Friday, November 28, 2014

Pick One

Five and a half months - it's been a very very good run in French Polynesia.

Especially considering that we're here on three month visas.

Yesterday, walking home from the an internet session at the post, I saw one of those flower trees that you see everywhere in Polynesia.  Are they tiare?  I think so, but I dunno.  Botany isn't my strength.

I did something that I've never done before.  I picked one and tucked it behind my ear and strolled on down the street, looking fine, I'm sure.

My shorthand description of Polynesia has always been that it is the place where strangers give you flowers.  But I figured, why wait for someone else to do the giving?  When's the next time that I'm going to be in a place where I can wear a flower behind my ear?

So long to all this
Elias and I have had our last snorkel for the season.  We identified three new-to-us species from the pictures that we took - an ID session afterwards is a part of our routine.

What a pleasure, snorkeling with him.  I suppose there's no one who's so comfortable to do something fun with as your eight-year-old son.  May it ever be thus.
Parrot fish are our bane.  How could we not be able to
identify this fish?  It seems like it should be so obvious
For all the talk of the Gambier as being "special", Alisa and Elias went into the village today in search of local fruit, and were floored by the response they got.  A shop owner buried them in gifts of fruit and veg and fresh eggs, just because.

Polynesia never fails to overwhelm.

They'll be treasures at sea - and there were bananas, too
So, yes, as you have no doubt guessed, the weather is looking very good to leave for Chile in a few days, and we're on our final countdown.  I have a painful ear infection and am a bit swamped with finishing science commitments via the very poor internet here, but I'm sure it will all come together, just as it always does.

And, in the midst of our countdown, Alisa took the time to cook a proper Thanksgiving meal for ourselves and our new mates on Windora, who are also heading for Valdivia.  It's not something that I would do on my own, to have people over for a holiday meal a couple days before a three+ week passage.  But we all had a great time - Alisa is good at making it happen.

Alisa can do a holiday justice
And, that's us.  I've got to get some sleep.

The things we've done in these five and a half months - they'll give us memories for a lifetime.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


We came to the Gambier expecting nothing transcendent.  For months we had been hearing the same thing from people in the position to know – most notably a couple of public health nurses who work all over French Polynesia – that the people of Mangareva, the main island in the Gambier, are "special".

"Special" sounded pretty good.  Until out informants told us that they meant "special" as in especially difficult.

There are introduced berries on Mangareva.  You can tell
Elias is really an Alaskan kid by how excited he gets
about picking them
Travel, to us, means getting down with the local people to whatever extent our language skills and stamina might allow.  So a place like the Gambier (that's GAM-bee-EHH, all you American and Australian mononglot apes) where the Polynesian magic is supposed to be long since erased – by tourism, by the once-booming culture of black pearls, by too many yachts, by whatever – we naturally look on a place like that as a stepping stone to somewhere else.

One day's haul
And the pie his mom baked
But, it always works out this way.  If we come somewhere expecting little, we find a lot to like.

I want to reach to the hackneyed language that sports enthusiasts use to describe the latest 17-yr old phenom - the Gambier is a incredible physical specimen.  It is a wonderful example of the remote tropical island – a high volcanic island well on its way to becoming an atoll.  High mountains scattered here and there and surrounded by a mostly-submerged reef. 

There are heaps of anchorages to explore, which is a real change after being tied to the quai in Rapa.  There are tracks up the hills.  And the hills are just the right scale – steep and impressive-looking from the deck of your boat, but small enough for an eight-year-old to happily tramp to the top of.

Just the right scale
After all the social interaction in Ra'ivavae and Rapa we're happy to tend our own garden for a bit, and we've made precious little attempt to get down with the locals.  But there is a nice company of like-minded sailors here – our old friends on Hera, a delightful Kiwi couple who are also heading to Valdivia, and with whom we have a ton of friends in common, and a smattering of French boats that are mostly taking a break – for months or for years – from the peripatetic life.

It'll do for us.

Another milestone - the boys' first unaccompanied dinghy
trip together.
One eye on the passage ahead - what's left in those
food lockers, anyway?

And, meanwhile, having another Chile-bound boat for company has brought our excitement at this next grand chapter to a boil.

The weather is looking great for the passage.  The southeast Pacific high looks to be very well set up, which has established a huge area of counter-clockwise winds over this part of the world.  All we have to do is to get a thousand nautical miles – in round numbers – south of here, and then we should have beautiful westerlies to carry us on our way.

