Monthly Archives: June 2019

Tahiti Marina Tainia

Tahiti Excursion

What?  Tahiti, but you just arrived in the Gambiers!  What is going on?  Well, let me tell you.  Matt and I sold our home in Austin Texas.  However, we did not want to fly back to the states to sign the documents so we hired an attorney to act as our “power of attorney (POA).”  The only problem was the title company insisted on a U.S. notary signing the POA.  So, we had to fly to Tahiti to meet the U.S. Consulate to notarize our documents.  We also had to submit our carte de sejur application for our long stay visa and run a few other errands so all good!

We took a ferry from Mangareva to an uninhabited neighboring island called Totegegie, where the airport is located.  Ferry and airport below.  The airport is lovely from the outside 🙂

Ferry to GMR Airport and Airport

Ferry to GMR Airport and Airport

We hopped on Air Tahiti, connected in HAO and 6 hours later arrived in Papeete, Tahiti.

HAO Airport

HAO Airport

Arriving in Papeete

We found several marine stores and made mental lists for boat parts and products when we come back with the boat.  We found many decently stocked markets, pharmacies and hardware stores as well.  We met with our agent, visited the local poste to get a stamp and then submitted our visa paperwork at the Haute Commissionaire’s office.  We attempted to get signed up for a local wifi service, but we could not convince anyone to give us a local address.  We will have to work on this when we return in June with the boat.

And of course, we met with the U.S. Consulate who told us wild stories and became a new friend.  He  notarized our documents and we gave them to our agent to fedex them to the states.

Matt has to get a French HAM license or our SSB radio.  Evidently, his U.S. HAM license is not valid or legal with our current equipment in French Polynesia.  So, he had to get a French HAM license.  We got the proper forms and email address to send off when we return to the boat.

After two days of running all over the island to complete our business, we spent the 3rd and final day playing tourist.  We drove around the entire island and even saw a little bit of Tahiti Iti.  It is not a big island so the round trip would probably only take you 2.5 hours if you did not stop.

Grottes de Maraa

Along the coast of Tahiti we came across the Grotties de Maraa.  Thinking this had to be a “grotto” we hopped out and jumped on the lush, over populated path.  We came across a strange tree that had roots growing from high branches and a beautiful pyramid red flower.

Grotes in Tahiti Walking Path

Grotes in Tahiti Walking Path

There were two grottes along this path.  The first one appeared to have an enormous weeping wall that steadily dripped fresh water into the pool below.  The lily pads were easily plucked from the water, but from a far they appeared for form a pretty green highway to the cave.


Grottes de Maraa

The second grottes had a wide variety of plants, ferns, flowers, and trees growing off the side of the wall leading to the fresh water pool.  It was as if they formed a layered curtain to hide the entrance for intruders.  Such incredibly beauty!

Grottes de Maraa

Grottes de Maraa

Les Tres Cascades

About 10 miles from Papeete, the main town, we found Les Tres Cascades.  We were running out of time so we only walked to one of the falls, but it is my understanding that it is the prettiest.

Tres Cascades (three waterfalls) which are all over 300′ tall.  The myth is a powerful chief forbade all the males in the town from speaking or interacting with his beautiful daughter or risk death.  At 17 she secretly met a wizard of the valley who hid them behind a waterfall so her guards could not find them.  In addition, he curtained another waterfall to hide the guards.  Thus creating the tres casacades.

On the way to the entrance, we captured one of the falls.  The interesting thing to me was that many small shacks were at the base of these stunning waterfalls.

Les Tres Cascades

Les Tres Cascades

Les Tres Cascades

Les Tres Cascades

Tou du Souffleur (Blow Hole) 1-collage w/ 3 pics

Perched along the rocky coast of Tahiti and bordered by a scenic black sand beach, Arahoho Blowhole is one of the island’s most visited natural wonders. As waves crash against the shore, a powerful geyser-like eruption sends spectacular plumes of water into the air out of the side of the rocks.

Blow Hole

Blow Hole

We did a lot of business and frequented a few bars at the Marina Taina.

