One hour/day maintenance
13 September 2020 | Maupiti, FP
Russ Whitford | perfect
"I plan for one hour of maintenance per day." said Gavin when I dinghied up to Slingshot. Slingshot is a very cool Deerfoot 64 with unstayed, carbon fiber mast. Gavin explained that it was custom built for an owner who wanted the unusual rig. It has worked well for Gavin, Jen and their two children. Gavin explained he keeps up with the systems on this large and complicated boat, one hour every day.
He mentioned a French cruiser he met who spends three hours/day on maintenance. The Frenchman built his 80 foot ketch out of wood. I can't imagine keeping up an 80 foot, wooden boat. Oh, the boat had a tiny seaplane too! Well the French owner finally gave up and sold the boat. Three hours/day was just too much. I have met several owners who have quit cruising because maintaining a cruising boat becomes too burdensome.
We met a cruiser at last year's Tahiti Pearl Regatta who cruises with his family in the Med. They have a Nyack, high quality Swedish boat. He said, "I can't go a week without something breaking. Can you go a week without something breaking?" Lisa and I looked at each other and said we didn't remember the last time something broke. We have short memories but Uproar's systems work pretty well.
We work at it. After over five years of cruising, we now have a good routine for preventative maintenance. None of it is that difficult. And when things do break, we have a lot spare parts on board. For example, our propane system has a 12 volt solenoid that shuts off the propane when not in use. If that fails, you can't cook! We have always carried two spares. These we have occasionally loaned to fellow cruisers whose solenoid has failed. Then we order another one from Amazon to be brought by the next guest, $11.
I returned from Slingshot, feeling a bit guilty about my maintenance-as-necessary routine. A plumbing project came to mind. OK, a sanitary plumbing project. As previously reported all human waste gets flushed overboard. We have no choice. Uproar is equipped with holding tanks but there are no facilities in French Polynesia for pumping the tank out. The same is true for the Bahamas and Caribbean. If you fill up the holding tank (only a week or so) there is no way to empty it. Some boats have the ability to dump a holding tank. This is illegal in the Great Lakes.
But we are returning to the US and pump-out facilities are everywhere. The Y valves which switch the waste plumbing from overboard to holding tank were stuck from lack of use. We didn't want to return to the US and not use our holding tanks. I got out the tools and easily freed one of them. The second one was quite a challenge. I had to soak it in acid for hours. That brings up another cruising fact-of-life. Urine mixed with sea water produces Calcium deposits. These deposits can completely close off plumbing. I had to remove the hoses and beat them to break up the Calcium "rocks" lining the walls. Project creep. This took me the dreaded three hours.
Thanks Gavin for getting me inspired to perform this nasty task. Uproar is now ready for clean cruising in the US. But I'm still not going to punch that one-hour clock daily for maintenance.
The picture of me is sailing Slingshot's dinghy. Great fun and reward for completing a maintenance project.
Planning a Cargo Voyage
07 September 2020 | Maupiti, FP
Russ Whitford | perfect
“We are probably heading to Mopelia in a few weeks.”
We had just arrived in Maupiti and took a bike ride around the island (only five miles of road). We were admiring the scenery from a small hill and Tearii who lived there started a conversation with us. When we mentioned Mopelia, he asked if we could take a small package there for him. We readily agreed and gave him our boat card. We had been in Maupiti only two days and planned on enjoying this enchanted, small atoll at least for a few weeks.
Maupiti is only 30 miles west of Bora Bora. Bora Bora is the major tourist destination while Maupiti is relatively obscure. There is an airport with a few flights/week. They have small pensions or resorts but only two restaurants and a three tiny grocery stores. The pass into the Maupiti lagoon is renown for being treacherous. We entered in calm conditions and there was no problem at all.
Maupiti is a miniature Bora Bora. The mountains are stunning, surrounded by turquoise water and sandy motus or barrier islands. As typical of French Polynesia, the people are friendly everywhere, especially in the smaller atolls. One big draw of Maupiti are the Manta Rays. They visit the cleaning station in the morning for dental work. This is a series of coral rocks where Mantas hang out to let Wrasses swim in their mouth and clean debris. Late morning and afternoons the Mantas slowly circle some coral rocks near the pass where they filter feed for hours. Their open mouths look big enough to swim inside.
