Valerie played several Polynesian birthday songs over the VHF radio first thing in the morning on Cinco de Mateo (5 May). Waking up to the beautiful melodies of the islands was a perfect way to start Matt’s birthday. Sugar Shack remained anchored in Taravai longer than anticipated just so we could celebrate with Valerie, Herve and their family again (we were here last year for Matt’s birthday too).
We invited our friends at anchor, planned a mid-day BBQ and enjoyed a great Tuesday. We landed onshore first and were eagerly greeted by Valerie. She had made a typical Polynesian crown and leigh for Matt. It was not only beautiful but incredibly fragrant. He looked a little silly but he wore it all day (bless his heart).
It was great fun celebrating with all of our friends!
Chris and Fred onboard Sea Jay (American) and Ivar and Floris onboard LuciPara 2 (Dutch)
And the rest of the party crew…
And of course, Matt and I
Taravai Sunday Funday for Matt’s Birthday
Herve BBQ’d some pork ribs, made a tasty pork stew, and poison cru (raw fish dish). We had tons of side dishes and I made cheesecake bites (with my last cream cheese) and a butter pecan cake. Super fun.
Matt did the social distancing thing perfectly by NOT blowing out his candles. He merely lifted the board that was blocking the wind. We had happy birthday sung to us in multiple languages: English, Spanish, Tahitian, Mangarevian, French, and Dutch.
One of the local families brought pearls for everyone to consider. Gabriel has a pearl farm and a pension (hotel) in Rikitea. He was so kind! He gave three of us a few loose pearls.
All in all a great celebration on Matt’s birthday!
We spent many afternoons celebrating our freedom after the quarantine. All of the cruisers anchored at the Taravai village would go to shore to play volleyball and patonque. It was a great way to get some exercise, get your heart rate up, and enjoy some community with others. Thank goodness the locals who live here, Valerie, Herve and their kids Alan and Arique love hosting and playing games!
And lots of patonque
Many Happy Hours and Dinners
Everyone was celebrating happy hours and dinners. Here is one of many nights aboard fellow cruiser’s boats. This one in particular was hosted by our friends Fred and Chris onboard Sea Jay. They invited Valerie, Herve, Alan and Ariki to join us for a tasty pot luck.
Located less than one nautical mile from Taravai is a little, uninhabited island called Moto O-Ari. Last year we snorkeled on the southern side. However, we never explored the little island. With nothing but time on our hands, we had to remedy that situation.
We tied Sweetie up to a rock and tossed a stern anchor to hold her in place. We scrambled up the rocky cliff and enjoyed a hike around the little island. Sometimes there are paths cleared by other cruisers or locals. Sometimes there is nothing but goat trails and sometimes there is nothing by wild. This island was all wild.
We climbed over rocks, walked over dead coral, hiked up and down hills and hung off of trees as we walked all the way around the motu.
Next, we wanted to conquer the two hills or large mounds. They did not seem “that” tall but there were no paths. So, it was hanging from cliffs by rock ledges or tree roots. Certainly, made it interesting. We did have some pretty views of the bay.
Views from Motu – O Ari
I know you are thinking, why would you celebrate getting flour? Well, let me tell you. Lots of baking went on at Sugar Shack. We are not in the main island (where the village and markets are located) and have to bake our own bread. What are we baking: English muffins, pizza dough, cookies, cake, brownies, banana muffins, and lots of bread. All of these items require flour.
We had stock piled flour before we arrived in the Gambiers, thank goodness. There has only been one delivery of flour over the last 3 months! Yep, one delivery and it was small. I was only able to procure 4 bags (1 kilo each) as no hording was allowed. I was dangerously low and was sharing my woes with a fellow cruiser friend who helped me out.
My friend, Daniela who is fluent in French, worked with the local baker Phillipe. He placed an order with his supplier in Tahiti. However, his supplier was out of flour as well so they had to order it from outside the country. Once the flour arrived to the supplier in Tahiti, it was placed on the supply ship and delivered to me in Gambiers in a 25 kilo bag (50lbs). It took three parties, 3 delivery methods, and lots of help. But, it was delivered for a grand total $15! Both Matt and I were celebrating our huge score! I spent the morning bagging and storing the flour in seal-able containers with bay leaves (to prevent weebles).
