06/21/2011, Tahiti Yacht Club
Some observations about Tahiti. First, it's EXPENSIVE!!! We stopped in at the local McDonalds(2 on the island). It was packed with customers. A Big Mac combo--not the super size one--runs over $9.00US. Now that might seem outrageous but that is on the cheap side for food here in the islands. The "Snack"(what they call restaurants here)at the marina charges 1400 francs for a decent meal. At 80 francs per dollar, that puts it at $17.50 for a meal. Now that included six small ribs and some French fries. Drinks(Pepsi) at 280 francs comes in at $3.50. Lest you think that because it is near the marina that it is expensive, yesterday, we ate at one of the "Snacks" that is no where near the main roads of Papeete and it was 1300 francs($16.25US) for two chicken wings and a part of a thigh plus a good bit of stir fry rice. Tracy had a beef stew sort of thing with mashed potatoes(same price). With two cokes, the bill came to just under $40.00US and that was just for lunch. Books say that to save money, eat where the locals eat. Well, this place was full of locals. Hardly a table was empty.
Grocery shopping here is sort of a hit or miss expedition. They have two Cost & CO's here. Put it together and it works out to Costco. Well, sort of. They are quite small but carry lots of things from Costco so it's like being home--sort of. The selection isn't that good and the prices are higher but it's all things we are used to from home. The local Carrifor markets are just like being home but again, we're on an island and everything has to get shipped in so not only is freight involved, but the government tacks on a healthy chunk of taxes to help support the local infrastructure.
The bus system is again, sort of hit or miss. Most are smaller style trucks that are all independently owned and operated. They start when they want--normally about 0630 and quit when they feel like it. There is no schedule. If you see one and it seems to be going where you want to go, get on. It's 100 francs($1.25)for a non air conditioned ride. If you wait for the bigger buses, they run 130 francs($1.62). The drivers are great and will normally ask you where you are going since they figure you are a tourist and they don't want you getting lost. Our driver yesterday stopped right beside the Yacht Club on the trip out from town since we told her where we were headed. Some of the other cruisers just hang out a thumb and hitch rides.
Boat parts are tough to find especially if you know what you need or want. When we pulled into the Tahiti Yacht Club(where we are currently moored) the alternator that charges the house bank of batteries decided to up and die. It would only put out 13 volts and about 8 amps. No where near what we need to keep our system up and running smoothly. Now the great folks here at the club had told us that when we hooked up to the mooring ball, we were good till Saturday. We'd come in on Thursday so we were set for two days. Then we found out that the alternator was dead. With that being the case, we were dead in the water. We talked to Dave on SV Soggy Paws about our problem. He fixes everything on his boat--even alternators. He offered to fix ours!!! We met at 1600 at the local hangout and started taking it apart to see if we could find out what the problem was. Tracy was the first to see that the stater wires(help make the power) was charred in one spot. It is supposed to be nice and shiny like it's covered in lacquer. Ours was not. We checked the diodes and they were fine so we knew there was no way we could fix that kind of a problem. We stopped in on Friday morning to let the office know our problem and that there was no way we could leave our mooring. They were very understanding and had to make allowances because of that. They had numerous reservations from other boats that were coming in but things happen. Friday morning, we had an appointment(at 0900) with our agent that is to get us "officially" checked into Tahiti. There was a breakdown in communications so it had to be put off till Monday(yesterday). We'd taken off the old alternator and headed into town to get it rebuilt. We read in one of the local guides that there was a shop in town called Dieselec that specializes in alternators. Now the busses only take you to the center of town. Their shop was way out on the North side of town so with the alternator in my backpack, we started hiking. Please keep in mind that it's about 85 degrees, sunny and the humidity was at about 85 percent. I sweat like a pig as it is so I was dripping during our hike. When we got to Dieselec, he said that he couldn't fix it as he didn't have any of the stater wires BUT, I could hike over to their retail outlet where they did have boat alternators. Off we went, getting there only to be told(he spoke some English and I some French) that they don't carry boat alternators. Say what, the last guy I talked to even checked with one of the people that works there that they did have boat alternators. Oh well, I got directions to another shop(Ocean 2000) that was just a few blocks down the road. We got there just as they closed for lunch. Here's the way shopping works in Tahiti as it does in most of the islands. The stores open at 0730 and close at 1130 till 1300 for lunch. There is no way to shop on your lunch hour and a half. Everywhere is closed, except the restaurants(Snacks). We walked down the street looking for a Snack since we had plenty of time to kill. We saw some smoke coming from under an awning and headed over to see what they had. We bought a half of a chicken along with fries plus two pieces of chocolate cake for 1440 francs. That works out to $18.00 for a great lunch. Add on two soft drinks from the local grocer at $2.12 each and this lunch came in at about $22.00. That makes it the cheapest meal since we arrived and one of the best tasting.