Unfortunately, the Manta Rays are quite the tourist attraction. The small numbers of tourists in Maupiti all jump in tour boats and swim with the Manta Rays. They chase the Mantas and cause them to swim away. We just lie quietly on the surface and watch them majestically circle. Our quiet presence does not seem to bother them. Lisa and I have watched four at a time circle only five to ten feet below us for about a half-hour.
The day after I met Tearii, a wood skiff pulled up to Uproar with two young ladies and two small boys. They mentioned Mopelia. I said we would be willing to take a package for them. One of the ladies asked if we would take her. Lisa wasn't onboard so I replied, “Maybe.” Angelique asked if I liked lobster and fresh fish. She said her family would give us all we wanted. I gave her a boat card and asked her to text us. The two girls had difficulty starting their outboard motor. Instead of getting angry, they just giggled and pulled like crazy. At last, I offered to help. I held the kill button out while Angelique gave it a pull. Started right up. They had rigged an unsuitable clip for the button. I fixed that for them.
Another two days and we thought we would stay two months in Maupiti. This is a truly lovely place and we were captured by her charms. I saw Tearii in the town and he greeted me, “Iorana, Popeye.” The Polynesians just can't say “Russ.” It comes out as a tortured, “ruse.” So I tell them my name is “Popeye.” It sounds Polynesian and they easily remember it. My grandson, Harlan, calls me “Popeye.”
Two more days and another skiff visited Uproar. They had four adults and five young boys. Mana asked me about going to Mopelia. I said perhaps we would go. Again, he mentioned the lobsters and fish there. Then all five boys climbed onto Uproar, followed by their parents. Lisa and I had been doing woodworking projects and the cockpit was cluttered with tools, wood shavings and dust. Lisa uttered, “I can't do this.” Too late. They all made themselves comfortable.
We apologized but no one seemed to mind the mess. The boys were delightful. Lisa made the little, toy airplanes for each of them, we often carry on shore. Mana asked if we could take him and his wife, Maureen to Mopelia. I said we were taking Angelique and that would make 3 people. Angelique's husband, Tearii (different one) was there and said he would like to go too. Suddenly we had four passengers. Lisa asked about the boys. We really didn't want to be responsible for sailing with children. Maureen explanied that the boys would stay with their grandparents.
Mana explained that he knows the pass to Mopelia well. He has gone there on several yachts in the past. He mentioned he traveled on Allora, our good friends Marcus and Dianne. We said depending on weather, yes we could take them. Then came discussions about how much gasoline we could take, lashed to our rail. They left us two large bags of fruit and vegetables.
Lisa and I took 1 ½ tons of hurricane relief supplies to Dominique along with a young Martinique couple. Sure, we could load Uproar again for the 80 mile journey. But I kept saying “maybe.” I kept saying it depends on weather and our plans are not firm. I also said we would most likely not be returning to Maupiti so couldn't bring them back. They said that wasn't a problem.
We are now quite popular in Maupiti. Just tell someone you are going to Mopelia and you will make friends. We are more than happy to bring supplies and passengers to this isolated atoll. Other cruisers have told us the local people will invite us for dinner every night and bring fish and lobsters daily to us.
Keep in mind that all of these conversations are in French. I'm sure we understand about 80% of each other. Stand by for a report on the cargo voyage of Uproar.
We are shipping our ship on a ship shipping ship
26 August 2020 | Taha'a
Russ Whitford | perfect
We have reached a cruising cul-de-sac in the South Pacific. We are in the middle of this vast ocean with no where else to go. The coconut milk run is the typical passage for cruisers circumnavigating. One leaves Panama in the spring when favorable winds and currents make for swift passages to Galapagos and then Marquesas, the first archipelago in French Polynesia. That's exactly what we sailed on Uproar in 2018.
