AIS Positon

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Best of the Society Islands Leeward Group (aka The Huahine Chronicals)

Aitutaki, Cook Islands
Anchored outside pass
18 51.35S/159 48.8W

We arrived Aitutaki early yesterday morning and anchored just south of the pass in mixed coral heads and sand ravines - not ideal conditions. We timed our arrival with diminished seas, and are only rolling moderately; all is well on board. We will report more about our re-entry into english speaking islands once our baguette withdrawl recedes (one can sufficate here in a sea of white bread). In the meantime, the following information will be of interest to those who follow us:

Our...Best of the Society Islands Leeward Group (aka The Huahine Chronicals)

1. Huahine

Huahine is the most laid back/quiet large island in FP. An absolute favorite spot (and a great cruising experience) was at the Motu Murimahora anchorage on the east side of the island. We entered Pass Farerea, immediately turning south towards Bai Apoomati and Motu Murimahora. Following a line of island side marks as we proceeded south, we snuck into a narrow channeled harbor on this quiet side of the island. As you approach the middle point of the motu, the line of marks on your right side ends but continues with marks a bit farther down on the (left) motu side. Between the sets of marks you will find a gorgeous anchorage in a 17 foot deep, broad, plateau of sand at 16 45.86S/150 57.56W.

We made a shore excursion as we heard there were fruits/veggies for sale. Immediately south of a prominent and fancy "plantation" belonging to the family that owns the large grocery in Fare, we met 2 families and were given cantaloupes, papayas, string beans, bok choy, and fresh herbs; neither family would take money. Pascal is the husband residing in the second house, along with spouse and many children. They hardly accepted the gifts we returned with later that day. The children took chocolates however, and we also gave some veggie seeds to help their burgeoning vegetable growing business, starting soil, a pair of extra reef flip-flops, and 2 nat'l geo mags for the children learning english. Our friends Steve and Trish brought some pens and pencils, sunglasses, and a frisbee for the kids. As a final thank you, we took the children "tubing" the next morning before we left. What a hoot!

Fare was a friendly village. There is one anchorage on your left as you enter off the beach by town. We continued around to the right and anchored at the edge if the channel on either side of the green buoy opposite Bank Taiuriu. There is good provisioning at the grocery although it was a bit more expensive than Papeete, and fresh produce was hit and miss. There is an enjoyable waterfront bar/restaurant by the dinghy landing, and a few crafts shops in town. Roads were flat and newly paved which made for some excellent cycling. We dove Pass Avapehi but coral was not healthy and the dive was just ok.

There is not enough swing room to anchor in the small cove inside Bank Taiuriu. Baie Fiti is a wind tunnel with SE winds. Anchoring inside Port Bourayne was difficult. And we anchored just outside. We did not make it as far as Baie D'Avea, as winds were fresh and the anchorage too exposed.

2. Tahaa/Raitea

The lagoon encompassing these two islands is a large area, and we only explored some of it. We spent several nights on the southern extent of Tahaa at the Taravana YC, located just inside Baie Apu, immediately on your right as you approach. The YC is now owned/operated by Richard, and he can be contacted at 689 656101 (office) or 689 280808 (cell) There is no charge for the moorings if you use the bar and restaurant. Richard hosts a buffet dinner and Polynesian dance presentation Tuesday evenings for 6000f/pp. Dinner includes water and wine, and the performers are young locals with infectious enthusiasm. Note: Tuesday moorings usually require a reservation as they fill quickly.

We took the dingy into the bay and hiked to a vanilla distributor where we saw preparation of the plant and product. There was also good cycling around Tahaa.

Fuel and provisioning are available at the main village of Utaroa. The Shell station has a guest dock nearly in the middle of town, but does not offer duty free fuel. The Total station is located just north at the head of the small inlet adjacent to the municipal marina, and Total does offer duty free diesel. We fueled at Total late morning on Saturday, and then were able to lie there for the afternoon (they operate 7-11AM on Saturdays & Sundays) for the 10 minute walk into town and provisions. Have large and plenty fenders on the ready for either dock.

