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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
09/12/2008, Raiatea

We finally left the Carenage mooring field today. The wind is still cranking pretty good but the skys are blue and we need to be somewhere else for a bit. We also need diesel after all of the experimentation and cloudy days.

We motored out past Marina Apooiti and around the end of the airport. We hailed the air strip to ask permission to cross, per the cruising guide, but got no response. After a couple of tries we gave the sky a careful once over and, seeing the coast was clear, we headed around.

Shortly after the air strip is the municipal marina. This marina is full up with local boats of all types but there are some spots for transients also from time to time. They have a dive shop and basic facilities but the real advantage is that it is close to town. Just outside the marina is a Total Station fuel dock. This was just what we were looking for so we entered the little bay only to discover that the Maupiti Express II was on the dock, and there's no dock left when the MEII is in port.

We floated around in the bay battling the 20 something knot winds for a bit trying to hail the shuttle. No one answered on VHF 16 and the guy we finally waved down on deck didn't do English and my French only got a vague idea of their etd, which was 2PM.

So we headed on to Uturoa. Uturoa is a small harbor and the good bit is reserved for local boats, mostly shuttles and the like. The town dock is free for cruising yachts but it is also pretty exposed. It is inside the lagoon of course but this is a big lagoon and Uturoa is on the east side of the island right in the path of the wind acceleration zone. The dock is outside of the little harbor area and more less open to the lagoon. It can get pretty choppy on the dock in big winds.

We pulled onto the fuel dock which is the slightly more sheltered end of public dock. We had acquired a duty free permit in Papeete when we cleared in that saved us a lot of money on our fill up. We also filled up our two gas jugs and the diesel jug we carry with full duty as it seems only the big boat gets duty free treatment.

Hideko grabbed us some Special Chow Mein for lunch while I handled the arduous job of fuelling through the baja filter. The fuel turned out to be fine but you never know until afterwards and I never let the anxious attendants talk me out of using it (they always try). I did have to take a break to let a taxi boat fill up as they only have one diesel pump.

The wind was really ripping through the harbor, sticking around 23 knots. We did manage to back the boat up along the dock to get out of the fueling area. This gave Hideko a chance to hit the Champion shopping store while I cleaned up around the boat. The Champion is about as large as the Chin Lee in Bora Bora, which is about as big as markets get outside of Tahiti.

After the Shell station closed a shuttle came into port so we had to move forward again into the fuel dock area. Normally the shuttles pick up on the outer dock but it was too choppy today. We met some friendly Kiwis on a yacht called Jellyfish and they moved up behind us to try to get out of the chop.

It was kind of fun to be tied up in town but I think one day would be enough. It is pretty busy, rough on the boat with the wakes and chop in big winds but the worst bit was the Paul Gauguin. The PG is a cruise ship that does the Cooks and French Polynesia. It is big but small enough that it can get into most of the lagoons. Unfortunately it spews nasty diesel fumes day and night and the wind was blowing them right into our boat half the time. At least it was blocking the wind a bit.

Hideko and I though about leaving when she got back from the store but it was late and we were in no rush. It was also blowing pretty good and if it calmed down tomorrow (as, once again, it was supposed to) it would be easier to get off the dock in the crowd.

French Polynesia
Waiting on weather
09/11/2008, Raiatea

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.

French Polynesia
Big Rain
09/10/2008, Raiatea

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.

French Polynesia
More diesel fitting work
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
09/08/2008, Raiatea

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

French Polynesia
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

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