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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
More diesel fitting work
Randy
09/09/2008, Raiatea

We ran the genset today with interesting results. There are four fuel tanks on this yacht and they are set up in two banks of two. The two port tanks feed the port aux and genset and the starboard tanks feed the starboard aux. Each tank has a shut off and there is a combiner that connects all four.

Yesterday was nasty so we ran the genset for a bit, made ice, charged batteries in the absence of sun, etceteras. The port bank was low so I opened the combiner but the port and starboard tank levels stayed independent. Hmm, one item to check on.

Today the genset died in the middle of a morning run. Sounded like it was out of fuel. I checked the port fuel bank level and it had more fuel than when we fired the genset up. Hmmm, nothing like a nice puzzle on a rainy day.

This ad hoc experiment inspired an inspection which turned up a kink in the hose between the inside tank and the fitting that leads to the engine bank. There was plenty of fuel in the outside tank though so why the failure?

After a bit of research I determined that the problem was that the return from the diesels comes into the filler hose. The filler hose goes down to the level of the top of the tanks and then hangs a 90 degree turn, running across the tops of the tanks. Of course this means that, when there is room, the inside tank gets all of the return fuel. I'm not sure of the exact ratio but from this experience I would guess that at least as much fuel is returned to the tank as that which is burned in the engine, perhaps twice as much. Given this data you run out of fuel two to three times faster than you should if you don't reuse the returned fuel.

Certainly a condition we are not going to sail off across the south pacific with. What's one more day...

French Polynesia
Rain
Randy
09/08/2008, Raiatea

Big rain day. We are enjoying the inside of our boat.

French Polynesia
Marina Apooiti
Randy
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
Randy
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
Randy
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
Randy
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
Randy
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

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