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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Marina Apooiti
09/07/2008, Raiatea

We are going on three weeks of nasty weather in the leewards. Between the 20-30 knot conditions and the squalls we are having now I think I like the consistent big wind. Hideko and I tried to dinghy around to town today but between the 30 knot gusts and the fairly developed chop coming through the draw between Raiatea and Tahaa and the rain squalls we detoured to the Marina Apooiti.

Apooiti is on the north end of the island just west of the airport. The marina is basically a Moorings/Sunsail and Tahiti Yacht Charters base. There are some slots for transient yachts but I would expect a reservation is advisable. The base is close to a little grocery store and they have a nice bar and grill, scuba shop and laundry facility on the premise.

We stocked up on some groceries but have not been able to find fresh milk on Raiatea and sometimes not even whole boxed milk. We are getting hooked on the Pamplemouse juice though.

We had lunch at the restaurant which was tasty. They had Leffe beer, which is a Belgian brew I discovered in Saint Martin. It has become one of my favorites though I hate paying $10 for a bottle of it!

French Polynesia
The Big Lagoon
09/06/2008, Raiatea

Raiatea and Tahaa are surrounded by a single lagoon shaped sort of like an hour glass. The lagoon is generally 80 to 100 feet deep and steep to, with lots of coral climbing up to the shallows one the high island side. The small motus located around the perimeter of the lagoon near the barrier reef typically have sandy beaches and sometimes a nice sandy bank of 10 to 20 feet more suitable for anchoring. Both islands and most of the motus are well covered with palm trees and other vegetation.

French Polynesia
Boat Yard Wrap Up
09/05/2008, Raiatea

We wrapped our diesel fitting project today. That out of the way we are almost ready to take off. Our final challenge was getting our propane tanks filled. Our tanks are 9kg (good) and made out of steel (bad). Steel tanks are heavy and they rust. They don't belong on a boat. Aluminum tanks are good. They are light and they don't rust. Fiberglass tanks, recently approved the US powers that be, are the best IMHO. They are light, they don't corrode, and you can actually see how much gas they have in them!

We really like having two 9kg (20 lbs) tanks. A pair of full tanks has lasted Hideko and me as much as 9 months. This is great for cruising remote islands. The bummer is that our tanks don't have bleed valves and no one here seems to be able to fill them. We have been able to get them about half full.

As I was thinking things over at the Carenage office the skipper of Miss Molley, a nice 60 something Oyster, came by to pick his nice new 9kg fiberglass propane tank up. I tried to bribe him but he wouldn't part with it. Hopefully down the road we'll be able to swap our steel tanks out for a nice pair of 9kg fiberglass units.

We finished up a lot of little projects today. We drilled holes in the Saloon table legs and the nav station chair post, inserting pins. Both used to slowly sink over time. I suppose the adjustable height is nice but we never really adjust them except to put them back where we want them after they sink. The nav chair needs to be the height of the nav station and the saloon table needs to be eating height. Now they are.

It is not looking good for our one year stay in French Polynesia. On the other hand we have been getting excited about heading west. We have one more avenue to explore but should that fail we will be off to the Cook Islands.

We will try to hit Maupiti on the way out of French Polynesia. Maupiti has been described as Bora Bora 50 years ago. We like the sound of that. The only pass opens to the south and with anything more than 2 meters of swell from the southwest through southeast it is supposed to be unreasonably risky. Mauphilia is another stop we'd like to try but this atoll is supposedly even more dicey than Maupiti. If we can stop on the way we will, otherwise we'll just make for Aitutaki in the Cooks. Aitutaki is also supposed to be a fantastic Bora Bora like lagooned island. From the Cooks we'll head to Niue with a possible stop at Palmerston Atoll on the way. Niue is the world's largest raised atoll and due to its lack of soil there is no heavy run off. This reportedly leaves the waters around the island shockingly clear making it one of the most amazing dive sights on the planet. From Niue we'll head on to Tonga, Fiji and then up the Solomans to Micronesia for cyclone season.

French Polynesia
Biggest Wind
09/04/2008, Raiatea

It was really windy today. In the evening the high wind alarm started going off. I usually set it to 30 knots. I upped it to 35 so that it wouldn't be so bothersome (we were trying to watch Star Trek for heaven's sake). It still kept going off. The wind was not blowing steady 35, more like 15, then 20, then 25, then 20 then, 30, then 25, then 35, then 20. I ratcheted the alarm threshold up to 40 to be done with it. About an hour later it went off again! This crush zone with the stationary sheer line above us was really kicking it up. The Gribs report almost 10 days of high wind counting the days already gone by.

The seas have also been 4-6 meters the last couple days. This makes the lagoon passes very interesting. Even the stretch between Raiatea and Tahaa (which share the same lagoon) can get pretty crazy with this kind of wind. The diagonal angle exposed to the southeast creates a fair amount of fetch and up to a couple feet of sea on the Tahaa side not to mention the wind velocity created by the squeeze between the islands.

