25 September 2020 | Home
William Ennis | Rainy and 40°F: not the South Pacific!
Our trip across the Pacific and then up the US West Coast was uneventful, thankfully. Our Global Entry made entry into the US fast and easy, we had no contraband, so whisked through immigration and customs. We only had a 2-hour connection window in Los Angeles, and still had a hour wait! First Class (thank you, Alaska Airlines!) from LAX to Seattle, but then back to regular seats from there to AK. Our dear friends Peter and Toby fetched us at the Anchorage airport, drove us to their place, and fed us a lovely dinner before hauling our weary butts home. The dinner was in their garage with the door up, and all of us spaced more than two meters apart since we were sitting at a makeshift table made of a sheet of plywood...with candles. Very clever folks.
So, after a few days of washing boat stink and boat yard grime from ourselves and our gear, how was the trip?
We both think that it was one of our best! I'm surprised to feel that way, but we're both enthusiastic about our experience. Had we worked so hard with less to show for it, we would certainly have felt differently. Without recounting the work, Wings looks considerably better now than when we arrived.
As we discussed things, Conni made the statement that, "After all, we have a 36-year-old boat.", and that fact means that we should be spending extra time and effort on simple maintenance. And so we shall. Our sailmaker will complete a new forward section of boat cover made from a heavier material than the old sun cover, so the boat will be cooler below decks and will suffer a bit less rain and sun on her decks. We've always removed all of our halyards, of course, and all of our masthead instruments, and we've just begun to cover our new radome with a re-purposed outboard cover. We'll continue those practices, and begin to search for anyway possible to reduce or eliminate damage from the brutal South Pacific environment.
I think that we'll try and schedule a bit more time each season for simple maintenance, and make a list of regular maintenance for us to perform. At this point, we've got a new engine and new electronics, although I've still got to install our B&G wind instruement next season, so we can focus on maintenance rather than installing new.
We spent 9 days lounging in Bora Bora's lagoon, an exceptionally long time for us to stay anywhere, but we'd just launched after our grueling 4 weeks of boat yard effort. We spent several days, on two occasions, waiting out inclement weather in Tapuamu. We also accomplished a first for us, and visited the pocket lagoon on Raiatea. On our last Sunday before our Monday departure, we drove around the island and found the land side of that lagoon. I'll post a few photos of that scene later today.
We also visited Haamene Bay on Taha'a's SE side. It's Conni's favorite places and I've come around a lot now that it's safer for us. And of course there are both the Taha’a MaiTai and the Hibiscus to visit, two of our favorite restaurants.
Lots of work, lots of progress, lots of relaxing while floating in the most beautiful water in the world: a good trip.
Our Last Night in Polynesia
20 September 2020 | Pension Tiare Nui
William Ennis | SO hot
We visited the boat for an hour this morning, our last of the trip. I performed a few remaining tasks, as did Conni. We departed the Carenage about noon (neither of us favored our usual early morning wakeup!) and then went on a long drive down the East side of the island.
We had noted the Faaroa Bay Garden on our trips around the bay, but it had been closed before. After a multi-year upgrade, it was opened again and was a beautiful place to visit.
Their paths, all nicely planned and executed, followed through several areas of local plants, including a small boat landing on one of the two rivers at the head of the bay. As Conni reminded me, the Faaroa River is the ONLY navigable river in the country! We both wish that there were more informational plaques naming and describing the many local plants we saw, but I suppose that for locals, there would be no need. I've never been a flower aficionado, but the variety and colors of the local flowers have grabbed my imagination. When I see color combinations of locally made clothing, I used to wonder where the got their notions of what colors went together. Not now! They get their taste for riotous colors by looking out the window! Scarlet and yellow Birds of Paradise flowers. Orange and yellow Birds of Paradise flowers. One of my favorites, wild ginger, a startling red. The colors are vivid and very saturated and they're everywhere, so no wonder that's how they want their clothing colored.
We continued South on the belt road that circles the island, and took in the magnificent ruins of Taputapuatea, now a United Nations World Heritage Site. They have done some restoration and have placed some areas off-limits, but otherwise it's still a wonderful and open place to visit. Although the small walking guide given by some masked guards was in Polynesian, we were able to glean that a particular section on the water was the departure point for all of the various voyages to Hawai'i, for example. What might that event might have been like? A double-hulled sailing canoe filled with men and women, food and water, animals and plants, all departing for a future completely unknown. They trusted their navigators, those men trained since childhood to memorize the ocean currents, stars, and other esoteric signs that allowed them to accurately guide these explorers across thousands of miles of ocean. I've done that with modern electronics, and knew for certain that our target island existed, but it's hard for me to imagine the mindset they must have had to simply cast off and hope for the best. Whatever accolades those people have were well deserved, in my opinion.
We also learned that there is actually a marae called Taputapuatea and it's still considered the heart and soul of Polynesian religion throughout the Eastern Pacific. The site has certainly earned its Cultural Site significance.
The heat was just stifling, so we stayed our hour and crawled back into the rental car where a bit of AC and water revived us for the drive home. We enjoyed our last several beers with our meal, a can of cassoulet heated and eaten from a pan, since the bungalow offers no dishes: we've brought from the boat any that we've used, and we returned everything today.
We're packed, we think, and have as much stuff on our return as we had. I've got a blue box full of used Raymarine electronics that we'll give to a friend: chart plotter, radar, depth sounder, the works. We're usually a bit more wistful that we are this time, but we've worked so hard for so many days, that we're somewhat relieved to be heading home.
We have had a great time on the water. We had 4 weeks on the water, visited a pocket lagoon, a first. We visited and enjoyed Bora Bora for 9 day's, a first to spend so much time there. We stayed in Tapuamu Bay on Taha'a, as well as Conni's favorite (and it's growing on me now that it's safer) Haamene Bay. We dined at Taha'a MaiTai and the Hibiscus, two of our very favorite restaurants.
On the working front, we removed a complete set of older electronics, installed a new set with an all-new network. We painted the hull. We re-caulked 4 chain plates. Conni got three coats of varnish on the cap rails. Some things broke that we'll need to replace. We have a lot of ideas on how to do things better, so several items will be purchased to do that. As hard as it's been, it's also been one of our most successful trips: Wings is in much better shape now than when we arrived.
We depart Raiatea at 1000 tomorrow, and don't arrive in Alaska until Tuesday night, so we'll look and feel our very best.
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.