The Voyage


Andy and Melissa are sailing around the world on their 48-foot sailboat, Spectacle.

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Bali, Indonesia

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The Voyage of Spectacle

Archive for August, 2008

Island Tour and Marae Taputapuatea

Posted by: melissa

Well, we woke up this morning to find that someone has stolen Andy’s (smelly and disgusting) flip-flops right out of the cockpit.  While this saves us the trouble of eventually taking them to a trash can, I can’t say I’m thrilled with the idea of someone coming on to my boat for a look-see.  

Today, we rented a car for a paltry 9500 French Polynesian Francs, or 2.3 watermelons, which is now our new conversion standard.  Even with the Maramu’u still blasting and rainy and cloudy conditions, we had a nice day driving the 61 miles on the island’s perimeter road.  The lagoon is particularly beautiful with a million different stratifications of blues and greens outlined by breaking waves against the surrounding reef, and the dark blue of the deep Pacific Ocean right outside the reef.  It’s very striking.

Of course, the big attraction is the Marae Taputapuatea which is a huge marae complex on the southeastern coast of Raiatea at the town called Opoa.  As I mentioned earlier, Raiatea is considered the religious and spiritual center of all of Polynesia because of the importance of this marae.  Taputapuatea is the second most significant archaeology behind Easter Island, although we did visit a marae complete with huge intact tikis in Hiva Oa which also claims that title. 

Established some time around 1000 AD, Taputapuatea was the site of many religious and civic events including a truce known as Faatau Aroha.  This long-lasting truce created two alliances known as Aotea (East) and Aouri (West), and lent to cooperative exploration, discovery, and colonization of other islands including Hawaii.  Taputapuatea was considered so sacred that all other maraes, from Hawaii to the Cook Islands, were required to pay homage to it.  Archaeological links are well established.  The Faatau Aroha truce was broken when a fight broke out and the leaders of the respective alliances were killed.

Centuries later, the chiefs from the Tamatoas family added many structures to the marae in honor of Oro, the god of war and fertility.  Vying for power, the Tamatoas strongly championed the Oro legends.  After 200 years, Oro ascended as the most important god in the area carrying the Tamatoas family along to power.  The powerful Tamatoas would have conquered all of Polynesia, but the first Christian missionaries arrived in 1797.  The missionaries gained the trust of King Pomare I of Tahiti, converted him to Christianity, and successfully worked to keep him in power.  With that alliance, the Tamatoas lost the power struggle and their public confidence eroded.  Marae Taputapuatea was left to ruin, but at least it was not all out destroyed by the missionaries like so much of the ancient structures in Polynesia.

Marae Taputapuatea was restored during the 1960′s, and human remains were found in several structures.

Final Thoughts on Raiatea and Off to Taha’a

Posted by: melissa

After the case of the disappearing flip-flops, we have been a lot more careful about what we have laying around.  But evidently not careful enough.  Today, we noticed that an oversized super plush beach towel has walked off.  Again, I hate the idea of passersby peering into my boat and treating us like some second hand store.  But I’m happy to donate to the local economy, and I guess I should be happy that it’s just dirty flip-flops and a beach towel rather than the dinghy or the outboard.

Our last dinner out in Raiatea was unfortunately kind of a turkey.  We went to the dining room at Raiatea’s best hotel, Hawaiki Nui.  After the typical $18 watered down, under iced Mai Tais, Andy surprised me with a bottle of Taittinger champagne.  I started with the scallops (nicely done) with papaya relish (a real mess).  Andy had the most over-reduced seafood chowder ever made … it was like chewing on a lobster shell.  Andy’s steak main course was pretty good, but the vegetables were boiled beyond recognition.  My main course was totally inedible.  The menu described it as mahi mahi in a puff pastry, but it was more of a gooey shake n’ bake bread crumb situation.  It was very gross, and it cost $40.  It seemed to us that the chef might be a very good cook, but lacks formal training in running a professional kitchen.

