Tumultuous Uproar

A cruising boat with a racing problem...

12 November 2019
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12 August 2019
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13 July 2019
22 May 2019
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28 February 2019
26 February 2019

Tikehau, back to the Tuamotus

06 December 2019
Lisa Alberte
Our beat to weather brought us to Tikehau. Ah, to be back in the Tuamotus. The only thing in common with Tahiti are smiling Polynesians. With wind from the SE, we found a quiet anchorage in the SE end of the atoll. But first we had to enter the pass into the lagoon.

Much has been written and discussed about the Tuamotu passes. The Tuamotu atolls are rings of coral surrounding a lagoon. Motus are islands that have built up on the coral rim. Older atolls have extensive motus that may be 15 miles long. Other areas have just dots of small motus and coral reefs awash with waves.There are usually only one or two passes in the atoll where boats and rushing tides can enter and exit.

Even though tides are only about a foot, there is a lot of water forced through the passes when the tide changes. Wind and ocean swell bring additional water into the lagoon over the coral reefs. That water too has to exit the narrow passes. There is even a Tuamotu Pass Calculator in circulation that a scientific minded cruiser compiled to predict the safe times to enter and exit the passes.

Current in the passes can be in excess of 6 knots. That's fast for cruising boats with a top motoring speed of less than 8 knots (some far less). One look at the standing waves when this current is against the wind will turn even a seasoned sailor pale! It can look like the devil's own tempestuous sea!

We have studied the Calculator and come up with our own, easy formula. We negotiate passes an hour after high tide or an hour before low tide. If we don't hit these times, we judge for ourselves if the pass is safe. So far, we have just forged ahead. There have been some exciting rides but nothing dangerous. But we don't underestimate the sea and know we must always use sound judgment.

The Tikehau atoll is about 12 miles long and 8 miles wide. As with all atolls, coral heads can be anywhere. We always watch carefully when sailing or motoring in an atoll. Depth can change from 150 feet to 2 feet in a boatlength!

Weather forecast indicated a trough of low pressure was coming. We were just getting comfortable in the SE corner of Tikehau but with a passing trough, wind would swing west then north. There was a small anchorage just north of the pass that would be good protection in these conditions. Uproar made the trip back to the pass, just to be safe. We were able to follow our breadcrumbs (previous track line on chart plotter) without watching for coral heads. Yes the wind did swing around but was light. We would have been fine in our initial anchorage. But near the pass was a small motu we explored. Two men were living there with three nice dogs. They harvested copra (dried coconut meat for coconut oil) and lived on fish. These guys were most welcoming. It is hard for us to imagine their lives in such primitive conditions. Their house was the size of a garden shed and not as nicely built.

Back to the main village, we found settled weather and a quiet anchorage. The village is cute. There are some high-end resorts nearby and the village provides infrastructure and employees. We were able to visit some snack restaurants for typical Polynesian dishes (steak, chicken or fish and fries, or chow mein). Ocean Blue was also anchored nearby. We met Derek and Leslie in Tahiti. We enjoyed a few cocktail hours and dinners with them.

Tikehau has a Manta Ray cleaning station! This is a coral head where Manta Rays visit to have small wrasses swim in their mouths and eat parasites. We dinghied there with Ocean Blue on a gray day but were rewarded by the sight of a huge Manta getting dental work done. He was about 8 feet across. We watched him slowly circle for about 20 minutes. These majestic creatures are some of our favorite friends in the ocean.

Sailing north in the atoll, we anchored near the Garden of Eden. We were told it was an amazing organic farm. It was much more! Elijah Hong, prophet of the New Testament Church of Taiwan, visited in 1993 and had a vision of the original Garden of Eden. He established a commune there inhabited by his followers. They readily show visitors their farm and sell produce to cruisers. As far as we could determine, their mission is simply to teach people to eat clean food and stay away from GMO or chemical laden foods. Our guide had lived there for 20 years. He is married and has two small children they home school. There are only 3 or 4 families living there. The church has similar farms in California, Taiwan and South Africa.

He explained that with coconut palms, you can grow almost anything. Their ingenious methods are an example of determination and hard work. They shred coconut fronds and mix with chicken manure. This compost is the only soil available on the motu. From it they grow lettuce, cabbage, beans, vanilla, bananas, papaya, eggplant, citrus, etc. There were even cherry and mulburry trees! They have to dig ditches around the coconut groves to keep their roots from invading the vegetable gardens. Pigs and chickens are special breeds that are naturally healthy, not bred for rapid growth. They even have a sea salt house for essential minerals.

