After one last fun evening surf on the right with Dom and Kahlil, a hearty dinner and last minute checks of all critical systems, it was a GO to Leave French Polynesia. We weighed “Natural Mystic’s” anchor one final time from our beloved Moorea anchorage of Oponohu Bay and on a dark moonless night, with searchlights scanning, we cautiously weaved our way through the lurking coral heads, unlit boats and out the wide and well marked/lit reef pass. The consistent breeze of the day, had now completely vanished and I was reduced to using the engines to slide or rather push along.
The other thing that vanished was the last bit of my French Polynesian currency, as earlier in the day I did find a bank to convert my returned bond money into New Zealand dollars, The Cook Island’s currency and Euros, because there is no loss on the exchange rate, as the Pacific Franc is fixed to the Euro. With the last bit of that hassle out of the way, a new one presents itself, as coming out of Bank de Tahiti Kahlil and myself spy Cristiano driving past, when out of the blue his girlfriend finds us, informing us Dizzy cut his hand loading the speargun and Cristiano was taking him to the hospital. I had given Kahlil a brand new deadly accurate Omer 110cm speargun, with a razor sharp stainless steel articulating wishbone for loading, as an early birthday present to share with Dizzy (Kahlil did go over the speargun operation with Dizzy before Dizzy’s first attempted use, but apparently with one fish already speared, Dizzy got greedy, as he witnessed the fact that a struggling fish attracts other fish of its kind, then trying to reload with a fish still on the retrieval line and Danger Never Do This!) and it was funny how I wouldn’t let Dizzy go off on his own across the island, as I didn’t want anything problematic to happen, as we needed to be leaving the country soon and by staying close to the boat now he was headed to the hospital, only Dizzy!
Fortunately for us, Dizzy is a pro in Polynesian hospitals by now and no one was the wiser to his questionable immigration status. Three stitches and some pain medicine later and the gnarly flap of skin that was jaggedly cut into the palm of his hand, appears quite precariously held in place. I imagine more along the line of 7 to 9 stitches would have been a better number for the job, but oh well Dizzy is now Gimpy and not nearly as much help for a possible week long sail across the sea. Captain’s decision is made to sail the 100 NM to Tahaa and explore the island a little bit and make sure Dizzy’s debilitating cut is healing up properly, with proximity to professional physicians if that’s not the case.
The swell is mild, wind nil, stars twinkle by the billions and by the gentile rumble of our diesel engines we find Kahlil and myself falling back into our familiar three hour watch schedule, with the promise to wake the other up when the wind fills in. We sleep through all our night’s watches until dawn, when Kahlil always the optimist thinks maybe nows the time, but one groggy look out my porthole window tells me otherwise and I go back to bed. I made the right call, back up and still no wind, but in a little bit a puff, then another and around 8-am, with everyone up, the sails are hoisted and we’re sailing again, just a little faster than motoring on one engine; Yippy! I love the silence, only the gentile noise of the water gliding past our hulls, as we are once again sailing somewhere new, albeit at a very distinguished speed.
However, rhumb line is below our optimum downwind angle and it makes for a hot, slow trip to Tahaa, as Huahine to weather, robs us of more and more of the breeze the closer we get towards Tahaa. Finally we succumb to the allure of horsepower, drop the sails and gun it for Passe Tiare. As we arrive at the pass, the island, for all our first times, the rather tranquilly ebbing current of the scenic pass seems to carry on it, the entire vibe of the island.
A luxuriant calm descends upon “Natural Mystic,” everyone’s awestruck at the beauty presented before us, a lush mountainous island, practically devoid of buildings and a magical sand bottom turquoise lagoon that runs seemingly forever to the horizon.
The deep pass threads a gap between picturesque motus Vavaratea and Mahara and once through I immediately bank hard to port, onto a sand bar that extends north, as far as you can see and chuck the hook. Our anchor setting instantly in the fine sandy bottom, we swing lazily at anchor, memorized by what lies below in the crystal clear water.
