9/2018: Tahiti, Moorea


We went out surfing again at the same spot as yesterday, finding conditions a little mellower but still challenging. I continued working on my shortboard popups, doing 20 successfully (correct form, and sticking the landing) and feeling better and better as the session went on. Lisa was using a boogie board most of the time but tried out my shortboard a little while, getting a lot more flotation and easier riding with the bigger board.


We left in the morning to check out the break a few miles to the south at Punaauia, but there wasn’t much happening at the beach break and while it looked OK further out it wasn’t what we were looking for, especially being tired from the previous couple days. Instead, we went to the museum right there at the beach, which had a lot of really interesting information about the history of French Polynesia, some geology and ecology but mostly the social history of the islands, which was very interesting. We spent an hour or two there and then headed back to Magic to relax the rest of the day.


We left in the morning to spend a little time in Papeete and then go surfing at the same spot we’ve been going to, bringing another board for Lisa to try. Conditions were pretty similar to two days ago and I worked more on my shortboard popups, eventually getting through 30 of them. Lisa surfed for a little while but the board we brought was narrow and low volume and wasn’t providing the nice rides she was looking for.


Lisa went into town to go shopping most of the day, while I stayed on the boat all day to do some work and boat projects. I mainly focused on the watermaker, whose performance has steadily degraded for years but which I was too afraid of to work on out at the atolls (last year I did some work on the watermaker there and regretted it; if you lose the ability to make water there then things will get a lot more difficult). The problem seemed to be with the head of one of the feed pumps; I fixed some electrical stuff and switched to the other feed pump and the watermaker’s performance came almost to parity when we bought Magic. Lisa got back in the afternoon and we relaxed the rest of the day.


We left in the morning to do some shopping around Papeete, finding a nice big pink foamie for Lisa to try in the waves. It was kind of windy from the west and I was worried about how conditions would be at the beach near Point Venus, but when we got there we found things pretty protected with some nice, really mellow waves coming in. It was sunny and super pleasant and we went in together and stayed in over two hours, having lots of fun. I was continuing to practice popups on my shortboard (did 40 this time around), and Lisa got a lot of nice rides in on her new board. A lot of kids came in to enjoy the surf too but things didn’t get crowded; it was just a really great, relaxing time in the ocean. We got back in the late afternoon and I did some work to prepare the boat for leaving the following morning.


We got up and left the anchorage shortly after first light, exiting the pass as a series of squalls passed through, generating a lot of rain but not much wind. We headed north along the coast as the weather gradually improved, then arrived at Techni Marine for our scheduled haulout a couple hours later. All season we’ve had problems with water getting into our saildrives, and we finally had an opportunity to haul out and fix things. I got started working as soon as the boat was in position, removing the propeller shafts and bearing housings and finding grooves on both shafts, allowing water to enter and caused I think by a lack of grease on the propeller shafts where they pass through the seals in the bearing housing. The folks from Aiki came by, and Guy — who has dealt with a lot of problems like this over the years — talked me through the steps I needed to take to get everything repaired. I’d planned on working with the mechanic at the marina, but Guy’s information was super helpful so I went out with Lisa to get started on finishing the job myself, heading to a shop to pick up replacements for the bearings holding the shafts in place, some of which were pretty worn. That was about it for the day; we checked into a nice AirBnb nearby and had a nice, relaxing evening.


We did some errands for boat stuff in the morning, dropping off the shafts so they could have their new bearings installed and sleeves placed over the damaged sections of the shafts. Later we had a really nice lunch downtown to celebrate our fourth anniversary.


In the morning we went out to do a hike to a waterfall nearby, but found that the trailhead is only open on weekdays, oops. After abandoning that attempt we headed to Papara to try to go surfing. Things were smaller than the last time we were here but too big for Lisa, so I went out by myself. I had some good success, getting about a half dozen rides and a few more where I caught the wave but messed up the popup. Lots of fun, though it was pretty crowded and hard to fully relax.


Mostly hung out at the AirBnb and did some shopping to reprovision.


In the morning we picked up the propeller shafts from the machine shop and then spent a few hours reinstalling them and preparing to launch the next day.


We launched in the morning and slowly motored around the island (varying and low rpms to help break in the new components) and back to the anchorage we’d used earlier off of Marina Taina. No trace of oil in the saildrives when we arrived, thankfully, then Lisa did some shopping while I decompressed on the boat.


