Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Tantalizing Tahiti and  Magical Moorea.

19th – 31st June 2018

First Impressions

Wow! Towering mountains, vibrant green hillsides dotted with homes, outrigger racing canoes, fast ocean going ferries and superyachts everywhere.  Welcome to “This is Tahiti”.

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What a contrast it is to the sleepy Tuomotus where we spent the last four and a half months. Compared to the rest of French Polynesia this island is on steroids.

A place where you can spend serious amounts of money. It’s a big chunk of reality and a real wake up call for most cruisers, us included, that we really do have a slice of paradise with the lives we lead out here. Papeete, the capital of Tahiti has cars and lots of them with erratic drivers behind the wheels.  The golden arches of McDonalds have staked a claim here, the first seen since leaving Panama over 12 months ago.There is also an abundance of people, moving at the not so leisurely pace to that of the outer islands.

IMG_4758Throngs of tourists pour into downtown Papeete daily from international flights, ready to embark on their south pacific adventure, be that on a cruise ship or headed for a sun lounge at a ritzy hotel. A faint brown haze of pollution hangs over the island like a curtain in the sky, mind you putting it in perspective it’s certainly nothing like that of the world’s major cities, but it is evident none the less. 

On the upside this is the only port of call when crossing the South Pacific between Panama and NZ where there is major retail therapy available at the drop of a hat, well stocked chandleries for purchasing boat spares and the chance to feel like a wide eyed kid again as you enter the doors of the mega supermarket chain, Carrefour.

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After months of going without all of the above  it’s rather confrontational, but we have slipped back into  the shoes of consumer life fairly easily I must say. We both had long lists of must do’s and only a short time frame to tick off  the boxes. In less than a week we’d be heading across to Moorea to participate in this year’s Tahiti - Moorea Puddle Jump Rendezvous. So rather than bore you with how we filled in our hectic week I'll  jump to the fun part, The Rendezvous.

Moorea, nonstop fun.

The rally organizers had clearly done this before, in fact ours was the 13th such event to be held for those who had crossed the “puddle” leaving from either Panama or the east coast of Mexico. Included in the sign-up fee was a show bag of info for the remaining major western pacific destinations, a rally t-shirt, dockside welcome party the evening before the rally departure and a host of activities once we arrived in Moorea.  We thought it was pretty good value and most made sure they got their money’s worth.

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First up was the skippers briefing which was pretty ho-hum given the course was a mere straight shot of 15 miles to the finish line in Cooks Bay on Moorea.

A dockside cocktail party followed at the downtown marina in Papeete.which was way more entertaining.  As dusk fell a  traditional band fronted up and the drums began to rumble. After the warm up, a mini Polynesian dance show began. Randomly selected younger rally participants, we’re talking the thirtyish age group, with well oiled hips and knees were plucked from the audience and led by the professionals to the dance floor.

P6221967Old farts like us were left on the sidelines to cheer on our fellow sailors, some of whom were now turning red faced with embarrassment  as they attempted to imitate the pros. Sometimes being older had it’s advantages after all.  After the show a variety of drinks and nibbles were served until the supplies were exhausted. If this was anything to go by the remaining two days would be a hoot…and they were.

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The morning of the big race, we made our way from the marina Taina anchorage along the channel towards the airport runway. You need a mandatory clearance from the Port Authority on VHF radio ch 12  when approaching both the eastern and western ends in either direction of travel. It’s a quirky little rule but you do get a great view as the silver birds soar over your head, After all who wants to  be made famous  by having their mast lopped by an arriving or departing aircraft? That would surely ruin your day big time.

DSCN3502As we approached the eastern threshold we were advised to hold station until an Air Tahiti landed and French Bee aircraft became airborne, then we would be cleared to proceed. We waited and waited twiddling our thumbs while the rally fleet, a mere 10 mins away and in plain sight, started the pre race maneuvers and count down until the start gun fired.


P6231985As soon as we got the OK over the radio we gunned it out of the harbour and made it to the back of the fleet just as the race started, There were 59 boats in the race and 58 of them were in front of us. Still being at the back of the fleet gives you the drive and if you are lucky the satisfaction of plucking  each boat off one by one. And that’s what we did bar three boats until the wind turned fickle and eventually died altogether.

