Pacific Crossing 2010-11
Anse Amyot, Toau Atoll, June 30th – July 8th
After an early Thursday morning exit from Fakarava’s north pass we spent several hours making our way toward and along the eastern shore of Toau Atoll. We were headed for the Anse Amyot anchorage at the Atoll’s north end. There was no wind to speak of, nor was there any in the forecast for the next several days so it was a motor trip. We arrived at our destination by three p.m. and entered the “false pass” into the anchorage. Much to our surprise, amongst the moored boats we encountered our friends Quicksilver and Reality. We had assumed that they were long gone but were glad to be mistaken. Much catching up was done aboard Shango that evening and plans were made for snorkeling the following day.
Anse Amyot is a very small bay protected by a coral entranceway. There are fourteen mooring buoys maintained by the couple who live on the adjacent motu. You have a choice of paying a small nightly fee for picking up a ball or you can go ashore and treat yourself to a lovely dinner served by Gaston and Valentine, your hosts. I don’t know if anyone has ever opted for the small nightly fee. Who would? Friday night, after a great afternoon of underwater sightseeing, we joined fifteen other sailors ashore for a Tuamotan feast. The meal included poisson cru, rice, bread, lobster, pork (noisily killed that morning) and cake for dessert. The food was very good and the company was, as always, eclectic and enjoyable.
We spent several more days snorkeling in the shallows surrounding the anchorage and as always saw new and amazing fish with every trip. On Monday, the 4th of July, Roger hoisted our lovely plastic signal flags (not used since our wedding) and our nifty “Don’t Tread on Me” flag. We received several compliments on or outfit from the neighbors. In the evening we gathered aboard Reality for an Independence Day pasta feed. We arrived with a bottle of champagne and some of Roger’s homemade oatmeal cookies. A thank you needs to be added here in regards to the cookies. We had been gently coddling Her Royal Highness “The Last Egg” for a week when Quicksilver turned up on our “doorstep” the morning of the 4th bearing a gift of TWO EGGS! After a small ceremony involving photos, hugs and kisses Roger set about making his long desired but forbidden (for lack of eggs)cookies. Thanks Hilde!
After a week of fun and frivolity we had to start looking at making our way to Tahiti, 230 miles to the southwest. The forecast wasn’t ideal. Go sooner and you have plenty of wind accompanied by squalls/thunder storms. Wait a few days and you dispense with the thunderstorms and are rewarded with ten knots of wind or less. Ah, the life of the cruiser.
Tahiti Passage, Friday July 8th – Sunday July 10th
We were finally rewarded, after several days of patient waiting, with a pleasant weather window for our trip to Tahiti. The squalls that had been visiting us daily disappeared from the forecast. The wind was blowing a pleasant fifteen to twenty. All was good to go. On Friday afternoon we dropped the mooring in Anse Amyot , headed out the pass and turned southwest. Tahiti was just over two hundred miles away.
Friday night our winds were good and we were treated to just one small rain shower. The moon was half full and kept us company till just after midnight. Saturday was clear and beautiful with fifteen to eighteen knots on the port quarter. No sooner had we settled in for another night than we were watching the coast of Tahiti come into view on our radar.
By five thirty a.m. we were off of Point Venus and headed toward the Papeete Harbor entrance. During our approach we encountered Kite, a fellow New England boat, headed into the Harbor just ahead of us. We had seen Kite several times over the last few years and finally met in Anse Amyot. We had decided to try to find a berth at the Yacht Quai in downtown Papeete so we bore off to the left inside the entry pass while Kite turned right and headed for Marina Taina. . We weren’t sure about the precise tie-up procedure at the Quai so we poked around outside the pontoons trying to get the lay of the land. Who should we see tied up with an empty space next to them but Quicksilver. In we went. On the pontoon, a cruiser, recently arisen, passed me a guide line which led me to an attached hawser astern of us. In trade I passed him our bow line. Simple as pie. By seven-thirty we were showered and crawling into bed. In Tahiti.
The Society Islands
Papeete, Tahiti, Sunday July 10th – Monday July 18th
We arrived in Papeete, the capitol of Tahiti, with our expectations at rock bottom. Every piece of travel writing I had aboard described the City in the worst possible terms. According to the literature it was dirty, unattractive, populated by jaded locals and ragingly expensive. How could we hope to enjoy such a place? Surprisingly enough we really had a good time.
