Arrived Papeete Tahiti 17:38S 149:34W
Alan Franklin/Lynne Gane
Sat 30 May 2015 06:21
Dear Family and Friends,
27th May 2015
We arrived in Papeete yesterday, following an ‘exciting’ passage through the Tuamoto Atolls. These atolls are coral reefs encircling the remains of volcanic sea mounts, now mostly around 5-6’ high, and sailing between them with relatively narrow passages of 3-5 miles is fine if the weather is right. We arrived around 8pm at the start of the passage with 25kts of wind, 3 reefs in the sails and still doing over 8 kts with restricted sea room. And of course it was dark, the atolls have a few navigation lights at the passes into the atolls which helped with distance and identification. It is nevertheless a testing sail.
Tahiti is much like the Marquesas, volcanic peaks and ridges, valleys deeply etched into the island, richly covered in tropical forest, but unlike the Marquesas, The Society Islands of which Tahiti is the largest, has fringing reefs enclosing lagoons. Passage through the reef is at the passe where there is a break in the reef and deeper water, good charts/GPS are essential as the depth is very variable and the reason we Alan (and Peter) fitted a forward looking echo sounder!
Papeete is on the NW corner of the leeward side of the island. After all the anchorage swell we have experienced over the last few months, this is positively calm, sooo good! Although an industrial container port, with regular ferries to other Society Islands, as well a sea front marina, it is surprisingly very pleasant. A busy and somewhat noisy boulevard runs around the harbour, it seems to be on a direct line for the emergency services! We could be in the south of France, the look of the place, sounds, language and menus all reflect a very French feel but for the Tahitian geography and the people! With an international airport it is easily the most ‘western’ city of French Polynesia, it is the capital and home to 180,000 of the roughly 200,000 population. (So you’d think they would have decent wifi but no. I walked all over town, there seems to be nowhere where you can use your own computer and actually send ‘Apple mail’, sorry another rant!)
The marina is new, not officially open yet with some services still not working, (VHF, wifi, washing machines) but decent showers! Often the first chores after registration with the marina and port captain, (here one and the same office) is to seek out a laundry. There is one some 10 minutes walk from the marina, not so good with several heavy bags to carry. And the next, a wifi connection but don’t start me on that again, I had finally some success in a hotel. There’s definitely a business opening here for a wifi cafe near the front. A miracle, there’s an Apple store here! We visited and have had many of the connection problems sorted, such a relief!
Mothering Sunday here is this weekend. There are stalls selling those beautiful and fragrant floral head wreaths for women (and sometimes men), no doubt expecting a busy weekend. They are a real work of art in the making. The other charming custom is the wearing of flowers behind the ear, again mostly women but not exclusively. Apparently one side signals the person is available and the other not, makes life so much easier!
Here along the sea front, the locals promenade, jog, cycle, the students have lunch in the waterside gardens and then swim in the unused yachting docks, jumping off the cruiser pontoon showing off to their mates and the girls. It is a bustling place. We visited the roulettes last night. These are food vans in a water front square, where you eat under the stars. It’s all very civilised and the food is good.
Musicians play the Polynesian drums and ukulele, the beat fast, the singing infectious. Wander a short way from the front and the market is full of crafts and fruit and vegetables, colourful, fascinating.
We have swapped our tourist hat for chores and boat maintenance for the moment so I will write more about the island when I return from the UK. Save to say whilst not as charmingly rustic it does have a wealth of big city shops and services and although I never thought I would say this, it is good for us at this moment.
All our best,
Lynne and Alan