Return to Sea
on the Aranui 3 voyage to the Marquesas
I have been retired from
active sailing for many years. Although I have maintained my credentials as an unlimited Master with the
U.S. Coast Guard, all but one of the ships I have been on since retirement has remained alongside the dock most of the time.
I really missed the feeling of the ocean under my feet. Over a decade
ago I read about a freighter/passenger ship that operated out of Papeete, Tahiti and carried passengers and cargo to a number
of islands in the Marquesas, and also the Tuamotu Archipelago. Although I had sailed past some of
these places during my decades at sea, I could only view them through binoculars, and I wanted to know more about them.
These were places made famous by great authors like Melville, Dana, Stevenson, and Jack London. I was able to use the internet to get in contact with CPTM, or the Polynesian Maritime Transportation
Company. They have an office in Los Angeles, and sent me a brochure last year. After
that I was hooked. I booked a cabin on the Aranui 3, voyage 10, which sails from Papeete tomorrow morning.
When I called CPTM, they directed me to use a travel agent, who told me that comparing the Aranui to the
cruise ship Paul Gauguin was like comparing a Motel 6 to a five star hotel. In my opinion
that was a plus. I feel that luxury travel to some degree insulates you from the real world. This
essay will be a day to day log of our voyage.
July 13th, 2011, Getting to Tahiti is a lot easier than it was when I started my
sailing career. At that time there were few freighters that called at Papeete. Faaa
airport was not opened until the 70’s.
Faaa International Airport, Papeete, Tahiti
Today it is far
easier, but not all that easy. There are only a few airlines that serve the airport here, and Air Tahiti
Nui is by far the biggest carrier out of here. I bought my tickets on Air New Zealand, one of the few airlines
that would ticket us all the way from Houston. But the flights were code shares, meaning that other carriers
actually operated the flights, and they did not have baggage handling agreements with each other. That
meant that I would have to check my bags from Houston to Los Angeles, pick them up, and then transfer them to Air Tahiti Nui
in Los Angeles.
Passing through LAX at sunset
we had a four hour connection, this was only an inconvenience, and not stressful. The operation in reality
took only about two hours but required a lot of walking, probably made worse by the merger of Continental and United, which
caused travellers to get off the plane in Terminal 6, walk to Terminal 7 to exit, and then walk back to Terminal 6 to pick
up their checked baggage. Once aboard the Tahiti Nui flight, I was tired, and although I seldom can sleep on a plane, I slept
almost all the way across the Pacific to Tahiti.
July 14th Our arrival and passage through immigration, baggage claim, and customs
were quick and problem free, and upon leaving the customs area we were met by a representative of Tahiti Nui Travel, with
whom we booked a transfer to our hotel well in advance. We were arriving at 5 A.M. on Bastille Day and
I was afraid that taxis would be scarce. We had also booked a “junior suite” at the Hotel Tahiti
Nui, which in reality was a large, two story suite, with a living room and kitchen downstairs, and a bedroom and large bathroom
Hotel Tahiti Nui, Papeete
We were on the NE facing side of the hotel, on the top floor, and our room was very quiet, peaceful,
and elegant, with a large balcony from which we could see both the mountains and the ocean. On the other side are rooms that
overlook downtown and the harbor, but some complain that they are noisy, mostly because of a service station and convenience
store next to the hotel. The hotel and the rooms were modern and decorated in white tile, black furniture, and mahogany flooring
upstairs. The Wi-Fi connection was too weak to be useful, but we have also a free Ethernet connection,
which I am now using. The bathroom was European, and the shower needed to be used while sitting in the
tub, otherwise the hand held spray would fly all around the bathroom. After our arrival at the hotel, I
took a quick shower, and we went out to see the Bastille Day parade, and for some reason were invited to sit with the VIP’s
in the reviewing stand. I guess it was just my bearing and demeanor that made them assume that I belonged
there ;-). I was curious how the Tahitians felt about this holiday, since they fought the French for a
number of years back in the 1840’s. Now that the French provide the Islands with assistance in the
form of infrastructure, subsidies, and social benefits, the past seems to be forgiven, if not forgotten. And
of course any excuse for a holiday is fine with almost everyone.
At the Bastille Day parade we got to sit with the vip's
We sat behind Miss Tahiti!
All of the shops were closed, except for the local McDonalds. We did note
that in general prices are high here in Tahiti, almost double for things that need to be imported. That has caused the tourism
industry to suffer, and tourism is the main industry. We did enjoy a walk along the waterfront. I was tempted
to go out and see the Aranui 3, which was docked on the far side of the harbor, but decided to wait for Saturday’s embarkation.
We were both tired from our trip, and went to bed early.
July 15, Friday we woke early and had booked a jeep tour of the interior of Tahiti, which is mountainous
and covered with rain forest and has more waterfalls than can be counted, the number increases with the rainy season.