Tahiti Marina Tainia

Tahiti Marina Tainia

Beautiful sunset from the Pink Coconut bar

Sunset from Pink Coconut, Tahiti

Sunset from Pink Coconut, Tahiti

All said and done, Tahiti is a very green, lush, vibrant island.  We were mostly doing “city” stuff so we did not see the splendor of the island, the white sand beaches, turquoise waters or serene scenes.  Hopefully, we will when we come back with the boat!

French Poly Dancer

Heritage Festival in the Gambiers

Yeah, we made it over 3500nm from Chile to the South Eastern side of French Polynesia.  It certainly wasn’t an easy passage, but it was much better experience than what we later hear from other cruisers. Many crossed from Panama, Mexico, and Ecuador.  Some of them took up to 42 days to cross, but most took around 25 days.  And nobody arrived to the Gambiers Heritage Festival.  If I might be so bold to say…we chose a better route.

We first saw land in the wee hours of the morning.  There are 14 small islands that make up the Gambier archipelago, but there are only 5 that are visited by outsiders.  It was a beautiful site to see this lush hill side.

Arriving Gambiers

Arriving Gambiers

It was smooth sailing until we turned to enter the channel.  The wind was howling at over 30 kts, we were burying the bow of our boat 2-3′ of water and it was a skinny pass between coral reefs.  Thank goodness we have good charts.

Rikitea is the main town of the Gambiers Islands and it is located on Mangareva.  This anchorage was better than the channel, but it was still rolly and we were seeing white caps all around. 90 meters of chain was dropped in 18 meters of water.  We were immediately greeted by fellow cruisers that we had met in Bonaire and Panama.  There were also several boats that we recognized as are part of the Panama Posse, a group we joined to get to know other cruisers heading to French Poly.

Heritage Festival

It was fortuitous that we arrived just in time to participate in the Gambiers Heritage Festival.  We of course did not know what the Heritage Festival entailed, but we did know it was a party or sorts!

The festival actually started the day before we arrived and would last for 4 days.  The entire island is on holiday even the festivities are only in the evenings.  Dancers and musicians from Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Hao, Makemo, and Mangareva were competing for prizes.

Regardless, it appears they have learned how to shake their hips in a way that fascinated me.  I too will learn how to do a French Polynesian dance, some day soon!

French Polynesian dancers at Heritage Festival

French Polynesian dancers at Heritage Festival


A theme is designed first, then each dancer creates their own costume. The outfits are made from local plants and flowers and accented with feathers.    So, even though they look similar from afar, up close they are an individual display of beauty. Solo dancers, who were highlighted throughout the night, had their own unique costume that accentuated their beauty.

The women had a variety of costumes as well.  There were at least two women who were singled out in a few dances.


The musicians from each island mostly played a variety of drums.  Or at least what we westerners would call drums, I am sure they had Polynesian names for each instrument.  Each island group had a very different beat and sound making their performances enchanting.

Beautiful dancers at the Heritage Festival

In addition to the variety of dances each night, they had vendors selling their local wares including pearl jewelry, hand carved oyster shells, and Polynesian scarves, hats, and wraps.  What was more surprising was that the majority of the local women all wore pearls.  Either earrings, necklaces, bracelets, hair clips, but something had a pearl in it.  Their every day jewelry.  Surprising when I am used to only seeing pearls at formal events.

At the end of the last day, they had spiritual leaders (standing on rock) ask the dancers to go into the crowd, gather a partner and bring them out to the center area for a dance party.

Group dance at the Heritage Festival

Group dance at the Heritage Festival

Festival Bonus:

In addition to the performances at the Heritage Festival, they also had several booths selling Polynesian items including pearls, clothing, and sundries.

After everyone was done dancing, they fed everyone!  And I mean everyone, all the dancers, performers, locals, cruisers, and tourists.  I completely failed to get a photo of the food, but I promise you, it was unique!

This was a magnificent way to start off our time in French Polynesia.  As if they were welcoming us to their country, their islands, and their homes.  The Heritage Festival will always remind me of the Gambiers.

