Tag Archives: French Polynesia

High Society – From Towering Peaks to Azure Lagoons

Sadly our 3 months in French Polynesia is coming to an end and our final island in the final archipelago we’re visiting is Bora Bora!

Saving the best to the last 😉 Perhaps….. but it’s certainly the most famous of the group known as the Society Islands (bar Tahiti).

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There are actually 5 archipelagos in French Polynesia, but we haven’t had enough time to do justice to the Marquesas, Tuamotus and Societies, never mind the Gambiers and Australs.

Other than Tahiti and Bora Bora, the Society Islands include Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea and Tahaa. Whilst the Marquesas are impressive volcanic islands with steep cliffs dropping off into the ocean, the Tuamotus are flat coral atolls with challenging tidal passes to enter the stunning turquoise lagoons. Meanwhile the Society islands are a combination of both, with volcanic peaks reaching up to the sky, yet these islands are surrounded by fringing reefs, wrapping them in clear, blue waters teaming with marine life, much of which you can get up close and personal with (check out the sting rays in the Moorea & Bora Bora lagoons and the stunning coral gardens in Tahaa!)

We timed our arrival in the Society islands with the Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous, which is a fabulous get together weekend of yachts, event organisers & sponsors to celebrate crossing the Pacific ocean, probably the longest passage most of us will ever make. Back in Panama in March we attended the Pacific Puddle Jump 2016 meeting that was put on by Andy Turpin of Latitude 38 magazine and Stephanie from the Tahiti Tourism Board along with a host of other contributors and sponsors. Part of the fun of global cruising is meeting like-minded cruisers who are also out here ‘doing it’! Not only do we all learn from each other, we are all far away from home and family, so our cruising family means a lot and hey, who doesn’t love a good party!!

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Our stay in Tahiti was short and wet! In fact the windy, rainy weather we’d ‘enjoyed’ for much of the time in the Tuamotus followed us to Tahiti and we found ourself anchoring in the very busy anchorage off Marina Taina in 35 knot gusts and driving rain! Fortunately we still managed to get a few repairs done and find a new waterproof camera (not quite the quality of the previous one, but as that one cost more than double here than what we paid only a few months ago from UK we decided on a cheaper model, especially taking into account our luck with ‘waterproof’ cameras!!)

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It was fun to reconnect with good friends we had met back in the Caribbean during the past few seasons, others we had met along the way and also to meet new friends. The Tahiti-Moorea RDV kicked off with an Aussie get together on the Friday morning, 24th June, with various Australian marinas and marine specialists showcasing their products. Of course, Steve from Rivergate Marina in Brisbane was a big hit with just about every Aussie he met by presenting them with a tube of Vegemite! The day continued with the event registration at the Tahiti Tourism Office downtown, where we all received our goodie bags with T-shirts, brochures etc and a presentation showcasing many of the islands and what they have to offer, plus a welcome by the Head of Tourism, who caused some amusement by welcoming the various Nationalities, along with the Europeans and not forgetting the British (this was the day of the Brexit announcement!). After a performance of Polynesian dancing and drumming and cocktails, we went off to sample the delights of the Roulottes (food trucks which set up at dusk on the waterfront in Pape’ete).

On the Saturday the plan was for all yachts to rally (not race, Lorna 😉 ) across to Moorea. Unfortunately, after weeks of high winds, the wind decided NOT to blow, so most of us ended up motoring the 15 NM across to Moorea to anchor in the stunning Cook’s Bay, where the party continued through Saturday night and all day Sunday.

We were treated to more dance and drumming performances and more presentations by sponsors from other Pacific nations, including Fiji, Australia and New Zealand. On the Sunday, we began the day with canoe races. In teams of 4, along with 2 locals, we raced in traditional Polynesian outriggers. Our team of 4, the Amarula crew, along with the crew of SV Echo Echo, Jeannette and Neil, did amazingly well, coming in 2nd in our heat! This meant we had to race again in the semi-finals. Something went bizarrly wrong, as we came in last, having rounded the buoy and almost ended up in the next bay! Somehow our canoe simpy did not want to head back towards the finish line….. Ho hum…. There were various other activities and events all day long, more dance and drumming performances and a delicious, traditional Polynesian lunch. All in all a fun and successful event. Thanks to Andy, Stephanie and all the rest of the team! Well done!

