On Wednesday, November 1, we sailed in nice conditions out of the pass on the western side of Tongatapu and then continued on course to North Minerva Reef in nice conditions until early afternoon. At about 2:00 p.m., the wind went light and shifted direction. We shook a reef out of the main and furled the jib so we could motor sail for a while and charge the batteries. About an hour later, the wind picked up and we shut off the motor and unfurled the jib. We put the second reef in the main. We sailed through most of the night with two reefs in the main and the jib partly furled. Johno unfurled the jib completely during his watch at 4:00 a.m.
Night sailing on the way to Minerva Reef
On Thursday, Novembert 2, we continued sailing with good speed with a double-reefed main and a full jib. In the afternoon, we couldn’t hold our course, we were being pushed to the east. We jibed over and sailed for three hours before jibing back. At that point, we had a perfect angle for continuing on to Minerva Reef. After my shift ended at 4:00 p.m., Johno started hand steering and got the boat moving very fast. He clocked 10 knots of boat speed at one point and was having a great time sailing. At 8:00 p.m., Pat took over and we slowed the boat down for the night by furling the jib a bit. Later, we took the main down and just sailed with a reefed jib. When I came on watch at midnight, I calculated that we could go a bit faster and still get to Minerva after daybreak, so I unfurled the jib completely. My shift was uneventful except for hailing one boat that didn’t have AIS and was on a collision course with us. We sorted that out and sailed smoothly until arriving at the entrance to the reef. By that time, Johno was on watch and he furled the jib and took us in through the pass. We anchored on the northeast corner with Szel and Blue Beryl, Amae, Elixir, Blue Marine and Jollity. Midnight Breeze, Susimi and La Vida anchored on the southeast corner but joined us the next day. It was a windy day inside the reef.
Getting ready to enter the pass at Minerva Reef
Saturday, November 4 was a cold and gloomy and windy day. We went to lunch on Blue Beryl, enjoying Ota Iki and sashimi. That night we had lobster for dinner, which Alex had given to us.
On Sunday, many of us took our dinghies over to Pogeyan, and Richard escorted us outside the pass to snorkel what he calls the Blue Lagoon. Richard and Michelle have been coming to the Minerva Reefs for years and are very gracious hosts, showing all of us newcomers where to go. That night, we had a huge potluck on their boat. There were 38 people, having a great time visiting and eating.
Potluck on Pogeyan
We had thought that Monday, November 6 would be our day to head for New Zealand, but the weather routers postponed it. Instead, Johno and Max from Elixir and Isabela from Blue Beryl went lobster hunting and brought back ample lobster for dinner.
Successful lobster hunt
Johno and his lobster
They repeated the hunt the next day, taking lots of other cruisers with them. Again, we enjoyed a lobster dinner. Before their Tuesday hunt, most of the boats in the anchorage (we had now moved to the southeast corner because the wind had shifted) went in their dinghies with Richard to explore the reef while it was exposed by the low tide. We all stood around on the reef and visited, our first time walking in several days, and possibly our last time walking for a week.
Hanging out on the reef
Boats anchored at Minerva Reef
Boats anchored at Minerva Reef, taken from the top of the mast on Aldabra
We all had lots of conversations about when to leave, and even thought we would leave for New Zealand on Wednesday. But on Wednesday, the weather routers agreed that Thursday would be a better day. So Wednesday was spent on the boat, a very gloomy, windy, rainy day.
On Sunday, October 15, Johno and I arrived at daybreak at the entrance to the Phia Passage on the eastern side of Tongatapu. We took our sails down and motored quite a long way through the passage until we arrived at Pangaimotu island. Many cruising boats were anchored there and we joined the crowd.
Pangaimotu near Big Mama’s
The anchorage is in front of what was once Big Mama’s restaurant, before the Tsunami. Now Earl and Mama offer services to cruisers who anchor there. They will shuttle people a mile into town. They offer their BBQ, tables and chairs for cruisers to picnic. And they help out in many other ways.
That night, after we had afternoon naps, we joined many cruisers, included Blue Beryl, Szel and Second Set in a potluck BBQ at Big Mama’s. We met new people, including Kristel and Philipe on Amae, and remet people such as JB, Ana and baby Olivia. We had previously met JB and Ana in the Marquesas, before Olivia was born.
On Monday, October 16, Johno and I went to shore and joined up with Alex and Yvette from Blue Beryl on a walk to find the offices where we could check into the island group. We first went to the Port Authority office to pay the port fee. Then, we went to the Customs office across the street. There we got the paperwork that we would need for when we cleared out of the country. From there, we walked just over a mile to town. We checked out the public market and then had lunch at Friends Café, in the oldest building in the city.
Friends Cafe in NukuAlofa
After walking back to the dinghy, we motored the mile back to the anchorage. On Aldabra, we baked brownies that we took that night for a pizza dinner on Blue Beryl with Amae and Szel.
On Tuesday, October 17, we took 10 jerry cans and boarded Second Set for a ride to the wharf. Chip had permission to pull up to the wharf and, with the help of local “fixer” Olini, shuttle jerry cans of fuel from the gas station to the boat. We then syphoned fuel into Second Set and refilled the jerry cans to take back to Aldabra. Amae was there with us to do the same thing, and Jamie on Szel was there for moral support. We then all returned to the anchorage on Second Set and took our filled jerry cans back to our boats. Later that afternoon we had beers on Second Set with Chip and Kristina. It was really windy.
On Wednesday, it was still really windy so we stayed on the boat all day. That night, we had drinks and dinner on Szel with Jamie and Fiona, a delightful evening. Blue Beryl was on their own that night because Yvette was flying out early the next morning and the new crew, Fred and Isabela, were joining the boat.
On Thursday morning, we took our dinghy over to Szel and tied it on, joining Jamie and Fiona for a trip to the harbor. With much help from Johhno, we got Szel secure inside the harbor, anchored with a couple of lines to shore. Johno and I then took the dinghy to the dinghy dock and walked into town and had lunch at Friends Café. Jamie and Fiona joined us a bit later. From there, Fiona took a taxi to the airport to fly to Australia to see her son. And shortly after that, Jamie’s new crew, Steve and Sharon, arrived from the airport. While we were in Friends, we started meeting people. Karenza, whom we had met in Neiafu showed up on her way to the airport to go to Fiji to join a boat. We also met Uili Louisi, who runs a climate change NGO. Our trip back to the anchorage was very wet because the winds and seas continued to be whipped up.
On Friday, we stayed on the boat and did some projects. Johno cleaned a large portion of the boat bottom, which would need to be very clean before arriving in New Zealand. We then had drinks and appetizers on Yuva with Jim and Perry to celebrate Jim’s birthday. We had a lovely evening with them.
On Saturday, October 21, Johno and I took the dinghy back into town. We shopped and had lunch at Friends. We saw the folks from Traveller, Saorise, Amae and others. Jamie and Steve and Sharon from Szel joined us later. We walked the mile back to the dinghy with our provisions and stayed on the boat for a bit before returning to shore to pick up Pat, who was coming from the airport by taxi in the late afternoon. After Pat showed up, we helped Szel tie there lines at the wharf and then headed back to the boat so Pat could get settled in.
