Tuamotus to the Society Islands.
Tahiti, Society Islands
Off to Tahiti today so it will be interesting to see how the anchor comes up. We need to fuel up which ought not be a problem as we are probably about 75m from the filling station. Well, two things that I thought might happen didn’t. Despite turning through 360 degrees during the night, when the wind changed direction several times, the raising of the anchor was not a problem. We had put fenders on the chain to raise it off the coral, which is always considered the right thing to do, so the first 20m of chain came up straight away. The last 15m, which I thought was going to be an issue proved otherwise. That was a relief. Next, it was to moor up at the fuel dock. Another yacht had got in ahead of us and had been waiting there for an hour, at least! When we tied up and spoke to the skipper we were told that the supply ship unloading took priority over everything else. The boat had come in during the night but only started unloading at 06:00, and there was a lot of unloading to do! We stayed there for an hour before being informed that there was only one worker to stack the shelves, serve the customers and operate the fuel pumps. It was unlikely that he would get to the pumps much before early afternoon. This was not good news as we planned to exit the pass on slack tide, which was essential for our passage. I’m not sure if we will have enough fuel, we have about 75l still in Jerry cans, to make it to Tahiti, but hopefully the wind that is predicted to appear, will come. At the moment there is hardly any wind and we have just been overtaken by a snail, we are that slow. What should be a two day passage may turn into a 3 1/3 days passage if we don’t get the wind, or even longer if we run out of diesel!!!
Well the wind didn’t make an appearance yesterday until 22:00, and only then was it between 8 - 10kts. But it was joined by rain! The sea state picked up from flat calm to lumpy, which, although we had the wind on the beam, slowed the boat’s speed. The engine has been on intermittently. Despite running the water generator all day it doesn’t seem to work as effectively as it should, hence having to run the engine. Hopefully when we get to Papeete in Tahiti there will be a good electrician who will be able to help. At 06:00 I had put out my lure hoping to catch another (my second to be brought on the boat) fish. By 08:00 I had lost my last lure. Whatever had taken it must have been in excess of 30lb because this was the breaking strain of the lighter of the two lines. I had joined two lines together as I felt that the distance between boat and hook was too short. The heavier line was rated at 100lb, and this had all disappeared, leaving the lighter line in a mess on board. No such luck with fishing for me. However, Cedric has snared himself another one, this one a small yellow fin tuna. I had just come on watch at 12:00 and saw a silver image was behind the stern of the boat, staying at a constant distance from the boat. This indicated that there was a fish on the line, and now it was a case of Cedric and John getting it on the boat, successfully. After giving the fish a drink of alcohol and removing its head, the body was placed in the bucket to allow the blood to drain out. Once this was done Cedric got back to the task of filleting the fish and preparing our meals for a couple of nights. Lunch was the freshest tuna we have ever eaten. A mixture of last night’s rice, a tomato, an onion, an tuna cooked with the juice of a lime, all in a tortilla wrap. Fantastic.
Finally, we have got the wind that we were expecting yesterday to sail without the engine, but more importantly, to provide the fuel to run the wind and water generators to charge up the batteries. When I came on watch at 04:00, the battery monitor on the panel was showing 14.1v. I don’t know if this is accurate (it’s the one we record every hour to check the battery state) but I thought I’d try an experiment yesterday. The previous night we kept on having to run the engine because the battery level went down to 12.1v every so often. The water generator was wired up as it should be. However, yesterday afternoon I wired the generator up directly to the battery bank to see what difference this would make to the charge state and whether it would reduce the need to run the engine. Unfortunately it was not as straightforward as I thought. The engine was used, not to charge the battery directly but to ensure that we would arrive in Papeete in the light. But, because the battery state at 04:00 showed 14.1v I then removed the water and generator from the water and then checked the battery voltage again. It had fallen to 12.1v. Returning the water generator back in the water the monitor is showing 12.5v. What does this mean? I think we can safely say that, given propulsion through the water, the generator will produce power to keep the battery above its minimum voltage. What speed this has to be I cannot say, but probably above 6kts (at night when solar doesn’t function). I think it may also show that there is a conflict between this charge regulator and the solar and wind regulators. By bypassing the dump valves on the water generator and wiring directly to the battery any power goes into the battery bank. Running the wires through the regulator appears to dump the power, either because one or both of the other charge regulators are saying too much power is being put into the system and this is not good for the battery, therefore dumping it. This needs to be checked out by an electrician in Papeete. We arrived at the marina just after 15:00 and I take all the boat papers to the office and check in. We are staying a week. Hopefully I should be able to get an electrician before we leave. In the evening we all go into town for a bite to eat and a drink. Rather foolishly we order far too much drink and we are going to suffer the consequences.
