Goodbye Magnificent Moorea, Hello Heavenly Huahine
4th – 15th August 2018
Moving on from Tahiti we spent one final night in Moorea where we were treated with a visit by some passing whales, right in our anchorage. Given the reports we heard from other cruisers, it seems that the whales definitely have Opunohu Bay on their itinerary as they migrate north from Antarctica to the warmer waters of French Polynesia and Tonga to give birth to their offspring.
And really who could blame them for making a stopover in this gorgeous part of the world? There were no less than four whales in the group that we saw and for sure one was smaller than the rest so it had to be a bubba. Seeing them was a real treat and maybe one day we’ll get to swim with them.
The following evening we headed out for the 60 mile passage to the much talked about island of Huahine. In light airs and drizzle we hoisted our mainsail and rolled out the jib. The forecast showed the potential for squalls during the night, so to err on the side of caution we put one reef in the main as it went up.
Around 2100 hrs the wind picked up and our boat speed was sitting nicely around 9 kts. Now that’s great if we were on a multi day ocean passage but not so good when we were literally just going down the road. So we furled the jib as we sure didn’t want to arrive at the entrance pass under the cover of darkness. By 2230 the seas were getting up and the makings of an ugly night was beginning to show. it was getting pretty wild and our speed was still increasing. Our radar showed big ugly patches of purple bearing down on us. These purple patches are squalls and they have been known to pack quite a punch in the wind department, so down came the mainsail and a sliver of our jib took the stage.
To say it was a rock and roll night is an understatement. In fact we both reckon it was one of the roughest passages we’ve done in the past 12 years. We’ve crossed a lot of oceans and seas so that really says something, doesn’t it.
Around 0900 we arrived at the Avamoa Pass just off the main township of Fare. There were a dozen or more boats anchored inside the reef, two of whom we knew, the US flagged Adagio and Aussies Matt and Karen on Where 11. As we’d heard mixed reports re the holding off Fare and glowing reports about a bay on the south east side of the island, we made a bee line for Avea Bay.
The motor down the calm waters of the lagoon took about an hour and the scenery was beautiful, no wonder they call this island “the wild one“.
High hills bursting with lush vegetation right down to the sandy waterline flanked our port side, while out to starboard the deep indigo of the channel gave way to mesmerizing shades of aqua which got lighter and lighter until it bumped into the crashing waves of the barrier reef beyond. As we rounded the last corner Avea Bay lay ahead of us and we knew that we’d be calling this spot home for several days.
A small restaurant in the bay named Chez Tara had earned a good reputation over the airwaves of serving an excellent traditional Polynesian lunch on Sundays, so we called up to make a booking. Fellow cruisers Mike and Katie from Adagio had followed us down from the Fare anchorage and also joined us for the buffet lunch, which was a sell out. The charter boats and tourists from the surrounding hotels also make this a regular stop on Sundays so it’s advisable to book or else you’ll be turned away at the door.
You could only describe the meal as “interesting”. Being a buffet style event, portions of each dish were piled onto our plates by the servers and it was a bit of guess as to what it all was.There were many strange gluttonous taste sensations as well as the usual favs of Poisson cru, curries and veggies. If you tucked into it all you would not be walking away hungry, that’s for sure.
It was a very nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon for a change, topped off with yet another classic sunset.
Together with team Adagio we rented a car for a DIY island tour. Setting out early our first stop was at a seaside archeological site, Marae Anini. This particular one was classed as a community marae made from both coral and rock and was dedicated to the god of war Oro and the god Hiro, the patron of sailors and thieves, not sure if we like the connotation of that combo. From there we made a brief stop at La Passion de Pareo to see how the Polynesian style of a sarong is made. Katie and I, not so much the boys, were intrigued to see the freestyle hand drawn designs and painting of the fabric happening right before our eyes.
This was no mass producing factory just a workshop set up in a family’s garage with a mother and daughter team at the helm. We didn’t indulge in a purchase but they certainly were works of art. Continuing on we followed the foreshore road, pretty much the only road really and made a few more stops. A view point here, a view point there and a mid morning break for some delicious paninis at Snack Reuheama.
With tummies refueled, the search was on for the sacred blue eyed eels.
After much driving and no signposts to help us we spotted a few tour vans parked on the side of the road and figured this was the place. Bingo, there they were tucked away under the ledge of what looked to be an open concrete storm water channel, not the most fitting abode for sacred fish we thought. Yes, an eel is actually classed as a fish, ask Mr Google if you don’t believe me.
So getting back to the dozens of these rather porky, slimey, slithering creatures, they certainly do have bright blue eyes, a stark contrast to their muddy coloured bodies. Legend says the reason they are sacred is because they are reincarnated ancestors of the locals. To the people of this island these eels are only upstaged by the humble coconut in terms of respect and importance. Hence no putting them on a dinner plate any time soon. With the eels ticked off the list it was time to keep moving.
Sometimes on island road trips you stumble across the most quirky things. In this case it was the top half, deck and coach house of Lagoon catamaran. We figured when it was a complete boat it used to be a forty-footer. Well some enterprising person has dragged it up into their front garden, ditched the underwater parts and is now in the process of building a besser block house, complete with the original curvature of the hull around the top half. Maybe we should do that with GWTW once we finally hang up our sailing boots.
Salvaging catamarans on this island seems to be in vogue. Back in Avea Bay where GWTW is anchored, just a little further around the bay on “the hard” as we would say, sits the remains of a Leopard 46 Catamaran named the Tanda Malaika, which was outbound from Moorea at 6am on July 23rd 2017. She hit the surrounding reef of Huahine at 8pm the same day as the skipper attempted a night arrival to this island.
We have just sailed that route but with a far different strategy. We left Moorea at 5pm so that we would approach the island mid morning next day with plenty of light. We also chose to round Huahine from the over the north side of the island so as to avoid the reef shelf that protrudes from the western shore. Now we are no smarter than other cruisers, however the masses will tell you that this is the most logical and safe method of tackling the passage from Moorea to Huahine. So now Tanda Malaika sits ashore waiting for a new lease on life as a true house boat. A sad ending to a lovely looking boat.
Paralleling the coast our journey continued towards the village of Maeva, where we spotted several fish catching devices in the small river-like inlet.
These ancient traps made from river stones placed in the shape of a V are still in use today. Fisherman “steer” the fish into the stones where the fish then run into a roadblock at the end, becoming the catch of the day. Quite simple but quite ingenious really.
This village was once the seat of royal power on the island and there are around thirty maraes in this area. A mock up of one of the structures, complete with thatched roof, showed many artifacts from that era.
Below are some of the pretty wind chimes inside the exhibit building.
Our day trip concluded with lunch at the Fare yacht club followed by a quick visit to the local rum distillery where both Mike and Liam spent up big. These were not your usual rums but more like flavoured sipping rum. We all sampled a few and went away happy campers.
Our final days on Huahine were fairly sedate, There were some very good snorkeling trips and a spot of excellent night fishing from the stern of GWTW. The aim was to catch the lightening fast trevally which are attracted to the baitfish who in turn were attracted to our underwater lights.The haul count for the evening’s efforts was six decent sized trevally. A big thanks to Mike from Adagio for lending his rod and lures.
But the absolute highlight of our time here was swimming with a couple of magnificent Manta Rays for over an hour. These gentle giants cruise along the sand bank drop-off right in the bay looking, with mouths wide open, for pockets of plankton to feed on. It is an absolute privilege to be able to swim alongside them while they turn a blind eye to our presence and go about their daily life.
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