2021 Season Final Blog
30 September 2021 | Home in Anchorage
William Ennis | Cold!
Eight days ago, we arrived back in Anchorage, tired from a day's flying. We had been able, after all, to visit Conni's father for a few days and help celebrate his 94th birthday. Happy Birthday, LaVerne! We also got to see Cali friends whom we've met through the years, so it was a nice time.
We were fetched from the Anchorage airport by our dear friends, Toby and Peter. Prior to our arrival at the airport, they had notified us that we could get our CoVid vaccine booster there, with little waiting. Conni fetched the boxes and bags and I hustled to the vaccine center and got my jab: I was the only one there. Today's grim news is that Alaska has 114 cases per 100,000, while the US average is 37. Georgia and Florida both track a bit higher, but we're #3.
As is traditional, T and P fed us a great meal and filled us in on the Anchorage happenings, and then carted us and our cargo home.
So, Friday...we received over 17-inches of snow! Holy smokes! It snowed and snowed, most of the day and all night. It was one of the earliest and heaviest snowfalls in history. Lucky us! Oh, yeah, we lost power for most of the day! What a crazy homecoming we had. Saturday was spent clearing the driveway and around the house with great care and anxious upward glances for a roof avalanche of snow.
Our trip to French Polynesia was good but truly, the limits for traveling ashore eliminated many of the fun activities that we usually enjoy. Our plans for my nephew, Ian, were severely limited, although he is good natured and showed no distress at missing so many sights and visits: he didn't know what he was missing. We're used to taking long walks ashore, meeting people and seeing sights not seen before, and all of that was gone. Certainly we'll be back and things will open, but it was a frustrating experience. It's their country and as guests, we are obliged to obey their rules. And we shall.
Still, we got to visit some long-time favorite locations like Avea Bay and Fare on Huahine, and visit the beautiful Bora Bora. We hadn't even set foot on Hauhine last season, so that was a treat. We didn't get to eat or even go ashore other than twice for groceries on Bora Bora, alas. We were hankering for a cheeseburger and fries at the Bora Bora Yacht Club, but were not permitted ashore. That prohibition also cost us a lot of web page posts and clean laundry. It brought home to us how dependent we are on shore-side facilities.
We've grown to love and appreciate French Polynesia and its people. My first affection was for the water and islands, but we've soon learned what kind and outgoing the locals are, and have experienced first hand what Polynesian hospitality means. Conni and I wish them well and for them to have success in resisting CoVid.
We did suffer some unexpected gear failures. The aft head wouldn't pump rinse water, although we may have determined the cause: I'll re-plumb the head next season with some better and non-collapsable hose. The forward head had some plastic pump handle parts break, so we had to use a rag to hold the broken parts to pump water into and out of the head. The damned autopilot died, although we think that it can be repaired at some expense. The SSB, our main distance communication device, was unusable because of heat damage on the LED display. "Heat damage" is our analysis since the screen is unreadable and looks as if heat might have been the culprit, but the unit is never in sunlight, so heat is more likely. Our new B&G wind sensor would not pair with its base so was unusable. When we arrived home, we found a new unit awaiting us. I'll have to determine how to ensure that the sensor and base are paired before hauling it to the boat. We have our work cut out for us, and some expensive repairs.
We're looking forward to returning with working gear and then venturing a bit further afield than this year. The lockdown and gear failures were determining factors in our decision to curtail our adventure a bit. Our plan had been for a visit to the Tuamotus, as you might remember, and when all that gear is working, we're still interested in the trip, perhaps next season.
The new stern section cover is in place and will provide a lot more rain and sun protection for the cockpit and companionway. I didn't install the new AC-powered charger since the old one was working, but it's on the boat should it be needed. The bilge pump works automatically and reliably. It should not have taken so long, but we finally have that crucial piece of gear working.
We did have some gear successes, too. The engine, as usual, performed spectacularly, although we have a poor starter battery that I must replace next season. The outboard and dinghy were completely reliable transportation, thankfully. We bought an outstanding handheld VHF, a Standard Horizon HX-300, that performed exceptionally well. All of our usual electronics performed well. After our surprise at the autopilot failure, we did decide that we need to check the old gear on our arrival rather than assuming that it would work. At least we'd have time and resources to find a quick fix if we knew earlier. Conni's work on our shower system was a game changer and resulted in a cleaner, fresher-smelling crew. Our batteries are getting old but our solar panels and Honda generator are still successful at keeping them charged, albeit with a bit more time devoted to the task. Our installation of a new music player resulted in an easy-to-use music system that we both enjoyed. There's no CD player, but mechanical players are much more prone to failure and we both have iPhones as music sources. In a funny episode, nephew Ian, at 25, loved Conni's play list, mentioning that he knew no other adults with such a one.
