Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Busy Day

Even though we all woke pretty early yesterday (Corie had already done her yoga in the cockpit by the time I got up and that was before sunrise), we still had to hurry in order to meet Sondra, our agent, ashore at 0730. Armed with a thick packet of ship's papers, a small backpack and lots of excitement about being on land for the first time in 20 days, we paddled to the stone launch ramp just around the corner from where Rutea is anchored. Without her outboard motor, Rutea's dinghy is light enough for the three of us to carry easily so we took it about 200 feet up from the water's edge and sat it down on a grassy patch. The destination for which we had done so much planning and here we were, barefoot and on land in French Polynesia!

The launch ramp is primarily used for outrigger canoes and there was a group of young men hanging out in front of a small building, who we assumed were getting ready for some outrigger canoe practice. "Bonjour!", I said to them as I walked by with a bag full of trash (just one bag of trash after 20 days - we had been extremely careful about packaging as we provisioned and had stripped everything we bought down to the absolutely bare minimum). They replied with a typical teenager's mumble of the same, not really taking much notice of me. They did, though, take notice of Corie. The outrigger canoes that they paddle are no resemblance to the stereotypical dugout canoes that one might associate with the tropics. These appear to be ultra light-weight and made of high-tech materials, with elaborate paint jobs.

Sondra was right on time, driving an older diesel Range Rover. We were soon on our way, driving on a concrete road through the dense, lush growth. Atuona is only 3 kilometers from Baie Tahauku (which is also known as Traitor's Bay) and we parked next to the Paul Gaugin Museum and walked across the street to the Gendarmerie. We were buzzed in through a gate and Sondra exchanged kisses with the woman behind the desk, their French a complete blur. The building was very neat and clean with air conditioning. The desks were orderly without a paper out of place and late-model computer equipment was evident everywhere. I filled out a form, the gendarm stamped our passports and we were done.

Once outside, blinking in the bright sunlight, we said goodbye to Sondra and walked down the street. For the small town, we were surprised at the amount of traffic and the makes and models of the cars and trucks reminded us of what we'd typically see in Europe. As we walked past a grocery store, a mini pickup pulled up, the back of it filled with large crates of freshly-baked baguettes. How I wish I had the camera ready but they soon had the order for the grocery store unloaded and the truck was off for another delivery. We found the bank and ATM - the bills are very large in size and denomination - they're also very attractive with pictures of pretty women with flowers in their hair. The current exchange rate is 119 XFC (French Polynesian Francs) to $1.00US. We shopped briefly at a store with local artwork and the hardware store before stopping into the grocery store with it's fresh load of baguettes, where we bought sandwiches, pain chocolat and some fresh vegetables. Everyone we met seemed very friendly.

The town is very small but the homes and buildings appear to be in good repair with neat landscaping. Thick bushes and trees like we've never seen before with unusual fruit. There are two restaurants in town but neither were open. We inquired at one and after a brief struggle with the language barrier we found that their hours were short. From there we walked back to the bay where Rutea is anchored, bought some baguettes and eggs at the gas station at the end of the wharf and paddled back out to Rutea.

Once aboard, we took a brief rest and then Ruthie and Corie got busy cleaning the thick layer of salt off the boat while I tackled the troublesome raw water pump for the genset. I also cleaned the barnacles that had grown on the transom during our crossing (when Rutea is underway, her transom rides below the painted waterline so without antifouling paint, the transom was a mess). But, we were interrupted by Randy and Jenny from Mystic who had arrived earlier in the day. We chatted with them about their crossing (24 days and the only time they used their engine was to pull into the bay here). Then Beth from Sarah Jean II came over. While she was talking with us, Mark and Yuka from Merkava - who also arrived earlier in the day - came aboard and talked. By then, it was almost 1600 and we were supposed to meet Sondra ashore to get our duty-free fuel certificates. While ashore, we made phone calls to Ian and Caity, searched for an elusive Felix who was supposed to be around with fresh fruit (the day before, Fred and Cinda from Songline had given us a grapefruit from Felix's orchard - it was almost the size of a small soccer ball and the sweetest, juiciest grapefruit I've ever tasted) and talked with other cruisers. It was getting dark as we made our way back to Rutea.
At 4/12/2011 3:58 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 09°48.21'S 139°01.83'W

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