Thursday, 21 July 2016

Projects & Provisioning in Papeete …. June/July 2016

18 Jun-07 Jul:  Taina Anch, City Marina, Yacht Club Anch – 17 31S 149 31W 

Sensory Overload in the CityP6190008

We arrived just after dark at Point Venus on the North Coast of Tahiti.  It was a joy to awake to clear blue skies above and verdant green peaks ashore.  After the low lying atolls of the Tuamotus we could smell the land again and we also took in the splendour of the lush interior, our senses were overloaded. 

Our morning motor along the outside of the reef was rather lively, the wind had really filled in and with it a choppy sea but it was a short distance to the main pass entrance into Papeete - the vista of the neighbouring island Moorea was a dramatic backdrop. P6290020 Once through the pass we headed for the Taina Marina Mooring & Anchorage area.  This short run inside the reef passes both ends of the airport so clearance to proceed must be obtained from Air Traffic Control so you don’t get your mast tangled in a low flying plane!!

We attached to the last available  mooring buoy and the urgent business of food shopping was addressed.  The giant French supermarket chain of Carrefour is throughout Tahiti and one hypermarket is conveniently located a short walk from the anchorage.  Our overloaded senses were about to go into total meltdown.  P6290011Outside the marina area the traffic passed by at speeds we hadn’t seen since Panama, traffic lights were sighted for the first time in a year, and the aisles and aisles of goods in Carrefour, well quite frankly it was all just a little to much after 10 months in the sleepy Marquesas & Tuamotus!

Ticking Off Things on “The List

During our week in the mooring field we moved into project & provisioning mode.  We re-adjusted quickly to the buzz of city life and almost set fire to our credit cards with so much use.  Trips were made into all the chandleries to source a new battery bank, 80 metres of anchor chain and other smaller more manageable items.

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Oranges & Bananas in the Parade plus Storm troopers in case the fruit get unruly!

20160625_121203The logistics of getting the old items off the boat by dinghy, disposing of them and bringing the new back and installing them kept us busy, this was heavy and tiring work. 

  • Any spare minute skipper didn't need me I made trips to Carrefour and other grocery stores.   Just to paint a picture on buying the groceries:
  • Calculate how many of everything we will need for the next 5 months and make a very big list20160625_132423
  • visit multiple supermarkets we have never been to before & have most of the labels in French
  • shop until trolley full
  • pay & pack into strong bags then wheel the trolley on very uneven surface back to marina
  • transfer goods onto dock then into dinghy
  • prepare for possible wet dinghy ride back to Balvenie then unload onto deck, move into cockpit then lastly down below
  • unpack & carefully stow in lockers – noting where it has gone 

Then do it all again in various supermarkets till all items have been crossed off list (except marmite and easyyo yogurt mix!).  After filling many grocery trolleys and contributing thousands of francs to the local economy provisioning for the next 5 months was completed, eventually space onboard was found to stow everything – we had food and drink again

P6300037Luxury – A Week in the Marina 

Conditions in the mooring field had not been very comfortable with a slop coming over the reef so we decided to treat ourselves to a week in the new City Marina.  Located right downtown with new docks, excellent security & facilities and an affordable price it encouraged us to have a weeks ”city break” after our seriously hard work. 

Papeete surprised us, we’d heard some negative comments about the downtown harbour area and maybe they have had a recent major clean up and redevelopment but we’d have to say the area was superb.P6300024

The waterfront promenade was palm tree lined with cycle paths and wide footpaths, large tree filled parks adjoined the marina at both ends, there were playgrounds, picnic areas, an adjacent open air arena and even a huge underground parking area.  It was an extremely well thought out and developed area, one Papeete should be very proud of, and it was certainly well used by the cities inhabitants.P7010041 

Each evening in a large area within one park “le roulette trucks” sell a huge assortment of tasty meals, there were a few tourists dining but this seems mainly frequented by the locals which was great to see.  The shopping and market area opposite were very handy, quite compact but functional, open air cafes added that French feel, all was clean & tidy and it felt very safe.  

