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.
On Sunday morning, June 12, we did a day sail to Ua Pou, about 25 miles south of Nuku Hiva. The island’s tall spires are stunning.
We anchored for a couple of nights in front of the main village of Hakahau. We walked around and found some stores and bought additional provisions. And we dropped off some laundry at the bakery. When we picked up the laundry the next day, we bought baguettes and took advantage of their wifi. Later that day we walked up to the cross on a hill for a scenic view before finding a restaurant for some poisson cru.
We explored a few more anchorages on the west side of Ua Pou. Baie Hakahetau was in front of a village. We joined Sarah and Bob on Rhapsody for a walk up to Manfred’s house to taste and buy his delicious chocolate bars. Then we walked to a waterfall and swam in the pool beneath it.
Baie Vaiehu was an uninhabited bay with good snorkeling. The last one, Baie Hakamaii, was in front of a picturesque village with no easy way to go ashore. We hung out on the boat until evening and then pulled up anchor to sail to Hiva Oa.
I can’t believe it’s been so long since I last posted an update. Sometimes I don’t have Internet access, but that excuse hasn’t been valid for a while. My last post had me flying to San Diego in February for a brief visit. When I returned, I took Aldabra to Tenacatita, just north of Barra de Navidad. I hung out in the anchorage for more than a week, doing some walking and swimming and visiting. The log book also reminds me that I fixed a pump in the head and troubleshot issues with the watermaker and the solar panels. Got both working.
I returned to the Barra marina for the arrival of my friends Pete and Cookie Schaus of Boulder, Utah. Once they arrived, we spent a couple of days in the area and then pointed Aldabra back up to Tenacatita. We stayed there at anchor for a few days (swimming and beach walking) before heading north to Bahia Chamela, for just one night. It would have been nice to stay a bit longer, but we could see a brief weather window for a calm rounding of Cabo Corrientes, and then no other foreseeable opportunity.
Anchored off the little village, we enjoyed a shrimp dinner onboard and got a bit of sleep before pulling up anchor at 3 a.m. the next day. We motored all the way around the cape and arrived at Punta de Mita at 6:30 p.m. The next day we motored to the marina in Paradise Village, essentially ending the short 2019 cruising season for Aldabra. Pete and Cookie were troopers, making the best of living in a marina for the rest of their vacation. One highlight of that was taking a boat across the bay on their final evening to see the Rhythm of the Nights performance. It’s a combination of a boat ride to a remote cove, a dinner and a performance that is sort of like a Cirque du Soleil show. It was fun.
The reason why Aldabra’s cruising season ended so quickly was twofold. First, the boat needed to be hauled out again to get the bottom painted. Second, I had planned for a short season so I could focus on getting the boat and myself ready for Aldabra’s next big adventure, sailing to the South Pacific in early 2020.
As March came to a close, I began projects on Aldabra, interspersed with beach walks, swimming, dinners with friends and attending seminars. Jeff from El Gato helped me install a new tachometer (electricity still intimidates me) and a remote switch for my windlass so I can operate it from the cockpit if circumstances permit. Plus there were the usual chores.
In early April, I traveled briefly to San Diego and Santa Cruz (taxes) and returned to the boat with my nieces Emily and Julia. We enjoyed a bit of vacationing. A trip to Sayulita and then to San Sebastian in a single long day. A beach day. A day sail. A dinghy ride up the river from the marina to see birds and iguanas. An evening at Rhythm of the Nights. And dinners out. They also helped me hoist the dinghy onto the foredeck for summer storage and then wash it.
After Emily and Julia left, I pickled the watermaker successfully. But in changing one if the filters, I broke a fitting that required me to shut off my fresh water system. I ordered the part from Amazon Mexico and arranged for it to be sent to Andy Barrow, who has a home nearby. I would be able to get the part a couple of weeks later.
On Easter Sunday, Al Garnier of Chez Nous helped me take Aldabra over to the Opequimar boatyard at Marina Vallarta. I spent the night at the dock and the next morning the crew hoisted Aldabra into the yard. I checked into a hotel across the street while they began work. It took more than a week for Alvaro’s crew to strip and sand the boat bottom down to the original gelcoat, revealing the original boot stripe that had been painted over by the previous owner to raise the waterline. (This becomes necessary on cruising boats that are weighed down with all kinds of equipment and spare parts. It’s one reason why we’ll never win any races.)
