Huahine - vanilla and fishing in a potimarara!

Huahine is one of the less exploited of the Society Islands, perfect for us cruisers since we want to feel like we’re out exploring the unknown and breaking new grounds. OK there are more than 6000 people on Huahine but very few resorts and there were only a couple dozen or so other boats. Maybe not as dramatic scenery as Moorea or Bora Bora but the island makes up for it with its laid back atmosphere and genuinely nice and friendly people.

At 6:45 in the morning we go though Passe Avamora and enter the bay outside Fare, the main village. We happily see Tethys lying at anchor in the bay! We pass close and after some shouting Mael pops up a newly awoken and smily face through the hatch, we’ve been trying to catch up with them since Marquesas so this was a great surprise. Later we also met Rob and Pam from Gunboat Laguz, they had some kids visiting and we’re as happy as can be. We also see the first Swedish flagged boat we’ve seen since the Caribbean! On board Ohana is Ulf and Karin who left Sweden in 2008 and are currently on their second season in Polynesia.

At the far end of the village is a restaurant called Huahine Yacht Club that has a proper dinghy dock outside, a rare and very welcome treat. They also have wifi (500 CPF per hour, $5), cheap beer on happy hour and a game room with pool tables and classic arcade games like Pac Man and Galaga!! Much nerd love for HYC. The village is small but has very good provisioning and eating possibilities. The Super U is Papeete-big and about the same prices. Outside there’s street vendors selling inexpensive fruit and veg, ice cold coconut for only 100 CPF! I drank as many as I could. Also bought some Tamaru nut oil (cures all skin ailments and keeps wounds clean, Bene told us) and home made Guava jelly.

The plan for the day was to just rest in the afternoon and then maybe go to happy hour, the night sail from Moorea had been a bit rough. The wind was stronger than predicted and at 3 AM sleep became impossible as we did 9-10 knots in slamming seas. But when we were back at the boat Bene gave us a better option, her friend Tearenui could take us fishing on a Potimarara. They are a very special type of fishing boat, the most striking feature is that the helm is right in the front of the boat and the steering is done with a stick. This together with the deep v-shaped hull allows the helmsman to make very quick turns which is essential when they fish mahi-mahi. Then they find the fish by locating a special type of bird and when the fish is spotted they chase it with the boat! For some reason the mahi-mahi doesn’t dive deep but always stays by the surface. Once the fish is tiered they pull up to it and spear it! Extremely cool way to catch fish. We were greeted aboard Tearenui (the boat used to belong to Tearenui the friend, now Tamatoa has it but won't change the name to avoid bad luck. Sorry for the confusion.) by captain Tamatoa and off we went in 30 knots, the jet-engine sound of the large inboard gasoline engine drowned in deafening house music pumping through powerful speakers. The boat is completely open and in the middle is a large cooling box that we could sit on. Terenui (the boat) and its captain handles the seas extremely well, the v-shaped hull cutting through the waves. Two huge marlin squids were trolled, one on a Penn International II and one on a japanese electronic reel. We headed straight out to sea towards a fish-attractor buoy, these have been put out all around the Societies by the government, very cool. No luck with the marlins on the way, switch to Halco vobblers for the buoy where there usually will be tuna. Sure enough, closing in we see flocks of birds and soon we have a strike. Tamatoa pushes a button on the reel (connected to the 12V batteries) and it starts reeling in the fish! Tamatoa can focus on driving the boat, when the fish is close he puts the engine in neutral and can go to the side to gaff the fish himself, a big eye tuna around 4 kilos. First time I see this in action, it is certainly a very effective way to fish. We troll around this area and catch another dozen tunas, all around 2-5 kilos and I get to hand reel one in on the Penn reel. Tearenui mostly takes care of gaffing and cleaning the catch. He does it in a new way for me, completely cuts out the gills and as he tears them off the guts follow. We will try this next time. Back at Kenobi we pay our share for the gas and get two tunas. Bene makes a tahitian-style carpaccio with some fresh ginger, onions, garlic and spices - amazing!

Benes' tuna carpaccio

Next day Terenui takes us and Tethys crew in his pick up truck around the northern main island. Beautiful scenery, flowers and green wilderness all around. We visit an old religious site placed, just as in the Marquesas, next to a huge banian tree. Here human sacrifices were made a long time ago. We heard that one of the methods used was to grind the victim against large coral rocks taken up on land…arghhh. No more ideas of trying to surf the coral reef breaks after that one. A more soothing experience was the visit to Terenuis vanilla plantation. Born in Huahine, studied abroad but came home to start this six years ago. Now he’s got three shade houses (vanilla like 60% shade) giving 2000 square meters of plantation. He’s probably doing okay at the moment; since there is an international vanilla shortage the price is at an all-time high, a kilo of his organic produce is $400. We kind of understood why after his explanation of the work process. Each vanilla stick comes from one flower. This orchid flower opens for 24 hours only and must be pollinated by hand - otherwise it falls off, no vanilla. Pollination is done by taking the pollen with a toothpick and dropping it down a hidden tube inside the flower. They you wait 9 months until the vanilla grows out and matures. Harvest, put in sun a while, put in shade a while, somehow this lets enzymes get busy creating flavour. Done! We all bought a couple 100 grams of the latest harvest for the retail price, now it felt like a good deal.

Back at his big, open jungle-style house we learned his grandfather is actually Swedish! Alf Kinnander, author of the book “En dalmas på Tahiti”, is someone we need to look up. They had one copy of the book but nobody could read Swedish.

A lot of vanilla
Pollination in progress
Thetys and us at Tearenius' place
Thetys and us at Tearenius' place
Proper jungle house

Next day we hired bikes to bike around the smaller island to the south. “It’ll take about two hours”, they said. Seven hours later we’re back, drenched in sweat from climbing the mountainous island with out no-gears bikes. Mine at least had a BMX handle, cool factor more than enough making up for the lack of gears. We had a great time, Huahine really is lovely. It is like a mix of Swedish summer paradise Gotland mixed with arty Österlen, but with jungle. Nice houses line the road all around and face the placid lagoon water. Some artisan shops selling crafts, the big thing here is Pareo, hand-painted cotton cloths. Just in time we bike by a lady selling coco glacé and we guzzle down a couple coconuts. This felt like a nice island to live at, friendly, safe and beautiful. If one can succeed in stressing down to island-pace that is.

Staying hydrated, Huahine-style

After a couple days I muster the courage to Ohana go over and ask a favour. Our Swedish flag has by now withered to shreds and I go over to ask if they might have an extra one in the stores that we may buy off them. They do and soon Ulf hands me a brand new 120 cm flag! They insist on giving it as a gift, the only payment they want is for me to write them a report of the coming part of our trip since they also plan on going to Australia after enjoying another season or so in Polynesia. Incredibly friendly and generous people! Turns out they are from Ängelholm in south Sweden and started from the same marina, Skälderviken, as I did in 2012 with Odessa. Small world. Before leaving the next morning we go to town to buy some small gifts for them but it would have been nice to spend more time with them. We will take good care of your flag Ulf and Karin!

Simon and Mael - new speargun team
Catch of the day

Photo Album

Huahine pics

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