s/y Nine of Cups
Society Islands - Iles du Vent (The Windwards)
2009
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Without a doubt, these are the islands most associated with French Polynesia and the South Pacific. Just the names of Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea
conjure up images of palm trees, white sand beaches and beautiful Polynesian people. We read the Lonely Planet South Pacific and Moon Tahiti
guidebooks like novels before arriving. This is, indeed, the stuff dreams are made of.
The original plan was to stay a bit longer in the Tuamotus, but we heard more and more about the
Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous in Papeete and decided to participate. We are not usually "rally"
folk as we don't enjoy traveling with a crowd, but this was special. A joint effort by the French
Polynesian/Tahiti Tourism Bureau, the Tahiti Port Authority and several commercial supporters
(Latitude 38 & Tahiti Yacht Club among others), the rendezvous is French Polynesia's way of
welcoming the
2009 Puddle Jumpers (the fleet crossing the Pacific are called "puddle jumpers") to
French Polynesia and celebrating the crossing of a major portion of the Pacific. It's a three day event
and about 40 boats participated.
Read about the fleet by clicking here.

We arrived in Papeete thinking that the main yacht quay in downtown would be full and we'd be
scrounging around for an anchorage. Not so! The downtown yacht quay had plenty of room and both
water and electricity on the dock. The rates weren't outrageous and actually one night was "on the
house", provided by the Port Authority at no cost to registered Puddle Jumpers. What a thrill to be
right in the heart of Papeete, two blocks from the market and able to feel the pulse of the city while
sitting on "Cups". I kept pinching myself to make sure this wasn't a dream.
Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous - Papeete Yacht Quay  17S32.42 / 149W34.24
The 250 mile sail from Fakarava was pleasant
enough. Seeing the green hills and rugged
peaks of Tahiti was a thrill in the early morning.
Everything was made easy for us. The Port
Captain's office, Immigration & Customs are
all housed at the same spot and check-in took
only minutes to complete. The sign-up tent for
the Rendezvous was right on the dock.  
Andy Turpin, Senior Editor of "Latitude 38",
one of the rally sponsors, was the emcee for
the events. Above, he provides the skippers
with a briefing for the rally.
The rally left Papeete and headed for Opunohu
Bay in Moorea. There was no wind, so we
motor-sailed all the way (18nm). A tallship was
anchored in the scenic bay when we arrived.
Outriggers with Polynesians in traditional
dress greeted us on arrival in the anchorage.
Later, traditional music, dancing & cocktails
were offered on the beach.
The next day was spent participating in
competitive traditional Polynesian games,
including outrigger canoe races. Four cruisers
plus two Polynesians paddled in each canoe.
This was a highlight for us...what a thrill!
Next was a fruit relay. A bamboo pole laden with fruit (not all that heavy), was carried while
running a short circuit, then handed off to the next member of the relay team. We both managed
to finish the short circuit, but were no match for the younger cruisers we were competing against.
Our team...Joan on "Tender Spirit", Hailey and
her dad, David, on "Incantation", David & I.
We called ourselves "ODL" = Oh, Dead Last!
However, Incantation won the overall race
from Tahiti to Moorea.
One event was coconut husking. We husked,
cracked open, scraped and squeezed out the
milk from a coconut using traditional
Polynesian tools. Above, Hailey scrapes the
meat while Marcie squeezes and collects milk.
Jordan, one of our Tahitian hosts,
explains how to properly lift the heavy
stones (80, 150, 200 #). No thanks!
James Michener’s mythical island
of Bali Hai is likened to Moorea.
Moorea, which means "yellow
lizard", a name taken from a
family of chiefs, is Tahiti's
heart-shaped sister and known
as "The Island of Love". The
channel between Moorea and
Tahiti is called "Sea of the Moon".
Moorea - Opunohu Bay  17S29.40 / 149W51.09
Tatoos appear in interesting places and here
they have traditional significance. We found
most of them quite attractive.
These are beautiful people!
Above, it wasn't hard to check on
our anchor or chain. We anchored in
about 15' of the clear, warm
aquamarine water.
We collected so many leis from
the rendezvous that  the boat
smelled of fragrant tiare for a
change, instead of diesel!
A long walk to head of the bay gave us several great
photo opportunities of Mt. Muaroa.
To the west of the anchorage, a couple of miles
away was a place for "swimming with stingrays".
Though we disagreed with the concept of
feeding the rays to bring them to this spot, we
thoroughly enjoyed playing with them. There
were perhaps 50 or more of them, each about 1
meter wide, graceful and gentle. They would
come right up to you looking for a handout of
raw fish. We could pet their backs and bellies,
soft and smooth as velvet, as they glided by.
