We have spent three weeks in Tahiti. This island is much busier, more sophisticated and somewhat less charming than the previous ones we have visited but it is a happy place. In the evenings there is nearly always local music and the ladies just love to wear flowers – even the bus drivers. In fact this particular lady bus driver had a collection hung up by her steering wheel presumably ready for any eventuality or colour scheme. It really does make you smile. We have learnt new days of the week – petit Sunday – a euphemism for a late start on Monday after weekend partying. Yes, the Polynesian people are very laid back and seem to have very limited entrepreneurial spirit. There must be plenty of tourists here but there are no high rise hotels and the tourism does seem relatively undeveloped or just contained in resorts. We have very much enjoyed the excellent Carrefour supermarket just near the anchorage – excellent French bread, cheeses, pate and New Zealand meats. I know this sounds a little strange but a really good supermarket within walking distance is a great treat.
A Capella anchored in Papeete, Tahiti
The pass in Tahiti was quite exciting
Out rigger canoes racing
Our initial anchorage was just off the south pass to Papeete, the capital of Tahiti, and nearby to a sand spit/coral reef. This was the local play ground and every weekend numerous little motor boats came out and anchored to have BBQ’s etc. We found seeing tents, and BBQ’s just sitting in the water definitely novel.
Keeping a sailing yacht going over this timeframe and travelling these distances is a never ending challenge. We found that there was a problem with our feathering propeller which was sticking and not going into reverse properly so we have spent a week becoming experts in propellers. Our spare was not quite as we had expected. It was missing a crucial spacer which, fortunately we did managed to source in Papette. It was also the opposite directional configuration to the original and a fixed propeller which is less than ideal. In the end we decided to return to the original feathering propellor and this has been thoroughly cleaned and is now moving freely. The propeller had to be re-fitted under water and divers Philippe and Sebastian could have not been more understanding and helpful.
Our anchor roller also needed attention. Mending this required metal bashing and some welding. The result is not beautiful but will get us safely to New Zealand. The welders turned out to be more metal bashers than welders and only spoke French so Julian’s language skills were well tested.
The spare part for the generator arrived via Alex, son of Bill, on s/y Krabat. This was fitted, but generators being generators it had developed a water leak issue probably as a result of sitting idle with salt water in the system. The water pump was replaced and with a bit of coaxing the generator is now working properly.
All this meant we could not anchor so we spent two weeks in the marina Taina. Although cruisers tend to dislike marinas (primarily due to cost and being too close to other people) we had the most lovely spot just in front of a £1.5M chase boat belonging to a super yacht. Our marina spot had become very sociable. S/Y’S Wilderness, Wildside, Larus, Bruno’s Girl and Ikinoo were all here. We were in danger of becoming a fixture, but with everything in excellent shape we have now moved onto Moorea which is a small island just near Tahiti.
There are worst places to be curtailed and our enforced stay in Tahiti allowed us to go to the Heiva competition. The Heiva is a festival over about six weeks and celebrates local Polynesian culture and includes dancing, chanting, canoe racing etc. We bought tickets to the opening evening of the Heiva competition and were about to learn that drama production techniques in Tahiti have much to develop. To be frank it made school productions look seriously slick. The production started 1/2 hour late and overran by at least 1 hour. All introductions, of which there were many, were repeated in three languages- Tahitian, French and English. The whole event lasted 5 and a half hours while sitting on small plastic chairs. The more experienced locals seem to come and go as they pleased!
The dancing was really spectacular. We saw two sessions of about one hour long each depicting a story. There were about 100 dancers in each session and at least three complete costume changes, albeit there are never many clothes but wonderful head dresses. Quite how both the men (knee wobbling) and the ladies (bum wobbling) move their bodies is incredible – they just must be made differently from us, but the effect is like a shimmering of colour on the stage – sort of mesmerising. We also heard the chanting – a sort of singing. This is a strange melody and interesting but not really a spectacle. Julian has now just about recovered from the experience. It was really worth going to, but next time we would do it like the locals, get a programme, arrive and take a few breaks!
We fitted in an island tour with Andrew and Kate from s/y Wildside and headed off in Carl’s Taxi. We saw all the usual, touristy things – waterfalls, the spot were Cook had watched Venus in front of the sun, the spot were Cook had collected water, a lighthouse built by Robert Louis Stevenson’s father, and some tikis. As with all things in French Polynesia these were well set out, but the truth is we are becoming very hard to please but it was good to see the around the island and how the people live. The best bit was our lunch at the restaurant Musee de Gauguin owned by Roger Gowan, who was delightful. Roger is 85 and had sailed to Tahiti in the 60’s. He wrecked his boat on a reef, decided this was paradise and just stayed. He showed us his office complete with beautiful plotted charts from his trip which, of course, was all done using a sextant – tough stuff.
And finally we did trek up one of the magnificent mountains to see a waterfall.