The Day Our Ship Came In

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The freighter “Polynesia” bringing our stuff is unloaded at Pape’ete Port, Tahiti’s main port

Just to recap, we put Cindy’s parents to work at the Cream Puff USA based receiving and repacking center. We ordered a ton of things we needed for the boat since we are sitting still right now. They received stuff for us, checked to make sure the items are good, and then they re-box everything into three much larger boxes. Items subject to damage from dampness are wrapped in plastic. These boxes were sent to a sea-freight company in Los Angeles. When they arrived, they are re-labeled for our destination in Tahiti and loaded into a cargo container on a big ship.

The Los Angeles shipping company gave us a schedule of ships including the date of departure and the receiving deadline for our shipments in order to be aboard. The information included the names of the ships. Using one of the many online sites for tracking ship traffic, we have watched our goodies inch closer toward us every day making way on the 6 612 kilometer voyage (4,108 miles).

The ship was due in today so we have been looking off the front of the boat for it. We can see the commercial port from our vantage point in the marina. Checking the AIS, we noticed the boat had snuck in when we were eating breakfast. Yey! (AIS is a method we can use to spot ships in our area via a VHF radio system. This information is overlaid onto our electronic navigation charts)

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Wouldn’t it be very cool if this picture was of the container with our stuff in it. What are the odds?

Now the question is how long is it going to take for the container to be unloaded with the contents clearing customs and a delivery made to our receiving agent for us to pick up? The excitement is that of a child coming down the stairs at Christmas time to find Santa Claus has visited during the night. The best part is we’ve already forgotten about half the stuff we ordered so unpacking the boxes is certain to yield a few surprises.

We took out the dinghy to get a closer look at the ship thus killing the proverbial two birds. First, we wanted to grab some pictures of the ship being unloaded to send to Cindy’s parents. And secondly, the dinghies outboard needed to be run. Engines do not like to sit idle. It is really bad for them. Periodically we’ll come up with an excuse to take the dinghy for a ride. Sometimes we take off to the harbor entrance and watch the sunset over Mo’orea. This is one of our favorite things to do.

At sunset, many of the locals are in the same area on their out-riggers. They play in the surf created by the ship and ferry traffic. It is truly amazing to see how fast these boats go. And even with the occupant(s) paddling away at full steam, they still find time to smile and wave skipping a couple of paddle strokes.

On this particular dinghy excursion, after snagging a couple of pictures of the freighter with our stuff being unloaded, we decided to go deeper into the harbor. Even with the industrial water frontage, the mountain scenery and rich green foliage make the view looking inland awe-inspiring.

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I find even the most industrial waterfront areas to be quite beautiful because of the backdrop

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Tahiti Gas Company has a silo covered in plants. I wonder why the other isn’t.

One of the local cruise ships was in port. This is a half-cargo half-passenger ship. When you look at the picture you will see what I mean. It is like someone joined a cargo and cruise ship together. This is a popular line for tourists. It stops at the off the beaten path atolls where the population is minimal and dependency on the freighter is paramount. Because the vessel’s primary focus is freight, the passengers are at the mercy of the workers and how quickly they load and unload the vessel. If the workers work slowly, the passengers can spend more time exploring the island.

Out of curiosity, I sent the company an email asking how much the “two-week” cruise cost to the outer atolls. I use quotations since the timeframe for the cruise is an estimate. It solely depends on the amount of freight and sea conditions. I almost fell over when I got the reply. It ain’t cheap. If you are a local, they offer a 40% discount. Otherwise, be prepared to open up the wallet.

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ARANUI 5, The half cargo half passenger ship

Further up the harbor we found a dry-dock. This is not something you see every day. The barge surrounding the vessel is able to raise and lower in the water using massive ballast tanks much like those on a submarine. When the barge is partially lowered the ship can float over the barge. Then, the barge is raised bringing the ship up with it thus providing a work platform with access to the underside of the ship. At the time we spotted the dry-dock, it had a French Navy vessel being worked on.

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The raised dry-dock vessel with a ship inside

To answer the question of how long it takes for our packages sent on the Polynesian freighter to get to us: it takes about a week. We just received a call from our receiving agent and all of our stuff has been unloaded, cleared customs, and is ready for delivery. Our agent delivers the packages to the back of our boat in the marina. We thought we’d have to go get them but the price was the same regardless of the end destination. Yay, no heavy lifting today.

The best part about unpacking was Cindy’s parents had included some surprises for us. And here we thought we knew everything inside the boxes. It really was like Christmas. I recently had a birthday so they included a couple of gifts. They also included some gifts for Cindy’s upcoming birthday. I opened my presents. Then Cindy opened hers. Wait a minute! When I pointed out to Cindy that it wasn’t her birthday yet she responded, “Well, you opened your presents.”

Speaking of Christmas, her parents also included a couple of Christmas gifts for us. They were even wrapped with Christmas paper. We managed to refrain from opening these and put them aside. Cindy put together a really fun email of the ship being unloaded and pictures of us opening our presents. If her parents caught on that it wasn’t her birthday just yet, they didn’t say anything.

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Three boxes from Cindy’s parents and one for our BBQ grill

So, along with the arrival of parts for the boat comes the newly updated to-do list. One of the first projects included some parts for our BBQ grill. Having our priorities in order, the grill re-build went to the top of the list. It was a little bit unnerving using our grill these past few weeks with no heat control. It was either on or off. There was no in-between. We snagged some pork spare ribs at the local champion. These are a bit of a rarity outside of the US. Nothing like some slowly cook pork ribs coated with brown-sugar and BBQ sauce to celebrate the completion of a project.

The next thing I played with was a navigational multi-display. I purchased a used unit on eBay. Being in the middle of nowhere, eBay doesn’t ship here. It is always a bit of a risk buying something used. It is even riskier when I have no way of returning the item if it doesn’t work. I am at the mercy of the seller and their honesty regarding the item description. In this case, the seller made no claims the item worked. However, it looked good enough in the pictures (like that tells me anything) for me to take the chance. Eureka! The items is now installed and working well.

A pending project is a new VHF radio for the Puffster. We have issues with people hearing us on the radio and the issue is intermittent. Intermittent problems are simply the worst to diagnose. I have tweaked the radio set up several times now. Each time, I think I have it fixed. And, each time it works for a little while until it doesn’t. I decided to replace everything. This means from the antenna to the radio and everything in-between. This is going to be a big project with us making several trips up to the top of both masts and lots of new cable needs to be run. We also purchased an additional remote handset so the radio can be used from inside and outside of our nav-station. More on this will come later, no doubt.

For the past few days we have been enjoying the latest season of NCIS after dinner. Included in our shipment was the Season 17 DVDs. It is really hard for us not to binge-watch these over one day. We are restricting ourselves to two episodes each night trying to make the entertainment last for as long as we can. Last night, after some BBQ on the now safe again grill, we watched four. We’re not good at self discipline.  I wonder if our Christmas presents will make it to December.




Categories: French Polynesia, Sailing Blog, South Pacific Ocean

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