Tag Archives: Papeete


We arrived at Marina Taina just as the sun set. We toured through the mooring field to find Mary Ann II shining our torch around but failing to see them. We picked up a free ball, celebrated our arrival with a beer and listened to the traffic rush by.

Mary Ann II was but 200m S from us when we woke the next morning in the big mooring field. It was good to see them and hilarious to listen to a good, loud Yorkshire lady in full flow, suggesting the lady on the next boat over really should “PUT SOME CLOTHES ON”. She didn’t comply whilst we were there! The two fields have maybe 150 balls between them with more anchoring space on the W side of the channel as well. “A” is for long term stays and “B” is for more transient boats. We paid about $15 a day. The facilities in the marina are pretty good with the best showers I have had in the Pacific, reasonably cheap laundry and a good bar with happy hour. There were lot of boats inside the marina as well as the off season rates are very reasonable. It all changes on the 1 Apr and there were a lot of people getting ready to leave.

We ended up at one dockside party thrown by Liward, which was  another great education for the girls. The lady of the party, Lili, was impressed with Eleanor’s announcement that she liked maths and wanted to be an engineer like Kym on Phylis. Lili massively reinforced the Girl Power mindset we are giving the girls by presenting each of them with a sticker of where she had been an engineer. Some small place called NASA!  

We feel into a routine quickly. I’d be up early to go to the local shop for bread. Breakfast would follow just after 0800hrs, there would be school for the girls, some bits and pieces for me to fix and then play in the afternoon. The girls were a great help as we rerigged the lazy jack system after our personal saviour, John stitched it up with his solid iron ancient sewing machine that just works a treat. Both kids went up the mast, one to take measurements for the new sails and one to take lines up. It was a great view from the top of the mast. The view across the reef to Moorea was fantastic.

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We travelled in to Papeete to shop a couple of times and found out to the cost of a taxi that buses stop running out from the city by 1700hrs. Lesson learnt – Travel in early and leave by just after lunch, before the buses get taken over by kids travelling home from school.  We met back up with Phylis and met new friends, Aron and Craig, a NZ couple that have decided to push off and try the sailing life. They bought a boat in Tahiti, Reao, a Dufour and are learning to sail the hard way. Just pushing off and going for it. I admire their spirit and wish them all the best in their travels. They will head back to NZ this year.

John and Julia had visited the local Intercontinental Hotel for its Friday night dance spectacular and recommended it to us. Having only seen a couple of shows before, the brilliant kid one at the end of the school year and then Bastille Day at Hiva Oa, we were keen to see the differences. The show was fantastic. I still don’t understand how someone can wiggle their hips quite as fast as the soloist did. Stunning. Some of the older generation of male watchers looked as if they were overheating a bit! The troupe danced for about an hour and the girls got the chance to have their photos taken with some of the stars.


It was a great night but unfortunately with a sad ending. Julia on her way back to our table slipped and fell. She was in considerable pain and John had to take her to hospital. One bust and displaced humerus later, Mary Ann II’s ideas of travels were on hold for a couple of months. Can’t really call it an upside but with Julia unable to get on the boat, Topsail Insurance came through big time to cover the cost of staying ashore in a lovely Air BnB house on the water front, a few hundred metres S of the marina. We understand Murphy is just loving the aircon! The girls certainly enjoyed the pool that the house has. Only trouble is, there was so much chlorine in it, their hair went green!


We had organised a day out to explore Tahiti the next day. In the end, with John and Julia being unable to come out to play, Steve and Cheryl from Emma Louise and ourselves went off in two cars. We visited the Point of Venus, where Capt Cook spent time in 1769 to watch the transit of Venus in an attempt to work out how far the Earth was from the Sun. Interestingly also at the point there is a memorial to the landing of the first French missionaries (there had been earlier British ones but the locals hadn’t taken to their form of Christianity) and just along from it was  a genuine Robert Stevenson lighthouse, built in 1867.



