Monday, June 16, 2014

Tahiti and the start of my stay in Moorea

I left Tahiti, Friday June 13th and arrived in Cooks Bay on Moorea a few hours later.  This place is a visual feast.  

Cooks Bay reminds me a little of The Bay of Virgins on Fatu Hiva, Hanavave, only a little toned down.  Hanavave is an all out assault on the senses.  If feels as if your eyes are being battered by the beautiful images, how much more of this amazing scenery can you take, you keep asking yourself?!  Then there are the smells and sounds.  Its an all out battle, Hanavave trying to numb you senseless.  Cooks Bay is a little less so.  The mountains surrounding the bay remind me of Fatu Hiva, but they are further away and the bay is many times larger.  On the other hand, The Walk (each anchorage has a walk) here, to Belvedere, a ridge with a view of the area, is further and higher than the walks in Hanavave.  Unless you got crazy and walked to the other side of the island on Fatu Hiva or something.  The walking here is further than the standard cruisers approved walks there.  All in all, its a beautiful spot.

Now for the bad news.  My 90 day visa for my stay in French Polynesia is going to run out in a few weeks.  So while I would like to spend more time here, I'm not going to be able to.  I'm gong to change anchorages once and then move along to Bora-Bora, which will be my last stop.

Now, backing up, I should account for my two weeks in Papeete, Tahiti.  I spent longer than I expected there.  All the advice I had read and heard was to try to get in and out quickly, not much more than a week.  I spent two weeks there.  Toward the end of my first week I decided to fill my primary propane bottle, my 20lb tank only had 2 lbs left.  I have a secondary 10lb tank, but my next opportunity to get a fill would be in Tonga.  I felt better with lots of propane aboard, it gives me more options along the way…  Unfortunately, the way it works here is that you walk your tank down to the Mobil station close to the marina I was anchored close to, drop it off and then come by after its picked up, filled and delivered.  They pick up and deliver three times a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  I dropped the tank off  on a Wednesday after the gas company had visited, so the tank was picked up on Friday.  The following monday was a holiday, so I picked it up on the Wednesday - a week after dropping it off.  I could have done that better if I had known how the system worked.

Papeete was nice, but it gets better after you leave there and start visiting the other Society Islands, from what I've read, heard and am now starting to experience.

This was my sunset view from the anchorage north of Marina Tiana.  Looking toward Moorea.

While at anchor in Papeete, a trough rolled through.  (For you non-sailors, a trough is an elongated low pressure weather feature, without associated fronts.)  From what I had read of South Pacific weather, I knew that forecasts for local winds around these features were going to be inaccurate.  The grib forecasts were showing light wind, but I planned to be onboard for the duration of the trough passage.  I was glad that I did, as it ended up blowing 30 to 35 knots, from the south, for around 6 hours.  

The trough.  South winds to the west, north winds to the east, rain in the middle.

The grib forecast above is really what you want to see.  Normal trade winds.

This was a very polite trough however.  The winds arrived in Papeete after I had had my morning coffee, looked around at the anchorage for an hour, had breakfast and cleaned up.  Around 11am the wind arrived.  It blew strongly all day, and then just before dark it fell off to the mid teens and then a little later, to almost a calm.  I appreciated the timing.  From what I know, none of the boats at anchor, dragged.  This is either a testament to the good holding (sand and mud); the skill of the fleet at setting their anchors; the quality of their anchors; or the fact that 30 to 35 knots of wind isn't really that much wind.

During the worst of the weather, a boat on a mooring had its jib get away.  It started flapping in the wind, tearing itself apart on the spreaders.  I would look over and see pieces of dacron floating away in the wind. The sail was on a furler and they were unable to furl the sail.  The people onboard had some help from others, and one sailor was climbing the forestay trying to get the sail under control - without success and at risk to himself.  Later they climbed the mast, moved over to the forestay and cut the sail off the furler from the top down.  The sail is a complete loss.  Tragic. Nobody was hurt however, Yay.

I visited downtown Papeete a few times.  The most famous place to keep your boat in Tahiti is off of the sea wall, downtown.  If you've read about sailing and Papeete, you will have read about mooring downtown.  You used to stern tie directly to the wall with an anchor out.  You would then later be on your boat with people walking along the seafront looking down into your boat, saying hello and chatting.  Later they installed piers which you could stern tie to, giving a little more privacy and fitting more boats into the same space.  Right now there is a big construction project for this whole area - almost the entire cruising fleet is currently staying around Marina Tiana, either anchored (for free), moored (for a reasonable fee) or in the marina itself.  For those of you who have been here, I'll pass along a few photos of what its like now:

Looking along the downtown seafront.  Construction fencing on the left to keep people out (didn't work obviously) and a brand new, empty, pier.

Progress is still being made along the pier.  This is the current end of construction.

New pilings being built and the remaining gap that needs new to be built

I assume this is one of the old mooring areas.  I don't know why its empty, but the word I've heard passed around the cruising fleet is that you can't stay downtown right now.

I realize now that I don't have any pictures of downtown Papeete, other than the ones above.  Its a city.  Cars, traffic, stores, tourists, a few historic sights.  Its nice, but isn't really what I'm interested in.

The sail from Tahiti to Moora is short, a few hour daysail.

Cooks Bay panorama
Cooks Bay

I walked from Cooks Bay up to Belvedere, a ridge something like three or four miles away, uphill.  It gives a good view of Cooks and Opunohu Bay, which is the next bay to the west.  Its a bit of a hike, but it was nice to get some exercise again.

From the right: Cooks Bay; Me!; Opunohu Bay
It was fun being up there.  Lots of tourists drive up, or join tours which end up there, or rent a scooter and scoot up. I walked.  I'm so hard core.  Everybody who ends up there is enjoying themselves, we're all on holiday and have stories to tell.  So I get talking to people.  When the people I speak to hear what I'm doing or have done, sailed single handed from Seattle to the bay they are looking down on, they say things that remind myself about where I am and what I'm doing.  Talking to my fellow sailors in the cruising fleet, what we all do is pretty normal.  It was satisfying to hear those outside impressions again.

I'll probably move along to Opunohu Bay tomorrow, the 17th.  Unless I change my mind.

All is well here, I hope the same is true of all of you.


  1. Man, you're living the DREAM. Enjoy!

  2. Hi Craig, I continue to enjoy reading about your travels and travails and seeing your photo's ;) You are looking good! Living the dream says it all ;)