The trick, of course, is getting across those thousand miles, many of them with no wind at all…

Friday, November 21, 2014

Australia - France

The French national team beat Australia at rugby this week.

France (l) chases Australia (r)
You might have missed that result.  We would have, except that we found ourselves in the company of two rugby fans - one French, one Kiwi - on the day the match was broadcast here in the Gambier.

A couple days later, the enormity of this outcome finally sank in.

"How could France be any good at rugby?" I asked Alisa.  We were in the comfortable confines of the Marital Seabunk, enjoying the sleepy 15 minutes of independence that we enjoy every day, between the time the boys go to sleep and the time when we nod off.

"I mean," I continued, warming to my theme, "it seems to suggest that there's something lacking in my understanding of France.  Or of rugby."

Alisa didn't have much to contribute on the theme, so I went on.

"Think about it.  France is good at so many things.  And Australia is good at so few.  And then France went and beat Australia at one of the few things Australia is good at.  Hardly seems fair."

This picture, and below - the boys discovering their rugby roots with a Kiwi
enthusiast and a French enthusiast on Taravai Island, the Gambier.  I was
safely on board Galactic, doing some science thing or another

The boys couldn't have enjoyed it more

Thursday, November 20, 2014

How Many Sailing Days Until Xmas?

So, what could be more fun than Christmas with kids who are still young enough to believe in Santa Claus?

Nothing, I warrant.  I just totally love it.

This year, though, there's a kicker.  We find ourselves sitting in the Gambier, looking ahead at the 3,900 nautical mile passage (by the great circle route, which is the shortest route, of course) that will take us on to Chile.

We'll be ready to leave…soon.  The boat is in quite good nick (touch wood!).  I just have to...finish…up…a…few…more…science…tasks…before…we…can…leave.  It is always thus, lately.

The weather is looking great, with a big stable high sitting between us and South America, all set to give us westerly winds once we get south of it.

The trouble might be that the high is so stable that we might find ourselves waiting around for a change in the weather that will allow us to sail to the other side.  December 25th could be suddenly looking close at hand.  And Santa hasn't done his shopping yet.

Our first reaction was to do what parents in our culture are meant to do - worry.  We have always told the boys that Santa can find us no matter where our boat is.  So it wouldn't do to have Santa short on gifts.

But on reflection, we think that things will work out.  We have a couple of gifts that were meant for birthdays but were held back because the pile of loot was too big for a kid living on a boat (in Elias' case) or because the birthday boy had been having behavioral problems that we weren't going to compound with over-giving (in Eric's).  And we've got a few chocolates and bouncy-balls from the magasin in Ra'ivavae, and Alisa is going to print up a collage of all of the pictures of Elias catching fish that we took this last year, and she will make Eric a dream-catcher (he's been prone to getting up in the middle of the night lately), and…what more could you want?

The boys will be totally happy, wherever Christmas might find us - especially since Alisa has a knack for baking treats to make any holiday special.

I have heard enough heart-warming tales of the benefits of raising kids afloat to be a little cynical about the whole thing, and I realize that it's impossible, and unwise, to try to raise your kids cut off from the larger world.  But it is true that raising the boys on the boat has in some ways given them an extremely traditional upbringing, at least in terms of how close they are to us, and how insulated from materialism.

But, more than anything about child rearing, I think that this episode of planning for Santa-at-sea has underscored the real lesson of the life afloat.  Which is that so many things are a problem only if you decide they are.

Friday, November 14, 2014


Back row, l-r: Arnold, Michel Jr., Johnny.  Middle row: Lucie, Alisa,
Jackye, Jane, Michel Sr.  Front row: Elias, Arnold Jr. (Manu!), Eric, Hanavae (sp!)
This is our third trip across the Pacific, and we have been lucky enough to visit many islands in Polynesia.

Rapa made us feel like we were seeing Polynesia for the first time.  Or like we were finally seeing the real thing.

I have a lot more to say about Rapa.  But a blog is a document that lives in the present, and now that we are happily in the Gambier, events will soon overtake Rapa memories in this space.
The va'a paddle.  Is regret a particularly Polynesian emotion?
Before that happens, though, I've got a few more good Rapa posts in me – starting at the end, with our goodbye.

A cross-cultural disconnect in the middle of it all.  Alisa to Jackye (having
scrubbed out our takeaway food containers from the day before so they
could be re-used, just as American yachties do: "Here, can you use these?"
Jackye: "Why are you giving these to me?"

