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The Saga of Ursa Minor
Raiatea and Tahaa, two more of French Polynesia's Society Islands

RAIATEA AND TAHAA, Aug 23-30, 2007 - in which we learn to anchor in very deep water, learn all about vanilla beans and other tropical botanica, run into several old friends, and discover the beauty of another few paradisical islands.

An easy 4 or 5 hour passage took us downwind to Raiatea from Huahine, with good sailing winds at times, almost no wind at others. We entered through the Teavapaiti Pass on the northeastern corner of Raiatea, and then anchored in the lee of an island in the middle of the pass.

We snorkeled to check the anchor and discovered one of our worst fears was realized - the anchor was just in front of a 4-5'diameter coral head, and the chain led underneath an overhang of the coral head on its way back to the boat. This meant we could have a problem picking it up - pulling up on it would make it catch on the coral head, and possibly require a diver to free it. On its way from the boat to the anchor, the chain lay neatly on the bottom passing through two narrow grooves between other sets of coral heads, which was good news and bad news. The good news was it meant we were unlikely to swing wildly during the night which could cause the chain near the anchor to wrap itself around the first coral head, the bad news was that the chain could get wedged under one of these other coral heads and mean additional obstruction(s) when picking the anchor up.

The next morning we launched the dinghy and put its engine on, and then I went snorkeling to see if the anchor and chain were still in the same place. They were. The chain through the grooves had kept us from swinging completely around our anchor with the current, and had prevented any extra backward pressure on the anchor which could have pulled it underneath the coral head. I then pushed the boat around a bit while snorkeling (it has amazed me how easy it is to move it while pushing on the chain as it comes off the boat while I am in the water) while directing Bryan when to start picking up chain. This enabled us to get the chain up out of the grooves, and then Bryan had to run back to the helm, put the boat in gear, and make a sharp sudden turn to starboard with the chain now close to vertical to pull the anchor out from underneath the coral head without catching the coral head, while I hovered in the water watching and directing. It all worked beautifully, he pulled up the rest of the chain and the anchor, and I swam back to climb on the boat.

We then proceeded around the northern point of Raiatea to pick up a mooring off the Apooiti Marina, where the Moorings bareboat fleet is based. We had read in a book that we could have our mail forwarded here, so were eager to pick it up as well as a package from Tahiti forwarding a cable for our sat phone that had not arrived in Tahiti before we left. We eventually found the package with our after trying first the Moorings office, then the marina office, and then the Moorings office where it had been all the time. The package from Tahiti had not arrived, but the marina manager called around and found that it was at the airline office at the airport and we had to go pick it up. Luckily the airport was only a 20 minute walk away. We had a big surprise just after we picked up the mooring here - our friends Claudia and Erich on the catamaran Tahaa who we had last seen in Nuku Hiva were just leaving the marina and passed right by us on their way to exit Raiatea and leave for the Cook Islands. We had thought they were now far ahead of us, they had planned on leaving French Polynesia much earlier, but their new crew, Herbert from Switzerland, developed a hernia and they had to hang out a bit longer while he had surgery. Although we didn't have a chance to get together and swap stories, it was still very nice to see them however briefly.

Our friends on Volker and Michelle on La Gitana were hauled out at the boatyard just a ways up from the marina, so we dinghied up and had lunch with them at the Snack Mimosa, a simple local restaurant with pretty good food for a relatively reasonable price. During lunch we were entertained by the future boxing champ of Raiatea - a 3 or 4 year old boy with huge red boxing gloves that were almost bigger than he was. La Gitana was in the yard for repairs to their keel from when they struck a whale as they were leaving Galapagos an hour ahead of us, and they were painting the bottom.

