The Voyage


Andy and Melissa are sailing around the world on their 48-foot sailboat, Spectacle.

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Bali, Indonesia

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The Voyage of Spectacle

Archive for July, 2008

Raiatea Take Two

Posted by: melissa

Although my Madagascar doctor was unavailable on Friday, I had the rest of my stitches taken out by Bora Bora’s gynecologist/obstetrician who gave me a clear bill of health on the promise of three additional days of foot-elevated and Neosporin-laden recuperation.  I’m sad to report that my formerly attractive feet, the recipients of two decades of tender pedicures and the pride of expensive designer shoes, will be forever scarred.  Jimmy Choo sandals everywhere are in mourning … a small price to pay for the adventure of a lifetime!  Hopefully the scar will be big enough so that people will say, oh Melissa, I love your Manolo Blahn … oh my god, what happened to your foot?

In any event, Melissa is now off the disabled list and back in action!  As per usual however, it’s back to boat repairs.  We left Bora Bora today and made the short trip back to Raiatea.  The generator requires yet another massive repair, and this is the best place to get it done.  The prevailing winds of the Pacific are easterly, and since Raiatea is southeast of Bora Bora, we steeled ourselves for a bad 20-mile afternoon of motoring.  Luckily, the wind and the swell took it easy on us.  We arrived back in Raiatea at the mooring ball field called the Carenage, and enjoyed a lovely frozen-and-reheated-Andy-specialty of blanqette de veau (we are so missing the fabulous Tahiti grocery store right now).  As we enjoyed our dinner, the sun went down casting an incredible purple hue on the village ashore.

The Public Dock at Uturoa

Posted by: melissa

After a good sleep-in, some last minute Internet-based projects, and a few boat chores, we left the Carenage and headed over to the public dock in town.  First, we filled up with diesel … a whopping 220 gallons for a total 86,000 French Polynesian Francs (about $1000) even with duty-free.  After I was revived from my sticker shock, we moved the boat off the diesel dock and settled in.  The master generator repair guy showed up about a half hour later and we told him our sad generator tale.  He seems to have some pretty good ideas.

At that point, it was 4:30 p.m., we had skipped lunch, and we were starving.  Across the way, we saw a big sign for Chinese food which we haven’t had in a long time.  We sauntered over and unfortunately for us, the restaurant doesn’t open until 6:30 p.m.  We wandered around in a zombie-like state trying to find a snack to tide us over for two hours, and stumbled into the grocery store called Champion.  We immediately went to the frozen food section in search of our favorite treat:  an ice cream bar called Magnum … the most delicious vanilla ice cream center, first dipped in caramel, and topped with a chocolate shell.  It’s outrageously good.  The Champion did not have our favorite caramel variety, but they did have a double chocolate situation in a three-pack for the extra hungry super gluttonous Spectacle crew.  We were just about to go for it when Andy noticed the price … 15,000 French Polynesian Francs.  Yes, the ice cream bars were $20.  They’re good, but not that good.  Slowly step away from the frozen food section!

At 6:30 p.m. on the dot, we crossed the threshold of the Chinese restaurant and immediately ordered wonton soup and fried pork wontons.  This was a highly auspicious beginning to the meal, but unfortunately, the lemon chicken and ginger prawns were both bland and disappointing.  Even so, we won’t be giving up!

Raiatea, French Polynesia

Posted by: melissa

On its 64 square miles, Raiatea is a quite sleepy island with a population of about 12,500.  Raiatea and neighboring Taha’a are surrounded by the same corral reef and may have at one time been one island.  In Tahitian, Raiatea means “bright sky” or “sky with soft light.” 

Raiatea was enormously important to ancient Polynesians as the religious, cultural, and administrative center over 1000 years ago.  The Marae Taputaputatea is the most significant archaeological site outside of Easter Island (although we have heard this claim before in Hiva Oa).  A Polynesian Mount Olympus of sorts, Mount Temehani is an extinct flat-top volcano that towers over northern Raiatea.  Polynesian folklore says that Oro, the god of war and fertility, was born there.

Raiatea’s major town, Uturoa is the second most populous city in French Polynesia after Papeete with a population of about 4000.  Uturoa was established by Reverend John Williams, a very active evangelist throughout the South Pacific, when set up a London Missionary Society headquarters in the 1820′s. 

Uturoa and Papeete are the only two destinations in French Polynesia with modern cruise ship terminals and docks that can accommodate mega-vessels.  Additionally, Raiatea is the jumping off point of many sailboat charters since the closely situated leeward islands and the prevailing winds of the South Pacific offer a perfect week long sailing tour.  Even so, tourism is not Raiatea’s major industry as it has no beaches to speak of.  Agriculture, cattle ranching, and government administration are more prevalent.

My Lonely Planet guide book says that Uturoa’s lack of charm is what makes it charming.  After spending a day walking around, I found that statement to be pretty harsh.  Everyone is very friendly; cars always stop for pedestrians; the town’s three grocery stores are clean and very well stocked.  We frequently caught a quick lunch at the Snack Moemoea which was good and reasonably priced.  We also checked out the roulette on the waterfront which served up some dreamy French fries covered in Roquefort.

Uturoa also has a very nice farmer’s market with locally grown produce.  We had read previously that French Polynesia is quite famous for its melons, but we have yet to find any.  As such, we started getting really excited when we spied a table full of huge watermelons across the room.  Then we noticed the price tag.  4100 French Polynesian Francs.  Yes, it’s true, $54 for a watermelon.  While these watermelons looked really nice, there is absolutely no way that I will ever spend $54 on a watermelon!

The city dock is well protected in that it is behind Raiatea’s fringing reef, but otherwise, it is quite exposed to the prevailing winds.  While at the dock, we experienced our first Maramu’u in full force.  For four cold and blustery days, the winds gusted to 40 knots from the south, and the normally flat lagoon turned rough and choppy.  Spectacle held on to the dock pretty well, but the wind howling through the rigging and waves slapping the hull made it difficult to sleep.  The local windsurfers, however, were absolutely loving it!  Right from the boat, we had a front row seat for some of the best windsurfing conditions in the world.