Papeete, Tahiti

Peregrina's Journey
Peter and Margie Benziger
Tue 11 Jan 2011 00:36

Position Report – 17:32.212S/149:34.186W
Papeete, Tahiti was the first stop along our BWR itinerary that I began to really grasp the impact and the true spirit of the Rally concept.  Up until now, we had always been at anchor at the various ports along the itinerary…beginning with the San Blas Islands and the Panama Canal, to Las Perlas, the Galapagos, the Marquesas and the Tuamotus.  What’s more, we were almost always spread out among a variety of anchorages or at different islands/atolls along our route so we were together but separate. 

Even in Tahiti, there were still a handful of boats at the Marina Taina a few miles from the port in downtown Papeete.  But, we were 22 boats strong on the Quai des Yachts in the Papeete harbor and I cannot tell you how impressive it was to see all the yachts in one place “dressing ship”  - that is displaying their large Blue Water Rally banner along with a rainbow of rectangular flags of the International Code and triangular pennants, known as signal flags, from the bow of the boat up a halyard to the top of the mast and down to the stern.  As each boat maneuvered into their slip on the dock, you could see the awe on the faces of the Captains and crewmembers as they realized that they were adding one more vessel to the family of BWR yachts assembled here.  Without exception, there was a mad dash to hoist the “colors” and participate in the spectacle of our joint mission to sail around the world.   I found this one of those times when a little voice says to you, “This is important!  Savor this moment.”
Another very happy moment occurred in Papeete, when Dick and Sarah aboard “Moonshiner” arrived one morning – over a month after they had to turn back to the Galapagos Islands during our three week passage due to engine problems.  They had spent two weeks in the Galapagos having repairs done on their boat and then had to wait few extra days for a “weather window” in order to leave.   In trying to catch up with the fleet, they missed out on most of the Marquesas and all of the Tuamotus.  However, they were greeted by a chorus of blaring horns, whistles and hand-clapping as they threw their lines to waiting hands on the dock.  It was like a member of the family had finally come home after a long absence.

Most of us moored “Mediterranean-style.”  That is to say stern into the dock.  This was something new for Peter and me as we always brought our boat into the slip at CRYC bow first.   We had actually never even taken the cover off our “passarelle,” a beautiful teak gangplank complete with a handrail that plops down off the stern of the boat to the dock so that one can make a grand entrance a la those mega yachts from Cannes, Portofino or Monte Carlo.  I must admit that we DID have the best passarelle in the BWR fleet – complete with a little wheel on the bottom of the gangplank so that it rolled back and forth with the changing tide or swell from passing ships.  It was tres chic and I felt very European despite my American accent. 

Life on the dock was a flurry of activity and for one glorious week, we reveled in the camaraderie of having “next door neighbors.”   We shared coffee and baguettes, or pain de chocolat, each morning and borrowed bicycles or shopping carts when we needed to go to the marine supply store or supermarket.  With electricity and water included in our dock fees, we took full advantage of air conditioning, showers and fresh water to fill our tanks and clean our boats.  There were endless projects to complete with parcels from Boat US, Harken, Panda, Raymarine etc, etc, arriving daily.  All this equipment needed to be installed and there were many hands ready to assist if one needed help. 

I think the moment that stood out for me most was when we formed a real life “human chain” to remove 250 feet of HEAVY galvanized steel anchor chain off “Natibou,” a 49 foot catamaran owned by Hans and Monika from Sweden.  Twenty of us lined the dock at five foot intervals passing along the heavy chain which was transferred from the anchor locker in the bow of their boat all the way up the dock to the street that passed by the port and loaded into a waiting truck.  Three days later, we repeated the process when a new anchor chain was delivered. 

While in Papeete, we experienced the most outstanding welcome of all the places we’ve visited thus far.  The Tahiti Tourism Board went out of their way to make us feel like honored guests.  We had a welcome ceremony at the Port Authority grounds with music, dancing, outrigger canoe paddling and a huge craft fair.  That evening, a little band met us at the dock and literally led all 50 +- of us walking through the city to the Municipal Government House where we had a welcome from the Mayor of the City and a huge party with spectacular Tahitian dancers.  (I mean those girls can shake their hips!!!!!)  They set up a mile long buffet table and, in the end, gave each skipper a beautiful mother of pearl oyster shell engraved with our names on it.  It was a lovely night.  The next day, a photo of all of us, and our BWR boats at the Quai des Yachts, was in the newspaper.

Just before we left Papeete, we held “Quiz Night” on the dock.  It was a variation of a game we play over the SSB radio while we are at sea.    Every Friday night at 6:15pm, Sue from “Camomile” organizes a call-in competition which is a rendition of Trivial Pursuit with the crew of each boat competing as a team to answer questions from a field of ten categories. Sue asks contestants to select five categories from which to answer questions.  The team with the most correct answers at the end of the night is pronounced the weekly champion.  Each team has a name and some of the more creative monikers have been “We Don’t Have a Clew,”- a clew being the lower end corner of the sail at the outside point, farthest from the mast and “The Rolling Stone” - named for the Captain who suffered through a kidney stone while crossing the Pacific.  Anyway, the game is loads of fun - especially after two or three weeks out at sea when you are sick of talking to your fellow crewmembers and it’s just great to hear another person’s voice.  So we decided to hold a Quiz Night on the dock following a wonderful potluck dinner.   We combined two boats for each team.  Margie joined the boys from Fai Tiri calling their team the Perri-Fairi-Tinas!  Peter jumped ship to be with the Spaniards on “Bionic” and became one of the Don Quijotes! 

But, the hit of the night were the combined members of the English boat, “Jackamy” and the Australian boat, “Gaultine III”, who all came in drag and a team name of “Fred, Bruce and the “Sheilas.” I have to say that there is something about sailing around the world that prompts grown men to throw away their inhibitions and “cross-dress.”  We’ve seen this phenomenon on several occasions during the Rally.  Freud would have a field day with this group!!!  Needless to say, a good time was had by all and, the next morning it was bye-bye to Tahiti and hello Moorea! 

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