07/04/2008, Tahiti Quai des Yachts
It doesn't feel like the fourth of July here, but it does feel pretty good. We woke up this morning in Tahiti (!) the center of all life in the Southeast Pacific. You feel like you're right in it when you're on the Quai, and you are.
The Quai des Yachts is a dockage service right in the middle of town run by the harbormaster. It is reasonable as marinas go especially for a catamaran (no extra fee for the second hull). We were paying about $1.37 per foot with a flat rate for all the power 20ish a day) and all the water you want. Water was about $2 a day but we didn't use power. A one time fee of about $10 for trash is also charged.
The Quai is setup for boats to come in stern to with messenger lines tied off on the dock for you to pull up the bow moorings with (no need to drop an anchor as used to be the case). The docks are floating to handle the whopping one foot spring tide range. There are gates at the end of each dock but the one closest to the pass doesn't work so you just reach around to open it. That said I didn't have one minute of concern for the security of the boat even when everyone (except Roq of course) was ashore. To quote our friends on Free Spirit (introduced to us from Crete by Zia Later), "there's no safety and security net here because you don't need a safety and security net".
The Qaui could be in a better location. I see cruisers from Marina Taina or the anchorage there taking long dinghy rides or renting cars just to go to places we can get to in a 2 minute walk. I also looked at the pollution levels posted at the harbor masters office and while I wouldn't swim in the port (!) the water in the anchorage is not so good either. There are few places in the lagoons of Tahiti with a water purity rating in the top two categories (sad I know). Go to Moorea if you want to swim. The one down side is that there is a bit of a sewer smell in the area of the Quai sometimes. It usually doesn't reach the dock closest to the pass though.
Power here is Euro in every way except that it is 60 Hz. This is great for American boats because voltage and plugs are easy to adapt, but cycles are not. We didn't plug in while we were on the dock because we didn't have a Euro connector and didn't get around o finding a store that had the right stuff to build a pig tail. It was so sunny that we made lots of power with the solar and we were off the boat most of the time so e didn't use much. I had to run the genset for a short bit every other day (I'm writing this on 7/11 in Moorea and we're still running on the fuel from Ecuador).
We spent most of the day getting through all of our mail and West Marine goodies that Pabs and Lou brought. Pablo came through customs unscathed (no charges) carrying an 18 inch - 30 pound bronze folding prop, line holders for our coach roof, a new mother board for our Spectra water maker, emergency sail repair tape, four marine smoke detectors, three Westerbeke pressure caps, dinghy outboard lock, new stripe decals for the boat, some DVDs and a pile of other stuff. Pablo is of Columbian heritage but looks a lot like a Polynesian when you think about it. They were the last ones off of the plane but one of the gate attendants walked them straight by the x-ray machine to the front of the line at the customs office. I guess I need to work on my tan and get some tattoos.
I had to run around a bit during the day to knock off some high priority tasks. I checked us into the Marina and country at the customs/immigration/port captain/marina office located just down the Quai past the tourism office. The French officials are courteous but still very "official", inquiring as to who the person standing next to you is and that sort of thing. The Polynesian officials are just wonderful, friendly, helpful and a pleasure to deal with. They collect the fees just the same but they make you feel welcome rather than anxious to get out of the building. Luck determines which you get I suppose.
Hideko, Nobu and I cleared in for the standard 30 days. Hideko and I needed to extend however. This required a tip to the post office to buy two 3,000 xfp stamps. Return these stamps with you passport to the immigration lady and an additional 60 days is a guarantee. How to stay longer we have not yet ascertained.
Next I picked up tickets for the Heiva Tahiti. Heiva means having fun and this is exactly what the Polynesians do during this annual dance, music and culture festival. Unfortunately the government didn't fund the country wide festival that was supposed to go on this year so it was just the Tahiti performers. Typically, every four years all of the archipelagos come together in Tahiti to compete. On the off years the Marquesas, Tuamotus and Australs have their own Heiva as do the individual islands of the Societies. Many locals I talked with were unhappy that the country wide festival was not taking place so I imagine it will be reinstated.
The Heiva tickets were sold at a book and office supply store called Odyssey in the middle of town near the large red steepled church. This is a great store with tons of books. Almost everything is in French but you can find a few things in English or take the opportunity to improve your French!
I spent a lot of time talking boats with Dave on O'Vive. It was great to share tips and see how another owner of the exact same boat has done things. Dave has done a great job with O'Vive and she has a lot of great custom systems which Dave has installed. Dave also hooked me up with the best Wifi Internet carrier which allowed me to check Gmail for the first time in a month or so. Ug.
It was a good day of running errands and catching up with civilization. Everyone went different directions today but we are all looking forward to the Heiva tomorrow!
We pulled in to Papeete at noon today! It feels like we have finally reach the end of a big leg.
