Last Night in French Polynesia
13 July 2018 | Pension Tiare Nui
Bill, glad and sad
So, here we are. After a week's very hard work, demanding long days, we're done and depart tomorrow.
We competed the work today, although we've got to return for a few tasks tomorrow. We plan on a relaxed day, a good late breakfast, some mild boat work, say our goodbyes to the yard crew, then go for a drive around the island.
As I've mentioned, we bought two new flooded batteries when my multimeter failed and I got incorrect readings on their voltages. All of our other batteries are AGMs and have very low self-discharge rates. The flooded don't have that ability. When our charge distribution device, the Pathmaker, failed, I replaced it with a simple switch. When we had charging voltages from some source (solar, engine), I closed the switch and the batteries got charged. Without a charging voltage, I opened the switch and they were on their own. When we're gone from the boat, that's not enough. Our boat-watch lady can't be expected to deal with the switch, so I have a conundrum. If I leave the switch closed, the flooded batteries will discharge and the AGMs will discharge to charge them. Not good. If I leave the switch open, I keep the AGMs from discharging, but sacrifice the flooded since they'll never get charged. We decided today to sacrifice the flooded and keep the switch open. I simply had no way to deal with the flooded batteries.
There's another Passport in an adjoining yard, a 42-footer, that's for sale at a ridiculously low price, and there's a guy in Australia who's asked us to take some photos of the boat and provide an opinion on whether it's a good boat for him to purchase. She's fine boat, 42-feet long, all the bells and whistles, and she's been cared for the past 3 years. She's even imported into the country, so she doesn't have to leave every 36 months as we did. If I wanted another boat, I'd buy her. She's got a terrible name (IMHO), Big Rock Candy Mountain, but to each his own. Her owners simply can't spend time on her right now and are "motived" to sell. The prices has dropped from US$130,000 to US$60,000. What a deal!
We've asked Marie, our neighbor next door, to join us for our last night dinner. We'll go to Le Napoli, an Italian place down the road. We've eaten there before and know that it's great. The main chef, probably the owner, makes his pizza dough by hand and throws it in the air to increase its circumference. It's quite a show!
After work today, we drove into town for baguette and found a place to serve us a beer. Conni had a small one, but the server offered me a "flagon". A "flagon"? I've read about flagons of beer, or usually ale, in stories from the middle ages! Yep, I had one. Wouldn't you? We returned to the Pension and Conni created this marvelous pre-function feast with two cheeses, a lovely French saucisson sec, and a fresh baguette, all to be washed down with a Loire Rosé. If only the days were not so hot and long...
It's been a demanding week for us. Of our 8 leaking chain plates, I re-bedded 5. Today, we wrapped the 3 remaining chainplates in plastic bags and tape to try and reduce the leaking.
Putting the boat to bed for 10 months in this environment is a demanding task. Fuel and water tanks drained, engine prepared for layover, any source of external water intrusion plugged, everything cleaned and stowed below, the list is extensive. Each year we add a few items to the list that we learned that we must do.
This year, our sailmaker, Madame Regine Faux, repaired our jib after damage from chafe during our upwind slog from Rarotonga to Bora Bora. She also made three bags for reefing lines to keep them out of the sun. We erected our three-part boat cover. We folded, packed in bags, and stowed on deck all of our sails. Even the outboard must be prepared for layover with foot oil changed, gas run from the carburetor, Corrosion Block introduced into the cylinder to prevent rust on the cylinder and piston, and salt water deposits flushed from the cooing system. Finally, it gets stored below decks. Altogether, it's multi-hour task. Both the Honda generator and main engine demand the same level of treatment.
Sun and rain are the problems here. Everything made of plastic must be protected from the sun. Usually that means a UV-proof bag that's been specially fabricated. The dinghy is a case in point. It's made of Hypalon, originally a neoprene-coated nylon invented by DuPont, so can resist UV. That's a big benefit here. The dinghy must be brought on deck, cleaned, folded and covered with a UV-resistant cover, then stowed on deck. Everything on deck must be encased in some UV-resistant material, and we're learning about that.
After the dinner:
Contrary to what we had discussed, I had steak and fries, Conni had Mahimahi and fries, and Marie had something else, and we shared a bottle of good Rosé. Conversation roamed across the spectrum, but the later half focused on our perceptions of whether the Germans still felt some remorse for WW2. Marie has lived in, and visited so many countries that she has a particularly unique perspective. She talks a lot, so I think that she puts off a lot of people, but if one listens, she's a tremendously interesting person. Her English is excellent, as is her first language, French, but she also speaks German and bit of Japanese.
We leave tomorrow on the 1830 flight from Raiatea to Papeete. We depart Papeete a bit before midnight, and arrive in LA in the morning. Luckily, we have some down time at LAX, the on to Oakland for a few days, visiting Conni's dad.
