiser.   We invited Heather & Dale (Cest La Vie) over
for dinner on our second night there, caught up on the latest gossip, swapped software
and had a great evening.

Our second two nights in Bora Bora were spent in a different locale 2 miles to the south
in front of the famous Bloody Mary’s Yacht Club.  All their moorings were taken, most
by boats we had befriended in the Marquesas – we were feeling good, it seemed that
we had finally caught up at least with the back of the pack.  We anchored in 75 feet of
water with 280 feet of chain out, between the lovely fishing cutter, Laura Bruce from
Cornwall, and Rolling Home.  Given the winds were pushing 20 knots we stayed
aboard for 3 hrs to see how DreamCatcher sat to her chain.  We and our neighbours
being satisfied with that, we paid homage to Bloody Mary’s, a great South Pacific
establishment, and enjoyed a beer with fellow cruisers.

On return to DreamCatcher just after sunset, we were disturbed to find that another
sailboat had anchored between us and the Laura Bruce, narrowing the swing room
significantly.  It didn’t take us long to observe that they had anchored uncomfortably
close and now in 25 knots of wind were swinging within half a boatlength of
DreamCatcher.  We endeavoured to find the owner via the VHF radio between bouts
of pushing off the offending vessel.  Our ire was mounting, we were both below decks
momentarily, when the roving sailboat hit our stern, so here we were with a 42 foot
yacht attached to our davits by way of his starboard running light.   The owner finally
responsed to our 4th radio call, clearly unhappy about having to leave a cocktail party
and move his boat, but nevertheless did so.  Step & repeat – he re-anchored about
150 yards away and immediately vacated his boat to return to cocktails: one of the
“rules” of anchoring is that you stay with the boat for about an hour to ensure the hook is
set and the boat is not going to swing into a neighbouring vessel that may move
differently to you due to hull form, current or wind eddies.  That headache spoilt our
dinner and heralded the start of 2 days of anchoring tension.   As the winds built to
nearly 30 knots we stayed aboard for 48 hours straight, forgoing the delights of Bora
Bora in favour of “watching the store”.  We were even further dismayed when the same
fellow & pals proceeded to get drunk aboard his boat the following night in winds that
were gusting to 34 knots.  As it turned out, he did a “drift drag” and ended up closer to
us: we had a sleepless night doing anchor watch knowing that even though it was his
responsibility to move his boat,  he would be incapable of doing so in his inebriated
state.  He and his mates partied till 0300 in circumstances where he should have been
doing anchor watch like everyone else in the lagoon.  Additionally, his pal (who
incidentally was sailing a sistership to DreamCatcher, a Cal 3-46) dragged anchor into
Tackless II who was on a mooring bouy – they fended him off and apparently escorted
him to a new piece of real estate at 4.00am as he was incapable of doing it by himself.

While we were going through our little drama, we received the following email
message from a friend  in Rarotonga…..
Just in case you were thinking this cruising life is carefree!!!......

“Sounds gnarly in Bora but I have you beat.  Been up for 72 hours ( ok, 4 hours
sleep in that time), done everything right, still screwed.  Ergo: Arrived with
busted lowers.  Engineered fix.  Received parts.  Go up mast to fix, weather rolls
in, can't work. (day 1 of 3)  4am, anchor drags.  5 attempts later and almost
daybreak, set.  Day 2: 9am, storm warning.  All day getting ready for that.  3
anchors out and all line aboard used.  Noon, winds and realize that lack of
lowers threatens mast, because I can't face into wind.  Jury rig till 5, mast
holding but looking like a bow under stress.  Bigger winds coming.  Anchor and
mast watch for next 48 hours straight with tweeking at all hours to keep boat
safe while John (crew) sleeps.  Don't repeat this but the boy is good for
backbone strength only and can't follow instructions or think like a mammal but
at least he's argumentative.  I'm in Hell!  Kept the boat safe for the 3 days and
slept for a few hours today while John went to town to play tourist.  4pm, big
cargo boat enters harbor and backs over my storm anchor rode, snapping it
where it almost hits the water.  Another $1000.  Of course they came right over
and offered to go find my $500 anchor and pay for my 100 meters of 3/4 inch
rode, NOT!  I give up! Sleep deprivation and frustration! Drinking now and don't
care if I wake up on the beach but I'm going to bed.  There!  Told you I had you
Nighty nite!”

So, back to our Bora Bora anchorage…needless to say, the dozen or so cruising
boats there were displeased at the bad manners and poor judgement of these two
vessels and they were subsequently put on the “avoid” list.  Early the 3rd morning we
weighed anchor and motored in 20 plus knots of wind around to the western side of an
island to a different world of gentler breezes, bluer water and better neighbours.  We
were joined by sailing vessels Cest La Vie, Laura Bruce, Emma, Finale, Bobalona and
Tackless …agreed that we were with the “good guys” of the fleet.  This small quality
group are likeminded committed sailors (shouldn’t we all be committed for doing
this?!) and spent the last two days in Bora Bora on a much more positive note.  
Interestingly a new sailboat outside the cruising group joined the anchorage late
afternoon and extended an invitation to everyone to come aboard for sundowners.  The
boat was clearly up-market and classy, but who was this generous purveyor of
cocktails?  Turns out: the CEO and Chairman of West Marine.  For those non-US folk,
this company is the prime retailer for all things boat related and an organization into
which every American sailor has tipped boucoup bucks, including  DreamCatcher!   
So, we thought it the least we could do… we had an enjoyable time with his family and
the cruiser group.

We enjoyed Bora Bora but felt we didn’t do it justice given our weather and time
constraints.  Despite the fact that it is the most commercialized of the Society Group, it
still retains a certain “funkiness”.  It’s main village is colourful but not glitzy and the
locals still ply piles of fruit on rickety tables amidst the up-market pearl shops.  Fruit
bulges from the trees here and it’s easy to reach for a mango or breadfruit while
walking along the sandy streets. The 5-star resorts are there but not overbearing, all
being low-key palapa-type construction usually tucked around a headland or pretty

We were all planning to go west to the Cook Islands group so weather information was
exchanged and route planning mulled over.  Our desire was to take the southern route
via Raratonga and Aitutaki to Tonga (everyone’s destination) but the southern route
has a reputation for unsettled weather so the group decided to passage north via
Suvarov.  Except us.  We stuck to our original plan and split from the group on exit from
the pass.  A small SSB radio net for our group, called the “Stragglers Net” was set up
and Dreamcatcher subsequently was named the “southerly straggler”!  We look
forward to rendezvousing in Tonga with more tall stories.  

Something that is becoming abundantly clear as we passage, is that one season is just
not enough for cruising the Pacific.   On viewing a chart the ocean appears to be full of
“fly specks” but one overlooks those in search of the romantic well known islands like
Moorea and Fiji.  
Fact is, those “fly specks” materialize into tiny paradises hosting real people with
welcoming arms and one is spoilt for choice in destinations.  Most of the fleet have
subsequently added islands to their ports of call, that they had never even heard of
even weeks before.  It is truly a voyage of discovery.

We leave French Polynesia with a great many wonderful memories and hope to come
back again some day, perhaps when our French has improved!!

Click on link to VIEW PHOTOS FOR JOURNAL 16