Au Revoir French Polynesia
09 January 2021
This will be my last blog from French Polynesia. It is a sad day for Team Uproar. But we have had almost three years here and they have been magic.
FP is among the most beautiful places we have cruised, visited or even imagined. The people here have been not only friendly but welcoming. Many of the people we have met, especially in outlying areas, want to share fruit, vegetables, fish, etc. But most of all they want to share stories and get to know us. Seems we are a bit of a curiosity to them, even though cruisers are abundant here.
The scenery graces many a calendar page. FP has mountains, waterfalls, perfect beaches, abundant reefs and turquoise lagoons. The French have spent a lot of money here. Roads are mostly smooth pavement which makes for great biking.
But it is the water that is most striking in FP. Some of the lagoons are vivid turquoise that reflects a beautiful turquoise color on the bottom of clouds. The snorkeling is the best we have ever enjoyed. Fish, coral and sea critters are plentiful. Sharks are everywhere and exhibit the typical FP courtesy. They are curious and gentle. We have enjoyed getting to know them.
Cruising friends we have met here have become life-long friends. Anyone who sails to FP is fully committed to the cruising lifestyle or they wouldn't make it here. We have met a lot of cruisers and enjoyed getting to know them. This past year we have sailed mostly with Kjell and Kaia on 2K. We are now even adopting some Norwegian expressions. Love you guys!
Now I have to really thank the French Polynesian government for how they have accommodated cruisers during the Covid 2020. FP has been the only country in the South Pacific who allowed cruisers to enter. That is a huge and important statement. Imagine sailing from Panama and no country would allow you entry. You might just have to keep sailing for half-a-year to reach a safe haven. But FP put in place protocols which allowed all boats to enter! They recognized that the two plus weeks it takes to sail here make for an effective quarantine. And they recognized a responsibility to care for those who would otherwise be in peril.
Cruisers and the entire FP went through a lockdown during mid-March to mid-May. Cruisers were told to stay in place and stay on their boats. There were exceptions for medical or grocery needs. We were in a large anchorage in Tahiti we called Hotel California. Helicopters and patrol boats visited daily at first but any communications we had with officials were as polite as can be. We were allowed to swim around our boats even though local residents were forbidden from swimming or boating!
I can't express how grateful we are to the way FP government have treated us during these difficult times! New Zealand could sure take lessons!
Lest one thinks I am looking at FP through turquoise colored glasses, there are a few negatives. First of all, the sailing can be difficult, both to get here and between islands. Distances are far and weather is not the consistent trade winds we enjoyed in the Caribbean. The cruising ground in the Eastern Caribbean all fits inside Lake Michigan. The cruising area here is the same dimension as all of Europe, after you sail 4,000 miles from Panama just to arrive!
Weather can be a challenge. Wind changes direction which can cause a scramble for a safe anchorage. Maramu winds can cause three days of howling winds up to 40 knots. We did not witness any cyclones but we did survive a tropical depression in Gambiers. Believe me, it was not fun! We have even had several days of continuous rain and gray. But sun and balmy temperatures are more the norm.
There has been much talk about animosity toward cruisers in the past year. Part of it stems from the lockdown where 40 of us were in a favorite reef area and locals were not allowed to boat or swim. There was concern that we were polluting the reef. A few articles in local papers spread the concern. I can tell you that our effluent was minor compared to the cafe-au-lait that flows out of the rivers after rain. A map showing water quality problems did not show problems in any of the anchorages visited by cruisers. But there are also a few anchorages in Moorea and Raiatea where local people just don't want to see cruisers. This has led to some hard feelings. Bora Bora has taken the hardest line. They do not allow anchoring, cruisers must pay $30/day to rent a mooring! We did spend a month at Bora Bora with a special rate of $300/month and enjoyed it. Still, we prefer areas without that kind of control.
None of this can take away from the open welcome of the local people we have met. Imagine waking up and finding a fresh fish in your dinghy. Or people who insist on giving you fruit for just walking by. We have been invited to numerous meals and shared in pot-luck dinners. We have had a few local friends join us for dinner on Uproar too.
