Organization and Progress
17 September 2020 | Pension Tiare Nui
William Ennis | Very hot, still
It's Wednesday and we depart the country on Monday. Time is growing short. Conni, the keeper of records, says that we're doing well, and we've been working long, hard, hot hours completing task after task.
Both sails are down, the dinghy is cleaned and stowed, Conni's replaced all halyards with messengers, the main engine and transmission are prepared with oil and filter changes, the outboard and Honda generator are prepared. We've started removing unused items from the boat for which we have room in our boxes. Of course, we keep running records of items that we need to replace or repair for next season, but we've collected those things and they're packed.
We moved to the bungalow the old Raymarine radar in its B&G box. We might give it to a friend or sell it, and that goes for the other Raymarine instruments that we replaced. There's still a market for them as people try to keep the old systems going rather than buying new. The old stuff is larger and heavier than the modern, lightweight and more efficient stuff: it's quite astounding, really. The new radar, for example, weighs pounds less.
We also moved to the bungalow our three blue boxes, our trusty Rubbermaid blue storage boxes that haul stuff back and forth from home. I've got a box of Raymarine electronics, cables, and manuals, as well as the broken stuff that I need to fix or replace. Some things we simply cart back and forth since the heat is so hard on it. Our wonderful Winchrite, the electric device that does all of our heavy lifting, for example. It can stay charged, cool, and dry at home. I'm convinced that some of the LED screen damage that our various electronic devices suffer is from simply being too hot for too long. Since that's true, we wish that we could take home all of our new electronics, but we just can't manage it.
Prior to departing, I made a simple sling system to fit around our various Blue boxes and bags, and we bought a good digital luggage scale a while back. We can check the actual weights of everything and balance loads if needed. Since items over 50 pounds cost considerably more, it's important to measure accurately. We're in surprisingly good shape since our heaviest box is Conni's at 48 pounds. At least we know what it'll cost to get things home.
It's Thursday today, and Conni says that we're mostly done. We have decided to perform some important work for the boat and re-caulk some chainplates. The shrouds that support the mast are connected to the hull below decks, of course, and where they penetrate the hull, water can penetrate. The name, "chainplate" is a holdover from the old sailing days when the shrouds were actually attached by chains to metal plates bolted to the hull or other strong point. At any rate, we've got some identified leaks and we'll spend some time over the next few days in eliminating those leaks. Time and weather permitting, Conni will apply one last coat of varnish, too.
We also have some fiberglass repair that we'll hand to the Carenage staff, the best fiberglass people in the South Pacific, bar none.
We depart on Monday and with luck, we'll have our work completed by Saturday afternoon.
To Tiare Nui
14 September 2020 | Pension Tiare Nui
William Ennis | Still very hot
On Saturday night, we spent our last night aboard for the season. At 1500 on Sunday, our Pension Tiare Nui host came to fetch us and we began our stay at the Pension.
We've both worked very hard, but the truth is that at 1500, it's so hot, inside and outside the boat (90°F inside), that it's unpleasant to be anywhere but in front of a fan. By 1700, we can work again, but it's virtually day's end and darkness arrives quickly in the tropics.
Up early to avoid the late afternoon heat, we work until lunch, then do what we can until 1500-1600, then call it quits. We sit below decks since it's even hotter in the cockpit and below decks we do have fans to help.
As part of our morning's work, we packed clothing and food for the move off the boat and after departing when our Pension host arrived in our rental car, Conni returned. We climbed down the ladder with boxes and packs, and enjoyed the air conditioning in the car all the way to the Pension.
I had told Conni that when I arrived at the Pension, I'd take a standup, warm, shower and then I'd lie in the AC and do NOTHING until dinner. We both did exactly that. A hot shower is wonderful but staying cool and not sticky with sweat afterward is even more marvelous! I wrote to someone that finding joy in such trivial pleasure was a sure sign of how rustic our boat life had become.
