New Year in the Tuamotus 2021
16 January 2021
We arrived in Fakarava after a 2 day sail from Moorea...on one tack! wow. Went through the North Pass at 06:30 and saw a LOT of boats, 30+ in all. What a difference a year makes an of course, most are stuck in FP like us due to COVID. Christmas Day weather was much better here this year than last when we postponed for a day. After Christmas many boats began to depart and we are now down to about 12 as I write this.
After a few days on Dec. 30, we decided to head up to the North West "Dead End Pass" for New Years on Taou Atoll, actually our original destination when we left Moorea. It was a quick sail and we arrived in just 6 hours. After examining 3 different mooring we took one. We ran 2 anchor alarms and a track on the chart plotter the whole time. On New Years Eve the family at the Pension (bed and breakfast type thing) got in their boat and left so we had the whole place to ourselves for the duration. After day 3 we decided to head around to the SE pass and started off but once we go underway we realized we we not getting the winds we needed to arrive in good light (to miss the coral bommies) so we turned around and went back. This time we anchored in about 10' of pure sand with no coral heads, something that is not common around here.
We returned to Fakarava on January 5th taking a leisurely sail around the south side of the Atoll where is is mostly barrier reef and few islets. (Motus)
A few days later we had a opportunity to head to the Marquesas but after 25 miles in confused seas and not making great headway, I decided to turn around. It was not a pleasurable sail with confused seas to 3+ meters from 2 directions. Made good time back to Fakarava though. You can read more on that in our "Mini Blog" that is now part of our "Tracking" with predict Wind. Using the Iridium Go Satellite connection I can send short text only messages as we sail. Photos on that can only be uploaded with a "real WFI" connection.
So today we were getting ready to depart for Toau Atoll SE pass to spend a few days but as I got off the phone speaking with my Grandkids and Birthday wishes, I looked out and we had friends Guy and Yvonne on Nuwan 2 anchoring right beside us after an overnight sail from Ahe Atoll. Guess we are staying to catch up. We are in no rush to go anywhere these days.
December 2020, The year of the C.
17 December 2020
BACK IN TAHITI
Well, here it is, December 2020 and just about a week before Christmas. I promised in my last Blog that I would update more often; it didn’t work out that way.
So; to continue from where I left off in Nuku Hiva back in February. We enjoyed ourselves but unfortunately, I needed to return to Papeete so we departed Taiohae Bay at 0600 on February 18 for a non-stop, 767 NM run back. The trip was uneventful except for all of the squalls and weird lightning. Pop up Thunderstorms were everywhere for a couple of days. I say “pop-up” because they were just that. A small cloud would form beside us and within 15 to 20 minutes it was a squall pouring out lots of rain and wind gusts. 15 minutes after it started to rain from the cloud, the cloud was gone. I mean gone. And the lightning. I have seen lots of lightning in my days, especially as a pilot, but there was this, what I will call, “sparkling lightning” high in the sky on many occasions and was NOT associated with any cloud formation that we could see. It was as if the sky was electrified, zapping in multiple directions at the same time. Not big bolts of lightning but rather multiple thin arcs traveling in multiple directions as the same time. It looked reminiscent of the sparklers we would burn as kids on Fireworks day. As I said, weird.
We arrived back in Papeete on February 22 at 11:30 in the morning for a 4-day, 5.5-hour passage. We did have a couple of 175-mile days in there…
Back in Papeete we started to plan for my treatment, fly to France for an operation and so on. Then came COVID. My flights were cancelled so I ended up having the “open” surgery here in Papeete as well as 33 days of follow up treatments into August. Not fun, but here I am.
In May, after the surgery and prior to the treatments, we hauled the boat at Technimarine here in Papeete. At this point, Tahiti was COVID free as the whole country had been locked down. I mean locked down. People were not even allowed to swim by their boats in the anchorages. Road blocks were everywhere and you had to have a “attestation” form to go out with a complete itinerary of were you were going, shopping for groceries and so on.
We were allowed to make passage from the marina to the haul-out. No other boats were allowed to move without permission.