We did some shopping in the morning, returned our rental car, then headed out the pass and towards Moorea. Winds were in the 15-20 knot range in the channel between the two islands and we had a nice sail across, starting the engines again when we got behind Moorea. Very pretty coastline with waves crashing on the edge of the lagoon as we headed up another five miles to enter the pass at Haapiti and anchor nearby, beautiful surroundings with a couple other boats. I’d been wanting to come here for a while: there was supposed to be a good surfing wave for intermediates here. Not long after anchoring I headed over with my boogie board, and was a little dismayed at first seeing double overhead set waves being enjoyed by ten or so expert surfers. After getting tumbled a couple times I got some advice from one of the locals to stay at a spot further inside where the wave has a subpeak, and after this I got about ten great rides on the board in the course of an hour. I had a ton of fun and everyone was really friendly, and I was really excited that my initial impression was wrong and this did seem like a great place for me to improve my surfing. After getting back to Magic I went out with Lisa to see if we could get to shore, but it was pretty late in the afternoon and the places we checked out were shoaling pretty far out so we abandoned the attempt and returned for a relaxing evening.


In the morning I looked at some satellite imagery (nice to have a 3G connection here) and saw there was a wharf not too far away which kind of blended into the shoreline. We headed over there and walked along the road at the water’s edge for an hour or so, having a nice time. At one spot along the wharf we spotted a stingray, blacktip shark, and moray all in the same area, nice to see these creatures again. After getting back to Magic I went over to the surfing wave, getting about a half dozen good rides in an hour and a half or so, then getting tired as the wave got kind of crowded. I was still having fun, but switched to the boogie board to get a few easier rides before getting tumbled and the board ripped away from me. I need to improve on the cheesy wrist strap the board came with, the other (extremely skilled) boogie boarders here have substantial straps on their biceps. Anyways, with some help from another surfer I tracked the board down, then went back to Magic. I worked on the toilet a couple hours (not pleasant) and did some work, then went out surfing again the late afternoon. Things were quieter here and I got another five rides or so, two of which were excellent and the best I’ve gotten since starting on the shortboard.


I went over to the wave early in the morning to surf for an hour and a half or so, just a couple other folks at first and growing to five or so when I finished. I got a few good rides but was mainly learning as I spent time out at the main lineup — the wave was smaller than yesterday and friendlier looking. I only got one real ride off this spot but it was great and a big confidence booster. Other than that I kept finding myself too far inside and getting caught by the lip of the waves and tumbled and pushed in, then having to paddle back out. After a few rounds of this I was pretty tired and eventually went back to Magic. On the way back I spotted some dolphins, and Lisa and I tried to follow them around for a bit and snorkel with them, though as soon as they saw anyone in the water they turned right around. After giving up on that I went out paddleboarding with Lisa for a while. We went over to watch the wave for a little while, and then checked out the large shoal areas near the boat, many coral heads with sand between them, very calm conditions made watching the critters easy. Nice sights included a few blacktip sharks, a stingray, several anemones, boxfish, and pipefish. Afterwards we dinghied over to the wave and went snorkeling along the outside, scouting for a potential dive site. This looked like a nice area with some good coral and relief, and a fair number of fish. A couple nice sights were several more anemones and a group of spawning parrotfish. After relaxing on Magic a while I went surfing again in the afternoon. Only a few people out, I didn’t try to go to the lineup (I was tired and the wave was bigger than the morning) but caught waves off the shoulder at the spot I used yesterday. I was starting to get the hang of this launch and got seven or eight really good rides over the course of an hour and a half, little tumbling made for a really nice time that didn’t tire me out.


In the morning it was very frothy in the pass and it looked like some waves were breaking all the way across it. Not safe to navigate through, with a 2.5 meter or so SW swell. No one was surfing and I checked things out a little and anchored on the inside and tried to paddle over to the wave, but was worn out from the previous days and after some difficulty with the currents and sea state returned to Magic. We were hoping to dive the pass today after scouting it yesterday but decided to dive at a bommie near the anchorage instead. This was a nice spot, with some good coral, not great visibility (40′), several small nudibranchs, and a turtle resting on a coral head. In the afternoon we visited shore to do some shopping, and spent a while talking to the folks on Brisa, a neighboring boat in the anchorage.


The swell was still up in the morning but the pass looked better and I went over to boogie board on the inside. I got a few good rides but then the dinghy drifted off the shelf it was anchored on and I had to go and retrieve it. I returned to Magic and went back out with the kayak and a mini-mal surfboard, anchoring the kayak near the wave I was interested in. I got several good rides on the board but was worn out dealing with the strong currents in the area and went back to Magic. We walked around in town together later in the morning, and otherwise relaxed. In the afternoon I went surfing again at the same inside spot I used in the morning. This time I got twenty rides, some of them a lot of fun, but mostly focusing on my popup and doing that quickly. After so much time lately on the short board, the mini-mal felt really easy to ride on, and a good confidence booster.