One of the problems with car hire in Tahiti is that unless you pay the $180-250 a day price for a 4×4, you are left very restricted where you can visit. Really, it is the main road around the outside of the island only as all the roads up the hills are dirt tracks and you can’t take a normal hire car on those. The main tarmac road stops at in the N side of Tahiti Iti at Tautira. The rest of the road around the southern part of Tahiti Iti was destroyed a few years ago by a storm. It is yet to be rebuilt. We ended up stopping there for lunch, eating enormous portions of chow mien and a baguette butty with chips and steak at the outside kitchen that all the locals frequented as well.  Bliss  – even though I did feel afterwards as though the proverbial wafer thin mint would not be a good idea! We also found a big tiki guarding the village. These are rare in the Societies as most had been destroyed during the transition to Christianity.


On our way back towards the Marina, we stopped at the official Botanical Gardens which was just across the road from the Paul Gaugin Museum. Perhaps both had been good in their day but sadly the museum is now a closed ruin and the botanical gardens need a lot of work. There were plenty of interesting plants but not a single sign up to say what they actually were. The cage that the two Galapagos tortoise are kept in, gifted to the Gardens in 1928, was small and could have been in far better repair. It rather looks like the funding for the botanics ran out long ago.

Just another mile down the road, we stopped at another park, the Vaipahi Spring Gardens. This was beautifully maintained, plants well signed and told a story of a chiefs’ elevation to heaven by way of a series of ritual purifications in the streams around the park. It had 2-4 hrs walks up in to the hills which we didn’t have time for. I am sure they would have been as interesting as the park. Eleanor will remember this place as she fell in to the last purification pool and we had to rummage around in the silt to find her flip flops.



For our last day, John, Eleanor and I went up and dived a crashed plane and a couple of wrecks on the S end of the runway. Hannah, Aron and Craig snorkelled above us. To our delight we saw our first proper Clown Fish on a patch of reef close to the aircraft but other than that there wasn’t a lot of life about.

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We stayed about a week in Tahiti, all at Marina Tiana. After saying our final goodbyes to John, Julia and Murphy we left Tahiti and drove out of the pass towards our next stop, Moorea, a whole 15miles away. We look forward to seeing them back in the UK in a year or so.

Lou, with perfect timing, captured a great photo of one of the many boarders playing in the surf at the edge of the pass.  More practise required before we try this!

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Rangiroa was to be our last atoll in the Tuamotus. I’d love to have spent more time exploring more of this huge group but it would take years to do so properly. Next time with a compressor onboard……

One problem that I encountered when renewing my nav info for the year was that the wonderful Tuamotus Tidal Guestimator had not been updated in the Soggy Paws website. This was a bit of a blow. I managed to download the NOAA info on Rangiroa tides and then cross checked it against the WXTide32 programme I had and found that the two didn’t correlate. Typical.

We arrived at the pass of Rangiroa I thought about on time to find a great big dive ship waiting on the outside with the tide still howling out and big standing waves evident at least half a mile from the pass. I had a chat with the Captain who agreed with my data, added another reference which appeared to be as equally wrong. We agreed we would be waiting a while to get in. Remember my post on “The Vagaries of Tuamotus Tides” ?? It applied! After over an hour hanging around, a dive school rib came over and the local suggested we would be able sneak in if we stayed close in to the E side of the pass. Punching about 5knts of tide, thankfully in flat water out of the race, we were able to do so. The dive ship waited another 45mins before the actual slack.

The bay at Rangiroa was empty other than our old friend Soren of Taranga who had arrived a week before to do some diving with his new crew,Magnus, Fleming and Nico, a good bunch. We picked up one of the free moorings @ 14 58.930S 147 38.106W provided by the town just off one of the posh hotels. We quickly moved to another buoy 300m W in deeper water as the original, very close to shore was too sheltered from the winds and we weren’t getting power. We dove on the new one and found it to be heavy and in good order.