After five days in Moorea, we
decided to head back to Tahiti. We
wanted to explore a bit of Tahiti's
south coast and decided to head to
Port Phaeton and the village of
Taravao at the narrow isthmus
where Tahiti-Nui (big Tahiti) and
Tahiti-iti (little Tahiti) join.
Passe Teputo is the entrance to Port Phaeton through
the reef. As we approached and saw huge breakers,
we rechecked our charts. Once closer and lined up
with the markers, the way in was clear and smooth.
Port Phaeton / Taravao,  Tahiti - 17S44.01 /149W19.62
A 110-km belt road circles Tahiti.
Red and white numbered stone
kilometer markers called PKs (pointe
kilometrique) are numbered in each
direction from the Catholic cathedral
in Pape'ete and meet in Taravao.
The anchorage here was considered to be a
"hurricane hole". Quiet and well protected
from all winds with a muddy bottom and
good holding. No weather when we were
there, so no tests to the hurricane hole theory.
We chilled out here for three lovely days.
Captain James Cook anchored
in Baie Opunohu in 1777.
One of many river signs on the island.
The Tahiti Nautic Center was a small marina
which did haul outs for smaller boats, had a
sailmaker and produced aluminum boats. They
also offered free tie-up for dinghies and fresh
water at the dock.
The sail back to Pape'ete was rather boisterous, partly
due to cape effect and partly because there was a lot of
wind. We saw 45kts true. Since it was downwind,
however, it was much easier to handle and the following
seas made fast work of the miles back to the city.
L'Arc en ciel...
We've never seen so many
rainbows as we've seen in Tahiti.
On our way back from Port
Phaeton, we saw one after
another and not just
partials...these were the real thing
with a full spectrum of bright
colors and a complete arc. David
quickly tired of my rainbow song
repertoire.
The Society Islands are divided into two groups:
The Windwards (Iles du Vent) including Tahiti,
Moorea and 3 smaller islands and the Leewards
(Iles Sous le Vent) which include five islands,
Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora Bora and Maupiti.
Back in Pape'ete - 17S34.80 / 149W27.23  (Marina Taina)
The Downtown Marina in Pape'ete was
absolutely wonderful. Located right on Blvd
Pomare, it's right in the heart of town and  
close to all the festivities.
Instead of staying at the Downtown Marina on
our return, our budget preferred the anchorage
at Marina Taina. Though very crowded, we
managed to find a spot and snugged in.
Marina Taina was definitely upscale. It offered
both moorings as well as Med-moor slips.
Several restaurants, a bar, a dinghy dock, dive
center, used oil disposal, trash disposal,
laundry ($$$), and a dozen other amenities
were even offered to those who anchored out.
Carrefour is the largest supermarche chain
in Tahiti and was located only a short walk
from the marina. They allowed us to take
the shopping carts back to the marina with
us so provisioning, though expensive, was
quite convenient. We hadn't been in a
proper grocery store since Chile in
February, so this was quite the treat!
Where else would beef tongue and tripe be
packaged as convenience foods?
The cost of  food is exorbitant here...every-
thing is imported. There are some subsidized
foods, however, and we were constantly on
the lookout for the red PPN signs which
indicated a low price.
The Society Island archipelago owes its name to
Captain James Cook who christened it "Society
Islands" in tribute to the Royal Society of London
which financed his voyage.
The Tahitian greeting "ia
ora na" literally means "let
there be life".
Though many food items were very expensive,
there were some bargains as well if you looked
for them. Our list of  best buys included:

UHT milk/1 ltr - 112CFP
Salted peanuts/1 kg - 350CFP
Greek olives/1/2 kg - 250 CFP
UHT OJ from concentrate/no sugar/1 ltr - 127
Fresh baguette - 50CFP (ooooh la la)
Canned coconut milk - 90CFP
Fresh tuna /kg - 650CFP
Fresh kiwis (pkg/7) - 250CFP
A walking tour of downtown Pape'ete
was fun and interesting. Above Notre
Dame Cathedral.
Polynesians love music, singing and dancing
and it was not unusual to find people playing
and singing on the downtown streets.
Tres Brasseurs is a boutique-brewery and
quite popular for a happy hour beer
(5-7PM). A pitcher of beer:  ~$30US!
The Pape'ete Market (Marche Municipal ) is
an amazing place. It opens daily early in the
morning and is unbelievably colorful. Fresh
fish, meat, bread/pastries,veggies, fruit,
flowers, pearls, souvenirs. lunch...you name it,
it's here and it's  usually the best price.
The upstairs area of the marketplace offers
lots of boutiques and souvenir shops, even a
tattoo parlor. From pareos to Marquesan
carvings, Gaugin coasters to vanilla pods and
pearls, if you can't find it here, it's probably
not available in Pape'ete.