Is a tourist an alien or vice versa? Like, the United States, all other countries require a visa to stay for an extended period of time. We had a fun journey obtaining our long stay visas for French Polynesia. We applied in Chile for the short stay visa (3-months) which is required before you arrive. Well, actually you can apply for the short stay visa in Panama, Mexico, Canada, U.S.A, and a few other countries. But this step must happen before you enter French Polynesia (FP).
In Chile, we completed a rather large application, submitted copies of our entire passport, provided a list of all the countries we have visited in the last 2 years (with dates of entry and exit), boat registration, boat insurance, proof of financial independence (last 3 months of finances), marriage certificate, and a letter explaining why we wanted to stay in the country for an extended period of time. Not difficult, but time consuming.
Once we arrived in FP, we had to apply for our carte dejur (CD) which would allow us to stay for up to one year. We used Tahiti Crew Agency as our agent to help facilitate the process and they were wonderful. It took two months, but we received our CDs and were good to go for a year (12 April 2019 – 11 April 2020). Tourist with a year visa! Fast forward, to our renewals.
The long-stay visa renewal process is very specific. As an American tourist, we can only renew our CD’s (carte de juer’s) in Nuku Hiva, Marquesas or Papeete, Tahiti. You can use an agent or do it yourself, but you have to show up in person once (either to drop off the paperwork or to pick it up). Typically, you have to wait until 2 months prior to the expiry date to renew your CD. That would mean we would have to wait until February, 2020. But the problem was that we were planning on being in the Gambiers in February which is well over 1000nm from Nuku Hiva and Tahiti.
Several of our cruiser friends renewed their CDs early (while in Tahiti). Hmmmm, can you do that? I thought you had to wait until 2 months prior to the renewal date? We waited to see what would happen and wouldn’t you know it, they received their renewals 3 weeks later. Awesome! So, while we were in Papeete in September we decided to give it a try (keep in mind this is 7 months before our expiry date). We went to the Haute Commissionaire’s office in downtown Papeete with Agape, another boat, and all of our CD renewal paperwork.
When we met with the only English-speaking official, Teava, he stated that we could indeed turn in our paperwork early, no problem. As a tourist, I am extra anxious to follow the rules, so I double checked again before handing him the documents and he ensured me that it would be no problem. It is September and we were not supposed to turn the application in until February. But he said really this is a good thing, we will send this to you in Nuku Hiva by mid-November. Excellent! We were supposed to receive an email telling us when they were ready. After 8 weeks and no response, I sent a few emails. No response. Oh no!
Nuku Hiva, Marquesas
Matt and I arrived in Nuku Hiva (NH) right after Turkey day and I went straight to the Haute Commissionaire’s office to inquire about our CD renewals. The official was extremely nice, but stated they were not there. He offered to email his comrade in Papeete to inquire.
The Papeete official responded and it was not good. He stated that the CDs were not ready and we should not of submitted our paperwork until February. He did not tell me what to do. Do I wait, do I submit another application packet, do I need an agent, or will they be approved as is? Yikes. I went back to the official in NH and asked what to do and he said wait, they should be ready by the end of the year.
Delays, delays, delays
At the beginning of January, I went to see the local NH official again. He told me he was scheduled to go on holiday until the end of the month but would send another email. The official was very nice, but not very optimistic. He stated that I should NOT resubmit another application or use an agent to assist me. I should just “wait.” However, he was concerned about completion of the application because FP was holding their huge election in March and the ENTIRE government would be working on the election. What, are you kidding me? He said it would not be surprising for our tourist application to be unfulfilled by the expiry date of April. OMG!
Our friends (on Agape) who dropped off their CD renewal application on the same day as we did received their approval email. Super excited for them, but we got nothing. The local official said he could get us a letter that would give us an extra 6-months, but it would not allow me to leave the country. was made to just ride it out, be patient and wait to hear from the main office. I will email the Papeete office if I have not heard from them by the end of February (decision made early February).