I can't possibly express our love and appreciation for French Polynesia and her people. As Dorothy states, it gets into your blood. We can only say maruruu roa (Thank you very much)!
Duck Hunting in French Polynesia
04 January 2021
One would think you need a gun to go duck hunting. Well, according to the French Polynesian Customs Agents, we have one on Uproar. We were boarded by customs agents almost two years ago in Tahiti. Five, courteous agents sat in our cockpit and asked for our documentation, entry papers and passports. All was in order, we are diligent about following our host country's rules.
The agent who spoke English asked if we had a flare gun. “Yes, we do.” There were anxious looks, “Please show it to us.” I produced our trusty flare gun and cartridges.
He said, “This is a gun, why didn't you declare it on your entry papers?” I replied, “No, it is a signaling device for emergencies, not a gun. If it was a gun, I would have declared it.” This went forth and back for awhile. Then he made a cell phone call. I could understand much of it, “Oui, plastic. Oui, orange.”
He hung up with a sigh of relief. “If you add that you have a signaling gun to your entry papers, it will be OK this time.” I added it and we both initialed it. Then they gave us “yelp” forms to rate their conduct and courtesy during the boarding. French courtesy and we gave them high marks.
Just how do I blast ducks out of the sky with my flare gun? Well that's not exactly what we mean by “duck hunting.”
It all started in Martinique, Caribbean. We were invited aboard Flip Flops for drinks. Drinks became dinner and we were treated to a fantastic duck curry. Flip Flops know how to cook! They have started an informative blog, www.becomeacruiser.com. Or facebook future cruisers. They have a lot about food on their website. Nikki, time for a duck article!
We learned from Flip Flops about the canned duck confit and horded it on Uproar. With it we make duck curry, roasted duck with carrots and potatoes, cassoulet, and our favorite, duck, duck bacon, tomato and lettuce sandwiches. In Martinique and Guadeloupe we could buy three pound cans of duck for under $10. Bonus! There is about a pound of duck fat in each can. I love the duck but if you simply threw away the duck, the $10 is worth it for the duck fat alone. Potatoes roasted in duck fat are the best. Duck fat popcorn anyone? Sounds gross but delicious.
Here in French Polynesia, we can buy canned duck confit but prices can be as high as $20/can. But if you look carefully, you can find the cans of manchons (drummies) for $10. We brag to Flip Flops when we find it and so do they. For us a successful shopping trip for duck confit is a successful duck hunt. Today in Papeete, we bagged only one can. But we will keep hunting. I can tell you a good supply will be stowed aboard Uproar when she is shipped back to the US.
Sorry, canned duck confit is just not readily available in the US. We have seen it on Amazon for $35/can but that's just too expensive. I am in contact with some duck product companies in France about importing it. Stand by.
03 January 2021 | Hotel California, Airport anchorage Tahiti
Russ Whitford | Nice
And you think laundry is a pain in the ….
Today we spent seven hours “doing” five small loads of laundry and it cost us more than $250!
There is more to the story.
Last week we were in Moorea and took our laundry to a “laverie” that we had used before. They always did a great job. Bet you didn't think about the laundry problems living on a boat. Well, it is either stomping your duds clean in a five gallon bucket or paying a bunch of money to have someone else do it. Especially in French Polynesia, it can be expensive.
We dropped off five small grocery bags of laundry along with two bags from our friends, Kjell and Kaia on 2K.This was five days ago. The lady at the laverie said it wouldn't be done until Saturday. She had a lot of hotel business and we would have to wait. Sailors have learned patience, our boats are slow. So we said, “Pas de problem, see you Saturday.”
We sailed from Cooks Bay to Haapiti Bay to be more protected from strong easterly winds. Haapiti Bay was a nice spot. But after a few days there we decided to sail to Vaiare Bay in Moorea where the ferry boats dock. From there we could get a bus to the laverie and pick up our laundry. On the way out of Haapiti, we had fantastic wind for a perfect beat...but winds favored the sail to Tahiti instead of Vaiare. We radioed 2K and they agreed, “Let's just enjoy this sail to Tahiti, we can take the ferry back to Moorea to pick up our laundry.
