Category Archives: Locations

Places around the world

The Land of Plenty: Tahiti

Being in Tahiti can be a challenge.  It means boat projects, lots of errands, tons of walking, and hordes of people and shops.  It is a culture shock to be here after being in uninhabited islands with just the locals and a few other cruisers.  But it is a necessary “evil.”  I say “evil” only because we end up spending a lot of money, as we are surrounded by cruiser ships, tall buildings, loud noises, and dirty water.  I’m not ungrateful, this is a beautiful island and offers hundreds of thousands of people a reprise from everyday life. But for us, as cruisers, it is only a place to stock up on provisions, get boat parts, handle paperwork, and do boat work.

We anchored off of Marina Taina for the first two days which is directly across from the Intercontinental Hotel.  This was the same place we anchored last year several times and it was familiar.  Within the first 4 hours of our arrival we had 3 visitors from other cruisers.  A wonderful welcoming committee!

First Day Frenzy

On our first full day, we hit the ground running.  We stopped in to see our agents at Tahiti Crew.  Technically, we had not engaged them as our agents this year, but we had worked with them last year and they continue to be helpful.  We had hoped they could help us with our long-stay visa renewals.  Unfortunately, all they could do we offer us was advice and that advice was to wait until we received an approval email. 

Our friends Josh and Rachel on Agape came into the office as we were chatting with Tahiti Crew.  They too were looking for advice on their visa renewals.  So, we decided to go to the source, the Haute Commissionaire’s office.  We hopped on the bus and took the short 30-minute ride into town.  It was a total déjà vu as we had submitted our visa applications together back in September 2019 and here we are going together to see if they are approved in July 2020.

We patiently waited our turn as Josh and Rachel went first.  Laurie took their CDs back to her supervisor and asked them to wait.  I walked up to the window to “present” myself and Matt to her which is required once a year.  I tried my best to chat and be friendly and cheerful behind my mask and glass partition.  She took our CDs and was gone for about 20 minutes.  She came out with all 4 of our CDs stamped, approved and good until April 11, 2020!  What a huge relief!  We celebrated with a huge lunch and cold beer.

Official CDs with stamps

Official CDs with stamps

The renewal consists of a stamp on our CD’s.  The first stamp was for our first year and the and the second stamp is for our 2nd year.

One Down, More to Go

We swung by Marina Papeete (downtown) to see if we could find someone to help us secure a slip.  This marina does not take any reservations and it is first come first serve. So, we had to find someone who knew someone who was leaving so we could take their spot.  We talked to 4 different boats who promised to let us know when someone left.

Next, we walked 1.5 miles to the main harbor to find the Douanes (immigration).  They issue, among other things, a duty-free fuel certificate.  This little piece of paper saves us over 40% on diesel.  It has added up to several thousand dollars for us.  Ours had expired while we were in Gambier and we could only renew it in Tahiti.  So, off we went.  It is a really simple process and we walked out with our certificate 10-minutes later.

On our way back into town we stopped by Ace Hardware in search of a pressure washer.  The K’Archer we have sort of blew up and is no longer working.  We did not find any brands we recognized so we continued on back to the bus stop and home to Sugar Shack.

Duck, Duck, Goose

Early the next morning we heard a boat had let so we pulled up anchor, readied the boat for marina life (put out lines and fenders) and headed in.  Our friends on September AM helped us with our lines from shore and we snugly fit into a perfect spot in the marina.  Lucky us as another boat came in minutes after us looking for a spot.

We walked to the marina office to alert them of our arrival.  They were super nice.  The prices were “low season” rates the marina is technically under construction.  Which means there are no facilities like bathrooms, showers, or laundry.  No big deal, we have all that on the boat.  We ended up paying about $28 a night which is ridiculously cheap!  Most excellent for us! It’s good to be in Tahiti (I say that now).

Marina Papeete

Marina Papeete

No More Corner Anchoring

During an unfortunate anchoring event we had bent our stainless-steel anchor shaft.  It had happened when we anchored too close to a coral head in very deep water.  We could not see the bottom and raised the anchor.  Not an uncommon experience, but this time we had hooked a huge coral which literally bent the shaft.  We had been dealing with it for about a year and it was frustrating to get the anchor into the bow roller slot.  So, it was time to fix it.