On Sunday, the day to be discreet if you are going to work on the boat, Johno and I worked on cleaning the boat bottom. I used one scuba tank to clean the keel and rudder and another to clean the prop and shaft. Johnno and Pat replaced a diode on the windass motor. That night, we joined other cruisers for a BBQ at Big Mama’s, which included, Amae, Sea Wind, Yuva, Taku, Midnight Breeze, Susimi, Pangea, Traveller Saorise and Tin Lizzy.
Looking out at the anchorage from Big Mama’s
Cruisers at the potluck
With Pat on the boat, we were ready to head to New Zealand, but the professional weather routers were telling us it wasn’t time yet. So along with the other boats, we waited. On Monday, we sewed new telltails on the mainsail and finished cleaning the boat bottom. On Tuesday, we stayed on the boat all day and made preparations for a passage. On Wednesday, we went to shore with two dive tanks to get filled and one propane tank. We were successful with the dive tanks but had to wait to get the propane tank filled. Next, we walked the mile to town so Pat could see it. We stopped at the post office so Johno could send a postcard and Pat could buy a stamp. We then had lunch at Friends before stopping by the market.
Shopping at the market
Walking with our grocerie along the waterfront
That evening, we had drinks on Szel with the Blue Beryl crew. Pat and I were home by 10:00 p.m. but the party itself went well into the night.
Party on Szel
From Thursday through Sunday, we just waited for the illusive weather window. We all found ways to amuse ourselves, some projects, some exploration, some reading.
On Monday morning, October 30, we got up early and went to shore to check out of the country. We started by walking to the fuel station to get a couple of jerry cans filled. And we went to a bakery we had just found out about. We bought all kinds of yummy things. Then we went back to the dinghy to drop off the jerry cans and got the propane tank to refill at Tonga Gas. Once that was taken care of, we went to Customs to check out of the country. That completed, we walked back to the bakery to buy more goodies and then went to Friends for one last smoothie. We bought a few last-minute provisions and then took a taxi to the dinghy. Once again, the ride back to the boat was choppy and windy and we got drenched.
Final lunch at Friends
On Tuesday, October 31, our weather window still had not materialized so we went back to town again to shop at the bakery and the market and the butchery. We had lunch at Friends and then returned to the boat. That night was very windy and one of the boats in the anchorage was dragging and about to hit another boat. Paul on Susimi alerted us by radio, and Johno and I got in the dinghy and woke up the dragging boat by pounding on their hull. They managed to get their boat moving forward just in time. We were never able to wake up the boat that was about to be hit.
On Wednesday, November 1, we were all set to leave the anchorage at the recommendation of our weather router. But it was super windy and we weren’t sure it was a wise decision. Szel left at 6:00 a.m. and reported adverse conditions outside of the pass. But by 10:00 a.m., the winds had abated and we pulled up anchor. Several other boats left around that time, Amae, Taku, Blue Beryl, Susimi and Midnight Breeze. Following a bit later were Elixir, La Vida, Blue Marine and Kaia.
On Tuesday, September 12, Blue Beryl and Aldabra motored out of the Suwarrow pass and around to the west side of the island before we turned and put up our sails. From that point on, we went 118 miles in 24 hours. Conditions slowed us down and we motorsailed.
On Wednesday, September 13, the seas were big and on the beam, with considerable wind. We had two reefs in the main and and the jib was furled partway in. The night was fairly mellow and comfortable. Thursday was an uncomfortable day but the night wasn’t too bad.
On Friday, we logged 135 miles for the previous 24 hours. At 4:00 p.m., we had 336 miles to go to the northen tip of the Vavau group, where we would turn a corner and head around in protected waters toward the pass into the island group. We sailed in big seas that day but we were pretty comfortable, 5-6 knots of boat speed in 14-17 knots of wind. We had a reasonable night and were able to stay on course.
Saturday wasn’t a bad day. We logged 126 miles in the previous 24 hours. The seas had abated a bit and the winds were in the low teens during the day.
On Sunday, we had logged 128 miles in the previous 24 hours. The winds and the seas started picking up. By midday, conditions were intensifying. We had an intense night, sailing with no main and a tiny bit of jib out. It was one of those uncomfortable sails that you just want to be over. We rounded the tip of Vavau at 5:00 a.m. on Monday morning. The seas were still big but within about 5 miles, the island started protecting us and the seas flattened out, evening with strong winds brought on by a cape effect.
Because we had just crossed the international dateline, Monday was now Tuesday for us. So it was on Tuesday, September 19, that we entered the pass, just behind Blue Beryl, who had slowed down and waited for us to go in with them. Both boats wound our way to Neiafu, the main town in the Vavau group. Several other boats were at the wharf waiting to check in because it had been a three-day weekend, so we each found a mooring ball, expecting to wait until the next day to check in. Kristina from the sailboat Second Set came over on her dinghy and helped us find a mooring ball. We were moored by 9:00 a.m.
Although we hadn’t checked in, we went ashore that afternoon to get money from the ATM and drop off our laundry at Bubbles. We looked inside a couple of the grocery stores, then stopped by the Basque Tavern for a beer, along with Alex from Blue Beryl.
That night we had a very nice dinner at Kraken with Blue Beryl and Szel to celebrate our arrival. The next day, we got up early and took Aldabra over to the wharf to check in. We stayed there for a few hours while we took care of the check-in formalities, picked up our laundry and got some fruit at the nearby outdoor market. Then we returned to the mooring ball, ready to begin our visit to Tonga.
On Monday, September 4 at 10:00 a.m., we pulled up anchor at Penhryn Island and headed across the lagoon to the pass, exiting closely behind Szel and Blue Beryl. We all put up our sails and headed to the island of Suwarrow, also part of the Cook Islands. Although we were officially checked out of the Cook Islands, we had permission to stop over in Suwarrow, which is a national park, with just two rangers living there.
As we started out, the seas were bumpy and the winds were in the mid-teens, sometimes higher. We were making good time but the winds were moving from our beam to aft of the beam, putting us on a broad reach. At around 4:00 p.m., we put a second reef in the main and furled the jib in a bit. Blue Beryl sailed passed us right then. It was a bump night and none of us slept much.
On Tuesday, September 5, the seas were still bumpy, with 2-2.5 meter waves, and the winds were getting lighter. By noon, we had made a 138-mile day. We took the second reef out and wind started letting us point more directly to Suwarrow. We could still see both of the other boats on AIS.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the winds stayed light all day, aft of the beam. I took the reef out during my watch on Wednesday morning, but we ended up motoring the rest of the way to Suwarrow.
We got to the anchorage a little after noon on Thursday. John Blair from Ballyhoo stopped by to say hello. We then put the dinghy in the water and went ashore to check in with the rangers. Harry and Tana (my spelling). The process was easy because of our check-out in Penrhyn. We gave them a six-pack of Sprite and a six-pack of Coca Cola. We had heard that they were craving it so we bought some when we were still in Tahiti. To thank me, she gave me a grass broom she had made.
We had dinner that night on Aldabra with Blue Beryl. It was nice to be anchored in flat water.
There were quite a few boats in the Suwarrow anchorage, and the rangers told us that they had been so busy checking boats in and out that they had not had time to do their ranger work. So on Friday, we went ashore with some of the other cruisers and helped clean up an area between the beach and the rangers’ house. Later that evening, the rangers hosted us for a potluck with all the other cruisers. We had fish that Alex had caught and coconut crab that the ranger had caught. Other people brought tasty food and it was a nice evening.
