LINKS FOR THE YEAR 2001
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Log for the week of July 1, 2001 Papeete, Tahiti by, APW
I think it would distress a lot of people if I all of a sudden started gushing on about a place. No one need worry. Mainers especially. In my book Maine is still the A#1 nicest place on the planet. Tahiti is a little like Bar Harbor, Maine, times one hundred.
Not to change subjects much, but I must admit even though the Tuomotos were flat as a pancake, which suits Phil just fine since he is from Long Island, New York, they really were very nice. We judge a place on how well we would like to stay there, on a permanent sort of basis. There must be nice, friendly people. Wildlife of some sort. Pretty scenery. A cracker jack bookstore. With the advent of the internet, a library is no longer necessary, but would be nice. Movie theaters, as well as a local repertory theater. A good grocery and hardware store. A college for lectures and continuing education. A good hospital. Good restaurants. Are we asking too much? Even though Rangiroa had only two out of eleven- nice people and great wildlife via scuba diving/snorkeling, I was almost as sad to leave there as the Galapagos. While sailing downwind past the last atoll in the Tuomotos, I was treated to a late night whirlwind of sensuous floral fragrances. Vanilla, Frangiapani, and other scents I have no name for. I wish the computer had scratch and sniff, to give you a sampling of the heaven my olfactory senses were in.
Tahiti, on the other hand. Forget about it. If this is a place you have always dreamed of coming to, you'd be better off visiting Brooklyn NY. We arrived off the Northeast coast Monday 11:30 p.m. after a 180 mile sail from Rangiroa. Lights ran up the steep mountain sides like a huge ski resort. My mother wouldn't have been pleased. She's on a campaign in Vermont to stop mountainside construction above a certain height.
We were a little reluctant about coming into a foreign port fringed by a breaking coral reef, with an alleged five knot current and very narrow pass, but it was easy. There are very well lit range lights and an English speaking harbor control who moves the shipping traffic via channel 12 on VHF. My only gripe is that the French Polynesian buoys have a lousy return on radar. (You would not want to come in at night in bad weather that's for sure!) We also followed our noses. The first smell of Tahiti was burning trash. Number 2 smell- McDonalds french fries. To some people they may smell the same. By the time we dropped anchor off the "temple beach", a little after midnight, our stomachs were screaming for synthetic McBurgers. I had bought a can of "Cheese Whiz" in Maine, a gustatory delight I had here-to-fore never partaken of- which when splooged on some crackers seemed to quiet the hunger pangs for synthetic American food. We sat in the cockpit, eating our Cheez Whiz, surrounded by the sounds of a big city- sirens, especially the inhale/exhale ones you always hear in James Bond movies, bells ringing from the church, cars honking. It felt like we were anchored back in downtown Baltimore. Not exactly the Tahiti I had pictured in my mind.
As soon as we were down below, all the city sounds disappeared and the three of us slept like statues. The next day after a leisurely morning of scones and coffee, we decided to pick up the anchor and move to Maeva Beach, an anchorage around the corner south of downtown Papeete. Everyone on the VHF radio had been gushing on and on about how nice it was. As Phil was up pushing the windlass button, I went ahead and radioed the harbor control to ask permission to move. I happened to ask whether or not it was necessary we move. He said, "non, non no problem to stay where you are". I went up to tell Phil that I had decided to stay and not go to Maeva Beach at all. By this time Phil had the anchor all the way up. He looked at me in disbelief and we were met with one of those moments in a marriage that lawyers and marriage counselors pray for. "Is she nuts? Shall I ring her neck, throw her overboard, or poke her with the boathook"... "Why is he looking at me that way, for god's sake what's wrong with men, that they can't be more flexible, so what if I changed my mind." We re-anchored, five feet from the previous spot, with a much improved view and I went below to brood while Phil whipped the ends of some of our lines. After a half hour we both realized how silly we were, we are after all in "paradise". Phil said "we never have liked to be with the rest of the yachties, so why start now." We rowed ashore, found an internet connection to post the log and wandered around downtown Papeete. We ended up at McDonald's. "Shall we?" we both asked each other. The food tastes like McDonald's food at home. The only difference was this McDonald's wasn't a ghost town. Back home it is no longer "cool" to hang out at McDonald's. Papeete is a different story. Young Vahines abounded. Even the McDonald's workers were eating there.
A special word about the babes, or vahines as they are called here. They're not bad. The Polynesian blood has been diluted with Chinese, European, American, so you might see a tall slender Polynesian woman with blond highlights in her hair, walking down the street wearing a tight wrap around short flowered skirt- when she turns around she might have striking sea colored eyes. The women at the beaches, all sunbathe topless. It is fun to watch the American men watch the topless sunbathers, while trying to pretend that they could care less about a beach full of perky nipples. This is the first place since Maine, we have gotten to, where women go without tops. It looks kind of peculiar to me, but I am not a man. However it is prudent for the wives to drive their husbands around in the dinghy's, as I have seen many dinghy wrecks while the husbands were at the throttle, their eyes wandering helplessly.
Each time we arrive at a new port, we re-read a portion of Dennis Puleston's book "Blue Water Vagabond" retracing his footsteps. His chapter on Papeete was particularly good. Not much really has changed. According to Dennis, Papeete in 1937 was "over run" with tourists and was either a living hell or heaven, whichever way you looked at it. It took awhile, but we finally found the muzzles of all the cannons embedded in the quay that his ship "Director" was tied up to. It is now where the huge cruise ships tie up. Dennis had been a man after my own heart, with a great fondness of all creatures great and small. They had many animals on board "Director" for they were collecting specimens for US zoos as well as collecting their own exotic pets. He had picked up a boa constrictor in Panama, which he named Egbert, who escaped from the boat into downtown Papeete. We found the remains of Quinn's bar, where Dennis over heard the gruesome ending to poor Egbert. The missionaries had put a profound fear into the Polynesians of serpents and snakes as being objects of the devil. When Egbert had been sited word got around that the devil was in Papeete. Egbert met his untimely end , minced as it were, into many pieces, from the sharp end of a French naval officer's mighty cutlass..
In 1965, a riot broke out in Papeete, after France's decision to renew nuclear testing in the Tuomotos. A lot of the downtown was vandalized. It is hard to say how many of the abandoned buildings are from the riot. A road runs along the waterfront of Papeete. It is lined by trees which look like skinny versions of the South's live oaks. They overhang the streets and provide valuable shade. The older buildings have a French flavor with lots of over hang, verandas, and long paned windows. There are many jewelry shops selling very expensive and to my eye, sort of boring looking black pearls. Here is a photo outside a jewelry store with the only other set of "dead eyes and lanyards in Papeete". To Phil's horror, they are not even put together correctly. At its best, Papeete looks a lot like Savannah Georgia, at its worst- Panama.
Further up the mountain, sprouting like flat mushrooms, are the single story houses of the middle class. Above them are the fancier homes of the very rich. Above that are swatches of tall pine trees intermixed with swirls of trees that sprawl horizontally. A person's net worth is directly proportional to how high above sea level they are. Homeless people live a few feet above the harbor in shelters made from palette wood and blue tarps.
We have arrived for the very big annual fete- originating from France's Bastille Day. It is called Le Haeve and was started in 1877 by the missionaries to convert the Tahitians annual "yam" festivals into something less sinful. It has now become a festival of traditional Tahitian dance, song and sporting events, such as fire walking, spear chucking, fruit carrying, and yes, canoe races.
On Wednesday morning, we had an official looking fellow come along side, announcing he was the harbor master. The man who claimed to be the harbormaster, on channel 12, was only the harbor control and didn't know anything. In a nice way, the real harbor master told us we were not allowed to anchor where we were, as we were right in the middle of the canoe racecourse. We could either anchor closer to shore and run a stern line to a tree, or move to Maeva Beach. I was not crazy about running a line to shore that would serve as a tightrope invitation for cockroaches, rats and who knows what other riff-raff. Not to mention the fact, that if a storm came up, we would be a spaghetti pot mass of jumbled boats, lines and anchors, so we once again hauled up the anchor and this time moved to Maeva beach. We turned the corner to be met with the entire Galapagos fleet, not to mention the other hundred or so, additional boats that have come in swarms from the US west coast and Mexico- over two hundred boats in all. Maeva Beach is nothing more than a little scab of a beach right next to the airport. There is a fancy hotel where the lucky guests get to swim in murky water polluted by the entire Pacific "class of 2001". We thought about turning around and heading back to downtown Papeete, but decided to stay for Anthony's birthday on "Willy Bolton" and also for the supposed easy access to a great supermarket.
