Monday, September 26, 2011

Tahiti and Moorea

Hiva Oa, Marquesas
20 Aug - 23 Sep 2011

It's been over a month since my last official update. I've been looking through my photos, logs, and my Facebook updates gathering together clues as to where the time has gone and what I've been up to.

When I last posted I was still at Hiva Oa, Marquesas, waiting for s/v Stravaig to arrive. They finally did, about a week after me.

The Marquesas are about 1000 miles NE of Tahiti. It's still part of French Polynesia.

On this map Marquesas is in upper right, Moorea (where I'm sitting right now) is in lower left.

With our Panama cast reconstituted (Jeff, Jose (stravgaig), Fitz and Trish (Columbus) and me (Galena)) we did our usual food and drinks routine for several days until we were all caught up.

Stravaig, with Jeff and José, arriving Hiva Oa after the month-long passage from Panama.

Having been here for a week, I showed Jeff where the cheaper beers were to be found.

Me and Jeff (s/v stravaig) having a beer

Of course never being one to pass up a beer, Fitz (s/v Columbus) came along

Jeff had last been in the Marquesas about 25-yrs ago. He was shocked by the changes. Dirt trails were now paved roads. Cars and trucks zoomed around everywhere. But the people were pretty much the same. I'm sure I've mentioned that Jeff is British and his wife, José, is Dutch. They both speak French fairly well and that makes all the difference around here. Jeff immediately found someone who knew the people he had known way back when. Suddenly Jeff is being invited to homes for dinner, etc. Very cool. And it made him very happy to be back here.

I did a couple of minor repairs while sitting here. One of the items was that a hank had pulled loose from its grommet on my Yankee Jib. The hank was chafing against the bolt rope and something had to be done. I was thinking of all sorts of ways to stitch it back in place when Jeff suggested I just sister it with another. So I put one new hank on either side of the old one and removed the old one. Looks like this and works just fine.

Repaired torn sail hank

One of the big highlights of Hiva Oa is that the painter Paul Gauguin is buried here. Jeff, José and I went up to see his grave. Jeff related that Gauguin is not actually in that grave. The fact is that he was living in a small house near the bay were we were anchored. He died alone in that house in 1903. By the time the smell was bad enough for the villagers to notice it was so bad that no one wanted to go into the house. So they just burned the place down. Both Gauguin's body and all of his final art were destroyed.

When tourists started to arrive and asking to visit Gauguin's grave the townspeople put together this monument in the local cemetery.

Jeff at Paul Gauguin's Grave

However, Jacques Brel, who died 1978, actually is buried here in the same cemetery.

Jeff grew a beard during his crossing from Panama. But it was short-lived. He shaved it off before we left Hiva Oa.

Eventually s/v Columbus and Stravaig and Galena headed over to Hunamoenoa Bay on the island of Tahuata (don't you just love the names of these places?) It's only about 12-nm away and generally downwind. The bay has nothing to offer except no swells, clear water, peace and quiet. Nothing is on shore but a copra shed. There were also fruit trees and we all went ashore and helped ourselves to sacks of lemons and pompomuse. More evenings filled with dinners and drinks as the days slipped by.

Fitz and Trish on Columbus had a requirement to be in Bora Bora for the start of the international rugby championships. So one morning they set sail on a rhomb line for that port. Stravaig and I stayed behind for a few more days of idleness.

Jeff had to sail to Fatu Hiva. That is where he spent many months those many years ago. He was looking forward to a homecoming celebration when he sailed back into port. He also had friends who had left Panama weeks ago and were to arrive in Hiva Oa soon.

I had no real plans and I truly loved hanging out with these guys so I decided that I would tag along.

The problem was that Fatu Hiva is to windward. We waited until we thought the wind would be right and then left the shelter of our little harbor. We had decided to make the 50-nm run as an overnight sail so we left at dusk. We sailed south along the lee shore of Tahuata. Now you might think that would provide a comfortable ride. So did I. But it soon turned into just about the worse conditions I had ever encountered.

wil·li·waw [wil-ee-waw] noun A violent squall that blows near islands.

I headed south along the shoreline. Wind was from the east at about 10-kts. Suddenly, without warning the wind jumped to 35-kts and then swung to the south. It lasted about 1 minute then died. I double-reefed the main, left the staysail up and firmly secured to headsail to the gunnel. I put her back on course.

Suddenly the wind clocked around from SE to W and blew at 40-kts sustained. Galena is on her beam-ends in a heartbeat and I'm holding on trying to not fall out of the cockpit: feet braced on the leeward combing, pulling on the tiller with all my might, dumping the mainsheet to ease the forces.

2 minutes later it's calm with a gentle breeze from the NW clocking to NE.