At 1300, we made it back to Ocean 2000 only to find out that while they did have alternators, they didn't have one that works on a 12 volt system with an external regulator. They recommended another place for us to try. Off we went, getting to pass the first store we had already stopped in at. I stopped in again to discuss their stores lack of boat alternators. He assured me that they did have boat alternators and couldn't understand what the confusion was. With that being said, we took off for the next recommended shop getting there just as they were locking their door. They were nice enough to let us in seeing us soaked through in sweat. While they don't fix alternators, he know a guy that knew a guy that he felt sure could fix it. With that being said, I handed him the alternator and we turned to leave. Seeing that we were walking, he offered us a lift back into town. Not a tough decision to make. He dropped us off right at the bus stop. A short time later, we were back at the Yacht Club and on board Zephyr. Unfortunately, I made one mistake. The pulley for our alternator was still attached to the alternator. I needed it. As a cruiser, you never leave home without a good supply of parts. One that we carry is a back up alternator. If I had the pulley, I could put in the replacement and we would be up and running. Rats!!!
Saturday morning, we took off for town again to get to the shop that had the alternator to get that pulley off. Tracy stayed at the big downtown market since she didn't need to make the long hike to the shop. When I got there, another gentleman that worked there got the alternator and I went at it. To get the wheel off, you have to stick an allen wrench into the end of the bolt and a big wrench then unscrews the nut. At least is a perfect world it does. Not this time. I pushed and pulled. Banged on it with a hammer. Put it in a vice and banged on it all with no success. I gave up after a while and thanked the man as he had tried to help me get it off also. Back to down town(another hike) to meet up with Tracy and have lunch. This time, we stopped in a one of the local food vendors in the market(there are dozens to choose from) and got our food. I had a sort of lamb stew(bones included) with rice and Tracy had a chicken dish with rice also. While the food was great(as was the price) it was one of the slowest meals I have ever eaten as I had to pick out the bones with each mouth full. Back to Zephyr we went.
Sunday, we did more chores aboard as the bus service stops for the sabbath. Monday, we took off again to the shop that had our alternator. He'd made his contacts and told us of a place that could rewind the stator wires for us and it wasn't too far away. We got the alternator and took off again. After some conversations with some locals at one of gates, we found the place. Three people were working on one really big alternator while a fourth was sitting at a table winding wire around someone else's stator. No one really spoke English so it was sort of point and try it with hand gestures as to what we wanted to do---get that darn pulley wheel off the alternator. He showed us to a big vice and we went at it. He would have helped but he was tied up with the other alternator. We banged on it again, even adding some lubricants to get it to come undone all with no success. We left them the stater and took off for the first place we had visited last Friday. They stuck it in a vice and used an impact driver and it came right off. Now we at least had the pulley wheel. We were making progress. We dropped off the rest of the alternator at the fix it shop and headed off again. We had other boat supply stores to visit. After an afternoon of more walking, we made it back to Zephyr late in the afternoon.
This morning, I started in at getting the replacement alternator installed. An hour or so later, it was all installed and up and running and making amps and volts like it is supposed to. It's blowing in the high teens again as I type this so the DuoGen is loving it making lots of good volts for the batteries. We'd run our Honda generator earlier since our batteries were low but now we are letting the wind give us power and get the batteries charged.
Time to stop. I've ranted long enough. We will pile into Puff and head to shore to make a run to Cost & CO for some supplies. We will probably get wet, but that's the cruisers life for you.
More to come.
