Thursday, June 30, 2011

Last few days in Moorea and Tahiti

Andy found an anenome close to our boat and took some
nice pictures
Monday there was a kid's party on the beach and it was basically time for the kids to play whatever they wanted without all the adults wondering around interrupting their games. Jake had a great time making sand castles, swinging on the rope swings the older kids made and rewarding them with homemade [sand] pies. The coolest thing about the day was just watching the kids play. Most of the kids this year are older and it was nice to see them finding things to do rather than sitting around being bored or playing video games. They had a nice game of soccer, tug of war, rope swings, weaving palm fronds, etc. And these kids ranged from 5 to 18. It was really neat to watch.

Yesterday we had to head back to Tahiti to begin our check out process. But not before we took the time to feed the stingrays. One of the benefits of being near a resort is you get to take advantage of some of the activities they have planned. We had heard about this spot a few miles away where you could swim with big stingrays and blacktip sharks. So we loaded up the dinghy along with 3 other boats...Yolo, Soggy Paws and Pericles, and set out to find the stingrays. This is really one of the highlights of our trip here in Tahiti/Moorea. There were 20 or 30 stingrays and they swam right up to you and all around. When the tourist boat got there, the guides fed them and these little guys would climb right up onto them. It was quite amazing. Andy got some really good pictures as well (the benefits of traveling with your very one professional underwater photographer).

Andy feeding the stingrays our sardines. 
I actually took this picture :)
You can't tell but I'm pulling Jake back...can't help but
think Steve Irwin at a time like this.

Today is a local holiday so we weren't able to meet with our agent like we planned but we'll start the check out process tomorrow. Our 90 day visa is up on the 8th so if we want to see anything other than this island we need to get a move on. We get out paperwork back from Cindy on Friday and go to the duty free liquor place to start that paperwork. They deliver 24 hours later but not on the weekend, so it will be Monday before that happens. Tuesday we'll head out for Bora Bora and we plan on staying until they kick us out. We'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

2011 Tahiti Moorea Sailing rendez-vous

Ancorage in Moorea
Well, we had no idea what kind of time we were going to have.  I think I mentioned we were a little intimidated by all of the people here for this rendezvous given that we haven't been in the company of more than 3 boats at a time for about 6 weeks.  But I have to say we have had a blast and been pleasantly surprised at how much fun it can be to party with 100 boats!

The weekend started off with a special kickoff downtown given by the local government, a few sponsors and Latitude 38.  Sort of a "Thanks for coming, don't forget to tell all of your friends how nice we are" kind of thing.  We were more than a little late for the festivities as I failed to get proper directions.  I could have sworn I read that everything was on the waterfront but apparently I was wrong (It doesn't happen very often you know).  We finally found some fellow cruisers in a bar we walked through and luckily they knew how to read and told us it was in the City Hall.  They also knew how to read a map and gave us proper directions.  After a very long (very long) heartfelt welcome, we were all given special lei's made out of shells and Andy and Jake were given little bracelets made from woven palm fronds that were supposed to bring good luck to the Captain, crew and boat.  Eventually we were led to the waterfront (I knew it was part of the festivities somewhere) where we ate dinner at one of the Roulettes (trucks/vans that open their windows, set out tables and serve huge plates of food...very good) and watched our first Polyesian show.  We were able to find the bus back to the boat around 8:30...I wish I had taken a picture of Jake....he had played really hard and was trying to fall asleep, all the while sporting all of our leis, complete with a fresh flower behind his ear, truly embracing his new polynesian lifesyle.

Our Agent Cindy...she was absolutely fantastic and well
worth the cost....very nice lady.

