Category Archives: Society Islands

Including Bora Bora, Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine, Ralatea Tahaa

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.


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.  

Whales in Teti'aroa

A Whale of a Send Off: Passage Teti’aroa to Makatea

Teti’aroa is know for whale spotting, especially from July to November.  We had seen several spouts and watched a few charter boats do the dance around the entrance in search of a whale.  But we didn’t actually see a whale breach the water during our stay.  A little disappointed, we raised the main sail and released the mooring.  It was time to head to a new island called Makatea.  We unfurled the jib and put out our three fishing lines as soon as we left and were crossing the bay.  Then I heard Matt shout “whale.”  I ran back, grabbed the big camera and tried to capture these elusive beauties.

Under full sail with three fishing lines out we had to be careful about maneuvering the boat.  We could not just turn on a dime to go back which was frustrating, but I got a few shots of the mama whale and her baby calf.

Whales in Teti'aroa

Whales in Teti’aroa

We received a send off part just as we were passing Brando island.  A pod of dolphins came to play with Sugar Shack.  We weren’t going very fast, so I am sure it was not much of a sport to them.

Dolphins off Brando Island

Dolphins off Brando Island

Making Our Way to Makatea

We knew it would be a light wind motor sail, but we had hoped for a little more wind than what we got.  Regardless, we had full sails up, port engine running, and three lines out on our way to Makatea.

The moon rose as the sun set in perfect unison.  So gorgeous.

Moonrise and Sunset

Moonrise and Sunset

As we approached Makatea the next morning, we started preparing the boat for mooring.  I was setting the lines for the mooring while Matt brought in the fishing lines.  We caught nothing, zippo, nada during the entire trip!  As Matt brought in one of the lures, we understood why we did not hear the elusive “zing” of the line.  Someone ate our skirt as an appetizer.

Someone ate her skirt!

Someone ate her skirt!

Passage Details:

Miles Traveled:  110 nm

Duration:  20:30

Avg. Speed:  5.3 kt

Max Speed:  8.1 kt

Wind Speed:  8-10 kt

Swell:  .5

Makatea has soaring cliffs that jet into the sky from the sea’s surge.  Making a very imposing sight on entry.

Approaching Makatea

Approaching Makatea

Mooring in Makatea

There is no anchorage anywhere near the island of Makatea.  There are only three moorings that are maintained by the locals.  Lucky for us, there were no other boats when we arrived.  So we had our pick of the moorings.  A fellow cruiser told us that the mooring on the far left (red) is the best one because it is not moored in super deep water (50 meters vs 100 meters).   We circled around and found the painter sunk below the water.  We grabbed the line, threaded our two lines through loop and secured Sugar Shack.    The boat is maybe 8-10 meters away from the surge and the reef – freakishly close!

Surge over reef at Makatea

Surge over reef at Makatea

Long Lost Friends

A few hours after we arrived, we saw a boat on the horizon without AIS.  We could not determine their name so we just watched as they approached.  It did not take long for us to hear the roar of “Sugar Shack.  Hey, it’s Matt and Christine!”  Well they certainly know us….if we only knew them?  They slowly motored up next to us and it was Yves and Martha on Break Away.  We had not seen them since Las Perles, Panama (over 18 months ago).  Sweet!

We let them get settled on the furthest mooring before picking them up to go exploring in town.  We had to navigate the tricky pass that has a big surge over the reef. Lucky for us, Sweetie is equipped with a 25hp outboard.  We timed it between sets and made it in with no problem.  A quick bow anchor and stern tie to dock and we are off.  The photo below shows the surge over the reef between the two poles which is the entrance.

Entrance to Makatea Port

Entrance to Makatea Port

On Shore – Makatea

We found lots of industrial equipment, the le marie (mayor’s office) and a magasin with ice cream and wifi.  We decided to turn back before it got too dark and enjoyed sun downers on Break Away.

Old trains abandoned on the island

Old trains abandoned on the island

The map below shows the trail we will go on during our tour.  See Belvedere and Pot Hole.

Map of Makatea

Map of Makatea

The terrain was mixed between large rocks jetting from the ground to beautiful forests.  I am sure will learn more about this on our tour.