Elias getting in one last session on the fish book with Johnny.
The boys in their hats, getting down
with some Rapan nectarines

We have left hundreds of places behind over the last seven years, and it's enough of a circus to organize crew and boat to go to sea without some landlubbers staring down from the dock, waiting to wave goodbye.  Or worse yet, trying to help.  So our normal routine is to say our brief farewells ashore the day before we leave, and then to slink away whenever we finally get ready.

That is not an option in Rapa.  That is clearly a place where good manners demand that friends be offered the chance to say bon voyage as you depart.  And so, I now realize, it's probably good manners to do the same everywhere in Polynesia.

So we spread the word that we were leaving at 0600 the next day.

Here, and below: previous scenes.  Arnold Jr. (Manu!), Eric
and Lucie after an impromptu fishing session on the quai

And Arnold showing me some chops on the kamaka
Johnny Faraire was the first to show up – and he handed me the va'a paddle I had been using on the island as a farewell gift.  Which floored me, although he had given me warning a couple days earlier that he would do that.

I had some tuna hooks for him.  But just now, as I am writing this, I wish I had thought, in that electric moment of leaving, to go back to the stern rail where our trolling rod was lashed in place for going to sea, and handed that to him. 

That would have been the Polynesian thing to do.

But, alas, we live in the moment, and have to live with the decisions we make on the fly.

Jackye, Jane and Alisa on our last full day in Rapa, in the community hall
where we had previously attended crowded, happy scenes of celebration.
Just us this last time, and we were there because...
Jane and Michel were shouting us lunch.  Us and the kids and Jane, Michel,
Jackye and Johnny sat down at this private table, laid with food that women
were making for takeaway sale in the village.  Poisson cru, taro, a delicious dish
of raw tuna and fermented coconut that I never learned the name for,
chow mein, fried chicken, bread.  Etc., etc.!
Elias, getting down with the local Fanta
Jackye and Jane brought down Rurutu-style hats for the boys, and necklaces for all of us.  Everyone had a cup of coffee on Galactic.

I had been concerned that we had not managed to tell Arnold and Lucie that we were leaving.  Johnny managed to come up with their phone number and, faster than you might believe possible, Arnold and Lucie and Arnold Junior (Manu!) were at the boat, still looking very sleepy.

Arnold gave me a necklace and leaned in for a whiskery buss.  Which gave me the key for how to comport myself with Johnny and Michel Senior. 

It was the peak Gallic moment of my life.

After kisses and nanas all around, it was time for us to shove off.  We got the main up, then made a pass by the dock for a final wave, and saw that two of Elias' mates from many afternoon plays on the quai had come out with their mom to wave.

And then we sailed away from Rapa, most likely forever.

Final waves

And, all means what, exactly?

Well, I can only think that Rapa resonated so strongly with us because the people there showed us the living embodiment of an approach to life that so many Westerners aspire to.

Things that Westerners pay lip service to - like living in the moment, and being generous, and not being shackled to a life that serves material possession - are everywhere in evidence in Rapa.

As always with my travel interactions, I'm keen not to see these people as abstract utopian beings.  They're complex people, with their faults and their talents, just like us.  Shortly before we arrived in Rapa, there was the most horrible tragedy you could imagine, involving sudden death and some of the more hopeless themes of human existence.  Rapa is very much a place of the real world.

But people on Rapa treated us - strangers who could not speak with most of them - with an incredible grace.  And that welcome made it hard for us, the always-a-little-confused visitors, not to see Rapa as this incredible remote bit of the world where people have learned to lead life in a way that's just a little bit more beautiful than what people have struck on in other places.

I suppose that's what's kept us coming back to Polynesia over and over again.

For some reason Alisa and I found this picture so funny.  Me, sailing away
from Rapa, wondering what the hell just happened

Monday, November 10, 2014


Our good friends on board Enki sometimes wonder aloud how the heck we do it - making double-handed passages with two kids to look after.

To which we have always replied, "anything's possible with a short enough memory!"

Meaning, I suppose, that we usually muddle through pretty well.

This one, though, has been nuts.

We left Rapa three days ago to make the 590-mile, roughly four-day, sail to Gambier, our very last stop in this French Polynesian Odyssey.

The send off was, like everything else about our time on Rapa, beyond belief. (You'll have to wait to see the pictures once we regain internet access.)