Saturday morning was the rally over to Moorea.  This is a sailboat Rally (not a race, everyone was sure to repeat over and over) from the main pass in Papeete to the neighboring island of Moorea.  It was complete and utter chaos at the starting line but turned out to be a lot of fun.  We got a quick start as we avoided near collision with 3 other boats and went around the lead boat.  Unforntunately, there was no wind.  We all found ourselves moving at about 2 knots to nowhere.  About and hour into it, the race committee was considering calling the whole thing early so that we could ensure we all arrived before dark.  About that time, the wind shifted and we were the first to realize it.  We whipped out the spinnaker and finally picked up speed to about 7.5 knots.  Our first mistake was to announce it over the radio...because suddenly, instead of being all alone with one other boat (a beautiful monohull in front of us - the lead spot) while others were closer to land losing the race, we were being followed by a ton of spinnakers!  To make a long blog a tad bit shorter, we started out in 2nd place and ended in 5th out of only 9 boats who chose to sail the whole way...everyone else eventually gave in and turned on their motor.  We're taking pride in being the first boat to put their spinnaker up, the first boat to wrap their spinnaker, and the first boat to take it down!   We never expected to win anyway, but it was nice being in the front for a while.  The cocktail party on the beach following the race was a blast and I even got a chance to show off my dance moves with a few polynesian men (I think someone else has some pictures, I'll try to get a hold of them and post later).  I got a few compliments that makes me think I might still have it (or not)!

Today we were back on shore by 9:30 for the Polynesian games.  Andy and I were on a team with Finoa and Tommy on Phambili...we were called Team Catastrophe, a name we wore well.  We ended up coming in very last on the canoe races but we're pretty convinced our polynesian crew were sandbagging us...that's our story and we're sticking to it.  Andy made a good showing in the banana carrying races but we both opted out of the heavy lifting of stones.  I enjoyed some of the extra curricular activites they had...making leis, dying our own Pareos and buying a few pearls.  And we were finally shown the secret to cracking open coconuts.

Andy carrying his bananas

These are all class C pearls but the price was right for me!

What was Jake doing during all of this you might be wondering.  Doing what Jake does best...playing, playing, playing.  There were tons of kids but he and Natalie seem to hit if off the best and they spent all day playing in the sand and water.  He had a hard time taking time out to root for his old parents in the boat races...I'm not even sure he noticed we were gone.

The day ended with an empty cooler (it was freeflowing with free rum punch all day) and what had to be a lot of tired Polynesian dancers...they never stopped.  Awards were given and we were lucky enough to take home a nice shirt, a hat, souvenier seashell and lots and lots of flowered leis.  We're taking it easy tonight because tomorrow, there's a kid party.  I'm not sure they really need it, as by the end of the weekend, I think they're about tired of each other.  However, it'll be nice to not have to worry about whether or not our kid is bugging someone as everyone there will be parents and have a little bugger of their own.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Continuing to explore the Island

We took Jake back to the waterfalls and had a really good time.  We hiked to all three of them and let Jake play in the river.  It was raining when we got there and the air was a bit cooler so the swimming was actually short lived, but he appreciated the effort all the same.  We drove around Tahiti Iti (the smaller island of Tahiti) and then made our way back to the boat.

Yesterday I had the day off and got to explore downtown by myself.  Andy dropped me off before he took the car rental back and I took a bus back in the afternoon.  I saw the Cathedral of Notre Dame...not as impressive as the ones we saw in Mexico but pretty all the same.  I went in the Marche Municipale, the Open Market and browsed around all of the trinkets.  I visited Bougainville Park, the momument to Pouvanaa a Oopa (a WWI war hero from the island of Huahine who went to prison for seeking independence for his own country.  After he was released from prison in France and returned home, he was sent back to France as Tahiti's representative in the French Senate), and the Robert Wan Pearl Museum.  This is the only pearl museum in the world and was probably my favorite.  But it's not the pearls that made it so good (although they were beautiful).  And it's not all the stories and information they provided that impressed me (although they were very impressive).  It's the eye balls of the statues that really caught my eye ...they were so real!  I wouldn't be surprised if someone told me they took them from someone alive and stuck them in these statues...they were that real!  I think I spent more time looking at those silly eye balls than I did the pearls.  I don't think this should come as a shock to anyone as I've already establilshed I'm not that cultured!

Today we're getting ready to go to the big Sailing Rendevouz.  They've planned so many activities I think it might be a bit overwhelming.  Not to mention every boat we've ever heard of is going.  Registration is this afternoon and we'll get a better idea of how it's going to go.