You can’t really fix your anchor while at anchor.  So, lucky for us, we are at the marina.  Matt was able to remove the anchor shaft which was no easy feat.  We headed to the industrial area where we knew there was a machinist. 

After a 2.2 mile walk, carrying a 20+lb stainless-steel anchor shaft, we arrived at the shop.  The two workers were certainly surprised and perplexed.  It was fun to see Matt try to communicate with them, telling them what it is, how it is made, and how he wanted it fixed.  Once all the details were worked out we went to work.

In the 2nd and 3rd photo you can see how bent it is.

It is amazing what you can do when you have the right tools!  The three men set up the manual press and started cranking.  I would not have thought it would be so “easy” to bend steel – they did not look like superman to me 🙂  After about 15 minutes, we had a much straighter shaft.  They were so incredibly nice, they did not even charge us!  They did walk away with a giggle

House Batteries

We have been seeing some weird numbers come out of our battery bank.  These are relatively new house batteries (about 2-2.5 years young) and should be in excellent condition.  However, we have been seeing a drain each morning that was have never seen before.  Meaning they are lower than they expected based on our energy consumption. 

We have 1200 wats of solar panels that work great when we have sun.  On days when we don’t, we run the engines or our portable generator to charge the batteries.  We have not been able to diagnose the problem because we could not get them to a full charge.

Being at the marina allowed us to connect to shore power and get to that full charge mode.  Matt spent several hours testing and resetting the boat.  He found one coupler that was not tight as it should be, but nothing that should be causing problems.  Maybe it just needed to be at 100%?  Who knows.

Internetting

Of course there was lots of internetting to be done.  I needed to catch up with post for the blog, place orders to be brought to us by the amazing Konis clan and catch up on business.  Not always fun to be stuck in an internet cafe, but at least we have access and work can get done.

Refrigerator and Freon

Our fridge was not staying as cold as we liked.  Matt thought it needed a shot of freon, which we have, but we don’t have the tools to add the freon.  We called another cruiser, Mike Campbell  who works on refrigeration and ac. He was convinced we had a leak.  So, they spent an hour looking and guess what – no leak.  I guess that is good.  He shot us up with some freon and just like that we are back in business.

Provisions: Boat and People

Sugar Shack was getting empty and we needed to fill her up again with basic provisions.  In Tahiti, there are several big box stores (places where you can buy in bulk), regular grocery stores, marine stores, hardware stores, and more.  Tahiti is the land of plenty after all.  We purchased 3 cases of bottled beer for about $41/case and bought juice, soda, milk, tea from the box stores which are not shown in the photo below.

From the regular market we purchased the items below.  The photo does not include fresh produce, or any item purchased at the bulk stores.

We saw our friend Popo (the English teacher from Gambier) at the market.  She is on holiday in Tahiti.  She was so excited to me that she picked me up and twirled me around!

Medical and Dental Visits

The covid pandemic has prevented me from returning to the states to visit my doctors and dentist.  I decided to visit the doctors here in Tahiti and was pleasantly surprised.  I visited with Dr. Prevost who did a basic physical and labs for me.  I needed to run several tests (CBC and CMP) for my oncologist.  His visit was $68 and the labs were about $100.  

Then I went to see a gynecologist who did a full breast exam, pelvic exam, sonogram and pap smear for $77 with labs at $30.  Pretty reasonably priced and got the results emailed to me 😉 

A few cool Items

Our friend Mike on “Easy” carved a few coconuts for us and we made decorations of them

Sugar Shack in the crowd of boats at Marina Papeete

This post was written in July 2020.  Our blog posts are usually 6 to 7 weeks behind are true adventures.  

Peaceful Paradise in Tahanea

Tahanea is peaceful, tranquil, and mesmerizing.  On most days, it called one of the most beautiful places on earth.  Untouched by civilization, rarely visited by man, and generally as God created it.  We’ve spent several weeks here last year and 3 weeks this year.  This an uninhabited island truly reflects the beauty of French Polynesia.

We spent most of our time in the SE corner of Tahanea.  This particular period of time of our visit was during maramu (storm) season.  The majority of the storms come from the SE so we were hiding behind the motus for protection.