Our host filled our bags with veggies including hot peppers he claimed were too hot to eat. That's a challenge to the Uproar crew. We made some hot sauce from them named Black Devil sauce!

They do have a gift shop where they sold their own pearls, salt and coconut oil. We bought some but the veggies were free. We sure enjoyed the visit and learned that with determination, farming on the rocky motu is not only possible but can be prolific.

From the Garden of Eden to the pass was uncharted water. We rely on our GPS chartplotter for safe navigation. This part of the atoll was simply a blue patch on the chart. Even though the afternoon was gray, we carefully motored 6 miles to the pass anchorage for our departure. We are learning to be self-reliant as are the farmers at the Garden of Eden.

Beating to weather and beaten up

25 November 2019
Lisa Alberte
We have started our journey back into the Tuamotus from the Leeward Islands (Bora Bora, Huahine, Raitea, Tahaa). Many cruisers migrate east during typhoon season where it is considered to be safer from tropical storms.

Leeward means downwind. Traveling east is decidedly upwind. Uproar is a good boat for sailing upwind with her racing design. She even seems to enjoy beating (term for sailing upwind). But for her passengers it is a different story. Beating is an appropriate term. Waves and wind are against us and we have to claw through, often with waves washing over the deck.

Since we have left the Leewards we have had three upwind beats of over 100 miles. From Huahine to Moorea, our forestay pulled out of the deck. As previously blogged, we were extremely lucky to not have lost the mast. I flew to LA to bring back the necessary parts and spent about $7,000 on the repairs. We enjoyed a month in Tahiti making repairs but our confidence was surely shaken!

This made leaving our protected anchorage in Tahiti difficult but several weeks ago, we departed for Maketea, the nearest Tuamotu. Yes, it was another beat. The seas were confused which made for yet another uncomfortable ride. We left in the afternoon, beat through the night and arrived in the morning. When we arrived, the anchorage was so rolly, we didn't even launch the dinghy to go ashore.

“Let's try to sleep and leave at 3am for Tikehau.” said Lisa. We were beat from the beat so actually slept on the constantly rocking Uproar. Fortunately, the 80 miles to Tikehau were not too bad, more of a close reach than a beat. But the anchorage that first night was again rolly. We moved around Tikehau and found some quite spots to anchor and loved the place. We were there almost two weeks.

Two days ago, we anchored near the Tikehau pass preparing to exit the next day. It was so windy (and rolly) that we couldn't even lift our dinghy on deck. The next morning, still windy, we decided to wait another day. Neither of us slept well the night before. That day, the wind laid down, we stowed the Houdinky on deck, grilled steaks and had a good night sleep. Weather looked good for departure the following day.

Yesterday we motored through the pass and had to continue motoring north before we could round the tip of Tikehau and head ENE to Ahe, 130 miles distant. Weather forecast said it would be a close reach, not a beat! But we would have to motor directly into the wind for 10 miles or so to round the north end of the atoll. As they say, the wind blew and the sea flew! We finally could raise sail but it was a beat, once again.

I yelled, “I've had enough of this!” Lisa was disgusted and uncomfortable too. An hour later, the wind settled down. We were finally sailing in some decent conditions. After a big squall, wind and seas settled down again. Our last 110 miles were a beat, but in smooth, rolling seas and only 10 knots of wind. This was perfect for Uproar and us. She showed us just what a great sailboat she is by averaging over 6 knots with reefed main straight at Ahe.

We entered the Ahe pass to a very tranquil lagoon and proceeded to a quiet anchorage. Looking at our tentative plans, this should be the last of beating upwind we will do for the season. After reaching up and down the western Tuamotus, we will sail downwind to Tahiti, Moorea and the Leeward Islands for our last cruising in French Polynesia.

For now we are done beating and being beaten up. But we know well, we will visit those conditions again in our travels. It's just part of the cruising lifestyle.

PS. The picture is Uproar beating to weather in the Tahiti Pearl Regatta in ideal conditions, quite the opposite of what we experienced.