Grilling coconut crab
The rangers, Harry and Tana (my spelling)
Tom enjoying the beach party
Alex grilling fish
The group of cruisers at the beach party
The next day, Saturday, September 9, we mostly stayed on the boat. I helped Tom patch a hole in the dinghy. Linda and Alex worked on sorting through and upgrading our fishing gear.
On Sunday, we transferred some fuel from jerry cans to the diesel tank. I tried to clean the boat bottom, but it was so bad I only got the waterline. I baked a cake and later we went and swam with manta rays on a nearby reef. That night we celebrated Yvette’s birthday on Blue Beryl, with Szel and Aldabra.
Alex and Jamie posing with the pizza Alex made for Yvette’s birthday
On Monday, Alex brought over 30 gallons of diesel fuel, to get us to Tonga if we had to motor much. Tom fixed the location of the boom bales to improve our reefing system. Several boats left the anchorage, heading to either Fiji or Tonga.
Aldabra and Blue Beryl were the last two boats to leave the Suwarrow anchorage
Even though we had not been in Suwarrow long enough to explore this paradise, the winds were threatening to keep us there for more than a week unless we left right away. So on Tuesday, we went ashore to say goodbye to the rangers.
Saying farewell to the rangers
After we said goodbye. Linda and I walked to the other side of their motu, which faced the pass. We watched as Szel went through and took a few pictures of the island.
Szel heading toward the exit of the pass
I then baked some bread and cooked some sausages and we pulled up anchor around 2:00 p.m. Szel had already left in the morning and Blue Beryl left right before we did.
On Saturday, August 26, Blue Beryl left Bora Bora on a very windy morning, and Aldabra and Szel left about 1:30 p.m. We were headed to Penryhn Island, part of the northern Cook Islands group. Szel is a very fast SunDeer 64 and she left us in the dust immediately. Blue Beryl and Aldabra were pretty even at times, although Blue Beryl headed to the left of the rhumb line and Aldabra attempted a more direct course to the island. We passed them during the first night and then lost AIS signals for both Szel and Blue Beryl by morning. We kept up with the two boats on a What’sApp group chat.
At the beginning of the passage, the seas were lumpy and the winds were in the high teens. In our first 24 hours, we averaged about 5.5 knots.
On Sunday, the winds were down in the low teens and the seas were flattening out a bit. We were having a comfortable sail with speeds around 6 knots and sunny skies. We continued to have no sign of the other boats and we were starting to be pushed to the west.
By Monday, we were in a slow slog with light and shifty winds. We ran the motor several times when the winds got too light. That night, we had some good wind but it was coming from directly behind us, which is not favorable for Aldabra. With swept-back spreaders, we can’t let the main go far enough forward to optimize for downwind sailing. Thus, we carried on by sailing a little bit to the left of our course or a little bit to the right of our course.
On Tuesday, we had wind but still from behind. We decided to try to put up two jibs, one on each side, with the main down. Linda drove while Tom and I spent a couple of hours working on getting the spinnaker pole up and the boom out and each jib in place. Right as we completed the setup, the wind shifted and nearly died and we had to take everything down. We motored for a while with no sails. In the evening, we put the main back up but we were motoring with the sail slapping around.
Yvette sent us a picture as she celebrated her birthday underway
Wednesday was a frustrating day with lots of motoring. Finally on Thursday, August 31, we arrived at Penryhn and went through the pass in the late morning. There was a lot of current but we managed to navigate into the pass and then take the long way around, in the lane for larger boats, to arrive in the anchorage in front of the town. Szel was already there.
Almost immediately, a boat showed up with the local authorities for Customs and Health. After we filled out the paperwork and paid some fees, they left and the Biosecurity guy came onboard. We filled out something for him and paid his fee.
The anchorage was very windy and choppy and we stayed on the boat that night. Blue Beryl showed up later in the afternoon and came for a visit in the evening. The next day, we went ashore to continue the check-in process, but we also ended up checking out as well. Andrew, the Customs officer, checked us out of the Cook Islands, even though we would be staying in Penryhn for a few days and then going to Suwarrow. It simplified everything for us and would make our entrance into Tonga less complicated.
After we checked out, all three boats went over to the village on the far side of the atoll. Anchoring in the late afternoon. Aldabra and Szel stayed on our boats but Blue Beryl went to shore to a warm welcome by the villagers.
Aldabra in Penrhyn
Rainbow in Penrhyn, with Aldabra and Blue Beryl
The next morning, Alex, Yvette and Tom went to shore. Alex and Tom worked on a couple of motorcycles that hadn’t been running for ten years. They got them running. Yvette went with the wife of the pastor to her house so Yvette could do her laundry and have lunch.
Alex and Yvette riding a newly repaired motorcycle
Linda and I went to shore a bit later than the others. We first stopped by Szel and invited Fiona to join us, which she did. We got to shore and started walking around, not really seeing anyone. Fiona and I got separated from Linda and found the guys working on the motorcycles. Meanwhile Linda met a family and went to their house for a visit.
Once we all found each other again, we visited Yvette and the pastor’s wife, giving the pastor’s wife a bag full of gifts, mostly for the children. After returning to Aldabra, we found things on the boat that were needed by the family that Linda had befriended so we went back to shore to give them to them.
Dinner that night was on Szel. Jamie had caught a sailfish and he seared steaks for us. We also had rice, tuna sashimi, tomatoes with feta cheese, and brownies and ice cream for dessert. It was a very fun evening.
Fiona sent us this pictue after Jamie caught the sailfish
Dinner on Szel. Not everyone in the picture
On Sunday, September 3, we all put on whatever we had that was white. (Tom decided that he didn’t have anything suitable, so he opted to stay on the boat.) The rest of us went to shore in our all-white garb, stopping first at a house that had lots of hats. Some of the hats the women were wearing were not white enough, so they loaned them white hats. Then we proceeded to the church.
Tom took this picture of us getting ready to go to church in our whites
We went inside the church, which was very beautiful inside and sat down in the back. The women were practicing their singing from their seats in the pews. After a bit, Alex went outside and figured out that the children, in another building, were practicing their singing, and it was beautiful. So we all went over and listened until right before church was to start. We then went back to the church and sat in for the sermon. The pastor was very welcoming, said that we were now family, and blessed our journey.
Because of the strict rules about behavior on Sundays, we went back to our boats for the rest of the day. Alex and Yvette did go back to shore in the evening, after the restrictions were lifted, and had a very warm goodbye from the islanders. They also returned the visitor’s book that we all wrote in.
Photo we left in the Penrhyn village visitor’s book
On Monday, we didn’t end up going to shore to say goodbye. Instead, we prepared for the passage to Suwarrow. At 10:00 a.m., we started across the lagoon to exit the pass, shortly after Szel and Blue Beryl. We all put up sails and headed to Suwarrow.
On Thursday, July 27, Johno, Trevor and I motored from Moorea over to Tahiti in light air. We couldn’t get a slip in Marina Papeete and the free anchorage near Marina Taina was crowded, so we anchored in a good spot in the airport anchorage. Friday was a rainy day and we took the dinghy over to the dock at Marina Taina and caught a bus to the airport, where we picked up a rental car. We drove back to Marina Taina, where I dropped off paperwork to renew my Carte de Jour at Tahiti Crew. We also dropped off used motor oil, recycling and trash.