Before I sign off, I'd like to share a funny story.  I thought I was doing Andy a favor yesterday when I picked him up a bottle of rum at the grocery store.  His drink of choice is a cold rum and coke and I knew he was low on rum.  He's tried out every bottle of rum on the bottom shelf of the grocery store.  They store it much like we store wine in the states with the cheapest stuff on the bottom shelf.  Well, I thought the $20 bottle looked cool so I bought it (and yes, I said $20 was the cheapest they had).  I have never seen my husband poor a drink out, but that is exactly what he did.  He tried and tried to drink it and finally fed it to the water.  Then he went back to look at the bottle and proceded to give me a very hard time.  Now keep in mind that I bought it for three reasons...1) it was the cheapest that he hadn't tried yet, 2) It looked like it came from Jamaica (although to be fair, they didn't bother to put the origin on the bottle, should have been my first clue), and 3) I was trying to be nice.  Take a look at the bottle....

Yes, that says Rhum Dou in Rum Doo Doo.  I wish I could repeat everything Andy said about it as it was so funny I cried, but this is a family blog so I'm going to refrain.  So, the next time you get an urge to have a drink, make sure it's not Rhum Dou Dou, because no matter how you spell it, it tastes like....doo doo!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Stocking up in Tahiti...quite different than Mexico, yet the same?

I'll warn you ahead of time that this is a hodge podge of subjects...there's so much going on but I can't quite focus.

We rented a car Monday from the airport (a shocking $110/day) and are doing our provisioning for the next few months.  It's always nice to just get in a car and drive wherever you want not having to worry about bus stops or little legs getting tired of walking...or sweating to death.  First on the list was to find the bulk store we had heard about.  It's called Cost &; Co, no relation to Costco...other than carrying the exact same brands!  I have no idea how they do it but it's like a mini Costco complete with Kirkland brands and giant bags of pancake mix ( homemade pancakes aren't very good).  So we stocked up there and unfortunately left the beautiful little portable stainless steel grill where it was sitting (it doesn't fit right on the boat...would be a toe breaker...but I'm still hoping Andy will change his mind).  Then we went looking for all the chandleries...why, I don't know.  For once, we don't have anything that needs fixing but it just doesn't feel right to go to a big city without walking through the boat shops. 

We found the duty free liquor shop we've heard so much about, Kim Fa.  It's a fabulous find...after you check out of Papeete, you take your papers and head over to Kim Fa.  You put in your order and they deliver it to your boat in 24 hours.  You have to keep it separate from your normal stuff because you can't drink it until you leave French Polynesia.  But it's well worth the effort.  You can get a good bottle of wine (at least by our very low Mexican standards) for about 450 Francs ($5).  Jo Anne spoke wonderful English and she was nice enough to warn us to come a little early next week as there will be a Chinese cruise ship here and hundreds of Chinese people trying to buy their duty free booze.  Thanks for the heads up.

We've made several stops at the Carrefour (big grocery store), dropped of laundry (I won't even tell you how much I paid.  You either won't believe me or you'll think I'm crazy for paying it), and refilled our propane tanks.

After our last grocery run, Jake went to play on La Fiesta with Natalie while Andy and I drove around the island.  It only took a few hours to do all the touristy things but it was really fun.  We saw lots of waterfalls (I love waterfalls) and a few gardens and just some really pretty scenery.  Today we're going to take Jake back to one of the waterfalls and let him swim around.  At least that's the current plan...

One thing that baffles us (but makes us laugh) about the French Polynesia is the chicken.  You can't throw a rock without hitting one...little boys are carrying them all over town...we've even seen one on a leash...yet if you go to the store to buy one, it's about $10/lb.  And the cheap frozen ones we buy...guess where the come from.  Gainesville, GA.  Yes, I said Gainesville, GA.  Now it's been awhile since I've been home to GA, but I don't recall Gainesville being noted for it's chicken production.  But no worries, it tastes delicious and at least we know it went through some sort of quality control at some point in time.

