French Polynesia 2013
This is the sailing log from our FIRST trip to French Polynesia.
We sailed there in 2013 for Matt Smith's 40th Birthday.
We went back again in 2018.
My only warning about French Polynesia: It will RUIN anywhere else that you plan to visit, because NO WHERE on the planet is as beautiful.
DAY 1 - LET'S SAIL!
October 27, 2013 - DAY 1
0900 Departed Moorings Base - headed from Raiatea to Taha'a.
Lunch stop - Motu Mahaea to snorkel, then to our overnight anchorage.
We were off! Our first sail of the trip was a short sail to the East Side of Taha'a (Moorings position T5).
Taha'a and Raiatea share the same lagoon, so this was not "ocean sailing" (yet).
We sailed around the Northern tip of Raiatea and southern tip of Taha'a. Our view was a picture perfect painting of blue water and glorious island mountain ranges.
The wind blew at 17-19 kts - and climbed up to a few gusts in the 20's.
Our speed over ground (SOG) was an average of 8.4 kts.
Taha'a is known as the "Vanilla Island" and is also known for it's beautiful pearls.
We pulled up to our first stop for the day which would be a lunch stop.
The shallow water was bright, bright turquoise blue.
DROPPED ANCHOR AT:
Lat 16° 38.490 S
Long 151° 25.754 W.
Depth ~ 1.5 meters (4-5’) of water.
We swam off the stern of the boat. The water was warm, but had a strong current - a line off the stern of the boat proved useful to hang on to.
After the swim, we split up our crews. One crew went to visit the Vanilla Farm on the main island of Taha'a and the other went snorkeling off of the small motu.
Vanilla Farm (La Maison de la Vanille)
(Vanilla crew: Tricia, Duber, Anastacia, Jeff G., Erica G., Kim R., and Austin)
We weren't quite sure where the vanilla farm was, we just knew that it was on the main island of Taha'a on the east side. So we dinghied across the channel to shore and tried the first couple of docks that we saw. None looked quite right as they all seemed private. Austin hopped out of the dinghy twice to search around for some local guidance. The first dock he tried seemed a bit sketchy - the second led to someone's private estate, but he bumped into someone who was able to point us in the right direction. (If we go back - I know where it is now!)
We motored up around the bend and found a concrete dock near the Vanilla farm. The group of us strolled up to the farm and were waved in by a Tahitian woman. Morita Hioe was her name and she runs the family vanilla farm which has been around for 3 generations.
Morita spoke English very well. She admitted she lived in the states for a bit, but got divorced and came back to run the farm. We went for a short hike up the hill and could instantly begin to smell the vanilla.
Morita explained the very complicated process of hand-pollinating her vanilla, all while ranting about her dysfunctional family. She brought us over to a table covered in vanilla beans and let us play with (massage) the beans. She told us that the beans all need to manually massaged. Morita she gave us numerous ideas of things to make with vanilla. The tour ended at a little outdoor shop filled with vanilla goods. We made a few purchases, including a tasty bottle of Vanilla Rum. Yum!
After the excursion, we sailed north, then west (up and around Taha'a) to the west side of the island.
1730 - Anchored for the evening at 16° 34.46 S / 151° 33.55 W (moorings location T11). This is just off of Motu Tautau (a private island with a private resort). We anchored in around 12 feet of water.
At some point in retrieving the anchor, the bridal had come off of the hook. Tricia and Jay hopped in the water to re-attach the bridal... thus being dubbed the "Bridal Party" in their efforts.
For dinner, Gordon grilled burgers off the stern of the boat. Burgers, which according to the packaging, were at least 15% meat. Oookay!
Let it be noted: along the way, we lost 1 pair of tongs (in the grilling process) and 1 winch handle.
Eh, sometimes things go overboard!
DAY 2 - TO BORA BORA
0900 - Departed the motu in Taha'a - Headed through the pass to Bora Bora.
Just after we woke and had our coffee, the crew of "Who's for Tea" hailed "I'm for Tea" on the VHF. The birthday boy, Captain Matt Smith responded from his vessel and our crew sang "Happy Birthday" to him on the VHF.
Just before we hit the pass out of Taha'a, one of the Moorings service motor vessels came and handed us several bags of ice underway. - Great service!
They also brought us a new winch handle (but gave it to the other boat for some reason).
0945 We motored through Passe Papai (the passage out of Taha'a). As we went through, you could see the waves from the Pacific Ocean breaking on the reef. It created a mix of dark blue, turquoise, and a bright white/turquoise splash at the moment of impact. As "I'm for Tea" rode the waves ahead of us they dipped below the swells and from our vantage point it looked as if their boat was being momentarily swallowed by the sea.
When we cut through, we hoisted our sails and sailed through the South Pacific Ocean at a heading of 282° to Bora Bora.
> "I didn't know that I'd ever be able to say that I'm sailing us to Bora Bora, but here I am!" (Stephanie to me while underway to Bora Bora).
