Hiva Oa to Tahiti

We said farewell to Hiva Oa, having enjoyed our last night there, with entertainment from Christophe and Jack amongst others.  The passage from Hiva Oa to Tahiti was a good shakedown cruise for both us and Morphie after having been stuck in the mud.   Actually we weren’t there that long it just felt like it LOL.

We had the full range of weather on passage – from cloudy, stormy, rainy times – to beautiful blue skies and fluffy clouds.  The seas seemed to go from large lumpy growlers to pretty calm and serene.  We sailed along in pretty steady winds most of the time apart from squalls…and also had to motor occasionally when the wind died.

We had a range of sunrises and sunsets – from nothing at all as the sun was totally obscured by storm clouds – through to the most spectacular displays and unusual cloud formations.

We slowed down for the last 24 hours of the 848 mile passage to ensure we would make landfall in daylight hours.   We also re-evaluated our decision to go through the narrow pass on the western coast of Tahiti.  That pass was closest to the marina where we had a reservation but is also more hazardous in particular conditions – and, of course, those conditions were looking to be present for our arrival.  So we made the executive decision to go through the larger ship cut at Papette despite it being heavily controlled by the Port Authority.

When we spotted landfall early on Thursday morning Tahiti looked a bit ominous in the dark and gloomy conditions.  

We found ourselves in a busy shipping area now along with a number of yachts in the vicinity.   The island of Moorea, 15 miles away to starboard, looked stunning….

The large Clipper cruise ship Windspirit was approaching us from starboard and we radioed them – to be told that they were being directed by a pilot vessel and had a seven am slot to go through the cut and we were welcome to follow them.   We radioed the Port Authority and they were happy for us to do that.   It was very nice of them to show us the way LOL.  Windspirit looked quite dramatic against the backdrop of Moorea.

We entered through the cut and headed straight at the opposite shore…then turned to starboard to follow the route through the lagoon which is totally sheltered by the large reef that runs around the coastline.   

We admired the views and watched a few light aircraft come over us into the airport and then we reached the airport zone and had to radio for permission to cross the end of the runway.  We had to do a 360 while we waited…and then were given the go ahead to proceed. 

We carried on marvelling at the shallow water one side of us while we were motoring through in 50+ feet of water and the waves crashing over the reef beyond.   Isn’t nature wonderful?!?   We reached the other end of the airport and had to ask permission to cross the runway again – this was given immediately – and we turned the corner towards our marina past some fancy hotel rooms over the lagoon.

The marina wasn’t ready for us – well, it was only about eight in the morning – and told us to pick up a mooring ball.   So we had a cup of tea and a breakfast baguette while we waited watching some superyachts leaving.

Finally at just before 10 we were escorted into the marina by a skiff with three men in it.   They asked if we had bow thrusters and which way we prop walked in reverse to identify the best spot for us.   They told us to go ahead to get lined up and then reverse down into the marina and into the spot they had allocated.  Well, I couldn’t believe the spot they wanted us to go in with only inches either side of small power boats.    At one point I thought Richard was going to abort when we came very close to our neighbours bow as we turned in but somehow he managed it and suddenly the guys were there – with one standing in the skiff holding our bow straight – and the others catching lines to tie us stern to the dock.   Then one guy jumped into the water, kitted up with a scuba tank, and got two lazy lines from the bottom and handed them up to the guy who was now on our bow.  He tied us off on both sides and – voila!  We had arrived. 

We had to use our step down transformer for power – which is charged by the week not by usage – and Richard had to reassemble the plug as we had reverse polarity.   Finally fixed we headed off to the office to check in having cleaned ourselves up.   That was all pretty simple and we then went on the hunt for internet.  We had a beer in both on-site bars/restaurants but no internet to be found.  We returned to Morphie around 4ish and just went to bed.    We were pretty tired and slept right through.