DSCN3518The diehards stayed out there willing the breeze to fill back in, but for we old racers we knew when to throw in the towel and kick the iron sails into life. 

By the time the last few boats arrived in the anchorage the sun was pretty well kissing the horizon and most of the rally crews were already ashore imbibing and settling in for dinner and another dance show, neither of which disappointed.

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Sunday was a full line up of activities starting at 9am with the rally outrigger canoe races. Having never paddled an outrigger it was a good thing that we were all given a brief lesson on how to do it without breaking the paddle.

IMG_8028Each canoe had a crew of six including four rallyers, In our case  there was us and friends Chris and Elissa from Bare Feet with a local guy seated at the rear calling the shots and a budding young girl racer at the front. There were five canoes in each heat, the winners of each heat moving closer to the finals. Sadly our team ran out of puff on the down hill leg and only managed a 4th place. Believe me racing an outrigger is much harder than it looks!

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After racing was done and dusted a buffet lunch was served under the shady trees of the host resort. The use of all hotel amenities was extended to the rally participants, and the kids of the fleet made very good use of the pool.  Following lunch  there were more activities including  team relay banana races where you are handed a long stork of heavy bananas with which you run a dogleg course, coconut husking, well that ones pretty self explanatory, clean and jerk rock lifting to shoulder height, women’s rock 40 kilos and men’s 80kgs.

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IMG_E8023Then there were tug- of- wars mixed adult team events, kids teams girls v boys, traditional dance instruction for all age groups, basket weaving  for the craft enthusiasts and yet another incredible dance show. To wrap up the rally, prize giving, none for team GWTW this time, group photos and a couple of speeches and that was that.  It had been a fun 3 days of events and now we really needed a rest.

To watch the Video of the Rendezvous go to pacificpuddlejump.com  click on link under Announcements

Time to see Moorea’s sights


P6272402In company with friends Chris & Elissa from Bare Feet, Mike & Katie off Adagio and Dan with guests Michelle & Dan 2  from Kini PoPo we hired two cars to see the sights for a day.

First up was a drive up to Belvedere lookout with an ensuing easy-moderate  hike to three pines lookout through lush forest and small streams. The view at the top was magnificent albeit a tad cloudy but you could see both Cook’s bay and Opunohu bay.

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Next up  was a lunch stop at a small beachside cafĂ© , Snack Mahana, where the setting and food were wonderful. From there we backtracked towards Cook’s Bay as we wanted to do a tour of the juice processing factory and rum distillery. Free tastings of the various juices and alcoholic beverages are available in the gift shop where purchases can also be made. Needless to say our little group spent quite a few bucks here. From there it was a leisurely drive around the rest of the island stopping for a sundowner at the popular beach resort, Les Tipaniers.

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Over the coming days were moved on to the reef anchorage in Opunohu Bay with it’s very pretty palm tree backed sandy beachfront park and a backdrop of soaring mountains.

We snorkeled  the coral gardens, played with the stingrays at Stingray City near the Intercontinental Hotel and glided over sunken Tiki sculptures.

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There were sundowners ashore and juicy fresh prawns procured from the farm at the head of the bay. Sadly the day came when it was time to leave and head back to the hustle and bustle of Papeete. We were hoping to get one of the first come best dressed slips in the downtown marina as my sister Helen would be joining us for a month in a few days time. More on that in our next posting.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

R & R in Eastern Toua, Tuomotus.

8th – 16th June 2018

As written in our previous post, we decided to squeeze  in one last atoll of the beautiful Tuomotus before setting sail to the big smoke of Tahiti.

Although we had stopped In the false pass of  Anse Amyot on the north western side of Toua back in December last year, we didn’t have time to explore the  inside of the lagoon that can only be accessed via the pass on the east side of the atoll. The guide books we have on board give this area a big thumbs down, stating that the pass is dangerous and the seabed is littered with coral making anchoring very difficult. So on that basis it is rarely visited by passing yachts. Having spent eight days here we beg to differ.

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As with any reef pass in this archipelago you need to have a handle of what the tide is doing and time your entry accordingly. On the day we entered the wide pass was flat calm and the water clarity quite amazing azure blue to the sea floor 40 ft below us. It was so clear I kept asking Liam what the depth was as it honestly looked only to be 10 feet, that’s how clear the water was.

