Global Voyage

A Story About Sailing Around the World

Ray & Jenny aboard the ketch Suka

3 years, 35,000 miles, Nov 1982 - Jan 1986

Ray & Jenny Jardine

Chapter 3: Tahiti And The Societies page 41 of 109


A spanking breeze carried us onward. And soon leaving the Tuamotus astern, in another 36 hours we reached Tahitian waters.

Tahiti is the most famous of all South Pacific islands, but today it lay obscured in moiling thick clouds, so we couldn't see much of it. And as we were rounding its northern seaboard, racing the setting sun in an attempt to reach the Papeete harbor before the onset of total darkness, a tremendous, bombarding rainstorm reduced the visibility to a scant few hundred feet. Thwarted, we could only heave-to.

Darkness fell, and with it came an unexpected blessing: a flashing light emanating from Point Venus, on the island's north-west shore. The beacon pierced the gloom and provided us with a point from which to navigate. So we motored across calm waters in the island's lee, holding about two miles off-shore while making our way toward the harbor entrance.

“I unbolted the nefarious switch from its panel and gave it a fast-ball farewell out over the briny deep.”

Abreast the harbor we decided to stand-off for the night, for the sake of safety. I shut down the engine, and before long we smelled an alarming stench of something burning, pervading the cabin. Anxiously we tracked the acrid trail and found the ignition switch aglow and emitting a thin ribbon of smoke. Apparently it had been subjected (indirectly) to salt spray for too many months, until it had eventually shorted itself. I yanked its hot wires free, and disconnected them at their other ends from the starter solenoid. Then I unbolted the nefarious switch from its panel and gave it a fast-ball farewell out over the briny deep. Thereafter we started the engine by simply reaching into the engine compartment with a hefty screwdriver and shunting the solenoid terminals.

We spent the night drifting - the sleeper sleeping while the watchkeeper merely snoozing, kitchen timer in lap to signal the end of the 15-minute resting period. Four times each hour we arose and peered outside. By midnight the clouds had lifted, exposing Papeete's glittering lights. Oh how they beckoned the eager, wayfaring mariner!

Papeete Harbor

Zoom out to see where we are.

At daylight we recouped the six miles the current had swept us away in the night, then entered Tahiti's principle harbor. There we found perhaps 50 yachts of all descriptions laying stern-to to the quay.

Once inside the port, I maneuvered Suka's bowsprit to the wharf so Jenny could hop ashore. She then walked to the harbor offices to determine what instructions the officials would have for us. She returned with the directive that we were to stern-tie anywhere along the quay, and then to report to the offices afoot.

Med-mooring, as it is called, was a docking procedure unfamiliar to us. So when we selected a suitable site between two yachts, and when someone began shouting instructions, they found appreciative ears. Perpendicular to our intended berthing, we dropped the anchor well out. Then while I stood on the afterdeck paying out 200 feet of line, Jenny used the dingy to pull ashore and make the line's end fast to a bollard. Back aboard, she paid out bower chain while I winched us aft and into position. Then she snubbed the cable and we attached three additional lines ashore, which stabilized Suka laterally.

We had arrived!


Suka Med-moored with the other yachts in Papeete, Tahiti.


Clearing-in with the officials proved a reasonably humane procedure, as the offices of immigration, quarantine, customs, and the assistant to the Port Captain were all housed in the same small building, standing at the waterfront. In turn, we visited each of them.

“Papeete was a dizzying whirl of high-speed automobile traffic, of busy French professionals tromping the sidewalks, of gaudily clad tourists poking into the tawdry shops, and of bronzed islanders standing by the wayside letting it all happen.”

Papeete was a dizzying whirl of high-speed automobile traffic, of busy French professionals tromping the sidewalks, of gaudily clad tourists poking into the tawdry shops, and of bronzed islanders standing by the wayside letting it all happen. Window shopping was our excuse to search out a fast-foods restaurant, where we then gorged on hamburgers, milk shakes and ice cream. And after collecting a small pile of mail at the post office, we window-shopped onward in search of more ice cream.


Tahitian paddlers in their racing pirogues.

Three days after our arrival in Papeete, another cyclone ravaged the Tuamotus, this time by Orama (a Tahitian word meaning vision). Villages on Ahe and Arutua, and on several other atolls were destroyed. Fate's irony was not lost on Jenny and I, for had we called in at Ahe we probably would have encountered this monster.

Three Weeks in Papeete

We lingered three blissful weeks in Papeete, taking-in the sights, absorbing the bustling culture, and generally compensating for our four-month absence from the civilized world.


The view from our boat.


High above the city, at Le Belvedere restaurant.


Tahitian paddlers under a hurricane sky.

