Meanwhile, Back on Tahiti…

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When running an errand recently, I was treated to a jam. These guys were awesome!

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If you wish to join the jam session, they are selling ukes

Something happened today that made me think, this is it – I’ve finally lost my mind. Several people have questioned whether I am of sound mind over the years. I’m not like normal people and I know that. But until this morning, I’ve never questioned myself regarding sanity. So, here’s what happened.

I woke up like any normal morning and made a pot of tea. I thought today I might take on a Sunday Times crossword since I woke up early, 5am. Early enough I can enjoy a couple of hours of cool morning weather in Cream Puff’s cockpit before the crazy hot sun makes it uncomfortable.

It’s not actually Sunday. Normally, I print the daily Times crossword. But, this particular morning I felt like doing the larger format version. Cindy gave me a book of Sunday Times crosswords as a present a little while ago and I can now do crosswords from the 1970s, and onward. I guess eventually I’ll catch up to the time when I first started doing these puzzles. Chances are I won’t remember when I do. No, this isn’t the part where I think I losing my mind.

The crosswords in the book are quite a bit harder than the current Times crosswords I download. This is because when they use proper nouns, many of the people known then are not known now. This is especially true for actors, writers, sports figures, newscasters, singers, etc. As I settled into my happy spot facing the rear of the boat, I glanced over to the cruise ship dock off the front of the boat and notice the massive cruise ship that was here for the past couple of days has gone. And when I say massive, I mean massive!

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This massive cruise ship won’t fit into the camera frame. (pic sent to Cindy)

I took a picture of the ship and sent it to Cindy who is in Texas as I write this (more on this in a little bit). Besides the ship being so big, I was impressed with the human oven. What? Yes, it appears they have a human oven. It is a big transparent orb on a crane that people climb into and are raised 90m (300 ft). Inside this thing, they slowly roast in the hot equatorial sun until they die. You can see it in the pic above.

My imagination even went as far as thinking this could be the making of a new Stephen King novel. Sort of a variation of the Sweeny Todd story with a Titanic twist to it. Here’s how the plot unfolds. Unknowing passengers are lured into the giant glass orb (oven). Perhaps they are told this is where the buffet line starts.  Once inside, they are raised toward the hot tropical sun. Then, they suddenly realize it’s a trap. But, it’s too late. They die.

A trap door opens and they slide down to the bilges of the ship. This is where their bodies are consumed by the rogue crew of cannibals who live in the lower levels. The ship sails from port to port as the passengers mysteriously disappear and are baked in the human oven high above the decks. And, believe it or not, this is still not the part where I think I’ve lost my mind. This is sort of normal thinking inside my head. Yep. It’s pretty scary in there.

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From Royal Caribbean International: showing off the feature. Look how calm the sea is. Can you imagine being in that thing on a rolling ship?

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From Royal Caribbean International. Do you see a trap door?

Anyway, there I am in my happy spot deeply entrenched in a crossword from the 1970’s era sipping my English Breakfast Tea. Once in a while, I glance up when something on the promenade catches my attention. But otherwise, I’m pretty oblivious to my surroundings. About an hour and a half passed. I’m not able to finish the puzzle this time but I come close enough to be satisfied with my effort. Ok, here comes the part where I think I’ve lost my mind.

I get up to go back down the companionway into Cream Puff’s saloon and I’m thinking about breakfast tacos. As I glance up, there is a massive cruise ship at dock. Wait a minute. Is it the same one? Did it actually leave or did I just imagine it was gone? Perhaps it left and came back. Maybe they have issues aboard? I’m pretty sure it’s the same ship because it has the human oven. Or, has my mind finally cracked and it never actually left? Wait a minute. I’m pretty sure the cruise ship dock was empty when I sat down to do the puzzle. Or was it?

Ha! I have an idea. I sent Cindy a picture of the ship because of the human oven. Could it be there is more than one ship with a giant glass orb? I look at the picture and zoom in to get the name of the ship. It is Ovation of the Seas. I climb back up the companionway steps and take a closer look at the ship currently there. Oh thank God, it’s a different name: Quantum of the Seas. Perhaps my mind hasn’t gone, for now. Apparently, there are at least two ships with human ovens. Who knew? And, now I wonder what the odds are they come into the same port a day apart.

So why is Cindy in Texas? It’s been quite some time since the world told us they needed to close down and isolate everyone for “two weeks” due to a deadly virus that’s going to kill us unless we comply. We’ve been in French Polynesia since the onset of Covid and our original plans were to actually leave the boat here during cyclone season, fly to New Zealand, and travel by land for a few months before continuing on with our sailing adventure. Well, we all know how that turned out. Now that the “two weeks” is over, Cindy thought it might be safe to go see family for a couple of months. It seems most of the crazy pre-flight mandated testing and restrictions are now gone. Let’s hope for good.

