Tahiti 2011

July/August 2011


Bora Bora


We have been invited to help celebrate our friend Bill Lewis' 50th birthday on a '46 foot catamaran in Tahiti for a week in late July and early August.  It took us about 12 seconds to consider and accept this invitation!!

Patty and I fly on July 25, 2011 from LAX to Papeeti, Tahiti, and check in at the Intercontinental Beachcomber Hotel.  Patty burned all of her AmEx points and got us a "motu" over the water:

Intercontinental Resort

On Tuesday, we fly to the island of Raiatea, about an hour west, still in French Polynesia.  There we pick up a '46 catamaran from Sunsail Yacht Charters.


Our itinerary takes us from Raiatea, to Huahine, Tahaa, Bora Bora and back to Tahaa, then to the charter base on Raiatea.

Our itinerary takes us from Raiatea, to Huahine, Tahaa, Bora Bora and back to Tahaa, then to the charter base on Raiatea.

Monday, July 25, 2011: LAX to Papeete, Tahiti

We got up and got ready; left the house at 9:00 a.m. with Chris to take the car back home after dropping us at LAX. We got into the Bradley Terminal at 10:10 a.m., and checked in with a very short line. A short line at security had us at the gate by 10:30 a.m.; about 3 hours before flight time. I tend to be paranoid about getting to the airport early, but this may have overdone it.

LAX Gate Airport Singers

Our flight to Papeete left LAX at 1:30 p.m. and we flew for 8 hours mostly south, changing three time zones, and arrived in Papeete at 6:40 p.m. local time. We got in just after dark and Bill and Suzette picked us up in their little rented two door Citron, and ran us a couple of miles to the Intercontinental. The bell boys were young Tahitian males, with no shirts and bare feet, with just a knee length pareo (or sarong) around their waists.

We got the keys to our room and met the third couple, Kevin and Miriann, who were also staying at our same hotel. We all walked down to our room, a bungalo over the water on the lagoon. We dropped off the bags and then all crammed into the little Citron (four people in the back seat) and went downtown to an old parking lot on the water (now improved with lights and pavers) where food trucks congregate in the evenings. There we met Ike and Zuzana (who were staying at a hotel nearer the airport and taxied down). We selected our food truck and had a great, cheap dinner, including local fish, tofu soup and chow mein.

Back to the Intercontinental, we gazed out at the water, the boats and the navigation markers on the lagoon, and got to sleep.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011: Papeete to Raiatea

We woke up early, about 5:00 a.m. (not too hard since it was 8:00 a.m. at home). Patty took a shower and I went for a pre-dawn swim right off of our room. The sun came up about 6:00 a.m. and we had a beautiful view out across the lagoon to Moorea.

View from Room Intercontinental Bungalow

On Deck with Coffee Bed at Intercontinental

Saltwater Lagoon Hammock with Palm

It really hurt to leave to catch a 9:00 a.m. flight to Raiatea. Nevertheless we did, and flew 40 minutes on a turboprop to the charter base to pick up our boat.

Papeete Airport Patty getting off plane in Raeate

The Sunsail staff were there to meet us at the airport and took us 10 minutes up the road to the charter base.

Sunsail Hostess Loading the Boat

While part of the crew stayed for the boat briefing, another part took off for the grocery store to pick up food for the trip.

Grocery Shopping More Groceries

Loading Boat Loading the Boat

After picking up the boat we motored about an hour and a half over the top of the Island of Raiatea, down the east side of the island, dodging the coral heads, and turned into Faaroa Bay where we picked up an old mooring left over from the old Sunsail base.

Suzette at the Helm Zuzanna at GPS

We ran into a few rain squalls on the way, but they blew through quickly.

Navigating Arm with rain

Men Picking up Mooring Pulling Up Mooring Ball

At the head of the bay there is a fresh water river that runs down from the mountains and we were able to take the dinghy up a couple kilometers into the jungle. It was like the jungle ride at Disneyland, but without the mechanical animals. A local volunteer tour guide in a kayak attached himself to us and led us up the river, collecting coconuts for us and cutting them open. James was very helpful and stayed with us until we returned to Dim Sum.

