Have only chartered there once, but did two weeks and loved it. As comparison, when we went we had also chartered twice in BVI
and once in San Juan islands
when we did French Polynesia.
In general I would agree with previous poster and don't worry too much about it, it's actually a relatively straightforward chartering area, yes you're making open ocean passages between islands (where you can get some big swells if the trades are honking) but they're still line of sight and pretty straightforward.
You don't say who you're chartering through, I imagine they all do the same, but our Sunsail chart briefing was extremely informative and we didn't really come across anything during our trip that hadn't been covered in the briefing. About only thing that we hadn't expected, one random spot we'd been told would be OK to anchor on Huahine when we dropped the hook a local paddled over and asked us not to anchor there as it's their local fishing
spot... not a lot of language crossover but the guy was very friendly and nice about it so we just moved on, no worries.
Originally Posted by pedrobraz
1) Cats are beautiful and expensive. We're just a couple, monohulls are usually cheaper. Has anyone sailed a mono around the area? I figured the reefs are really shallow and thus a mono would not do it. Is that correct?
We chartered a Sunsail 44i, 6'7" draft
, no problems. The passes and waters inside the lagoons are all relatively deep as long as you pay attention to the water
color and learn how their system of markers work (if you're a nervous type like I am consider printing off a little refresher guide to the marker system, laminate it and keep in cockpit
... I have one if you want) you won't have depth
problems. About only thing you won't want to try is going over the north side of Bora Bora to the east side... think it could be done but you'd be pushing your luck with that draft. Keep in mind, minimal tides means no calculating when you can and can't do things but also means no big up swing to float you off if you go aground. Going over north side of Tahaa is a little convoluted with some turns here and there but they're well marked and inside the channel was plenty deep.
Only other place cats seemed to have it easier was in Baie d'Avea on Huahne, it's a beautiful place (don't miss it if you have time) but it's a relatively deep bay that goes shallow fast near the inside of the reef, the cats could anchor in the shallow sand near the reef but monohull could not. But it was calm when we were there and anchoring
in the deeper part wasn't a problem.
Originally Posted by pedrobraz
2) I'm a fairly seasoned sailor, albeit having only sailed in Brazil. As such I'm concerned about bareboating over there. I hear the tide doesn't change, reefs are well singnalized and Navionics charts are precise. Also I read there are abundant anchorages. Being such, it all seems just fine. Should I be concerned by anything else?
We brought our own laptop with French Polynesia charts and the navigating was fine. We mostly used the electronic chart for planning anyway, everything was line of sight. Just be aware of how to use range markers (line up two posts on shore to know you're in line for the channel), use your inbound track as a guide when coming back out, and as noted above know how to understand the marker system inside the reefs.
Two things about reef passes:
1) They are NOT red right returning... it's red right leaving... very important
2) Always have a bailout plan. That goes for loss of engine power
(we sailed every pass with our main up) and, something that does happen, loss of visibility... local squalls can blow in quickly and you need to be ready to hang out outside or inside a pass if you can't see well, especially when you're coming in and relying on range markers.
As far as anchoring, was always pretty straightforward, just watch you don't damage the reef / wrap a corral head
. If the trades are blowing (they weren't very strong when we we there) you'll have a consistent wind
direction 24 hours a day, but if they're weak there's a bit of land breeze / day-night shift that happens around dusk and can swing you 180, so be ready for that. Lots of spots have mooring
balls, all free as far as I recall
Oh, and on your passages, DON'T SHORT CUT CORNERS... for example, you'll be coming to Bora Bora from the east and the pass is on the west... as you go around the SW corner of the island leave lots of room between you and the reef, it's closer than you think and closer than your chart plotter might show (people way more experienced than me have come to grief this way).
Originally Posted by pedrobraz
3) I'm also concerned about safety. We would like to explore the islands and interact with the local culture. Is safety an issue? Can I confidently leave the boat anchored and locked for hours straight?
We never felt any sort of safety issue at all. Granted we aren't nightlife people and were always back on the boat by dark, but everyone we interacted with was very friendly... try to break out a little French and they will appreciate it. We did lock our boat when we left, and we did lock our dinghy
(albeit with a miserably small little cable lock) and that seemed to be enough.
Don't miss if possible:
River on Tahaa.
2) Huahine... Fare is cool town, there's an epic (although all day) cultural tour you can take there from locals, and Baie d'Avea is paradise IMO.
3) Bora Bora is a little overdone for sure, and a small cruise ship
does come there, so don't plan too much time there. We actually found the Bora Bora Yacht Club pretty lousy. On the other hand, Bloody Mary's felt true to form with lots of cruisers in there (we chatted with folks about the BVI
and other places we'd sailed), mooring
balls out front and cold Hinano on tap.
4) If you go over top of Tahaa, if you can grab one of the two mooring balls of Vahine Island Resort you'll be in very isolated spot (we were by ourselves, no boat on other ball) with wicked view of sunset behind Bora Bora:
1) Internet was hard to come by but we found WiFi
to use in a few places, sometimes paying by the minute... just used it to check weather
, but that was the only weather
we found (there is a local broadcast on the VHF but it's in French).
2) Liquor is spendy... if you can bring your own (within the legal import
limits) or hit duty free in Papeete you'll be ahead of the game
3) We never had to fill up with water
(one of the plusses of only two people, who are used to conserving resources, on a 44' boat supposedly built for 8), but it didn't seem super straightforward so if you think that's something you'll need to do make some direct inquiries about that in your briefing.
It's been a few years and it still ranks as one of our favorite trips ever... if you want some of the cheat sheets
I made for the marker system or some other stuff I put together PM me.