Saturday, July 17, 2010

After Eclipse





So….after we saw the diamond ring effect and thanked Tim for his insistence that we leave beautiful Moorea and sail a mere 40 miles upwind in 20 to 25 knot winds to experience a total solar eclipse, and not just “a wish sandwich” where according to Tim you only have two slices of bread and wish for some cheese and salami to put in the middle. In our case, viewing the eclipse gave us a huge club sandwich, made of first grade bacon, smoked ham, succulent roast beef, slices of hot house tomatoes and a few organic lettuce leaves. In fact, the event was so memorable that we have now decided to revise our view of time. From now on, instead of 2010 AD our frame of reference is AE, after eclipse.

Three minutes AE, we turned Kamaya about face and sailed 40 miles towards Tahiti-iti. Tahiti and Moorea are known as the Windward Islands. Tahiti is a figure eight shaped island, surrounded by a barrier reef and comprised of the larger Tahiti Nui and the smaller Tahiti-iti. The lobes connect in the town of Phaeton. Most sailors overlook the less populated Tahiti-iti but the area is definitely worth exploring.

Entering anchorages means sailing through passes in the reef and into the protected lagoon. Our first land fall, Teahupoo, located at the end of the paved highway, meant navigating through Havae Pass, where the 10-foot tubular waves just south of the pass are home to the famous international surf contest. The waves are enormous and you’ve got to be really crazy or an expert surfer to ride them . Tim paddled the kayak out to the wave and watched one surfer split his board in half.

Alexis, the owner of the Billabong bungalows on shore told me that he takes reservations one year in advance, another reason to see French Polynesia by boat. We indulged in poisson cru (the typical Tahitian ceviche made with raw fish and coconut milk) served by the only restaurant in town and relished being the sole sailboat in the anchorage.



Next stop, 2 days AE, was through Temarauri Pass into the protected lagoon adjacent to the Gauguin museum and the Botanical Gardens, home to two dome-shaped Galapagos tortoises. Here, we planned on staying only one night, but in true cruising fashion stayed three nights, enjoying our days hiking in the lush Jardin Vaipahi, kayaking the river and celebrating the 14th of July with Jamie and Lucy from the boat Bamboozle. They were the only other boat in the anchorage.

We met a Tahitian family on shore and asked them what kind of bait they use for fishing. They suggested everything from chicken to hermit crabs and just as we were leaving, they handed us BBQ tuna and tasty unicorn fish – just in case we weren’t successful with our fishing. Throughout our journey in French Polynesia, we’ve been amazed at the hospitality and friendliness of the people.

Now, 6 days AE, we’re back in Marina Taina just south of Papeete. Our journey south of Tahiti for the solar eclipse and into the tranquil anchorages in Tahiti-iti gave us an appreciation of Tahiti, and an understanding of why Gauguin and the other famous folks like Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson and Jack London enjoyed their time here. Next stop Huahine.

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