Today is Saturday, laundry pick-up day. Lisa and I dinghied the four miles to Papeete from our Hotel California anchorage at 10:30. We bought tickets for the noon ferry, $23 for the two of us. The ferry ride was a short 20 minutes. We then rented a car to get to Maharipa. That cost us $90!!! Cab fare is about $40 each way so even this exorbitant amount made sense. With the freedom of a rental car, we drove to our favorite pizza restaurant. Outside tables were full. Good thing, we sat inside just before a huge squall hit and drove everyone inside. Pizza was great and filling as usual.
With time to kill before the next ferry, we drove the long way around the 37 mile perimeter of Moorea to Maharepa. Indeed, our laundry was done. Each of our small bags of laundry cost $15 for a total of $60. I think a standard, US washing machine could have done all our laundry in two loads. Oh well, it was clean and nicely folded.
We drove back to the ferry dock, put $5 of gas in the car and bought tickets back to Papeete for another $35. After another short ride, we were back in Papeete. We toted our laundry and 2Ks the ½ mile back to where we had locked our dinghy, loaded everything and dinghied back to Hotel California where we delivered 2K's bags.
Back on Uproar, it was 5:30, cocktail time. Simple math, Ferry rides $60, rental car and gas $95, laundry $60. But wait, lunch was $35, ice cream along the way $9, and Lisa bought outfits for the two grandchildren for $75. I'm pretty sure my clothes were not worth what we paid to get them clean! Lisa's, perhaps and we did have two sets of sheets and pillow cases which are expensive.
I'm not complaining. We had a fun day and adventure. We met a nice family on vacation from Alaska and told them our favorite highlights on Moorea. Weather cooperated for our dinghy rides. If rough, those four miles can be a saltwater-soaked ride! Lisa did bring contractor bags so at least our laundry arrived in perfect condition.
Next time, I'll just get out the five gallon bucket and my (hopefully) clean feet!
Dorothy, spirit of Huahine
30 December 2020 | Moorea, Cooks Bay
It is no secret to those who read our blog that Huahine is our favorite island in French Polynesia. We have visited here about a dozen times and stayed for a total of six months. Huahine is a beautiful island with clear lagoons, great biking and varied terrain. But the spirit of Huahine is what has captured us.
Huahine has over 200 ancient religious Marae, stone worship sites. Huahine means fertility of woman. From the main town, Fare, you can see in the mountains a pregnant woman reclining with knees bent, ready to give birth. Bobby Holcomb, musician, artist and cultural Polynesian hero lived here. On a Marae overlooking Maeva, Bobby Holcomb and Jimmy Buffet wrote the song, "One Particular Harbor."
Captain Cook visited Huahine during his voyage here on the Beagle. One of his famous sketches is the Beagle in Fitii harbor. Cook witnessed two human sacrifices here on Huahine.
Bernard Moitissier, my sailing hero, was winning the 1969 Golden Globe race and decided he didn't want to stop sailing and win. He abandined the race, tacked and went around Cape Horn a second time. After 1 ½ years at sea, alone, he made French Polynesia his home. He visited Huahine often.
We wouldn't know any of this had we not met Dorothy Lubin Levy. Dorothy is the spirit keeper of Huahine! We met Dorothy on our early visites to Huahine. This past year we got to know her better and spent some time visiting, listening to her stories. I can't begin to tell all here but suffice to say, she has a lot more to tell and we regret we haven't spent more time with her.
Dorothy's great grandfather sailed from France to Tahiti and set up a trade and finance business. He married a Polynesian woman from the royal family (money attracts money as told by Dorothy). Dorothy's grandfather married an American woman and Dorothy was raised in California until age ten. She visited Tahiti and has lived in French Polynesia ever since.
When Bernard Moitissier landed in Tahiti after his epic voyage, he was besieged by reporters and the public. "He could hardly speak after being alone for 1 ½ years. I was one of the first people he met and he asked me if I could help him. I took him back to my house to keep him away from the intimidating crowds." Dorothy formed a life-long relationship with Bernard.
Later she met Bobbie Holcomb. "I had a Citroen 2CV. Bobby and Bernard would climb in and we would explore the valleys in Tahiti where there were small farms. OK, we did this to pilfer fruits and vegetables. The local people knew but didn't mind. Bobby and Bernard loved these little adventures."
