Rapturous!

27 June 2020 | Makemo Atoll, Tuamotus
22 June 2020 | Tahanea Atoll, Tuamotus
14 June 2020 | South Pass, Fakarava
08 June 2020 | North Pass, Fakarava
04 June 2020 | Papeete marina
20 May 2020 | Opunohu Bay, Moorea
13 May 2020 | Marina Taina
24 April 2020 | Marina Taina
16 April 2020 | Marina Taina
01 April 2020 | Marina Taina, Tahiti
22 March 2020 | Marina Taina, Tahiti
21 March 2020 | Marina Taina, Tahiti
19 March 2020 | MarinaTaina, Tahiti
09 March 2020 | Santiago
08 March 2020 | San Pedro de Atacama
22 February 2020 | Fitzroy and Torres de Paine
02 February 2020
29 January 2020
16 January 2020
03 January 2020 | Santiago, Chile

Pinned down by a Maramu

27 June 2020 | Makemo Atoll, Tuamotus
Susan
Pinned down by a Maramu
We left Tahanea heading for Makemo at midday, in time to go through the pass at low tide slack.
Not so much! There was already a strong current flooding in the pass, kicking up waves. Raptured
powered through it but it was evidence of the fact that, unlike the weather, the tides are much less
predictable. Most cruisers use an app called the �"Guesstimator�" and indeed, excess water in the
atoll from waves crashing over the reef can actually reverse the flow of the tidal current. The best
tools to use are a good set of binoculars and patience.
The weather prediction was for wind in the early stage of the passage dying down as we neared
Makemo. The models are freakishly accurate but they cannot predict the very local squall activity.
We passed through a squall that lasted at least 2 hours with wind above 20 knots right on the nose
and frequent heavy downpours. Squalls are usually short, about 15 to 20 minutes. This bashing
went on forever. It was miserable but the sun came out at sunset and the wind had died by
midnight so we arrived at Makemo with a calm sea and a clear dawn sky.
The good light allowed us a great view of the water in this pass. Greg called it The Devil's Cauldron�".
Patches of smooth, dark blue upwelling current broke into whirlpools and eddies separated by
steep waves coming from all directions. We had to rev the engine to 3,000 RPM to keep a straight
path.
We had two days anchored at the village during this lull in the wind. The anchorage was full as
cruisers gathered to reprovision before the coming blow. There are three stores in Makemo village
and, along with everyone else, we chose to go to the closest �"supermarket�". There are no windows
in the store and the entrance is through an opaque glass door. Inside, it is cool, but dim. The
shelves are close together but quite well supplied. Along the back walls are half a dozen deep
freezers packed with large cuts of beef, whole chicken, frozen vegetables, French fries and
precooked frozen fried food. On the vegetable table there were a few shriveled, sprouted potatoes
and onions. The supply ship arrives every two weeks, due next week. Slim pickings right now but I
did manage to snag a dozen eggs and 6 liters of UHT milk. While I was combing the shelves for
canned goods a van arrived from the local farm with bagged fresh-cut lettuce, tomatoes, green
onions and cucumber. The cruisers swarmed and half an hour later, there wasn't much left. It was
a bit embarrassing to feel like marauding locusts. But when the wind arrives, the cruisers will scatter
and life will go back to normal for the locals.
Having given us two days to rest and reprovision the weather gods sent up a high pressure cell from
the roaring 40's and created another squash zone of close isobars and high winds that dictated we
go forthwith to the South East corner and dig our anchor deep behind a reef to wait out 5 to 7 days
of 20 knots or more wind. The reef, no higher than 6 feet, separated us from the great ocean waves
and provided us with a break from the fetch (the building wind waves). However, it provided no
protection from the wind. There is a small motu on the reef but its wind shadow stretches no more
than 100 yards beyond the coral, too close even for catamarans. The holding ground is sand and
bommies, or boomies as the Australians say for the sound it makes when you hit them. Anchoring
is tricky, made more complicated by the three or four other boats that arrived with us. We had to
drop anchor 4 times before we got it right. Each time, Greg would put out chain, set a float to keep
the chain off the bommies, swim out to the anchor with mask and snorkel to check the set, climb
back on the boat, unclip the float, pull up chain, drive around looking for a sandy spot, drop anchor
with float and swim out hopeful that he wouldn't have to do it again. Finally, we got it right except
for that tall bommie that will catch the chain as the wind backs and swings the boat. So here we sit
listening to the halyards and shrouds whistling, feeling Rapture tug against her chain like a bull
against a nose ring, and wondering what to do with ourselves. It's too windy for the paddleboards.
Some of the other boats have a kiteboard and a wind surfer. Every day they are out there racing in
the wind. The motu has been taken over by a tribe of kids from at least 3 of the boats. They have
slung a hummock between the coco palms, built forts in the thickets, gathered all the coconut that
they shuck with machetes and have bonfires at night leaving their parents to worry about the boat.
Oh, to be young again, and yes, we did have to re-anchor when the wind backed.