We were relaxing in the room enjoying our cocktail time, both of us clean and dry and cool, when the oddest battle unfolded. From under the door, and through every cracked window, came armies of these small black insects. We think that they might have been termites, but whatever they were, they arrived in swarms, in civilizations. They were on the walls, on the floors in swarms, on our beds, in the shower stall: they were everywhere! We squashed them by the dozen trying to reduce the numbers and our efforts were finally rewarded after an hour or so. The numbers entering dropped and we had exterminated enough to get to bed. Conni was truly grossed out by the prospect of having to endure the tiny insects crawl on her, so it required quite some time before she was asleep. The insects didn't sting, they didn't smell; their irritation was in their numbers, and in their being everywhere. Interestingly, before they began to arrive in such numbers, we were startled by several birds banging on our plastic roof, but after the Attack of the Black Bugs, we realized that the birds had come by to partake of the buffet-de-bug that was descending on us. I wish that they had been a bit more successful.
Working in heat and then living in heat and disorder is difficult after a week or so, but being able to leave it all behind is a sanity saver. We work and sweat in the heat, then return to the Pension room where we can get clean of the day's sweat, stay cool and dry, and enjoy the evening.
This morning, I swept out all of the tiny carcasses, of which there were many, and it looks none the worse for the battle. We're unsure if this were a passing event or a salient by the Armies of the Insects. Tonight will tell, but we're going to be forearmed with some toxins.
There are heavy electrical cables that feed power to the windlass from the battery, and they've never been properly supported: my fault. Since our deck is cored with teak blocks, I never drill holes into it for mounting cables, but place a blob of epoxy on the surface after cleaning thoroughly with acetone, then insert a machine screw into the blob. After it cures, I've got a fine mounting point for supporting whatever needs it. I use a product called 610, a thickened epoxy. The 610 would NOT stay put and dribbled down like unthickened epoxy. Certainly, expecting a machine screw to stay in the epoxy was unreasonable. I gave up in frustration, and then thought that perhaps if I simply waited until the stuff was mostly cured, the epoxy would work as I wished. According to the packaging, the 610 would remain workable for 42 minutes. At 40 minutes after installation, the epoxy was almost stiff and the screws remained where they should have been. Tomorrow, I'll fasten some mountable cable ties and get those cables supported. I forgot to mention that the dripping 610 dribbled all over my scalp, so Conni had to cut out a lot of my remaining hair. Now as I feel my hair, there are some fairly solid patches!
We're still ahead of our schedule, so we'll continue to work as hard as possible, hoping to gain a day of relaxing.
Not a Boat
11 September 2020 | Raiatea Carenage yard
Wings was pulled from the water this morning.
We awakened earlier than usual since a group of live aboard crew from a large water taxi under repair next to us was up at 0600 and they were raucously loud. Sheesh! They were very nice guys, but they were too loud to be up so early.
Being up so early did provide time in the cool of morning to get our dinghy dry, rolled up, and stowed in her storage bag. At 120-pounds, she's a lot of boat to handle, so we used a halyard to lift the dinghy and our WinchRite to provide the muscle.
We also removed the forestay, preparing the boat for a ride on the TraveLift. Removing and replacing the forestay is a major task in lifting the boat, and we must remove and replace it every time the boat is carried to or from the water. We used to allow the yard workers to do the work, but they take less care of things.
Wings was out of the water by 0930 today, leaving a lot of time to work. Wings was placed in the far south end of the yard, far enough back, in fact, that we can remove all of the halyards and replace them with messenger lines. Real halyards are needed to remove and replace the forestay, as the halyards are attached to solid points on the foredeck, tightened, and used to pull the mast and forestay forward, thus allowing the removal of an attaching pin. We're so far back that there are no other boats for which Wings must be moved. We usually remove all of the halyards, and this year, we found that the yard had needed to move Wings but with no halyards, they just left the mast unsupported from the front: they removed the forestay and left it loose! What? We even asked Boss Dominique about removing halyards and he agreed that we could.
