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Scuttlebutt News:

Bareboating: Tahiti and French Polynesia
Story and photos by Craig Leweck/Scuttlebutt

The following log is from a bareboat charter in August 2006 to Tahiti and the French Polynesian islands. Eleven people – six adults, two teens, a twelve year old and two tens – on a boat. One boat. Traveling together for two weeks. Crazy? Perhaps.

One couple and two families decided that this was going to be their summer vacation. The couple without kids had done the most bareboating, cruised these islands before, and would be relied on heavily for their experience. They had not cruised before with kids, but would be dealing with the needs of five kids for ten nights. Crazy? Definitely.

Bareboat chartering at exotic locations, is well, exotic, a bit adventuresome, but more than anything, provides an unmatched ability to discover areas that can only be explored by boat. The idea behind the log is to empower those who had not yet bareboat chartered, or to give some insight into heading west to this Pacific Ocean destination.

So put aside your fresh hotel linens, your room service menus, your day spa appointments, and follow along for this bareboat charter through the islands of Raiatea, Tahaa, and Bora Bora.

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Preface
Our group had previously chartered with Sunsail and Moorings (which are now under single ownership), and both provide outstanding service and very reliable boats. After our decision to book with Moorings for this trip, the next decision was on what size and type of boat. All the boats have multiple staterooms and are well layed out for chartering; Moorings has a planning guide that helps to choose the appropriate boat. The boats also have all the amenities to enhance the trip: swim ladder and fresh water shower equipment on the stern platform, furling gear for the sails (often jack-lines for the main), power windlass with chain locker for the bow anchor, and cockpit bimini for the sun. Push the button to lift the anchor, unfurl the sails, and you’re sailing off to a new destination.

Deciding between a catamaran and monohull is a review of the trade-offs. Catamarans can anchor in shallower water, will rock less in a swell, and have more deck space, whereas the monohulls maneuver and sail better (particularly upwind). The preference for this trip was a catamaran due to the size of our group, but they had already been booked. We chose the Moorings 525 monohull, which had five staterooms, five bathrooms, and a wide cockpit with dual wheels. It proved to be a great boat, though it would have been nice to have had the bigger cockpit of the catamaran for our group.

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Loads of luggage - kids included
How to handle food provisioning depends on how much cooking you want to do, and how much control you want over your food choices. Moorings (and presumably other charter companies) can provide every meal needed, or fewer if you plan to occasionally get off the boat to eat. For this trip, we knew there was a good market near the Moorings base, so we decided to provision the food ourselves. We brought along much of the food in coolers and storage boxes, and bought mostly drinks near the base. Knowing the airline luggage limits is important when bringing along the food, and recognizing that moving it through airport terminals and land transport would require extra effort (and occassionally be a pain).

Initial planning for this trip began nearly a year in advance, with the boat booking confirmed about eight months beforehand. If you plan to use frequent-flyer airline miles and want to maximize your boat choices, plan early.

Monday, August 14, 2006
Our trip began at Los Angeles airport, where three helicopters, a dozen police cars, and uncertainty about the new carry-on requirements greeted us … all courtesy of the terrorist community that now have made airline travel a hassle. Air Tahiti Nui appears to the official airline of the honeymooners, and we seem to be the only group with kids. Hmm. Our 8 ½ hour flight departed at 1:00pm, and included lots of free drinks, perhaps because the in-seat video screens weren’t working. Pretty long flight to be awake and sober, so we chose neither. Upon landing in Pape’ete, Tahiti, we dealt with customs and found an airport bank to get the local funny money (some places accept US dollars, but shouldn’t rely on it, and the airport bank had a good exchange rate). Our flight arrived early in the evening (3 hour time difference from LA), and as there were no more connecting flights to the Moorings base on Raiatea at night, we packed our group into two taxi vans for the short ride to the Sofitel Maeva Beach Tahiti hotel. No chickens were harmed during the drive, but as it was now dark outside, we would have to wait until morning to get a view of our new surroundings. After some horrible drinks and appetizers at the hotel bar, we resigned to our rooms to gain some sleep before our early flight out in the morning.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Our first glimpse of paradise greeted us with the morning sun, and we were not disappointed. The hotel had an early breakfast buffet adjacent to an expansive beach area, which we would learn later to be one of the few sandy beaches in theFrench Polynesian islands. While our early flight to Raiatea kept us from taking a dip, it did provide enough time to come across some of the biggest snails we have ever seen. Even in Tahiti, the French influence provides the breeding for escargot.