City Hall (Hotel de Ville) on Rue Paul Gaugin
is an imposing building built to resemble the
palace of Queen Pomare. The grounds are
covered with artisan's tents and provided some
good browsing. Gaugin street sign below.
One of the artisan's at City Hall
specialized in making elegant hats.
Buses run from the marina into downtown. Le
Truck
, a converted cargo vehicle with long
benches on the inside, is an economical and
convenient way to get back and forth to the city
or around the island.
A visit to the Pearl Museum was quite interesting and
provided information on the history of pearls, the
development of the pearl industry in FP and of course, the
opportunity to buy pearls and the admission is free.
The local brew...
We hadn't seen our friends Colin & Vanessa
on "Reality" since the Gambier so it was a
good reunion for us. Vanessa met a local
fellow named David, who offered to take us on
an island tour in his car. What an opportunity.
Above, we pose with a tiki and David, our
host, at the Marae Arahuraku.
Carved tikis reminded us of
totem poles from the Pacific NW.
Marae - a Tahitian temple or
open-air sacred or community
place.
We packed a picnic lunch and asked David if
he'd make
traditional poisson cru if we bought
the ingredients. He did and it was wonderful!
After a sumptuous picnic, we climbed an easy
path to view Les Tres Faarumai Cascades.
Above, the motley crew pictured with
Cascade Haamaremare-iti in the background.
We visited Musee de Tahiti et des iles
(Museum of Tahiti and the islands)
which was quite informative, but did
not however, allow any photos. Sigh!
Last on the agenda, a visit to historic
Pointe Venus where Captain Cook
camped in 1769 to observe the transit of
Venus across the sun. Captain Bligh also
camped here with the crew of the
Bounty.
The lighthouse was erected in 1867.
Now time for work...We left the anchorage at Marina Taina at 0600 for an 0700 haulout at
TechniMarine Boatyard. The route passes the end of the airport runway and it's necessary
to check with Traffic Control to get permission to transit and above is the reason why!
We had intended to stay out of the water for just
5 days, but didn't quite make it. Here's what we
accomplished:
  • Repair keel from reef damage
  • Replaced cutlass bearing
  • Serviced all through-hulls (14)
  • Replaced prop zinc
  • Applied two coats anti-fouling paint
  • Replaced prop shaft coupler
  • Aligned engine (x2) once out of the water
    and once when we were back in
  • Rebedded a repaired SS stanchion
Marcie painted the bottom with anti-fouling paint (two
coats) while David, as usual,  kicked back and
relaxed! NOT!  We finished all of our chores
mid-Saturday morning, but the boatyard was closed
and we couldn't splash until Monday. Sigh! The
boatyard folks felt so badly for us, they loaned us a
car for the weekend! Wow!
Our earlier trip with Tahitian friend, David, didn't
allow us to visit Tahiti-iti nor the Gaugin Museum.
With wheels, we rectified the situation. Above, the
isthmus at Taravao connecting Tahiti-Nui with
Tahiti-iti.
A view of a river valley along the way. The
difference between city and "country" was distinct.
At the Taravao Plateau viewpoint on
Tahiti-iti, we saw some Tahitian gray ducks,
the only breeding ducks in Polynesia.
The Gaugin Museum didn't have any original Gaugins
at all, but lots of information about
Paul Gaugin and
his life in French Polynesia as well as  prints of his
works. Still worth the price of admission.
There are only three main roads on
Tahiti-iti:  one to the Taravao
Plateau, one to Tautira and the last
to the surfing town of Teahupoo.
An old stone country church in Tautira. This area was
very verdant and lush. Lots of farms, grazing cattle
and gardens dotted the landscape. We picnicked at a
little park by the beach.
If you think Pape'ete is just a little South Pacific
town, think again. Here's the view from the beltway
heading into city.
In theory, the ship with our batteries and
other boat parts was due in on Saturday, 10
July. With the weekend and Bastille Day to
contend with, we didn't find out until the
following Friday that our parts were NOT on
the ship. A painful, poor connection Skype
call to our freight forwarders in Miami
confirmed that the shipment was on another
ship due in on July 25th so we had a couple
of weeks to kill. Not in the plan, but you gotta
roll with the punches. David decided
varnishing would be a good project and so it
began. Then, of course, there was stainless to
polish and lots of odd chores to accomplish.
Tahiti and Moorea are considered the
Windward Society Islands (Iles du
Vent).          Click here to come with us to
the
Leeward Societies (Iles sous le
vent)
,                  just an overnight away.
Shipment finally received on 31 July. Not much
time left till our visa expires. We worked hard all
weekend to get everything aboard and installed
and then headed out for Huahine in the leeward
islands on the afternoon of 3 August.
Pape'ete literally means "water basket" in
Tahitian: fresh water (pape) that Queen
Pomare collected in her basekt ('ete).