Society Islands to Samoa.
Bora Bora, Society Islands
Depart: Friday 09.06.23
Distance 1218nm (solo)
Again, up early with the same routine, check phone, news, make tea, have breakfast. Today I was hoping that my paperwork for clearing out of French Polynesia had been completed by Papeete and had been sent back to the local gendarmerie. I called in and the same officer remembered my name and looked for the paperwork. Voila, it was there, passport stamped, I was free to go. I had some FP francs that would be of no use to me once I had left the island so I decided to get rid of them. I bought some engine oil, which isn’t sufficient to do an oil change but will be okay for topping up. However, the cashier wouldn’t allow me to use both cash and credit card to complete the purchase so off I went to buy something else. Two bottles of wine and a pack of salami. I thought I had enough cash but I was 100 francs short, about 73pence in sterling. I told the cashier to remove the salami from my bill, which she was about to do, when the lady next in the queue offered to make up the difference. She insisted and I thanked her for her generosity. Armed with my wine, salami and oil I returned to the boat. I was just about preparing to leave when I was asked to assist a French couple to help them get off the quay. The wind was blowing onshore and the hull of their boat was scraping the concrete wall and ruining the gel coat. By pushing the bow away and working towards the stern we managed to get them on their way. Now it was my turn! I asked three local people if they would do the same, my manoeuvre was going to be easier as I was at the end of the quay and just needed to get a bit of space between my hull and the wall and the reverse. Simple and straightforward, I was on my way. Fenders taken in, mooring lines taken in and mainsail bag unzipped ready to hoist the sail. Once in open water and with plenty of depth to work with I turned the boat into the wind and began to raise the sail. Difficult trying to keep the bow nose to wind but I eventually managed to get the sail up, but with the second reef put in. Although I have about 1200nm to get to Samoa common sense tells me to err on the side of caution, which I’m quite happy with. Once out of the channel and beyond the reef the Genoa was unfurled, again to the second reef. The wind was blowing quite strongly, gusting up to 22kts - that’s where I have set my wind alarm, and the sea state was choppy with 2 - 3m waves. I was on my way to Samoa, a passage of 1200+nm and sailing solo. This is the longest I have ever sailed on my own, but then I still have a further 4500nm to go after I get to Samoa! Had an unwelcome visitor this evening. A rather large (and presumably tired) sea bird. Unfortunately it left its calling card all over my solar panel. The bird was seen off and I had to clean the panel before it dried out! Supper was a beef stew. I have this for the next few nights. The beef was only slightly less tough than when I used it previously.
Trying to get into a routine of when to keep watch and when to try to sleep. I’m recording my log every six hours, 00:00, 06:00, 12:00 and 18:00 so these are the times I should be alert. At other times I am either reading or sleeping. I ran the water maker at 02:00 as I needed to have the engine on to charge up the batteries. Just after 06:00 I had a shower, might as well make use of the hot water and then cleaned the toilet! Breakfast and a cup of tea before putting my head down again. I have just finished the Dick Francis book, slightly better than the Clive Cussler books I read, but at least it occupies my time. At about 13:00 I heard over the VHF radio a mayday alert, MOB. I checked the coordinates given and this would be over a days sailing in the direction I have just come from. Wind is beginning to pick up but it is still very much on the stern and I cannot set the Genoa to hold open, I don’t have a spinnaker pole. The Genoa is really useless without one in these conditions. Not sure which book to read next, they are all thrillers. Which is the best of the bunch? I’ve picked Black Gold by Chris Ryan. 40 odd pages into the book and not very riveting, although it is about an oil spill in Curaçao, a place where I’ve recently visited. I’m heading slightly north of the rhumb line, hoping to get both sails working but this wind is constantly shifting! Time for bed methinks.