The boat was tented from the deck down to the ground to contain the paint dust, so it was hard to monitor progress. And the yard was so dusty that I was reluctant to hang out and work up above. The only work I did was to prepare the deck for the replacement of one of the sissy bars that Alvaro had to remove and repair. Otherwise, I stayed clear except for passing by three times a day just to take a look.
During my week and a half in the hotel, I enjoyed an air-conditioned room with a view of the cruise ships going in and out of Puerto Vallarta, convenient showers and the Internet. (I caught up on Netflix shows I had wanted to see.) During the days, after a leisurely breakfast, I walked from the marina in every direction. On one day I walked the malecon. On another I visited several downtown art galleries. Next I walked to the airport to research rental cars. And I walked to Costco. Buses are very convenient in Puerto Vallarta but I was walking for exercise because the hotel swimming pool wasn’t designed for swimming. I walked on the busiest roads because I don’t know the Puerto Vallarta neighborhoods well enough to use the side streets. So the walks were hot and noisy. But I got my steps in. I also hung out a bit with Jim and Liz from Gypsy Wind while their boat was in the yard getting its bottom painted.
Alvaro’s crew did great work and eventually Aldabra had a newly painted bottom, a subtle black instead of red. On the morning she splashed, I motored her back over to Paradise Village and Al was there to catch the lines. (When singlehanding, I’m always stressed about leaving and approaching docks, so it’s a huge relief to return to the slip without crashing into anything and have someone there to catch the lines.)
Once Aldabra was back in the slip, it was time to get serious about working on the boat. I would have about six weeks to get projects done and prepare Aldabra for the summer hurricane season. That would mean working full time almost every day. I started by installing the new fitting that would revive my fresh water system. The subsequent days sort of went like this:
Inventoried bins of spare parts and supplies.
Defrosted refrigerator and freezer.
Removed all gear from forward compartment below anchor locker in anticipation of rigging inspection.
Jamie from Totem conducted a bow to stern rigging inspection. He found many things that needed my attention.
Jason from Ullman Sails came to take my mainsail and jib for repairs.
Began removing lines from boat and rinsing them in buckets.
Discovered Alvaro’s crew had not rebedded sissy bar properly and water was coming in. Removed the sissy bar, prepared the deck and rebedded.
Ran a new vent hose for the forward water tank.
Began removing blocks and accessories from the deck and rails to be stowed below deck for the summer.
Flew to San Diego for 4 days for my mom’s birthday. Bought a car.
Arturo repaired a broken stanchion for the railing.
Cano from E2 Yacht Services helped me rebed the stanchion.
Removed the six opening portlights. In each case, some of the screws were so corroded that I had to drill them out. Cleaned up the mounting surfaces and rebedded the portlights. The whole job took almost a week and I’m still not sure the portlights won’t leak just a bit in heavy rain.
Cano’s crew polished the stainless railings and the hull.
Defrosted the refrigerator and freezer again.
Went shopping for screws with Cano.
Replaced a bunch of drain hoses leading from the cockpit to the lazarette and then overboard.
Cano replaced the exhaust hose while I assisted with tools.
Eddie dismantled the boom and vang.
Eddie inspected and cleaned the standing rigging.
Changed the motor oil and the oil filter, topped off fuel tank.
Hosed down the deck to get rid of metal shavings from Eddie’s work.
Eddie and helper loosened shrouds and worked on removing port chain plate. They weren’t able to figure it out. The next day I finally removed it and cleaned and prepped the surfaces.
More inventory of parts bins.
Went to Zaragoza to buy wire, then installed new antenna feedline for SSB radio.
Eddie and helper put spacers on the chainplate pin and we rebedded the chainplate. They tightened the shrouds and retuned the rigging. They took the boom.
Tightened a bolt on the steering quadrant and cleaned up some surface rust.
Removed and cleaned up the handles on the foward hatch, determined that I needed to replace them.
Inspected engine bolts, tightened one, clean rust off of a couple.
Replaced hose clamp on fuel hose.
Hooked up inner forestay to deck plate.