Our two vans returned for us at the hotel, with our ride back to the airport “amazingly” climbing in cost (got to love the meter-less system). We checked in our luggage (got dinged $70 on the inter-island prop hop for extra baggage at check-in), found an airport terminal McDonalds and candy store to start learning about the new currancy, plus an ATM to get more of it. The 35-minute flight to Raiatea provided a wonderful view of the vivid ocean colors, lush vegetation, and protective reefs that would soon be part of our daily lives for the next ten days.

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Arriving at the Moorings base on Raiatea
After nearly 24 hours of travel, it was a welcome sight to see our Moorings driver greeting us at the Raiatea airport. The Moorings base is only a five-minute drive from the airport, where we were provided welcome leis upon arrival. While some of us began dealing with the boat and baggage, the Moorings driver took others on the ten-minute ride to the market to complete our provisioning (mostly drinks). Moorings also had a store to help with some items, and it was during these shopping trips that we learned our first lesson in rum provisioning. Turns out that while Myers rum has gained entrance to this area, all the other Rums come from France, and well, they aren’t too good.

At the start of any bareboat charter is a briefing of the cruising areas. As I had not done any advanced preparation, this session was wildly over my head. There is a lot of important information that is covered during these briefings, and if not for two in our group who had chartered here a year prior, we would have been “challenged.” The French Polynesian islands are particularly unique, as they are surrounded by coral reefs, creating calm lagoons between the islands and reef for transit and anchoring. As it turns out, the charts are fine, the navigation marks make sense, the bottom is sandy and the coral is obvious, so we all eventually became experts during the trip. However, if you are going to an area for the first time, read up on the location first so the briefing then only is needed to fill in the gaps and give you the local knowledge on the best anchorages, etc. Plus, if you chose to self-insure as we did (upfront fee of $5000, completely refundable if there was no damage), having a grip on the local waters is reassuring.

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Loading up our Moorings 525
Before leaving the Moorings base, we topped all the water tanks, stocked up on ice, got the kayaks (one double and two singles), made sure our dinghy had the biggest outboard available, got sized for snorkeling gear, and had a complete tour of the boat systems. It is pretty neat to find every stateroom stocked with clean linens, pillows and extra towels…darn near a hotel experience. The restaurant next to the Moorings base gave us our first taste of cold Hinanus, the local beer, and provided us with a couple litres of Mai Tais for our departure.

The Moorings 525 is the largest yacht they provide for bareboating, and we were now heading out for a 45-minute powersail, passing the airport along the way and heading clockwise around to the northeastern tip of Raiatea, to an anchorage next to Ile Taoru, which was a motu (tiny islet in the lagoon) adjacent to the Passe Toahotu. We soon became very familiar with the passes, as they provide the only way in and out of the coral reefs that surround the islands. They also provide many of the surfing locations, wherein the incoming swell would form a wave as the ocean floor rose quickly at the reef. The break wasn’t great this day, but the teens gave it a try, and the rest of us began the activities that would fill our days for the rest of the trip: snorkel, kayak, swim, read, eat, and drink (and eat and drink).

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Wednesday, August 17
After breakfast, it became apparent that we were outpacing our eating predictions. The town of Uturoa on Raiatea was on our way to our next anchorage, and as it was the second largest city in the French Polynesian chain, it provided us with one of the few chances available to stock up before we distanced ourselves from civilization. Following the stop, we enjoyed a sunny starboard beam reach in the prevailing easterly direction toward the eastern side of Tahaa, where we anchored by Ile Mahaea, a motu adjacent to Passe Toahotu.

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Our anchorage at Ile Mahaea
The main islands provide few anchorage areas, so the game plan is to seek out anchorages near the motus along the outer reef. The motus provide a sandy shallow bottom that gradually tapers away from the beach, and then suddenly drops straight down to the ocean floor (which causes the distinct changes in ocean color). It was common for us to anchor in less than 5 meters (our draft was 1.85 meters), with the goal typically to get as close to the motu as possible for protection and beach access. The motus, along with the reefs, protect the island from the ocean swell, making the lagoon waters remarkably calm. The winds might be blowing hard, but our anchorages were always pleasant.

