Global Voyage

A Story About Sailing Around the World

Ray & Jenny aboard the ketch Suka

3 years, 35,000 miles, Nov 1982 - Jan 1986

Ray & Jenny Jardine

Chapter 3: Tahiti And The Societies page 49 of 109

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Suka presses on for Raiatea. Photo by Larry and Mollie.

The Island of Raiatea


Zoom out to see where we are.

Sailing the twenty-five miles to the island of Raiatea (rye-eh'-tay'-ah), we entered Passe Teavapiti, and after traversing the expansive lagoon, moored the ketch alongside the town wharf. Uturoa, the principle village on Raiatea and the second largest city in eastern Polynesia, oddly sits on the windward side of the island. So despite the presence of the offlying barrier reef, the brisk trade winds were kicking a chop and sending Suka reeling and lurching torturously against her pneumatic fenders, bearing against the wharf.

We ran a long hose ashore and connected it to a spigot, which trickled water of questionable potability. A few locals assured us the water was drinkable, but first we fed the hose into an open bucket for visual inspection before siphoning it into Suka's fresh water tanks. Then we added a dollop of chlorine bleach as a purifying agent. While preparing the ketch for the voyage we had equipped her with a ceramic water filter. This was purportedly capable of removing impurities to one micron, defying any parasites such as giardia, amoebae, tapeworm eggs, and so on. But it would not protect against bacteria or viruses.

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Uturoa town warf on the island of Raiatea

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The town of Uturoa was characterized by red roofed and white painted wooden buildings, and was bustling with activity. It soon proved itself yet another culturally fascinating place. The air was saturated with the rich aroma of vanilla beans, grown locally and sold at inflated prices at the quaint Chinese shops.

Emanating a bouquet of vanilla redolence, Suka motored around the northern perimeter of the island, her crew ever watchful for shoals within the lagoon, unsuspecting of the adventure that soon lay in store.

Mishaps in the Marina

Making way to the marina, we could see a dozen yachts within the quiet pocket harbor. As we reached the entrance, the water shallowed from 70 to seven feet; leaving Suka with a mere six inches of water beneath her keel. With trepidation, we crept in.

If you can imagine the absurdity of building a marina into which flowed a creek that disgorged its sediment, then you will have pondered the logic behind this one. The central portion of the basin proved shallower than its periphery by about a foot; and there Suka skidded to an abrupt halt, aground on the soft sediment. The wind blew vigorously, but having inadvertently deployed our "keel anchor" we stood in little danger of being driven onto the windward concrete wall. Nevertheless, we dispatched the dinghy, from which Jenny then motored a kedge laterally to windward. Then with a bracing wind in the sails heeling the brig well over, and with her engine assisting at full throttle, her crew managed to winch her toward their intended berthing, while her keel plowed a lengthening furrow in the favorably compliant seabed.

“At vocal levels no doubt audible to half the population of Raiatea, directives, demands, recriminations, ultimatums and a few unprintable expletives were exchanged amongst the various factions, which now included a growing number of onlookers.”

While we were thus engaged, an impatient skipper of one of the vessels lying to the wall, stern-to, cast his moorings and set out. Never mind that Suka was presently occupying the lion's share of the basin's maneuvering space. And as if this was not sufficient complication, a third sailboat was at that moment entering the marina. While rounding Suka, outbound vessel A inadvertently snagged her self-steering gear in another yacht's bow rode. And inbound vessel B skidded aground on the above-mentioned hump. At vocal levels no doubt audible to half the population of Raiatea, directives, demands, recriminations, ultimatums and a few unprintable expletives were exchanged amongst the various factions, which now included a growing number of onlookers. Vessel A squeezed past Suka, nearly colliding with her and in the process compressing our inflatable in torment between the two hulls. This was a considerable test of the dinghy's integrity. Skipper A's confusion was partially offset by the adroitness of his woman-crew, who frantically fended-off the nearby moored yachts, their mooring lines, and the marina's concrete walls. And in this way these folks eventually scraped and clawed their way out. The crew of vessel B, after finally winching their ship's keel free of the shoals, had obviously grown discouraged by the marina's lack of aesthetics and overall gray ambiance, for they turned tail and moved out to the lagoon and anchored there.

With suitable elbow room restored, Jenny and I continued kedging Suka ever onward; and finally Med-moored her leeward of the concrete wall. Peace returned to the normally peaceful Polynesian setting, and the onlookers quickly lost interest and moved on.

Secret Sharer soon came steaming into the marina, her crew oblivious of the lurking underwater snare. Before we could warn Larry and Mollie of the pernicious shoal, they somehow cruised right over it; their vessel being of lesser draft. Utterly oblivious, they casually tossed us their mooring lines, and rafted alongside Suka. Considering the chaos we had endured, their easy entrance was dumbfounding. However, the incongruity was to be reversed a few days later:

As Larry and Mollie were leaving for Bora Bora, waving us farewell, their cutter's keel suddenly embraced the hump, and the yacht shuddered to an abrupt halt. To free Secret Sharer, Larry instructed Mollie to perch at the end of the boom, which after she had climbed on, he then swung far out and guyed it to starboard. Coming to their assistance, I stood in Suka's dinghy and grabbed the end of the same boom, and pulled with all my weight. Still Secret Sharer refused to budge. A neighboring yachtee, Jim Carlyle from aboard his yacht Sybaris, came to help. Grasping a long line attached to Secret Sharer's masthead via its halyard, Jim motored his tender away full tilt, and this heeled the ship far enough to lift her keel free of the bottom. Seizing the moment, Larry gunned the engine; Jim released the line; and I dropped off. And thus, Secret Sharer sped out of the marina - with Mollie still straddling the boom end, angled far out and high over the water.

