After nice visits with family and friends from November through January, I returned to Tahiti with brother-in-law Pat on February 1 to get Aldabra ready for another sailing season. We stayed in a house on the Port Phaeton lagoon and kayaked to the boat each day to work. We started work very early in the morning and were usually done before noon, in time to shower before hanging out on the deck with small projects or reading. During Pat’s two-week stay, this is what got done:
Lots of laundry
Interior and exterior boat cleaning
Rebuild of 3 head pumps
Removal of tricolor light from the top of the mast
Shorten boom topping lift at a chafe point
Rewire a solar panel connector
Patch bottom of dinghy
Install new hatch above salon
Patch crack on cockpit table
Repair of two jibs by local sailmaker
Replacement of spring in windlass
Disassembly of windlass, inspection and re-greasing
Servicing of five winches
Remove and dry out the items stored in the most forward compartment
Replace foam in a few of the cockpit cushions
Install new light for compass
Install new braided ground strap for SSB radio
Remove, clean and replace bolts for the rudder
Remove filter housing for watermaker, replace with new filter
Unstick a variety of zippers
After Pat left, I completed a bunch of sewing projects. I made new straps for the cockpit cushions and fixed mosquito netting screens. I also cleaned and sorted. A week later, my mom and my sister arrived. They hauled me up the mast so I could install the new tricolor they brought. I also replaced a seal on one of the hatches. And we picked up the two repaired jibs and brought them out to the boat in the kayak. After a few days, we closed up the boat in preparation for leaving it for a few more weeks. We then moved houses and spent the rest of our stay touring around Tahiti. We flew back to California on March 8th.
After spending three weeks acquiring more boat parts and visiting with my family, I got on another flight. This one was bound for San Francisco, where I met up with my new crew, Gabe Ares, before heading back to Tahiti.
Upon arrival in Tahiti, we picked up a rental car and an Internet box and headed to Port Phaeton. Marc, our boat caretaker gave us a ride to Aldabra. We then put the dinghy in the water, put the motor on the dinghy and ferried our luggage from the car to the boat.
That began the long, hot, process of putting the boat back in sailing condition. We accomplished a little bit each day:
Prepared the cabins for sleeping by removing all the gear that belongs above deck – jerry cans, cockpit cushions, blocks and lines, sails, etc.
Turned the galley from a workshop into a food-prep area and restarted refrigeration
Unpickled the watermaker and filled the water tank
Got the boat bottom cleaned by a local man, Tanui
Installed the lines and blocks for the davits
Provisioned and stowed all the provisions
Did final laundry
In the middle of all these chores, we took the boat from Port Phaeton to the anchorage near Marina Taina. We did two runs to the grocery store. For one run we each pushed a cart from the store to the marina dock. The anchoring situation there was dicey, so as soon as we could, we took the boat over to Moorea, which is where we are now. We’re waiting for a weather window to head to Tahanea in the Tuamotus, which may begin on Wednesday, April 12. Once we leave here, we will be out of cell-phone and Internet range for a number of weeks because the islands we are targeting are mostly uninhabited.
Cyclone season in the South Pacific is from November to April. So my plan for this first season was to keep the boat in Tahiti. I had originally planned to keep the boat in Marina Papeete but the opportunity in Port Phaeton seemed worth trying. My sister Wendy and my brother-in-law Pat agreed to come back to Tahiti to help me with the decommissioning.
Wendy and Pat arrived in the early morning on Sunday, October 23. They took a taxi to Marina Taina and I picked them up at the dock. After they got settled on the boat, we returned to the marina for lunch (poisson cru) at La Casa Bianca. Later that evening we had sundowners on Rhapsody.
The next day was quite windy. We took the dinghy to the marina dock and walked to the Carrefour to buy a few provisions. Then we went back to the boat, pulled up anchor, and went to the nearby airport anchorage. The purpose of the move was to get a little closer to the Papeete pass to cut time off the trip to the boatyard, where we were to haul out for a couple of days. The anchorage was crowded and the conditions were rowdy, but we found a spot to fit in for one night. That night the wind howled. I didn’t turn on the instruments to measure the speed, but the wind generator was screaming so I knew it was probably well above 30 knots.
The next morning at the break of day it was still blowing over 20 knots but we picked up the anchor and started heading out of the Papeete pass and north toward the next pass. We were motoring against the wind but making decent headway. We went into the pass, turned right and started heading toward the Technimarine boatyard. They saw us as we arrived a half hour early and flagged us over to enter their slip in preparation for haulout.
The haulout and move into the yard went very well. The guys noticed spots under the keel and rudder that needed touchup. (We had touched bottom on the last trip to Moorea.) So while they focused on that, Pat and I worked on our initial purpose for the haulout, which was a broken thru-hull valve. We determined that the thru-hull itself did not need replacement so Pat removed the valve and replaced it with a new one. I went around to all the other valves and tested them, lubing the ones that needed it. I also cleaned the barnacles off the boat bottom, shaft and prop, greased the prop and put new zincs on the shaft and strut. Pat removed the speed/depth transducer, cleaned it up and replaced it. We removed the forward-scanning transducer, cleaned it up and left the blank in because we won’t need it until after cyclone season. We also took the windlass apart to inspect it, determinging that it has a broken spring that needs to be replaced. In the evenings we walked closer to downtown Papeete for restaurant meals before settling in for our boatyard slumber.
On Thursday, we splashed back into the water at 8:00 a.m. and headed out of the pass and over to Moorea, arriving in Cooks Bay before noon. The idea was to give Pat and Wendy a chance to explore Moorea before heading back over to Port Phaeton to decommission. But the weather didn’t invite a return crossing as soon as I had planned, so we tried to get work done while at anchor in Moorea. We did a nice hike in the rain at the park where the Belvedere lookout is, and we toured the island for a day in a rental car. We also walked around the east side of the bay a few times, stopping for lunch.
Otherwise, we did boat projects. We inspected the two jibs and put tape on the sacrificial cloth that covers the primary jib. (Both need to go in for repairs when I return.) Pat repaired a seam on the bottom of one of the kayaks. We removed everything from the most forward compartment in the bow, where some water had entered. We dried out the compartment and the gear before restowing it. We dried out the spinnaker, which had been stored on deck, and put it down below. Wendy polished all of the stainless steel railing. Pat worked on unclogging the aft shower sump, which had been draining too slowly. We hoisted the dinghy up on deck and cleaned the bottom. I mended the dinghy chaps.