Not to be slowed by a little breeze we got a few more projects done today. Fred finally got all of the parts for the diesel fitting swap out. It went well and the new bronze parts will last the life of the boat. We used a 90 out of the tank shut offs to a T that provides all of the appropriate connections with good European A4 stainless hose clamps. It was a little tricky ensuring all of the shut offs had swinging room but it all worked out nicely. One shut off arm needs to be shortened a bit but we should have that in hand tomorrow, after which we can finally go visit Tahaa!

French Polynesia
Bigger Wind
09/03/2008, Raiatea

We are still waiting to get our diesel fittings all sorted out. In the mean time Hideko and I have been working on other projects such as rewiring the power cable for the washer dryer (the plug inside the unit seemed corroded but certainly was making poor contact and ultimately burned up), cleaning out rarely used parts of the boat, moving all of the food stashes we created for the big Pacific crossing back to the pantry (no need to have potatoes and onions in the bilge anymore), etceteras.

Another item we had been needing to address was the final cockpit canvas setup. We had a cockpit windscreen made by Beaver Brand Canvas in Fort Lauderdale two years ago and this has been wonderful. They used good materials and the windscreen is in great shape for its age. The side curtains on the other hand have had four different shops work on them. We finally have them the way we want them, almost. The side curtains are now square and roll up nicely. The quarter panels that connect the sides to the wind screen can be zipped up to create a winch access area or you can unzip the area next to the side curtain to open a walk trough.

Unfortunately, while the starboard curtain reaches the arch snaps that secure its aft edge the port side does not. Curious that. We didn't have enough cloth for Leonardo, the local canvas guy, to work with so he made us some nifty snap extenders. They are little nylon straps with a male snap on one side and a female on the other side at the other end. This allows us to snap these into the trailing edge of the port curtain and reach the arch snaps. A little hokey but it works. We will of course get the curtain extended properly as soon as we are in a place that has our Sunbrella in stock. The thread available locally is also not UV resistant so some of the recent mods will need to be re-stitched in a couple of years anyway.

It has been raining here and there today but we have left the cockpit enclosure up mostly to keep the wind out. It has been howling for a few days. The wind is fun but if you are not careful it will steal things from your boat. The curtains make the cockpit a nice area you can actually leave things in with the wind up.

French Polynesia
Big Wind
09/02/2008, Raiatea

Wow, it is windy today. We have been getting gusts over 30 and the skies have been fairly overcast with little stints of sun and little stints of rain mixed in.

The wonderful folks at Raiatea Lodge invited us to visit and have lunch on them at the end of our stay so we decided to take a chance and dinghy over. Hugging the coast we managed to stay pretty dry. They had just hosted a dinner for the President of French Polynesia so they had some interesting stories to tell since our departure. It was great to see them all again and we met a really interesting guy named Kevin who lives on his catamaran in Hawaii. He takes a break from the rough life in French Polynesia!

We got a lot of internetting done and had a wonderful lunch. We will miss the Raiatea Lodge and its gracious owners.

French Polynesia
Diesel Fittings and Mooring Shuffling
09/01/2008, Raiatea

I went ashore to see about getting Fred to swap out our diesel fitting in the bridge deck lockers and to clear our stay on the new mooring. The mooring we had ended up on was owned by Raiatea Marine (the yard right next to the Carenage). I went over to see about paying them and after determining that I was a Carenage client they told me I had to go. "I understand", I said, "you have a client coming in?" "No.", they said. "The mooring is too small for our boat?", I said. "No.", they said. "So what is the problem?" "You are a client of the Carenage", they said.

I was blown away. The Raiatea Marine folks apparently have a very serious case of petty. After a little more digging Fred found me a private mooring that a client of his was not using. So we moved, again.

Fred came out to look at our diesel shutoffs in the afternoon. The shut offs and the tank fittings are both good stainless. The hose fittings that Saint Francis used are mild steel though. When they delivered the boat to us the fittings were already heavily corroded. I tried to get the factory to take action but I got the sense that they liked those fittings and didn't see that any change was necessary.

I should note that in the engine rooms use these fittings and that they are fine there. Unfortunately this is not the engine room. In fact the tank fittings are mounted just above the bridge deck drain for the deck locker above. This means that when you are at sea salt water is splashing all over them continuously.

I had tried on a few occasions to find a solution but getting no support from the factory and finding no obvious fixes in the Caribbean I had sort of accepted the situation for the time being. Right until last week. As we were preparing to launch I was going over the underside of the boat to make sure that everything was in good shape. As I looked over the bridge deck I noticed a greasy looking sheen leading back from the bridge deck locker drains. The "rub you thumb and forefinger in it test" revealed corroded metal and diesel. The fittings were finally leaking as they ultimately had to do.

I am now committed, involuntarily, to change out the lot of them. They are just oozing a drip here and a drip there right now and we are keeping up with paper towels.

French Polynesia

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