One Particular Harbor....discovered

20 November 2019
Russ Whitford
Ia ora te natura
E mea orofa teie ao nei.

Any parrothead who has been to live Buffet concert has tried to sing these words. Few know their origin or meaning. We have been on a voyage of discovery for 4 ½ years and "One Particular Harbor" is no longer a mystery to Uproar.

"Bobby made being Polynesian cool!" Steve from Liiward introduced me to Bobby Holcomb's music by playing "My Island Home" at every music venue he played. Steve and Lili have been cruising French Polynesia for quite awhile. Steve loves to play guitar and sing. He arranges music shows at local bars or even on the dock of a marina. Steve knows the local musicians and always puts together great talent. Steve is also an avid Bobby Holcomb fan.

Bobby Holcomb was born in Hawaii but traveled extensively, studying art and music. He put down roots on the idyllic island of Huahine in the Leeward Islands of FP. Bobby lived a simple life with his friend, Dorothy near the sacred, ancient site, Fare Potee. Bobby always wore a crown of leaves for a hat, Polynesian style. He rode his bike into the town of Fare and played music with friends. Bobby would climb through the jungle strung with vanilla vines to the ancient mare ruins, above Fare Potee. There, he would compose music, draw and paint.

Steve and Lili took Lisa and me up to this mare. The view was spectacular, quite an inspirational site. It was a perfect place to sit quietly and partake of nature. We felt closer to Bobby. We also felt close to Jimmy Buffet. This was where he and Bobby composed the Tahitian verses of "One Particular Harbor."

Jimmy Buffet was staying on Moorea and started composing this song. He traveled to Huahine as part of his FP experience. Someone mentioned to Bobby that a famous, American singer/songwriter was visiting. Bobby didn't show much interest but the two got together. Soon, a mutual respect grew. Bobby took Jimmy up to his artistic touchstone, the stone mare above the jungle. There they composed the Tahitian verses to "One Particular Harbor." Yes, Bobby Holcomb is given credit on the 1983 record label.

Sadly, Bobby Holcomb died of cancer in the 90's. Steve and Lili have formed a relationship with Dorothy and she has related many stories of Bobby to them. We have met Dorothy a few times and hope to talk with her about Bobby next visit to Huanine. Bobby became a spiritual leader for Polynesian youth as well as talented painter and songwriter. I mentioned to Lili that he was a Polynesian Bob Marley. She said he had been told that and didn't like the comparison. I can only speculate that it was due to his humble nature.

Was the reader expecting me to point out the most beautiful and treasured harbor from our voyages? We are always discovering that harbor. Before we left Milwaukee on our cruise, we read a lot of books written by world cruisers. Cruisers have a lot of time on their hands and write a lot. I would keep a note pad handy and write down the places that seemed the most spectacular. But I threw away that note pad.

Lyn Pardee, famous world cruiser and author, said, "Discover your own perfect beach or island. Don't rely on the experiences of others to guide your voyage." Uproar continues to take us to one particular harbor.

Oh, the Polynesian verses translate to "Love nature, protect nature."

One Particular Harbor....discovered

20 November 2019
Russ Whitford
Ia ora te natura
E mea orofa teie ao nei.

Any parrothead who has been to live Buffet concert has tried to sing these words. Few know their origin or meaning. We have been on a voyage of discovery for 4 ½ years and “One Particular Harbor” is no longer a mystery to Uproar.

“Bobby made being Polynesian cool!” Steve from Liiward introduced me to Bobby Holcomb's music by playing “My Island Home” at every music venue he played. Steve and Lili have been cruising French Polynesia for quite awhile. Steve loves to play guitar and sing. He arranges music shows at local bars or even on the dock of a marina. Steve knows the local musicians and always puts together great talent. Steve is also an avid Bobby Holcomb fan.

Bobby Holcomb was born in Hawaii but traveled extensively, studying art and music. He put down roots on the idyllic island of Huahine in the Leeward Islands of FP. Bobby lived a simple life with his friend, Dorothy near the sacred, ancient site, Fare Potee. Bobby always wore a crown of leaves for a hat, Polynesian style. He rode his bike into the town of Fare and played music with friends. Bobby would climb through the jungle strung with vanilla vines to the ancient mare ruins, above Fare Potee. There, he would compose music, draw and paint.

Steve and Lili took Lisa and me up to this mare. The view was spectacular, quite an inspirational site. It was a perfect place to sit quietly and partake of nature. We felt closer to Bobby. We also felt close to Jimmy Buffet. This was where he and Bobby composed the Tahitian verses of “One Particular Harbor.”

