Tag Archives: dolphins

Sugar Shack at Oponohu Passe

Voyage to Mo’orea

Finally, it was time for us to leave Tahiti and begin our voyage East. It is a short passage of 12nm to Moo’rea.  The weather was not conducive to sail toward the Tuamotus so we just went to the next island over.  However, before we left we enjoyed sundowners (aka happy hour) with our friends Julie and Andy on “Little Wing.”

Julie and I at sunset

Julie and I at sunset

Afterwards we were rewarded with a beautiful moonrise over Marina Taina in Tahiti. Perfect for this Halloween night.

The next morning, we made a final trash run and another quick trip to the grocery store to see if they got any pork in stock.  For some reason, the island of Tahiti is out of pork products – no pork chops, pork shoulder or pork ribs.  So sad for me.

Voyage to Mo’orea

We left the south pass and had light winds of 6-8kts coming north of east.  Sugar Shack had a full main and a reefed jib because there was hardly any wind.  We were doing a whopping 3-5kts of boat speed – just plugging along.  We were not in a hurry and had all day to cross the bay to the next island.

Several local surfers were taking advantage of the great waves as we left the pass.  These are short waves that break on a dangerous reef – but they still manage to rock it!

A French War ship was hanging out just in front of Mo’orea.  It looked like they were dragging something, but we were not close enough to figure it out.

French warship off the coast of Mo'orea

French warship off the coast of Mo’orea

In the distance we could see white caps.  Not a good sign, so we took a reef in the main sail.  After 15 minutes we decided to take a 2nd reef in the main sail.  Thank Holy God!  The winds jumped to 30-35kts and the seas quickly became 2-3 meters!  We were  bouncing all over the place.  We almost turned around, but decided to forge ahead.  The weather calmed down to 20-25kts and 1.5-2 meter seas which was a bit better.  The boat found her happy place and we were doing 7-8kts.

We turned the corner and had another 5nm to go to Oponohu passe entrance. During this leg of our voyage we encountered lots of beautiful dolphin.  They were surfing in the waves, jumping, and having fun.  We first spotted some dolphins at the Tahiti pass by the new surf platform (upper left photo), and then we saw dozens more as we got closer to Mo’orea.

Another mile further we ran into a super talented, overzealous foil boarder.   He was amazing!  He circled around Sugar Shack several times showing off his mad skills!  See my Instagram account for video footage.  He pumps the board by bending his knees which keeps the board moving forward.  He also uses the kite that is in his hand for propulsion.  We were going 6-7kts and he was going faster than us!

We were gifted with a grand view as we entered the Oponohu passe.

Sugar Shack at Oponohu Passe

Sugar Shack at Oponohu Passe

To the left of the pass is the anchorage which is full of other boats.  We grabbed a spot on a nice sandy patch in 3 meters of water.

Oponohu Anchorage

Oponohu Anchorage

Events from this blog occurred over the last week of October 2020.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.

Whales in Teti'aroa

A Whale of a Send Off: Passage Teti’aroa to Makatea

Teti’aroa is know for whale spotting, especially from July to November.  We had seen several spouts and watched a few charter boats do the dance around the entrance in search of a whale.  But we didn’t actually see a whale breach the water during our stay.  A little disappointed, we raised the main sail and released the mooring.  It was time to head to a new island called Makatea.  We unfurled the jib and put out our three fishing lines as soon as we left and were crossing the bay.  Then I heard Matt shout “whale.”  I ran back, grabbed the big camera and tried to capture these elusive beauties.

Under full sail with three fishing lines out we had to be careful about maneuvering the boat.  We could not just turn on a dime to go back which was frustrating, but I got a few shots of the mama whale and her baby calf.

Whales in Teti'aroa

Whales in Teti’aroa

We received a send off part just as we were passing Brando island.  A pod of dolphins came to play with Sugar Shack.  We weren’t going very fast, so I am sure it was not much of a sport to them.

