Posted by: powellpjc | July 17, 2010

Tahiti and Her Isles. At Last.

The Gambier Islands are the easternmost outliers of French Polynesia. They are further south than Tahiti and the weather was poor when I was there. Rain and wind.

Mangareva, Gambier Isles. A pretty spot. Pretty windy and pretty rainy.

I had to reanchor once when the boat swung and I started to tick the top of a coral head. My anchoring system was totally manual and it was very difficult. I made plans to buy an electric windlass right then and there. I picked up two friends after the Gambiers. My cousin, Dave Ritchie arrived in Mangareva. We sailed the 500 miles to the atoll of Hoa and picked up Ulic Longford there.

The Catholic church of Hao.

The Old Man of Hao. Only Orkneyfolk will get this weak play on words.


It was a lovely 6 day sail, the wind being generally favourable. Hoa, one of the Tuamotu atolls, was used up until 2002 as the supply and logistics base for the French nuclear testing that took place on nearby Mururoa. Hoa has a very long, well-built runway that serves also as an emergency landing strip for the space shuttle. The lunar eclipse of July 11th was going to be a 100% eclipse on Hao so there was much excitement, tee-shirts and funky glasses in the 3 shops in town. The island looked like it had enjoyed the better days of the bombers. We tied up at the abandoned naval jetty. It was quiet, free and from there a one kilometer walk into town. The snorkeling right off the boat was great. Sharks and fishes. We then cruised to another atoll, Makemo.

Boats anchored in the lagoon.

Met a few other cruising boats there and did some lovely pass snorkeling there. There are few passes into the atoll lagoons so one finds out when the tide is inflowing and one dinghys to the outside of the pass, flops in the water and drifts in with the tide, enjoying the clear water and coral below. Sharks and fishes. Fakarava was the next atoll. We were able to enter the lagoon from one pass and exit the other after a transit of 25 kilometers of lovely smooth water. We had a beach bbq one evening on a deserted stretch of the atoll and had some more lovely snorkeling in the morning.

The BBQ bonfire, way, way before we started to BBQ. As you would expect.


Dave snorkeling at Fakarava. He lost his snorkel so he called it 'masking'.


The weather was shitty from Faka to Tahiti with squalls and lumpy seas. Saw a few ships. We pulled into the capital, Papeete and motored into the downtown marina. Fresh water, electricity and garbage removal in the heart of the city. Some unbelievable luxury yachts using Papeete as a staging area. Two of the world’s largest sailing yachts are here right now. About 90 metres long, each of them. Wow.

The big boys are in town. No spilled tonic, no torn sails, no drama. But no sailors, either.

After Dave left, Ulic and I set off to circumnavigate Tahiti. The south coastline is gorgeous.

The abbreviated tour of Tahiti.

Had trouble with the mainsail (slides breaking again) so we only got halfway around but that was good enough. In Papeete I bought a new electric anchor windlass and installed it so the side trip was a shakedown for the windlass. Turns out we needed another guide roller so that is now bolted on as well. We were here for Bastille Day but that was generally a bust although the festival week ends tonight with a traditional dancing and music competition so all may not be lost.

The girls and their style. You must love the style.

The girls get the 'go'.

As do the boys.

Tomorrow we refuel with duty free diesel take delivery of our booze stock–also duty free. I’m talking about $35 bottles of wine for $4.50 and litre bottles of good scotch for $7.50. If only we had more room. Moorea (only 10 miles away) is next. It has been 31 years since my last visit here. The mountains and the lagoons are the same. Just gorgeous.

Some more pics of the Papeete and Tahiti area.

The church-going folk are well-kitted out.

And this is their church. The Protestant Church of Papeete.

The 'Presidence'. Even an English speaker can figure that out.

Tahiti court of justice.

The competitions leading up to Bastille Day.

The mountainous south coast of Isle Tahiti.

The airy central marketplace of Papeete.

Moorea on the horizon.



  1. Some of these atolls look ideal for nuclear testing and after all, you do have the right hat for the job.

  2. hi

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