TAHITI June 24
We arrived in Tahiti in the early morning, obtaining permission to enter the harbor leading to Maeva Beach anchorage. Papeete, the Big City has a population of 125,000, fully half the people in all of French Polynesia. We had heard some pretty sad tales of the noise, the dirt, the crime, etc. We will admit that it was quite a shock to get back into the middle of it all. We had to sail past the end of the airport runway; a 747 taking off just about deafened us and so low that we were sure he may clip our mast. We waved to the passengers!
Chris came out to greet us in his kayak. We agreed to anchor near him so we could share transportation. We had the dinghy (he lost his in Nuka Hiva)...he had a working motor.
|We met up with most of the fleet at the anchorage, along with at least 100 other boats. We anchored just behind these bungalows belonging to the hotel. This type of accommodation built right over the water is a common site in the Societies.|
We took a dinghy ride to shore and walked around the streets. It felt like culture shock...the noise, pollution, just about getting run over by all the traffic! We came upon a large supermarket and marveled at the rows of fresh veggies (an overwhelming urge to buy everything in sight). You may find this hard to believe, but after shopping in the poorly stocked stores of the Marquesas and Tuamotus, we spent hours just admiring all the stuff that was available. Never did we think that fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and even pineapples would seem such a luxury. I'm sure our expressions must have looked pretty strange to the locals, like we had never been to the big city before, and that's just how it felt.
Since we needed to check in at immigrations, we took a trip to town. The standard mode of transportation is via "Le Truck" which are basically very old Mercedes flatbed trucks converted with a couple of wooden benches inside.
After a visit to the Gendarme, we stood in line for 2 1/2 hours at the bank waiting to post our bond. The bond amounted to about $1700 US, which was hard to swallow, considering we only had 3 weeks left on our visa. We also sought out a medical centre to have my toenails looked at as I had been suffering from a fungal infection since the Marquesas. That resulted in my parting company with about $300 US ...$150 for the consultation and another $150 for the prescription.
We walked around Papeete, a very bustling modern city with a population of about 40,000.
The 2 story central marketplace had a large selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, although not any less expensive than in the supermarket that carried the imported equivalents.
|Paraes were in abundance everywhere, as were black pearl and shell jewellery and crafts of all sorts.|
|We had lunch with Bob & Becky at the Marketplace where we were entertained by a local singer. We each had a piece of fish & French fries for $35!|
The Storm that will Never be Forgotten
We returned to the boat to hear rumours of upcoming bad weather. We downloaded weather charts on email and studied them. After much discussion, the general consensus was that everyone let out more anchor chain, put on additional snubbers and prepare for the worst.
Sure enough, 2:30 am all hell broke loose. Winds suddenly tore through the anchorage building to over 60 knots! That was winds blowing between 90-120 km (close to hurricane force). Everyone rushed up on deck in the black night, with rain pouring down and the wind howling so loud you could hardly hear the frantic calls on the radio from boats throughout the overcrowded anchorage. We could see shadowy silhouettes and anchor lights everywhere, some tacking by at an alarming speed as their holding broke loose and they dragged their anchors, sometimes narrowly missing boats, but unfortunately sometimes colliding with boats around them. We had our engine powered into our anchor to relieve the pressure and all we could think about was that we don't have insurance!!!
Bordering the anchorage is a reef on one side and the shore on the other and everyone was praying that they wouldn't end up in either place. We saw the silhouette of our really good friends from Stardust flying backwards toward the shore at warp speed out of control. A boat called Sea Bride dragged into them, T-boning their boat and running over their anchor, pulling it out of the ground. Stardust lost their holding, out of control, hitting a French boat causing their dinghy to break loose, then continued right over the reef narrowly missing some pilings and ending up in only 8 feet of water. They were sure they were going to lose the boat (their had their survival gear on) when suddenly the anchor caught a big 55 gallon steel drum buried in the sand and the boat stopped.
Sowelu right beside us, started to drag before ending up only a few feet in front of the reef, where his anchor luckily dug in and stopped him.