Many cruisers spend only the three months allowed in FP, then sail to Tonga, Fiji and on to New Zealand. NZ is safe during the cyclone season which is from November to April. From NZ, cruisers sail back into the South Pacific islands of Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Papa New Guinea, etc. Then on to Australia and perhaps Indonesia and Thailand.
We knew we would love FP enough to stay more than the normal three months allowed. We applied for Carte De Sejours, long term visas at the French Consulate in Panama. It was a lot of paperwork but we achieved a visa that is renewable indefinitely. Essentially, we have permanent residency in FP should we pay the $90 per year to renew.
We now have sailed in FP for over two years....and still love being here. FP covers an area the size of Europe but with only 280,000 people. There are 120 islands or atoll groups. We have sailed to all five archipelagos but not nearly seen it all. While the entire Eastern Caribbean cruising ground fits inside Lake Michigan. We have sailed 1,000 miles between island groups in FP! And again, loved all of it. The Polynesian people are a definite bonus. Just two days ago, Lisa and I were biking in a remote area of Raiatea and passed a group of people having a Sunday BBQ. They readily asked us to "mangez," share their meal. Keep in mind that recently FP has opened up to tourists. Covid has definietly accompanied the tourists. We are white people and look like tourists. Yet, these people welcomed us to join them in a meal. OK, they did keep their distance but engaged us in conversation. We quickly tell them we are not tourists. "Nous habite ici." We live here! That helps break the ice. I'll never forget the 4 year old girl who was enthralled with Lisa. She coyly sneaked behind Lisa and shiffed her pony tail. That girl had the most beautiful, huge eyes and eye lashes that would put a camel to shame!
OK, back to the Coconut Milk run. Fiji is the only island nation west that now accepts cruisers. They require a lot of testing and quarantine. But cruisers who have sailed there have found them most welcoming. Bula! Fiji is unfortunately right in the cyclone path. If you sail to Fiji and can't sail out of there for cyclone season, you are at risk! Fiji does have a boat yard that digs cyclone pits to drop your keel in, support your boat on tires and strap it down hard. This is good protection in case of cyclones. But it costs $4,000 to reserve a pit, whether you use it or not!
New Zealand has proven to be very disappointing. They don't have much Covid and like FP, aim to keep it that way. They will, however accept cruising yachts.....if you have contracts with local boat yards to spend $50,000!!! So it's not as much about Covid as it is money. We have joined OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) who is lobbying heavily to let cruisers enter NZ. But NZ stands firm.....unless you have deep pockets.
That brings me to the cul-de-sac we are in. No where safe to go during cyclone season. Since we have been in FP for more than two years, we don't see that staying here further is of much interest. Also, FP just changed their laws which will mandate that we either leave for six months, when our three years here are up, or pay duty to import our boat! They just changed it to two years but we were here before the change, grandfathered (in more than one way, our second grandchild was born on August 25th, Sylvia Violet Helin).
This is a long way to getting to the ship shipping ship. We have decided to ship Uproar back to the US. Yacht Express is a specifically built vessel to ship yachts. We saw it or a similar ship in Martinique. It sinks down far enough to allow sailboats and powerboats to drive right into the boat. Divers put braces in place to support the hull and keel. Then they close the transom gate and pump the water out. The boats ride dry until the next flooding to load and unload. It is pretty slick. And pretty expensive!!!! We could buy a nice sports car for what it costs to ship our ship.
They will be in Tahiti right after Christmas. We just drive Uproar into the boat and they do the rest. Lisa and I will remove all sails and canvas and stow below. We will take just clothes and valuables and fly back to Milwaukee. Uproar will arrive in Fort Lauderdale mid March. We will be ready to drive Uproar to a local marina and replace sails and canvas.
So what's next for the Uproar cruise? Well, March, April, May and June are great months to cruise the Bahamas. That's where we will go. Hurricane season comes in June so we will sail back to Florida and pull Uproar out of the water. We will return to Milwaukee for a nice summer. In November 2021, we will return to Florida and launch Uproar. From then we will follow cruiser's plans...which are written in sand at low tide. Perhaps 2021 will find us sailing across the Atlantic to the Med?
