26 May 2017 | Mooring at the Hibiscus Hotel, Taha’a, French Polynesia
Bill, having fun!
We were splashed, as promised, on Tuesday afternoon. Simon. the lead yard guy, started moving the boat that blocked access to Wings and had us in the water by 2:00 PM. Conni was snapping photos as I looked for problems in the launch, and she inadvertently set down the camera. Someone else picked it up, dammit. We lost a good camera and all the photos that we haven’t posted yet. We still have the iPhones, so that’s what we’ll use. I imagine that it was time for a new camera! Wings was a boat again, floating in their entry slip, and it was SO hot aboard!
The next day, Wednesday, another yard guy brought the “fuel polishing” machine: a powerful fuel pump that pushed our diesel fuel from the tanks through an industrial fuel filter to remove the bacterial crud that had accumulated and caused us such distress. They did a good job, or so it seems. Our diesel is flowing cleanly and we’ll continue to add biocide and stabilizer when needed to keep it so.
Later, we tried to inflate our dinghy since it’s easier to do on land, but found an enormous hole that we were able to temporarily patch. We were not sure that we wanted to trust the patched dinghy with our outboard’s extra weight, so simply paddled around after they moved us from the entry slip to make way for another boat launch. Madame Faux, the sailmaker, dropped by and we paddled to shore to fetch her and allow her to take measurements for a nice sun partition. We made arrangements to meet her at her shop the next day at 11AM. Later that afternoon, we paid our bill, started the engine and departed the Carnage.
We did not make it far! The engine quit (more on that later) and we were forced to hurriedly hoist our jib to try and make our way to a mooring to spend the night. Unfortunately, a 3-knot current was steaming through the mooring field and after multiple attempts, we were unable to sail to the mooring and snag it. The current was so strong that even when we got close enough for me to snag the pendant with a boat hook, I was unable to hold on long enough to bring the pendant aboard. The pendant, by the way, is the smaller piece of line, usually with an eye spliced in the end and floated by a smaller buoy, and made for the sailor to snag and bring aboard.
After dark, we made it across the channel to a very shallow area that had a French family aboard a chartered catamaran. We sailed up and dropped our hook, hoping that it would catch. It did, luckily. We watched things for awhile and then tried to get some sleep.
That didn’t last long! At 4AM, we heard an angry scream in French-accented English that we had hit his boat! Damn!
We scurried out to the cockpit, and saw that a wind change had put us in line with the catamaran, with Wings backing on the cat between her hulls. Not good and a difficult place from which to extract ourselves.
We fended off for a while, and finally the Frenchman decided that he would seek another location. We couldn’t since we had no engine to count on! After a few minutes of watching, it became apparent that we were dragging anchor and entering some very shallow water. By the time that had a jib out and sheeted, we had 6 feet under the keel and we draw 5’9”. Yikes! We did manage to clear the shallows, and sailed around until daylight allowed us some options.
Conni suggested that we attempt the mooring again, so I headed over to the mooring field. With some truly inspired helm work by Conni, I was able to snag the mooring pendant and we were home. We both napped until 8AM
At 8AM and I arose to, again, bathe in diesel and bleed the entire system. The engine started immediately and we were mobile again. Rather than move the boat, we elected to chance our dinghy repair and we successfully motored a mile to meet Madame Faux at Marina Apooiti. Even that trip was delayed because, while I had been preparing the outboard engine for storage, I had pulled the spark plug and introduced some Corrosion Block into the cylinder to prevent rust. I had neglected to return the damned plug wire, though, so we had no engine until I removed the cover and fixed the problem.
We returned to the boat and made her ready to leave Raiatea. About bloody time!
The entire diesel engine problem happened because I got complacent and didn’t bleed the system properly. The engine started and rather than realize that removing the entire primary fuel filter would introduce air, I took it that since the engine started that it was OK. MMMMMM..NO. Both of our engine problems were my fault, and I am very sorry. Neither should have happened
With 99% or our electronics working, we casually motored the two hours to neighboring Taha’a and Ha’ameni Bay, where we snagged a mooring at Hotel Hibiscus. Earlier in the week, we had tracked down a mysterious problem that prevented our chart plotter from communicating with the network, so the one remaining failed device is the wind speed transducer. I’m sure that as the wind rotates the little cups at the masthead, it works like a tiny generator, and that signal is calibrated and sent to the wind display. I’ll return both the display and anemometer to Raymarine when we return. Shoot, we even received sea water temperatures from our electronics! By the way, they varied between 75-80.5°F.
“Charlie’s Charts”, whose author has long since departed this earth, mentions that Hotel Hibiscus is cruiser friendly, but in our last trip here, we received no response to our radio hails. This time, though, there were workers creating a new dinghy dock, so after securing ourselves on the mooring, we placed our outboard on the dinghy and went ashore.
Yes, Hotel Hibiscus is alive and well, although the owner, Leo, is now 87. He shuffles around, to be sure, but is an active owner. He welcomed us in English, although he speaks his native French, German, Italian, as well as English. We bought a cold Hinano beer from his bar and we spoke at length of his life on Taha’a. He built the hotel 30 years ago and moved to Taha’a from France 45 years ago, so he’s always been active. The hotel lobby/bar is simply beautiful with 30 years of sailing burgees, flags of nations, and other artifacts from the crews that have made their way to Hotel Hibiscus. It’s something to see. The roof has “Hibiscus VHF 68” emblazoned on it, so they certainly solicit cruisers. There are 3-4 bungalows that he rents, too, as well as the offering the free moorings, free bicycles, and wonderful meals.
We made arrangements for dinner at 7PM, and then, after a short walk to see the sights, we motored back to Wings. We cleared the decks, making things secure for the evening, then both sacked out for two hours, for a much-needed rest. After a quick shower, we motored back to the Hibiscus.
What a meal! We began with a cold HInano, then marlin carpaccio (something that we’ve never had, prepared with light, fragrant olive oil, thinly sliced marlin steaks, and lots of excellent salt), then a grilled fish, in its entirety. The fish was Parrot fish, the coral eater. I thought that somewhere I had read that they could be toxic, but this wasn’t. Served with this superb preparation, were nicely prepared taro and yam. It was a colorful and incredibly tasty meal. Later in the evening, a trio of lovely ladies entered, who are staying in one of the bungalows. The oldest woman was taking vacation from her Bora Bora pearl sales job, her daughter who was studying psychology in Montreal, and her friend, also from Montreal. They all spoke excellent English, as well as their native French. We spoke of climate change, since that’s a topic near and dear to island-living people everywhere. We also spoke of the depression that is hitting Tahiti, and about which we knew nothing. Everyone lives interesting lives and has difficulties that we cannot imagine. Learning from these strangers is one of the great benefits of traveling. Of course, the mystique of sailing from Alaska is always a conversation starter.
By the way, we contributed to Leo’s collection of club burgees by donating one of ours. Interestingly, Leo already had an Alaskan flag hung from his ceiling.
Today, we do almost nothing. Hurray! We’ve got a secure mooring, and later today, Leo says that we can use his Wifi. You might even receive this!