After eight days in Moorea, we pulled up anchor on Friday morning, November 4. It wasn’t a good day to leave but I couldn’t see a better day in the forecast. The bay was calm, but once outside, we had 20+ knots of wind on the nose. We motored into the wind and seas, making less than 2 knots of headway. The first two or three hours were a slog but conditions did improve and we started to go a bit faster. We went into Papeete pass and then made our way down to the Taina anchorage, anchoring about 4:30 p.m.
The next morning, we left the anchorage at 6:00 a.m. and motored around the island to Port Phaeton. There was no wind and the seas were glassy until the last five miles. Then we got 20+ knots of wind on the nose and white-out rain as we made our way toward the pass and into the lagoon, picking up the mooring ball before noon.
The next day, Sunday, the real work began. Between rain squalls, we dried out the main and refolded it and dried out the jib, took it down, folded it and put it inside the boat. We took a lot of the hardware off the boat and covered anything we couldn’t remove. We washed the cockpit cushions, dried them out and put them down below, along with all the empty fuel jugs. Pat fixed a couple of hatch leaks.
On Monday, we took the bus on a two-hour trip to the airport and picked up a rental car. We then drove into the marine/industrial area to a marine store before heading back to Port Phaeton. Once there, we loaded up the car and headed a short distance away to do laundry. On Tuesday, I met with Marc Bordas who will be taking care of the boat during the next few months. Pat replaced the breaker for the bilge pump and then replaced the bilge pump itself. The next day, Wendy wiped down the interior walls with vinegar and I cleaned out the freezer/refrigerator boxes and threw out food. We cleaned the heads. We pickled the watermaker. We collapsed the bimini and zipped it into its cover. We tied a line around the main to keep it from catching air during high winds. In the past I’ve removed the dodger windows during hurricane season. This time, I left them intact, so we shall see what happens.
Finally on Thursday, we completed our packing, closed almost all the thru-hulls and put a variety of desiccants throughout the interior of the boat. They won’t keep moisture out of the boat but perhaps they’ll help prevent some of the mildew that will develop. I then discovered that the stern compartment with all the fishing gear was flooded, so we took all that gear out and tried to dry it and clean it up before putting it inside the boat. After shuttling Wendy and all our bags to shore to load the rental car, Pat and I returned to the boat, hoisted the dinghy motor onto the boat and then hoisted the dinghy onto the foredeck. We put its cover on and tied it down. With the boat completely closed up, we waited in the rain for Marc to pick us up in his dinghy. He shuttled us to shore and we left the boat in his care. He’ll open it up once a week when it’s not raining. And he’ll check the battery voltage and the bilge as well as the mooring lines.
After leaving the boat, Pat, Wendy and I drove to the Hilton Hotel near the airport and checked in with all the gear I was taking back with me. (I hate to leave my computers and electronics on the boat, so it all had to go to California.) We had a nice dinner and got to sleep in real beds. It was my first time sleeping off the boat in seven months. The next day we walked into town and back before taking some pool time.
After another nice dinner and good sleep, we headed off in the early morning for the airport, turned in the rental car and boarded a plane. The plane made it part way to California before turning back for a medical emergency. We set off again five hours after our first departure, this time making it all the way to Los Angeles. I’ve never been through Immigration and Customs so fast in L.A. before, but it was a breeze. We then quickly got into a rental car and I slept all the way to Pat and Wendy’s house in Escondido.
So begins cyclone season. Monitoring the weather in Tahiti. Ordering boat parts. Visiting with family and friends. Squeezing in annual medical appointments. And planning the next season in French Polynesia.
On Thursday, October 6, I picked up the rental car again and headed toward the port of Papeete. I stopped by to see Michel at the Taina Chandlery and he fixed my butane hose so it would work. And I dropped off my empty butane tank to be filled at the Mobil station. Then I stopped at Technimarine to confirm a haul-out appointment. The next day, early, I headed to the airport to pick up Todd, Laura and their friend Jeff. I made them go with me back to the marina to give a package to Bob on Rhapsody, and then I dragged them to Nautisport to pick up my diving BC that was being repaired. We tried to have lunch at Point Venus but it was way too early, so we headed around the east side of Tahiti toward Port Phaeton. That night we had a very nice dinner at Terre-Mer, which you can see from the boat.
The next day was a tourist day, while we still had the rental car. We went to Teahapoo, home of the famous surf break, and then up to the Belvedere lookout on Tahiti Iti for a nice view of the intersection between the two halves of Tahiti. Lunch was a very nice one at Loula et Remy in Taravao. Jeff and Todd also looked at some of my small electrical/engine problems and came up with solutions.
The next day we drove a long way up the west side of Tahiti to find the public beach (Plage Vaiava) where snorkeling was supposed to be good. The snorkeling wasn’t great, but we each had a nice swim before heading for lunch at Lani’s BBQ. Nice place. It was a Sunday, which may have explained the long wait for service.
On Monday, we stopped at Ace Hardware for a new switch for one of my lamps and then hiked to a waterfall on the east side of Tahiti. We then headed to downtown Papeete to see the market and had lunch at Jimmy’s, a couple of blocks away. When we returned to Port Phaeton, we did a shopping run at the Carrefour to load up for a sailing trip.
On Tuesday morning, we dropped off the rental car and then left the mooring ball at 8:00 a.m. We were through the pass by 9:00 a.m. Outside the reef, the seas and winds were calm and from behind us. But as we got closer to the rounding point on the southwest side, both seas and winds built significantly. We had winds in the mid-twenties and I had to hand steer to appease the autopilot. It was a bit rowdy for my guests, who are not sailors. But as we finally got near the pass south of Marina Taina, things calmed down and entry into the pass was benign. We found a spot near where Linda and I had anchored previously after trying to find a spot in front of the huts at the Intercontinental. We nearly hit a shallow reef before Todd managed to get my attention.
The next morning we got up early and got fuel at the fuel dock before heading to Moorea. The wind was light and on the nose so we motored the whole way. We first tried anchoring out in front of the town of Maharepa but it was very crowded and our spot was too shallow, so we moved well into Cook’s Bay, where it is plenty deep and there was plenty of room.