On watch at 02:00 as there’s a small atoll that I’ll be passing close by and I want to be sure that I give it a wide berth. I’ve also had to switch on the port engine for an hour to change the batteries. I’m not going fast enough for the water generator to work and the wind is not blowing hard enough for the wind generator to do the same. And as it’s night time there’s little chance of the solar panel being able to work! Up again at 06:00 to log; position, course, distance covered, pressure and wind. This is, as previously mentioned, a regular practice and also a legal requirement, just in case of any accidents that may be investigated. Breakfast as usual, yogurt and muesli with a cup of tea. This morning I peeled all the ‘healthy’ looking carrots, chopped them up and put them in the freezer. Some were beginning to go off, sweating in the plastic bags they came in. I also did the same with the celery, not peeled them but cut out all the pieces that had gone off. Lunch was a cheese and ham wrap. The wraps I think were bought in Panama, they are that bad which is why they have lasted so long! The crew preferred my chilli bread for lunch, but as I now have no crew I may as well eat the wraps before I bake again. The Chris Ryan book has bred read. It’s a bit of an upmarket Famous Five type adventure, but even more over the top! Okay, next book chosen, Harlen Coben’s ‘Fool me once’. Apparently a New York Times bestseller. Let me be the judge of that! Not too much to do except; look at the emptiness of the Pacific Ocean around me, read, eat and sleep, not necessarily in that order. My brother Frank, my weather router and guru has given me a new heading as a waypoint which gives a better sailing angle, and consequently, more speed.
At 06:00 I check my Garmin InReach for new messages, I have seven, all from Frank. Basically, head further north to stay in the wind. This means gybing, putting the sails on the other side of the boat. In doing this I have lost the good sailing angle I previously had, the wind is more astern than a broad reach, means the genoa is not filling up and my speed is dropping. Not sure if the extra distance, with the possibility of retaining the wind for longer is sufficient for the drop in speed. I’ve got nothing to check it against, but I’ll get a metaphorical rap over the knuckles by my brother if I don’t follow his advice! Breakfast as usual followed by a cup of Earl Grey tea. The engine was on for an hour to run the water maker, whilst at the same time allowed me to have a hot shower. Although it is still quite hot during the day the nights are getting cooler and damp, although this is the southern hemisphere’s winter. But I am heading closer to the equator! I’ve finished reading my third book since Thursday. Harlan Corben’s ‘Fool me once’ was a much better read than the previous two books. Two more to go before I run out of reading material. The next is another New York bestseller, Robert Crais’s ‘Chasing darkness’. Let’s hope it’s as good as the last one. Another change of heading. Back on a bearing of between 270’ - 280’ for the next 12 hours. Another gybe, heading back towards my last waypoint for Samoa, and hopefully back on a better sailing angle to fill both sails. Wind is still good, around the 13 - 15kts with occasional gusts up to 18kts. It is now 17:35, that book that I started reading this morning, I’ve finished it. Another good detective novel with plenty of ‘I didn’t see that coming’! Supper is going to be the same as it has been for the last two nights, my beef stew, served cold! Since leaving Bora Bora on Friday I have seen only the few sea birds that fly great distances from land. No whales, dolphins, flying fish or ships (other than the yachts that were around Bora Bora). Is it lonely out here? Yes, I’m on my own but I haven’t needed company to keep me occupied or my spirits up. There’s always something to do to keep me busy and focused and therefore I haven’t really been that concerned about sailing on my own.
Position, distance, pressure and heading logged at 06:00. There had been heavy squalls during the early hours of the morning and this had pushed the boat further ahead than expected, which is a bonus. However, despite the additional wind I still had to run the engine for an hour to charge up the batteries before the sun made an appearance. I’ve had to chase another bird off the boat. Initially it sat on the solar panel, although it didn’t make as much mess as the previous bird. It was shooed off but circled around and landed on the guardrail. Off it went again, then landing on the coach roof. Finally it came back to land on the kayak before it got the message that it wasn’t wanted! My strawberry yogurt is finished so I’ve made another batch, this time plain thick Greek yogurt. I shall add the muesli in before I put it in the fridge later this evening. Supper for the next four nights has also been made. A type of tuna curry / stew. I shall add the tuna this evening when I reheat the pot so that the tuna isn’t overcooked. I’ve started reading my last book, Peter Wright’s ‘Spycatcher’. If memory serves me right the British Government tried to ban the book in the 80’s. However, the Australian Government allowed its publication, and once it was on sale there, there was little point in trying to prevent it from being published in the United Kingdom! One of my gauges at the helm has decided to stop working. I have two Raymarine i70s multifunction displays at the helm. Basically they can both show the same information. One of them has ‘frozen’, I cannot switch it off and the information going to it is static. I could start to disconnect the device to try to find out where the problem is but I feel common sense tells me to leave it until I get to Samoa. If I start tugging at wires and cables there’s no knowing what other problems I could cause. When the wind had dropped I decided that I would switch off the power to all the navigation units at the panel, leave it for a minute or so and then switch it back on. A bit like a MicroSoft reboot. It did the trick, I now have the unit functioning properly again.