Another realization is that the main islands provide few beaches. The motus often had sandy beach space, but they were also often inhabited by locals, who either lived there or used the motu for a weekend retreat. Today’s landing on Ile Mahaea provided some great beach area for the kids, but we did have to dish out some payola for the privilege ($3 cash per person). The water surrounding the motu was filled with coral heads that would give us our first glimpse of the awesome snorkeling that we would soon find at most every anchorage during our trip.

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Thursday, August 17
We were beginning to fall into our routine of morning activities, and then departing for a new location. Today’s schedule would be our longest yet, and included a tour of the Anapa Pearl Farm along the western side of Raiatea, then continuing south for an anchorage off the southern tip of Raiatea at Ile Naonao, which was a motu adjacent to Passe Naonao.

We had a splendid port beam reach in the lagoon to the pearl farm, with a school of dolphins riding our bow wave along the way, and soon picking up one of the farm’s mooring buoys. We were greeted by a launch that brought us to the farm where we snorkeled amongst the oyster strands in various stages of development, and then were shuttled to the “farm house,” a two-story hut in the lagoon that provided both a showroom and pearl cultivation area. The farm owner, Philippe, gave us a thorough presentation of how pearls are developed, with the process involving both science and old school methods. The islands are famous for their black pearls, and while pearls remain an expensive purchase, the showroom offered good buys (and what the heck, the tour was free).

We noticed that Philippe had a surfboard, but discovered that he had a common French Polynesian disease, which is where the locals become very tight-lipped about their surfing locations. We would see this act played out throughout our trip, where the locals were not willing to disclose much information to outsiders in fear that their private spots would become too populated.

Our trip south to Ile Naonao would take us outside the lagoon for the first time, as the lagoon along this stretch of Raiatea was too shallow to transit. We exited at Passe Rautoanui, where we came across one of the coveted surfing locations at the southern side of the opening. There were a couple of surfers out, so we paused long enough to get some photos and video footage (maybe we can make big money selling this information). It is remarkable how the swell kicks up as the ocean floor rises to the reef, and these surfers knew where to kick out before the coral crunch.

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Nice reach south to Ile Naonao
During our sail we found the prevailing easterly trades off the island to provide great sailing conditions with hardly any swell. Sadly, there appears to be little infrastructure within the islands for waste disposal, and our sail was frequently marked by the scent of small trash burns. The waters remained fairly clear of trash, though the pearl farm did seem to have a current eddy that trapped what items that found their way to the water.

We eventually arrived at Passe Punseroa, where we were able to enter back into the lagoon, and then powered upwind into big breeze to reach our anchorage. A couple of catamarans were already tucked in close to the motu, exhibiting their draft advantage when it came to premier anchoring spots. This time, however, it appeared that there was enough depth for us, and we were able to get a great spot a couple hundred feet off the beach (okay, we almost went aground getting to it, but the bottom was sandy, and we didn’t touch… honest).

This would prove to be our favorite anchorage of the trip, with outstanding snorkeling, a short swim to the motu, mild winds and current, and a great beach. The motu also has some history, as within its interior remains a landing strip from World War II, though it appears to have not been used for years. The motu was filled with coconut trees, and our stroll revealed many coconuts that had fallen and were sprouting small leaves, already beginning the process to grow a new tree (based on how many coconut trees inhabit French Polynesia, there must have been loads of floating coconuts back in the day). An abundance of hermit crabs also lined the beach, and even a diving gecko found one of our ten-year olds. We did our part for the environment by collecting any plastic bottles that had washed ashore, and constructed our “kon-tiki” raft to help get our beach toys back to the boat.

Friday, August 18
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Our route along Tahaa, Raiatea, and Bora Bora
Tough spot to leave, and we would soon learn that another day would have been wise. The problem with sailing is that you rely on the wind, which is… unreliable. Today our sweet reach to Bora Bora became a long 5+ hour beat, with the only highlight being a stinky bonita hitting our green trolling jig (which we released). It was a long trip, but there were no hurls, and our entry through the lone opening for Bora Bora, Passe Teavanui, was met with big smiles.

