Thursday, 26 June 2014


We settled in to a comfortable berth in the centre of Papeetes waterfront.
Papeete is the French Administrative capital for the whole of French Polynesia. In the park there's a statue to Loius de Bougainville the 'discoverer ' of Tahiti despite the fact that Captains Wallis and Cook arrived here some time before. In the 1840s the French did a deal with Queen Pomaire and made the place a French protectorate. The Pomaire dynasty only got going 50 years earlier using stolen guns from the Bounty to subdue their local opposition. King Pomaire11 succumbed to the missionaries adopting Christianity and abolishing traditional beliefs, and his daughter Queen Aimata Pomaire's agreement in 1842 turned them into puppet rulers, in exchange for a lifetime annuity and a symbolic role.

De Bougainville went back to France via Brazil and picked up a few plants including the subtly named Bougainvillia. His statue is surrounded by cannon from the French battleship Zellee, which got sunk in the First World War by two German Cruisers that wanted to recoal. They also blew up half of Papeete.
Another German Count Felix von Lucknow ran a notorious 3 masted privateer the 'Seeadler' in these waters at the turn of the century sinking 19 ships. He was eventually wrecked off Maupihaa reef in 1917 but returned some 20 years later in 1937 , some say to recover his horde of loot.
Bougainville Park

Today the French are reasonably well tolerated and provide excellent healthcare and education for the islanders, although there is an independence movement, and the locals are still seriously exercised about French nuclear testing. During our stay a Japanese peace ship arrived from Nagasaki. In a ceremony at a memorial to Nuclear victims which we witnessed; the Japanese were told of the 196 nuclear devices exploded on Mauroora Atoll, the last one in 1996. The Tahitians are worried about radioactivity affecting their fishing,  the possibility of underground collapse causing a Tsunami, and compensation for the workers and their families who either died or still suffer from radiation sickness. They described themselves as fighting the legal system of a great colonial power that was not on their side.

We went on a bit of a spending spree on Friday. Off came the foresail and off to the sailmakers for a new UV strip. We  bought a few other goodies for the boat as we had not seen the inside of a chandlers since Panama. John who is a very handy engineer managed to get a more permanent repair of the mast head light than I had and also at Colin's suggestion ingeniously drilled out the core of our broken  Spanish Gas bottle switch for which there were no parts, so we can use the Spanish bottles as spares.

Walking around town is interesting. Most shops and businesses are owned by the Chinese as Tahitians do not really have a business culture. They love singing and dancing to the accopaiment of ukeleles and drums, and they are frequently moving fast in their out rigger canoes around the harbour which they race at the Heiva festival in July. They are great fishermen, farm generally at a subsistence level and just dont see the point of beavering away and amassing vast quantities of wealth. Elderly Tahitians often complain about the youngsters not wanting to get involved in farming , but it might just be a generation thing. There do seem to be a lot of young people hanging about in the villages with no obvious form of employment, quite a few of whom are markedly obese.There is also a large transvestite community in the islands. Its quite common for a family with a lot of boys to dress one of them up as a girl on a permanent basis.

The Market is a vibrant place. Fresh fish, vegetables and other produce are sold along with beautiful necklaces and ornaments made from sea shells and Black pearls. We eat out at a large open air square where vans of every description arrive and are transformed into individual restaurants with surrounding tables with music and singing from a band with multiple ukeleles and a drummer. All this and half the price of a regular restaurant. On other evenings Susanne has revved  up the cooking to Cordon Blue standards with fresh produce from the market.
The indoor market

This stay has been complicated by another shoulder dislocation which I managed climbing the marina railings when we were locked out. This time Colin's and Johns best efforts failed to get a result and I went down to the local hospital , where Ketamine and a boot in the axilla courtesy of Dr Gerome Lecroix got it back in. The A&E department was most impressive with a nurse initially attempting an expert manipulation and placing  an intravenous line. In view of all the bother I have booked in with the local orthopaedic surgeon Dr Muller ( ex chef de clinic ) in Paris for a proper repair.

We said sad goodbyes to Susanne super chef and John ace engineer who seem to have to return to a mysterious world called work. My old school pal Hugh Clifford and sailing and skiing mate Tony Power have arrived on the big bird and are already cracking jokes , re introducing Colin and I to a dissolute shore life . I don't know how we will survive a month.

Show me the way to go home!