It’s my ex wife’s birthday today so I sent her birthday wishes. I didn’t think she would be up at the time I sent it, just after midnight UK time but she responded with a thank you. I had to switch the engine on again as the battery power was down to 12.2v. However, no sooner had the engine been turned on then the wind dropped. For the next six hours we were just bumbling along at around 3kts / hour. Just before 06:00 the wind had spun through 180 degrees nearly and was now on the nose. Yet another sail adjustment to take it from a broad reach to close hauled. At the same time the wind picked up and a heavy squall was passing through. Having altered the sails the autopilot could not hold the boat on the set course and when into standby mode setting off the alarm. I tried to bring her back on course but the single engine would not push her round. Even with the second engine on it was still having problems with the course. I thought that the only solution was to drop the mainsail. Back on the correct heading, under genoa and engine. Once the squall has passed through I will raise the mainsail again. But first it’s breakfast, tea, shower, run the water maker and clean up all the spilt coffee granules after the jar had fallen off the cupboard made a mess on the worktop counter! Now that the wind has dropped (and the rain!) it was back to getting the mainsail hoisted. It’s rather difficult doing it solo, the sailbag lines frequently get in the way of the sail battens as I raise the sail, meaning I have to lower the sail slightly, wait for the wind to shift the sail and then keep hauling it up. Eventually I get it to where I want it to be, at the second reef. During the day the wind picks up, which is good, but the at 17:30 it dies down. Engine back on, and it remains on until the following morning.
Into the sixth day of the passage and I am half way to Samoa. The engine was turned off at 07:35 this morning as the wind has picked up. However, it is still astern and the genoa keeps collapsing. Not much I can do about this. Speed has dropped so not sure if I will cover the daily 100nm that I set myself. I have finished reading the last of my books, SpyCatcher. Not sure I was expecting it to be so dry, too much on the methodology and not enough on the actual results. Still, what am I going to do with my time now? Most of the day was spent reading or sleeping! I’ll continue with the sleeping and maybe boot up my laptop as I have a library of books on there. Not sure how long the battery lasts without it charging, I’ll soon find out! The welcome winds decided to go by 15:00 so the engine was switched on. This gives me a chance to charge up my laptop and my shaver. I started to cut back the weeks growth but it ran out of charge. Just as well nobody is going to see me for a while. I had to throw away two bags of potatoes. Some of them had gone mouldy and I wasn’t going to go sorting out good from bad. Also I had to clean up the mess that this had left! By the evening the winds were still light so I decided that the engine would remain on all night.
The winds had picked up during the night and were now in the low teens. Rather than turn the engine off immediately I ran it for a further hour so that I could run the water maker. The reason for running it every other day is not because I waste a lot of water, I have tanks that hold 600 litres. It’s because if I don’t there’s a build up of ‘bad eggs’ gas in the system and it takes longer to flush this out. Also, with the engine running it provides hot water, thus I had a lovely shower at 05:30! The distance being covered daily is now over the 100nm marker so I should get to Samoa (Apia) by Wednesday 21.06.23 - although this might be Thursday 22.06.23. I believe that Samoa is aligned to the same time as New Zealand and I may be 12hrs behind London time, same day, when I get to Samoa I lose a day and the time will be 22hrs ahead of London time. Someone is taking a day off my life! Bread is being made, currently on its first prove. I had no more chilli flakes, didn’t want to use the crushed garlic so have opted for the smoked pimento. I have to try it once and if it’s not good then I’ll find something else to use. It’s been raining on and off all day. Sometimes it brings with it wind but not today. It’s so light that the autopilot keeps falling to hold its course, the alarm goes off and I venture out to get wet whilst getting the boat back on course. I’ve finally got a Christmas present out that my daughter gave me for this trip. A Bluetooth sound box. Having paired it with my iPhone I’ve had the pleasure of playing my classical music at a level that won’t disturb anyone….. outside a 50nm radius! One classic that I thought was most appropriate, Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers, sung by Andre Bocelli and Bryn Terfel. Having passed through the region that produces the most pearls in the world, most of them farmed these days, but I have bought one for Helen as a late birthday present.