Time to Play Now

June and July are festival months and we enjoyed watching street parades, performing dancers, garland making competitions, wood carving workshops – there were even basket weaving classes.  P6300029The Heiva Festival is an annual event throughout French Polynesia and on each Thursday, Friday and Saturday night in July there are excellent song and dance performances in the open arena near the marina.  With tickets costing less than a meal out it made an excellent evenings entertainment, and each night had different groups performing.  The winners are decided at the end of the month.P7010049 

Exploring Further Afield

We shared a car hire one day with David & Betty Anne off Canadian boat Confidence and off we went to explore the island.  First we stopped at Point Venus where Captain Cook had been sent on his first voyage into the Pacific with astrologers to record the transit of Venus across Sun in 1769, a failed mission as they did not see the transit due to having the wrong timing information.  20160701_162153

Then we followed the coast road down the east coast and crossed the isthmus to smaller Tahiti Iti.  We continued up onto the plateau, a surprising open area with cows grazing in green pastures, fields planted in vegetables, all looked just like home, quite a change from all the nearby tropical vegetation.  After a picnic lunch at the belvedere (lookout) we made our way back across to Tahiti Nui and up the west coast to Papeete.

Catching Up with Old FriendsP7040090

Our remaining few days in Papeete were spent at the excellent anchorage outside the Papeete Yacht Club, tucked behind a deep drying reef on the north coast,20160705_083552 just a stones throw from Point Venus.  We had a great few days here, surrounded by Australians and New Zealanders (we just sort of took over the anchorage really). 

We hooked up with our longtime friend Tony on Tactical Directions, first met in Darwin 2006 and since shared many an anchorage in Asia, The Red Sea, Turkey, the Caribbean and most recently the Bahamas in 2014.  Just great to see him, Out of the Bag & Ednbal again and to meet new friends who we have been talking to previously only via our SSB Radio net, now we can all put faces to voices and names.

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Time To Follow in Captain Cook’s Wake

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Flying With the Fish at Fakarava ….. June 2016

07 – 17 June 2016:  South Pass, Fakarava, Tuamotus – 16 31S 145 28W

DSC00345-001 From Heaven at Hirifa to Fun at FakaravaP6160028

We moved 6 miles west from Hirifa to the South Pass at Fakarava.  First up we stayed in the anchorage area on the western side of the pass, a gorgeous area (ok, it was littered with bommies) the nearby tiny motus had sand sparkling in hues of pink along their tiny shorelines due to the rusty red fringing reef.  They were postage stamp sized islands, a handful of coconut palms added colour and shade, warm clear water lapped on the soft sandy shores, and the water colours in the lagoon were magnificent.  Desert islands don’t get any better than these magical motus.

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But The Real Attraction Is Under Water!P6150097

The drawcard for the small tourist industry here is the South Pass, diving here is rated amongst the Top 5 pass dives world wide, as we don’t dive we can’t give our opinion on that but the snorkelling was awesome.  We can report though that neighbours dove one day and saw 3 schools of over 150 sharks in each, eek that a serious amount of sharks!

We snorkelled the pass 5 days and got very good at timing the current to provide us with the most entertainment possible.  The trick is to get to the outside of the pass just before slack water low tide and do the first snorkel at a leisurely pace, stopping to explore nooks and crannies, discover species not before seen, look closely at the pass bottom to watch sleeping sharks and take plenty of photos.

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It’s quite a long pass with two exits so if you dawdle this can easily take an hour or more.  Then you zoom back in the dinghy (which skipper has been towing) outside the pass to the beginning and come through again.

P6140131Flying Through With the Fish

Now this is the fun part – if the tide is a little slow in turning then it can be another leisurely trip through, but if the flood is in full swing then you are off like a torpedo, flying with the fish. 

