Tahiti to Beveridge Reef… Crossing The Dangerous Middle

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Tahiti was great… we got accustomed to city life once again. Bars, clubs, restaurants – all the things we’ve been deprived of for months. French Poly marked the end of the road for three of our crew members. Off to greener pastures no doubt…

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Jorel’s coconut drilling days were numbered as we prepare for his last night onboard

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Compulsory shit shirt outings were enforced for the ensuing nights out. Jorel managed to pull an all nighter, returning to the boat at 3am, collecting his bag and heading to the airport for his 6am flight home… suck shit.

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After a day of recovery, we moved the boat to Marina Tahina. Busy place, but is close to some great surf.

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Exploring the wrecks near the airport. A purpose made dive site.

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Those hands inside the cockpit belong to Horse and Chook. This would be Chooks last snorkel, heading off to the airport soon after. Bound for Europe to continue his adventures.

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While Horse had a shit off the back of another boat.

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The same day Jono and Hannah had flown in from South America. They had just been in Brazil for the World Cup. Jono is on with us all the way home, and Hannah will fly home to NZ from Fiji.

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For Buckos Birthday we rented a car and went for a drive along the west coast of Tahiti, down to the end of the road to Teahupoo. Kim and Lorna from Zissou joined us for the trip. Unfortunately there was no swell that day

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Birthday dinner at the local snack vans.

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Heading out to Tapuna, the nearest surf break, the local outriggers jump on our wake for a free ride

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The lineup. Me Jono and Jackson

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The reason my feet are still covered in infected cuts

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It was time to leave Tahiti and head for nearby Moorea. Tapuna was looking pretty good as we head out the pass

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The locals here were pretty friendly, which isn’t the case in alot of breaks in the Society Islands

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Horse’s silhouette while checking the anchor in Moorea

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Matauvau pass in Moorea turned it on for us also, scoring some waves until two charter cats dumped a dozen guys in the water, ruining the session.

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We leave Moorea for Huahine on a glorious afternoon

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We went straight down to Araara pass at the south end of Huahine. There is fun break which we had to ourselves. Horse throwing some spray

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Me looking confused at what to do next

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Horse finding some shade

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We decided to find some shallow water to calibrate our depth sounder to see just how accurate it was. In preparation for heading through the shallow pass at Aitutaki

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The girls checking out the kite beach, debating if there was enough wind..

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Up in Fare’, It was Horses last day on board the boat, and after scoring some good barrels that morning, he told us “One More”. Well that one more resulted in the above broken board.

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Horse stayed in French Polynesia for a couple more weeks after we left. This beauty snapped at Teahupoo just after the billabong pro had finished up. Horse is now back in Australia, believed to be still smiling…

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We left Huahine for Bora Bora, catching this beauty along the way

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Bora Bora is probably the most famous of the French Polynesian islands. It’s peak is surrounded by a beautiful lagoon. A very popular place for American honeymooners

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The pass at Bora Bora had a wave. While waiting for Salv’s plane to land, we ducked out for a look. Jono wearing the best wave of the morning on the head

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With Salvy successfully arriving from Brisbane, we hit the water straight away to snorkel with the sting rays

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The stingrays here have been handfed for years, so armed with some fresh fish, we jump in with them for a close encounter

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They’re not shy, they come straight at you, climb over your back trying to suck your face off.

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Side on profile of these cool guys

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A foot on the head was the only way to keep them under control

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The girls sucking down afternoon cocktails

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We went off to explore the east side of the Bora Bora, getting away from all the resorts. Jono on the bow as we thread our way through the reefs.

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Getting from French Poly to Tonga involves crossing the sometimes active SPCZ (South Pacific Convergence Zone), also known as the dangerous middle. It was pretty active as we were trying to pick a decent day to leave.

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With a rough passage on the cards, a quick trip up the mast to check things brings peace of mind

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Kite launch off the tender with the famous peaks of Bora Bora in the background

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How much wood is required to cook a couple pieces of fish and some damper… a lot.

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“That’s not a knife”

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Fresh Mahi Mahi, Baked Potato and damper. Washed down with coconut rum. Delicious

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The team…

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We heard of this pass where the Manta Rays swim through every morning like clockwork. So we parked Cowabunga nearby and went to investigate.

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Sure enough we saw several of these guys swimming gently with the current

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Manta Rays can grow up to 18 feet across. While these guys weren’t that large, they are very curious animals and don’t mind coming in for a closer look

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With a departure date set, we came back to the west side and booked ourselves into Bloody Marys for a nice meal out. Even after eating fish for all these months, what do we order… MORE fish.

