A Twirl through the Societies, Part II

We continue to show Donald the beauty of the Societies. It was time to leave Huahine and head back to Raiatea.  

The great thing about cruising the Societies is that the islands are not very far apart.  We had a small weather window and decided to sail back to Raiatea.  We still had lots of gusts (up to 35-38kts), but it was our best opportunity.  This trip was with the wind and waves so it would be a lot easier than our trip to Huahine.

As we left, we had gusts up to 38kts and then they would die down to 7-8kts.  Talk about learning and trimming the sails a lot.  It sure was interesting.  We ended up completing the passage in 4 hours (as opposed to the 6 hours it took to get us there).  We had top speed of 11.5kt when we had a wind gust and surfed down a wave. 

Approaching Raiatea – I love how the mountains all wear cloud hats :0

Raiatea wearing a cloud hat

Raiatea wearing a cloud hat

Baie Haio – New Bay for Sugar Shack

We found a new baie to us.  Baie Haio is gorgeous and is located on the southern tip of Raiatea.  We are surrounded by palm tree shores.

Baie Haio, Raiatea

Baie Haio, Raiatea

We went exploring on shore and came to the town of Fetuna where there is a church, a small magasin, and a school.

Baie Haio, Raiatea

Village of Fetuna in Baie Haio, Raiatea

The moon peered out from behind the palm trees making a spectacle of himself.

The next morning Matt broke out the drone and captured more magnificent photos of Sugar Shack.  This is certainly my favorite bay in Raiatea and might be one of my favorite bays in the Societies.

Shot towards the motu as the sunrises

Shot towards the pass showcasing the reef and motu.

And the grand poo ba of them all – a shot toward the mountain.

Heading North

We got up early to head north.  It would be an upwind passage so we could not even take out the sail.  Just a motor.  But it was really pretty.  We exited the southern pass (Passe Punaeroa) because the is no navigable passage inside the lagoon in this area.  We re-entered the Passe Tetuatiare with the hopes of finding a good anchor spot behind Ilot Horea.  However, with easterly winds it dropped us too close to the reef so we decided to move on to plan B.

This image was taken as we were motoring outside the lagoon.  Check out the huge waves breaking on the reef between us and the lagoon.

Plan B was to move into Passe Rautoanui and hang a right to see if we could anchor near village Tevaitoa.  However, there were no moorings and it was way too deep for us to drop the hook. So, off we go to Plan C.

Plan C:  motor up to Baie Apu, Taha’a.  It was directly into the wind, so we motored the entire way.  We hopped on a mooring and took Donald to the Chompon Pearl Farm.

We started at the bottom of Raiatea (south) near Ile Haio, then exited at the first pink dot (lower left).  Plan B was in at the 3rd dot until we moved to Plan C and headed to Taha’a.

New Anchorage – Point Tenape

Donald told us about a cool place to have lunch – Raiatea Lodge.  So, we headed south toward a new anchorage across from the lodge.  It was a beautiful sail day with just the jib pushing us along at 5-6kts.  We passed by 4 different huts on sandy spits.  The locals use these for fishing or kit surfing spots.

Raiatea Lodge

Raiatea Lodge is a pretty little hotel.  They have a long pier and turquoise buildings.

Raiatea Lodge

Raiatea Lodge

They were kind enough to let us have lunch with them.  It was pricey, but tasty.

Raiatea Lodge

Raiatea Lodge

The next morning, we made French toast and motored closer to the airport where we picked up a mooring ball near Raiatea Carenage.  We had a lovely time visiting new spots to Donald, new spots to Sugar Shack, and new spots to both of us.  Although we did not get to do an overnight to Mo’orea due to weather, we had a great time.

Click here, if you missed Part I “A Twirl through the Societies.”  Events in this post occurred between 2-5 Oct. 2020.   Our blog posts run 6-8 weeks behind our adventures.

A Twirl Through the Societies, Part I

Our very good friend, Donald came to visit us in the Societies (The Society Archipelago).  Matt and I crewed on Donald’s boat, a Catalina 47, for years and years when we lived in Texas.  He was kind enough to bring us a bevy of supplies including an entire spool of line weighing in at 34kbs!  Poor thing.  See below for how we use this line (which is real world speak is “rope”).

We met Donald in Raiatea which has a super easy, convenient airport.  Matt and I were able to take the dinghy straight up to the platform where passengers disembarked.   After a 24-hour travel day he was a little exhausted, but he rallied well!

We left the Raiatea Carenage anchorage and headed to one of our favorite spots: Ilot Moute which is owned by the La Pirog Resort.  Perfect place to welcome Donald to the Societies.  Perfectly clear turquoise waters, a tiny motu, and only a few boats. 

Main Halyard Replacement

Yachties seem to have different names for a lot of things on a boat.  For example, the kitchen is called the galley and the bathroom is called the head.  Rope actually has multiple names.  It can be a line, halyard, lazy jack, or a sheet depending on its function.

