Tatairaa i te mau poti i roto i tona mau vahi (Fixing Boats in Exotic Locations)
19 July 2017 | Papeete, Tahiti
It's dawn and Papeete is coming to life; this town seems to operate mostly between sun up and sun down with of course a healthy European lunch break. We're watching the early morning fast ferries depart for Tahiti's sister islands from our bijou Harbourside apartment whilst sipping an espresso coffee - tres French Polynesia! This little place that we will call home for a short while is wonderfully located in the heart of Papeete, close to the daily Marche, opposite the nightly roulettes and within 15 minutes walking distance to Fare Ute, where Elevation is now residing for repairs.
Our haulout yesterday at Technimarine was the most efficient international lift we have experienced - as we came through the lagoon leads we could see their 75T lifter and staff waiting dockside to receive us. Once in the slings, we disembarked and then watched with interest as Elevation slowly came up out of the water, revealing a completely intact and almost pristine Mona Lisa. My Captain had most certainly made a robust and hard working "Barbie" plate! Our girl received a much needed spa treatment (aka high pressure clean) to remove the very hardy Pacific weed growth and the mud of Nuku Hiva before being hardstanded - it was really great to see her looking a little more sparkly. Over the next few days, we will change out our anode (Mona has certainly decimated what was a brand new electrode installed in Panama) plus several other jobs whilst our Technimarine guys start on repairs. As well as work to be covered by insurance, we have a separate list of tasks for them including straightening our anchor shaft which was somehow bent whilst anchored in the swells of Taiohae Bay. Our experience with the insurance underwriters, The Beasley Group, has so far been extremely positive, with claim approved promptly and without question. Rudder rebuild, installation and ancillary work will take a few weeks and we are anticipating being back in the water in just over a months time. It will be joyous to then be able to actually enjoy some cruising time in this very exotic island group.
Tahiti is Nice!
14 July 2017 | Papeete, Tahiti
As I took the helm for my last midnight to 0400 watch on 4 July the lights of Tahiti twinkled in the distance. The rain had cleared late on Sunday afternoon, then the clouds and the wind disappeared and the sea flattened out, leaving us to motor sail for the last 50 or so nautical miles of this passage. The peaks and pitons of Tahiti started to come into view as we edged closer and as the sun rose and threw out it's early morning rays, we were tantalised by our first glimpses of the islands dramatic and luscious scenery. We furled the small amount of sail we had out, radioed the Vigi Du Port to request permission to enter Papeete Port waters and then made our way into the "City" Marina. This marina, run by the Port Authority, is run on a "first come, first served basis" and you effectively arrive and select where to tie up based on availability. After a couple of false starts - the first berth being subject to fast ferry wakes, the second being needed for a catamaran - we settled into a suitable pen at the long waterfront dock. With office and check in procedures completed, we once again made Elevation shipshape before we started on our list of tasks associated with our rudder and other repairs.
It's been an intense and busy time meeting with various companies and trades providers to identify the right location for us to haul out and to obtain quotes for work needed. There has also been a degree of difficulty from a language perspective and Google Translate has become our new best friend. Luckily, the locals are all very friendly and accommodating and we have been able to address needs, obtain quotes and start the ball rolling with our insurers. Living onboard will not be possible and sourcing accommodation was challenging as of course it is the high season here - with a lot of patient research using less than great internet, we finally managed to get a mix of places to stay. We found a great local sailmaker, Guillaume of Tahiti Sails, who has very efficiently dealt with the repairs to our mainsail; our bolt rope track being damaged in two places when we lost steerage and rounded up. Sebastien, the director at Technimarine, where we are scheduled to haul out next week, has been invaluable providing advice; he even offered us the free use of a freezer at the yard to store our remaining frozen provisions!
