The Pacific PuddleJump is an offshoot from the famous BaHa HaHa sailboat rally sponsored by San Francisco sailing magazine Latitude 38 that runs from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas every October. Not really a race, it’s more of a on-going party all the way down the Pacific Coast of Mexico. Hundreds of boats participate each year, with many returning home after the rally. For the others, also numbering in the low hundreds, some succumb to the easy life and cruise Mexico. Another group, who most would consider somewhat mentally unstable, think “wouldn’t it be fun to sail another 2,800 miles across the Pacific Ocean to Tahiti?” Ergo, the Pacific PuddleJump.
“Jumpers” leave mostly from Cabo, Mazatlan, and Panama, each route presenting it’s share of joys and tribulations as you cross various weather zones on your way to Tahiti.
Flying Cloud should have “jumped” in 2013, but we decided to spend an additional season in the Caribbean. When we finally did cross in 2015 we ended up on a tighter schedule than anticipated and missed the big 2014 Tahiti/Moorea Sailing Rendezvous party in Papeete and Moorea. Determined not to make that mistake again we signed up for the 2016 Rendezvous, which is why we were now in Papeete.
Once again we were on a tight schedule (can you say “traveling with the Conners?”) and planned to fly to the US on July 1st. Our concern with participating in the actual Rendezvous sail from Papeete to Moorea was if the weather turned bad we wouldn’t be able to make our flight. Luckily we came up with the plan of leaving the boat at the Papeete City Marina, taking the ferry over to Moorea, and spending the night in an economic hotel. Our luck got better when John and Deb Rogers invited us to crew on their 62-ft Sundeer sailboat called Moonshadow for the Papeete to Moorea passage.
|Andy Turpin from Latitude 38 was a great host for the cruisers. Here he MC's a presentation on "Cruising in French Polynesia."|
|We shared dinner with the intrepid crew of Huzzah, from left to right: Walter, Fred, Gerry, Jodie, Christine, Theresa, and Ken.|
On June 24th (also my 69th birthday) we all attended the kick-off party for the Rendezvous in Papeete. Over 140 people showed up and we had a grand time with seminars, a cocktail party, and sultry Tahitian dancers.
|The breathtaking harbor at Cook's Bay. The blue ship on the right is owned by the president of Samsonite Luggage.|
The next morning we showed up at Moonshadow ready for the sail of our lives (this is a 62 ft. boat that can really scream in the right wind), but alas, not a breath of wind in sight. We ended up motor sailing most of the way to Moorea, still in the front of the fleet mind you, and finally catching some wind as we rounded the corner leading into Cook’s Bay. We throughly enjoyed the hospitality of John and Deb and dreamed of owning a boat like Moonshadow.
|I really love the pulsating drum beats of Tahitian music.|
|These guys were incredible.|
|I also like watching the Tahitian women who can move their hips like no others.|
|Don't ask me how I got my picture taken with Miss Moorea and her court.|
Once anchored in Cook’s Bay along with about 60 other Puddlejump boats, we dinghied ashore went to check into our hotel, but found that the clerk had locked all the room keys in the office, along with the only office key! We finally got one room opened so we could shower and walked the mile to the location of the Puddlejump party, the well known Bali Hai Resort. It was great to see many of our friends there, including the crews of French Curve, Huzzah, Kandu, and others. We enjoyed another great evening of cocktails, Tahitian dancing, and dinner. Afterwards, Meryl and walked back to our hotel (with the Walter phenomenon of street lights turning off was we walked under them the whole way) only to find the fortress-like hotel locked up tighter than an drum. Even the Huns couldn’t have scaled those walls. Only after making complete fools our ourselves by yelling, screaming, and whistling did someone come and let us in. We were not happy campers.
|We are ready on the start line in Cook's Bay for the starting gun to go off.|
|I'm sure we thought we were King of the Mountain with that strong finish, but we were soon humbled in Heat 2.|
|The Winners (kind of). Cheryl won't give up, she's still paddling us in.|
|Walter, Cheryl, Meryl, and Mark.|
The next morning the owners of the hotel treated us to a nice American breakfast to say sorry and we walked back down to the Bali Hai for the day’s festivities. The highlight of the day was the Tahitian 6-man canoe races. We teamed up with the Mark and Cheryl from French Curve and named our team The Winners (a little premature on that one). We got some paddling lessons from ace canoer Eric on Kandu and practiced on our way out to the start line. We raced against four other canoes and were in the lead rounding the first mark (by the way, it’s not easy turning a 40 ft. outrigger canoe). Thanks to a couple of young Tahitian ringers in the bow and stern (and a very fast canoe) we took first place in our heat. Not too bad for a bunch of old farts. We forgot how competitive most sailors are and were amazed watching the other heats how much effort everyone was putting into the racing. A little cocky from our earlier success, we got our clocks cleaned in the second heat barely eking out a third place. I think Mark and I both tried to “muscle it” too much rather than paddling in smooth synchronization. Anyway, we had a great time and cheered on the canoes in the final heat.
Just like after a sailboat race, back on shore we nursed our drinks and talked about how we could have won is we just did …. It was great fun and a memory we will cherish for a long time. Soon the Tahitian “Games” began, things like running around a course carrying a palm tree log, lifting an 80 lb. rock to your chest, coconut husking, etc. There was also a great demonstration of 50 ways to tie a pareu. The Tahitian host, a huge mountain of a man, was a great MC. His best quote of the night was “We used to eat white people when they came here, now we don’t. Too much cholesterol.”
|Exhausted after a big weekend, we ride the fast ferry back to Papeete.|
At the end of the day we caught a cab back to the south side of Moorea and boarded the modern catamaran ferry that runs back to Papeete. Sitting in airplane-type seats we didn’t understand why there were hostesses handing out small white plastic bags. Once the ferry left the dock we ran into some huge rollers coming from the ocean with the boat rolling up and down and from side to side. Now we know what the bags were for.