GOOD FORTUNE IN RAIATEA
22 August 2013 | Raiatea, French Polynesia
Raiatea, French Polynesia
A few weeks ago we had a short 30 mile sail from the Island of Huahine to Raiatea, French Polynesia's Leeward administrative capital. There was 30 knots of wind with a following 4 meter sea, business as usual. The difference on this passage was when we entered the lagoon pass Maestro's steering jammed for a short few seconds and would not go to starboard? The autopilot finally pushed her through. It was only 2 more miles to the anchorage and steering seemed to return to normal. As we approached the mooring field, (Maestro is too large to tie up to an unknown mooring), we wanted to quickly get our anchor down so we could address any potential steering issues. In Raiatea the anchorage is 100 ft depth and it was blowing 30 knots with gusts to 40 knots. While hand steering she was jamming amidships at port to starboard. We dropped the hook to take a look at the quickly deteriorating steering. Action set in and Len pulled the steering cable plate in the cockpit, to look at the cable, and threw the aft stateroom bed into the air to look at the quadrant located under the berth. Meanwhile - I noticed, "We've got a problem". Len's head was buried deep in the console and I was looking at Maestro sail into a large 100 ft rusty steel abandoned vessel. "FENDERS!" (that's not ALL that was said?!?) Len maneuvered forward in time so that we gently pushed off and we realized that we were not holding in the 100 ft depth. At some point in here we put the vessel in reverse and she squeeeeeeeled LOUDLY at us. We both looked at each other for a long second and thought, "no way". Reverse gear is out, not working, NADA. MURPHY LIVES ON BOATS! STAY CALM. So.... Its blowing 30 knots, we have little steering, no reverse and we cant set the hook easily in the 100 ft depth. We raised the anchor enough to clear the sea floor and with only forward we tried to move into a shallow area clear of vessels. The wind was too strong and Maestro was caught in a gust and without starboard rudder blew us back down onto the starboard side of a moored catamaran. No one was onboard. The bow thrusters wouldn't' control the vessel, in over 25 knots it seemed useless. We lightly touched s/v Vision and blew off her and tried to maintain some control. At that point we called for vessel assistance over the radio. We were quite reluctant to radio for help before this as we thought we would be able to manage anchoring and fixing our problem. Lesson learned on many levels here. So - When you think things can't get worse -they can. Maestro was struggling in the wind without steering and I tried to manage her and brought her up to the starboard side of Vision. I looked behind us and we were now trailing a vessel! Our anchor or chain had picked up a mooring line with a vessel attached to it! OH-MY-GOD? SERIOUSLY? When I thought I couldn't take any more, Maestro decided to side tie to the Port side of s/v Vision. The wind direction let us rest against her, safely, ceased our movement around the anchorage and now two vessels, with Frenchmen, had come to help us sort out the fiasco. Language = Communication? Or is it the other way around? We were stressed and tried to convey our situation to each of the parties arriving. The French have a way of telling you how bothersome you are without actually saying it, lol. They were quite irritated we were having issues - it must have been lunch or something? Enter: GABE to the rescue. French Canadian sailor aboard s/v Cariba -had dinner with him and his beautiful wife Issy just the other night. THE BEST THING about cruising is the support you receive from fellow sailors. Gabe speeds up in his dinghy and says, "So sorry I wasn't here sooner!! Don't worry - ive been in way worse situations!". He gets a quick update from Len on the situation and proceeds to help translate, fend off our vessel from the "one behind us caught on the mooring line". Good thing because the local Frenchmen wanted us to drop our entire ground tackle/chain - Len was not having any part of it. The yard manager had recently told us they have picked off 106 boats from the reef - we didn't want to be another one! And the vessels they had could not even come close to towing Maestro, especially in the wind condition. Next thing you know Gabe's got his dive gear on and another Canadian from VICTORIA! who is a shipwright mechanic onboard. They were cool, calm and collected - just what we needed. The locals released the moored vessel behind us and moved it to another buoy. This actually freed us from our side tie to s/v Vision but we needed to act quickly and again try to anchor. We dropped every bit of chain we could muster and then attached another 150ft of chain to equal a 500 ft chain. Finally, we were set and the wind wasn't letting up. It had been blowing 30 knots for 15 days. Gabe dives the boat and finds the ½ inch stainless steel rudder strap, which holds the rudder in place, completely broken. Good news is that we are anchored right in front of a boat yard. One of the only places you can get repairs, other than Tahiti, out here. All good - Gabe removed it and ready for repair in the morning. The owner of s/v Vision now comes back to his boat and quickly over to our - there was some small cosmetic damage. He's got insurance papers. I said, "Want a beer?"
Day two: Its 8am - We are at the shipyard looking to fabricate a new rudder strap. Gabe and Len have a plan - Gabe can translate = perfect. Just one thing - the yard manager needs to see us about his moorings. Okay - no problem, how can we help? He says - here is a bill for $1600 USA to put my moorings back since you dragged that boat it will cost me that much to put them back. ($%$^^*) Now, keep in mind we desperately need to work with these people to fix our issues, we are still a little dumbfounded and its 8:15am. I could see Len's face and I was just trying not to breakdown. We told "Jock" - (You know, Jack in French) - we'd dive it ourselves and inspect the situation. Anyway - Gabe took the GoPro camera down to 105 Ft and the mooring was wrapped around a GIANT coral head -we didn't even move the chain? "Jock" didn't have a problem when we told him we had video of the seafloor. "Errr, Umm, ok, no problem, then".
Fabrication of the rudder strap was quite easy - but we couldn't have done it as quickly without the help of Gabe and his ability to communicate. THANK YOU everyone who helped us through these initial days with support. We were so glad to have several of our friend's boats in the area. Always, Thanks for the laughs. Two days later we had steering and moved the boat over to a secure Marina where we could address the transmission. It has been a gorgeous spot - wish this was a safe location for cyclone season. We have been watching the sunsets over Bora Bora every night!
Reverse Clutch plates were shattered. Not sure why - misalignment or whatever? French Terry (he smokes and works for Jock) pulled the transmission here two weeks ago and we sent the parts to New Zealand for fabrication. Today they arrived back and Terry is installing now. Crossing fingers all will go well. It has been a 3 week process of decision making and shipping to get this sorted. The saga continues... Let's hope we don't see another bill from "Jock".
In the meantime, we have been exploring Raiatea and Len's birthday was on Aug 14 so we jumped aboard friends s/v Double Diamonds Lagoon catamaran and sailed with them over to Bora Bora. All of our buddy boats were congregating over there before the big push to Tonga, Fiji and/or New Zealand for cyclone season. We had a GREAT four days with everyone, sad to see them go but will cherish the fond memories we shared with this years cruising group. What a wonderful bunch of friends. Hope to see many of you out cruising next year!
Good fortune that this didnt happen at sea, in a more remote location, we had friends to help, noone was hurt and the list goes on. I think we had a guardian angel for this one!