Tahanea's SE Corner

The Beauty of Tahanea

Our passage leaving Hao toward Tahanea was not ideal.  We left knowing it would not be good weather conditions as we were hoping to beat the maramu scheduled to pommel us.  The first day we had light winds and super confused seas.  The swell was only between 1-1.5 meters but they were coming from every direction.

We were able to fly the main and jib for most of the day, then motored for a few hours.  The trade winds and following seas arrived around 2000 at night.  Usually, I like following seas as the boat surfs down the waves.  But when you still have confused seas that are now 3 meters coming from multiple directions it is no fun.  One wave would hit our stern before the previous wave left our bow which created a serious rolling action of the boat.  I was not a happy camper.

Despite the bad weather and my infirmities, we had a gorgeous sunset the first night.

Day two brought strong winds coming from the SE a perfect direction. However, we had to drop the main and reef the jib because we were going too fast.  If we kept up that pace we would arrive at midnight.  So, we slowed the boat down to arrive at 0400.  Not much better.  The slack tide was 0430, but it was too dark to enter so we drifted for a few hours before entering at day break. 

Since we missed “slack tide” we entered with 3.5kts of outgoing current – pushing against us.  Almost like the atoll did not want us to come in.  But, we prevailed and arrived with no issues.

Passage Details

  • Passage Miles: 220nm
  • Total Miles Travelled: 249nm
  • Max Speed: 10.7kt
  • Average Speed: 5.1kt
  • Moving Time: 48.56

We anchored in the SE corner of Tahanea with 6 other boats in turquoise, calm waters. Life is good.

Hiding in Paradise

We ended up spending 11 days in the southeast corner of Tahanea hiding from the maramu (storms).  Most had a strong southeasterly wind so being behind a motu protected us from most of the winds and waves.  We still managed to see gusts up to 30-35kts.

Each motu received a 360-degree exploration.  Some even had us traipsing through the middle part of the island which was thick with foliage, palm fronts, coconuts, and critters.

Tahanea Scenery

Tahanea Scenery

Most days were rainy and cloudy, but we tried to get off the boat once a day to stretch our legs.  Despite the gloomy clouds and rainy weather, this atoll does not disappoint – it is still gorgeous.

Agape’s Legacy

Our friends, Josh and Rachel onboard Agape were quarantined here in Tahanea for 4 months.  Our friends had to find lots of ways to entertain themselves and keep their bellies full.  They harvested coconuts and used every possible part of the coconut (meat, milk, water, husk) along with fishing and spear fishing to keep everyone fed.  They also built this amazing raft.  When we first encountered it, the raft was buried in the sand. 

But several days later the tide and cleared the sand away and the boys had a little fun.

We left the raft on the beach, where we found it.  However, we must not have pulled it up far enough as it was gone the next morning.  We are in a full moon cycle which means the tides are higher and they must have claimed the raft back to the sea.

SE Corner Activities

It was great fun exploring all of the motus within the Tahanea atoll.  We must have walked around each of them 3 times and some more.  We walked all the way around and through most of them.  They are mostly broken pieces of coral and rock on the leeward side and larger boulders, lava rock, and coral chunks on the windward side.  The interior is full of coconut trees, and palms that have mean, pointy stickers that like to attach to your skin.

We found one motu that had a “sandy corner” sandwiched between the broken coral shores.  It was a gloomy day and we ended up exploring under the rain, but still an adventure.  Matt and I trying to determine if we should head back before the big storm.

It is really cool to see the pools of water between the spits of sand as you look across Tahanea’s lagoon.

View of Sugar Shack from one of the motus.

The winds were strong in the SE corner of Tahanea.  Several people took advantage of the weather and enjoyed kite surfing and kite boarding, which was fabulous to watch.

All the cruisers gathered for several bonfires on shore.  We would cook the fish or conch we caught earlier that day.

CRAB HUNTING

Several of the motus have splotches of areas covered in coconut crab grounds.  The coconut crabs don’t like sun or rain so they mostly come out at night or early in the morning.  One day we decided to go hunting.

Armed with buckets, string and machetes, we headed to the motu.  It was a rather large group which was not conducive for good hunting (too much chatter and foot stomping), but we managed to catch a dozen.

First, you walk into the interior of the island, under the shadow of the coconut trees and in a patch of sand.  You stumble across their large holes first.   You have to be careful because their underground tunnels make the ground weak and you end up sinking to your shins!

Mike, from “Easy” and Helen from “Wow” showed us how to catch them.  Using a string or very thin piece of line you make a lasso or noose.  As the crab comes out, you slip the noose around its big claw and quickly close it around its claw so it cannot get away down the hole. 

Once he is caught, you can either put him in a bucket or kill him (which is more humane).

Once we got our fill, we went to the water’s edge to clean the crabs before taking them to the boat.  We boiled them, then grilled them and had them for a tasty dinner.

A FEW PHOTOS THAT ARE EASY ON THE EYES

The sun rose and set over the motus providing stunning photos.

