Provisioning for French Polynesia
For the Crossing:
- Plan to stock much more food than you think you'll need - you don't want to be eyeing other crew members' thighs if the passage takes longer than you calculated.
- Staples, like rice, dried beans, lentils, pasta are light and pack easily
- Unrefrigerated eggs easily keep a month outside the fridge if turned daily. When we left in 2014 the grocer (the Thurs night market in La Cruz, MX) assured us that the eggs were fresh and unrefrigerated. That was clearly untrue, as the yolks were stuck to one side of the shells, indicating they'd sat untouched for some time. Many eggs went bad in the first two weeks, and we only had the dozen in the refrigerator for the last two weeks of the passage. We recommend locating an egg farm in the area you're departing from, and getting your fresh eggs direct from them just before you push off.
- We stocked a LOT of green fruits and veggies (like tomatoes, mangoes) that we could eat as they ripened in our fruit nets. Pack them carefully to avoid bruising, and keep onions away from everything else. Apples should also be quarantined.
- We keep our fruit in nets strung under the solar-panel frame, which keeps them dry and shaded. This seems to really help. Try not to hit your head on them and bruise them.
- We wrapped cabbages in clean terrycloth, and pulled off the outer leaves for use every couple days, leaving the rest of the head intact. We still had good (very small) cabbages when we arrived in French Polynesia 30 days later.
- Inspect everything EVERY day. Turn the eggs, and cull any fruits or veggies that are ripe (use them that day) or rotting (throw them overboard) to keep the stock fresh.
- Pressure Cooking is amazing technology that cooks things like rice and beans in just a few minutes. This means less time in the galley, less fuel, less heat in the boat. We think all boats should have a pressure cooker and the time charts for it's use.
- We stocked Orowheat sandwich bread from the supermarkets in Puerto Vallarta, and the last couple pieces were still good after the 30-day passage. None of this bread ever actually went bad, so we're not sure how long it's shelf life might be . . . is that a good thing?
- We feel strongly about having some chocolate for night watches and general crew morale, so we stock plenty of our favorite bars.
Hard to find in French Polynesia: if these things are important to you, try to stock for the whole season before you leave the Americas:
- Peanut Butter! They have Skippy smooth for $10 a small jar. That's it.
- Salsa can be had for $$ in Papeete, but the cans from Mexico are yummy and fresh-tasting whenever.
- Bullion/stock base without MSG - they have plenty with MSG if your joints aren't sensitive.
- Pepperoni. Papeete will have other cured meats, but if you like pepperoni pizza you need to bring it with you.
- Cheese generally
- Mozzarella or other mild pizza cheese. Papeete will have some mozzarella for lots of $, but not really on the outer islands. Cheese we usually consider "cheap" isn't so cheap here. The exception is Emmental, which is actually inexpensive in Fr. Polynesia.
- We thought the Lala cheese from Mexico, which comes in 200g and 500g vacuum-packed plastic, worked for pizza and kept well (Chihuahua or Manchego). Lala is half the price of comparable cheese in Fr. Polynesia.
- We stocked several cheeses (cheddar, romano, gorgonzola, goat) at Costco before we left, and packed them in useable-size chunks in the freezer. We're just using up the last of them 9 months later, and they're still very good.
- Our process is: cut into desired chunks; wipe with white vinegar; wrap in two layers of plastic-wrap; seal in individual vacuum-sealed bag. We don't repackage things like goat cheese, which are already fairly small.
- Nuts & seeds. Particularly seeds to bake into our wheat bread. If they have it, it's a specialty item and $.
- Good coffee! There are no whole-bean coffees in Fr. Polynesia at all. We hoarded our Jardin del Pulpo beans for half the season, having divided them into small vacuum-packs. The best of the imported ground beans we found was Noir. The expensive local ground was nasty.
Marquesas (or Gambier): outer island groups where you'll make landfall
- Check several Magazines (shops), as their stock and prices differ surprisingly.
- If you see something you want, buy it right then. It will probably be gone next time you come in, and they only get stocked a couple times a month.
- Prepare your taste buds to get local-grown tropical fruits, and some veggies from truck farmers. Things like apples, pears, and other cold-latitude fruits are picked green and shipped frozen. They're expensive, flavorless, and go bad quickly after the shops thaw them.
- You can reasonably expect to find onions, garlic and potatoes in any Magazine, though sometimes potatoes have been frozen and are moist.
- Flour in Fr. Polynesia frequently includes leavening in the form of baking soda or powder. If you to do your own leavening, look for "sans levre", which is less common.
- Red-stickers indicate government subsidized pricing. These products are just as good, they just cost less.
- Not all communities have potable water at the tap (Taiohae, the usual check-in at Nuku Hiva, only has clean water at a couple filtration stations). Make sure you ask before putting it in your tanks. We only allow our RO water-maker water in our tanks so we don't have to wonder what might be growing down there, but we haul buckets from the dock for washing.
- The Tuamotus have to catch rainwater, so they'll charge a reasonable price for using the town's tanks.
- You can get just about anything here IF you're willing to pay $$ for it. Carrefour is the big supermarket, a French chain. There's one near both the south and north marina areas.
- Papeete has an amazing French cheese selection, for OK prices considering the high-end product.
- Alcohol is expensive, compared to CA wines and Panamanian rum. French wines are decently priced if you're used to spending $20 or more for a bottle. There is a warehouse store where people stock up onduty-free alcohol as they leave the country, but it has to be done right as you're leaving.
- We stocked decent box wine from the U.S. in a crate, which lasted most of the season. A bad "vino tinto" liter from S. America is $10 in Fr. Polynesia.
- DON'T buy the big boxed white wine at Carrefour - it's all gross.
- We found decently-priced generic chocolate at Carrefour, though it had a pretty high sugar content.
- Carrefour also had locally-made sausages, like Italian and Andouille.
Favorite things to stock IN French Polynesia:
- Baguettes! Baked daily in most communities, with a subsidized price. We used a scrap of vinyl to make a water-resistant baguette bag for splashy dinghy trips. This was great, since they charge more for the plastic bags than the baguettes.
- Canned butter. Butter is love, and the cans allow us to stock plenty of it.
- Pamplemousse, grown locally. Big, green grapefruit that maybe turns yellowish when it's ripe, and is very sweet. Generally cheap or even free from generous people's prolific trees. Some kept for a month in our nets. Beware the pamplemousse wine if you let it over ripen.
- Local-grown veggies: there are a lot more truck farms here than there used to be! All the high islands now have locally-grown lettuce, tomatoes, and frequently lots of other things too (like eggplant and herbs). Get to shore early for good pickings of any vegetable markets.
- The Tuamotus don't get enough water for gardens, so stock yourself accordingly before visiting there. A stock of bananas or bag of pamplemousse would be a treasure anywhere in the Tuamotus.
- Genuinely fresh eggs can be found in Magazines on most islands, and keep for over a month if turned daily.
- Extra-dark Nutella. I've only ever seen it here, and it was worth the $.