An uninhabited Atoll

22 June 2020 | Tahanea Atoll, Tuamotus
Susan
It was time for a new adventure, somewhere we've never explored. After a week in Fakarava taking advantage of low winds we passed through the South Pass at 4:00pm during high tide slack. The pass was as smooth as glass
with barely an eddy. Phew, one more pass under our belts. We motored as slowly as we could through the night with light wind on our nose and fairly flat seas. At dawn we arrived at Tahanea, an uninhabited atoll 47 miles from
Fakarava. We went through the pass at ebb tide slack meaning that the tide was about to turn from flowing into the lagoon to flowing out of the lagoon. At that moment, the water was going nowhere which was exactly what we
wanted.

This atoll might be uninhabited but cruisers love it. There were already three boats anchored far apart behind the coco palms on the motu, the strip of land that has accumulated on the corral circling the atoll. One of them was
Jollydogs who we've heard on the single side band radio net. We were eager to meet them. September and Windward were the other boats. Who knew if they would become familiar names as we follow one another across the
Pacific.

After anchoring and catching up on sleep, we were ready to discover this new land. The whole of Tahanea is a National Park where no commercial fishing is allowed. It's a sanctuary for endangered Sandpipers and ground
nesting Boobies. Supposedly, this is one of the few atolls that have no rats. People only come here to collect the coconuts for copra. They use the coconut meat to extract coconut oil mainly for use in the cosmetic industry but
also processed for alimentary consumption, probably Trader Joe's coconut oil. We went hiking on the motu next to the pass. What is striking is that there is no rock on these atolls. Dry land is all broken down corral. As the corral
dries and ages it turns black, looking like lava flow but with fossil like shapes. A few scrub trees and coco palms are the only vegetation. These atolls in the Tuamotu archipelago are the oldest of the Polynesian islands. Their
central volcanic peaks have long since subsided below sea level leaving on its barrier reef that keeps growing to remain at sea level. Walking on the reef is to feel immersed in primal nature; wind, salt, waves, sun with no human
veneer to buffer the assault.


The next morning we were up early to snorkel the pass during the low tide slack. We drove our dinghy out into the pass and dropped down below the turbulence on the surface into the blue green calm. The pass was deep and
the current flowing into the atoll fast (timing the tides is guesswork). We hardly had time to adjust to the temperature before we were through the pass. We clambered back into the dinghy which requires a hup-two-three, massive
dolphin kick to get over the dinghy tubes. Back we went out to sea, this time nearer to the shallower edge of the pass where the corral is less worn down. The usual fish suspects were there, parrot fish, convict fish named for
their yellow bodies and black transverse stripes, Moorish Idols, but also huge 150 lb groupers, spotted eagle rays and grey reef sharks that hunt in packs and are definitely to be avoided unlike the timid black tip reef sharks. The
fish here in Tahanea are much larger than those in Tahiti presumably because they are not fished out.

The weather has been unsettled while we've been here. These atolls have no landmass to moderate the major high and low pressure cells that swirl across the Pacific. Tahanea has been in squash zone between low and high
pressure cells. This is the same weather configuration that put the two boats in Fakarava on the corral so everyone has been obsessively checking the weather prediction models. The prediction was for the wind to back anti
clockwise all the way around the compass as the clockwise rotation of the low pressure cell was replaced by the anti clockwise of the high. Last time, the wind blew 50 knots, not a time when you want to be anchored on a lee
shore and since the wind was constantly backing, everything was a lee shore. The question was when to move the boat. This time all 4 models of PredictWind were showing that the wind speed would be slow but the
atmosphere is so unstable that anything could happen. Along with the other skippers in the anchorage, we held a Grand Weather Conference on Jollydogs. It was a massive technology data dump with three or four different
apps downloaded by satelite being consulted and cross referenced trying to decide where was safe harbor. Finally, the consensus was to take our lumps early, on a South East shore with excellent holding ground when the wind
was blowing (hopefully slowly) from the West, and be set up for the much stronger South Easterlies when they arrived.