After picking up our cable at the airport, we hitched into town for a bit of exploration and to buy some steak and potatoes for a dinner treat. We got a ride from a young French dentist who has a pretty good life - he works two months, then travels two months, off and on through the year, so is getting in 6 months of travel a year to all kinds of exotic places. The following morning, Saturday, we did a bit more provisioning at a store near the marina (beer and baguettes), then took off for the island of Tahaa, after which our friends' boat is named. Tahaa and Raiatea are very unusual islands in that they are both within the same large fringing reef, Tahaa just a few miles north of Raiatea, so journeying from one to the other doesn't necessitate going out into the big rough ocean, but rather navigating between lots of reefs and shoals inside the fringing reef. On our way north we saw sailing by our friends on Do It, whom we hadn't seen since Kauehi, and had a brief chat with them on the radio. We continued north about 2/3 of the way up Tahaa's west coast to anchor off a resort of thatched bungalows over the water called the Tahaa Private Island Resort and Spa which is situated on a few small motus off the main island. We anchored in about 25' amongst but not upon scattered coral heads, just off the large area of shallows that extends outward to the fringing reef. We did a delightful pass snorkel here, in a small shallow pass between a few of resort motus - not at all as fabulous as the Fakarava pass, but quite pleasant with lots of healthy corals and a variety of beautiful fish.

The weather got a bit nasty Saturday night - rainy and gusty and squally, making the protected waters of the lagoon somewhat bouncy and us a bit nervous with a lot of very shallow water just behind us, so we moved over to anchor in Tapuanua Bay on Tahaa, where we traded a nice shallow anchorage for one 75' deep but at least the bay was far more protected from the wind. We did a bit of exploring on shore, where there was a small, laid back settlement with not much going on - and they were out of baguettes already at 9 in the morning!

On Monday, we moved south to Herepiti Bay where we had signed up to do a tour with Vanilla Tours at 8 a.m. on Tuesday. On our way down, we anchored for a snorkel on the flats inside the reef, where we didn't find much coral or many fish, but did see a huge eel sticking out of one of the few coral heads, and a shark swimming by. We picked up one of Vanilla Tours' moorings (nice to have when the bottom is 75-100' deep and you can't tell if you're anchoring in sand, mud or coral) and went ashore to meet Alain who is Vanilla Tours. He is a Frenchman who has lived here over 20 years after sailing in on a small yacht. Over the years he has built a fascinating home of several thatched and bamboo buildings set in a lush property with dozens of fruit and flower plants and trees, as well as several vanilla vines. He gives "botanical tours", in French and English, starting with his own property, then covering quite a bit of the island in a 4 wheel drive Range Rover. He is extremely knowledgeable about the plants on Tahaa, both indigenous and introduced, and does an excellent job sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm. He showed us how the vanilla flowers must be hand pollinated, as there are no insects here which will do them, then took us through the whole process of growing and readying vanilla beans for market. It takes nine months from flower being pollinated, to the bean starting to grow and maturing enough to be picked - and then several more while it is alternately heated in the sun then wrapped up and left to sweat while its moisture content is continuously reduced without rotting the bean. Once its moisture level is down to 38%, it is massaged and sorted before packaging. It's amazing that they are not much more expensive than they are given the amount of labor required to bring them to market. He also showed us numerous other fruits and vegetables, shared with us the many other uses of various plants including making ropes, roofs, clothing, and on and on. We also stopped at a "belvedere" - a high point on the island with magnificent views all around, where Alain provided us with a snack of fresh coconut water in the shell, starfruit and pamplemousse, which looks like a grapefruit but is much sweeter.

After the tour we headed to Apu Bay where the Taravana Yacht Club (a resort which appeared to have no guests, only a highly priced restaurant and several empty bungalows) offered moorings and internet wi-fi. Unfortunately, the 3 or 4 empty moorings were all "reserved" (even though most weren't used that night) and we had to anchor in 95' of water, just off the shore and too far from the Yacht Club to get wi-fi. One very amazing thing about many of these Society Islands is how deep much of the water in the lagoons is, and how shallow much of the rest of the water is. The shore in this bay, as in many others, is ringed by very shallow corally flats, only inches deep in many places so even getting a dinghy ashore can be a problem, and this flat then drops off suddenly and dramatically to 80-100'. This makes anchoring very difficult - we prefer to anchor in water less than 50', and really prefer water 20' deep or less where we can see exactly what we're putting our anchor into and don't have to put out very much chain to hold us. In the Virgins we almost never anchored in over 50', and rarely that deep. Here we have had to anchor in 75-100' several times now, and are gradually feeling more comfortable about it, but still dreading the day when we find ourselves wrapped around an unseen coral head on the bottom, or dragging anchor in a big wind because when we can't put out any more chain.