And the goodbye was nearly the highlight of the subsequent passage.

The first couple of days at sea are often best compared to a bad drug experience from someone's misspent youth. Alisa and I don't usually get seasick, but even so we feel dopey and off our game for those first couple of days. Our sleep schedule is in tatters, our parasympathetic nervous systems are battling against the unstable reality that they find themselves in. Everything feels off and strange. I just want to sit, and when I think of something to do on the boat - some small thing like checking for drips at the stuffing box - I think about it for twenty minutes before I finally rouse myself to action.

All that is more or less the best scenario.

On this outing, Alisa did worse than normal. She was seasick the first few days. Not hurling over the side seasick, but suffering mightily to cook a meal that you definitely won't be eating any of yourself seasick.

And I was doing worse than normal. A cut on my foot came up infected on the first day out, and by the time we decided to start me on Cephalexin the infection was spreading around my heel and I had a fever.

Both of us were still functional when we had to be. But when we didn't have to be, we both wanted to be asleep. Luckily Alisa's worst day and my own didn't overlap.

The boys have been physically fine. Eric only puked once, when his brother got him over-excited with some big-brother play. Sprinting from galley to saloon, Alisa made the all-time mid-air vomit catch with an outstretched saucepan.

The great ones are great under pressure.

But the boys have very much been playing the part of cooped up kids on a boat. They have been fighting. They have been quarreling. They have been teasing and poking and screaming.

Alisa and I have taken the opportunity, one at a time, to just completely lose our tempers over it all. Whatever you may have read in South From Alaska, we have as close to a conflict-free marriage as you can get. So wherever, we have wondered at great length, and sometimes at the top of our lungs, did our boys learn to fight with each other continually?

All this - the physical symptoms and the difficulty in maintaining any semblance of family tranquility - has been going on as we contemplate the monster before us - the 3,800 mile passage from Gambier to Chile. That's six of these passages in a row, with an extra three hundred miles thrown in. And ain't NONE of it in the tradewinds.

There was a bit of subdued morale at the thought, let me tell you.

Ah, but - thank god for the third day.

Alisa and I both had our sea legs today. The water was the effortless blue of the open tropical Pacific. The weather that counts to us - the wind and seas - had been good throughout, and became downright beneficial. Galactic slipped along wing and wing, making plenty of speed on little breeze. The windvane, which has been feeling poorly for much of this crossing, steered us.

It was nice to have the windvane back. It's definitely analog-era, with the long lazy loops that it steers us through. But it's so pleasant to turn off the grinding, grasping hydraulic autopilot for a while. The boat really comes alive, for good or ill, when the windvane is steering.

Today was so good that I even put some time into writing a research proposal that my reviewing peers will hopefully find both cutting-edge and fundable.

(How's that, Alex and Diana - double-handed, two kids AND earning a living [a bit] while at sea.)

So All was Well.

Except that the boys were still acting up. Poor fellas, I suppose they're experiencing a strange combination of benign neglect and helicopter parenting on these passages.

Gambier tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Here, and below - who's paddling in the #5 spot?  Could it be?
Va'a ono
Va'a are the outrigger canoes that you see everywhere in French Polynesia.

Va'a hoe
I don't like the phrase "bucket list" - it implies such an acquisitive attitude towards experience, to go along with everything else that is acquisitive about our culture.

But for the longest time I have been keen to try paddling a va'a.  They're so sleek and fast and such a part of the culture here.

So, mark up one more to Rapa.  Our friend Johnny - Tihoni Faraire, to use his Rapa name - was quite the paddler as a young man, and today is the coach for the local paddlers in Rapa.  People train for this, and compete at a variety of levels, you see.

The other day, when the blokes had gathered at his house to paddle the va'a ono, the six-person canoes, he let me take out his va'a hoe - the one-person version.

Ruben, the raconteur and nurse who has been a great friend to Galactic, was there to train with the other blokes.  ("The paddling, it is so very hard," he says.  "The other men in the boat with me are so VERY FAT.  It makes it so hard.")  Rueben helped me to get into the va'a hoe and gave me the most basic instruction.  He let go of the boat - and I immediately flipped it.  Turns out
they're stable as can be to port, and completely unforgiving to starboard.

Once I had that figured out, it was a breeze to paddle around the protected Baie Haurie while the big boats disappeared around the headland, six men paddling in unison in each.

