[090825, 0254 UTC, Motu Tautau, Tahaa, Society Islands, French Polynesia; 16°36.13'S / 151°33.39W]
Where has time gone? We last wrote a substantive passage note while in Fakarava in the Tuomotus after having celebrated Bastille Day at the local village. From Rotoava in Fakarava, we traveled down-motu (but upwind!) within the lagoon to Tetamanu at the southern pass. Tetamanu has few permanent residents anymore but had previously been the administrative center for all of the archipelago. Here there is a tiny resort of a few palm huts right at the southern pass where you can sit in the over-water restaurant and watch amazing underwater scenes - without getting wet. The attraction here is the pass where there is a coral wall populated by thousands of brightly colored fish, one huge semi-tame Maori Wrasse and hundreds of black tipped sharks. At low tide you beach your dinghy and swim out the pass along the wall and then let the current of the incoming tide take you in. The water clarity is amazing and, though this is a diving mecca, it seemed to us you got just as much pleasure by snorkeling.
From Fakarava we traveled to Papeete, Tahiti. Our stay in Tahiti was short, about 12 days, but the impact on our pocketbook frightening. Papeete is a busy but clean place and its downtown and public market alive and thriving. In the evenings, roulettes, or mobile restaurants pull into a designated park area at the port and open for business serving everything from duck to Chinese specialties to crepes. Papeete is the center of commerce for all of French Polynesia and everything imported to the region, must pass through its port and the government attaches tremendous duty fees.
In Tahiti we were lucky enough to learn of a private mooring made available by a friendly Tahitian named Jerry Tixier. Friends on Jubilee had been occupying the mooring but were pulling away just as we arrived, so we tied up and launched the dinghy and puttered ashore to meet our hosts. Jerry, a professional gardener, and his wife Ilona and daughter Leila greeted us warmly and received our gifts of chocolate. We talked a bit and said we would return. One thing led to another and by three days later (Sunday) we still had not gotten back together, though Philip had dropped by with more chocolate and some Panamanian beer. Sitting in our cockpit eating breakfast, we heard a whistle and saw Jerry waving. Philip went to shore and learned that Jerry was now out shopping "for breakfast" and we were invited.
At breakfast we met Marilyn, the younger daughter and two of Jerry's many cousins who populate French Polynesia from the Tuomotus to the Australs and on to the Leeward Islands. They served traditional pork (which one of our books identifies as pua'a fanau'a), poisson cru with fresh tuna ('a'ahi), baguettes with butter and lovely Tahitian coffee. It was a long leisurely meal of much conversation, in English, so the family could practice speaking in our language. During this meal, Jerry asked of friends who might need or want his mooring and we mentioned the family of five of Suwarrow Blues, who are Dutch. Jerry was excited that a Dutch family - particularly with multi-lingual children - may visit and asked us to ask them to take the mooring next. (They did so.)
The following Saturday, just before we left the mooring, we reciprocated by inviting the family to lunch aboard Carina. We BBQ'd some chicken, and made a traditional American potato salad, plus one of cucumber and tomato. We ferried Jerry and Ilona by dinghy separately and the girls came by kayak, which was complicated by their many dogs, some of which tried to follow the girls. Ilona brought a luscious banana custard tart. As the meal waned, Jerry and Ilona were insistent we come to shore to say goodbye before we left later that day for the trip to the downtown quai. Later, we landed ashore and were surprised that Jerry, Ilona, Leila and Marilyn each had a shell lei for us which they put over our heads as they kissed us on both cheeks to say goodbye. Ilona then pressed into Leslie's hand a small wad of cotton containing three black pearls! Polynesian hospitality and warmth does still exist and we were indeed touched by it.
Later that day, moored at the quai in downtown Papeete, we joined a multi-national entourage of cruisers to visit the roulettes for supper and then onto the local brew-pub, where the folks on a Finnish boat showed remarkable tolerance for fermented beverages. Since we were rising early the following morning to visit the public market and then departing for Moorea, we left early and sober.
Moorea is quite close to Tahiti, roughly 12 miles away. It is very mountainous and has two bays that push deeply into its north shore on the lee side of the island. Here we anchored just inside the reef at Opunohu Bay next to Anima III with Austrians Martin and Nicki aboard. Here at Opunohu we celebrated a milestone birthday for Leslie, 50 years. On her birthday a small group of cruisers - Simon and Sylvie of Sedna 1, Hans and Erica of Babalu, Bruce and Alene and cousin Lauren of Migration, and Martin and Nicki of Anima - joined us for an outing to the Hilton hotel nearby to watch Polynesian dancing. Bruce and Alene sweetly bought a gorgeous piece of tiramisu for Leslie, complete with candle, which everyone shared.