Our next stop was the Tahiti Museum. I try to take everyone to this place. It’s newly reopened and offers a myriad of displays about the migration of people to Polynesia as well as the cultural history of each of the island groups. Afterwards, we had lunch at Casa Bianca at Marina Taina and then walked over to Carrefour to buy groceries, a luxury after so many weeks in the Tuamotus.
Saturday was super windy and we didn’t leave the boat. On Sunday, Ludo Martinez, a welder, came out to the boat to talk about rewelding a cross-piece for my davits.
Davits with broken weld
Then we went back to get the car and drove to Marina Papeete to talk to John Blair on Ballyhoo. He was offering to give us his slip as he departed from the marina. Because the marina is first come, first served, the way to get a slip when it’s really crowded is to coordinate with someone who is leaving. John also told us about a couple of airplane wrecks out near the airport anchorage and we resolved to check them out. We had lunch at the brewery restaurant not too far from the marina and then went back to Taina and parked the car before heading back to the boat.
On Monday, we snorkeled on the smaller of the wrecks. As we were looking for the larger one, the wind and seas came up and we bailed on that one.
Wreck of small plane near the airport anchorage
Johno in the wreck
Trevor in the wreck
Someone built a desk at the wreck
Trevor at the desk
Back at the boat, the wind kept building, gusting to 35 knots. We stayed on the boat for the rest of the day, asking John Blair to postpone his departure from the marina, which he did.
Finally, on Tuesday morning, August 1, we pulled up the anchor and headed to Marina Papeete, arriving shortly after 6:00 a.m. John was out of the slip but idling in the marina so that no one could get past him to take the slip. We headed on in and one of our new dock mates helped us with lines. It was a tight fit. Due to a slight lack of communication, the bow sprit bumped into a rubber bollard, with no damage to either boat or bollard. We finally settled in and got the lines tied off. We were in our new home, the main attractions being real showers and water to wash the boat. It was the first marina Aldabra had been in since leaving San Diego. Because of the marina’s proximity to downtown Papeete, it also offered an easy way for any of us to go exploring.
After taking real showers, we walked around the downtown market and went to the fabric store where Johno found fabric he liked and Trevor eyed some he might buy later. Afterwards, we walked toward Marina Taina and then caught a cab so we could retrieve the rental car from Marina Taina. As soon as we got the car, we toured around the island.
View from the beach on the far side of Tahiti Iti
Hanging out at the beach in Tahiti Iti
Later, back at the boat, which was quite visible to anyone walking along the waterfront, we had a surprise visit from Jeff from Infinite Grace, whom we had met back in Aratika. He had flown from Rangiroa for an urgent dentist appointment. It was nice to catch up with him.
On Wednesday, August 2, we used the car again to tour around the island. After dropping our mainsail off to be repaired at the Tahiti Sails loft, we drove to Tahiti Iti and went up to the lookout there.
On Thursday, August 3, we drove Johno to the airport at a very early hour. Then Trevor and I went to Marina Taina and did laundry. It was so early that we had no competition for the machines. Afterwards, we went back to the boat in Marina Papeete. Trevor then walked around town and I joined him later for a second walk. We had dinner at a restaurant near the marina with Don and Gloria from Windswept, also from the Santa Cruz area.
Aldabra at Marina Papeete
The view from Aldabra at Marina Papeete
Friday, August 4, was my birthday. Trevor and I snorkeled on the larger plane wreck. While we were there, Alex and Yvette from Blue Beryl stopped by in their dinghy. Later, when we were back on the boat, they stopped by and we made plans for dinner. Trevor and I washed most of the boat exterior before taking a few down hours before dinner. At around 5:00 p.m., Alex and Yvette joined us and we walked to the brewery restaurant. We had a very nice dinner and some beers, and they gave me the gift of a blue beryl stone. I was very honored.
On Saturday, we all went out to the big plane wreck again. The plan was for Trevor to use my dive gear, but when he got into the water, the regulator had a leak. He dove with just his snorkel gear while Alex and Yvette used their scuba gear. Afterwards, Trevor and I worked on washing the bottom of the dinghy. That night, the restaurant in front of the boat played really, really loud music all night.
On Sunday, August 6, Trevor and I made final preparations for our new crew, helped Blue Beryl with their dock lines as they came into the marina to get water, and met up with some new friends from California, Doug and Michelle on a catamaran in the marina.
On Monday, August 7, Trevor and I took the car early (4:30 a.m.) to pick up Linda, his mother, and Tom, my friend from Mexico and San Diego. I’ve grown close to Tom and his partner Helen over the last few years and was excited that he and Linda were going to be on the boat for the next leg of the journey. We took them back to the boat to get settled and then we went with Alex and Yvette and Doug in the car to see about getting my regulator fixed and to get our cooking gas tanks filled. My only choice was to buy a new regulator, which I did. Then we had to drop off the cooking gas tanks at a different location from what we had planned. Afterwards, Trevor, Alex and Yvette took the car to tour the island while I hung out on the boat with Tom and Linda. We all had dinner that night at the brewery.
The next day, Trevor and Tom worked on installing the Starlink system that Linda had brought in her luggage. Trevor swapped out two refrigeration modules that Linda had brought and he installed new fans for the watermaker feed pumps.
On Wednesday, August 9, we left Marina Papeete around 7:00 a.m. and headed over to Marina Taina.
The waterfront view at we went from one marina to the next
Our welder had arranged for us to have dock space so he could work on the davits. It was a tight squeeze to get in, but with his help along with a couple of other guys, we got the boat turned around and situated so he could work. We were right at the entrance to the docks, in front of the Casa Bianca restaurant. Ludo thought that the work would take two days, but he was finished by noon. Linda and Trevor took the bus back to Papeete to get the rental car and then did some touring while Tom and I worked on the boat.
The next day, Tom and Linda went to the Tahiti Museum while Trevor and I shopped at Carrefour and brought two cartloads of groceries back to the boat. It’s not a long walk between the store and the marina. Later, we all went downtown to look around and picked up the cooking gas tank. Back at the marina, we put the mainsail back on the boat and had dinner at Casa Bianca.
On Friday, August 11, we checked out of the country, with the help of Tahiti Crew. We also took delivery of some duty-free wine and liquor and checked out of the marina. We took a final run to Carrefour and then took the boat over to the gas dock. Unfortunately, they closed for lunch after filling up the boat in front of us, so we had to wait until after 1:00 p.m. to get diesel fuel. Finally fueled up, we were out of the pass and headed toward Huahine by 2:30 p.m.
It felt funny to say goodbye to Tahiti, knowing that I would not be returning. It isn’t my favorite place in the world, but I had spent considerable time there over the last year, and was growing quite used to it.
On my own for a few days after Gabe left, I did some laundry by hand, dropped off some laundry at Fakarava Yacht Services, defrosted the freezer and otherwise prepared for new crew. My brother-in-law, Pat, arrived with his friend Bill on Tuesday, June 6. We had lunch at the Havaiki Lodge and then spent one night in the rolly anchorage in front of Rotoava. We then pulled up anchor and motored to Hirifa against winds in the teens. It was flat there and we had a good night.