In town one can provision at a Champion market, or 2 oriental markets. Jean Luc at Liaut market speaks English. A sail down the east side of Raitea was a great day activity as we headed towards Isla Naonao, by Naonao Pass on the south side of the lagoon. We anchored in 20 feet of sand at 16 55.00S/151 25.80W by the NW corner of the island. The snorkeling around Isla Naonao, both by the reef just west of it and in the waters along its southern shore, was fantastic - and some of the best in the Societies.

Unfortunately, we were not welcomed on the island. An American has purchased it and placed caretakers there to chase you off should you choose to land. Although all beaches in FP are open and public, they tried to chase us off the beach as well. We finally said we would leave, but we took our time about it and enjoyed ourselves. They also tried to do the same thing to a group of locals that came out for the day, eliciting a similar response. I do not suppose that actions such as these ingratiate native French Polynesians to the USA.

3. Bora Bora

We did not spend much time in Bora Bora. The village and island were not as tidy as others, and the people simply did not appear to be as friendly and welcoming. The lagoon and the high island are striking and beautiful, however. The BB Yacht Club suffered significant damage in last years typhoon and is still being rebuilt - moorings are still available however. We biked around the island, did some light provisioning, and dove the Teavanui Pass with a dive service. The fish are fed here, and there were numerous large lemon sharks close at hand. Quite arresting, but the experience was tarnished due to the fact that they interfered and fed the reef fish.

4. Mopelia (or Maupihaa)

Mopelia is located approximately 135 nm WSW of Bora Bora. A true atoll, Mopelia has an extremely NARROW entry, but one that is protected as it lies on the NW corner. There is almost always an outflowing current of 3 or more knots; the water is roiled in the pass and just outside, but standing waves over 1 foot rarely will form.

Charts show a village in the NE corner as well as several bouys and marks around the pass, but the village is no longer there and reportedly it was destroyed by a typhoon sometime in the 1990's. You will now find the ruins of several homes and remnants of a pier. The 3 families that inhabit the island in 2010 all live in the SE corner. A large family headed by Calami and Sophie inhabit the "middle" homestead, including Calami's son, daughter-in-law, and several grandchildren . There are two other small families living there as well but we did not meet them.

Mopelia highlights include a very beautiful lagoon, nice beaches, and solitude. The diving just outside the pass is exceptional, the best we had done in the Societies. The snorkeling is good too, although you have to consider snorkeling outside the pass with surge and swells, or just inside the pass with considerable current.

Pass entry information was provided to us by Scott on S/Y Beachhouse, and I present it here with minimal changes, as we could not say it better ourselves.

THE ENTRANCE PASS HAS TWO BLACK AND WHITE POLES THAT ARE ABOUT 90 FEET APART AND SET AT AN ANGLE. THE FIRST POLE IS THE NORTHERLY ONE AND YOU KEEP IT ON YOUR LEFT HAND AS YOU ENTER. THE SECOND (SOUTHERLY) POLE EDGES THE REEF ON THE RIGHT AS YOU ENTER.

THE ONLY TIME YOU DON'T WANT TO COME HERE IS IN A WESTERLY. PASS CURRENT, 2-6 KNOTS DEPENDING ON TIME OF DAY. YOU'D LIKE SOME 10:30 AM TO 2 PM SUN. NO STANDING WAVES BIGGER THAN 1-2 FEET AT THE STRONGEST CURRENT. YOUR CHART WILL BE (LIKE MAUPITI), SLIGHTLY OFF. THE ISLAND IS FURTHER NORTH BY ABOUT 220 YARDS THAN ON OUR CHARTS (NAVIONICS). MAXSEA AND C-MAP ARE THE SAME.

