Checking out for a cruise of the Leeward Islands
21 July 2008 | Tahiti
After a relaxing pain au chocolate and a latte at the local bakery (did I mention I love French countries?) we set about getting the final preparations complete for our departure to Huahine. Final preparations for Hideko means shopping, so Hideko set off for the market to stock up on fresh milk and the like. In the mean time Nobu and I checked in with customs and immigration. We were already checked in to the country but the officials seem to want to keep fairly precise tabs on your movements. You are free to wander Tahiti and Moorea when checked in at Tahiti but they ask you to check back with an itinerary if you sail farther afield. This is generally impossible because you never know what your movements will turn out to be exactly, particularly in the face of weather and such a vast landscape of islands. We did out best of course.
You would think that fueling up in the largest city in this part of the world would be easy. Not the case. Asking around the dock I received many pieces of advice from the cruiser contingent. All cruisers (self included) like to help any time they can. Often faced with no relevant first hand data the grape vine is invoked. This is where the most interesting advice comes from. I can certify that there is no truck that will come and fuel you while tied up on the Quai, nor is there a Mobil station available to yachts by the ferry dock, nor can you tie up near the bridge to the barge. In fact, according to the harbormaster, who I interrogated fully, you can not fuel a yacht up anywhere in the principal port of all Polynesia.
Your near by options are south to Marina Taina, which requires clearing your trek around the airport, and the Tahiti Yacht Club to the north, which requires a trip outside the reef. We had been to the Tahiti Yacht Club and the dock was way back in a spot where it would be difficult to squeeze a 50 foot catamaran. The fuel dock there is also about 30 feet long. The average boat in the yacht club is a 25 foot power boat and it is set up perfectly for that.
The two rumored options on Moorea are the ferry quai and Cook's Bay just past the Bali Hai. Nobu and I checked out the Cook's Bay option and found only gas on the dock, no diesel. It is also a very small dock, again designed for jet skis and small power boats. The approach is easy, the dock is sticking out in the bay all by itself, but I saw no diesel and, more interestingly, I saw no one to ask about it.
Prior to taking the big boat to Marina Taina Nobu and I decided to zip over there in the dinghy to make sure it would work out. This was the first trip we took in the new dinghy where there really would have been no way to do it in the old Walker Bay. We got up on a plane and moved very quickly through pretty large chop. It was a nice and quick 4 miles.
Marina Taina is a well polished and new looking facility. It is also pretty large. They have one fancy and one casual restaurant, a nice bar that serves fresh 3 Brasurres beer (2 Ambers please), a small chandlery, Internet access and most other things you'd expect. There's not much outside the marina with the exception of a large supermarket. The fuel dock is situated in an easily accessible spot and was prepared to fill us up whenever.
We also stopped in at the office to check into availability out of curiosity. When we originally emailed from the Marquesas the marina had no availability. It turned out that things were opening up now with the cruising fleet beginning to thin out, various groups of boats headed for the Cook Islands and beyond. The outside had some huge sailboats tied up such as the Marie Cha III and Obsession 2, which we went through the Panama canal with. I watched a guy on Obsession 2 walk to the rail and throw some raw trash into the water as we went by. Bad enough to pollute your own country much worse to come out here and despoil paradise.
The marina is out in the lagoon area so the water is very clear and there are many boats in the anchorage just off the dock. I would even call it crowded. There is a floating bar and what looks like a floating restaurant also out on the bank inside the reef. Many folks use this area for water-sports, playing around on jet skis and wake boards.
The pass just south of the Taina is well marked and said to be good in most conditions. We took a look at it and on this particular day it looked a little dicey. I draw the line when people are surfing between the markers. Kidding of course, but the break in this area was rather big today and there were many surfers out. The pass seemed doable but I think if it looks this way when we come with the big boat I may go back out at Papeete.
After exploring the marina Nobu and I headed back to the big boat. We had another fun ride inside the reef marveling at the wonderful colors of the lagoon. Just snorkeling out on the bank over the sand is fun when the water is so clear. Tahiti has so much to offer I think that it is too bad so many only see only Papeete (which is fun in its own way). You could easily spend a week or more circumnavigating Tahiti and never spend two nights in the same anchorage or see more than a couple of other boats.
Back home we realized that there was no way we were going anywhere today. Such is the cruising life. So off to the Le Roulotte we went for a nice dinner and a tasty chocolate, banana and vanilla ice cream crepe (with lots of whipped cream).