No, not our honeymoon. Our friends Liz and Brandon came to visit us in Tahiti and Moorea for their honeymoon!
There is a lot of confusion about Tahiti. Often, it’s thought of as its own country or used as a misnomer. Tahiti and Moorea are both islands in the nation of French Polynesia. French Polynesia is itself, an overseas collectivity of France. French Polynesia is broken into multiple island groups, and belong to the island group called the Societies. Tahiti is the most populated island, and Papette is the capital of French Polynesia.
Although everyone speaks English, French and Tahitian are the official languages, although in the outer islands, like the Marquesas, you’ll find local dialects. The currency is the Polynesian Franc, which is roughly 100 CFP = 1 USD.
We left Starry Horizons on a mooring at Marina Taina while we were gone, and our friends Simon and Marg on Margansie graciously kept an eye on her for us. When we booked the stay, the marina neglected to tell us we needed a local contact in case of an emergency. When we left Tahiti, the weather was rough…despite the barrier reef around Tahiti, the swell was strong and the wind was pretty brutal. The boats med moored in the marina were bouncing around quite a bit. So we panicked for a little while until Margansie stepped up. We’d only crossed their path a few times, and I don’t even think David had met them yet. We are SO grateful to them. They were in the marina, so we left LD with them in the water so they could ferry out to check on Starry Horizons. They even drove us to the airport in their rental car! We kept in touch with Margansie during our trip to the states to make sure everything was ok.
While in California we attended the wedding of our friends Liz and Brandon. Afterward, we all hopped a red-eye to Papeete and climbed back aboard Starry Horizons. When we arrived back with the honeymooners, it was gray and rainy. We managed to ferry everyone out to SH only getting a little wet. As soon as possible, I set off for the Carrefour grocery store to buy as much food as possible; especially perishables like meats and cheeses. I filled up one cart with as much as I could and grabbed a taxi back to the marina ($15).
Unfortunately, the weather got worse as the day progressed. We couldn’t get anywhere in LD without a good soaking, so we stayed aboard in the afternoon, napping, cleaning, and unpacking. The sun did clear up around sunset, so we had some time out on the trampoline watching the sun set over Moorea, and then had some bubbly and dinner in the cockpit.
The next morning we dropped the mooring and made it over to the fuel dock around 8:30. We refueled SH and LD and set off for Papette. The trip only took us about an hour. Although it was overcast, it didn’t rain. Arriving in the Papeete Marina, we encountered a conundrum. The marina was not answering their VHF, so we didn’t know where to go. We decided to just pick a slip. We were glad we didn’t have to med-moor. Dave walked to the office to talk to them and they told us we had to move slips…but while David was gone, a monohull came in and took the slip they wanted us to move to. So we had to shuffle boats around to make the marina happy. One cool thing was how many people we knew in the marina; Beachhouse, SwiftSure, Blowin Bubbles, Windekind, Etc.
Through all this, I was anxious to get moving as we planned to rent a car for the day and do some sightseeing. We did finally get the car around 11:30 am. There is one road that travels around Tahiti Nui, the Monoï Road. It’s about 70 miles in circumference, so we had plenty of time to make it all the way around.
We stopped at the Three Caves, which were small waterfalls just off the road. It was a very short walk, and you can’t swim. It was very serene though. We also stopped at black sand beaches, watched surfers, and saw a blowhole. Unfortunately, as we rounded the north of the island back towards Papeete, it started to pour.
Back on Starry Horizons we all showered and changed, and headed out to dinner at Les Roulettes, a gathering of food trucks in a local square. The trucks all set out tables, chairs, and umbrellas, so the rain wasn’t a problem. It’s actually very cute, you sit at the tables as if you are at a restaurant and they take your order. David had Chow Mein, I had poisson cru (can’t seem to get enough of it) and Liz and Brandon had a Mahi Mahi sandwich. Dessert? Crepes!
The next morning I went for a run, and ran west and found the excercise park of Papeete along the waterfront. It is lovely, and a lot of people (mostly people who look like locals) are out running. Next, I met Liz and Brandon at the market. We bought some fruit (star fruit and papaya), tomatoes, dried smoked bananas, fresh coconut milk, and I even found cilantro! I also bought a necklace for myself, which I never do, but I so thoroughly enjoy the manta rays we have seen I wanted to commemorate it.