The haul out went well, the bottom of Hedonism was barnacle free but we repainted the bottom, replaced the propeller shaft seal bellows, changed the Cutlass bearing and serviced the propelled itself. The work went well and we were back in the water in 4 days. A little quicker that the almost 4 weeks in Panama…
It was about this time it finally settled in; we were not going anywhere. All destination countries were closed (and still are) so we were going to have to stay in French Polynesia. Could be worse places! The thing is, we needed to change our “standing rigging”. Our Insurance no longer covered “rig loss” or damage resulting from “rig loss” because the rigging was over 15 years old. Damage resulting clause meant that if we lost the boat due to a rig failure, insurance would pay nothing…
We were planning on having that done in either New Zealand or Australia but that was no longer an option. After doing much research, I arranged to have the standing rigging built in the USA and then have it shipped by Ocean shipping to Tahiti. I would hire a “rigger” to assist us (I am still in recovery mode at this point). The rigging arrived and we started with the fore and aft stays. The forestays with the furling foils was the heavy work and why I needed the riggers. I would like to say the project went well but I can’t. They worked WAY too quickly and it was obvious they did not have any respect for the boat. After day one, Laurie and I went to double check the toggle on the Solent Stay and the toggle pin was ¼ of the way out with no cotter pin! You could not see it; I had raised the drum up to inspect it. A failure would have been imminent.
We had a little chat with the rigger…
The other issue was the side stays. The fittings supplied for the lowers and uppers would not fit. The rigger announced that we would need new backing plates to go inside of the mast as they were a “different manufacture”. So, I got those ordered and had them shipped by Air. (Read: $$$) When they arrived I opened the box and (what would YOU do first thing???) checked the fit. They didn’t. The Hayn (manufacture of the fittings) spoon terminal did not fit the Hayn back plates. I called the rigger and he came over. His suggestion was to grind about 2mm off the spoon fittings. NOT on MY BOAT! The rig holds the mast up!!
So, I spent some time looking carefully at the fittings. Something did not look right. I climbed the mast and took down the existing lower stay and placed it side-by-side with the new ones. The angle of the spoon radius was definitely sharper. I took several photos and added arrows to them to show the differences and sent them off to the rigging supply company that assembled the stays. They came back and said: “Hayn terminal fittings should fit in Hayn back plates”. No kidding???? (that is not what I said to myself…)
I politely asked them to send my photos to Hayn, the fitting manufacture. They did and WITHIN THE HOUR they came back and said that Hayn agrees that there was a manufacturing defect and that THEY would build a complete new set of stays and air ship them to Tahiti at NO cost to us! Okay, now I am happy. I had the new stays delivered within a week!
Laurie and I completed the rigging change (Rigger no longer allowed on the boat…) with no issues. We tuned the rig as we have done many times previously and then wait for the sea trial to come.
I wonder how many other “defective fittings” are out there?
And my bigger question: Why was it ME that figured this out??? There was a defect at the manufacturing facility; (quality control??), the Rigging Company that built our new rigging specifically for our boat did not recognize the fitting looked “different”, and then the rigger here who told me to buy NEW backplates (there went a LOT of $$$), and then told me to grind down the fittings? Again, why was it me? They were the professionals.
As we waited for my strength to improve, we completed countless projects on the boat to be ready to leave when we could. And as that time approached in November, we set out to do the final chores to leave in a few days. Change the fuel filters, change the water pump impellers and so on. When changing the main engine sea water pump impeller, we noticed that it had been weeping water out of the drive shaft. No big deal, we have a spare complete pump! This should only take an hour or so…. NO. Staring at the assembly, it was apparent that the engine mount foot was in the way of removing one of the bolts of the water pump. Not wanting to believe that, (how incredibly stupid!!!, no one would design it like that, or would they…?) After a few Google searches it became apparent that I would need to remove the engine mount and foot to change the water pump! I spoke with a guy we knew here who works on diesels here and he confirmed that it needed to be removed.
We would need to lift the engine while doing this. Okay, this will be fun. Not really. Step 1; remove engine alternator, step 2; remove the 210 amp house bank alternator, step 3; remove the custom made house bank alternator mounting bracket, Step 4; remove the top bolt on the engine mounts so you could complete step 3!!! And here comes the fun part, realize that the stud on the engine mount is / was sheared off…AND you can NOT change just one engine mount!