Regardless of the amount of drinks consumed last night we are up early. A spot of breakfast and a cup of tea before making plans for the day. Cedric and I go off exploring different parts of the town, calling in at the market to buy some more tuna while John and Karen do something similar but make an earlier start. A look around the market, which has plenty of fresh vegetables, which we couldn’t get at the other islands and lots of different fruits. A bottle of coconut water bought and drunk as we make our way through the city, stopping off to see the cathedral. What is so obvious here, even in the grounds of the cathedral, is that there are many hens and chicks roaming around the streets. Do they belong to anyone, I don’t think so. Lunch was taken at a local patisserie, not an exciting lunch, a croque monsieur with a glass of water. Back to the boat for a beauty sleep, not that I need it, before deciding where to eat this evening. There had been a lot of talk about street food so we went hunting down some trucks selling it. There wasn’t a great deal on offer, noodles burgers and steak and chips, and the price wasn’t particularly good but now we can say we’ve experienced street food.
John and Karen were off for an early start, going to see how far they could get up one of the local peaks. Cedric and I decided more walking was necessary so we opted to walk to the other marina, a mistake as it was too far and wouldn’t be back in time for shopping at the Carrefour centre. Plenty of food and drink bought for the evening meal and I have invested in a yoghurt maker. I do enjoy a breakfast of yoghurt and muesli so now I can have fresh yoghurt all the time, at least until my bags of culture mix are still on the boat. Back to the boat to unload all the provisions and a spot of lunch, sashimi of tuna in soy or teriyaki sauce. Delicious. Back on the road for a bit more exploring before coming across Hello Scoot, an electric scooter hire shop that we could rent a scooter for travelling around the island tomorrow. Returning to the boat for our evening meal. More tuna, this time seared steaks served with a very untypical Greek salad, a bottle of wine and a beer. Perfect end to the day.
Today was a trip around the island by scooter. A walk to the hire shop, complete all the paperwork online and we were able to get underway. My trusty steed was a ‘yellow Hello Scoot’ electric scooter. With an 88km range and a top speed of 50km/h we set of to visit the house of James Norman Hall, an American author of the trilogy The Bounty. Double whammy, the house is closed on a Monday and closed on public holidays, of which today is one. Next, on to Venus Point. Here, James Cook sailed the Endeavour and anchored in the bay. Captain William Bligh of the Mutiny on the Bounty fame landed here and later the missionaries also anchored in the bay. A visit to the three waterfalls before heading south of the island. A spot of lunch before heading back to Papeete, twice getting caught out by rain. My trusty steed was not that trusty. There must have been an electrical fault (they seem to follow me around) as the bike constantly lost power, coming to a halt and then running again!!! Cedric’s bike finally went dead just as we had arrived back at the hire shop. Despite changing batteries during our trip, he still couldn’t manage the full 88km range per battery. My battery showed that I still had another 28km to go before it was empty! I think I may be going down with a cold after getting soaked by the downpours. Supper was a coconut milk, yoghurt and spiced chicken curry served on a bed of noodles, washed down with a bottle of wine (sorry Karen, we will replace it) and a beer. Good night.
The electrician is due today to check out my electrics. Before he arrives I undo the temporary wiring that I had installed on the water generator, bypassing the charge regulator and dump valves. Breakfast should have been yogurt but Cedric decided that fried eggs and a bit of chorizo type sausages would be better. No sooner had I started cooking when the electrician came. After explaining the situation to him again he checked all the electrical outlets and found nothing wrong with the batteries. He did state that the Lagoon battery monitor at the panel was faulty but the Xantrex one was fine. I was under the impression it was the other way round! After spending a couple of hours looking at the system he assured me that there was no drainage of the house batteries, but if I was still concerned I should check the batteries with my multimeter. If there was still a problem I should call him and he could either come out to Moorea or call a colleague who would continue to fault find.
Up early, yet again. I’m not sure if it’s the early nights of going to bed or the heat that gets me up. Breakfast was the delicious yoghurt laced with muesli and a cup of tea, Earl Grey of course. We (Cedric and I) went off to town to pick up his washing and the seat covers and to drop mine off. Before that we called in at the principal Gendarmerie in town to try to get a definitive answer on clearing out of French Polynesia. All three, Cedric, John and Karen need to be removed from my crew list.Next, we called in to the travel agent for Cedric to book his return flight from Bora Bora. A stop at the fishing tackle shop to buy some more lures and some longer, heavier breaking strain line. Let’s hope it was worth it. Lunch was bought and taken back to the boat. The seat covers were put back on the cushions, they look cleaner but still have oil stains showing. Next doors boat owner lent me his pressure washer and the top deck was given a thorough cleaning. A trip to the lounge area to try and synchronise the Garmin InReach with my computer. I think I’m going to have to upgrade my Windows system because it is not recognising my usb connection. A couple of beers and then back to the boat for supper, lamb chops, mashed potato and beetroot. Very nice.
