The Big Smoke - Papeete

Position: 16 38.7 S 149 00.3 W
Alongside Quai des Paquebots, Papeete, Tahiti
Wind: East, F1 light air
Weather: mostly sunny, warm
Day's run: 83 miles

I have just climbed my way out of the thick viscous clinging grip of a warm afternoon siesta, the day light and traffic noises of Papeete (was that a Harley Davidson going by?) flowed in through the companionway hatch painfully dragging my consciousness back into existence out of the blank oblivion where it had mysteriously dissolved a few hours before. It took another 15 minutes for it to reconnect with my body, my naked limbs and torso sensing the light breeze flowing delicately over them, entering via the same portal as the light and noise. Eventually a lump of will of sufficient density coalesced to move first one leg, then the other, to drop over the side of the settee bunk, using the force of gravity to help cantilever the dead-weight inertia of my body into an upright position. These sentences having also resolved themselves in the process I stumbled over to the keyboard to set them down.

Here we are. Yesterday I pored over my charts, sailing directions, cruising guides and other sources of information and came to the conclusion that Papeete really didn't look too bad and going directly there might save a bit of messing around and also a little money. At 5 pm the grey blue shades of Tahiti resolved itself out of the haze rather like my consciousness out of its sleep, and as the haze transformed into the beautiful tones of a bright moonlit night the shore lights of Tahiti grew brighter, their tungsten glow in the distance looking like lava flowing down the hillsides. At 7 pm with only 25 miles to go I furled the jib and settled Sylph down to nervously paw over the wave tops at less than two knots. I monitored our progress through the night so that we wouldn't arrive too soon and pile up on the fringing coral reef. At little after four we were 16 miles to windward of Papeete Harbour, I took the hobblers off old Sylph, bore away, poled the jib to port and we were once more gliding smoothly across the wave towards our next stop, perhaps the Pacific's most famous island, Tahiti. A few hours later the gentle breeze started to fade as we got into the lee of the land, at 7.50 I handed all sail in the near calm and we motored the remaining few miles into the narrow entrance marked by a large red and green buoy either side of the channel.

At 8.30 I had tied up to a pontoon on the shore front of down town Papeete at Quai des Paquebots. Apart from two charter boats there was no one else here, and the charter boats disappeared as we arrived, presumably off to earn their keep for the day, not peripatetic ladies of leisure like my old Sylph. We tied up alongside the pontoon one of the charter boats had directed us to and waited to see what happened next. It was obvious we were supposed to be med moored but as there was no one here I did not want to got to all the trouble of setting this up and then later be told to moved. Meanwhile I busied myself with breakfast and a few chores, in particular making use of the unlimited supply of water emanating from that most useful of modern contrivances, the tap, washing down the boat, filling the water tanks and soaking some laundry.

Sure enough my first visitor arrived on a power boat, an Australian with a strong 'strein accent. His name was Paul, arriving on his yacht Kipooka five months ago. He was now at anchor around the corner a ways, past the airport, off Maeva Beach. He had seen Sylph's flag and had come over to say hello. He gave me some useful tips and invited me on board Kipooka for a beer if I got over his way. Hooray, some good old fashioned Australian hospitality. Next, as I was down below filling water tanks, a voice hailed me from on deck, I turned the hose nozzle off and emerged into the bright sunshine to find a tall dark man in a light blue uniform standing on the dull black pontoon telling me I cannot lie to the pontoon the way I was and must change position, pointing to indicate that we must lay at right angles to the pontoon. I asked whether I could take any of the available locations to which he said yes. I congratulated myself, so far today I think I have made no redundant or superfluous moves. One of my guide books advised me that one had to med moor here with an anchor. This morning I thought about getting the stern anchor all set up but decided, no, we will wait and see, and sure enough when we arrived it was obvious that lines were already set up from the pontoons for that purpose. Then I thought should I set Sylph up Mediterranean style but instead chose to lay alongside as we were all alone and it was a lot simpler. Besides once alongside it would be easy to swing Sylph out with the light south westerly breeze blowing us off the pontoon. I was a bit worried that there was no one else here, what was wrong with the place I wondered, but Paul told me it was just that it was early in the season and there weren't many boats here yet. After the official visit with approval to take any berth I wanted it did not take long to change to the approved med moor, followed by another wash down to hose off all the mud from Sylph's decks that I had dragged up along with the mooring lines from the harbour bottom.

Now, having caught up on a little sleep I think I will go explore down town, maybe have a bia or two.

All is well.