On Thursday, we took the dinghy to the dock near the Snack Rotui and started walking around the bay toward Maharepa. We passed the Allo Pizza restaurant, which looked good, and took a look the the place where cruise ships drop off their passengers for land tours. Then we kept walking around through and past the town. We ran into Andrew and Liane from Waveriders and all of us stopped at the Moz Cafe for refreshments. As we started back, we ran into Bob and Sarah on Rhapsody for a quick chat before finding a great snack truck. We had delicious fish tacos and poisson cru there before continuing our sojourn. The next stop was the hotel Kaveka, which has a very nice atmosphere and a very friendly staff. After a couple of beverages, we headed back to our part of the bay, picked up some things from the SuperU store and headed back to the boat. That night there was a nice fireworks show for the benefit of the cruise ships that were in the bay.
Friday was a rainy morning. Jeff went off in the kayak and Todd joined him in another kayak later. Meanwhile Laura and I took the dinghy out to the reef for some unimpressive snorkeling. On Saturday, we walked 4.5 miles from the bay up to the Belvedere lookout. There were far too many tourists there so we turned around after a quick look at the view and headed back to the boat. On Sunday, we picked up a rental car and drove all the way around Moorea, checking out the sites I hadn’t seen before. We stopped for beverages at the Hibiscus hotel and lovely Sunset restaurant and then headed over to the Tipaniers resort where we had lunch before going out on a whale watching trip.
The whale watching was exciting. The captain and guide would spot whales and then we follow the guide into the water and swim toward the whales. The first swim was really long and seemed ridiculous in that you can’t chase whales in rough water forever. We did see some, however. We then got back in the boat a few times so the boat could get us better positioned, and we went in again. Each time seeing whales. The best view was right above a mother and her baby. I’m not sure how much the whales liked to be harassed but the guide and the boat captain were very responsible in their approach.
After dropping off the car on Monday morning, we pulled up anchor and motored back to the Marina Taina anchorage on Tahiti. It was a day earlier than planned but the weather models were inconsistent and I was afraid that it could be a miserable trip on Tuesday and slightly less miserable on Monday. As it turned out, Monday was pretty calm and we motored the whole way. After relaxing for a bit, we put the dinghy in the water and I took Jeff to shore so he could go to a hotel. Todd and Laura and I joined him that evening for dinner at La Casa Bianca at the marina.
On Tuesday morning, Laura and I went to the marina and did four loads of laundry, which took forever to dry. I was so grateful that that task was done. After we returned to the boat, Todd and Laura packed up and I took them back to the marina to catch a cab to their hotel. Hopefully they enjoyed a nice resort afternoon before their early morning flight to Los Angeles.
Back on my own, I walked to the Mobil station to pick up my butane tank, which had been filled and was waiting for me. Then I headed back to the boat to relax and clean. It’s always a similar drill between guests. After getting the laundry done, I defrost and clean the three refrigeration/freezer boxes, re-organize the galley, clean the heads and tidy up. I also run the watermaker in 1-2 hour shifts when the sun is producing ample solar power. I did take an afternoon off to go over the Waveriders with the Rhapsody crew to play games. It was quite fun.
We pulled up the anchor in Cook’s Bay about 6:00 a.m. and headed out the pass. All was nice and calm and we had a good sail at first with a single reef in the main and partial reef in the jib. The seas were big but it was fine. Once we rounded the southwest point of Tahiti, we had winds on the nose in the low twenties. With the seas also big, we were making very little headway, even with a motor assist. Eventually we took down all sails and motored into the wind at between 2 and 4 knots. It seemed like it would take forever, and we were looking at other options to anchor in case we couldn’t get to Port Phaeton before dark. In retrospect, we should have broken the trip into two days, stopping first at the airport anchorage in Tahiti and then moving on to Port Phaeton the next day.
We kept up the slog all afternoon, staying outside the reefs with large waves crashing over them and finally made it to what seemed like a tiny little pass between reefs with large breaking waves. We followed our charts and our eyeballs and made it into Port Phaeton just before dark and dropped the anchor behind the other boats in the bay. A tough day but the bay was calm and it was easy to sleep.
On Tuesday, September 20, we contacted Marc Bordas, who watches boats in Port Phaeton. He showed us where our mooring ball was and we moved onto it that morning, after the owners departed for Papeete for some repairs. We also visited with Sarah and Bob on Rhapsody who were occupying the mooring ball that the owners would return to. Sarah and Bob helped us understand the general area. Later we had sundowners on their boat as they prepared to leave the next morning for Papeete. Sarah and Bob had left their boat in Port Phaeton under Marc’s care for several weeks while they went to Oregon to meet their new grandson.
Port Phaeton is very remote and quiet, away from the zillions of boats anchored on the west side of Tahiti. It is to be Aldabra’s home during the upcoming cyclone season, on a mooring ball under the watchful eye of Marc Bordas. I only wish I could find a 12-volt dehumidifier because it will be rainy here. But they seem to be out of stock.
During that first afternoon, Linda and I tied the dinghy up to a tree and walked up a dirt road to the main road, coming face to face with a large Carrefour super market. We were overwhelmed with the selection of good food after being in the Tuamotus and Moorea. It is all very expensive, but I’ve become used to that.
On Wednesday, September 21, we walked about a half mile to pick up a rental car from an auto repair shop. We toured around Tahiti Iti, visiting the famous Teahupoo surf break and driving up to the top of the Belvedere hill for an amazing view of both sides of the island. We continued around Tahiti on the east side and ended up at Point Venus for a fun lunch. Our circumnavigation continued as we drove along the west side of Tahiti back to Port Phaeton. A long day but fun to survey both islands.
The next day, we drove back back to Marina Taina to visit Tahitit Crew. We needed a better Internet box and they had one being turned in later that morning. So we headed to the port area where many of the boating stores are. We were looking for a fitting to transfer butane cooking gas from the bottles sold in French Polynesia to the bottles on the boat. But no one had the fitting.
When we returned to to Tahiti Crew, they directed us to Michel, who runs the chandlery at the marina. He told us how to make the fitting and hose and said he would help if we got the parts. Meanwhile, we picked up the Internet box, had lunch at La Casa Bianca and then headed into downtown Papeete.
We shopped at the big market so Linda could buy gifts. And we shopped at the great Venus fabric store next to the market. As we walked along the waterfront next to Marina Papeete, I saw a few boats I know but couldn’t get in to say hello.