Again an early start, but now there is very little to do. A shower, a light breakfast of yoghurt and then decisions as what the day is going to bring. Initially we go to the immigration office at the airport to find out whether crew need to check out from the yacht before they fly back home. No they don’t, but I should provide them with a letter of explanation to show immigration control when they arrived in French Polynesia and how they are to depart. A trip to Carrefour to provision the boat for the next 40 days and a taxi back to the marina with all the bags / beer. John and Karen are flying back to the UK tomorrow so a departing drink was agreed. A few beers with them and then Cedric and I went on to have a couple more at our ‘local’ during happy hour. We met up with Richard (the tuna guy) so we had another beer or two. Not a good idea as by the time we got back to the boat we were wasted.
I’m not sure what happened last night but I have misplaced my bottom denture. I have searched the boat from top to bottom but cannot find it. I’m hoping it will turn up in the next week or so. A trip to the petrol station to collect the gas bottle, a walk to the marina office to let them know we would like to stay an extra night (I think Cedric is feeling worse than me!). A trip back to town to buy Helen a late birthday present. Cedric receives a message from Richard so we meet up with him, Cal and his wife for a ‘pre determined’ amount to drink. All seemed to be going well. Back on the boat we had to have the tuna. This was lightly seared and served with a beetroot salad. Again, another cheap and easy meal to serve up. A glass of vin rouge and then to bed.
Tahiti, Society Islands
Raiatea, Society Islands
Depart: Saturday 03.06.23
Very little to do to other than get up, shower, fill the water tanks, take in the electric cable, cook breakfast, check out with the office and then head for Bora Bora. Unfortunately, at the weekend, the office opens at 11:00. This is not good as a 150nm passage to Bora Bora will get us there in the dark. Not ideal. I sit and wait for 45 minutes hoping that the sign is wrong but nobody appears. I leave a message on their website and decide to go at 09:40. We need to fuel up so head along the narrow channel pass the airport to Taina marina. There’s already someone on the fuel dock so we sit around waiting for them to finish. Having filled up both tanks and all the empty jerrycans we finally set off for Bora Bora. Once through the pass we did manage to get the Genoa out but the wind died down shortly afterwards. Our speed is, around 4kts, so the likelihood is that we will arrive some time on Monday rather than Sunday. We have just finished supper, another tuna curry made with proper coconut milk, served with the leftover salad from yesterday. Back in the UK the price of tuna is very high, but here in French Polynesia it is way cheaper than most meats, including chicken that we Brits would consider a cheap food item.
The absence of wind continues to haunt us. Wherever we have sailed, and I use that word very loosely, in the Pacific, there has been a complete disregard for the annual trade winds that should be be pushing the yacht along quite nicely. Consistent winds between 10 - 15kts is the norm for this time of year. However, for the greater part of the passage, beginning with the transit through the Panama Canal, we have had unexpectedly low winds, and for thousands of miles the engines have been our power source. I just hope that this will end soon as I have some long solo passages to complete and I am not able to carry sufficient fuel to cover the distance! This morning I get my bakers hat on again and made a chilli loaf of bread. These always go down well with the crew, but as there are only two of us left on the boat, it means twice as much for us. Well the wind got the better of us and with some 30nm to go we decided to abort our passage to Bora Bora and stay a night at the island of Raiatea. We managed to pick up a mooring ball before they were all taken and settled down for a quiet night. A few beers before making supper, the leftovers of the tuna curry I made last night but this time served with mashed potatoes and carrots. A delicious meal washed down with a glass of wine.