It is now the beginning of the winter, or dry season, but the waterfalls are still running full tilt, and it rains
a lot more in the mountains than on the coast. Tahiti is like Australia, almost everyone lives along
the coast, and the interior is unpopulated. There is only one road that crosses the interior of the island,
and that has been recently blocked on the Eastern side by a land owner who claims that the road was built illegally on his
property. Therefore the jeep tours can just go over the top of the island, and have to turn around and
go back. We took the 8 hour tour, although a 4 hour tour was offered. The
Jeep tours are operated by several tour companies, all seem to be friendly with one another. The vehicles
are 4WD Land Rovers or Fords where 5 or 6 passengers sit facing each other in the back. The interior road
is mostly potholed gravel, and is bumpy.
The Tahitian trans-island road
Although the scenery was beautiful, I was glad
to be back on the main highway by the end of the tour. Someone said the scenery was like the Jurassic Park
movie, which I believe was filmed in Kauai. We stopped for lunch at a small hotel and restaurant about
half-way up the mountain.
The only motel and restaurant in the National Park
I could see the light at the end of the tunnel!
At the top was a tunnel about 100 yards long, and then followed a steep descent
down the other side on a road that was much worse than before, just two ruts and definitely 4WD country. We
did not go far down before we turned around and retraced our route back to Papeete. Our guide was a multi-national
and multi-lingual man of about 30 who had been living in Tahiti for about ten years. The other passengers
were a young man, a recent economics graduate from Vienna who was taking two months off of work for a world tour, and a middle
aged and fun loving Italian couple. We all had fun speaking a bunch of languages, but Tahitian was not
one of them. It just has too many vowels. After our tour we got cleaned up, changed,
and went out on the town. We ate at a Trip-Advisor recommended restaurant, called O a'la Bouche.
It was a good recommendation. The food was excellent, we tried the scallop risotto and the lamb
loin, and the service was prompt and friendly. The place was not crowded, even on a Friday night. Of course
it was expensive, but not really more than other places. Downtown Papeete looks like it has suffered from
the poor economy with many closed storefronts.
July 16th is sailing day, as well as my 28th anniversary of marriage to
my wife Ines. We woke early, still under the influence of Central Daylight Time, and
also the excitement of boarding the Aranui 3. We checked our e-mail one last time, and then packed our
“stuff” and checked out of the hotel. I asked about a cab, knowing that because of local showers
and a weekend it might be hard to find a cab. Luckily there was a cab in front of our hotel, and it was
waiting for another couple from New Zealand who were going to the Aranui. We agreed to split the cab fare,
and it became one of the cheapest things I have found in Tahiti.We were
driven right to the gangway in the commercial port, which is across the harbor from the passenger terminal and ferry dock.
Arriving at the Aranui Saturday morning.
3 was still loading and securing cargo. I could tell that it would not be a very rough trip, because little
securing of cargo was taking place. Containers were set on pedestals, but not pinned. One
was just set on deck on some dunnage underneath. Boarding was a simple matter. We left
our baggage at the gangway and it was sent to our room. We climbed the gangway and were greeted by a steward
and stewardess who gave us leis, took our photo and a copy of our ticket. No ID or passports were checked.
So much for the ISPS rules and regulations that in the U.S. make us carefully I.D. everyone who boards, or even enters
the port! A steward showed us to our room, Suite E. It was a balcony on the Starboard
side, just under the bridge wing. I chose it and felt lucky to get it. I chose it because I was afraid
that like on container ships, the containers would be stacked up in front of our window. As it turned out,
that was unfounded, and was not a problem even going down two more decks. Unlike passenger ships there
did not appear to be a huge difference in price between each level of accommodation, and I decided to go for broke with a
cabin that reminded me of my days as Captain.
Dormitories are available for the budget minded,
half the price of a balcony suite.
about 155 passengers aboard now, and that may increase by about 20 as we are going to have more people boarding in the islands.
The passengers range in age from infants to some close to 90 years old. The nationalities are 72 French
(some of them Polynesians) 30 Australians, 21 Americans, 8 Austrian, 5 Germans, 4 Italian, and 1 Swiss.
In addition we will load and unload 32 interisland passengers, about 20 of them are “Ministers” or VIP
politicians from France and Polynesia. Since this is the time of school vacations in Tahiti we have several dozen children
aboard. They seem to be well behaved, and speak mostly French.Lunch time is from noon until 2, and most of us were hungry since we did not eat breakfast. The
seating is open in tables of 4, 8, and 12. Dinner is from 7 to 8:30 p.m., and breakfast is a buffet from 6:30 to 8:30, but
on days at sea they open until 9. We chose a table of 8 for lunch and were joined by a couple from Paris
and their daughter Claire, an economist who was a young 27. John was an engineer with Total Oil Company, and his wife Anna.
Almost every one of the passengers has an interesting story to tell. There aren’t too many
people around who have the time, the money, and the good health to make a trip like this. All of us, in
one way or another, feel that we are fortunate to be here. At 2 P.M. there
was a meeting of the English speaking passengers that described the ship, the muster stations, and a few of the rules for
getting along while we were aboard. The doctor and the speaker, both of who work for a free passage, were
introduced. At 4 we will have an abandon
ship drill, and will wear our life jackets found in our cabins. My cabin musters by the pool.