On Linda’s final day, we visited the botanical garden, which is quite near Port Phaeton but in rather sad shape. It is just barely being cared for. We also ended up at La Casa Bianca for one last lunch since we were looking for a museum near there that is unfortunately closed for renovation.
The next morning, on Saturday, we got up at 3:00 a.m., took the dinghy to shore, and drove to the airport to get Linda there in time for her flight. I was back at the boat by 6:00 a.m. and gathered up laundry to take to the laundry mat. One load costs between $10 and $14 dollars, which is cheaper than in the Tuamotus where one load is $30. I didn’t have enough coins to fully dry all the laundry so I took it back to the boat to dry. That day was a laundry management day.
I stayed put on the boat on Sunday. I used the time to re-mark the anchor chain so I know how much I have let out. I defrosted the freezer. And I filled the diesel tank with fuel from the remaining jerry jugs that were still full.
On Monday morning I headed back toward Papeete. I started with Michel at Marina Taina, who helped me with my butane hose fitting and sent me to the Cope plumbing store to get the right barb. Then I went to Technimarine in the main port to see about hauling the boat out for a day in October. I have a thru-hull valve that needs to be replaced and I’d rather do it when the boat is hauled out. If I do it in the water, and something goes wrong, the boat could sink. I ran into Andrew and Liane of Waveriders at Technimarine. They are having trouble with some leaking thru-hulls and need to haul out as soon as they can. My final stop was at Nautisport to see if they can fix my BC for diving. They will call when it is ready.
And then it was back to Port Phaeton with a little stop at Carrefour.
On Tuesday, I stayed on the boat to defrost the refrigerator and run the watermaker. The next day, I returned the rental car and remained somewhat captive on the boat to clean and tidy up. Mundane, I know, but that is part of cruising life, especially when you are just about the only occupied boat in the anchorage. This is a place where people leave their boats for periods of time. So I am surrounded by many empty boats, except when the sailing school is in session.
While checking the bilge on Wednesday, I discovered some oily water in a compartment that leads to the bilge. I changed the oil in the diesel engine and the transmission. It looks like the engine is not leaking oil at this point so I will just keep an eye on it.
For the rest of my solo days I did small projects and cleaned. I also baked a bit (granola and cookies) so I could use up ingredients and the butane in the tank that needs to get filled.
On Thursday, September 15, Linda and I put the dinghy back on the davits, and pulled up the anchor, rather early in the morning. We headed out of the pass near Marina Taina and motored over to Moorea.
The wind was next to nothing but the seas were nice and big.
We entered the pass at Cook’s Bay and had the anchor down by noon. After a nice lunch, we hung out on the boat and enjoyed the view and the peace. In contrast to the density of boats in Papeete, the Cook’s Bay anchorage had nine boats, all spaced reasonably apart. The wind was gusting down from the hills but the water was flat except when tourist and dive boats returned with their clients and left nice big wakes.
The next morning we put the dinghy in the water and cruised around the bay to explore.
We stopped at a dock at the end of the bay, bought some groceries and had lunch at the snack before going back to lounge on the boat. After a very windy night, we got up early to get to shore in time to join a “nature” tour of the island with a guide Etienne and two very nice couples from the U.K. We saw vanilla and pineapple plantations, a small botanical garden and a beautiful park with hiking trails and great views. It gave us an opportunity to see the other anchorage, Opunohu Bay, without pulling up anchor to go over there. Our guide told us he met Obama there when he was finishing up his memoir. He was staying on Bruce Springsteen’s yacht when he visited the bay. We also toured the Hinano distillery and bought some spirits.
Swimming in Cook’s Bay is not all that inviting. And there is very little room to anchor outside the bay between the reef and the little town. So we mostly lounged on the boat. We were looking for a weather window to sail back to Tahiti and all the way around to the connection between Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti, a place called Port Phaeton. We rather spontaneously decided to head over on Monday morning, September 19.
On Sunday, September 11, we pulled up the anchor around 8:30 a.m. and sailed on the jib alone across the Tikehau lagoon, using the OpenCPN satellite images to navigate around bommies. We exited the pass a little after 11:00 a.m. and it was uneventful. Once outside the pass, we put up the main with the first reef in, pulled out the jib and headed toward Moorea. It was sunny and windy at first but eventually became rainy and windy, with big seas. The whole passage was like that. Big seas, wind and then some intense squalls with rain. One of us had to stay at the helm at all times because the wind shifted so much that big surprises occurred if we weren’t attending to the course at all times. Neither of us enjoyed it. Linda did get a little sleep during the night but I didn’t.
We were grateful when the sun came up on Monday morning but we still had twelve more hours of our little hell. As we approached Tetiroa, the Marlon Brando island, we decided to head to Tahiti instead of Moorea. It seemed about an hour shorter in distance and we knew we were going to run out of daylight. We got to the Papeete pass at 5:00 p.m. and made our way to the anchorage in front of the airport. We dropped anchor at 6:00 p.m., just as it was getting dark. We were so grateful to be in flat water and no wind. Both of us slept very well that night.
The next morning, Tuesday, we woke up to realize that the boats had all swung around significantly and we were too close to another boat. We pulled up anchor right away and proceeded farther along the channel, requesting permission from Port Control to cross at the end of the runway. After searching among zillions of boats, we finally found a place to drop the anchor. We lowered the dinghy and went to shore to Marina Taina and left the dinghy at their dock.
After dropping off our trash and recycling, we checked in with my agents, Tahiti Crew. They had been holding my Carte du Sejour for me, so I got that. It is the document that lets me stay in French Polynesia for a year or more (if I renew). After a nice lunch at La Casa Bianca, we returned to the boat, only to be visited by a marina authority who told us we could not anchor where we were. We pulled up anchor and moved across the channel to the low-rent district and finally found a spot that was safe for anchoring.
After a quiet night, we went back to Marina Taina with the dinghy and went grocery shopping. We also stopped by Tahiti Crew again and rented a wifi box that allows us to get Internet access on the boat, which is why I am able to make blog posts for the first time in a long time.