Our main halyard lifts our main sail from the sail bag to the top of the mast.  It is a vital line and has to be very strong.  We priced the cost of replacing it in Tahiti and fell off our chair.  We needed about 75 meters and the cost was going to be between $900-$2500.  However, we could buy double the length for a fraction of the cost from the U.S.  So, we bought 165 meters for $1600 and had to ask Donald to bring it to us. Bless his heart.

New main halyard

New main halyard

The old line rubbed against our lazy jacks holding our sail bag.  Matt had tried to sew it up but it was in need of being replaced.  There is still a lot of really good, usable line left so we hope to repurpose some of it in the future.

Old main halyard

Old main halyard

Passage to Huahine

We had a great plan for Donald’s visit.  We were trying to maximize our anchorages during his 9 day stay in the Societies.  However, on day 2 we looked at the weather and it all had to change.  We made a quick decision to leave Raiatea/Taha’a area to head toward Huahine.

This was to be the best day for this passage.  However, it did not mean it was a good day. The wind was right on our nose causing us to tack back and forth and back and forth.  The good news is that it was a great sail day with full sails up.  Several rain clouds provided some wind shifts which played with our course as well.  The photo below shows the direct route (pink line). However, our actual route is the the yellow line with all the little tacks back and forth.

Passage Raiata to Huahine

Passage Raiata to Huahine

Although it was a lot of tacking to get to our destination, we still had a lovely time!

Passage Raiata to Huahine

Passage Raiata to Huahine

We had an absolutely beautiful sunset just in time for dinner

Everyone was up early to run some errands in Fare the main town on Huahine.  We needed to replace our propane tank (for cooking), dump trash and recycling, book a return ticket for Donald, and swing by the market.  Everyone was back on the boat by 0830 and preparing to head to Avea baie.

Avea Baie, Huahine

This is a new anchorage for Sugar Shack.  We have been to Huahine over a half dozen times and have never made it this far south.  Avea Baie is located on the southern tip of Huahine iti.  It is host to a beautiful little resort called La Mahana Resort.

La Mahana Resort

La Mahana Resort

We walked from the resort around the southern end of Huahine Iti and found a cool marae overlooking the baie and Motu Araara.

This is a photo of the little motu called Araara.

Marae Anini

The Societies (as well as the other archipelagos) have many maraes.  The ancient marae Anini is where the deities, Oro (the main god of war) and Hiro (the deceitful god) were worshiped.  It is rumored that at least 14 human sacrifices were made at this marae.

We entered the sacred grounds down a sandy road leading toward the beach.

Marae Anini

Marae Anini

The Anini marae has several ahu (smaller alters or platforms).  These are considered beds for the gods Oro and Hiro.  The vertical stones called ofa ‘I turui, allowed the priests and chiefs to lean back to rest or they may be memorials for the deceased chiefs.

Marae Anini

Marae Anini

This is a shot of the marae from the lagoon.

Marae Anini

Marae Anini

We enjoyed a lovely dinner at the La Mahana resort which offered tasty food, impeccable service, and beautiful food presentation.  Thank you, Donald, for a wonderful meal!  As you can see, the dining room is on the beach under a covered thatched roof overlooking the bay.

Exploring on Sweetie

We went exploring by dinghy.  First, we went around the southern tip toward the town of Parea (across from Motu Araara).  There was no decent dinghy dock so we just circled the lagoon and went on our merry way.  Next, we passed by our anchorage in Avea bay and headed to a new bay called Haapu.

They had a really nice floating dock.  So, we tied up Sweetie and went to shore. Not much in this small town.  We did find a school, le mairie (mayor), and a small magasin.  This little town had several beautiful swans made out of tires!  Yep!  Giant tires were cut up to make planters that looked like swans.  I love it.

Swans made out of tires

Swans made out of tires

Fantastic Fare

We headed back to Fare hoping to find a break from the wind.  Unfortunately, that was not the case.  But we were closer to town.

In the morning we were blessed with a beautiful display of love between a mother and baby whale.  They were playing in the channel just in front of the boat.  Mostly we saw their spouts and backs with an occasional tale.  So amazing.  Whales are all over the Societies (Huahine, Mo’orea, Bora Bora).

We turned in Donald’s self covid test and enjoyed a super tasty lunch at Izzy’s Burgers and More!

Later that afternoon, we met Helen from “Wow” and Mike from “Easy” at the Huahine Yacht club for happy hour.  Half priced beer and cocktails plus an amazing sunset!

And the sunset is just stunning – without filters or editing.  Just pure beauty in the Societies.

Check in next time as we head back to Raiatea, discover a few bays, and say goodbye to Donald.  Events from this post occurred during 26 Sept – 2 Oct 2020.  Our blog posts run 6-8 weeks behind our adventures.

Baie Apu and Tabu Island

Baie Apu is at the southeastern corner of Taha’a.  Our surveyor lives at this baie and suggested we visit it since we had not been there before.  The first thing we noticed were a lot of boats on moorings. Hmmm.  I am thinking we need to grab a mooring since it is pretty darn deep here (30-40 meters).  Lucky for us there were several to choose from.