We had a big project to do before we left Papeete that afternoon; the thruhull to our laundry machine was leaking. I went off to the chandleries to see about courtesy flags for the rest of the South Pacific and scope out replacement thru-hulls if needed. David started to re-bed the thru-hull but discovered that yes, we did need to replace the thru hull because it had completely split in half. To add to the issue, some of the fiberglass around the hole was damp. David took out the thru hull and used our blow dryer (which has never been used on hair) to dry the fiberglass.
In the meantime, the map I had showing the chandleries in Papeete was shite: I had to ask for help and wander around quite a bit. I stopped at three stores before I found courtesy flags at Nautisport. After going back to check on David I went back out to buy a new thru hull. Thankfully the Ocean 2000 store had one with the proper tube connector. The thru hull size wasn’t right, but David was able to drill to fiberglass to fit the bigger thru hull. Yay, no more leaking!
And with that, we took off for Moorea. It was only a 10 nm sail over from Papeete, although the wind did die out so we had to motor most of the way in. But Liz and I spent the entire time up on the lounge deck enjoying the view – my favorite sailing activity.
In Moorea, the bay is long and very deep. We anchored in about 70′ of water just off the Bali Hai Hotel, and there were a few sail boats and two mega yachts. The landscape is lovely, reminding us of the Marquesas.
The next morning, Thursday, we geared up to hike around the bay. We used the dinghy dock at Bali Hai and walked south along the road. Our goal was to get a view of the bay from above, and although we didn’t take the road I was trying to find, we did get a stunning view of Cook’s Bay and a visit to the pineapple plantations.
Back on Starry Horizons we lunched and napped, and threw our snorkel hear into LD and headed north. Outside the mouth of Cook’s Bay, we went east to the shallow anchorage and then anchored LD and went snorkeling. The water was clear, and there were lots of fish, but the coral was 90% dead.
Friday morning we opted to move Starry Horizons over to Opunohu Bay, and we anchored just west of the mouth of the bay and near the dock for the cruise ship excursion boats. From there, we dinghied west, following a tiny narrow channel with black and white markers. Just past the Intercontinental hotel, we find a few tour boats and mooring balls. Immediately we can see the clear water, the sandy bottom, and our new friends; black-tipped reef sharks and stingrays. We psych ourselves up, put in our masks and snorkels and carefully slip into the water. Liz and Brandon were nervous and huddled together. The stingrays swam close and bumped into us, looking for food.
We enjoyed their attention until they lost interest in us and then we pulled out our secret weapon: canned sardines. Liz and Brandon opted to get in the dinghy and feed them from above while David and I fed in the water. The stingrays loved it! They slide up your body, putting their mouths near you. I didn’t let their mouths get close to my hands, I just let the food go in the water and the stingrays sucked it up. They don’t mind being handled; I gently touched them along their wings and even ran my hand between their eyes.
The food did cause the sharks to get closer, maybe as close as five or six feet away. The food also brought out larger fish such as triggerfish and pompanos.
We came back to Cook’s Bay that afternoon and spent the rest of the day swimming with pool noodles and drinks.
That evening we went to dinner at the Bali Hai hotel. We shared poisson cru, David had steak frites, Liz and I had shrimp curry, and Brandon had grilled Mahi Mahi. I thoroughly enjoyed the Mai-Thais. Friday nights also include a free Polynesian show. It was live music from a four-person band, with seven dancers. The audience was a small group, so we all had a good view and Liz and I got picked for the audience participation, a dance lesson.
Liz and Brandon had a flight for Saturday morning at 10:30 to spend the rest of their honeymoon on an Alaskan cruise. Across from Bali Hai lives Sophie, a taxi driver, and we arranged for her to pick them up at Bali Hai at 5:15 am. They took the cab ($30), the ferry ($30 each) and then a cab to the airport.
We had such a good time hosting them. A lot of people were shocked that we’d want to have honeymooners onboard, knowing the pressure might be a bit higher, but Liz and Brandon were laid back. They took our hold ups in stride and I think they enjoyed themselves.