Suddenly Sea Bride was calling a May Day! The boat had hit the reef and they were pleading for help. But everyone was much too busy to do anything. It is a helpless feeling when you can't offer any assistance. Luckily after about an hour, they managed to get off the reef and out into the middle of the channel to ride out the gale, their boat relatively undamaged.
By mid morning the winds subsided to 25 knots and we felt like it was like a walk in the park (funny how your perspective changes). Now the radio was alive with reports of missing dinghies, motors, sail covers, kayaks and various boat parts. Everyone was assessing their damage, lots of punctured dinghies and broken stanchions. Stardust took the biggest hit. Their boat sustained a lot of damage and they don't have insurance either.
The wind diminished for about an hour and everyone was trying to get some sleep after being up all night. But 30 knots squalls continued to pass through. We were all waiting for the back of the front to move through and everyone was setting additional anchors and reinforcing snubbers. The following day we were hit with gusts to 40 knots but everyone was much more prepared and there were no incidents.
We were soon to learn that these strong southeast winds consistently march through the narrows formed by Tahiti and neighbouring Moorea and happen with such a regularity that they have been given a name - "Maraamu." Maraamus can pack a force well in excess of 25 knots and last 2 or 3 days. They seem to have a weekly cycle which soon made us all realize that Tahiti does not have very friendly weather patterns at all.
We finally decided that we had been trapped on the boats long enough and ventured to shore for a trip to the other side of the island.
Stardust, Solstice, Sowelu and ourselves thought we could catch a bus without too much trouble. We did not know that the buses did not run on the weekend but that didn't turn out to be a problem because an empty school bus stopped and offered to take us all the way to the Gauguin museum, about an hour's drive away for $2 each. The trip itself was worth it as we got to see some scenery from another part of the island which was much lusher as the result of more rainfall. However, I was disappointed that the vision I had always had of the enchanting Tahiti, with long white sand beaches fringed with palm tree really only exists sparsely in front of the few exclusive hotels. For the most part, the shoreline of Tahiti is shallow and rocky with muddy black sand at best.
We enjoyed the museum, educational but unfortunately there was little of substance, only leftover displays from Gauguin exhibits in other parts of the world. No original artwork. The gift shop had more of interest than the museum itself.
Afterwards we enjoyed lunch at the adjacent restaurant on the beach.|
(l to r:) Gord, Ginny, Becky, Mia, Angela, Doug, Bob
By this time Marv & Donna had arrived on Endless so we decided to take in the Artisan Fest taking place at an out-of-the way part of the island, so not so touristy. We hopped on a bus and spent the day wandering around enjoying the numerous crafts. All of the islands send their best crafts people with crates full of their wares – wood carvings, shell jewelry, tifaifai (appliquéd quilts), clothing, baskets, hats, even tattoo artists. It was fabulous!!! I managed to escape without buying anything!
We were fortunate to be in Papeete during Fate,
which is a month-long celebration of the arts and culture of Polynesia. Most
of the islands have their own Fate competitions, but Papeete’s is the
biggest. We saw two of the six evenings of magnificent Polynesian song and
We couldn't possibly visit Tahiti without taking in a show of the magnificent Polynesian song and dance performances.
Eighteen of us piled into "Le Truck" and set off to see the dancers at the Cultural Centre in downtown Papeete.
Each dancing group had well over a hundred members, coached by professionals, with major investments of time and money in costuming, music, choreography, etc. There were groups of dancers and singers from all over the South Pacific and even some entries from the US. The costumes were colourful and creative, pareos or fabric costumes, vegetal or natural costumes (flowers, ferns, leaves, etc.) ,and the dancing superb, traditional in form and elements. We thoroughly enjoyed the show but were surprised at how cold it got that evening sitting in the open air theatre. Many of the spectators succumbed to the cold and left early, including a few hardy cruisers!
We had been in Papeete much longer than anticipated because of the unsettled weather. However, we now had a new problem in that our feed pump for the engine was not working. Gord had tried to do a repair on it but that was only a temporary fix and there were no parts to be found in Papeete. Luckily Becky's son was due to arrive for a visit and he was able to buy the part we needed in the US.
We finally left Papeete and headed for nearby enchanting Moorea that we could see tempting us in the distance.
|PHOTO ALBUMS OF TAHITI|
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