Off to sea

Early Christmas wishes my friends. We’re off to sea back to the Tuamotos later today so all a bit rushy. Not sure we’ll have any comms so make it a good one and say boo to covid.

Varnishing finished for now.

We had a quick two day haul to scrub the hull and waterline, service the prop and a couple of other jobs including removing a nest from under the radar. Dave spotted it one morning. Sorry birdies.

Grace, Dave and H are ready to get going. We all look sparkly.

Hurtful tunes

There ought to be a law as to how many times Boney M’s “Hooray, hooray it’s a holi holiday” is allowed to be played in a public place. I was thinking maybe once every five years was about the right frequency. Any more than that, the person in charge of the audio in a public environment would be liable for prosecution. 

The punishment will be to be locked up for five years where the only music available is Boney M’s “Hooray, hooray it’s a holi holiday.” Didn’t someone once say the punishment should fit the crime.

I mention this as there’s a bar near to us which continually plays ….yes, no need to write anything else here.  You get it. 

Our varnishing project progresses. After endless days of scraping and sanding, we’ve reached the varnishing stage on the bulwarks and side planks on the boat. I think the super yacht agent who sells varnish took pity on us and gave us a discount when we topped up on supplies. But it’s starting to look good. 

So good in fact that two random smartly dressed french women wandered down the pontoon today to ask if they could do some filming on the boat. One was a famous singer apparently, according to the other woman. She could have been as famous as Charles Azanavour or Edith Piaf or someone from Boney M.  We shall never know as no one was getting on the boat as the latest coat of varnish was only two hours old and random fingers and feet were banned. 

They nodded wisely, turned their backs and walked away. Grace’s potential moment in the spotlight had disappeared into thin air before it had time to materialise. 

In other news, I epoxied the ceramic teapot lid back together, we have a new loo seat, (one of our purchases in the UK) and the Christmas tree in the park now has reindeer too. Seems like a bit on an anathema in 30 degrees of heat but check out the photos. They are cute.

Varnish and boobs

Health checks and varnish work. That’s been my week. Oh and early morning and evening walks in the park with Perryn, Wendy and the skateboarding boys from Due South. That bit was fun. 

And we had an ice cream hour in the park mid afternoon yesterday followed by a game of football on the sand pitch. That’s knackering. Two large tubs and 9 spoons –  mint with chocolate and mango sorbet. Flavours chosen by Luke. And appreciated by all. 

The french dentist was likeable, had good drugs and spoke excellent English. He had a snazzy camera on a stick that created a 3D image of the hole in my tooth. Never had that in the UK. The fabricated ceramic filling was millimetre perfect and slotted into the cavity rather nicely a few days later. I’d tried to get a dentist appointment in the UK when we were home. I did. The first available slot in the three months we were back according to the ruthless gatekeeper receptionist was the day before we flew back. The temporary filling didn’t last. 

I also had a check up mammogram scan. I can feel my apprehension building from a gentle to a bubbling simmer before the scan. It’s not something to look forward to….what might they find? Will it lead to re-run of 2012 again? And I don’t mean the Olympics in the UK. 

Glad to report, all is good. No naughty lumps that require vanishment. The French Polynesia healthcare system was slick and professional. I knew within 10 minutes of having piccies taken of my boobs that the scans were clear. No waiting a week for a letter in the post from chez vegas, aka Chesterfield hospital. Two years grace now before the next round of apprehension. 

And onto boaty things. I’m thinking of opening a theme park. It’s going to be called Varnish World. It’ll cost nothing to enter and I’ll supply FREE cake and tea. Attractive ‘eh. The payback is a minimum of 20 minutes of scrapping or sanding or varnishing. Instead of selfie photos of punters screaming on roller coasters, there’ll be a glossy A4 print of Grace when the work is complete and we’ve completed our campaign. “Make Grace great again.” 

Let’s be blunt. There’s a pencil museum in Keswick. (Well I’m sure the pencils aren’t blunt.)  So there had to be some mileage in Varnish World. 

We’re both pooped. Too many hours in the sun scrapping today. Dave cooked tuna. We watched an episode of Killing Eve and it’s bedtime. 8.45pm. 

Going to the dark side

We went to the dark side on a sneaky, under the radar four day trip to Mallorca. We didn’t tell many people we were going but slipped out of the UK for a last minute unexpected trip before we were due to fly back to French Polynesia.

This is how it came about. Its a Saturday morning. A text comes in. To paraphrase, its says, do you want to come to Mallorca for a week on a boat? Its the week before we are due to fly back to FP. There’s still 101 things on a list to do. Sod that. 😀 Its not everyday a text like this arrives. We can make this work!