Jimmy Buffet was staying on Moorea and started composing this song. He traveled to Huahine as part of his FP experience. Someone mentioned to Bobby that a famous, American singer/songwriter was visiting. Bobby didn't show much interest but the two got together. Soon, a mutual respect grew. Bobby took Jimmy up to his artistic touchstone, the stone mare above the jungle. There they composed the Tahitian verses to “One Particular Harbor.” Yes, Bobby Holcomb is given credit on the 1983 record label.

Sadly, Bobby Holcomb died of cancer in the 90's. Steve and Lili have formed a relationship with Dorothy and she has related many stories of Bobby to them. We have met Dorothy a few times and hope to talk with her about Bobby next visit to Huanine. Bobby became a spiritual leader for Polynesian youth as well as talented painter and songwriter. I mentioned to Lili that he was a Polynesian Bob Marley. She said he had been told that and didn't like the comparison. I can only speculate that it was due to his humble nature.

Was the reader expecting me to point out the most beautiful and treasured harbor from our voyages? We are always discovering that harbor. Before we left Milwaukee on our cruise, we read a lot of books written by world cruisers. Cruisers have a lot of time on their hands and write a lot. I would keep a note pad handy and write down the places that seemed the most spectacular. But I threw away that note pad.

Lyn Pardee, famous world cruiser and author, said, “Discover your own perfect beach or island. Don't rely on the experiences of others to guide your voyage.” Uproar continues to take us to one particular harbor.

Oh, the Polynesian verses translate to “Love nature, protect nature.”

Engineer's curse

12 November 2019
Lisa Alberte
I have been reading Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six. Then I had a dream that a CIA agent approached me and asked if I could design a launcher for a mini rocket. He showed me the rocket, it was a tiny thing, not much bigger than a large firework. It's mission was....classified.

He described a steel, rail launching system he had in mind. My suggestion was one made of plywood which would be lighter, cheaper and quicker to design and construct. Speed was of the essence, he agreed to my plywood design. Then I woke up.

For the next half-hour, I lay awake in bed, designing the rocket launcher. I designed it to be easily constructed from the meager tools I carry on Uproar. I even formulated how I would explain my design to him, putting my salesman's hat on.

That's the engineer's curse. But at least I didn't build the rocket launcher.......yet.

Huahine to Moorea the hard way

19 September 2019
Lisa Alberte
Close call! We are OK but Uproar is wounded. Two days ago we set sail (trite expression that even cruise ships use) from Huahine to Moorea. It is just over 80 nautical miles, a little more than a Lake Michigan crossing. Wind was to start out on the nose but then back to NE at around 15 knots. So it was to be a beat upwind. No problem, Uproar likes going to weather.

We left at 5 pm for what we expected to be a 12 hour sail. It is not a good idea to try to complete a passage like this entirely during daylight. Arriving at an anchorage in the night is a dangerous practice. Arriving just after dawn is delightful and we especially enjoy night passages. Moon was close to full so we would have plenty of light.

What would have been a simple passage didn't start out that well. We motored an hour to clear the north end of Huahine, then found the wind and seas. Waves were short and choppy in the 15 knots of breeze and Uproar did a dance reminding me of rap music. Lisa was not feeling well and just lay flat the entire passage. I stood the whole watch but lay down a few times and slept in the cockpit. We didn't see another boat the entire way.

The wind did back to NE and Uproar, beating hard, headed directly to Moorea. It's lucky when the forecast plays right into your route plan. But unlucky when a cotter pin wears through and your forestay, furling drum and all blasts out of the anchor well and your jib is flying free like a spinnaker! The forestay is the most heavily loaded part of the rigging. When it lets loose, the mast usually comes down. We keep our spinnaker halyard attached to the bow pulpit (front railing). That spinnaker halyard prevented the mast from collapsing.

It was 6:30 am with only 8 miles to go when the forestay took off, I released the main sheet to relieve the load pulling back on the mast. The bow pulpit bent but held. Then the real excitement began. Lisa was immediately on deck. I crawled forward with a line, ran it around the anchor roller and tied it to the spinnaker halyard. Lisa winched it down hard to insure the spinnaker halyard didn't break off the bow pulpit. That spinnaker halyard was now our emergency forestay. We dropped the main and stuffed most of it in the Mack Pack cover.

