We set sail shortly after sunrise for the couple hundred mile sail from Faaite in the Tuamotos
to Tahiti… our first stop in the Society Islands of French Polynesia. The winds were light and
the seas calm. With the wind from behind, we were off to a slow start and hoping for the
stronger southeast trades to hurry and fill in.
Although there was disappointment at the lack of surf in the Tuamotos, the prospect of surf in
Tahiti was looking good. David had been checking surf reports with friends back in
California who were now saying that a huge new swell was coming. Rick and David couldn’t
stop talking about the 20’ surf we were now sure to see in Tahiti. They were constantly
looking out across the horizon trying to determine whether the swell was increasing. We
were sailing very slow which was causing them a lot of stress as they were thinking of this
incredible swell that they were missing out on. The more they talked about it the lighter the
wind became. Their response to this was “fire up the engines and lets get going.” I
reminded them that Free Spirit had not seen a fuel dock for weeks… since leaving the
Marquesas. With only 100 gallons of fuel capacity, I had been really conserving but definitely
running low at this point. Finally, against my better judgment, I gave in and agreed that we
could motor sail for a few hours hoping the stronger trade winds would fill in and take over.
This was clearly a gamble, as we didn’t have enough fuel to get us there and we were sailing
at 4 to 5 knots already without the engines. We increased our speed to around 8 knots
which gave Rick and David the feeling that they would make it in time to catch the really big
surf. As the hours passed, the wind slowly died. Now I was feeling the stress with the fuel
running dangerously low and the wind practically gone. Finally I had to make the very
unpopular decision to kill the engines and sail the rest of the way. We had to save some fuel
for our arrival…period! This short crossing had just turned into a long one… we were
basically drifting with a favorable current and making about a 2 knot pace… at best! I looked
at Kya and Rick and said “hey, it sure is beautiful out here… how about a cold beer!” Rick
smiled and said “why not!” and so we drank beer, read books, and enjoyed the drifting. Rick
was holding the genoa out with one hand, trying to squeeze out some extra speed, while
drinking beer from the other. Other than going too slow to even fish and possibly missing the
big swell in Tahiti, we had a good day. One of the things you learn cruising the s pacific is
that each day you get something really special, whether it is good surf, great sailing,
swimming with the sharks and seeing big spotted rays, experiencing the Polynesian culture,
beautiful sunsets, the stars or just laying back in a beautiful stress free place reading a
book. There’s almost no such thing as a bad day! The sunset was beautiful with the
mountains of Tahiti in the distance… calm seas… no wind… drifting.
The next day we were finally within about 10 miles of Papeete harbor and the engines were
fired back up. It was exciting to finally be arriving at the downtown dock area known as the
quay. We tied up alongside the cement dock in the middle of all the downtown noise and
excitement. I was happy to be back to civilization where there would be a fuel dock and
good grocery shopping for the first time in weeks. David was anxious to get off the boat and
catch a cab over to the famous surf spot “teuhupoo” which is on the other side of the island.
We said our goodbyes and he was off. We later heard that the big swell never materialized
and teuhupoo was blown out from the strong onshore winds that arrived shortly after us. We
didn’t see David after that as he was catching a flight back to California a couple of days
later, but I’m sure he must have been disappointed not finding the surf he was hoping for.
After securing Free Spirit, it was off to the streets of downtown Papeette where we quickly
found a good waterfront café. From there we found the Saturday market and loaded up on
fresh fruits and veggies. Then it was off to the fuel dock and anchorage a short distance
away. The waves at the pass we were entering were really nice clean head high waves
which Rick couldn’t resist, so we dropped him off with his board and laid up just inside the
reef watching him catch a couple of quick waves. We then anchored just off the Pink
Coconut Bar along with several other boats we had met since leaving Panama. It was a
couple of good days catching up on laundry, grocery shopping, fixing the little things on the
boat, and ,of course, drinking at the Pink Coconut with all of our friends.
Arrival into Tahiti was also very special to Kya because she finally got her luggage. Flying
out from the states to meet the boat, the airline had lost her luggage. She met the boat in the
Tuamotos with only the clothes she was wearing on the plane. It was almost 10 days without
her luggage. On the north end of Fakarava we found a really small little store with a few
basic items where she was able to get a bikini that just by chance did fit. It was an easy
choice as there was only one that fit her. I loaned her a t-shirt and a pair of boxers and Rick
had an extra pair of sandals that were too small for him that she was able to use. With an
extra toothbrush on the boat, she was all set! Anyone else would have been complaining
nonstop, but she just enjoyed herself like it was no big deal.
Anyways, after a couple of days in Tahiti, it was time for Rick to fly out and Sean to arrive
from Calif. Sean showed up without his printed itinerary and was stuck in customs for at
least an hour. You have to be able to show a return ticket leaving the country before they will
clear you in. It turns out that one other guy on the plane had the same problem. It’s funny
because we went to the airport to pick up Sean with Arin from the boat Alderbraun who was
picking up his friend flying in from California. Out of all the people flying in on this full 747 jet,
it was Sean and Arin’s friend Stucky that didn’t have proof of outbound ticket, and so they
were stuck dealing with customs together for over an hour. We would have introduced them,
but they came out of customs together, already friends.
It was great having Sean onboard and now all we had to do was wait a couple of more days
for Kelly to arrive and we would be off exploring the Society Islands.
|Updated: Feb. 18, 2008