Samoa

After a few nasty weather days in Suwarrow a smallish / not so bad / should be alright / screw it let’s go for it / window opened up and we decided to press on.

The weather really has been horrible of late. Really bad. We’re all pretty fed up with it and it’s testing everyone as they cross the Pacific. Up until now it’s been the odd day of stormy rubbish surrounded by many days of sunny calm conditions. Since arriving at Bora Bora that pattern has reversed.

The more we read and learn about this area the more we come to realise that’s just how it is most of the time. There are large conversion zones in these parts, where different weather systems smack and crash into each other. The net result is unpredictable weather that can really ruin your day.

As we left Suwarrow we got smacked with one last 30+ knot squall as a farewell gift then quickly got onto our heading over to Samoa. The passage took about four days. 50% was good weather, 50% was ok but not likely to make our top ten passage list. In short we were pleased to head into Apia harbour and anchor as the sun rose.

We’re traveling with a few other boats at the moment. Winterlude (of Tahiti DHL package mix up fame), Imoogi, and Whale and the Bird. It’s good travelling as a pack, the support you feel can’t be measured, plus it’s always good to get a heads up on a new country’s check-in procedures. Two of the boats are faster than us and therefore always arrive a few hours ahead of us.

Talking of check-in’s, Samoa’s was great fun. About eight people visited our boat, all being ferried around by the dingies of the boats trying to clear in. A great time was had by all as huge Samoan customs guys leaped into their transports. One boat that had to move four such guys between a few boats suddenly realised that the weight onboard was actually slowly sinking it!

Once checked in we decided berth at the marina in town. It’s tiny, with only a few spaces, so we were pleased to see a slot free. Upon entering the marina it turns out Four Choices was in the exact same place we had berthed next to them in Tahiti. Was good to catch up with their adventures.

Apia is the main town in Samoa. It’s a strange mix of clashing building styles, spread out around the long harbour. It’s one of those nothing quite works but I like it anyway types of places. The recent history of the place explains a lot as a huge tsunami hit the area a few years back. They are still working to rebuild but some of the old buildings remain which are amazing.

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As we wandered about one thing instantly struck us. It’s easily the friendliest place we’ve visited so far. A lot of places claim this, but honestly we’ve never felt more welcomed. Five mins after stepping off the boat, we were looking for an ATM to get some local currency. A guy and his wife pulled over in their beat-up car to ask what was wrong as we ‘looked confused’. Instead of giving directions they drove us across town to the bank with the lowest fees explaining the history of the island to us as they went.

The main town is an odd place. It primarily sells cheap Chinese plastic crap, with a few places offering amazing locally crafted carvings, and nothing in between. If you want some mis-shapen rip-off plastic superheroes with the paint rubbing off… this is your place.

What the town does have is some amazing places to eat. We went out for a few meals with the little group we’re travelling with and enjoyed some amazing dishes. It also has a McDonalds.

The locals all told us that Apia isn’t the real Samoa so we got together and hired one of the local taxi guys (more on them later) to take us on a tour of the island. It’s a truly stunning place. Lush and green with crystal clear waters. We swam in waterfalls, visited great beaches, climbed down ladders to hidden caves, and, erm, drank a lot of beer! :)

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Samoa6 Samoa7 Samoa10 Samoa11Between all the beer drinking the road trip took us to the house where Robert Louis Stevenson lived, he of Treasure Island ilk. The place was amazing and perfectly preserved. Turns out the poor guy was a very sickly person and after traveling the world made Samoa his home as he found the climate more agreeable with his constitution (whatever that means). The tour guide said the Samoan people loved him as he was very fair to them, although from what I could see that meant him living in a huge house while they worked and served for him. Oh well, was interesting all the same and a lot of info on old sickly Stevenson was absorbed.

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Next day we visited the Samoan cultural centre. We were worried this would be a bit cheesy and touristy but it was actually really interesting. Samoan people take great pride in trying to preserving their way of life (cheap Chinese plastic crap not withstanding). A lot of their arts and crafts are created at the centre which was built to help keep the old skills alive. The wood carvers were amazing to watch, turning solid cubes of teak into beautiful dishes and bowls.