Once inside the pass we meandered north following the well marked channel, passing a huge area of sand flats which our friends on Allora had mentioned. They are seriously into bone fishing so this area would suit them down to the ground.

Six other boats were already in the anchorage when we arrived, some of whom we’d spoken to on the radio and a couple we’d met face to face in previous atolls along the way. With all the best spots already taken we scouted around for a bit  ‘till we found a nice little possy to drop the hook for a few days.

P6081623A bonfire rendezvous ashore was planned for late arvo sundowners and nibbles and it was a fun couple of hours. As it is in our line of work it’s always refreshing to meet new folk .

During our meet and greet session the following day’s activities were set in place, a mid morning dinghy excursion to a small motu roughly 3 miles further to the north.

For the hunters and gatherers of the group there would be a chance to express their primitive instincts with a bit  of spear fishing and for those of us more interested in seeing our aquatic friends still swimming, snorkeling and underwater photography would keep us happy.

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Once the water activities were exhausted we headed ashore to the motu for a picnic lunch where stories of the catch of the day or of the one one that was snatched from the jaws of victory and ended up as lunch in a sharks tummy were enhanced and relived over and over.

Another shore side rendezvous was planned for the evening but by the time we all returned to our respective floating homes at 4pm we were all too stuffed to be bothered.

A few days later with the threat of strong southerly winds forecast our happy little group disbanded. A few boats stayed put to ride out the weather, while others including us moved to the  more protected south eastern part of the atoll.  It was a good call. 

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As the wind blew we met up with a few more boats and the fun times continued.

There were several reefs to explore, more fish caught, walks ashore  to stretch the legs as well as evening gatherings on the beach for all creatures great and small.

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Eventually the good times  had to come to an end as  it was time to get a jig along and head towards Tahiti and the Society Islands which constitute the last group of islands in French Polynesia.

“The downhill run to Papette…”

The ride out of through the pass could only be described as quite sporty. But it had to be done today or else we’d be stuck in the lagoon for another week, so it was now or never so to speak. With the wind blowing strongly from the east we waited and waited for slack tide and the build up of rollers to subside. Wish as we may slack tide which was pretty much a non event. There was nothing left to do but take a deep breath, count the wave sets and charge towards the ugly line of cresting waves. GWTW with her two kickass Yanmars delivered the goods and plowed through the waves like slicing through butter, well butter with a couple of speed humps.

Once outside the pass the seas were on the beam for about 30 minutes, an uncomfortable angle on any boat. At one stage our friends on the cat “Bare Feet” looked as though they were sinking. In reality it was just the height of the waves between the crests and the troughs but it made for a good photo anyway.

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P6161832As we raised our mainsail one of the lower batons which give the sail it’s shape parted from the bat car on the mast, so amid the rough seas Liam was up on the roof remedying the situation. Luckily he was able to make a temporary repair otherwise we would not have been able to continue as the baton may have broke in half or worse the sail could have torn.  Not a good start to a 250 mile passage. Once it was all fixed as good as was possible we were on our way once again

We had quite a good two night passage regardless of the mixed bag of weather thrown at us. With a reefed mainsail and full jib we were ready to take on the elements.

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On a regular basis clear skies would  give way to angry looking squalls, and while there was very little wind involved there was truckloads of rain. The afternoon of day 2 was a whole different ballgame though. Squall after squall marched along the horizon ahead of us and with it came bursts of very strong wind. We put a second reef in our mainsail for added insurance. Nothing worse than being overpowered in squalls, being conservative is the name of the game.

Rather than front up to mother nature with bravado, we tucked our tail between our legs and ran up and down the dingo-fence line of heavy clouds like the dog of the same name trying to get to the other side, until an opening appeared to break through. After many hours the gap opened and we bolted for it. Once having crossed the seemingly endless squall line the sky cleared, the wind and rain died and it was smooth sailing in light airs.

Dawn broke just before 6am and in the distance the legendary island of Tahiti began to materialize. The closer we got the more magical the view became.

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At 1300 hours we dropped the anchor in pretty Pearl Bay, just west of Point Venus. The passage had taken us two days and fifteen minutes, not bad given the conditions.


P6181852For us, sailing into  Tahiti  means  checking off another milestone of our circumnavigation.

Reluctantly we are starting the final chapter of cruising the breathtaking   beautiful  islands of French Polynesia.

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