It was a great decision. We actually spent the rotation on the beach with the other cruisers shucking coconuts and watching our boats swing slowly around. Right now we're in the middle of the South East blow firmly anchored
with our nose pointed at that no-longer lee shore beach.

Fakarava 2020

14 June 2020 | South Pass, Fakarava
Susan Wells

Return to Fakarava

Returning to Fakarava this year feels very different. Of course, there are many fewer boats than last year. Anchored in front of the town were about a dozen boats as opposed to 50 or 60 last year. This must be what it was like 20 years ago before GPS and weather prediction made cruising much easier. Supplies seem sufficient although there was no fruit or vegetables for sale in the stores before the supply ship arrived and apparently the supply ships are no longer predictable. We spent 3 days at the village anchoring before heading South.

Several events were shaping up to be a challenge. It was blowing 17 knots from the East, perfect for a close reach sail 10 miles down the atoll to the Pakokota Yacht services where they have some reliable mooring balls. We had to raise the anchor with the possibility of the chain being wrapped around a corral head. We also needed to head over to town to fill up our diesel tanks.

The anchorage in front of the town, Ratavoi in Fakarava, is corral and rock providing poor holding. When we arrived, we had had to make 4 attempts before feeling that satisfying snub on the chain as our anchor dug in. The tragic sight of those yachts on the corral demanded that we had a "bomber set". Now however, we had to up anchor. In the 3 days we'd been anchored here, we'd seen several boats dealing with chain wrapped on corral heads. Greg and I had spent half a beer talking to a single hander about what we would do if we wrapped provoking all sorts of horror stories. However, we'd floated our chain and our anchor came up as smooth as silk. That was the first check on the list of perfect.

Now we had to motor over to the gas station next to a rough concrete wharf in front of the town. Fortunately, the wind was blowing us off the wharf but the thought of that concrete scouring our gel coat had me breathing short and deep . We hung all 6 fenders on that side and Greg eased very slowly close enough for me to step calmly off onto the wharf and wrap the spring line around an aft cleat which neatly snugged in the stern and bow so I could reach out and grab the bowline to secure it to a forward cleat. Faultless. It looked like we knew what we were doing. Check two. I was even complimented by a local lady (C'etais bien.Vous êtes très forte). But it was really the engine and the skipper who made me look good. Exiting wasn't quite so smooth. Using the spring line, we pulled in the stern a little too close and scraped lightly the Watt&Sea and the MOB strobe but miraculously neither were damaged. Check three.

It was only 8:30am by the time we headed down the channel with a double reef going 7 knots. The unmarked channel is narrow and there are strings of pearl farm floats along its sides. Our GPS showed the channel, but not the hazards. Out of the channel it is still deep but frequently corral heads called bommies rise up almost to the surface . We had to weave our way under sail around the floats and through the bommies. What a magnificent sail, straight down the channel almost the whole way with the sun shining and the sea sparkling "and the white sail's shaking". Check four.

When we arrived there were no mooring balls left so we found a smooth, deep patch of sand and dug in deep for the coming blow. We set an anchor watch alarm on our GPS so if we did drag, the alarm would wake us. However, we had a bommer set and a restful night. Check 5.

2 days later, we continued South, sailing all the way, to the South corner of Fakarava. This time there were only 3 boats in the anchorage instead of the 10 or 12 last year. This is lovely stretch of sandy beach with coco palms and a few scattered, wood and woven pandanas leaf houses. It was quite windy while we were there and we were glad to be anchored in deep sand with our chain floated above the occasional corral.

Finally, we could get to our long-awaited destination, the South Pass of Fakarava. This is a UNESCO World heritage spot with one of the best places for diving. Last year, we hadn't realized just how exceptional was the corral and diversity of fish. We can't scuba dive but the snorkeling was amazing. At slack tide, we drove our dingy to one end of the pass and then just let the slow-moving ingoing or outgoing current carry us over the reef and the corral. Here are a few pics:


Greg at the helm


Close Encounter!!!