The winds were supposed to have died down by now but we still have sufficient to not warrant putting the engine on. However, the speed has dropped to around 4kts per hour. Now that the sun is rising the solar panel will begin to charge up the batteries again, another blessing to not have to worry about this. I have just 400nm to go. I think I have finished all the tuna, save for one more meal tonight. I think tomorrow I’ll cook up the mince and have a deconstructed shepherds pie. I don’t have a dish to put in the oven so the mash will probably be added when I serve it up. Today I had better top up the fuel tanks. Not that they are running dry but I can gauge how many litres of fuel per hour I am using for each engine. I have taken readings of the engine hours when I last filled up the tanks. An excellent lunch today. None of the usual wraps of ham and cheese or yesterday’s special of tuna marinated in teriyaki sauce. No today’s platter was; sliced olives and gherkins, a nice piece of Camembert cheese, thinly sliced smoked sausage with homemade bread. Now I made the bread yesterday and experimented with adding smoked pimento as I had no chilli flakes left. Now, whether I should have added much more pimento I have to think about this. There was no real kick to the taste, just a subtle hint in the background. I shall ponder on this and make a decision when I make the next batch of bread. As I’m the only person on board this may not be until my arrival in Samoa, 🇼🇸. Wind is dropping, the engine will go on soon but I had better fill the tanks before I do this. The oil / diesel transfer pump that I bought in Papeete is a complete waste of money. The pipes are too kinked to let fluid through at any decent rate and it leaks. I will have to find some larger bore pipes and attach them with some jubilee clips. At least I have put 22l in each tank. The engine went on at 13:30 and now I’ve put the water maker on so that at least the engine is working for a second purpose. I shall run the water maker for at least three hours as I didn’t realise that one tank was only half full! I think when I do a back wash flush it must use an awful amount of water to cleanse the pipes.
I have received a Happy Father’s Day’ message from my daughter, Jess. I hadn’t realised that it was a Sunday let alone Fathers Day. When you’re sailing one day blends into the next and you lose all concept of days and dates. You have a departure point and a destination point and all that happens in between is at the mercy of the weather. It is pointless saying that you will be at a certain latitude / longitude on a given day and that at best it is an estimate. I thought it would take 12 days to get from Bora Bora to Samoa. It now looks as though it will be 13 days. Information from my brother that there was an earthquake of magnitude 5.7 SW of Samoa, thankfully no damage reported. I’ve taken the mince out of the freezer to thaw and will start cooking in an hour or so. Lunch today was very similar to yesterday’s. Instead of the smoked sausage I had pate in its place, and made a cafetière of coffee to wash it down. This afternoon the wind has been coming and going. When it comes the engine goes off and when it drops the engine goes back on. I’ve decided to keep the engine on now during the night, just to try and catch up with the mileage lost when the wind was down and the engine was off. What I didn’t remember was to take the water generator out of the water when running the engine. I’m sure the drag would be enough to lose 1/2kt of speed with it in the water? I put another 22l in the port tank and probably another 15l in the starboard tank, which is now full. I’ve lost another lure! The wind had changed direction so I was adjusting the sail setup. I don’t use a rod, just a line attached to a bungee cord. This was wrapped to a cleat. As I picked up the cord to move it I could tell that the lure had gone. Now down to the last two, one of those I swapped with a youth in Bora Bora for an apple. He wanted money but I had cleared out of all my FP francs.