06/15/2011, Point Venus, Tahiti
We've finally made it to Tahiti arriving in Point Venus about 1300 today after a 48 hour trip marked by numerous rain squalls as well as some big blows and some times of no wind at all. A real mix of what Mother Nature can throw at you. We got hit yesterday by one really nasty swell that came out of no where and put us just about on our side. If it wasn't tided down or wedged in, it came our flying across the cabin. I can't remember a time where we got pushed over further and the weather wasn't that bad at the time. It was just one of those "rogue waves" that everyone talks about.
We've now covered 4238 miles since we left La Cruz, Mexico back on April 9(I think) and logged over 960 just since we left the Marquesas. Last year, we were about to leave San Carlos, Mexico for Colorado and two years ago we were just about to arrive in Juneau, Alaska. Time flies and sure do the miles under our keel. We're coming up on 13,000 miles since we left Port Townsend in early April of 2009. Take off the time we spent in Colorad last Summer(almost 6 months) and we've squeezed a lot of miles into just a bit over 20 months.
There is a party thrown by the French government next week for all the Puddle Jumpers and a sailing rally from Papeete to Moorea to add to the festivities. It will be fun to see all of the other boaters that left La Cruz for the jump.
One of the Puddle Jumpers ended up on a reef at the South pass of Fakarava(one of the atolls we visited. They were lucky enough to get it off but we haven't heard what damage they had. Hopefully very little. There aren't too many place out here where you can just pull in for a quick fix. We were lucky today and avoided what could have been a really big problem. As we were pulling into Point Venus, I went forward to get our anchor ready for dropping. Here is the way our anchor is set set up. You have the anchor attached with a shackle to a swivel that attaches to the chain with a pin held on with a cotter pin. As I looked down inspecting the entire assembly, I saw that there just just about nothing left of the cotter pin. It had rusted away to just about nothing. I went below and got a box of our collection of cotter pins and headed back to the anchor. All I did was tap on the pin and it fell right out on the deck. If this had happened while it was in the water, the pin that holds the chain to the swivel would have most likely fallen out and we would have been left adrift in the water. With most places we have visited in the last few weeks being nothing but water and big coral heads and reefs, it would not have been a happy ending. It's the little things like that that can really ruin your day if they aren't caught in time.
So here we sit putting things away and cleaning up and washing with fresh water many things on deck that have some salt water in them so they won't smell after being put in storage till the next time they are needed. We will probably stay here till Friday and then up the anchor and head into Papeete and get formally checked into the islands. Getting checked in in the Marquesas isn't good enough I guess.
We've finally made the dream trip of many sailors and I know that there is no way I could have made it with out my wife being there by my side. It's more that just a trip, it's an endurance test not only for the equipment on your boat, but also for for the people involved in the journey. I'm just glad she was there for me.
06/14/2011, En route to Point Venus
We dropped the line to the mooring buoy yesterday afternoon at 1300 hours. We left so late because the trip typically take about 40 hours and we didn't want to get in too early. We've been making good time though the winds pushed us farther South than our projected course. We just gybed (too the stern of the boat through the eye of the wind) and changed course so that we will be on a better course to Point Venus. We will still have to gybe again before sunset but it's no longer such a bid deal with as many times as we have had to do it over the last two months.
Last night, I was on watch from 1900 to 2300 when Tracy came back on watch. We've had intermittent squalls through the trip but that just cleans Zephyr's deck. With a good 10 to 12 foot swell running at our stern as well as our side, we have been rocking and rolling all through he night and into today. Today is about the last good wind for the voyage so it's a good thing we left when we did. Buoy Weather(or weather information center) sent us a weather email telling us this and it was confirmed by another member of the morning net that we have going out here.
So today, it's just another day on the water, watching where we are and looking our for other boats. I did see a mast head navigation light on another sailboat during the early morning watch(0300 to 0600) but there were miles ahead of us.
I'll let you know how the rest of the trip goes. My next post should be when we are anchored off the coast of Tahiti!!!!!!!!!!!!! We will have finally made it to the sailor Mecca!!