We're already beginning to plan for next season, as is the way.
I did get a final webpage posted, showing photos of our last days in the yard.
16 September 2021 | Pension Tiare Nui
William Ennis | Very hot and stormy
We depart Raiatea tomorrow afternoon, although it's so hard to imagine: we're ready to go. The weather has not made it difficult to leave, either. It's been very hot with occasional violent squalls bringing 30 knot winds and heavy rains.
The past few days we've worked all day long, each day, completing one chore and beginning another. I've tackled a few more fiberglass repair tasks, and Conni has worked on running messenger lines, collecting our gear from below, and much more.
Today, for example, I sanded a few cured fiberglass repair jobs on the hull while Conni completed cleaning and collecting gear and food. After lunch, I sanded the entire cap rail, the teak rail around the edge of the deck, for Conni's varnishing job. She grabbed the can of varnish and a brush, and off she went, working in the heat and sun while applying a surface coat of our excellent varnish. That used to be my task but she's accepted it and seems to almost enjoy making the boat so pretty. The varnish is a two-coat product, a varnish for teak and a "gloss" coat that provides more UV and rain protection. Together, they provide the best protection we've found. Since it's the outer gloss coat that suffers damage, she finished a can of gloss on the cap rail. Interestingly, she also used the teak varnish, the undercoat, to varnish a few areas of teak in the cabin that are exposed to unusual wear. They look great! She was very clever to think of using the exterior varnish for that purpose.
In Mexico, we designed and had fabricated a sun cover for the boat. Of course in Mexico, the problem was sun and not rain, so the cover was made of a "greenhouse cloth", a loose weave of nylon made for greenhouse roofs. It survived for many years, but for the past several years, each year we've had a replacement made for the three parts of the cover. This year, we accepted the last part, the aft piece, made by the wonderful Regine Faux, as I mentioned before. This particular work is superb, with lovely gusseted corners and stainless steel grommets. We had the new cover made longer along the long axis to provide a bit more cover for the cockpit. We never know what the material will be since it depends on what Madame Faux has on hand, but this is the heavyweight stuff. It's stiff and heavy, but extremely durable and weather resistant.
We installed it yesterday and, Holy Smokes...it's wonderful! It provides some much needed sun, rain, and wind protection to the all-important cockpit/stern.
In order to move another boat, the Mana Iti (Little Spirit in Polynesian), Dominique the owner moved us around. We've made friends with the three people aboard Mana Iti. The older guy owns the boat: he's from Papeete. The other two are a couple from Reunion Island near Madagascar. The owner allowed us to tour the boat as she was in the slings for launching. Damn, it's huge! As I've mentioned, she was designed by the same guy who designed our boat, Robert Perry. It's of a similar vintage, 1981 compared to Wings' 1984. Mana Iti is at least 20-feet longer that Wings and she has so much room! The aft berth by itself is huge. The owner has done a lot of work on her and she looks great.
After we completed our work, we were able to pay our Carenage bills (yikes!), and head back to the bungalow for our last night in FP.
As mentioned, we depart French Polynesia tomorrow, if all goes to plan. We have confirmation that we can visit Conni's dad in Oakland. Very cool! Even with the heavy and cumbersome autopilot drive, my big bag is only 40 pounds, and I've also got a fairly lightweight blue box. Conni has a duffle and a single blue box, so we have two fewer items to carry home.
At some point in each trip, our minds switch from a French Polynesia mode to a Home mode, and that happened to me yesterday. I'm ready to stop sweating and working and have some quality home time. I'm not sure when Conni turned that corner, but she was ahead of me. We love being on the boat and we love French Polynesia, but it's time to go home.
