The Tahiti - Moorea Sailing Rendezvous
01 July 2016 | 17 30.64'S:149 51.34'W, Cook's Bay, Moorea
We were only in downtown Papeete harbour for a few days, but really loved it. First, there is the history. Boats have been mooring here, up against the seawall back to the days of tall ships and whalers. This is probably the most iconic harbour that there is, and it was a must visit.
The facilities have been recently upgraded with a secure pontoon now, meaning that we didn't have to med moor and use a board to get to shore. There is also a very nice park right on shore from where we moored, making it a much quieter place at night than it was for cruisers in the past.
On shore, Papeete is a bustling, busy, crowded, run-down, and very vibrant city. It certainly doesn't feel like the South Pacific, but feels more like a crowded European city. It looks like times were better in the past with many buildings well past their prime and the streets in dis-repair. But, you can see that there is some recent money being invested with the new docks, new parks, and a few new fancy public buildings. The quay where all of the cruisers moor is definitely the fanciest area of town.
One of our reasons for moving downtown was to participate in the first night of the Tahiti - Moorea Rendezvous that was taking place on the weekend. This is a sponsored cruiser event to promote sailing in The Society Islands. We were there to meet up with friends that we hadn't seen for a few months, and to enjoy the dancing and cultural activities.
After a welcome event on Friday night, we all sailed over to Moorea on Saturday morning, about fifteen miles away. Unfortunately, there was no wind for the first half of the trip, but we had a good twenty knots from behind the rest of the way, making the approach to Moorea, and through the pass into Cook's Bay, a lot of fun.
Sunday was taken up cultural demonstrations and various competitions for the cruisers to participate in. One of the events was rock lifting, which I, of course, had to try out. The Polynesians brought us cruisers their "baby rocks" which weighted only 120 pounds. They showed us the proper technique and then a few of us who weren't worried about our backs, gave it a try. At first I though, no way, but once I got the boulder off the ground things went well. I felt quite proud of myself until I saw the same rocks being carried away by a young scrawny Polynesian teenager later on!
The highlight of the day's events was the outrigger race. Each boat was crewed by four cruisers, a Polynesian bowman, and a Polynesian in the back to steer. There were five boats per race, and seven preliminary heats. The course was about 250 yards down the beach were we had to turn the boat around a buoy and then race back to the start. Dee and I joined John & Deb on Moonshadow to form a team. Since we were one of the last teams to register, we were one of the last to race. We knew that we had canoe #3, which unfortunately finished last in every race, except one were it was crewed by four big guys. In that race, they finished second! Yikes! We learned that #3 had a design that made it very good in a straight line, but very difficult to turn around at the half way mark before racing home.
We did have four type-A people in the boat and really didn't want to loose. Our two Polynesian crew were as keen as we were and helped us strategize. Our hopes were low, but we were going to give it our best shot.
When our turn came, our plan was to paddle like heck to be first to the turning mark. If we weren't first we knew we would be slaughtered. Well, surprisingly, we did make it to the turn first, almost lost it with the wide turn that #3 had no choice but to make, and then gained enough time on the way back to win our heat!
After that race, we secretly wished we were done as were sooooo exhausted! But, within half an hour we had to race in the semi-finals. Guess what, we were assigned #3 again! What terrible bad luck. Even our Polynesian helpers were shaking their heads! I made sure that we had the same two crew with us, we followed the same strategy in the semi-finals - and won again! This time by more than a boat length. Everyone on shore was shocked that our wimpy looking crew in such a maligned boat had done so well.
Finally, out of thirty-five crews, we were one of three boats in the finals. But, oh my, that meant that we had to race again. We were so beat and there was no rest at all this time. The other two crews were beefy (cruiser) guys with not a woman on their team. We paddled our hearts out, but with three races in less than an hour, we were spent and just couldn't put enough power into the paddles. It looked like we may take second, but at the end, the other teams pulled ahead and we had to settle for third. But, we were incredibly happy with our result and had a fantastic time on the water! If we had been able to have a sponsor for that race, it would have been Advil. We celebrated that afternoon but knew that we would be hurting the next day!
Sunday night we were treated to another incredible dance performance. I can only imagine what it was like for sailors to arrive here a couple hundred years ago and see those dancers! No wonder there were no more nails left in their shipsÉ