In the night the winds increased and a little after dawn Magic started dragging its anchor. I was working in the salon and noticed the boat turning sideways; Lisa came up and we started the engines and, although the boat managed to hook the bottom, we tried to raise the anchor so we could move somewhere else. Between the winds, anchor alarm not going off, engine problems (starboard engine overheated), windlass problems (behaving erratically), generator problems (inverter wasn’t getting power from it), anchor apparently hooked on a bottom feature and no tank with much gas to dive on it, this was a pretty aggravating and stressful time. We eventually decided to just stay put, while I worked on getting things unbroken again. We stayed on the boat the rest of the day, with winds ranging from 25-35 knots. I did some work but was having trouble concentrating with the stress so spent much of the afternoon resting and relaxing.


During the night Lisa’s paddleboard got away from the boat, after it slipped out of the straps holding it to the boat and then broke the calf strap which was attached for redundancy. In the morning I dinghied around for an hour or so to look for it, without success. The wind continued to blow all day, maybe not as strong but still some times when it was above 30 knots. Bleah.


The wind died in the night and we got ready to leave when we got up. I dove on the anchor and found it caught under a limestone shelf at 110′, but clearing this was pretty easy with the help of a liftbag. We exited the pass, where the wave had come down in strength but was still pretty powerful and we pitched several times on the way out (did see some dolphins playing in the pass, though). We motored clockwise around the island and anchored to the west of Papetoai, not far from one of the spots we used when we were here in April. It was nice to be in a familiar spot again and feel an immediate reduction in stress. After relaxing on the boat a bit we went to see the stingrays, feeding them a few cans of sardines and earning their temporary love in the process. It was nice to be back, and still fun to feed them and see all the other critters — trevally, butterflyfish, remoras, blacktip sharks, flounders — attracted to the scene.


It was calm at dawn and shortly after I left Magic to dinghy for 8 miles back to Haapiti, following the marked channel through the lagoon the whole way (though I did go off it at one point and bonked the motor on a coral head while getting back). I was interested in seeing how viable this was as a route — Papetoai and Opunohu offer a lot more stuff to do and a more sheltered position than Haapiti, but this time of the year they don’t have any waves. The trip took 40 minutes (could do it a few minutes faster with more practice, and several minutes faster with a longer pitched propeller) which was quite reasonable. When I arrived the main break was not very clean and no one was on it so I went to the inside spot I used a few days ago. Conditions were not anywhere near as pushy as earlier but waves were still coming in regularly, making for a really nice and relaxed time. I got another twenty rides, focusing on doing my popup quickly, before heading back to Magic. It would have been nice to stay longer but the outboard had gotten cranky at the end of my trip down and I was worried about how it would be going back. I did have to mess with the choke and throttle a lot to get the outboard to run OK, but at least I didn’t have to row. Back at Magic we went diving at the first buoy outside the pass. We had a nice time, the reef here is in good shape and I spent most of the dive looking for macro critters — lots of dartfish in particular. A lemon shark passed by at the edge of visibility a couple times, and we saw a turtle as well.


Strong southeast winds built in the morning but it was quite comfortable at anchor, very different from Haapiti. We left to go diving but on the way out the motor was running poorly again and we couldn’t plane. Eventually we decided to turn around, and back at Magic I pulled and cleaned the carburetor, after which the motor ran fine. We headed out again for the dive, starting at one of the buoys further out than yesterday and had a really great time. The area was practically infested with turtles, at least a dozen sightings (don’t know how many separate individuals) of turtles either swimming around or resting on the coral and allowing close approaches. We also had a lemon shark pass by pretty closely, and good macro life including a shrimp goby (the same type we saw at Anse Amyot) and a lot more fire dartfish.


We went diving in the morning, having a pretty relaxed time with a few turtles and various other critters. On the way back we spotted some dolphins and Lisa tried to snorkel with them but they weren’t interested.


We hung out on the boat today, relaxing and working and doing some boat projects. In the late afternoon the folks from Aiki came by for a couple hours for drinks and snacks and showing our movies to each other.


It was calm in the morning and I left a little after sunrise to run the dinghy for 35 minutes down to Haapiti. The folks from Brisa arrived a few minutes after I did (having traveled from Cook’s bay), with the wave looking really good, if not super clean. I went surfing for nearly two hours and had a blast, getting about a dozen rides, some of them really excellent. Most of them I got in on the shoulder and made my way over to the unbroken face, while a couple I got onto the crest before it broke, popped up and continued riding in the pocket — the ideal sort of ride I’ve been striving for but hadn’t really achieved previously. Set waves were head high or so, they seemed smaller and more manageable than the first few days I surfed here last week, and using the mini-mal made things feel easier as well (and made it possible to get long rides on the waves breaking inside). Back at Magic we went diving at a buoy further out the pass than we’d gone before. Not as much structure to this site but the coral was very healthy and fish life was pretty good. The best sighting was a very large, very pregnant lemon shark we spotted a couple times cruising around, at one point turning around and then coming back towards us (not close enough to worry us) for a good look.


