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Saturday, June 23, 2012

6/17/2012 Papeete, Tahiti

6/14/2012 Papeete, Tahiti

We arrived in Papeete this morning after a 250 mile jaunt from Toau atoll in the Tuamotu. I say a "jaunt" because we decided at the last moment to leave Toau. After three nights at anchor near the south pass there our anchor chain had wrapped around a coral head and needed fixing. Once you're wrapped the coral becomes a growler;held fast you are caught up short and the growl of steel against corral rolls up the chain through the hull and into your boat. A very ugly sound. It took a bit of boat gymnastics to untangle but then there we were with our anchor up sitting in a nice 10 knot breeze. A quick check determine that we had a perfect tide for making the reef pass and well Tahiti here we come.

We whizzed through our usual preparations,(I whizzed while Bill drove out the pass)waved goodbye to friends and off we went. Definitely a giant shift in our comfort level and sailing talents since our first overnight passage just a few years ago. Our first overnight passage was 56 hours from the Queen Charlotte Islands in BC to the West Coast of Vancouver Islands and it required days of planing, preparing and carefully routing our path. The elation we felt at its completion was huge. Today we are essentially ready to go at a moments notice and are much more comfortable with knowing there is little in our lives we can't do without and when a change of plans happens most everything in life can wait for another day. Two years of cruising will do that for you -May 1st marked the end of our second full year.

Coming to Tahiti is the completion of a circle that took us eight years to close. Being here is sort of a pinch yourself just to make sure kind of feeling. When we flew to Tahiti on vacation in 2004 we spent just two days and an airport layover in Papeete and then more than three weeks traveling the outer islands of Huahine and Raiatea. While sitting in front of a rented beach bungalow I made a life changing statement to Bill......"so do you mean these sailboats just drop their anchors and then when they want to move on they just sail off again to the next great place?" One simple observation, a small little sentence really and our lives were turned inside out. So, being back here is big for us. The culmination of 8 years of completely shifting our lives into something new and different. It felt great to grin at each other realizing that we had actually made it, all by ourselves and made the last minute departure feel wonderful.

Papeete is beautiful and BIG. Very Cosmopolitan. There is traffic and noise and crosswalks, street lights and flashing signs luring you to buy, buy, buy. There are big grocery stores and hardware stores and delicious smells floating out of the little roadside stands and from every restaurant. It is a little bit of overload with all the noise and traffic and everything is fast, fast, fast. The emergency vehicles sound like they are fresh from a Hollywood sound stage. The women are beautiful and the locals are very French. Just knowing that everything I could want or need (for a price!!!) is right here within walking distance and makes me wonder about what I am going to forget and what I will surely miss when we find ourselves on some deserted atoll in the coming months. One of the first sentences I heard gushing out from another cruiser when we hit the dock was ......"at the grocery store there is a whole aisle of just chocolate." Who doesn't love that?

We grabbed a spot on the famous Papeete quay: bow in to the dock "Med style" right in the heart of downtown. Just down the quay we dinned on poison cru with coconut milk and chicken curry at one of the famous "La Trucks." They gather every night, a dozen or so panel vans that move into an empty parking lot and set up shop. Tonight's trucks offered reasonably priced Chinese food, Tahitian dishes, goat, crepes, waffles, hamburgers, tuna tartar, tuna on a stick, tuna sashimi, steak and fries, hamburgers, pizza, milk shakes and ice cream. So many choices so little time! Too bad we will only stay a couple of nights in order to finish our official paperwork and take advantage of the unlimited running water at the dock and the duty free diesel and gas then will move around the corner to an anchorage.

One whole day was spent walking too and fro trying to replace a propane tank. The bus system here is not terribly user friendly so it was foot against blacktop under a very warm sun but we managed to stumble into a Mobil station that had racks full of propane tanks and a manager who spoke English. Their tanks were all empty but they directed us to another station that had tanks that were filled. We had bought two very expensive aluminum 20# horizontal tanks that are mounted under the seat that spans the aft deck. The valve stem/handle turned into dust as Bill switched out one tank for the other so we needed to find an alternative. Additionally all the regulators and fill nozzles here are different from the US so we were faced with trying to find a way to retrofit our tanks anyway. We ended up with two new fiberglass tanks that are the type that you simply take to the gas dealer and switch out for filled tanks. We "should" be able to switch them out at any outlet across the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand -problem solved at a price at half of what we had expected.
Next up we will try and put onboard 240 litters of duty free diesel, our first since Mexico.

The language barrier continues to be a problem. We had read about the feelings of relief when cruisers finally leave French Polynesia and hit the Cook Islands but had not given it too much weight. But it seems our experience in Mexico gave us a false bravado. The difference is ...~The French~... In Mexico if you were standing on a street corner talking to someone and having trouble someone who spoke English would always stop to assist. Every time without fail. The French on the other hand treat the language barrier very differently. An example: we were sitting in a snack-snack (luncheonette type restaurant) and could barley decipher even a single item on the menu. While we sat and struggled through not only did no one try and help but the entire restaurant went silent listening to us struggle. It felt a bit like sport for them and despite the stories was entirely unexpected. The only high point in our language struggles was going to see Madagascar III at the theater in French. The simple plot and the animation (and the M&M's) rescued our day and the theater filled with kids happily shared their enthusiasm. Plus French Polynesia will be a memory in just a few short weeks. The French by the way only allow Americans a 90 day visa despite the fact that they are hurting terribly for tourist dollars. The only explanation anyone seems to have for that is that the short Visa stay is a direct result of political struggles between France and the US.

Next weekend is the Tahiti>Moorea Sailing Rendezvous, a three day event that draws each years South Pacific fleet. Most of the fleet will make this one stop at this one time making it one of the few places we have for catching up with some friends we have been out of synch with and for matching faces with the boat names we have been hearing since we left Mexico. It will also be a great opportunity to swap stories, make new friends and find out where everyone is headed from here. In the mean time we scrub and clean and spruce up the boat a bit and then try and fill our short list of boat bits and fresh groceries.....hmm, 2 buckets, jam, fruit, paper towels, a potable water hose, flour, quick potluck goodies, rice noodles, a hot pad, cereal.........Every thing else is gravy.


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