Cindy actually booked her flights when we were anchored out in Fakarava. Her timing was pretty good since airfares have gone up since. I think she did about a 90-day advance purchase so she could choose good seats on each leg. It’s amazing how quickly those 90-days passed. There we are lazing about in a beautiful atoll and then, poof she’s gone.

Because passenger travel is back on, for the most part, shipping is back to normal. Well, kinda sorta back to normal. There are still a lot of glitches to overcome. I recently ordered a cable from a store in Australia. We now can resume our global shopping strategy since international shipping is almost back to normal. Since whatever we need to purchase usually needs to ship to us, we hunt across the globe for the best prices. An example is a part I recently purchased for the engine. Prices ranged from US$3500 in Australia, US$2000 in the USA and US$1300 in the EU. Needless to say, I purchased the part from Germany. Anyway, the cable I ordered experienced one of these glitches. I’m not sure where they sent this plane once it got airborne but apparently it spent a month flying about the South Pacific in the Twilight Zone.

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Where did this plane go for a month?

With Cindy gone, I am boat-sitting in Tahiti. We returned to the marina in Pape’ete. The funny thing is we are in exactly the same slip as we were before we left. It just sort of worked out that way. There might be a few people who think that we’ve never actually left the same spot since we arrived here. It’ll give the gossipy cruisers some fodder. Too funny.

So what is the plan now? When Cindy returns from the USA, we’ll probably go island hopping again in French Polynesia until cyclone season is over, April May ish. Then, we plan to resume our journey westward. Islands are starting to open now to cruisers and tourism in general. Covid testing is, or is becoming, a thing of the past (although some still require proof of vaccination). In all honesty, we’re not exactly sure where we’ll visit.

My current frame of mind is to check out of French Polynesia in Bora Bora and sail to American Samoa, Samoa, Wallis and Futuna Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and then to northern Australia. The milk-run for most cruisers is the skip the Samoas and travel on a more Southerly plane to the Cook Islands, Tonga, and onto New Zealand. If you know anything at all about us and reading our blog, you know we don’t follow the crowd. We do our own thing.

So, here I sit in beautiful Pape’ete on Tahiti realizing this blog has been very quiet for the past couple of months and that should be rectified. During this same time, the UK has had 3 prime ministers. Well in all honesty, actually I started to get some emails from subscribers wondering if we are still alive. I promise you we are very much alive. This is a little bit embarrassing since when I started this blog, I promised myself I would not be like other blogs that just go dark in the South Pacific leaving the readers hanging forever. I’ve followed more people than I can count who just stopped posting once they got here. Perhaps it is because of internet limitations for them, but alas, I can’t use that excuse. I’m sitting here with 4G. I’m going to blame this on Sailrite – keep reading.

Besides not updating the blog, what have we been doing since our last post from Fakarava? We made our way to Tahiti and spent about a week on the anchor near the airport whilst we waited for a spot to open in the marina. We wound up moving the boat about three times during this week. This is because the anchorage was crowded and we were trying to avoid playing bumper boats. Eventually, we settled into a nice corner with plenty of room just as the marina called and said they have a spot for us. Funny how things always seem to work this way.

Once back on Tahiti we’ve been very busy with fun stuff, like doctor appointments, getting Covid boosters, getting sick from the boosters, and putting together shopping lists for Cindy’s USA visit for things she can bring back. Probably 80% of our purchases are for the diva known as Cream Puff.

About a month before Cindy’s departure date, we decided to replace the draperies on the Puffster. This is something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time. The drapes are original to the boat meaning they are 22 years old. We’ve washed them a few times but then reached a point where we think more washing is going to leave them tattered. We’ve never cared for the colors of the original Amel drapes and for the years we’ve owned the Puffster, replacing them has been on the list of things to do. Not being a necessary task but more of a want, the priority put it way down on the list.

One great thing about Tahiti, is they have plenty of fabric shops. I guess this is somewhat true with many of the islands we visit. Fabrics in the US have limited retail presence. I guess in other countries people still make their own clothes. In fact, we found one store where you pick the fabric and they’ll make stuff for you. Some of the patterns are a little wild for us. French Polynesians love bright colors. This is coming from a guy who wears wild tie-dye tees.

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Polynesians love their bright colors. And, so do I.

Last year we found a pillow cover with a Tahitian-themed fabric we both instantly like. Since seeing this we’ve quasi kept an eye out. But, no dice. Time to get more serious about this. We thought we’d try to hunt down the same pattern in the fabric shops and took the sample with us. It wasn’t as easy as we thought it was going to be.

For the first few shops, I was on board. I eagerly joined the hunt and found myself in the back corners of the store, without air conditioning, sorting through the bolts. However, I tire quickly of shopping, and my enthusiasm quickly diminished. Not wanting to spoil Cindy’s positive attitude (I don’t know how she does it), I started to wait outside the stores and let her do her thing. She lost her enthusiasm somewhere around store number ninety-seven.