Our sightseeing so far has been extremely limited. We are loving the easy walk to the Marche Papeete, a riotously colourful place filled with fresh produce, aromatic tropical floral arrangements, locally grown vanilla and coffee and souvenirs galore. We've checked out the famous "Roulettes" at Place Vaiete, a quick five-minute stroll from the marina and extremely popular with both local people and tourists. Each night food vans arrive at this waterside dock location and in no time at all, transform a dull parking area into a vibrant open air food court complete with a variety of French, Polynesian and Pacific/Chinese fusion food, plastic tables and chairs and local entertainment. Good food, and great people watching!
Heiva I Tahiti is now in full swing - this three-week festival dates back to 1881 and began as a one day celebration of Tahitian culture following the ousting of the English Protestant missionaries when the French took full control of the Polynesian islands. With greater political freedom being gained in the 1970's, Heiva became a catalyst for showcasing traditional cultural - dancing, singing, music and craft - and today is an exciting, vibrant celebration of all things Polynesian. We were able to obtain tickets to this wonderful event and were entertained for almost 5 hours by amazing musicians, soulful and melodious singers, and sensationally vibrant and rhythmic dancers. The mostly local audience all dress beautifully with elaborate floral headdresses- tres magnifique - or fresh Tahitian Tiare blooms. Earlier in the day, I had visited the craft collective and got chatting with Tamatoa, one of the pearl jewellery makers and a dancer for one of the Heiva troupes. He was genuinely pleased to learn that we had tickets and handed me an artificial Tiare bloom to wear "to be like a local vahine".
Today is Bastille Day and we are looking forward to the annual fireworks display, reported to be the biggest in the South Pacific. There are worst places to be when fixing boats!
Taiohae to Tahiti
03 July 2017 | Pacific
It's Monday morning and we are now 107NM away from Papeete. Mother Nature turned on a stellar Sunday for us with sparkling blue sea, a cloudless and sunny sky and just enough NW breeze to keep us moving at a steady 5 knots. We skirted close by Arutua for much of the late morning and early afternoon - the long, coconut lined motus and sandy beaches surrounding the lagoon were very much like a mini version of Cocos-Keeling. By dusk, we were off Rangiroa - at 40 sq km, it's the second largest atoll in the world (outranked only by Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands) and boasts a lagoon big enough to contain the whole island of Tahiti. There is prolific birdlife around the atolls and yet very little sign of human activity - since leaving Taiohae we have seen only one other yacht so far on this voyage.
The Grib files downloaded at sunset indicated rain overnight, with the wind shifting to the SW - yes, typically Huey seems to be offering another opportunity to beat to windward. The breeze drifted south-westerly during Paul's evening watch and when I commenced my midnight shift there was a gentle SW zephyr barely ruffling our French courtesy flag. Just before 0200, the clouds suddenly built up, obliterating both moon and starlight. It's a surreal experience being alone on deck with only your own masthead light and instruments offering any illumination - like driving down a lonely, uninhabited and unlit country road with no headlights and no other traffic. The wind slowly shifted southerly and by 0300 it was around 14 knots and accompanied by light rain and a lumpy sea state. With our speed reduced to 3-3.5 knots it was time to fully engage the iron sail in order to keep steady steerage and Mona's workload light. Since 0615 it's been drizzling constantly and both sea and sky are dull and grey.
We've now switched to Tahiti time (GMT/UTC -10) which puts us 18 hours behind home.
All well onboard.
Taiohae to Tahiti
02 July 2017 | Pacific
July 1 has been a stunning day on the water - a gentle 10 knot NW breeze has been easing us effortlessly across a brilliant sapphire blue Pacific under an endless, vivid turquoise sky. We are in the Tuamotus, the heart of French Polynesia and long on our cruising must see destinations. This ancient archipelago, comprised of 77 atolls over an area in excess of 1500 km, is home to so many stunning lagoons and is effectively the picture perfect, idyllic South Sea Island getaway destination we all dream of. Sadly, we are unable to stop and enjoy them; our priority being to get Elevation and ourselves safely to Tahiti. But when we have a rudder again .......
