Monday, June 27, 2011

Rainbow's End

Jaime exclaims, "Oh my god. Look at all those PEOPLE!" She's standing mid-ships and gazing with an odd mixture of horror and delight at the verdant, populated slopes of the island of Tahiti. We are on approach to Papeete harbor prior to joining the rest of the fleet for the Tahiti-Moorea Rendezvous.

The rest of the family boils up from below to enjoy the view. Papeete is by far the largest port we've visited to date on this long trip. Arguably, it's the largest city we've seen since we left Los Angeles in February. It is the largest city in French Polynesia and the most people we will see probably until we arrive back in Auckland. Here we will rejoin old friends from our cruising years past: Calou, Evergreen, Watcha Gonna Do. We'll revisit with more recent friends: Britannia, Ceilydh, Discovery, and Shang Yu. And we'll finally meet in person the boats with whom we've been chatting for months on the net: Soggy Paws, Rutea, Diligaf, Chanty. And there are so many more. The place is simply bursting with cruising boats, meeting here for a very brief rendezvous before scattering all over the second half of this Pacific transit.

Over the intervening months, Papeete has taken on something of mythic proportions. This vision of Papeete as the Emerald City at the end of our endless blue water road is no doubt common amongst puddle jumpers. It starts the moment you leave shore and one of the children knocks your one bottle of sesame oil off the counter and into oblivion. You feel it when a stainless steel tang snaps or a sail rips or a line breaks. Your dreams are full of Papeete as they subconsciously protest the always slightly dirty sheets. And your glands salivate every time the word is mentioned with the thought of crisp green vegetables and cheap, fresh fruit. Papeete is the place you go after months of ocean passaging and stunning but remote anchorages. It's where you can find fully stocked chandleries, replacement parts, and large grocery stores. There are packages from home, broadband Internet connections, and laundry mats. You can find diesel mechanics, outboard experts, and sail makers.

Papeete is the drink of water after a long journey in the desert, it is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it is cruiser heaven.

It is also noisy, busy, and full of people. We're not used to people. We've been on islands where a total population of 400 is considered crowded. We're happy to have arrived, and within an hour, we're also talking about how soon we will go. It begs the question how we are ever going to settle into Auckland. We might need to make landfall in Opua (population 500) first just to acclimatize.

We have a list of things to do here in Papeete. Mera interjects here over my shoulder, "Of course you have a list, Mom." "You say that like it's a bad thing," I retort.

Of course we have a GTD list with a Papeete context. It's what I do. We've been pretty lucky as puddle jumpers go. Our list isn't particularly dramatic. The only really big ticket item is the dinghy outboard. This is the Mercury's last chance. She's either fully functional before we leave here, or we buy another one. Smaller items include a new tang for the main sheet system to replace the one we snapped, replacement sunglasses, cat food (Dulci is eating through her food supply at roughly twice the anticipated rate), packages to family, and our residency application for New Zealand.

These are in addition to the obvious requirement that we provision up. Basically, we need to add enough fresh to the boat to last to Tonga, 6 to 8 weeks down the road. Of course, we still have all the dry and canned goods as well as staples we put on in Mexico. We're working through the majority of our staples (other than the cat food) at about the rate we'd anticipated. There are some notable exceptions. We're eating more canned spaghetti sauce than I would have thought because we've been using it as a marinera dip for fried eggplant and panko chicken nuggets. On the other side of the equation, we're awash in cake mix. Don't ask, because I have no clear idea why.

So here we are sipping sundowners as the sun disappears behind Moorea contemplating the wonder which is anchoring between a mountain and a barrier reef. We're at the rainbow's end, the heart of the cornucopia which is modern commerce with everything we might possibly want at our fingertips. Yet all I can think of is how fast can we stock up, fix the motor, and sail north back into the middle of nowhere.

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