Tahiti: Legend and Desire

By Derek On July 4, 2015 Under Post


We finally left Fakarava after spending a week or so there absorbing her gentle charms. Our next port of call was one we had anticipated keenly for years; the lush, dreamy island of Tahiti. We sailed toward the stuff of sailor’s dreams, home of a warrior race and now a favorite destination of Asian honeymooners. To get there we exited the northern pass of Fakarava without incident. Despite this being deep and the widest pass in all of French Polynesia, surprisingly many cruising boats still fret and wait, needlessly, hours and hours for the estimated “best” time to transit. We just left.


I had picked a light wind period of weather due to concerns about our deteriorating rigging and we ended up motor sailing most of the 252 miles to Pape’ete, Tahiti. Nothing could be more different than the dry, flat, sunbaked sandy atolls of the Tuamotus than making landfall in Tahiti. We spotted the mountain peaks of the island, some soaring more than 7,000 feet high, about 75 miles out, appearing to us as jagged blue smudges on the distant horizon.


We cruised along the top of the island and at dawn passed historic Point Venus, in Matavai Bay. Commissioned by the Royal Society and under orders from the Admiralty to measure the transit of Venus, Captain Cook dropped anchor here in HMS Endeavour in 1769. He found the Tahitians to be most welcoming and charming 246 years ago. We were hoping for a similar reception.

Damn your eyes, Mr. Christian!


To mariners of old, stuck on sailing ships for up to six months at a time, fed weevil-infested biscuit and salt horse while surrounded day and night by flatulent, swarthy men of equal desperation and poor hygiene, Tahiti represented an out of this world, heavenly destination. It had women, it had fruit, it had women, it had a pleasing climate, and it had women. HMS Bounty came to grief when after a six-month stay here to gather breadfruit, Captain Bligh (he was actually “Lieutenant Bligh” but popular culture is not known for accuracy) had great trouble instilling discipline and tearing his men away, leading to the world’s most famous mutiny a few days out.


We spent almost two weeks in Tahiti, all at Marina Taina. I was absorbed mainly with boat work (and being of the married state had to ignore the women). We got our rigging fixed and I decided in a fit of madness to also rip out all our refrigeration and replace it with evaporative plate technology. Mechanical equilibrium thus restored and the bank account further depleted, it was time to relax discipline on board and have some fun.


A pleasant time was spent taking the local buses and exploring Pape’ete, which we found, contrary to ALL reports I have read over the last 25 years, to be quite nice. It seems the city has been cleaned up, the waterfront is attractive with a brand new marina right down town and of course, the people we met everywhere, I felt, must have been direct descendants of those who greeted Cook in the kind way we were always treated.


As can be seen in the photo below, Pape’ete, the capital and economic center of French Polynesia, has everything if you can find it, in odd little shops scattered here and there.



We took a day to rent a car and tour the two islands that make up Tahiti: Tahiti-nui and Tahiti-iti. This translates as “Big Tahiti” and “Little Tahiti.” Volcanic in origin, Tahiti from the air presents a figure eight shape as it is made up of two islands welded together. It was exciting for the girls to play on a white sand beach in the morning and a black sand beach in the afternoon. I do not believe there are too many other places where one can enjoy such sand diversity.


The scenery lived up to expectations, if not exceeded them with the deepest tropical greens and most dazzling shades of azure blue. Rounding every bend conversation in the car abounded with, “Wows,” “Look at thats,” “Amazing,” and a lot of, “This is SO beautiful.” I hope some of the pictures above and below, poor in quality and execution as is my habit, will compensate for the even worse prose to which they are attached.


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