Category Archives: Tuamotus Islands

Including: Tike Hau,, Rangiroa, Manihi

Matt at the helm as we exited the Hao Pass

In Route to Tahiti, with a Slight Delay

It was sad to leave Hao because we did not get an opportunity to explore the island the way we normally would.  Neither one of us got in the water, swam, snorkeled or went diving.  We didn’t change anchorages or see any of the beautiful beaches.  We focused on getting my ankle better, provisioning and doing some internetting.  It just means we will have to circle back to this little slice of heaven.  So, it was time to lift the hook and begin our route to Tahiti.

And the Fun Begins

For the most part, lifting the hook (anchor) is relatively easy.  Matt and I have a good routine down with hand signals that reduce the stress on the boat, anchor, and chain. However, before raising the anchor, we realized it was wrapped around something.  We assumed it was a bombie (coral head).  It was obvious something was off by the direction and pull of the chain in the water.

When we arrived, we dropped the hook in 12 meters of water 8 days prior.  We put out 70 meters of chain and used 4 floats to keep the chain off the sea floor and above the coral heads.  Even when you do everything right, bad things happen.  We were able to lift 20 meters of chain before the windlass ground to a stop.   Matt slowly maneuvered the boat forward, backward, and sideways while I tried to continue to free the chain.  After about 20 minutes, it gave and continued up.

Tangled Up in Rebar

Another 10 meters and we saw what the problem was.  One of our floats had caught on another float that was attached to two 8’ x 8’ pieces of rebar.  WTF!  The rebar pieces each had several floats attached to them.  What a disaster!

Pulled up rebar while at anchor

Pulled up rebar while at anchor

Matt was able to hack one line away to free one of the 8’x8’ pieces of rebar which promptly floated away.  We hated that it drifted away as it might become a problem for another cruiser, but there was nothing we could do as we were still attached to the 2nd piece.

Rebar mess with image from bathroom escape hatch

Rebar mess with image from bathroom escape hatch

After more boat maneuvering and another 40 minutes, we were finally able to bring the last piece all the way up in order to hack the line and release it.  This piece sunk.  Ugh!  Again a potential problem for another cruiser.  Our anchor still was not coming up so Matt had to do some more maneuvering before I was able to lift it up.  And when she came up, she was slightly bent – out new, stainless steel anchor.

Bent anchor shaft

Bent anchor shaft

It was truly a frightening experience because each time Matt backed down the entire bow, bow sprit, anchor roller, and forestay lurched forward and then popped back.  It felt as if the front of the boat would literally rip off.  Luckily, it was more bark than bite.

Leaving the Hao Pass

Finally, on our way, and 40 minutes behind schedule, we pushed the engines hard to get to the pass as close to slack tide as possible. (See blog from 8 August on slack tide).  The ideal time to exit the pass was 1500, but due to our anchor delay we approached at 1545.  We could see white caps and rough water ahead, but there was an outgoing tide.  We approached the pass with 6 kts of boat speed and by the time we hit the center we were going 12kts (so we had 6kts of current).  It also pulled us from the port side of the pass to the center where the waves were more violent.  But we made it out safely.

Matt at the helm as we exited the Hao Pass

Matt at the helm as we exited the Hao Pass

The trip to Tahiti is starting off rough, but we were finally on our way.  The weather forecasts showed little to no wind, so motoring we go.  Two days later we found just enough wind to hoist our large spinnaker.  She was flying beautifully for several hours until a rogue wave bounced the boat and collapsed the sail just enough to catch the clew on a cleat on our bow peak – rip.  Thank goodness it was only a 3’ tear.  We were able to pull the sail down and repair it with rip stop.  However, by the time we were done, we lost the wind.   It took another 30 hours to get the wind back to fly her again – good as new.

Fishing in the Pacific

We have not had much luck fishing (or trolling) since we came through the Panama Canal (March 2018).  We’ve caught several fish, but none that were edible.  In fact, it has been well over a year since we caught an edible fish.  But that all changed on our route to Tahiti.  We caught a small, but fat tuna!

Tasty Yummy Tuna

Tasty Yummy Tuna

Arriving Pointe Venus After Dark

We managed to time our arrival after dark so we had to change our route from Papeete to Pointe Venus off of Mahina.  Normally, we don’t enter a new anchorage at dark as it just isn’t safe.  However, our research and charts showed this bay to be wide-open, deep and protected from the wind and waves.  We also got feedback from cruisers on our SSB net so we felt comfortable with entering after dark.

Route Details

  • Departed Hao on Wednesday 29 May at 1545
  • Arrived Tahiti on Sunday 2 June at
  • Miles Traveled
  • Max speed
  • Average speed
  • We had two days of no wind and had to motor, but then we had two days of light wind and were actually able to fly the spinnaker.
My doctor in Hao who provided great medical care.