Anthropologists will determine how important a concept or object is to a culture, by how many different words there are for it in the language. I learn the most about a culture by wandering the grocery isles. Forget about the museums, food is where it's at. I thought I had gone to heaven when I first entered the Tesco stores in England. My British friend Kathryn from "Willy Bolton" said the French stores were even better. If the stores in Tahiti are any indication, she's right. I was stuck on the first isle- fresh breads and French pastries, while Phil did a re-con of the remaining forty- two acres in the grocery store. He came back to the cart and said "We're in trouble." I get fuzzy headed in stores, when there is too much sensory in-put. My brain starts shutting off the ten remaining neurons I have, one at a time. To give you an idea of what comprises the longest aisles in the French/Tahitians grocery store, there were sixty feet of different types of brie cheese, over three miles of wine, (perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration), one hundred and twenty feet of yogurt, and yes, even Pepsi, tucked away gathering dust under the huge Coke display. Phil had been carefully guarding his last can of Pepsi, which he finally drank getting the boat through the pass to Tahiti. (The only other thing we have run out of so far has been Vermont Maple syrup, which I have a huge fondness for. I sent an urgent message to my parents to that effect and they should be rectifying that situation soon.)
Interestingly enough, Taco sauce is not a big seller here and costs five* dollars for an average sized jar of Old El Paso Salsa. For those of you reading this, who are following behind us, you would be wise to take a lot of cans of Del Monte Zesty diced tomatoes, which can be turned into salsa, or spaghetti sauce. Things that are also rare/non existent-Crisco, Jello, Knox Gelatine, pickled ginger for sushi and believe it or not, flour. We left the Maine with two twenty pound bags of flour which I stored in a tightly covered sheet rock bucket, plus another twenty pounds I bought before we left South Carolina. We brought ten pounds of whole wheat flour which I did not keep in the ice box and which went bad early on. We are almost out of flour. In one year we have gone through sixty pounds! Now I am trying to re-stock the larder and it's is only available in 1 kilo bags, which look like little dollhouse bags of flour. (*Editors note: read further for our gross mathematical errors)
There were more fresh vegetables and fruits than we have in the US, I had a field day buying things that in Maine right now I would be picking out of the garden- lettuce, mesclun mix, baby carrots, tomatoes, broccoli and strawberries. As well as things that we don't see in Maine except at a very high price- pineapples, mangos, pamplemousse, avocados, white asparagus, endive, kiwi fruits, and shrub-sized artichokes.
At three a.m., our first night at Maeva Beach, we were woken up by a blast off of a huge jet at the airport. It felt like the rumbling backdraft would blow Iwalani out of the water; and we are anchored two miles away. It was a lot quieter in downtown Papeete. Welcome to paradise.
Anthony's birthday party on "Willy Bolton" was a great success. Kathryn had more food than I have ever seen in one boat in my life. We were the only Americans and it was fun listening to the Australians and New Zealander's impressions of America. One of the Australian's -a man named Cliff who gave up bare foot water skiing at age 65, because it was too dangerous, is sailing around the world again, with just his wife as crew. They have a very fast boat called Muloka III. He couldn't understand why Americans have such small outflow holes in the toilets- he said every toilet in America was backed up. He also couldn't understand why the fire hydrants are above ground. I guess every where else in the world, they have ground level ball valves. When the fire brigade arrives they bring the hydrant with them; which they must screw into the ground. He said this way, no on can drive into the hydrant and knock it over. He said he saw at least ten knocked over fire hydrants in the one year he stayed in America. I don't think I have ever seen one in my life.
They also made fun of Phil and I for not knowing about "trolleys". This is the British name for a shopping cart. We did have a bit of a problem the first day, trying to acquire a trolley. I asked Phil to get a cart and he came back and said we had to rent them for a hundred francs. I said forget that. We made do without one. It turns out that the carts are all chained together and you just put the hundred franc coin into the slot to release the cart. When you replace the cart, the 100 franc coin pops back out. All the Brits said they wanted to see a place where shopping carts aren't held hostage. Not one of them has ever been to Maine- they didn't even know where it was! I am reminded of the conversation I overheard in the bank at Nuku Hiva. Forgive me if I am repeating myself. I am old and forgetful. My old logs are locked in Arnold's brain,(Hard drive) which is all packed up waiting to be FedEx'd to Maine, where our friend Rick is going to try and get his future son-in-law to retrieve the data. Anyway the conversation was between a bunch of Americans and two Brits. The Brits said their favorite place so far, had been Maine, #2 Bermuda. The Americans seemed very puzzled by this, because they kept saying "Maine?" "Maine?" Like it was a liver flavored dish they were to eat for lunch. I would hope that people realize Maine is cold and foggy- all the time. No one likes people from away. The mosquitoes are so big and hungry you will require two or more transfusions before you leave. Go to the Cape or the coast of Connecticut, you'll get a taste of Maine there. Only kidding, I am just trying to keep it free from some of the completely moronic cruisers we have seen along the way.
Also, on our first shopping expedition, we bought several new DVD movies. They were American titles, but the packaging was all in French. The back of the package had a British and American flag so we figured we could have either English subtitles or the movies themselves would be in English. Unfortunately, we experienced another example of Amercan isolationism. The DVD's we have in the states aren't the same as the rest of the world. If you look at the back of a DVD, you will see a squashed globe with a number 1 on it. Everyone else in the world has a number 2 on their squashed globe. No matter what we did we couldn't play these DVD's and had to return them. It is curious to me how American technology can remain so advanced when there are two world systems in place. Us and them. How on Earth did two DVD systems evolve? I thought with globalization the newer technologies wouldn't be so dumb. How are we to compete in a global market, when our electricity is different, our DVD's, our toilets, our fire hydrants? The girl's on "Willy Bolton" were wondering if American computers had Microsoft, (one of the few American products that truly is global)... I told them most did. I didn't even open up the can of worms about those Mac people.
Phil has had the week off from boat repairs. The bilge has been dry, but yesterday it developed the disgusting sulfur-death smell. It hasn't been powerful enough to set off the gas sniffer. We aren't going to clean it again unless the alarm goes off. Our new approach will be to ignore it, like a dead mouse in the wall, perhaps the smell will eventually go away. In the meantime, we just don't invite any people over to the boat. Our haul out in Riaitea is still two weeks away.
We have been busy working on our e-books. We are basically starting from the ground up, trying to figure out which format will be the best, .html or Adobe .pdf I am working on a book for teenage girls to try and stimulate an interest in quantum mechanics. It has been a great deal of fun for me and I have two young guinea pigs on "Willy Bolton" to test it out.
On a health up-date, I am sitting here staring at two Diethyl Carbamizine tablets which Phil and I must take to prevent filariasis, the disease that the French are trying to wipe out of the Marquesas. The common name for this is elephantiasis. They have launched an aggressive campaign. It is caused by a filarial worm that is spread by a mosquito. The worm larvae, as they are growing in the human body, block the lymphatic drainage and cause a glorious ballooning of extremities. For those of you with dogs, you may well remember Caricide, or Nemacide tablets, daily pills that were given to dogs during mosquito seasons to prevent heartworm disease. The pill Phil must take is the very same pink Caricide I used to give my dogs. I have to admit I feel very strange taking dog medicine. Hypocritical too, because as I tell my clients, most animal medicines come out of the human medicine bottles. I just have to look at it the other way around.
When we went on the waterfall hike in Nuku Hiva, I also got covered with no-no bites. No-no's are three varieties of no see 'ums that live in the Marquesas. We were well prepared for them, I thought. I practically took a shower in Deet. Phil used nothing. He had no bites and I had over three hundred. I figured they wouldn't be any worse than no see 'ums back home. I took Benadryl in case I had an allergic reaction, which I am prone to with insect bites and I ended up taking systemic antibiotics because they got infected from me scratching them in my sleep. They literally itched for three weeks. I was miserable for the first week. Fortunately I didn't have the really severe allergic reaction that some people have.