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We also were allowed to watch one of the local guys getting his ink on. Once the family thinks a guy is ready for this procedure (he’d bring much shame on the family if part way through he stopped) he can get a huge tattoo that runs from his middle right down to his knees. It’s pretty much solid ink but with very delicate work running throughout and it’s done traditionally. No electric needle and numbing cream here. We watched the poor fellow as the village inker used basically a small nail dipped in ink and then hammered it over his skin. Ouchy! The guy was clearly in a lot of pain but his family members and local tribesmen all watch over him and try to offer comfort. He was on his 3rd 4 hour session out of 15. Pretty impressive.

After we’d finished looking over all the different skills on display Helen and I returned to the wood carvers who we were really impressed with. Helen had spotted a design she liked so asked if he could create a piece for us. The guy agreed and we were told to return in two days.

For a small place Apia has a LOT of cool bars. We checked a few out during our stay but the most memorable was stopping by Ace bar one Friday with some of the yachties. It’s a busy bar with pool tables out the back and I loves me a game of pool. The locals were again really friendly and we were soon playing doubles against a local pair. I teamed up with Bob off Four-Choices and we won our first three games. Dean off Imoogi was looking for a partner to play with and asked the ref (a guy who sets up all the tables and resolves any issues) if he could find someone. Next moment this HUGE local guy walks over to our table towers over Dean and says ‘I’m playing with you, we’re up next.’.

Turns out he was captain of the Samoan rugby team! The rest of the team followed behind him and hung out by the bar. Fiji had just beaten Samoa in a very close final of the Pacific cup over in Vancouver and the team had just arrived back in Samoa. They clearly wanted to let off a bit of steam and we ended up playing about ten games with them.

The rules were a little all over the place and very fluid, for some reason they changed to make sure  the Captain would win. At one point I’d snookered him and he called a ‘challenge’ which seemed to suddenly mean I had to to hit his ball to win or lose if I missed. It was an easy snooker to get out as the ball was just off the top cushion but when I lined the shot up he then changed the rules so I couldn’t hit off that. I had to go off a side cushion making the shot harder. None of us could work out what was going on and with the whole rugby team watching I wasn’t going to argue. I took the shot and missed. Somehow I’d gone from a commanding position to losing the game in an instant. Still, when the smallest guy at the bar was about 7 feet tall and not much less wide I was happy to get out with my legs still attached!

The drinks flowed and we had a great time with them. They started getting a bit ‘slappy’ with each other by the end of the night so we ducked out before an accidental slap knocked one of our heads clean off.

Once again the weather was proving to be all over the place and we ended up trapped as conditions were too rough to venture out. We did a tour over the other island nearby, Savai’i, which was nice but not as much fun as the mainland actually. Was good to see the differences between the islands and of course the locals of each think their’s is the best. The ferry over was fun as well. I think it was an ex Manly Ferry from Sydney circa 1835. There wasn’t anywhere to sit so we were in the crew quarters from what we could tell. The guy who kept heading into the engine room with a huge spanner really reassured us as well.

On the other island we did stop at this amazing lava flow area where it ran straight through a church. Not sure what the big guy upstairs had in mind that day but it made for a cool area to explore.

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We also visited an area where Turtles hung out. They were quite tame and loved eating fruit which Helen shared with them, all say Arhhhhhrrr.

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The taxi guy also found us a pretty nice spot for lunch. After the boozey road trip a few days before we were actually quite well behaved (maybe the thought of being half cut on that ferry heading back had something to do with it).

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Apia is known for being hot and towards the end of our stay it got crazy. Luckily an amazing snorkelling beach is just behind the marina where we went to cool off a few times. As with most places the coral is just starting to come back after getting smacked with the tsunami that hit a few years earlier. Still lots of fish around though and chilling in the waters was more like survival then anything.

The bar near the marina also offered some nice shade in the afternoons.Samoa13

Before we left we returned to the cultural village to pick up our wood carving. Very impressed. Good work Mr. Carver!