It is an amazing feeling, you remain motionless, no work required, and the underwater world just flies by underneath as the current and flooding tide transports you on its magic carpet -  a truly incredible and addictive sensation.

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Same Place – Different View P6140039

We had a change of scenery and moved from the anchorage area on the west of the pass to the mooring field on the eastern side.  Not only did this provide a different view ashore, crystal clear water so we could watch the sharks from the boat, but it also put us within an easy dinghy ride of a small resort that specialized in wood fired pizzas. With our dwindling food supplies how could we resist?  An excellent seafood pizza, crispy green salad and fresh fruit salad was enjoyed at Chez Manihi’s.

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The Gropers Are Grouping 

The timing of our visit coincided with the annual groper spawn which happens around full moon every June.  Not sure how the groper know underwater when the full moon is, but they do know and they gather here in their hundreds for this yearly event.

Camera crew from various countries were also around, ready to film this underwater display for upcoming documentaries.  We didn’t stay for the full moon spawning, it all happens at night so as snorkelers we would have not seen much but we saw more species of gropers than we knew existed, here’s a few of them – not the most photogenic of fish in their camouflage gear.2016 Tuamotus-002

Times Up in the TuamotusP6140032

Our stay in the Tuamotus had been terrific, we had sat out some inclement weather but we had also had some long spells of stunning conditions.  There are so many more atolls to explore in the Tuamotus but time is marching on and our provisions are at rationing levels!

The anchorages had been top class, we had forgotten what a privilege it was to have flat water most nights after the often rolly anchorages in the Marquesas.  Timing of the passes had initially seemed daunting but after “cutting our teeth” on the pass at Raroia we managed the others without any incident.  We even exited Fakarava via the 2.7metre shallow South Pass, after snorkelling over it regularly we were confident the coral hadn’t grown any higher and we would just scrape through.  As we looked over the side of Balvenie the coral seabed looked very close, that's because it was!  All went well but we were pleased to get into deeper water!

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P6160037Moving On West

5 of us left the pass at low tide slack water around 8am, all Papeete bound on French Polynesia’s most well known island Tahiti.  It wasn’t really a race (was it?) as its nearly 250 miles, but 5 boats going the same way and leaving at the same time, well!  The first day was rather more boisterous than expected and we flew along under double reefed main and well reefed gib.  Conditions settled overnight and the skies glowed with an almost full moon, the Southern Cross continued to guide us ever closer to home.  P6160035

Day 2 offered perfect sailing conditions, Tahiti loomed in front of us all afternoon, bursting abruptly out of the deep blue Pacific as a mass of mountainous green.  Balvenie kept her nose in front of the other monohulls, and conceded line honours to the only catamaran in our fleet, a 50 footer who beat us by 3 hours, a respectable result for a non race.

We dropped anchor just after dark at Point Venus just a few hundred metres from where Captain Cook had anchored in Matavai Bay, his “favourite anchorage of the Pacific”.  After 12 years and 1 month of cruising we had arrived in Tahiti, the land of legends.  DSC00335-001

Time To Top Up Supplies in Tahiti

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Fabulous Fakarava ….. June 2016

28 May–06 Jun: Rotoava to Hirifa, Fakarava, Tuamotus – 16 26S 145 21W 

P61100553 Yachts Underway – Race On!

Exiting the pass at Kauehi early morning went smoothly and for the first time in months we were off on a 40 mile day sail.  Conditions were perfect – a steady light breeze, flat seas, sunny skies – should be a relaxing day on the water in French Polynesia.  But we were not alone, kiwi yacht Blue Raven and American catamaran Starry Horizons left right behind us, we were all going to the north pass of Fakarava, all skippers were in their element, RACE ON! 

P5310037It was a fun sail in such glorious conditions and we all arrived in the order we had left Kauehi, Balvenie didn’t give an inch and we all entered Fakarava’s North Pass within a few minutes. 

Fresh Food Finally?