Our work began after Wings was settled in her cradle, starting with replacing the forestay. Since it's an obligatory procedure here at the Carenage, we've developed a way to accomplish the task that's less drudgery and considerably less frustrating. We use a jib sheet winch (a Primary winch) to tension a line. The other end of the line leads forward and under the stem fitting that connects the forestay to the bow, and finally attaches to the bottom fitting on the forestay. When the line is tightened, the forestay is pulled downward. At some point, the large pin that connects the forestay fitting to the stem fitting can be aligned in the holes in stem and forestay, and the pin pushed home. We lock the pin in place with a Cotter pin. We've been working on a better way to accomplish the task when we discovered this one and it's now SOP.
We contacted the manager of Pension Tiare Nui and he agreed that we can begin our stay on Sunday rather than Monday. Whoopee! While we're enamored of any shower facility that has ample running water and standing room, a WARM, standing shower is better yet! And we'll be sleeping in air conditioning, a huge benefit since it's been extremely hot the past week.
We'll start moving to our little bungalow all of the stuff that we'll take home: the old Raymarine electronics that we removed, clothing and such, and the various items that I must fabricate at home. Our trusty and beloved Hydrovane wind steering unit, for example, needs repair. When we installed it 10 years ago, we used teak and cedar blocks as pads to custom fit the Hydrovane to our curved hull. It took hours of work to modify the curvature of the side of the wooden pads in contact to the hull, test, then modify some more, before we got a good fit. Unfortunately, the wood faired poorly in the hot Pacific and they need to be replaced. That requires that we remove the entire Hydrovane in order to access the pads. We'll remove them and have them re-fabricated in some high-density plastic this time. I'm sure that the high-density plastic will last as long as needed.
We have a hundred tasks on our decommissioning list, and we've only just started, but we had a very productive day today. We'll get there.
Today is 9/11, a day that Americans should use to remember all those lives lost, families shattered, and communities devastated during one of the few attacks on our own soil. On all of our days of remembrance, we honor the lives lost.
Return to the Carenage
10 September 2020 | Raiatea Carenage slip
William Ennis | Still hot
Yep, we're back.
We had a lazy morning in Haamene, but finally got moving at 1030 or so. We motored to the Hibiscus Cruisers' Bar in the outer bay, where in days past, our friend Leo had held court. We were convinced that the old man was probably gone, but we love the place so motored to a mooring and latched on, then jumped in the dinghy to motor to their dock.
On arrival, we learned that Leo is still kicking! He's in hospital in Papeete but at least he's around. We ordered a beer each and wandered around the bar that we know so well. Through the years, we've left a Kenai Fjords Yacht Club burgee and a William H. Seward Yacht Club burgee, and both are still hanging. We love being part of the background history of the place. Leo built the place and was the owner/manager for a long time. Originally from France, he speaks French, German, English, and Polynesian. There are burgees from clubs all over the world, quite literally. The Hibiscus has been a stop on most of the Around-the-World rallies, too, so those burgees are hanging from the ceiling rafters as well. The food is always exceptional and the cocktails are superb.
The motoring to Raiatea was uneventful, and we arrived outside the Carenage at 1430 or so. I called the office to request that we be allowed stay in the slip overnight, since we get pulled on Friday, sometime. They agreed, so I quickly inflated our few remaining fenders, placed our 4 dock lines at our corners, and we motored in. After so many years, we've dramatically improved our ability to navigate into the slip with fewer scares, so in we went. I took the helm and with Conni's able assistance as observer, we nailed the approach. Ahhh... The Carenage owner and boss, Dominique, was around to help. He's a great guy and has been more and more helpful and friendly to us.
In preparation for the pull tomorrow, we removed and stored the jib and got the dinghy cleaned and on the dock although we'll have to move the dinghy back aboard before we're pulled. There's no way that we want to haul that damned thing from the slip to wherever they place the boat. Tomorrow morning, we've got to loosen the bottom connection for our roller furler, but we've gotten faster at accomplishing it.
I was able to jury rig a power hookup to the boat, so we're charging our batteries and can power anything that we want. We can run fans, lights, whatever we wish. Rather than being crazy about conserving electrical power, we can splurge. And the shower... Yes, it's pretty cool but not Alaska cold, but there's plenty of it and we can stand up! When you've been without, those little things matter. I'm afraid that our bar for comfort drops precipitously while we cruise.