After returning to the boat, we saw Antje come in and anchor nearby. Antje is the boat we hit in Omoa in Fatu Hiva. I had been able to pay online for the spare parts that they needed to fix the steering vane, but we got in the dinghy to visit so I could give him something more to compensate somewhat for the inconvenience I had caused them. While we were talking to Jorge about his plans for the boat and his family, we realized that the visitors he had onboard for a day sail were Dana’s friends from high school. They were shocked to see Linda. It is such a small world.
We also noticed that Waveriders had anchored near us so we took the boat over to find them. They weren’t home, but shortly after we returned to Aldabra, Andrew and Liane stopped by on their water bikes for a bit of a visit. It was nice to catch up with them.
We arrived at the pass at Tikehau at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 6. The wind was starting to build on the nose as we tried to enter the pass. Slack tide was probably delayed because of the strong winds so it wasn’t easy to go into the pass, but we were really just going slowly, not facing difficult seas. Once we got into the pass and turned right into the channel, we were motoring very slowly in choppy seas and some wind. Linda steered while I double-checked our navigation and we made our way down the channel toward the village. Before we got there, we turned left out into the lagoon and headed for the east side of the atoll, motoring nearly upwind the whole time and using OpenCPN navigation software with satellite images to steer around the coral heads (bommies). We arrived at the anchorage in front of Motu Ohini a little after 5:00 p.m. We anchored in sand and were set. It was very protected from the wind and seas so everything was flat and calm.
It was so nice to be away from the rolly, wake-filled anchorage at Rangiroa. After a quiet night, we took the dinghy to shore and explored around the atoll. Linda collected shells and I collected some coral and abandoned pearl-farm floats that can be used to float anchor chain above coral heads. After our land expedition, we snorkeled a bit and headed back to the boat, where we stayed put during the following two days of intense winds in the high teens and twenties – but the water was flat so I have no complaints.
After a couple days of wind, we ventured back to the motu on Saturday. I found more floats and coral and Linda found more shells. Then we went back to the boat, but the dinghy on the davits and plotted a course for the next day.
On August 14, my sister Debbie and my niece Julia arrived on Rangiroa by plane. They brought some treats and provisions and some parts I needed.
Unfortunately for them, the weather did not cooperate with their visit. We had many days of high winds and rain. We were able to eat a nice lunch a couple of times at Relais Josephine and watch the activity in the pass.
At one point we had a nice sail over to the other side of the atoll, to the Blue Lagoon. When we go there, however, it was too rough to stay, so we pulled up anchor and motored back to the Kia Ora anchorage, arriving just before dark and anchoring quickly, without being able to see where the anchor landed.
We waited out the weather again, and a few days later sailed back to the Blue Lagoon. We had a nice day there and a couple of nice nights with flat seas and no wind. Early on one morning, before the tourist boats arrived, Julia and I snorkeled on the reef outside the entrance to the Blue Lagoon and saw lots of sharks and fish.
We next went down to Motu Fama and anchored for the night. It was beautiful there but that night a big squall came in from the south and our anchor may have dragged. We monitored the situation until the squall subsided and then Julia and I put out more chain. I did an anchor watch until 1 a.m. and when all seemed stable, I went to sleep.
The next day, the wind was building sooner than I expected, so we pulled up anchor and sailed back across the lagoon and then turned into the wind and motored back to the Kia Oro anchorage with enough time to anchor before dark. That was the end of our adventuring on Rangiroa. The lagoon is so big that the seas really build on the other side. So we stayed put and snorkeled at the Aquarium, which can be really good snorkeling. We also went over to Tiputa on the last Sunday of their visit to attend church. The Catholic service involves lots of beautiful music.
Debbie and Julia left at the end of August and I took a couple of days to get the laundry done and clean a bit. Then my friend Linda Moore arrived. After taking a couple of days for Linda to settle in, we did some dives outside the Tiputa pass, followed by lunch at Snack Puna one day and Relais Josephine on another.
We also snorkeled at the Aquarium, which Linda liked better than the dives. Seeing the dolphins up close is fun, but the diving can get boring as you wait out in the blue water away from the reef for them to show up. The last dive was probably the best because we went more slowly and could see more fish on the reef. We were joined by two divers from California and it was fun to talk to them.
Looking at the weather predictions, we thought we would be pinned down in Rangiroa for multiple more days during strong winds. I was anxious to move on, so we found a weather window on Tuesday morning, leaving the Avatoru Pass at 7:00 a.m. uneventfully and sailing over to Tikehau. The sail over was very nice. We went around the top of the atoll and were protected from the seas, so they were flat.
Heading for the Tuamotus, we left the Omoa anchorage on Fatu Hiva on Saturday night, July 9 at 10:30 p.m. We set our sails as soon as we cleared the island and then put a reef in the main. The winds were in the mid-teens and we moved along nicely above 7 knots. The moon was out and it was lovely. Sunday was nice, with winds between 9 and 12 knots, always on the beam. And Sunday night was a calm, pleasant sailing night. Monday brought about the same light winds and more sunshine. A pod of dolphins joined us briefly. It’s nice to have an uneventful, comfortable passage.
On Tuesday, the winds kept getting lighter. After trying the spinnaker, we sailed on the jib alone. Finally, in the gap between Raroia and Takume, we pulled in the jib and motored. Once we got near the pass at Raroia, we turned off the motor and bobbed for the rest of the night and into the morning, waiting for the right time to enter the pass. As I later figured out, I was reading the current tables wrong so we entered the pass at the wrong time. For our first entry into an atoll pass, it was a bit intense but otherwise fine.
Once we entered the pass, we went over and anchored in front of the village. It took us 2-3 hours to anchor because we were floating our chain for the first time. We had to find a sandy place for the anchor and then attach fenders to the chain to keep it from touching the coral on the sea floor.
As we were coming in, an armada of dinghies passed us on their way to drift snorkel the pass. Bob and Sarah from Rhapsody were among them. That night we met the rest of the armada. We went over for sundowners to Womble, a beautiful Seawind 1600 from the U.K, owned by Dale and Katrina with crew Jack and Etta. We also met Lance and Amy on Lorien, and Kate and Jim on Polaris. It was a very nice evening with good people. We had a little mini-emergency because Marshall fainted. But Dana, Dale and Katrina tended to his medical needs.
The next day was Bastille Day and on many islands in French Polynesia they celebrate. Raroia was not among them. It was a very windy day in the anchorage and some of us had to re-anchor in those conditions. We stayed on the boat. Rala also joined the rest of us, having come from the other side of the atoll.