Every bay I passed had some sort of "significant wind event" that caused me to sail Galena as I would a dinghy: One hand on the tiller, one hand holding the mainsheet, one hand holding the staysail sheet. Yeah, I know. Takes lots of hands. And that's what made it tough.

After a couple of hours I could see the end of the island coming up. I thought maybe when I was out of the island's lee I would hit air that was more consistent. Maybe even from a good direction.

In the meantime Stravaig had moved about a mile further west; off-shore. I was watching their lights and figured they must be having a better time of it than I. I later learned that was not the case.

About the time I thought I could make my turn onto the rhomb line to Fatu Hiva the wind picked up again. This time it was trade wind steady and right on the nose. I called Stravaig on the VHF and suggested this was not a good idea. Jeff agreed. We turned back to Hunamoenoa Bay. At least I was surfing on the swells after the turn around. But the williwaws were still exciting on the way back.

I mentioned that Hunamoenoa Bay contains nothing. There was nothing to guide me in but my GPS track, my depth sounder and my radar. No moon to light the shore. Nothing visible at all. I figured if I head right for my previous spot I'd be OK. Stravaig, who had been further off-shore was now following my lights into the harbor.

It's is very scary coming into place where you know there are cliffs and reefs on both sides but you can see nothing of them in the dark. I managed to make it back safely and dropped my anchor within 100-ft of where I was before. Stravaig guided on my lights as well as his GPS and radar and returned to his spot as well. By now it was 2300 local and we called it a night.

One morning I looked out and saw that one of my solar panels was dangling from it's support line. My panels were 'temporarily' mounted on my stern pulpit several years ago. Just a "proof of concept" sort of thing that I was going to re-enforce and make permanent someday Real Soon Now. Well, the brass hinges had corroded through and it was time for a more permanent temporary fix. Now they won't fall off, but they also don't move up and down quite so well.

Broken/corroded temporary solar panel attachement

Another problem that had developed with Galena was her boomkin, the one I'd rebuild a couple of years back. It was moving about. It's not good when structural members move about on a boat. I took a hard look at it and found that the spacer block between the deck and the starboard side boomkin timber was rotten. I mean soft, push a screwdriver right through it rotten. Unfortunately so was a bit of the main boomkin timber.

Jeff is, among other things, a boat builder and he took a look. He recommended that I pull the bolts, overbore the holes about one-inch, fill the holes with thickened epoxy and reset the bolts. That would take the load off the rotten spacer block and give a solid purchase to the bolts from the boomkin timber right down to the deck. And if we first poured unthickened epoxy into the holes it would seep into the soft wood and solidify it a bit. Sounded good to me. And that's what we did. It should hold till I get to Raiatea where I will either have the rotten wood replaced or, preferably, have the whole thing replaced with a stainless steel unit.

The first hole overbored and ready for epoxy fill.
Note the crumbled, rotted wood that came out of the hole.

Stravaig and I were a bit tired of this empty anchorage and decided to move to the bay near the village at Hapatoni, just a couple miles south of us. We motored over there and rowed ashore. We found a nice village full of nice people. A small grocery store with just enough fun things to fill my backpack. The were expecting a small cruise ship the next day and invited us to come back and enjoy the planned events. There would be food and dancing and craft exhibits.

Well, the cruise ship arrived and we came back to town. The ship unloaded a very nice bunch of tourists from all over the world. They walked past all the craft exhibits and bought a bunch of stuff. I looked at it all and was shocked by the price tags. Way out of my league. But they town put on a dance and music show that was very interesting. According to Jeff this was true Marquesian dancing, not Tahitian. I'll upload a video when I get to a very good connection to the internet and you can see for yourself.

The local men and women are also very into their traditional tattoos. Most men have one half of their bodies covered. Like this guy:

Marquesian with classic tattoos.

Made me want some new ink myself.

A few days later we decided to try once again to sail to Fatu Hiva. The forecasts were calling for a wind shift to the ENE. Fatu Hiva was to the SE. Should be doable. This time we left at dawn. This time we could see the "significant wind events" churning up the water ahead of us and could get ready for them. This time those williwaws again topped 40-kts. Absolutely no fun at all.

Once more I cleared the bottom of the island hoping to see better, calmer, more steady winds from a good direction. And once more I saw wind on the nose for a course to Fatu Hiva. Stravaig turned back.

I turned toward Tahiti.

My track away from Tahuata at my decision point for turning toward Tahiti. Hiva Oa is in the top left and Fatu Hiva is in the lower right some 40-nm away.

I had told Jeff and José of my plans if the wind was wrong for Fatu Hiva. We had said our goodbyes. It was sad. I had been cruising with them since Cartagena, Columbia and I liked them a lot. But Jeff wants to hang out in the Marquesas and I, with only a 3-month visa, have other islands to see. So I'll probably never see them again. And that makes me very sad.

