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French Polynesia

For your preparation to French Polynesia, we recommend you to have a look to the page of the Tahiti Crew Agency.They help non European to get the long stay visa… Have a look to their page, it’s full of interesting information. Have also a look on the Yellow Flag Guides pages, and download their guides. It's full of information you need.
If you make the crossing , have a look at the Pacific Puddle Jump Rally,.

All these pages are about our own experience. We only write about places we have been, that’s why it may have missing places and information.

French Polynesia is a huge area, as big as Europe with several group of beautiful islands. Each group is different.

The Marquesas islands are mountains, going often deep in the sea. It has often swells at anchorages.

The Tuamotu & Gambier, are just atolls with smaller islands, mostly on the edge of the atoll. The lagoons, that can be really big, are often around 35m deep with a lot of coral heads coming up like a wall till short under the surface. Eye-watch navigation is recommended, as not every bummy is chartered.
You use passes to enter the lagoon. Sometimes it has several. Even if the tide is only 40cm, it can have till 8 knots of current into the pass. It is recommended to go through at slack times (1 hour before or after, best with current with you). That is the theory we read, but in practice, it was not as easy to know when the slack time is. We had to learn that you cannot trust the tide tables, as the lagoons don’t depend only from the tides, but also from the swell. When the swell is a bit bigger, it fills the lagoon from the reef side, and the lagoon empty from the passes. It is then possible than you have only 2-3 hours ingoing current. When the current is opposite to the wind, it often makes a standing wave in the pass, we don’t go through by these conditions.

The Society Islands (Tahiti & co) are a mix of both. Mountain islands with a coral reef around, and passes to get in. They don’t have a real tide, as they are in the middle of the Pacific. But they have Sun and Moon tide, each day high tide at noon and midnight. The passes are generally easier to get through, except the passes in the south like Maupiti, because of the south swell.

Important to know about French Polynesia:

The navigation signs green and red are like in Europe for the entrance of the passes (not all of them has marks): Red Left Return, which means, red on the left (backboard) side when you come into the lagoon. As soon you are into the lagoon, forget about backboard/starboard with the colours. Red is for the land side, don’t go closer to the island than the red mark.  Green is for the reef side, don’t go closer to the reef than the green mark.

Anchoring in the reef side: it isn’t as easy because of the many bummies. Try to anchor where you can see the ground and drop your anchor on sand. It has a technique with mooring buoys or fenders to add on the chain to avoid the chain getting stuck into the coral heads. Have a look at Pitufa's information about it, it’s well explained. But it’s not as easy as it looks like. Even with several mooring buoys, our chain get sometimes stuck and we had to dive to get it out.

Anchoring near the land: don’t anchor too close to houses. The Polynesian consider the sea in front of their house as part of their garden. As you won’t like a camper camping in your garden, they don’t like boats in “their garden”.

More boats each year: due to the change of law – a ship can now stay in French Polynesia 3 years (2 since July 2020) before having to get the Polynesian flag (and pay the taxes) – it has a lot more boats in French Polynesia than it had before. Some of the local fells over crowded!

Duty free fuel: foreign boats can have duty free fuel  (43% off) in Polynesia. Therefore you need a stamped form from the custom, which you can get personally in Papeete. If you’d like to profit from this service before to get to Tahiti, we recommend you to contact the agent “Tahiti crew”, which is organising the form for you. We did this and the cost of Tahiti crew was paid with our first fuel tanking in Marquesas.
Be aware that this form was not accepted in Bora-Bora. Our friends needed to have checked out of French Polynesia to get duty free fuel. No idea why, so if you’d like to tank there without having checked out, ask before to get fuel or you may have to pay the regular price.

Alcohol: Polynesian gives a lot (fruits…). Some like to make exchanges, sells services, fishes or so. Please don’t pay them with alcohol! Locals cannot handle it correctly. They drink the whole nearly in one time (even a bottle of rum!). Once drunk, they’re bad to their family and it gives a bad image of the cruisers, because “we bring them mad”. Some locals ask directly for alcohol (the price of alcohol here is expensive due to 400% (four hundred!) of import taxes), please avoid it, if you still want the cruisers being welcome in these islands.

Internet: except on Society Islands, it has poor internet possibilities, and it is very slow. We bought a Vini Sim-Card (8.50 UDS at post office). Take a copy of your pass or ID, as they sometimes cannot do copies, and they need it to give the SIM-Card. A recharge of 20USD (2000 Polynesian francs) gives you about 400MB, 3G in Society islands, 2G GPRS in the other islands.
Since 2020 Always more Islands have 4G, but this is only for subscriptions (for residents) or for the Vini Travel Cards. Some boats take internet through a box, inform yourself by Vini, as the offers changes fast.
You find restaurants with Wifi, good and bad ones, but even good ones, don’t compare with Europe or the States! Some you have to pay, other are free. They usually type the password in your device as you cannot give it to somebody else.

Water: you can supply in Marquesas and Society Islands. It is rare in Tuamotu!

Shops: you find small shops around the islands. They have what they have and depend on the delivery by boat. They can run out of eggs during weeks! Even if it has wild chicken everywhere around. Biggest shopping possibilities: Atuona (Hiva Oa), Taiohae (Nuku Hiva), Rotoava (Fakarava), each main city on the Society Islands.

Prices: Polynesia is expensive, but not everything is so. The reason is because they have to add to everything they import, normal taxes + import taxes (which can be huge, alcohol like rum: 400%) + shipping costs.
France subventions the first necessity products, which you can recognize to their red prices. Red prices products are more or less the same price than in France. By purchasing red prices, look good at it, because not every brand has red price, so you can have a pasta or chicken with red price and just next to it, similar pasta or another chicken pack with normal price.
We cannot list everything which have red price, but just to give you some idea: baguette, butter, melted cheddar cheese, nature yoghurt, some meat, pasta, rice, flour, powder milk, coffee, some cans (veggies, tomato, corned beef)…


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