We'll be living aboard until Sunday afternoon when we'll move back to the Pension. Of course we've got 10 days of hard work to decommission the boat, and then we fly home. It's a bit much to countenance completely.
Haamene Bay and a Great Evening
10 September 2020 | Haamene Bay, Taha'a
We departed Vaiaeho Bay on 7 September, slipping the mooring after our usual engine check and instrument check. With everything running smoothly, we slipped the mooring and motored out of Vaiaeho Bay. The conditions were calm so we motored within a mile of the Raiatea reef and re-entered the lagoon at MiriMiri Pass or Rautoanui Pass, and continued on to Haamene Bay, on the SE side of Taha'a and one of Conni's favorites.
As luck would have it, we were the only visitors so the one and only mooring was ours! Yes, we trust our anchoring system, but we also trust a many-hundred-pound block of concrete with good chain! This mooring appeared to be new and we were delighted to have its use.
Hurepiti Bay, on the SW side of Taha'a and Haamene Bay almost meet and divide Taha'a, with both intruding deep into the island. From our location at the head of Haamene, it's a full 3 miles to the lagoon. It's not the bay from which to hide from storms: that's Tapuamu on the west side, but it's a beautiful, lush bay with much to see. Taha'a is known as the Vanilla Island, and rightfully so, since it's home to countless small and large vanilla operations. The tiny village of Haamene has a single fairly-stocked store, a few restaurants, and a large church that's been renovated through the years. They're also home of the Taha'a MaiTai, a world-class restaurant that's on the top of our cuisine list.
We stayed aboard that first afternoon, taking in the sights and enjoying being there. Various other cruisers have been coming in since then, but here we are still on our mooring. There was a local (or French Polynesian, in any case) sailboat, small, with EVERYTHING in red: hull, sail covers, even crew's hats and dinghy chaps! Today, there's a beautiful Outremer cat with a French couple and young son, and a Swiss Beneteau with a very nice couple on it: he's German and she's Swiss. They dropped by on a trip back to their boat from town. They both speak English better than we do, of course, as well as French, German, and who knows what else. On our recommendation, they're planning on dinner at Taha'a MaiTai tonight.
We've walked around the tiny village of Haamene a few times, all of a 1/4 mile of it. Yesterday, we walked well past the store and into the surrounding land, enjoying the friendly people and lush growth. Many homes have small vanilla operations of their own, both small and fairly large. Since the cultivation depends on a lot of hand labor and the prices are so good, I'm sure that it makes for a suitable family money-earner.
By the way, I have tried, several times, to send through the backlog of blogs (backblogs?) via SSB, but usual and closest station in Manihi has either been down or hasn't been reachable. I tried in Vaiaeho Bay, but that 4000-foot mountain just east of us probably blocked that signal: no surprise there. Also tried from here in Haamene, but they didn't respond. We return to Raiatea and Wings will assume her land-life tomorrow, so I'll have much better communication, although we'll be on land. Last night was our last one out by ourselves, unfortunately.
We had made a 1900 hour reservation at Taha'a MaiTai for last night and we were both so grubby that we set up our shower bag. I've decided, as an aside, to fabricate a pressure water shower back here in the cockpit to facilitate better showering, but it's a project for next year. Both of us clean, we jumped in the dinghy for a ride to shore. As I was steering us ashore, I realized how exotic that was, actually, and how much we take it in stride. To motor through the darkness to the shore of another country is a treat that shouldn't be taken for granted. We arrived and immediately knew it would be a great evening, part of the certainty based on clean hair.
Conni's cocktail was a Taha'a Dream and mine was the traditional Taha'a MaiTai, both being superbly prepared. We split a poisson cru, the raw fish and crispy vegetable national dish. Conni, who's a big fan of the dish, pronounced it the best she'd tasted, and I agreed. It was the blend of flavors, really, and the lovely fresh tuna. For our main courses, I jumped on the pork with spices and coconut milk, while Conni chose the MahiMahi in vanilla sauce, also the best preparation that we've ever tasted. The chef, Bruno, is Cordon Blu-trained and it shows. Even though we were absolutely full, we shared and finished their creampuff! Their motto is, "French cuisine with local ingredients", and that's exactly right. If you're in the neighborhood, give them a try. We also enjoyed a bottle of crisp Alsace Reisling, a fine compliment for our two meals.