The next day, Friday, July 15, most of the boats were headed to Makemo but we headed over to the other side of the atoll, first to the Kon Tiki monument and then to a beautiful, quiet anchorage on the northeast end. We explored on land a bit and otherwise hung out. The weather went from still to rain to wind.
On Monday, July 18, we left the northeast anchorage at 8:00 a.m. and headed out of the pass. I still handn’t figured out that I was reading the current tables wrong, so we didn’t exit during slack tide, but it wasn’t too bad. We put the jib up and ran on a broad reach to Makemo. Dana caught a very large tuna and cleaned it with guidance from Johno. We arrived at 5:00 a.m. and waited until 6:30 a.m. to enter the pass, again at the wrong time, but it was fine. We anchored in front of the village, floating our chain. It took about an hour.
We went ashore and bought provisions, got money at the ATM and answered emails because we had a cell signal for the first time in many days. We had Dana’s tasty fish for dinner. The boats in the anchorage included Womble, Polaris, Rhapsody, Lorien, Rala and now Candine and Black Moon (who had been in Fatu Hiva with us). It felt like quite a community although of course we would all head off in different directions.
While we were in Raroia, Johno and Marshall had colds. We tested them for Covid and they were positive. It sort of explained why Marshall had fainted. I went around to as many of the boats as I could to let them know that we had exposed them. By the time we got to Makemo, some of the cruisers were symptomatic.
On Thursday, July 21, we motored to the Punaruku anchorage. It was a calm day inside the lagoon but there was a big south swell outside and you could see the waves breaking on the reef. We had a nice snorkel on the reef and a nice evening. After a gorgeous sunrise on Friday, we motored to the anchorage near the west pass, which we would not have done if it weren’t for OpenCPN and the satellite images that are integrated into the charts. We could see each bit of coral as we navigated into the anchorage. It was a fun place to snorkel for the day and a nice quiet night.
On Saturday, July 23, we left Makemo via the west pass (still at the wrong time) at 6:25 a.m. We sailed on a beam reach with 10-12 knots of wind from the north. It was a nice day of sailing. In the evening, the wind came up and we put two reefs in the main. We had 13-15 knots of wind and we were still going too fast to reach Fakarava. We arrived at the pass at 10:00 p.m., took down the sails and motored for four hours. Then we shut off the motor and floated around until sunrise. After that, we put the jib up and sailed around, killing time. We entered the south pass at 9:25 a.m., at the wrong time, and it was a bit hairy. There were a bunch of dive boats in the pass and they were yelling at us. I’m not sure what they were saying but I think they were chastising us. As we headed to the anchorage near the pass, it was really windy and it seemed imprudent to pick up a mooring ball there. We kept on going (which meant passing up the opportunity to snorkel the pass) and went to Hirifa.
For kite boarders, Hirifa is the spot. The wind seemed perfect and lots of boats had people kiting around the anchorage. For me it was just an overnight spot. We pulled up the anchor the next morning and headed toward the north side of the island, stopping for the night in an anchorage by ourselves. We had a nice snorkel and a quiet night.
The next day we proceeded to the village of Rotoava and anchored. Rala was there at anchor and Rhapsody was tied up at the wharf because their windlass had broken. We spent a week in that anchorage. Partly it was due to multiple days expected of high winds. We also were dropping Marshall off there so he could fly out. And it was a decent place to provision, ride bikes, eat at restaurants and tour a pearl farm. We hung out with Ian and Laura on Rala and saw Bob and Sarah on Rhapsody before they left for Tahiti. There wasn’t that much to do on Fakarava during super windy days, but Fakarava Yacht Services was a godsend to cruisers. We could get laundry done, use wifi, get cooking gas fill-ups and rent bikes. I discovered that I couldn’t take Marshall off the crew list in Fakarava so that would have to wait until Rangiroa.
On Monday, August 1, Rala and Aldabra went over to the anchorage near the north pass so we could get an early start going out of the pass the next morning. (I had finally figured out how to use the current tables properly.) We each picked up mooring balls but it was really windy, the seas were huge and choppy and the balls were very close to shore. If a ball had broken, we would have only seconds to start the motor and keep the boat off the shore. And the motor would be working very hard against the wind and seas. Both boats elected to go back to the village and anchor. We each had a somewhat peaceful night before an early morning departure back to the pass.
On Tuesday, August 2, Rala and Aldabra pulled up anchor at 6:00 a.m. and sailed to the pass. Because I finally had the timing right, it was very smooth. Outside the pass, the swell was a bit big and the winds were in the high teens. Headed for Rangiroa, we sailed on the jib alone on a broad reach, jibing every so often. Rala was sailing downwind so they had a much better angle and stayed ahead of us the whole time. At one point we ran the motor for an hour and a half to charge the batteries and they didn’t charge. Johno found a loose wire and reconnected it to the alternator and charging resumed. Whew!
To arrive at the pass in time, we motored for the last few hours and went through the pass as soon as we got there at 8:00 a.m., just behind Rala. We anchored in front of the Kia Ora hotel with several other boats, none of whom we knew. Rangiroa was to be the last stop for Dana and Johno, who were flying out on August 7.
As soon as we anchored, we went ashore to walk around. We ran into Ian and Laura at the pass, where people were watching dolphins surf the waves. They took us to a great little restaurant at the pension Relais Josephine where we could eat while watching the dolphins. We had a nice lunch before heading back to the boats for naps. Ian and Laura came over to Aldabra that night for sundowners.
I needed to get to the gendarmerie to take Marshall off the crew list. Google Maps said it was in the village of Avatoru. So the next morning, Dana and Johno and I took the dinghy the four miles to the village and beached it. It was a windy, wet ride and I was soaked from head to toe. We couldn’t find the gendarmerie and there was confusion among the locals about its location. We stopped by the mayor’s office to pay our cruiser’s tax and a very nice man explained where it was. We could walk 5 kilometers or take the dinghy. We elected to take the dinghy and found a little pass to tie up before walking a short distance to the gendarmerie.
We found it, but I don’t speak French and the staff didn’t speak English. We spent a lot of time on forms that I was pretty sure were not right. At the end, the woman sent me away without anything in hand. I asked if I should be signing something and she assured me that everything would go to Papeete and be just fine. But later that day I got an email from her saying that I needed to come back and sign a form.