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The little pocket harbor on Raiatea, with the island of Tahaa in the background.

During our stay, Jenny and I rode Le Truck - as the public buses there are called - into Uturoa, and there we rented motorbikes. This time we were careful to inquire whether helmets were mandatory. That they were not, furthered my suspicion that Huahine's mad henchman was in the habit of fabricating personal ordinances to suit.

From the outskirts of the township, and outward, Raiatea resembled her comely neighbor. The islanders were friendly, their yards were well kept, and the countryside was lush. We spent most of the day touring as far around the island's periphery as the road extended, in both directions.

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Ramy's Place, at the outskirts of Uturoa.

As time passed, our favorite morning haunt became a nondescript little café known as Ramy's Place, cowered at the outskirts of Uturoa. Locals congregated here. They liked to sit at wooden tables while Chinese waiters scurried about, serving plates of savory, freshly baked baguettes and wide-mouthed cups of steaming coffee. Curiously, at 8:30 a.m. the place would practically empty, as customers would leave to get on with their days.

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Motorbiking around the island of Raiatea.

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Yes, it does exist.  

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We also spent a few glorious days hiking into the mountains. These were not so thickly vegetated, and were laced with a few, seldom-used dirt roads, presumably as fire-breaks. While trekking in the higher regions, we found spices, fruits, and semi-wild vanilla beans. Once we climbed to a vista atop a hillside overlooking the western seaboard. The fringing reef clearly extended away to the north, and also encompassed Raiatea's Siamese-twin island, Tahaa. Beyond that, Bora Bora squatted in the distance. What a good location, we mused idly, for someone to build a home.

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Our vista on the hillside overlooking the fringing reef and the island of Tahaa in the distance.

The story has 109 pages. This is page 49.
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Page Links
GV 001: Title Page
GV 002: TOC
GV 003: Dedication
GV 004: Preface
GV 005: Prologue
GV 006: Beginnings
GV 007: Work Done
GV 008: Making Ready
GV 009: Departure
GV 010: Sailing Credentials
GV 011: First Lesson
GV 012: Sextant Navigation
GV 013: Safety Harness
GV 014: Murphy's law
GV 015: Spirit of Adventure
GV 016: Holding On
GV 017: First Big Storm
GV 018: Storm Intensified
GV 019: Rolling Violently
GV 020: Mizzen Sleeping Bag'sl
GV 021: Freeing the Propeller
GV 022: Visits by Birds
GV 023: Crossing the Doldrums
GV 024: Nearing First Landfall
GV 025: Land Ho
GV 026: Fatu Hiva
GV 027: Trek Inland
GV 028: Anchor Watch
GV 029: Passage
GV 030: Hiva Oa
GV 031: Skin Diving Circus
GV 032: Almost Like a Jungle
GV 033: Polaris Missile
GV 034: Taiohaie Bay
GV 035: Cascade Hakaui
GV 036: Taipi Bay
GV 037: Cyclone Lisa
GV 038: Cyclone Nano
GV 039: Passage of Patience
GV 040: Tuamotu Archipelago
GV 041: Tahiti
GV 042: Cyclone Reva
GV 043: Secret Sharer
GV 044: Moorea
GV 045: Cyclone Veena
GV 046: Aftermath
GV 047: Good Weather in Papeete
GV 048: Huahine
> GV 049: Raiatea
GV 050: BoraBora
GV 051: Rarotonga
GV 052: Tonga
GV 053: Fresh Air
GV 054: Tongan Feast
GV 055: Excursion to Maninita
GV 056: Mariner's Cave
GV 057: Fiji
GV 058: Ndravuni Island
GV 059: Mara Island
GV 060: Aneityum
GV 061: Noumea
GV 062: St Elmo's fire
GV 063: Breakwater Reef
GV 064: Bundaberg
GV 065: Life on the Burnett River
GV 066: Engine Sabotage
GV 067: Flying
GV 068: Aground in Round Hill Creek
GV 069: Gladstone Confinement
GV 070: Tropical Queensland
GV 071: Trip into Townsville
GV 072: Cairns Sojourn
GV 073: Cramped Cooktown
GV 074: Lizard Island
GV 075: The San Michelle
GV 076: Lost Mummy Cave
GV 077: Land's End
GV 078: Darwin
GV 079: Christmas Is
GV 080: Passage
GV 081: Cocos Keeling
GV 082: Crossing the Indian Ocean
GV 083: Rodriguez
GV 084: Mauritius
GV 085: Reunion Cirque de Mafate
GV 086: Reunion Cirque de Salazie
GV 087: Passage to Africa
GV 088: Kruger National Park
GV 089: Richards Bay
GV 090: Durban
GV 091: Port Elizabeth
GV 092: Cape Town
GV 093: Storm Passage
GV 094: St Helena
GV 095: Passage to Brazil
GV 096: Fortaleza
GV 097: Passage to Caribbean
GV 098: Bonaire
GV 099: Passage to Panama
GV 100: Panama
GV 101: Panama Canal
GV 102: Medidor
GV 103: Costa Rica
GV 104: Passage to Acapulco
GV 105: Acapulco to Cabo
GV 106: Baja
GV 107: Home Port
GV 108: In Retrospect
GV 109: Next Time
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