Just over 200nm to go. I’ve put my penultimate lure on the line and have thrown it in the water. With my luck it will either get bitten off by a very large fish or will remain attached but with no fish on the hook! I’ve looked through all my courtesy flags but, for some reason, don’t seem to have one for Samoa 🇼🇸. I have one for 🇹🇴 and another for the Solomon Islands 🇸🇧, so I’m going to combine these two to make one for Samoa. I hope it doesn’t offend anyone? Checked the food in the freezer. Have plenty for at least 25 days; mince, chicken, sausages, shrimps, and two more packs of tuna - I thought I had used the last of these some days back! I need to get some fresh veggies; potatoes, sweet potatoes, a few carrots, some peppers / cabbage or similar. I still have plenty of tinned food, meat, fish and vegetables and stacks of noodles, rice and pasta, so as long as I have gas for the cooker all should be fine. It would appear that I had place my waypoint for Apia on the wrong island. Having now corrected it the passage is now shorter by 50nm. That’s a bonus and it’ll mean that I arrive in daylight. Excellent. Oops, correction. Just realised that Apia is +23hrs ahead of my current time, meaning that at my current speed, averaging 4.5kts per hour, it will take me a further 35hrs. Therefore my arrival time in Apia will be around 19:00, in the dark. Either I had better speed up, but more likely, slow down. Not what I wanted to do but it’s safer to arrive in daylight! At 11:40 I turned off the engine and now I’m bobbing around at 1kt of speed. I shall do this until 19:00 this evening and, by my reckoning, all things remaining the same, I should get to Apia just as daylight begins. Lunch was the same as the last couple of days, why change a winner. However, tomorrow I may have to replace the Camembert with slices of smoked sausage as I finished the cheese today. I do have two further packs but I shall leave them for the next long passage, either Samoa to Vanuatu or, longer still, Samoa to Papua New Guinea. I’m not sure of the Vanuatu trip, the only marina appears to be at Port Vila, which is further south than Fiji and I’m not willing to travel there. Land seen for the first time in 10 days. American Samoa is on my port side, about 40nm away. I’m not stopping there but going on to (Western) Samoa, some 130 miles further west.
It rained again but at least it gives the boat a bit of a wash. I need to go further forward towards the bow as some little blighter has left its calling card by the fender locker, and for some reason, I have a stain on the starboard sugar scoop that looks a bit like tar! Not sure how that got there. Anyway, today will be a cleanup day before I get to Samoa. My ETA is between 07:00 and 08:00. I caught a fish! Surprise, surprise. Not a big one but it is a fish. One that we hadn’t caught before, and I think it’s a barracuda. Long thin silver fish with rather sharp teeth. Decision as to how to get it on board. Do I risk pulling it up with the hook still in its mouth or do I go for the gaff hook and then pull it out of the water. I risked it and pulled it up with just the hook in its mouth. Thankfully it was well and truly hooked. Now that I had it on board now what? I needed to get the alcohol to put down its gills, the sharp knife, the cutting board and plenty of water. It’s a messy process filleting a fish. I put a cord around the tail fin and dangled the fish over the side as I went to get all of the equipment. The knife could have been sharper but it did the job, one fish filleted, deboned and the excess thrown back into the sea. My filleting skills now mean I have an additional three fish fingers (!) for the freezer. Just as I had finished all of the cleaning I was informed by my brother that I ought not to eat the fish just in case it has the toxin ciguatera, something that quite a few reef fish have. Ciguatera has been known to be deadly, and it is certainly an illness that one doesn’t want to get, especially as I’m single handed sailing. So, my three fish fingers have gone back to where they came…. the sea! After all of that I needed a shower to get rid of the smell! In the afternoon I got down to sewing. I don’t have a courtesy flag for Samoa 🇼🇸 but I have one for Tonga 🇹🇴 and another for the Solomon Islands 🇸🇧. My intention is to cover the top left corner of the Tonga flag with the top left corner of the Solomon Island flag, thus giving me the blue top corner, with stars of the Samoa flag. Job done, raised and ready with the quarantine flag for the bio security guys to inspect the boat. Sails have been lowered and bagged up, but as the wind has increased I then got the genoa out to give the engine a bit of a break.
