Tuesday, July 26, 2011



Everyone loves a good surprise, whether it’s an outcome different than what was expected or something more tangible like a gift.  We’ve recently been the lucky recipients of both kinds.


First, we were pleasantly surprised by how much we’ve enjoyed Papeete, the capital city of French Polynesia and located at the northwest corner of the island of Tahiti.  It’s a city of 170,000 people with it’s traffic jams, noise and dirt, and even though it completely shuts down at various times of the day (12-3 and after 6 p.m.), we’ve loved being in civilization again after two months of next to none.  In fact, while the lack of buses after 6 p.m. were at first a source of angst for us (how were we to get back to the boat which is anchored outside of town?), it became the impetus for connecting with locals -people actually stop and offer us rides home (even if it is completely out of their way – and understand that gas here is about $6-7 per gallon). 


IMG_1734Tahiti brought with it girls’ days out in the city (one must have girlfriend time!), lots of pearl shopping, an opportunity to visit various chandleries and hardware stores, excellent provisioning, meandering through the local market, and only a bit of sightseeing (the highlight was, as you might imagine, the Pearl Museum).  Harrison picked up a guitar at a local store and is getting lessons from our friend Krister on s/v Britannia.  He has even jammed with his friend Maia on s/v Ceilydh who has taken up the Tahitian ukulele.  Papeete IMG_1763would not be complete without eating out at the ‘roulottes’, which are vans set up every evening at 6 p.m. serving anything from chow mein and crepes to wood-fire oven pizzas and tuna tartar – it is perhaps the only reasonably priced restaurant option in town and always serves fresh and delicious food.


Another surprise: Before hitting Papeete, our monthly spending had surprisingly reached an all time cruising low – surprising because things here are so expensive.  Notwithstanding a $12 small watermelon, $6 lettuces, and $6/dozen eggs, we’ve eaten out very little and have spent almost completely on fresh produce.  Once in Papeete, however, there’s been more to spend on…


IMG_1749We’ve been fortunate enough to be here during the Heiva Festival which takes place during the first two weeks of July and celebrates the Polynesian culture.  We witnessed fruit-carrying races, javelin throwing, outrigger canoe races, Tahitian dancing (how do they wiggle like that?), fire dancing, and all sorts of other shows of the vibrant Polynesian spirit. 


IMG_1724One highlight was connecting with the orthodox Sephardi (of Western European and North African roots) Jewish community in Papeete by visiting the only synagogue in town (which also has a mikvah or ritual bath) for a Shabbat evening service.   I love that no matter where I am in the world, the siddur (prayer book) follows the same general order with the same basic prayers so that I can follow along and belong.  We were heartily welcomed by the Secretary of the Jewish Community, Dr. Francois Yonah Poul, who also has great tales of his time as the ‘traveling doctor’ for the Tuamotus during a 10 year period in the 90’s. 


IMG_1772Perhaps the best surprise, however, came in the form of unexpected visitors.  Our friends Dennise and Daniel decided on four days’ notice that it was time to check Tahiti off their bucket list.  Dennise, as the great friend that she is, was getting together an order of boat IMG_1777parts for us and a few other boats and when she learned that the cost would be close to $1000 for shipping, she decided to bring it all in person.  For the next week with our guests on board we covered a lot ground – more pearl shopping (of course) in Tahiti, hiking and feeding stingrays in Moorea, driving the island of Huahine, snorkeling the coral gardens off the island of Taha’a (perhaps some of the best) , and simply taking in the beauty of Raiatea.  I was even treated to Dennise’s much missed company on my night watch during our overnight passage (and D&D suffered only a bit of sea sickness).  While we missed their kids (who were at camps back home), I personally could not have asked for a better surprise!


We had a ‘down’ day when they left this past Saturday, but certainly took advantage of the quiet time to re-provision, clean, and rest after a packed week.  We’re taking a couple of weeks off from homeschooling and I’ve spent some time gathering next year’s materials. Danielle and I worked on putting together some pearl jewelry and the boys worked on boat projects.  We have since reunited with our friends on Britannia and plan to spend only a couple of more days on Raiatea before moving on to Bora Bora, which will be our last stop in French Polynesia.  Our visas run out at the end of the month.