Letter: A Recepisse de Demande de Renouvellement de Carte de Sejour: Good or Worthless?
This header translates to “Reception of Renewal of Carte de Sejure” (our long-stay visa). Does that sound like an authorization to stay in the country longer? It reads to me as “hey Christine we received your application and we are working on it.” In fact, several French people translated the letter for me and confirmed that it indeed states what I thought “we received your application and it is in process.”
So, what’s the story of this letter? After we left the Marquesas, the Nuku Hiva official, Raimano Lucas sent an email to us with this provisional letter called “Recepisse de Demande.” He said it will allow us to stay in FP for an additional 6-months. It will NOT however allow us to re-enter the country if I leave after our original expiry date of 11 April. However, I sent the letter to Kevin at Nuku Hiva Yacht Services (an agent) to ask him what he thinks and he said that the letter should allow me to leave and re-enter, even if I do not have my Carte Dejour (CD) renewal stamp. Hmmmm. Communication issue maybe?
I asked another agent, Tahiti Crew to translate my letter and basically it states that our CDs are in process and we can legally stay in FP until 11 Oct. However, it will not allow us to re-enter the country if we leave after our original expiry date of 11 April. Great fun being a tourist in need of a long-stay visa.
Tracking Down the Original Letter
Considering I still have not heard back from the Tahiti official, I asked Kevin to pick up the original letters and air freight them to Tahiti Crew in Papeete, Tahiti. I can at least pick them up before I leave and have them on my person while I travel. It’s unfortunate, that it took Raimano 3 months to get this letter and he receives it 2 days after we leave. So, now I have to pay two agents and shipping to get the original in my hands.
For whatever reason, after six weeks from my original request, Kevin was unable to collect our original letters. He informed me that Raimano, the Nuku Hiva official, sent them to his colleague in Tahiti. Great, now I need to track a stranger down. This is just a $hit $how! At least I don’t have to pay for the two agents or the shipping fees.
I realize that the letters will not allow me to travel and they are not an answer to our visa issue, but it is all I have right now. And if it is all I have; I at least want the originals. Ugh.
Tahiti Crew to the Rescue
We used Tahiti Crew as our agent when we applied for our original tourist visas (long-stay CDs). I reached out to Tahiti Crew in early March to ask them if they could help me with our CD renewal. She asked that I reach out to her 2 weeks prior to my trip if I had not heard from the officials.
Fast forward a month and we are waist deep in the corona virus chaos. Tahiti Crew instructed us to use the “letter” that we received as proof that we can legally be in FP. However, she confirmed that I cannot return to FP if I leave. So, she visited the Haut Commissionaire’s office in Papeete to inquire about our CD renewals.
What she learned is troublesome. Because of the corona virus, the French Poly Govt. has stopped issuing tourist visas (new and renewals). No more, nothing.
I’ve stopped worrying about it as we cannot leave FP right now. In fact, even if we could leave, we cannot go anywhere as the countries we want to visit are closed (Palmerston, Niue, Tonga, Fiji, and New Zealand). So, we will sit and wait to see what happens with the Covid-19.
No News is Good News
Here we are a month after our original expiry date and I feel like an illegal alien. I guess technically, we are not illegal as we have a letter allowing us to stay until 11 October 2020. The sense of urgency has dwindled since my April trip to the States and Italy was cancelled.
Tahiti crew followed up stating that I could return if I need to leave during the interim 6-month period. However, we are not comfortable traveling after hearing “no” from multiple sources.
As of May, a month past our expiry date with a letter allowing us to stay until 11 October. The French Government is starting to go back to work so maybe we will receive our official CD renewal in the next few months. Become a legal tourist??
Of course, in a perfect world, the quarantine will be lifted. The islands between French Polynesia and New Zealand will open up and accept pleasure vessels. If this happens, we would leave FP in July. With a stop in the Cook Islands, Tonga, and Minerva Reef before arriving in New Zealand by early December.
We arrived back in Tahiti July 2020 and stopped by the Haute Commissionaire’s office. It took some sweet talking, lots of smiles and a little patience, but we finally got our renewal paperwork. We are official until 11 April 2021