We made fairly good time - passing "I'm for Tea" under sail. Once we hit our waypoint marking the entrance to Bora Bora we dropped our sails and motored to our mooring ball at the MaiKai Marina.
16° 30.02 S
(Moorings location B3).
The crew went into town (Viatape) and visited the Bora Bora Yacht Club.
The Bora Bora Yacht Club appeared to be closed. The crew sniffed around for a bit and Tricia noticed an open door. They wandered on in and found a gentleman at a bar who selling BBYC swag.
That evening, we went back ashore to the MaiKai restaurant for Matt Smith’s official birthday dinner. .
Walking into MaiKai, a Polynesian guitarist was playing and the ambiance was Tiki inspired, but upscale - a much nicer option than eating at the Bora Bora Yacht Club.
Our waitress was Tahitian, but she had an exceptional American accent (southern as a matter of fact). I asked where she learned English and it turns out, although a native Tahitian, she grew up in North Carolina.
After dinner, we had a birthday cake sent over to Matt. The Polynesian singer sang "Happy Birthday" giving his best attempt at singing in English.
"Who's for Tea" presented Matt Smith with his birthday gift and card.
At dinner, Gordon surprised us all by revealing the t-shirt that he had on underneath his crew shirt. It was the shirt that he was given on his 40th birthday! Impressive - a 27 year-old shirt!
After dinner we had drinks by the pool outside and came back to the boat for a little stargazing and midget wrestling (if you don't know - you just don't know). Some of the crew slept on the trampoline for the night.
This was certainly a magical day and one hell of a birthday for Mr. Smith.
Day 3 - PARADISE... CONTINUED
0900 - Departed the MaiKai Marina and headed up and around to the East side of Bora Bora for snorkeling. Headed North on a beam reach we sailed inside the Bora Bora reef.
When we hit the first set of red and green channel markers we rolled in the jib.
As we hit the northern tip of Bora Bora navigation got a little tricky. There was a South cardinal marker stacked with a red triangular marker indicating that we should "thread the needle" in a tight "S"-like maneuver in shallow water and coral heads.
I was a little nervous at the helm, but then a French local mariner cruised by us on a skiff. With a quick, friendly wave from the cockpit, he could sense our apprehensivness on the approach so he offered a "demo" and flew through the course for us. Our turn!
After clearing that bit we continued down the very shallow path to our snorkeling destination under motor.
The view was breathtaking. I've never seen such bright turquoise blue water before. Bora Bora had delivered on her promise of beauty.
The various degrees of blue changed dramatically as the depths in the water changed.
All of that said, to the average vacationer, the light turquoise water is tranquil and calming - to a sailor, it's treacherous because it means very shallow water!
After careful bow watch we arrived at the South Eastern tip of Bora Bora and anchored at
16° 32.09 S
151° 42.15 W
We hooked up the dinghy and cut through a beautiful shallow stretch to a snorkel location behind a very small motu.
We saw many different types of fish and on the way back to the boat a manta ray cruised past our dinghy.
After snorkeling we motored back up the east side of Bora Bora to our overnight anchorage. This location 16° 29.512 S / 151° 41.944 W "B22" was only yards away from the St. Regis resort where Anastacia and I would be staying a few days after the cruise. Some of the crew dinghied over to the St. Regis to scope out the shops and pearls - they made an appointment to go back in the morning for a little shopping.
DAY 4 - BLOODY MARY'S
In the morning, some of the crews from both boats had returned to the St. Regis for their shopping "appointment".
It was there that Tricia fell in love with a local islander/cabana boy.
Afterwards, we took group photos on "I'm for Tea".
Then most went to visit the lagoonarium.
The lagoonarium was filled with fishes and sharks to snorkel with.
We departed our anchorage and headed back through the shallow path a set sail just past the northern tip of Bora Bora.
We sailed down to the south western tip of the island - our destination: The world famous Bloody Mary's! And if you eat at the restaurant, your mooring ball is free!
16° 31.65 S
151° 44.69 W
Upon arrival at Bloody Mary's Bloody Mary's the crew felt that a beverage was in order - who am I to complain - we were moored for the night! So we hopped in the dinghy to go check out the infamous bar.
Bloody Mary's was quite the place. An elaborate Tiki entrance looked like something you'd find on the set of "Survivor". The sand on the ground lead a path into the restaurant. Following the path in, there is a "shoe check" encouraging customers to ditch their shoes and walk barefoot on the restaurant's sand floors.
I had a vanilla rum punch - a good call if I do say so as they used local vanilla. Austin-Austin favored the pina coladas.
After a few, we helped provide a little assistance to "I'm for Tea" who pulled up to the dock for a fresh water refill.
Bloody Mary's again for dinner.
The menu was not printed - rather, we were escorted to view a selection of raw fish and meat. We were told how each item was prepared, and placed our order there.
Before the night was over, we pinned a few dollar bills on the wall at Bloody Mary's. One for each boat - both wishing Matt a Happy 40th Birthday and marking our presence.
A comical side note in the men's head... the handle to flush the toilet (seen below), is a polished wooden phallus - a symbol of good luck!