I showed up again yesterday at the appointed hour (3:30, gotta love the non-9 to 5 lifestyle) and Johhny looked at me and said, "Va'a ono!"

Now, it was not my ambition to paddle in one of the big boats.  You've got to paddle in unison, you've got to keep up with the pace, and these guys have been paddling since they were boys.

Plus, I don't speak French, Tahitian or Rapa, remember?

But my only goal with all this travel is to be game for whatever comes along.  So I hopped in, a little nervous, and started a-paddlin'.
Ruben holding court during the
long BS session that follows
the paddling

The best paddlers are in the bow - that's the guy who sets the cadence and calls the frequent switches from side to side - and in the stern, where responsibilities for steering reside.

I watched the paddles ahead of me, and tried to catch on to the timing of the switches as quickly as I could.  And then, presto - there I was, in a va'a ono, paddling out of the bay of one of the most remote islands in Polynesia, over the reefs and close to the waves breaking on the rocky headlands.

We paddled for an hour.  With one break early on and one break right at the end.  My concern at first was just keeping up, but later I also started to concentrate on not splashing the men in front of me, not dropping the paddle on a switch as my hands got tired (!) and not throwing up.  I might not have paced myself so well at the outset.

But what a treat to be out there with those big Polynesian men (fat or not, they're fit for paddling - and I wasn't the oldest by more than a decade) paddling off a high volcanic island with the bowman calling the switches and Johnny behind me calling out instructions now and then in the delightfully guttural sounds of Rapa.

In terms of getting down with the people of Polynesia, masculine-style, it's a much better experience than smoking dope with the pig hunters of the Marquesas, let me tell you.

I think I'll show again this afternoon.

And - further Rapa twist - we had Johnny and Jackye over to the boat last night for a light dinner.  And I coulda sworn Johnny said he was going to give me the paddle that I used.

My rule of thumb in Polynesia is to refuse no gift.  But honestly, generosity like that can easily overwhelm.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Johnny is an important guy in the Rapa community.  He's fifty, he's a very active fisherman, he's a member of the council that administers rauhui, the community fisheries management plan based on
Eric, Johnny, and a yellowfin tuna
caught on hand line.  Just like in Kodiak,
where king crab legs sometimes go into
crab dip, part of this tuna went onto a…
tuna pizza.  Nothing compares to the casual
use of luxury foods in the
source communities
rotating closed areas around the island that is surely the envy of subsistence fishing communities around the world.

Johnny is also an even-tempered guy.  Our acquaintance has been short, and necessarily shallow because of the language barrier, but I get the idea that it’s hard to get him angry.

But when he was on our boat for dinner the other night, and we were showing each other pictures of Alaska and Rapa, he showed us a picture on his phone of a ship anchored in Baie Haurie, the harbor of Rapa.

A scientific ship from New Zealand, he explained.  They were here, we know they were diving around Rapa, but they never explained to us what they were doing. 

There was a real bitterness in his voice and his demeanor – a palpable sense of being wronged.

Public "outreach" is all the rage in Alaskan marine science.  Especially if a group will be working in the area around a subsistence community, there is a strong expectation that the scientists involved will present their work to the locals and solicit feedback.

Here, and below - scenes of Rapan celebration
The Kiwi-flagged ship that Johnny had photographed didn't do that.  And oh boy, did they miss out as
a result.

The National Geographic "Pristine Seas" group, and the Pew marine protected area people who were working with them, took a completely different approach.

A central goal of theirs was securing local support for the establishment of a marine protected area in the Australs.  They went fishing with locals, and took locals on their sampling/filming trips, and generally did everything they could to make their work valuable to the people of Rapa.  So, for instance, when some locals suggested that it might be a good idea if they were invited on board the  Hanse Explorer for a party, the Nat Geo guys didn't hem and haw and try to fit it in at the end of their trip.  They invited their local contacts, and their contacts' families, on board at the soonest opportunity for beer and wine and finger foods and a viewing of a rough cut of the footage they had been shooting.

They also presented a ten-minute version of their movie and an overview of their scientific results to the whole community at the end of their trip, and had the entire school on board the ship for a tour.

The people of Rapa, in turn, did something that Polynesian cultures clearly excel at – they treated these visitors as honored guests.  They reciprocated with the leis and necklaces and flower crowns and woven hats that are the Polynesian way of saying, "you are special – we honor you!"  They played music for the visitors and sang them songs and taught them local dance (the "Haole haka" - always a crowd pleaser).

