Barracuda's Blog

The adventures of Kate and Graham and their OVNI 395

03 December 2020 | Marina Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia
29 November 2020 | Airport Anchorage, Tahiti, French Polynesia
29 November 2020 | Airport Anchorage, Tahiti, French Polynesia
27 November 2020 | Marina Taina, Tahiti, French Polynesia
26 November 2020 | Marina Taina, Tahiti, French Polynesia
23 November 2020 | Marina Taina, Tahiti
21 November 2020 | Papeete Marina, Tahiti, French Polynesia
16 November 2020 | Papeete Marina, Tahiti, French Polynesia
13 November 2020 | Papeete Marina, Tahiti, French Polynesia
10 November 2020 | Papeete Marina, Tahiti, French Polynesia
07 November 2020 | Papeete, Tahiti
07 November 2020 | Papeete Marina, Tahiti, French Polynesia
05 November 2020 | Papeete Marina, Tahiti, French Polynesia
01 November 2020 | Papeete Marina, Tahiti, French Polynesia
28 October 2020 | Papeete Marina, Tahiti, French Polynesia
24 October 2020 | Papeete Marina, Tahiti, French Polynesia
22 October 2020 | Papeete Marina, Tahiti, French Polynesia
20 October 2020 | Papeete Marina, Tahiti, French Polynesia
16 October 2020 | Papeete Marina, Tahiti, French Polynesia
14 October 2020

The end is in sight

03 December 2020 | Marina Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia
Graham Walker
This is just going to be a progress update, on many fronts.

Our new solar panels have arrived - now we just need to fit them and hook them up – photo of them coming off the truck.

We have our new Sprayhood fitted - the visual improvement is dramatic – photo is the first fitting.

Our re-rigging is finished.

Our new sails are on their way - in Singapore at the last check.

Our new cushion foam arrived – now cut to shape and fitted into our now super-comfy deck cushions. – photo of the cutting

Bonus Blog – Giant Clam

29 November 2020 | Airport Anchorage, Tahiti, French Polynesia
Graham Walker
We have been meaning to write about these giant clams for a while and we saw this lovely one today. They are alive and although they are embedded in the structure of coral heads, their lips are constantly moving. We think they need to do this in order to maintain their flexibility and their ability to feed. As you swim over them their mouths work back and forwards, or snap shut. The colours and textures are just stunning, in all shades of bright velvety blues, greens and purples. We were told that German divers call them ‘murderers’. If you stick your finger into the mouth they will snap shut and not let go – really bad news if you are snorkelling! So we always treat them with plenty of respect.

Underwater Surprise

29 November 2020 | Airport Anchorage, Tahiti, French Polynesia
Graham Walker
We have really enjoyed our couple of nights out at anchor surrounded by blue water, relaxing with the gentle motion of the boat. There are a few boats out here with us and on one nearby there is a French family who are sailing round the world. The children are very small, perhaps 2-4. The parents have already started teaching the kids to sail and are taking them out for lessons on a small windsurfer. Lovely to watch them learning to push themselves along with the breeze.

We went to a couple of snorkelling sites near the boat. The first was OK but the corals were not in very good condition, so we moved down to a site called The Aquarium. It’s almost in line with the end of the airport runway and revealed an interesting plane wreck. This is also where Kate did her ‘baptism’ scuba dive.

We will head back to Papeete Marina this afternoon to start on the final push. Whilst we have been out here we have been able to test our new charging system (OK so far) and make sure the water maker is working (which it is). We are missing our sprayhood, which normally makes a good shade and windbreak but is with the sailmakers right now, so have rigged a boom tent using a hi-viz orange tarp we have as part of our safety kit. Nice to see just how visible we are at a fair distance. We’re probably identifiable on satellite.

