Sailing to the Island of Huahine
A full month after the final cyclone, we thought it safe to move on. We were eager to visit the Iles Sous les Vent, Tahiti's cousin islands "under the wind" (those in her lee). So after installing the sat-nav, we effected the necessary paperwork with the harbor officials, and visited the outdoor market and shops to replenish Suka's goodies larder.
With a northerly 15-knot wind, Suka gurgled along at a comfortable 5-1/2 knots under full press of canvas. Moving once again felt wonderful, even though the jaunt was but a single night's journey.
I had removed the self-steering auxiliary rudder soon after our arrival in Tahiti, in order to protect it from cyclone damage. The 100 mile excursion to the Leeward Islands did not warrant reassembling the devise onto Suka's transom, so we stood tyranny to the tiller. This soon put us in remembrance of our seagoing predecessors who had circumnavigated the globe prior to the advent of the self-steering mechanism or the autopilot. Those were the days when designers and builders placed far more emphasis on helm balance, seaworthiness, and seakindliness; and when the yachtsmen and yachtswomen knew how to trim those vessels. These days, the short-handed owner is expected to bolt on a self-steering apparatus as something of an afterthought, in an attempt to camouflage any deficiencies on both accounts.
Zoom out to see where we are.
In fact, Suka carried so much weather helm that we rarely flew her mizzen sail - it only exacerbated the problem. Additionally, she was fitted with hydraulic steering, so her rudder would not hold a trim setting for more than a few minutes. The hydraulic fluid, under the rudder's back pressure, would slowly seep back through the seals of the helm pump (despite my having it rebuilt). As the vessel lacked a big genoa, the only means we could balance her was by flying a loosely sheeted, deep reefed main, and a jib hardened well in. But this configuration provided minimal sail drive in normal trade wind conditions, so we seldom reverted to it. Instead, we normally flew the full mainsail, and left the self-steering gear to grapple with the induced weather helm.
We reached the island of Huahine (who-ah-he'-knee) and rounded it to its north, and entered Passe Avaamoa. Inside we found placid and emerald-green water, white sand beaches, and the thatched bungalows of the Bali Hai Hotel. We set anchor into the sand, where subsequently it was to remain ensconced for two weeks.
Fare, Huahini, at the wharf.
Inspecting the mizzen mast aloft.
The Bali Hai Hotel
Cyclonic desecration was in little evidence here. For some reason the fierce blasts had not ravaged this island as hard as they had the others.
Touring the Island by Motorbikes
As we had on Moorea, we toured the island riding rented motorbikes. Our first impression was how fecund the lush verdure covering the island. The Society Islands are a botanical wonderland, and Huahine was certainly no exception. The air was redolent of rich, earthy odors and of plants growing robust. The flora was larger than life.
Small, corrugated-iron roofed houses were surrounded by small, open plots and by gardens. As was the case in a few of the villages in the Marquesas, the yards here were impeccably well kept. Where there was grass, it was mowed neatly - despite what must have been a voracity of weeds encouraged by the warm, moist, and sunny tropical clime. Where the yard was bare ground, it was raked meticulously. Huahine was so well groomed, in fact, that rarely in our travels about the island did we find the smallest piece of litter.
The people, though, where what impressed us the most. Wherever we found them, they treated us cheerfully and amiably. They lived comparatively simple lives, without much avarice - although economically they were ages ahead of the Marquesans.
In short, we found the island a delight.
But the mood's insouciance was shattered one afternoon. In the company of a few other yachtees, Jenny and I were strolling along a dirt road leading through the village of Fare, there being no sidewalk to speak of, when a jeep skidded to a halt. "Off the street!" a gendarme ordered, in a tone so atypically unremitting that we only stood there, taken aback. At that, the Gestapo-like cop stepped from his jeep, (parked in the middle of the street), approached us most threateningly, and repeated his command, which was beginning to sink in. After we had complied, the fulminating, one-person task force withdrew into his jeep and sped away.
“As if acting a scene of the keystone cops, in our many side trips we had unknowingly eluded the SWAT team.”
Our next encounter, or rather a near miss, with this diabolical character occurred a few days later. After riding motorbikes about the island most of the afternoon, we had returned to the hotel for refreshments. The friendly bartender, who by then knew us reasonably well, related that the SWAT team of one, (not his exact words) had been out scouring the island in search of our whereabouts. It seems that we had been riding motorbikes illegally, by not wearing helmets. Why the fellow renting the motorbikes had not supplied helmets, and why he had not so much as mentioned that helmets were required - remains a mystery. Perhaps he was also oblivious to this newly fabricated law. And conversely, how the polizei knew that we were in violation of his law was another question, and one that might have suggested a collusion there somewhere. Nevertheless, as if acting a scene in the furthering episodes of the keystone cops, in our many side trips to explore roads leading into the jungle we had unknowingly eluded the nemesis.