Magellan was the first European credited with sighting these atolls; Bougainville named them the "Dangerous Islands" due to the difficulties his fleet encountered navigating through them. The French Centre d'Experimentation decimated the the most eastern of the group with countless nuclear tests throughout the 1970s and beyond (think Moruroa and Fangataufa in particular). Passing 11 NM offshore of Mahini, home to Xavier Michel's Pacific Sailmail station (in fact, the station I am using for all our Sailmail comms at the moment), it was impossible to pick out the low lying motus identified on our chart plotter until after dark when a faint loom appeared at the southern end of the lagoon. Mahini, along with many other of the atolls, is heavily involved in pearling with both commercial and family farms producing the famous Black Tahitian pearl. Having just reread the Niki-Naki-Noo chapter in Pamela Stephenson's "Treasure Islands", I'm a little jealous that in 2004 she and her crew were able to trade DVD's and basic consumer goods for several luscious gems of the sea.
In consolation, we've been enjoying Nespresso coffee, sourced on one of our Panama City provisioning trips, with Kiwi Tim Tams found on the shelf at Magasin Larson in Nuku Hiva, whilst planning our time here in the Tuamotus and the Society Islands once our rudder rebuild is complete. We've added a further 127NM to this passage over the 24 hours to 0800 on Sunday morning; Mona is working comfortably and we're on track for Tuesday in Tahiti.
All well onboard.
Taiohae to Tahiti
30 June 2017 | Pacific
Day 3 is complete, with a further 135NM ticked off in the 24 hours to 0800 (we hit the halfway mark at 0349 Saturday morning). The wind and the sea state have both abated and with the aid of up to 1 knot of positive current intermittently during the day, we are making good speed over ground whilst keeping our overall speed steady in order to protect and preserve "Mona". Today's Grib files predict much lighter winds; if need be, we have ample fuel onboard to motor sail in order to arrive in Papeete for Tuesday morning. One of the benefits of cruising in French Polynesia is the easy process for obtaining duty free fuel - on arrival, a certificate is issued entitling foreign flagged vessels to purchase tax fee diesel. Of course, fuelling up in remote locations can be a little daunting; at Nuku Hiva, the "Station Service" is located at the commercial dock, designed and utilised by the supply/ferry ship the Aranui 5. It's decidely unkind to pleasure craft and so to obtain fuel, you need to anchor off from the dock, reversing back and tying on via two long stern lines. The fuel pump is then transferred to you via the use of another long line and you fill up, engine running (just in case) whilst side on to the swell. It's a heart pounding experience!
The Friday night moon, reminiscent of a half filled stemless wine glass, glided gracefully away just as I commenced my watch. It left behind a night sky punctuated with thousands of glittering stars and with little to do from a sailing perspective, I used my time alone on deck to pick out a few different constellations. What a pleasure to have such easy conditions after all we've been through lately. There has been very little wildlife to view since leaving the Marquesas; even the flying fish have been noticeably absent during the worst of the swelly conditions of the last 36 hours. The only hint of any shipping has been the faint and distant loom of what must have been a super large squid vessel. It's a big, vast and empty Pacific just at the moment.
All well onboard.
Taohaie to Tahiti
30 June 2017 | Pacific
Day 2 of this passage has delivered big, boisterous seas courtesy of a massive winter storm way down south. We've been slowly motor sailing with half mainsheet and a sliver of headsail out. Limiting rudder movement to 15 degrees (either port or starboard) in order to protect Mona, we've been bouncing off the worst of the swells and taking the occasional "greenie" over the side - it's not champagne sailing, but it's getting us ever closer to Papeete. As at 0800 today (30/6) we've covered a further 134NM.
The crescent waxing moon is still setting early in the evening; the sky for my midnight to 0400 watch fluctuated between a stunning canopy of stars to total blackness as clouds erased any vision of the heavens. Venus is rising as the "Morning Star" just after 0300 local time and today, she shone vividly and regally, surrounded by a loom of white light against a darkened pre dawn.
All well onboard.
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