Well our alternator parts arrived last in Tahiti last Wednesday, two and a half weeks after being shipped “express” from California by the unorganized and fuct shipping company DHL. We were granted one-month visa extensions in French Polynesia in order to fix our broken alternators and unfortunately we needed most all of that time to shock our system back to life.
Patrick, the local marine electrical expert, damn good too if you need one here, showed up Thursday afternoon and jumped right in with me to tackle the problem. By the end of Friday we had the new alternators installed, wired and working and the new “Centerfielder” regulator device installed between our to “smart” alternator regulators, to regulate them and voilà, problem solved. The instillation went way smoother than I was expecting and for the first time since I have been on Natural Mystic our charging system was working correctly when both engines were running. Also, making both tachometers work at the same time, a new occurrence and putting the full charging of both alternators into our battery banks for the first time ever as well. I was quite happy at having solved a problem that had plagued our boat for quite some time now.
As Friday drew to a close, an unusually intense rainbow pointed us towards the direction of Morea and we all knew it was where to head next. Coupling that manna, with the info my dad relayed about Hawaii being too big and stormy to surf on the N. Shore and I knew a couple of days later we would get a tamed down version of the same swell here.
An hour before dawn on Saturday we headed out the pass once again for the garden island. Immediately I noticed that our port alternator was not working what so ever and as a precaution switched only to the starboard engine, motoring through he pre-morning glass the entire way. Too say I was frustrated was an understatement! But, as its like paradise down here you can’t really get too pissed about it and as Dizzy started to pepper me with questions about the issue way too early in the morning, I simply asked him to drop it, I was going to forget about the problem for the weekend and just enjoy myself on our last weekend in FP. I knew the alternator instillation went way too easily for a boat and something had to go wrong, well at least we had one good engine to use and as a sign to just relax, our anchorage of choice greeted us with super fun surf and to our surprise our good friend Christaino on “Mundo Vagabond,” returned from his Tahaa trip and swinging at anchor. As we set our hook snow white sand, in 8 feet of crystal clear water everyone shared a good laugh at Dizzy’s expense, as he fell overboard when hooking up our anchor bridle and then promptly ate shit again, as he tripped over the jib furling line after climbing back aboard dripping wet, tumbling across the trampoline and no one at all was left wondering why he goes by that
name and not Brent.
Christaino immediately jumped on board and hugs and handshakes were exchanged, as well as thoughtful gifts he had gotten for all of us in Tahaa, what a great guy! As the commonwealth kids started to fry up breakfast, I needed to wash the frustration from my mind and immediately headed out for a surf with Dom. It was overhead, offshore and barreling with no one out. Dom and I surfed alone for a couple hours, and quickly the alternator problems faded like a bad hangover, replaced with feelings of intimate joy that only deep tubes deliver and marvelous beauty the island of Morea invokes.
Jamaica Mike was supposed to join us latter in the day, after taking the ferry across, but the weather had other ideas and by noon, after a scrumptious breakfast of Kahlil’s by now famous Kiwi Potato Fritters a torrential tropical rain squalled in. Blowing out the surf for jus’ a lil’ bit, as well as, being quite bad for our planned BBQ and company, but eventually being damn good for the surf, as it obscured the wave from shore and we surfed the pumping swell all day alone, until all of our nipples, armpits and junk were thoroughly afflicted by surf rash, forcing us back to the boat and our waiting supplies of soothing Gold Bond Medicated Powder and slippery Vaseline.
The evening was still a little too rainy to BBQ, so I risked my health and let the commonwealth kids whip up another tasty Spagbol, thankfully with no side effects this time. While Christiano, his new chick Johanna and I watched Pineapple Express, laughing our asses off to the stoner comedy, that was graciously bestowed upon us by our Moorean friend Charlotte. It had been ages since any of us had a new movie to watch and boy what a treat it was to see a new movie and quite a hysterical one at that!
The next morning another Morean friend of ours, Adrian stopped by pre-dawn style in his boat, banging on my window early Sunday morning and without hesitation or morning coffee we were out there. Again surfing super fun offshore, overhead waves alone, with only the memento of wonderful memories to remind me of the fun super fun early session. Eventually playfully spoiled by famous Coco, the island’s marina manager and musician and his enthusiastic three boys who are just starting to rip. We surfed with them for a bit more and then handed it over to the upcoming generation of stylish Tahitian rippers.
