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Papeete, Tahiti

June 20, 1989

Nuku Hiva, Marquessa Islands Well. we finally made it! We’re anchored in Papeete Harbor, Tahiti, French Polynesia. Bob’s dream come true! Our trip from Nuku Hiva, Marquessa, was quite a mixture. First, three days of fairly good winds from the right direction, then two days of dead calm when we just sat in mirror-like water and caught up on our reading, writing, washing and sleeping, followed by two days of winds that wouldn’t go below 25 knots and seas that crashed DOWN on our cockpit canopy as we navigated through the most dangerous part of the trip, the Tuamotus—miles of very low coral atolls.

But that’s all behind us now. We’re in the calm waters of the harbor. Around us lies the city of Papeete and off to the left across the harbor we have an unobstructed view of the island of Moorea. Our own Bali-Hai. Every evening we enjoy a spectacular sunset over Moorea. If this isn’t paradise, I’ll settle for second best.

Papeete, Tahiti waterfront.The beach is stacked high with outrigger canoes in many shapes and sizes which men end women have been taking out at noon and in the evenings to practice for the races that will take place next week. There are one-man canoes that are so pencil-thin the guy has to sit on the top and put his feet in a well. Then there are three, four, five, and six-man types that look a lot like cayucos from Panama. And then there are double-hulled canoes joined with two-foot struts that can handle eight. It’s fun to see them practice from our front row seat, since they enter the water right where we are anchored.

The climate is perfect. Warm, not hot, in the daytime, cool enough for a light blanket at night, sunny with breezes during the day, humidity in the comfort range, and no sand fleas! Palm trees away, flowers bloom everywhere—on trees and bushes—and small minah birds are as common as sparrows in the states. We have already sampled Polynesian hospitality, French pastries, and government red-tape.

Our guidebook is helping us unravel some words in French, but sometimes we have trouble remembering we’re not Panama. Every once in a while Bob forgets and says "si" instead of "oui." In Papeete, a lot of people speak English, as well as French and Polynesian, so we can usually find someone to help us. But the signs send us madly thumbing through the dictionary.

We found out how expensive things are here. American-brand foods are double or triple U.S. prices, and locally produced or closer foreign goods are expensive, except for some fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and bread. The price of English-language newspapers and magazines are out of sight. Phone calls to the states cost $8 for each minute! From now on I’ll do more writing. The laundro-mats described in our sailing guide (that is three years old) are no longer there. The only place to get your wash done is at the laundry which one lady told me charged her $20 for three loads and that was just to wash them. She had to find a place to hang them up! So I’ll just have to wash on the boat using shore water and hang things all over the railing and the lines Bob has strung fore and aft. Fine for shorts and dish towels, a bear for sheets and flannel blankets, and we used quite a few in our eight weeks of sailing.

The city of Papeete is clean and bright. There are so many restaurants and clothing stores that one can never go unfed or unclothed. Just about everything is available if you can pay the price. In the Virgin Islands, we saw mostly tee shirts, gold, linen and liquor for sale. Here, the black pearl seems to be the big tourist item and quite a big buy it is, even if the prices are supposed to be less than the states. For $50, you can buy the lowest grade black pearl that isn’t even mounted. There are the usual souvenir shops with carved wooden tikis, post cards, "made in Tahiti" things, shell necklaces, mother-of-pearl jewelry and carvings, and flower leis and headdresses.

The men wear anything from business suits, to casual slacks and shirts, to bright Polynesian print shirts and shorts. The ladies wear Polynesian print dresses in a variety of styles, mostly ruffled midriff-length blouses and flounce ruffled skirts that end mid-thigh. It is a very colorful right to be downtown and watch the "parade." I’ve already picked out the dress I want to buy as soon as our bank wires us more funds.

Bob let his beard grow from the time we left Panama on April 22 and shaved it off this morning. It looked terrific—gray with darker streaks that jutted off at an angle, giving him an exotic look, like someone from "Lawrence of Arabia"—but was not the greatest thing to be near since it was very bristly and stiff. I liked it, he didn’t, and since he has to live with it more then I, it was his decision to get rid of it. I did take lots of pictures, just for the record.

We plan to stay in Tahiti until September, visit Moorea and Bora Bora and then go to Samoa or Fiji or New Zealand or Australia to wait out the cyclone season. Can’t make up our mind for sure. Probably Samoa. Terrible, the choices we have to make! We’ll try to keep in touch and as often as we can—in writing, of course—and you try to do the same. We haven’t received our mail for three months because of our travels, and if you’ve written to us during that time, we’ll reply as soon as our mail arrives in Papeete. Don’t lose hope, we’re full of excuses!

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