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Adrift in a Sea of Vowels

For cruisers visiting French Polynesia, struggling to learn a little French is hard enough, but trying to master the pronounciation of locally-used Polynesian words is even trickier. The biggest challenge seems to be that most words contain so many vowels, they all sound alike to newcomers.

Brian Calvert of the Seattle-based Selene 48 Furthur shared a funny story with us that perfectly illustrates the conundrum: When he first arrived in Papeete, the Tahitian capital, he went looking for the harbormaster’s office, having been told it was near the Moana Bar. Just a few blocks from his berth on the quay, he arrived at what he thought was the right spot. Out in front, he was enthusiastically greeted by a good looking young woman who led the way to the nearby office – or so he thought. 

As seen at the recent Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous, Brian has no problem with all-girl crews, but transvestites make him a bit uneasy.

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Turned out the lovely Tahitian lady was a transvestite hoping to transact a little ‘sensual commerce’ with Calvert. After excusing himself and scurrying, red-faced, back to the quay, he discovered that he’d mistaken the Moana Bar for the Mana Cafe. The lesson: In Polynesia, knowing and enunciating every vowel can be more important than you might think!

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