On May 1, we were happily ensconced in Papeete’s downtown marina, finalizing projects prior to my wife’s May 2 arrival, and swapping boat stories with our many new friends in adjacent slips, without whom none of our endeavors could have successfully concluded. Feeling significantly indebted for the help many had given us, Travis and I decided that having a dock party to celebrate my May 4 birthday would be an excellent opportunity to not only show our gratitude to our fellow cruisers, but also to let them meet Jamie.
The night of Jamie arrived from San Francisco, I was waiting in the arrivals lounge and saw her striding through the airport, my first sight of her since she stood waving goodbye from the San Diego Yacht Club dock March 3. I was wearing my new Hinano Beer sleeveless shirt (AKA “wife beater”), had neither shaved nor cut my hair in 2 months, and since we have been subsisting primarily on brie cheese, baguettes, raw tuna, and beer, I’d lost weight. She looked right at me, and kept walking until I stood up, waved, and said, “Hi, its’ me!” Needless to say, the beard was seriously trimmed shortly thereafter, but she let me keep my long hair.
Since Jamie was fresh from her relatively easy flight, Travis and I had scheduled a panoply of activities to keep her from getting bored. Early in the morning after her arrival, Arnoud, our French guide, picked us up at 0730 to hike the spectacular lava tubes. Our friends John and Melanie, with their daughter Courtney, arranged the trip and joined us. The Land Rover arrived, complete with two benches in the back of its flatbed, and drove us, packed liked sardines, to the other side of the island. After 45 minutes on actual roads, Arnoud pulled onto a dirt track, unlocked a gate, and took us for another 30 minutes on a steep, rutted path the likes of which I’ve never seen. After gearing up in helmets, wetsuits, special water hiking shoes (they didn’t have my size so I used my sneakers), and climbing harnesses, I knew this was not going to be anything I’d experienced in our local Erie County Metroparks. It was, however, a total blast!
Knowing my wife loves adventures, for her second day we scheduled two SCUBA dives, first with sharks, then over some wrecks. Having grown up swimming with reef predators in the Florida Keys, she didn’t think the shark dive was that thrilling, but Travis and I, having done it the previous week, still enjoyed ourselves. We finished diving shortly after noon, and had the whole day to plan for the big party. I had walked the docks during the previous two days to personally deliver invitations to everyone we knew, and had laid in a good supply of cold Hinanos, rum, and wine.
Guest began arriving by 1700 hours bearing special treats. Our Danish friends from “Calle II,” who had recently moved their boat to a nearby marina, arrived by dinghy waving their country’s flags, singing their own version of “Happy Birthday,” and presented me with traditional birthday breads. Our English cruising friend from the yacht “Itchy Foot” brought a liter bottle of his secret rum punch, complete with a poetic rendition of the recipe and a thermos of ICE, something we hadn’t seen on “Nor’easter” in many months. Another Dane, Christine, who is 24 and sailing her own 34’ boat around the world, brought a beautiful birthday cake, which was only partially melted from the 15 minute walk from the store to our boat. Our good friend Rasmus, a 27 year old Swede, brought his guitar and entertained us grandly. Of the 15 some folks on board, we also had Germans, Norwegians, a Canadian, and even an American, our friend DJ, a sailmaker for Doyle in St. Petersburg, FL, who helped us repair our frayed genoa halyard when we first arrived in Hiva Oa two months previously. But for the fact that I was the oldest person attending, it was a wonderful party.