We don't look upon this as a setback or failure. Sure, there are other places we would have liked to visit in the South Pacific. But after 2 ½ years in FP, we have absorbed a lifetime of adventure and memories. We love the Bahamas and Caribbean. The Med remains a place we have not cruised. Best of all, this tack gives us a chance to spend extended time with family and friends whom we have missed dearly these past five years. We so look forward to reconnecting and whatever cruising adventures await Team Uproar.
I would like to say that for these past five years, we have felt the support and encouragement of our family and friends. We are so fortunate that quite a few have joined us to sail and explore on Uproar. We just could not do it without you. Being closer to home, we hope more will join us. Lisa has rebuild the pump in the guest cabin head so that works better now.
Sunned, massaged and kept warm at night
18 August 2020
Vanilla beans are one of the valuable exports from French Polynesia. Most are grown in the Leeward Islands, Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa and Bora Bora. We have visited a lot of vanilla farms and even seen the vines growing wild in the jungle. While FP produces only about 1% of the world's vanilla, French chefs in Paris wouldn't even think of using anything but beans from FP for their Creme Brule.
Prices range from $2/bean to $15/bean. It just depends on where you buy them. But there is a quality difference too. Most of that difference is in how the beans are dried. But all vanilla starts with a special orchid vine that must grow in partial shade. Some farms are mesh covered plots with concrete supports for the vines. Other farms grow a shrub first, then plant the orchid vines that climb on the shrubs and grow in their shade. When the orchid flowers, it must be “married.” Each flower has boy and girl parts. A sliver of bamboo is used to open the flower and fold the two parts together. Voila! When the flower dies, a bean, the size of a jumbo green bean grows. The bean is picked when it starts to turn brown.
Lisa and I ride bikes a lot. We love the scent of flowers and often vanilla as we ride. Yesterday, on Tahaa, we rode by a large table, spread with vanilla beans drying. The scent was heavenly. We were in a hurry to get to the post office before it closes so didn't stop. Someone is getting a package from FP.
On our way back we stopped. An elderly man came out to talk with us about his Vanilla. He called for his grand daughter to help with translation. Not needed, I can now converse in French here. The beans need to dry 3 months before they are market ready. Manahi mentioned most of the beans had been drying only 2 months. I asked to buy some and we would finish drying them on Uproar. Manahi not only gave us a big bundle of beans for our $50 but an insulated, reflective sheet to help with the drying.
He explained (and we knew from other talks with vanilla growers) it is important to dry the beans only 3 hours/day. Then the beans need to be massaged and wrapped in insulation to keep them warm through the night. We will do this for one more month. Having the beans dry on our cabin top fills the boat with that magic, tropical fragrance.
When the beans have been properly sunned, massaged and kept warm at night, they become hard. Hard beans are always the most appreciated!
Andre the wild boar slayer
09 August 2020 | Faa Roa, Raiatea
Russ Whitford | amazing
“It's about the people we meet...” Jeff and Terry McClellan did a video of Lisa and me when they visited in the Spanish Virgin Islands. Terry asked about some highlights of our first year cruising.
We continue to treasure the chance meetings with amazing people everywhere. I spent some time alone on Uproar and a few weeks with Jim Leguizamon while Lisa was back in the US visiting family. Several times Jim and I dinghied up the river at the foot of Faa Roa (Polynesian for big bay). It's an interesting jungle river with a few homes along the way. James is the unofficial tour guide. The first time in the river, James paddled up to us in his plastic kayak and gave us a running commentary as we putted along. James is a simple guy and not at all the pushy tour guides who sometimes latch onto cruisers for an expected fee. He told Jim and me to visit his brother, Andre's farm, further up the river.
We found Andre working hard on his patch of paradise. Andre eagerly showed us around and filled our bag with fruits and vegetables. He lives in the adjacent mountain and runs up and down every day. Andre also competes in local marathons. He told us once he ran down a wild boar and killed it with his machete. I asked if he had “dent de cochon savage” wild boar teeth. He replied, oui, but the one he killed had only one tooth, the other one was broken. I asked if he would part with it. He said it is a great honor to give someone a wild boar's tooth. In return, I had pay him the great honor of $10!