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After nine or so days in Samoa we finally got a window to head South to Tonga so took it. Looks like being a mix of sailing and motoring but as this passage is well known as being a tricky one with the trade winds hitting almost on the nose we’re going to get out while we can, even if that means burning some fuel.

Suwarrow

The first day in the Suwarrow was pretty rough, so much so that the Ranger couldn’t even make it to the boat to clear us in. All the better for us as we tried to catch up on some sleep.

The next day he came back and we met Harry, the Ranger that spends six months on this deserted island every year, as caretaker, immigration and customs officer. We cleared in after a bit of questioning and learned the rules of the place. We were only allowed to visit one island as the others were protected. It’s a pretty special spot.

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Tiny but covered in palm trees. Not much here but sharks (which constantly circled the boat) and birds that dive-bombed all around us.

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Suwarrow was previously home to Tom Neale, a writer, for many years. Part of his shack is still standing despite the cyclones and now serves as a book exchange.

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There is a palm-tree swing to pass the time and helps to kick up a little breeze at this side of the island.

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Then it’s just a short walk to the other side of the island.

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Here the wind whistles by, and is the only place on the island to escape the mossies. We saw several million hermit crabs of different shapes and sizes. It’s hard to miss them unless you tip toe around the place.

We swam off the beach and also snorkled. The coral was pretty dead unfortunately, but there was plenty of colourful fish to hold our interest. And as a reminder that this is a volcanic reef there are thermal springs under there spewing out hot water.

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After a few days here it felt like we were stranded on a desert island in the middle of the Pacific. And we pretty much were. In fact, we were in the middle of nowhere, although we have fewer miles ahead of us than we have behind us, which is a sad state of affairs but also quite a relief.

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We waited patiently for the weather to clear for the next part of our journey. Boats came and went, each with a story of big seas and big winds. And so we waited.

I think we would of gone mad if it were not for our fellow cruisers who took us for a dinghy tour around the lagoon, took Simon fishing, invited us for dinner or simply shared a cuppa and some cakes.

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Eventually a not-so-bad weather window turned up so we jumped on it. Next stop Samoa!

Bora Bora to Suwarrow

We had a tiny weather window over to Suwarrow but as we’d been waiting around in Bora Bora for a while and were fed up with the weather we decided to give it a go.

Unlike most passages we didn’t have to be up at the crack of dawn, the plan was to leave at Midday to allow some of the swell to subside. By 11am we were ready to go, so we slipped the mooring an hour early. That must be a first for us!

We snuck through the passage in the reef ahead of a squall and thanked our lucky stars that we were out in the rolling seas before it hit. The rolly seas continued but we forged ahead, looking forward to some better conditions later in the trip. Dinner came and went, and then sunset. The conditions were still quite uncomfortable but we tried to take some rest all the same.

At about midnight, we heard a crackly noise on the radio. “That’s a Pan Pan!”, Simon said. I couldn’t hear it and I couldn’t see anyone around.

At that point a light came on just to our Port so we headed towards it. As we got closer we could hear them more clearly. Yes indeed this was a Pan Pan. For those non-sailing types that’s a request for help, a step away from a Mayday!

A man traveling with his family kept saying he had “Broken my boat!!”. Apparently the sails weren’t working and neither was the engine, so they were drifting and didn’t have any power. They asked us to ‘stand on’ until morning when the rescue boat they’d called via sat phone would arrive.

From the position he’d given we thought we were about three miles away from him. We motored towards them, straight into the wind and waves. The boat took a real pounding and the noise was terrible but as always Interlude took it on the chin.

The boat in distress had no lights, apart from a small flashlight that kept turning off, so it was extremely hard to work out exactly where they were, and at what distance. The last thing we wanted to do was run into them so we kept flashing our lights on their hull to try and keep a safe distance. Radar wasn’t showing us anything apart from the waves, which were growing as the conditions worsened. Over 4m waves close together and with over 25 knots of wind right on the nose. Horrid!

Simon kept trying to make more sense of what had happened by radioing them. We couldn’t hear much but could tell they were pretty beaten up and scared.