Sugar Shack at anchor with a spit of land behind her.  It looks like a sandy beach, but it really is covered in broken coral and rocks.  Still a pretty photo.

This post was written in June 2020.  Our blog posts are usually 8 to 10 weeks behind are true adventures. 

Check out more on Tahanea here.

Hanging out in Hao

We decided to rent bicycles during our stay in Hao since we were pretty far from the main village.  We found one place who wanted to rent us electric bikes for 3000xpf a day ($30) per bike.  WTF!  No way, then they came down to 2000xpf per day and we still said no.  So the local proprietor of the pension (hotel) we were at using their internet said she could find a couple of bikes.  Ok.  About 90 minutes later she came back and said ok I have two bikes for $800 ($8) per day.  

They have two wheels so they must be bikes

You know what they say “beggars can’t be choosers.”  My bike was missing a pedal, had no handle grips (so my hands turn orange from the rusty handle bars), no brakes and a bald back tire.  Matt’s bike had a wobbly, flat back tire, no brakes and a chain that was too big and kept falling off.  Both bikes were so old and rusty that there were no repairs to fix our issues – but they got us from point A to B.

Lovely rental bikes

Lovely rental bikes

Hoodoo, Matt, and I decided to ride our bikes to the North end of the island past the airport to the pass.  We were not sure if there is a path that goes the entire way, but we are going to give it the ole college try.

Hoodoo has folding bikes that are pretty rusty but they get them to where they need to go.  So, we hope on our bikes and head out. 

We were totally surprised to find a nice paved path the entire way to the pass.  It was a 7.2mile bike ride, one way and we were rewarded with a beautiful cool breeze by the pass.

Hoodoo at the pass

Hoodoo at the pass

A new boat came in and tied to the basin behind Hoodoo.  They came from Panama and should not have arrived in Hao as their first stop as FP is technically still closed.  Anyway, they begged and asked for forgiveness.  They were each fined and are quarantined to their boat for 14 days.

Making the Lemons out of Lemonade

So, we decided to have a BBQ on the dock, in front of their boat to welcome them to FP.  It was super wonderful as they are from Spain and played amazing Spanish music. 

Beach BBQ

Beach BBQ

A few hours into our evening a couple of local folks came by to join us.  Then it was a “band off” where the locals would play a song then the Spaniards would play a song.  Super unique and amazing experience.

The next day, one of the Spaniards gave a yoga class from his boat.  It was a sorry a$$ attempt with a bunch of misfits, but we stretched our bodies and gave sun salutations.

Nake – The Heart and Soul of Hao

Legend has it that you have not visited Hao until you have visited Nake.  We could not miss out on the opportunity to see if this was true.  Sea Jay, Hoodoo and Sugar Shack all left the confines of the old military basin.  It was a beautiful, sunny day with a strong 20kts of wind coming from the East. 

We hoisted the main sail and unfurled the jib.  It was a blistery sail with us pushing 7-8kts most of the 26nm to the Nake which is the southernmost point of the atoll.

A little over 4 hours later we dropped the hook in 5 meters facing a pretty beach lined with palm trees.  

Hake in Hao

Hake in Hao

There was not much to do or see ashore and there was a very unpleasant odor so we headed back to the boat.  We headed to a new anchorage called Orare which was a little sand bar that stuck out from the motu into the lagoon.  Much prettier spot with better water.

We went for a walk around the motu.  Matt wandered off by himself so I ended up exploring with Yanell and Missy.  On our way back we found signs of Matt.

We found a little area where some locals piled rocks together to make a BBQ pit, table and sitting area.  Really pretty spot.

Main Village of Otepa

We anchored outside the quay just off the main village of Otepa.  This would allow us much better access to the “village, magasins, and internet.”

Hao at dusk

Hao at dusk

This is one of my favorite shots.  We were onshore at the quay looking out at Sugar Shack at anchor during sunset.

Hao at sunset

Hao at sunset

We only stayed one night as we wanted to meet the supply ship which was scheduled to come the next day in town.  The hook was dropped near the village so I could do some internet and try to get our blog up and running again. It has been dark for months because I did not have internet to upload photos and posts. Le Mairie (the Mayor’s Office) offers free internet on the weekends and from 4-9p on the weekdays.  I camped out and made some friends.

Beautiful sunrise over Otepa in Hao.

The Taporo ended up not having any fresh produce, no flour and no beer.  So we basically waited for over a week for nothing which was disappointing.  We decided to move to the pass anchor spot to be prepared to depart at the first opportunity.

Pass Anchorage

It took us several attempts to find a safe anchorage by the pass.  There are lots of reefs, bommies and unsuitable spots.  We finally found a spot to drop the hook.  We were looking for a good weather window to head NW to Tahanea.  Unfortunately, these winds were not in our future.

There are several small motus near the pass.  The bottom photo shows the red and green markers of the pass.

A strong maramu was predicted and we wanted to leave before it came.  We made what some might call a “rash” decision to leave.  Up at dawn we headed out the pass during slack tide.  Not sure you would call this slack tide as there are standing waves bouncing Sugar Shack all over the place.  It was not as scary as others, but certainly not as pleasant as most.