Wednesday morning we upped anchor successfully and headed back to Raiatea, getting caught in a squall as we were passing a big coral reefs and shoal known as" Grand Central" between Tahaa and Raiatea. The squall produced 30 knot winds, driving rain and white-out conditions for several minutes, making us a bit nervous, but we made it through fine. We had planned to stop at the fuel dock in the town of Otorua, but the strong winds blowing on the dock there discouraged us, so we headed back around to the western side and visited La Gitana on their last day in the boatyard. Had lunch with them again at Snack Mimosa, then had them aboard for dinner knowing how beat they were from several days in the boatyard. Once again we hitched into town to provision, taking a $20 5-minute taxi ride back to the boat with our groceries.

On Thursday morning, August 30, we picked up the anchor and headed through the pass to sail to Bora Bora.

new photos added: Flowers of the Pacific and Tahaa

I just added two new photo albums - see the last page of the photo gallery. One is a variety of pictures of the gorgeous flowers that abound on every island of French Polynesia - every yard is full of flowers and walking along the roads is like walking through a botanical garden. I also added pictures from Tahaa to the album for Tahaa and Raiatea, the Raiatea pictures will be added shortly.

Huahine, August 16-22, 2007

HUAHINE, August 16-22

A very fast overnight passage brought us from Moorea to Huahine sooner than we wanted. A distance of about 90 miles, this passage cannot be confidently done during daylight hours, so is best done overnight, with arrival planned for daylight. The book recommended leaving at dusk through Moorea's pass, traveling at about 5 knots through the night, to arrive in the morning with good light to enter Huahine's pass. We figured a double-reefed main and staysail instead of our genoa would give us a nice speed to make the trip properly, but once we got outside the pass we found ourselves averaging 7-8 knots in 20-25 knots of wind, despite quite lumpy seas that made the going harder. We put a third reef in the main, and eventually dropped the staysail to sail under the main alone, and still did over 6 knots at times. Why is it that when you don't want to go fast, the boat and conditions insist on it, and when you'd like more speed they won't cooperate. As we approached the southern tip of the island around 4 a.m., still several miles from the pass into the village, we had a bit of an argument about course - I wanted to stay well off the fringing reef while it was still dark, Bryan thought we could safely go in closer. Perhaps because of my adventures in the Pacific 25 years ago when one boat I was on went on 2 reefs in one day and another ended up drifting without a rudder for 8 days I am very leery of getting close to reefs during the night when they can't be easily seen. Once Bryan realized why I was so adamant he agreed to hold off changing course to approach the reef until we were in a safer position.

We safely arrived at the pass at 7:30 a.m., and entered to anchor off the town of Fare amidst several old friends: LaGitana, Do It, Happy Monster, Promesa, Gammel Dansker and others. We were exhausted from a night of not sleeping, so slept through most of the day. Oliver from Bess stopped by about 5 p.m. when he finally saw us up and around, and invited us into the beach for a potluck, which it turned out, was also a birthday party for him. We reluctantly declined because he said others were already in there, and we figured that by the time we got the dinghy in the water, the engine on, and figured out what food we could take and got it prepared, the party would be over. We kicked ourselves the next day when we found out they'd partied until 11, and that it would have been our only chance to see several of the crews as they were leaving the next morning.

