We are nearing the end. Actually, we had reached the end. But we tacked on a new conclusion. French Polynesia is not rid of us yet. The weather is the primary culprit. We’ve become intimate with the mara’amu as of late. It’s the season for strong southeasterly winds and big swells. We got stuck (so to speak) in Taha’a as the winds began to build. As a result, a one night stopover became 2 nights. I began worrying as our visas were about to expire and we’d planned to exit from Bora Bora. We decided to head south to Raiatea, it’s also a port of entry and we didn’t have to leave the lagoon to get there. As we were sailing there, we noticed a small tear begin on the leech of our genoa. (Our sails are taking a serious beating out here…) We furled the sail past the tear and kept going.
We arrived at the Carénage on the NW side of Raiatea, and found a mooring ball in the boatyard’s mooring field. (If you come this way, be aware that there are two boatyards side by side, and that not all moorings belong to them, some are private and if you pick the wrong one, you may be asked to move. Basically, go to shore as soon as possible and figure out who’s mooring ball you took and make sure it's available.) We picked one of Dominique’s mooring balls on the far right, (Raiatea Carénage Services). And the wind blew and blew. There are a few isolated spots one can anchor in, but we would have ended up too far from shore. (We need an outboard! There, I said it.)
|They don't have to worry about visas...|
The next day, we had to go to the gendarmerie; we had reached the last day of our tourist visas. We fell upon Mathieu, who was perhaps one of the nicest bureaucrats we’ve met. We discussed checking out, and in passing I said something about waiting for a weather window. He became worried we’d get in trouble if we stayed beyond our visas more than a couple days, (me and my big mouth). He proceeded to make a number of calls and running to the other room to discuss our options with the voices beyond the wall. The powers that be confirmed that the weather would be “bad” for another 10 days. At that moment, I thought to mention our sail. He made a couple more calls and said that a torn sail is a good reason to stick around. Then we were told to get a letter from the boatyard: it’s called an “Attestation d’Avarie” which basically means something on our boat is stopping us from leaving. And it’s up to the boatyard to say that our problem is actually real and how long it would take us to deal with it. Technically, the wind was stopping us from doing the repairs on our genoa (to take it down, it has to be fully unfurled and slid down the foil: a little tricky in 30+ knot winds).
|It's not all about paperwork|
We spent a lot of time looking and waiting for Dominique. One of those times we met Daniel, a young Aussie sailor who invited us aboard his boat for Pastis since it was going to be a while before we’d see the boss. We never did see Dominique that day, but we had a good time waiting! Finally, after hunting down Dominique for 24 hours, (he’s a busy man), we showed him photos of the damage. I actually worried it didn’t look serious enough, (up close it sure is: other than two tears in the actual sail, the UV strip needs some love too). Then again, it only takes one small tear in a sail, that’s it. If you still use the sail, the tear will grow very quickly and you can end up with a useless sail. After checking the forecast for himself, he wrote the letter while we discussed our tattoos. I love how tattoos are such a huge part of this culture. You tell your life story with a tattoo that keeps growing over the years. Luckily Dominique had a beautiful one, and talking about it seemed to break the ice.
Our letter in hand, we went to the subdivision of something or other in the building across the gendarmerie. There, Corinne began processing our papers. She cheerfully talked about traveling and regulations while filling out forms. Soon, she told us she would email us to pick up our new papers that will let us stay 2 more weeks. Apparently, the “real” regulations allow only one person to stay with the boat and the other has to fly out of the country… But, we were in Raiatea these bureaucrats said with a smile, we’re more laid back, they added. Island mentality I believe it’s called.
I should mention that the Carénage is pretty far from town. We have been hitchhiking back and forth. Sometimes four(!) of us got picked up at once. But we soon learned to split up: two separate couples get picked up twice as fast. We also noticed that for the most part, the little beat up cars are the ones that pick us up, not the shiny new ones. We have met some lovely people in our travels across the top of the island, including a sail maker who’s partner is about to have a baby.
We celebrated the happy turn of events by climbing a mountain with SV Cariba. It turns out Cariba extended their stay too, they have to wait for prescription glasses for the captain, (whose old ones fell overboard on the way here). We all breathed a sigh of relief. Bora Bora may still be in the picture. And in two weeks, we will have a happier sail, a more relaxed crew, and hopefully a good weather window to head to the Cook Islands. We wanted more time here. We didn’t want to repair a sail again, but we decided to call it a mixed blessing.
|Two days later: there was a short lull in the wind, long enough|
for us to pull the sail down and assess the damage. Repairs are
going well! Hourra!