Mangareva, Gambiers

The Gambier Islands are comprised of 14 islands, but only 5 of which are inhabited.  Mangareva is the largest island comprising 56% of the total land mass in the archipelago and yet it is small.  The total population is around 1,300 and the island is only 6 square miles.  Rikitea is its main town and is where the majority of the population live.  This set of islands lay well over 1,000nm southeast from Tahiti.

Polynesian mythology tells of Mangareva being lifted from the ocean floor by the demi-god Maui. The mountains of Mangareva rise over the surrounding islands and the luminous lagoon like a great cathedral. Although once the center for Catholicism in Polynesia, the people of Mangareva have returned to a more traditional Polynesian lifestyle.

Gambiers Archipelago

Gambiers Archipelago


Many ruins can be found in the main village of Rikitea.  Among these archaeological relics are a convent, a triumphal arch, several watchtowers, a prison, and a court that have survived from the 1800’s.Most of these abandoned remains are dark and eerie feeling.

The island has become an important supply source for the Tahitian cultured pearl industry. With its cool waters and protected reefs, it supplies the majority of the pearls to Tahiti in a magnificent range of colors.

The largest and oldest monument of French Polynesia is the Cathedral Saint Michael of Rikitea.  It was originally built in 1848 and renovated in 2012.

St. Michael Church in Mangareva

This neo-gothic Catholic church was church was constructed of fired limestone and the alter is inlaid with iridescent mother-of-pearl shell.

St. Michael Church Alter

As the cradle of Catholicism in Polynesia, Gambier features hundreds of religious buildings built by missionaries and islanders alike between 1840-70. These include churches, presbyteries, convents, schools and observation towers.

St. Michael’s Church Rectory

Across the path from St. Michael of Rikitea Church is a well-maintained 140-year old rectory, occupied by the parish priest.

St. Michael’s Rectory

Relics in Rikitea

Several archaeological relics can be found by wandering around Rikitea including several watchtowers and some beautiful arches.  Most of these abandoned remains are dark and foreboding.

Rikitea Ruins

St Joseph

St. Joseph was built before 1866.  It might have been a church at one point, but now it is unfortunately rundown relic.  The columns were made of shells and the walls were made of concrete.  To the left of the church are a pair of beautifully carved statues.  Below is a photo Matt and I with a few of our friends from Agape (Josh), and Haylcon (Becca, John, Andrew).

St Joseph Monument

There is one main road around the entire island.  It is shared by pedestrians, trucks, motor bikes, dogs and hogs.

Rikitiea Main Road

Fueling in Rikitea

The island of Rikitea receives a supply ship every 2-3 weeks.  The ship brings in fresh fruits, veggies, fuel, supplies, furniture, boats, and just about anything the island needs.  It also loads up with packages and containers to take back to Tahiti.

After our 3500nm passage from Chile, we desperately needed diesel.  There are three ways you can get fuel.  You can bring your boat up next to the supply ship and a cement dock (not appealing), you can fill jerry cans (we needed 600 liters which would take us days to fill), or you can put a 200-liter barrel into your dinghy and back to your boat.  We opted for the last option.

We ended up buying fuel for 4 boats.  Sugar Shack took 600 liters and Argo, Agape and Halcyon each took 200 liters.  Argo used the jerry can method, but Agape and Halcyon followed in our footsteps by loading the barrel into their dinghies and siphoning into their tanks.  We luckily used our pump and filter, but still the process took over 6 hours (2.5 hours to order 3.5 hours to fill).

Fueling up at Mangareva

There is very little access to wifi on the island.  In fact, there is really only one place where you can find a trace of internet and that is JoJo’s.  Usually, you can sit at the restaurant side of JoJo’s when they are open, but more often than not, they are closed.  When that happens, or when cruisers just can’t afford to eat out, they congregate on the driveway in search of the wee bit of access they can find.

Cruisers internetting

Despite the many days of howling 25kt winds, white caps in the anchorage and rain, we did have some lovely sunsets.