First-day lunch at Havaiki Lodge
Pat and Bill brought a variety of parts for repairs. One was a new hose and nozzle for the stern shower, which Bill and I installed. They also brought a new in-line fuse holder for the refrigeration system and they installed that. The next project was a rebuild of the wind generator, using parts that Pat had procured. They worked on that for a few days, just trying to get out the bolts that held the unit together. The problem was that corrosion made it impossible to get the bolts out without breaking the heads. We finally established that it would need to be taken to a shop where the bolts could be drilled out. So, I ordered a new wind generator to be delivered with the next crew, and Pat packed the old one up to take back to California to work on.
While they worked on the wind generator, I changed the oil and oil filter in the diesel engine. We also tested all the solar panels to measure output, and found some of them quite lacking. (Add solar panels to the list of things to replace in New Zealand.) Pat and Bill also patched a hole in the dinghy and glued the oarlocks back on. (They had fallen off at some point.)
It was quite windy in Hirifa, but a better spot than anywhere else at the time. Bill and Pat did get out on the kayaks and we socialized a bit with some of the other boats. I kayaked over to a boat owned by Bernard, a former work colleague. It was a surprise to meet up with someone from that former context. (Thanks to our mutual friend, Denis, who knew we were in close proximity.)
After a few days in Hirifa, we went back to get groceries in Rotoava. That night was rolly with lots of lightning and rain. The next day we used the dinghy to get some fuel and then sailed back to Hirifa, arriving just before dark, and had a good night. The next day, Friday, June 16, we sailed over to the South Pass of Fakarava and picked up a mooring ball. The conditions at the pass were good so we snorkeled inside the pass. We were able to snorkel the pass a few times the next day as well. The South Pass is a highlight for most people who visit Fakarava, so I’m glad conditions allowed Pat and Bill to experience it.
Fakarava South Pass
The next morning, on Sunday, June 18, we left the anchorage at 6:00 a.m. and motored through the South Pass without incident. We motor sailed in reasonable seas up wind for most of the day. We were heading back to Tahanea, where Gabe and I had started the season. As we got closer to Tahanea, we were able to unfurl the jib and turn the motor off and enjoy a brisk beam reach to the entrance of the middle pass. We took the sails in before entering the pass and had a smooth downwind entrance with the motor. Once inside, we turned left and went to the anchorage near the east pass. We dropped anchor in 45 ft of water. It was a very calm night.
Video of the glassy, calm anchorage in Tahanea
The bottom where we anchored was very hard sand and it was difficult to get the anchor to set. We tried to re-anchor the next day but still weren’t happy with it. We were running the risk of catching on coral. The wind was non-existent so we figured we were secure in those conditions.
Exploring the motu
We took the dinghy ashore and walked around the motu. Then we snorkeled the east pass three times. There was a lot of current so we just dropped into the water and got pulled along. I held onto the dinghy as we went. The trips were fast but the view of the coral was great. Later Bill went exploring in the kayak, Pat painted and I swam
On Tuesday, we still had beautiful, flat conditions and I went up the mast to replace the VHF antenna with a spare. We then took the dinghy up to the west pass and snorkeled that. There was lots of coral and sea life.
After another calm night, we spent another good day in this spot. Tahanea is a very special atoll and it had mostly been too windy when Gabe and I were there. So, I was really happy to spend three idyllic days there, even though it was a relatively short time. The wind was shifting by Wednesday night and we made plans to leave. That night was very rolly, with winds out of the southeast.
The next morning, Thursday June 22, we got up at 4:00 a.m. but waited until it was almost light to exit the pass. We started trying to bring up the anchor at 5:30 a.m., but it took a long time to get it unstuck from a coral head. We finally exited the pass at 6:45 a.m, right before slack tide, with no issues.
Bill at the helm
We sailed fast on a broad reach with the jib up and some assistance from the motor, arriving at the Fakarava South Pass at 2:00 p.m., an hour after slack tide. Other boats had gone in ahead of us. But when we started in, we discovered big waves breaking across the pass. We stayed to the left and out of the breakers, but the swell lifted us high above the pass before dropping us down into it. It was a bit of a thrill. Once inside, the pass was calm and we proceeded to Hirifa. The night was windy but not rolly.
In the morning we pulled up the anchor and sailed back to the South Pass. It was really windy and we had some difficulty picking up the mooring ball, but Cain from Spirit of Argo helped us and all ended up well. It was a windy, rainy day on the mooring ball so we didn’t get to snorkel. We worked on boat projects. The next day, conditions weren’t much better but Bill and Pat did explore a bit in the kayaks.
Video of the conditions in the South Pass anchorage
On Sunday, June 25 we left the mooring ball and sailed back up to Rotoava on a beautiful beam reach. It took a long time to find a place to anchor but we finally ended up in front of the wharf.
Then on Monday, we rented bikes and road up past the airport and then down toward the south east before having lunch at a snack.
Pat and I riding bikes
After spending Tuesday on the boat, we went into town on Wednesday to shop because the supply boat had come in. As usual, it was quite a competition with the cruisers and locals to get provisions. We divided up and went to multiple stores, but came out successfully with hard-to-find items such as produce and yogurt and cheese. These shopping trips are a madhouse but also a chance to meet people from the other boats. We treated ourselves to a couple of meals of salads that day.
The market at the wharf, too bad no picture of the mad crunch of shoppers
Thursday was very windy and we stayed on the boat. Then on Friday we walked to Fakarava Yacht Services to drop off laundry and had lunch at the Fakarava Grill before putting Bill in a taxi to the airport in the early afternoon. We were sorry to see Bill go but I think he’d had a fun adventure. With the relentless wind continuing, Pat and I spent a few days cleaning and doing laundry and otherwise doing boat chores.
I’m sitting in the cockpit of Aldabra on Wednesday, May 31. We’re in the anchorage in front of Rotoava, the town on the atoll of Fakarava, population maybe 2000. The wind is coming from the southwest, bringing choppy waves that build from all the way across the lagoon (15 miles), and sitting on the boat is not very comfortable. It’s been windy and rainy for about twenty-four hours and probably won’t let up until tonight or tomorrow. Despite the conditions, Gabe flies out from here on Friday, so we need to stay put. I’ll be sorry to see him leave but I’m guessing he’s ready to get on with his summer plans. Cruising on a sailboat in the Tuamotus can mean long days of unfavorable weather, yet those are interspersed with moments of adventure on land, dramatic coral in the water and lots of wonderful people to meet. There are also many opportunities to fix things on the boat, especially after it had been sitting for a few months in Tahiti.
The Tuamotus are beautiful low-lying atolls that are made up of reefs that surround a lagoon. A few of these 76 atolls are inhabited with some infrastructure for locals and tourists. Others may have as little as a few subsistence farmers or fisherman. And still others are completely uninhabited. These atolls can be mostly submerged, or they can be made of motus, small islands that support the growth of some vegetation and people’s livelihoods. The people that live here mostly speak French and/or Tahitian, but those that work in stores or in tourism speak enough English to help me get by.