Everyone is required to participate. Also we must wear our life jackets when going ashore in the
tenders. We leave them in a bag when we get ashore, and get other ones when we return. Tomorrow
there will be a fire drill for the crew, but the passengers do not participate in that. The French speaking
passengers are now meeting at 3 P.M. I asked about the internet, and found out that we will have
a connection next Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday when we are in the Marquesas, but not now. That is when
we will have cell phone service as well. My son asking me to put money in his bank account by text message
just before we sailed, I guess he will just have to wait L. Many people booking passage on a ship
worry about motion sickness. I want to warn those who are sensitive to this would suffer today, because
once we cleared the North end of Tahiti we encountered a fresh breeze from the East, and have been plowing into a brisk trade
wind for the past six hours. It is nothing unusual for a ship at sea, but the Aranui is only about a third
the size of a cruise ship and you definitely feel the ocean under your feet. It means you need to hold
on when walking around until you get your “sea legs”. The wind is blowing about 25 knots and
the seas are running about six to eight feet. We are taking some spray over the bow. Our
ship’s doctor, a Frenchman who works his way around the world as a ship’s doctor, told us that the
pitching of the ship has caused a number of passengers to visit him for sea sickness.
July 17, Sunday. Early to bed and early to rise, I am probably still adjusting
to the time change. I awoke before dawn. During the night the wind calmed down to a
more comfortable 15 knots, and moved more on our Starboard bow, so that the motion is not as great as before.
When I mention motion, it is not really that bad, things do not fly off shelves and tables, but it is more than what
you would normally experience on a Caribbean cruise. Today you can feel that you are at sea, but it is
not uncomfortable and much easier to walk without holding on. I walked down to the lounge for a cup of
coffee, it wasn’t fresh but it did open my eyes. Just off the lounge is a small library and reading
room. Reception has a supply of books to loan to passengers that relate to the trip, such as Melville’s
Typee This morning
I got up and dressed early, and went one deck up to the bridge, and met the Captain just as dawn was breaking. It
was “star time” when the horizon was sharp enough to take sextant altitudes of stars and get a morning “star
fix”. This was a talent that has pretty much disappeared since the advent of GPS about 20 years ago.
Nobody on here was taking a star fix, they knew where they were thanks to the GPS. I did enjoy seeing my old sky that
included the bright star Canopus and Acrux, stars that can’t be seen from North America. Orion was rising in the East,
just ahead of the sun, and a waning moon was setting in the West. We were approaching Fakurava, the most
populated of the Tuamotu Archipelago. The Tuamotus are low islands, just coral reefs with a lagoon
in the middle, no mountains. They are the oldest islands in the Pacific. There are no
working light houses on Fakurava. The first sight of the island is at 7 A.M. with the tops of the palm
trees breaking the horizon.
Choppy water entering the Atoll at Fakurava
Our call at
Fakurava was advertised as an all morning call, but since we had no cargo for this port, we made a two hour call, from 9 to
11 a.m. We went ashore on the first launch.
Going ashore in Fakurava on the first launch
There are two aboard the ship, and in reality everyone could fit in two or three trips.
Fakurava is a pretty atoll, we walked to the Catholic Church were a Sunday Mass was being held. They
sang beautifully, but in Tahitian, so I could not understand anything.
Mass on Fakuhiva in a church decorated in shells.
now at the end of the rainy season, and the beginning of the austral winter. We had some brief showers
while we were ashore, but nothing that caused much of a problem. And since the Aranui 3 is the biggest
attraction in town, the black pearl stores opened for us, and those who are in the know said the prices were very reasonable.
Ines bought a pendant and ring so she could say she bought her pearls in
the Tuamotus, the main source of the Tahitian pearl. Although the ocean today was calmer than yesterday,
people were happy to be anchored in the lagoon for a while. We are now picking
up the launches and getting underway. The captain had the anchor up and was underway while the last launch
was still alongside with passengers. We had no wasted time in Fakuhiva! After sailing out of the lagoon and back into the open Pacific, the wind once again increased to about 25 knots,
and the ship resumed its uncomfortable pitching. Some people say that once we get to the Marquesas that
the seas become a lot smoother. The food is good, and not many people seem to be missing meals, so it can’t
be too bad. The passengers seem to be taking it better than the volunteers I sail with on Mercy Ships,
who seem to get seasick while alongside the dock. Unlike a regular freighter,
the crew have organized activities for the passengers. Also we have a flat screen TV in our room, with
a couple of French movie channels. I prefer to sit on the balcony and read during my spare time.
Ines went to palm hat weaving demonstrations, and later Polynesian dance lessons. Tonight in the
lounge they are showing a couple of French movies with subtitles.
Monday, July 18th. A day at sea. The trade
wind picked up again on our bow, and made sleeping difficult for many. I understand that this 20 to 25
knot E’ly trade wind is common in winter months. (June through September is winter south of the equator)
The winds are calmer if you travel in December through March, but that is the rainy season. Booking
a room lower in the ship and farther forward (amidships) would probably help, too. Anyway the winds are
farther to starboard today and we are getting used to the motion, so things are looking up. I should also mention that the
ship has not rolled more than a few degrees. Our sea day today included a dance lesson after breakfast, then our archeologist
speaker Victoria gave a one hour talk about European and American influence in the islands, the various sailors, explorers,
missionaries, authors, and artists who altered the civilization on the Marquesas. After the talk we had
a bridge tour. The bridge was fairly typical of a vessel of this age, it has a single screw, single rudder
propulsion with a bow thruster, like most of the ships that I worked on.