New Sails

27 November 2020 | Marina Taina, Tahiti, French Polynesia
Graham Walker
Our new sails are ready (in Sri Lanka) and are just about to be shipped. They are suggesting about 9 days for shipping – we watch and wait. Today’s photo shows our new sails lying on the floor of the sail loft. The main and genoa are made of a material called Hydranet, which contains a dyneema thread woven into the material. This makes it very strong and low stretch. It is also a lighter material for its strength, which makes overall sail handling easier. These sails are tri-radial cut, with pieces of material radiating out from all three corners, which gives better shape and better sailing performance. The stay-sail (not photographed) is made from standard heavy Dacron and built in horizontal strips. The stay-sail is designed for heavy weather conditions so is designed more for survival than performance.

Progress today included completion of all the internal wiring modifications needed for the new solar panels and their controllers. We are adding quite a bit of power, so we need to make sure the wiring is big enough to take it – which it now is. The panels are here now, so we will head back to Papeete on Monday to collect them and start the installation. Our new rigging is now complete – barring one small item on the new furler that will be installed on Tuesday. And our new sprayhood will be trial fitted first thing on Monday.

We are feeling good about progress today and have headed to anchor out on the reef for the weekend, to chill.


26 November 2020 | Marina Taina, Tahiti, French Polynesia
Kate Walker
Ia Ora Na, folks. We now have shiny new rigging, and a staysail foil with furler. Our riggers have worked through torrential rain and, at one stage, thunder and lightning too. It's been well worth coming over here to have the work done as there is much better space here for laying out and working on great lengths of wire, and the riggers have all their kit close at hand. There's just one small tweak to be done, scheduled for next week, but apart from that it is finished, and we are very happy with the guys at Mat Rigging.

Our spares store has expanded again. We have kept one set of each of our old (and still sound) stays, just in case... We never thought we would end up carrying spare rigging around with us but it's all about self-sufficiency in the South Pacific.

It really is a very different world here at Taina. The marina itself is huge, far bigger than Marina Papeete, and there are some really big boats and superyachts here. It's west of Papeete itself, past the airport at Fa'a'a (all the 'a's are pronounced) and right on the big busy dual carriageway that runs round the island. It has all mod cons (which in our terms means showers, a laundry and a book swap), a couple of dive centres, three restaurants and a fuel station. There is really not much else around: a huge Carrefour just five minutes walk away, and that is it.

But we are enjoying our time here, partly because of the ease of access to all the boat services we need, and partly because it is so interesting to watch a completely different world go by. At lunchtime and in the evenings there is usually a glimpse of outrigger canoes (va'a) racing past the marina. There are also quite a lot of live-aboards at the nearby anchorage, and every morning we see children arriving by dinghy to catch the school bus, with their parents hurrying in to get to work on time or bringing the dogs ashore to be walked. All of the people doing work for us right now are young Frenchmen who live on boats; this morning our electrician appeared in a rib with a big promotional 'MarinElec' flag, a dog and a small child, and he buzzes around the anchorages fixing stuff. Most have pretty extensive Polynesian tattoos - and now G is starting to mull over possible designs.

That's it for now. Nana (goodbye), everyone.

A change of scene

23 November 2020 | Marina Taina, Tahiti
Graham Walker

Great excitement yesterday as we turned on the engine, slipped our lines and motored out of Marina Papeete for the first time in three months. It wasn’t a long trip – just round the corner, really – but it was wonderful to hear the sound of the water on the hull again. We anchored just off the airport in lovely clear shallow blue water, and were straight in over the side for our first swim in ages. Barracuda’s hull was thick with weed, having been stationary for so long, but it came off easily and an hour or so with our scrubbing brushes dealt with it. Good to have a visit from a ray while we worked, too.

As a techy aside, we switched antifoulings last year from Trilux 33 to Pacifica Plus. Both are suitable for aluminium hulls, but Pacifica Plus is formulated for warmer seas. Many antifouling paints contain copper, which would be bad for aluminium hulls, hence why we use a different formulation. Anyway, a year on, it is holding up remarkably well and we are hoping we won’t have to renew it for a good few months yet.

