After three years in the Spanish islands, we are now in French territory and our language skills are getting a new challenge. We are so used to speaking Spanish in stores and to locals we're having a hard time breaking the habit. We are constantly saying Buenos Dias instead of Bonjour and Gracias instead of Merci. It is going to take awhile to get there. The old high school and college French will take awhile to dredge up.
The good news about French islands is the wonderful bread that seems to be always fresh and available, We hear you can also get yummy croissants – but we haven't found them yet.
We got safely anchored on Friday night and slept for more than three hours which was certainly a treat. Then at 7:30 am Saturday, the French customs agents boarded our boat. Normally on this island, you simply go to the post office and fill out a form and mail it to Customs headquarters in Tahiti. But there has been some smuggling and drugs in the area, so it seems that the custom boat is out traveling the islands more often. We got boarded and luckily one of the agents spoke good English. They asked questions, filled out paper but they didn't inspect below. We heard several other boats did get a full inspection with the agents mostly looking at the quantity of alcohol that was claimed versus what was really on board. We heard one boat was carrying a whole lot of rum – and got fined and has to appear in Tahiti for more fines or other punishment. They customs took lots of money from him to make sure he would appear in Tahiti. So we were glad our customs experience was a good one.
We have to finish our clear-in with a visit to the gendarmes on Monday (they don't work on weekends) and get our immigration stamps. Then we'll be officially in the French Polynesian Islands for three months.
On Saturday, after a "lost on board" wallet was found, we headed into town to get some foreign currency and hopefully some bread and fresh goods. Unfortunately we ended up leaving later than we had hoped so almost everything was closed. The bank machine was available and still working (we heard that later in the day it was out of money – maybe we took it all) and we got some colorful, big Polynesian francs to buy some baguettes and tomatoes and a cucumber. Not too much else was available. We have to wait until Monday for more serious shopping and finding a phone chip and internet card so we can try to call our moms, check our e-mail and download tax forms.
We headed back from town which is a few mile hike over hilly terrain. It was hot and after 35 days at sea, tiring. Luckily a local breadfruit grower stopped and gave us a ride at the halfway mark. People here are exceptionally friendly and helpful. He also spoke a little English, so that made it easier.
Sunday (today) was cleaning day. Michael is working on the hull which is terribly stained from all the rolling we did offshore. The stains were almost as high as the rubstrake and won't come off. He also scraped the rest of the barnacles/mussels off the waterline. When customs came aboard they were amazed at all the growth we had and kept pointing and asking about all the shells on our boat. It is a very hard project.
Barbara handled the wood below decks and that was also pretty moldy thanks to being closed up for 35 days. We'll slowly get Astarte back to her glory.
Now we enjoy watching the new boats arrive – about five a day and squeeze into the anchorage. It is quite an international fleet here and an exclusive club of ocean passage makers.