Raiatea, Society Islands
Bora Bora, Society Islands
Depart: Monday 05.06.23
Up at 06:00 as I intend leaving by 07:00. Very peaceful sleep at anchor in a delightful setting. A cup of tea, call Helen, check mail, read the news and then set a course through the reef. At exactly 07:00 the mooring lines are dropped and we are off towards Bora Bora. It’s nearly 2.5nm before we get out to the open sea, and now it’s a further 16nm before we get to the SW corner of the island. The fishing lines are put out but unfortunately one is dropped into the ocean! I’ve just heard that Mark Curtis, who was going to sail with me from Bora Bora to Vanuatu has now decided not to. Oh well, back to me sailing solo for the next 5500nm! We arrive at the pass to Bora Bora around 13:30 and then it’s decision time. Do we go by the yacht club, the town centre or towards the south of the island and anchor close to the reef? If it’s anything like last night we will go south. We find a lovely spot close to the reef and pick up a vacant mooring ball. When I say vacant it did have a name on it but do yacht attached. Hopefully no one will disturb us for the next few days. Once anchored the water was too tempting to do anything other than go for a swim. Crystal clear and warm, it was so nice to be off the boat for a while. A few emails checked and sent before deciding what to have for dinner. Well it had to be tuna of course, seared and served on a tomato salsa and a salad. Washed down with a glass of wine (only one!) before retiring to bed.
Getting up early is becoming a bit of a habit. Sitting in the cockpit, the sun is already shining and the air is getting warmer. Check the news on my phone and then the emails. By now Cedric has risen and it’s time for tea for me and coffee for him. After a cup of tea it’s time for breakfast, homemade yogurt with honey, granola and grapefruit. A bit more time wasting and then the tender had the outboard engine attached and lowered into the water. It’s time to go off snorkelling, this time on the reef. By the time we get there a crowd of tourists from the hotels are already there. The anchor is dropped but doesn’t initially hold, but it’s good enough so long as one of us remains by the boat. There are plenty of reef sharks swimming around the people in the water and a few rays are also present. A number of other fish are about but it’s the sharks and rays that make it. Back to the boat for another hot drink and then we prepare a picnic lunch. There is a small private motu close to where we are anchored and this is where we plan to have lunch. Getting to the island isn’t a problem, remaining on it is. We are told that this was a private island, which we already knew, but asked if we could stay for a short time. The guardian said five minutes but it takes longer than that to have lunch and a beer! It was also here that I buried a time capsule in memory of my brother, Michael, who should be sailing with me now. Leaving the motu we headed for town, just to see what was happening and whilst we were there had a beer. Back to the boat and I decided to start cleaning the hulls. They were beginning to pick up a lot of seaweed. I cleaned the outside of one! Pre dinner beers on the foredeck, deciding what to do tomorrow. Supper was yet again tuna - you can never have too much of it, a glass of wine before retiring to bed, another early night.
Rising at the usual time and the start to the morning hasn’t changed. Check phone, tea, breakfast and a swim. Today is Cedric’s last full day so we decide to drop off the moorings and head around the other side of the island for lunch at Bloody Mary’s. A nice, quaint place with open aspects and a floor of sand. Somehow this nice, quaint restaurant had attracted a great number of high profile visitors, and now it had Cedric and I as guests! After lunch we moved on to fuel up and then continue round to the Bora Bora Yacht Club. Another mooring ball picked up, we set off to go to the club, rather early for supper so we started to walk into town. About 20 minutes later we decided to go back to the yacht club and have a beer instead. Happy hour they only served cocktails so we had the one beer and went back to the boat for several more. We returned to the club for supper, I had ordered moules and fries, the fries were good but I cannot say the same for the mussels! Back to the boat for a final drink before lights out.
Cedric was leaving today so we had to go to the town quay, first to drop him off to catch the ferry, but also I was going to leave the island so I had to clear out. We arrived at the town quay and there was plenty of space. I decided that I would go on the end of the quay as it would be easier for me to leave, being on my own, despite the wind pushing the boat against the wall. We walked over the road to the Gendarmerie and explained why we were there. No problem with Cedric but for me, the paperwork had to be sent to Papeete to be processed before being sent back. 48hrs I was told. We agreed on 24 but I said I would have to stay on the quay as I was solo and not able to pick up a mooring ball on my own. I hope the gendarmes understood because there was no way I was going to move! Cedric and I said our goodbyes, such a pleasure sailing with him again, and let’s hope it’s not the last time. I went back to the boat and tried to kill time by selecting a book to read. I chose a Dick Francis thriller. I can remember (I think) mum reading these way back in the 60’s and 70’s. Dick Francis was a jockey before he became an author, and all of his books revolve around the horse racing industry. Later during the day a young lad, who had been fishing, came and tried to strike up a conversation with me. He spoke no English or French and I spoke no local Polynesian dialect. He offered me a lure, in fact two. I accepted one and gave the second back to him. He then asked for money to which I replied that I had none. I gave him an apple instead and he was happy with the swop. I didn’t bother cooking in the evening, making a couple of cheese, ham and salad wraps - the salad was just about edible! An early night as there was little else to do.