Ia ora na!

Trip Start Jan 01, 2010
1
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Trip End Ongoing


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Where I stayed
on board Quest

Flag of French Polynesia  , Society Islands,
Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"Ia ora na!" that's Tahitian for “let there be life”. Rather than simply saying good day, Tahitians greet you with that wonderful expression.

Our passage to Tahiti was uneventful and calm. Just what we like.

According to one of our guides, “French Polynesia with 260,000 inhabitants is located 11,250 miles from France and includes 120 islands spread over five archipelagos covering some 1.7 million square miles in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The Society Islands, the largest is composed of nine high islands and five atolls split into two groups: the Windward Islands (Tahiti, Moorea, Maiao, Tetiaora and Mehetia) and further west, the Leeward Islands (Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora Bora and Maupiti and the uninhabited islets of Tupai, Mopelia, Scilly and Bellingshausen). “

The Passe de Papeete, an opening in the barrier reef that protects Tahiti goes right by the airport which services small planes as well as the big guys: Airbus and 757’s. Before nearing the runway, every vessel taller than 15 ft is required to call Port Control for permission to pass. It was a unique experience for Quest to have to get clearance from air traffic control!

We anchored near the main marina right next to several boat friends that we’d met in Hiva Oa and even one that we met in Trinidad. It’s always fun to meet up with familiar boats, to share experiences of where we’d been and what we plan to do next.

We used Tahiti as a re-stocking station.  The wonderfully stocked CarreFour grocery/household store was about of a mile down the road. We didn’t have to worry about the weight or bulk of what we purchased since they allowed cruisers to take the carts and leave them at the dock.  One of our outings was lunch at McDonald’s – at what I believe has to be the most beautifully located one we’ve seen. Tables scattered on the lawn overlooking the bay within the sound of the roaring water on the reef lent a relaxing atmosphere to the taste of America that we sought.

A nighttime squall blew and the wind changed 180 degrees from where we originally set the anchor. Our anchor rode rose up on top of some sort of submerged something and we dragged. As we struggled to get the anchor up, I saw my anchor windlass cover fly overboard. Well great – that was the second one I’d sewn since we had Quest.  When the anchor was nearly to the surface, I noticed that the windlass was straining to lift it. I could see it, but the windlass couldn’t lift the anchor and what it was holding out of the water. I dropped the anchor down once again and whatever it had snagged fell free and we were able raise it all the way. We then motored to a safe place for the night. We took turns on anchor watch that night as the wind howled for most of the night. We moved to a better location at first light.

Later in the morning while I sat at the bow measuring for a new windlass cover, I looked up and saw hundreds of outrigger canoes and hundreds more small motorboats bearing down on us. Evidently we had front row seats for the beginning of an outrigger race!  The more clever outrigger paddlers used the motorboat wakes to surf down and ease their work. It is a wonder that there weren’t any collisions.

The island of Moorea loomed in the west, calling us. An easy day sail, we motored out Passe Taapuna (no airport clearance needed here) and headed to the northern end of Moorea and Baie de Cook. Named after the famous, Captain Cook, this bay was protected and beautiful. We choose to keep going, though because we didn’t see any snorkeling opportunity in the area. We stopped for the night just outside Baie d’Opunohu, sheltered by a barrier reef. There were several boats here and the water was crystal clear. I spent many hours snorkeling and discovering new fish. I purchased a fish identification book in Tahiti, and have been busy checking off the new species as I see them.

We motored into the bay one day so that we could easily dinghy in to shore to stretch our legs by taking a hike. The guide book told of a lookout above Opunohu. Loaded with our requisite drinking water and camera, we started up the road. The guide book didn’t say how far it was to the lookout, but with the mountain in between the two bays, it had to be up a ways.  Walking on a nicely paved road, we passed several “maraes” (temples) and other archeological sites. Mont Tohieva and the spire of Mont Mouraroa, famous as the backdrop in the film version of South Pacific, were in sight as we walked steadily upwards. Having been passed by numerous loaded tour busses, we made our way up the 2.5 miles to the lookout where we had a vista of both Opunohu and Cook Bays. And yes, it was worth it.

The next day we decided that rather than hire a tour guide, we’d simply take a bus around the island. After waiting around an hour by the side of the road we flagged down a bus, hopped on, paid our fare and enjoyed the scenery for about 30 minutes. That’s when the bus pulled into the ferry terminal.  When everyone had departed the bus, the driver said we too, had to get off. The next bus (in either direction) wouldn’t be for another two hours – at one o’clock.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t much besides a small grocery store, a smaller snack bar and some car rental places. We passed the time watching the ferry boats come and go and then eating lunch. When it was time for the bus and the continuation of our circumnavigation of Moorea, we made sure that we were heading in the right direction by pointing to our map. The road followed the coast line around the island. We enjoyed the sights until once again we were the last ones on aboard. The driver pulled over and we showed him the map. “Combien kilometers to Opunohu?”, I tried in my very limited Frenglish from high school. He informed us it was between 8-10 kilometers (around 5 miles). My calves were still smarting from yesterday’s climb, but we knew it was flat, so rather than wait for the next bus (in yet another 2 hours) we decided to hoof it.

We got back to the boat around 4:00 pm and prepared for our overnight sail to the island of Huahine (wah hee nee). Huahine is the nearest Leeward Island to Tahiti. We anchored off the main village of Fare and settled in for the day.  Around mid-afternoon Chris announced that we were about to have company. I looked out and saw two plastic canoe things with three youngsters on each. One canoe had an oar with a broken tip and the other had none. They came laughing and shouting and happy with life. One girl asked if we spoke English and we welcomed them aboard. After a few minutes of chatting in the cockpit, I went inside and retrieved six new baseball caps and two old boat oars. We got “merci’s” from everyone. One of the young boys indicated that he wanted to explore. Chris said to go ahead. In less than a minute, we heard splashes. They’d gone to the bow and one by one, jumped off and then swam to the stern ladder. They climbed up, smiling and laughing and returned to the bow to jump off yet again. After several passes, they settled back in the cockpit for a bit more conversation before saying “au revoir” as they climbed down to their boats and using the new oars, raced back to shore.

The next morning we motored to the southern end of Huahine hoping to find some good snorkeling. Unfortunately the fish eluded us. We did find a wonderfully idyllic anchorage where we celebrated the eve of our 34th wedding anniversary with a scrumptious meal on shore, complete with champagne.

It was time to head to Raiatea (ray ah tay ah) and its sister island, Tahaa. More on our experiences here later. For now, Ia ora na!
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Comments

Owen Miller on

Fantastic! .. Sailing vessel Quest cleared to cross the extended centerline of runway...

The Benning's on

Any open berths? What a fantastic trip!! Thanks for including us.

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