Later in the morning we met up on Moorea for the very first time with our friend Charlotte, she had been trying to get us to come over and visit her for a long time, wanting to show us around local style. Her father, a French alpinist, is somewhat of a well known man on Morea, and as well as running a environmental education school for the youth of Morea, he headed the effort of constructing many of the hiking trails that run across the island and up its various mountain peaks. As a kid, Charlotte helped in the construction of many of them too, lugging wood and concrete for miles up steep slopes, helping create bridges over many of the narrow, but deep ravines that channel immense amounts of rain down from daunting mountain peaks, several of which nice bridges made our hike much easier.
So, on a beautiful sunny day Kahlil, Charlotte and our friend Helene headed off for a cross island hike, from the North to the South coasts. What a hike it was, with stops along the way to pick some sweet pineapples, fresh limes and papayas that made for a super tasty lunch.
Trails through dense jungle and forests led up and across the mountain’s flanks, along the way revealing ancient, sacred Tahitian burial grounds illuminated by tree filtered light and every now and then, the canopy breaking, revealing the slick, dark face of hulking stone mountains looming overhead.
We crossed over the divide on top of “Three Coconut Pass”, where now only one tall ancient palm remains after a recent storm destroyed the other two, but where people steeped in tradition have replanted the missing two to eventually restore the pass’s namesake. The descent down the valley Vaianae was a refreshing, short and sweet one.
As a cool waterfall massaged our sore bodies, Charlotte’s families home was the furthest one up the valley, perfectly positioned for us to avoid the timely afternoon rainstorm and her father, knowing we were coming, baked us a delicious Tahitian vanilla marble fudge cake with raisins. Which was just out of the oven, super tasty and eagerly consumed by all the hungry hikers. Her dad gave Kahlil and myself a ride back to the boat in the back of the family truck, depositing us on the other side of the island and BAM! We were back out in the surf. Adrian even showed back up and who-hoo! Everyone was sharing some last fun waves, before the long day vanished forever.
But the night was still young and the rain stayed away, the BBQ came out and so did Christiano, Adrian, some beer, and shitty Tahitian rum for a couple games of Shithead, while we waited for the chicken to get super tasty. I was narrowly able to avoid being shithead a couple of times, but I couldn’t avoid the call of my bunk and soon after gorging on peppery poultry I was off to dreamland, making up for a long week of dawn to dusk, nonstop days.
Just like everyone’s Monday’s around the world, it was back to work for me too. Getting out the multi-meter and test probes, checking fuses and all the electrical connections Patrick and I had just installed. I couldn’t find a burned out fuse or problem what so ever and was stumped. Our visas were all expiring on Thursday and I guess this was going to be our litmus test to determine if we really were meant to leave French Polynesia or not.
Two hours of frustration later, I jumped out into the surf to wash away the grease of the engine room and Dom started shooting from the dink with our new long lenses, that my parents so graciously shipped out to us, thanks a million mom and dad! The swell was dying and smaller, but still provided Dizzy, Vainui and myself some fun waves to rip and pull into. By 1pm we were all out of the water, dropping Dizzy’s chick off on the beach and heading back to Marina Taina once again, to a waiting Patrick, who was astonished our alternator was not working, after we had both tested everything so thoroughly after the instillation. It was late in the day when he showed up and too was perplexed by the problem, informing us he would have to come back in the morning.
Tuesday dawned with solid south swell and everyone on the “Natural Mystic” wondering if we were going to get the problem solved or have to get another visa extension. While the waves pumped, we watched from afar, as we had real work to accomplish if we have to leave FP by Thursday. Patrick showed up bright and early and two hours of testing later we had the problem licked. It turned out there were hidden fuses, packed inside the engine start battery case, that either of us didn’t know existed. The fix turned out as simple as replacing a 10amp fuse and thankfully everything was working again. I asked Patrick if he wanted any more cash for his time and he generously said it was up to me, well he had taken all my cash last Friday, so that would have to wait, but it generally illustrates the attitude of many people in Tahiti, who are happy to help and share first and make money second.
