The Society Islands

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Venus Point where Cap. Cook observed Venus

We ventured through the mighty Panama Canal on April 1st and on July 20th, we arrived into Venus Point on Tahiti. Nearly four months have passed, crossed the Pacific ocean halfway and sailed among some of the most deserted islands in the world. Not much in terms of spare parts or what we know as civilisation, can be found. So yes, we were sad to leave it all behind, the adventure of being so far away from the world we know! But we were looking forward to our visit to Papeete, Tahiti.

Finally we were on our way towards Tahiti, in the wake of Captain Cook and we arrived after 550 nm into Point Venus, where he also anchored only a “few years” earlier. It was a nice 4 days sail from Toua, and we went in behind the unmarked reef, to anchor in 10 meters of calm waters. It is a beautiful bay and arriving was another dream fulfilled,  as I am sure many of us dream about Tahiti and have read stories about how Captain Cook, arrived here in 1787. We also remembered the stories about Captain Bligh and Bounty – the well known mutiny took place not long from here.

We relaxed in the bay until morning, but after the many months that has passed since we left La Placida Marina at the end of the Panama Canal, the draw of civilisation and all its spoils were strong – so we headed for the City Marina in Papeete only an hour away. You cannot book, so when you arrive you call on vhf 16, and usual nobody answers and then you go in and find a spot! We were lucky and found our peaceful place, as it was busy days in the small marina.

When blue water sailors migrate, as the birds in the autumn, they follow different routes. Except they all visit Papeete and Tonga, so it can be a bit busy, as in Pacific busy! We also have not seen much of civilisation for four months, so provision, repairs and spare part shopping was a high priority.

The Church in Tahiti where the custom is to wear a beautiful hat

We were propelled into the city of Papeete and enjoyed for a little while. Wow, it is amazing how wonderful it is to eat lunch on a restaurant or buy an ice cream, when you have been without the option, for a long time.

Fruit provision in Papeete

The first days we did some sightseeing, as our daughter Alexandra only had three days to spend, before she was returning to her busy life. But after her departure, we could start the repair and maintenance cycle and the food shopping for the next leg sailing, around in the Society Islands and further. The maintenance was great, you can get most spares and the mechanics are good, so NS were in better shape when we left, than when we arrived.

We visited during the Hueva – the traditional one month festival

We thought the sightseeing was less interesting for us, as we we had seen many Polynesian islands before arriving to Tahiti, but it is a place made up of legends about eternal youth, hospitality and leisure. About 67% of the French Polynesian  inhabitants lives here and it is a well developed and touristic island. Most people stay in some of the famous resorts and do not leave.

French Polynesia gained Autonimy status in 1984

The Autonomy status was only granted in 1984, and since the old language and the old customs, have slowly been legally accepted. They are only allowed one hour a week of language education in their local language and only 15 years ago the tattooing was made legal again. The French catholic church was the iron fist.

Morea is only 20 miles away from Tahiti and it is very different island. We anchored in the Opunha bay on the north west side for many days, as it was really difficult to leave this pleasant and beautiful bay. We snorkelled with Stingrays, so close one bit me in my shoulder, we hiked up to the Belvedere and we enjoyed a wonderful day on horse back, in the mountains. We also visited a little local Patisserie, where real french pastry was enjoyed.

View from Belvedere over our anchorage

We probably overstayed a bit, anchored in 4 meter of crystal clear water, swimming in the morning and used our newly acquired SUP from Mamosa, a norwegian boat which had to cut the journey short and return home. But finally – Huahine was right there, 25 nm away and maybe it was nearly as nice?

Huahine proved to be even nicer. Especially Michaela was sad to leave Morea behind, but arriving into Fare, the small authentic town on Huahine, proved to be very enjoyable. We had luck when we arrived, to find the best buoy free and waiting for us. It turned out we were really lucky, as the depth was + 25 meters and with some corals on the bottom. We saw several boats which had to dive to release there anchor chain, stuck on the bottom in the corals.

Fishing traps at Huahine

Here we hiked the surroundings, saw the old fish traps in the lagoon and the nicest Marea I have seen. A Marea is the Polynesian outdoor temple, where they in the old days worshipped their Gods.

Marea at Huahine, see also the standing stones in the background. They are part of the temple.

After Fara we sailed down the west side of the island and just enjoyed snorkelling and diving in the turquoise water, in the quiet bays inside the lagoon.

We arrived into beautiful Tahaa in mid August and enjoyed the absolute relaxed and amazingly friendly island. Deep fjords and turquoise blue lagoons, framed by thunderous reefs. 

Satellite image to show the passes and reef, which are the surrounding light blue markings.
The smaller pearl is replaced in the oyster, to make room for a new larger plastic insert. It will then reproduce a larger pearl, in 18 months.

The first night we spend in Hameene Bay, after trying to anchor at the north easterly pass for a snorkel trip, but the wind was blowing white caps on the sea, so we retreated into the lee of the fjord and spend the night in absolute peace. The next day we decided it was pearl farm time and went to coordinate 16 40.967S and 151 29.171W and found a buoy out of at least 10. Here is Ficus, a nice restaurant which arrange traditional Polynesian dinners Wednesday and Friday, a closed yacht club and a pearl farm. We visit the pearl farm to experience the very manual process of manufacturing of Tahitian pearls. It needs to rest on the bottom of the sea for 18 months with a nylon pearl inside and every time it needs to grow even bigger, it is retrieved and the nylon pearl, now covered with 1.8 mm mother of pearl, has to be replaced. Yes interesting and of course the girls had to shop some more…

Traditional dances at Restaurant Ficus

From here we continued to Baie Hurepiti and moored all the way towards the end of the bay at 16 38.580S and 151 30.977W. We had booked a full day tour with Vanilla Tours, which started with a visited to their vanilla farm, then the rum distillery,  and finally we went around the island and up into the mountain. Noah, our guide and son of the founder of the company, was very knowledgable and friendly to be around. We had a great day and enjoyed two nights on their buoy. Noas family story is typical for French Polynesia. His parents sailed out here from French, and stayed! It is really a place you want to stay!