We turned right after the passe and negotiated the navigation buoys and shallows in the lagoon between the outer reef and Topua, which is a larger motu lying to the west of Bora Bora. We turned a corner on the motu, coming in close to our first hut-hotel sighting, which have very pricey rooms that are built on stilts and attached to the shoreside facilities through spider-like piers. We figure this is where the rich and famous come to play, and that the young robe-covered dolly scampering off her hut deck for inside coverage was trying to avoid the paparazzi. We took her picture anyway.

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Passing by a hut hotel after long slog to Bora Bora
We anchored off the southern tip of Tupua in the lee of the resort, and were soon greeted by a school of bat rays. A motu off of Tupua provided a wonderful kayak outing, with the coral heads behind our anchorage providing more ray sightings. The teens were able to infiltrate the resort for some “American” food, but were denied when trying to replenish the ice needs for the adult drinkies. Ah, the challenges as we had to ration the ice cubes that evening, but survival was eminent as tomorrow’s schedule included a trip to town to replenish the ice and other supplies.

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Saturday, August 19
Our anchorage off of Tupua was a short distance to Vaitape, which was the “big city” of Bora Bora, and would provide us with yet another opportunity to replenish our provisions (man, those kids sure eat a lot!). The marina did not provide room for mooring the boat, so our shoppers went ashore in the dinghy, and the rest of the group
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Coming to BBYC for water, ice, and real rum drinks
headed for nearby Bora Bora Yacht Club for water and ice (picking up their mooring and stern tying to their dock). As BBYC is a Moorings partner, the water and ice were free, and so were the adult drinkies. The YC also provides evening dining, but our plans had us heading elsewhere.

We returned to Vaitape for the shoppers, who had sweet-talked the grocery store owner for a car ride back to the dock. Good thing, as they likely had two shopping carts full of groceries (and there are no grocery carts on Bora Bora). Good thing also that they had put all the groceries into big Hefty bags, as the dinghy ride back to the boat, plus the transfer of the groceries to the boat, are not quite like the parking lot at the food market back home. Wet (but all part of the adventure)!

The route to our next anchorage provided the most “creative” navigational information for our trip.
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The "route" to Taurere
Our destination was Taurere, which was in the southeastern corner of the outer reef. The shortest direction from Vaitape was to the south, but as the southern section of the lagoon was too shallow for passage, we had to go the long way around the northern side of Bora Bora (not really that long). After passing a couple of standard navigation marks, our next target was described as “three large coconut trees” on the motu. We never found them, but discovered later that the tallest tree had lost all its palm fawns, which made it merely one tall stick. Fortunately, we correctly “naviguessed” on the heading, which had us crossing the lagoon at the deepest part, which by coincidence, was also the same depth of our boat. Nice! The route continued a zig-zag, treasure hunt-like path (go to the wooden pier and turn right toward the onshore marker) until we reached our anchorage.

Many eschew Bora Bora, claiming that hotel development has altered the Polynesian vibe (probably true), and has further limited the available beach areas (definitely true). Taurere was about as far away as you could get from the new developments, and provided another relaxing anchorage. We again got as close to the motu as possible, with hardly a meter of water below the keel. Our location was a few boat lengths from a shelf where the water rose to waist level, and you could then walk the half-mile to the beach. The beach access was limited by the local dogs, but this was our first sighting of local nudity (yes, it has taken us six days, and it was not even close to those scantily clad Polynesian beauties pictured in the local calendars).

Sunday, August 20
One of the anticipated highlights of our trip would occur today, that being when we would “swim with the sharks.” We were heading for the Lagoonarium, a 12-year old facility just north of our anchorage at Motu Tupe, where we would pay $25/person (cash or credit) to enter into a caged-off lagoon to purposely swim with sharks, stingray, etc. Now here’s a business plan that doesn’t rely on repeat business. We anchored nearby, and filled all the kayaks and dinghy to get ashore.

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The "friendly"White Tip Reef Shark
In typical island fashion, there were no liability forms to complete…just pay the lady and strap on the snorkeling gear. Our guide provided us a tour of the various pens, with only the first area housing the snapping turtle not permitted for swimming (okay, so they did have limits). Otherwise, we were swimming amongst most of the native creatures of the lagoon, using our underwater cameras, and getting up close and personal (did I mention there were 25 sharks, including a couple seven footers?). Our initial concerns quickly evaporated, and this excursion proved to be one of our most memorable times.