Medical Care in French Polynesia

Please note that this blog on medical care has some “graphic” photos at the end.  I included non-icky photos in the body of the blog, but the ones at the end are a bit graphic and gross and you may want to skip.   Just know, that medical care in the U.S. is messed up and I received compassionate, good care in French Polynesia for free.

Matt and I no longer have health insurance.  Considering we are not technically living in the U.S. anymore it did not make sense to carry a U.S. health policy.  Once a year, I make an annual trip back to the States to visit my oncologist.  Luckily, most doctors offer a 50% cash discount when not using insurance. My Prolia shot is gratis because I receive a grant from the pharmaceutical company.  The rest of my medicine was purchased in Bonaire, Costa Rica, and Columbia at a significantly reduced price.  With all that said, Matt and I do carry D.A.N. (Diver’s Assisted Network) which will get us immediate emergency medical care anywhere in the world and will transport us back to the States if need be.

In Need of a Doctor

For the past 30+ months, we had not needed any type of medical assistance.  We were lucky.  However, while we were in the Gambiers, I was either stung or bitten by something on the front side of my left ankle.  I did not think anything of it as there are always mosquito and wasps in the islands.  I know better than to scratch a bite so I left it alone and continued on living my life.  Enjoying the beautiful waters, snorkeling, showering, hiking, etc…  I circled it with a pen to see if the swelling and redness spread.

Strangely enough, a few of our friends also had wounds that were not healing.  Josh was struck by a fish’s sharp tail (cut through his wet suit and put a deep gash in his leg).  Andrew’s feet were torn up from raspberry bushes, John had a mysterious rash on his thigh, and Wilky had cuts on his hands.  And nothing was healing on anyone.

It started forming a volcano, raised, with a hole in the middle and red all around it.  Then it became more raised, warm to the touch, and pretty painful.

Initial bite, starting to get infected

Initial bite, starting to get infected

We all stopped going in the water thinking that was not helping and decided, individually, to consider antibiotics.  Shortly thereafter, Matt and I had to leave to begin our passage to Hao.  While underway, on day 2, my volcano continued to get worse, raised, hot, swollen, and irritated.   My foot and toes were so swollen I did not recognize it as my own.

See below for photo of swollen foot at its worse

My leg was kept elevated to reduce the swelling, but when I lowered it to step on it a horrible burning sensation ran up my leg.  It only lasted a minute or two, but it was painful enough to make me cry a few times.  It was a radiating, intense pain that started at my toes and shot up to my knee. Very unpleasant.  Then a white, hard substance formed in the center.

Photo below shows photo of weird white center

Since we were at sea at the beginning of a 5-day passage, I decided to self medicate.  I had started amoxicillin (500mg) twice a day and after 4 days it was not getting better.  It was clear I needed to seek medical care.

Healthcare in French Polynesia

We easily found the hospital and were quickly escorted into a patient room.  Maggie, our medical professional spoke English!  We are not sure if she was a nurse or a doctor as she did not wear a name tag and introduced herself as “Maggie” no pretense or titles.

Hospital in Hao

Hospital in Hao

The doctor assessed my leg and stated that I had a staff infection. She told me that I was not taking enough antibiotics and prescribed 3x the dose (1mg three times per day for 10 days).  Then she also lanced my little volcano, cleaned it, treated it, and bandaged it up.  She told us she had to call the chemist to order the medicine and that it would be flown in the next day.

Medical Supplies Given to Us for my Leg

Medical Supplies Given to Us for my Leg

We returned the next day to have my leg examined again.  The wound was cleaned and re-wrapped.  The following day we saw Maggie again who was not too pleased with the progress.  She gave me the remainder of my antibiotic, a cleaning liquid and an antibiotic liquid to apply.  She asked me to come back on Monday for another follow up.

Lanced and wrapped up

Lanced and wrapped up

Costs for Medical Care

We were not charged for any of our visits, the treatment or medicine given at the hospital.  We were not charged for the two bottles of cleaning agents or the pain medicine.  The only thing we were charged for was 8 days of antibiotics at $28 (the other two days of antibiotics were free).

Five days after my initial visit to the FP hospital, my volcano had significantly decreased in size, swelling was gone, and pain was greatly reduced.  My foot no longer hurt each time the blood rushed to it and I was able to walk with barely a limp.  Cleaning it was no fun and pretty gross, but eventually it healed.  On day 7 of treatment, the center white, hard thing came out when I took the bandage off.  Did not feel pleasant at all.  But I am thinking this is a good thing and now my volcano will close up and heal.

More images below

Maggie is incredibly professional and compassionate.  She went above and beyond her job to assist us and I will be eternally grateful.  You see we had a difficult time arranging for the medicine.  Typically, she would give us a paper with the medicine written on it, then we contact the chemist to get the cost and place the order.  Next we go to the post office to make payment, and pick up the medicine at the airport the following day.  However, the post office was not taking payments that day.