Not all the atolls have passes that allow you to safely enter the lagoon. For those that do, one must navigate through the pass when the tides and winds are in your favor, otherwise it can be quite a ride. Once inside the lagoon, you have protection from the open seas, and often you have protection from the wind, but to transit from place to place you must safely navigate the coral heads (called bommies), which could be hidden right below the surface and severely damage the boat. To anchor, you must try to find a sandy patch and then use floats to lift the anchor chain over the bommies on the sea floor. Anchoring itself is quite a challenge and can take multiple attempts to get situated. Gabe has become masterful at diving down to the anchor to reposition it or the chain, in all kinds of adverse conditions.
So, what have we been doing since we left Moorea? Here’s the way-too-detailed recap.
Our first destination was Tahanea, an uninhabited atoll that is a sanctuary for nesting birds, and a well-liked destination for underwater exploration of the three passes that lead into the lagoon. Cruisers also go to Tahanea to kite board.
Our passage to Tahanea was mostly smooth. Having left Moorea on Wednesday, April 12 at 6:30 a.m., we motored-sailed in very light air on the nose for several hours. In the mid-afternoon, the wind came up and very quickly we had a squall with 28-knot winds and rain. With the full main and jib flying, and seas building, I had to hand steer for some of it because the autopilot was overpowered. At one point we just took the main down for a while. In the evening, we put it back up with the first reef in, and had some spells of a nice beam reach in 10-14 knot winds.
For most of the next day we motor sailed in light air. The autopilot got fussy at one point so we used the backup CPT autopilot for several hours. The next day, Friday, April 14, we arrived at the gap between Faaite and Tahanea and turned right to round Tahanea. There was no wind and the seas were glassy. We entered the middle pass shortly after noon with no issues even though it was an hour and a half after high slack tide. (It seems to be the case that the passes are far less challenging when there has been no wind and the seas are calm.)
We anchored just to the west of the middle pass. No boats were there at the time but two came in shortly afterward. It took more than one attempt to set the anchor down in sand instead of coral. We did our best and had a good night’s sleep that night. The next day we spent quite a bit of time trying to re-anchor. We had been rubbing on some coral at night and we wanted to get the anchor down in a better spot and float our chain above the coral heads. After a few attempts, we thought we had it right so we took the dinghy to shore to explore the nearby motu and snorkel a bit. That night we had lightning and rain. A boat from Slovenia, Timy, came in and anchored very close to us.
The next day, Peter and Natalie from Timy dove on their own anchor and then checked ours out. They discovered that we were caught on some coral so Peter helped Gabe get the chain off the coral. It was quite an operation and we were very grateful. They had just come from the Marquesas with one shroud not working to keep up their mast. They had rigged some lines for support but really needed to get to Tahiti to pick up the part they needed. We took over some coffee and chocolate and they gave us the password to their Starlink. Suddenly we were really happy that they were anchored so close to us.
While we were trying to re-anchor, the windlass was having trouble pulling up the chain. Gabe and I took the windlass apart and cleaned debris from it. The anchor chain had sat for several months in Port Phaeton and it had a lot of rust that was flaking off into the windlass. That day we stopped by and met the folks on another nearby boat, Agape, who are from the U.S. but have been in the Tuamotus for a few years. We also met Greg and Robin on Salty Dancer, who are from Oregon.
On Monday, Gabe and I took the dinghy to the west pass to see if we could snorkel in it. It seemed a bit rough so we backtracked and snorkeled east of the pass. While doing so, Gabe got stung by a jelly fish and had a rather severe reaction, which fortunately subsided in a few hours. The winds picked up from the east in the afternoon and we had a windy night.
While we were anchored, I was slowly working on the stuffing box that is connected to the prop shaft. It was dripping a lot and I thought it might be why the bilge was filling with water more than it should. After putting some Gibbs penetrant on it and then later some vinegar, I got the nut to move and then tightened it a bit. While I was doing that, I realized that a part on the water pump had a crack in it and fresh water was spurting out and going into the bilge every time we used the water pump. I replaced that part, which slowed down water entering the bilge.
The next issue to address was that the wind generator was making a strange noise and was vibrating. Plus, the controller box was getting hot. We tied off the wind generator until we could troubleshoot the issue.
On Wednesday, Gabe and I took the dinghy back to the west pass but it was windy and rainy and we aborted the attempt to snorkel. We ran into Greg and Robin on Salty Dancer and invited them over for sundowners for that evening. In the afternoon, we tightened the hex bolts on the wind generator but didn’t fix the problem. I cracked the nose cone trying to put it back on. Fixing the crack with epoxy didn’t help so we were resigned to not using the wind generator until we could get new parts. That afternoon we took the dinghy to a different motu and explored. Then had a nice visit with Greg and Robin that evening.
By Thursday, the wind was out of the north in the mid-teens and the anchorage was uncomfortable. I started taking inventory of issues on the boat. With the wind generator out of commission, we had to run the motor each night to keep up with the refrigeration. Then the nozzle for the stern shower cracked. We tried to fix it without success so we started taking showers using a jug, which has worked pretty well. Then I noticed a slight drip out of the housing for the watermaker’s carbon filter, but I could not unscrew the housing, so the drip is just going to have to persist. I also noticed that the alternator belt started making a screeching sound. There was a lot of black just around the belt so we replaced it easily.
On Friday, we continued our repairs and tried cleaning the boat bottom, but the seas were just too rough to accomplish much and the day was otherwise uneventful.
With the wind and seas still rough, we took the dinghy on Saturday over to the east side of the middle pass and explored that motu, both on land and in the water. On the ocean side, the “land” was a large expanse of dead coral. On the lagoon side, we saw coconut palms and other vegetation. It was a bit of a challenge getting back to the boat in the dinghy as we fought standing waves across the pass. The unfavorable conditions kept us uncomfortably on the boat on Sunday. Finally on Monday the winds let up a bit. We pulled up anchor and headed down to the southeast corner of the atoll. The winds lightened up so much that we motored the whole way and ran the watermaker. We anchored before noon and floated our chain. We were the only boat there and enjoyed snorkeling near shore along a wall of vibrant coral.
It would have been nice to stay where we had successfully anchored, but we wanted to take advantage of a small weather window to go to a famous bird motu on the west side of the atoll. Other cruisers refer to it as the Number 7 anchorage because the reef looks like a 7 from the air. We got there and anchored in front of the motu and snorkeled from the boat to shore. We walked the perimeter of the motu to keep from disturbing the nesting birds. We saw lots of boobies nesting and some terns. We waded across a channel to another motu and met a Tuamotu Sandpiper that was quite friendly. It’s probably why its numbers are diminishing. I was sorry that we weren’t banned from those motus. The last thing those birds need is people hanging around. We snorkeled back to the boat and passed over a really rich coral habitat with lots of fish. Probably the first really good habitat we’d seen since arriving in Tahanea.
That night was windy and choppy and not a good place to remain. So the next morning we pulled up anchor and returned to the southeast corner. When we arrived, there were several boats there and more showing up. It seemed to be a pack of family boats, headed by a large German catamaran called Moin. They shared all kinds of activities and even had their own dedicated radio channel. One night the kids all had a sleepover on the beach without the parents. They called it “Survivor Island.” We never found out how that went. The next night they had a bonfire on the beach and invited the non-kid boats. We went and enjoyed meeting several of their delegation.
