(Update: We are currently in American Samoa, having gone to Niue, Palmerston, and Bora Bora after Taha’a. I will try to post about all three of these other destinations while in American Samoa if I can keep my patience with the VERY slow Internet!)
We ventured off for Taha’a after about a week in Huahine. We knew a weather system was about to hit and decided we needed a change of scenery before it did. Our first few nights we went into Baie de Haamene on the east side of Tahaa. The weather was terrible here and the river runoff turned the water in the bay brown. Dan and Ari dinghied into town once in the rain, but other than that, we hunkered down in our boat and relaxed, watched movies, and Ariana did a lot of school.
We were not enamored with this bay (and we could not make water there) so we opted to cruise around the northern side of Tahaa inside the reef that runs off the coast nearly all the way around the island. We ended up spending a night in Patio on the north side of the island. We had a not-so-great lunch in town and poor Internet at the post office. The next morning, we awoke to howling winds from the NE and growing seas (even inside the protected reef) so we decided to move to the west side of the island before it got ugly. We ended up anchoring in about 75 feet of water in Baie de Tapuamu, which was directly across from the motu with the Coral River snorkeling area.
Mark on Wavelength was in the anchorage and visited our boat (bringing us a baguette!). He told us how to do the Coral River snorkel, and recommended that we hit it that afternoon while we were having a break in the weather since the next few days we were predicted to have rain and high winds again.
We followed his advice and were so glad we did. You beach your dinghy on one side of a motu and then you walk to the other side and drift down the coral river. There are SO many fish. They are used to being fed so we brought toast crackers to feed them. It was truly amazing how many species of fish there were and how unafraid they were of people. They would come right up to you and stay near you. One even nibbled my leg a little bit! (It didn’t hurt.) One of the best parts about this snorkel was that we finally got Ryan to try it. Granted, he was without a snorkel, but he wore goggles and swam through looking at all the fish. We are hoping to go again one more time tomorrow, before we leave for Bora Bora, and I am going to encourage Ryan to try a snorkel and mask this time.
In other news, we had a Teleflex cable break on our throttle so we could not put the boat into gear on the port side from the helm. It made for a comical show when we realized we were beginning to get very close to coral reef on our port side and we knew we had to pick up and re-anchor nearer to the middle of the bay. It takes a long time to pick up 240 feet of anchor! Ari and Ryan were arguing on the bow while I am at the helm trying to control the boat, and Dan was down in the port engine compartment controlling the throttle for that engine. After yelling at Ryan to go back inside, I was able to work with Ariana and Dan to keep the boat over the anchor so Ariana could raise it, and we finally got re-anchored further away from the reef—still in very deep water (73 feet). Fun times.
We needed to get off of the boat, so despite the rain, we dinghied into the very small town. The store had no baguettes left (they go early, apparently) so we walked on. The town had one small restaurant that served pizza four nights a week, and of all things, a fairly new rum distillery! The owner was there and he gave us a tour of the facility (called Pari Pari) and told us how he makes his rum, coconut oil, etc. He was originally from France and moved here with his family to start this business. He was able to produce 5,000 bottles of rum last year and is hoping to grow his business when he finally gets the pot still he ordered over a year ago. We also had a taste of his 40% and 50% alcohol rum. It turned out to be a very educational experience for our kids, albeit not the traditional field trip destination for a school kid. Of course, we ended up purchasing a bottle of his niche rum—we have to support a small business owner, right? 😉
That same day, the French police approached our boat and checked each of our passports. They so kindly reminded us that our 90-day visas for French Polynesia were expiring in less than two weeks. Great… We still wanted to hit Bora Bora and Maupiti with less than two weeks to do it. And to further complicate matters, we still needed to go south to Raiatea to get a new throttle cable. So, on Friday, despite the unrelenting bad weather, we decided to make our way to Raiatea to get a new cable for our throttle. The store that sold them was actually open for 2 hours on Saturday morning (but not open on Sunday), so it was either now or wait until Monday. Dan rigged a way to use the port engine from the helm and we ventured off to Uturoa, Raiatea. This turned out to be the worst “anchorage” ever imaginable given the windy conditions. Although the anchorage was inside the fringing reef and therefore presumably protected, it was still very rough, extremely windy, and we ended up anchored basically in a channel getting waked by all the passing powerboats. Surprise, surprise, the next morning it was pouring rain. Dan and Ari got in the dinghy and headed off to town in the deluge of rain getting seasprayed in the process—and this was no short dinghy ride. They didn’t make it. To add insult to injury, the dinghy motor decided to act up and they had to come back.
Later, Dan decided we just couldn’t spend another two nights in this crappy, stressful anchorage. Desperation led Dan to dinghy in by himself with a persnickety engine, but he was successful! Dan returned to the boat with a new Teleflex throttle cable in exactly the right size, and baguettes and chicken! What more could you ask for? With fire under his derriere, Handy Dan managed to get the new throttle cable installed in less than an hour with barely any help from us. Woo hoo! We got the heck out of dodge and went back to the same protected anchorage we were in previously (Baie de Tapuamu). We made it back in mid-afternoon and it—was—still—raining. Geesh. We planned to go out for pizza at that one restaurant but the rain was unrelenting and no one really felt like going out. I was just getting ready to make dinner when Dan volunteered to go in to pick it up. Luckily, I could call ahead and order it.
For whatever reason, we were having one of those weeks where nothing is easy. Dan tried to go to the dock that was close to the pizza place but kept hitting rocks no matter which way he tried to approach in the dinghy. He ended up having to go to the main dock and walk quite a ways to get there. Luckily, he had the huge soft-sided cooler my brother, John, and his wife, Stacey had given us. When he finally returned in the dark an hour later, Dan, Dan the pizza deliveryman had still warm pies ready to eat. Yum.