Classed as a passenger vessel
it requires two watch officers on duty at a time. They used paper charts, not the new electronic charts, and used GPS and
electronic navigation rather than celestial navigation, a Polynesian invention that is now becoming a lost art.
A Belgian apprentice conducted the bridge tour for about 20 interested passengers including myself . We
are making about 12 knots at sea speed, and would normally be doing 13 knots but the wind and seas are holding us back, and
we will arrive in our next port Ua Poa, the first of the Marquesas about 3 hours late tomorrow, just before noon.In the afternoon we had a meeting with the cruise director. Usually the ship calls at two ports
on the North coast, spending about 3 hours in each port, but in order to make up lost time we will just call at Hakahau and
stay for 5 hours. That will be more relaxing for me, and we should have time to get on the internet or
to call home. Most shore excursions are included in the price of the cruise, but there are
some things like horseback riding or deep sea fishing that cost extra.
Tuesday, July 19 We awoke to the same brisk trade wind on our starboard bow,
still pitching into a 25 knot wind with 2 meter seas. Our speed suffered, and now we are about 5 hours
behind schedule on our arrival. Things were well organized for the morning. Dance classes,
singing local music, and later more information about UaPoa and our revised schedule. We will dock around
2, and sail around 10 for Nuku Hiva. Distances between the islands are not great, so that we should be
able to keep our schedule from here to other islands in the Marquesas even if the seas remain unusually rough.
I was really impressed when the Captain took the ship along a lee shore, with seas crashing on the rocks to our starboard,
and passed a small breakwater to port. While entering this tiny harbor the crew put its two whale
boats in the water with the ship’s derricks, in order to take the lines ashore. All headway was taken
off the ship since there was no turning space, and the bow thruster was used to make a 180 degree turn to land alongside a
tiny quay, about 30 meters long, just enough to be able to put the gangway down and work the after two hatches.
We went ashore as soon as we docked, no customs or immigration were needed. We all walked to a restaurant
up a hill a few blocks from the harbor, where a late lunch awaited us. They had more local music and dancers
waiting there, and preformed for our lunch of local food such as marinated fish, roasted pork, poi, taro, fish, and bread
fruit. After lunch many people walked up the hill to a viewpoint and a cross overlooking the harbor.
Ines and I went to the post office, where we called home to Ines’ family. Her mother was once
again in the hospital, but was doing well after losing some blood in her upper GI tract. That is one thing
that is a worry during this voyage. Communication is spotty at best. My cell phone works
here, but is expensive. Text messages are cheaper, but the internet did not work in
the post office and was very slow on board. However with perseverance we were able to put some money in
David and Juliet’s bank accounts. Ines was able to email her brother in Buenos Aires, and each page
only took about 5 minutes to load in the ship’s lounge, so that after two hours, we got our major communications problem
completed. We then had a dinner aboard ship, and afterwards the local dancers from the restaurant performed
for us while the crew secured the ship for our 4 hour run to Nuku Hiva, the port of Taiohae, where we will go ashore on a
jeep tour tomorrow morning.
July 21 I am really impressed with the skill of the Captain and his crew. Last night
we undocked around 10 p.m. and backed out of the small dock where we were toenailed into a tiny harbor with sail boats obstructing
what little room we had to maneuver. They took a line from our stern to the end of the breakwater, so that
when backing out of the harbor the stern did not walk to starboard and hit the sail boats or the rocks
on the other side of the breakwater. Using the bow thruster the captain
The captain is a ship
handler, not a figurehead
lined up the stern of the ship facing directly out to sea, and then let go the stern line, pulled it in quickly,
and then backed out until he had room to turn the ship around and head out to sea. Around 2 a.m. we anchored
at Nuku Hiva, a few hundred yards off the dock. The dock was under construction and a floating crane blocked
half of the pier. Of course it was pitch black. The Aranui 3 does not have the luxury
of tugs, pilots, line handlers, stevedores, agents, or any other shore side assistance. They do it all
by themselves. Around 4 a.m. we once again started in to the dock. The whaleboats were
put in the water with the ship’s cranes, and we slowly advanced toward the dock using the ship’s search light
to illuminate the dock and crane, which was pulled away from the dock with the whaleboats. They took the
lines to the dock, pulling one of the headlines through the muddy dock to a bollard about 200 feet inshore. It
is cloudy and showery today, I hope our shore excursions, that include a jeep tour, are not ruined with rain.