Some cruisers in the Tuomotos have contracted Dengue fever. This is a viral disease also spread by mosqitoes. There is no vaccine available and it mainly affects children. It causes a fever, headaches, rash and severe drop in white blood cells. It hit a boat called "Attitude" I shall say no more, as their boat name says it all.
A few cruisers have also suffered from ciguaterra. This is a fish poisoning that comes from eating fish caught inshore around reefs. It seems to be the fish version of "red-tide" back home, only the signs may last for months and cause a curious reversal of the sensations of hot and cold. Phil and I will not eaten any fish that isn't from offshore. Lots of cruisers take great pleasure in spearing reef fish. It is a little like spearing fish in an aquarium, in my book. We have heard people like Alva Simon on "Roger Henry" announce on the radio that he's "going to be off killing fish". Phil and I wondered what was wrong with shopping at the supermarkets. In fact we were appalled at the extent cruisers were going to scrounge for food. Some of these cruisers were acting like they were on a "Survivor" type TV show. The exchange rate isn't great but it didn't warrant digging through trash heaps. Or so we thought.
One morning while Phil was waiting for me in the dinghy, he had quite a lot of time to ponder and reflect, as I was nowhere near ready. When I finally climbed into the dinghy, he announced that he had been "off" on our exchange rate. We were doing it all wrong. We were actually spending twice as much money as we thought. Now I am no mathematical whiz, in fact I go to great lengths to avoid arithmetic, but from the start there just seemed to be something wrong with the way we were doing the exchange rate. In actuality, the Tahitian exchange is $1.27 for 100 Polynesian francs. In the Marquises it was $1.35. To give you an idea on what that will buy: A can of Coke is 120 Polynesian francs. The a fore mentioned jar of Taco sauce is 699 Polynesian francs, a lot more than $5.00 a jar. A Dove bar is 300 francs, a quarter acre atoll in Rangiroa with a bungalow on it is 440,000,000.00 polynesian francs. One good quality black pearl is 15,000.00 Polynesian francs. Renting a tiny car with a/c for one day is 10,440.00 Polynesian francs. You can figure the Math out, my head is spinning and I am not in a good mood.
I am also writing an article on cruising with pets. Until it is published, any one preparing to leave, should have a rabies titer drawn before leaving the states, from a lab recognized by New Zealand or Australia, (check their internet sites for the approved labs).The rabies titer is good for two years. A Dextron microchip should be implanted. (Thank-you Chip Eames from Butler, for selling me the "right" variety.) A killed rabies vaccine also needs to be given after the titer is drawn. The pet also should have a supply of at least three Drontal tablets (a broad spectrum de-wormer). One should be given when leaving the states. The other before arriving in French Polynesia, the next, fourteen days before arriving in New Zealand or Australia. A topical insecticide such as Advantage or Frontline should also be applied before arriving in Polynesia and after leaving Panama. One tube will need to be reserved for Australia/New Zealand. I would have at least three of these tubes in the Pets medical bag. Stewart if and when, he ever gets up from his perpetual sprawled state on the cabin floor, will write more about his experience with the Polynesian veterinarian when he updates his log.
August 7th and August 13th (my birthday and Stewart's birthday) are fast approaching. Anyone wishing to send some US DVD movies, books, (T-shirts, sunglasses, reading glasses for trading) empty journals for writing, cards, letters, cash or inheritances-can do so now.
Address packages thusly: The following address is good until July 22, 2001
This address will be good until Aug 15, 2001:
The last address is probably cheaper since it is staying within the states so to speak. Our experience has been that "overnight" deliveries, such as FedEx, Global Express take usually 10-14 days. Regular mail takes 14- 28 days. How many of you knew Samoa was part of the US? Not me, that's for sure.
Hope everyone has a glorious fourth of July!!
That's it for this long winded week. APW
Log for the week of July 8, 2001 Maeva Beach by PS
This is a chance to give you my impressions of "Paradise". Tahiti. Just hearing the name brings images of palm trees, white sandy beaches and beautiful woman. There are all those things here, but there are also a lot of tourists. We rented a car this week. After returning it to the airport, the agent (a nice looking French women) drove me back to the dinghy dock. She asked me how I liked Tahiti. I mentioned that the tourists outnumbered the natives. "Yes." she said: "That's a good thing." Whoa! Just goes to show you that I must have "Paradise" all wrong. Speaking of wrong, Amy mentioned in her last log, that while I was waiting for her in our dinghy, I though we had the exchange rate all wrong. Well, it turned out that my original calculations were correct. $1.00US=135pacific francs. What a relief! I need to spend less time waiting in the dinghy.
Monday, we took "Le Truck" into Papeete. Now you might think their wooden bodies are quaint, but there is a practical reason for this. Space on board a freighter, bound for Papeete, is at a premium. The pile of plywood needed to build "Le Truck" takes up a lot less space than a Blue Bird bus body.
The cost of the ride wasn't bad, 120pf (pacific francs) or about .90 US. It cost 200pf at night. Our mission was to find some charts, make some phone calls and see the Gauguin Museum. The women at the tourist information center said we should rent a car, as the museum was on the other side of the island and "Le Truck" doesn't make many runs there. The charts were across town at "La Nautiqe". We decided to head there first. After a long walk in the hot sun we found it. There was a wide selection of marine hardware, dive gear, paint etc. They had all the charts we needed except Samoa. While looking over the charts at the store, I noticed that one didn't say what measurement the soundings were in. After a close inspection by the French salesman, he said" Thees is a French chart, it must be in meters." I thought it was a bit presumptuous, but who was I to argue. I was impressed by the incredible detail they otherwise had. I'm looking forward to using charts that aren't drawn from information 70 years old and off by several miles.
Next it was off to find the rental car. Even though we had two maps from the tourist center, we spent a good hour trying to find one. I think it's a plot by the tourist bureau to make people wander around in hopes they will do more shopping. Eventually we found an Avis car rental place and waited somewhat patiently for the person ahead of us to straighten out some problems. An hour later we had a car reserved for Tuesday. This is Paradise remember? The phone calls went a bit better. I called Raiatea Carenage and they said they would be ready to haul us when we arrived. Our last stop was to buy tickets to the dance show. For 1200pf each, we got front row seats to see the first of the traditional dance contests that are part of the Tahiti festival.
Tuesday, we got our "little" Renault and went on a driving tour. The driving was easy, as they drive on the right side of the road. Not like our tour of England, where I had to remind myself (or mostly reminded by Ben and Nathaniel) to stay on the left side of the road! Amy was doing the navigating, and as we approached the far side of the island I thought I saw the entrance to the museum. "No, that can't be It." was Amy's reply. "Looks too shabby and it's not the right place on the map."(Remember what I said about the tourist maps?) Well, we drove for another 5 miles before we decided that we had passed it. We turned back and found the entrance. After driving down a long dirt road, we arrived at a small group of buildings. Not much of a first impression. The price was only 600pf each though. Even though there were original paintings, it was still worth the trip. His life history was interesting, and the model of the house he lived in on Hive Oa was well done.
After an hour, we were back on the road. It was getting close to lunchtime, so Amy picked out a restaurant from the "map". We ended up at a road that was washed out, another road that lead up into the mountains where there were orchards and egg farms, and finally decided to head back to Papeete, where we knew there were places to eat. We did manage to find a roadside sandwich shop that had white bread and ham along with Coke. What's wrong with Pepsi? Do I have to resign myself to the fact that Coke really does taste better? I don't think so, but obviously the rest of the world does. This gave us enough calories to explore the "Les Trois Cascades de Faarumai" waterfall on the way back. This was nothing like our last waterfall expedition on Nuka Hiva. We drove about a mile off the main road and ended up at a small park. There was a sign about the legend of the falls and a short path to the base. There we found a mix of natives and tourists taking advantage of the cool water. The only detractions were some tourists doing a "Blare Witch Project" routine, by holding a camcorder up in the air as they walked along and the return of the "Georgetown" wave. Otherwise known as swinging your arms around to keep away the bugs. This wave is well known where we come from and is never confused with waving "Hello" to someone.
Wednesday I worked on the saltwater pump once again. I thought this was the end, but in desperation I smacked it a few times with a hammer and it came to life. The miracles of simple tools. Amy worked on some iron-on logos for the Willy Bolton girls. Seems they were quite impressed with the shirt Amy made for their dad. Hopefully the shirts will help advertise their pet sitting business. Amy spent the rest of the day working on her log for our web page. Sometimes it seems to take forever to get it done.