All in all, we have really enjoyed Raiatea, but like always, it’s time to get going.  This time, however, we are only taking a quick jaunt across the lagoon to Taha’a.  It should take less than an hour, and the coral heads are very well marked, so the only drama we should encounter is getting off the dock with the high winds still blowing us on.  We are headed for the Taravana yacht club which sports some 25-30 mooring balls, a gourmet restaurant, and an all-you-can-eat-all-you-can-drink buffet on Tuesday evenings complete with Polynesian dancing.  Andy and I are well hydrated and sparsely fed today, so we’re ready to go demolish this thing.

Haamene Bay, Taha’a, French Polynesia

Posted by: melissa

Well, we arrived at the Taravana yacht club to find that all of the mooring balls have been reserved for over a week in anticipation of the big fiesta.  While the Pacific cruising season is coming to an end, the charter season is going gangbusters as Europeans take the month of August off.  Completely disappointed by the big ‘ix-nay’, we perused the cruising guides and decided to head over to Haamene Bay where several mooring balls were purportedly available near the Hibiscus Hotel. 

Usually, mooring balls have some type of loop or smaller line attached so you can hook the smaller line without having to pick up the entire ball which can be quite heavy and under a lot of load.  Unfortunately, the balls at the Hibiscus did not work that way, and it was quite windy.  On our fifth try, we broke the boat hook, and I would like to meet the genius who designed the boat hook that doesn’t float.  With no way to grab the already-difficult-to-grab ball, I jumped in the dinghy to just go attach the line myself.  Then Andy approached nice and slow, slung it in neutral, ran forward, and helped me attach the line to the boat.

We were just getting settled in when two charter boats and a very small sailboat with no engine entered the bay.  After watching one charter boat’s two failed attempts to pick up the ball, Andy hopped in the dinghy to help everyone out.  We then enjoyed a celebratory Hinano and watched the sun set over Haamene Bay which is so protected that the northwestern end is considered a hurricane hole. 

At 6:30 or so, we headed into the fabulously cute Hibiscus dining room for happy hour and dinner.  We chatted up one of the owners’ sons, Mark, who is at university in New Zealand, a wonderful nice guy, and fantastically attractive.  Talk about your stereotypical, uber-masculine, Polynesian-Marquesan warrior.  The detail and artistry of his many tattoos are absolutely incredible with one particularly beautiful design beginning on his chest and extending over his shoulder, down his back, and around the side of his abdomen.  Incredible.  As it turns out, Mark’s whole family seems to have won the genetic lottery … his sister is first runner-up Miss Tahiti.

The Hibiscus Hotel is also an active turtle sanctuary nurturing young or injured sea turtles until they are strong enough to return to the wild.  They have T-shirts for sale to support the hotel and the sanctuary which were very cool.  Andy asked how much, and then I watched all the blood drain out of his face.  At 5000 French Polynesian Francs, the T-shirts were $65 … even more expensive than a watermelon!

Though we remain without the T-shirt souvenirs, we still had a very nice evening at the Hibiscus.  We had a lovely mixed salad with some kind of fruity vinaigrette, tuna carpaccio, caught-that-day mahi mahi seared with capers, and prawns in a red creole sauce.  All courses were very good, and the price was surprisingly reasonable.  The dining room was quite lively and fun, and as per usual here in French Polynesia (and throughout the world), my Obama tote bag was a constant source of conversation and camaraderie.  I swear, if Americans couldn’t vote for president, Obama would win 99.9% of the vote.

Spectacle’s Highs and Lows in Taha’a

Posted by: melissa

After a very comfortable night in Haamene Bay, we planned our day over coffee and blueberry muffins:  head north to the next bay up, pick up a mooring ball at the Motu Pearl Farm, take their highly recommended tour, continue up over the north side of the island, anchor on the west side of the island near the shi-shi hotel, Le Taha’a, and have dinner at their fanciest restaurant.  Is that a day, or is that a day?

