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Papeete – Day 3

By Kate “Bob” Addison

February 21st, 2013

Thursday lunchtime and we’re half way through our Tahiti sojourn – time is passing very quickly!

Aboard ship we’ve been busy organizing provisions to feed us until Rarotonga, buying diesel, refilling propane cylinders, and getting all of our fire fighting equipment checked and re-certified. We had a few groups of visitors to the ship today too – a Pitcairn couple on their way back to the island stopped by for brunch, and a group of students from a nearby maritime academy came to tour the ship.

There is a fair amount of swell at the dock today so this morning all hands were called to put out extra dock lines, as the forces on them in a big swell can be huge. We also braced round the main yards and put a lift from the yard to the end of the aluminium gangway to prevent it from grinding on the concrete of the dock. Captain says if the swell doesn’t improve soon then we will move the ship to a different wharf this afternoon, where the swell is less bad.

Meanwhile the off watches have been enjoying some city time, or getting out of town on the bus or in hired cars to explore the twin circles of Tahiti Nue and Tahiti Iti. The centre-ville is perfect for stylish city living, with pavement cafes that have excellent coffee, ice cream or a glass of wine. There are plenty of very good restaurants to satisfy les gourmands of all persuasions – lots of very traditional French food like steak frites, choucroute or cassoulet and tarte-tartin or crème brulee for after. The wine lists are amazing – maybe ten red wines from Bordeaux, and a handful from the Loire or Cote-de-Rhone. It seems a bit crazy to be eating all this rich, French food when it’s all been imported from Europe, but sometimes delicious trumps food miles. There is Polynesian food too – raw red tuna fish in coconut milk and lime juice is a favourite, and plenty of tropical fruit – banana, mango, passion fruit, coconut, and the famous pamplemousse are all very good, and relatively cheap compared to the cost of everything else here. The Papeete market is the best place to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, and you can also buy all sorts of beads and trinkets here – colourful pareaus, black pearls, carved pearl shells and baskets and hats woven from pandanus and wood carvings. I’ve been going to the market early every morning to get fresh fruit and bread for the crew’s breakfast.

Our crew’s favourite spot to eat out is ‘Les Roulettes’ – or ‘The Caravans’ – a collection of white vans that have been transformed into restaurants – their sides open up with colourful awnings over and there are tables and chairs set out on the paved plaza there down by the water. Each van sells a different type of food, from Chinese specialties to sushi. The prices are much more reasonable here than in the proper restaurants, and it’s great fun to sit outside with locals and tourists alike, the ladies all pretty in floaty, colourful clothes with tiare of frangipani flowers in their hair, everyone chatting and laughing, their tables piled with food. I think just about everyone in the crew has had a galette or a crepe from the caravan (that’s savoury or sweet pancakes – the savoury come with any combination of cheese, bacon or vegetables, and the sweet are flambéed with cointreau or calvados with chocolate, fruit, sugar or coconut ice cream – this is how I imagine heaven to be). Luckily the clothing here is very loose and forgiving of overindulgence.

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