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Papeete, Tahiti – Part 1

By Chelsea McBroom

March 12th, 2014

It’s been a while since the Picton Castle pulled up alongside at a destination. We arrived in the port of Papeete at the island of Tahiti and the swell was high outside the harbour. It wasn’t until we moved in closer that the pilot boat could come alongside and the harbour pilot could come aboard. We docked, throwing our heaving lines to the workers in their neon vests at the wharf. The crew made comments looking at Papeete, about how overwhelming it seemed, like big city – clearly highly populated with the shoreline dotted with big hotels and shopping strips, shaded in a flourish of palm trees.

Once we were settled, having attached our chafe gear and harbour stowed all sail, port watch was given the night off, and they hurried to enjoy their first evening off the ship in nine days. At five or six o’clock, little trucks pulled into the shore lot, surrounded by short stone walls and gardens, to set up food stands selling Chinese food, BBQ, sashimi, pizza, burgers, milkshakes, and the familiar steak frites. John volunteered to get the group their choice of crepes from one of the stands and a chose one of Anne-Laure’s favorites, a caramel-like nut sauce inside a thin folded pancake.

The area is surrounded by strips of old style double lamp posts that kept the dock bright throughout the night. Locals walked around until late, often carrying their dance music with them even after they left the club across the street. Motor bikes rumbled by, zipping down the cement path along the shore. I slept on the hatch choosing the cool night, noise and bright lights over the dark quiet heat of the foc’sle. On my 1am watch, I had but to roll over and stand to see the gangway lashed on starboard at amidships. People sat on the wharf in between the crossing of ships mooring lines, getting a view of the city and saying bonjour to those who passed.

Like clockwork after I’d checked the chafe gear, the ship and went back to sleep on the hatch, it started to rain. Both awnings were up over the main deck and the quarter deck, but with the smallest amount of wind, rain scattered underneath it all. I didn’t move, hoping it would be a short light rain, but as it came down harder I made a run for it, sprinkling my sleeping bag and pillow with drops as I hopped through the carpenter shop, into the foc’sle, and jumped into my humid bunk.

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