Coconuts are being prepared for drying. Then they are exported , to be used as coconut oil.

Finally we had to see the coral garden at 16 36.302S and 151 33.799W. Wow, the most fantastic snorkel trip we have enjoyed since we started our expedition in 2016. Twice we drifted through this shallow watery garden and enjoyed the corals many colours and a myriad of different fish. A true experience of swimming in an aquarium.

The aquarium
The aquarium
The Aquarium

Then a night in Baie Tapuamu on a buoy in complete glass like water and watching the sunset over the mountain of Bora Bora and drinking Caprihinja. (5cl rum, 1/2 lime, 2 tsk brown sugar and stir) This was followed by a barbecue of beef filet before finally hiding the sack around 0930 – yes we do go to sleep early.

So what is not to like?

But we had to leave for Bora Bora, as our youngest which have now been sailing with us for two months, will fly to Copenhagen from here – so on we leave on August 23th in beautiful flat pacific water, motoring the 20 nm across to Bora Bora – the pearl of the Pacific. 

Bora Bora

We were excited about Bora Bora, as we have heard so much good and bad, and by now we have figure out that the truth is in the eye of the beholder. So our approach is to listen, but try to make our own judgement. We all agreed Bora Bora is what dream are made off in so many ways, but not a cultural sensation!

North Star in front of Bora Bora Yacht Club

I will never forget our first evening anchored in front of the among sailors,  famous Bora Bora Yacht Club. We were having dinner on the terrace, overlooking the sunset and North Star, who has carried us so far. I think that was the moment when I realised – we are here, we have actually done it!

Tail of a Humpback whale outside Bora Bora. We did dive with them, but the camera decided to go black that day.

We did some snorkelling with Humpback whales and thought it was spectacular and we had a sightseeing field trip in our dinghy. We spend a morning on the reef with stingrays and black tip snarks and we enjoyed wonderful meals on the terrace of Bora Yacht club under the moon and stars. It was wonderful. Dora (89 73 49 57), our friendly favourite taxi driver, also drew us around the island for a couple of hours, and talked about fruits, history and sites.

Bora Bora from the air

And finally I got my Polynesian Tattoo from Mr. Marama 57 62 87 74, who have won the Polynesian Tattoo competition several times. He is the most esteemed and famous tattooist in Polynesia, according to the Locals and Lonely Planet. Actual leaving home for a different life and sailing halfway around the world – I had to have a lasting reminder of that dreams can come through if you keep dreaming them!

If you are looking for a mooring, call Francis at VHF 12, as he is the guy. A private company have taken over all the buoys and they are now all up to standard, except the ones outside the yacht club – they are under renovation here in August 2019. It cost 10.000 Fcp for a week and 5000 for three days – and then you can use any of the buoys around the island. As the lagune is rather deep, 20-35 meters and with the occasional corals, it is a little easier just to pick up a buoy.

The town is as on most islands we have visited, ok equipped – two super markets, ATM, restaurants etc. Internet at Cafe Aloe is great and they also have a slow connection at the tourist office.

We spend a couple of week drifting around Raiatea and Bora Bora and just enjoyed being here in paradise. After many weeks we were reunited with our German friends on Greyhound and we were slowly getting ready to leave and go further west.

Thinking back, it was fantastic to swim in 28 degrees water, see more sea life than most people see in a lifetime, relax with a book or eat dinner, enjoying the sunset. But being there for so long, it became our life. Today back in cold and rainy Europe, it is not hard to look at the pictures and long for the adventure. It is right out there!

Finally it was time to leave the Society Islands behind, but before we crossed into Cooks Islands we had to night sail to Maupiti, a small island, which is said to be prettier than Bora Bora, but without the tourists. There is a quite difficult pass to go through, with a nasty reputation.

View from the top of Maupiti
The entrance pass at Maupiti, it looks a bit scary when you are going in!

The pass was easy when we went through, around 1230 and with GreyHound in front, even easier. We anchored in front of the town and found the mooring. We walked the town, climbed to the top, to a fantastic view, snorkelled some, had lunch and went out to the reef for snorkelling with the Manta Rays. This was an absolutely highlight. Here we met Serenity, which did leave later the same days as us on their way to New Zealand. By now we only meet boats en-route to NZ, either via Palmerston or Suwarrow. We have calculated from a couple of sources that about 300 boats use these routes every year and about 120 of them are going to NZ for the Hurricane season, the rest continues to other hiding places for the strong winds to come.

Maupiti is very original, with only a few pensions and a small ferry to BB. Small shops with little to buy, and a very friendly population. We were always greeted and Marie made friends with the local policeman’s wife. She was something and showed us around the island in here car, brought us vegetables and helped us in many ways. She was teaching in the local Sunday school, so we brought here drawing articles and stationary for the school, kindly donated by Flying Tiger.

Diving with Manta Rays
A lot of the adventure is below the surface. (The divers are Marie and me)

It was a splendid 6 days visit and a very prober ending to our travels through the Society Island. Now we understand why all sailors say, they would like to go back and they would wish they had spend more time among these beautiful untouched islands, with a very friendly people.

I enjoyed the view that day!