The next day I was off to the Yanmar dealer in search of a pair of mounts. Nope. We are in Tahiti!!!
I was telling a friend who Captains a super yacht here (he and his wife have their boat here too!) of my woes and he offered that they had a shipment leaving Fort Lauderdale by air in a few days and I could add my mounts to their shipment! WOW! I have to say it here: A big THANK YOU to Guy and Pika for that!!! And in that vein of luck, I found a Yanmar dealer on the SAME street in Fort Lauderdale as Guy’s consolidator!
The mounts arrived in short order and I hired that diesel mechanic (Adrian) to help. He had done this project a few times on other Yanmars and had a special tools to assist in the project, (cut off wrenches, chain hoist and so on) not to mention the experience. He completed the job in less than 3 hours! It took me a few days to put everything back on the engine. (remember the alternators, brackets and so on?) Why so long? Well, as we are working doing this, we notice that the hoses that run from the engine to the hot water tank were cracked. Not leaking but with access to the engine with everything removed, now was the time to do that as well as drain and flush the coolant.
Another trip to town for hoses, clamps and…
So, the next day we drained the coolant, disconnect the heater hoses and “try” to pull the hose out from under the hot water tank but, the boat builder had first installed the hose, tie wrapped it carefully and THEN installed the hot water heater on top of the tie wraps! After a fair bit of time, swearing and sweating, I hung Laurie up side down by her ankles in a space not much larger than her head and she was just able to reach the offending tie wrap. Boats….
We got it all together and test ran the engine, checked engine alignment and all good.
Somewhere in there we also changed the water pump for the Generator. I decided to change the whole pump (we had a new one) given the Yanmar pump problem. The Generator is housed in a VERY tight, sound resistant container. Working on anything is not fun. But we got it changed and then realized that the heat exchanger had a couple of very small leaks. Small leaks eventually become BIG leaks in my experience. So, we removed the heat exchanger and were able to have it silver brazed by Mike (friend and refrigeration guy on his own boat) as temporary fix. In the meantime, I contacted the Fischer Panda distributer in the USA about a replacement after all, the fix was temporary. They got back to me fairly quickly and advised that they were not in stock and would need to be ordered from Germany at a cost of about $1500 USD! I contemplated building an external heat exchanger but ended up contacting the factory in Germany directly. (I need to be up at midnight to call them with the time difference) They quoted me $750 for the same exchanger. I did not ask why; I didn’t want the price to go up to the USA figure. They had stock and shipped via DHL air to Tahiti. It was here in less than a week and for some reason, NO duty, customs fees, brokerage fees or anything. Just $20 for delivery to the back of our boat! Normally, fees would run about $500 for that.
So, we finally got everything finished up and the doctor is telling us to “go sailing”. It appears that the treatment worked, at least for the time being. I’m not at 100% but I am out of here!
We left the Marina yesterday to go sailing, the first sail in over 9 months. First sail is supposed to be short to check the new Rig and ensure it was tuned properly. We came out of the entrance to the Port of Papeete into winds of 20 kts gusting to 27. We were double reefed with the Solent sail; the recommended sail trial for this is winds around 15 kts. We sailed out on one tack and then back on the other. Each time going forward to check the rigging for correct tension and that the mast was straight and true. All was good.
We then pulled into Point Venus (again) and cracked a beer. Free from the dock at last. The only negative on today is that we “missed” an opportunity to sail to the Tuamotus yesterday BUT WE DON’T CARE!! We don’t even know which Atoll we are heading to…wherever the wind goes!
It now looks like perhaps Sunday or Monday we will have the opportunity to head out NE to the Tuamotus. In the meantime, we might just hang out here or head over to Moorea and leave from there.
Off eastbound to Fakarava and Nuku Hiva
09 February 2020
We finally departed Marina Taina in Tahiti on Saturday December 14 after having a couple of Doctor appointments in Papeete. We only went around to the NE corner of the island to a good jump off point, Point Venus that we had been to a couple of other times.
Heading east or North East from Tahiti is usually against the wind so you need to watch and plan your timing to be able to sail in the direction that you want to go... I had been watching closely for a couple of weeks and Sunday looked like the wind would switch to the south of east sometime late Monday. The SPCZ (South Pacific Convergence Zone = NASTY weather!!) was hanging to the south of Tahiti and expected to stay there so we departed Point Venus after a final weather check Monday morning. So off we went. The skies were dark but everything was manageable. In fact, there was another boat off in the distance taking the same track as us.
