Sailing around Pape’ete, Tahiti: The bustling capital of Tahiti, Pape’ete, is also known as the “basket of water” – our first, and not very accurate, glimpse into Polynesian life. I’m sure there is a wise, island legend behind the nickname of “basket of water ” as here, in the middle of the trade winds, the mountains have legends, the lagoons have legends; even the dances have legends behind them.
Tahiti is where we begin our journey through the lush islands of bare-breasted woman, thirst-quenching tropical fruits, fresh French baguettes, white beaches, ripe coconuts, fragrant flowers, blue lagoons and enchanting serenity for miles and miles…must I go on? Polynesia is absolute paradise!
The South Pacific region was discovered by Captain James Cook in the 1700’s. This tropical vastness stretches over 2 million square miles. All of these islands (Tahiti, Cook Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, etc) together cover an area about the size of Europe, excluding the Soviet Union.
And we are about to embark on a sailing voyage across all of it!
For years, the images and magical names of Bora Bora, Huahine, Tahiti, and Moorea have fed the romantic imaginations of Western civilization, and my own too! Growing up with an ocean-obsessed father, who was also a famous circumnavigator, led me to revel in the mystic depths and poetic minds of literary giants as Melville, Stevenson, and Michener…alongside my Babysitter’s Club and Hardy Boys books, of course.
How it began: Our gaggle of sun-starved, mid-westerners are trying to fit into the slower-paced island life here in the South Pacific (not to mention adjusting to life on a boat with eight very different grown adults.) The Cultra posse includes: Mom and Dad (Judy and Quen), teenager Lexi, Aunt Dede, and myself. We flew into LAX via Chicago on a beautiful California day and immediately ran to our departing flight to Pape’ete. We played the Home Alone Airport Race and had exactly 50 minutes to collect our baggage, cross the entire Los Angeles terminal in search of the International Departures gates, check in with Air Tahiti Nui, go through the grim-faced security check points again, and find our airport lounge waay down the terminal. Mind you, this was not an easy feat when your father is carrying enough tools, flammable substances, and equipment to outfit the entire south Miami Dade boating population. He had fun at West Marine stocking up on supplies, enough to last him for the foreseeable next 16 months of sailing. I think I only squawked once or twice in frustration as we lugged our fourteen bags of paraphernalia from A to B. Finally, with my final Starbucks cappuccino in hand, I settled into my ice blue seat on Air Tahiti Nui, took note of the movies on offer, and immediately ordered a wine..and then another to get the vacation started.
Arrival in Pape’ete: Tahiti greeted us out of the darkness with a regal display of lights and shadowed mountains. From above, we could see the gleaming glow from Pape’ete as well as the smaller, spread out communities along the hillsides. Joe, my dad’s first mate greeted us at the airport with fresh, fragrant leis, and we hopped into a taxi to Marina Tahina. From here, it took more than thirteen dingy trips back and forth to the anchored haven of Queequeg before all of our luggage (and marine paint) were safely transported and stowed. We finally toppled into bed at an ungodly hour and had our first good nights sleep in Polynesia, lulled to sleep by soft, clanging halyards.
The following three days were a bustling mess of sweat and humidity as we rushed to ready Queequeg for her journey through the islands. Everything as washed to remove five months of dirt and sea from the interior. Several visits to the nearby Carrefour to stock the dwindled supply of food stores – canned this and canned that, boxed this and boxed that, and as much fresh produce as we could fit. We filled the diesel tanks, loaded up on fifty gallons of water, and washed fourteen loads of laundry. Although QQ has two showers on board, we took “bucket” showers on deck or jumped into the sea to wash our hair.
Our hard work has paid off. The galley is stocked, linens and cushions are aired, hulls are scrubbed, sails are bundled and the crew is keen to be ‘underway.’ Just a short itinerary to keep you up to date. QQ’s next stop is the beautiful island of Moorea, followed by Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora Bora, and Tubuai before heading west towards the Cook Islands, American Samoa, Western Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, and a Australia.