3 of the 1000 places to visit before you die - Huahine, Bora Bora and Maupiti

The longest holiday Denis had ever taken before now was 1 week. So taking 5
weeks was something special for him, and for Elaine. Elaine had been our
bridesmaid (with Tara) at our wedding exactly 30 years ago on 28th June
1975, so it was great that she and Denis were able to spend time with us on Intrepid. We
planned to backtrack a bit and visit with them 3 places described in the
book '1000 places to visit before you die' by Patricia Schultz - Huahine, Bora Bora and Maupiti -
before heading off to Samoa.

First we had to organise the mail my sister Hilary had sent via them -
Hilary does a brilliant job sorting the important from the trivial - which
is essential for cruising - but a few packages hadn't made it in time, so we
had to arrange delivery of them by Fedex via Ginger, Denis's efficient
secretary.

We snorkelled  in Bora Bora lagoon, then had a great sail back east in wind
that increased and
shifted with the venturi effect between the peaks of Bora Bora, Tahaa and
Raiatea until we finally had to motor dead into the wind, and made it
through the narrow pass into Tahaa, with 10 foot breakers only 30 metres
from us. We took the mooring off Chez Louise, and dinghied in. Elaine was
uncharacteristically eager to get the cocktails on offer, and bounced the
wrong way off the dinghy as we docked, and fell in. It was shallow, so no
danger, once on the dock Louise who must weigh 250 pounds (18 stone) took
control of her, gave her a fresh water shower, and soon Elaine was modelling
a nattily tied pareo in place of her wet T shirt, and getting stuck into
lobster and fresh fish.

Tahaa is known as the vanilla isle, so we arranged for Teva, Louise's cousin
to guide us round next day ($40 each).  Vanilla is a vine, with beans like,
well, green string beans, the Tahaa version is the most flavourful, but old
style cultivation in the jungle requires that the female be fertilised manually by pollen from the flower -
unlike the wind blow job in the wild - and the
flower only opens on one day in the year - so there is a lot of labour taken
up in checking for flowers, manual pollination and winding the vines round
various tree stumps. The new style 'factory farmed' vanilla is in small
guarded enclosures, where the vines are wound around concrete crosses and no doubt
artificially inseminated. Teva showed us how to open coconuts properly and
his girl friend who runs a pearl farm charmed Denis into buying some very
elegant black pearls.

Elaine had a fear of water, so it was brave of her to come at all, and next
day we went even further, dinghying to a river of coral between 2 motus, and
Elaine snorkelled for the first time ever in an idyllic place, next to the
Pearl Resort Hotel ($1000/night or so). Then we sailed Intrepid down to the
Moorings marina on Raiatea ($20/night) for water and more good food at their
thatched barn style restaurant, then further east sailing the 25 miles to
Huahine, getting 2 bites on our fishing lines on the way. The lagoons in
Huahine are colours at their most extravagant, all shades from deepest blue
to lightest azure, I paced Denis for a 6 mile run, we even checked out a
Marae (Maori temple) in Avea Bay, then ate at the highly recommended local restaurant.
Denis raved about his dive next day, (sharks and all) and we even persuaded
Elaine to snorkel off the point. Then back to the main town Fare for the TGIF Friday
bash at the local bar overlooking the harbour.

Saturday we provisioned and set off west from Huahine to the main temples of Raiatea, which even Denis
visited, then walked through plantations up the valley wondering if they would miss a few bananas
or papaya....finally tasting local VANILLA ice-cream. From here we went
south round the tip of Raiatea, anchoring just off a small outlying islet with an
abandoned airstrip, some failed business plan for a luxury hotel maybe. The
islets 2 main inhabitants were 2 large male swimming pigs,  who were
blissfully happy rootling in the sand for crabs, and taking a swim in the
sea whenever they felt hot, cuddling up to each other. They liked the look
of Denis and a photo will appear on the Intrepid website when I can get to
an internet connection with enough speed to update it.

Then a tremendous sail back west to Bora Bora with Denis at the helm making
what should have been a leisurely cruise into a mini Americas Cup as we
raced a nearby yacht (and beat them easily). We collected our Fedex package
from Top Dive , and Denis starred in a promotional diving DVD they were
making (ask to see it, actually I think the sharks are the real stars).
Nicky and I celebrated our 30th years of married bliss with Elaine and Denis
at Bloody Mary which tries to be an authentic Tahitian dining place but
isnt, then on 29th Denis and I checked out the diesel station on a run, and
we filled Intrepid with water at the Bora Bora Yacht Club while we had lunch
with Chris and Heather from Halo. We took Intrepid to the diesel station
only to find a trawler there taking on 4500 litres of fuel. 3 hours later,
just as the station was closing we squeezed 220 litres into Intrepid, the
last diesel on Bora Bora until the supply boat comes next week, and watched
the first of the Bastille Day celebrations.