Refreshingly we all jump into shallow water and find out. “Wow” is all I have to say; the coral heads that dot the sandy bottom were teeming with exotic and colorful reef life of all kinds.
Deadly poisonous Lion fish lurked beneath many coral heads, poised to strike unsuspectingly from their lairs, while shy Clown fish hid in their protective Sea Anemone for cover, colorful Christmas Tree worms worked hard on their symbiotic relationship with the coral they grow in and bright Tropical Maxima Clams, shone like a jewels for all to see, unless you stared too hard and they clammed up.
Exploration of a large local fish trap, located at the pass entrance revealed more than just trapped tasty Trevally. The main room of the immense trap was teeming with sharks too big to fit into the final fish holding chamber.
Up so close sharks always look mean and menacing and Dom and I both hoped they didn’t all learn how to swim back out through the narrow entrance, as we snapped pics from semi-safety. Also I couldn’t help but to keep checking my six, thinking a new shark could be making its way through the trap’s twisting net lined channels, into our narrow little entry way/cage, while we are paying all our attention to the shark fracas forward.
Enthralled by what we had seen, but refreshingly cooled off and out of the water, we all just lounge around relaxing and unwinding from all the commotion and exertion of Tahiti, Moorea and our departure. Everyone was enjoying the peace and quiet of this amazing island.
When all of a sudden a jovial dude named Tama, who maybe not so skillfully but, enthusiastically ties up to the “Natty M” with his speed boat to say hi and see if we are interested in buying some vanilla beans or pearls. Pearls no, but vanilla yes! Tahaa is where most all of the Tahitian vanilla is grown and when you buy it by the kilo from the grower, wow! What a deal, as one Tahitian bean costs about $10 back in California, but in Tahaa its less than a buck for the best smelling, freshest vanilla you have wafted up your nose. No matter where you are in the world vanilla essence costs a lot of money, so I made my own, soaking five beans in rum for the long six month wait until aromatic perfection.
Tama, like most Polynesians turned out to be a choice guy. We quickly made friends with he and his family and they promptly got Dizzy to the local doctor to checkup on his now not so good-looking wound, not that it ever was. With that business out of the way and by doctors orders Dizzy now on antibiotics to prevent serious infection, Tama invited us around to check out his amazingly tranquil resort at the head of Baie Haamene,Tahaa’s largest bay, also considered one of Tahiti’s true hurricane holes. His mini-resort includes one waterside bungalow and one hillside bungalow, both with ample decks made for relaxing and enjoying the dramatic views, as well as plush interiors for your comfort. The two bungalows are separated by a lush vanilla growing garden and Tama’s open air home.
The place is absolutely amazing and if anyone is looking for a place to get away from it all and just relax, this is a great spot and I highly recommend it, check out his website www.tiarebreeze.com, there is no way you could go wrong bringing your squeeze here to get away from it all.
Tito, Tama’s right hand man, showed Dizzy and myself the ripening vanilla beans, a type of tree climbing orchid, explaining the labor intensive process of checking the vines every single day during budding season, as the delicate white flowers last just one day, then fertilizing every single flower by hand, while waiting 9 months for the beans to ripen, then still drying and curing them to develop their rich flavor, all factors contributing to the high cost of the second most expensive spice in the world, saffron’s the first.
Tito is an absolute choice example of a true Polynesian, breaking open perfectly ripe chilled coconuts for you to drink and happy to show you anything, you show interest in.