On the VIP list.  The written invite from the
mayor was immediately a treasured souvenir
And, they showed their welcome with ma'a – food.  Or, more accurately, with feasts.  Food is a center of social life and festivity everywhere, but even more so in Rapa, if you follow me.

Gettin' down with the people
And, so being included in all this, we got to see a wonderful side of Rapa.  This place isn't any kind of time warp – the people here are modern, with experience of
Mao leading the Rapa hake, haole-style
life in the big smoke of Pape'ete.  They have their cell phones and Facebook pages and they watch the French version of "Dancing with the Stars" at night.  But, since there is no airport they are also modern in an undiluted version of their home island, if you will.  Visitors are still a special event, and don't threaten to outnumber the locals as they do in so many places in French Polynesia.  And so although this place is of the contemporary world, the willingness and ability to celebrate visitors might be akin to something from decades gone by in most of the region.

The Nat Geos and Hanse Explorer crew, decked
out for departure 
In other words, we were treated to a number of scenes of community celebration that were very reminiscent, I imagine, of what a sailor might have encountered had they sailed into this place forty years ago, when the Pacific was innocent of the great modern herds of travelling sailboats, and a friendly face from foreign shores was something to celebrate.

The interaction between the Nat Geo folks and the Rapans culminated in a picture-perfect sendoff for the Hanse Explorer.  There were mutual gifts and songs and dance and endless waving as the ship slowly moved away from the dock.  And then, puzzled expressions ashore as the ship came back and turned around to leave a second time so that the cameraman operating the drogue could get the departure shot for the movie.
Farewelling the Hanse Explorer

That was Thursday when the Hanse Explorer left Rapa, and the celebrations ended…until Sunday, when the monthly feast for the Protestant populations of the two villages rolled around.  There was singing, there was music of ukulele and kamaka and guitar.  There was food for all, and enough for everyone to takeaway for a second meal at home.  And there were Alisa and myself (the boys were eating at the kids' table) sitting at the VIP table with our friend and interpreter Jackye and the venerated old people of Rapa.

Here, and below - the celebrations continue, local style

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Four Days of Rapa

Rapa from seaward.  A very very romantic landfall, and the four meter seas helped with the ambience

I'm afraid that words and pictures are going to be stretched a bit to capture this one.

This is a place that I've dreamed of visiting for years, and now that we're here the experience is, as always, very different from anything that I imagined beforehand, and, because it is true in the particular details that we couldn't have pictured before, better than we could have expected.

The pace of events has made seeking out internet time a second-best priority.  But for now, sitting on the porch of some new local friends' house (he is just now coming in from a paddle in his pirogue…so we will pause this entry while I have a heartfelt discourse for a few minutes, mostly in pantomime) I get the chance to share these pictures from our first four days in Rapa.

The crew, ready for shore after two days at sea
The village of Ahurei
I'm glad Dad doesn't make me
do varnish like this
As I noted in a couple earlier posts, we were very lucky to find our arrival coinciding with the visit of the Hanse Explorer and the National Geographic crew that had chartered the boat.  

The anchorage of Baie D'Ha'urie is infamous for being an insecure place to anchor, and Martin, the captain of the Hanse Explorer, very kindly allowed us to raft up at the dock.

Not to be dramatic about it, but if you haven't been to sea in your own boat you can't imagine how utterly alone we were on the 300-mile sail from Ra'ivavae.  Just us and our boat and the big big Pacific.  And then suddenly we find ourselves coming alongside this small ship, and climbing the pilot ladder to get aboard, and interacting with a bunch of friendly strangers - what a transition.

The Nat Geo folks invited us to a little party on board that night, which seemed to set the precedent for involving us in anything that was going on for the rest of their stay.  Very kind.
And how we got up there...

And, I said "friendly strangers" just now, but that wasn't strictly true, as the Chief Mate of the Hanse, Madeleine Habib, is from Hobart and is friends with one of our great friends back there.  So it was a pleasure to make the connection with her. 

The Habib-Abookire Union of Seagoing Arab Sheilas
(can I say "Sheila" in this context?) wearing the head
garb, post-reception our first night

What's next - oh yes, the fundraiser for the local youth group that was being held by the community - dinner and dancing, for 3000 CFP a head, or about $35 USD.  A bit out of our price range, to be honest, but as it was for a good cause and everyone was apparently going, we would have been happy to throw down…except that, hearing we couldn't buy much of anything in Rapa, and not sure at one point if we wouldn't clear out of French Polynesia from Ra'ivavae, we had purposely used up all of our local currency.