One of the big attractions in going to the north of Fakarava is that there is a village with a weekly supply ship delivery from Tahiti.  The promise of fresh produce was too good to miss, it had been 45 days since we had left the Marquesas and a bag of bokchoy had been our only fresh produce purchase since.  Scurvy was about to set in!BalvenieHaka-05124

However just because there is a weekly supply ship we learnt quickly that this does not necessarily mean there are supplies to be found.  We turned up two days after the ships arrival and it seems that this is two days too late.  But lets be fair, we did manage to buy 2 cabbages, the last 4 little aubergines, 3 teeny capsicum and a wilted bunch of spring onions.  The freezers too were void of vegetables, plenty of hamburger patties and french fries to be had but little of anything with nutritional value! Sadly it was time to top up on canned vegetables, oh well.

Moving South to the Good Stuff

We left in company with Blue Raven mid afternoon with our meagre haul of groceries and stopped the first night at Tekoko  just 8 miles south,P5300033 and anchored off what we thought may have been an abandoned resort.  After a snorkel on the fringing reef we swam ashore and explored.  This was all private property, although we were welcome to enjoy the beach front, and we were told it is a holiday residence for the President of French Polynesia.  The over water structures sure had that “seen better days” feel to them, but the beach made a great spot for an evening bar-b-que with kiwi family on Blue Raven. 

P6110043Wow – Free WiFi onboard

Next day we nurdled at few more miles down the lagoon and found another protected headland to tuck in behindThe white sandy beach welcomed us, wood was found for a fire and a consecutive beach bar-b-que dinner was enjoyed. 

There was a small low key resort ashore that offered yacht services and a free wifi signal, what a bonus, first free wifi on board for about 18 months.  We dinghied in to give the resort some business and to watch the late afternoon sun dip from the waters edge – but alas, they don’t have a bar, oh well we tried! P6110042

Heaven Found at Hirifa

Next stop was one that came very highly recommended by several friends so our expectations were high, we were not to be disappointed, heaven was found.

A gaggle of us tucked ourselves away in this corner of heaven.  While strong winds blew all around the Tuamotus we barely had a ripple across the anchorage, magic times were had.  Spots were found on the white sand beach for happy hours and more bar-b-ques and an exceptional evening was enjoyed at lively and lovely Lizas Snack Shack, (normally we would call this a shacky beach bar but sometimes they run out of beer and they don’t sell any other alcohol!) 

P6100029A pig had been sacrifced for us, we had heard the squelling as it had been chased around the yard that morning but tried to forget those memories as we dined on marinated pork ribs from the fire, pork chow mein and a fine secret recipe of it tender chunks of tasty meat cooked in its own blood with a blend of herbs and spices,  (tasted way better than it sounds!). 

Fresh fish had been caught for poisson cru and salad ingredients (and beer supplies!) arrived just before dinner having been flown in from Papeete that afternoon then transferred nearly 2 hours by boat.  The meal, company and setting were exceptional, one of those great nights to tuck away in the memory bank for later years! 

P6110048  Magical Memories of Heavenly Hirifa

Monday, 27 June 2016

Kaleidoscope of Colours in Kauehi ….. May 2016

12-18 May:  Tearavero Village, Kauehi, Tuamotus – 15 49S 145 07W

Sailing on Friday the 13thP5150009

We left Raroia in company with Judy and Bob on Kinabalu, we timed the tide and thankfully had a much less stressful departure than our arrival had been.  Despite having nearly 20 knots of wind at anchor in the lagoon as soon as we cleared the pass the wind just dropped right off, now this was not in the forecast but what can you do.  Engine on, westwards we went.

By noon the breeze had filled enough to sail, skipper had both headsail and staysail out on poles and off we floated downwind in pleasant conditions.  But Thursday the 12th ticked over to Friday the 13th, and as the clock struck midnight the first of the squalls arrived.P5170011  The skies opened and the wind gusted up and down keeping us on our toes, rolling sails in and out at regular intervals.  Kinabalu were right there the whole time, we would lose each other in the squalls then they would reappear through the haze.   As we closed on Kauehi mid afternoon winds peaked briefly at a rather brisk 38 knots, definitely not in the forecast! 