Some of Tahaa’s highlights included blasting around in Tama’s speedboat, picking up a couple of his friends from the airport on Raiatea, just a 10-minute high-speed boat ride away. As you can blast his boat straight off his bungalow’s deep water wharf, he tells you to sit down, everyone listens except Dizzy who is found tumbling backwards eventually forced to sit, as 250 HP drives you abruptly forward, everyone laughs, and now Tama really punches it. We’re all mesmerized as we fly across the deep blue water that marks the channels, starkly bordered by immense jeweled turquoise lagoon shallows, set amongst the backdrop of raging green mountains. Topical wind blasts your face, the music pumps and everyone enjoys the visually stimulating ride. We pull the boat up at the airport, greet the friends and are off again. Raiatea’s airport impressing me, as yet the nicest boating friendly airport ever, where you can wait in your boat at the ultra-close uncolored curb/dock forever if you like, entertained by the crab security guards and no annoying voice or cop telling you about colored zones anywhere.
Groups of friends united we all enjoy an evening spearfishing session, with Kahlil nailing a nice unicorn fish we later turn into yummy fish pasta, OH YEA! With a good night’s sleep we are out of there the next AM, sailing out of another paradise, cruising between Tahaa, Raiatea, their shared barrier reef, headed for a pass on the western side. Tama and Tito caught up to us in the speedboat to say goodbye in person, how nice and soon we are out the pass and on to “The Jewel of the South Pacific.” Bora Bora.
It’s an amazing daytime sail, as the clouds over both sets of islands are turned various shades of blue and turquoise by the reflected light of the immense lagoon waters below, like a giant natural kaleidoscope. The vertical rock faces of Bora Bora’s Mt. Otemanu and Mt. Pa’hia grow larger and larger, until you can clearly make out the imprint of the excited white cock that Hero, god of thieves hurled into its face, to shut it up, as he attempted to steal Toopua Island one night, long ago.
The trades were moderate, but perfectly angled for our screecher; with its new improved headstay tension and we lazily made 7 knots right into Bora Boara’s only pass, as the wind clocked right around with us. Who says no surf exists on Bora Bora, the pass can still throw some mean looking waves, in an amazing setting.
Easily through the wide pass and we jam north, up to one of the largest sandbars on the Island and throw the hook in a scant four feet of water, where one can jump off the transom and be standing in chest deep water; Yea for catamarans! Conveniently located near the airport, this sandbar was to be our base for the next few days, as a bunch of our friendly girlfriends flew out from Tahiti to do some serious relaxing with us for the weekend. Bora Bora was instantly rated the new best boat friendly airport in the world by me, as you shirtlessly pull the dingy right into the middle of the crowd waiting for luggage and greet the hottest girls just off the plane, with all the JOJ tourists staring with looks like what the hell is this place, Bora Bora?
Epic times ensued all weekend, as we enjoyed Bora Bora’s sweet lagoon with perfect trade windy, sunny weather and mistakenly celebrated Kahlil’s birthday one day early, but whatever we made it past midnight anyway to erase that little temporal oversight.
Kahlil must have had one of the best birthdays ever, as not only were grand times enjoyed by all, but he generously scored a Santa Cruz 6’2″ rounded squash-tail Tough-Lite surfboard he had been coveting from our friend Helene back in Papeete; Yea Dude!
One gorgeous day we took “Natural Mystic” down to what was suppose to be Bora Bora’s best snorkeling, but instead we’re greeted by OK snorkeling, but an absolute electric clam frenzy, as they were everywhere by the hundreds just waiting to be discovered by the locals whom eat the pretty creatures.
Later that afternoon we sailed “Natty M” back to her anchorage and through Bora Bora’s lagoon channels, with Dom in “Red Rocket” snapping sailing shots and reminding him of his old Yacht Shots job back in the BVI. The sail through Bora Bora’s inner lagoon channels was a jibing fiesta due to the light wind and so gracefully we sailed back to our airport anchorage, as we silently slid through the flat water amongst the back drop of lush mountains and motus.
The weekend was a friggin blast, but sadly one by one the girls departed, with more sad good byes all around and soon we were reduced to all boys once again. With everyone’s minds still in the daze of the weekend, yet dreaming once more of far off lands, with tasty waves, new adventures and ready to go. Cheers – Kyber
We will be sailing towards the setting sun, soon.