The next morning, Friday, we launched the dinghy and went ashore to check in with the gendarme. After spending about 30 minutes in an outer office being almost totally ignored while the gendarme chatted with friends inside, we left. We checked out the Chinese grocery store across from the dock, which from the outside looked fairly modest, only to find it was absolutely huge inside, and had a great selection and on some items better prices than we'd found elsewhere. We rented bicycles for the afternoon and rode around the northern side of the island, stopping at a lovely archeological museum set amongst the ruins of several marae - traditional Polynesian temples - alongside a large body of water that appeared to be a lake, but was actually connected to the ocean by a narrow channel which contained several ancient traditional stone fish traps. Further along we came to the village of Faiea, where dozens of large eels live near a bridge across the river, waiting for nice people like us to throw them some fish. The small store across the road does a big business selling canned fish just for this purpose.
Along the way we passed several homes with graves in the front yards, always covered with roofed structures, often fenced in, and decorated with flowers. We've since seen a few of these front yard graves on other islands, but never as many as we saw on Huahine.
We also saw a lot of homemade mailboxes, or what we thought were mailboxes. We later found out these were actually baguette boxes by the road, for home delivery of French baguettes.

After our several hours of bicycling, we went to the Te Marara restaurant next to the bay where we were anchored for happy hour and dinner with Gammel Dansker, Happy Monster, Bess (we were just now meeting Germans Oliver, Beata and their daughter Eliza), and another German boat new to us, Antje with Norbert and Antje. They are the only ones we've run into who will be on roughly our course after the Societies - Suwarrow, Samoa, then Kiribati on our way to the Marshalls. Happy hour was a treat, the first time we've been offered half-price drinks rather than slightly discounted ones, but they were serious about the "hour" - when I went to order another round just before 6:30, they pointed to their clock which said 6:32 and said no more happy hour. We moved into the dining room for a nice dinner of hamburgers and fries which were quite good and reasonably price.

The next day we motored along the channel inside the fringing reef to the southern tip of the island and Avea Bay. We stopped about half-way along for a nice snorkel and lunch, where we saw our first clown fish - black and blue cousins of the Nemo of "Finding Nemo" fame. It would be another day or two before we found the orange striped clown fish we were expecting. We spent a delightful 4 days in Avea Bay, anchored on a lovely sandy bottom in about 40'. The reef was a mile or more out from land here, with deep navigable waters in close to shore, then broad stretches of sparkly aquamarine water over 2-10 foot shallows dotted with numerous coral heads spreading out to the fringing reef. We did lots of snorkeling. Highlights were the clownfish and the anemones they live in - these anemones did something I'd never seen before - many of them had rolled their bottom fleshy edges up around their dozens of tendrils to form what looked like giant bright pink donuts. There were lots and lots of varied, healthy looking delicate corals in a variety of hues, and a wide variety of exotic fish, surprisingly abundant along the shore in the murkier waters near the small resort.

The Sunday afternoon we arrived we heard music coming from shore, from the Chez Tara beach restaurant, so we dinghied in to check it out. Two men were making lovely Polynesian tunes to entertain a few tables of patrons at tables set in the sand under a magnificent thatched roof at the water's edge. This was the first real beach bar we'd come to that reminded us of sitting with our feet in the sand in the Virgins while drinking a brew to the accompaniment of delightful music. We had a few beers, and decided to come back in for dinner a day or two later. When we did, we had some great breadfruit fries (gratis with our drinks) before having two different shrimp dishes that were elegantly prepared and served - and quite tasty.

This island is far more laid back than Tahiti and Moorea, only a few small resorts, but very lovely - perhaps our favorite of the Society Islands. The anchorage in Avea Bay was just delightful - quiet, usually no more than 5 or 6 boats in a large area, great snorkeling, incredible colors, absolutely crystal clear waters, and abundant fish. Some of the coral is a bit sickly looking, but on the whole in better shape than much we've seen, although it couldn't hold a candle to Fakarava, but maybe no place can. Surprisingly we've seen no soft corals at all here or anywhere else in Polynesia.

Other than going ashore a few times for walks and visits to Chez Tara, we spent our time in Avea Bay snorkeling, exploring in the dinghy, reading, and working on chores on the boat. We tackled our dirty water line once again, the black smudgy stuff left after the grass is scraped off is almost impossible to get off. I could only get about 10 feet of the waterline really clean in about an hour, very slow work requiring massive amounts of elbow grease.