Thursday afternoon, we headed into town once again. This time to the Internet café, dinner and the traditional dance contest. We had to wait a while at the café, as the cruise ship was in. Several of the passengers were getting their cyberspace fix. By the time we were done updating the log, it was dinnertime. The park in front of the cruise ship was empty by day, but at night it comes alive with food venders of all kinds. They drive up their vans and start the wood barbecue grills. The food varies from pizza to roast pig. I followed Amy around to look at them all. She finally stopped at the crepe van. I asked her how she made her choice and she said she wanted to go where she saw the most natives eating. In Maine, the best way to find a good restaurant is to ask a lobsterman.
While we were eating, I watched the crowds pass by. I couldn't help but notice how the Tahitian women moved. Their upper bodies seemed to float on a cloud. I'm not sure how they do it, but from the waist up, nothing moves. Their shoulders don't swing from side to side and heads don't bob up and down. The Panamanian women could strut around in their high heals, but I've never seen anyone walk like the Tahitians. Amy says they have to learn at a very early age. She tried to move like them, but can't seem to separate her upper body from the rest of herself.
We arrived at the outdoor stadium an hour after sunset. The opening ceremonies were long, but once the drums started beating out their ancient rhythms, things really started hopping. As many as sixty dancers were on the floor, moving their hips at an unbelievable speed. Dressed in authentic costumes (no plastic and glitter) they reenacted age-old ceremonies, telling tales of love and romance. I was glad to see that this time the natives in the audience were the majority. This wasn't put on for the tourists, like the hula dancers I saw in Hawaii. This was a tradition carried on by the support of the people themselves. I was glad to be watching it. Towards the end of the dancing it began to rain. The level of scenery went up a notch as the dancers bodies glistened. The crowds stayed and the show went on more intense then ever. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning the last drumbeat was heard. As we made our way along the street to find "Le Truck" we noticed the streets were very quiet. After walking the length of town without seeing a single one we got a bit concerned. After walking past the bus depot and a streetwalker we decided to head for the water front where there was likely to be a little more life. Sure enough, we found a taxi stand. The last taxi was headed out with a carload of people, but promised to return in five minutes. We asked what the fair was and he said 3000pf. Ouch! We wandered around in a daze. Luckily for us, a Le Truck came our way and we hopped on. It was loaded with a variety of "night" people. The driver's son was in the back, with the passengers, playing loud rock and roll on his CD player. It might have been to keep his father awake. Anyway, an unsavory character (not a native) was sitting across from us with a stupid grin on his face. Kind of creepy. What was even worse was that he got off, a bit drunkenly, at the same stop we did. So did a couple of German cruisers. We hurried down to the dinghy dock. The four of us passed a house without raising the dogs attention, but as we neared the dock, they started barking at the passage of the stupid grinner. Amy said that was a bad sign, as animals recognize bad intent. No sooner were we untied from the dock then there he was. I'm not sure how he caught up to us so fast. Perhaps he was faking the drunkenness. He pretended to be untying a dinghy, but he never left the dock. We reached the boat safely and never saw anymore of the stupid grinner.
Friday we went to town to check out. We had to visit immigration, customs and the port captain all over again. I don't get it. We are still cruising in French territory. After that, it was on to the public market. There was food galore on the first floor and souvenirs on the second. Amy hates grocery shopping, but she loved this place. She has always wanted a shell horn and she found one here. While buying me a Tahitian wood drum, she asked the vender about a shell horn. He dug around in the back of a shelf and came out with a large dusty seashell with a hole in one end. He gave it a blow and Amy was hooked. She tried it herself and did a decent job of sounding like a fog horn. We headed back to the boat and stopped at the "Continent" to do some last minute grocery shopping. There was something about 50 feet of Brie cheese she couldn't resist.
The weekend was spent working on Amy's e-book. I was struggling to find some html code to use. After half the day on Saturday, I stumbled on the right combination to cause a window in the web browser to close. I told Amy that people could just click on the X in the upper right corner but she wanted a more obvious alternative. Anyway, by Sunday afternoon I had the new layout for the book and Amy was busy making animated cartoons for the popup word glossary. I'm going to see if I can get Amy to let me post part of the book on the web site, so we can get some feedback.
Part of the Tahitian celebration includes canoe racing. We go this photo as they were going by our stern. It's now 1am on Monday, so I'm going to call it quits. PS
Log for the week of July 15, 2001 Moorea, French Polynesia to Huahine French Polynesia By, APW
Uh, oh. I have come very close to having an enjoyable time. French Polynesia isn't quite like cruising in Maine, but it's close. We left Tahiti on Monday with favorable light winds and headed for Morrea, the high mist shrouded island we could see to the West. All the tour guides and experienced cruisers had high praise for this island suburb of Tahiti, fifteen miles away. We arrived in Cook's bay as the sun was preparing for its high-speed dive into the ocean and anchored next to our friends on "Willy Bolton". They had told us over the radio that their freezer had died, which luckily was separate from their refrigeration system, but they were still anxious to unload some thawing food. They invited us over for a delicious dinner of roast beef and veggies with pear flan for dessert. We felt bad benefiting from their misfortune. But nonetheless, went home with fish, sausage and lamb chops enough for an army. Stewart was quite excited at the sight of all the fish.
Cook's bay and the bay next to it have been the backdrop for many movie's- most notably "South Pacific". Its steep sides and rocky spires are reminiscent of the Marquises, with the exception that this anchorage could truly be called an anchorage. Since leaving the Marquises we have been blessed with "Maine" type anchorage's-good holding ground and flat calm waters. There are no bugs and there is always a gentle breeze. Both Phil and I sleep all night with no fear of dragging anchor, although Maeva Beach on Tahiti was a little nerve wracking since there were so many boats.
The "Society Islands"- Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea and Bora Bora, along with several smaller islands are all high volcanic islands with a coral reef fringe. The coral reef has sporadic holes in it for boats to pass through. Usually the passes are caused by fresh water run-off, from rivers flowing down the mountains. Coral doesn't grow where there is fresh water, so the passes are arranged at strategic points, usually near very good harbors. The reefs themselves seem to be high enough that they act like a natural break- water, making sure the high seas can't invade the quiet lagoons. The Marquises lack a fringing reef, which is why the anchorages there are so rolly.
We are as far south as we shall go for awhile. Which means since we are in the Southern Hemisphere and it is winter down here, it is as cold as it's going to get. Cook's bay had the added benefit of walling out a lot of the late day hot sun, so it was very comfortable. Daytime temperatures usually are in the mid eighties and the nights go to the high seventies. It may sound very hot, but compared to the Galapagos, it's freezing. Our rugged Maine bodies have now turned into southern hot houseplants. I think I would freeze in Maine water, I get chilled in this Tahitian water, which a year ago would have seemed like a tepid cup of tea.
On Tuesday we took the mountain bikes ashore and did a small loop around the bays and through a dirt inland road. It was nice being able to smell dirt. Unfortunately, I had counted on a shoreside restaurant for lunch. It was closed, so we spent the better part of the trip trying not to listen to our screaming bellies. We were riding by pineapple plantations and fruit orchards. I told Phil it really wasn't stealing if we picked fruit off the trees and left money in its place. He would have nothing to do with that. Stealing is stealing in his book. He would sooner pass out from starvation than eat something that didn't really belong to him. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on whom you talk to, I could find no ripe fruit so we continued on to town. Up, then down, we went, over a steep mountain pass. Bougainvillea, bananas, mangos, pine apples, pine trees, hibiscus and miniature tea roses, fed our noses, leaving our stomach's to suffer. Eventually we got to town and had a baguette sandwich from a roadside stand. Moorea is very pretty, there is no doubt about it, but what I think really enhances the scenery is the underground power. There isn't a single telephone pole or overhead wire to detract from the scenery. What a difference it makes.
Wednesday we went snorkeling along the inside of the reef. It was a desert compared to the Tuomotos. Locals in outrigger canoes, were spearing the fish, so whatever fish were there, hid for their lives. Lots of sea cucumbers as big as loaves of bread, lumbered along the bottom of the lagoon. They are quite yucky to look at and an indication of pollution. We found a four-inch little yellow and black tubular creature, complete with exoskeleton and head and neck movement like a seahorse. It is not in any of our books, so we don't have any idea what it was.