Work and Life in a Cradle
05 July 2018 | Raiatea Carenage, Raiatea
Red Hot Bill
We had stayed Tuesday night at Apooiti Bay, on a mooring. When we're there, although it's US$27/night, we do get hot water showers: that's worth a lot.
We had made arrangements to get the boat pulled from the water on Wednesday morning, but we had also decided it would be easier to get our jib repaired by Madame Faux if we got it to her while were in Apooiti: that's where her shop is, after all. The wind was still fierce on Tuesday, and into the evening so we made plans to arise early and see if we could drop the jib before the day's breezes began, and so we did. Whew! We used a halyard to move the heavy jib into the dinghy and motored to the dinghy dock to meet with Madame Faux, the sailmaker. She's fabricated a lot of stuff for us through the years, and it's been high quality, done on time, but never cheap. The material, alone, is expensive this far out, and she does superb work.
We delivered the jib to her and then brought her back to the boat to describe some projects that we wanted her to do for us. She's a trooper and has no qualms about jumping into a dinghy and then onto a strange boat. Measurements done, we delivered her to shore and motored to the Carenage. After some messing around, they got us out of the water and into a cradle by 1100 hours, and here we sit. We've become adept at the process of preparing the boat for getting pulled: removing the jib (done anyway, this time) and removing the forestay, preparing dock lines and fenders, and getting the boat through a coral garden and into the tiny slip for pulling.
It's SO HOT! With the hull in hot air and with little breeze, we've just been drenched with sweat and dehydrated. Tomorrow night, we move into the Pension and have a car so that we can get money, but the past nights in the yard have been sweltering and with NO BEER! Now THAT'S a problem! Of course we have cold showers here, and that's something, but a very cold beer at the end of the day would be very nice indeed.
By this time tomorrow, we'll have moved into the Pension, have a vehicle so that we can get supplies and money, and have purchased some Hinano...COLD HInano!
Last Night On a Boat
03 July 2018 | Apooiti Bay, Raiatea, French Polynesia
We had a great and relaxed time in the various bays on Taha'a, staying for several days in Tapuamu, and a single night in Ha'amene Bay, hanging on a mooring at the Hibiscus Hotel.
The owner of the Hibiscus, Leo, is in his 80s and had open heart surgery last year (he shows his scar with pride) and we were fearful that he had served his last drink, but he was fine. Many years ago, he immigrated from Germany, so speaks German, English, French, and Polynesian. We're glad for that English! He's a very kind man and gave us both hugs and the wonderful French double cheek kisses. He made Conni's kiss a bit nicer.
His speciality is "lagoon fish", so when he asked for a meal, he asked what we wanted and we agreed on that, along with all the trimmings. We went back to boat and had a bit of cocktail hour, then motored back in a calm and beautiful night to the Hibiscus. After the Maitai's arrived, and he makes a mean one, we enjoyed the ambiance of a true sailor's bar, with burgees from all over the world. Dinner was the lovely salad, and then the main course: some kind of whole grilled fish with a jaw full of mean-looking teeth. I'll post photos. It wasn't a Parrot Fish, a coral-eater, for sure, and the scales were gone so we couldn't determine the original color. The server knew only the local name, so no help there. With some mix of excellent local greens, slabs of taro and arrowroot, and some homemade mayonnaise that went well with the fish, it was a wonderful, healthy, and traditional meal. Leo's Taha'a-born wife, Lolita, has influenced his cooking.
The calm night lasted from our return to the boat until 0600, when the wind picked up. We moved as quickly as we could, knowing what heinous conditions existed on that windward side of the island. Getting the motor off the dinghy was challenging, but we managed. Engine on, we motored to the bay's entrance and deployed a hanky of jib, and we motor-sailed to Apooiti.
The reason for this blog's title is that we have made arrangements for Wings to be plucked from the water tomorrow morning. We still have days worth of decommissioning to do, but much of that time we'll spend the nights in our Pension Tiare Nui. Transport will be via Fiat Panda rather than by water. We take the plane to Papeete on the morning of 13 July, then fly from the country on that evening. Our leg is close to done and as usual, it's a bitter-sweet experience.
The weather has been heavy weather, unremittingly. There was a 25-knot wind in the lagoon as we sailed over to Raiatea from Taha'a this morning. Sheesh! On the other hand, we did get a shower at the marina: an altogether good thing.
Taha'a R and R
01 July 2018 | Tapuamu Bay
Bill, Getting Better
After such long and difficult passages, and now by ourselves, we headed to Tapuamu Bay on the SW side of Taha'a, sister island to Raiatea and inside the same reef. We know it well, having had to ride out a 7-day storm system here several years ago. We know the neighborhood and know that the moorings are safe. We snagged one on the first day and haven't bloody moved! On two of the days, we didn't even leave the boat! With no word spoken, we have agreed to simply take it easy and recuperate. We're asleep by 1800 and don't awaken until 0800.
