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Friday, July 30, 2010

Dawdling in Raiatea

July 30, 2010

Note: We posted some more pictures to our Societies album on Picasa when we had internet outside the marina at Uturoa. That link is:


I forgot to write that last Sunday afternoon we enjoyed a show of kite boarders, one of whom launched from the marina breakwater steps right in front of Nakia. There were up to four of them out sailing at a time and "our" guy was quite good. He would go airborne and hang suspended before dropping down again, and also did 360's in the air. Obviously it was very windy and I was cold after my shower, but I braved it out in the cockpit until the sun went down and he finally quit.

Monday afternoon we were about to depart in the dinghy for one last look in town for eggs (which all three big stores were completely out of that morning!) when we noticed a catamaran idling slowly off the approach to our mooring. It didn't look like a charter cat (the owner of the mooring) but we turned the VHF back on to give them a call. It turned out they had a reservation for the use of the mooring for one night. We had asked marina residents if it was okay to pick it up for a night or two, but we had never officially checked in with anyone in the marina office. So we quickly got the engine running and went off to look for another place to spend the night.

Thank goodness it was 4 PM and we had plenty of time to motor around the corner to a spot in between Marina Apooiti and the mooring field in front of the Raiatea carenage. I won't bother to give coordinates for this 80' deep spot as there were plenty to choose from. We watched another late arrival anchor all by themselves off of the airport, but it was also deep water and we couldn't see any advantage to being in that (possibly restricted) location.

When we checked our email that night we had a message from our friends Ed and Nila on S/V Quixotic saying that they were anchored at Ile Naonao all the way at the southern tip of Raiatea. This was the only anchorage on my list that we had missed, and we hadn't seen these guys since the Marquesas last year, so how could we not take the time to make a surprise visit to them. We had everything from gusty to light sailing breezes as we exited Passe Rautoanui on the NW side and reentered the lagoon at Passe Punaeroa on the SW end of Raiatea. From there we motored upwind through the moderately challenging channel where the coral extended out from both sides in some places. The wind was up to 20-25 by now, but there was an oasis of calm in the lee of Naonao on the SW tip (the guidebooks more conservatively recommend the northern side in deeper water). The motu is private so we couldn't go ashore but there was some nice snorkeling and a very protected anchorage if you don't mind having only a couple of feet under your keel. Having gotten there first, Quixotic had the best protection from the motu, but the holding in sand was good where we were even if it was a bit breezy. I think this might be the first place we've anchored which was rooster free!

{GMST}16|55.174|S|151|25.910|W|Ile Naonao|Raiatea{GEND}

With high winds in the forecast for the next few days we thought it would be prudent to find a less exposed anchorage to wait out the fronts. We called Gloria Maris to see if they were still where we'd left them and they gave thumbs up to an anchorage inside Passe Tetuatiare back up the west side of the island. So we had a great downwind sail and even sailed out of Passe Punaeroa (look Ma, no hands!). Kim warned us that someone in a skiff might come out to chase us off from anchoring so we weren't surprised when we were met by first a woman in a skiff from Ile Tiano, followed shortly after by a man in a bright purple boat from Baie Ereea. They were very worried that we might drop our anchor over cables carrying electricity and water out to the privately owned motu. They wanted us to anchor in deep water NE of the the northern motu (Ile Horea), but we explained that the other two boats were our friends and we wanted to go talk to them. When we got to very shallow water south of Gloria Maris we asked Gaston (the man; both the locals were wearing Motu Tiano "staff" shirts) if this spot would be okay with him, and he was fine with it. We assume they never dreamed we'd come so far into the shallows of the small boat channel, far from where the cables are laid. We think they were also worried about how many more boats might be coming in after us!

In the process of dropping our anchor we went aground on a raised area of the sandy bottom. But some reverse thrust broke us loose and John reset the anchor in a better position. After lunch I baked a wacky (no eggs) chocolate cake and we tried to deliver it to Gaston as a peace offering. It was easy to find his house (the one with the purple boat in front), but no one was home except for a friendly, blue-eyed kitten. So we went back and invited Gloria Maris and Orca over for happy hour (and cake) on Nakia later. The wind came up at sunset and John and Kara got soaked rowing over in their little dinghy, Coconut, but we had a good evening and everyone seemed to enjoy Gaston's cake.

We are anchored in even shallower water here than we were at Naonao and the depth sounder alarm went off while we were watching a movie after dinner. We sort of ignored it until finally we both looked up at the unmistakable feel of the keel bumping the bottom. John let me finish the movie while he went out into the windy night to set a kedge anchor off the bow to keep us off the shallow spot. It wasn't a very peaceful night as we were hit by big gusts of wind in between the lulls, but we didn't hit bottom again.

{GMST}16|50.014|S|151|29.105|W|Baie Ereea|Raiatea{GEND}

This morning John reset the second bow anchor in a better spot and we are having a quiet rainy day with a few big gusts now and then. The sheer mountainside backing the bay is spectacular with over two dozen waterfall scars. Only one of them is actively running even though our friends have yet to see the top of the mountain which has been hidden by cloud cover since they got here. If we get a long enough break between showers we need to make a dinghy run into the local store to buy some eggs and baguettes. Most cruisers in the Societies are also taking shelter from the bad weather, and we've decided to stay here for the time being.