When Dorothy was pregnant with her daughter, she went to the hospital for an ultrasound. "Bobby said he wanted to go with me to see the pictures. On the way there, we ran into Bernard, carrying his javelo (spear) to get some exercise in the athletic field. We told him about the ultrasound, he wanted to come too. So there I was in the waiting area with Bobby in his dread locks and Bernard, looking like Gandolf, with his spear. The doctor and nurses didn't know what to make of us. Bobby and Bernard were fascinated by the ultrasound pictures."
Dorothy and her two year old daughter, Sabrina, sailed on the Dutch Schooner, Free, to New Zealand to protest the French nuclear testing in the Tuamotus, French Polynesia. They were hitch hiking and got a ride with a nice couple. Down the road Dorothy spotted Bernard walking. She yelled, "Stop, that's my dad." They picked up Bernard, he had sailed to New Zealand just for another voyage in his boat, Joshua.
"Bobby moved to Huahine in the ancient village of Maeva. He called me and said, "Why don't you and Sabrina move here with me?" He said to be sure to bring the geese, guinea pigs and the horse. We did! Bernard visited and taught one of the geese, Mr. White, to sing along with Happy Birthday."
"Bobby like Bernard, didn't seek public attention. Bobby just enjoyed being Bobby. He didn't own a car but rode his bicycle into Fare for shopping or to play music. He always wore a couronne de tete, flower and leave wreath. He would get up early and climb to the Marae overlooking Maeva. There he would paint and compose music."
Jimmy Buffet visited Huahine and someone in Fare told him about the local musician, Bobby Holcomb. They brought Jimmy to the house around noon.
"Bobby loved his afternoon naps and I tried to keep visitors away during these naps. But the visitors with Jimmy just walked into his bedroom and woke him up. No, Bobby hadn't heard of Jimmy Buffet. Jimmy was carrying his Martin guitar and said, "Maybe you know this song." He played Margaritaville. Bobby said no, he hadn't heard it. But the two of them started playing music together and gained respect for each other's talents. Bobby took Jimmy through the jungle path to his marae and there they composed "One Particular Harbor.""
"One Particular Harbor" is played at all Jimmy Buffet concerts. The opening chorus and other verses are sung in Tahitian. Audiences always sing along but I wonder how many understand the Tahitian composed by Bobby. "Ia aora te natura" Love nature.
Dorothy lived with Bobby until his death from cancer in 1991. His grave site is a simple mound in Maeva, surrounded by colorful croton plants.
Dorothy is active with the world heritage site, Fare Pote, a restored religious site on the picturesque Maeva lagoon. We visited the site for a dedication ceremony for the Japanese archaeologist, Sinoto, who first started exploring the site. He initially met with resistance from the local people but gained their respect and interest in this historic site.
Dorothy embodies the woman spirit of Huahine.
"When I was ten years old, we landed in Tahiti for my first visit. I heard the drums and knew I was home. One drop of Polynesian blood is like one drop of vanilla extract, it flavors the entire dish." We are somewhat thankful to the Polynesian mosquitos. We now have at least one drop of Polynesian blood. Huahine is our island home.
Bobby Holcomb's song "My Island Home" is my favorite Polynesian song. I have been fortunate to sing it along with a few local musicians, always bringing a tear.
Thank you Dorothy for awakening in us our Polynesian spirit.
You know you have been here too long.........
29 December 2020 | Cook's Bay Moorea
We sailed our last passage in French Polynesia the day after Christmas. We usually make passages over 70 miles at night. We leave at dusk. If it is a fast sail we arrive at dawn. If it's slow, we still arrive in the morning with plenty of light. Anchorages are full of reefs and other hazards. It can be very dangerous entering a lagoon without good light. Even a passing cloud can cause anxious moments.
Leaving at the butt crack of dawn runs the risk of arriving at our anchorage in the dark. But we were sailing from Huahine to Moorea and headed for Cook's Bay. Cook's Bay is huge and boats anchor near the end of the bay in 50 feet of water. The bottom is mud so anchors hold well and we don't run the risk of anchoring in coral, something we scrupulously avoid!