But wait - not a problem.  Nat Geo was shouting for the entire ship's crew to attend, and Paul Rose, the Expedition Leader (I maintain that you can't have an "expedition" to a place that a four-year-old can happily sail to, but that's a quibble) very graciously extended the invitation to us as well.  

Why?  I can only guess that the Polynesian worldview is catching.

A table, somewhere under all the food

Poema, the trilingual Pew Charitable Trust Marine Protected Area
community engagement powerhouse, and friend to Galactic.  She's the one
who told us in Ra'ivavae that we would cry when we left Rapa
Lord knows what I'm saying to the poor kid

Eric, taking on all comers.  He holds his own in these situations, but at
the expense of sometimes being a little rougher than we would like
Ah, yes - and this is where I mention our pleasant interactions with Rueben, the Togolese public health nurse who is posted here.  He and Julie, the nurse on Ra'ivavae, have just naturally assumed that our family fell under their purview during our visits…a "you're here, you're human, if you're sick I'll help you, here, give this antibiotic to your kid, would you?" sort of attitude.  Very French, I suppose, and also the type of interaction that can provide a bit of unexpected comfort to traveling parents.

Rueben in conversation: "Polynesians eat too much.  Everyone here gets
sick because they ARE TOO FAT.  In Africa people die because they
don't eat enough.  Here people die because they eat too much."
And this was a good one…  Alisa tried to invite Jackye and Johnnie, a local couple who have been incredibly nice to us, over for coffee and cake.  This morphed into five adults and a child coming over for dinner - they always eat together, explained Jackye.  (Everyone has a Rapan name and a French/Western name.  The Western names are the ones we remember, go figure.)

We were thrilled to have everyone at the boat…except that we are low on "hospitality" food - we're doing lots of rice and beans and pasta for our family meals - and we can't buy anything here for a special dinner with friends.  AND we're out of beer and wine, AND we don't have access to the local foods that are the mainstay of the Rapa diet, AND Polynesians eat a lot, and when you feed someone you naturally want to give them a very good meal.  So there was a little pre-dinner angst from Alisa.  But we made do with deviled eggs and pasta with our last two jars of New Zealand beef and a cabbage salad and the many things that Jackye and Johnnie brought.  No need for concern - we all had a great time.
These guys are used to the ways of yachts, and they showed up dressed
warmly, expecting to stay in the cockpit for the entire meal
Our guests brought LOTS of vana - sea urchin roe.  A delicacy    
And of course we moved the party downstairs, where things are more
comfortable.  That's Martin on the right, the captain of the Hanse
 Explorer, making an appearance
Jackye and Alisa dressed for church the next day    
Elias before church - I love how this picture captures his wariness in 
a new village setting.  He and his brother are the leading attraction for
every kid in sight, and coming to a common understanding of what
fun play entails can take a little working out
The inside of the church 
And our little ambassador.  Parents were happy to let their kids try to get
Eric's attention throughout the service
Then of course there are the pare, the "hyper-fortified" ridge-top village sites that Rapa is famous for.  
More on them in a future post, I imagine.

Morongo Uta, one of the largest pare sites, and conveniently the
easiest to get to
And the view of Baie D'Ha'urie that you get along the way...    
Finally, I'll just note that we continue to have a great time with Lucie and Arnold and their boys.  Through the years we've heard yachties talk about being "adopted" by local familes in Polynesia.  This is the first time that that word seems appropriate for describing our interaction with islanders - these two just assume that we should be involved in whatever their family is doing on a particular day, even though our inability to speak French makes us pretty dull companions.

Eric and Elias and Armold Jr. and Lucie at Sunday dinner.  We really must
learn their last name.  Lucie is from Tahuata, in the Marquesas.  
Spouses from off the island seem to be in demand…the population
of Rapa got down to about 100 people during the post-contact
apocalypse,which is quite a genetic bottleneck
Arnold in their taro fields
Elias and Arnold Jr.
Of course the whole point of writing a "sailing blog" is to try to capture some larger perspective on the fly - to get, and share, some glimpse of What It All Means.

But I think Rapa will defeat any attempt to share real-time perspective…we're just going to have to live in this place as fully as we can in the short time that we'll be here.

Late-night party animal
More soon.
Galactic at the dock