The morning after our Huahine Eel Tour, Crystal and Andrew headed to shore while I stayed to work on blog posts. Kevin sleeps cozy-like in his bunk. When Crystal and Andrew return, they bring back a box of French pastries from the best pastry shop we have found in all of French Polynesia so far. The smell of fresh, crisp layers of pastry dough topped with Chantilly and vanilla pudding fills Sonrisa’s cabin. This is enough to roust Kevin from his slumber. We split a Napolean, a large cream-puff like pastry, a chocolate eclair and a danish into fours and gorged ourselves on sugar.
Over breakfast, we contemplate whether to stay one more day to see the single Tahitian dancing girl at the expensive nearby resort or if we want to move on to Raiatea. Our planned schedule shows us moving on today, so we keep to the schedule and move on. The Norwegians are in contact, and we are receiving information that Raiatea has some lovely snorkeling, too.
It’s only a 5 hour crossing from Huahine to Raiatea. However, two hours out into a wavy ocean we are all regretting our poor life decisions. Pastries for breakfast are not a solid foundation on which to build an ocean crossing. An hour or so later, we all perk up in favor of a philosophical debate. Nothing like a discussion of opposing opinions to get your mind off seasickness.
Upon arriving in Raiatea, we connect with the Norwegians and Jonas the Swede. We see several boats anchored in the middle of a very beautiful reef, but we can’t spy how they got there. On the chart, they are surrounded by three foot water in almost every direction. Sonrisa’s keel drags below the waterline 6’3” so she is not in favor of sailing over the top of three foot water. We hunt and hunt, knowing there must be a way in somewhere. The chart indicates there is a point of 10 foot water around the back side of the reef, but after weaving our way there, it looks like we have to weave our way through shallower coral heads that poke up at random within the generally 10 foot water mark. We follow the channel around almost a full 270 degrees from where we started. The sun starts getting low in the sky and we need to make a decision quickly or risk losing enough visibility to navigate through coral heads. We find a thin slice of sixteen foot water between the ocean facing reef and the inner lagoon reef. We slowly nudge Sonrisa up to the narrow entrance: 150 feet drops to 20 feet in an instant, then 16, 15, 12, 8, 7 feet. I call out the footage to Andrew who is standing on the bow spotting for any visible problems. My voice becomes shrill as we hit 6 feet below Sonrisa’s keel, but then the depth begins moving up again. We passed the shallow spot, and now the pass opens up to sixteen feet. That is acceptableWe weave around and through coral heads until we reach the open anchorage. We drop the anchor into sand, and it catches in an instant (the Spade anchor rocks my socks). Sonrisa and I pull back on the anchor in reverse at 2500 RPMs for good measure while Andrew hovers above in his snorkel gear. Andrew reports that the anchor dug in well, and we are confident Sonrisa will be safe in this beautiful but slightly hair raising spot.
We enjoy snorkeling, sundowner cocktails with the Norwegians, and watch another green flash — this time, the Norweigan’s first! Crystal rocks out another one of her tasty pineapple upside down cakes. We host the Norwegians & Jonas the Swede for dinner one night and our old Lufi friends from the Pacific Crossing for dinner a second night. We are not lonely here.
All the guidebooks suggest that we take a scooter tour around the island to view stunning cliffs and turquoise water. So, Sonrisa’s crew and the Swede head to shore to ride scooters. Neither Andrew nor I have ever ridden or driven a scooter before. I make Andrew ride on the back and we wobble around until I get the hang of it. “My mother told me never to ride a motorcycle.” I grouse.
“This is a scooter.” Andrew says.
The scooter buzzes beneath us as my right hand twists the accelerator to its maximum speed of 35 mph, downhill, with a tailwind. The scenery screen before my eyes slides along with flowers, ocean, cliffs, water falls and jungle.
We stop at French Polynesia’s largest preserved marae and admire the handwork of ancient island peoples. How did they move those giant stones?
We pass through little towns, and hear the echo of drums. We poke our head into an empty warehouse and find several men pounding away while one woman sweeps the open floor. Locals sit along the road at little bus stops and on beaches; each one of them wave and smile as we motor by.
It doesn’t take long before my fretting fades into the chirp of a cheerful tourist. Soon, I even feel comfortable enough to let Andrew drive for a bit.
We end our day with pizza and ice cold coconut water at a roadside snack shack. We sit in the shade with our toes in the sand, watching kids play in the ocean. We can see Bora Bora in the distance. Our time in French Polynesia is almost over, we can see it just over there.
And, I will just leave you with this. It makes me laugh every single time I see it.