Tahiti – paradise, not; and expensive to boot.
Hao was a very pleasant stop but soon it was time to get moving again. We had been continuously watching the weather forecasts looking for a good window to move on to the next destination but as previously mentioned the forecasts in this part of the world seem as much use as a chocolate fireguard (especially in these temperatures). We had decided to leave when we felt like it and were ready when the forecast for the morning of 23rd May showed a nice 20knot breeze blowing in the direction of Tahiti.
We had decided to head straight to Tahiti to give us plenty of time to arrange for Morgane to be hauled out while we go off to work for Pelagic Expeditions for a while. We had been promised a place in a yard near Taravao in Port Phaeton but just wanted to be sure that all was in order and to give ourselves plenty of time for sightseeing in addition to all the cleaning and preparation that laying up a yacht entails.
All but one of the other yachts at Hao had also decided to depart so an hour or two before slack water there was a mass exodus; well all four of us got underway. Initially some fine boisterous sailing had us flying along at 7 knots and consequently Paula was feeling a little off colour. However the good sailing only lasted until we were south of Ravahere, about 70 NM into the 500 (ish) NM voyage. At this point the wind dropped to around 10knots and never exceeded that for the remainder of the voyage. We had out standard downwind configuration; goose-winged with the number three jib poled out and the main rigged with preventer and toe-rail vang.
In light airs especially from astern the boat tends to roll and this can cause the main to fill one side then the other sometimes filling with a bang. It wears the fabric, shakes up the rig and stops the off-watch from sleeping. We set up a traditional preventer from the boom end to the bow and also rig a preventer to the toe rail with a handy billy (a 4:1 block and tackle). Buy adjusting the preventer, handy billy, mainsheet and topping lift we can tension everything so that the boom is firmly locked in position and the sail fabric stretched as tight as we can get it. This minimises the banging but it is impossible to completely eliminate it.
One day we’ll get a light wind sail such as an asymmetric and hopefully make faster quieter progress.
So with everything set up we settled down to four days of slow sailing. I think we gybed once and ran the engine most of one night when the breeze failed completely. We got a couple of bites on the fishing line but in each case our crappy hooks failed us again and straightened out thus releasing our dinner!
On Friday morning we could see Tahiti, it rises to over 2200 metres so is quite a conspicuous landfall, but we knew that we couldn’t quite arrive at our intended harbour before nightfall so sailed slowly, almost drifting overnight, to ensure that we had daylight for the reef pass and navigation into the bay the following morning.
We anchored in Port Phaeton between Tahiti-Nui (big Tahiti) and Tahit-Iti (Little Tahiti) about midday on Saturday 28th May.
The anchorage is very pretty and very well protected. There is a small boatyard where “Morgane” will be hauled out just before we fly out. They were expecting us and the owner of the yard even recognised “Morgane” having known the previous owner when he lived on Tahiti for some time. The boat yard has space for about 12 boats in the water and 20 on the hard all more or less full. There are about another 12 boats anchored in the bay or on moorings. The town of Taravao is nearby, complete with supermarkets and even a small chandlery. You have to brace yourself before reading the price tag on anything; food is expensive enough but when you start browsing the tags of luxury electronics goods and that kind of thing you really have to be ready for a shock.
There is botanic garden nearby and Gauguin museum, without any Gauguin artwork apparently, and some nice walks. The main social centre near the bay seems to be the Boulodrome where there is always a crowd playing boules in the evenings with live music and beers.
One day we took the bus into Papeete for a day of sightseeing; we won’t be doing that again except on business. We did not enjoy the city at all; it was expensive, noisy, tacky, touristy, smelly, you name it the picture above sums it up. There appeared to be a lot of crime about judging by the security around in the shops. The supermarkets have a disgraceful security policy whereby everybody is considered a thief but they expect you to leave your bag in unguarded pigeonholes where anybody coming in off the street can help themselves to it. Needless to say we didn’t go into any of those shops. Even the little tabac style shops had their ice-cream freezers locked up and to get and ice cream you had to go cap in hand like a little child to the shopkeeper to ask for the key – they didn’t get our trade either. We did eventually find a nice ice-cream shop selling good home-made ice-cream though (we miss ice-cream it being hot and us not having a fridge or freezer so it is a special treat).
The Chinese pearl farmers seem to have some kind of stranglehold over the place. Even the city maps from the tourist office only showed the locations of pearl shops and the pearl museum along with one or two places of historical interest.
The big public market is worth a look. I think we arrived too late for much of the fresh produce as they sell that starting at about 5am. The rest was mainly tourist handicrafts and pearls.
There is small marina in the city that I think is government owned where you can moor for the bargain price of around 75 USD a night – there were not many boats there. I think that most of the Pacific Puddle Jump cruising gang congregate around the marina at Taina if not actually in the marina anchored outside.
Nobeltec have recently become a partner with us. The idea is that they provide us with their TIMEZERO by Nobeltec software and charts, I provide them with feedback on it, and write some articles and tutorials based on how I use the software. There will be a lot more to come on this but the screenshots above showing our route from Hao to Tahiti are taken from the new TZ Navigator v3.
The software was only released a couple of weeks ago and I have only just got internet access to download it. So far I generally like the new clean interface which I understand is also easier to use on touchscreens. There are some new tools that should increase safety when creating routes on electronic charts that look very promising. Watch this space.