The first boat will leave soon, we need to be ferried to another pier since this one is a sea of
mud, and the gangway barely reaches the end of the pier. We started the launch service at 7:30 a.m. and
went on the first launch. Ashore was the village of Talohae, the largest on the island. There
was a group of shops, like a trade fair set up in the town square, and new restrooms, and the ever present group of singers
with guitars and ukuleles to entertain the visitors. Some fishermen were slicing up some large groupers on the dock, and were
selling them by the kilo to the local residents. Across from the trade fair was a large parking lot full of what I suppose
were most of the 4 WD vehicles on the island, numbered from 1 to 44, more or less. We got into #32 because
Ines looked for one with an empty front seat. All were fairly modern and comfortable, and four people went
in each vehicle. Things were well organized, when you consider that we passengers increased the population
of the entire island by about 10%. There was a rain shower on the boat ride in, but during the day the
weather cleared, and by afternoon it was sunny. The vehicles left about 10 a.m. and took us first to the
cathedral, about half a mile from the boat landing. The cathedral was fairly modern, built just behind
the remains of the original building. It was able to house every person in the Marquesas. Its
main attraction was the hand carved altar and Stations of the Cross, done by a local craftsman with local woods, and really
was a work of art. After the cathedral we took off on steep and rough roads over the mountains to Hatihau,
where we would later re-join the ship, but we continued on over another mountain to Kamuihai which was a place where the original
Polynesians who settled here held their ceremonies, which included human sacrifice. It was a shaded by
large Banyan trees, which are an indication of the ancient settlements. We continued on down the mountain to the coast, were there was a small village with a restaurant where we had
lunch. I am impressed with the ability of the local population to accommodate the passengers of the Aranui
3. Ines swam for a while, and then we tried to call to Hugo to find out how her mother was doing.
The news was not encouraging, she had been admitted to the ICU and given blood for intestinal bleeding.
This was not the first time Paulina had had this problem. We went back over the mountain after some
time on the beach, and rejoined the ship at the bay of Taipivai where we rode the LCM type launches back to the ship.
We sailed about 5 and had a meeting in the lounge about our next port, tomorrow, Tahuata on Hiva Oa. We
had a supper at the usual time, and after dinner my cell phone beeped, a phone I had bought for emergencies only.
Ines’ brother Hugo sent a text message informing us of Paulina’s death. I spent some
time consoling poor Ines, who had to suffer this loss at a time when we were so far away in a corner of the world that was
isolated by little wi-fi internet connection, spotty cell phone connection and almost nonexistent air service to the rest
of the world. We lucked out with the help of the shipping company, C.P.T.M. They managed
to get her on a flight leaving Hiva Oa, where we would be the following day.
Thursday, July 21. We spent several hours at anchor at Vaitahu
unloading cargo into our barges, but nobody could go ashore on this small island, then picked up anchor and sailed to Atuona,
a larger town on Hiva Oa. Luckily there was a flight out that left at 10:50. We docked
around 10:30, and the crew had a car ready for us and took us up the mountain to an airport that was built on the leveled
off mountaintop. The plane, a twin otter, was loading and ready to take off. I kissed
Ines goodbye on our second honeymoon, and off they went to Papeete.
Ines boarding the flight
I felt all alone, but went back down to the village and had a lunch at a local restaurant
with the rest of the passengers, one of the best meals we had had in local restaurants called Hoa Nui. No
local singers, drums or music at this place, but I was not in the mood for it anyway. I did enjoy a couple
of Hinano Tahiti Beers. There was a jeepney that took me back to the ship after lunch. One
of the passengers, a VIP who was married to someone in President Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace program had heard that
I was an Admiral. That was the first time ever I had been mistaken for an Admiral, I guess I am really
moving up in the world. Aboard ship I was able to connect to the internet, and did get out a few necessary
emails to Hugo and my children. Later I learned around dinner time that Ines had been met in Tahiti by
the owner of the Aranui, and found a flight tonight to Los Angeles. From there she was on her own to get
to Buenos Aires for the funeral. We have now finished dinner with a group of passengers who are going with
us to Fatuiva for a conference and celebration that we will be a part of tomorrow, when we salvage a sunken vessel from the
small harbor. The whole island has a population of about 700, so we will be a really big deal on the island.
Hiva Oa’s claim to fame is it is the burial place of Paul Gauguin, but I did not visit his grave or museum.
Our departure was once again an interesting display of good ship handling and seamanship. Long mooring
line leads were made from the stern to the breakwater and a long lead from the stern to near the bow on the quay.
The bow thruster was then used to push the bow out into the breakwater opening. The stern was then
let go and we lay off the rocks near the breakwater entrance until the line handling boats were retrieved, this was all done
at night, using a search light to keep track of the small boats anchored near the harbor entrance. We then
left on the six hour sail to the island of Fatuhiva.
Friday, July 22. We awoke anchored in a small indent in the West coast of
Fatuhiva, which was the harbor of Omoa. If all goes well, my wife Ines should be now in Los Angeles, and
hopefully making connections to Buenos Aires. What a change she has dealt with these last two days!
I missed her last night when I slept in our double bed alone, but I am glad that she can be there for her family. After
breakfast I was on the first boat ashore in Fatuiva. We had to anchor well off shore here.
There was a very small harbor, but it was only big enough for our landing craft. I took my party
favors ashore with me which were well received by the local children.
