First things first. We had heard that if you leave any Gooseneck barnacles on the bottom when you arrive after the long passage, they will become quite difficult to remove. So once anchored , nap taken we put the boarding ladder down and I went over the side to clean off any barnacles. Oh, they were not bad. We had taken Jaceranda’s suggestion and dragged a line over the side of the boat on each side every day for 30 minutes. The line is to keep the barnacles from attaching or to knock any off. I don’t know which, don’t care. For the most part dragging the line worked. And too, I was surprised there appeared to be no paint lost where the line dragged. But, where the line wasn’t lightly snaking along the hull, there was an area that needed to be cleaned. I attacked those areas with a putty knife and soon we were again barnacle free.
North Star had a similar situation but they had only dragged the line the last 3 days. I’m wondering if we could have reduced the amount of drag time and still had the same results? What the line couldn’t clean was the algae like growth on each side. Thus after 3,000 nm we ended up with a dark brown boot stripe up both sides of the hull just above the static waterline. Cleaning that brown algae off was more difficult. Our hull is still gel coat fiberglass and the growth loved to use the more porous material as a foundation. So scrub it I did, first with a teflon safe scrub pad and then a
wet rag. That alone took me two trips into the water and I was glad to have the job finished. The rest of the bottom looked good and only here and there did I find a barnacle to knock off. The boys from Amphitreete did a good job in the Galapagos cleaning the bottom.
We arrived on Sunday and sv North Star was in contact with their and our agent who suggested we taxi into Atuona on Tuesday. This gave us a couple of days for cleaning up the boat and getting settled. Kim invited us over for some Pasta Fagiola and with our penchant for eating out we
graciously accepted. We spent two hours launching and inflating the dinghy and attaching the engine. And that evening we shared some stories of the adventure. While they made better time than us (they do have a larger boat, 52′, and thus higher max speed) they had some more significant issues and one can read of them on their blog as opposed to me reporting them here. But I will say we always smiled (as did they) when looking at their boat from a distance. Their Sun covers were in tatters and when ever we looked over it reminded me of the film Pirates of the Caribbean and the pirate ship therein.
Tuesday the 5 of us hopped into Marie-Jo’s taxi and paid 1,700 PF’s for a ride to the Gendarmarie for clearance. Marie-Jo with her limited English (much better then our limited almost non existent French) would point out various fruits and sights to us as we transited over the top of the mountain the 16 km to town. She dropped us off and called Sandra; our agent, to inform her we were there. At the Gendarmarie, we spoke with other boats that told us of their check in adventure and they had been trying to complete the paperwork for 8 days! Not good. At our taxi price, $170USD, 8 days would be cost us a fortune, and right now we didn’t have the money on us.
Since Sandra had not yet arrived our first trip needed was to the bank. We brought some cash and inside I converted dollars to FP and then we tried the ATM. Bingo. The bank was ok exchanging dollars and the cash machine made quick work of debiting our account and providing us with French Polynesian Francs (1$ equals 85 FP’s) . Pockets full of money we wandered back to the Gandarmarie for clearance and there was Sandra with about 20 other people. To clear in in FP everyone on the boat needs to visit the officials and they then ensure that the picture on the passport matches the face in front of them. All in all there were only about 8 boats but them and their crew added up. Add to that our 5 and you have a lot of people vying for the agents attention.
We are members of the Pacific Puddle Jump group; a rather informal group supported by Latitude 38, the West Coast Sailing Magazine. They provide a bond guarantee for a small fee. The story goes that back in the day of President George Bush the II after 9/11 he restricted the access of Europeans to America making if much more difficult for them to receive Visa’s and to stay any length of time. As a quid pro quo the French then decided what is good for the goose is good for the gander and they did the same. Now any Americans visiting need to either have an airline ticket out of their country or post a bond that the French may use upon need of deportation to send us on our way. With the Puddle Jump we pay a small fee to the agent and the bond is secured as well as duty free fuel and their services needed at the various French agencies for paper work. And by the way, Latidue 38 does not charge us anything for joining this group. One of the few deals left in today’s world.
By late morning we have cleared all the paperwork and are again legal. Seven of us wander down to the Post Office for a chance at the internet. In much of the world the internet is easily available but here is one of the few places access is expensive and difficult. I purchase a phone card and while every country we’ve been in has internet access via their cell phone there is none here. If you have an AT&T world phone you will see while on roaming the local provider for the cell service and then you will acquire limited internet access; but watch out for the cost. One cruiser has that access and they were called by AT&T after using 32 gigibytes of data. Now keep in mind that 32 gigs of data is not much in todays WWW and you can easily use that much data in a few hours. AT&T informed them they were paying $20/ gig which means in less then 2 days with only accidental and bragging rights (Ha I have internet on my phone) they ran up a $640.00 bill. It wasn’t long till the bragging rights smirk turn to a chagrin smile. Glad we don’t have AT&T anymore!
But our local phone has only text messages and we need to access the internet at one of the few hotspots with prepaid cards. So we try. The cards cost $4/ per hour and if you buy longer time periods there are no deals. For example 2 hours is 8 dollars and 10 hours is $40. I guess you could say you don’t have to enter a different code when the hour is up but as in entering a new swimming hole I like to ease myself in the water and so here we just purchase an hour to make a test run. The service is slow and near to unusable. But as we’ve been out of touch with the digital world for almost a month we crave the data and persevere. Eventually our hour is up and W/ has seen her email (not read much) and I’ve seen mine with the same results. It looks like the world has moved on without us and so now barely satisfied with our first digital fix we go in search of drink and food.
There are not many restaurants in Atuona but we are told of one that is quite good and with North Star we walk 30 minutes to a hearty expensive lunch. Beer here is 600 FP which translates to about $5 US. But alas I would rather be here drinking it looking out at the vistas here than at a back water pub in the states looking at pictures of the Marquesas in a book. We order without much thought to the money; after all we just hit up the bank and the bank machine, and have plates of food that only the French seem able to prepare. One of the things I was looking forward to was the French cuisine. They do indeed have a love and talent for preparation of food that to date I’ve not found in any other country; even the US. Oh there are individual places in the US that equal the French love of food but as a whole nothing compares with the French cultures love affair with food.
Finally stuffed with delectable morsels we meander slowly back to town with our intestinal microbes happily reducing our calories to body needed petro. We wander in and out of stores seeing what is available and the prices. Our goal is to meet Marie-Jo at a large grocery (French Polynesia large) on the other side of town where she will pick us up and then we’ll head back to our anchorage at Hanaiapa. W/ buys a few bags of goodies that she feels we’ll need for the next few days here and we sit down to watch the Marqueseans and await our ride. Guya shows up and now all 5 of us are ready to head back. Marie-Jo stops on the way back over the mountain and we pick some Mangos from public trees, meet her husband who gives island tours. We get his phone number, and take some pictures of the harbor we’ll plan on skipping. On the descent to Hanaiapa we stop for some Pampelmoose; a large grapefruit, and purchase a dozen to be divided between our two boats. 100 PF’s each- about a $1.25. But I will say, the Pampelmoose are well worth it. As dusk falls we arrive at the dinghy dock, unload our gear and exhausted we slowly head back to the boats.
As the day winds down we exhale a breath of relief, we’ve managed to clear in and complete all paper work in much less than 8 days. We’ve had a brief view of the island, gathered some fresh fruit and more food and now I am ready to count the stars on the back of my eyelids. Tomorrow will find us doing more to put the boat back into cursing ready shape.