Last night we put the jib up when the wind came around to 50 off the port bow and started running consistently at 10 knots. We were doing high 8s with the starboard engine at 2,000 RPM. We had the tanks combined to equalize port and starboard diesel supplies. We usually keep them separate and only fuel one at a time so that if one is contaminated the other is ok. We have been running both tanks independently long enough to trust the diesel in each though. Only having a prop to starboard was enough motivation here.
Tahiti is easy to see from pretty far off. We were used to the Tuamotus which are almost invisible until you are on top of them. On the approach we called the harbor master on 12 and they had us wait for a freighter to enter the pass.
I was predicting a 2 knot current but the harbor master suggested more. It was a little squirrelly coming in but we had plenty of power with just the one prop.
We had planned to tie up on the Quai right in town. Noisy but so close to everything I wouldn't stay anywhere else until we were done with Papeete. We had coordinated with Dave on O'Vive who was going to help us get on the dock with just the one prop.
You'd think that one prop would not put you at much of a disadvantage. I would suggest you try docking a cat with one prop to see. It is ok if you only want to turn to port.
Dave took a line to our port quarter that Nobu deftly threw as we idled by O'Vive. Dave belayed it and we swung into line. I gave little blasts from the starboard engine to bring her slowly around. The wind was gently blowing us off the dock so Dave brought in the line as I pulled back on the starboard. In no time we were perfectly tied up with two lines to moorings off the bow and 4 lines, two off the quarter and cross ties, to the dock.
It was great to meet Dave and Nathalie in person and catch up. We immediately started talking boats and probably have another 10 hours worth to go. Dave and Nathalie have also gotten us plugged into the town on the fast track. They are just wonderful people.
We picked our friends Pabs and Lou up at the airport at 6:30 PM. It was so fun to see them again and give them flower lays (the airport has an awesome flower shop). We dropped their bags off at the boat and then went to the Le Roulotte (sp?) for dinner. This is an area on the waterfront where lots of vans cook foods of all kinds. We had steak frites and various other tasty things.
Back at the boat we had some French pastries for Lousie's birthday (she's 29 today) and a great time catching up in the heart of Tahiti.
07/02/2008, French Polynesia
We left Toau at about 6AM this morning. We waived goodbye to our new friends on Szel and wished we were staying another few days as well. Would have been better for sailing as well because today is a no wind day. It doesn't matter though because we are very excited to see our friends tomorrow at the air port!
We have also been keeping track of some internet friends on our sister ship O'Vive. Dave has been very helpful with info from the road ahead as we have progressed through the San Blas, the canal and the Pacific. O'Vive is tied up in front of Papeete on the main quay in the middle of town. When I talked to Dave on the SSB two days ago he mentioned that we may be able to get a spot there as well. That would be a dream.
The sun has set and we are settled in for night watch. Hideko is making a yummy pasta dinner and all is flat and calm. We are motor sailing with the main and jib in 7 knots apparent doing about 8 SOG. Should get us into Papeete around noon tomorrow in time to hang out with O'Vive a bit and pick up Pablo and Louise at the airport. Almost as if by design?!
143 miles to Papeete!
Nobu says: "I am excited to see Tahiti! I'm going to get a tatoo to memorialize the wonderful journey."
Hideko says: "I wasn't ready to leave the Tuamotus, they exceeded my expectations for beauty. I am ready to see a "big city" again though." (I think that means shop... -Randy) "We are hoping to catch the annual Polynesian dancing competition!"
07/01/2008, The Tuamotu Atolls
We set out from Takapoto at 3AM to ensure that we would reach Toau in good light even if the wind was not up. It was a very dark night with no moon. The crew did a great job of raising the main in difficult conditions. We were in the lee of Takapoto but the wind was around 15 to 20 knots and with one engine it was impossible to keep the bow up for long before the wind blew it off to port. Driving to windward to keep steerage way was not an option with the reefy island there. We made three trips around in circles before the huge main was up.
We made pretty good time but the seas were again pretty lumpy once we were out of the lee of the island. It is an 80 mile trek to Toau from Takapoto and Swingin' on a Star was making 9 knots or more. The wind lightened up halfway through the sail and the seas came down for it, also because we were behind Aratika atoll, though it was 20 miles out.
Toau, unlike Takaroa and Takapoto, is not surrounded by motus. It is more a circular reef with a motu here and there. It is a beautiful atoll as well though. We dropped the sails as we approached the false pass that forms the anchorage and fired up the one engine. I had a little trepidation here because strong currents in passes are standard fair. Once cruising guide said there were strong currents here and one said no current at all. If there was strong current, skating around with one engine would not be optimal.
The closest tide station is Manihi, not forever away but not next door either. The atolls vary a fair amount in their flow times due to conditions. We didn't have any luck radioing for local advise so we crept up looking carefully for tidal rips or standing waves. The pass was well marked and flat. We entered and found no current at all. It was perfect.
Inside there are moorings which are preferred. The first one we approached had no pendant we could see so we anchored. We wanted to get out of the way because Szel, a Sun Deer 64, was coming in behind us and we didn't want to be a hazard. The bottom is 50 or 60 feet in the north part and the trades set you back nicely.