Tomorrow, we'll return to the boat, briefly, to perform a final check and adjust our boat cover, but then we're done. Raihau, our host here at the Pension Tiare Nui, said that we could stay all day so we'll accept his generous offer. We'll return to the bungalow, shower again for our trip, pack odds and ends, then rest in the cool unit it's time to head to the airport. After the 45-minute flight from Raiatea to Papeete, we'll deal with luggage, and take our CoVid tests for re-entry into the US. Our United flight to San Fran departs at 2100 or so, so by mid-morning, we'll be in the good old US of A. Astounding. We'll stay in the Bay area for a few days, then head home to Alaska.
Our state of Alaska, and our community of Anchorage, are both inundated in CoVid, with cases spiraling out of control and hospitals in "Crisis Care" only. We'll return and go immediately into hunker-down mode, eschewing our traditional visits with friends. It can't be helped. Alaskan citizens simply will NOT get their vaccines, wear masks, or practice any healthy behaviors. Sigh. I expect a long and disease-fraught fall.
Nevertheless, we'll be at home, together, and we look forward to resuming our home lives. I've got another page to post, but won't do that until we reach Oakland.
Remembrance Then Work Sept 11-12
12 September 2021 | Pension Tiare anui
William Ennis | Very hot
11 Sept We had our moment of silence today for those who died on this day 20 years ago. I remember exactly what I was doing and where I was. Don't you? At any rate, American citizens should remember.
We were off to the boat. Our wonderful host, Raihau, manager of Raiatea Location, the car rental/bungalows printed and completed a form for us to carry around with us each day that tells officials that we're traveling to and from work. With his signature on the form, we're legal.
[Something just hit our bungalow roof, a mango from the tree behind us, we imagine. Very loud but we can't locate it. Conni settled on grabbing some bananas growing nearby.]
I painted two coats on the dinghy transom. It's needed it so we did it. I'll spread some Flex-Set epoxy on the top of the transom to prevent gouging and water penetration of the plywood.
I added oil to the main engine so that task is done. I also completed the outboard decommissioning, so that's complete. We're completing tasks as fast as we can manage. Conni worked most of the day below decks, completing the galley tasks. Cleaning the fridge/freezer is backbreaking work and she's pleased with the results. She cleaned the forward head and the messy shower sump. She also installed the middle section of our boat cover, providing much needed relief from sun heat and rain. We can leave the top hatch open, now. Our forward cover is still off, but the dinghy is taking the space. When I'm done tomorrow, we can collapse the dinghy, roll it up, and stow it, then put the cover on. We've had a new aft section fabricated by the wonderful Regine Fauxe: we'll fetch and pay for it on Monday. Conni is moving through her list faster than I.
12 Sept Sunday, a rest day in other situations, but not for the wicked or cruisers trying to depart a country. We were at it quite early and accomplished a lot. Our task list seems to be shrinking quite nicely.
While still in Mexico, we made the decision to sacrifice our old chemical toilet for the space needed for our water maker. What I failed to remove was an air vent for the mixing tank that penetrated the side of the cabin. That piece of pot metal has corroded through the years and became a source of a bad water leak in that area. I should have made the connection earlier, but just didn't. The metal was so corroded on the outside of the cabin that I was able to break off most of it with my bare hands. Removing the part inside the 1-1/2-inch-thick cabin wall was a bit more complicated but manageable.
So, we're faced with a 1-1/2-inch hole deep, 3/4-inch in diameter. How to fill it so that it's attractive (or at least not unattractive) and waterproof? Certainly, epoxy is part of the answer, but it's a lot of epoxy. The solution was to use a plug of 3/4-inch oak dowel that I had for another purpose and not discarded. We dried it in the room overnight, I used a small hand plane to decrease the diameter a bit to free space for more epoxy, cut it to length, and added a small screw in one end to help guide the piece while installing it. With Conni on the inside and I outside, we coated the hole walls with white MarineTex epoxy. I coated the plug with the same, and inserted the plug. Lots oozed from the inside, but we were ready and retained it for use. The repair isn't pretty, and is still very lumpy both inside and outside, but we'll let it cure then sand it flat. I think that it'll be fine. Conni was happy with the repair and it'll certainly eliminate the leak.
We filled our main diesel fuel tanks in Uturoa as we began the trip. The seas were on our beam so they slammed us into the damned dock. We sustained some damage to the gel coat on starboard side and today was the epoxy/gel coat day. Gel coat, by the way, is the outer layer of material on fiberglass. It contains the color in it and protects the fiberglass from UV damage and water penetration. Another task today was to fill the gel coat holes appearing in several parts of the starboard hull. There were plenty to fill!