Each of us has done some light chores, cleaning the hull from the dinghy, cleaning some lockers, but for the most part, we read and talk. It's been heavenly! Yesterday, we went ashore and took some walks, toward the North we even came across a local wedding celebration: I'll post some photos when I get some internet, so if you are reading this, they'll probably be posted.
We plan to visit Ha'amene Bay tomorrow, if the weather cooperates. The NE squalls have been flying across the island and that means that Ha'amene, on the NE side, is uninhabitable. Here in the SW side, the island breaks a lot of the strength of the wind and we can ride to the mooring in comfort. We probably won't make it to the head of Ha'amene Bay, but if it's open and Leo is alive, we'll use a mooring at the Hibiscus Hotel for the night. The meals are great, Leo's a great host, and they've got Wifi.
I went snorkeling today. After my chores, I took the dinghy to the drop-off before the shallows to shore, tied it to a big rock and went to see the sights. Julia would have loved it! While the coral is not all healthy, a lot of it is: pink, green, yellow, and brown types were there, although I don't know the names. I saw what looked to my untrained eye as Brain Coral, too, and even two patches of Stag Horn, the first that I've ever seen still living. Jeez, I bet it was gorgeous 20 years ago. The shore shallows are no more than a few feet deep, then at that edge is the coral garden, and then the bottom drops to 80-feet or so. I saw no sharks, but lots of those tiny fluorescent blue fish that I like to see. I have no idea what they are, but they're just beautiful. There were some "zebra" fish, as I'd call them, with vertical black stripes on a white body. Larger yellow fish, smaller brown ones: you get the idea. Not bad for 2 minute dinghy ride! I'll be back. I can also tell that I need to learn some more appropriate fish nomenclature.
We arrived last Thursday and made sure to visit the Pari Pari Rhumerie, home of the best "rum agricole" or rum from sugar cane syrup (rather than molasses), that we've ever tasted. It's not cheap, but it's excellent and the guy who runs it is doing his best to source locally, using traditional varieties of cane and not new hybrids. He's doing good work for the locals and making an excellent product, and they're attracting some attention, too: richly deserved, in our opinion.
Conni continues to produce fantastic meals, and cocktail hours. This is her kind of sailing, with time to enjoy the surroundings and enjoy the place. Passages...not so much.
We had originally planned to take Julia to Papeete for her flight out of country, and while there, have the engine mechanic whom we hope will replace our engine meet us to take some crucial measurements. As I wrote, we simply couldn't face another 26-hour upwind sail. Couldn't do it. Unfortunately, Adrian was not able to meet us in Raiatea, so I'll have to make the measurements myself. We'll try to get him to fly here later to check what we did.
We plan on having the Raiatea Carenage staff pull Wings from the water on 4 or 5 July, then we'll take 10 days or so to decommission her, then we return to the US with Blue Boxes bulging with items to return and parts to replace. It's a never-ending effort to remove items that we don't use, and we're getting closer. I'll remove a lot of our reference books this leg: anything that I haven't used will be taken home.
The Transition to Land
30 June 2018 | Pension Tiare Nui
With the boat in "project mode", stuff everywhere, it's not a reasonable place to live. To reach anything or anywhere, boxes and piles of lines, or tools must be moved..well, cursed and moved. It's a trying time for us and it's why we move off the boat when we can. Luckily for us, Pension Tiare Nui awaits.
Yesterday, at the appointed time, someone from Pension Tiare Nui arrived at the Carenage and we were ready with our night's supplies. On arriving, we dumped our stuff and went in search of beer, wine, and baguette, all of which we had done without for several days since we had no vehicle and had drained our supplies. Back at the Pension, we enjoyed the evening cool, sipped some wine with our crazy neighbor, Marie, and enjoyed our hor de oeuvres. It was delightful!
Ah, Marie... Marie is a 72-year-old French woman who has been given permission to live in one of the bungalows here since she knows the owner. She pays no rent but probably has no money, either. She's more than a tad overweight and suffers from many ailments: bad knees, bad back, sciatica, etc. We met her here several years ago, and her penchant for non-stop talking about her health issues usually means that we avoid her when we can. She is an interesting person, actually, when you can get her to stop telling you about her declining health. She was born in Alsace just after the WW2, so her section of France was one of the first to be overrun by the Germans and one of the last to be liberated. Some local healer has introduced her to various juice cocktails that seem to help her feel better, so she hobbles to the local market every few days for the latest round of juice. Last night, though, we gave her some of the wine that we were enjoying, a good French Rosé. Tonight, she hobbled over from her bungalow (interrupting our dinner, mind you...as were eating!) and asked what the name of the wine was. It was a miracle cure, she said! Well, duh! Alcohol works! She was so grateful to us! We do plan on taking her to dinner at the nearby Italian place, Napoli, sometime this week.
