A couple of friends have gone to Tahiti on the same cruise twice, and were so impressed that they set up a group trip for a bunch of coastsiders and yacht clubbers through Bayworldtravel. We left via Limo with five other members of the group on Tuesday afternoon June 26th.
At SFO, we met up with more folks in the group of almost fourty who all eventually wound up on the m/s Paul Gauguin, but the first stop was in LA to transfer to a different airplane. After an 8 and a half hour flight to Papeete from LAX, we went to The Beachcomber Resort for three days to prepare ourselves. The timing was interesing because it was during the middle of their Heiva Festival, so there was lots of outrigger canoe racing, celebrations and dancing going on.
The Beachcomber has small cabins that are over the water, very cozy. They also have two pools, including one with a swim-up bar. I took morning walks with my friend Ginger so we could work off some of the calories we were collecting... I must have been on a 5,000 calorie a day diet. I even ate thirds at breakfast! The resort offered kayaking and use of a paddleboat so I did go out on the water and have some fun there too.
Going into town was an adventure. They have Le Truck which charges about a buck to go as far as it does. These have wooden seats in the back and hold anywhere from 12 to 48 passengers. They also spew a lot of diesel smoke, so the times we went into town I tried to keep my gardenia handy, it smells a lot better, maybe that's why they all wear them...
Town was a lot of little shops, lots of colorful fabrics and varieties of foods. There was a large market with everything for sale. Lots of areas to walk around and see, and ways for tourists to spend money. On Thursday we went to the Tahiti Yacht Club for lunch, Tina got to meet Michel, the club manager who she traded email with regarding our visit, and on the way back I spotted the Ferrari dealer, but no fast red cars. Just stinky trucks.
When we came back one day, the resort was having a special show and Miss Tahiti of 2001 and 2000 were in attendance, so I added a few more seconds to my fifteen minutes by getting my picture with them. The evening outdoor show featured lots of local costumes and dancers, not an ugly one in the bunch... except for some of the tourists who they invited on stage so they could show them how it is done. I was a marked man, as the same dancer took me onstage on both Wed and Friday nights. Lots of fun and another photo-op.
Saturday we checked out after lunch and boarded the ship. At 500 foot in length, it not considered to be a large ship, but I would not want to paint it. We boarded in Tapeete, and cruised overnight to Raiatea, which is next to Tahaa. Raiatea is called the sacred island and most things were closed on Sunday, but the bus tour around the island was interesting. Saw an ancient volcano crater, some churches, local folks at home, and a botanical garden with all sorts of local plants.
Monday was a beach BBQ on a Motu (coral island) next to Tahaa, where I got to do some snorkeling, and kayaking. I even got Tina to go out on a kayak with me, because the water was less that five foot deep, and it was bathwater warm too. Overnight was the cruise to Bora-Bora for the next two days. We did a glass bottomed boat tour there and saw an awful lot without having to drink any saltwater. Saw more of the outrigger racers and a large stingray too. We did some walking and shopping there, stopping at Chin Lee's the local supermarket of notoriety. Didn't have enough time to do everything offered on shore, but did enjoy what we could. One morning was a bit drizzly so I took the opportunity to ride the stationary bike in the gym. When I got done, I found that I had gone 15 kilometers in a little over a half-hour, so the diet wasn't going to accumulate, hopefully.
Next stop was in Cook's Bay, Moorea. We went aboard a 110 foot two masted sailing schooner for a sunset cruise on the open ocean. Friday I got in as much as I could on the last day. I assumed the Zonker Harris position early, then I took the Navigational bridge tour, by myself! 12 people signed up, but I was the only one to show. It was pretty neat to see it from the driver's seat, even if it is better than fifty feet wide. Lots of digital radio gear and computer screens including the sonar and other detection equipment. Lots of computer gear, UNIX X-Windows and some Microsoft stuff too. When they weigh anchor it is 5.2 tons. The chain is 3.5 tons per 27 feet.
After that I wanted to go water skiing, but there was a line waiting, so I took a kayak out and paddled around. Ernie is one of the tender masters, they are the ones who drive the shuttle boats back and forth to the islands, offered me some tips, but I can't surf along behind one of the tenders like he did. But he is a native and has done it all his life. I did manage to get in a bit of water skiing but time ran out and I had to run off to the Captain's Au Revoir party, where he introduced the whole staff. Usually the ship has one crewmember per passenger, but this cruise was undersold, so they outnumbered us, 209 to 207!
The whole ship was filled with very courteous people, but my favorites were Les Gaugines. They are nine young ladies who act like hostesses, and will generally be around to help out if needed, like with the native classes to weave hats or to tie up your pareo, and entertain. They would come past the tables at dinner and do a little song and dance. A couple of times I was able to borrow one of their guitars just to keep my fingers in shape. At the beach BBQ, we even did a short blues jam and some Santana. Quite different when played on a six-string guitar and an eight string ukulele with fishing line strings.
When we came aboard, at The Captain's Reception, I introduced myself to the Chief Engineer and asked if there were any engine room tours available. He told me that it was not offered for safety reasons, but if I were to discreetly appear at 18:30 on Friday he would see what he could do. I got to see all four of the diesel engines, two 9 cylinder, two 6 cylinder. The pistons are a half-meter across and have a throw of five feet up and down. Each. These power four alternators, which serve the ship's needs. Only one is necessary when just sitting, but when the two props are driving the ship, it is really two (4,000Kw?) electric motors. Got to see all of it. The bunker oil heaters, the water desalination equipment, the bilge, you name it, I saw it. Back in the control room you could also check the engine speed, temperatures, pressure, temp and oil pressure of all of the bearings, heck, you could even tell the temperature of the potato peeling table in the galley.
The rest of the time was spent in various ways on the ship. Like addressing and writing some of the more than fifty-odd postcards I sent. It would have been cheaper to get everyone fridge magnets. I have often said that Melville wrote Moby Dick, but Moby Dick never wrote back, and now I know why... Worse snailmail than the USPS, believe it. There were several events with the Captain, A formal reception, informal Yacht Club reception, Dinner, along with other group meetings. Since the board had a quorum of its members the monthly meeting was held in the Veranda Restraunt on the ship. All of the coastsiders who came along got together for dinner on July 4th. The first 4th in my memory without fireworks. There was a casino on board, a cigar bar, all sorts of amenities, and a piano lounge. I was talking to Nancy, the pianist to see if she knew "I Will" by the Beatles, and a friend overheard the lyrics and he asked me if I ever recited it to Tina. That night they had a Tahitian blessing of all of the anniversary/honeymooning couples and at the end of it, Terry stopped everyone from leaving because "I had to recite a poem to Tina". One of Les Gaugines lent me her guitar and I serenaded Tina in front of everyone. That was the best part.
We have been back since the 8th, but I am still decompressing. We have even had to go to the other side of the peninsula just to get out of fogville and get a vitamin D fix.
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