Unfortunately, our friend Lorna from SV Quatsino II was quite badly injured in the canoe races as their canoe capsized and hit her on the head. She was concussed and taken to hospital, so sadly she & George missed the rest of Sunday. The good news is that the paramedics were on the spot within minutes and the treatment she received was, thankfully, excellent and she is on the mend. We managed to catch up with George and Lorna again a few times before we moved on to Huahine and they returned to Tahiti.

Moorea was truly beautiful and we enjoyed a relaxing few days in Cooks Bay after the party weekend. In fact we continued partying with various friends who had stuck around and others who had just arrived. We had a fabulous musical evening on Amarula with Dave from SV Eliana plus Shaun and Sabine from SV Chevaldy entertaining us, and the Quatsino and Enchatress crews, and apparently a few of the other yachts in the anchorage!

After a few days we relocated to Opunohu Bay and did the 10km round trip hike up to the Belvedere viewpoint, passing by the Agricultural college, where you can stop for ice cream and a tour of the facility (and free wifi! Wish we’d known. We didn’t bring the tablet…). The more attractive trail through the woods & alongside the river wends its way past an interesting archaeological site, which includes various maraes (stone platforms) and an archery platform.

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After the hike we spent a couple of days in the crystal clear anchorage at the entrance to the bay, where it was easier to dinghy across to spend time getting up close and personal with the tamest sting rays we’ve ever seen! The crews of Amarula, Quatsino II and Moonraker, plus visiting friends enjoyed feeding and stroking these amazing creatures, whose skin felt like velvet. On the way back we stopped off to see the sunken tikis, stone carvings which were allegedly dropped into the lagoon when the missionaries came through the region and destroyed many of these ‘false idols’! We popped ashore to the village of Papetoai to see whether we could pick up internet and got lucky with the reception, as we were able to have great skype calls with the family back in Australia!

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From Moorea we sailed overnight to Huahine. In retrospect we should have waited another day for better wind and to clean the weed off the boat, which had grown prolifically in just the few days we were anchored in Cooks and Opunohu Bays. However, the calmer winds permitted us an easy entry through the east coast pass on Huahine and a chance to explore the bays and motus (islets) there, before moving around to the main town of Fare on the west coast to stock up on supplies. One of the ‘highlights’ of the east coast is to visit the river at Faie Bay where there are the sacred blue-eyed eels. As we had the dogs with us, Eric anchored off in the dinghy whilst I went ashore for a quick look. A small group of tourists were there feeding them, so I managed to take a few shots as they slithered all over each other in a fight for the food. Not quite sure why they are sacred…? We noticed a stilt hut on the water out in the lagoon, which seemed to be getting visits from quite a few tourist boats and only realised later that this must have been Huahine Nui Pearls and Pottery that is mentioned in our Lonely Planet Guide. I wish we’d stopped for a quick look, but the forecast was for stronger winds again, so we decided to head back out through the pass before it became too choppy and we sailed around the north coast down to Fare.

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We anchored in the deep Haavai bay just off the village of Fitii, a mile or so beyond Fare and during the evening we were treated to the sounds of singing and drumming wafting across the bay from the village. It is July and during this month the whole of French Polynesia is engaged in a cultural extravanganza known as Heiva. It is a month long celebration of all that is Polynesian, ranging from dancing and drumming performances to canoe races and other sporting, cultural and artistic events. The villagers from Fitii were preparing for their upcoming performance at the main Heiva site in Huahine. We were lucky enough to enjoy their practice sessions a few days early, as unfortunately we couldn’t make it to the actual performance. Eric’s visa runs out on 18th July and we still had to get cooking gas and provisions in Raiatea, then get to Bora Bora for the Bastille Day celebrations on July 14th. Fingers crossed that the weather is kind to us, as we are leaving our departure until the very last minute!

In retrospect, perhaps we should have applied for the long stay visa for Eric (non-Europeans only get 3 months in any 6 month period, unless they apply in advance for a long stay visa). As it happens Lynne’s British passport may not be much use anyway in the not to distant future if all goes to plan with the Brexit!!!

