It was a slow passage in light winds from Fakarava to Tahiti, where we arrived after 48 hrs and 250 nm (motor sailing for 24 hrs), in the southern anchorage of Phaeton Harbour. We arrived on the 28 th April 2021, which was my 74th birthday, so celebrations that evening were in order. To misquote the Beatles to Annie: “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 84?”
There were no riggers at the shipyard in this port, so after shopping at the Carrefour supermarket and buying a new SIM card, we headed for Papeete on the 30th, motor sailing the 38 nm. Neither of the two marinas had a berth for us, but Port Control gave us clearance to enter the harbour and cross the airport runway approach, to anchor outside the runway, but inside the fringing reef. There were quite a number of boats at anchor, including two Aussie boats, who came over to welcome us.
That evening, we had sundowners until late on Esprit, with some British and Scottish cruisers, getting all the inside info on Tahiti. Including possibly free Pfizer Covid vaccinations at the town hall – we were there first thing Monday morning. The doctor on duty wouldn’t vaccinate us without residence permits, so we tried other vaccination centres on the Tuesday and Wednesday with the same result – clearly we missed the bus!
Fiji is of course keen for us to visit, but require PCR tests in Tahiti before we leave at AUD 295 a pop (a growth industry) with another PCR test on arrival in Fiji at AUD 205 (despite a 14 day passage). The Covid vaccinations wouldn’t change this rule, so we decided to ignore the possible vaccinations and enjoy the Society Islands.
On Friday 7 th May Jonathan from Mat Rigging and his offsider Juan, came on board to install the two new inner shrouds they had fabricated and to tune our rigging – only a week after we had arrived. We were told that to get a measure, quote and fabrication done in a week, is nigh impossible in Tahiti.
From the home front: Our daughter Michelle had been evacuated from Port Moresby in PNG by the UN two weeks earlier, due to fighting between the mountain tribes and a massive outbreak of Covid. She had been released from 14 days of quarantine in Brisbane – just in time for her 31st birthday on the 8 th May, which she celebrated with friends in Sydney. Karen and her boyfriend Evan, celebrated his masters degree in Occupational Therapy from Sydney Uni a week earlier, by both doing a triathlon in Byron Bay on the 8th.
On the 9th May we lifted anchor and crossed the 15 nm to Moorea Island to the west of Tahiti. We enjoyed the 10 days we had in Tahiti, having had all the maintenance items on the boat done, seen all the sights and having met some of the friendly locals. After the hustle and bustle of Tahiti, Moorea is even more relaxed and easy going. Two great bays, Opunohu Bay and Cook’s Bay, cut deep into the North coast and provide secure anchorages.
Our first anchorage was in Cook’s Bay at Pao Pao, at the top of the bay, where there is also a Super U supermarket. We used our bikes to explore the coastal road along the eastern and western sides of the bay. The road took as through lush vegetation and dramatic mountain backdrops, passing the famous Bali Hai hotel featured in old movies and books.
After seven glorious days, we motored the 5 nm to Opunohu Bay where we anchored at the mouth of the bay with 18 other yachts in crystal clear water. An even prettier bay than Cook’s Bay, even though this seemed impossible!
On Saturday the 15th May 2021 we reached a milestone. It was five years ago, when we set sail from Sydney for the Whitsunday Islands in North Queensland and to ease into retirement – having stopped work two days before! The plan was to cruise the Whitsundays and maybe go north as far as the Louisiades Islands, east of Papua New Guinea.
In the back of our minds was a possible circumnavigation of the world, but we didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves and broadcast goals that we couldn’t achieve. We had to first test ourselves and the new boat in longer distance sailing, to see if this was doable. After three months cruising in the beautiful Louisiades Islands and getting used to not working anymore (honestly!), we headed for Darwin in Northern Australia, sorting out a few teething problems on the way. We also had to add additional equipment to the boat for a safe circumnavigation. Most of this we installed by the time we reached Thailand. Our confidence grew as the miles slipped by under Esprit’s keel and the rest is now history. We have had five years of great experiences and seen interesting places!
In Opunohu Bay we enjoyed beautiful sunsets and drinks on the beach next to our anchorage with other yachties from the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Germany. We ended up spending two weeks here, as there were so many hikes, cycling, snorkelling and social opportunities for us.
Our first hike was up Magic Mountain across the bay, which afforded a sweeping view of the reefs and surrounding mountains. Arriving breathless at the summit we were surprised to see three young Polynesians running up the mountain for their daily exercise.
The next day we cycled the 15 km around the bay from the Hilton hotel in the East, to the village in the West and back.
In between the fun things, I managed to service the two halyard winches and the anchor winch, fill the tanks with the water maker, replace the port and starboard navigation lights and after a lot of choice words, replace the engine’s main drive belt (fan belt in the old days, but this one has no fan).
After a three hour attempt to climb to the Mount Rotui lookout behind the park, we returned defeated, as the path was very steep and totally overgrown due to a downturn in hikers. On the descent I also managed to slip and fall down a 2m ledge, rolling arse over tit downhill for another 10m before a tree stopped me. Scratched and bloodied, it was only my ego that was injured.
The beach and park next to the anchorage was the venue for the finish of a marathon and triathlon on the 23rd May, creating quite a festive atmosphere with hundreds of competitors and spectators.
Next, we dinghied to the top of Opunohu Bay to do the Three Pines hike up the Opunohu Valley – a spectacular nature reserve with numerous hikes from 3 km to 20 km in length. There is a veritable Flying Fox (Zip-line) feast for younger folks in the pine forest halfway up the mountain. I counted 23 cable runs with people zipping through the treetops.
The next day Annie, Neill, Heidi and Jorg tackled a longer hike to the summit of the Belvedere lookout with views over both Cook’s and Opunohu Bays. I sat this one out as my knee was playing up after my fall, but they had a great 5 hour hike up to the Belvedere lookout.
There were more hikes and dinner parties before we set sail for Fare on Huahine Island on the 30th May, when a favourable wind came through for the 90 nm overnight passage. We plan to visit Raiatea, Bora Bora and Maupiti Islands before we leave French Polynesia.
After visiting the rest of the Society Islands, we may have to sail back to Australia as Covid-19 is playing havoc with our plans. We have approval to visit Fiji, but an increase in infections had them close their borders this week. None of the other Pacific nations are open at present. At least Australia accepts its citizens, subject to a PCR test and 14 days quarantine in a hotel. We may be back in Oz earlier than expected!
Cheers, Dirk and Annie.