I went to bed on Tuesday and woke up on Thursday. No, I wasn’t that tired, I’ve crossed the international date line, and now, instead of being 11kts behind UK time I am now 23hrs ahead of it. The island of Samoa is lit up, but you can see which area is heavily populated, Apia, which is the capital city of Samoa. As you get further away from the city the lights become less and less. Daybreak is at 06:48 and my intention is to arrive at a waypoint just outside the harbour entrance at 07:00. I’ve taken in most of the genoa and the engine is off but my chart plotter tells me that the ETA is around 06:40, not too bad. There are plenty of commercial ships showing up on AIS, just outside the harbour. Not sure if they’re waiting to go in , probably not all at once, but it’s another thing to check all the time. When I’m about two hours from the entrance I should contact the harbour master for permission to enter. After several calls on Ch16 I finally got permission to enter the harbour. What I thought were the leading lights turned out to be something else, and the wrong colour. There were two red lights, one above the other and the upper one flashing. They appeared in line but were away from where they should be. A check on the chart, one white above a green one, both flashing. It wasn’t until I got further along the coast could I see the green one, obscured by a building. I had the bearing on the chart to follow, but it does pay to check out thoroughly. One in the harbour there was plenty of space to drop the anchor. Unfortunately I’m use to beautiful clear water and this certainly isn’t. Anyway, anchor dropped, bearings taken to confirm that the boat was holding, and now it’s a waiting game for all the clearances to be completed. Health first to arrive and clear. Now it’s between Immigration and Customs who comes next! Well I had the whole lot come together, including quarantine. Everything went smoothly but immigration did take my passport as I had no photocopies left to hand over. I will need to call in at Immigration today to collect my passport and get clearance. I tried to find the offices of the marina but it does have one! Hopefully Sharon will call about payment. A walk to the bank to draw out some money, £1 = $3.10 tala. I needed to get a local SIM card, a further $18 tala and I bought another fuel syphon. The nice lady wanted to charge $29 but I asked if she would sell for $20, and she did! Searching for a Samoan rugby shirt to send to Cedric was a bit more difficult, but I found a sports shop that sold short sleeve ones. Photo taken and sent to Cedric for his approval. A walk back to the boat in the scorching heat and then an early night. I had been up since 23:00 the previous night!
Up at 06:30 to a cool start to the day. Contact made with Sharon, who said she’d be here by 09:30. She’s late! But only just, she turn up 15 minutes later. $252 tala for 3 nights, that works out to be about £90, or £30 per night. Very good value for a catamaran, only to be let down by the electric not working. Sharon had organised for a taxi to drive me around for 4 hours ($150 tala) so I could complete all the tasks for the day. First, fill up the diesel tanks, empty the jerrycans to get them filled later. Next, hop in the taxi with 8 jerrycans and head to immigration to clear out on Sunday. A trip to the sports shop to purchase the rugby shirt for Cedric. Up to the Robert Louis Stevenson museum, a walk round the house and gardens - beautiful, and purchase two stamped copies of Treasure Island, one for Cedric and one for my grandson, Tino. Then back down to the Customs Office to get final clearance papers before going back into town to fill up the jerrycans with 180litres of diesel. Finally back to the boat. That evening I helped another solo yachtsman, Fred from France, tie up his boat as he came into the marina. Later that evening we (Fred and Tai - my driver for the day) went to the marina bar for some drinks and food. It was too noisy to hold a conversation so after the meal we returned to my boat to enjoy a glass or two of wine - Bordeaux bought in Bora Bora.
We (Fred and I) had booked Tai, our driver for the day again, to take us round the island to view the sights. Two waterfalls and a swim at one, a swim at another pool with a cave swim, a lesson in how to de husk a coconut and grate all the coconut from the shell and produce coconut milk. A trip to ‘To Sau Ocean Trench’ with a swim in a volcano. A meal at the Sea Breeze hotel and restaurant before returning to town to purchase provisions for my next trip. It had been a full day so an early night was fine.