We did a bit of rejigging and a few days later we are on a crewed 75’ boat in Andratx harbour. The best bit was getting to spend time with our friends Ben and Julie and their two kids. Ben works in the marine industry so thats the missing link to us getting the invite. He drives and manages boats like this one. Nice work if you can get it.

We felt very indulged and had a snap shot of a life that is so far removed from living on Grace. But its was bloody FANTASTIC, FAB and a once in a lifetime holiday.

One morning Dave and I lay drinking tea in bed as the boat was driven to the breakfast anchorage. We just giggled like small children.

We are now back in French Polynesia and I’m doing my laundry in a bucket while Dave replaces a washer on a water pump on the generator.

And why the dark side? Generally sail boaters talk about motor boats being the dark side. Having spent a few days living the highlife, it most certainly not the dark side. Its light and bright and for the 4 days we experienced it, rather lovely.

I’m stood in the dentists. I’ve managed to wheedle an NHS appointment before we fly back. A dental appointment is the equivalent of a medieval coin turning up in your change from the supermarket. Extremely rare. 

I’m standing in the corridor. This is an advanced position. First position is outside the door on the path. Position two is checking in from afar at reception. The corridor is close to the stairs where above, all the drilling and filling action takes place.

There was a time two years ago where receptionists never left their chairs, the counter providing an impenetrable barrier. Movement was not a requirement. Now they’re up and down like a jack in the box. Ushering, temperature taking, separating, sanitising, door opening. It’s a much healthier job.

Magazines are no more. I always liked a flick at the docs or dentists. Who’d have thought that ‘Derbyshire Life – extended Easter Edition’ would be life threatening. 

But I get it. And I’m grateful to get the appointment. I’ve got a temporary filling, hazzah, and a time booked to see a dentist again before we head back to Grace. Thanks helpful receptionist. 

Flying over to England was timely. French Polynesia is in lockdown, cases having ballooned. Locals are now queuing up to get vaccinated we read which wasn’t happening while we were there. This is good news, and with 7 weeks before we return, lockdown may be done with by the time we get back.

I could name check all fine people we’ve seen since we arrived in the UK. But the list would be very very long and a tedious read. I did say however I’d name check Brian and Judy! So there you go. Thanks again for the lovely ‘salmon-less lunch”. You’ll have to ask Biddy’s dog about the fish whereabouts. 

Tomorrow we plan to do some paddleboarding on a section of the Thames with our friend Lisa. Falling in will not be like the Pacific Ocean. Lots of incentive to stay dry.

The red car we bought in Wakefield has delivered us safely from Northumberland to Suffolk and Wales and places in between. This weekend it’s Maidenhead and Winchester from Derbyshire. Next weekend it’s the south coast and Brighton area. It’s busy busy busy. Even a bit of work has been thrown in. My God, I hear you say.

British seaside

We’re browsing around a used car garage in search of cheap wheels for our stay here in the UK. The owner comes over and says….”I’m not a salesman” then negates his statement with the word BUT. I know exactly what’s coming next, a diatribe of sales blather.

I’d glanced, hardly a glance, more a micro blink, at a Honda. “You can’t go wrong with a Honda. It’s bombproof. Only reason it’s for sale is the owner kept having those things that need to go in pushchairs”. He was a delightful example of a human being?! A depressingly stereotypical representation of a used car salesman. Harry Enfield or Paul Whitehouse need look no further than this man for their next character.

We called in at the aforementioned garage on our way back from Grimsby. The purpose of this journey was to look at another car which turned out to be a bag of spanners. I’d never been there before so in case you go, here what to look out for. The town welcomes visitors with its magistrates court and a large sign advertising a solicitors who can help in the police station. Sets the tone nicely for your visit.

It was lunchtime so Dave took me to the seaside for chips. It was FAB. The traditional british seaside at its best. Cleepthorpes delivers. We walked the prom then shared a box of fish and chips followed by an ice cream each. We’d only paid for an hour’s car parking so missed out on the crazy golf which was saddening. The sun shone, the donkeys plodded, children dug and the deck chair folk put the world to rights.

Our friend Linnit pointed out that someone had stolen the sea but that was irrelevant. It may not be the Pacific. It made me smile for the hour we were there.

Wheels update. We still have no car after further searching. I think our expectations are too high for the bargain basement section of the used car market. A reality check may be needed.


Footnote

In the interests of impartiality, we only drove through Grimsby briefly and visited a trading estate. My previous comments should be taken merely as a tiny uneducated snapshot. Thank you.