While at Opunohu Bay we dinghied about three miles to a shallow sandy site where sting rays are fed by, and swim with, snorkelers. Yes, stingrays, not manta rays, but stingrays that have potentially dangerous tails 4-5' long! We were told to bring fish heads or such and we brought the remains of a filleted whole sierra. It was wonderful and creepy at the same time. These rays are gentle but many rush at you at once and slide up your body trying to get their mouths to whatever you are offering. Philip's offering of fish parts made him particularly popular. (Leslie waited until the goodies were gone but the rays still rushed her thinking she might have something, too!) Check out the photos on our website, including some underwater ones, taken by Martin of Anima.
While in Moorea we experienced our first true mara'amu, a period of strong, cool winter wind caused by a large anti-cyclone high pressure system. Unfortunately, weather models did not adequately predict the strength of the winds or the height of the seas, and we were lured into leaving Moorea for an overnight passage to the Leeward island of Huahine. It was a dark, cold and miserable passage but Carina did fine, though her crew were just a bit grumpy during the cold and rainy overnight passage which was characterized with large and very confused seas.
Huahine's residents are known for their independence and stubbornness. Huahine resisted dominance by France the longest and still harbors those who wish for greater autonomy or independence; seeing the Tahitian independency flag of blue and white flag with gold stars is not uncommon here. Its hero is a man named Pouvanaa who was exiled and jailed by the French for inciting rebellion during the 1940s. The island itself is mountainous and lush and is indented by many, though deep, bays. We tucked tightly into Huahine's southwestern shore behind the barrier reef during the remainder of the mara'amu period before traveling to Fare, its main village.
At Fare we, along with Martin and Nicki of Anima, attempted to rent bicycles at a shop owned by a French expat - for the record the shop was called Huahine Lagoon. We arrived at the stated opening time of 0800 but the owner arrived a little after 0930 still dripping wet from surfing. When Martin casually mentioned that he thought the shop opened at 0800, the owner went into an unbelievable, apoplectic and nonstop tirade telling Martin that if he wanted to rent bikes he should have said something the night before. Martin calmly told him, he HAD stopped by the night before. He then told Martin, who at this time was unable to utter a word, that he would not rent bikes to him because of his attitude and, by the way, "whereareyoufrom? are you German or something?" Not doing business with this deranged idiot was fine with us so we walked down the street and rented motor-scooters from a very sweet Tahitian lady, since there was not a single bike left to be rented in this tiny town.
The scooters turned out to be better than bikes and we had great fun zipping around the small islands of Huahine Nui and Huahine Iti (big and small). First we stopped at the Fare Pote'e or (traditional) meeting house and museum in Maeva (which means welcome in Tahitian). The meeting house is at the site of many restored 16th century marae or stony sites used to worship deities. We stopped also at a store in a village known for its huge eels - Faie. The lady there sold us some canned mackerel and took us to the bank of a small stream where she dribbled the liquid from the can into the water and handed it back to Martin. Immediately, 5' long eels swam out from a rocky wall and approached Martin. They were mottled brown and had almost seal-like faces with blue eyes. The eels were tame enough to touch as we fed them the canned fish. As soon as the can was empty, they retreated back into their rock crevices and we continued on our Huahine tour.
We are now in Tahaa, after a short twenty mile day sail from Huahine. Tahaa and Raiatea share a lagoon, though Tahaa is a smaller island. Its claim to fame is it grows and exports vanilla and so tours of the island are dubbed "vanilla tours". Like all of these Society Islands, the islands are high and lush and their shores are protected by a wide fringing reef. The ocean water is almost purple blue, cerulean even, but the waters around the reef are a bright green blue. Tonight we are anchored nearby Motu Tautau on the reef at the NW corner of the island. We have a fabulous view of Bora Bora over the barrier reef. In fact our view is so fabulous, it's the front cover of the Moorings Charter company's Leeward Islands Guide.
Vos amis du bateau Carina,
Philip, Leslie et le beau chat, Jake
At 8/25/2009 and 01:43 UTC (GMT) our position was: 16°36.13'S / 151°33.39'W