Up the River River Guide

Cleaning the Coconut More Coconut Cleaning

We took them back to the boat and Suzette cooked a seered Mahi-Mahi and salad with couscous for dinner.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011: Raiatea to Huahine

We woke up to crowing roosters and a beautiful sunrise that had someone from every cabin out early with their camera.

Sunrise on Reaetea Reaetea Sunrise

After figuring out the coffee brewing systems, we had yogurt, cereal and fruit for breakfast and cast off the mooring line. A two mile straight shot took us to the pass where we headed north a little and set the autopilot for the pass at Huahine, 22 miles of open ocean away. While there was about a three foot southern swell, the winds were light and the bash to windward turned out to be a fairly calm motor, with the autopilot driving and only an occasional need to check the vitals and look for other transiting sailboats.

Patty Reading On the way to Huahine

Just inside the pass on the northwest corner of Huahine is the town of Fare, the main town on the island. We came around and anchored just offshore of the town.

Fare Anchorage Fare Dock

After lunch, we all took the dingy into the town dock and went for various walks. Patty and I walked north along the beach, toward the site of the original "Bali-Hai" hotel. The walk required an occasional walk through someone's front yard and along sea walls.

Fare Beach Fare Beach

After a while we cut inland to the road back to town and ran into Bill and Suzette and walked up the road a little further with them. We heard drums and came to a dirt parking lot with a large open-sided community building (a metal roof with canvas walls rolled back). We could hear singing and drumming and came around to the entrance where we could see what looked like a practice for a community festival. We were waved in and sat on the bleachers and watched them drum, dance and sing for a half hour. It was really fun and while they were obviously practicing, it looked like a dress rehearsal and it was thrilling to observe.

Festival Dance Practice Festival Dance Band

After getting back to town, we went to the very well stocked grocery store (probably serves the whole island) and got a few things we had forgotten before. Stocked up, we took the dinghy back to the boat and headed south inside the reef and anchored off of a beautiful little beach all by ourselves. We swam, kayaked, and Patty and I fixed chicken shis-ka-bobs for dinner.

Fare Store Frank and Patty Dinner

People Taking Sunset Pictures Huahine Sunset

Thursday, July 28, 2011: Huahine

We woke up to rain squalls and no real plan for the day, except to hang on the island and enjoy ourselves. We made coffee and Suzette cut up fruit for a salad. With lots of yogurt and dried fruit and nuts, everyone got some breakfast. The rain and wind continued. When it got a little lighter, Ike, Zuzana, Suzette, Patty and I all took the dingy to the little beach we were anchored off from, landed and took a hike ashore.

Zuzanna on Beach Hike into the Jungle

The little canyon up from the beach was the site of an old hotel, that may have never been finished. It looked like it had gotten to the point of having electrical, plumbing, cabinets, stoves, etc. put into a small dining building, but it had all been looted. The roof was gone and the property overgrown.

Hut on Beach Rainy Cove

A Tahitian guy in a hut just behind the beach came out and said he now owned the property and we were welcome to explore and said there was a nice overlook up a path at the end of the property. He also had a plastic container of shell jewelry to sell.

Zuzana, Patty and I hiked up the overgrown dirt road to the ridge where it sort of faded out. Zuzana started down before Patty and I and tried a different path that actually went out to a decaying overlook at the top of a cliff overlooking the anchorage.

We all got back to the beach and back to the boat. The wind, clouds and rain continued all day and late in the day we moved the boat back to the anchorage off of Fare in preparation for a last run to the store for fresh baguettes in the morning and easy access to the pass for our run back to Tahaa.

Zuzana made a great vegetable curry for dinner and we struggled to stay up past 9:00 p.m.

Frank, Susette and Bill Vegatable Curry

The weather report is calling for 16-20 foot seas on the beam for the passage so it should be interesting.

Friday, July 29, 2011: Huahine to Tahaa

Nice morning with a little sun. We got up early, had coffee and cereal and headed out into predicted 16-20 foot seas with 20+ knots of wind. We put a reef in the main and headed for the pass. After we cleared the pass the seas were as promised, but the period was 16 seconds, so they were fairly spread apart and comfortable. The wind did not immediately materialize, so we shook out the reef and kept the motor on. However, a couple of miles off the island the wind picked up from the beam, and soon we were making 10-11 knots up and over quartering seas.