On Wednesday 4. June we left Papeete on a short passage to Cooks Bay , Moorea. The island was previously used by Tahitian Royalty to fatten their princesses up prior to marriage. The bay is approached by a well marked pass through the reef, and surrounded by mountains. We sailed up to a tranquil anchorage at the head of the bay, and went ashore to enjoy the Bali Hai club ashore , an establishment friendly to cruising boats that provides internet, showers, a book exchange and cold beers. I have been commuting by taxi and ferry to Papeete for out patient appointments and CT scans while the lads have been chilling . After a couple of days we sailed round the corner to Oponuhu Bay. James Cook actually landed here and in a move unusual for him set fire to a number of huts because the locals had stolen a goat. Robinson's cove a picturesque spot in the heart of the bay was used to film Mutiny on the Bounty.
Let me out of here!

Kika at anchor within the reef

We Anchored in three different places, eventually ending up in an anchorage pool just off the large intercontinental hotel where you pay £350 a night for a room. We sneaked in using the dinghy , posing as hotel guests and enjoyed a swim in the eternity swimming  pool and their internet and paid for it with a rather expensive beer. The boys went snorkelling at feeding time organised by the hotel and were surrounded by stingrays and black tipped reef sharks which don't attack people.
Part of the hotel complex

We met two lovely New Zealanders Margaret and Bill Thorpe from Gisbourne on the North Island. They paddled out in a canoe to the anchorage. Bill seemed to grow and distribute an awful lot of Kiwi fruit, but like many entrepreneurs he seemed to create opportunities for others with numerous projects that he had started and handed over. They were both big hearted people.
On the following morning the wind got up making the anchorage uncomfortable. We had a bit of trouble getting the anchor up, it had caught on some coral but finally freed after we had driven over it a few times. Repairing to beautiful calm Cooks bay , we sampled the delights of local Tahitian dancers at the Bali Hai Club. Hugh got into the swing of it when he was invited up and swung his knees like a local with a bit of encouragement from a beautiful grass skirted lady. Tony has the video.

Hugh shows the locals how to really move!

Tony who is a top class jeweller, bought some indidual black pearls that he could mount back home . Pearl farming is complex, young oysters are harvested and then a small part of another oyster is injected into their reproductive organ. The shell then secretes regular layers of nacre around this foreign body forming the pearl and the shells are harvested some 4 years later. The valuable pearls are those with no marks or imperfections. However it takes a magnifying loop to tell the difference.

Food was easy with freshly caught slices of local Tuna from the fishermen at the roadside making a delicious Sashimi with Wasabi paste stirred up in Soy sauce as a dip, courtesy of Hugh and Tony .Colin and I are putting on weight! Fishing inside the reef is not a good idea because of the danger of Ciguatera poisoning(a nasty neurotoxin that has a cumulative effect).

Sunday 15 June saw us beating back to windward to Papeete and Tahiti. Going just 20 miles backwards against the wind was surpringly hard going. We sailed past the town of Papeete to a different pass that took us in to the Lee of Point Venus and a very welcoming manager at the Tahiti Yacht Club who came out in his boat to help us moor up. At the club  bar, Lena the proprietress invited us over to eat our take away pizzas and introduced us to a modest middle aged lady called Dominique who lived on a boat and taught IT. She happened to mention that in the 70s she was a singlehander racing across the Atlantic from Plymouth. 500 miles out from Lands End she was hit by a freighter that didn't stop. The boat was seriously damaged so she controlled the leaks and headed back to Cornwall. Two days later the boat sank and she took to her dinghy. In those days many boats including hers did not have a radio. Fortunately she was seen by a fishing boat and picked up. What a lady!
just another day on the beach!

Hugh and Tony prepare for battle

Triumphant Tony after Hugh goes under

Hugh prepares revenge

We've been in Touch with our Dutch friends Maarten and Bea. Maarten had a small clot in his Carotid artery break off and cause transient neurological damage. He was seen by a visiting opthalmologist in Makemo Atoll in the Tuamotous islands who diagnosed the problem and flew him back to Tahiti taking him to the hospital in his own car. He's now doing well on anticoagulants, and the public hospital he is staying in is first class with a beautiful modern building,  staffed largely by French doctors and nurses . However Bea is stranded in Makemo some two days sail away with no crew. Tony and Hugh have kindly agreed to fly out while I'm recovering from shoulder surgery and they will sail back with Bea. It will be good for them to see a proper pacific atoll and sail a lovely old Dutch Gaff Rigger.
While I've been in Hospital the lads went on a day trip by Catamaran to the nearby uninhabited Atoll of Teratoia where there is no pass and you have to surf over the reef in a dinghy. They had a splendid day snorkeling and wandering around the atoll to see the bird life with a barbecue lunch on the beach. My operation went smoothly , the only problem is that I've got to keep my arm in a sling for 2-3weeks.

And finally ...some birds.....
Polynesian Booby bird, striking blue eyes and beak, feet a bit drab! contrast to the blue footed Booby found in the Galapagos

Hugh and Tony are fascinated by boobies
but off she flies...

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