Richness of the reef at the South Pass


Susan's new canine friend


Pair of sharks

Passage to Fakarava

08 June 2020 | North Pass, Fakarava
Susan Wells
Vessels Aground!

We are peacefully anchored in the atoll of Fakarava after a calm, smooth sail from Tahiti; you can see our new location on the map. Just to keep us on our toes, on arrival in Fakarava we noticed two boats, a monohull and a catamaran, tangled together and aground on the reef. The day before we departed, a nasty low pressure system spun up from New Zealand across Tahiti and the Tuamotus. In Fakarava, sustained winds over 40 knots impacted the anchorage. We are not sure which boat dragged anchor, but it appears it took the other one with it aground. Our guess is the monohull dragged the cat onto the near shore reef. A sickening site to behold keeping us glued to PredictWind and making our nights a little less peaceful. (There's nothing to worry us in the next 7 days)

I'm reverting back to Moorea and Tahiti to keep you entertained. When we were in Moorea, the island was slowly opening up from the lockdown.There were several stores still closed and any businesses providing services for tourists were shuttered and abandoned. Many people were still wearing masks even though the virus is no longer circulating in Polynesia. The kids have gone back to school; the older ones to boarding schools and colleges on Tahiti and the little ones to the local l'ecole maternelle. There are many children in Polynesia so one misses them. On the other hand there are many unemployed since tourism is non-existent. They gather on the plazas, sitting on the grass in the shade of a palm or on the long verandas surrounding the government buildings, chatting amiably and listening to very loud Polynesian music on huge boom boxes. The atmosphere is very different from a year ago when Tahiti and Moorea were aspiring to first world status.


Departing Tahiti for Fakarava

One of our favorite restaurants, Rudi's French Bistro, had just reopened and we booked for dinner at 6:30pm. We booked, not to reserve a table, but if we hadn't they wouldn't have been open. We were anchored across the deep water channel about ¼ mile from the restaurant, an easy stroll had we been on land. It gets dark around 6:30pm so we piled in our dinghy at 6:00 with just enough light remaining to thread our way through the coral making careful note of the angle between lights on shore and anchor lights across the channel in order to know where to turn in the dark on the way home. Normally, an evening at Rudi's would be an occasion to dress up for but it's hard to look sophisticated with my white hair severely drawn back to combat the flyaways and wearing something convenient for clambering in and out of the dinghy with Teva sandles for stepping out into the water and pulling the dinghy up on the beach. I'd considered packing a dress in the backpack and changing in the restroom when I got there but as it happened we were the only guests that night. Sid, the maitre d' , a garrulous fellow, seated us with nary a glance but let it slip by asking, " So, where are you anchored?"

After a week in Moorea we reluctantly returned to Tahiti. We had packages to pick up and we were having new solar panels installed.This time we stayed in the Marina Papeete with access to shore power and unlimited water, however, no bathroom and shower facilities since the marina is being renovated. In fact, we really benefitted because , on the day we arrived, the marina lowered their prices in order to attract more cruisers. We were charged $90.00 a week instead of the usual high season rate of $270.00. At the same time, the government closed all the anchorages near Papeete. However, the marina is still half empty and the anchorages still have boats. If there are no facilities, why pay for what you can do on your own boat for free.
We, however, loved having long, hot showers for the first time since Chile, in the privacy of our own boat. We also went out for espresso and croissants every morning and took full advantage of the chandleries.

Since March, we have noticed that our solar panels started producing less and less power. It looked like they were delaminating as a thin film of plastic was peeling at the edges and wherever they had been scratched. Greg did some research and discovered that that thin film was actually shipping film that should have been removed when the panels were installed. We tried to remove the film on one of the panels but the sun had turned the glue into an opaque crusting that no chemical could remove. Greg contacted the manufacturer in Italy who told him that they would replace three of the four under waranty. We paid for the fourth so they'd all be new.


Installation of the new solar panels

The shipping was a nightmare with a pandemic underway and countries closed to flights.. It took 5 weeks to arrive routed from Italy through Germany, Manchester, London, Cincinnati, LA, Sidney, Aukland where it sat for a while waiting for Tahiti to accept flights. Interestingly, it arrived on the same plane that brought in two other packages from the US mailed just 3 weeks previously, which was convenient for us. When we unpacked the solar panels we found that the shipping film was now pink. This must have happened to other customers and that's why they agreed so readily to replacing them for free. We engaged Marine Electronic to do the installation, the same company that installed our wind generator. With the Watt&Sea hydro generator, we now have 3 green energy sources on Rapture. They keep up with the electrical load on the boat even when we occasionally run the microwave and tea kettle - high draw appliances. It can't keep up with the water heater or Air conditioning. We need shorepower ( or diesel) for that. So we've drastically reduced our fuel consumption unless we're not sailing, there's no wind and the sun doesn't shine.