Then as we made our final approaches to the pass the clouds parted, the sun came out and the winds eased to manageable levels.  We were right on mid tide, so took at look at conditions to decide whether to wait around 3 hours for slack water.  It all looked quite calm, Kinabalu took the plunge and entered, we slipped in right behind them!  Atoll number two successfully entered, yippee.

Another Stunning Sleepy SpotP5260012

There’s just nothing we like more than a spacious, flat, calm, protected, shallow, beautiful anchorage, this one ticked all the boxes.  Sure there were a few coral bommies around to avoid with Balvenie and Dougie the dinghy but they provided great snorkelling, another paradise found.

There was a small community ashore, people called out from their homes to welcome us as we walked by, everyone we saw said bonjour and most stopped to chat.  The centre piece of the community was the Church, workmen were inside renovating this well worn beauty to restore her to her former glory.   The 4 photos below are of the shell and Mother of Pearl chandelier light fittings hanging inside the church, they were huge and really beautiful.

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Provisions ashore at the two stores were running low, an Air Tahiti strike meant there were flights operating only to the “touristy” islands (and this isn’t one).  One freighter came while we were there, all they delivered was petrol and timber, a huge disappointment for us cruisers desperate for fresh produce.  The locals have a more laid back approach – planes and coastal freighters will arrive if and when they arrive, c’est la vie!

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Just to give an idea of the remoteness of these atolls the flights when operating are weekly, the freighter sometimes comes weekly or fortnightly,The Grotto sometimes not at all, there are no hotels or backpackers accommodation to rent rooms, no where to eat or drink out.  There is a small primary school (under 12 year olds), an infirmary, post office (should have wifi but not working while we were there) and mayors office, all open just a couple of hours a day. 

The houses are basic but extremely well cared for, nearly all had lovely gardens adorned with fragrant tropical flowers.  A couple of gardens had bananas and papaya trees (not ripe unfortunately) and one grew bok choy (but not enough) that we were able to buy which was fantastic.  So the soil can’t be too bad, we just can’t understand why they are not all growing their own fruit and vegetables.P5170026

Take a Peek at the Reef 

The nearby reef in the anchorage and the surrounding bommies provided hours of entertainment, great to be able to jump off Balvenie and just swim over.  The reef was only covered by a couple of feet of water, just deep enough to glide over and discover all the hidden nooks and crannies.  The coral was mainly yellow, pale green, white and various shades of light brown, most of the fish were well camouflaged but there’s always someone who just wants to stand out from the crowd.  P5170009-001

All the activity wasn’t below the water though, our Austrian neighbours on L’avenir were kind enough to spend some time with Mark as he tried to hone his windsurfing skills on their windsurfer.  The winds were possibly just a little too light, making it harder to balance (or so I am told!), but maybe that was just an excuse for how much time was spent off, rather than on the board!  All up though practice almost made perfect and skipper had a couple of good runs across the anchorage, but he hasn’t quite worked out how to turn around yet.

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Our days and evenings were very sociable, more and more boats were arriving from Panama, the Galapagos and Mexico, our cruising community was changing daily.  We met up with kiwi boats Meridian Passage and Blue Raven, Australians on Storm Bay,  Americans on Nauti Nauti amongst others, and we finally met the new owners of beautiful Moonshadow who we have known for years with their previous owners George and Merima.

Tearavero Village Anchorage at Kauehi

With so many boats sundowners ashore was a popular option, no better way to end the day and to mix with everyone than dipping your toes in the tropical waters, sipping on a cool drink, chatting with like minded people and watching the sun slip over the horizon.

Confession Time – The Sun Doesn’t always Shine in Paradise 

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