06/05/2011, Anse Amyot, Toau
We have changed our plans again. We decided late yesterday that we would stay one extra day here in Anse Amyot and take off tomorrow for Tahiti instead. The Puddle Jump get together is coming up and we don't want to miss it. With today being the 12th and the party set for the 24 and it takes two days to get to Tahiti, we felt that it would be better to leave the Tuomotus now. So tomorrow about 1100, we will cast off the lines from the mooring buoy we have been attached to for the last 8 days and get the heck out of here. It's still blowing in the high teens but we need some wind to get there and now is the time. Another boat took off today for Tahiti and fours boats came into the anchorage. So as of tonight, we are back up to seven boats.
One boat--a catamaran named Yolo ("you only live once") came into the anchorage with 30 loaves of French bread. Dave on Soggy Paws had told them in a earlier radio call to bring as many as they could. At that time, the anchorage had 17 boats in it. When they pulled in today, there were only 4 left. I greeted them at 0600 as they entered the anchorage. They made a general call through the anchorage about the loaves and within an hour, three of the four boats had pulled along side to stock up. What ever is left, Valentine and Gaston will buy as the supply ship only gets here once a month and their only other option is to go over to Rotoava on Fakarava and get supplies there. I'm sure they were happy to get what ever they could from Yolo. We snatched up three loaves our selves. Yolo had picked them up on another island right off the plane that flew them in from Papeete (the capital) on Tahiti. If they had gotten here a day earlier, they would have been swamped with other boaters.
We spent the day cleaning and getting ready for leaving tomorrow. Stowing and tying down everything that isn't nailed down. Tracy made chili for the trip so there will not be any big cooking along the way and did a Pad Thai Red Curry dish for tonights dinner. It's about 220 miles or about a day and a half to get there so it's not a big trip. We'll keep you posted as to how it goes along the way. At least we will have the better part of a full moon to keep us company along the way.
06/05/2011, Anse Amyot, Toau
We dingied ashore a bit before 1800 to join 9 other cruisers as well as Valentine and Gaston for a diner ashore. It started with an appetizer of pizza as we watched the barbecue(a 55 gallon drum on it's side) settle down from a roaring fire to nice coals for the cooking. Everyone discussed their histories as well as plans for the future. Many are headed for Tahiti while others are staying here of heading South to Fakarava. The main courses were lobster, Poisson Cru(fish "cooked" in lime juice), marinated tuna steaks, sashimi and barbecued marinated chicken and rice plus a coconut bread. Some brought their own wine or beer or bought it from Valenine. Desert was a coconut pound cake. It was great!!! They put on a heck of a spread for he cruisers. We didn't get back to Zephyr till almost 2200.
As of yesterday, there were 15 boats in the anchorage. While the wind is still blowing in the mid teens or higher, cabin ever has taken over and there may be only four of us left by Sun down tonight. They started leaving at 0600 and we expect the last to be out of here by 1500. Most are headed for Tahiti--an 18 hour trip normally but some are headed South. We got the latest compendium for the Tuomotus as well as the French Society Islands that Soggy Paws puts out for cruisers. They have been here numerous times and have made quite a reference guide for the area. It's on just about everyone boat out here.
This afternoon, we think we will take Puff to one of the small local motus(islands) for some beach walking if we can find a beach. Probably do some swimming while we are there. We expect to be out of here tomorrow heading North to Apataki for a few days before we head Southwest for Tahiti. the big party for all the Puddle Jumpers is set for the 24th through the 26h and we don't want to miss it. From what we have heard, the harbor at Papeete is jammed with boats that have made the crossing. There are still lots of us in the Tuomtus that have yet to make the crossing and join the gaggle of boats that are already there. I expect it to be a mad house-at least till the 27th.
06/05/2011, Anse Amyot, Toau
We worked around Zephyr in the morning and then took off to do some snorkeling in the early afternoon. We jumped in the water. OK, I did but Tracy slowly lowered herself off the stern ladder into the water. While the temp gauge we have says the water is about 82 degrees, it is actually a shock to the system plunging into it. I tend to do it the down and dirty way by just jumping in. We swam South farther into the cove about 50 yards to the reefs and watched the fish as they swam around the big horns of coral. Lots of colors and types we have no idea what they are. No sharks thank God. We did see a Manta Ray with a wing span of at least 8 feet as he glided below us with his mouth open to snatch what ever he could find. I swam directly above him and marvelled at his size. Never having seen one like this before, it was incredible. As was the normal course, Tracy first saw him and pointed him out to me. I don't know how she sees these fish that I miss. We'd swum into the cove as the tide was going out so once we got as far in as we wanted, all we had to do was drift back to Zephyr on the outgoing tide. It's a lot more fun to glide on the tide than fight it let me tell you.