Fatuiva children getting
At the local artisanal market I bought a tapa,
or drawing done on the bark of a breadfruit tree. They demonstrated how they removed the inner bark and
used it as paper for the drawings, some of them were really elaborate. They use the bark of several different
trees for this type of artwork. After the demonstration I walked back to the harbor and took a launch back
to the ship, hoping to see the salvage operation for a sunken ferryboat near the harbor entrance, but that did not take place.
We did unload a lot of drums and material to be used in the salvage operation. We are now turning
around and leaving the harbor of Omoa, and heading for Hanavae. Hanavae is a deeper harbor on the west coast of Fatuhiva only
a few miles North of Omoa. Some of the passengers walked over the mountains, but I rode the ship to our
new anchorage. Looking up the bay past the small town are two monoliths which early explorers had named
for the female genetalia, but the missionaries got the name changed so that now it is the bay of virgins.
Bay of the Virgins, FatuHiva
Ines should be soon getting on her flight to Buenos Aires, and I decided
to stay aboard in this “port” since it is so small, and I am relaxing on board and getting caught up in my reading
July 23rd. I awoke early when my cell phone beeped with a text message that Ines arrived safely in Buenos Aires.
Soon afterward the engines stopped as we anchored in Puamau bay back on the island of Hiva Oa. It is a
tiny indent on the Northeast coast of the island, but is important because it is an archaeological site that was discovered
abandoned by the first white settlers in the Marquesas. After a quick breakfast I took the first launch
ashore. There were cars available for those who wanted them, but I chose to walk the two miles up hill
to the site, which was full of tikis, some of the largest in Polynesia. One of the most interesting was
a tiki of a woman who died giving birth. In this site
the local tribe committed the tabu of capturing the chief of a neighboring tribe, and cooking him alive. There
is a tiki head of him being cooked there was well. This breach of etiquette caused all the neighboring
tribes to unite against them and kick them off the island. Some believe that these outcasts settled the
Tuamotus. At this place is the grave of the last chief of Puamau. I walked back down
the hill to a pretty black sand beach shaded by palms, but I did not swim or snorkel. It was the only place
in the Marquesas that had coral and fish to see near the beach. I walked back to the launch and cargo landing.
We unloaded a lot of building material and groceries, and loaded a number of bags of copra. Just before lunch on board
we sailed for Hanaiapa, about ten miles to the west. It was a deeper inlet with no rocks in the entrance,
like Taipivai had this morning. It was a very small village and a very small dock which was similar. I
stayed aboard to rest after my hike up the hill, and to wash clothes. The crew will wash your shirts and
pants, but not your socks or underwear, and many passengers wash their underwear in the sink, we have a retractable clothesline
over our bath tub. The self-service laundry is on B deck, or seven decks down from our suite on the Star deck.
You need to use euros in the machines, 2 euros to wash, and about 3 euros to dry, 15 minutes for one euro, but we do
have our clothesline in our bathroom.
Sunday, July 24 began with a breakfast, then a 7:30 launch to Vaitahu, on the small island of
Tahuata. There is a new Catholic church here that was dedicated by the cardinal of French Polynesia on
the occasion of Vatican II. We
waked from the launch landing to the church, where I was one of the first of the passengers to arrive and was seated in front,
just behind the children’s choir along with some of the mothers who tried to keep their children in order.
I gave the last of my party favors to a young mother who was there. I said my prayers for Ines and her family, and my phone beeped and I got a voice mail from
Ines, who had just finished the services for her mother. Right now we really miss each other.
After the mass I bought some bone carving necklaces as a souvenir. They are expensive, but I doubt
I will ever get back here again. This bay has been visited by all the explorers who come here for fresh
water. Captain Cook corrected the position on his chart, which was from the Portugese. We
are now getting ready to sail down the coast to Hapatoni, where we will have a Barbecue lunch in the village. Again I went
ashore on the first boat, and we were greeted on the dock by the local town people, whom we as passengers outnumbered.
We were presented with crowns of plants, and also handshakes from the children. We walked a few
hundred yards down the beach road passed some tables and blankets full of local handicrafts, and arrived at a large open building
with tables set up around the perimeter. There were some of the local people and some of our crew playing
guitars and ukuleles and drums and singing in harmony. Also they were preparing a barbeque lunch for us.
But as a surprise one of our couples from Belgium were getting married in a traditional Polynesian ceremony.
They were given a seat of honor in front of men and women who performed traditional dances. They
were seated on a blanket and given special leis and robes to wear.
Our Belgian passengers Polynesian wedding
Afterwards we had a reception with various local foods, including barbeque chicken, fish, pork
chops, salads, and baked potatoes and rice. It was a really pleasant ceremony and I can only wish Ines
were here to enjoy it with me. After lunch I walked back to the launch and returned to my room for a rest.