That evening we went to shore to have a fancy dinner at a posh French restaurant I had spied from the boat. It had a porch overhanging the water and a small dinghy landing. As soon as we sat down at our table overlooking the harbor, Phil said the air was perfumed with the unmistakable scent of doggie diarrhea. I could not smell it, as I had my own olfactory battles going on with my beautiful dress which had become the breeding ground for a fine perfume of yacht mould. Nevertheless, I had a very good filet mignon in a morel mushroom sauce, while Phil ordered the most expensive item on the menu, the local crab. His plate arrived looking like a crab and car road kill. The crab was smashed with a very large hammer-like object and then was set to rest, entombed in a shroud of rich brown gravy. Yummy. Now Phil being a Long Islander, is an expert at picking crabs. Without hesitation he grabbed the crab by the horns as it were and began picking it out with the tip of my sharp steak knife, paying little attention to the gooey brown gravy mess dribbling down his fingers, hands and arms…you get the picture. We really couldn't pay much attention to our food, because we were distracted by the VERY LOUD AMERCANS READING THEIR TOURIST BROCHURES ABOUT THE DIFFERENT GRADES OF BLACK PEARLS AND HOW THEY ARE HARVESTED…It had been a long time since we had heard an American accent, let alone the American volume. We were surrounded. The entire restaurant was filled with American tourists, not yachties but vacationers, experiencing paradise. Kathryn on "Willy Bolton" once said very politely: "Americans all seem to be one size larger than everyone else." Between the gravy dribbling yachtsman and his moldy wife, with the VERY LOUD other patrons, it's a wonder the French allow us Americans to enter French Polynesia at all.
The following day we got up early so we could take the fast High-speed ferry back to Tahiti. I had left seven rolls of slide film off the week before to get developed and needed to pick it up. I also wanted to get some more charts at the Pappeete chandlery. The "Ono Ono" is a large jet drive monohull, which comes right into Cooks Bay. It's maneuverability has Phil and I convinced that our next boat, (probably a Botter-Boat, the catamaran idea is dead) will have jet drive. No kidding. The tickets were fairly pricey- 1200 francs one way to Papeete- or, now lets see, if I can get this exchange thing right, about $8.50. Actually, now that I think about it, that really isn't that bad. We bought espresso coffee and French pastries for breakfast. We even had a movie- "Scream"; just what everyone wants to see on a boat at eight in the morning, sliced and diced screaming girls spouting out blood and guts galore. The ferry was fast. It was like riding in a jet airplane in turbulence. Phil and I noticed that on the return trip they conveniently placed barf bags in the pouch in front of the seats. Thankfully, "Scream" was not shown again. We arrived in Papeete forty minutes later.
The chart store did not have the charts we needed, nor were they going to get them. "Arm Chair Sailor" had told us not to buy all our charts or Cruising Guides from the states. Plans change, they said and you can get charts as you go along. Fine advise up until now. We have had no trouble getting French charts in French Polynesia, (which we couldn't get in the states,) but now we need British Admiralty charts and charts made by New Zealand. A cruising guide for Australia would be nice too. No such animal exists in Papeete We bought all the small-scale charts we would need for the world before we left. Now we need the detailed charts and harbor charts. So, we have scanned charts from other boats onto our computer and printed them on 8x11 sheets of paper. It's better than nothing, which is what we had before. All the other boats trade chart CD's and make copies with CD writers. We may resort to that yet. We have cobbed together enough charts to get to Fiji. From there, we hope to be able to buy some from Suva or borrow some more from other cruisers, until we get to Australia where we should be able to buy more. We are up in the air about which direction we shall go-the northern route takes us to Samoa, the Southern route through Tonga. I am favoring the Southern route because it has more wind and fewer days at sea. If anyone sent anything to Samoa please e-mail me; firstname.lastname@example.org so I may get it picked up or forwarded. We really haven't decided yet where we are going; the wind really is the decision-maker.
We wandered around Papeete buying parts and pieces we probably wouldn't see for awhile. Then we took LeTruck over to Maeva Beach to pick up my film. We decided to go to McDonalds at Maeva Beach to see how that one compared with the one in downtown Papeete. We walked by the marina, with its high gates, fences and manicured grounds into the McDonalds next door. With the portable VHF, we radioed Ken on "Sunbow" and invited him in for lunch at McDonalds. He just got a book written by Bob McDermott, the New Zealand weather guru, which he said we needed to Xerox. He was mortified that I had announced to the entire fleet of boats anchored off Maeva beach that we were going to eat at McDonald's. But being the good sport that he is, he obligingly came in.
Phil and I walked through the open-air part of McDonalds to the seaward side. It was built on an incredible patch of land. A stone quay ran along the front. In the center, the quay was cut out and a small horseshoe shaped beach rimmed with white sand shimmered with turquoise blue water. There have been just a few times in my life when I have become speechless at the artistry of man. Where something that man has created is so beautiful, so unbelievable, that I get choked up. Hearing Pavaroti sing Nesun Dorme while we were thousands of miles out at sea was one recent event. In the past, a few paintings have done it, Frank Lloyd Wright houses, one or two cathedrals. But here at McDonald's on Maeva Beach was such an occasion. As I have said before, McDonald's Tahiti is the place to hang out. Here on this beach and along the quay was the entire Tahitian population of beautiful women and bronzed men. They were swimming off the quay topless, amongst the brightly colored fish visible from the wall, sunning themselves along the beach, bouncing in the blue water. Long flowing black hair, bronzed and tattooed bodies-here at last was the Tahiti we had read about from Melville to Gauguin- at McDonalds. Not one cruiser in sight, they would have died to be found at McDonalds.
In fact this is my biggest frustration with my fellow cruisers. There is a morning radio net called the "Also2"or "Awful2", here everyone vies to tell their stories of their "Native experiences" as Phil and I disparagingly call it. Everyone is trying to outdo each other to do the most "native" thing. One lady gushed on and on about "rowing" in a canoe with a bunch of "natives". Phil and I hoped she wasn't actually embarrassing herself by rowing, but was instead paddling...
A few boats actually got held up in the Tuomotos, by helping a fellow to re-wire his house. I can hear the conversation now-
Native to cruiser: "Do you know what this strange thing is?"
Crusier: "Why yes, that is a piece of "e-lec-tric" wire"
Native: "How do you use it"
Cruiser: "Here let me show you. It runs "electricity" through it. You can use this whole cable to wire your house."
Native: "This? Do you know how this is used?"
Cruiser: "That is a dimmer switch.."
Before long the "Native" has his whole house wired at no expense to him and the cruiser leaves feeling he has enriched an island population. Phil and I decided we must try this technique when we get back to Maine. Perhaps we can lure unsuspecting cruisers from those posh ports like Marblehead and Marion, into helping two Mainers renovate their house.
Mainer(Me)to out of state cruiser: "Jeepus my head hertz"
Out of state cruiser: "Why do you suppose that is?"
Me while rubbing my head: "Oy think it could be from the wahtah drips"
Cruiser: "The water drips?"
Me: "The rayun. Last night she was comin' down somethin' feeus"
Cruiser: "Well why didn't you come in out of the rain?"
Me: "I was out of the rayun. I was in my bed."
Cruiser: "Why don't you get your roof fixed?"
Me: "Well you see this heah pile of shingles? If they were arranged all neat like, in a sort of regula pattin on the roof, it moight stop that annoyin rayun. Don't s'pose you'd know how to put them on the roof all neat-like?"
Before too long we would have a new roof, maybe even a cool DVD movie theater... if we really played our cards right.
"Willy Bolton" is the only other boat in the fleet that has recognized this pathetic competition amongst the cruisers. Kathryn summed it up well-"These "natives", they're just regular blokes, tryin' to get on with their lives,".
"Willy Bolton" got their freezer repaired in Moorea by a fellow named Mr. Wong. He did a great job, but their bad luck didn't end there. They took their "Heart worm" pills, the Diethylcarbamazine for elephantiasis, which left Phil and I whoozy and disoriented. The "Willy Bolton" crew felt similar affects. Katherine fell in the water while transferring her body from dinghy to dock and Anthony hit his head, which caused his front tooth to break at the root and fall out. He had to walk around like a toothless seven-year-old, while the dentist on Moorea constructed a new plastic one.