As you might recall, the Tuamotus archipelago is made up of dozens of atolls (not islands).  These atolls have passes that lead into a lagoon.  The lagoon is surrounded by a reef and several motus (tiny islands) that separates the Pacific Ocean from the lagoon.  The navionics photo below shows the image of Tahanea.  The green indicates the reef.  The little yellow spots (within the green area) are motus or small islands.  The blue is the lagoon and the red arrow is Sugar Shack.

When you zoom into the chart you can see the difference more clearly.  In the SE corner there are several motus to explore (yellow areas in green section).

Rudderless

There are a few motus that are being harvested for copra (coconuts).  The locals come from other islands and stay for 10-14 days harvesting the coconuts and then go back to their main island.  They set up huts or shacks on the island that really consist of 3 walls and a roof.  The copra farm in front of our boat is a rather large one.

The locals collect the coconuts, husk them, crack open the center, then use a rapier to shred the coconut meat.  They will sell the coconut meat, use the coconut milk and water and dry the coconuts.  It is hard labor for very little reward.

One group of copra farmers had left a dog behind.  Not sure if the dog had wandered off when they left and they forgot or if it was intentional.  The FP population has a different mentality when it comes to animals.  When our friends on Jolly Dogs found this puppy, she had worms, mange and was starving.  They quickly rallied the cruisers to help her.  Mike on “Easy” brought worm medication for her.  Cruisers bathed her and covered her in oil daily.  The oil suffocates the mange.  And everyone has chipped in on the feeding rotations. 

Her name is Lassie and she has an incredibly sweet disposition. She doesn’t bark, but she loves to howl.  She will follow anyone down the beach and will swim out to you to go on a paddle board ride down island.  He mange is slowly disappearing (you can see her hind quarters and tail are hairless).

Mike on “Easy” was kind enough to take her to Fakarava where there is village, more people, and more opportunity for her.  It will give her a much better chance of survival.  Thank goodness.

Baby Boobies

We explored one of the far off motus while we were in the SE corner where we found several baby boobies.  The red foot boobies build their nests in the low hanging branches of the trees.  They are so darn cute and fuzzy.

Swimming with Manta Rays and Marlin

We sailed up to the pass when we had a break in the weather.  We needed a change of scenery and wanted to snorkel the pass.  Last year, we had an amazing opportunity to swim with the mantas and got an up close and personal opportunity. 

This year we swam the same pass, the north pass, and were blessed to swim with two very large mantas.  Unfortunately, they were 12-15 meters deep so I only saw them from the top.  However, our friend Mike on “Easy” is a free diver and was able to see them up close.

Mike was showing off and decided to swim down to a sleeping shark.  The poor shark was peaceful in his sleep and woke up to an intruder.

We had a sundowner / happy hour on Sugar Shack with great friends and libations!

PEACEFUL PARADISE

Matt flew the drone on one particularly calm day.  He captured the sunrise over this peaceful and majestic anchorage.  Mike on “Easy” followed us back to the SE corner to get a prime spot for hiding out from the upcoming storm.  By the end of the day, there were 16 boats anchored here.

Sunrise photos inside the lagoon of Tahanea. 

Kinda takes your breath away…right?

“Easy” and Sugar Shack resting in peace in Tahanea. 

Tahanea's SE Corner

Tahanea’s SE Corner

Bird’s eye view of Sugar Shack from the sky

This post was written in June 2020.  Our blog posts are usually 6 to 7 weeks behind are true adventures. 

Did you miss our other post on Tahanea?  Check it out here.

Tahanea's SE Corner

The Beauty of Tahanea

Our passage leaving Hao toward Tahanea was not ideal.  We left knowing it would not be good weather conditions as we were hoping to beat the maramu scheduled to pommel us.  The first day we had light winds and super confused seas.  The swell was only between 1-1.5 meters but they were coming from every direction.

We were able to fly the main and jib for most of the day, then motored for a few hours.  The trade winds and following seas arrived around 2000 at night.  Usually, I like following seas as the boat surfs down the waves.  But when you still have confused seas that are now 3 meters coming from multiple directions it is no fun.  One wave would hit our stern before the previous wave left our bow which created a serious rolling action of the boat.  I was not a happy camper.

Despite the bad weather and my infirmities, we had a gorgeous sunset the first night.

Day two brought strong winds coming from the SE a perfect direction. However, we had to drop the main and reef the jib because we were going too fast.  If we kept up that pace we would arrive at midnight.  So, we slowed the boat down to arrive at 0400.  Not much better.  The slack tide was 0430, but it was too dark to enter so we drifted for a few hours before entering at day break. 