It was just as well that we did move. A couple of days into our stay we had a localised gale which roared in on us out of the W with no warning and nothing in the forecast. 30+ miles of fetch and 35+kts of wind gave us a short, very nasty sea and both Taranga and ourselves were thrown around  violently. Our dinghy, down but padlocked on, snapped its security cable and I was required to get the canoe down, quickly surf down to the dinghy and stop it before it hit shore. Not much fun at all in the dark but we were lucky we felt the cable snap and were able to save the dinghy and engine from being smashed up. The gale blew itself out by the morning but the weather wasn’t settled Trades. The sky, at times, could only be described as steel in colour.


Eleanor and myself found a handy dive shop to fill our bottles and the Aquarium, a dive area inside the Tiputa pass, unaffected by the current which had a maximum depth of around 15m. We managed to get six dives in, gradually spending longer underwater as Eleanor’s confidence, buoyancy technique and stamina improved. A highlight would be the huge Moray eel that came out and nuzzled the camera, hoping it was food.



I also did a dive on the pass with the Taranga crowd. A little different to anywhere else I had been, you drop into the blue and descend to around 35m and hang 30-50m off the bottom, waiting to see what appears. We got a glimpse of a Great Hammerhead, solitary and huge, well below us on the floor and then were surprised when half a dozen Scallop Hammerhead appeared in full hunting order. When you can see the eye stalks you know they are a little close.

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They charged in at us fast, thankfully realised we weren’t for eating and quickly turned away in search of better prey. Watching a full size Manta ray swim over me as we did our 5m safety stop at the end of the dive was magical.


Life around the anchorage once the weather settled, was pleasant. We became a roosting place for Sooty Terns and we watched the local kids practise on the big 6 mans canoes around us. There was a pretty good supermarket a 10min walk up the road where we could get bread at 0830hrs every morning and we got together with the Taranga crowd most days. We even ended up in the big hotel enjoying G&Ts at the beach front bar, eating a drizzle cake that the girls had made to celebrate Nico’s birthday. The only trouble with Rangiroa is it is too big and spread out. It certainly felt the most touristy of all the atolls we have visited. If we had more time and had explored away from the passes (and therefore the tourists), perhaps I would feel differently but other than the pass diving, I could enjoy everything here at any of the other smaller atolls.


We made friends with the owner of the cafe/bar/restaurant at the pier that provides pretty good free internet for paying customers. Lily is a character. A widow, her husband a French soldier killed in Afghanistan, she set up the place on her husband’s island rather than go to her home, Madagascar where they had met. She was a cheerful flirt and buzz-ball of energy and their son is in the same mould. Toue, Etan, his best friend and Hannah quickly came thick as thieves and had a great time. Hannah handled herself with aplomb whenever they said goodbye, done in strictly French fashion, in which Toue was very enthusiastic in doing! 


Lou was very keen in moving on to catch the boat kids we had seen in the Marina at Tahiti. We said our goodbyes again to Soren and wish him luck in his next endeavour somewhere as yet unspecified in the Far East with the liveaboard dive boat he and his friends are planning. We will stay in touch and I hope to dive with him again one day.

Seeing no great change in the outlook but suspicious of the inaccuracy of forecasts in what we had experienced the previous week, we left to a forecast E at 15-20kts for the 210mile reach S to Tahiti. Life is never that easy. We came out and immediately hit 25+kts and that didn’t significantly change for the whole trip. With squalls hitting 38kts, lightening storms all around us through the night and an average of 25-28kts, we alternated between 2 and 3 reefs and charged along. Our second to last hour run of 10 Nm as the seas abated in the shadow of Tahiti and we approached the entrance to Papeete Harbour with 3 reefs and a hanky up is our best single hour run ever.  Tahiti was largely hidden in cloud as we approached. Moorea looked magnificent!


We arrived at last light with the sun setting over Moorea 10Nm to our W. We crawled through the narrow pass by the airport, waiting for clearance to cross the end of the runway, to the mooring ball fields at Marina Taina and tied up.


The noise and lights of the city of Papeete told a story. Skylark, after looking after us for so long in the boonies, was back in civilisation. 