Conni also moved far down her list and we both felt much relief with what we have accomplished.
Departure: We leave French Polynesia on Thursday, 16 Sept. We depart Raiatea in the early afternoon. We'll be hauling our usual load of gear, unfortunately. To re-enter the US, we both must test negative to a PCR test just prior to boarding. We've taken the initiate to register for a priority test and paid for it, so we will get a test early and not stand in line. Reasonably, French Polynesian health authorities are requiring that we pay for the tests since they are for our re-entry into the US and not into their country. We land in San Francisco and if Conni's father allows us, we'll visit him for a week or so, then home. We're definitely on the downhill run with a lot of work ahead of us. As we were sitting out tonight having cocktails (well, rosé, tonight), a cool breeze swept through and we were both cold! Are you kidding me? We'll surely perish in Alaska, where it's cold and rainy!
I have photos to post when our Internet connection improves, and i posted two pages last night.
Into Her Cradle
10 September 2021 | Pension Tiare Nui
William Ennis | Hot and then some
Blog 10 Sept 2021
16 43.41'S:151 27.54'W
Into Her Cradle
We arrived at the boat this morning at 0800 hours, in preparation for a promised pull from the water. Nope. One thing and another prevented the yard crew from acting on the promise.
I finally stopped Dominique, owner and mastermind, and asked him about his schedule for the day. He had just been called by ANOTHER owner of a wrecked boat (#142), and once again on the neighboring island of Huahine. The wreck was on that protruding part of the reef that we've come to call, "the Nose", since it protrudes so far. And...it catches a LOT of boats. The boat owner, when he called Dominique, admitted that he'd been too close to the reef. Well, duh. He grounded his boat! The reef is well marked on charts and is well known. Somehow people still hit it.
Dominique will wait until he hears from the insurance company or the owner about whether his costs will be covered. If they refuse or cannot, Dominique will ask the French Polynesian government to cover his costs, which they are likely to do since they don't want wrecks sitting out on reefs: bad PR, I guess. If it comes to that, the government will pay Dominique to remove the boat and then fine the crap out of the owner. I asked Dominique if he'd remove the boat from the reef and sink it, but he said that sinking derelicts was no longer allowed. All vessels must be cut into pieces and sent to Tahiti where they'll be packaged for recycle in New Zealand. Times have changed. When we first arrived, Dominique would pull a boat off a reef, strip it of what he could, and haul her out to deep water and sink her. Easy peasy.
Dominique did promise to get us out of the water before he departed for Huahine, so we settled on that.
By 1300 hours, the big TraveLift powered up and we quickly evacuated the boat. In no time, Wings was lifted from the water and set on a cradle for the season.
While in the slip, I had manhandled the dinghy vertically onto her stern and was able to rinse her completely. A big step in decommissioning the Mercury outboard is to rinse salt from her cooling passages. To accomplish this, I make use of a short screw in the bottom of her crank case and connect a special water intake accessory to a fresh water hose, and run the engine until it's out gas. The fresh water circulates in the engine providing cooling, and the salt is rinsed from the engine while the carburetor empties. There is some lubrication to do on all moving parts, I always change the oil in the foot, and I remove the plug and squirt Corrosion Block into the cylinder to prevent rust and corrosion from forming. All told, the multi-step process ensures a dependable outboard next season.
Early in the day while we were still in the slip, we used a hose to run fresh water through the main engine to remove salt deposits, even though it's a closed system. We also got the engine and transmission oil drained, and the oil filter replaced. I collected a few pieces of broken parts to take home and rebuild, repair, or replace. Meanwhile, Conni cleaned the entire refrigerator all the remaining food lockers of food, and prepared those spaces for layover. I inadvertently added to her chores when I emptied the dinghy of the rinse water before checking with her about closing the ports: I made a terrible wet mess that she mopped, not without some choice words. Sorry about that.
The 63-foot motor yacht, the US$6 million one, is still dripping water from her damaged hull. A large dinghy came by today and a small crew from Tahiti Yacht Charters, which owns the boat, offloaded everything salvageable from the damaged ama: sheets, towels, house wares, and such. It was all soggy, but a yacht charter company must be expert in solving that kind of problem.
