We waited and waited in Papeete for the weather to ease up, all the while watching the calendar and the impending start of the cyclone season. My back has been good enough for sailing for about a week but we’ve had high winds and choppy seas and we just didn’t want to have a pounding while I’m still not 100%. It looked like Thursday was the day, then Thursday dawned still windy so we deferred to Friday. That worked out well because our friends on Flying Cloud were sailing up to Papeete from the other side of Tahiti and we’d get to spend an evening with them before leaving.
Jack and I took a last walk to the Papeete market and bought pumpkin and bok choy for a Pacific version of lasagna and I spent the rest of the day cooking while Jack gave the boat a last wash and stowed all the flotsam that ends up strewn around whenever we’re in one place for too long. Meryl and Walter had a boisterous sail around the island and were relieved to tie up across the dock from us. They’re spending the year in French Polynesia and to be out of the cyclone belt they’ll sail east back to the Marquesas. Over dinner Jack and I shared our favorite places on all the islands we visited and gave them tips on best hikes and other activities. It was fun to revisit all those happy memories from our time there and it almost tempted us to change our minds and stay another year, but New Zealand calls us.
About 3 am we were awakened by high winds and the boats tugging at their dock lines. There wasn’t much sleep after that and when we got up at 5:30 to prepare for departure we looked at each other with trepidation. The wind was 25-30 kts, and that’s inside the protection of the reef so we knew it would be worse outside. We checked the weather again and decided to wait until Saturday. We really backed ourselves into a corner because on Monday a squall line moves over Bora Bora and we need to be safely tied up before then. We decided it was best to thread the needle between the bad weather here on Friday and the bad weather there on Monday. It’ll be Saturday-Sunday for us, and crossed fingers that the forecast doesn’t change.
By this time Meryl and Walter were on the dock to wave goodbye, and our dockmates on Sunrise were ready to cast off our lines. We announced our decision to wait and there was a collective sigh of relief that we weren’t going to fight our way through nasty weather. Meryl and Walter joined us on EV for coffee and we watched what passes for morning entertainment at Marina de Papeete, the docking of a huge cruise ship directly behind us.
Getting an extra night’s sleep before a passage is always a bonus and we took it easy all day, too. We walked Meryl and Walter through the jumble of souvenir vendors that sprouts up when a cruise ship comes in, and made the obligatory ice cream stop.
Jack and I were awake by 5:30 and we readied Escape Velocity for sea. While I made coffee Jack untied the docklines except for the bow and stern, which he looped around the dock cleats so I’d be able to set us free from the deck. At the ok from Jack at the helm, I pulled both lines aboard and we were moving again for the first time in almost a month.
It was calm inside the reef but as soon as we were outside we were hit with 22 kt wind and the usual choppy Tahiti-Moorea seas. Raising sails was crazy bouncy but once we got settled on course we were fine. The wind stayed in the 18-22 kt range almost the whole night and after we cleared Moorea our course took us dead downwind so we sailed wing and wing for hours.
By morning the wind moderated a bit but the seas were still confused and uncomfortable for the rest of the way. We picked up a mooring at the Mai Kai Marina a little after noon on Sunday, back to our exact westernmost point, and eager to continue. The rough seas were hard on my back but nothing like the pain I experienced on our trip back to Papeete.
Now we’re with the last few westbound stragglers, waiting for a weather window for Tonga.