Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Sights, Sounds and Smells of Papeete

Cinnabar (red boat of course) at the dock
It was quite a culture shock to arrive in downtown Papeete after being in the remote Tuamotus for months. Before approaching the harbor entrance we were required to call port control to make sure we wouldn't have to share the somewhat narrow entrance with any of the numerous ferries and other LARGE commercial vessels that frequent the harbor. As we entered the very busy harbor into downtown Papeete we caught a delectable whiff of toasting coconut and thought "We might just like this city after all."

Based on recommendations from our friends on SCOOTS we headed for the new city marina which is smack in the middle of the downtown. In fact, when you exit the marina gate you have to look carefully both ways because you'll be stepping out right onto the main promenade which always seems to filled with cyclists, skateboarders, runners and pedestrians.

We had to laugh at the no-handrail promenade, something you will probably never see in the U.S. When we asked the marina office about it they assured us that there is a dock ladder at each end "because sometimes a kid falls in." Uh, OK.  

Don't fall in!! Sure wish I had a picture of the kids popping wheelies just 6" from the edge.

One day Tom saw a young skateboarder lose his board into the water. Oops! No problem. With an audience of several cruisers and numerous pedestrians he stripped to his skivvies, jumped into the water, borrowed a mask and snorkel from a nearby boat and retrieved his board.

Papeete is a city of aromas, most of them good. When we first stepped out of the marina we were struck by the strong fragrance of flowers. The city is filled with Plumeria trees and Tiare plants (Tahitian gardenia). The first time I went to the downtown market I smelled it long before I saw it because one section of it is filled with flower vendors selling stalks of exotic (to me) flowers, arrangements, leis and beautiful crowns called heis

The sweet-smelling leis and heis

Then there are the numerous restaurants, cafes and bakeries that fill the city which make it smell especially yummy in the mornings when baguettes and croissants are fresh.

Papeete is a very noisy city with all the ship's horns, street traffic (that starts at 04:00) and sirens. The pin pon pin pon (that's the sound a French siren makes) of the ambulances is nearly a constant. At night, well, we are across the street from a karaoke bar; need I say more? 

One morning I woke up, looked out our companionway, and was met by a wall of hundreds of people looking our way. A 1,000 foot cruise ship had arrived and was parked right behind us! For several days these huge monsters came and went (from Hawaii bound for Australia or New Zealand), with them thousands of pale passengers, loud announcements, bells and generators. 

The day we arrived we were happy to be greeted by our friends ATHANOR, MALUHIA and NAOMA waving at us as we motored by . As we were about to pull into the slip MALUHIA Dave calmly remarked "You might want to put out some fenders." Doh! That's what happens after 5 months away from a marina. We got safely docked with a little help from our friends, checked into the marina, enjoyed a long, hot shower courtesy of the facilities, and walked down to the Roulottes for dinner. 

The Roulottes are food trucks and there are about 30 of them in the nearby plaza serving a variety of food such as fresh fish, pizzas, chow-mein, crepes, burgers, the list goes on.

         Food trucks aren't "trending" here, they are a way of life. (photo courtesy of trip Advisor)

The next day I caught the free shuttle from the nearby Visitor Center to the gigantic Carrefour store on the other side of town; it's kind of like an upscale Walmart with lots of beautiful groceries, cheese, fruits, vegetables, electronics and home goods. I felt like I was in Disneyland with all the choices.

Sylvia finds her "sole" mate at the Carrefours. (Actually, it is a huge Opah.)
In addition to the huge Carrefours there are hundreds of stores and shops that sell everything you can imagine. Very close to the marina there is a fantastic City Market, a kind of farmer's market, that sells fresh produce, fish, meat, prepared foods and all sorts of goods and souvenirs including woven hats, perfumes, scented oils, fabrics, jewelry, clothing, etc.

You can even outfit yourself like a Tahitian dancer.

Transportation: there is an OK bus system in Papeete and Tom has taken the bus to Pt. Venus twice to go kiting (but he had to hitch-hike back once because the buses stop early on the weekend). 

Very popular kiting beach at Point Venus
Taxis are VERY expensive here. We were invited to a party at the marina on the other side of town and we ended up renting a scooter for the day ($33) which actually turned out to be slightly cheaper than a bus-to-and-taxi-back option. Plus we got to go sightseeing around the island on our scooter. Mostly we walk, borrow the marina's lender bicycle, or utilize the free shuttle from the Visitor's Center that runs to the 2 Carrefours three days a week. This free shuttle is a temporary program paid for by the Carrefours to assess utilization numbers. I hope they decide to make it permanent as it's a huge benefit to cruisers.

Sightseeing around Tahiti
One of the reasons we came here is because Papeete is a great place to arrange things and get boat work and repairs done. In fact, we ordered our new sails here and they arrived a few days ago from New Zealand. So in addition to sight-seeing and walking around town we have been doing some serious boat work. More about that subject later. And notice how I didn't include "Taste of Papeete" in the title. We're still assessing the restaurants; so far the brew pub (yes!! good beer at last!) is our favorite.

When people ask us how we like Papeete I always think of that part of the Green Acres song that goes "da da da DA da...The Chores! da da da Da da...The Stores!"

Monday, October 17, 2016

We're Stars!!

We've got a long post about Papeete just about ready to be published, but in the meantime you can see Cinnabar (briefly) in our friend NAOMA'S You Tube video. Our cameo is about 2 minutes into the video.

Or if you prefer to watch it via You Tube here's the link: Traditional Tahitian Crocodile Chicken, Oui!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Why Must We Always Depart Motus At Night? - Fakarava to Papeete

GPS track to Tahiti - about 240 nm.