Monday, July 25th I awoke early to watch
our entrance into the narrow fjord like bay of Vaipaee, on the island of Ua-Huka, or “garbage island” in the Marquesa
language. This is because most of the vegitation was eaten by imported goats. We entered at 6 a.m.
into the bay, which faced to the East, and the sea and the trade wind entered along with us. We dropped
anchor, put our whale boats in the water, and turned around to face out to sea, the whale boats took lines from
the stern to both sides of the bay, where there were some bollards on slippery rocks. Once again the skill
of the seamen impressed me, and many other early risers. We unloaded cargo onto barges which were pitching and rolling in the 4 foot
seas. After breakfast we boarded our launches, but a
bit more slowly this time due to the seas. We landed at a small dock at the end of this bay, and were driven
by private cars to a local museum of Polynesian artifacts and given a music and dance show. Then we were
driven over the mountain to the small village of Tokatu, where we visited a souvenir shop, but I had no money left to do any
shopping. Our driver then took us back over a hill to the bay of Hane, where the Aranui 3 had just arrived.
We went up the hillside to the Chez Celine Fournier restaurant for lunch. We boarded about twenty
“ministers” or political VIP’s in the islands. They seem to get served first at all the
functions, which causes some complaints from us regular passengers, but I suspect that the Aranui 3 depends on their good
will for some government subsidies. After lunch I walked back down the hill to the bay. Here
there is no dock, only a beach. Many passengers swam. Whale boats must be used, since
our regular LCM type launches could not get close enough to the beach. It was the only time so far when I needed to get my feet wet getting on and
off the ship. I was surprised that the Aranui crew let us go ashore, I am sure that in our lawyer dominated
society in the U.S. it would not be allowed. After everyone was aboard we picked up anchor and sailed off
to Nuku Hiva, about 4 hours to the west. Leaving Ua Huka we passed bird island close to port, close enough
to disturb the nesting birds, whose calls filled the air. Then turning westward with a following sea the
ship actually rolled, sometimes as much as 5 degrees, enough so that Ines’ lotions fell off the chest of drawers.
It was comfortable and nobody complained. Often cruise ships roll more than that. We
anchored just off the dock in Nuku Hiva and at 7 began our Polynesian night, which consisted of introductions of the crew
and a buffet style dinner at the pool deck. The owner as well as the captain were introduced, the only time I
saw him other than on the bridge.
The Captain and his wife at Polynesian Night
dinner we had a talent show, but I did not participate, and went to bed early.
Tuesday, July 26th I awoke at 5:15 when the main engines started. We were heading into the dock,
and were tied up by 5:30 and began cargo work immediately. Talohae is the same dock we were at with Ines last Wednesday, when
we visited the cathedral, and later had a jeep tour to the Tikis. This time we will just visit the town
for a few hours before heading back to Ua Pou in the afternoon. I hope to get some cash from the ATM so
I can get some souvenirs, and also to check my email, and let the family know what is happening here. Once
again I went on the first launch from our new dock which was under construction, to the old pier closer to town.
I went quickly to the bank, and withdrew about $180 worth of pacific francs so I could buy souvinirs. I
went to the artisanal market and the only thing I thought was reasonable were necklaces for $6 each, but at least they were
locally made. I returned early to the ship to try the internet, but once again it was “derange”
in this port. Maybe the next port. We sailed about 10 a.m. for Ua Pou, a three hour
passage to the port in the Marquesas where we first visited. I really enjoyed watching the docking here,
and I left our lunch desert in the dining room to see it once again. Here we had what they call a dry landing,
where we could simply walk down the gangway, which I did. I went to the bank, withdrew some more francs,
and returned to the market where I bought a tapa, or bark cloth picture of a Marquesa warrior, the largest one they had for
about $170. I also bought a bone Tiki necklace. I returned to the ship early, and enjoyed
watching the locals and the passengers swimming along the beach near the ship where Ines was swimming just last week.
I called and talked to Juliet and asked her to tell everyone I was doing well, but that the internet was too poor to
allow me to email everyone. We sailed at 3 p.m. for the Tuamoutu island of Rangiroa. The trade wind is
much calmer now, a more normal 10 to 15 knots, and is on our stern, so that we only experience an easy roll, and I don’t
think anyone is bothered by it. I enjoyed a pleasant dinner with Steve the broker, Tess, who is the age of Juliet and going
to Teach for America in Washington, D.C. this year. Also some Kiwis who are always fun to have around.
Tonight we retard our clock half an hour to Tahiti/Hawaii time.
Wednesday, July 27th I got up early for our day at sea. The sea
is much smoother than on our outbound trip. The wind is blowing in the 5 to 15 knot range, and the seas
running only 2 to 3 feet, so that the ship has a gentle roll, not more than 5 degrees. I have heard no
complaining, and the water has not splashed out of our small pool. I was the first one to enter the dining
room for breakfast. We had activities planned for most of the day, but the main ones were to pay for your
ship’s store bill as well as your bar bill. I did not have to pay too much, since the wine was included
with lunch and dinner. They did have premium wines available, but they supplied us with decent, drinkable
wines. I have usually found English speaking dinner companions since Ines left, my French is not good enough
to participate in a conversation. Miss Burkey, my high school French teacher would be disappointed in me. I
read and watched a film in French during the morning about Rangiroa, the atoll we are visiting tomorrow. After
lunch I attended a lecture by Victoria about the Marquesa culture, but with the big lunch and the wine I dozed through much
of it. After that one of our passengers, Leonard Engel, who came with his family lectured on Herman Melville,
and his novel Typee. He teaches a course in American renaissance literature at New Haven, Connecticut.