Returning to French Polynesia – Life on the Hard

Leaving NZ didn’t turn out to be easy. Our first issue as we did our normal panic packing  was a realisation that we had an extra bag. A full 23kg+ bag over our allowance, of which we were over weight already. How could we have miscounted?? We decided that there was nothing for it but to hit the airport and hope they didn’t cut up too much. It proved to be a minor issue. We paid $70NZ for the extra bag and weight – no problem at all. However, we immediately hit a bigger stumbling block.

Because we had flown in to NZ SO long ago (November – really?), the airline wanted to know where our onward ticket was, a requirement of entry to French Polynesia. All our protests that we were European or simply on our return flight to our original location didn’t cut it with the lady behind the desk. “No, we didn’t have a letter from the yacht allowing us to join it. It is my boat and I am it’s Captain”.  In the end, confused, she sent for the manager, who having asked us our tale, told the desk firmly they didn’t NEED to know about us and to book us on. After lots of Neanderthal looks from the desk at the manager, lots of ardent thank yous from us to the manager, we headed to departures. For those following on from us, be aware that FP is tightening up the regulations and even as a European, if you leave your boat in FP, you require a return ticket out off FP or a bond arranged with an agent in Tahiti for the airline to let you back in.  Make sure you check the current regs before you travel. We got lucky with the manager who dealt with us. You might not be so.

We had two nights in Papeete in a little flat, running around ordering bottom paint and a big food order to be delivered up by the supply ship, Cobia. We met up with John, Julia and Murphy of Mary Ann II and they were a massive help in showing us around. They had spent the summer in Marina Papeete in the middle of town and, having explored the town in detail, John had co-written a guide for yachties on where to find pretty much anything you needed. He was able to point me to a funny little machine shop by the dock which incidentally stocked Jotun and Hempel paints at commercial prices for the fishing fleet. Louis, the shop’s owner and a keen rugby fan, wanted two thirds of what the Apataki Caranage wanted for one I’d never heard of before, half the price of ABC3 (what I had on) and a third of the price of Micron 66, lovely paint but foully expensive. I ended up buying 20l of Hempel  – a good German commercial brand. John’s investigative work saved me a fortune! His document is published in both Noonsite and the Soggy Paws’ blog site. In the same style as the Panama Guide, it is excellent and I strongly recommend it to you if you need to shop or stock up in Tahiti. 

I’m afraid we had less luck with Tahiti Sail, the one operating “sail maker” in Tahiti. We had asked them for a quote to look over and tart up the sails to get me down to Tahiti as I intended to order new sails to take us across to Aus. After advice and finding that such noted yachts as Lumiel, Mary Ann II and So What all had new sails done by Lee Sails, an outfit in Hong Kong, I went ahead and got quoted for a new main and genoa.  The repair quote I got back from Tahiti Sails for, frankly, not a lot of work was staggering and higher than the quote I got from Lee Sails for new. I even went back to them to ask if they were quoting for repair or new sails! On a whim, I asked them to quote for new sails too and was amazed to find that their price was more than double than Lee Sails – over 10k Euro. When asked why, they answered “quality cost” and that the sails would be coming all the way from UK! In the midst of this, I got an email from the one sail “expert” in the firm to say he had fallen out with the owner and he was leaving the business. I eventually allowed them to fix a small patch on the genoa only. I know people believe that FP is at the end of the earth but importing goods is easy, there is a price point for value and Tahiti Sails has yet to meet it. I understand the owner (not a yachtie) believes he can squeeze the market as he has to date had the monopoly. My advice would be, unless you absolutely have to have work done by them, don’t. We have since found that two ladies, a yachtie and a local have just set up a small repair shop down near Marina Taina and they have been getting good reviews.  For new sails, look abroad yourself and simply appoint an agent to get your tax free goods in. It isn’t difficult.

Whilst dawdling with Mary Ann II in Marina Papeete, we also met up with a couple of kids boats, Be and Be, an Aus boat with four kids and Sangvind with two boys. We had a good night out together, eating down on the waterfront in the street stalls, the kids skateboarding in the park and having deep and meaningful conversations out of earshot of the parents! We are hoping to be able to catch up with both boats a little down island. Good people.