We drifted with them for six hours in the turbulent seas. We tried to get the boat to stop rocking but the confused conditions meant the boat wouldn’t settle so we were getting thrown around all over the place. It was one of the worst nights of our trip. Neither of us could catch any sleep as we had to stay above decks if we had any chance of keeping our dinner down. We were frustrated as we knew each hour here was shortening our weather window and we were already cutting it very fine. We thought about the other boat with two small children onboard, who must be doing it worse. They seemed very shaken and really if the shoe was on the other foot we knew we would appreciate the support.

Morning came, not a minute too soon, and sunrise brought Hope and a rescue boat. A small sailing vessel, “Hope” helped us to communicate with the rescue boat and once it arrived the distressed boat gave us our leave. We were all too happy to hoist the sails and get on our way. They, meanwhile, would be towed back 120 miles into the wind and waves to Raiatea, not a pleasant way to spend a day or two but fingers crossed they’ll be ok.

As we feared, the weather front we’d been trying to stay ahead of instead smashed us overnight, so later that day the wind gave out and we reluctantly put on the engine. Grrrr! We were supposed to stay ahead in the calmer, smooth winds but our six-hour delay had blown that. After eight hours of motoring the wind came back strong, the waves grew and we started sailing again.

The next few days passed uneventfully, mainly as we were trying to catch up on sleep. Each day was cloudy and each night bought squalls. Tough sailing conditions but nothing we hadn’t seen before. Everything just seemed worse as we were so tired.

As we got closer to Suwarrow we started to watch our ‘ETA’ display to work out our estimated time of arrival. It looked like we would arrive around around 6 hours late. At sunset or just thereafter which would mean another night of drifting, and we didn’t like the sound of that. The pass into the anchorage is pretty tricky though and not something you would want to attempt in darkness.

We could increase our sail area to go faster but that would put us a risk if another squall came over and with big winds we didn’t fancy that either. So there was nothing else to do but continue on our way.

Lo and behold, we arrived just after sunset. We didn’t even get to see the island so we were reliant on our chart plotter, but our radar, and a lone anchor light in the anchorage beyond the reef, confirmed what the chart plotter showed.

We had reduced sail and were still travelling way too fast. We would be racing past the island if we were non too careful. The thought of taking all the sails down and drifting again made our stomachs churn. ‘Heaving too’ sounded like a good prospect but we hadn’t done it much before and in our weary state we couldn’t really remember how to. So out came the books and we found a little paragraph briefly describing how to do it and also saying modern boats couldn’t. Humm! Anyway with no better option we gave it a go. With a small sail out one way and our rudder over the other way we reduced our speed to a knot or two and the boat motion calmed right down so we could grab some sleep.

By morning we had sailed 10 miles past the island so we put on the motor and headed back around. As always (it seems) the wind and waves were against us. The conditions had deteriorated again, it was horrible and we were only travelling at two or three knots, tops.

We were also worried about navigating the pass in these conditions. We called the Ranger on the radio and got no answer. We were considering continuing on our way to Samoa and missing Suwarrow altogether, despite the weather looking bleak for that run too.

That’s when our good friends on Winterlude and Imoogie turned up. They had set off a day later and were approaching the pass from the other side. Chatting with those guys gave us the confidence we needed to give the pass a go. So an hour later we followed them in. Just as one final squall dumped sheets of rain on us.

The pass had a three knot, out-going current as well as a few reefs to navigate. But we made it! We dropped the anchor in front of a desert island and slowly began to relax after what has to be one of our worst crossings yet.

We hope we’re never involved in another Pan Pan.

Bora Bora

Bora Bora, more like horror horror! (Well at least for our first two nights here).

We had a very quick sail over from Tahaa in rising winds knowing that the weather was about to change for the worst. Our plan was to get over to the Bora Bora yacht club, which would hopefully offer us shelter, and then pick up a mooring.

We got through the pass just as the wind kicked up and rain fell hard, ok so we didn’t quite time it right but luckily the rest of our plan was solid. Once tucked in around the headland where the Bora Bora yacht club was located the winds dropped and we picked up the last mooring!

