Monthly Archives: May 2010
This is the story of our stopover in Tahiti and Moorea, the windward isles of the Society Islands.
Tahiti is French Polynesia’s largest island and Papeete, it’s capital, was where the BWR made its base. We were moored next to the main boulevard alongside cruise liners and inter-island ferry boats.
We arrived in Papeete in the dark at 1am on Monday 10th May. We managed to moor up ok with the help of other rally boats. The city beyond the waterfront is a jumble of colonial buildings, churches, small stores and modern shopping complexes with a backdrop of jagged volcanic slopes soaring into the clouds. Our first job, as always, was to sort out our customs and immigration entry, which took all morning. We then went for a nice lunch followed by the usual trail around chandleries to fix anything that’s dropped off on the journey. As we were alongside a pontoon for a change it was nice to be able to get the boat sorted out.
The following day we were entertained very well by the local tourist board with the presentation of leis in the afternoon followed by a delightful reception in the evening. We were ‘summoned’ to attend by some Polynesian musicians and everyone followed ‘Pied Piper’ style through the town to the charming French colonial style city hall for a delicious buffet. We were then treated to a wonderful display of Polynesian dancers performing some traditional dancing. Beautiful men and women performed dances that have been handed down through the generations.
After their performance we were invited to join in. Some people really enjoyed themselves. This is our friend Ian from Lucy Alice showing off his dancing skills! The evening was rounded off with the presentation of beautiful engraved oyster shells to each of the boats.
The next day was spent in a coach touring the island but as it was raining most of the time we didn’t see the island at it’s best. Our first stop was at Point Venus the location where Captain Cook set up an observatory to study the transit of Venus in 1769. The lighthouse later built on the sight in 1867 marks the northern most point of the island. It overlooks a beautiful black sand beach where it is thought the first missionaries landed at the end of the 18th century but as we were admiring it the rain started coming down
We continued around the island to the Faarumai waterfall. It was only a five-minute walk from the road and a very impressive sight. The rain continued but at least liquid sunshine was warm!
We continued around the island to the Gauguin museum restaurant on the south side for lunch and then onto the museum. It features Paul Gauguin’s original work; paintings, sculptures and engravings, as well as documents, photographs and household items belonging to the famous artist. The gardens overlook the picturesque lagoon and the smaller island of Tahiti Iti in the distance. On the return journey the coach stopped at various places but the rain really started to hammer down. Our final stop was at the Marae Arahurahu, the most significant, and beautiful, ancient stone temple of the island. Unexceptional in its day, it was one of dozens of pre-christian shines. In modern times it was chosen for reconstruction to keep the memory of old Tahiti alive. It remains a magical setting, peaceful in the shadow of the mountains but sadly unexciting in the rain.
We spent the next couple of days continuing the usual round of washing, shopping and boat maintenance. This included a visit to the colourful market in the centre of the town; a quintessential South Seas covered market, vivid with colour and commerce. Here they sell everything from straw bags to sticky desserts, from live pigs to bananas to fresh fish from the days catch and beautiful Heliconias.
All the boats were tied to one jetty so on the last evening, which was a Friday, we had an impromptu pontoon party where we all brought a plate of food and we followed it with a heat of the Blue Water Master Millionaire challenge aka ‘Friday night is quiz night’. It was great fun, I organised the crews into teams, they had to think of an inventive name and each team was asked 10 questions. Although it was ‘just for fun’ some people took it seriously and some even dressed up, the vision of Stuart (Gaultine III) and Paul (Jackamy) dressed in sarongs and blue wigs will stay with us for a long time!! We had a really fun time and it ended with a tie between the ‘Tippyies’ and ‘Balibou’ (Bali Blue and Natibou). The following morning we all waved goodbye to Norsa as Norman and Sara were leaving the rally.
After our 5 day stay in Tahiti we checked out ready for our trip to Tahiti’s sister island of Moorea on Sunday morning. Although it’s only 12 miles from Papeete, we had a bit of a choppy crossing with some uncomfortable cross swells coming from the southeast and the north. We arrived in Cooks bay, Moorea just in time for Sunday lunchtime drinks, what perfect timing!
Cooks Bay, Moorea
Moorea is an island of volcanic origin and was populated by navigators who arrived in large double outrigger canoes from south east Asia 1000 years ago. The first Europeans arrived during the 18th century, one of whom was Captain Cook in 1777, followers by the missionaries. The French Protectorate was established in 1842. Moorea benefits from a beautiful turquoise lagoon that completely surrounds the island. Cook’s bay framed by lush green jagged mountains, which is dominated by Mt Rotui, the sacred mountain of the Ancient Polynesians, was our base for the next 5 days.
We anchored next to the Club Bali Hai, a lovely resort that allowed us to use their pool and facilities. The next morning the ladies were invited over to the resort for a demonstration of how to make the beautiful Polynesian flower crowns, here is ‘Mama’ showing my friend Susan how it’s done.
