We spent a year in French Polynesia, exploring beautiful islands, communing with marine life, and meeting amazing people. We also dealt with lots of broken equipment. From sails to machinery, something was always broken on board Sava. Sometimes it was easy to solve, sometimes it wasn’t. Here’s what it’s like fixing a boat in French Polynesia.
Location Location Location
One of the cliches and constants of life on a cruising boat is fixing your boat in exotic locations. At least we have nice views while we’re dirty, tired, and frustrated. In French Polynesia, the views are beautiful. That’s an excuse for a scenic shot!
papeete is best for fixing a boat in French polynesia
The best place to be when fixing a boat in French Polynesia is Papeete, Tahiti. Since all the stores selling marine hardware, and regular hardware, are in Papeete, you almost always have to source from there unless you get very lucky. In our three different stays in Papeete over the year, we visited every possible chandler and hardware store. Multiple times. And a machine shop. Living the glamorous yacht life!
We are being spoilt by French Polynesian paradise. Case in point is the island of Huahine, one of the Society islands. Located less than a day’s sail from Tahiti, Huahine offers fun on land and water. We spent a week exploring and discovering the Huahine highlights.
Huahine, pronounced “Hoo-a-he-nay” by locals, is part of French Polynesia’s Society islands, with Moorea, Tahiti, Raiatea, and Bora Bora, most notably. The island’s population is around 6,000, bigger than any of the Tuamotus. Since it is close to Tahiti, only 100 miles, the island is easy to visit, accessible by regular flights and ferries from Tahiti.
Huahine consists of two islands, Huahine Nui (Big Huahine) and Huahine Iti (Little Huahine), surrounded by fringing coral reefs and little motus. We spent a little over a week exploring this lovely island, visiting three different bays by boat, and cycling around the big island.
We spent a few months in the Tuamotus, and would gladly return, because the water is beautiful and the living is easy. We visited several islands in the archipelago, enjoying our experiences in each. Read on for our Tuamotus favorites: where to anchor and eat and fun activities to enjoy.
This is for the sailors out there, and is based on our limited knowledge of only a handful of motus. We barely scratched the surface in this archipelago. Still, we can’t talk about our Tuamotus favorites without mentioning our favorite spots to stay on the boat for a while and these are definitely worth mentioning.
Hirifa is paradise for liveaboards. It has almost everything a cruiser needs: good internet, calm water for swimming and paddling, nice beaches for chill time, and for the kiteboarders, a sandbar for launching and consistent winds. Friends spent so much time there, they started a cruisers net.
French Polynesia is a vast area, with five major island groups: The Marquesas, Tuamotus, Gambier, Austral, and Society Islands. We are traveling west with the winds after crossing from Panama and landing in the magical Marquesas islands. After a few weeks or months in The Marquesas, the next island group is usually the Tuamotus. Cruising the Tuamotus is like nothing we’ve experienced, and a great reason to get the long stay visa. We can’t believe we almost raced through all of these islands, a necessity with the standard French Polynesian three month visa.
Introduction to The Tuamotus
Motu in Tahitian means a small islet of coral reef, an atoll. The Tuamotus is a chain of 70+ of these small islets, many sparsely inhabited.
To sail from The Marquesas to anywhere in The Tuamotus takes 3-4 days, depending on departure and arrival points, and, of course, the wind. Once you’re in the chain, you can do short day or overnight hops to get from one motu to the next.
The archipelagos’ total population is only about 15,000 people. That’s right, across almost 80 islands. The main industries include pearl farming, copra cultivation (coconut oil), and a small amount of tourism in a few places.
Since arriving in The Marquesas nine months ago, Brian and I discussed getting the best possible souvenir here: a Marquesan tattoo. It took us a return trip to Nuku Hiva, plus the encouragement of our friends on Pelican, who beat us to it, but we did it! What it like to get tattooed in Marquesas?
Tattoos are an important part of Polynesian culture, and Marquesans are known for their tattoo artistry. When we arrived on our first island in the archipelago, and every one after, we noticed the tattoos.
I don’t know if it’s mandatory to have a tattoo here, but it is customary. Every adult has a tattoo somewhere, and some are covered with ink. Tattoos are tradition in French Polynesia. It’s part of the culture, marking milestones like adulthood and other important life moments.
We like Marquesan tattoos because while they look simple, most using only black ink, they are complex and symbolic.