We're off

04 June 2020 | Papeete marina
Susan Wells


Maybe tomorrow if the propane tank is delivered on time. We will sail South West to the Tuamotos. The wind is favorable so we pushed up our preparations to be able to get out before the wind changes. The voyage will take about 2 days and 2 nights. Our destination is Fakarava where we went last year. It is usually an upwind sail from Tahiti but the current prediction is that we will have the wind on our quarter, possibly even a beam which is Rapture's favorite point of sail.

We did it!

20 May 2020 | Opunohu Bay, Moorea
Susan Wells
Fishermen at dusk in Opunohu Bay

We escaped the mooring ball and Marina Taina. We are now anchored in the beautiful Opunohu Bay in Moorea. Our cruising life resumes.



Actually, it wasn't us that did it! It was the Polynesian people and their leadership who made it possible for French Polynesia to contain the spread and eradicate the virus. There have been plenty of complaints and the economy here has taken a beating. But today, May 20, the islands have gone two weeks without any new cases and the deconfinement has been declared. We are free to continue our voyage, in fact, encouraged to move out. Happy to oblige, we left.

This time when we slipped our mooring, we weren't planning on returning. Our plan was to circumnavigate the island of Tahiti over the next week stopping in at remote anchorages. The weather forecast was for wind building over the weekend and we wanted to be tucked in safe behind the reef before it came. For the first time, we decided to hoist the dinghy and strap it on the foredeck sparing us the task of breaking it down and reinflating it when we got there.

As we motored through the pass it was apparent that the wind and waves were already getting up. After about an hour of bashing into the wind making barely 3 knots with short steep waves slewing the dinghy in her straps we realized that we wouldn't get in to our first anchorage until after dark. You don't go through unfamiliar passes in the dark! No worries, we didn't have a schedule. We turned 180 degrees and headed for Moorea instead. What a relief! Apparent wind went from 26 knots to 15. We were running with the waves, not against them. What's more, our speed went from 3 knots to eight knots, with the engine off and only the main flying. We gave Otto a break from the flukey winds and unsettled seas and hand steered the whole way. It's a thrill to feel the boat with your feet and hands as you counter the kick of the wheel when a wave shoves the rudder and you guide her firmly back on course. This is what sailing is all about. By 15:00 hours we were safely anchored in the shelter of Opunohu Bay with the kettle on for tea.

Check out the photo gallery Rapa Nui-Tahiti-Moorea for some photos taken during and around the lockdown.

Vessel Name: Rapture
Vessel Make/Model: Caliber 40 LRC
Hailing Port: Berkeley, CA
Crew: Greg Newman, Susan Wells
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Rapture's Photos - Main
11 Photos
Created 14 June 2020
6 Photos
Created 8 June 2020
21 Photos
Created 23 May 2020
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Created 23 May 2020
12 Photos
Created 8 March 2020
33 Photos
Created 8 March 2020
57 Photos
Created 22 February 2020
58 Photos
Created 21 January 2020
19 Photos
Created 21 January 2020
34 Photos
Created 30 December 2019
Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora Bora
83 Photos
Created 9 June 2019
14 Photos
Created 23 May 2019
15 Photos
Created 15 April 2019
7 Photos
Created 15 April 2019
2 Photos
Created 24 November 2018
50 Photos | 2 Sub-Albums
Created 30 May 2018
9 Photos
Created 8 August 2017
Photos of the boat, people and places in the Bay.
3 Photos
Created 24 June 2017
Memorial Weekend 2017 Greg, Susan, Mike and Toni Spicer, Nick Spycher
11 Photos
Created 23 June 2017
29 Photos
Created 21 May 2016
July 25 to August 15 San Franciso, Half Moon Bay, Monterey, Morro Bay, Cojo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz Island, Santa Rosa Island, Santa Barbara Island, Catalina.
15 Photos
Created 23 August 2015
The Food Saver vacuum sealer is a really useful device. The aluminum packs contain a 2 person serving. They just need to be defrosted and thrown in the oven - no prep work required. We could bake all 3 at once, or the crew that is sleeping can bake theirs when they wake up.
6 Photos
Created 24 June 2014
Memorial day cruise from San Fran down to Monterey, but we turned West at Santa Cruz for about 50 miles before tacking North for a direct beam reach back to San Fran.
12 Photos
Created 18 June 2014
The second overnight cruise. San Fran North West to Pt. Reyes, then south cutting east to Pillar Point and back to San Fran.
21 Photos
Created 18 June 2014
2 Photos
Created 6 May 2014