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Jono’s hero on the “Famous people to visit” Board

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A small weather opportunity presented itself, so we sadly cleared out of Bora Bora and set sail for Aitutaki, in the Cook Islands. 480nm of pretty atrocious weather was what laid ahead of us.

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Within an hour of leaving, the rod was off at a million miles an hour. Salvy given the honours. With those guns on display, the fish didn’t stand a chance.

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Two hair models showcasing our biggest Mahi to date, around the 4 foot mark and 15-20kg.

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The butchering begins

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When you get a nice big Mahi like this, you get beautiful sashimi slices off it

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So we well and truly found “The dangerous middle”… the wind did circles for a while there, before it settled in from the SE and started building… quickly

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Jono with his finest wet weather gear… The towel Sarong

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For the next 48 hours the wind didn’t really drop below 30 knots. We had big 4 metre seas on the beam keeping the cockpit wet, with a few good waves filling it to spa level. The noisiness of the boat had the new crew a little worried…

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Night 2 into our crossing produced this top gust

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At night we dropped the main and surfed along under storm size headsail. Still averaging 6-7s. The boom was eased down to give us a bit more sail area and to balance the boat.

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Night 3 produced this one. With the main down the big gusts really went through unnoticed. With the boat handling it beautifully. However it was cold, which kept us indoors and the mood sombre.

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A very relieved crew when land was sighted around noon, 3 days after we left. All in all a successful leg with nothing broken… and no spews.

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Now we had to negotiate the entrance into Aitutaki, seen behind Dirks boat, marked with white stakes. At the top of a spring tide it is only 2 metres deep. We arrived there on a very small high tide, but drawing only 1.4 metres we figured we would be OK.

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The pass is only 20 metres wide, for a length of 600m. The shallowest part about half way in. We passed over it with about 20cm to spare.

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With the shop advertising “Smokes”, this is our first English speaking country since the BVIs nearly 6 months ago. What a welcome change.

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“Come here you little fucker, I’m gonna cuddle the shit outta you…”

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We rented some “rad” scooters and went off to explore (burnouts) around the island.

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Gaminos MC. Cook Islands Chapter. Wearing official club colours

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Biker chicks not to be outdone

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A borrowed trolley from the Servo helped lug the water jugs back to the boat after refilling from the towns communal tank.

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Jono exploring the caverns outside the pass

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The Bunga 5, as we have infamously become known, getting in an afternoon rehearsal. In short, I wouldn’t even call what we produce music

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The Vaka. A traditional Polynesian boat has been sailing around the world promoting the travels of their ancestors along the way. We just happened to be in Aitutaki as it arrived.

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With the Vaka in town, an island themed party was announced. The girls with their handmade headpieces

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The Mayor declared that they will have feasts every day while the Vaca was in town. The locals have a very strong “Guests eat first” policy. Which is fine by us, as we were welcomed to these dinners and asked to grab our food first before the locals devour it.

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Cowabunga’s Salvaging, a little side business we started in Aitutaki, had staff putting in extra shifts, dragging off the yachts that ran aground in the pass. Me and Jono hanging off the end of the boom of Sea Wolf.

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This guy decided to come in at half tide, on a falling tide. Luckily for him we dragged him off before he’d have to spend the night on the sand.

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The weather had been pretty shitty and cold since we arrived, however we had a couple good days and we set off across the lagoon to check out the aptly named, Honeymoon Island.

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We were all suffering sore arms after throwing the fris on this massive beach

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There was no wind, so we set up for the day in the empty kite schools camp.

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Hammocks and pizza shapes… a formidable combination

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The Island is covered with nesting Red tailed tropic birds. Keeping their young ones in close for a cuddle

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We stopped off for a snorkel on the way back to the boat, in search of the giant clams that grow here

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No giant clams, just giant Morays

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Real life aquarium

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Before leaving Aitutaki, we stock up on coconuts. Especially since our next stop doesn’t have a speck of land

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After a week, we clear out, and head off under a watchful rainbow for Beveridge Reef 440nm away.

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We had a beautiful sail from Aitutaki to Beveridge with Salvy providing the muscle.

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With the freezer still full of fish, we didn’t put the lines out until the hour before we arrived. Salv with his first Tuna

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Once anchored inside the atoll, with blood dripping off the back steps from the Tuna, the sharks came in for a look. After jumping in for a swim to watch the sharks, they became a little too “curious”, even for my liking. Wearing bloody shorts probably didn’t help.