The Lagoonarium was typical of many small businesses in French Polynesia, where their survival was dependant on their self-sufficiency. Solar panels, rainwater collection, farmland and housing handled many of their needs, and when they needed to replenish the stars of the show, they only had to go just beyond their fences for new creatures. The Lagoonarium had a picnic area for post-swim snacks, and their gift shop had been the first we had seen since starting our charter, making for some kind of vacation record (too bad they didn’t have any Mount Gay rum in the shop).

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Building more hut hotel developments
Once back on the boat, we had hoped to find an anchorage nearby that would provide some protection from today’s Maraamu (strong trade winds found during June-August). In that much of the shoreline was very shallow and/or littered with hotels, finding a better anchorage proved harder than anticipated. We finally found an adequate spot near the St. Regis Resort at Apoo’ Mao’. We settled in for drinks and poo-poos, with a few of the boys taking off on a final kayak adventure for the day, heading toward a canal in the motu which extended out toward the reef, with shoreline along either side of the canal to explore.

The serenity onboard our boat changed quickly with the distant screams, and the single kayak arriving with the bad news: sea urchin accident. The double kayak returned with the victim, which was one of the ten-year olds, who had managed to get the sea urchin spines in both feet and one hand (setting yet another record). We had heard how painful this could be, and knew that we needed to quickly get him onboard to began soaking the areas in hot water. A group headed for the St. Regis Resort, where the staff was extremely helpful at providing supplies and instructions. One of their tips might be useful in the future, wherein we learned how the initial pain can be mitigated by urinating on the skin where the sea urchin spines have penetrated (of course, we would have known this had we watched the ‘Friends’ episode where Joey was trying to convince Monica that he needed to pee on her after she got stung).

The only other bummer of the day was our realization that our dinghy fuel was dangerously low, with no good resources nearby (not much open on Sundays). In hindsight, we could have filled up yesterday during our shopping trip in Vaitape, but it is so hard to think of everything while on vacation. Fortunately, our schedule tomorrow would be taking us toward an area where we could refill the dinghy fuel tank.

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Monday, August 21
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Even the kids learned how to relax on the trip.
The wind was snorting all night, but by this point in the trip we had a lot of confidence in our anchoring skills. The anchor worked perfectly in the soft, sandy bottom, and we were diligent in avoiding any coral heads with the anchor and chain. The later was a high priority, as a wind direction change could easily drag the chain over coral that had initially been clear, thus damaging an important food source for the lagoon environment.

Speaking of food, our plans today included dinner at the world famous Bloody Marys, a restaurant located near the southern tip of Bora Bora. It was a short power to their location, where they provide complimentary moorings for their dining guests. Unfortunately, all the buoys were taken, but given the strength of the wind, we found better around the corner to the south, and under the Hotel Bora Bora (the oldest hotel on the island).

To build up our appetite, we went ashore to rent bikes for a ride around Bora Bora. However, due to the size of our group, and the young age of some of our riders, our plan was soon revised. With the help of the Moorings and Bloody Marys' staff, we were able to contact a couple of rental companies, and ultimately secured enough bikes for the remaining willing riders (at this point, the rental two-person dune buggies were looking pretty attractive). We all met up again in Vaitape, enjoyed lunch at sidewalk café, did a little gift shopping, got gas for the dinghy engine, and eventually worked our way back to the boat (either by taxi or bike) in time for our dinner reservation.

Our onshore outing gave us a new perspective of the land, revealing some of the scabs that exist amongst the beautiful foliage. While we always felt very safe, it appeared that the economy was not strong quite enough to provide the finishing touches on housing or businesses, and in some places, it was easy to question whether an urban plan existed at all. Call it character, and well, the place had plenty of it.

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The bathroom at Bloody Marys - don't look too closely at the flusher.
We were ready for our first dinner off the boat, and Bloody Marys proved to be a treat. The menu at Bloody Marys is not printed, but rather displayed, and each dining group is walked over to an ice-bed filled with the choices of the day. We made our meal selection there before being taken to our table, where we began plying our way through their cocktail menu. The food proved to be fabulous, the atmosphere was very authentic, and the gift shop proved to be enticing too. Heck, even the bathroom had character. And yes, they served Bloody Marys, and they were awesome.

