Passage to Tahiti

Gentlemen it is said don’t go to windward, let me add neither do ladies if we can avoid it. However after a gentle motor sail across Rangiroa Lagoon to the more north west facing Avaturo Pass then around the top of the atoll past the “lighthouse” which looks like a tall lamppost complete with a solar panel, the wind proved to be a south easterly and therefore forward of the beam. Temptress and her crew were going to be on a fetch all the way to Tahiti. It’s a long time since we’ve made a passage heeled over like that; everything had been stowed away properly as we’d expected it.In the lagoon when we’d hoisted the main we’d faffed around for ten minutes or more tucking in both the first and the second reefs just in case which was fortunate. Under grey ominous skies Temptress headed south, our destination Papeete bore 200 degrees magnetic and the skipper decided to head ten degrees higher (to the wind) at 190 just in case the wind went further ahead enroute.

The text forecast we downloaded earlier in the week described a lengthy stationary front stretching from somewhere to the east of the Tuamotus westwards across the International Dateline and located not that far south of Tahiti. Accompanying it 150 mile or so either side a band of occasional rain and thundery weather. Since Wednesday afternoon it had rained on and off and Friday morning was no different, the front was still hanging around. Overnight into Saturday at sea sporadic lightening shows could be seen off to the north east.

The seas built in the F4-5 wind sending the odd “greeny” rolling down the deck. We had to adjust to life down below heeled on a port tack including a rude reminder to shut the deck top hatch over the aft sleeping cabin. Just before 10pm a torrent which probably only amounted to a few cupfuls or so of briny poured in. It was quickly mopped up by the off watch but a sheet and all the woodwork will need a wash. Later I made the grim discovery that the air vent plug in the hatch above our bunk forward had popped out at some point and another small amount of the Pacific had soaked the bedding in the master cabin. Yet more laundry.

Kevin’s 1-4am watch proved cold enough to need a light jacket and I donned a hoody for my stint. It was a dark, mostly starless night with little of interest except dodging the spray as yet more waves rolled down the decks. At various times we spotted the odd white light on the horizon somewhere, presumably Tahitian fishing boats but too distant to make out more than the light.

Just after 4am the wind suddenly veered to the east freeing us off but dropping to a F2-3. The first mate waited a bit then convinced it was here to stay adjusted the sails to suit. No sooner settled again with her book than it was gusting F5-6 from the south east again. Torch in hand the sails were winched in and Temptress picked up speed once more. At six or seven knots the miles were flying by, our first really fast passage since the Caribbean, shame about the weather.

Just after dawn the skies ahead cleared sufficiently to see the mountainous outline of Tahiti. It’s highest point is over 2000 metres so it can be seen from afar, in our case over fifty nautical miles. Still some hours off and we hope the wind holds so we can arrive before dark.

And finally we arrived off the Papeete Pass mid afternoon, a quick call to port control (the last time we had to do that was I think Dover Harbour) and we were politely requested to enter after the fast ferry which was rapidly approaching from our right. Through the wide pass, no waiting for slack water here and a turn to port round a patch of well marked coral towards the airport. A few minutes later we had to request permission from port control to cross the runway into the Faaa Channel that runs down the lagoon parallel to the airport. After the places we’ve been recently the red and green channel markers made finding our way a doddle.

Off towards the reef were a bunch of floating thatched roofed bars, music thumping, obviously great fun for the young and not so young locals on a Saturday afternoon. Some fifteen minutes or so later Temptress approached the other end of the runway and again permission was sought to cross it. A slight pause whilst port control presumably checked with air traffic control and we were able to proceed to the anchorage just north of Marina Taina. Just under 200 nautical miles in 30 hours; some of the fastest sailing we’ve had since arriving in the Pacific.

What a contrast to the Tuamotus and the Marquesas; the long thin lagoon is busy with boats, mostly on moorings along the reef edge. We’ve finally arrived in a big city! The wide reef half a mile or do away has breakers rolling in but the lagoon itself is flat calm and windless (probably will be stiflingly hot though when the sun comes out). The grey skies persist though seem to be thinning and the sporadic showers are light. Hope the sun comes back soon so we can really enjoy Tahiti. Meanwhile we’ve an anchorage with a spectacular view of nearby Mourea island with its distinctive skyline of spiky peaks against a stormy backdrop of clouds and a pale orangey sunset.


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