We were given a beautiful sunrise

Wouldn’t you know it – the 2nd supply ship, with the fresh produce was waiting outside the pass as we left.  Some people look for gold at the end of the rainbow, but in these remote islands, we look for the supply ship.

This post was written in June 2020.  Our blog posts are usually 8 to 10 weeks behind are true adventures.  See previous post on Hao.

Ouch

Disaster Strikes – Maramu

One of the reasons we decided to tie up to the old basin was because there was a maramu (storm) in the forecast and we wanted to avoid a disaster.  The four boats in the basin took all of the necessary precautions – or so we thought.  Let me paint a picture.

The old military basin is an upside down “U” shape with the entrance at the opening of the U.  The wall on the right, facing the lagoon is taller and has a 42’ mono and Sea Jay 50’.  The taller wall proved to be a life saver for these two boats.  The opposite side of the U, where we are, faces the shore.  The wall is at an angle where we are tied up and then it straightens out where a mono and our friends on Hoodoo are located.

Preparing for a Maramu

Holding us to the dock were (2) bow lines (one from port and one from starboard bow peaks), (2) spring lines and (2) stern lines (port and starboard).  In addition, we had (4) large, round A4 fenders and (2) F4 fenders between us and the dock and al of the fenders were touching the water when we went to bed.  Everything was secured and stowed on the deck and bow.  But we did leave up our sun/rain shades to try to prevent a flood of water coming into the cockpit.  We also left out our cushions which are “secured” to the boat.  

We’ve been through several maramus and we were not expecting a disaster.  Normal water level is shown below.  The tide flooded the basin so much that the bottom of Sugar Shack’s Port hull threatened to land on top of the dock.

Maramu Strikes

Fast forward to 11:30pm at night when Matt and I are woken up by a horrible bashing noise, winds blowing over 42kts, thunder, and lightning, and pounding rains.  We jumped up and realized SS was banging (not rubbing) against the concrete wall.  The lagoon was filled so high that it flooded the basin raising the water level at least 1.5 meters.  That in and of itself would not have been bad if it was not accompanied by a meter swell which tossed SS almost on top of the dock several times. 

It took Matt, Yanell, Missy and I everything we had to keep her safe.  In the pouring rain, we added (4) more F4 fenders between the boat and tried to push SS off the dock.  About an hour later the storm subsided and we saw the damage — a rather large 1/4” dent that was about 1 meter wide with lots of scratches.  Nothing we can do in the middle of the night.

Maramu is Not Done with Us

Then at 0230 another, stronger storm hit.  We had lowered all the fenders and placed fenders floating in the water to prevent SS from continuing to bash against the concrete.  What a disaster! Running between SS and HooDoo to make sure all of our boats were safe.  If you can imagine the rain falling so hard that it actually hurt our faces!  We could not wear hats because the wind would blow them off.  It was terrible.  Unfortunately, SS took the brunt of the storm because we were closest to the entrance and on the slanted part of the dock.  We blocked the majority of the waves and storm from Queen B and HooDoo.  (Nice of us, right?)

Around 0400 the weather calmed enough for Matt to go out in the dingy to put an anchor out in the middle of the basin.  He then attached it to our starboard mid-cleat to pull the boat further off the wall.  Around 0430 we finally got an hour of sleep.  By sunrise we were evaluating the damage and trying to figure out what else we can do to prepare for Thursday’s storm.  We added a stern line from starboard to a mooring pulling the stern further away from the wall and adjusted all the lines and fenders again. Luckily Thursday night was only 30-35kts of wind, little rain, and no flooding.  We scared it away with all of our preparedness.

The Damage

We almost lost one of our 2-meter cockpit cushions and a sunshade.  Both caught up by the lifelines and saved.  We had one sunshade tear before we could get it off and we lost 2 fender covers.  But the worst damage is the hull which could have been a much bigger disaster.  We don’t think there is structural damage.  We have a thin layer of fiberglass, then honeycomb, then fiberglass.  But there is about a 1/4” dent with lots of scratches that stretch across 2 meters of the port hull.  We will have to repair it when we are hauled out (Tahiti or NZ).

Sea Jay lost a small cockpit cushion but found it the next morning as a local was carrying it and walking away.  Lucky them.  HooDoo and Queen B have some small scratches on the hull that will buff out.  Yesterday we spent the day adding anchors and lines to all the boats to keep them off the dock making the basin an obstacle course but will help us avoid further disaster. 

The good news is that we are all safe and unhurt.  The boat can be mended.  We are lucky.

Weather Predictions Get it Wrong

Matt took a screen shot of Predict Wind’s screen which showed what was predicted and what came through.  Unfortunately, it does not give minute by minute updates. In addition, it never accurately showed the wind strength, amount of rain or correct wind direction.   But it gives you an idea of how “off” weather predictions can be. In and of itself that is a disaster. 

This post was written in June 2020.  Our blog posts are usually 8 to 10 weeks behind are true adventures.