I'm still nursing a damaged right eye. As we were removing the main sail two days ago, a small block (a pulley) swung into my eye. My eyelid is bruised and my cornea is probably scratched a bit, so it tears terribly, but it seems to be healing. Like most sighted person, I'm always fearful of eye damage.
Pension, sweet Pension
09 September 2021 | Pension Tiare Nui
William Ennis | Hot and rainy
Yep, we're ensconced in our home away from home, the Pension Tiare Nui. We've both enjoyed a long, hot water, stand-up shower and we're having cocktail hour inside, for a change. We've not forsaken the outdoors, but we've been sweating in the heat for many weeks, and it's nice to be clean, dry, and cool.
We have been in email contact with the Carenage staff for several days via Conni's phone. As you must know by now, I have no way to connect to the Internet, hence no blog posts or web pages. When I ask, of course, I can have a link using her iPhone as a hot spot, but otherwise, I've had no Internet in several weeks.
To accomplish something while waiting, we decided to awaken at 0600 (yikes!) and, weather permitting, remove and stow at least the jib. We managed to get ourselves on deck by 0610 and with some luck, made use of the usual morning lull in wind to pull down, pack, and stow the jib. Hey, not bad! We were concerned about more wind and rain, but managed to do the same for the huge and complex main, as well as packing the main lazy bag, the bag attached to the boom that covers the main when not in use. We even got the outboard stowed and the dinghy lifted to deck. Then, by 0800, it rained and rained.
The delay in lifting the boat from the water was because of the work in raising and transporting a large catamaran from Makemo, an island in the Tuamotus. Naturally, we watched the Carenage with interest since the catamaran's arrival signaled our turn at lifting. At 0830, we saw Carenage workers begin to ready their largest lift, a huge steel-beam device on heavy steel track. About 0900, the Carenage tug pulling an enormous catamaran came into view. The tug is a twin screw tug with a lot of power, and it easily towed the enormous boat. We watched the two vessels maneuver into the Carenage space and finally the huge cat was pulled from the water. When we finally got to the Carenage slip, we talked to Dominque about the process.
Two days before he heard about the catamaran, he had pulled another boat off the Huahine reef: number 140. He received a call from an insurance company that pleaded with him to rescue the boat. As Dominique says, he got "white card" (carte blanche) from the insurance company. Here's the story.
The boat in question is a 63-foot motor yacht, a catamaran, worth over US$6 million. As we thought, the expensive boat was rented with a charter company skipper. Makemo's lagoon is poorly charted, and that's what led to the sinking. The skipper had two crew on the boat's bow watching for coral heads, but the surface was disturbed from wind and the sun was too low to use. The crew saw the coral about 25-feet ahead and the skipper through the helm over and pushed the two engines to reverse, but to no avail. The boat hit the coral hard enough to hole the bow and then rip the front off the port-side keel and make a 0.5-meter hole. The boat stuck on the coral until 2000 hours and the incoming tide lifted her enough to escape the coral head. The skipper through on the throttles and beached the boat as quickly as possible. The starboard ama, or hull, was undamaged, so had engines and such, but the port-side ama sank at the beach and was completely submerged.
When Dominique and his crew arrived, they dived on the boat, attached big lifting bags to the port ama, and lifted that ama from the water. Immediately, they used sheet metal screws and a lot of caulk to seal the various holes with sheets of plywood. When those holes were sealed, they pumped out the boat and she was floating. They spent some time checking the repairs, and even visited some friends on the atoll! In 4 and 3 nights, they towed the damaged boat to Raiatea and had her on the hard. Dominique thinks that the boat will back in the water in a week, but she'll need her entire port ama repaired: new engine, new furniture. and new bulkheads. Other than the hull, everything will have to be replaced, but at US$6 million, the US$1million that repair will cost will be well worth it.
At any rate, we were notified that we could enter the slip, so at 1300, we pulled our anchor and motored to the slip. We did most of the work ourselves and motored into the slip alone. Only after we arrived did the crew arrive to help. We did well.
Lifting today was not to be, so we completed a few more chores before Conni met Raihau, our host at the Pension, and acquired our car and room key. At 1600, we decided to call it quits for the day and drove to our bungalow.