She also taught us how to tie a pareo properly. The pareo is the basic article of clothing for all Polynesians. It’s simply a large rectangle of printed cotton fabric. Both men and women wear it and it seems there are a thousand and one ways to tie it, even elegantly for the evening. ‘Mama’ taught us lots of different ways. It was a very interesting morning. As it was Susan’s birthday that day I made her a cake. Later Bill and I were invited on board Enchantress for a delicious meal.
The next day we were going to hire mopeds but it was raining so we stayed on the boat and did jobs instead. The following day we had a breakfast briefing for the next leg in the morning and then in the evening the hotel organised a delicious bbq followed by a spectacular dance show. We were able to show off our pareo tying skills again. After the show we all had our photos taken with the dancers.
On the Thursday, despite the fact that it was forecast to rain again, a group of us decided to hire mopeds for the day. Bill and I haven’t been on anything like that for about 30 years but it was good fun. It took a while to get us all kitted out but finally we were ready to go. We called ourselves the Blue Water Angels. The circular road around the outside of the island is 62km so we could easily do it in a day.
We set off around the edge of Cooks bay and then up to Belvedere view point which gives a spectacular panoramic view point over the two bays separated by Mt Rotui. We stopped at several archaeological sites (marae) on the way down – just as it started raining. We continued around Opunohu bay with its thatched huts extending down to and beyond the water’s edge. Most of Moorea’s 11,000 inhabitants live near the coast fishing or farming. There are no real towns only loosely knit settlements with a post office, a school, a church or two, and a general store trailing off into the next hamlet.
We continued around anti clockwise until we came to the Tiki Village Theatre on the western side. Polynesians love to dance, sing and play music but most of all enjoy performing on stage. We decided to stop for some lunch, which meant we were entitled to watch the afternoon performance. They put on a great show including more ideas for tying the pareo. Afterwards we were invited to join in, we all had a great time. We had a look around the village in the afternoon before continuing on our way. We had been told about a beautiful waterfall on the south side of the island. We found the track leading to it and the men decided to ride the mopeds up them. By this time the rain was coming down heavily and the track was very muddy. We left the bikes and walked some of the way but abandoned the idea after realising it was still a mile or two away.
We had planned to stop at a beach for a swim but we just decided we wanted to go home because we were getting wetter and wetter. Although it was warm rain it was quite painful as it beat into our faces. We got back to the boats absolutely soaked.
We stayed one more day to join in the 60th birthday party of Peter on Peregrina and then on the Saturday we lifted the anchor and motored around to Opunohu bay, the next bay along. The water was much clearer and we enjoyed some wonderful snorkelling over the reef.
After our snorkel we joined the crews of Blue Magic, Miss Tippy, Jackamy and Bali Blue on board Chsalonina with our friends David and Susan and Fai Tira’s Pete. Paul on Jackamy is a very bad influence and suggested we play a drinking game called Cardinal Puff. This entailed you individually performing a sequence of hand movements while finishing your drink but if you got the sequence wrong your glass was topped up and you had to start again. I decided it looked easy and I was going to have a go! A half hour later having consumed a whole litre of wine I gave up but not before I was completely legless!!
David decided he was going to have a go too and also failed. The dots on my face were from another game I don’t even remember playing but I obviously got it wrong!! Neither David or I could sit up and Bill had to take us back to the boats in our dinghy while towing Susan in theirs. I don’t remember a lot but There were a lot of sore heads in the morning!!
The next day we dinghyed over to the other side of the bay because we had been told it’s possible to swim with rays and sharks. It was an amazing sight. We got out of the dinghies and stood in the water up to our chest while several rays were swimming around our feet. There were also black tipped reef sharks too. It was possible to snorkel over a deeper area to see all the wildlife waiting to be fed. We had the place to ourselves for about an hour until the tourist boats arrived with the shark food … and the fish bait!!
We’ve found paradise! The atolls of French Polynesia are beautiful. The Tuamotu archipelago consists of 76 islands and atolls spread over more than 20,000 square kms. Born from coral, emerging just enough to create the most mythical lagoons in the world. They offer a Robinson Crusoe lifestyle that dreams are made of. Manihi is an elliptic atoll containing a stunning lagoon sprinkled with pearl farms. We arrived off the entrance to the Turipaoa passé after a 3-day sail from Nuka Hiva at 10am. The tide was still ebbing quite strongly but as that slowed us down it ensured we could enter at a controllable rate without bumping into anything. Once inside the view was breath taking. The water was an amazing azure blue which matched the sky perfectly. There were already 2 BWR boats there and another 5 followed us in so it was a bit crowded.