The furling line for the jib ran to the stopper knot and held the jib, still full, by the side of the boat, pulling us sideways. We eased the jib sheets to relieve that load. There were no lines in the water so I started the engine, ahead slow. Next job was to try to secure that jib flaying crazily in the 15+ knots of wind. I tied a line around the furling drum which was whipping around my head. I approached it from forward to be sure I wasn't clobbered. Lisa secured the line around a stern cleat so we could keep control of the monster. Then we cut the furling line and the whole mess flew aft.

Jib sheets wrapped around the end of the boom but we cleared them and let them trail behind Uproar. Since they were well aft, and we had forward boat speed, there was no danger of wrapping the prop. We then released the jib halyard. Lowering the jib from the foil is always difficult as the upper bearing often gets stuck on the foil extrusions. I had no idea how we would get it down. But I pulled with everything I had and it started to come down. Perhaps the gyrations shook that upper bearing over the joints. Lisa and I struggled to pull the jib into the cockpit as some of it was dragging in the water. We retrieved the jib and jib sheets. All lines were aboard.

The jib wouldn't come down the last 8 feet. I saw that the luff tape was torn in a few places, it would have to be replaced. I cut the luff tape away the last 8 feet. But I had to do this reaching up, standing on a pitching deck. Then I had to cut the Spectra head strap off the sail with two dull knives. I knew when I cut it, I would fall with the sail so made sure I was leaning into the boat when the last hack parted it.

I can't begin to describe my exhaustion by that time. I took a few breathers just to get my wind back. Lisa was struggling too with exhaustion and sea-sickness. She tried several times to leave the cockpit to help me. I insisted (rather loudly, sorry Lisa) she stay in the cockpit. One of us had to stay in control of the boat. Fortunately the autopilot and engine kept us going slowly forward.

We finally had all of the sail and all lines safely in the boat after over an hour of struggle. We lashed the mangled furling drum to the stern rail. I increased speed from the 3.5 knots we were motoring but the mast shook violently in the pounding seas. Slow speed is all we could risk for the last 6 miles to Moorea.

We knew we would be safe as Uproar was still a fully functional powerboat. Our mast was saved! Dismasting is second only to sinking on the level of sailing trauma. Lisa had experienced two dismastings and I have been in one. These were all on smaller boats. On a boat the size of Uproar, the broken mast can be impossible to clear enough to start the engine and can beat holes in the boat, causing sinking!

Our jib furling system was trashed and jib damaged but easily repaired. Just dragging that jib down the companionway to stuff below was another struggle. The next day, another struggle was to drag it on deck and fold it properly. Damage to Uproar will exceed $5,000 which is our insurance deductible. But we are OK, except for bumps, bruises and utter shock!

Lisa and I are Sunday net controllers for the SSB (long range radio) Polynesian Magellan net. It is a twice daily radio broadcast where boats underway give position reports and their progress is tracked. Other boats at anchor can check in too just to chat about general information and anything of interest. The broadcast opens with the net controller asking, “Is there any medical, emergency or priority traffic?” It is quite rare to hear any response.

I keyed the mic, “Uproar.” Steve from Liward said, “Uproar, go ahead please.” I succinctly mentioned we lost our forestay but the boat was clear, motoring slowly into Moorea. Steve and Lili proceeded us to Moorea and were waiting for us. I asked that they listen for any further transmissions from us in case the situation deteriorated. Steve asked for our lat and lon which I gave him. He asked if cruisers should meet us at the pass to offer assistance. This was a breaking point for me, all I could reply was that we should be OK and thanks for the offer. Cruisers will do anything to help each other.

Steve did meet us at the pass in his dinghy. It was his birthday too. I can't describe the relief of entering calm waters and being met by a concerned friend. Steve and Lili have been cruising for many years and have had their share of “adventures” and well understood what we had just gone through. He piloted us to a good anchoring spot near Liward and shared his birthday muffins with us. That night, we had birthday cocktails on Liward. Mine was much more than a double!
Vessel Name: Tumultuous Uproar
Vessel Make/Model: Beneteau 42s7
Hailing Port: Milwaukee, WI
Crew: Russ Whitford & Lisa Alberte plus Sophie our Jack Russell Terrier
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Tumultuous Uproar's Photos - Main
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Uproar FULL ON in the North Channel! Picture by Rick Pask.
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