So, here we are at trip's end. Being Thursday, we'll stay on a mooring or nearby for a pull on Friday sometime. We stay aboard through the weekend and move to Pension Tiare Nui for the remainder of our stay, then fly home. I'm sure that I'll write some more blogs, but this will be the last while we're out and on our own.
A Pocket Lagoon
06 September 2020 | Vaiaeho Bay, Raiatea
Saturday: Since we were on a mooring in Tapuamu and hadn't splashed the dinghy, departing Tapuamu required only an engine check, starting the engine and electronics, and slipping the mooring, all done quickly. We motored down the lagoon toward the area between Taha'a and Raiatea, and each time that we crossed the head of a major bay, the wind spilling over the central mountains created white caps and laid us over a bit. We measured that wind at 25 knots at times, so the storm that hammered us on Thursday wasn't done, yet. All of our instruments and the engine worked perfectly, thankfully. This was a day, though, that we'd have appreciated having wind information from a dedicated masthead wind instrument. As we mentioned, Covid delays prevented our receiving it prior to departure from Anchorage, so next year, I'll have at least one trip up the mast to install the new instrument. The saving grace is that it sends its data to our network with Wifi, so there are no cables to drag down the mast.
For several seasons, we've planned to visit a "pocket lagoon" on Raiatea, the primary reason being that we'd seen them from the car but never visited one. A pocket lagoon is one that cannot be reached by traveling through the main lagoon (the region between the reef and the island proper), but must be entered only from the sea. During our drives around Raiatea, we'd spotted several, and have been interested in visiting one, but this year, we made it a priority. We chose Baie Vaiaeho, or Vaiaeho Bay, on Raiatea's SW corner.
We departed Tapuamu at 1015 Friday morning, made it down Taha'a's lagoon to Apooiti, on Raiatea, by 1215, and out the MiriMiri Pass into blue water by 1245. After a motor sail parallel to the shore about 2 miles offshore from the reef, we entered the bay by 1400, explored a bit, and by 1430, the hook was down. The water is SHALLOW, here, as befits a pocket lagoon. It can't be reached from a traverse of the main lagoon because it's too shallow! We anchored with about 4-feet under the keel: enough, of course, but not completely comfortable. As we were deciding where and if we could anchor there, a nice fellow sailor from a neighboring boat visited us by dinghy and told us about the anchoring there: good holding bottom of hard sand over coral, but shallow water. With that in mind, we dropped the hook, and by the third try had it in the location and orientation that we wanted. Anchor placement is too important not to do correctly, so we commonly retrieve the anchor and re-set it if it's not what we want. The night remained calm, but we were glad to have a good anchor set.
There were three boats here when we arrived, two American monohulls, both carrying families with young kids aboard, and a Scandinavian catamaran, also with a young child. The American boat whose male member was kind enough to motor over with anchor advice is from Ventura California, and of course, carried a surf board on the foredeck. The lagoon has a pond-sized deep section surrounded by very shallow water, and we're all anchored on the surrounding shallow shelf of that deep area.
After normal boat chores, we settled to see the sights. Truly, this is one of the most beautiful places that we've visited. The mountainous shore is reminiscent of Hawai'i, with its very steep volcanic ridges, covered in verdant growth. There's not much shore on which to live, so there are few people here. That made for a quiet night's rest, and this far from civilization on Raiatea, there is almost no traffic.
The pass itself is spectacular, with palm-covered motus on both sides. There's a single entry section of shallow water that's about 30-feet deep, but it's mostly 50-60 feet deep, although narrow. Since we'd never entered it before, we took every precaution, but it was dicier inside than entering. Giving Conni a rest from her wheel duties yesterday, I was at the helm. I trust our charts, but my final trust is in our two depth finder's data: the foward-looking sonar and the "look down" new sonar. It's always unsettling when we can look overboard and see the bottom so clearly! We could see the anchor dug in on the bottom, the chain as it sweeps along the bottom as the boat swings in the wind, it's just shallow. It was a challenge just turning the boat around without grounding!
