Saturday, July 7, 2012

The last passage of the season

After the Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous, we still had a week before hauling out. So we motored from Opunohu over to Cook's Bay, which was much less crowded, and perhaps even more beautiful. We did a few walks while we were here, and said our final good-byes to fellow cruisers who are continuing their passages westward toward New Zealand.
We've only met a couple of other boats that are truncating their voyages for the season in Tahiti as we are. One is hauling out in Raitea, and the other has already hauled at Apataki. We have met no other boats headed for Port Phaeton. After a few days at Cook's Bay, we decided it was time to head for Port Phaeton, even though winds were light and we would likely have to motor most or all of the way. The route from Moorea goes against prevailing winds, so we had a choice of "no wind" or "headwind." Unfortunately we didn't make our decision early enough in the day, and soon realized that we couldn't reach Port Phaeton before dark. So we looked for a navigable pass, and finally found a safe anchorage inside the reef, about 8 miles west of Port Phaeton. The next day dawned clear and calm, so we decided that rather than head straight to Port Phaeton, we would explore the coast of Tahiti Iti. We motored south past Teahupoo, where the road ends on this side of the peninsula. There are a number of navigable passes along this coast, although the surf breaking on the reef can be formidable!
We explored one of the southernmost lagoons on the coast of Tahiti Iti, but could not find a suitable anchorage in anything less than 90 feet of water!
So we started working our way back north, entering Havae Pass near Teahupoo. This is one of Tahiti's most famous surf breaks, and we motored right past the surfers as they sat waiting for the next set. It would have been nice to get some pictures of them actually surfing, but we weren't sure we wanted to be there in our boat when the set came in!
Although the navigable channel was well marked, there were still no suitable anchorages to be found, outside of the small marina at Teahupoo. So we kept motoring, and after a few hours found ourselves at Port Phaeton, our final destination for the season. We spent the last two days before haul-out de-commissioning and cleaning the boat. Sails were dropped and folded, engine oil and filters were changed, and halyards were skyed with messenger lines. Haulout at Tahiti Nautic Center is accomplished on a trailer, similar to San Carlos, Mexico, but much more primitive. Yvan, the manager of the carenage, wore a wetsuit and guided the boat onto the trailer from in the water. The port rail was lashed tightly to two steel uprights by means of lines around the mast and to various hard points on the boat. As our fin keel has a fairly small footprint, Yvan and his assistant also blocked the hull fore and aft of the keel, and we were slowly winched clear of the water.
We were amazed to see how clean the bottom was, a testament to the quality of the Comex paint we had been using for the past 2 years. It took another two days to prepare the boat for long-term storage. Port Phaeton provides excellent shelter against any hurricanes that might approach (a relative rarity in Tahiti). Our major concern here is torrential rainfall and high humidity. We stripped all canvas except for the binnacle cover, bagged all fabrics, stood settee and berth cushions on edge, and placed dehumidifiers in the cabin. We also removed all food that isn't in cans or hard plastic containers, and spread boric acid against any bugs that might still be curious about the inside of the boat. We flushed the main engine and outboard with fresh water, and chlorinated and then emptied our water tanks. We've been through this process twice already, so it wasn't stressful, just laborious. The good news is that by the time we were done we were well and truly ready to leave the boat behind! We piled our luggage into a small rented Citroen and drove north to Papeete, where we had a room booked in a small pension for our last night before flying out. We also had tickets to two of the annual Heiva traditional song and dance concerts. For our last full day in Polynesia, we invited Jim and Karen from sv Sockdolager to join us for a day of sightseeing. First, we watched the 6-man va'a canoes start their race around Moorea, a 5-hour paddle.
Then we drove up to the Belvedere, 2000 feet above Papeete. Amazingly, we could still see the canoes as they approached Moorea, over 10 miles away (but they don't show up in this compressed photo).
We came down the mountain, and continued clockwise around the island. We stopped at Point Venus, whose powerful lighthouse had guided us in, and where we had first anchored after arriving from the Tuamotus.
This is a historic spot, and was used by Captain Cook during both of his visits to Tahiti. He named Point Venus for the celestial observation he was sent here to perform in 1769: the transit of the planet Venus across the face of the sun. This rare event had just re-occurred here a few weeks ago, and a replica of Cook's fort had been constructed for the occasion.
We made a few more stops along the beautiful eastern coast of Tahiti, hiking to waterfalls and eating fresh pineapple and pamplemousse along the waterfront near Hitia.
We even stopped at Port Phaeton so Jim and Karen could see where we were storing our boat.
We got back to Papeete in time for a pint of excellent microbrewed beer at Les Trois Brasseurs. And then it was time to start packing for the flight back to North America. This is probably the last blog entry for now, as we don't think we will return to the boat until next April. Thanks for following our adventures!


Naomi said...

What an amazing season of cruising! Enjoy your time back at home...we hope to catch up with you in the PacNW!!

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