It was now late, and the Maraamu had reached Godzilla strength. Returning our entire group to the boat in our little dinghy would have been a soaker at best, and potentially dangerous, but as French Polynesian courtesy would have it, we were able to contract with a hotel water taxi to give most of us a ride to the boat, while a couple brave soles returned with the dinghy.

Tuesday, August 22
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The painful upwind route from Bloody Marys on Bora Bora to the swanky Ilet Tautau at Tahaa.
Bora Bora is to the west of Tahaa, and with the standard easterly trades, today would be a long upwind slog to our anchorage this afternoon on Tahaa. The Maraamu was still lingering, and our exit of the lagoon was greeted by the ocean swells that had the past few days to gain nastiness. A single reef in the main and a slightly furled headsail proved wise, even after the wind moderated some during the crossing. Our mantra to this point in our trip was “living the dream,” but a day at work easily outshined today’s 5+ hour crossing.

The entrance into the lagoon at Tahaa, Passe Papai, was hard to recognize until we were nearly on top of it. A couple kiteboarders were surfing the waves along the passe, and we soon found the navigation marks that would provide us safe passage through the coral heads. We took a left turn after the passe, and soon arrived at an anchorage off of the Hotel Relais et Chateaux, which is located on Ilet Tautau. Because of the coral, finding a suitable anchorage can be trying, and this spot already had a few boats in it. We finally succeeded, but moved later in the day to more open space in case the wind changed direction.

As the hotel claimed to be the only five-star resort in French Polynesia, the adults decided to invade by kayak and dinghy to try out their swim up bar. Saddling up in the pool stools, we were quickly denied as we attempted to pay by credit card (room charge or cash only). After fruitless attempts to make payment at the bar and front desk, we determined that at a swanky resort like this one, they needed some means to filter out the riff-raff, and today, we were the riff-raff. Our disdain forced a slight detour on our way back to the boat, with our course heading under the over-water huts to gander a look up through their glass-paneled floors. Isn’t vacation grand?

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Wednesday, August 23
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Watching the local surf as we exit
the passe on our way to Ile Naonao
With only two more days left on our charter, we decided to head back to our favorite anchorage at Ile Naonao along the southern tip of Raiatea. Our course took us past the Moorings base, so we took the opportunity to top our water tanks and ice supplies, and also had a chance to look at some of the other Moorings charter boats (always planning for the next charter). Like last time, the trip along the eastern shore of Raiatea provided a nice beam reach, and gave us another chance to try the trolling jig. Our crummy fishing luck continued this day as the only real bite came from a pestering bird, which we would have surely hooked if we hadn’t reeled in the lure, and that finally landed onboard for a ride (disregard any alleged reports that we tried to discourage this bird by throwing objects at it – they’re simply not true).

The anchorage was again perfect, with calm winds and minimal current under the motu. The teens decided to give surfing another try, and headed for the adjacent Passe
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Perfect strolls on the beach.
Naonao, while the rest of us enjoyed the great snorkeling and leisure that this spot provided. We remembered the abundance of hermit crabs along the shore, built a stadium with the coral and rocks that had washed ashore, and the kids gathered their steeds for countless competitions (we promise that no crabs were hurt during these races… honest).

Thursday, August 24
While the weather during our trip has been decent, it had not quite lived up to the long-range weather predictions that we read prior to our flight to Tahiti. Perhaps we should have been suspicious when the Internet web cameras at some of the local resorts would occasionally not update during the days leading up to our trip. Our conspiracy theory pointed to the French Polynesia Convention and Visitor Bureau, which we figured had a firm control on the weather information provided to outsiders.

However, the FP Convis was well aware that we would likely only recall the weather during the last days of our trip, which was nothing short of awesome. The clear skies lent themselves well to our long snorkels,
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Group shower before dinner at Taravana YC.
group photos on the beach, kayaks around the motu (not advised), more hermit crab stadium races, and collecting coral on the beach. Not even having to begin deflating some of the water toys that we had on our trip would deter us from having a wonderful day.