Returning to French Polynesia – Life on the Hard

We flew back up to Apataki to find the yard had been battered by a storm a couple of weeks previously with winds hitting 85kts. The phone lines were down, the jetty and workshop was gone and it had taken two days to dig the slip and launch channel out. Thankfully all the houses had survived, as had all the boats in the yard. 

Returning to French Polynesia – Life on the Hard

Skylark, other than a small infestation of ants, a common problem in the yard, was in good nick. But it was so hot! With the yard sheltered from the slight breeze there was, daytime temperature hit 40+C inside and the night time was only a few degrees cooler. We left the tinfoil over the windows to keep some of the heat out and it helped a little. With time to kill, the girls decided to have fun with their hair again. Frizzy is in!

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I helped Alfred, the yard’s owner, fix the swing and the girls had a great time twisting it up and trying to make themselves sick.

Returning to French Polynesia – Life on the Hard

I took to getting up before dawn as the only time the heat was bearable when working on Skylark was before 0900hrs. There were days enough to waste some time wandering across the atoll to see a few dawns as well. Hannah decided she wanted come one morning and we were blessed by a beautiful sky.

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With the heat and with lots of mosquitos about, our first few days back are easily described as very unpleasant. We got more bad news when we heard that the Cobia wasn’t to deliver to Apataki for another week, potentially meaning extra and unwanted time frying on the hard. We asked why she wasn’t running to Apataki and simply got a shrug. Presumably not enough business. With our sails, paint and food all due on her, we were unhappy that our timetable had been knocked back by at least a week. Frantic calls by Skype (and a lot of help by John and Julia at the Papeete end) meant we were able to rearrange delivery on another ship to Arutua, an atoll some 40 miles W of Apataki. It cost us $100US in fuel costs to pick our stuff up but it meant we could eat something other than eggs and start painting.  In the meantime, we polished the hull, changed the anodes, did the small bits and pieces we needed to do get her re-commissioned inside and out.

We sanded Skylark down. Wearing the painting zoot suits was an exercise in torture but on the bright side, it was a great way to sweat the weight of NZ overindulgence off!

 Returning to French Polynesia – Life on the Hard

The girls, desperate to help, got in on the act and helped with the sail drives and props with their separate non-copper epoxy paint job and touching up with barrier paint where required whilst we waited for the hull paint to arrive.

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Once that appeared they got in the act again. The large size suits were hilariously massive on them and they couldn’t last long in the heat but they were a big help throughout.

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In the end, we had enough paint (and time) for three coats for the hulls and four for the edges and waterline. It was a sweaty exercise but there is something very satisfying about seeing your yacht turn into a swan again. Compared to the coats of red and blue paint she has been dressed in before, we think she looks best in black. 

Returning to French Polynesia – Life on the Hard

We launched without incident and were so glad to be back at anchor and into a breeze again. We had a few days to wait for our sails but life had started to look up again. We swam, snorkelled and explored the water around us, just chilling. 

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One of the yachts in the yard was owned by a Frenchman, Léon Philibien. Léon is a professional photographer and he travels everywhere with his paraglider, which he take most of his shots from. He took some wonderful ones of the yard, atoll and of Skylark for which we are very grateful for the use of. I doubt if many yachts have their own aerial shots set in the Tuamotus! We are hoping that we meet him down island when we can repay his kindness again with his favourite tipple – whisky! His blog is pretty impressive  – lesadventuresdelamatine.blogspot.fr . The five photos below are his copyright.

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Returning to French Polynesia – Life on the Hard

Our sails arrived on the Cobia (Tahiti Sails missing delivery by a week) and we had the engine on and the anchor up before we even had them hanked back on. We had had enough of Apataki, not its fault, just too much heat and a degree of frustration meant we needed to get going. Our first sunset on the move again on 2017 was beautiful.

Returning to French Polynesia – Life on the Hard

We ran out the N pass with no wind, engines on and a 60 mile overnight passage ahead to get to Rangiroa.

Returning to French Polynesia – Life on the Hard