After the three and half day delivery down we were very happy to arrive in Raiatea. We did try and aim to arrive during daylight hours but with the heavier weather we made it a bit earlier and averaged over 11kts.
Because of the heavier weather we decided to just get into the place pick up a mooring and settle in.
I had contacted the yard CNI a week or so before our departure from the Marquases. It was refreshing dealing with great people that responded to our emails promptly and gave us confidence with they're no worries approach. The rates for hard stand storage are pretty good and they have a few services located right there in the yard. We'd looked at going to Tahiti but the yards there are more expensive and also looked to be more commercial. I prefer the smaller more personal ones as it's much nicer to build a relationship with the yard this way.
We rounded the northern tip of Raiatea about 10pm and then motor sailed down the western side of the island. We had another 15nm further to go once we were at the northern waypoint. The wind died out once we were in the lee of Tahaa and we thought we'd have a nice calm motor down to the pass and in.
The wind came back up again once we got out passed the lee of Tahaa and in the bay in-between the two islands we had a not so nice 25kt headwind and short sea. This made the last hour or so very slow and we finally got in about 2am.
Once inside the reef we motored slowly up between the reef and coast of Raiatea. With the laptop running c-map, iPad, iPhone and radar all corresponding to each other it was fairly easy going even though it was pitch black and unfamiliar territory.
Once we'd found a mooring and shut everything down we cracked open a couple of beers and then hit the hay.
Next morning we popped out and took the photos above of the passage entrance and surf break on either side.
About a 5 min dinghy ride North from the CNI yard was the marina Apooiti where Sunsail and The Moorings are based. There two small restaurants, sail loft and also the local yacht club based here. It's a nice marina with simple amenities and extremely clear water. Also looked secure when it came to protection from the weather.
At marine Apooiti Johnny and I enjoyed a cold beer some great food. We also discovered a young women here called Violetta that works for the Moorings and also does laundry. So we dropped the laundry off early the next morning before doing some provisioning in town.
We enjoyed a great sunset later in the afternoon and had another a meal ashore with a few cold beers. Given we had a few days before being hauled out we decided to do a sailing trip around the islands to check them out before we both flew out.
After provisioning some more the next morning we were off around the east side of Tahaa where we planned to stop at a resort that we were told had moorings and a restaurant. Once we got up to the north of the island it seemed a little open as the moorings were located a fair way off the island as it was shallow for some distance off.
We sailed further on and found a spot to anchor around the western side of Tahaa in the lee. It was gorgeous and as you can see above it was the perfect postcard setting with crystal clear water and that perfect Pacific island in the background. Johnny trimmed his beard while we were there and we ate well and enjoyed a few beers in the evening. There was an awesome spot here to snorkel that the locals call the coral garden. Heaps of fish and colorful coral everywhere and nice clear shallow water to swim through.
After spending a day and night here we sailed around the southern side of Tahaa to the eastern side of Raiatea. The sail around was awesome! Heading up the south side of Tahaa and over to Raiata. There was a nice 10-15kts of breeze and we were doing wind speed or more with some fine sailing right along the coral edge and as the sun was high we had great vision into the shallow waters making it possible to sail right to the edge of the shallows.
We ended up sailing to some moorings off a resort on Raiatea that had a nice little restaurant with bungalows perched over the water. Once again we enjoyed a nice meal ashore at the restaurant with Johnny ordering a fine looking Lobster accompanied by some great cocktails and a small desert. We lived it up for a final few days on the island and as it had been a few months since we'd seen some half decent food it was much enjoyed.
I woke early to a super sunrise and enjoyed the quiet time of the morning to myself just watching the colors change in the sky and the life around me awaken. It was a beautiful start to the day.
We had a nice swim and took it really easy enjoying a long slow breakfast and then worked out what we'd do for the day. Something you miss when shore based is the amount of time you seem to have on the water. I don't know where the time goes but everything just seems so much more enjoyable and less rushed on a boat. We have time to cut fresh fruit at breakfast each day and to watch the sunrise and dry ourselves by the sun with no need to rush about and nothing of importance to do that can't wait.
It also just feels so right when not being rushed. Your body feels good, mind is at rest and everything so peaceful. On land our days are filled with large amounts of things we think are important that actually have nothing or very little to do with our wellbeing. For me being on the water makes things very clear I feel like doing nothing but sailing and filling the days with the normal rituals of eating, reading and looking after Spirit.
There is always hard times though when your tired on watch and the weathers not being so kind but they always pass and make you appreciate the easier times. Hauling our anchor onboard as well tests my very short amount of patience constantly and so much so it's one of the big jobs I will see to on my return. It's a safety issue as well as we can't do it fast and easily so we're leaving ourselves open to getting caught out.
With a nice 10-15kts blowing again we decided to head down south inside the lagoon then to head back around the northern side of Raiatea and back to the CNI yard to pick up a mooring before lunch.
We threw up the full mainsail and unfurled the jib and off took Spirit. It was another great sailing day with the smooth waters inside the lagoon and nice steady breeze.
Spirit was constantly doing 12kts or more so we headed out through the reef opening and decided to go up the eastern coast and enter back in again at the entrance just to the east of Tahaa. It was a good move as it gave us some more sailing time even though we did get a bit wet and were towing the dinghy.
It was a fast blast up the outside and when we came to enter the passage off Tahaa we saw there was small breakers as we had a slight outgoing tide. We shortened up the dinghy so she was tight in behind on the transom and headed in. Once inside the water flattened out we were off again. Sailing alongside the reef edge is such great fun. Smooth water and the feeling of flying when your sitting out on the windward float. We sailed around a few of the shallow reefs areas inside the lagoon and when we got nearer Raiatea we hardened up on the breeze and Spirit took off hitting 19kts. It was just perfect sailing huge smiles all around and a day we'll not forget.
The next day we got Spirit into the yard and positioned her on the trailer that they use to haul the boats out. It was an easy process with some fiddling around she came out without too much fuss. The guys there are very experienced which shows in the lack of communication they have with each other when the works being done.
Bit of a tight fit but they were certain we'd get out and we did but it was very close in the end with only inches on the port side. After getting all the sails off, stowing everything away inside nice and neat, changing the engine oil, washing the tender, and giving her a thorough clean. We hired a car and did some driving around the island.
We did a full circuit around Raiatea in the car which was another great experience. It's such an unspoiled and beautiful place with the locals taking great pride in their properties. They have wonderful clean gardens with massive amounts of flowers planted all over. Very similar to the Marquases in that respect.
On the drive around we stopped at some of the historical sites in the south and popped into a very pretty resort for lunch. If you get to Raiatea it's expensive but I'd highly recommend getting a car for the day and looking around. There's some wonderful spots.
Johnny flew out in the afternoon after our drive around and I was to go on the Tuesday after some final jobs on spirit were done. We spent a few days in a little resort called Sunset Beach just around the corner from the yard. They have small bungalows on the waters edge and a large jetty that is a great spot to watch the afternoon sunsets and to cool of from during the day. Spirit will now be left in Raiatea for the following 6 months while I head to Italy to do some work. Plan to then head home in December and spend a long overdue Christmas with family and friends before heading back in March.
There is some great equipment we have onboard that we'd like to review so while away from Spirit I'll try and get this done and will update it on the blog.
Happy sailing to all!