Thursday, August 24, 2006


Our stay at Motu Nao Nao to the south of Raiatea was fabulous.It was a landmark of the trip for Nick as he managed to spear his first reef fish there - a squirrel fish. They're quite small and beautiful, and happen to be very good to eat. We took it to show Charles, who lives on Nao Nao, and instead of laughing at our diminutive catch, he was seemingly impressed, gave it the ok as far as ciguatera is concerned and pronounced it 'bon protein, bon protein' and better than 'la viande'. Hmmm, not sure about that, but it was tasty! Noa joined us the next evening and we had a beach fire, baked potatoes and watched the stars.Alas, no fish for supper that day! The snorkeling was excellent - beautiful psychedelic clams and the usual plethora of fish.A walk around the island gave us the opportunity to marvel at the wonder of hermit crabs. They are a new entry in my top ten list of favourite creatures. Their intrepid, incessant explorations while saddled with an awkward, usually oversize second hand shell are so endearing. Their size is also miraculous. What you think is a cluster of sand grains suddenly shuffles into action and heads off with and air of industry - places to go, things to do, people to see! I was tempted to slip a couple in my pocket but decided to leave them to their business on the motu.

In mid-August, we made our way back north to Raiatea's main town, Uturoa, to take on water and other provisions. We spent the night tied up to the wall which felt very strange. At anchor you get used to your privacy, and to be the focus of curious glances from whoever should be passing felt very intrusive. One couple had a good snoop and I was about to go and confront them when I realised it was Ragtime! Having stocked up we left for Bora Bora which is a short 20 mile hop north west.We had a great sail but unfortunately no joy with the fishing on passage. When we do catch our next ocean fish, it's going to taste so good. We're both wishing for a wahoo. Bora Bora has a stunning skyline and the lagoon is an almost impossible array of hues ranging from deepest blue/black to pale azure.The weather here has not been great for our stay. We've had 20-25 knots of wind in the lagoon which makes snorkeling more difficult, and has probably affected the visibility below the surface. We have seen manta and sting rays in the anchorage, however, one of which leapt 4 feet into the air just ahead of the dinghy as we were heading back to Kika, and scared the flippers off us! Bora Bora feels as if the genuine Polynesian culture has been swamped by tourism, and hotels are still being built on the motus surrounding the island.
A walk on the mainland revealed more hotels and tourist shops, but heading inland and upwards, we were soon rewarded with fabulous views of the lagoon and we had the opportunity to practise our skills of scrumping amongst the lush vegetation. I managed to grab a tempting breadfruit from an obliging tree, and we had our first taste of breadfruit chips that evening. It is an extraordinary, versatile fruit with a curious texture that, when steamed, is close to mashed potato. Breadfruit was the main mission of HMS Bounty. Captain Bligh was commissioned to transport seedlings from Tahiti to the Caribbean in order to provide food for the slave labour there. The mission failed and history was made in the process!

In search of some seclusion, we took Kika around to the East of the island which involved some tricky navigation and thoroughly tested our buoyage skills. Coral dodging around Bora Bora
Coral dodging around Bora Bora
Nick shouted directions from his vantage point up the ratlines, and I helmed, manoeuvring Kika safely through the chicanes and switchbacks which comprise the safe passage around to the east. Arriving there we felt elated at our achievement - we're still building up our confidence around coral after the close encounter in Raroia. The 'seclusion' was limited due to our unavoidable proximity to hotels, but it was great to get another view of the island. The crater dominates everything and its silhouette changes radically as you move around, always dramatic and usually topped with a generous helping of cloud.Yesterday, we returned to an anchorage in the west, with a departure to the Northern Cook islands in mind. The main pass through the reef is to the west of the mainland and this is the only exit and entrance for sailing vessels. We took a quick trip into town for some provisioning, and I was delighted finally, to receive my birthday parcel which has taken a month to arrive from the UK! I almost kissed the owner of the yacht club (who, I'm sure is sick of the sight of me due to my numerous previous visits) when he produced a big package from behind the bar. I think he was quite surprised and I wouldn't blame him if he suspected it contained something more sinister and valuable than birthday cards, magazines, photos and, of course, Werther's Originals! I ask you, what's more valuable than that? So, departure is planned for later today although we are waiting for a weather forecast as, annoyingly, the wind seems to have died. Next stop, Penrhyn in the Northern Cooks. It means a slight detour from our rhumb-line west but from what we've heard, it's well worth it.

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