So we ended the night with sundowners (after sun down) with La Fiesta and Lardo and are feeling good.  The boat is stocked up, gased up, and love is all around.  At the very least we're ready for our party this weekend at Moorea with the rest of the fleet.  At the very highest of hopes, we're stocked up for the Cook Islands.  We'll see...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Papeete, Tahiti

We named it "Shanty Island"...right outside our back porch
They seem to have lots of fun though.
Now that we've settled in I can give a proper perspective of Tahiti (obviously from my point of view)... as those before me have written, it's not exactly what you think of when you think "Tahiti."  I think we all think of the resorts, all inclusive hotels and immaculate landscapes...not exactly.  As cruisers, we're fortunate enough to get a glimpse into what it might be like to actually live in a place and see it from a local's point of view (we are currently anchored in front of some of the finest shanty's I've seen from the water, not an uncommon view).  It's a whole different perspecitve.

We took the bus in on Friday to town with Angelina and Natalie on La Fiesta (Natalie is the cute 5 year old Jake's been playing with for the last 3 days).  Everyone we've talked to finds it a dirty city and isn't too impressed.  Well, I like city's.  No, correct that...I love city's.  See, I grew up just outside of Atlanta and to this day my heart skips a couple of beats everytime I fly into the city and see that skyline...I know I'm home.  So, when I see a city, I don't see dirty streets (which they are not here by the way...just old) and too many people...I see a never ending place to explore.  We had a nice day walking around and seeing new places.  We found a playground for the kids and then eventually we made it home.  I say eventually because evidently we found the only bus stop where buses don't actually stop.  We must have waited an hour and half and finally a woman told us buses don't actually stop there.  She saw the two kids and was kind enough to offer us a ride back to the Marina.  She even bought the kids ice cream!

So what's here?  Lots and lots of lots of boats...literally hundreds.  But that's not what I meant by the question...sorry.   Within walking distance of the Marina are two grocery stores.  To the left is the Carrefours...American style grocery store (think SuperWalmart) with anything and everything you could possibly want.  Not quite American prices but close.  Lots of vegetables from the good old US of A though...  The best part is that you can push the cart all the way back to your dinghy so there's no lugging 15 backpacks with your poop in it. 
To the right of the Marina is a McDonald's (complete with waterfront seating...although don't expect a quick OR cheap meal, $30 for the three of us) and another grocery store.  Smaller, yet easier to get around.  It seems to have everything you need as well, without all the temptations of a larger store.

This is a very small fraction of the boats in this anchorage. 
Even though we're crowded, we always have our beautiful sunsets.

So here we are... It's Father's Day and after a full day yesterday playing on Savannah, La Fiesta returned the favor and picked up Jake this morning about 10:30...It's 4:00 and we have no idea where he is :).  It's hard to have a day by find that you don't know what to do with all that free time!
We pick up a rental car tomorrow to do some provisioning and explore the rest of the island.  We've kind of been saving our money so we could do something like this.  Looking forward to it.  I haven't taken a lot of pictures but hopefully you'll enjoy seeing Jake finally get to play with someone his own age who speaks English (albeit with an Aussie accent :) ).

Jake and Natalie watching "Clone Wars" on Savannah.
She actually likes to play and watch the same things he does! 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

and still more pictures...

Here's the good stuff... we have tons more but it's impossible to post them all.  We're working on a website for Andy's stuff so he can try to make a little extra $$$.  Stay tuned, I'll be shouting from the rooftops when it's ready.

These were taken both in Tahanea and South Fakarava.  As I said earlier, we don't have a fish book so I can't identify all of them for you...maybe you can help us out?  Enjoy!

Black tip reef shark.  Nice picture, huh? ...the results of
one of the chumming sessions.

The infamous Napolean Wrasse.  This guy was half
the size of our dinghy!

Camouflage Grouper

Sea Slug, Nudibrant (spelling?)

Squirrel fish...he looks so sad!
Lion Fish

White tip reef shark

Jake and Andy...Jake's first time below 3 feet.
Mark and I on one of our dives in the pass.  That long line
is hooked to the dinghy above so it can drift with us.
Grey shark, I think.

Snorkeling by the docks in S. Fakarava