Our "plan" was to sail northerly with the wind that was still slightly north of east and then turn NE bound when the winds backed. Well, that SPCZ has a mind of its own. It decided to head north from where it had been sitting for days. The weather turned a bit damp and the wind increased and then increased some more. That was accompanied by torrential rain. Not just a 15 minute squall, I mean torrential rain. Pressure washer type rain. ¼ mile visibility type rain. For over 6 hours straight!!! We were double reefed flying our heavy weather Yankee (high cut) Solent. The boat was handling it fine but it was a most definitely a very bump ride. We were close hauled and the waves were reaching 4 to 5 meters. We were flying off the crests of some and with the confused seas we were, well, getting wet. The rain was so heavy we had to shout at each other in the cockpit to be heard. Even though Laurie had recently waterproofed the Sunbrella Bimini over the cockpit it became thoroughly saturated. We could hear the dinghy anchor chain getting airborne in the dinghy high up on the arch but thankfully, the dinghy never budged. (We make sure of that always!!!)
I had noticed an AIS target about 10 miles north of us earlier - a French Commercial Fishing trawler. At around 2 AM I heard someone calling us by name (that almost never happens) and it was them calling to see if we were alright (and probably thinking who is stupid enough to be out here in this weather in a "little" sailboat). I thanked him for calling and ensured him we were fine but complained it was a little "damp". We were in the middle of that heavy weather at the time. BTW; who goes fishing in weather like that?
In the morning the rain let up and the wind turned off. Like 30+ knots to 5 in a couple of minutes. That might sound good but it's not! Remember those 4 meter waves? They are still there and with no wind to fill the sails and keep the boat "settled", it gets a bit uncomfortable. No choice but to fire up the engine and at least work the waves. It was kind of funny actually, seeing the waves smash into each other. Numerous times I though a dolphin or something was jumping but no, they were wave hitting each other and splashing straight up a few feet.
The wind finally filled in from the ESE and we were able to sail towards our preferred destination, Fakarava. When we first left we did not know for sure if we could hold that much "easting" and thought we might need to go more northerly to Rangiroa where we spent Christmas last year. Late in the afternoon the sun started to peak through a bit between intermittent squalls but that was normal.
The balance of the trip was uneventful. Seas were good and we had sunshine occasionally. And in fact, we made water for a couple of hours prior to arriving at Fakarava, North pass. We arrived at the pass just at about slack time (good timing Bob! (Luck)) and entered the Lagoon. The place was much busier than last year when there were only 3 boats in front of the community, Rotava. We arrived on Tuesday, just over 2 days after departing Point Venus having done 284 NM. Our track "looked like a boomerang" to quote a fellow sailor and friend who was watching us on our tracking site.
After settling in I did a "detailed inspection" to see how the boat faired in the rough weather. Nothing was broken! In fact, after being under the pressure washer for six hours the deck is as clean as a whistle! The only thing that I noticed later was the dinghy anchor chain was no longer in the bow but had migrated to the stern of the dinghy. At least it stayed on board with us!
We had a week before Christmas and our goal had always been to head to NE to Nuku Hiva, in the Marquesas to get out of the rainy unsettled weather for the season. Further from Cyclones too. So I watched the weather for that "opening" to allow us to go. Before we knew it, it was Christmas Day. We had Turkey (ok, a Turkey roll) and trimmings all ready for the special day except...the wind was strong and very squally. With the wind forecast to go northwest and be 25 kts plus, most boats left to tuck in close to shore on the north side of the Atoll. They were still in our visual range. We decided to stay put along with a couple of other boats. Actually, it was interesting watching people's decision making on when / where to move. Most everyone left with the exception of us and 2 or 3 other boats. My reasoning was, the weather event was to be short lived, maybe 24 hours and the "fetch" was not great. I had numerous boats stop by and ask us if we were leaving and I answered "I don't think so". Many answered back maybe they wouldn't. Then; one boat left to go behind the reef and almost right way the rest start to leave like a little parade and all anchored in the same basic area.