Last Day in Fakarava - After much gnashing of teeth (Tom) and stomping of feet "We ARE leaving today!" (Sylvia) and a good weather window* to leave Fakarava, we decided that Monday, September 12 would be our "day" (snort) of departure. 

*Good Weather Window - Ideally, all these factors align to make a good passage: 
1 - Leaving the atoll. We've talked in the past about the importance of timing one's arrival and departure into/out of the atolls. Depending upon current and wind the usually narrow passes can have standing waves and powerful currents, making the transit uncomfortable to downright dangerous. Typically a transit during slack water is the best, with slack being roughly twice a day, so we try to time it perfectly, although there is no completely accurate way to time the tides and currents because they are affected by wind and weather which is always changing. And one should always transit a pass in the daylight!!
2 - Wind. We want enough wind during the journey so that we can sail instead of motor, but not so much that we get pummeled. Oh, and from a comfortable direction helps too, i.e. not on the nose and preferably from the beam (side) or aft quarter (behind but not directly behind).
3 - Ocean Swell. We hope that the ocean swell is not too big and is coming from behind rather than slapping the boat from the front.
4 - Weather. No rain please. A bright moon helps visibility.

I'm not sure I would have been able to drag Tom out of Pakokota except that the owner Matthieu was planning to leave that day as well, also to sail his boat VISKUS (means Fish Kiss in Tahitian) to Papeete with two crew, Lucas and friend Apolline. So we had the opportunity to buddy boat which seemed fun. With two boats so different in size and style it was doubtful we'd see them much during the transit, but maybe we would at least be in VHF radio range.

That morning I went into the town of Rotoava to do a last bit of shopping and so Matthieu could pick up supplies of water and food (a huge bag of baguettes and cheese) for the trip. 

Then, when we got back around noon Matthieu and Tom donned their SCUBA gear to put some finishing touches on their mooring. 

Mattieu and Tom - 10 more turns = final 2 ft.

The clock ticked on.

Slack tide for departure that afternoon was 18:30 (6:30 p.m.), the end of an ebb tide, so if we got there early, i.e. DAYLIGHT around sunset (5:30 p.m.), we should be able to slide right out with the current. (It's not recommended to transit Tuamotu passes in the dark, although you might remember that we did just that when we left Tahanea.) Anyhoo, as luck (poor planning?) would have it, we didn't even weigh anchor and leave the anchorage until 5:30 p.m., just after sunset. 

We followed VISKUS in the deepening darkness from the anchorage to the North Pass of Fakarava. We were a little worried as we were an hour past slack tide, it was now DARK, and we were anticipating having to push through an incoming tide IN THE DARK. As it turns out we had about 2 knots of outgoing current with us (a good thing); so much for the tide estimator. We followed VISKUS through the pass, the water going from 38 feet to over a thousand in about 30 seconds. I was fretting and nervous the entire time, but in the end our exit out of Fakarava was uneventful. Whew!

We had it planned perfectly: We figured it would take us about 36-40 hours to do the 240 mi. trip. If we left late in the day we would arrive at Tahiti during early daylight making a direct entrance into the marina possible.  

We had nearly perfect tradewind weather for our trip (TWD 105 M, TWS 15-22 kts), a bright almost-full moon, enough wind for sailing, and a not-too-uncomfortable 1.5 meter swell on the beam. We passed VISKUS after a few hours but were able to maintain radio contact with them throughout the entire trip. 

We were lucky, there were no squalls and we had enough wind so that we never had to turn the motor on. The swells (from SSE) got bigger during the day which made for some fun hand-steering but also a few splashes into the cockpit. It also made for better boat speed and it was looking like we would be arriving much earlier than we'd planned.

Point Venus on the northern tip of Tahiti (photo courtesy of Wikipedia/NOAA)

Once again in the dark: Early in the evening of our second night it was clear we were going to make Tahiti in the wee hours of the morning. Negotiating an unknown channel into the marina at night wasn't an option. However, the bay at Point Venus (Matavai Bay) in the north could be safely negotiated at night, especially with the bright moon, so when we arrived at 02:00 we navigated around the reef, into the bay, dropped our anchor and slowly drifted back. And back. And back some more. Oops, the anchor was obviously not holding. So we hoisted it and circled back around for a second try. We got it right the next time and after making sure the anchor was secure we celebrated with showers and a quick shot of rum. After turning on the anchor alarms we enjoyed a few hours of restful sleep before daylight. 

Good morning! View of green, mountainous Tahiti seen from CINNABAR anchored in Matavai Bay.

Later that morning we called VISKUS on the radio. They had opted to slow down and not enter until daylight. We watched them sail by as they headed for their reserved mooring at the nearby Tahiti Yacht Club.

Point Venus: So named because Capt. Cook anchored here in 1769 to watch the Transit of Venus. (click on the link for a fascinating explanation of this important event.) In fact, this was the primary objective of Cook's first voyage in ENDEAVOUR and was commissioned by the Royal Society of London. He established an observatory there called Fort Venus. 

Matavai Bay was so pleasant that we decided to spend another restful day and night there before heading into the city of Papeete. We wondered how we would like Papeete after 3 months in the relative wilderness of The Tuamotu Archipelago. 

Papeete update to follow. (Hint: Shopping!!!!)

Beautiful sunset with Moorea in the background while anchored at Point Venus

Trip Stats:
Engine - 4.7 hours (2+hrs. motoring out of Fakarava, motoring into and anchoring Point Venus)
Trip Log - 237 miles
Distance - 242 nm
Avg Speed - 7.5 
Time - 32.5 hours