The short thirty-minute motor over to the next bay was uneventful, and we easily picked up a mooring ball (properly appointed with smaller loop to grab with the fish gaffe sans boat hook).  The Motu Pearl Farm is almost as charming and lovely as its hosts.  We received a wonderful tutorial on pearl farming which was absolutely fascinating.  This outfit alone in this particular bat has over 10,000 oysters in various stages of pearl production. 

We left the Pearl Farm and exited the bay to go up and over the north side of the island.  It was a very beautiful afternoon with sparkling blue water, small motus covered in palm trees, and views of Huahine and Raiatea in the distance.  We rounded the corner and once again ran into the Maltese Falcon. 

Taha’a is home to one super fancy hotel which happens to be the only Relais and Chateaux member in all of French Polynesia, which is really saying something.  We have been excited to see Le Taha’a for quite some time!  We dropped an anchor in proximity to several other boats, and I jumped in the dinghy to go to the hotel and make dinner reservations.

As I was tying off to the hotel’s pier, I looked up to find a security guard in quite the official uniform literally sprinting down the dock towards me to cut me off.  Here’s the conversation:

Guard:  Bon Jour, Mademoiselle.  Can I help you?

Melissa:  Why yes!  I would love to check out the hotel and make reservations for dinner.

Guard:  I’m sorry, Mademoiselle.  The hotel is completely booked.

Melissa:  Okay, but I just want dinner reservations for two people at, say, 8 o’clock.

Guard:  No, I’m sorry, but the hotel is very full so there are no reservations for dinner.

Melissa:  So, I can’t have dinner here unless I’m staying here?

Guard:  That’s right, we’re very full.

Melissa:  Can I have one drink at the bar at sunset?

Guard:  No, Mademoiselle.

Well, that’s what we in the business call a swift kick in the ass.  Boat rats suffer discrimination fairly frequently, but this was the worst.  I was also seeking information about a snorkeling site called the Coral Garden which we’ve heard about from other people, but have been unable to find in any of our guide books.  So I asked the guard who informed me that the Coral Garden is located between the hotel’s motu, and the neighboring motu.  When I asked if there was a suitable place to tie up the dinghy over there, he said:

Guard:  Yes, but not on this side because it belongs to the hotel, and we’re very full.

Melissa:  OKAY!  I get it!  Sheesh!  Believe me … I will never bother your hotel again!

On the upside, sans dinner reservations, we had plenty of time to hit the Coral Garden which was quite neat.  We grabbed our masks and snorkels, scuba gloves and boots, and tied the dinghy to a palm tree.  Then we walked the motu to the ocean side, and hopped in.  The tide brings you in while you skim over beautiful coral, fish, shellfish, and sea urchins sometimes with only a few inches of clearance.  It was a very neat experience.  Returning in the dinghy, we went aground twice and bumped the outboard propeller on coral once.  Oopsie!

Denied dinner and happy hour, we decided to peace out the anchorage and head back over the Taravana yacht club since mooring balls would surely be available the day after the big fiesta.  I assumed my position on the bow of boat and started to take in the anchor rode.  Since the boat swings around a lot, it’s important to drive the boat towards the direction of the chain while taking in the chain.  Otherwise, the windlass is working hard enough to pull up the heavy chain and anchor, and it will be overly stressed if it’s forced to simultaneously pull the boat towards the anchor.  Free of the bottom, the anchor came into clear view in probably 30 feet of water, and it looked a little strange.  As it came closer, I figured that it had scooped up a bunch of dirt that I could wash off at the surface.  But then, it looked really weird.  Apparently, we dropped the anchor in a coral head, a huge piece cracked off, and was wedged in the scoop of the anchor.  This was our first major environmental snafu, so I don’t feel too badly about it.  Ugh.

We arrived at Taravana to find plenty of mooring balls available.  I called in to make a reservation, and what unbelievable bad luck we have … the restaurant is closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays.  As such, we will head back to Bora Bora tomorrow forgoing the infamous gourmet restaurant at Taravana.  At least there’s wifi here.