From that point on the rain fell, the wind blew, the place turned to mud. In fact it’s pretty much the worst weather we’ve seen on this trip. You couldn’t see the famous twin peaks of Bora Bora let alone explore the islands and take in the sights. We did what we could on board, and checked out a few places to eat in the evenings but after a while cabin fever started kicking in.

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One positive to come from all the rain was our new water collection system, or WCS as I’ll now refer to it. The idea was to collect the water that drains off the decks and is eventually led to the back of the boat where it pours into the sea. The design evolved quickly from a somewhat basic v1.0  (a plastic box taped on the back of the boat which leaked more than it collected) to the, dare I say it, elegant high end v2.0 (a plastic water bottle taped to the back with a hose stuck through the lid).

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Ok it might not look like much but WCS v2.0 collected over 100 litres of water in a few hours and filled our tanks back up. There are plans to market the unit worldwide, if any investors out there are interested and want to give us the $10,000,000 estimated development costs we’d be pleased to hear from you.

Just to top it all off our outboard stopped working again. After waiting all that time for the replacement part in Tahiti it just stopped working and throwing up error messages. ARGHHHHHH!!!!!

After 2-3 days the front passed through, the skies cleared, my mood improved, and we finally got to see what all the fuss was about.

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Bora Bora1Bora Bora is a small little place, stunning landscapes, nice beaches, amazing restaurants, and the most high-end hotels we’ve ever seen.

The small village was buzzing once we managed to get our walking shoes on and explore. The Heiva Festival was in full swing. This yearly event is the highlight of their calendar here. Locals from all the villages on the island fight it out in dance competitions, spear throwing, singing, dug-out canoe racing – it’s amazing to watch. It’s very competitive but as everyone knows each other here it’s all done in very good spirits.

The dancing in particular was great to watch. Hip shaking to the max! The winners go on to represent Bora Bora over in Raitea and then Tahiti. Good luck guys and gals!

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After a few more days over at Bora Bora Yacht Club we motored over the bay for a mile or so to the Bloody Mary’s moorings. Just as we approached a boat left and we picked up his mooring which was about 50m from the dock. With no outboard this was the first bit of luck we’d had in about five days. We had a meal there that night, which we later found out the locals call Bora Bora McDonald’s. Yes it’s very American but we enjoyed it there and had some wonderful food and made good use of the half-price happy hour. The location of the moorings allowed us to explore that part of the island more as well.

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We did a big walk one day over to the public beaches and had an amazing lunch at one of the snack bars just off the water.

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The public beaches are good to see as most of the island has been taken over by the vast number of hotels here and you’re not allowed anywhere on their beaches. We heard of one sailor’s dingy being let loose into the lagoon after he came ashore at the Four Seasons in search of a beer. I guess if you’re paying $3000 a night for a hotel the last thing you want to see is some scruffy sailor wandering around using your facilities. Then again maybe they should welcome us more. We learn’t five of the major hotels had closed in the past three years and the others didn’t exactly look full. When times are hard around the world $3000 per night hotels seem to struggle for some reason. Weird hey?

It does bug me that new hotels are still being built here when 4-5 year old developments are left to rot. Come on people sort it out.

We spent another night or two over at Bloody Mary’s hanging around the beaches and finding some great places to eat. It’s a really different vibe in this area- a lot more how we expected Bora Bora to be. I have to say I wasn’t overly impressed with the place for the first few days but get why people love it now.

One thing we really wanted to do here was a hike of the main island and get higher up it’s peaks. We tracked down a guide to take us and set off one morning to the other side of the island. He was very chatty and very proud of what he’d accomplished on the island since moving from France about 14 years ago. Based on what he told us the locals were only living on the areas of land near the beaches so none of the interior of the island had been explored for hundreds of years. This guy had hacked his way through jungle and found the ruins of whole villages and temples that no one knew still existed. The missionaries pretty much burnt and destroyed everything opposing their religion when they showed up just after Captain Cook arrived so this was very exciting and National Geographic even came out to film his findings. He’s also been trying to get the locals to depend less on imported goods here (which are crazy expensive) and revert back to the old ways of farming the land. He showed us all the areas the ancestors of the island used to grow their food and we left with full backpacks of the best tasting fruit.