Twelve people live on the adjacent motu. Some of them came out to say hello. They were so kind and friendly. There is a restaurant here but it was closed tonight because the main lady was out doing some work with black pearls they are growing in the lagoon.
We all took a little snorkel and checked our anchor as well as Szel's mooring. All was well and we invited Karnen and Guy over for drinks. It was another lovely evening in paradise. We were sad to have to leave for Papeete tomorrow and promised ourselves to come back.
230 miles to Papeete!
Nobu says: "This anchorage is so calm and the temperature is perfect. I slept outside until 3:30AM. The people are so nice as well"
Hideko says: "The list of perfect anchorages is getting longer..."
06/30/2008, South Pacific
Today was pretty nice sailing. Seas were still a little big and the wind was stronger than predicted at about 20 knots but we were moving along at about 10 knots and not slamming too much. There were still squalls in the area and a couple hit us but we double reefed the main and jib to slow down and let a really big one pass in front of us. It was making its way west across Takaroa as we approached.
Takaroa was beautiful. We sailed into the lee of Takaroa and the seas went from 10 feet to 0 feet but the wind stayed in the 15-20 zone. It was perfect sailing! We left one reef in the main to keep the speed down so that we could cruise close to shore and enjoy the view.
The Tuamotus are steep to. The edges of the islands are lined with reefs that dry at low tide and after that they drop off rapidly to several thousand feet. The bottom is also often all coral. We searched for sand spots along the coast looking for a lunch hookup but didn't find any. We also tried the supposed temporary anchorage near the pass but didn't really like that spot either. It was not pretty (kind of industrial compared to the untouched beauty of the rest of the island) and the concrete quay had a big freighter on it.
Takapoto is just 5 miles south of Takaroa so we continued on. We cruised Takapoto also and found it just as lovely. There are two villages on Takapoto and no pass. This supposedly make the lagoon even better for pearl oyster production. There is an anchorage marked off the northern most of the two villages but we found a spot a little north of that to anchor.
We anchored in 40 feet and put out 200, which had us laying back into 150 feet of water. It is tricky anchoring in the lee of these atolls. It is very hard to find a sand spot and even if you do settled conditions are a must.
Our anchorage was amazing. We jumped in for a snorkel and marveled at the 100' visibility and amazing coral everywhere. Nobu saw a black tipped shark and a green moray free diving. It was a refreshing swim in the sapphire 84 degree water. I checked the starboard prop to make sure that it wasn't going anywhere soon and it looked good.
Hideko made dinner and we enjoied some wonderful oranges from Fatu Hiva for desert. When the sun set the anchorage was as wonderful as by day. Only the water lapping on the reef and more stars than I have ever seen.
Nobu says: "I had a great time free diving in the wonderful coral"
Hideko says: "I thought we left paradise in Fatu Hiva but here we are again!"
06/29/2008, South Pacific
After a first day of non stop squalls with 12 knots or 25 knots of wind and messy seas, day two turned out to be 25 knots all day with some big steep waves rolling through early afternoon. Nothing concerning but no fun for the crew. Fortunately things cooled off this afternoon late and the seas are now a more comfortably shaped 8-10' and the wind is 20 or less. We double reefed the main and jib last night to keep conditions sleepable on board (sort of worked). Have made about 9 knots all day with the double reef setup. Rolled out the full jib in the late afternoon and just took the main up to reef one for the night. Looks like it will be a beautiful night's sail.
We have decided to do a lunch stop at Takaroa atoll instead of Toau. Takaroa is the northern most atoll and often a first landfall for those heading down from the Marquesas. The passes into most of the atoll lagoons have big currents as the tidal flow for the entire lagoon squeezes through the passes. With one prop in play we decided to anchor outside and Takaroa has a nice spot for that near the town supposedly. We should be there by noon just in time for snorkeling and a light lunch. Then we will be off for Tahiti again with the hope of arriving in the afternoon on the 2nd.
I have been leaning on Charlie's Charts of French Polynesia a lot lately. It is a great cruising guide for the area with lots of useful info. I also like the Guide to Cruising and Tourism in French Polynesia. I sold it to some folks in need in Fatu Hiva though so I have to pick up a new copy in Pateete.
150 miles to Takaroa!
Nobu says: "Tomorrow I will see my first atoll and lagoon!"
Hideko says: "zzzzz (catching up on sleep)"
06/28/2008, South Pacific
We left Fatu Hiva this morning bound for Tahiti with a possible stop in Toau. There is a false pass on the NW side of Toau that looks like a nice anchorage and we may try it if we get there during daylight in nice conditions.
We have been in constant squalls today so the sailing has been no fun. We are making good progress though and expect to be at Toau the day after tomorrow and Tahiti by the 2nd or 3rd of July.
Nobu says: "First time in big winds on Swingin' on a Star, she handles it very well."
Hideko says: "Sad to leave Fatu Hiva, but excited to see our friends."