Tag Archives: raiatea

Disaster on the Reef

Believe it or not, you do not “need” a license, training, or a certification to sail a boat.  You can buy a boat and just go.  Interesting in that you need a license to fly a plane, drive a car, and rent a scooter.  With that said, we have seen disaster after disaster at sea on the reef!

We made friends with Dominique, the owner / operator of Raiatea Yacht Carenage, when we hauled out Sugar Shack in 2020 (see blog post).  His tug company, Raiatea Carenage Tug Services, has recovered 142 yachts off the main barrier reef and well over 200 lagoon groundings over the last 32 years.  About 10-11 boats a year!  He said “some years we have no boats on the reef and other years we have 10 boats.  During a hurricane year, he retrieved 11 boats in week.  It is very variable.”

Over a two-month period, August to September 2021, Dominique recovered 4 boats.  Two sailboats in Huahine, one large power cat in Makemo and a sailing cat off of Tahiti.  I’m super happy that he is busy and putting lots of locals to work.  He is also cleaning up the mess and minimizing the damage to reefs.  However, it is devasting to see so many disasters in such a short period of time.

In August, the first catamaran ran aground outside of Huahine when the captain fell asleep.  Luckily this boat did not sit for long and was fairly easy to retrieve with not a significant amount of damage to the reef.  This is a local charter boat. I added the smiley face to keep the company name private.

Then a few weeks later, a large power catamaran ran aground in Tuamotus (over 400nm away from Raiatea).   This was a beautiful power cat that when discovered was already listing severely to port.  Dominque’s expertise salvaged this yacht and transported it all the way back to Raiatea where he will put her back together.

The owner requested no publicity so I cannot post the dramatic photos.

Disaster Hits Huahine Again

About a week later, a sailing monohull, whom we knew and encountered several times over the years, ran aground in Huahine.  Unfortunately, our encounters were less than pleasant each time.  They had the uncanny ability to disrespect the locals and authorities where ever they went.  Which is amusing as this is a Christian “teaching boat.” The owner charges a fee to each student to teach them how to sail.

Long story short, he had a new group of students, they were moving during confinement (illegal), and he went to sleep just before arriving the pass at night (unusually unwise).  Then disaster strikes and they run aground.  All 8 passengers had to be rescued by helicopter and taken ashore at night.

He did not have insurance and did not have the money to pay to remove the boat from the reef.  The boat sat on the reef for a few weeks, moving and destroying more and more coral with each passing wave.  The French Government told the owner to come up with the money or be faced with charges.  Supposedly, the church helped him pay for the recovery.  Which upsets me even more that church donations were used for this boat recovery instead of feeding and clothing the congregation.

Raiatea Carenage Tug Services is deployed to come to the rescue.  Not only do they deploy this beautiful tug boat, but they bring a small tender, a jet ski, and another large power boat.  All tricks of the trade used to recover boats off the reef.

After all that time, the boat aground, the boat did severe damage to the reef (see top photo where there is a white line).  That is the boat’s trail of destruction.

Dominique’s team has to risk their life trying to save this boat.  They fight huge waves and current while walking on unstable ground.  They take smaller boats and a jet ski out to the wreck.  Look at the worker in red under the boat on the bottom photo.

The damage to the yacht is substantial.

During the recovery, the team worked in horrific conditions.  Enormous waves pounding the boat causing her to pop up and slam down on the reef.  Causing more and more damage to the yacht and the reef.  Despite heroic efforts, the boat sustained severe damage causing a 1-meter square hole in the aft part of the boat and then promptly sank 700 meters into the sea.  Lost to Neptune.

A true disaster for the owner and the reef

A true disaster for the owner and the reef

Just a few days after the team returned back to the yard, another boat went aground in Tahiti.  It just seems to never end.  Yet another catamaran ran aground off the coast of Tahiti.

Unfortunately, most of these disasters could be avoided.  If only the captain and crew would stay alert and awake and use the abundant charts available to cruisers.  Yes, accidents happen. Yes, weather can be a huge contributor.  But the boat wrecks mentioned in this blog were all due to user error.

Hao Hazzard

A beautiful Outreimer went aground after a particularly heavy storm.  This beautiful boat took on a lot of water.  Dominique was able to retrieve the boat off the reef and place her in the old military basin in Hao.