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Afterwards we hiked higher through the jungle and came out to a wonderful view looking down over the reef and lagoon. You can do a hike to the very top of the peaks but he wouldn’t take us due to all the rain. I’m kind of glad as the hike we did partake in ticked every box for us.

We moved over to the Mai Kai yacht club that afternoon and picked up a great mooring near the front so rowing the dingy once again would be easy. The yacht club here is really close to town so we can provision well and refuel for the next leg in the trip where once again we’ll be away from services for a while.

In good news after taking apart and rebuilding the outboard it started working again! No idea what fixed it but we think it was just some build up on the data pins that connect the parts together. Whatever the reason it’s working well. Woohoo!

As often happens one afternoon a boat we got to know in Tahiti came past so we radioed them to welcome their arrival in Bora Bora and to talk of our plans after leaving here. A few people must have been listening in (wouldn’t catch us doing that 😉 ) as 5mins later we had three dingy’s hanging off the back with people talking about the pros and cons of each route. The beers came out and a good time was had by all. And just like that we’d made friends with two other boats, headed out for dinner later with them and were invited to a BBQ the following night.

That’s one of the best things about this trip. Out of nowhere these links with other boats form. As we’re all heading the same way we’ll hopefully keep in touch.

Just as the weather sucked when we arrived it turned for the worse as we were ready to leave. After heading into a very muddy town to clear out of French Polynesia (a process we’d been told would take a few hours/days depending on who we talked to but actually took us 8mins) there was nothing to do but hang out on the boat (which felt worse than it does at sea) and wait for a good weather window.

We’ve head eight weeks here in French Polynesia. What a place. What wonderful people. But now it’s time to leave and head the 700 miles or so over to the Cook Islands.

Tahaa

We had a bumpy ride across to Tahaa. The 8-10 knots of wind predicted on the GRIBS were exactly 10 knots higher, which is ok as we didn’t have much sail out and were making good speed, but it made for an uncomfortable ride, and with lots of cloud around we were on our guard. We managed to dodge the majority of the clouds until about 8am when Simon woke me abruptly from my snoozing with a call of ‘Squall – get on deck!’.

Of course, no squalls while we were safely in open sea, but as soon as we were in spitting distance of an island one comes and spins us 180 degrees. So we were heading full belt towards Huahine. Did I mention our destination was Tahaa? You wouldn’t know either way without looking at the Navigation as there was a blanket of rain descending.

Anyway we pulled in our head-sail, stuck the motor on and turned back on course. We ploughed into wind, waves and rain for the next five hours until we reached Tahaa. Then the clouds cleared and we made it into a sheltered little bay where we could begin to dry off.

Our first plan was to visit the Hibiscus hotel for dinner, but there was no-one on the mooring buoys so we decided to take an exploratory tour of the head of the bay. Here was a little town-ship under construction, with cranes and machinery and other industrial buildings. Hmmm didn’t look too inviting so we headed back to the Hibiscus and radioed in for a mooring and dinner.

Dinner was great. It was one of those little places that here they call ‘pensions’ but back home we would probably call a B&B or boutique hotel. The gentlemanly owner greeted us in typical French style which meant that I got two kisses on the cheeks – sweet. There were no other guests but the owner sat down on the next table with a friend for dinner so at least it didn’t feel too uncomfortable. We’re getting used to the emptiness of some of these places – I’m not sure how we’ll feel when we return to Sydney/London and have to wait to be seated or fight at the bar for a drink.

There was no menu, no talk of what was to come, the food just arrived – which is ok with me. In fact it was yummy and probably exactly what I would have chosen if given a choice. Fresh tomatoes and mozzarella in a delicious olive oil for starter, fish and veggies for main and an apple tart for desert.