We left Huahine at 5:30 and completed the 80 mile passage at 6:30 PM. It was pretty dark when we arrived. No problem, we anchored away from other boats ready for a good night's sleep. It wasn't a great passage, wind was very light so we motor/sailed the entire way. This is not how we like to go sailing but we arrived and used about eight gallons of diesel. Not bad for moving a 24,000 pound boat.
A strange coolness met us when we entered Cook's Bay. This is the summer season in French Polynesia. Temperatures are still quite comfortable except in the mid-day sun. Even then, it is rarely over 85F, cooling down to high 70's at night. Cook's Bay was completely calm. When we arrived near the foot of the bay, we felt a cool breeze. It actually felt chilly. We have been here three nights and every night after dusk, we get that refreshing breeze.
Seems there are katabatic winds that flow down from the cool mountains. We even got out the fuzzy, purple blanket!
And you know you have been here awhile when you wake up in the morning and you know all the boats anchored around you. Sure feels like home.
Tahitian music Motu Murimahora, Huahine
21 December 2020
“Popeye, no Cayou, no Cayou!” Lisa and I had just departed in our dinghy from yet another chance encounter with Polynesians. We dinghied to Motu Murimahora just before noon to take pictures of Velocette in the beautiful, turquoise water. There was a group of guys at a picnic table, we asked if it was OK to visit. They welcomed us.
Talking with them after the pictures, we learned they were going to hang out there all day, drink beer and play some music. They invited us to stay. We said it was a bit early for us but could we come back later. They laughed at our reluctance to join them for beer that early and told us to bring our other cruising friends.
Kjell and Kaia from 2K joined us back at the beach around 3:00. The six guys and one woman were still there, drinking beer. They got out their instruments and played some of the sweetest, Polynesian music we have heard. These guys are good! We drank beer with them and enjoyed a plate of cochon savage stew (wild boar). We saw the quarters of the boar hanging when we visited that morning. They joked and laughed about how Gilbert had hunted down the pig, jumped on its back and bit its neck. Gilbert didn't have any teeth! But he did run down the boar and kill it with his machete!
Only one of them had a little English. Kaia and I do OK in French. We translate for Kjell and Lisa. But Lisa said she had a fairly easy time understand them. We had the usual conversations about children, family, etc. They lived in the small village across the lagoon, Tapererii, Tahitian for house of the king. The motu was where they had their small farms. They grew watermelons, taro and bananas. The small house next to their farm was their retreat from the hectic village life. Curiously, there was only one woman there, Mata's wife. She sat well apart from the guys and acted rather bored. We tried to engage her but she seemed content to just hang out.
Tahitian names are difficult for us. But one of them went into the melon patch and cut a watermelon, they call it plastic. It was so sweet and even though it was hot from the sun, refreshing! Gilbert took Kjell and me into the jungle. We came upon another melon patch and a grove of banana trees. With a few swipes of his machete, Gilbert cut down two banana bunches. Kjell and I each took an end of one bunch, Gilbert just hefted the other bunch on his shoulders. These bunches of bananas weight 40 to 50 pounds. We protested that we would share one but Gilbert wouldn't have it!
We asked for more music. They told us they were all one family and had learned to play ukulele, drums and sing since they were small children. I hope you can link to the video https://youtu.be/8QvmDkpUNdw and enjoy their music. I asked if they could play Bobby Holcomb, My Island Home. It is a favorite of mine and I can sing some of the Tahitian as well as English versus. They played and sang it with me. Then it struck me that earlier in the afternoon, one of them asked me, “Why you leave here?” We had told him about our plans to return to the US. Why indeed would I leave my island home? Well, I sort of lost it.
They invited us for Christmas. They said there would be a lot of food and beer. Mata told us they don't need much money, they only need to buy beer and rice. They even used fishing line for stringing their ukuleles. We will have another story about our Christmas in Huahine.
Oh, about the Cayou. Lisa told them I hit a rock with the dinghy motor. Cayou is rock. That's why when we left they were shouting and laughing, “Popeye, no cayou!”