We had them over for waffles to celebrate Bastille Day. We had canned raspberries, (a great French invention), blueberry jam, whipped cream and vanilla ice cream, (Thanks to Mr. Wong), to give the full red, white and blue with prison-bar effect. We traded recipes and found that the Brits measure everything by weight. Kathryn said they don't really weigh everything, she just knows how many tablespoons make an ounce so measures everything by tablespoons. Some recipes require sixteen or so tablespoons. I said "Don't you lose count?" "Oh no" was her reply, I just concentrate". Nevertheless I gave them a measuring cup from "Iwalani's" supplies, which they all looked at with great curiosity. "My uncle had one of these once" was Kathryn's response. Some things "American" are just too hard to adjust to, I suspect they will stick with the measuring spoon. We also introduced them to fake Maple syrup, Marshmallow Fluff, Pam cooking spray and other American Corporate foods.
We left Moorea late on Saturday so we would arrive at Huahine during the day on Sunday. We had light winds most of the way, so motorsailed. We never got our batteries fully charged in port. It is important for these AGM batteries that they get a complete charge. We seemed to have caught the bad luck bug that was on "Willy Bolton". We could have left on Friday, but that was unthinkable, so I painted local scenery, while Phil pottered about greasing things, repairing stuff and looking things over. Still, the raw water pump on the engine is now leaking like crazy; it seems to only last 600 hours. Worse, the watermaker decided it needed a rest too. Luckily, it died after we filled both tanks with fresh water. Phil seems to think it is "a reversing valve spool leak" which he can repair. It is only six months since we got the watermaker back from the factory. He repaired the engine raw water pump once already in Jamaica, so we will need to buy another one. Unfortunately the Westerbeke dealer is in Tahiti. Hopefully we can get it shipped to Riaitea. So, with a leaky engine water pump and no watermaker, we now have our own bunch of repairs to do, just like all the other cruisers.
Even Stewart decided to give his mother a scare, getting very sick all over everywhere, minutes before "Willy Bolton" was to come over for waffles. I gave him some subQ fluids and told him he could have no more fish. He returned to normal the following day.
Saturday night we passed several lit up cruise ships making their nighttime passages between islands. I can say with all honesty, that I can finally look on those ships with not a touch of envy. When I think of the turned down bed sheets and orchids on the pillows, the aseptic little rooms cleaned every day, the food, the dancing, all the navigating left up to someone else…I would much rather be on our little ship Iwalani. The pale pink people are shuttled around like two legged cattle on catamaran speedboats and buses when on shore. Each day they see a new island in French Polynesia, each night they sleep with no worries of dragging anchor, or running into a partially submerged containers and yet, I wouldn't want to trade places with any of them for the world. What on earth has happened to me?
My seasickness appears to be cured. In fact I can recommend these steps for anyone wishing to overcome mal du mer. Of course there are many people out there, who would rather remain seasick because they just don't like messing about in boats. That's OK too. But, these steps will work if you want to get over the dreaded disease- and there is scientific logic behind each one.
1.) The seasick individual must go for an overnight cruise in the boat by him or herself. This is the most important thing on the list.
2.) Keep it hot. Food should be spicy. Tabasco sauce should be used on everything. If the temperature is cold, the person should wear warm clothes.
3.) If you are sick, eat and drink canned pears in heavy syrup once every hour, in very small amounts.
4.) Don't be macho about drugs. one quarter Scopolamine patch, changed every three days if you weigh less than 200 lbs., works well.
We arrived in Huahine on Sunday. The fringing reef juts out quite far. If we had come at night Phil thinks we would have run aground. There is one boat already decorating the reef. It ran aground last week and is a total loss. According to Mr. Wong, the freezer specialist, Huahine is far nicer than Bora Bora or Riaitea, which are quite "touristy". Currently we are anchored in a sheltered harbor called Bourgayne bay. We spent over an hour yesterday circling around trying to find a place to anchor. Phil was up in the crow's nest while I stayed at ground level steering. We only had two choices of water depth- six inches or ninety feet. So, we have all three hundred feet of chain out and are anchored on mud in ninety feet of water. The rest of the boats are anchored around the corner out by the reef, which Phil will not do- "That's not an anchorage! What if the wind shifts 180 degrees and blows forty knots." So we are by ourselves in this strange deep sheltered bay. I can't imagine a landscape that can drop so sharply; it is definitely something that needs to be explored.APW
Log for the week of July 22, 2001 Raiatea, French Polynesia by PS
Monday, while we were still in Huahine, we went on an "Amy Tour". While studying the charts, she saw a lake on the north side of Huahine. She thought we should try to reach it by dinghy. We packed up the Grape with oars, outboard, sail rig and lunch (which I should have inspected before we left but... ), then headed out for a 10 mile round trip. The Grapes excursions, miles from the "Mother Ship", are getting to be a regular thing. Kind of adds a small-scale adventure to the "BIG" one.
We motored at first, because of a head wind and we had to go under a low road bridge. Once on the other side we entered Maroe Bay. There we saw a cruise ship so out of proportion with it surroundings that it looked like a bath toy in the kitchen sink. It did have the benefit of providing us a bit of a lee for the rising headwind though. As we approached the eastern side of the bay we headed north, behind the barrier reef. We skirted some shoals and ran aground on others till we reached the river flowing out of the lake. Here we had to row and pole the dinghy, as the water was too shallow for the outboard. This was no ordinary river. It was about fifty feet wide, but there were "V" shaped, stone fish traps blocking off all but a six-foot pass. This pass was behind several houses that over hung the water. As most of them were open sided, it was like sneaking through a strangers back room. We were a bit embarrassing to have the lady of the house turn from her laundry to see two yachties drifting by not six feet away. After navigated past the houses and fish traps we reached the lake. We saw some ancient ritual sites made from large flat stones standing on edge. We also saw a pretty church right next to a very ugly school. I'm not sure how they got so close together, but it was a startling scene.
By now it was time for lunch. With our backs to the bad architecture, Amy opened the picnic basket. She popped open a can of something and spread it on a cracker. "Here's lunch." she said. As the cracker approached my mouth I hesitated. Was that the smell of cat food? Because I have the policy of trying anything once, I put it in my mouth. Whoa. Stop everything! I swallowed the first bit and quickly moved the cracker down wind. "What is this?" I asked. "Pate' de Foie." she replied. "Is that French for cat food?" "It's a fancy French food." "Oh, like Fancy Feast brand cat food. Did you pack it by mistake?" "No, I wanted to introduce you to the local cuisine. Its also called liver pate." "Do we have anything else to eat?" "No." So much for replacing the calories I burned rowing. Inspecting the lunch basket will be on my list of things to do before leaving on an "Amy Tour". The return trip was uneventful, thanks to my following a local fisherman, who happened to be going my way.
Tuesday was "Fix the Spectra Water Maker day". I was not happy to have it break down. I chose Spectra because it was the least complicated and most energy efficient. So much for that theory. Life took on a whole new outlook. Lugging questionable water in containers we had yet to buy. No more showering every day. You get the picture. We had become accustomed to a high quality, unlimited, water supply. I read the manual several times and had Amy read it also. I wanted a second opinion on interpreting the instructions. When I was making half-model kits, I learned that people can interpret something entirely different from what I intended to say.
Anyway, I started with the first item on the trouble-shooting list and had the same results. Asymmetrical pressures from the Clark Pump. One side was working fine; the other wasn't producing enough pressure to make water. I systematically replaced parts till late in the afternoon. Finally, after replacing yet another perfectly good-looking part, it started working again. As a reward, we went snorkeling. I'll have to admit this was nearly as good as Rangiroa. There were no sharks or moray eels though, which Amy thought made it even better. If you would like to see Amy's painting of the fish, check out Stewart's eighth log.
Wednesday, after snorkeling again, we raised the anchor and headed north to Haavai Bay. We motored the five miles, as I wasn't keen on threading our way through the coral under sail. As you may have read in Amy's log, a local sailboat, newly wrecked on the reef, served as a grim reminder of what can happen in "Paradise". We anchored in about 90 feet of water at the head of the bay. This entailed putting out all 300 feet of our chain and backing down under full power till we stopped going backwards. This is the rule for us. The anchor isn't set till we stop dragging under full reverse. If we drop anchor under sail we do it while going down wind. You know the anchor is set when the bow dips with a jerk and the boat swings around! This bay was similar to the one on Moorea. Deeply cut between to steep mountains with a tarred road following the shoreline.