While we were at the southeast anchorage, we walked around the motu in front of us. We got a bit lost in the bush and ended up circumnavigating the motu because we couldn’t find a way to cut through the jungle in the center. We also got the kayaks out and kayaked to the motu just to the east. On the way back we stopped by a boat that had just come in, Chip and Kristina on Second Set.
Back on the boat we discovered that one of the two feed pumps for the watermaker wasn’t working. Upon closer investigation, we discovered that it was leaking salt water into the bilge. We replaced it with the spare pump and it seems to have solved the problems with water in the bilge.
During this time, a big wave event was occurring in French Polynesia. The water was so high coming toward the atolls that huge waves were crashing on the reefs and several of the passes in the atolls were temporarily closed. The spray from the waves could be seen from miles away. Then, on Tuesday, May 2, we downloaded weather and saw that big winds might be coming from the southeast. It would mean that we might be confined to that anchorage for more than another week. Returning to our first anchorage wasn’t really an option because it would be uncomfortable. We really wanted to snorkel at least one of the passes, but it wouldn’t be feasible for the foreseeable future. Another option was to proceed to Fakarava. We had been without Internet for quite some time. If we were going to be pinned down by winds, at least we would have service in Fakarava.
We thought we might be able to snorkel one pass that day and then exit the pass in the evening and do an overnight sail to Fakarava. But when we got to the side of the atoll with the passes, it was clear that we weren’t going to be able to snorkel a pass. The winds were in the high teens, low twenties. We had to anchor somewhere so we could take the motor off the dinghy and secure it to the big boat. So, we anchored near the northwest pass long enough to do that. Then, instead of waiting for evening, we would exit the pass in the early afternoon and sail to the north Fakarava pass because we would get to the south pass too early. A very large National Geographic exploration ship went out of the pass at slack tide. We should have called them for a report but didn’t. Instead, we followed them out, about 45 minutes later, and had a very lively exit. We were motoring against large standing waves that were crashing over the top of us. The effects of the earlier wave event were still apparent. Once we got out, we had big seas for quite awhile as we headed toward Fakarava, and Gabe was out of seasickness meds.
We sailed with just the jib to the Fakarava north pass. The winds were inconsistent so sometimes we moved along quite well and other times we turned on the motor to help with speed and to charge the batteries that were being drained by the autopilot. We saw sunrise as we were approaching the north side of the atoll and entered the pass about 8:00 a.m., an hour and a half before slack. We were unsure if slack tide was going to come according to the tables anyway because of the unusual wave event. We had significant current against us and it felt like we were just sitting in the pass for an eternity as we made 1-2 knots progress into the atoll. Salty Dancer was just leaving the anchorage as we arrived so we said our goodbyes over the radio. We anchored in front of the town, Rotoava, spending the rest of the day on the Internet and recovering from the high waves during the sail. I ordered a lot of parts that my bother-in-law, Pat, can bring when he comes in June.
On Thursday, May 4, after a good night’s sleep (I stayed up all night on the passage), we got up early and put the dinghy in the water. We went to shore and disposed of our trash and our recycling. We talked to the guy at the fuel dock about hours and bought a couple of groceries. The supply boat had just come in but it didn’t bring any produce. We then headed over to Fakarava Yacht Services to drop off a butane tank for a refill, along with a couple of bags of laundry. Then we went to one more grocery store (for beer) and then headed over to the Havaiki Lodge for lunch – burgers. We then spent a windy afternoon on the boat.
The next day we went to the pearl farm tour at the Havaiki Lodge, where Gabe bought an oyster with a pearl.
Then we got 4 jerry cans filled with diesel and headed over to the Rotoava Grill for lunch. We met Kaitlin and Tommy from Southern Cross while at lunch. They are from Tennessee, which was fun for Gabe.
On Saturday, May 6, we picked up our laundry and butane tank from Fakarava Yacht Services. We then went back to the boat, put the dinghy up, pulled up the anchor and headed halfway down the atoll to a deserted anchorage near a reef. We spent the night, snorkeled the next morning and then continued traveling to the south pass anchorage. We picked up an available mooring ball in the early afternoon and then snorkeled near the boat.
The south pass area of Fakarava is amazing. The water is crystal clear and there are large swaths of healthy coral on the lagoon side of the pass and in the pass. On Monday, we snorkeled on the lagoon side of the pass and then inside the pass itself before having lunch at the restaurant of a local dive hostel. In the afternoon, Gabe worked on cleaning Aldabra’s prop.
In terms of issues, the Internet went down for a few days and we noticed that the fridge was having trouble getting cold. We transferred frozen food from the Engels to the freezer and put important cold food in the Engels.
On Tuesday, we snorkeled in the south pass in the morning and then headed over to the southeast Fakarava anchorage, Hirifa. We wanted to get there in anticipation of significant wind expected from the southeast. That night, as we sat on the boat, several giant manta rays would circle the boat upside down, then do a somersault. They stayed at the boat for a few hours while we watched.
Wednesday, May 10, started out calm. We took the dinghy over to say hello to Chip and Kristina on Second Set and then went ashore to explore. While we were ashore, a squall came up and we headed back to the boat. Over the course of the afternoon and night, the wind and rain kept building. At about 3:00 in the morning we both heard a big sound, as if the anchor had popped and hit coral. At first we just monitored the situation from the cockpit. The winds were between 40 and 60 knots and the lightning was exploding all around us. We noticed that we were near another boat and thought they had dragged their anchor. But in truth, we had dragged and we were dangerously close to them. We turned on the motor and used it to keep away from the other boat – Pura Vida. But every time we had a lull in the wind, Gabe would go up to the bow to first take the snubber off and then slowly pull up the chain. It took a while but he eventually got the anchor up. We then went outside of the anchorage and motored around in circles until dawn, about an hour and a half. Then we went back and re-anchored.
We had a quiet, uneventful Thursday. Then, on Friday morning, the wind shifted from southeast to northwest. Now we had waves building as we faced away from the shore. We didn’t realize that all the hobby horsing made the snubber come off the chain. As a result (because the windlass clutch had come loose), we had about 100-150 feet of chain pay out, and now we were too close to other boats once again. We didn’t know that the clutch was loose, all we knew was that the windlass wasn’t picking up the chain. So we were using a halyard and the snubber, alternately, to pull up the chain. Peter from Pura Vida came over to help. He drove the boat while I pulled up chain and Gabe was in the water directing us around coral hazards. We finally got enough chain up to stay in place. A short while later, Greg from Escape Velocity, who had watched us try to pull up the chain without the windlass, came over and asked if he could look at our windlass. He tightened the clutch and helped us replace the broken spring and everything worked! What a relief. My back was rather sore for a few days but I was so grateful that the windlass was operational.
On Sunday, we put the dinghy on the boat and headed back to Rotoava, motoring against medium winds all the way. Once we anchored, Chip and Kristina paid us a visit so we could compare notes on all that happened during the storm. (Lots of boats had issues that night and one went up on the reef.) Then, we made phone calls. It was Mother’s Day and my mother’s birthday.
The next day we put dock lines and fenders on the boat and headed over to the fuel dock to fill up with diesel and gasoline. Our anchor spot was taken while we were away so we picked up a mooring ball and then went to the Havaiki Lodge for lunch. We met Glenn and Oana from Cloudy Bay there and had a chat. When we returned, we got kicked off our mooring ball and then searched for a new place to anchor, which was becoming more difficult because the anchorage was filling up in anticipation of the supply boat’s arrival.