UK arrival

We eased into the UK with very little hassle. Assembling the paperwork prior to the flight was a greater challenge. And getting Grace ready to be left in the marina in Papeete occupied us right up to 8pm, the day before we flew. We threw a few things in a bag each, went to bed at midnight then got up at 4am to catch a taxi to the airport. It was slightly more manic than we imagined.

We’ve now eased into isolation life at Dave’s mums. It’s day 3 and I’m counting. First UK Covid test was negative. Two more to go. Fingers crossed. 🤞

Tomatoes

Macron, that is Mr Macron, French President, is visiting French Polynesia this weekend. He’ll be here for 4 days, whizzing around the different Polynesian island groups, in the way politicians do. An uneasy relationship exists with mainland France. The reason, nuclear testing. France conducted dozens of tests here, the last one being in 1996. Some of the atolls where tests were carried out are still off limits. 

Among locals there’s a feeling of disregard for the lives of islanders. In 1974, the fallout from a test drifted unexpectedly over Papeete and the Society Islands. It’s estimated 110,000 were affected by nuclear radiation fallout. And that there was a massive cover up by the french authorities.  Cancer cases rocketed afterwards and to date only 63 citizens have received compensation, even though many more payouts have supposedly been agreed. Soldiers and contractors involved in working at the test sites have been paid out but not the uninvolved citizens. 

Macron is apparently going to address the nuclear issue on this visit. We’ll be following the local news to see what transpires.

On Saturday several roads downtown will have restricted use due to Macron’s visit.  A local chap has been servicing our tow generator and is due to drop it off this Saturday.  Tom, a friend, who was also getting something dropped off said to the chap, “you do know about the road closures. It might be tricky to get here.” “Yes” he said, “I’ve got my tomatoes ready. And they’re green not red. Red ones are too soft whereas green ones have impact!”.

And here’s some boaty news for you boaty people out there. Life in the marina is busy. We have new dyneema guard rails. The generator works again. It hasn’t done so for a while. Dave managed to source a second hand high pressure pump which did the trick. The dinghy has had an overhaul. The chain has been over-ended and remarked. The water maker has been pickled. Dave said he felt like Walter in Breaking Bad measuring out chemicals. I said if you have cash stashed in a locker you need to tell me now. There is no cash. 

This week’s projects involve engine hoses, batteries and paperwork for coming home. 7 days and 8 hours till takeoff. 

Pee Test

Just over two weeks till we get in the metal tube and cross part of the Pacific and all of the Atlantic to get home. It’s not a particularly enticing prospect the thought of being in a restricted space with strangers for many hours sharing recycled air. It’s the polar opposite to being in the open air on a boat in the ocean by ourselves. 

We’ve been in Tahiti for a week now. We had a fast easy sail from Toau and have been anchored in the airport anchorage since we arrived. Well the autopilot stopped working properly but the wind vane stepped up admirably. Something else to add to the fix list. 

The authorities are in the process of dropping concrete blocks to install moorings. The overall plan, we believe is to restrict / cease anchoring possibilities. It’s something which we are told has been talked about for just 30 years! A french friend said I’ll believe it when I see it. 

Here’s a tale. The mayor wanted local citizens, well local men, to be involved in the work, thus providing employment. The work entails diving and being in the water so those interested needed to pass a medical before being accepted. To a man, they all failed the pee test as marijuana smoking is pretty common.

The doc said, if you want to be considered for this work, you need to come back to be retested in 3 months and be ‘clean’. Three months later, the blokes turn up with their pee samples. They all passed. And four of them were discovered to be pregnant!

The doc’s ultimatum was that he would test them again, right there and then. If you know you won’t pass there’s no point staying. They all left. This group was 20 strong.

The pull of a smoke is greater than the pull of work it would seem. How quickly the moorings are finished is anyone’s guess.

It’s fun here. There’s 7 or 8 boats that made up our Gambier Gang. We have been to Heiva which is a celebration of Polynesian culture, particularly song and dance. Troops of up to 80 dancers performed dressed in local costumes, keeping traditions alive. We supported England in the Euros. (came second if you were on Mars for the weekend and didn’t hear the score). We ate fresh mushrooms after a gap of 9 months. We shared dinner with the crews of 5 other boats on a catamaran. 

In the next few days we plan to head into the marina which is where Grace will stay for a while. It’ll be easier to get all the required Covid tests / paperwork in order being tied to the land. It’s a 20 minute dinghy ride to town which can be pretty damp experience depending on the strength and direction of the wind. 

This time last year we were 2 days out from Nuka Hiva, the end of our 29 day pacific crossing. It feels  a fair while ago.