July 27, 2003, 2:00 p.m.
At anchor, Avea Bay, Huahine, French Polynesia
Dear friends and family:
We are anchored in one of the loveliest, and most idyllic bays we have seen thus far in the South Pacific. We have escaped the hustle-bustle of Papeete, and we're looking out at palm trees lining a white sand beach, six or seven other boats anchored here in turquoise blue water, reefs with colorful fish only a short swim away, French and Tahitian children playing on the beach... If you were going to plan a vacation in French Polynesia, this would be my number one candidate (so far) for the place to do it. The small resort here in Avea Bay is called Relais Mahana. I haven't eaten in their restaurant or seen their rooms, but otherwise it seems like a very pleasant place.
I think Craig wrote just as we were arriving here, and before we had gone ashore. We had a rather wild ride from Tahiti, in 25-30 knot winds and big, confused seas. The distance from Tahiti dictates that this is an overnight passage, but only just barely. The idea is that you leave Tahiti at sunset, and then try not to go any faster than 5 knots, so that you get to Huahine well after sun-up. (The sun overhead gives better visibility for spotting - and avoiding - any coral reefs). But we had a hard time holding our speed down to 7 knots (much less 5), even with three reefs in the mainsail, and just a scrap of the genoa out. So we arrived rather early in the morning. No matter -- we came in to Avamoa pass, on the northwest corner of Huahine Nui. It's a big, easy pass, and leads right to the waterfront of Fare, the biggest town on Huahine. We anchored just off the reef, and promptly went to sleep. (It was our first overnight passage in the South Pacific with just the two of us, and we're not entirely used to the three hours on -- three hours off -- schedule).
The current in this area is quite strong, and so are the winds. The boat tended to want to stream with the current, and so there was a lot of clanking of the anchor chain when the big gusts of wind came up. I told Craig is sounded rather like the ghost of Marley, dragging around his chains in Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." We went ashore at Fare and were delighted by the little town. The people were friendly and easy to talk to. Along the quay, there were crates lined up with agricultural products ready to go to a competition in Tahiti. Some of the crates were open-slatted, with the world's largest taro roots hanging inside.
|The street scene was charming: two story buildings with balconies on the landward side of the street, and open quay with benches and small buildings on the ocean side. Big trees provide shade along the street.|
(food trucks) are lined up along the quay, offering many different foods to
the passersby. (Craig says that in the States these trucks are called
"roach coaches." It's the sort of truck that may go to the parking lot of a
small to medium sized company -- with no cafeteria -- to sell lunches to the
workers. More recently, at least in Oregon, they are selling tacos.)
|After another night with Marley dragging his chains around the bottom, we decided to move to Avea Bay. The various guide books we have describe this as one of the prettiest anchorages in French Polynesia, and we certainly concur. The way here from Fare is entirely inside the reef. At times the channel is wide and easy, but other times it becomes narrow and circuitous.|
You can easily see the reef toward the ocean -- the water becomes suddenly shallow and pale blue. Toward the island, however, it's a bit trickier.
darker spots in the turquoise blue water could be deeper places, or they
could be a coral head coming to within a few feet of the surface. We trust,
however, in those French buoys, which were generously provided here -- all
along the distance of about 8 miles from Fare.
It's notable that most of the American boats are now gone. Most arrived in the Marquesas at about the same time we did -- the first of May -- and now their three month visas are expiring. We went through a tremendous amount of grief, both before the trip and in Papeete, to get a five month visa, but apparently we were almost the only ones who did. European boats -- being from EC member countries -- are not subject to the three month visa rule, so nearly all the boats we now see are flying one European flag or another. In Papeete we saw a lot of Germans and Scandinavians, several boats from Switzerland and one from Austria. Here there are a lot of Belgians. We've made friends with Tramontana, a Belgian flagged boat carrying a couple from Holland. When we first arrived in Avea Bay, we befriended Gold Braid, a boat from Manchester, England. Martin, the owner, and crew Will (Scottish?) and Tischa (sp.?) (Dutch) went out to dinner with us at one of the two local restaurants -- said to be one of the best in Polynesia for Polynesian food. We ordered off the Polynesian menu selections, only to be told, a few minutes later, that they were "all sold out." Since there was only one other table occupied in the restaurant, that's hard to figure out. We ordered other selections -- and I must say they were excellent. It turned out that Tischa, who has a lactose intolerance, had inadvertently ordered fish with a cheese sauce. So there commenced a great round of plate-swapping, and we all ended up with something different than we had ordered. Great fun.