Zuzanna in the Cockpit Ocean Waves

A couple of hours and jibes near Tahaa put us in the pass and we surfed through the pass and into the lagoon. We came up into the wind just inside the pass on the inside of the reef and anchored in 15' of sand. We ate lunch, went snorkeling, and hung out for a while.

Anchoring at Tahaa Lunch at Tahaa

Frank Snorkeling Zuzanna Reading

After lunch, with the sun out, we motored around the island to the north and anchored behind a motu, a little island on the reef (with a resort offering rooms at $1,000 per night on it) with a great view of Bora Bora to the west. The anchorage sloped from our anchorage in 15 feet, to 30 feet behind the boat where the water was only five foot deep.

Tahaa Resort Bora  Bora in Sunset

Patty and I got the kayaks down and paddled into the island, around the bungalows, and along the beach. We paddled around the next two islands and saw some beautiful black rays swimming over the sand.

Back to the boat, we cleaned up and saw a spectacular sunset over the palm fringed islands and over Bora Bora.

Sunset Sunset

Kevin and Miriann had dinner duty tonight and made a pasta. We still had lots of rum and wine, so life was good.

Saturday, July 30, 2011: Tahaa to Bora Bora

We had a 4:00 a.m. wake-up call when the engine under our rear cabin came to life. We stuck our head out of the hatch to find out what kind of emergency had engendered this O'dark hundred wake-up call only to find out that the anchor bridle had come off of the anchor chain and was banging around disturbing the forward cabin sleepers. Since the only way to re-attach it was to run the windlass, which required the port engine to be running, we all got to wake up. Once the bridle hook was re-attached on the chain, all was good and we all slept until 6:30 a.m.

We got up, got the boat secured and headed out the pass to Bora Bora, about 20 nautical miles to the north east. The wind was picking up, but since the boat does not run well down wind, we tacked down wind with two large tacks, and headed just around the southwest corner of the reef, up the west reef and into the entrance about two-thirds up the island.

Into Bora Bora Lagoon Coming into Big Dock

The peaks of Bora Bora are stunning. We came into the west lagoon and headed across the lagoon, staring at the peaks, and headed for the little town dock, where we could tie up for an hour or so.

Docking the Boat Oteman from Dock

Our tasks were to go the the grocery store and get more fresh bread and wine, along with some fresh cheese, ice and mahi-mahi pate. We also filled the dingy gas tank at the local gas station and got a ride back to the dock in a little pick-up truck.

After pushing off of the dock we went a mile or so south to another dock off of "Bloody Mary's" Restaurant, where we are having dinner tonight for Kevin's birthday and they offer free water for the asking. We filled our one empty water tank so we could all take decent showers tonight before going out to dinner.

Bloody Mary Dock Approach Filling Water Tank

Ike, Zuzana, Patty and I took a walk down the road and up a trail/road to the radio tower on the ridge. We climbed past a few houses with barking dogs, chickens, pigs, banana trees, mango trees and other trees bearing tropical fruit. Zuzana knew about the trail from a previous trip and it was well worth getting sweaty on the climb.

Lagoon and Reef Beyond Bananas

After we came down, we went into a Tahitian Black Pearl farm were they gave us a very nice introduction to pearl farming that ended in the show room with Patty trying on an $85,000 necklace. It was a nice tour and no pressure to buy. Very nicely done.

Pearl Tour $85,000 Necklace

For dinner, and Kevin's birthday, we went to Bloody Mary's, a sand floor high end restaurant featuring mostly locally caught seafood. It was spectacular, and expensive, but nice after eating on the boat all week.

Entering Bloody Mary's Food Selection

Patty's Steak Dining at Bloody Mary's

Sunday, July 31, 2011: Bora Bora

We got up a little later than usual and motored the boat around the north end of the island, inside the reef, and anchored between the St. Regis and the Merridian which have over-the-water bungalows on the outer fringing reef islands.

Merridian Over Water Rooms Merridian Room Over Water

We took the dingy over to a coral garden and snorkeled there, seeing lots of tropical fish and funny clams with the brightest iridescent lips. Bill and Suzette called and a dive boat picked them up from our boat and the rest of us hung out on the catamaran for a quiet afternoon of reading and relaxing.