After we left the gendarmerie, we ran into Ian and Laura, who were taking a bike ride. We stopped at a magasin before going back to the dinghy, and then we took the wet ride back to the boat, something I would rather not repeat.
Dana and Johno banished me to the cockpit during the middle of the day so they could bake a birthday cake. Later, with Ian, we attempted to snorkel the pass by pulling our dinghies along with us as we drifted. But we were working against a current so we abandoned that and went over to the aquarium at the motu near the pass. The snorkeling was good there so we spent a bit of time before heading back to the boats to rinse off before dinner. The five of us had a nice birthday dinner at Snack Puna, which included a chocolate torte with trick candles that didn’t blow out.
The next day, Friday, Dana and I joined Ian and Laura for two dives with Rangiroa Diving Centre. The first dive was a reef dive outside the pass on the east side. The second dive took us into the pass from the outside. We were hoping to see dolphins, which is a highlight of the dives here, but they didn’t appear. The second dive was a sunset dive and we did see a lot of fish, which had all come out of their holes in the reef to feed. When we got back to the boat, we were freezing and cold. Johno kindly whipped up a meal.
On Saturday, Johno and Dana and I went to shore in search of bikes, but the place was closed. We ended up taking the dinghy across the pass to explore the Tiputa village. We found a working ATM at the post office but not much else. Later we went snorkeling at the aquarium and then joined Ian and Laura at the Snack Puna for a last-night dinner.
On Sunday, Dana and Johno’s last day, we rode bikes to the Avatoru village and happened to find the gendarmerie open. I stopped in to sign the paper, which turned out not to be the right form. I finally got a form, officially stamped, that probably isn’t correct, but at least it shows I tried to sort it out. At the end of the motu, we checked out the Avatoru pass, which is wide and looked very tame. After spending the rest of the afternoon on the boat, I took the two of them to shore at 5:00 p.m. to catch their taxi to the airport. Sitting on that boat that evening, I could tell that no plane had come to whisk them away, but finally, a couple of hours late, it arrived and they took off.
With Dana and Johno’s departure, I was alone on the boat for the first time since April. I was ready to do some serious cleaning. But first, I got one more day of scuba diving in with Ian and Laura. We did two dives, basically in the same place as before, but we saw dolphins. They came and swam around us. We also saw a turtle that didn’t dart away. It let us gawk at it. And we saw lots of sharks and some big pelagic fish, along with beautiful reef fish. That night I had a lovely dinner on Rala with Ian and Laura.
On Tuesday, the taxi driver, Gilbert, took me to the gas station where I could buy gasoline and oil for the dinghy. I was also able to drop of my laundry at Addison’s house. I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning.
On Wednesday morning, amidst much rain, Ian and Laura stopped by to tell me that one of the magasins had some fresh produce. So I hopped into the dinghy and went there to find some mangos and avocados. (I’d had only one avocado since arriving in French Polynesia.) Later that day I went back to get the laundry from Addison, who had managed to dry everything even during a big rainstorm. (It had rained so much the night before that the dinghy was completely filled while hanging on the davits. Had it been in the water, it probably would have sunk.)
Sadly, Ian and Laura left on Rala on Wednesday afternoon, headed for Moorea and then parts west and south. I’m not sure I will see them again anytime soon. But I really value the friendship.
Alone on the boat and without anyone I know in the anchorage, I just puttered away on the boat, defrosting the freezer and fridge and cleaning the galley, cleaning the heads, the floors, the rugs. I re-glued a seal on one of the hatches, changed out the watermaker filters, cleaned the cockpit. Mixing the chores up with a bit of reading and writing, I’ll be ready when my sister and niece arrive in a few days.
We arrived in the Bay of Virgins on Fatu Hiva before 2:00 p.m, in front of the village of Hanavave. There were about six or so boats in the anchorage and no room for us in water less than 70 feet deep. Migration came in right behind us and found a spot in a slightly shallower area. Waveriders, Andrew and Liane, came in behind us as well.
Fatu Hiva is a storied place, perhaps one of the most beautiful islands in the world. It has a population of about 700 people and is accessible only by boat or helicopter. The Bay of Virgins is surrounded by steep walls of tall, distinctive rock formations and lush greenery, including hundreds of coconut palms. The peaks of the mountains are often shrouded in fog. And while we were there, the wind gusted down from the mountains, through the valleys and through the anchorage, sending gusts of 20 to 40 knot winds to harass the boats. While we were there, boats came and went, with many staying as long as we did, in anticipation of an inter-island festival to begin on July 7. The anchorage is mostly deep and several of the boats dragged and had to re-anchor, sometimes more than once.
The day after our arrival, Wednesday, we went ashore, leaving the dinghy behind a breakwater that forms a safe little harbor. As we began walking through the town, we met a man by the name of Cristian in front of the house. He invited us to his home to see his carvings and I bought a rather large tiki carving. We made arrangements with him to come to his house the next night for dinner and he would give us fruit. From there we walked a couple of miles to the waterfall, meeting up with Andrew and Liane on the way. We visited the waterfall without swimming in the pool because it had some scum on the top, then walked back to town.
As we were heading back to the dinghy, we met Patrick, who gave us bananas and invited us to go with him to the other town, Omoa, in his truck the next day. We joined Patrick at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday and he drove us through hairpin turns up over a steep mountain and down into Omoa. There we shopped at the magasin (market) for a few provisions (they didn’t have much) and met with a woman by the name of Glenda to look at her carvings and tapa cloths. I bought three tapas, Marshall bought one and Johno bought one and a stone carving of a manta. She gave Dana and me each a necklace. Patrick drove us around to see a bit of the town and then we headed back to Hanavave. At the summit, Dana and Johno got out and walked the two hours back and Marshall and I continued on with Patrick back to the dinghy.
Later in the afternoon, Marshall and I went back to shore and met up with Dana and Johno. We tried to watch a local practice for the festival but no one was there yet, so we wandered into a neighborhood behind the soccer field. As we walked aimlessly, we met Angela, whose husband carves beautiful bowls out of rosewood. We met Priscilla, who promised us mangos for the next day. And we met Kulina, who invited us to their house for a dinner.