Cyclone Reva "the Thrasher"

One of our San Diego friends who had seen us off, flew from California for a visit. An avid outdoorsman, Joe worked as a land surveyor, and he and I had been fellow instructors at the Colorado Outward Bound School. But his subsequent Tahitian visit did not fulfill any dreams of lounging in the Elysian Fields of tropical paradise, for three days after his arrival the radio came alive with warnings of yet another approaching cyclone: Reva, "the thrasher."

During the austral summers and autumns, virulent cyclones, also known as hurricanes or typhoons, occur with some regularity in the Southern Pacific. The cyclone belt - the area of potential cyclonic activity - normally lies safely to the west of the Society Islands. Thus, severe storms rarely occur in French Polynesia. In fact, in the whole of recorded history, prior to this season the Tuamotus had experienced only three cyclones. The "Great Cyclone" of 1903 devastated the atolls, and in 1905 and 1906 storms of lesser intensity swept the area. Furthermore, prior to this season, the Marquesas Islands had an even better record: zero cyclones. Clearly, the cruising class of 82-83 had not chosen the best year to roam the South Pacific.

The story has 109 pages. This is page 41.
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Page Links
GV 001: Title Page
GV 002: TOC
GV 003: Dedication
GV 004: Preface
GV 005: Prologue
GV 006: Beginnings
GV 007: Work Done
GV 008: Making Ready
GV 009: Departure
GV 010: Sailing Credentials
GV 011: First Lesson
GV 012: Sextant Navigation
GV 013: Safety Harness
GV 014: Murphy's law
GV 015: Spirit of Adventure
GV 016: Holding On
GV 017: First Big Storm
GV 018: Storm Intensified
GV 019: Rolling Violently
GV 020: Mizzen Sleeping Bag'sl
GV 021: Freeing the Propeller
GV 022: Visits by Birds
GV 023: Crossing the Doldrums
GV 024: Nearing First Landfall
GV 025: Land Ho
GV 026: Fatu Hiva
GV 027: Trek Inland
GV 028: Anchor Watch
GV 029: Passage
GV 030: Hiva Oa
GV 031: Skin Diving Circus
GV 032: Almost Like a Jungle
GV 033: Polaris Missile
GV 034: Taiohaie Bay
GV 035: Cascade Hakaui
GV 036: Taipi Bay
GV 037: Cyclone Lisa
GV 038: Cyclone Nano
GV 039: Passage of Patience
GV 040: Tuamotu Archipelago
> GV 041: Tahiti
GV 042: Cyclone Reva
GV 043: Secret Sharer
GV 044: Moorea
GV 045: Cyclone Veena
GV 046: Aftermath
GV 047: Good Weather in Papeete
GV 048: Huahine
GV 049: Raiatea
GV 050: BoraBora
GV 051: Rarotonga
GV 052: Tonga
GV 053: Fresh Air
GV 054: Tongan Feast
GV 055: Excursion to Maninita
GV 056: Mariner's Cave
GV 057: Fiji
GV 058: Ndravuni Island
GV 059: Mara Island
GV 060: Aneityum
GV 061: Noumea
GV 062: St Elmo's fire
GV 063: Breakwater Reef
GV 064: Bundaberg
GV 065: Life on the Burnett River
GV 066: Engine Sabotage
GV 067: Flying
GV 068: Aground in Round Hill Creek
GV 069: Gladstone Confinement
GV 070: Tropical Queensland
GV 071: Trip into Townsville
GV 072: Cairns Sojourn
GV 073: Cramped Cooktown
GV 074: Lizard Island
GV 075: The San Michelle
GV 076: Lost Mummy Cave
GV 077: Land's End
GV 078: Darwin
GV 079: Christmas Is
GV 080: Passage
GV 081: Cocos Keeling
GV 082: Crossing the Indian Ocean
GV 083: Rodriguez
GV 084: Mauritius
GV 085: Reunion Cirque de Mafate
GV 086: Reunion Cirque de Salazie
GV 087: Passage to Africa
GV 088: Kruger National Park
GV 089: Richards Bay
GV 090: Durban
GV 091: Port Elizabeth
GV 092: Cape Town
GV 093: Storm Passage
GV 094: St Helena
GV 095: Passage to Brazil
GV 096: Fortaleza
GV 097: Passage to Caribbean
GV 098: Bonaire
GV 099: Passage to Panama
GV 100: Panama
GV 101: Panama Canal
GV 102: Medidor
GV 103: Costa Rica
GV 104: Passage to Acapulco
GV 105: Acapulco to Cabo
GV 106: Baja
GV 107: Home Port
GV 108: In Retrospect
GV 109: Next Time
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