Now comes the slog to decommission the boat. We've lost three days of work awaiting our pull from the water, so we'll be busy. Tomorrow at 0800, Wings ceases to be a boat and becomes a fiberglass thing in a cradle.
Waiting, 5-6 Sept
05 September 2021 | Raiatea
William Ennis | ummm...hot
Ian departed on Saturday and we bid him a fond farewell. His father, my brother, is not a camping enthusiast, so he's unlikely to have enjoyed 10-days aboard with us, but Ian had no such problems. He rolled with the difficulties, he was as helpful and enthusiastic as possible and he was invited back.
We're awaiting a lift from the Carenage staff, but they're away on a salvage operation in the Tuamotus. Evidently, an expensive boat has gone aground and (we predict) the insurance company hired the Carenage to retrieve the boat. Whether they can repair it is another matter, but the crew here is known around the country for their innovative and superb work. We imagine that the delay in our pull is because there's no staff to arrange the cradle for Wings, although the lifting machine, the TraveLift, is on site and the operator is, too. We hope that Dominque, the owner and mastermind, will arrive sooner rather than later and we'll get our chance to work on decommissioning Wings for her layover. It will also be interesting to have this front row seat for the arrival and raising from the water of the injured boat. We have no way of knowing what she is, who owns her, or how she came to be damaged, but to pay Dominque to virtually close the yard for the required time means that the boat is worth a lot. His entire yard crew is with him, as is their ocean-going tug boat. To move the boat from the Tuamotus to here means that the damaged hull must somehow be made water-tight, and whether the boat will move under her own power or be towed must also be decided on site. Our guess? She's an expensive catamaran that ran aground on a reef while traveling at night, either through some mechanical or electronic failure, or she dragged anchor during a blow and went aground. The Tuamotus are well charted, but accidents are very common.
We took a look at the two heads today, both non-functional to some degree. It would have been a hassle for just Conni and me, but doubly so with a guest. Damn. For the aft head, we think that we have determined the cause of its failure. Many years ago, my parents were aboard the boat while it was still in Seward. We had no anti-siphon valve for that head since the head and its installation had come with the boat and we rarely used that head. With no anti-siphon valve, the head flooded with my father on it. Oops. Soon thereafter, I installed that anti-siphon valve in the inlet hose from the seacock. Years later, in Fiji, we realized that there were no more parts available for that toilet, an ancient Brydon Boy long out of production, and I installed a new one, hauled from Anchorage in a blue box. It was a hassle. At any rate, I simple reused the hoses that were originally installed for the Brydon Boy head, including the anti-siphon valve that I had installed. According to the directions for the newer head, the location for that anti-siphon was specifically prohibited! Oops. When we get into the yard, one of my first tasks will be to re-route hoses to conform with the installation directions for this newer head. Will that fix the problem? Perhaps, but I've got to do the work, anyway. Regardless, I'll dismantle the pumps for both heads and rebuild them at home. With our guest here, the forward head failed when a piece broke from the pump handle as it was being used. With the aft head not pumping sea water for rinsing and the forward head handle broken, we were up shit creek!
As we sit here awaiting our removal from the water, we've begun to delineate our work to decommission. Many tasks are the same from year to year, and some change depending on what's broken during our season aboard.
6 Sept We went ashore today to take our first load of dirty (and I do mean filthy and stinky) clothes for washing. We use a mesh duffle about a 3-feet long and 1 foot in diameter. It's about US$50 worth of laundry with prices here.
I also spoke to the one remaining yard guy and we discussed the boat that Dominique is salvaging. It's a 60-ft charter catamaran, so that much is what we thought. Our friend, Teina, said that the boat sunk and they'll have to lift her. Yikes! There are two interesting points here. A sunken boat is simply worthless and rental boats are not top-of-the-line, for obvious reasons. Why raise her? Her entire interior will be ruined, her electronics ruined, engines perhaps salvageable, but not much else. No answer yet. Secondly, in most cases, rental companies don't allow guests to pilot their larger boats for just this reason: they are unfamiliar with the waters and the vessels and they don't wish to lose a boat. We think that it's likely that a charter skipper was aboard, making things especially messy. When we learn the facts, I'll forward them, but it's already interesting. The island, by the way, is Makema in the Tuamotus. Take a gander: it's a typical atoll with almost nothing above water. No wonder they hit it!