Later, we met up with Bruce and Alene of Migration for a delicious dinner at Cristian’s house, where he gave us more fruit. On our way to Cristian’s, we met Alex and Yvette of Blue Beryl. This young Dutch couple is quite adventurous and energetic. They told us the story of getting dismasted between the Galapagos and the Marquesas. Alex worked with another cruiser (Tim on Candine) to salvage a mast from another boat and re-rig his boat. It was quite an epic story.
We started the next morning by going to shore to meet up with Priscilla for the mangos. It turned out that she wanted to trade them for rope, so I dashed back to the boat to get some rope. On my way back, I met up with my crew and a man named Sopi, who was coming home from the hills with a pack horse carrying coconuts and bananas. He saw the rope and wanted it. So I cut it in two and gave him half. He then took us to his home to show us his carvings. While he was showing Marshall and Dana and Johno his carvings and how to husk the coconuts, his wife asked me for perfume. So I went back to the boat and got her some perfume.
We invited Migration and Blue Beryl to join us that day, Friday, on a hunt for a grotto that Dana’s parents had found in 1992. We set out from the anchorage, going north toward the tip of Fatu Hiva and managed to find the grotto. We anchored the dinghies, swam to shore and crawled behind some boulders to find the hidden brackish pool. We swam around in it to explore. And as we left, Bruce and Alex brought out large pieces of plastic that had been left there.
On the way to the grotto we found a beautiful tunnel-like cave with lustrous teal water. On the way back from the grotto, we stopped by again so Dana could scatter some of her dad’s ashes there. He surely would have seen it and loved it in 1992.
That night we went to Migration (a large trimaran with tons of deck space) for a potluck with other boats, including Blue Beryl, Pablo and Candine. It was a lovely night that passed by too quickly to talk to each person.
Our plan after the potluck was to leave at 3:00 a.m. to go to the Tuamotus. We had a narrow weather window to get there between light winds and really heavy winds. Our new friends at the potluck encouraged us to stay another week for the festival. When we got back, the crew had a meeting and decided to indeed stay.
The next day, Saturday, Dana, Johno and Marshall hiked with Alex and Yvette back up to the waterfall while I stayed on the boat to run the watermaker and defrost the freezer. On their hike, they ran into Ian and Laura (on Rala), who we had met in Daniel’s Bay on Nuku Hiva.
On Sunday at 8:00 a.m. we joined Bruce and Alene for the Catholic church service. It was mostly singing and a bit of prayer in Marquesan. It was beautiful and captivating. I can’t think of an hour better spent. Patrick, who we knew was a devout Catholic was one of the church elders who participated in the service.
The service was not well attended that day because the supply boat had come in that morning and the townspeople were at the dock, waiting to get their deliveries. After church, most of the attendees headed to the magasin, not necessarily to shop, but just to be social. We were there too, trying to buy cooking gas with Migration, but the store did not want to sell it to non-locals because there has been a shortage in the Marquesas.
We ran into Ian and Laura on Rala and I learned they were having trouble with weather downloads and were headed to the Tuamotus. So later that afternoon I took my weather download over to their boat and shared it with Ian, and he shared tips he had learned about making it into the passes of the Tuamotu atolls. We planned on getting together the next day on Aldabra, but the wind came up that afternoon and a lot of boats started dragging their anchors. Rala tried to re-anchor several times, helped by other cruisers late into the evening. They finally anchored for the night but it was an intense night of gusty winds so they pulled up anchor the next day to head for a shallower anchorage. I imagine that they will get a couple of nights rest before heading to the Tuamotus but I wasn’t able to say farewell.
Monday brought more gusty winds in the anchorage. Dana and Johno went for a walk to the top of a mountain. Marshall and I cleaned the cockpit and he visited with other boats in the anchorage. I made some hummus. Migration and Blue Beryl joined us on Aldabra in the evening for sundowners, appetizers and hot dogs to celebrate the fourth of July. Migration is the only other American boat in the anchorage.
Monday night was an intense night of winds, which carried through all day on Tuesday. I did get into the water at one point to clear a thru-hull that was backed up with critters in it. But it was an otherwise lazy writing and reading day for all of us while we waited out the winds, which were gusting in the 30-knot range.
On Wednesday morning, another windy and rainy day, Dana and Johno set off from town to walk the 17 kilometers up and over the hill to Omoa. In the afternoon, Alex and Yvette from Blue Beryl took our dinghy over to pick Dana and Johno up. They were joined by Sam from Pablo in his dinghy. They had managed to get a bottle of cooking gas with the help of Graham on Pulsar. When they returned, Bruce from Migration came over to show us how to transfer the butane from the big bottle to our smaller tanks. We were pretty excited to be topped off with cooking gas since we’d been rationing ourselves by not using the oven.
On Thursday, I baked banana bread and the others did chores. We took the dinghy the three miles to Omoa for the start of the festival. We started by having lunch at the snack where we could use wifi. Dana and Johno booked their flights to return home in August. We then joined in watching the performances, which lasted until after 10 p.m., after which we took the dinghy back to Hanavave, arriving at 11:30 p.m.
On Friday, Marshall and Dana and Johno went back to the festival in the afternoon, first to do Internet and then to watch the evening dancing. I stayed back and ran the motor and the watermaker and did some chores. Earlier that day, we tried to convince a boat that had anchored in front of us to move. They weren’t inclined to do so, and left for the festival. Shortly afterward, as we were in our dinghy talking to Alex, the new boat hit Alex’s boat. We used dinghies to push it away and Alex put a stern anchor on the new boat. Meanwhile Migration went over to Omoa in their dinghy to send the people on that boat back to move their boat, which they did.
Saturday was to be our last day at the festival. We decided to take Aldabra over to Omoa and anchor to avoid the long dinghy ride between the two bays. We planned to pull up anchor after the festivities and sail to the Tuamotus. Unfortunately, we anchored too close to Antje, and while we were ashore, our boat hit their boat and damaged their steering vane, an essential part of their sailing needs. After we successfully avoided all the boat-collision drama in Hanavave, we now caused a huge problem for Antje. Although we did pull up anchor that night for the Tuamotus, I regret not staying there to help mitigate the hardship for Antje.
The dancing that night by the Nuku Hiva and Fatu Hiva groups was spectacular. A great way to end our magical visit to Fatu Hiva. We made wonderful new friends among the cruisers and the islanders. I started missing them all as soon as we were underway.