Dolphins off Brando Island

Dolphins off Brando Island

Making Our Way to Makatea

We knew it would be a light wind motor sail, but we had hoped for a little more wind than what we got.  Regardless, we had full sails up, port engine running, and three lines out on our way to Makatea.

The moon rose as the sun set in perfect unison.  So gorgeous.

Moonrise and Sunset

Moonrise and Sunset

As we approached Makatea the next morning, we started preparing the boat for mooring.  I was setting the lines for the mooring while Matt brought in the fishing lines.  We caught nothing, zippo, nada during the entire trip!  As Matt brought in one of the lures, we understood why we did not hear the elusive “zing” of the line.  Someone ate our skirt as an appetizer.

Someone ate her skirt!

Someone ate her skirt!

Passage Details:

Miles Traveled:  110 nm

Duration:  20:30

Avg. Speed:  5.3 kt

Max Speed:  8.1 kt

Wind Speed:  8-10 kt

Swell:  .5

Makatea has soaring cliffs that jet into the sky from the sea’s surge.  Making a very imposing sight on entry.

Approaching Makatea

Approaching Makatea

Mooring in Makatea

There is no anchorage anywhere near the island of Makatea.  There are only three moorings that are maintained by the locals.  Lucky for us, there were no other boats when we arrived.  So we had our pick of the moorings.  A fellow cruiser told us that the mooring on the far left (red) is the best one because it is not moored in super deep water (50 meters vs 100 meters).   We circled around and found the painter sunk below the water.  We grabbed the line, threaded our two lines through loop and secured Sugar Shack.    The boat is maybe 8-10 meters away from the surge and the reef – freakishly close!

Surge over reef at Makatea

Surge over reef at Makatea

Long Lost Friends

A few hours after we arrived, we saw a boat on the horizon without AIS.  We could not determine their name so we just watched as they approached.  It did not take long for us to hear the roar of “Sugar Shack.  Hey, it’s Matt and Christine!”  Well they certainly know us….if we only knew them?  They slowly motored up next to us and it was Yves and Martha on Break Away.  We had not seen them since Las Perles, Panama (over 18 months ago).  Sweet!

We let them get settled on the furthest mooring before picking them up to go exploring in town.  We had to navigate the tricky pass that has a big surge over the reef. Lucky for us, Sweetie is equipped with a 25hp outboard.  We timed it between sets and made it in with no problem.  A quick bow anchor and stern tie to dock and we are off.  The photo below shows the surge over the reef between the two poles which is the entrance.

Entrance to Makatea Port

Entrance to Makatea Port

On Shore – Makatea

We found lots of industrial equipment, the le marie (mayor’s office) and a magasin with ice cream and wifi.  We decided to turn back before it got too dark and enjoyed sun downers on Break Away.

Old trains abandoned on the island

Old trains abandoned on the island

The map below shows the trail we will go on during our tour.  See Belvedere and Pot Hole.

Map of Makatea

Map of Makatea

The terrain was mixed between large rocks jetting from the ground to beautiful forests.  I am sure will learn more about this on our tour.

Lots of phosphate rocks on this island

Lots of phosphate rocks on this island

Returning to the port, we see our beautiful boat sitting close to the ruins.

Sugar Shack on her mooring close to the reef

Sugar Shack on her mooring close to the reef

Playful dolphins entertain us

Isla Santa Catalina & Bahia Honda

We visit two islands: Isla Santa Catalina and Bahia Honda.  First, a short 13 nm away, is a small island called Isla Santa Catalina.  We pulled up anchor at Isla Cebaco in sweltering heat, with no wind, scattered clouds, and a bright blue sky.  It was good weather conditions to fly the jib with 12-13 knots of wind at 60 degrees.  All of our charts showed many reefs and shallow spots along the way.  And midway between us and our destination was a 4-meter shallow spot that we were trying to avoid.  Strange to be so far off shore in only 7-17 meters of water.  The depth vacillated a lot and quickly.