On our motor back north through the channel we stopped for a snorkel across from a small resort. While there was nowhere near as much to see as in Avea, I did find one fascinating new critter on the sandy flats. It looked like a little orange polka-dotted flower on the bottom, but close investigation revealed that is was a variety of sea hare, a mollusk without an external shell. In the Virgins I often found spotted sea hares, leopard-printed creatures that looked like snails that had swallowed ping-pong balls that lived in surging water on shore-side rocks, and occasionally on sandy bottoms. They sometimes squirt purple into the water when picked up, as did these much smaller cousins of theirs that I found on Huahine. The Huahine ones were very pretty, looking at rest on the bottom like tan translucent bells with orange polka dots and orange-edged petals extending off one end. It was only after picking one up that I realized it had the body of a snail that had swallowed a marble with the "petals" fluttering along the upper edge.

We anchored for the night in a different anchorage off Fare with two other boats, Checkmate and Criolla (sp?). New Zealander Tony on Checkmate offered us a chunk of mahi he'd just caught. Seems he doesn't like to eat fish, but caught some to impress his sometime crew Lisa from California who had joined him in Tahiti and was sailing to Bora Bora, before flying back to work in cartoon production. It sounds like she joins him for various legs as he heads home to NZ. We dinghied out to snorkel the southern Fare pass (there are two passes quite close together here - the northern one we'd entered which comes straight into the wharf, and one slightly south of the town.) We found large areas of beautiful coral gardens and lots of fish, but somewhat murky water, perhaps because of the late afternoon hour. Later we spent happy hour at Te Marura where we also met Linda and Bill of Criolla, before going back to the boat for a dinner of lightly fried mahi sandwiches with wasabi/mango/yogurt dressing and tomatoes. Yummy!

On Thursday morning we put the dinghy back on deck, picked up the anchor and headed off to Raiatea, 20 miles to the west.

Moorea, August 11-15, 2007

MOOREA August 11-15, in which we see a pig running with a bicycle, have some very wet dinghy rides, a very special dinner ashore, and spend some time with good friends.

A quick day-hop of few hours brought us across the channel between Tahiti and Moorea. The wind was far lighter than expected as we went through the pass out of Tahiti, but we needed a bit more power in the batteries anyway, so didn't mind motoring. The seas were fairly big and coming from several directions at once, making for a rolly ride. About half way across, the wind picked up to 25 knots and we had a boisterous sail for the remainder of the trip. Upon arrival at Opunohu Bay, we found many boats we knew anchored in a lovely swimming pool type anchorage - light blue waters over shallow sandy bottom with great holding, just inside the pass through the reef.

The next morning we put the dinghy in and had a very wet dinghy ride inside the reef against 25 knots of wind, up to Cook's Bay, a few miles to the east. Gannet was anchored up there, and we'd told him on the radio we'd try to dinghy up the day before, but had not made it off the boat. After getting totally drenched by the spray, we entered the comfort of Cook's Bay, found Gannet anchored well within, but alas, no one was home. Since then we've managed to speak a few times on the radio, but never did have the chance to get together. Finding Gannet deserted, we went ashore and took a walk along the bay, and had lunch at a small "deli" which was a very simple sandwich shop, not really a deli at all. This island is very laid-back, no real towns, just a few villages and homes and a few resorts scattered along the shore-line. We did see one very unusual sight here - a man bicycling past holding the leash of a pig running alongside him. We weren't sure if he was trying to exercise his pig because he looked forward to lean pork, or if he was just transporting it somewhere. The pig looked like he was used to running, and had no problem keeping up.