Cleaned aft head.
Drained engine coolant and replaced it.
Jason brought the repair sails back to the boat.
Cano washed the outside of the boat and cleaned the bottom, took the cushion covers off to wash in a washing machine.
Made templates of four windows that need to be replaced.
Removed the windows from the spray dodger and stowed below deck.
Removed bimini extension and stowed.
Collapsed bimini, put it in its boot and lashed it to the railing.
Stowed all jerry cans below deck.
Jeff helped me clean battery terminals and crimp a connector to the end of the new SSB antenna feedline.
Jeff helped me fresh-water flush the dinghy motor.
Jeff hoisted me up the mast in the bosun’s chair so I could clean the backstay.
Finished reloading all the bins back into the lazarette.
Lashed the dinghy to the deck.
Ran extension cord into the boat to install dehumidifier.
Installed forward shade cover above deck.
Installed aft shade cover above deck.
Final preparations before leaving boat.
This list probably doesn’t include all the boat projects, there were lots of other little ones that consumed time. And I’d like to point out that this is all being done in fairly hot weather. Let’s face it, life on a sailboat is mostly frustratingly hard work. Equipment in a marine environment is just always breaking. And every project takes way longer than expected. But it wasn’t all work. I did get in several beach walks and dinners with friends as they returned to the area to put their boats away for the season.
In mid-June I took my usual flight back to Tijuana and crossed the border to San Diego. The next morning I drove to Tom and Helen’s house to pick up my life raft. (They had kindly brought it up from Mexico in their truck.) Then I drove to Marina Del Rey to spend the evening with David and Susan Rose. (David plans to join me on the crossing to the Marquesas.) I joined in their regular Wednesday night trivia night, which was a lot more fun than I had expected even though I may have known only one answer. The next day I drove up to Santa Cruz and stayed with my friends Walter and Glenn and their kids Will and Kate. They have a separate apartment that proved very comfortable for me. The day after I arrived, I drove to Alameda to deliver my life raft to be repacked and recertified, which has to be done every three years. Sal, the owner of the business, inflated the raft and walked through all the parts with me. When you examine your own life raft, your main thought is hoping you never have to see inside of it in the conditions it’s designed for. I then left it there and went to see my friend Terry Chan. We chatted and ate all afternoon and I drove back to Santa Cruz that evening.
The next day, my friend Haller and I hiked about seven miles in Nisene Marks Park. It was gorgeous. The fog engulfed the forest and made it feel magical as we walked on soft paths of redwood detritus under lush green branches and ferns.
I was in Santa Cruz to report to jury duty, which I did by calling in each evening. As it turns out, I was excused each day. Since I never knew whether I would be free each day, I couldn’t make plans with friends. But I did join my friends Jim and Linda to visit the harbor, and we got a chance to visit with my friend Pete on Mazu. I also spent time with one of my boating mentors, Matthew, who gave me splicing lessons for dyneema rope. I also ran into Anne from Redwood Coast II at West Marine but she was working, so I’ll have to wait for my next visit to catch up with her. Finally I retrieved my life raft and headed south.
I returned to San Diego in time for my niece Teela’s baby shower. She and her husband were visiting for the weekend, along with lots of family members, including my grandniece (14 months) and grandnephew (10 months). Very fun.
Once back in San Diego, I’ve settled into a bit of a routine. I’ve been hiking almost each day up Cowles Mountain and then spending most of the rest of the day studying for my ham radio license exams. I’m going to take both the technician test and the general test on the same day, in about a week. I took one day off from studying to take a first aid and CPR class with my niece. I’ve been able to spend time with my mother and my sisters’ families, and visit with Tom and Helen from Catatude and Jan and Alan from Kemo Sabe.
Next on the agenda is a quick trip back to Puerto Vallarta in a couple of days to take some measurements and photos that were lost when my phone died without being backed up. I’ll fly in, stay the night, work on the boat the next day and then fly back that night.
As soon as I complete my ham test, I’ll begin a week-long course on diesel engines, followed by a two-week course to prepare for a captain’s license, followed by a week-long course on outboard engines.
When I’m not in classes, I’ll be studying charts and weather patterns to plan for the trip to the South Pacific.