Each village on each island puts on a show, and these were spectacular,
almost in the Carnival style, but in a stadium. The 60 or so flower beclad
costumes were amazing, the hip wiggling enough to make a saint turn heathen, and the
music and dramatisation soulful. A great spectacle, although Denis blamed me
for not bringing the Steiner binoculars so he could check out the hip
wiggling in more detail.

But Maupiti called, this is a gem of an island 25 miles west of Bora Bora
with a horrendously difficult pass, because the surrounding reef is so low
that if there is any sort of a swell from the south, the waves break over
the reef into the lagoon, which then tries to empty via the only pass,
creating 8 knot outflowing currents and huge breaking waves in the narrow
entrance as the outflow meets the wind. We set off gingerly in a south east
wind very early to see if we
could make it. From 1 mile out it looked impossible, the waves were breaking
right over the reef, but as we got closer we could see through binoculars
that there was a narrow 20 metre wide passage which didn't have breakers. We
put on life jackets and went closer and finally went for it, massive
breaking waves just 15 yards to our right, and lining up the leading marks,
made it over the shallow bar, into the 2 mile long entrance. Life jackets
off, relieved smiles all round (most other yachts are not allowed to enter
without a professional pilot) zig zagged round (and in one case over) coral
heads and sand bars, and anchored just off the main town in the prettiest
lagoon I have seen.

The water is 5 metres deep, a blue colour, shading to
light blue and brown over the extensive sandbanks with less than a foot of
water over them, with palm trees waving on
motus beyond. Denis declared it prime bone fishing territory and when we
snorkelled I saw large shoals of these notoriously shy fish, but even an
early morning start couldn't persuade them onto his fly.

Maupiti was at one time chief among the islands, and now is generally pro independence -the
1000 local people voted to reject plans for a French luxury hotel in Maupiti, and
there are still only small guest houses. But
life even in such an idyllic spot can be hard - tidal waves in 1996 flooded
most of the village, and then a cyclone the next year destroyed most of what
was left. The French (or more likely the EU) provided 300 hurricane proof 4
pointed homes, but now apart from Noni fruit cultivation (it retards aging
apparently, and is eagerly bought up by Americans and Germans), and making
flower lei garlands, the only work is running the 10 small guest houses, and
alcohol is a problem - despite this (or perhaps because of it) everyone we
talked to was very friendly. There are only 4 flights/week, and the Maupiti
Express boat often has to cancel its 3
trips/week because of waves at the pass, so there are not enough tourists to
fill the pensions, and the only one with air-conditioning (owned by the same
guy as the Maupiti Express) gets all the tourists. There are only 15 French
inhabitants who find it very
difficult to buy land, because every local has a share in almost every piece
of land because they are all related to each other, so they all need to be
bought off.

We toured the island with Simone who is the grand daughter of Cantonese Chinese brought in to
labour in Tahiti sugar cane fields during the American Civil War. Simone is
married to Ooui who is a native Maupitian. Ooui explained in French the
original Polynesian method of navigating by the stars using the Southern
Cross, Arcturus and Sirius which predated almost all western navigation, and
they presented us with a massive basket of papaya before we left, Denis was
in 7th heaven, then we were off.

The Maupiti pass is by repute worse going out than going in, because you
have to go much faster to maintain steerage way in the rapidly outflowing
current. We allocated Elaine as photographer, Denis as leading mark expert,
Nicky checking our track against how we came in, and I on the helm. The wind
was stronger, and the crashing waves on the reef just 15 metres away were
worse if anything, but the leading marks agreed, and we cruised through and
onto our track just west of north west to Suvarov 650 miles away, about 5
days non stop sailing.

Elaine and Denis had never done a night watch or slept on a yacht underway
before, so they shared the 4am to 8am watch. And it was BLACK and DARK, no
moon. Whereas I had nice easy 25 knot winds for my 1am to 4am watch , Denis
and Elaine had an eventful time, with lighter, shifting winds which pushed
Intrepid onto a course heading to a dangerous reef bedecked island, radar
interference, irregular seas....but they coped, and as I write we are on
track, the fishing lines are out, as is the sun, and we are already
discussing what to have for lunch ...Sashimi...dream on Denis.

We wish you all the best for the 4th July US Independence Day, makes being
in Maupiti more poignant.........the first word a family said to me when I
asked if I could photograph them was ..Independence!!

From the crew of Intrepid, Andy, Nicky, Elaine and Denis.

Please reply to intrepidofdover@yahoo.co.uk. See www.intrepidofdover.co.uk
for photos, logs and schedule
 

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