So we ended up paying Maggie for the medicine.  She called the chemist got the amount, went online and submitted the payment to the post office.  We could not pay online as they wanted a bank transfer and bank transfers from the U.S. take 2-3 business days.  Maggie paid and then went to the airport to pick it up and brought it to us the next day.  Talk about customer service.

My doctor in Hao who provided great medical care.

My doctor in Hao who provided great medical care.

Twelve days later, the antibiotics finished and a coagulant put on the mini volcano and I am almost back to normal.  See last photo

Photos from Above that are not to pleasant to see:

Initial bite, starting to get infected

Initial bite, starting to get infected

Infection is spreading and circle keeps getting bigger

Infection is spreading and circle keeps getting bigger

Now that’s a canckle!

Infection spreading up my leg

Infection spreading up my leg

My body is trying so hard to fight the infection

My body is trying so hard to fight the infection

The bottom shows what came out of the hole on the top

The bottom shows what came out of the hole on the top

Sorry for the sprigs of hair, but it was hard to shave around it and I was not allowed to get local water (shower) on or near it.

After 7-days of treatment

After 7-days of treatment

Hao

The Beauty of Hao

Hao, or Haorangi is a beautiful little island in the southern end of the Tuamotus.  It reminded me of Rikitea in that there is one main road where almost all the “important” things can be found.  Including three markets or “magasins” (pronounced magazines), the Gendarmerie (police), Mairie (Mayor’s office), post office, two churches, and an events center.  The street is meticulously maintained and each house has beautiful plants blooming in their front yard.  There are fruit trees all over the place including papayas, passion fruit, oranges, coconuts, and bananas.  The anchorage in the lagoon (inside the atoll) showcases a variety of hues of blues and was clear enough to see our anchor chain and floats.

The Beauty of Hao

The Beauty of Hao

Hao’s History

Hao was previously the site of a large French Navy base which supported the nuclear testing activities in the southern atolls. In 2002 or 2003, the large base was shut down, but the Navy still maintains a small presence on Hao.  If you can believe this…193 nuclear tests were performed between 1966-1996!  Several thousand military personnel and dependents lived here.  The old base feels like a ghost town and this atmosphere even pervades adjacent Otepa, the main village of Hao.  Though the base closure has had predictable economic and social impacts on the community the residents with whom we spoke were happy to have the military gone and the nuclear testing ended.

We walked around the base and all that is left are abandoned buildings and a monument.

Military monument at Hao Navy Base

Military monument at Hao Navy Base

Lazy Days in Hao

I had a slight medical issue, which I will explain in the next blog.  It was not too serious, but it prevented me from getting in the water and walking a lot.  Kind of puts a damper on our explorations of this beautiful island. Luckily, it was not a large island and we could visit the entire village and see the rest of the island by dinghy.

When we arrived a trimaran, named “Triple Shot” was anchored by the main dock.  We had met and assisted them with the entrance into the Gambiers.  They were extremely helpful and gave us some information on where to go to find the hospital, where to find internet and provisions.  Unfortunately, they left the day after we arrived, but I am sure we will see them again.  This is a shot of the main dock during the day and night – breathtaking!

Main dock at Hao

Main dock at Hao

We also knew a few of the boats that were located in the old marina.  Atanga was anchored next to us for several weeks in Mangareva and Sailmore was anchored near us in several of the Gambiers islands.  Nikki from Sailmore became a great resource and sundowner friend.  She is British, but lives in Switzerland and speaks Swiss German, French and English.  She regaled us with many funny stories!

Abandoned Marina at Hao

Abandoned Marina at Hao

Exploring Hao on Shore

There are only two places to get access to the internet on Hao.  The Mairie offers free, albeit slow, internet between 1600-2300 and on the weekends.  Then, there is a hostel which offers a rather decent speed of internet down the road.  The only thing they ask is that you buy beverages from them.  Sometimes they have the drinks (juice, water, coffee) and sometimes they go next door to the market, buy them and resell them to you.  Either way, they were lovely and did not mind us sitting there for hours each day.  Being able to get some internetting done was a huge bonus as we had very little access for the past several months.  We were able to catch up on blog posts, orders and emails.

This photo shows one of the roads on the Pacific side of the island.  We are on the lagoon side.

Main road and Pacific Ocean Shore in Hao

Main road and Pacific Ocean Shore in Hao

We explored a few places on the Pacific side of the island, they were full of broken coral, rocks and a bit of debris.  But still pretty

Pacific Ocean Shore Side

Pacific Ocean Shore Side

Matt went up the mast to repair our wifi antennae and captured some beautiful photos. In addition, he took a shot of the boat.

Matt goes up the mast to take these photos at Hao

Matt goes up the mast to take these photos at Hao

We spent most of our time relaxing, reading, working on blog posts and preparing for large orders of stuff for me to bring back from the states.

Because we liked it so much – check out these other great links on Hao: