Tahiti and Moorea, Society Islands, French Poly
14 October 2018 | Papeete, Tahiti
October 14, 2018 - Papeete, Tahiti (Society Islands)
The sail from Raroia was uneventful and took about the 3 days we had planned. The sea was a bit higher than planned though; about 2.4 meters (8 feet) on the beam but that was okay. Approaching Fakarava Atoll we thought about pulling into the lagoon as we were going right by but with the seas that high and going into the lagoon with an out-going current would not be wise. We continued on but could see a couple of sailboat masts on the side of the southern edge.
We arrived in Tahiti and anchored at Point Venus on the north side of the island at around 8 AM, not too far from Papeete. We anchored in about 25 of clear water with a black volcanic sand bottom. No problem see the anchor and chain laying on the pitch black bottom. There were only 2 other boats in the anchorage but this place has seen a few historical vessels visit; The Endeavour with Captain Cook as well as Captain Bligh of the Bounty (Munity on the Bounty fame) a few years ago, ok quite a few years before us....We will add some of the Historical photos to the album that we took when we toured the island later on.
Having just sailed for 3 days we decided to take a bit of a nap once our chores were done. Around noon we awoke to the boat rocking all over the place and waves splashing up the transom and into the cockpit! Had we dragged into the reef????? Nope. It turns out that this was the day of the annual Papeete to Point Venus Outrigger Canoe race. Apparently everyone else gets into their boats, jet skis or whatever floats and follow along blasting horns and create huge waves. We went from 2 other boats to about 200 other boats (really) in an instant. How you could paddle, let alone race, an Outrigger with all that commotion is beyond me! Everything from large trawlers, to sailboats, to runabouts and so on. Everyone seemly trying to leave a bigger wake than anyone else and zig zagging all around us. And, unlike in Canada, everyone had a drink in their hand! (Ok, not the racers) Well, if you can't beat them, join them; we popped open a beer and went up on deck to view the sights. Fortunately, by sundown everyone returned home and we actually had the anchorage to ourselves for the night.
The next day we headed into Papeete and took a slip at the marina, the first marina we had been in since the Atlantic, to provision and do some needed work on the boat. After being on the remote islands for so long it was nice to have real grocery stores and boat supplies available. Prices in Papeete are pretty expensive but much cheaper than the remote islands. A bottle of 3M polish that we pay $35 usd for back home is about $110 here. You get the idea.
We both took the opportunity to have a medical checkup and renew prescriptions. After a bit of testing we were found to be fine. I need to take Thyroid pills hence forth. Things could be worse!
We rented a car for a couple of days to tour the island. They are pretty persnickety here about scratches and dents on their rental cars here. The agent delivered the car to us in the marina and went over it with a fine tooth combing noting any dents on the paperwork. Laurie took photos to be sure. So off we went to drive around Tahiti. Day one went fine but day two....we were driving on the North side of the island on the main highway when BAM, we got hit by a "minor" rock slide. We were following another car when all of a sudden it started raining rocks, some as large 18" in diameter. The one large rock fell right in from of the hood and the rental car road up on top (no time to even hit the bakes) and got stuck under us. We had mud and chunks of rocks and stones right across both lanes; road temporarily closed in both directions. Everyone stopped and the people from the car right in front us ran back to see if we were OK. We were. Some debris hit them but most of it fell between the two of us, we were only a few car lengths apart! But then everyone (including a guy on a bicycle) started clearing the road of the debris.
Wait I yelled! I needed photos of the slide for the insurance company! Leave the rocks on the road until Laurie gets the cameral out! We got a bunch of photos for that persnickety rental agent not knowing how much damage was done. Lots of mud on the vehicle so it was hard to tell on top but the underside took a beating as a boulder rolled underneath us. We dragged and rolled it underneath us until we came to a full stop. It finally popped out under the rear bumper.... When we returned the vehicle it did look too bad (on top) and the agent looked at it and just said "have a nice day!" I showed the marina manager a photo of the rocks on the road and he said someone had been killed by falling rocks at that same spot 3 years ago...
The island is quite nice but frankly, not as beautiful as say, Dominica in the Caribbean, my opinion only.
We sailed over to Moorea last week, still in the Society Islands. Moorea appears to be a much younger island and hence, much more rugged and beautiful than Tahiti. We just spent a few days but will be going back on our way to Bora Bora. While we were there we took the opportunity to join some other sailors and charter a small boat for the day with a guide and go Whale watching. That was something else. The only Whale I had ever seen was when we were leaving Panama coming into the Les Perla's Islands. Shawnda saw the whales first there, I only got to see a "whale tail" then. (Previous post) So, I had only ever seen part of a whale I guess.
Moorea is one of the areas that Humpback Whales migrate to this area from the Antarctic Ocean to mate and give birth. They grow up to 16 meters (52 feet) and can weigh up to 30 tons! Our boat weighs 25 tons loaded.....
So after about an hour in the boat we had not seen anything but then the guide yelled and pointed in the direction of a whale (I didn't see anything) and turned the boat. Soon were "quietly" sliding into the water so not to disturb the whale. Unfortunately, this was a male who was going somewhere; I cannot swim as fast as a whale. But, hearing his talking (singing?) in the water was very remarkable. (Watch and listen to the video I put together - more on that later)
So after a few false starts the guide found a female whale and her calf. Getting into the water and swimming alongside them was unbelievable. We had to be sure not to get to close but what if she comes close to you? Once she started to look REALLY big when I realized she was slowly swimming my way. I had to back off. Fortunately, they don't eat humans....only krill (very small shrimp) and very small fish. But I did not want to have an altercation with her, she was as big as our boat; and I don't mean the dinghy!
We had a great day that day. It was one of the "special days" that you just do not expect and once it is over you realize just how lucky you are!
A couple of days later as we were leaving Moorea to head back to Tahiti we encountered another whale just as we left the "pass" (through the reef entrance). I saw a whale that appeared to be sleeping just about 200 feet from us as we went by. Once by the whale Laurie called out to look behind us; there was this whale breaching straight up into the air right behind us, not once, twice but three times! We just looked in awe. And nope, we did not think to grab the camera, we were caught totally off guard and just stared at the spectacular scene in front of us.
So, we are back in Papeete for a couple of weeks to finish up a few things. We now have quite a few friends here that we have met along the way including folks that we met in the Caribbean. Our next stop will be back to Moorea and tour the island and then on to Bora Bora and other islands in the Societies. By the beginning of December we are entering Cyclone season so we will be returning to Papeete to provision and then back into the Tuamotus Archipelago to visit more atolls. Our plan is to hang out there for a good chunk of the Cyclone season which runs until April. If the weather looks like it may deteriorate (cyclone or tropical storm) we will be ready to head further north back to the Marquesas and even further if required. The Marquesas has never had a cyclone but it appears that our insurance company does not know that....that is another story. If things really look like they are going "south", we will head "north" across the equator to Hawaii or the Marshalls. I doubt that will be required but we will be ready! Each is more than a couple of thousand miles from the Marquesas'.
Video: I put together a video of all of the clips from swimming with the whales. It is parred down to about 15 minutes. Please excuse my video editing, this is my first "video" so no, I did not add sound tracks or do any fancy stuff! But do listen to the whales, it is quite remarkable. I could not get the video into the "album" on our Blog. It kept quitting so it is in this Dropbox Link and it is set that you can download it as well. Once we get it into the Album I will update this entry.
UPDATE: We did get it into the Album but Flickr has a 3 minute limit to view videos. You will need to go to the Link below.
Link: (you WILL need to copy and paste link)