Bastile Day -1986

I had arrived at Huka Hiva, after 43 days of solo sailing from La Paz, BCS, Mexico. Nuka Hiva is not an entry port for the French Poltenisa Islands. I was issued a temporary visa for thirty days but had to check in with immigration in Papette by 14th of July.

The voyage from Nuka Hiva to Papeete is a little over 800  miles. So figuring a hundred miles a day (4 miles per hour) I had plenty of time to stop and visit the third largest atoll in the world. I left Nuka Hiva early July. I planned on 5 days sailing to Rangaroa. Visit theref or 4 or 5 days and finish up with a two-day sail to Papette. I would get to Papette on or about the 14th of July. The 14th of July is Bastille Day, a major holiday.

Major panic set in after I had ‘lost’ Rangaroa Attoll. But the ‘lost’ was found and  pleasant week was spent at the attoll. The diatance from Rangaroa Attoll to  Papette is about 200 miles or in sailortalk “2 day passage”.

After a day and a half sail I began to see a glow on the horizon. Papette dead ahead. Should arrive late morning or eary afternoon on Bstile Day. Bastile Day for the French is like our Fourth of July. Indepdence Day.

As I enter the harbor I am surrounded by dozens of big war canoes. The canoes had 20 or so rowers and they were in a canoes ravce around the island of Tahiti, I was right in the center of this huge fleet and messing things up as the steered around me.. No sooner do the men pass me than a new fleet shows up. This time women rowers. They a in a race to Morrea. Again I’mhe center of a traffic jam. The French Coastguard orders me to anchor while the races go on. After a time they take my line, tow me into town and anchor me, stearn too, in the center of Papette. I’m finally here, anchored in my life-time dream.

Parades, festivities, food, dancing, drinking the list goes on. No sleep that night, is party hardy ’till dawn.

The next day I go to the Port Captain’s office in check in and get my 6 months visa. I experience a shock when I’m being fined 100 USD for checking in a day late (today is the 15th). I explain that I couldn’t check in because the office was closed yesterday, While they understood my English fine they refused to talk in English and I had to hire a translator (many standing by for this scam). Talk as I might, the Captain was sticking by his guns and I had to pay the fine, Period. During our discussion, the fact came up that I needed emergency repairs to the sailboat. I had a failure while crossing the Pacific, a shroud had parted and I made a makeshift repair at sea. The local shipyard was owned by the PortCaptains brother and if they did the repair work there would be no fine. The shipyard is closed for the Bastille week holidays.  All settled. I’m anchored, have my visa, can phone back to the states and ready to greet visitors to paradise.

The following week is a constant party. And the French know how to live it up. Food trucks everywhere, contests and shows day and night. It’s one big party for a week.

Time to move on to a nice quite anchorage on Morrea.

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