He is travelling with his wife and daughter Tessa and his son Toby, who are the age of Juliet and David.
Tessa will be teaching in Washington, D.C. starting next week with Teach for America, which interested Juliet and many
of her friends at Austin. I paid my bar bill, my ships store bill, and finally at reception for my wife’s ticket from
Hiva Oa to Papeete. I don’t know what will happen to her ticket home with me to Houston this weekend.
We have not had any internet since just after Ines left. I guess we were very lucky that she was
able to get home to Buenos Aires for the funeral. Just before dinner we met in the lounge for a talk about
our next port, Rangiroa, where we have some optional excursions such as glass bottom boat over the reef, diving, and a semi-submarine.
I will check out the pearl farm. The evening is smooth, quiet, and pleasant, and we should arrive
July 28th we arrived at the Tiputa pass about 15 minutes early, but I had been up since about 5 a.m. when my cell
phone beeped alive with a text from Ines and Hugo saying that all was well there. As usual I got about
ten copies of the message during our day in Rangiroa. I was on the third boat ashore, and took the bus
to the pearl farm, where we watched how they cultured the pearls. I bought a pearl necklace for Ines, and
Oyster surgeon, inserting
balls into the shell
went back to the
beach for a picnic lunch. There were many people swimming there, but the coral was sharp, and it did not
look tempting to me. We had lots of people who went in the glass bottom boat and enjoyed the coral reef.
After lunch I returned to the ship and rested, and packed most of the stuff we had accumulated during the voyage.
I will have to return with Ines’ suitcase, so I will be heavily laden. Mana, the purser asked
me if I wanted to go on his English tour of Tahiti tomorrow, and I said yes, I had nothing better to do on Friday.
The Wichmans introduced me to some of the local seamen that they knew from their stay here a few months ago.
They are all good celestial navigators, but on small ocean going canoes.
Navigator fishermen of the Tuamotus
Friday, July 29th I awoke early as usual,
and could see the lights of Tahiti just over the horizon. We had slowed down during the night and were
once again pitching with a 25 knot trade wind on our port side. I finished packing my bag after my morning
shower. I had put my two big bags outside the door last night, and the crew were loading them in the elevator, and we could
collect them on the dock. At 6:30 I had breakfast, once again fried eggs, but they never seemed to manage
who ordered what kind of eggs, I ate them however they came. We entered the harbor about 7:30 which was
about 1 hour late, but we were docked and debarking by 8 a.m. Unlike cruise ships the tipping was really
low key. It was mentioned that there was a tip jar in reception for tips that would be shared by all the
crew. It was not suggested that anyone leave a tip, or how much to tip. It seemed that
the crew was genuinely friendly with the passengers, and did not rely on tips for their income. I hailed
a cab on the dock, and went to the Tahiti Nui Hotel. My room was not ready so I left my bags at reception
and went on a tour with Manaarii, the purser’s assistant who was taking 4 other English speaking passengers on a circle
tour of Tahiti, and had room for me.
Manaari and me on a tour of Tahiti
He drove his mother’s Lincoln Navigator, which was comfortable.
The tour lasted about 7 hours, and we had a nice lunch along the way.Me and Manaarii touring Tahiti
I returned, cleaned up, and went back to O de la Bouche restaurant for dinner, and had the duck, but I was not that
hungry after a big lunch. I returned early to the hotel and went to bed.
Saturday, July 30th
I woke up early again, and walked to McDonald’s for breakfast, which had a Polynesian flavor and menu. Big differences
were the chickens that patrolled the restaurant floor for crumbs, keeping an eye on the kids. Also the
rest rooms were open to view from everyone. I had an egg McMuffin with hashbrowns and café a lait for about $8, a savings
over the hotel. I walked around the waterfront and did some window shopping, until I was tired.
I stopped by the Air NewZealand ticket office to check on my reservation for tonight’s flights to Houston.
I found out that unless we have insurance there is no possibility of a refund or upgrade on her seat, so it was cancelled.
I returned to the hotel, packed, and checked my bags at the front desk and once again headed out on
the town. I wanted to go to the airport and check in early, but the ticket counter will not open for flight
check-in until 8 tonight. I booked a cab and then went out to the Pearl Museum, which
had a lot of really fantastic pearls and jewelry, so I bought another pearl broach and earrings for Ines, I wanted to splurge
on her, so she has a better memory of Tahiti, so maybe we can make another trip down here someday. I will
soon be on my way back home. Leaving Tahiti I found a really nice cab driver who charged me half the going
rate, and refused a tip, and even rounded up a cart for my luggage. I am travelling with Ines’ suitcase
as well as mine, plus a carryon. There is no sense in arriving at the airport early. You
only have to wait for your flight to open, then wait for customs and immigration to open. Two hours before
flight time would be ideal. It is now Sunday, and I am in Los Angeles waiting for my final flight to Houston,
and the end of what was to be our second honeymoon.