Fast moving cars and trucks made it unfriendly to bike riding, so we decided to visit the town via the Grape. This time it was only a mile away. We checked in with the Gendarme and tried to find an Internet café to post Amy's log. Along the way we tried, or should I say I tried, to pass a grocery store. For someone who hated shopping, Amy now has the bug BAD. She can't resist the call of fresh food. With armloads of foodstuffs we finally reached the café. It had the best view of any we had visited so far.
Thursday we headed for Raiatea, 25 miles away. We motor-sailed for a couple of hours to charge our batteries and cool the refrigerator. It was a relief to shut down the engine and enjoy a nice "Iwalani Breeze". Wind over the stern with whitecaps all around. We cleared the entrance at Teavaptii without any problems and motored to Raiatea Carenage, on the west side of the island. Once again we had to anchor in 90 feet of water. We went ashore and visited "Voyager" who was hauled out for an insurance survey. We got the lowdown on who to see and where to go. Having this advance scout information is a great help. As it turned out, our original contact, Dominic, was on Huahine salvaging the boat on the reef. Ariel and Jacques were very helpful and we made arrangements to be hauled on Tuesday morning. While heading back to the boat, we looked over the trailer they would be using to haul us out. It wasn't very encouraging. It was a homemade rig, using a winch on the back of a Fiat tractor. I expressed my doubts to Jacques but he repeatedly said "No problem." Where have I heard that before...?
Friday we headed in to town on our bikes to fix some problems on Amy's log and update Stewart's. After 4 miles of windy, curving roads we arrived at the café Voyager had told us about. This was the highest tech café we had seen since Tahiti. The connection was fast, for Paradise that is, and I got things fixed in record time. When we returned to the boatyard we invited Rick and Sue, from Voyager, out to Iwalani for some of my homemade pizza. We had a great time talking about cat care (Voyager has two cats) and sailing characteristics of boats. This helped fill both Amy's and my intellectual, social conversation "Well" so to speak.
Saturday we headed to Tahaa, just north of Raiatea. As we were leaving the boatyard we saw a sailboat, somewhat askew, being towed by a powered catamaran. It was the boat from the reef on Huahine. Once again floating in it's element.
We motored through the inside reef. It a bit trickier then it needs to be. If only the French would put some kind of identifying mark on their buoys. They are colored, but there isn't a letter or number on a single one! Thus, all the reds and all the greens look exactly the same. I'm sure the French would reply, "But you should know where you are." To which I would respond, "If I knew where I was I wouldn't need your charts would I?" God help the Frenchman who has lost his way. When he finally comes upon a red buoy, it could be any one of hundreds scattered across all of French Polynesia! Anyway, we went about two-thirds the way up Hurepiti Bay and again anchored in 90 feet of water. On the way in Amy called Alain on channel 9 on the VHF and asked about he tours of vanilla plantations. It turned out that he only does them during the week and Monday was already booked. As we were supposed to haul out on Tuesday morning, it looked like we were out of luck. Our only hope is that our haul-out gets put off till Wednesday.
Amy and I tried snorkeling on a nearby reef, but visibility was about 4 feet and the coral was mostly dead. On the way back to Iwalani, we visited the only boat we've seen with deadeyes and lanyards. It was a gaff rigged Colin Archer type ketch. Amy and I were taking bets on what the hull was made from. I said concrete and Amy said steel. She was at the helm of Grape, so I convinced her to sail by so we could find out. I won the bet and we were invited aboard. Dick and Pat are an interesting couple. They are from London and have been sailing "Irene" for about 12 years. He started with a Jay Benford design, but ended up doing most of the design work himself, because there were so many mistakes. Irene is 48 feet long and weighs 31 tons! I thought Iwalani was heavy. He did all the work himself and is a member of the "Have Not" club. They don't have refrigeration, electric windless, water maker, running water, SSB, microwave, etc. I think we could have them over for tea, but I would have to cover the instruments with a cushion and not let them see down below. Our first impression as an "Old Gaffer" would be ruined if they knew we had the "Have" stuff, including an ice cream maker!
Sunday we did some computer work, myself writing the log and Amy on some veterinary paperwork. It was 2:30 in the afternoon before we got to shore with our bikes. It was great biking though. Newly tarred roads and no cars. Sunday is a day of rest in French Polynesia, so that could be the reason for the lack of traffic. After riding about 10 kilometers we headed back. There was a restaurant open, so we stopped by for a drink. They were out of beer, so we ordered a three-punch vanilla. The proprietor's young daughter came out with two small glasses. Each one had three ice cubes, a table spoon of undissolved sugar and about a shot glass worth of some lime/vanilla tasting liquid that might have contained alcohol. Needless to say, it didn't quench our thirst. We paid the 1200pf ($9 US) and finished off the water that was in our backpack.
When we got back to the dinghy, a young boy watched us as we folded our bikes up. He had been playing a game by himself. It looked like Bocci Ball. You throw a small rock out in front of you, then try to throw three heavy balls as close as you can to the mark. I asked him if he would show us how to play. He didn't speak any English and I didn't speak any French, but after a short time he got the idea. We followed him over to his friends yard and started the game. With beginners luck I won the first round. They got Amy to join in and we had a great time. As we played along, I noticed that they would imitate us like a parrot. I'm not sure they understood what they said, but they really wanted to speak English. Soon they were pointing to things and asking how to say them. They pointed to a water meter, a tree, fishing buoys, anything that was in site. Teacher's say that kids are wells waiting to be filled and that was certainly the case here. It was getting dark when more family members returned from the dancing that we had seen earlier in the day. The father was a bit of a drinker, as his son had told us before he arrived, and wanted us to join him. We declined as politely as we could, Amy explaining to him in her best French, that we had a cat on our boat waiting to eat his dinner. He might have thought we had to get back to eat our cat dinner. I'm not sure. As we walked back to our dinghy, the whole family surrounded us. They wanted us to return to their house. I wasn't sure what was happening at this point. I knew we weren't going to be cooked for supper, but I was still a bit uneasy. They urged and cajoled us in the direction of the house. It was then that we saw what they were up to. They presented us with some wonderful vanilla beans and two beautiful cowry shells. It totally threw us for a loop. We hadn't known these people for 15 minutes, couldn't understand a word they said and here they were giving us a piece of their island. We thanked them profusely and promised the children we would return tomorrow. As we cleared the shore they serenaded us with Polynesian songs. We will return with home made chocolate chip cookies for the kids and a Georgetown Pottery pitcher for the family. PS
Log for the week of July 29, 2001 Raiatea French Polynesia byAPW
We had scheduled a haul out with Raiatea Carenage while we were in Tahiti, three weeks ago. The time has finally come to take care of the underside of the old girl's skirts, so to speak. When we arrived, we didn't realize there are actually two separate marinas, six feet apart. The Carenage had a rickety travel lift, with worn shackles holding the two lifting straps, and Raiatea Marine has a homemade trailer powered by a rusty old Fiat tractor. It was an agonizing few moments deciding which piece of worn machinery to put Iwalani's life in. At that point, we thought the business's were the same. As the owner of the Carenage had been over at Huahine trying to salvage the sailboat off the reef, we decided to go with the French boys with the Fiat tractor.
Tuesday afternoon, only six hours behind schedule, the yard called us on the VHF to bring Iwalani in. We motored her through the small breakwater and got her lined up on the metal cradle. Two Polynesian boys, wearing face masks, dove down in the murky water, polluted by the cruising boats staying in the slips, and positioned the blocking under her forty-four thousand pounds. With a puff of smoke and a cough of life, the Fiat tractor sputtered into gear, driving the cables which slowly raised Iwalani onto dry land. Inch by agonizing inch, she slowly crept upward. Four hours later, she was out of the water and Phil and I began the horrible lifestyle of- "living on the hard". The bathroom is now a sixteen-foot slippery ladder climb down, across the yard to a unisex toilet and shower. If you forget your toilet paper or the key, you must do the whole thing in reverse to retrieve them. One night Phil went up and down the ladder six times for me, as I had forgotten first the key and then the toilet paper. Any other husband after the first climb back would have said "get it yourself".What a guy. The bathroom is really industrial and makes St. Augustine Marine, look like the Plaza in New York. Our marina visits tend to be on the Industrial side.