Once back at Zephyr, we took showers and Tracy cut my hair. It's my first haircut since we left Mexico two months ago and I was looking a bit like Bozo the Clown. She even shaved off my "old man hair" on the back of my neck. A "Happy Hour" was scheduled for shore at 1500 as Valentine and Gaston had planned some festivities for all the cruisers. Plus she had plenty of beer and wine for sale. Several of us brought some snacks(popcorn, potato chips and jalapeno cheese dip, some yummy pecans baked in cinnamon sugar and we brought olives stuff with pimentos(a rarity out here). Some of the cruisers and their kids took off for a round of volley ball while the rest of us stood around and swapped stories about our trips across from the main land. Gaston cooked up some huge ocean snails(2.5 to 3 inches across) on the barbecue drenched in garlic and butter as well as some bonito and chicken. Plus bread fruit with peanut butter for dipping. Tracy tells me the snails were a bit chewy. I passed being allergic to most shell fish(better safe than puking). They had on display a huge "Keivu"crab also known as a Coconut Crab. They live in the trees, not the water. Their shells are colors of salmon and beige and blue. His claws are strong enough to crush a coconut shell. The meat is supposed to taste like coconut as that is their primary diet. I kept my fingers far away from him. About 1800 the heavens opened up and a light rain started to fall. With our hatches open, we quickly headed back to Zephyr. We took off Dragon(Mercury 8hp out board) and hoisted Puff up along the starboard side to get her out of the water. It's still blowing in the mid teens so it's not so bad but there is less chance of loosing her in the wind if she is out of the water. We take Dragon off each night not so much as a concern for theft though it does happen out here, but more for a safely concern that if Puff should get capsized in the wind, Dragon would need a major overhaul. Plus, we both sleep better knowing that she will still be with us on the morrow. To lose your dingy out here is like loosing your car back home. There is no mass transit out here, just the courtesy of other cruisers that will ferry you ashore when needed. There were reports of 6 dingies getting stolen over the Easter weekend in Moorea. At least there are no pirates out here.
Today, we started in on more tasks. One of the other cruisers was running short on water so we offered to fill one of his 6.5 gallon jerry cans for him. Having a water maker out here gets you some friends. It was also time to change the oil so we pulled out all the tools necessary as well as 8 quarts of oil and went at it. I'd started the engine so the oil was nice and warm while we were sucking it out of the dip stick tube. It's not possible to get to the drain plug on the bottom of the engine. We have a s small pump that attaches to our drill and it will pump out all the oil. It takes a while but it's easier than manually pumping it out with what looks like a garden sprayer except that it sucks rather than sprays. We keep lots of oil aboard as well as numerous filters so that if something happens and the oil gets contaminated(happened in California) it's not hard to just up and change the oil. We got water in our oil while in California and I had to change the oil twice to make sure all the water was sucked out of the engine. This afternoon, I'll be putting the third coat on the small teak rail that goes around the cabin top.
This evening, Valentine and Gaston are opening their restaurant for the cruisers. At last count, 12 of us are attending as she can't handle more than that. Normally, she only cooks up enough for 8 but since we are all trapped here by the wind, she is making more. I'll let you know in the next post what we get for dinner.
We needed a tortilla fix as we finally ran out so Tracy mixed up a batch from scratch from a recipe she got from the mother of one of her friends when she was a child. Fried eggs on a tortilla. Don't knock it till you tried it. For desert, we had a tortilla covered in butter and orange marmalade. It doesn't get much better than that out here.
I'll let you know about dinner tomorrow if I can get connected on the radio to get the post out. It takes a while and a good bit of patience to get on line out here.
Graham, I'm glad to hear from you that you read our posts. It's a different world out here than back home. If you have any question, feel free to email me and I'll get back with you.