The purpose of this trip was to get us over to Marina Taina, where the riggers are based and where it is much easier to have them work on the boat. So after a lovely calm night at anchor it was up with the lark and a short motor round to the marina, where the riggers arrived on cue and have started work. Today’s picture shows Jonathan, the boss, up the mast. We expect to stay for about three days and are enjoying the change of scene. This is also where there is a very good boat electrician who is helping with the solar install and the sail makers who will make the new spray hood. It’s all happening this week – too much excitement when you have been living in a low excitement world.

And finally, a random piece of information to share: barracuda translates to ‘barracuda’ in almost every language we know. The one exception is Tahitian, where barracuda is ‘oh no’. Seems appropriate, somehow.

The day our ship came in!

21 November 2020 | Papeete Marina, Tahiti, French Polynesia
Graham Walker
You may remember that about three weeks ago we bought some large semi flexible solar panels from a company in the USA. They were unable to ship them by air so they went as ocean cargo on the freighter that runs back and forwards to French Polynesia from Los Angeles. Well, that ship just arrived this morning in Papeete. It brings home the realities of getting things of bulk to this part of the world. Basically, this ship and a few others like it keep French Polynesia alive. It’s now anyone’s guess as to how long it will take for it to be unloaded and for our solar panels and associated kit to get to us, but at least it feels like progress.

We have been making really good progress elsewhere this week so here is a quick round up.
- Our new inner stay and furler for the staysail have been installed. Yeah! That took ages.
- We have taken the measurements for the staysail and sent them off to the sail maker. Our new sails should be on our way here next week. Yeah!
- We have repainted the coloured markings on our anchor chain as the previous set has worn off. We have the chain marked at 5-metre intervals so that we know how much is out. Given that we lived for much of 9 months at anchor, it’s not surprising they wear off. The chain itself looks in good order.
- We have fabricated and installed a rain catching system into the bimini roof, so that we have an efficient alternative for catching rain if our water maker fails when we are out in the boonies.
- We have improved the protection for our LED cockpit lighting, hopefully making the whole system more durable and long lasting.
- We have now permanently installed our digital TV antenna on the rear arch of the boat and run the cable through the bowels of the boat. Always a bit of a faff, but nice and tidy now. Making the bracket involved scouring the boat builders in town for some aluminium offcuts – a learning curve in itself.
- We stripped and repainted the instrument console that has been looking a bit tatty. Keeping paint on aluminium is a bit of a challenge. Much improved. Add to that – Kate has made new instrument covers from Polynesian material – very nice.
- We have a date for our full rig replacement. We will head for Taina marina tomorrow and the work starts on Monday.
- Our new spray hood build will start on Monday and should be done in about a week, after which we will be able to see through the plastic windows again.
- We have been working on the controllers and wiring for the new solar panels so that we can be ready when they are offloaded from the boat.

So all in all – pretty good progress – at last. Another couple of weeks should just about see us done (oh famous last words).

We still have quite a group of friends around the marina so our socially distanced social life keeps some of our evenings busy. Alongside all that we have been entertaining ourselves with the American election, Brexit and the COVID vaccine race, which is probably pretty similar to just about all our family and friends back home. So what’s going to get over the line first:
- Conclusion to the US election,
- Brexit negotiations,
- Approval of a Covid Vaccine, or,
- Barracuda leaving Tahiti?
Place your bets.

Could this be the week?

16 November 2020 | Papeete Marina, Tahiti, French Polynesia
Graham Walker

So, 0700 Monday has come and gone, and so have 0800 and 0900. No riggers! Mmm. It must be island time. This could be a big week of progress - if they do everything they said they would. So we wait. (They arrived just as I wrote this - phew...)

The first part of today's blog is about one of our neighbours. You may remember we posted about a helicopter taking off in amongst the boats - well, that was from SuRi, to our eyes a bizarrely ugly vessel. We recently saw this boat described as the offspring from a one-night stand between an oil field supply vessel and a superyacht. That said, it must have the most impressive floating and flying toy store we have ever seen on such a vessel (as well as a highly effective, far-reaching sound system which the crew like to demonstrate on their regular afterdeck parties). We have attached a link to her website. Worth a look at how the other 0.000000000001% live.

click here for more details of SuRi

BTW - we have become a bit hooked on Below Decks - a reality TV series about the life of crew on a super yacht.