As we were motor sailing along, we noticed a huge squall off to port.  It appeared to be heading away from us, but as we continued along, it kept getting bigger and bigger.  Lots of thunder. Dark foreboding clouds, and big swells.  We hustled to put the eyebrow and rain shades down before the worst of it hit, but to no avail.  The rain was coming down in sheets making it challenging to see.   In fact, it was coming down so hard that we lost sight of the island that was a ½ mile in front of us.  Luckily, we have 5 charts, all of which combined are decent to navigate by so we were able to drop the hook and retreat inside.

Even though rainy season is not technically supposed to start for 5 more days, we’re thinking it’s here.  We remained inside for the rest of the night as the sky unloaded buckets of water.  It was a peaceful night until about 0200 when it became really rolly.  High tide came in and brought with it some big waves that kept us awake for a few hours.  But by early dawn, it calmed down and became the sweet, innocent anchorage we fell asleep in the night before.

Image:  Top: is Isla Catalina with a dilapidated surf shack and lower three photos are neighboring islands with some serious surf and breakwater.

The next morning, we set our schedule as we periodically have to live by a timeline.  We are trying to make our way to Gulfito without missing the many islands that lay between Panama and the Costa Rica border.  Monica, Matt’s mom, is coming to visit us in northern Costa Rica in a few weeks.  It is a little over 300nm from Isla Santa Catalina to Herradura Bay where we are meeting her.  Technically, we could make that passage in 2-3 days, but we would miss dozens of lovely anchorages, beaches, and islands.

After we created a “soft” sail plan, we got Sugar Shack ready to head to Bahia Honda.  A short 21-mile motor in really calm conditions, no wind, lots of birds and fish, and a few dolphins.

These dolphins always look like they are scratching their backs on the bottom of our bows.  They seem so close.  But, Matt said that our red bottom paint would come off on their silky skin (it’s ablative paint which means it is meant to come off easily but prevent growth).  Since the dolphins had no red tattoos, I assumed they are just barely missing our boat.

As we entered the mouth of Bahia Honda, we were surprised by the tall, green, mountains that make up this beautiful and spacious bay.  Image below: Top entering Bahia Honda (overcast day); Middle little island with trees speckled in white birds; Bottom surrounding islands.

As we were anchoring, a panga approached with an older gentleman and two kids.  They politely stayed back until we set the anchor.  Only then, did they approach our boat.  His name was Domingo and the kids were his grandchildren.  He wanted to welcome us to the bay, showed us where he lived, and told us that he has not seen many boats lately.  He gave us a bunch of sweet finger bananas and a pineapple and asked for nothing in return.  Of course, I scrounged around for school supplies for the kids and Matt gave him a few small fishing hooks.

Around 1500 another squall came through.  At least we were already anchored and prepared, so Matt took advantage of the fresh water and washed off the deck and took a shower.

I love this shot of two of my new favorite bananas.  The small one is a fingerling banana which is really sweet and the two large ones are plantains.  Matt has become an expert at frying them in oil to perfection for a sweet treat after dinner.

Later in the afternoon, Kennedy stopped by.  He is Domingo’s son and the father of the two kids we met the day before.  He told us that he works for an American family across the bay and that they are part of the Bush family.  Interesting.  Kennedy has worked for the family for over 20 years.  He was very nice and asked for a few items to trade as he said that everything is very expensive to bring in from Panama City and he’d prefer to trade for fruit.  They were looking for children’s clothes, shoes, batteries, cooking oil, milk, and fishing hooks.  Across the bay is Isla Bahia Honda where there is a small village, school and tienda (market).

The night was really calm and peaceful.  This is a very tranquil bay, full of wildlife and sweet people.  The next morning, we received another visitor, Santo who is Domingo’s other son.  He was interested in trading his word work for batteries, jackets, shoes.  At this point we are emptied out, not sure what we will do at the next stop.

After a few hours of cleaning, we pulled the hook and headed to our next stop.

COMING UP NEXT:

  • Islas Secas
  • Isla Parida
  • Isla Gamez
  • SUP adventures