We made friends with the waiter and his beautiful 3-year-old daughter as well as the family dogs that sat at my feet. The dogs were very clean, well-behaved and had lovely soft ears plus they kept the local stray dogs at bay. Yep these lovely people and animals made us feel right at home.Tahaa1Tahaa2jpgThe next day we decided to head for the Coral Garden which we were pretty excited about. There’s no information in the guide-books about this place (although maybe in the French guide that we don’t have but everyone raves about). So we were reliant on hear-say, blogs and other travellers’ reports.

First up, we heard of a place you could anchor behind the Coral Garden where you could stay overnight and see the sunset over Bora Bora. We plugged in the co-ordinates and set off. Anyway we tried it and ended up with 0.80m under the keel, the anchor resting on a deep-sided, underwater cliff-face and decided it wasn’t for us. There was no-one else there either although we did see a cat there later on so maybe it’s cool for cats.Tahaa3So we decided to go for the ‘day-anchorage’ closer to the Coral Garden. There were a few others here which filled us with a bit more confidence but also limited our anchoring options. It took us more than one go… ahem. Sometimes it’s hard to find the right patch of sand amongst the coral that’s not going to drop you next to a) another boat, b) the reef or c) the underwater rock that’s not charted and is out to get you. Anyway through this process we’ve finessed some of our communication issues and hope for better luck next time.

We eventually anchored in between two charter boats and Simon jumped in (again) to check on our anchor. Ours was set in a patch of sand surrounded by coral. Ok so it could have been 10m further forward which would give us more space between us and the cat behind us but not too bad. Besides which the cat behind us had his anchor upside down and the smallest bit of chain in, so should the wind get up and drag us in his direction it would surely drag him further back – perfect!

We had lunch and tried to figure out where the Coral Garden was by watching the other dinghies coming and going. It wasn’t where we thought it was but followed the others all the same. We dinghied in to where there were buoys and tied up as it was too corally to drag the dinghy up on the beach. We arrived at ‘the Coral Garden restaurant’ which sounded promising and asked around. Seemed we needed to swim to the motu opposite, walk the length of the island and then swim back between the islands with the current and among the Coral Garden. So off we set.

A motu (if you didn’t know) is a small reef islet. Which means they’re made of coral. We’d forgotten to bring our reef feet (aka reef shoes, flip flops, thongs etc) so it made for a treacherous tip-toe, all the way along saying, ‘this is stupid, should have brought our reef feet…Owch!’ Yes we know coral can be dangerous so fingers and toes crossed that we don’t get infected!

We eventually got close to the end and were making our way into the water when the guys from the boat behind us popped up and we started chatting. Ten minutes later Simon realised we were being bombarded by a squadron of mosquitos so we made a swift exit.

The Coral Garden drift-snorkel is exciting or amazing depending on where you start. Me, I started close to the shore and took off on an exhilarating, fast ride where you have to make swift decisions about whether to go right or left to avoid the stunningly-colourful coral heads. It certainly makes you wish you hadn’t eaten so much pizza. In ten seconds flat I was relieved to find myself at the far end and tried to take in what I’d seen.

I turned around to find Simon still at the start of the coral garden… meandering. Yes in the centre of the river the water runs slower and you can take your time. This one is definitely the one for the oldies! Ha ha!

As he got to about half-way down he started some animated calling so I headed up against stream to find him, finding Nemo! We mooched around for a bit with the fish and found Nemo again hidden in the anemones. What amazing snorkelling. The fish are obviously used to being fed and will come right up and surround you. They’re so docile you can poke them – yuck!

We eventually found ourselves back at the bottom of the garden and debated going again but it had clouded over and we weren’t sure about walking on the coral again. It’s one place we definitely want to come back to though :)

When we got back to the boat, Simon swam on the anchor again (still set) and the anchor of the cat behind us (still up-side-down) so did the charitable thing and told them. But then once aboard Interlude the weather started to look sketchy and the worry-lines appeared. The wind had picked up earlier than predicted and the clouds looked unruly so with the light fading we sped down to Apu Bay to pick up a free mooring for the night.

Tomorrow we will try to go to Bora Bora early to ride out this rubbish weather that’s set to get worse.