For our final night, we headed back in the afternoon to the southern point of Tahaa for an anchorage at Teamaru, where we had made dinner reservations at Taravana Yacht Club. No sooner had we picked up the TYC mooring buoy than we were all diving into the water. The wind and water was calm, the sun was setting, and it felt very relaxing. The realization that our vacation was coming to end had set in, and we were going to enjoy every last minute of it.

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Relaxing with the tens at Taravana Yacht Club.
Taravana Yacht Club should be the poster child for all yacht clubs. Casual setting, outdoor dining, full bar, guest housing, and visitors must arrive by boat. We took the dinghy to their dock, met some of the local surfer/kite boarders (and saw their reef wounds), and soon enjoyed a great meal of Mahi-Mahi (the other choice was steak, but when in Rome…) and tropical drinks. As TYC is a short distance from the Moorings base on Raiatea, TYC was a good choice to either begin or end a charter.

Friday, August 25
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Our return to the Moorings base... sob, sob, sob.
With a 10:50am flight from Raiatea to Tahiti, we needed to drop off the boat well before Moorings’ 10:00am deadline. Upon arrival and off-loading our gear, there was a debrief with Moorings’ staff to report on the condition of the boat (which had no significant issues). After some final shopping at the Moorings gift shop (plus the shop next store), the Moorings staff provided us farewell shell necklaces before we piled into the taxi for our trip to the airport.

After twelve days of successfully moving our group of eleven from place to place, we ran into our first snag when we learned that only half our group was on the morning inter-island flight, with the rest on the 7:00pm flight. As the surfers had hoped today to seek out the holy Tahitian break of Teahupoo (click here for video), they took the morning flight, and then rented a car for their afternoon excursion.

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Getting lucky after missing the flight.
What began as an inconvenience for the remaining group turned into an outstanding afternoon. After seeing a promotional poster in the airport for the Hawaiki Nui Hotel, the Moorings driver provided a ride to the hotel, where the restaurant and pool area would hopefully provide a nice location to wait for the evening flight. As it turned out, the hotel was a Moorings partner, and they provided a complimentary room for the afternoon – so typical of French Polynesian hospitality. Lunch was wonderful, the waters at the end of the hotel dock offered some of the best snorkeling of the trip, the pool provided (only) our second topless sighting, and the chance to take the first real shower in ten days (not counting the stern showers on the boat) was a real treat.

As with any good conspiracy theory, the French Polynesia Convention and Visitor Bureau covered all bases to insure our high regard for their tourism industry’s outstanding customer service.
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Scuttlebutt Sailing Club flag in a strong alliance.
Soon a Moorings customer service agent made a special trip to the hotel to provide reimbursement for the accommodations they had arranged for our group in Tahiti (which couldn’t be used due to the flight snafu), and the Moorings driver arrived in time for the return trip to the airport.

Epilogue
Our return flight on Friday was a red-eye to Los Angeles, continuing on to Paris, France. It is amazing how many Europeans make the long trip to the French Polynesian islands, which helped to make the time pass fast during our flight home.

The success of a charter relies heavily on how all the parties get along. The boat can get pretty small when there is tension, and we had particular concern on how the kid-less couple would deal with the havoc that the kids present. The fact that members of our group were familiar with the area, and had a good idea on how to handle the daily schedule, helped immensely. The trip was a complete success, with hopes that our next charter will come around well before the memories of this trip fade away.

click for to enlarge
Last night for the gang of eleven, from left:
(back row) Rick Merriman, Chuck Sinks, Lisa Leweck, Brady Holly, Lynn Sinks, Craig Leweck;
(middle row) Carol Merriman, Trevor Leweck, Lars Leweck;
(front row) Scott Sinks, Tyler Sinks

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Top 15 Tips
  • Bring own mask/snorkel that fits
  • Bring fins for very large and small feet
  • Sea Urchin treatment
  • Kayaks are great for exploring/exercise
  • Request large engine and best dinghy
  • Advance reservations for dinner/tours
  • Coral shoes
  • Sea-sickness medicine
  • Hand-held VHF radios for when group gets seperated
  • Ziploc bags to preserve food
  • Clothesline clips for drying
  • Dive anchor once set to insure positioning
  • Waterproof cameras
  • Dry bag
  • Extra dinghy fuel/container
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