The first and most notable misapprehension was that of the “jaded locals”. I have to say we haven’t met more helpful and happy people than the Tahitians. Roger was driven around town on two different days by a man he met in a hardware store check-out line. I was accompanied off a City bus by a woman who wanted to show me where the canned chicken was in the supermarket. The Public Market stall operators gave us “thank you” limes and the music stores unwrapped CD’s for me to listen to. Who would complain about such treatment?
The City proper is well tended if architecturally less than inspiring. Leaf-blowing and weed-whacking are prime sources of employment throughout French Polynesia. The waterfront has a wonderful park that is a focal point, at least from the point of view of the yachties tied up at the Quai next door. As far as the “ragingly expensive” claim goes there is no dodging it. The place is not cheap. The one exception to this is the DUTY-FREE WINE. You heard it here. No more boxed wine with names like Zumuva for us. We’re sailing a “French Wine Only” boat now. Talk about life in paradise…
During our nine day visit the main objective was to buy boat items and to provision. Papeete was a great, if expensive, place to get things done and we were very successful. On the “tourist” front we managed to attend a variety of Heiva events. Heiva is a month-long festival celebrating traditional Polynesian music, dance, sports and crafts held every June/July. One afternoon we watched the finals of the catamaran paddling competition which had its finish line at the City Park. This was a very well attended event and the park was crowded with locals. It was amazing to watch the precision of the paddling teams. Their timing was better by a long shot than several of the marching groups in the Bastille Day parade. Another interesting spectacle was the “fruit run”. This involved barefoot participants running laps around the park carrying bamboo poles across their shoulders from which several large bunches of bananas or coconuts dangled. This sounds easy enough but the loads weigh in at about forty pounds for the women. As we made our way back to the Quai after the finish, an unconscious fruit runner was being loaded into an ambulance, pareo askew. The highlight of our Heiva week was a dancing and singing competition held in the open air arena in the Park. The dancing was spectacular with the swiveling hips of the women and the amazing legwork of the men all accompanied by drums that would wake the dead. The singing set a completely different tone. Sometimes the music was haunting, sometimes exuberant. The choruses sang a capella, seated on the floor, swaying. It made me shiver.
On the food front the most entertaining way to eat out in Papeete is at the Roulottes. These are basically glorified canteens. They roll onto a plaza by the waterfront at about six in the evening and throw open their windows for business. The food varies from steak frites to Chinese. The favorite stop for a couple of our cruising friends was the crepe van. According to the crew of Dream Away you can’t leave town without having the “full Monte” from the crepe people. This is Graham & Averill’s name for a savory crepe for dinner followed by a dessert crepe. Such a meal might include a “crepe complet” (ham, cheese & egg) followed by a “crepe chocolat” topped with chantilly (whipped cream) and half a mango. The meal might kill you but you’d die happy.
With our time in French Polynesia starting to run short we finally had to untie the dock lines and say goodbye to our friendly little home in the heart of Papeete. It wasn’t paradise but it sure wasn’t bad.
Moorea, Tuesday July 19th – Monday July 25th
We left Papeete at about nine o’clock Tuesday morning after one last pineapple and baguette run. We made it away from the pontoons without incident and had permission to exit the harbor by 9:30. There was a good breeze of 20-25 knots off the starboard quarter and we crossed the sweetly named “Sea of the Moon” to the top of Moorea Island before noon. We jibed and headed along the north coast to the pass into Opunohu Bay and were anchored behind Moorea’s fringing reef by one p.m. That was about the time that my head started to hurt and I began to sneeze. Opunohu Bay is surrounded by some amazing mountains. Most would say the view was nothing to sneeze at. Not me. I had acquired my first cold in ages. Please pass the Kleenex.
Given my cold we didn’t bother to decant the dinghy upon arrival. We lazed around in the cockpit staring at the amazing scenery and unwinding from our time in Papeete. A dainty little cruise ship called the Paul Gauguin came into the Bay and shuttled passengers to and fro. Dinghies buzzed around on various missions. Was it possible to anchor off a famous tourist destination and not go ashore? That was our question. After three days my cold had abated. In reality it had simply moved on to Roger. I, unlike Roger, eventually did manage to make it ashore. By this time Spirare had arrived from Papeete so Joanne and I tackled the local bus system. We had one success in four tries. In the end we made our way to several north shore destinations by hitchhiking. Serge was the only one among us to summit Belvedere, a high point on the crater rim which overlooks Opunohu and Cook’s Bays. He took pictures and we looked on appreciatively. By Monday the twenty-fifth Roger was feeling somewhat better and we pointed our bow toward Huahine, having given Moorea far less attention than it undoubtedly deserved.
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