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Inside these stores, it can be tight and hot with piles of bolts in no logical order

Okay, perhaps ninety-seven stores is a bit of an exaggeration, but it certainly seemed this way. By the way, there is a pretty large trans presence on Tahiti. We discovered they all work in fabric shops. As we worked our way down the street where one fabric store after another sells their wares, we came across one with air-conditioning. Ha, I thought. I’ll go in this one under the rouse of helping Cindy but really the goal was to stand under the AC unit and cool off. It was in here we found something.

What we spotted was completely out of our box. The attraction to the pattern was it contained just about every color on Cream Puff from the blue floors to the African mahogany wood. We stayed in this store for what seemed to be a very long time. One of the staff members spoke enough English and helps us dig through tons of bolts. All of which contained the colors we’d describe but usually had a very loud Polynesian pattern much too wild for our taste. I have no idea where these bolts kept coming from. They seemed to self-procreate and morph into something similar after we’d dismiss them. But the AC unit was turned down low and I really didn’t mind. During this process, the entire staff got involved.

The English-speaking person helping us had now recruited reinforcements. I think there might have been an upstairs and a basement level. And, who knows, there might be a warehouse out back where the bolts kept coming from. However, even with all these people’s efforts, we still found ourselves drawn back to the one piece that had the correct color scheme but a pattern outside of our box. The question seemed to be, how far outside of the box is it? We made a decision.

We decided to buy a meter. I can hear the store staff now after we left saying, “Whaaaat! All that effort and they only wanted a meter. Darn tourists!” We took our meter and in the saloon pinned it to one of our existing drapes. Over the next week, we decided it was starting to grow on us. Perhaps even today as the new drapes hang, the fabric still wouldn’t be my absolute first choice. But, I do kinda sorta like them. Perhaps they’ll grow on me some more.

Going back to the same shop we purchased enough fabric to replace window, hatch, and closet drapes on the Puffster. It was the same person that helped us previously and I’m surprised they didn’t snipe, “Oh, you’re back for another meter?” Polynesians don’t seem to be this way. We are greeted with big smiles and a sincere appreciation for the business. They even gave Cindy a free tote bag (made there) to carry the soon-to-be curtains.

Our next stop was to buy backing material for the drapes. Since we sometimes sleep underway during daylight hours, it’s nice to have a drape blocking most of the sunlight. Also, when staying in marinas, for some reason most places think it’s really cool to shine lights onto the boats at night. I think we might be a tourist attraction or at the very least a photo op. In Aruba, the marina there had a floodlight on us bright enough to light a football field. Even with backing material, we had to put foil on the inside of the bedroom window. We always seem to find the brightest spot. Not to worry. It’s nothing a little bit of backing won’t cure. And, Cindy had already scouted out a store selling backing material during the original fabric shopping extravaganza of 2022.

Both now feeling very satisfied with having all we need to get going, we face the daunting task of sewing. On projects like this, we work as a team. We’ve always done this and it makes me appreciate the relationship we have that we can work together without aggravation or stress. We pull out our trusty Sailrite sewing machine which is built to the specification of an M4 Sherman tank and set up shop on our saloon table. This changes life as we know it aboard the Puffster.

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Our saloon table is overtaken by this project. Here we’ve just completed the curtain ties.

For the next couple of weeks, we sew. This means the huge industrial-strength sewing machine capable of sewing 10 layers of sail material to thick leather has come between us. It is too heavy to set up and take down as we work on the project, so it stays set up on the saloon table. Meaning, we eat and watch TV around the machine. That is when we’re not sewing. This limits the space we can use for things like computers. So, this is my very lame excuse for not posting any blog updates.

We take down one of the old drapes. I quickly see how dusty it is, take it up top, and shake it. Then, we begin to pick it apart to see how the original pattern was made. Once we understand this, we compare the drape we have to the others to determine if they are the same size. Of course, there not. That would be way too easy. Boats are full of curved surfaces and angles not right so it really helps to have an original to use as a template. We decided to start in the front cabin and work our way backward. Using the old carpenter’s slogan of measure twice and cut once.

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New hatch and window drapes

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The very last one. At the rear of the aft cabin, this finished drape is the last to be made as we worked from front to back

I am happy to report Cream Puff now sports all new draperies, closet curtains, and hatch shades. And, I’m happy to say, the out of our box fabric is still growing on me.

I promise to post something again before Great Britain gets another new prime minister.

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This dinghy went walk-about. I found this floating about in the harbor while out exercising our own dinghy’s outboard motor. In fear of a vessel hitting it, I towed it to a dock about a kilometer away, tied it off, and notified the marina office.
Amazingly, it looks like someone claimed it as it’s now located on our dock. It probably just needs a little more tape.

Categories: French Polynesia, Sailing Blog, South Pacific Ocean

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