Dive Boat Dive Boat Backing Away

Otemanu in Clouds Merridian Beach With Rain

Rain squalls came through and were replaced by sun, but never enough to hamper any activities. After Bill and Suzette came back from their dive and cleaned up, the crew all climbed into the dingy and went over to the Meridian Hotel for afternoon cocktails. The umbrella drinks were about $20 each, but the view out over the lagoon to Otemanu, the signature mountain of Bora Bora, made it well worth the cost. After drinks, we all wandered around the resort and out to the ocean side of the reef to look at the tide pools and the crashing surf.

Zuzana Getting Drink Kevin and Muriann

Ike and Zuzanna Otemanu from Intercontinental Bar

Sea Turtle Bora Bora Reef

We came back to return to the boat before darkness descended. It was a night for creative cooking and Suzette let me take a crack at it. We had two pounds of spaghetti, olive oil, garlic, limes, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and cucumber. I cut up some of the tomatoes for cucumber and tomato salad; the olive oil, garlic, onion, mushrooms and a little of the tomato made for a great sauce for the spaghetti and we ate all two pounds of pasta!

Otemanu Across Infinity Pool Spagetti Dinner

Monday, August 1, 2011: Bora Bora to Raiatea

We pulled the anchor at 8:00 a.m. under sunny skies and light wind and headed north under motor and over the top of Bora Bora and out the pass on the west side. Since the wind was dead ahead, and these boats do not sail to wind well at all, the sails stayed tightly furled and we motored toward the southern end of Raiatea, a part of the island that none of the crew has seen.

Coco-Nuts Otemanu

Suzette Patty Leaving Bora Bora

We uneventfully entered the south western pass on Raiatea and anchored off of a sandy shelf neighboring a palm fringed motu (island on the reef). The first two attempts at anchoring, the anchor pulled right out of the sandy bottom. On the third, it held, but I jumped in with my mask to take a look at it. The bottom was a sandy shelf about 6 feet deep, that extended toward the reef for a hundred yards or more. The anchor was laying about 15 feet on the shelf and then the chain draped down a very steep slope, 60 feet or more and then back up to the boat. We pulled the anchor one more time, and with Bill and I in the water guiding the boat, we swam in front and got the boat 60 or 80 feet over the shelf and dropped the anchor in 6 feet of water.

Motu and Sand Shelf Bill and Frank Directing Anchoring

Anchoring by Hand Swimming to Coral Head

There were some great coral heads not far from the boat with hundreds of fish on them, and the water was about the clearest we have seen. Great snorkeling!!

Kayaking Motu and Beach

About 4:00 p.m., Patty and I got a dingy ride to shore from Kevin and Miriann, who dropped us off on a little beach beside the road. We had read in the guide book that there was a small Chinese grocery store in this vicinity, and since we were running very low on food, we needed to pick up a few items for dinner. We walked one way, found a house with people in the yard, and they told us to walk 10 minutes the other way. We walked that way and some high school girls joined us, and Patty was able to talk to them in French. We found out that there was not only one store, but two, and they recommended the best one. It was a little store; only about 1200 square feet, but they had one baguette left and we got it, some crackers and some coconut milk for dinner.

Boat through Palms Patty walking down Road

Town of Fetuna Girls Guiding Us

Store in Fetuna Loading Food into the Dingy

Kevin and Miriann found us waving from shore and found a place to come in through the coral and pick us up.

We went back to the boat and a made a dinner with macaroni with a sauce of onions and garlic cooked in olive oil and butter, with a can of corn, a can of coconut milk and half of the curry powder we had left. Not a dish I would try to repeat, but it used a lot of what we had on and everybody ate it.

Rainbow over the Reef Noodles for Dinner

Tuesday, August 2, 2011: Raiatea to Charter Base on Raiatea

We got up at about 7:00 a.m. and ate what cereal and yogurt we had left, and headed down around the south end of the island and up the east side to the charter base. There we picked up a mooring outside the Sunsail base and ate the last of the cheese, crackers, roasted peppers, and etc. We drank the last of the beer.

Charter Base Leftover Food

After getting checked out on the boat, we had a late lunch at the marina restaurant, got a van to the Raiatea airport, took our 40 minute flight to Papeete, and then our 9:00 p.m. flight to LAX, getting us in to LA at 8:00 a.m. Wonderful trip.