There was to be no necessary letter from a Marine Repair Facility, to take to immigration stating we had another boat crisis and deserved a visa extension. Its looking like we really are leaving here now and everyone spent the rest of the day, ignoring the pumping surf and working on projects of all sorts.
Kahlil checking the rig and discovered “Windy Spins” had broken her plastic mount which we can hopefully jury rig. Dizzy cleaning, organizing and getting water. Dom working on photos and our outboard, and me……Sweating more than I ever have in the mid day heat, working on already warm engines, in a small insulated space, flushing and changing both engines’ coolants, replacing the engines’ raw water pump impellers, tightening and replacing broken hose clamps and generally cleaning the engine rooms, trying to keep them, as grease free and tidy as possible.
Like a good mechanic I swore and cursed all day long as I covered my self in grease, but opted for a late Taapuna surf session instead of a cold brew to forget the drudgery of the day and Kahlil and I proceeded to use the spinning barrels of Taapuna like a washing machine to power wash away the grime of the day. Its truly amazing how frustrated or full of angst you can be, but once you jump out into good surf, with your friends and grab a few fun waves, all your troubles seem so distant and removed. Water both chemically and emotionally is truly the universal solvent.
Which brings us to today, our second to last legal day in FP. We still have much to accomplish before I will feel comfortable about going out into the unknown pacific, probably headed for the Cook islands, but as of yet still undetermined. Not to mention, we currently have cyclone Ken, currently 55 knots gusting 75, spinning just 500 miles to our southwest and kind of in our way, if we head there. Who knows, maybe its gods last chance to keep us here and so we will just see, where Ken is headed over the next day or so.
As the realization sinks in to all of us that our days in Tahiti and French Polynesia are numbered, I can’t help but reflect on our time here. French Polynesia truly changed my perspective on how I view the world. Here I discovered, that the nicest, friendliest, happiest people I have yet to meet in our world, seem to have the least amount of worldly possessions. They are happy to share with you what they do have and live day to day in a land that provides them with everything they need to survive and prosper. In the Tuamotus they say, all they need to be happy is the ocean and coconut trees, as together they provide shelter, food, water and a modest income for their families. In Tahiti a true land of plenty, Tahitians don’t know about saving or preserving anything except their culture, as the land and sea have provided them with all they have need since their culture came into being. Their culture developed no jams or jellies to preserve their bountiful fruit, food is meant to be eaten today and shared by all, as it comes. This permeates their culture, as a case of beer is to be drunk and enjoyed with everyone until its gone. Why would you save it? And as there has always been an excess of food here provided by both the sea and fertile soil, they share it amongst themselves and generously with the strangers that visit their land. Some of this might not always be applicable towards modern life, but much is and you can’t help, but be infected by some of the Tahitian’s ancient beliefs and philosophies. What all this really boils down to is Tahitians really know how to enjoy life and what good is life, if you don’t share it with the friends and family around you, lessons we all can benefit from.
I reflect on all the good and bad that has occurred here and know that it is just the give and take of our earth. You can’t have one without the other and no place in our world is free from either. The worst thing that happed to us on this journey thus far was the disappearance of P Kiddy from Marina Taina in Tahiti. I never intended to leave here without finding him and it breaks my heart we will continue on, without our very loved, super cute, fearless feline. I know Tahiti must be a very scary place for a spoiled cat, I wish him all the best of luck in his new home and country and who knows maybe P will still turn up some day. The hardest thing is not knowing what happened, but I ask myself. Would I rather know if he was dead or not know and still have a chance of finding him some day? The answer is easy for me, I would take the hope he is out there and could still turn up some day. For this one reason alone a part of me will always feel like I left a piece of me in Tahiti and I don’t think I will ever give up the hope that maybe some day I will see my fur ball again. But one thing is for sure, when I do come back to Tahiti I will always keep looking for him, as I do whenever I walk, bike, drive or boat anywhere over here.
Tahiti has truly been an educational, growing experience I will cherish forever. I learned so much about life, love, hope, disappointment and myself. In a way I would never have been able to grasp without, throwing myself into this land that seems to take the energy of our earth and amplify it like one of God’s Hi-Fi speakers. A land where the waves are the best you have ever ridden, the beatings more severe than any you have ever received and you can’t help but feel you are certainly living life to its extreme limits while in Tahiti. Cheers – Kyber