Friday morning we were up early and headed out of the marina and turned right towards the Mobil gas station.    They apparently collect and refill propane gas bottles – so we left ours there – and were told to return on Wednesday.   We are hoping they can fill this as we are getting low on our second bottle now and the French bottles are totally incompatible with our US systems.  So fingers crossed.

We found the on-site chandlery and had a chat to the owner.    We showed him the video Richard had taken of the autopilot when it was grinding away and he immediately diagnosed an issue with the motor.  He suggested swapping it all out and getting the old one serviced – it is a sealed unit – and keeping that as the spare.  So that’s on the list of things to do here.   He also confirmed that he was able to help us fit the windlass when it arrived.   He has a little treasure trove store so Richard is looking forward to exploring that later….

We then met with our Tahiti Agents and completed some forms – they had the documents for FedEx and now we needed to fill out some for DHL – plus they are going to organise our inter-island clearance documents and duty-free fuel certificate.     All for a fee of course…..never mind….we really don’t have any choice if we want to get things facilitated through the French Polynesian bureaucratic system. 

We need to give a mention to Dan and Ruth at this point.   During our passage to the Marquesas they were in contact with us via our satellite system and, even before we had arrived in Hiva Oa, they had found a replacement autopilot control head, ordered it, paid for it and had it delivered to their home.   Once we arrived in Hiva Oa they took delivery of other parts we needed and are now sending them via FedEx down to us here in Tahiti.   They are very special, kind and generous people and we are very grateful to have them as our friends.   Dan’s procurement abilities are almost as good as his grilling skills LOL.   As a reminder here’s a picture of the four of us together sampling the local brew in Wisconsin last year.

Having completed the formalities we walked down the dual carriageway towards the small shopping mall and the large Carrefour supermarket.    We found a restaurant in the mall that had free internet so we made good use of that while enjoying a lovely lunch.   We managed to skype New Zealand and paid for the windlass – so that is now on its way.    We also caught up with emails etc. 

After lunch we wandered the shops and got some drinking vouchers out of the ATM.   Richard’s card is still getting refused by the ATMs but he managed to pay for lunch with it – this is getting irritating – and the bank confirmed that everything is OK when we spoke to them.  So I think we’ll give that up as a bad job.

We then went into Carrefour and, OMG, a proper supermarket with huge supplies of everything we could possibly need and then some.  So we wandered the aisles – taking note of the selection – and will come back here with a car and/or taxi when it is time to provision up properly.   In the meantime we just made do with some fresh ham, cheese, bread and salad.    

We wandered back to Morphie and bumped into Bill who is British and who moved to Canada many years ago…he is here on his Island Packet that he has sailed down from Vancouver and is planning to head to Fiji.  He is just looking for suitable crew to help him.   We had a chat with him and made arrangements to meet him over happy hour drinks later on.

We wandered to the Dinghy Dock bar and finally found a seat – we chatted to Bill and Ian (an Australian single-hander) and then bumped into Phil who is the American we were Panama Canal line handlers for.  What a small world.  What is interesting in this marina is that everyone we have spoken to so far is waiting here for spare parts.  Nobody had a great passage and most people broke things…lots of things…including rudders and swinging keels….and sadly there is at least one boat we know of which has been lost.   So much for the fabled beautiful downwind sail across the Pacific called the Milk Run then eh?!? 

After happy hour we wandered to the marina-front restaurant as we heard live music.  We managed to have one beer while they finished up their set for the night.  The guy had an amazing voice so really it enjoyed it briefly.   As you can see Richard is happy to be here….

Saturday and I was up with the lark to get to the self-service laundry which is only open from 7-12 at weekends and closed during the week.   I was there at 6.50am heavily laden to find myself the sixth person in the queue!!!  Guess everyone else thought it was a good idea too.   Anyway I persevered and came back to a lovely clean boat as Richard had been tidying and cleaning up.  We will continue to get on with boat jobs and, when the list has diminished significantly, we’ll think about exploring Tahiti while we continue to wait for parts….      

Bye for now