Our sail from Huahine to Raiatea was one of the faster ones we’ve experienced in some time and really quite choppy, as the wind was beam on. Once through the pass we headed up towards Uturoa, the main town of Raiatea, looking for a decent anchorage. With no anchoring anywhere close to town, we motored a good 5 miles north of town, through a pass into a deep channel and back south again, to anchor a mile away from Uturoa across the lagoon. With 20+ knot winds from the south east, heading into town was a rather wet affair and unsuccessful, as we were looking to fill our cooking gas bottles and hadn’t realised that the Carenage Yacht Services, which does gas refills is actually around on the north west side of the island! Oops! Had we been a bit more up to speed, we would have found a much more pleasant, calmer anchorage in the lee of the island, which we did the next morning.

We took our gas bottles ashore to be filled, caught up on some internetting and even enjoyed good skype calls from the boat later that evening, a first since Panama! Onboard internet, especially good enough to make skype calls, has been almost non-existent here in French Polynesia, so this was a real bonus! Another job we had to do in Raiatea was fill up our diesel tanks before leaving for Tonga. French Polynesia very kindly offers duty free diesel to visiting yachts for up to 6 months.

From the fuel dock we motored back south to visit the Taputapuatea Marae site, which allegedly dates back to the late 900’s and is deemed the most important cultural heritage site in French Poynesia. From here Raiateans sailed out to ‘colonise’ other Pacific islands, as far north as Hawaii, east to the Tuamotus, west to the Cook islands and south west to New Zealand in their dugout canoes with their elementary knowledge of planetary navigation.

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After visiting the marae site, we decided to head round to the deeper, more protected bay of Faaroa to anchor for the night, where we caught up with cruiser friends on SV Haven, Kinabalu and Blowing Bubbles. Eric went and joined them all for sundowners, but unfortunately my allergies were playing up so I stayed onboard and had an early night. However the next morning we all dinghied up the nearby river, one of the only navigable rivers in French Polynesia and we were treated to a mini tour of the plantation of a local man, Andre, who shared produce from his farm with us for a minimal fee. We enjoyed tastes of papaya, coconut, guava and orange limes (good for a facial workout!), plus a fruit called pakai, which was new to us; similar in taste and texture to a lychee, except it grows in a long pod containing a number of cells each with it’s own dark seed in the centre, rather than a single encased cell with a single seed like a lychee. We came away with a couple of large bunches of bananas, sweet potatoes and taro to share between us.

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After another very enjoyable evening of sundowners onboard SV Kinabalu, we all went our separate ways again the next day. Eric & I had hoped to stop for a dive on the Nordby, one of the only wreck dives in French Polynesia, but the wind was still gusting 25 – 30 knots, so we sailed up through the lagoon to the west coast of Tahaa, known as the Vanilla island and enclosed within the same fringing reef as the island of Raiatea. Our plan was to sail around to the north of Tahaa to visit a small pearl farm and check internet at the village of Patio, but again the strong winds changed our minds for us. Instead we anchored in the calm, protected bay of Tapuamu, directly across from Motu Taotao, which is home to Tahaa’s luxurious lodge and spa Le Taha’a Private Island and Spa and also the site of the lovely coral gardens. This is some of the best snorkelling we have done in a long time, as you float just above the coral in between the 2 islets. It is teaming with fish and the coral is healthy and plentiful. Back at the anchorage we enjoyed lovely sunset views over Bora Bora and the next day we had a great sail across to our final island in French Polynesia.

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Bora Bora is one of those magical bucket list places and we were fortunate to visit during the Heiva and Bastille Day celebrations. (We sadly learned about the horrors of Bastille Day in Nice, France, the next day. Our hearts go out to those whose lives have been irrevocably affected and to the whole free world) Initially when we inquired about what was happening for Bastille Day in Bora Bora no one seemed to know and we also learned that most of the Heiva cultural events had finished, however we got lucky! Early in the morning, on Bastille Day, there was a colourful parade, followed by a Polynesian dance performance at the Heiva events area.

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 We were even treated to a firework display across the bay in the evening! So it turned out to be a great day! In between cultural events we dinghied across the lagoon to another area where tourist boats go to feed rays. We didn’t take food ourselves this time, having fed the rays in Moorea, but once again we got a chance to snorkel with these amazing creatures. Such a treat!

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The downside of all this touristy activity is that many boat jobs have gone by the wayside and now we have run out of time! Oh well, maybe we’ll get a chance to do some boat work in Tonga…..!!