Monday morning we had another long dinghy ride, this time to the west along the inside of the reef, trying to find where the tour boats gather to feed the stingrays. Several people had told us how nice it was to get in the water with the rays and have them come right up to you so you could pet them (and they hope, feed them). The directions we'd received were a bit unspecific, and we went a very long way without seeing any tour boats, until after passing the second resort we saw one headed out between two small motus (islands along the fringing reef), so followed him out. The tourists were in the water by the sandy beach, some sitting, some standing in a foot or less of water, while rays swam in their laps and around their feet. We anchored the dinghy nearby and strolled over, only to be told this was a private island, and while we were not allowed there, we could take a few pictures and watch for no more than 5 minutes. No ray touching for us! Another long incredibly drenching dinghy ride back against 25 knot winds and nasty chop took us home again, quite disappointed. The man from the tour boat had told us about a "public" ray area on the way back, but we couldn't find it, although along the way did get to watch some incredible kite boarders soaring into the air off the waves. That afternoon we were invited over to Gammel Dansker to share sundowners with Gisela and Holgar whom we had met in the Galapagos.

Tuesday brought lots of rain off and on, so I was able to scrub the cockpit cushions and catch some water. Bryan went to Gammel Dansker to give Gisela some information on a new weather product he has been using, called Fleet Codes, which we can get either via the radio or the sat phone. That night we got all dressed up and went ashore to the Sheraton Resort for a buffet and traditional Polynesian show, a big treat for us. The food was good, but not great for the price. The show was nicely done, and we had a front table so had a great view. They were very good at engaging the audience, and involving them in various Polynesian activities, from grating a coconut to tying a pareo to dancing. Bryan was pulled to the floor by a lovely wahini and taught a few Polynesian dance steps, and I was presented a gorgeous flower head piece. The funniest part was when the troupe leader pulled a young Japanese honeymooner to the stage, and taught him to tie a pareo so it looked like shorts, which involved lots of squirming and jumping and required him to take his own pants off.

Tahiti, August 2-11, 2007

TAHITI - August 2-11, in which we spend lots of money, hitch-hike for the first time in many years, get various things fixed, and generally enjoy Tahiti

After a 2-1/2 day fairly easy passage from Fakarava (the highlight of which was catching a big mahi mahi which we're still enjoying over a month later), we arrived at Tahiti on the morning of August 2. Approaching in the early dawn, the island is truly beautiful - high majestic peaks surrounded by a fringing reef enclosing many exquisite shades of blue water. We rounded the northeastern corner and entered Papeete harbor about 11 a.m. after obtaining permission over the radio from Port Control. Papeete is definitely the biggest town we've seen since Panama, with lots of boat traffic and hence the need for traffic control. Once inside the breakwater we were warmly greeted by a large school of dolphins who guided us in to the first buoy marking the passage through the inside reefs to the Taina Marina on the northwest corner of the island. We had to pass both ends of the airport runway en route, requiring further radio permission to pass each end to avoid being clipped by a plane.

We did not take a berth in the marina, but anchored nearby in about 50' of water with many dozens of other boats from all over the world. We chose this anchorage over tying up to the quay downtown (the traditional first stop for arriving yachts for many years) for several reasons - the quay has a very bad reputation for security problems, it costs a lot, and you're tied up along side a very busy 4 lane road with lots of noisy traffic. When we later went into town on "Le Truk" (the "buses" built on the backs of trucks) to clear in with Customs and Immigration, we found only 2 boats tied to the quay, one a local excursion boat, the other Bravo Charlie which we'd met in Fakarava. There seemed to be no security problems (perhaps Captain Fatty's ugly warnings about the security here brought about some improvements?) and it actually looked like it would have been a pleasant place to stay for a day or two.

We were very comfortable by the marina, where we had a safe place to tie up the dinghy, a nearby big grocery store which allowed carts to be taken back to the marina, and the services of Polynesian Yacht Services where we'd had our mail sent, and who helped us make our rigging repair and obtain various other needed bits and pieces and services. It seemed ironic that here where there were so many boats, there was no real hangout for the cruisers, and we actually did far less socializing than when in remote anchorages with far fewer boats. Although there were several boats here that we knew, most left in a day or two. Gannet was here for awhile, but Ian was busy sorting out old and new crew, and somehow we never got together.