Lots of phosphate rocks on this island

Lots of phosphate rocks on this island

Returning to the port, we see our beautiful boat sitting close to the ruins.

Sugar Shack on her mooring close to the reef

Sugar Shack on her mooring close to the reef

Teti'aroa aerial view

Teti’aroa, aka Brando Island

Teti’aroa is an atoll (see last blog), which means there are islets or motus but no main island.  This particular atoll has no passe so we have no way of entering the lagoon.  But we were able to secure Sugar Shack to one of the five available moorings.  The five moorings are located just off the motu Rimatuu.  These are primarily used for charter boats who bring tourists here from Tahiti (33 miles south).  This is such a pretty spot that we decided to stay for a few days.  We had glorious sunrises over Rimatuu.

Sunrise over Teti'aroa

Sunrise over Teti’aroa

The tide exposes the plethora of rocks during low tide in the morning.  It still takes my breath away to see the surge breaking on the reef so close to our home.  The top photo shows the exposed reef as the tide goes out and the bottom shows the same spot with the incoming wave.

Surge and reef at Teti'aroa

Surge and reef at Teti’aroa

Charter Boat Hysteria

The charter boats come to Teti’aroa from Tahiti.  We had heard that the mooring balls were owned and operated by the charter boats but that cruisers could tie up to them if one was available.  We had tied up to the last one furthest away from the entrance.  Mainly because it was available and because it was not as close to the reef as the other available one.

At 0730 the next morning, the skipper from one of the charter boats came by and asked, “how long we planned on staying?”  We told him a few days and he mumbled something about “owning” the mooring.  He said that a lot of boats would be arriving later in the morning and he may have to tie up behind us.  We said, “no problem” and he went on his way.  We had heard that this might happen.  But what we were told was that we would have to give up the mooring and tie up behind the charter boat – which was not ideal.

By 0945, 6 charter boats had arrived.  Keep in mind there are only 5 moorings and we were on one and another charter boat was on another.  So, what happened you may ask?  The strangest thing we have ever seen.

The Game of Musical Chairs:

A Poe (name of charter) 40’ Lagoon tied up to a mooring.  Then a Poe 38’ Lagoon tied up to the first one’s stern (using their bridle and a line tied to one cleat on the stern of the first boat).  Then another Poe 40’ Lagoon tied up to the 2nd one’s stern.  What?  Yep, 3 boats tied on to one mooring.  Then a “Moorings” boat came in (that is a charter company called “Moorings”) and he tied up to a new mooring ball closest to the entrance.  And then a 70’ charter cat came in and tied to the 3rd Poe’s stern.  If you can believe it, then a Tahiti Tours Fountain Pajot came in and circled the group of boats.  It seemed to me a certain understanding was going on that we were not a part of.  The charter cat that was here the night before with the skipper who talked to us, left his mooring.  What?  Why would he do that?  He left the mooring for the Tahiti Tours boat and went behind the 70’ cat and tied up to him.  So, now 5 boats are tied bow to stern all using one mooring ball!

5 Charter boats on 1 mooring ball

5 Charter boats on 1 mooring ball

This is absolutely not advisable.  I am assuming they know their mooring and the strength of the lines, but still who would take this chance?  The captains spent the next 90 minutes ferrying their guests to the beach.  They only take 2 guest per dinghy ride in order to get up on plane to safely cross over the reef and surge.

Morning Swim?

We had lots of Teti’aroa friends protecting the boat throughout our stay at this atoll.  Several black tip sharks and lemon sharks swam around checking out our undercarriage.  The waters around Teti’aroa were brimming with sea life!

Protection from the sea

Protection from the sea

These sharks are relatively harmless.  They are not aggressive, but we still respected them and gave them their space.  No swimming or showering off the back of the boat for us.

We had hoped one of the boat captains would offer to bring us to shore since we did not want to risk damaging Sweetie.  However, they were very occupied with their 75+ guests so we stayed on board.

The next morning, we had swung around to have our stern pointing at the reef.  Now we were only 45-50 meters away from the breaking surge.  Still, nerve racking.

Surge over reef feeling really close

Surge over reef feeling really close

This was a truly gorgeous atoll.  We would have loved to explore the shore and sea of Teti’aroa a bit but the conditions were just not right.