Boat yards everywhere are rusty shelves housing the remains of many broken dreams. These two yards are no different. The Carenage was successful in getting the wrecked boat from Huahine. It belonged to a seventy year old woman who was sailing too close to the reef. The week that it went aground we had very high surf in this neck of the world and she got caught in the grasp of a set of the "three sisters" -the monster waves that come in sets of three, which we first met on the run from Jamaica to Panama. The woman tried to throw the engine in reverse when she saw she was going to be lifted onto the reef, instead of powering forward and surfing off. The full power ahead while turning technique, had been what I had used for trying to get Iwalani off the sand bank in the Inland waterway in the US, a technique which only drove us into deeper sand. Backing up would have been the maneuver of choice there. So I figure, in a save-the-ship situation, you have a fifty-fifty chance of getting it correct. The salvagers patched the hull with plywood and fiberglass while she lay on the reef and dragged her through four feet of water back into the lagoon. The patches have been removed and her hull now sports a wide a big jack'o lantern grin. All it takes is two minutes of inattentiveness and your boat can be in similar shape. I am prone to "driftiness" and I need to keep pictures of these boat yard wrecks, firmly etched in my mind. This is also the last resting place of many boats whose owners have decided to go back to the U.S., disillusioned with paradise. One fellow with a fast racing type boat, just went back in the water following a bottom painting. His two boys and wife are going back to Michigan leaving him with the boat. He has decided to go back against the trade winds to the Virgin Islands. The two boys sit on the deck glumly staring into the water, while the wife comes down to the dock from her hotel room, once or twice a day and stands with her hands on her hips staring at the fiberglass creature her husband prefers to her. Too many people get swept up in the romantic notion of how it must be to sail your own boat around the world. Too few can see the reality.
We met another cruiser a few nights ago, a tiny chip of a girl weighing less than 100lbs, who decided to go ashore after dark for a walk by herself. She was assaulted, robbed, but luckily, thanks to an accurately placed kick, not raped, while her assailant took off with a backpack of money and credit cards. Young teenagers wielding hacksaws, presumably for cutting the locks on the outboards, boarded two other boats at an anchorage not far from here, sometime during the night. Probably a "native experience" these cruisers won't chalk up on their score cards. So, while the Marquesas have no "how you say, take without authorization", the rest of French Polynesia is already under the influence of Western crime. If you come here to get away from all the bad stuff of western society, you can thank television, for making sure it won't get left behind.
Phil and I are doing better, with our homesickness. We have a pretty good view of Bora Bora to the west. It is an exotic looking island with one drum shaped peak standing next to a more "normal" looking conical peak. If I really squint hard enough and scrunch my face up, I can get it to look almost like the Camden Hills. Almost. When I was a kid my mother used to threaten my sister and I, by saying we would be shipped off to Bora Bora, if we didn't behave. There it now sits, the ill-fated island of all my childhood angst. We have much work to do before we can sail over and explore the infamous Bora Bora dive sites and restaurants. Unfortunately, as soon as Iwalani was hauled out , the wind changed direction to the Northwest, clouds rolled in and it has rained non-stop for five days. I guess we could be stuck in worse places. There are no grocery stores near the marina. Fortunately our bikes have been a godsend. We pedal two miles to town, where I load up Phil the mule, and we pedal back. There is a small café down the road from the marina, called Café Mimosa, where we have been getting very reasonably priced meals, while we wait for the bottom to dry out enough for paint.
We had hoped to get some really great poisonous bottom paint from the French. I thought any country that blew up atolls with nuclear armaments would think nothing about putting all sorts of heavy metal nasties into their bottom paint. I was kind of disappointed when Ariel and Jaques announced "Ah oui, you have nothing to worry about with strong chemicals. Our paint, she is friendly to environment." Oh well, everyone is entitled to a change of heart. We have bought CAMI paint to touch up the bare wood spots. After that we are going to use a Nautix barrier coat and then their ablative paint. Phil and I are a little worried about this paint, it seems pretty watery. But its all relative I guess, the Micron was deliciously thick and creamy and that didn't work at all. Ariel, said he painted his boat two years ago, I did look at it and it seems to be remarkably free from growth. Every two weeks I had to scrub Iwalani's underside. Each time I washed off a layer of this soap-like ablative paint. If I have to scrub the Nautix every two weeks, it will be gone in two months.
Our "battle of the bilge" continues. Despite the small amount of water, the tropical protozoa still prosper. We don't know if the sulfuric stench is part of the death throes, or the result of exuberant protozoal partying. I received some long overdue AVMA journals from my sister, which I tried to save for reading, one, per day. Unfortunately, I gobbled them up, all at once. When I was in private practice the arrival of these journals were met with "Oh no, not another, I haven't had a minute to read the last." Now they were like candy for a diabetic. Anyhow, one of them contained an article about curbing flatulence in dogs. The malodorous properties of "fart gas" are hydrogen sulfide and methanthiol. The very two compounds I blame for Iwalani's problem. The article explained how yucca, zinc acetate and activated charcoal can work in curbing these sulfur containing gases. I didn't think we had anything to lose, so I threw some charcoal briquettes, (granted they are not activated charcoal,) a few old zincs- including French Polynesian pennies and nickels, which appear to be made of zinc (though they are not zinc acetate), into the bilge; I did not go so far as to throw in a bunch of yucca. The results were disappointing. We still stink. We need Iwalani to leak more, in order to stink less.
The French as a nation are all keen on sailing fast. Trimarans are the boat of choice here. Two Mainer's, boat designer's Dick Newick and Walter Green, are go-fast-demigod's. The other folk hero is Bernard Montessier. In the 1960's he finished ahead of the pack in a solo circumnavigation race and decided not to stop at the finish line, but to keep on going. He ended up in the Tuomotos, trying to make a go of growing food on a soil-less atoll. He sailed to Tahiti and came back with loads of loam. When rats tried to ruin the coconut crop, he imported cats, which eventually overran the island. At the beginning of the week, we were anchored behind the last boat he owned on Tahaa.
We went ashore to find out about "vanilla tours" and to deliver the chocolate chip cookies to Frey, Milton and all the kids. No one but Milton was around. He had been hard at work repairing his fishing boat. Frey and the others were off at the party, the last installment of the Haeve dance festival. He bowed and thanked us for the cookies, never once speaking a word. He didn't understand that I was giving him the plate too. When he emerged from the house he gave us yet another bag of vanilla.
We crossed back over the harbor to the "vanilla tours" and met Alain, a French man who came in the early seventies on board a lightweight fast French sailboat and carved a living off the tourists on Tahaa, giving tours of vanilla plantations. His house was very similar to my mother's "hippy house" in Vermont, with the exception that there was no wall on the fourth side. The outside was built into the inside, by extending the floor out onto the lushly flowered yard. Bugs, high winds and rain, don't seem to be a problem. Unfortunately, his schedule and Iwalani's haul out were not coinciding, but we left with an armload of lemons and hopefully will be able to get the tour when we are done with the bottom painting. He told us of a dirt, four wheel drive road that runs North/South cutting the island of Tahaa in two, which we could have taken on our bike tour had we known about it. Maybe next time.
However, we feel that time is running out. Even though we are ahead of the pack, we have less than one month left on our French Polynesian visas and three thousand miles to go, before we get to Australia, where we will wait out the cyclone season- just us and the flies. All the other boats are heading to New Zealand. When we were in Tahiti, a fellow came by in a dinghy, with a brochure of this "great" marina in New Zealand. It showed a picture of thousands of masts in a sea of fiberglass hulls, all fenced in, in a private secure gated facility with all the comforts of home. This was supposed to be a selling point?
I am worried about Stewart. I think we may be seeing the return of his thyroid tumor. He has vomited twice in the last two weeks- unusual for him. His appetite while always "healthy", appears to be back in hyper-state. He stole the tomatoes out of a tuna-baggette sandwich I left on the table, while I went to holler down to Phil that his lunch was ready. Stew said he thought the sandwich was for him. He also might be sleeping less, although that is a hard thing to tell with him. We have decided to go to Pago Pago, so I can mail off a blood sample to the states to re-test him. I can not palpate anything, but when his T4 levels were around 12, it was still "iffy" whether I was feeling something or not. I will have to do research about where in the South Pacifc we can get I131, in case his results come back high. Hopefully, I am just being paranoid, still, I can't imagine completing this voyage without him. APW