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Cruising Journals - Pam Wall

Chapter 14 - On to Tahiti

We awoke to a sparkling morning! "What do you think?" we asked Sammy and Jamie. "Should we get the anchor up and go to Tahiti?"

The sleepy heads poked out from behind the lee cloths. "Yeah, that would be neat," Sammy, yawned. Jamie, ever the emotional, started to cry, "I don't want to leave Ahe, I love it here. I promised to go fishing with Hiti today."

"Well, Andy, you are the captain, what do you think?" "The weather is perfect, and the ebbing tide will be right for going out the pass. I say we sail today. I promise you, Jamie, you will love Tahiti as much as Ahe."

With that, the crew scrambled for the last motionless breakfast aboard before a passage.

Shipboard life gets very agitated before leaving an anchorage. Our mixed emotions volley with the excitement of a new landfall and the sadness of leaving behind good friends. There is always the life at sea that holds its own challenges. Each of us has a duty or chore to get Kandarik ready for passage. Sammy, who was 10 years old, securely stowed everything down below. Jamie, in his 6 years, had become the foredeck-man along with Andy. The two of them get the deck ready for sea. There is the dinghy to be lashed on deck, sail covers removed, the genoa hanked on, the sheets lead, the hatches dogged, and all the rigging checked. They work together like old sailors to get the ship ready for an ocean voyage. I went down below to cook a few meals in advance. I get seasick for the first couple of days at sea, so I like to get a few readymade meals stored away. This ensures a well-fed crew while I remain in the cockpit fighting mal- de -mer! 

At last everything was ready. Then the hard part began of saying goodbye to all the friends we had met ashore and on other boats. This was always the most difficult part of our wandering life. Smiles and tears and promises to come back, little presents exchanged until Andy said, "It is time to get the anchor up."

The ebbing tide of the Tuamotan pass helped us to quickly negotiate the narrow lagoon entrance. We felt like a pumpkinseed being spat out as the rushing water hurled us to the open sea. We were on our way to Tahiti.

Jamie sat on deck looking behind him at the low island we were swiftly loosing under the horizon. I could tell he was choked up and still sad to leave his friends behind. Sammy sat at the helm steering; her only thought, to concentrate on keeping a good compass course. Andy was busy getting the spinnaker set. I was dreaming of all the delicious French food that I would be able to enjoy in Tahiti.

Kandarik flew across the waves. The brisk trade wind was on her quarter; the spinnaker was drawing and floated like a huge balloon above the foredeck. A fishing line was over the stern following in our wake. The miles slipped by as we followed the setting sun towards the enchanted island of so many dreams.

Shipboard life became a rhythm of motion. Every movement was carefully made. A small sailing vessel like Kandarik becomes a cocoon insulated from everything but the motion of the sea. Our life was a routine swaying dance of meals, sleep, navigation, and watches.

In a few days a smudge on the horizon heralded the tall peaks of land. By late afternoon the small smear on the horizon became the jagged tall peaks of Tahiti. It wasn't until the inky night had covered our little ship that we rounded the majestic island. With the loss of daylight, the towering island became a lee from the wonderful propelling trade wind. The daylight seemed to take the wind, but actually as we approached the lee of the island we were blanketed from the breeze. There was nothing to fill our sails to get us to the protection of the harbor. The huge rolling swells were still with us, and Kandarik moaned and groaned and creaked and ached as the seas rolled her without the press of wind to steady her. What an awful time for all of us. Down below it was bedlam. The motion was terrible as we were at the mercy of the leftover swell. We rolled and pitched and "whistled for wind" with the mysterious alluring island only a few miles away.

I begged Andy to take down the crashing sails and to start the engine. He hated using the engine, especially when the sea combats the churning propeller. He said to all of us, "Wait and see, I have been here before, pretty soon we will be sailing again." We were all hanging on in the cockpit, wishing we were scampering along, as we had been only hours before. Agonizing hours went by as Kandarik wallowed in the windless lee.

On our beam the enormous mountains of Tahiti, having lost the warming sun, slowly started cooling. The chill mountain air started to fall to the sea. This descending air finally reached across the water to Kandarik. The cool land breeze once again brought our ship to life. With this welcome wind came smells that filled our senses; moist soil, flower blossoms, drying vanilla beans, frangi pangi, jasmine, coconut husk fires, wood smoke, diesel fumes, baking bread, and frying fish. This was the fragrance of Tahiti.

As Andy had predicted Kandarik began to slip through the water. She timidly healed with her sails quietly asleep. The cool air spilling off the mountains of Tahiti replaced the sea breeze that had been blanketed behind the island. This is what Andy had been waiting for. He knew this would happen and he wanted all of us to experience it as he had many years ago on his own little boat.

The seas calmed down with the offshore wind; the boat skimmed across the dark water, the blinking lights of Papeete beckoned us into her secure harbor. We crept around the breakwater at midnight, and dropped the anchor amidst dozens of boats. Kandarik had reached the fabled island of "Paradise." Tahiti was ours!

Pam Wall - Expert Sailor

Pam Wall

Outfitting Manager, West Marine Ft. Lauderdale

  • A lifelong sailor, Pam and her husband have been cruising together for over 36 years!