On Christmas Day the weather arrived and it was definitely squally but we were fine. The waves never got higher than maybe 18 inches. We were on a heavy mooring meant for larger vessels but none-the-less, we ran a track and kept the anchor alarm on in case the mooring failed. It was lousy enough that we elected to postpone Christmas dinner. I think I had leftovers Christmas day!
We called home in the morning to talk to family and give them our best wishes. When I hung up from Ryan's family I looked outside and this Cruise Ship had arrived and anchored not far away. I could just make the outline of the ship in the heavy rain. So, I watched as they started to deploy their landing shuttles. Out they came and down part way to the water and then stopped. There was no way they could land that thing against the concrete pier as the waves were coming directly from the NW and bouncing off. Not to mention, where are they going to go? Cruise ships do stop in Fakarava all of the time, it has one of the largest passes (if not the largest) of all the Atolls but there is not much to do other than sightseeing, renting a bicycle or taking a tour. But in the pouring rain? Not enough shelter and it was Christmas Day. I assume the locals knew it was coming and may have had a plan but with the weather the way it was; the ship sat there for a couple of hours and then brought the landing shuttles back up and headed off to Nuku Hiva according to their AIS.
I kept an eye on the weather and as New Year's approached, I thought I saw an opportunity to head NE in the making, still a few days away but it was looking promising. We were invited over to another boat for New Year 's Eve drinks and of course we discussed the weather. When I told them we were planning on leaving for Nuku Hiva in a couple of days they thought I was nuts. There were 5 boats wanting to go but no one saw the opportunity. I'm not sure why. There are a couple of factors, Hedonism can sail tight to the wind, tighter that many other monohulls and definitely tighter than cats. But that wasn't really the issue in my eyes, I saw that we would head north and then turn SE for a day or so and then turn almost due north to Nuku Hiva. Some close hauled sailing but not too bad. I was planning on a January 2 departure and we decided to go and anchor near the pass the day prior, New Years day. Once we got there I continued to check weather and decided we would postpone our departure until the morning of the 3rd. We spent the extra day on the beach and Laurie even went swimming...well, she got in the water.
We left on the morning of the 3rd and had a good sail to Nuku Hiva and almost exactly as planned; Northerly, east-south-east for a day and then north east. You can check out our track on the webpage. In fact the wind backed as we turned NE and the last day we were screaming into Nuku Hiva doing 7.5 to 8 kts on a reach. In fact, a good part of the trip we were on a reach. We did the trip in just less than 4 ½ days, a full day quicker than last year. Full disclosure; we motored for about 10 hours one night and 8 hours the next when the wind completely died. The first night the seas were like glass and pretty close to that on the second night of motoring.
We spent a couple of days in Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva and then went around to one of our favorite spots, Anaho Bay. There, as planned, we completed a bunch of annual heavy maintenance items on the boat: remove both Windlass' motors and gearboxes, inspect; remove and service all 6 winches and so on. Changing seals on gearboxes etc. is a lot easier than fixing it after it fails. Something from my airplane days I guess.
Not all work though, we took time to hike, visit the farmer and hike some more. I took a day and decided to hike "off trail" for a day. Well, I followed Goat trails mostly, at least those that were not vertical as so many are! So I made it up much higher than the normal "pass" that I climb for exercise or to use the phone. I have posted some of those photos but unfortunately, it was a bit hazy that day. If the opportunity presents itself, I'll go again on a clear day and with the better camera. The photo accompanying this post is as high as I got, about 3 hours to there. Hedonism is in the background, can you see it? Hint; closest boat to me, you can see Laurie?
And rain? Almost nothing in 3 weeks. All that weather is to the south. We did have one day of rain but that was sorely needed as there has been a major drought going on here for a couple of years. The difference in the lack of vegetation from our first year, to last year and then this year is astonishing. Many fruit trees that normally had fruit had none at all. Others that did were smaller. The mangoes seemed to fair better but even then, they were smaller unless they were in a valley. And after that day of rain? Pretty amazing watching the place start to turn green again, that quickly. They still need lot of rain though.
So that is it for now. I will try to keep the Blog up a bit better. To that end, our Predict Wind tracking page now has a small Blog that I can use for posting smaller updates under way. Hope you like it!