Practising Patience on Pacific Passages!

Patience is a virtue, right?
Practice makes perfect…..
We’ve had plenty of practice so far on our Pacific passages, but we are far from perfectly patient yet!

However, when we look at this, we are once again reminded just how lucky we are and why we do what we do!


After exactly 8 days at sea, sailing from a small bay called Hakaotu in Ua Pou, Marquesas, we finally made landfall at our first atoll, Tahanea, in the stunning Tuamotu Archipelago.

Our original plan had been to sail the 420NM passage to Raroia in the central part of the Tuamotus, however the wind, when it finally started blowing 6 days into our passage, had other plans and after 2 changes of direction, we finally decided to submit and we set a course for Tahanea Atoll, an uninhabited atoll some 140NM to the south west of Raroia.

We began our passage at 1215 on Friday 19th May from the very rolly but impressive Hakahetau bay in Ua Pou DSCN2169, where we had stocked up with fruit and vegetables for the next 3 to 4 weeks.






We had been advised that fresh provisions are difficult to find in the Tuamotus and the islanders there love to trade lobster and coconut crab for fresh pamplemousse (grapefruit) and limes from the Marquesas.

As we set sail down the west coast of Ua Pou, we spotted a lovely, calm anchorage and after a couple of hours with too much wind for the spinnaker, but not enough to sail just with the headsail, we decided that, with a 420NM passage ahead of us, we would turn back and repair the main sail, which had ripped on Day 17 of our 38 day passage from Panama to the Marquesas, almost 2 months ago. When we had tried to do the repairs before leaving Nuku Hiva, after we scored some sail material and purchased some Sikaflex and sail tape from Kevin at Nuku Hiva Yacht Supplies, rain had stopped play on numerous occasions.


After repairing the mainsail, we finally departed at 0630 on Monday 23rd May. Unfortunately, we had missed the weather window, as the forecast was for light winds for the coming week, but the job had to be done and, as it turned out, our mainsail proved a godsend in the last couple of days of our passage when we had consistent 20 – 30 knot winds from the south east.

23rd – 30th May 2016 – Passage from Hakaota Bay, Ua Pou, Marquesas to Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus, French Polynesia.
Distance: 420NM
Direction: 225 degrees
Expected passage time: 4 days

Monday 23 – Winds were around 8 – 10 knots from the SE, dropping overnight to 4 – 5 knots. Slow progress, even with the mainsail & MPS, but no hurry, right…? At 2330 we dropped the mainsail.
Tuesday 24 – Wind shifted around to E, then ENE 5 – 7 knots dying down to zero by afternoon. We were lucky to make 3 knots all day and spent much of the day just drifting. Meanwhile we dessicated some coconut and froze some bananas and sun-dried others. DSCN2245Our MPS was up and down like a bride’s nightie during the early days of this passage!
Wednesday 25 – By the start of day 3 we had sailed less than a quarter of the ‘4 day’ passage distance! Sure, we could have put on the engines and motored, but the grib (weather) files were showing that whichever direction we went, other than back to the Marquesas, there would be little to no wind, so we just went with it. We made banana bread, froze more bananas and made fishcakes. And of course we read and even watched movies!

Thursday 26 – What wind we had blew from NNE and died again completely after some midday squalls, so more drifting….

Friday 27 – After 4 days at sea we had completed just 1/2 of our 420NM passage! Must be a record….. By 0900 we had to motor away from the squalls, so we were practically going backwards at this point! As the day went on, the wind picked up and so did the squalls, so we once again dropped the MPS and motored. Later in the afternoon, soon after we’d raised the MPS (yet again), the pin on the block in the spinnaker pole sheared and broke, so down came the MPS once again. By now we had more wind and decided to raise the mainsail. Unfortunately the wind changed its mind and direction yet again. It shifted round to the west, then to the SSW, which by this stage was our desired course, so we dropped the sails and motored through the night hoping for the elusive south east trade winds, which we’re now convinced are a myth!DSCN2257

