Another overcast and rainy day. Again we have the same forecast that we have downloaded for the last five days. I checked today to make sure that the dates were advancing on the reports and that everything else was in order. All seemed in order. After reading some of our weather reference works I have come to believe that the southern hemisphere weather forecasts coming out of Hawaii and the GFS model are less accurate than those for the northern hemisphere. This is certainly my experience and it seems to fit the literature I have as well. It is also the case that the forecasts are far less detailed down here. In the Carib you can get very detailed reports for small areas that are pretty darn accurate, particularly up to three days out. You are certainly more on your own sailing about down here.
Big rain today. In between squalls Fred managed to redo the diesel fitting layout to avoid tight bends on the diesel lines.
Every day for the past few we have been checking weather. Each day the report says, tomorrow the wind will be 20-30 knots but the day after that it will go to 15 knots for the foreseeable future. The only problem is that we keep getting the same forecast each day, kind of like ground hog day or something. We need to get past tomorrow at some point.
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...
Big rain day. We are enjoying the inside of our boat.
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!
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.
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.