Few things focus my attention as when I am guiding a boat through plentiful, unknown, scarcely marked coral heads. The island boats, full of long acquired local knowledge, just zip along in Raiatea and Tahaa at full speed. The visitors, like us, creep along staying true to the maxim that one should never approach anything faster than you want to hit it. And since coral is all around one tends to remain prudent.
On Saturday morning the winds had finally quieted down to a mere 20 knots and so we left our mooring in Raiatea and started our 126 nautical mile/30 hour trip to Papeete. We were not exactly looking forward to going directly into the winds and into the seas whipped up after several days of high winds. But the first and perhaps most challenging part of the voyage, was to maneuver the coral fringed waterways, go around the tip of Raiatea to the its eastern side, and then exit the reef at Iriru Pass.
It was 8 am and the crew kept their eyes out for the always hard to see navigation aids and any other indication as to where the channel was. The day was overcast and gray and visibility could have been better. Caroline used the binoculars with integrated compass in a highly efficient manner. Once she picked up an aid she would call it out with a magnetic bearing from our boat which allowed me to then refer to the binnacle compass, quickly locate the aid, and judge our course in relation to the edge of the waterway.
After moving along gingerly for about and hour and a half, we arrived off Iriru pass where we raised the mainsail and then went through the opening. It is always captivating to move the boat through a narrow opening of relative calmer water while to both your left and right big waves are crashing on rocks and which seem to not only draw your gaze towards them but perhaps the whole boat as well.
We were soon out of the pass and proceeded another two miles out before turning right towards Papeete. The wind was blowing at a good clip and exactly in the direction we wanted to go. So we turned on the engine and pushed forward as we left Raiatea to our right and saw the island of Huahine off to our left.
For the longest amount of time it seemed like we were stuck to Huahine. Hours would go by and the island was still right next to us. Our hourly plots on the charts showed that we were making progress at about 4-5 knots an hour yet the appearance was that it was taking a long time to get away from Huahine.
All of the crew was in the cockpit. Bob and Maren, Caroline and me and we settled in for the long ride. We have some large comfortable seats that can be brought up into the cockpit and allow for very civilized passages and for pleasant naps. These seats have proven to be very popular.
We had a full moon and the night was spectacularly beautiful. The sky was full of stars but the moon just overwhelmed everything and it shone so vividly on the water.
When the moon first came out it caused a bit of alarm. I was on watch and saw out to port what seemed to be the long yellowish lights of the bridge of a large ship that seemed quite close. It was only a bit of the moon peeking from behind a slit in a low lying rectangular cloud.
All of us enjoyed the beautiful night and in the morning we were rewarded with a great sunrise coming from behind the sharp irregular mountains of the island of Moorea. It was lovely in itself but also because it meant we were close to our destination, Papeete.
At least I thought so. Bob Wrigley came topside, saw Moorea so close and reminded me he had reservations at a hotel in Moorea for that day. So we immediately did some new route planning, changed course and headed for Cook's Bay.
Bob said he remembered from a recent trip a small port on the bay where we could come in alongside and leave them off. He said "you just need to come in then make a wide sweep towards the right of the port, turn back and come put your starboard side on the dock." So he had a good mental picture and described it well so I was assured about this place I had never seen.
A bit later a doubt hit me, I realized there was something we had not discussed. "Bob, how deep is this place?"
Bob, fully conscious of the six foot draft of Pilialoha, looked a bit perplexed and said "I dont know."
So we headed into Cook's Bay, found the port and saw that it was much smaller than we thought. There was no way we could turn around in the small area much less come along the starboard side. So we went in very slowly looking at the emerald waters very carefully as well as the depth gauge. Bob said, "Just put your portside to the wharf." I answered, "Yes, but all the lines and fenders are set for starboard!" In a flash everything was moved and we made the gentlest of landings and quickly tied up in eight feet of water.
Bob and Maren went ashore, pictures were taken, farewells were said, and Pilialoha backed straight out the same way it came in. We tied up at a mooring off the Bali Hai Hotel to rest, shower and have lunch. Then we started the last leg of the trip to Papeete.
The winds were over 25 knots as we left Cooks Bay so we reefed down and had a heck of a nice ride doing 8 knots with a second reef in as well as a very small bit of jib exposed. We were off Marina Taina in no time, got through the reef. We called the marina and they had someone lead us to our great berth and help us with the lines.
It was Hinano time. Now to plan the provisioning and receive the rest of the crew.
Pilialoha in Paradise