Our social world here seemed to be getting smaller as various friends left for other parts, but suddenly a couple of ARC boats are back in the marina and our socially-distanced social calendar has some dates again.

This morning, having at last had sight of the riggers, we have made a schedule for getting finished and out of here. We are looking at sailing away on 14th December (note, we did not commit to a year!). Anyone want to place a bet?

Friday 13th

13 November 2020 | Papeete Marina, Tahiti, French Polynesia
Graham Walker
This is a special day, for two reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, it is G’s Mum’s birthday. Happy birthday, Pat! And secondly, it marks six months since we arrived in French Polynesia. We’d expected to be in New Zealand, wrapping the boat up and heading for home by now – but there you go, there are far worse places to be than Tahiti. Let’s hope that this time next year we will be celebrating Pat’s birthday with her in person, instead of by Zoom.

Well, what else has happened in Barracuda-land since the last blog? Most exciting was the arrival of a package from the UK. We’ve spent the last couple of months ordering various things which are either impossible to get here or just ridiculously expensive, but all aimed at keeping us self-sufficient for the next months. Boat bits such as new safety tape for the stairs, a spare dinghy fuel line, a cordless Dremel, a hot knife for cutting rope (and other things), water-maker spares; various medicines, contact lenses, spare glasses; a spare gas regulator (we had to use our previous spare when the regulator failed on route from the Galapagos to Tahiti), flag repair fabric and sail-makers’ needles… it’s a long list. Everything was sent to Angus who has packaged it all up and sent it on, tortuously, to Papeete via Paris through four sets of intermediaries as well as the Tahiti customs office. Better than Christmas! Yesterday’s main achievement – see today’s photo - was replacing the non-slip coating on our companionway stairs, which were no longer non-slip and looked awful. We’re rather pleased with it. Today’s great achievement was installing a new TV antenna and getting our French TV reception back – Yeah!

In other news, the new staysail furler has now arrived, and the rigger was all set to install it today… except he didn’t. This is the part that’s been the obstacle to getting our rigging done and our new sails made. Fingers crossed for the new schedule of Monday 7am.

Our walk through the graveyard

10 November 2020 | Papeete Marina, Tahiti, French Polynesia
Graham Walker
The city of Papeete lies on the coast backed by some steep hills. The hills are cut into by impressive valleys that run down to the sea – obvious geology, when you consider the amount of rain the island gets.

One of these valleys has been used as the Papeete’s l’Uranie cemetery since the 1860s. A few days ago we took a walk up that valley. You enter it from the edge of town, and are immediately hit by the colour of the place. It is absolutely full of flowers. As you walk on through, you climb to a series of terraces where new levels have been hacked out of the valley, to create multiple stages for the graves. It goes on and on. The cemetery seems to be generally full of large family plots with multiple generations all buried together. We have just had All Hallows (Le Toussaint) and in this part of the world that is not when you go trick or treating; it’s when families go to the cemetery to pray at their family graves, adorn them with flowers and sing and play music there too. The abundance of flowers at the moment may be a leftover from this – we are not sure if it is this way always. There were quite a few people tending the graves of their loved ones.

There is also a well-kempt but flowerless enclosure for the tombs of those who died, 1963-74, as a result of the nuclear testing programme in the Pacific.

Interestingly, gatherings here are currently limited to six persons but for Le Toussaint, there was an exception: up to 30 persons were allowed to gather together for the celebrations.

Something that struck us was the way that the same festival has become so altered in different parts of the world. Here it is would seem to be a chance to remember and celebrate the lives of relatives and ancestors. In the west it is seen as a chance for kids to get free sweets. Mmm…
Vessel Name: Barracuda of Islay
Vessel Make/Model: OVNI 395
Crew: Graham and Kate
About: Learning as we go
Extra: One day at a time
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