Raiatea, Society Islands (Iles Sous le Vent / Leeward Islands), French Polynesia

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Tuamotus Paradise

The Tuamotus in the South Pacific is full of beautiful atolls with small villages and very kind people. The playful kids run up and down the pier in Makemo atoll and jump right into the crystal clear water.From Piko - Tuamotus 2011 (1 of 7) They are also quite interactive with foreigners. The kids ask for tours of the boats and asked us for bananas. The adults are nice and funny too. Each time you walk by them, they wave and say, “Bonjour!” or, “Hello!” pleasantly.

The snorkeling all around here is absolutely beautiful, too. You are almost guaranteed to see at least ten gorgeous fish with wonderful shades of yellow, green, blue and red.for WGD We have seen grey reef, black tip, white tip and blue sharks, but don’t be scared. All you have to do to keep safe is stay in a group. Just remember this: You are more likely to get hurt by your own toilet than by a shark.

The Tuamotus is a wonderful place where you can have fun in paradise. I really recommend the Tuamotus so much I would go there when ever possible!

-Harrison (now in Tahiti and just completely some end of year writing assignments)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Place to Rendez-Vous


It featured the most exciting upset in its history.  The Tahiti-Moorea IMG_1589Rendez-Vous, which took place from June 24-27, has to have been the most momentous yet, at least partially attributable to the six-man outrigger canoe racing final, in which our own Michael participated.  Michael, together with our friends Krister (s/v Brittania), Lauren (s/v Pico), Evan (s/v Ceilydh) and two professionals were in the final heat when the nose of their canoe crossed the finished line first, just as the canoe tipped and was overtaken by the competition.  Lucky for us, it’s the nose that counts, but it took several long anxiety-ridden moments of judges’ deliberation to make the call. 


The weekend’s events were also highlighted by Saturday’s rally of about 40 boats from the starting line in Tahiti over approximately 15 miles to Opunohu Bay on the magnificent jagged peaked island of Moorea.  Harrison decided to switch places with Amanda aboard s/v Brittania so that he and Brittania’s captain Krister could sail their 35 foot sloop while playing guitar and bonding.  The winds quickly died, and only 8 boats actually crossed the finish line without having motored at least part of the way.  Brittania was one of those eight and earned them (and Harrison) a mention in the the sailing magazine Latitude 38 (see this link).  Our friends aboard s/v Ceilydh earned second place, but came first among cruisers (the first place winner was a local boat without all the cruising gear aboard).  Aboard Whatcha Gonna Do, we got a bit too impatient trying to sail without power but we did serve up some great eats for our guests Amanda (s/v Brittania, who had never sailed on a cat before), Julie (the wife of Latitude 38’s editor Andy Turpin), and Philip (of Cars for Cruisers in Opua Bay, NZ, one of the sponsors of the Rendez-Vous).


IMG_1644The kids had a blast participating in coconut husking, stone lifting, and banana carrying races during Sunday’s events, as well as kids and women’s outrigger canoe races.  We spent a lot of time catching up with other cruising friends, eating and drinking and singing and dancing.  Michael in particular enjoyed the Tahitian dance lessons.  The Polynesian charm was contagious.




The kids’ rendez-vous followed the adult activities on Monday – they spent the day on the beach with about 25 other kids playing capture the flag, swimming and snorkeling, husking coconuts, and other things kids do when they just hang out at the beach. The swarms of kids have continued since.

Part of the fun for our crew was rafting up with s/v Brittania in Moorea.  It was like having a sleepover but without needing to clean the sheets.  Krister and Amanda are 30-somethings from the San Francisco Bay area who learned to sail only 2 years before taking off for the South Pacific.  They are the kind of people you want around always.  Harrison coined it for us:  Free help and free happiness. 

IMG_1699While in Moorea we also managed to snorkel underwater tikis, we swam with stingrays and we did yoga on the beach in the mornings.  And we are now back anchored at Marina Taina just outside Papeete in Tahiti, getting some R&R after a packed few days.



Papeete, Tahiti