Sailing Around the Tahitian Islands
By Eileen Ogintz
We are in paradise -- really. The fish literally eat out of our hands, the water is so clear I can see seashells in the sand six feet below us and the island nearby is ringed by lush, green trees, some dripping with exotic fruits.
We are following our Catamaran Captain
Our boat, a gleaming, four-cabin Catamaran (chartered from www.tahitiyachtcharter.com), is moored a short distance away, just offshore from the oh-so-exclusive
Sure Tahiti (www.tahiti-tourism.com) is a favorite spot for honeymooners and we meet plenty during our two-week sojourn here, but we meet lots of families, too. Tahiti is closer than many think -- just a little over seven hours from
We're traveling with another set of parents and four 18-year-olds -- my daughter Mel and her three friends who have been BFFs since they all met at
So here we are exploring a small slice of
Our 40-year-old captain is straight out of Central Casting -- or a Gauguin painting -- huge, muscular with a long mane of hair, tattoos, which he explains tells his family story, and a smile that no matter what happens makes us all relax. In the past, we've chartered sailboats closer to home in the
Turo regales the girls with tales of his four sons (by four different women) who live around the world. One look at Turo and I hear my daughter voluntarily speaking French for the first time outside the classroom. And wherever we go -- to the tony resort on Taha'a, to the local summer Heiva festival on the island of Ra'iatea to the iconic Bloody Mary's restaurant on Bora Bora, everyone knows Turo. (They even know what he likes for dinner.) He's got friends and cousins everywhere and leads us to places we never could have found on our own.
Sailing trips are a great value -- significantly cheaper than hotels, especially when splitting costs with another family and cooking your own meals. There are other American families like ours sailing these islands. It's a great adventure -- sails billowing in the wind, the sun in your face, no one anywhere near -- but sailing isn't for everyone. The seas get rough at times. (Bonine helps!) You've got to pump toilets to make them flush, showers are rudimentary and living quarters are cramped. But when you've got sea breezes, sunshine and starry nights, you don't need much beyond bathing suits, shorts and flip-flops.
We let Turo lead the way around the Leeward Islands -- from Ra'iata, the yachting capital here, to Taha'a, known for its pearl farms and vanilla plantations, to Huahine to Bora Bora with its deluxe resorts. Later we will visit Mo'orea (more about those adventures in other columns). (I'm glad I have my Lonely Planet Tahiti and
Each island is different and more beautiful than
In many places, we're the only Americans, the only English speakers, which only adds to the adventure.
On Taha'a we meet the Champons, a family of pearl farmers, and learn how those beautiful black pearls are cultivated.
We snorkel with big Sting Rays without another boat in site, jumping off the boat to swim. We eat local pamplemousse (giant, tasty grapefruit) for breakfast, crisp baguettes, salami and cheese for lunch or (organic) mac and cheese I've brought from home. We make papaya smoothies -- sans blender. We drink local Hanavave beer and my husband introduces Turo to martinis. It's everything a vacation should be and all the better because our BlackBerrys don't work and we aren't near any Internet cafes.
And then there are the sharks. Just as we're sailing into the Bora Bora lagoon with its majestic green cliffs and clear water, we catch a 16-pound
Turo cleans our catch where he knows the Lemon and Reef sharks -- some as long as four feet -- will be. Soon the sharks were swimming in circles around the back of our boat, looking like a bunch of kindergartners squabbling over the last cookie. Turo assures us it's safe to get in the water and we do, watching the sharks swim beneath us, snapping photos with our Olympus, good up to 10 feet underwater (Stylus Tough-6000 www.olympusamerica.com).
That night, Turo barbecued our fish and we ate under the stars, the boat gently rocking.
We congratulate ourselves for our good fortune -- catching this magnificent fish, having Turo as our captain and participating in an adventure that the girls -- and us -- won't ever forget. We beg Turo to visit us for
Recent Vacation Ideas & Travel Destinations
Sunset through the palms
Waikiki Beach, Oahu
In Search of the Aloha Smile on Oahu
Anne Z. Cooke - Travel Muse
As a frequent visitor to Hawaii, it's the islands' physical beauty that captures my attention: the impossibly steep green peaks, brilliant sunsets and roving trade winds. Intoxicating, yes, they are. But my lasting memories are of people, of the strangers who greet you with a smile and friendly families who offer hospitality.
- Amador County, California: Gold From Mines & Vines
- Swiss Food -- From Haute to Wholesome
- L'Auberge De Sedona, Into the Woods in Arizona's Red Rock Country
- High Seas Vacation Cruise with Eve
- Taking the Kids - Surviving (Maybe Even Enjoying!) a Road Trip
- Taking the Kids - Joining Forces on Vacation
- Brussels: One of Europe's Great Travel Secrets
- Tourist Beware: Europe's Latest Travel Scams
- Some New Internet Doings - Internet Travel Deals
- What's Going on with the Airlines
- Keeping in Touch When You're in Europe
(c) 2009 EILEEN OGINTZ Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.
World-renowned chefs with an extraordinary passion for food, share that passion. They make great cooking easier than you ever imagined. Each feature includes both an expert tip and an easy recipe - exactly what you need to transform your home cooking from acceptable to delectable.
Recipes Click Here
Movie Reviews, commentary and more. Plus Trailers from movies currently in theaters and available on DVD.
Movie Reviews Click Here