Sugar Shack

Makes me eternally grateful for Matt’s incredible diligence as our ship’s captain.  When we are under way, we take shifts to ensure we don’t fall asleep. We are also running multiple charts including: Gamin, C-Map, Open CPN, and 3 different satellite earth views to ensure we never have a disaster occur.  God willing we continue to be as blessed.

In the last blog, we rent eBikes and circumnavigate the entire island of Mo’orea.  Events from this blog post occurred during August and September.  Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind our adventures.

The Wait for a Weather Window

And the wait begins…We started formulating our plan after we dropped Donald off at the Raiatea airport.  The problem is that our “plan” is contingent on weather.  We need to start heading east but the problem is the prevailing winds come out of the east.  So, what does that mean?  It means we would be heading into the wind and into the seas.  Which is not conducive to sailing – which means motoring.  Motoring is no fun and uses up diesel unnecessarily…so we wait for a better weather window.

We left north Raiatea and headed to Ile Haio, south Raiatea.  Of course, the 15nm to this baie is directly into the wind.  We attempted to fly the jib a few times but it was mostly a motor.  At least now we are in a really protected, beautiful baie that positions us for our departure to Huahine.

Exploring Ile Haio

While wait, we explore.  This baie is gorgeous and super protected.  The wind could be howling outside the lagoon and we would not know it except for the white caps.  Every once in awhile we will get a rogue gust, but for the most part it is very pleasant. 

Ile Haio, Raiatea

Ile Haio, Raiatea

Matt and I explored Ile Haio.  We walked one side of the island last time.  This time we walked around the entire island.  It is not too far, 1.7 miles over sand, rocks, trees, and rivers.

We left Sweetie at the north end of the island near a copra farm.  This is actually a nice farm with a sturdy copra drying center (the lower structure) and a small shack for the workers. I think there was a bigger structure or house at one point as there are cement pillars all around it.  Behind the shack is a stone, retaining wall.  Above and behind the wall are two graves.  Most Polynesians bury their loved ones in their yards or on their property.

Copra Farm on Ile Haio

Copra Farm on Ile Haio

We found lots and lots of crab holes as we walked along the water’s edge. You have to be careful as your foot can cause a collapse of the hole dropping you into their home (top photo).  We came across another shack more inland.  This appeared to be more lived in as there was laundry on lines, chickens wondering around, and a few goats.  It was rather pretty with patches of green grass surrounding their fenced in garden with papaya and banana trees, and some other weird fruit we could not identify (lower right).

I love seeing signs of nature’s success – against all odds.  How does this tree flourish when its trunk is so badly damaged?

We finally made it back to the lagoon side and captured Sugar Shack sitting pretty.

The Plan: After “the wait”

At the first weather window, we will head to Huahine.  Hopefully only staying for a week to 10 days before being able to move on again.  At the next weather window, we will make our way to Tahiti or Mo’orea (depending on the wind direction).   If we end up in Mo’orea we will meet up with some of our friends to procure boat parts that they brought back from the states for us.  A short stay there before heading to Tahiti to provision for the season.  After that we will continue heading east to the Tuamotus then south toward Gambier for season.

Exploring By Land

Matt and I took Sweetie exploring around Nao Nao.  We wanted to go ashore, but it is a private island with signs forbidding entrance, so we stayed by the shoreline.  The west side (closest to the channel) had a little dock and small beach.  Both were adorned with beautiful, white beach furniture and umbrellas (top photo).  We approached from the channel and slowly made our way around the tip of the island.  As we came around the other side, we saw a small resort or a really nice private residence. 

Nao Nao Private Island

Nao Nao Private Island

We continued on to the east side of the island, furthest away from the residence.  There were no “prive” signs down here, so we decided a quick walk about was in order.  I know, we are now bending the law.  It was a rocky shoreline but still really pretty.

We did find this funny tree with a bunch of shells hanging from it – does that make it a shell tree?

Exploring by Sea

We found a wonderful snorkel spot right by the tip of Nao Nao.  We were so surprised to find so many reef fish and at least 4 or 5 different species of puffer fish.  Lots of nemos protecting their coral.

Lots of different species of puffer fish.  I just love puffer fish!

Lots of pretty fish hanging out.  Lower left corner was a group of small brilliant blue fish playing house inside a vacant clam shell.

Pretty coral heads all over

Matt then took us all the way to the reef.  He had wo bob and weave around the coral heads, but we made it.

We wait for a week before we finally get a weather window to head to Huahine – we are off tomorrow.

Events from this blog occurred between October 6-10, 2020.  Our blog posts run 6-8 weeks behind our adventures.

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.