Saturday 28 – By daybreak we finally had enough wind, albeit still from SSW, to raise the mainsail again. Unfortunately, as we did so we noticed a long tear between the 1st and 2nd reefing points! We put in the 2nd reef and started to finally make good progress, but the wind was certainly out to get us on this trip. Despite the grib files showing 4 – 5 knots from the NE, we were getting 16 – 20 knots from the SW by mid-morning. By midday the wind had picked up to 25 – 30 knots ON THE NOSE! By mid afternoon we were getting gusts up to 40 knots! At 1500 we hove to and waited out the winds and storms, but after battling rough, sloppy seas and almost head on winds through the night, we decided by mid-morning the next day that we really had little choice but to change course from Raroia to an atoll further to the west.
Sunday 29 – The strong winds continued through Sunday and having made the decision to change course for Kauehi Atoll, we set the sails and the wind (finally) gradually shifted around to the SE! Knowing that it would be a major challenge to head back to the eastern Tuamotus once we reached Kauehi, we decided to pinch as much east as we could and attempt to make landfall at the western end of Makemo or head for Tahanea, another 47 NM further south.
Monday 30 – As Monday progressed we continued on our course towards Tahanea. Unless we could get to Makemo before late afternoon it wasn’t worth risking entering the atoll as the Tuamotus are renowned for challenging passes and strong current as you enter the lagoons and it is vital to pick your times to enter and exit. DSCN2289 We slowed the boat down on dark so we could continue through the night in time to arrive at the pass into Tahanea at daylight.
Tuesday 31 May – What a beautiful starlit sky as we drifted outside the pass until daylight. By 0630, just 8 days after departing Ua Pou, we had dropped the anchor inside the lagoon at Tahanea, ready for a well-deserved rest!



Distance from Hakaota Bay, Ua Pou to Tahanea Atoll: 522NM as the crow flies
Actual distance travelled: 776NM!
Time: 8 days
Average speed: 4 knots

Postscript Saturday 4th June:
Having finally found an atoll with wifi, we have had a day of solid rain, not exactly conducive to going ashore and sitting on the wall outside the post office trying to pick up wifi and upload blog posts!! At least our water tanks are now completely full and we’ve had a pleasant onboard day getting these posts ready to upload when we finally do pick up the internet. Hope you enjoy them :) DSCN2301

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We are hoping to do some diving here in the Tuamotus, but so far we’ve had too much wind and rain to get out and explore. We have another couple of weeks here before we head to Tahiti for the Pacific Puddle Jump Rendezvous over the weekend of 24 – 26th June.

If you haven’t checked out our photos from the Marquesas, you can find them on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/AmarulaSail/

And remember, when we are on passage we will continue to send our progress reports to this link http://www.pangolin.co.nz/xtras/yotreps/tracker.php?ident=Amarula using our HF radio and we will pick up any emails sent to us via the contact page on our website
We will not be able to check Facebook though, so any comments and messages will only be picked up when we get access to the internet, which is something of a challenge when crossing the Pacific!

We have very limited bandwidth to post photos on our blog at present, but here the links to the Marquesas photos we have shared on our Amarula Sail Facebook page.

Photos from Fatu Hiva on Amarula Sail Facebook page

Photos from Tahuata

Photos from Hiva Oa

Photos from Ua Huka

Photos from our Nuku Hiva day trip and Daniel’s Bay

We will post more photos when we can…..

More of our albums from the past few years are here

The Marquesas here we come!

Enjoying yet another stunning sunset at Contadora as we complete our final preparations before sailing off across the vast Pacific Ocean on what will be our longest passage yet. Possibly a whole month at sea before we reach the Marquesas!

Sunset at Contadora, Las Perlas, Panama

Tomorrow we careen the boat and give her a good bottom scrub, then we’ll be on our way as soon as the wind decides to blow :)
Meanwhile we have updated a few of our website pages.

Check out our Find Us page and our revised Marine Consultancy page with details of our new BOAT INSURANCE agency!
Please note:
Even though we will NOT see any Facebook messages for the next few weeks you can still contact us via the form on our Contact page

If you want to follow our passage, you can check this link to see our progress and where we report from http://www.pangolin.co.nz/xtras/yotreps/tracker.php?ident=Amarula


So, at last we start to make our way across the Pacific Ocean and are excited to visit the numerous Polynesian islands en route. The lush, towering islands of the Marquesas in French Polynesia will be our first landfall, followed by the flat, turquoise atolls of the Tuamotos and eventually those classic dreamlike names, Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora.

More to follow…..!


Bottom all clean and we’re raring to go! The boys had a great time on the beach :)

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