The final ocean passage was notable for one reason: it was the first leg of the entire journey on which I didn't throw up (although I still felt pretty awful for the two-and-a-half days it took to sail from Makemo to Tahiti). I'd chundered from Pahia to Whangarei, hurled from Whangarei to Mangareva, spewed from Mangareva to Amanu and vomited from Amanu to Makemo, but I kept it down from Makemo to Tahiti. Despite this seeming progress, sea legs still elude me.
I finally made the decision to leave Zeke when we were about to head off for Tahiti. Being a kind, considerate person, I told Rob just before we left Makemo that I was thinking of leaving, as I didn't want to screw him around and leave him short of crew without a fair amount of notice. He said it was a real shame and that I'd been an excellent crewmember, but he was glad I'd told him, and if I really wanted to leave, he could probably find crew in Tahiti; besides having seen me suffering on all the passages so far, he understood where I was coming from.
The real reason I wanted to leave Zeke was that I'm never going to be at home on a boat. As we sailed off to Tahiti, I realised that this was perfect sailing: constant, unchanging trade winds aft of the beam, not too much swell and only a little rolling, but I was still totally miserable. I just don't like ocean sailing; I find it uninspiring, boring and a lot of effort for little return. Talking to other yachties it's almost universal that sailors find ocean passages a bore and that it's the landfalls that make yachting worthwhile, but this goes against much of what I've enjoyed about exploration; in Australia and New Zealand the journey was at least as important as the destination, if not more so, and on the way to Papeete I realised that I no longer wanted to travel in a way that reversed this emphasis, stressed me out and made me physically ill.
The other overwhelming reason for disembarking at Papeete was that I'd realised (not for the first time) that I like to travel alone. When you're alone, survival depends on your own actions, and this makes talking French, working out public transport, ordering food and simply managing to exist quite a thrill; however, on a yacht you have a home from home, which removes a lot of the stress and fun of day to day living, and there's a plan that isn't really that changeable, and there are always people around on the boat from whom you can't easily get away (and when Laurent and Rob were arguing through me as their proxy, that's precisely what I wanted to do). So before I got to Papeete, my mind was made up; it was back to solid ground for me.
Approaching Tahiti was wonderful. I could smell the city of Papeete (pronounced 'Pah-pay-eh-tay') from afar – my first real city smell since Auckland – and the lights glowed as we sailed into the harbour at 2am on Saturday 5th July. We dropped anchor and hit the sack, the elation of impending change quite tiring me out.
We spent the next day trying to squeeze the boat into the overcrowded quay at Papeete, which we eventually managed after discovering that we'd dragged anchor while visiting the information centre in town (a scary experience, when you find the boat's moved considerable distance down the harbour, only being saved by other yachties leaping on board and dropping more chain). I had visions of us being stuck in the middle of the harbour for days, having to keep an anchor watch, but by Saturday afternoon we were tied up at the quay on the end of a line consisting of all kinds of yachts, from mansions to mouse holes. Our neighbours were fun, and I sighed with relief as I realised that I would never have to do another ocean passage. I was a man set free.