On Tuesday, Gabe and I rented bikes and rode to the north end of the atoll and then back south. We had lunch at the Havaiki Lodge again and saw Cloudy Bay along with another boat we had seen in Hirifa. We later met Katie and Bill on Flite Deck, a boat I had seen in San Diego.
On Wednesday, we had lunch at the Rotoava Grill with Chip and Kristina and saw Katie and Bill there as well. Then on Thursday the supply boat came in. We thought we would go to the stores in the afternoon, after the shelves had been restocked. But we decided to go in early to see if they had any eggs, which are sourced locally. As soon as we got to one store, we learned that they were just about to bring out the produce. So we were there to start grabbing apples and oranges and potatoes. I left Gabe there and walked up to the store at the fuel station. There was a huge crowd of people waiting to get in, many who had been waiting at the door for three hours. I joined them and about an hour later the doors opened and there was a mad rush. Gabe was there by then as well and we managed to get some limes, onions, tomatoes, oranges and apples. We were not aggressive enough to get cucumbers. It was a crazy melee but we felt successful. We capped the morning off with another lunch at the Rotoava Grill.
On Friday, May 19, we pulled up anchor and exited the Fakarava north pass around 9:00 a.m. without incident. Outside the pass, we put up the main and the jib and made our way on a reach in rather light air. We arrived at the Otugi pass on Toau in the mid-afternoon. We turned left and followed Moin to the southeast anchorage, picking up one of five mooring balls. Second Set was there anchored. And Moin anchored over near Auryn, a friend of theirs.
It was a very quiet night except for the happy voices of children playing on shore. Toau is an inhabited island but with very few families living there. The next day, Gabe and I took the dinghy over to a nearby motu. We snorkeled and walked around the motu and met the family on Auryn.
We would have liked to stay longer at this anchorage. But in looking at the weather, we had only a brief window to go up to the north anchorage, referred to as the false pass. We had read that it had great snorkeling and a very nice family to visit. So on Sunday, we got up early and motored to the Otugi pass. It was a tiny bit challenging getting out, but we exited and motored up and around to the top of the atoll. The entrance was easy and we picked up a mooring ball. Moin was there and hailed us on the radio. We put the dinghy in the water and went ashore to meet a couple who owned the motu, Valentine and Gaston. It was Sunday, so their day of rest, but we arranged for Aldabra and Moin to have lunch there the next day. Then Gabe bought a couple of pearls from Valentine and we went back to the boat to go snorkeling.
Before lunch on Monday, Gabe and I took the dinghy deeper inside the little bay and snorkeled. Then we headed to shore. Valentine and Gaston are very nice people and we enjoyed getting to know them, along with the family from Moin. They had a very engaging cat that several of us played with. And perhaps there are fleas because of the pets. I came away with dozens of bites, from head to toe.
Mindful of weather, Gabe and I got up early on Tuesday morning and left the anchorage at 5:30 a.m. We motored clockwise around the atoll. Once we cleared Toau and were between Toau and Fakarava, we got enough wind to sail for a couple of hours. We were early to enter the Fakarava north pass so we just sailed slowly, until the waves were too much for the light wind. At that point we started motoring again, arriving early at the pass with no ill effects. We went back to the Rotoava anchorage and anchored, but weren’t happy with our position relative to coral heads.
The supply boat was in on Wednesday so we went into town for groceries, without the mad rush of the week before. On the way back, we stopped and met Don and Gloria from Windswept, a Monterey boat that I have been in email contact with for the last couple of years. Then we went back to the boat and re-anchored, taking a lot of care to get it right because it will be in the same spot for more than a week, as Gabe prepares to fly out and I wait for Pat and Bill to arrive.
Early on Thursday morning, both our refrigerator and freezer went off at the same time. Not wanting food to spoil, Gabe and I got to troubleshooting with a sense of urgency. We called my friend Chris in Santa Cruz for advice and spoke to him multiple times as we investigated the failure. Eventually we found a blown 15 amp fuse and when we replaced it, both units started up. But the fuse holder was hot and charred, so we thought we should replace it. In doing so, I messed up the new fuse holder and we didn’t have another spare. So we tried to splice in a different kind of fuse holder. Unfortunately, nothing we did after that produced a positive result. Thinking it might be the splice, we redid it twice. Finally, Bill from Flite Deck came over and determined that the issue was with the wire that connected the fuse holder we were trying to use. Because that couldn’t be used, he took the fuse holder that I messed up and rehabilitated it well enough that it could be used temporarily. He then reconnected all the wires we had removed in our troubleshooting. By now it was early evening but we ended the day with cocktails and dinner on Bill and Katie’s boat.
On Friday morning, we went to shore to see if any of the stores had fuse holders. They didn’t, so I ordered some from West Marine that Pat can bring with him. Then we had lunch at the Rotoava Grill with Bill and Katie before starting to put the boat back together. (For any project, like one that takes place in the battery compartment, I have to take several bins out of their normal storage locations and put them in the cockpit or somewhere in the salon. I then have to take out various bags of tools. When a project is underway, you can’t walk anywhere on the boat.)
We finished putting bins back in place on Saturday morning and said goodbye to Flite Deck as they headed to Toau. The rest of Saturday was spent reading on the boat. The expected wind had come up and the anchorage was rolly and uncomfortable. Plus, we seemed to have run out of Internet data. Saturday night was quite windy although it was dropping off by Sunday morning.
On Sunday morning, we went to church and the singing was lovely. Then we came back to the boat for a lazy day of reading and writing, after replacing one of the head pumps, which was leaking, perhaps with a crack.
Monday was a holiday, but we did go to the Havaiki Lodge to inquire about a boat tour to the other side of the lagoon. We also met Scott and Tammy on Animal Cracker and Chris on Lightspeed. He is from Santa Cruz. Tuesday, yesterday, is when the wind and rain started, so we have been confined to the boat except for lunches on shore. The only thing I accomplished was to fix the dinghy pump, which we use daily. One of the air chambers on the dinghy has a hole in it. I need to work on that when we can be without the dinghy for a couple of days.
Post script. Gabe and I had been trying to go on a tour of the “Green Lagoon” on Fakarava but they weren’t running them because of weather. Finally, on the morning Gabe was leaving, we got to go on the tour. The first stop was the Green Lagoon, which was on the northwest side of the atoll between the out reef and the main lagoon.
It is so nice to meet local people and to meet the other cruisers. I have mentioned some of those we’ve met, but not all. And there are so many more in each anchorage that we see and don’t meet. But even with the folks that we do become acquainted with, we spend very little time getting to know each other before we go our separate ways. I hope to see some people somewhere down the line, but we’re all on our individual journeys with varying timelines, so many of the acquaintances will be sadly fleeting.
One boat that we met last year in Fatu Hiva showed up quite surprisingly in Fakarava. We have a special place in our hearts for Alex and Yvette on Blue Beryl. Alex and his dad are on their way from Hiva Oa to Tahiti to install a new mast and rigging, and it was great to spend a bit of time with them, especially on Alex’s birthday. This should be the last time we see Blue Beryl with this modified mast and rig, which has been just enough to get them from the Marquesas to Tahiti. We look forward to seeing them back in the Tuamotus soon!
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.
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.