The next day, Jim and I returned with some fellow cruisers. Andre had not only the boar's tooth but handed me the entire lower jaw. Gross! But I got my prized tooth after hacksawing the jaw apart.
Andre is one of the most enthusiastic people we have met. He speaks very little English but his running commentary in French and animated gestures are easy to understand. He tells stories about the mountains, one being the profile of a woman and one a man and how they marry to form the fertile valley. He expertly plucks fruit from his laden trees and generously fills our bags. With Jim and our cruising friends, Andre insisted we take a 40 pound banana bunch! Good thing we had three boats to share.
Yesterday, Lisa had her first visit to Andre's farm. Andre was busy with a weed whacker but quickly shut it down and spent an hour with us. He shared everything growing and even gave us some fruit from his own backpack. Several times he threw his hands back, looked up and exclaimed, “Paradise!” It is a paradise and this happy man has very little but lacks for nothing. His sharing is not just his farm's bounty but the Polynesian Spirit we love.
Bernard Moitessier, my sailing hero
07 August 2020
“Because I am so happy at sea and perhaps to save my soul.” That is the note Bernard Moitessier shot via slingshot onto a freighter explaining why he was dropping out of the Golden Globe, around the world, solo race in 1968. He was by far in the lead and had to just sail north to England and claim the prize. But all along he thought the race was vulgar and he didn't want to commercialize voyaging by sailboat.
Instead, after a lap around the world, he kept sailing to Tahiti, a place never far from his heart after a previous visit. His voyage was about 360 days solo! He just loved to sail.
Logan was in an Optimist race when he was about 12. He was in the lead but at the next mark he just kept sailing. The instructor chased after him in the crash boat and asked what was wrong. Logan said, "I was having such a good sail, I didn't want to turn." I told him he just did a Moitessier.
A few weeks ago, my friend, Dorothy, American who has lived in French Polynesia most of her life, mentioned Moitessier in conversation with a group of women learning to weave palm leaves. Lisa and some other cruising friends attended and I came along. Dorothy is already a special person to me as she took care of Bobby Holcomb, the cultural hero of Polynesian lifestyle, from 1976 until his death in 1991.
I later asked Dorothy if she ever met Bernard Moitessier. She explained that she was one of the first people he met when he arrived in Tahiti. I said, “So you are the reason he stayed.” Dorothy became quite for a moment. After further conversation, it became clear that Dorothy was Moitessier's lover when he arrived in Tahiti!
Dorothy explained that Moitessier's last wife, Veronique, was re-launching his boat and sailing to Huahine. She said Bernard told her, “Always feel free to go to Dorothy for help. There will be no jealousy.” I knew his last boat was in the yard on Raiatea, 25 miles away, but had never looked for it. Now I was determined to make this connection with my sailing hero.
After a languid, six weeks in our beloved Huahine, Lisa and I sailed to Raiatea. It was just time to move on. We biked to the Raiatea boat yard. In a back lot, I found a young man talking with a lady on deck of an old boat. I asked where I could find Moitessier's boat. He pointed to the very boat we were standing next to and the lady on deck. I could hardly believe I was about to step into history.
Veronique invited me to climb the ladder aboard Tamata. She explained she was getting her ready to launch after years on the hard. Tamata was built in California where Moitessier was invited to work on a documentary in 1982. His famous boat, Joshua, was wrecked in Mexico, en route to California. Tamata is a simple boat built from steel and built like a tank. Below decks she has an air-cooled engine and rudimentary accommodations. I have never seen so many lines hanging from the walls everywhere.
Tamata seemed to be in good shape for a boat that had been sitting for so long. She was well built with very little rust and peeling paint. She is a sailor's boat with no frills but one that could take her captain anywhere.
How privileged I am to have met two of my sailing hero's lovers and his last boat. The book “A Voyage for Madmen” is a great read about the race even for non-sailors. Bernard Moitessier has also written several books that are quite interesting. I am still in awe that I had a brush with my sailing hero who shares my love for sailing and French Polynesia.