Tahiti...The Big City July 6 2007
It feels great to be anchored in a calm place...especially after the boisterous trip from the Tuamotu Islands. Only one casualty of the trip...lost the screen on the kitchen porthole/window after numerous wave splashes on the port side (up and over the cockpit roof...yikes). Oh well, it is a clearer view now. We entered Tahiti through the main pass into Pape'ete and received permission from the Harbormaster (Port Directeur) to enter as well as permission again when passing the airport...you have to ask to cross the airport because 747 and larger planes could clip your mast if timing is exactly...wrong.
Tahiti is in the Society Island group and has an hourglass shape...due to a now dormant double volcano. Its first European arrivals were navigators and first settlers were English Protestant missionaries (1797). The entire island is surrounded by a coral barrier reef which provides great protection for anchoring and great fish viewing for snorkeling. Pape'ete is the largest city in French Polynesia (population more than 120,000). To us this means an amazing variety of available provisions and services. We took Trouble to the Taina Marina dinghy dock and walked the short distance to the local method of transport...Le Truck. This seems to be the one bargain in French Polynesia...approx $1 for a ride into town...and pretty fun, too. Le Truck is a flat bed truck with a gazebo glued on top. We were dropped right in the center of Pape'ete for an easy check-in with the Gendarmerie. Phew - now, exploring with abandon!
The big city was quite overwhelming to be honest...but we managed to rise to the challenge. Energized by a burger, fries and a cocktail for lunch at a sidewalk cafe...wonderful...Paris in the South Pacific. The main goal for the day was to find a sail loft to get a new spinnaker made. Found it...but no luck - they just do repairs. Darn but that is okay because we had luck via email with a Hong Kong sailmaker recommended to us by another cruiser...measurements were sent off and in four weeks we will have a new spinnaker delivered to Bora Bora. That is a huge accomplishment. Speaking of email we have wi-fi on the boat (they pronounce it wee-fee) - yippee!
We saved the visit to the supermarket for the return trip...just a short walk from the dinghy dock but closer than Le Truck. Holy guacamole! It was amazing! Loads of fresh fruits and veggies, gorgeous exotic flowers, fresh baked goods and two aisles of cheese (the French have their positive bits)!!! Okay, this variety comes with a hefty price tag but we were warned about this and will try to supplement our existing stores rather than do full scale provisioning. That said, comparative price shopping has its benefits...quick currency conversion is to just move the decimal two places to the left.
Our friends on s/v Sifar and s/v Serai have arrived and we have been catching up with the goings on since we were last together. Sunday is a big market day in Pape'ete with the main market in town transformed into a Farmer's Market on steroids. The local population arrives and shops for the weekly family meal every Sunday afternoon. But they start early...market opens at 3am! Erin took Trouble and picked up Ems and Merel at 6:30am...the boys stayed back and convened for some poached eggs on toast aboard Barefeet...at 8am. We girls had shopping bags ready and boarded Le Truck. The Market did not disappoint! We shopped until we could not carry anything more; cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, basil, cilantro, pamplemousse, pineapples, bananas, eggplants, lettuce. Several items were sold in quantity so we pooled money and split the goods...after all, our boats can only store fresh items for so long. Additionally, there were gorgeous flower head pieces, leis and bouquets; roasted pig cleavered into pieces on tree stumps; and various fresh fish...sold whole or filleted...even tuna wheeled in on a flatbed hand cart...four feet is pretty heavy for a fish!
Unfortunately, the strong winds have not yet subsided (as forecast) so it was a very wet ride back through the white caps in the anchorage to unload our treasures. We all stayed on boats today...kinda like a snow day in New England...but no cabin fever quite yet. Boat projects, reading and meal planning for all the new, fresh items!! Not withstanding the winds this is a lovely anchorage. It is a spot between Tahiti and Moorea with coral reef for exploring just yards from the boat. The faint daytime city sounds fade as the sun goes down so that we sleep to waves curling on the reef and awake to roosters cock-a-doodle-doing. It is calming.
We have continued along doing boat projects and exploring ashore at a leisurely pace. Then, wham...all of a sudden we realized that the Fourth of July was two just days away...an annual tradition usually spent in Hingham with the town parade in the morning and a backyard barbeque in the afternoon at Grandma's (a decade long tradition for Erin and a lifetime tradition for Chris). Feeling a bit homesick we had a "backyard" barbeque on Barefeet and invited several boats in the anchorage for burgers and dogs. Prep went off almost without a hitch...repaired our stars and stripes with sail tape and made an all American shopping list before heading to the French Carrefour supermarket...do you see where the "almost without a hitch" is going?! The shopping list was nearly completed...a mere two exceptions...no American mustard (just an entire aisle of Dijon mustard) so we settled for the "plainest" mustard we could find (that is...it did not say Dijon on the bottle) and hot dogs...it was a choice between Chuck Wagon brand chicken franks in the freezer section and Dutch hot dogs in a jar on a room temperature shelf...we went for the Dutch jar of dogs. Back aboard Barefeet we made deviled eggs, sliced burger fixins, baked two apple pies & lemon squares, and filled a cooler with ice (from the marina...no, we do not have an ice maker).
It was a great day! Beautifully sunny with girls in sundresses and guys in Hawaiian shirts. Chris at the grill and Erin picking up some folks who trekked all the way over from another anchorage via bus to the marina dinghy dock. It was an amazing potluck spread with potato salad, coleslaw, spicy pickles (home canned), cous cous salad, Oriental shrimp salad, veggies and dip, bread pudding, pecan pie and brownies...can you guess which items were brought by the Americans?! The guest list was a bit international but no feelings were bruised; Norway (it was their first Fourth picnic), Holland and UK added to the US attendees. There was a bit of "Name That Tune" a la iPod and several swapped sailing stories. The Americans were the first to depart because they had other picnics to attend...the day went well into the evening with round two and three through the remaining food buffet. Oh, and the bottled dogs were not bad once grilled and were gobbled up happily.