I went surfing in the morning again at Haapiti. The swell was more southerly than yesterday and I had to find other areas to start from than I normally use, having trouble at first but then figuring things out and getting a total of 17 rides over two and a half hours. I had a great time, getting several more excellent rides and feeling more and more comfortable on the wave. After getting back to Magic we went exploring on shore by bicycle and skateboard, heading a few miles west to the northwest tip of the island. This is a nice area, kind of developed and not a lot of shoreline access but still pretty. I got pretty tired with all the time on the skateboard (a couple of downhill sections added some spice too) and after getting back to Magic we relaxed the rest of the day.


I went surfing in the morning again at Haapiti. Following the same gameplan as the last two days I managed to get to the coveted 20 rides over the course of two and a half hours. Things were going really well at the beginning, then the wave got kind of busy (ten people or so) and the swell seemed to increase and require some adjustments. I got tumbled pretty good several times, scraped my back on the reef once, and started getting very tired, but persisted and was still having a lot of fun going after the waves. Back at Magic I was still feeling pretty wiped out, but we went diving at one of the buoys outside the pass and had a really nice and relaxing time. Several turtles were on the reef and fairly friendly, but the nicest sight was a group of several anemones which Lisa found, with a couple large anemonefish tending to a cluster of eggs on a bit of limestone encircled by one of the anemones. One of the anemonefish was almost constantly flushing the eggs with water by waving its pectoral fins.


After working in the morning we went out on a tour to swim with humpback whales in the afternoon, leaving from one of the resorts at the NW tip of the island. We located a cow and calf just on the other side of the rim of the lagoon, with a few other boats following them as well. They stopped swimming and soon after people from three boats (including ours) got in and swam over to them. There were probably 30 people in the water and the whales seemed to have gotten spooked when they first showed up; I saw the calf in the distance (poor water visibility) as it swam away, then our guide went and berated two cruisers on a catamaran who had been following the whale and used a scooter to get around (presumably because of the noise the scooter was making, but I can’t imagine that bothered the whale more than all the people in the water). It was a pretty unpleasant scene, and I was glad when we left to go look for other whales. After 20 minutes or so we came across another cow and calf near the NE tip of the island which were being accompanied by swimmers from a couple boats, who left shortly after we arrived. We got in the water again and this time had a much better experience. There were only the seven people from our boat in the water and we got to spend an hour or so with the whales. The mother would sleep just at the edge of visibility beneath us, a barely discernible white streak. The baby stayed with the mother when it could, but couldn’t hold its breath for long and made several trips to the surface nearby us. We stayed still in the water and the baby did not seem bothered by our presence; at one time it came by pretty close to me and we looked each other in the eye, a special moment for me. Twice the mother came to the surface, it was pretty amazing to see this massive, massive animal gracefully swim up from the depths to take a few breaths before heading back down. This is the first time I ever swam with whales; I’ve wanted to see them underwater for a long long time and it was especially nice to connect this with all the times I’ve seen them from the surface. All in all the tour was a great experience and I’m glad I did it, but I think in the future we’ll avoid the tours and try for more organic encounters with these remarkable animals.


We went to a nearby resort, the Intercontinental, for breakfast, then walked around the resort and looked at a section of the lagoon cordoned off for rehabilitating sea turtles. There were ten or so turtles there of various ages, very neat to look at and watch them being fed. After relaxing a few hours I went surfing in the afternoon at Haapiti. The wave was smaller than two days ago and not many people were out, and I had a really fun time getting another 20 rides in 1:40 or so. Some good rides but most were pretty short on account of the smaller swell and more southerly direction. In the evening we went over to Aiki for drinks and snacks for a couple hours.


In the morning we went to shore to try hiking up Mt Rotui. There is a trail starting from behind someone’s house near the Hilton between Opunohu and Cook’s bays, leading up the north ridge of the mountain to the top. We weren’t expecting to make it to the top and ended up getting about 1/3 of the way up, but we were high enough to get great views of Opunohu and the surrounding areas. After six months at sea level without any vigorous hiking we were not in shape, but had a lot of fun and the trail was in good condition after several days without rain.


We went diving in the morning, having a nice time with the best sight being the anemonefish and eggs again. Over the last few days they have developed quite a bit, with little eyes visible at the ends of the eggs. Fewer eggs than last time, not sure if they’ve started hatching or if there has been attrition due to predation etc. In the afternoon I left to go surfing at Haapiti, but as I got around the NW corner of the island a S wind built to the mid teens and after continuing on for a few minutes I decided to turn around, the break was probably blown out and motoring for that long distance into the chop isn’t much fun.

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