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These were by far the most aggressive sharks we’d seen. Being hand fed off the back like a pack of dogs. One of them tried to swim through the swim ladder and got stuck, providing a pretty good laugh

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Beveridge Reef, a landless atoll, with the closest land being Nuie, 200km away. This is about as untouched as it gets. I couldn’t imagine more than a 100 people would find themselves here each year. Needless to say, we were the only boat here.

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The Weber got plenty of run in Beveridge with the fresh Tuna

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The middle of the atoll is about 20 metres deep, whereas the whole outer rim is only a few metres deep at low tide. The visibility is the best I’ve seen anywhere in the world. Somewhere around 60 metres or 200 feet.

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Somehow we jagged a rare event, clear skies and not a breath of wind

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That shark is probably 40 metres away, showing how clear the water is

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As there is no land, the reef is especially hard to spot. Not helping, the charted position is 3 miles out. It’s not hard to believe that the reef is littered with wrecks. Some new, some ancient. In the 0.1% of the lagoon we explored, we saw several.

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The Nicky Lou obviously hit the reef year ago, being pushed over into the lagoon by the swell.

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Perfection

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The stingrays here were a lot less friendly than in Bora Bora. Always keeping his Barb between me and him. In fact everything in the water was a lot less friendly, possibly due to lack of human contact

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The snorkelling in Beveridge was incredible. Even if the water was a little fresh by our standards

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While cruising along in the tender at Mach 10, I noticed what looked like a pipe underwater. Turned out it was a massive chain stretching for a 100 metres across the shallows and into the coral

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The coral has done its best to reclaim it. A chain this size could only have belonged to a big ship, which was wrecked here decades ago. The mysteries of Beveridge Reef…

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A recent wreck from the past year or so.

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Lets rewind 10 years. Salv sometime 2004… When we cruised up and down the coast off Gladstone on Rossco’s 24 foot cat, with Yellow Patch in the background…

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Fast forward to present day Salv. The Boat, Anchor, Hair and tattoos are bigger. But nothing much else has changed haha.

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Buckos bakery pumping out the bread with a smile

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Its a surreal experience being in such clear, calm, shallow water, with the ocean disappearing over the horizon

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No filter required here

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You can clearly see the anchor chain laying on the bottom

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The Crew, the photo doing the sunset no justice…

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This one showing its true colours.

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The next morning we upped anchor after an awesome 2 days in Beveridge Reef and set sail for Tonga 380nm away.

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Lines were out, and not long until Bucko was fighting it out…

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And Jono as well on the handline

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Mahi showing off its colours

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The first of several fish aboard

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We hooked another fish and I am 100% certain it was Mahi on it when I saw it jump. Moments later it went slack, then there was a Wahoo on it. The fish were fighting each other to get on the lure. Again the lines were pulled in with the freezer stocked

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The Spinnaker had its first look since its second repair, this time the blue stripe across the top. The Sailmakers who did the original, faulty repair agreed to pay the bill to have it repaired again, which came in over US$1200. A win for Cowabunga. But a big thanks to Doyles in the BVIS for footing the bill.

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A little after 2 days of excellent sailing we sight Tonga.

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Hannah dragging in a Barracuda to give us plenty of variety

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On the way in to the anchorage, we saw dozens of whales. Some of them surfacing only metres from the boat. We pushed the boat hard doing 9-10s all day to clear customs before they closed at 430pm. We timed it to the minute, arriving at 4pm. With the officials keen to wrap up for the day, they pushed us through quickly. Allowing us to hit the bars for a well earned beer.

More on these guys, and Tonga, next time…

3 comments

  1. Rosco says:

    What a life! Don’t wear your MC colours in Qld you’ll get arrested. Calibrate the echo sounder? What a conscentious El Capitaine you are. Beveridge Reef looked very interesting.

  2. Flynn (Saskia's 10yo son) says:

    I really enjoy your jokes and love these blogs. I’m just starting to sail and really want to have adventures like this when I grow up. I especially loved the ‘dickpit’ joke from last blog and its huge at school now. Flynn

  3. Maryke Barker says:

    Hi Andy, So great to follow your adventures. Brings back so many memories for me. You are following the route I sailed with my Dad on ‘Cetonia’ so many years ago. I had my 21st birthday in Papeete. Different times, but you can’t change the wonderful island experience, the colour of the water and the reef. Continue to enjoy and sail safe. Maryke

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