Busy day on the boat. We got the dinghy out of the water, hosed down and cleaned, hoisted to the deck, and stowed. I flubbed and change the oil before I rinsed the salt from the engine, so we'll add the cheap off-season oil and I'll have to change the oil filter. Dummy.
While I was doing that, I found a nice piece of bolt. Note the phrase: "piece of bolt". It was sheared from something and I knew that it probably came from the alternator. A quick inspection validated my thought. Who knows when it sheared? After some knuckle-busting work, I removed the old bolt, an M8, and replaced it with one of my spares. The problem is that there is too much play between the alternator bracket and the alternator foot, and no one has been able to get the right spacers into the system. If the alternator isn't tight, the rotation makes it vibrate a bit, and through the hours, it does so enough to shear the bolt. A new engine should solve that! I've done the job enough times to understand the process, so it wasn't as bad as it could have been. I took the opportunity to change the alternator belt, too.
We counted engine hours when I changed the oil: all of that is put in my engine log, of course. We have 160 hours of motoring on this crossing! At an average of 4 knots, that's 640 nautical miles! We did sail most of the time during the crossing, but the seas were so bad that the engine helped when we hit a wave and slowed.
Our starboard fuel tank needs cleaning again, so I'll take the same advice and care as before to clean it: none-metallic tools and lots of care. Again, thanks, LaVerne and Kelly, for that advice on staying safe while cleaning a diesel tank.
Most large tasks are complete but the big issue is trying to stop the leaks in our chainplates. The stainless steel cable that supports the mast are called shrouds. They connect to stainless steel bars bolted to the hull and that protrude through the deck. Those bars are called, "chainplates" and of course, they originally were plates for chains to attach. The constant working of the mast is transferred to the chainplates, of course, and that loosens all but the most perfect sealing job, and we've had much less than that perfect job the past few years. Even the professionals have done a poor job, although not an expensive job. We can't find the recommended caulk or the recommended preparation solutions for them, so I suspect that we'll use what we can find and have to re-do the job when we return.
We're still planning on the engine replacement next year and have been working on that task constantly.
By the way, we're both clean, cool, and dry. We're fed and we've had a beer each. Simple pleasures.
Julia Leaves, We Take a Rest Day
27 June 2018 | Raiatea, French Polynesia
By training, Julis is a Marine Biologist, and we had made plans for her to make a dive here on Raiatea, which supposedly has some of the better diving around. We departed Uturoa in the morning and motored to Apooiti Bay, home of the Moorings and Sunsail charter fleet. We grabbed a mooring and headed to the small marina to connect with Hemisphere Sub, the local, and highly-rated, dive shop.
I had exchanged email with them the day before and knew that they had a 1400 hour dive planned, a "drift dive" through a local pass through Raiatea's surrounding reef Passe Teavapiti. It's the main pass through the reef and we've been through it many times. It's the pass closest to Uturoa, so there's a lot of traffic through it.
I love drift dives! One is deposited on the outside of a reef pass and simply drifts with the incoming tide through the pass (hence the name), watching things as one passes them by. The dive was at 70 feet and Julia was apprehensive about the depth, but I've been that deep on many occasions. I'll never be a good diver since I have such trouble clearing my ears, but once at depth, I have no issues with my ears. We made the arrangements.
In the end, Julia felt the dive was too deep for her experience, so I went by myself. It was a great dive! We saw LOTS of Black Tip Sharks, a few Lemon Sharks, a school (is that the collective noun?) of rays gliding through the water, a school of Barracuda, and many other exotic (to me, anyway) fish. There was even a goodly amount of living and colorful coral: pink, green, purple, and yellow. Beautiful. It was also interesting and informative to see the bottom of the pass since we regularly traverse it. It's nice to know that it's clear and that the sides aren't too steep or rocky.
Today, we arose early and after breakfast, loaded into the dinghy to take Julia to the airport. The channel beside the airstrip is difficult to follow and poorly marked, where it's marked at all. With some difficulty, we did navigate to the terminal and said goodbye to our crew mate. Julia, thanks for everything. You were great and you helped us enormously.
Our original plan was to get to Taha'a today, but after an hour of "second breakfast", we decided to just sit at the mooring. We did odd jobs around the boat, whipping lines, replacing broken gear, cleaning, checking fittings: necessary but hardly demanding. It was glorious!
Tomorrow, we go to Taha'a and Tapuamu Bay. It's one of our favorites and we look forward to seeing it again.