Since we missed “slack tide” we entered with 3.5kts of outgoing current – pushing against us.  Almost like the atoll did not want us to come in.  But, we prevailed and arrived with no issues.

Passage Details

  • Passage Miles: 220nm
  • Total Miles Travelled: 249nm
  • Max Speed: 10.7kt
  • Average Speed: 5.1kt
  • Moving Time: 48.56

We anchored in the SE corner of Tahanea with 6 other boats in turquoise, calm waters. Life is good.

Hiding in Paradise

We ended up spending 11 days in the southeast corner of Tahanea hiding from the maramu (storms).  Most had a strong southeasterly wind so being behind a motu protected us from most of the winds and waves.  We still managed to see gusts up to 30-35kts.

Each motu received a 360-degree exploration.  Some even had us traipsing through the middle part of the island which was thick with foliage, palm fronts, coconuts, and critters.

Tahanea Scenery

Tahanea Scenery

Most days were rainy and cloudy, but we tried to get off the boat once a day to stretch our legs.  Despite the gloomy clouds and rainy weather, this atoll does not disappoint – it is still gorgeous.

Agape’s Legacy

Our friends, Josh and Rachel onboard Agape were quarantined here in Tahanea for 4 months.  Our friends had to find lots of ways to entertain themselves and keep their bellies full.  They harvested coconuts and used every possible part of the coconut (meat, milk, water, husk) along with fishing and spear fishing to keep everyone fed.  They also built this amazing raft.  When we first encountered it, the raft was buried in the sand. 

But several days later the tide and cleared the sand away and the boys had a little fun.

We left the raft on the beach, where we found it.  However, we must not have pulled it up far enough as it was gone the next morning.  We are in a full moon cycle which means the tides are higher and they must have claimed the raft back to the sea.

SE Corner Activities

It was great fun exploring all of the motus within the Tahanea atoll.  We must have walked around each of them 3 times and some more.  We walked all the way around and through most of them.  They are mostly broken pieces of coral and rock on the leeward side and larger boulders, lava rock, and coral chunks on the windward side.  The interior is full of coconut trees, and palms that have mean, pointy stickers that like to attach to your skin.

We found one motu that had a “sandy corner” sandwiched between the broken coral shores.  It was a gloomy day and we ended up exploring under the rain, but still an adventure.  Matt and I trying to determine if we should head back before the big storm.

It is really cool to see the pools of water between the spits of sand as you look across Tahanea’s lagoon.

View of Sugar Shack from one of the motus.

The winds were strong in the SE corner of Tahanea.  Several people took advantage of the weather and enjoyed kite surfing and kite boarding, which was fabulous to watch.

All the cruisers gathered for several bonfires on shore.  We would cook the fish or conch we caught earlier that day.

CRAB HUNTING

Several of the motus have splotches of areas covered in coconut crab grounds.  The coconut crabs don’t like sun or rain so they mostly come out at night or early in the morning.  One day we decided to go hunting.

Armed with buckets, string and machetes, we headed to the motu.  It was a rather large group which was not conducive for good hunting (too much chatter and foot stomping), but we managed to catch a dozen.

First, you walk into the interior of the island, under the shadow of the coconut trees and in a patch of sand.  You stumble across their large holes first.   You have to be careful because their underground tunnels make the ground weak and you end up sinking to your shins!

Mike, from “Easy” and Helen from “Wow” showed us how to catch them.  Using a string or very thin piece of line you make a lasso or noose.  As the crab comes out, you slip the noose around its big claw and quickly close it around its claw so it cannot get away down the hole. 

Once he is caught, you can either put him in a bucket or kill him (which is more humane).

Once we got our fill, we went to the water’s edge to clean the crabs before taking them to the boat.  We boiled them, then grilled them and had them for a tasty dinner.

A FEW PHOTOS THAT ARE EASY ON THE EYES

The sun rose and set over the motus providing stunning photos.

Sugar Shack at anchor with a spit of land behind her.  It looks like a sandy beach, but it really is covered in broken coral and rocks.  Still a pretty photo.

This post was written in June 2020.  Our blog posts are usually 8 to 10 weeks behind are true adventures. 

Check out more on Tahanea here.