Papeete, Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia
We have established that Papeete is a city of contrasts. A land where, quite literally, dogs and cats are living together.
One of the most striking personifications of this is the harbor.
Now on our journey through the islands of French Polynesia so far we have navigated everything from rock minefields that will spear your hull like a ripe mango to rip currents that turn your boat into a bumper bowling ball with coral reefs and desert islands playing the part of the bumpers. So we had a pretty solid feeling that, with enough preparation, we could handle just about anything this island could throw at us.
Which is of course why, in Tahiti, it’s not the island that will sink your boat. That would be too easy. The reef limits how big the protected shipping channel is but what room they have is clear from natural obstructions. See, Tahiti is a developed port. In fact it’s the only developed port in this entire county. Which means that everything, and we do mean everything, not to mention just about every one, that goes anywhere in French Polynesia comes through Papeete first. And while this town is ridiculously huge by island standards, London-sized it ain’t. Lots of people, lots of stuff, all trying to get somewhere at the same time in a small city. So while the environment has been beaten back for your navigational well-being, it’s everything else sharing your space in this very confined, busy harbor that makes life interesting. Let us elaborate:
In order to sail down the main port channel you’ll have to dodge overwater bungalows jutting out from the main island,
Luxury yachts that are so big they extend from the pier into the main channel even when they’re not moving,
Alongside industrial ship tankers and the island resupply vessels we mentioned before
A couple of hundred sail boats anchored on top of each other,
outrigger canoes out for a paddle,
Sailing canoes…and oh yes we almost forgot, Boeing 747s attempting to land at the Papeete international airport that will clip your masthead clean off!
We were actually required to request clearance from air traffic control to transit the recreational shipping channel in our sailboat because it passes too close to the landing airstrip. Spitting distance, actually…or would that be literally?
They gave us 10 minutes to cross before the next passenger jet was landing. We gave it a little extra gas that time.
Like we said, contrasts.
We bring this up because our trip to the next island will be via the Tahiti – Moorea ferry, departing from the harbor.