Monthly Archives: September 2020

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.  

Pleasant Passage: Tahanea to Tahiti

Matt and I got up early, picked up the hook and started our passage.  We were anchored in the SE corner of Tahanea which is about 10nm from the pass.  The first part of our journey was a beautiful sunrise sail with the jib across the lagoon.  We were not in a big hurry as slack tide was at 0830 {the best time to exit the lagoon}.  We managed to arrive to the pass around 0745 and it looked manageable.  So, we ventured on.  We had the fishing poles out and the jib flying as we exited.  With a 2kt outgoing current we made it out with no issues, always a relief.

We had hope to catch a grouper or something as we exited the pass, but no such luck.  After we went through the washing machine of waves caused by the pass, we changed out the sails and raised the parasail.  Our first day was incredible.  We had perfect winds at 15-18kts from the east.  A 2-meter following sea that pushed us along toward our destination. 

All the Excitement Packed into 15 Minutes

Around dusk we were contemplating swapping the sails. A storm was forming on the horizon and we did not want to get caught with our “new to us” parasail up in high winds.  As we are discussing this, a nibble hit one of the poles.  Hmmm…then nothing.  Another nibble, then nothing.  Then another.  Finally, on the 4th bite we caught him. 

We both turned at the same time to see a beautiful marlin dancing across the top of the water.  Unfortunately, we had to let him run with the hopes of tiring him out.  We scrambled to swap out the sails to slow the boat down.  No easy task with the parasail up.  By the time we got back to the marlin he was gone.  He did manage to take a Sugar Shack souvenir with him, Matt’s new lure.

Probably a good thing. Reeling in sailfish is long, hard work.  Then once you get it to the boat you have to be careful not to jab your fiberglass hull with his protruding hard nose.  Matt was disappointed though.

A few minutes later, our jib suddenly started flapping. I am stunned as the working sheet (line), holding the jib in place, was gone!  Yep, gone. How the heck does the working sheet, with a full load, fall off?  We tacked (moving the jib to the opposite side with a working sheet).  Evidently, the knot on the starboard working sheet came undone while under load.  Maybe when we surfed down a wave and the sail luffed, who knows.  This has never happened to us – ever.  Really strange.

Day 2

Our second day had us flying our parasail again but in lighter conditions.  We were losing the wind as it slowly came down to 10-12kts from the east.  It was really fun to watch the apparent wind and our boat speed.  As we surfed down a wave, our boat speed would exceed our wind speed (zoom in on the photo to see the Raymarine screen).

Matt finally crashed hard on the 2nd night.  I took the 1130-0330 shift.  As we neared Tahiti, we started to see some boat traffic.  Always a good sign.  But it was strange that they all popped up at once.  Nice to be in company on a dark and lonely night.  No moon, no stars, and no phosphorescence. 

Arriving Tahiti

Tahiti welcomed us with a fresh wash of the boat.  Rain and gloomy day.  It is always a good way to end a passage with a fresh rinse of the boat.  Even though we did not have a lot of salt water on her as it was a following sea.

We entered north pass just around 1000.  In Tahiti, you enter through a pass that gives you access to a passage between the shoreline and the reef.  All vessels entering the pass must call into port control.  Port Control monitors the traffic in the passage and ensures the boats do not interfere with commercial traffic or air traffic with the neighboring airport.

We travel about 2 miles down the passage toward our favorite anchoring spot in front of the Intercontinental Hotel.

Passage Details:

  • Total Miles Traveled: 285
  • Max Speed:  12.5kt
  • Average Speed 5.8kts
  • Total Time at sea: 48 hours

This post was written in July 2020.  Our blog posts are usually 6 to 7 weeks behind are true adventures.  Be sure to see previous posts on Tahiti, go to svsugarshack.com and click on “Society Archipelago/Tahiti”

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.