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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Papeete, Tahiti

It's been another busy week! We ended up spending a few more days at Apataki waiting for a front to blow through. This gave us a chance to do some more reef walking and snorkeling, and chores like defrosting the freezer and baking bread. But it was quite windy and rainy so we also had a bit of down time.

The most interesting event was seeing Tutatis hauled out at the carenage (boat yard). The operation is similar to the one at Marina San Carlos but with even less water and no dock at the ramp. Tutatis draws only 6' but Tony (Alfred's son) was in the water during the entire operation, first to dig a ditch in the sand using pressure water, and then to make sure the boat was positioned on the trailer correctly. After hours of work the trailer raised the boat out of the water, but it was just slightly crooked. Everyone took a break to wait for the tide to come up a little, lower the boat back in the water, and reposition it on the trailer. They finally dragged it all into the yard before sunset with a combo back ho/front loader. There are absolutely no supplies available other than what can be delivered by plane so you'd have to have everything you needed for repairs or maintenance before you hauled out.

The next day we left for a two night sail to Papeete in the Society Islands of French Polynesia. It was a rolly downwind sail with a wicked half hour squall the first night. The wind gusted to 45 knots and it poured rain. But we left Apataki with two reefs in the main and only a little bit of the jib out because we knew we were likely to go through some heavy rain clouds. John hand steered through two more squalls that night but nothing as bad as the first one. Rather than get bulky foul weather gear soaked John prefers to wear swim trunks and his wet suit jacket to stay warm out in the rain. Fortunately there were only a couple of light showers during my watches, and nothing requiring hand steering.

We arrived after sunrise on Friday as planned and called Port Control for permission to enter the busy harbor. We stood off for a few minutes to let one of the Moorea ferries go ahead of us. We then turned left into the harbor only to be met by a wall of canoes in the distance. As part of the Heiva festivities in July canoe races were being held last weekend and Friday was a practice day. At first we tried to stay to the left side of the harbor, but after the canoes started it was apparent that was the favored side, and we dodged right to stay out of their way. After they had passed we needed to go left again to get around and behind the buoyed start line, and into the ferry terminal and yacht quay area to our right.

The yacht quay now has three docks floating perpendicular to the wall complete with mooring lines, electricity, water, and locked gates. I imagine some of the flavor of the old days of tying directly to the wall has been lost, but this cuts out the hassles of crossing anchors with other boats and jockeying for position on the wall. I can't imagine what being on the wall must have been like when the ferry wakes went through rocking all the boats. We are the odd boat in that we're tied a good 12' from the dock to keep Ziggy from jumping off. We also chose a spot at the very end of the dock to keep us far from the gate which leads right out to a boardwalk along the main waterfront street where Ziggy would be toast in no time flat. Just like we did in Hawaii we get from the boat to the dock in our dinghy which is on a pulley system for going back and forth.

Rather than waste our first day here sleeping we charged out into the city to find Cost and Company which turned out to be a mini version of Costco at almost twice the price. But they had Kirkland coffee and just about everything else you could want if you hadn't seen it in years. Since we were still well stocked from Hawaii we drooled but didn't buy much. We didn't quite make it to the Champion grocery store at the other end of town before a huge downpour so we took shelter across the street from a Protestant church and watched the Tahitians in their finery (the ladies hats are something to behold) going to Friday evening services. The store had very French things like brie and truffles, and we tried to buy only what we needed.

Back to the boat to drop our purchases, shower, and head out to the roulottes in the town plaza for dinner. There must be close to a dozen vans to choose from, most of which feature Chinese food which is usually cooked to order on woks and grills right outside the roulotte. We ate at another chow mein roulotte last night, but next time I'd like to try one of the crepes.

On Saturday we got a late start out to the industrial area of town to investigate the local version of West Marine, and a real Ace hardware. Unfortunately because things open at 7 AM, they close by Noon on Saturday (and anywhere from 4-6 during the week!), but that made walking around a little easier. The sidewalks here are almost as uneven as in Latin America and cars use most of what would be sidewalks for parking. On the way back to the boat we stopped at Les 3 Brasseurs (a waterfront brew pub) for some refreshment, and after lunch I did some laundry in the rain and we filled our tanks.

Our Fourth of July was a non event. There was a party on the dock in front of us, but they all looked under 40 and the babes in bikinis and the beer bong reminded us of the annual bash on the Delta back home! We started our day early by visiting the big Sunday city market for veggies, finished our shopping at the Champion, and did some more laundry. No fireworks, and early to bed for us.

The last couple of days were spent doing a lot of walking trying to get our paperwork sorted out and ordering duty free liquor. Since we didn't understand that we had to do the former before we could do the latter, we made a lot of wasted trips which fortunately helped work off the pan du chocolate and other wonderful pastries we bought at the market. We hope to take delivery of a case of very questionable (but cheap!) Martinique rum this afternoon. We've decided to stay one more night in hopes of watching an evening of practice dancing and music before the Heiva festivities officially get under way. In the morning we'll get fuel and be on our way to Moorea.


{GMST}17|32.420|S|149|34.228|W|The yacht quay Papeete|Papeete{GEND}