Thursday, June 2, 2011

Raiatea/Tahaa/Bora Bora with Adam and Jessika

Raiatea/Tahaa/Maupiti with Kevin and Tony

Moorea/Tahiti with Uncle Bill

Windward Islands

Namaste has been on the move the past few weeks, checking out new anchorages, exploring the islands, and entertaining guests!
We spent May 12-17 in Maupiti with our friends Kevin and Tony. We ran into the dive operators on the island and they casually mentioned that they have giant manta rays inside the lagoon every day! We dove and were so stoked to find up to six rays swimming around a few coral head cleaning stations. The mantas were feeding and circling us, stopping regularly at a certain spot to have small fish swim up and rid them of pesty parasites. We stayed underwater watching the magnificent creatures for over an hour. It was so special to share this experience with our friends, and they were equally awed by their gentle and curious nature. We met a semi-local American, Johnny Coconut, from Davis and he stoked us out with an early morning drop-off - a beautiful albicore tuna he caught offshore the day prior.
Maupiti's Onoiau Pass gave us a wild ride as we left the Pacific jewel island, with 6-8 foot swells crashing all around. We had a beautiful sail to Bora Bora and feasted on our fresh tuna, pan-fried with a panko-macadamia nut crust. Unfortunately, the rest of the night was not as sweet. Around 8 pm, we discovered our dinghy was gone! We searched the area for two hours with high-powered flashlights, hoping to pick up the reflective tape on our motor. We reported the incident to the local Gendarmarie, but there have been no reports to date. It was a huge blow to us - it's like having your car stolen, and all you have left to get around in is a scooter. It's even more devastating when theft happens in such an idyllic locale.
We said goodbye to Tony and Kevin with a heavy heart, but their positive attitude and help made things a little easier to swallow. After a fruitless search, we sailed back to Raiatea and rented a dinghy from the local Moorings charter company. Their representative was extremely helpful and sympathetic to our situation. She also said there had been a dramatic increase in crime over the past year, and expressed frustration that locals would target cruisers.
After picking up our friends, Adam and Jess, we headed over to the Teavapiti Pass, where we taught Jess how to breath underwater. She and I did a nice beginner dive inside the lagoon, finding cool pockets of sea anenome and their symbiotic partner, commonly known as the clown fish. Later that afternoon, Chris and Adam dove outside the reef near the pass, spotting loads of tangs and groupers, and a large grey shark.
On Tuesday afternoon, we sailed across the turquoise-blue lagoon water to Tahaa and anchored up near motu Tautau. We did this amazing drift snorkle in crystal-clear water between two motus, and it was stunning. As we passed over the coral reef, we saw a giant school of black-striped surgeonfish and loads of parrotfish, triggerfish and butterfly fish that were so friendly, they would swim right up to us anytime we stopped to take in the scenery. The fire, staghorn and branching coral were all in excellent condition. Jess even spotted a small octupus - so cool! We woke up to scorching conditions the following morning, so Adam, Jess and I kayaked and paddled over to the motus, while Chris stayed behind and worked on the dive compressor. We dove that afternoon at a reef inside the lagoon, but Jess and I had to abort early on because she was having trouble equalizing due to her sinus infection. We had such an awesome time on the drift snorkel, we decided to drop in again and let the current carry us over the pristine channel.
We sailed to Bora Bora the next day and had a chill afternoon after we anchored up at the southern tip. The following day, we circumnavigated the island in our rented dinghy and 5 HP outboard! Needless to say it was more than "a 3-hour tour", but we enjoyed the beautiful landscape and checking out the long coastline and motus. We went in search of mantas on the eastern side of the island, and we're pretty sure we found the spot, but there was a massive plankton bloom and the visibility was greatly reduced. We weren't able to find them, but we did snorkel around for a bit.
We had dinner at the bar at "Bloody Mary's" and enjoyed sashimi and ribs. The restaurant has been a famous spot on the island for years, and it's often frequented by the Hollywood elite, although all we met was a nice Spanish couple off a megayacht, who were of course, on their honeymoon.
On Saturday, Chris and Adam scuba dived off motu Toopua, while I tended the boat and let them drift, and they had an amazing dive with 100-feet of visibility, a very alive reef, and thousands of fish. Chris said it's the best dive he's ever had inside a lagoon. This was a huge relief, after the reef devastation we've seen in the Society Islands. Later that afternoon, we cruised into town and met a local Frenchwoman, Isabelle, who's lived there for 15 years and owns her a beautiful gallery featuring local talent. We chatted with her for a quite a while and described the efforts the island is taking to keep their reefs alive, and reduce overfishing. It's a bit of a culture clash, and the locals are having difficulty changing their ways, but strides are being made and she is hopeful the reef will continue to flourish. It was good to return to Bora Bora and leave with a much-better taste in my mouth after our dinghy issue. We did scour the western coastline, checking on all the outboards in the lagoon, to no avail.
We sailed to Raiatea on Sunday and checked in on a used dinghy lead, but the owner was unsure he was ready to part with it. We dropped off our rental Monday morning and sailed out the pass, headed to Tahiti. The wind was stronger then predicted and we opted to duck into Huahine to wait for a better weather-window on Thursday. We hooked up with Doin' It, another cruiser who did the ocean passage a week-behind us. We're stoked that after 6 months of emailing and radio contact, we got to meet in person. It was the perfect detour.
We hauled anchor early in the morning and had a mellow motorsail to Moorea, arriving after dark. We left early in the morning for Tahiti and are currently on a mooring at the yacht Club de Tahiti. We're meeting our agent in the morning to head into town and purchase a new dinghy and outboard - OUCH! But, at this point, we have no other options.
More to come...