Our sailmail email server is run by sailmail who have radio broadcasting stations throughout the world that enable emails to get from the internet to our boat using our SSB radio. One of those stations is based on Manihi and Xavier who runs it welcomes visitors. Ian from Lucy Alice and David from Enchantress and Bill were very keen to see it. Glenda, Susan and I wanted to see the house he’s building on one of the atolls. We jumped in the dinghies and motored for about 30 minutes to his atoll.
Xavier and his wife bought one of the atolls (didn’t like to ask for how much) and they are building a home on it in true Robinson Crusoe style. The building behind us houses the kitchen with the bathroom off to the left. It’s built on stilts in modules; the bathroom was wonderful with its outside shower.
The island has it’s own borehole for water and is self sufficient for power. There are 3 forms of power, a wind generator, a massive bank of solar panels that tilts towards the sun as it moves and a mini water turbine powered by the water flooding over the reef. These all feed a huge bank of batteries giving him 1000’s of amp hours. The men were fascinated. Xavier was a wonderful host and gave an interesting guided tour accompanied by Fletcher Christian, his beautiful cocker spaniel. That evening all the crews joined together on the beach for a bbq followed by a Camomile quiz. The teams were English men, International men and Women. The women won.
The next day Fernando, the local pearl farmer cum baker cum Mormon preacher cum Chinese delivery man, picked Ian, Glenda, David, Susan, Bill and me up from our boats to take us to his pearl farm in the middle of the lagoon. We were enjoying the ride in his fast boat when he suddenly stopped and tied it to a buoy. When we asked where the pearls were he pointed down below. So Bill, Susan and Glenda got in the water, Ian, David and I can’t swim under water. Bill went down first and found a string of oyster shells 4m below the surface. After several attempts he brought a string to the surface.
Susan was next and, with Fernando’s help, also produced a string. Glenda was next and bravely tried but Fernando did it for her. Everyone got back in the boat and then we headed back to his pearl farm on stilts on the edge of the lagoon. The deal is you pay per person for the trip and keep the oysters that are produced from your shells. The next step was to cut them out. Glenda cut open 2 of hers first but sadly they were quite small.
Next it was my turn. It was very hard because the shells have been in the water for a year or more and have lots of barnacles growing on them. Fernando helped me and hey presto the most beautiful black pearl emerged followed by an equally beautiful one in my next shell. We continued in turn until Glenda, Susan and I each had 6 or 7 beautiful pearls of varying quality.
Later we went back to his house where he had 1000’s more in bnoxes to purchase at cost price. I choose another 10 to go with mine in varying colours and size and I’ve sent them to Claire to make into a necklace and ear-rings.
The next day was my birthday and our best friends David and Susan, Ian and Glenda joined us at the Pearl Lodge resort across the lagoon for a sumptuous birthday lunch. It was wonderful and I was so lucky to spend my birthday in such a beautiful place with such good friends.
After lunch we got changed and relaxed in their infinity pool for the afternoon. We went back to the boats where we were joined by quite a few of the other crews making 13 in total, Glenda produced a lovely chocolate birthday cake, Peter from Bali Blue brought some rum, others brought more alcohol and, from what I can remember, we all had a great time … I think!
The next day Enchantress, Lucy Alice and Camomile motored inside the atoll to the other end, which was known as the Blue Lagoon. We had difficulty finding it expecting the water to be bluer but I think we were in the right place, the water was still very blue and it’s had some large coral heads which we all explored with our snorkels. We watched a black tipped reef shark doing a circuit and the colours of the coral create a superb underwater landscape. We had the place to ourselves and enjoyed a lovely walk along the beach and across one of the gaps to the edge of the reef on the other side. The breakers could be seen crashing onto the outer edge of the reef.
We stayed for 2 days but then decided to move on to see another atoll. We left together and motor-sailed back down the lagoon to the passé. Enchantress went through first followed by Lucy Alice and then it was our turn. The ebb tide pulled us out with hundreds of fish beneath us. Fernando waved us off from the quayside as we sped by.
We put the twizzle up and enjoyed a wonderful overnight sail to Tikehau. We arrived at 4pm the next day along with the other two boats and we were joined by Norsa.
Tikehau is about 15 miles across the middle. It’s full of coral heads but there’s a buoyed channel around the edge. We came in through the pass with about 2kts of tide against us. Unfortunately the wind picked up and was creating quite a swell within the atoll. We were anchored in the southwest corner and the wind was coming from the northeast so it was creating quite a fetch across the lagoon. We were next to the Pearl Beach resort with it’s over water bungalows looking across the atoll. The residents paid £100s if not £1000s for this view and we have it for free. As it was Friday and ‘Friday night is quiz night’ the others came over to Camomile for a trivial pursuit evening. We mixed up the teams but it was too clever for us and it went on long into the evening. I’m afraid to say alcohol was involved again!!!
We stayed for 2 nights but decided to leave and make our passage to Tahiti.