IT LOOKS VERY NARROW FROM THE OUTSIDE....AND...IT IS! HOWEVER, WE DID NOT THINK IT A PROBLEM AT ALL AND WE ARE VERY FAT. THE KEY IS....YOU WANT TO FAVOR THE RIGHT ONCE INSIDE. THE CHART MAKES IT LOOK LIKE A LONG NARROW DRY REEF ON BOTH SIDES. IT'S NOT!...THE RIGHT IS DRY, THE LEFT SIDES OBSTRUCTIONS ARE ALL VERY SHALLOW AND NOT EASILY SEEN, PUT SOMEONE AT THE LOWER SPREADERS. YOU HAVE 14-16 FEET (FROM THE SURFACE) AT ALL TIMES. ONCE INSIDE, THE REEF OPENING SORT OF FANS OUT. WATCH THE SHALLOWS ON THE RIGHT AND USE THEM AS YOUR GUIDE. THE FURTHER IN YOU GET, THE MORE YOU WILL START TO GET AWAY FROM THE RIGHT SIDE, THAT'S OKAY. DISCONCERTING AS ONCE INSIDE ABOUT 100 YARDS, IT LOOKS LIKE BOMMIES IN FRONT OF YOU. THERE ARE!...BUT, THAT'S WHERE YOU GET 14-16 FEET MINIMUMS. MOST OF THE CHANNEL INCLUDING THE ENTRANCE IS 25-60 FEET DEEP.
JUST THE SIDES ARE ONE FOOT DEEP, BUT VERY EASY TO SEE. ONCE PAST THE BOMMIES, YOU CAN BASICALLY GO ANYWHERE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LAGOON. THERE ARE ABANDONED PEARL FARM BUOYS ON THE WEST/SOUTH SIDES. SOME IN THE MIDDLE, SOME 2 FEET DEEP...THOSE YOU WANT TO WATCH FOR. 10 PEOPLE ON THE SOUTH WEST SIDE OF THE EASTERN MOTU. KALAMI AND SOPHIE AND FAMILY. RUSTIC DOESN'T COME CLOSE TO DESCRIBING THEIR LIFE STYLE!.... COPRA HARVESTING. THEY WOULD LOVE SOME FRESH FRUIT, IT WOULD BOND YOU IMMEDIATELY.

Of note, there is a chart offset of approximately 220 yards, with the chart shifted to the north. In other words, the pass as seen on the chart will be north of your entry point by this amount – your boat will lie 220 yards south of the charted pass as you enter. Our waypoints were as follows:

Approach – 16 46.868S/153 58.735W
Approach - 16 46.913S/153 58.678W
Pass Outer Entry Point - 16 46.953S/153 58.627W
Inner Pass Exit - 16 47.155S/153 58.381W
Inner Pass Approach - 16 47.317S/153 58.242W

Once inside, navigation is not difficult in good light. There are few reefs to avoid, but numerous abandoned pearl buoys abound, and many are just submerged. Be aware.

One can head down to the SE anchorage area, waypoint 16 49.683S/155 65.63W, or head more or less east to a second anchorage near 16 47.05S/153 56.66W. The SE anchorage is near the inhabited area of the atoll, and provides slightly more protection in winds from the south to east. The eastern anchorage provides better protection from the east to north, and access to the pass for diving. Neither anchorage area would be enjoyable in westerlies.

In light easterlies it is reported that one can anchor just inside the pass by the western motus south of the entry, but winds did not cooperate during our stay. We moved to the eastern anchorage and took the dinghy 1.65 nm across the lagoon to dive. There is quite a bit of current in the pass and a 15 HP or greater engine is best for this as you traverse the pass, and then return to the anchorage against the east wind. There is a buoy just outside the pass on the south side which marks the anchor chain of "The Seadler" shipwreck, and one can tie the dinghy to it for a dive along the wall to the south of the pass. You can begin your dive by dropping 30 feet to the bottom in nice coral, and then proceed a short distance west to the wall. We dove to 70-90 feet and (turned left) swam south against a very light counter current along a beautiful 70 degree wall. Coral was great, fish were large and abundant. We turned around at a ravine about 20 – 25 minutes into the dive (~1800 psi), ascended to 30-40 feet, and drifted back with the current. The dive then continues past the buoy to the edge of the pass, where you hang out and watch the fish and their antics. It was stupendous.

Another time we brought a heavier anchor (mother ship stern anchor) and did a similar dive along the north wall. Also excellent, but perhaps the coral was not quite as healthy and the North wall of the pass has more current and less visability.

Enjoy.