This is a really interesting baie because a reef outlines its edges making most of the surrounding land inaccessible.  Unless of course you are a local landowner who has dredged and added a personal dock.  In addition to the beautiful reef is a small motu or ilot in the middle of the bay called Ile Toapuhi.

Baie Apu

Baie Apu

We explored by dinghy and found the reef to be peppered with huge coral heads and lots of little fish.  In the photo below you can see the lagoon (dark blue foreground, reef (brown) and then light blue (sand).  Then we came across this really interesting tree that captured my heart.

Baie Apu and its reef

Baie Apu and its reef

Suri, a Super Yacht’s Toy Storage Vessel

We discovered this huge motor yacht called “Suri” in the back of Baie Apu.  I think it is toy storage vessel for another vessel, but not 100% certain.  There was an enormous slide that was calling my name but I didn’t think they’d appreciate me asking for a run.  On the back they had a super beautiful, sleek speed boat, a fishing boat, several jet skis, paddle boards, 2 large inflatable dinghies and a fishing boat!  It was registered in Bikini Island.

Suri super yacht

Suri super yacht

Looking back toward the anchorage.  Can you spy Sugar Shack in the bottom photo?  Lots of catamarans.  In fact, there were 5 Catanas and 2 Otremers.  Of the 22 boats moored here, 10 were in storage mode (nobody living on them).

Ile Tiapuhi is an unusual motu or ilot in the middle of the bay.  It too has a reef around it making it difficult to access.  However, we did find a small dinghy dock with a “prive” sign.  There was a small beach, a copra farming area, and a small cleared area.  I wonder if it is called Tabu Motu or if it is Tabu to go to this motu?

Tabu Motu

Tabu Motu

Baie Apu Onshore

We got up early to explore onshore.  We pulled up to a dock that we believe belongs to someone we met a few years ago called Captain Richard.  Although we did not see him, we did take advantage of his dock.  He has a gorgeous house with a fully open concept.  I loved it!

A short distance away is the Champon Pearl Farm which was started and is run by a family for the past 20 years.  The mother designs the jewelry, the father and brother harvest and graft and the daughter gives the tours and assists with the jewelry.  They have a gorgeous property on the corner of Baie Apu.  On the property is their house (white wood in top photo), a stunning wood pergola, a tree house, sandy beach, and their pearl business.  The pearl farm is actually located out by the reef where there is better water flow.

Champon Pearl Farm

Champon Pearl Farm

The actual harvesting of the pearls takes place in a small hut over the water (as it is a dirty business).  Here they do the cleaning, harvesting, grafting, and growing.

Champon Pearl Farm

Champon Pearl Farm

Miva gave us a free tour and actually taught us several things we did not know.  Strange considering we have done 4 or 5 pearl farm tours! See this blog and this blog for pearl farm tours.

This pearl farm has about 100,000 shells at the farm.  They harvest 30,000 each year but only 20,000 are pearl producing.  They are one of three active pearl farms on Taha’a. 

Here are a few things we learned:

  1. They search for a clam shell with exceptional color. Once found, they “sacrifice” it to be the host for other shells.  How do they do that?  They take snippets of its black muscle (the lips of the clam) and insert it along with a nucleous into another shell.  This helps the new shell produce a colorful pearl.
  2. They can harvest the same shell 5x before it is done. (We’ve heard this varies based on the pearls it produces but most shells are only harvested 2-3 times.)
    1. The 5th graft would be a very large pearl and can take up to 10 years to produce.
    2. One should note that the larger the pearl the more chance for imperfections.
  3. A pearl has to turn regularly inside the shell, in every direction to become a perfect pearl. However, often times a grain of sand or something will be inside the shell causing imperfections. For example, we have several pearls with rings around them. That happens when the pearl turns in the same direction while rubbing against a grain of sand.
  4. If the shell rejects the nucleous, they will leave the graft tissue inside to produce keshi pearls.
  5. 0-1% of the pearls produced are perfect pearls. They do not drill these pearls, but put them in beautiful “cages” to preserve their perfect status (see image below)
  6. 3% are considered “class A” pearls which have less than 10% of imperfections. Very difficult to see and can often be hidden with the jewelry clasp.
  7. 10-15% are considered “class B” pearls with 30% imperfections which are visible with the naked eye.
  8. Class C pearls either are lacking in luster or have many imperfections. Miva believes it is better to get a pearl with imperfections than to get a pearl with no luster.

Harvesting and Grafting Pearls

We’ve seen this done so many times that I honestly did not think we would learn anything new.  But I was wrong!  First, they showed us how a nucleous was born.  They take shells, found in Mississippi, cut them in strips, then in strips are cut into squares and then the squares are rounded into a nucleous (see top left photo).

The 2nd row, left photo shows pearls cut in half so you can see how much is actually the pearl and how much is the nucleous.  All of these are 18 months old.

These are the very pretty perfect pearls in their cage.  You can actually open the cage and take the pearls out too.

Super cool day!  This occurred on 25 September 2020.  Our blog posts run 6-8 weeks behind our adventures.