Our pilot book states that the southern pass into Papeete, the capital of Tahiti, is accessible at all times – other than when there is a big swell from the west. We are now accustomed to the swell in the South Pacific; it normally sets from the south, but today - well today it seems to be coming out of the west and I estimate it to be between two and three metres – that’s quite big. A mile away from shore I scan the horizon through my binoculars and all I can see is surf breaking. Now we are only a few hundred metres away and I can clearly make out the channel markers, and nearby, surfers lie on their boards, waiting to catch the waves – always a bad sign. I am thinking of aborting the entry when I see a catamaran enter the pass ahead of us. There is a gap between the waves and it slips through. We gather in the cockpit, point Juno’s bows at the middle of the pass and run the gauntlet.
In fact the pass is just that, a deep water channel through the coral, only visible from close-in, where the choppy water is easily navigable; while only a few metres on either side the surf thunders onto the reef. It is Sunday and the Tahitians are out to play in the lagoon. Speedboats surge past us, paddle boarders cross in front of our bows, children swim in the sheltered water and everywhere there are boats at anchor. We motor the short distance up the channel to the marina where we tie up, stern to a big concrete pontoon, next to our friends on Aretha. We are here to drop Jamie to the airport for his flight back to London, to collect Andrew’s wife Jeanette, and to provision the boat at the large Carrefour supermarket, a short walk from the marina. But before we are allowed to do anything, Fatty has organised another tour.
Our guide Eric, arrives in his four wheel drive early the following morning to collect us for our trek to the interior of the island to see one of the many waterfalls. It is rush hour in Papeete and we are soon in a traffic jam on the outskirts of town. It is a busy city; bigger than we expected, and the only town we have seen since we left Panama three months ago. However, only five miles out of the city we enter the gates of the national park and we are quickly into heavy jungle. It is a 12-kilometre walk to the falls and back. We follow a path along the banks of the river, crossing the stream several times, wading through the cool water, the air thick with mosquitos. The vegetation is lush and tropical; banyan trees, huge bamboos, wonderful coloured flowers. I wish I knew the names of all these exotic specimens. Eventually we come to the falls; a single cascade of water, 150 metres high, that drops into a deep pool and feeds the river below. Andrew and Jamie swim under the waterfall in cool spring water that Eric cheerfully tells us later, is full of large eels. He then lays out on the rocks an unexpected picnic of French cheeses, cold meat, pate de foie and hunks of fresh brown bread. By the time we arrive back at the car we are exhausted by the heat and we stop at a roadside bar for large glasses of freshly squeezed cold fruit juice to rehydrate.
It is Jamie’s last day with us so we drop him off at the airport where he starts his 30-hour journey home from Tahiti via Los Angeles and London, and back to his university in Liverpool. We are sad to see him go but happy that he is returning to the boat in Fiji in June for his summer holidays, accompanied by Lucie. The following day Jeannette arrives and meets all the World ARC crews at the rendezvous in Papeete, which is timed to coincide with the opening of the new city marina by the Mayor. It is a chaotic and happy affair with tribal dancing, speeches and a supply of cold beer and cocktails. The next morning Andrew whisks Jeannette away to Fakarava by airplane, and Caroline and I go by ferry to the Sofitel on Moorea to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary; phew!
After a restful weekend we meet up in the marina and prepare Juno for the next leg. Caroline, Andrew and Jeanette lay waste to the Carrefour while I head for the chandlery in town with Caspar and Luis. There are a number of ARC boats in the marina and we congregate every evening at happy hour in one of the marina restaurants to share stories and experiences. We celebrate Bluebell’s 10th birthday, Luis’ 65th birthday. We have long overdue haircuts and catch up with jobs around the boat. We repair the fridge – again; replace the recalcitrant and unreliable Thermo with a new one that has been shipped from the UK, and I go up the mast to check the rig. The plastic cable ties that secure the shackle pins have degraded in the sun and the pin on the jib halliard has come loose, hanging by just the weight of the sail. I replace the cable ties with seizing wire and am relieved that I spotted this in the marina rather than have an emergency at sea when we next use the jib. The views from the top of the mast are amazing and I spend a happy couple of hours in the bosuns chair polishing the stainless steel fittings and removing some of the accumulated salt and grime that we have picked up along the way.
With Juno now fully functional and provisioned to the gunwales, we are ready to head west towards Raiatea and Bora Bora, where we have entered the Tahiti Pearl Regatta for some easy racing around the islands and by all accounts, some reasonably serious parties.