Conni and I shared a beer at 1500, and at 1700, she hauled out the evening's cocktail treats: baguette, good French cheese and olives, and sliced saucisse. Our friend, Jonathan, had kindly sent us some wine and beer, so we opened the red and savored the friendship that provided it and the beautiful surroundings that we were celebrating. Thanks, JG.
Saturday: We enjoyed the beautiful surroundings today, and I worked on replacing that damned chock that's been awaiting my attention for a year. It got ripped from the boat last year in Papeete's Marina Taina, found by a kind-hearted diver, and returned to us. I worked for a long time to arrange a procedure to replace it, including much advice from Conni's father, LaVerne. LaVerne, thanks for the advice. I took LaVerne's advice on drill size but moved up 1/64" to 13/64". It ensured that the epoxy wouldn't crack by having a #12 wood screw inserted, and also allowed a failure point: we want to lose the screws rather than the teak cap rail! With the better hole size, screws went in easily with no hint of epoxy trouble. When it cooled a bit, and HAVE MERCY it's been hot, we smeared on a 1/2 tube of black 3M 4000UV, an all purpose adhesive/caulk that's my go-to material. I had applied tape to all possible surfaces so after the caulk was applied, I tightened the screws and then smoothed the seams. The screws are #12 silicon bronze Philips-head wood screws, so easy to drive. We'll wait for the caulk to cure then see how things look. At least we have a solid cap rail, now. I can smooth the caulk or add as needed, but at least it's in place now.
And hot...we were both hiding down below and even there it was 90°F and no breeze. Outside, it was stiflingly hot. No one on any boat was out and about until later in the afternoon.
Sunday: We had a slow day today. There is one mooring in the lagoon and one of the American boats was hanging on it when we arrived. This morning, it dropped the mooring and headed out. After breakfast, we decided that a mooring with its short leash was better for our boat, so we cranked the engine and Conni went forward to pull the anchor. About halfway up, about 15-feet into the 30-feet that she had set, the windlass stopped. She took the helm and I went forward and hauled the remaining chain and our 65-pound anchor to deck. Later, I messed with the foot switch a bit and it runs now, but needs to be replaced. Something else on the list for next year...
We are on the mooring, well attached to the bottom. Relaxing! This is such a beautiful place that we regret not having visited before. It's Sunday afternoon and there are 3-4 cars on a sandy part of shore. There's a group of 10-12 locals sitting in the water just laughing and carrying on. Small children are held by both genders and a smaller group of adults is nearer shore talking, too. The inevitable local music in playing. The singing utilizes a device that Conni says is called an "Autotune", that allows the singer to sound like he (in most cases) is singing through an instrument. It must be the rage of the day since we never hear Polynesian music without that effect. There were a few blankets on the ground near the vehicles, each with a group of young girls on them, and lots of local food. For this group, staying cool in the water with family and friends was the way to spend the Sunday afternoon.
I went snorkeling today, finally. We had few boat chores so I spent a few hours head down watching the sand go by. There is always something to see, of course, but it's obvious from remains that a fine garden of staghorn coral has died here. The bleached pieces are scattered around. I saw some puffer fish and a large stingray, near the deeper section. The water is truly gin-clear and a pleasure to snorkel in. I can say for certain that Wings has fewer than 3-feet of water under her keel, though! Otherwise, she looks fine and her new paint job is holding up well: she shows no growth at all.
We plan to depart tomorrow and move to Haamene Bay on Taha'a. We enjoy the place and haven't visited in a few years: since 2017, actually. Conni wants to visit the other side of the lagoon before heading out the pass to blue water.
As I type this, it's 1800 hours and the orange-yellow tropical sun is setting. The surf is pounding on the reef that's a mile away: a wide reef, here. There's a huge expanse of reef on the western horizon, with the traveling mounds of surf spraying.