We had heard many people complain that Tahiti was dirty, noisy, crowded and unfriendly, a necessary place to stop to get work done or parts sent in, but one that one left as soon as possible. We, however, found it to be quite a delightful stop, certainly more crowded and noisy than the islands we'd been passing through the past few months, but fairly clean, very friendly, and with many enticements. One of our favorite activities here was strolling through the huge public market downtown, full of gorgeous fruits, vegetables, fish, pastries, handicrafts, pearl and other jewelry, flowers and a delightful assortment of people. Another was hitchhiking to the Paul Gaugin Museum on the southern coast - both the hitching and the museum were treasured experiences. Our drivers went out of there way to get us to our destination, and offered interesting glimpses into life in Tahiti. The museum itself was quite lovely, with much information in English about Gaugin's life and his stays in Polynesia.

We had two new lower forward diagonal shrouds made, even though only one had broken; they insisted both should be replaced. We had a mechanic check out our strangely behaving transmission, which we feared might be a major fix - it very often would not go into forward until pushed to 1500 or 2000 rpm, and once didn't go at all. Fortunately it turned out to be a small plastic part in the shifter assembly that needed to be replaced. We installed a new jib halyard and topping lift for our woeful pole. We topped up with propane (very expensive, especially when the transport fee was added), did a lot of laundry (also very expensive), and a lot of provisioning (expensive, but not as bad as we'd feared, certainly better than in the outer islands). We had hoped that, like in the French Caribbean islands, good wine could be had reasonably, but this was not the case at all. We cringed at paying $7 for liter boxes of crappy wine that only cost us $1-2 in Panama, and could only bring ourselves to buy a few bottles of slightly nicer wine for $10 and up. There were some bargains - all through French Polynesia the stores have items marked with red price tags which are subsidized by the government - but these only included some very basic items - boxed and powdered milk, baked beans, baguettes, and a few other staples were about all we bought of these. Everything else was quite high, although in retrospect, comparable with what we were used to paying in the Virgins, except for the very expensive liquor here. It was just that after Panama and Venezuela, the prices seemed totally outrageous.

There are a few marine chandleries here, but they seemed very poorly stocked for the number of boats that pass through and live here. We found a few of the things we needed, but several items remained on our list.

One nice bargain for eating out was the "roulottes" - or "caravans" - mobile food trucks found all over the island, but best known where several congregate every night in a park along the quay downtown. We spent an evening in there, finding it hard to choose between the 10 or more vans offering Chinese, Polynesian, Mediteranean, and French selections, and even pizza! We arrived in the area we thought they would be about 5:15 p.m. and were surprised to find none there, but over the next 45 minutes they started pulling in, setting up tables (many with table clothes even!), stools, grills, and then we were surprised to find that it was far more like being in a restaurant than what we expected as there were even menus and waiter service. For around $10 each we had nice plates of Chinese food, then spent another $10 sharing a delightful desert crepe with ice cream and whipped cream at another van.

We did realize that we probably should have waited until we got here to get our duty-free fuel certificate. We had paid an agent in Nuku Hiva about $80 to get it, not realizing that it would be freely given us once we got here. As the certificates are only issued in Papeete, to get one anywhere else you need to use an agent. The certificate entitles one to buy diesel duty free anywhere in French Polynesia, so we thought we should get it before our first fuel purchase in Nuku Hiva, but the savings on fuel in Nuku Hiva probably didn't equal the agent's fee.

We spent a fortune on satellite phone time trying to sort out a problem with our Citicard Master Card. When Bryan went on-line to pay the bill, there was a notification that the account was blocked because it had been compromised, and that we should telephone to sort it out. After numerous calls with clerks who were almost useless, we found out that someone stole credit card data from TJMaxx, at which we had once charged something, so they were sending us new cards with a changed account number - to the Virgin Islands of course - from which we were not expecting to have mail sent for quite some time. In the meantime, until we got the new cards, we could not even find out what our outstanding balance was or pay it on-line as we usually do. Very frustrating.

Finally, after 10 days and heaven only knows how much cash out, we left Tahiti for Moorea on August. 11.

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Ursa Minor's Crew
Who: Captains Bryan Lane (callsign NP2NH) and Judy Knape
Port: St. Thomas, Virgin Islands
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