We are currently on the Town Quai in Uturoa, Raiatea. We have hired three companies to finish and in
some cases repair and replace the work carried out by Api Yachting in Papeete.
Our stay in Tahiti was something
of a shock after the delights and peace of Marquasas and Tuamotu’s. It is
the administrative capital for French Polynesia.
So it is a bit like a large French
City, only very hot! It
is also the most amazing melting pot of cultures. Polynesian (Maori), European
and Chinese. This makes for some very interesting shapes and sizes and colours
of people. Sitting in a side walk café watching life go by is quite an
There are some 250,000 people living in French Polynesia,
and the vast majority live and/or work in Papeete,
the capital. When we first arrived the BWR fleet was “billeted" on
the Town Quai. This is right next to the main “drag” so is very
convenient for all the shops, restaurants, and facilities. That said it was
very noisy, and the boat was filled with traffic fumes for most of the stay
and the Town Quai.
In the past, rally boats had moored stern to the quai, but this
time the local harbour authority went to the trouble of installing two floating
pontoons. These were obviously put together in something of a rush because
where the various sections joined together, they were at different heights and
the gap was very wide at some points. This resulted in one rally crew member
falling through the gap in the dark, loosing her shoes and getting nasty
scratches on her legs and big bruises on her…..bottom. The electricity
supply was also totally unreliable, so we resorted to running the generator.
The good news was that we were moored at the end of the
pontoon nearest the quai, stern too. So this was the ideal place to remove the
old broken boom, and to have the new one delivered and fitted.
Old & the New (still in its wrapper).
KZ Marine, the makers of the Leisure Furl hydraulic in boom
furling gear have been absolutely fabulous. They worked miracles in getting
this new bespoke boom fabricated, painted to our spec’ and fitted out in
8 working days. The real challenge for them was to get a heavy tube, 5.5 metres
long, onto an aircraft. These are real “can do” guys, and they
discovered that by not fitting it into the normal wooden packing crate they
use, and wrapping it in foam sheet and bubble wrap, they could get it into the
aircraft, on special charter. It cost a fortune, but Admiral Marine, our
insurers, were wonderfully supportive and pulled out all the stops to ensure we
would get the boom in time for our Papeete
stopover. The local company Api Yachting (did on this occasion) listen to what
was asked and did get a customs clearing agent lined up and a local shipping
company so that when the boom arrived in Papeete on the 21st April,
it was cleared through customs and on the dock within 2 days. It then became
clear that Api Yachting was completely swamped with work, out of their depth,
and had gone into “frightened Rabbit mode”. Loads of talk and no
action and the broken record along the lines of “reasons why I can’t” , was heard loud
and clear all among the quai. So, with the help of the other rally boats we
took off the old boom, and then installed the new boom. I then found a local
engineering firm to modify the boom tang fitting to the Vang and also to
engineer some nylon bushes and nylon washers to replace those that had been
smashed in the gybe. Then hey presto, a working boom!! That left the
replacement of the blocks for the running back stays which I managed to source
at NautiSport. Then all Api yachting had to finish was the repairs to the main
sail and the replacement running rigging. That was because we had decided we
could not face all the aggravation of dealing with him on the replacement Biminis.
Meanwhile, BWR had organised several events with the local
tourist board, who are VERY keen to promote the Society Islands and Tahiti in particular. The reason being that tourism is
massively in decline here, caused by very high prices, a weak dollar and
frankly a lack of smiling happy faces, from people who want to give you a good
time. So we were treated to a formal welcome by the Tourist board with lovely
Tahitian dancers and free drinks. This was a charming evening and the only
issue was that they ran out of beer rather too quickly and replaced them with
Pepsi. This caught Hugh on Stargazer rather by surprise………..
Whilst I was working on the boat, Jennie and the other
Ralliers “did” an around the Island
tour. There were some wonderful sights to be seen and Jennie “bless
her” ran amok with the camera, so I could “share “ in the sights I missed.
Local Canoes on their tressels, under the Ironwood trees
being only one of my favourites.
The Capital, Papeete,
also boasts a thriving two storey market. It is one of the most airy and
colourful we have ever visited.
The prices were just as colourful! But the variety and range
of produce available was a surprise and if you looked hard enough you could
find just about any food stuffs that you could possibly want….and some you
would rather not think about!
Papeete has some very good restaurants,
with excellent service and some with very good food. But
beware……..…you sometimes need a mortgage to pay the bill. The
best we found for entertainment, good food and great atmosphere was on the
front and was a boutique brewery. It is called the Three Brassures. Best
T Bone steak I have found in French Polynesia
so far. Excellent live music and reasonable prices, washed down with home
brewed beer or if you prefer, good red wines from Chile
The other thing we did find very positive about Papeete were
the specialist engineering machine shops and the specialist companies doing
things like any manner of filters for engines, fuel and water. So I took the
opportunity to stock up on filters and to have a couple of special bits and
pieces made that enabled us to get the generator fixed, during our second visit
when we returned to Tahiti after our wonderful
“holiday” in Moorea.
On our second visit we stayed in Taina Marina. This is a
brand new marina that can take 500 boats. It has all the facilities you can
imagine….except haul out, and storage ashore. The staff are great and the
on site restaurants are very good with friendly staff. The Sun sets from here
over Moorea are just breath taking. The water is crystal clear and there are
exquisite tropical fish flitting around the small coral heads that have already
formed on the concrete dock walls.
If you ever visit this marina and need a lift into town,
call Leana the taxi lady who seems to work 24/7 and knows everybody and
everything to do with the Society Islands….and
Whilst there, Brian & Margaret from “Our
Island” arranged a 4 x 4 tour of Tahiti.
This was in an open LWB Land Rover. It was a very full day and as it was a national
holiday on that day, there were lots of Local Tahitians enjoying the sights.
One of these was at a water fall, where there is a very deep pool and it is
very popular for diving. One local family who were at the Waterfall cum Pool,
were having a BarBQ. This, was true gourmet food, Tahitian
Qed, Corned Beef…in the Tin.
The tracks on this trip are VERY rutted, very steep and
lumpy and there is no way an ordinary car could do it. It was a great way to
see the dramatic scenery on this Volcanic
Island, and some of the
wild flowers were just beautiful. Especially the Orchids,
Would I rush back?….Probably not. But as a staging
post for the rest of the WONDERFUL Society Islands,
it is worth a pit stop. BUT, if you ever need your yacht fixed, and want
friendly, can do, reasonably priced, efficient yacht services. Then in my
experience you should head straight to Raiatea and give Api Yachting in Papeete the widest
More details to follow….Soon!!