I agree with Dallas that Papeete turned out to be not very charming, but it was a city nonetheless, and I was excited to see what it had to offer. In particular, I was hoping to find diverse and reasonably priced groceries, some interesting foods to eat that were prepared by someone other than me, cold coke and beer from the fountain and tap, respectively (for the first time since Panama), and some cultural exhibitions of some sort. I managed to experience most of these. The fountain drink was the first item to be checked off the list, and despite that it was 3x the price of a Coke from 7-11, it tasted just like it. Yum.

Next came the food. Wes, Tiff, and I went on a walking tour of the entire downtown area on Monday and picked up some fresh tuna at the large open-air market (just ignore the flies) that Tiff later seared to perfection. Later, in diligently doing our duty for all of you back home by exploring what the nightlife of Papeete has to offer (the short answer: nothing on a Monday night), Tiff and I not only got a cold draft beer from the local brewery but also found a caravan of trucks representing various restaurants set up near the cruise ship dock and treated ourselves to a delicious crepe with Nutella inside. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of sampling Nutella, it is a hazelnut-cocoa spread for pastries, bread, etc. that is popular in Europe and apparently, French Polynesia. I’m not sure why it never caught on in the U.S., but I guess it’s hard to compete with the flavor and protein of good ol’ PB&J. Sending kids to school with Nutella sandwiches for lunch would probably elicit envy from classmates and concern from lunchroom aides.

DSC_1118 Very fresh fish from Papeete market

While I’m digressing on the subject of international food, Dallas has declared that "baguettes are dumb." He expounded, "They are a nice curiosity or international experience, but as far as day to day, they get hard too quickly. Technology has moved beyond that. We can make soft bread now." Just FYI.

In terms of cultural experiences (beyond the baguette), Papeete is not the place. I drug Dallas to the "Maison de la Culture" Tuesday morning only to discover that it is simply a large theater for evening performances. However, when I asked the ticket agent about exhibits, she directed us to a nearby art gallery that had some really beautiful oil paintings, many of which portrayed Polynesians in traditional Polynesian activities (dancing) or dress. One of my favorites was called "The Tuamotu" and showed an older, rotund man standing on the beach of an atoll wearing a simple straw hat, a shirt half-way buttoned, and cotton pants. His face was fairly expressionless, and he was surrounded by three mangy dogs. It really encapsulated what we observed in terms of the simple life on the atolls of the Tuamotus.

The highlight of Wednesday morning is that we were able to pick up our package that Tim and Heather (Dallas and Wes’ brother and sister-in-law) sent via Fed Ex containing our two new Acer laptops–one to replace Tiff’s old Acer that I fried by plugging in the wrong adapter (yes, I continue to make more than my share of mistakes out here), and the other to replace Dallas’ Dell that succombed to the marine environment. They are the perfect computers for the cruising life given their very long battery life (~7 hours!) and compact size. Also included in the package were American magazines (so Brittney’s making another come-back?) and delicious snacks and drink mixes that, if we could find them here, would cost 5x as much. The cost of sending this wonderful package was outrageous, though, so you’ll will have to hold off on sending us that care package you’ve been planning!

We finally got out of Papeete on Wednesday around noon after a few complications. The first was that when Dallas went to clear out with immigration and the port authority, he was told by the men at both windows that he needed to see them first. As Dallas stood there trying to figure out what to do (with a perplexed look on his face, I’m sure), the man at the immigration window threatened that he was leaving, and Dallas would have to return several hours later if he didn’t go there first. Despite the threat, the port captain must have looked more intimidating, as Dallas chose to see him first. Fortunately, it was a good choice, as the other man remained to help him before leaving.

DSC_1143 Dallas trying to figure out how to be two places at once

Another complication was that our anchor was stuck, tangled on a thick line. This was anticipated, so we had a very long dockline at the stern that was used to control the boat’s movement while dealing with the anchor so as to keep us from hitting other boats, slamming against the quay, or other such calamities. Dallas dove down to considerable depth to free the anchor and is still trying to get the hearing to come back and the ringing to stop in his left ear, but other than that, there was no harm done.

The final complication was having the oil pressure alarm sound yet again on the port engine. Dallas and Wes didn’t feel comfortable heading out on only the starboard engine with parts and supplies so close, so we ended up heading around the west side of Tahiti to Marina Taiina to spend a night at anchor and take care of the problem. Dallas fixed it relatively quickly with an adjustment to the pressure regulator valve that we purchased in Panama, and we headed ashore to grab a beer and take a gander at the gi-normous sailboats docked there. We thought about using the laundry facilities at the marina, but at $15 a load, we figured we’d just do it ourselves. It’s not like we don’t have the time!

DSC_1237 Finishing up in the engine room

DSC_1230 Mega-yachts at Marina Taiiina

Yesterday (Thursday) we sailed over to Huahine. We decided to skip Moorea since we spent an extra night in Tahiti, but we had a beautiful sail past its north shore and snapped some photos, so that’s almost like having been there. The island appeared to have a considerable reef around it, but we hear that the snorkeling is better in Bora Bora. Anyway, en route to Huahine, I read some English news (yay!) from a New Zealand newspaper that we got in Papeete. For the most part, it was similar to current issues and events in an American newspaper (e.g., government spending, social issues such as gay couples’ adoption rights), but there were a couple of stories that I have to share. For one, there was a brief article reminding residents that the voting on "smacking" was ending tomorrow. Whether or not corporal punishment of one’s children should be a criminal offense is being put to a national vote with the "no’s" winning 80% or so. The other story was about a man from Tonga (where we will be going soon) who had moved to NZ and was not aware that it was not OK to cook his dog in the backyard so that he could have it for supper! His response to the media attention was simply, "In Tonga, it is OK to eat the dog. The dog is very good."

DSC_0046 North coast of Moorea

My night watch was challenging. We have gotten used to easy tradewind sailing ("set it and forget it"), but the inter-island runs require a little more effort and skill. The light wind shifted around to the south and was coming from our aft quarter, and we were sailing under the main and jib. In these circumstances, it is apparently very typical on boats like ours for the mainsail to block the wind from the jib, which then flaps around begging for attention. Indeed, it received a couple of hours of my attention until Dallas relieved me on watch and informed me that there is not much you can do in these circumstances to appease the jib. We can’t extend the main out all the way because we have cap shrouds on either side of the boat extending up to the top of the mast (I’ll post a picture to show what I mean.). Anyway, sailing continues to be intriguing as I stumble up the learning curve.

We are now in Huahine, one of the leeward islands of the Society Island group. (I’m going to let Dallas explain the meaning behind the island’s name in his next blog, as it was obviously named by a man.) The pass into the channel around the island was fairly easy to transit, but you should see the size of the waves breaking on the reef! There are some pretty fearless surfers out there as we speak. Perhaps we will meet them, as we are hoping to spend a few days here exploring, snorkeling or diving, and posting pictures using the wi-fi they have here. There is also a resort here for $700/night (!), but we’ll probably skip that, as we have our own comfortable accomodations aboard Pura Vida.

DSC_0111 Fare village (pop. 650) in Huahine