Maintenance and blood-letting
It isn’t all scenic views and waterfalls, you know. The reality of the cruising lifestyle is often the polar opposite of the dream-like vision of sipping a decorative cocktail under the tropical sun with beads of cool condensation running down an ice-cold glass. Instead, it’s usually heavy maintenance in the blistering heat, with blood oozing from broken flesh and sweat dripping from parts of your body that really shouldn’t be sweating. But if you don’t do the hard work, the boat will deteriorate faster than the conservative party’s reputation, and we don’t want any of that.
So, after months of procrastination – primarily due to fear of cocking it up – we have finished the upholstery. The old Ultrasuede fabric has been donated to fellow Amel owners to patch up their sketchy bits, and we now have a smooth-looking saloon area with no bald patches and stains of unknown origin.
We also gave the fuel and cooling systems a workover by changing all the filters, cleaning the heat exchanger and flushing the cooling system. The main challenge with that job was finding antifreeze in the tropics. For that, I had to go to a car accessory shop and walk the 2 km back to the marina with 24 litres of coolant slung over my shoulders. Despite the discomfort, I’ll still contend this beats being in the UK doing the gardening and then flopping down on the sofa to watch the telly. Although now, if we decide to watch the telly, we can do so on a comfortable and stain-free sofa.
The local charter company takes their maintenance ingenuity to a whole new level. They don’t mess around hauling the boat out of the water; they blow them up instead – with a giant inflatable ball. Inflating that ball between the hulls of a catamaran lifts the boat’s back end enough to service its sail drives without the expense of a lift out. It’s a genius idea, especially considering the time and cost savings.
The Danish contingent, who shared the pontoon with us for a while, also improved their home by adding more solar to their boat. Denmark is empty at the moment – they are all cruising around here.
And we also checked ourselves in for routine service and maintenance (all good). The health care system here in Tahiti is exceptional, and, unlike in the UK at the moment, it’s possible to see a doctor within a day and a consultant the day after. There is, however, a fee of around £26 to see a doctor and a little more to see a consultant.
Cruise Ship Porn
That title should get some traction but lead to much disappointment.
The cruise ships have returned to Tahiti. After the Aranui left the cruise ship dock, the enormous vessels arrived – discharging their florid cargo onto the streets of Papeete. Mixed blessings as we understand it: these ships bring a lot of purses and wallets, but they also negatively impact food availability for the islands.
It certainly changed the view from Jamala. The light levels were reduced for a start. And we started to feel like animals in a zoo. The questions slung over from the boardwalk were often:
“Are you from Portsmouth, Rhode Island?”
“Are you from Portsmouth, Virginia?”
“Are you from Portsmouth, North Carolina?”
“Did you sail all the way here from England?”
The last question was from the bright ones who recognised our ensign. Amongst that group was a Canadian couple, we spoke with, particularly upset by some of their country neighbours ignoring the requirement to wear masks onboard. The result was a bout of covid confining them to their cabin for a week, which led to them missing Hawaii.
Now, whenever I come across someone looking remotely like a cruise ship passenger (overly bright Hawaiian shirt, socks pulled up to the knees, and lanyard dangling from the chest), I’ll hold my breath until I’ve gone past them. That description might not catch all of them, nor might it do anything useful to fend off the virus, but it helps with free-diving practice.
The first of the big ships to arrive – the Majestic Princess – is themed the Love Boat. I’m not sure if the decks are adorned with photographs of the cast from the popular 1980s TV series, but the quirky thing about this ship is that it plays the Love Boat theme on its ship horn just before it leaves. Cute.
We also saw a Sevenstar Yacht Transport ship arrive to scoop up some boats to take them towards the US and the Mediterranean. That was interesting to watch.
Beer, Ukuleles and Food
Jordy and Gillian, who we last saw in Fakarava before we sold Lady Jane, joined us on our almost-weekly pilgrimage to the 3-Brasseurs bar for half-price beer on Mondays.
We later went to the International Ukulele festival together, which was different than expected but still very enjoyable. There wasn’t much emphasis on Polynesian ukulele playing (I should have paid more attention to the title), but this was a great showcase of skilled performances by people from Hawaii and the mainland US and local talent.
To me, the stars of the show were Kris Fuchigami and Fabrice Hapipi, who played a very briefly rehearsed set that was electrifying. Who knew it was possible to play like that? I was hoping someone would have posted that on YouTube, but I can’t find it. However, I can find a clip of Fabrice playing with another couple of guys – it gives a sense of how good he is.
Also very talented are the street musicians who, almost every day, entertain people for payback in the form of tips dropped into a small box:
And these guys who play at the waterfront bar. You can see the sheer enjoyment of just playing:
And back on beer, Maria has perfected the art of naturally-fermented ginger beer. There is no added yeast, and the result is a subtle flavour missing in most carbonated drinks – and a feeling of light headiness after a couple of glasses.
And finally, at last, we found a great restaurant: L’ O A La Bouche. It might be twice the price of a typical restaurant around here, which makes it eye-blisteringly pricey. But the food, service and wine were exceptional. Now we are skint.