We swept through the mountainous Marquesas, visiting 6 islands in a month: Oa Hiva, Tahuata, Fatu Hiva , Nuku Hiva, Ua Huka, and Ua Pau. We made a 400 mile passage to the Tuamotu archipelago and spent about 3 weeks on 3 island atolls: Raroia, Makemo, and Fakarava. Another 200 mile passage put us at the Society Islands, including Tahiti and Moorea. We have had so many cool experiences! It seems that we would always like to spend more time at the places we are leaving, but we are excited for something new.
We had a crew change In Fakarava. Matt left us after a month of cruising and Jacque joined us. We were able to moor the boat at the Fakarava airport, which is little more than an airstrip and open-air terminal. Jacque changed his flight and arrived 6 hours ahead of schedule, so he poured himself a drink and fell asleep at the abandoned airport. When he woke up and wandered outside, Akela was there to pick him up. A day later, we left Matt on the same dock to catch his flight home.
The two-day passage from Fakarava to Tahiti was easy. We had nice wind and following seas for most of the trip. We had two interesting issues: the rolling of the boat made cooking and sleeping difficult. Somehow, we filled part of the dish cabinet with soup, and nobody really slept well. We also planned on 120 mile days (average of 5 knots over 24 hours) but the nice wind kept us above 6 knots for most of the trip. So, we arrived Tahiti ahead of schedule at 4:00 in the morning, just as I was coming on watch. We stood offshore a couple miles until daylight using technique called heaving-to. To heave-to with our ketch, we take all the sails down except the mizzen, the aftermost sail. Then we turn the steering wheel and lock it so that any forward motion would cause the boat to turn upwind, which in turn would stall the sail and stop the forward progress. As a result, the boat then slowly drifts downwind, taking the waves surprisingly nicely.
Remember that I had not been to a city since leaving San Diego 3 months previous. Even at 4:00 in the morning, all the lights of Tahiti were overwhelming. I felt intimidated and out of place. When the sun came up and the rest of the crew had their coffee, we sailed into a protected bay behind Pt. Venus where Captain Cook attempted to record the transit of Venus in the late 1700’s. Pt. Venus is now a park with beautiful black sand beaches. Going ashore to a crowded park was surreal for me. I felt like I didn’t belong there.I t felt to me like I was a wild animal coexisting in a city in the same way that a coyote does. This feeling went away quickly, but it was fun while it lasted.
The next day, I walked a mile to the bus stop and made my way to the airport where I rented a car. By the time I was driving in the bustling city of Pape’ete, all the commotion seemed normal again. Using the car, the four of us (me, Max, Tony, Jacque) toured the island of Tahiti. Some highlights of the tour were incredible views of seascapes and mountains, the Museum of Tahiti and the Polynesian Islands, a big grotto (wet cave), a fantastic waterfall, and roadside stands selling fruit including my favorite, pamplemousse. Tahiti is a place of dreams, emblematic of the beauty and charm of the South Pacific Islands. And I’m glad to say that she did not disappoint us.
We met my dad, Larry, in Tahiti and he joined us for a week. I was nervous about having 5 people living on the boat, but it worked out swimmingly. We had plenty of room and we all got along great. Since I had a rental car, it was easy to pick Larry up at the airport. We drove from the airport across town to Pt. Venus where the boat was anchored and the dinghy (our small rowboat, which tips easily) was waiting on the beach. I know that he was nervous about boarding the dinghy on the beach, by Larry had no problem getting into the boat, through the surf, or onto Akela. Later that day Larry, Max and I took a driving tour that included many of the highlights of our previous trips.
The next day and we set sail for the island of Moorea, 20 miles from Tahiti. I planned to meet Marco on the boat Silverland at Ha’apiti in Moorea. We had sailed all this way with a package to deliver to him. Marco and his family have been living in Polynesia for a couple of years aboard their boat, a classic square-rigged brigantine that was made in the 1950’s for fishing in the North Sea. Max and I enjoyed dinner aboard Silverland with Marco, his wife Mariah, and their son Matisse. This boat is cool! Marco is a carpenter with a passion for classic sailing boats and he has preserved the old-time look while making the boat into an efficient sailing machine. Mariah is very talkative and is totally into surfing. Matisse goes on a mile-a-minute about fishing, then he goes and plays with his Legos. One of the highlights for us was to be in the engine room when this giant 3-cylinder ship’s diesel engine was started up. We hope to see Marco and his family again and share a dinner aboard Akela.
Ha’apiti has world-renown surfing. The big rollers break on the reef right next to the pass. Taking Akela through the pass with breaking waves only a boat-length away on both sides of us was a harrowing experience. But once we were safely anchored inside the reef, it was fun to watch the surfers. Max and I donned dive gear and snorkeled to the reef, which was absolutely incredible. We had to swim against a strong current coming from the waves breaking over the reef, but the density of coral and fish were astonishing. We both felt like we were in an aquarium.
We spent 4 days in Moorea, anchoring in Opunohu and Vaiere as well as Ha’apiti. In Opunohu, there was good snorkeling right off the beach, so it was easy for Larry and Jacque to have a chance to see the amazing fish and coral without swimming too far. Snorkeling on the reef at Vaiere, Max saw an 8-foot lemon shark that was rolling on its back like dog in the grass. What a world we live in.
The sail back to Tahiti was uneventful. We tied up in Pape’ete Marina for a few days, which made it easy to walk around town and go to the market. After being in the Tuamotus where much of our food was canned, we loved the Pape’ete Farmers Market. And after months of scrimping freshwater, washing in seawater, and collecting every drop of rain, we had a hose at the dock that ran endless clear water. We were finally able to wash the rugs and fill our tanks. Over the next couple days, we said goodbye to Tony, Jacque, and Larry as they were swallowed by cabs taking them to the airport to start their long journeys home. I’m sure that each of them has a new set of precious memories from the South Pacific.
As I write this, Max and I are aboard Akela anchored at Pt. Venus. We took care of business – boat paperwork, laundry, refilling propane and we visited the museums and many interesting stores in Pape’ete. We took surfing lessons – Max is hooked and I am sore. Also, Max has made friends and has spent time with Polynesians closer to his age. We expect to hang out in Tahiti for another week before heading off the Bora Bora where we’ll finally meet up with Laura and Charlie.