Stravaig decided to go all the way back to Hiva Oa. There they hooked up with our old friends from sailboats Detour and Sur L'Eau who had just arrived from Panama. Last I heard Stravaig was still at Hiva Oa waiting for other friends who had left Panama several weeks ago and were just a little overdue in the Marquesas. These friends had no SSB so no one was sure where they were or when they would arrive. I hope they arrive safely soon.

Tahiti was 7-days to the SW. With winds out of the ESE I had a nice easy ride. I never thought I'd be a the point in my cruising career where I would think of a 7-day voyage as "Only Seven Days." But here I am. And it was just that: only a seven day passage. But out here in the Pacific just about everything is at least a week away. The Pacific is very, very big.

After a few days I was back into my old routines. Galena was working Ok, and I was feeling OK. The only thing of note was that I had a filling in one of my teeth pop out. One more thing to fix.

Approaching to Tumamtus was a bit scary. These are low atolls that have claimed many a ship and cruiser. They are hard to see even in the daylight. I was going to be passing through them at night.

Radar didn't show anything at the 4-mile distance I was passing the nearest one so I relied completely on my GPS. The problem with that is that the GPS contained charts that, while 'new' were based on surveys done in the 1800's. I'd been told that some of these atolls are a couple of miles from where they are charted. So I was nervous. And since there were small, local fishing boats about, sleeping at night was not practical. So I just dosed for a short stretch at a time.

Galena's track through the Tuamotu's

Obviously I made it through without a problem. Never saw an island, even on radar.

Then another 200 or so miles to Tahiti.

Papeete is a very large, well marked port. Not as large as Miami but for this neck of the woods you will probably not find a bigger one. Still I didn't want to enter the port at night. So when my trusty GPS said I would arrive 2-hrs after sunset I slowed down (since I couldn't speed up). Finally moved my projected arrival time to 1-hr after sunrise.

As it turned out along the northern shore of Tahiti the wind was way down in the morning so I actually made port a few hours after sunrise.

As I arrived the natives came out to greet me in the traditional fashion

I entered the harbor and turned toward where the guide books all said the cruising boats are. I saw none. I found a floating dock with 5 or so local sailboats med-moored to it. I called on all the standard VHF channels asking for assistance and advice and got no response.

Finally I decided to tie Galena to the bulkhead where I'd seen cruisers moored in the pictures in the cruising guides. I med-moored her with the bow to the wall. But well back from the wall. The wind was blowing now pretty stiffly from the stern so I wanted her to have a bit of room if the stern anchor dragged a bit.

I took my dinghy over to the wall and locked it to a ladder. Then I walked with my ship's papers to where the books say the port captain is.

I finally found the right place nestled in a small shack with a sign reading Bureau de Yachts.

Customs office on waterfront next to the snackbar

At the customer window the man took my papers and processed me in with little fanfare. The man in the next office came over and asked where my boat was. I described it and he said I would have to pay to stay there. Turns out he's the dockmaster for Papeete. The cost came to about $25/day. He said I could move over to the floating dock and have the security of a fence and free water for only $30/day. Alternatively, I could sail around to the other side of the airport and anchor for free. But it's a long bus ride back to town. I said I would move to the secure docks. He gave me a key to the gate and said to come back in a day or so and do the paperwork.

Now, putting Galena into that Med-Moored position she was in had taken me about 1.5 hrs of maneuvering and line-tossing and anchoring. Moving her the 100-meters to the floating dock took just as long. The wind was blowing from the direction of the floating dock. Once I got all of Galena's bow lines released I manually pulled her back to where I could lift her stern anchor. I then continued to move her astern under power toward the floating dock.

Of course the wind was not going to let me just back up to where I wanted to go. For 20 minutes I alternated between forward and reverse, using prop-walk and prop-wash, to control her movement and orientation. I had a line that ran from her bow led back to the stern. When the stern was close enough to the dock I tossed that line over a bollard and let the wind push the stern away setting Galena bow to the dock, hanging on that one bow line.

Then I loaded my stern anchor and rode into my dinghy and rowed aft to drop it 150-ft astern. Of course as soon as I shoved off and began rowing one of my oarlocks snapped off! Back to Galena for a spare oarlock. Then I was able to row the achore out to position and drop it.

I say "drop it." In actuality it's never that simple. I have a hard dinghy; it's very unstable. Picking up a 35-lb anchor and throwing it over the side would be dangerous. So I take a small line from the anchor lying on Galena's deck and tie it to the dinghy transom with a quick-release knot. Then from Galena's deck I lower the anchor into the water until it's hanging behind the dink by that little line. Then I flake down all the rode into the dinghy. Only then do I row out letting the rode trail out behind me. Finally I pull the release on the knot and let the anchor fall away. See, never easy.

Back to Galena and haul in the stern anchor rode. Finally the hook is set. Galena was now strung bow-to the dock and wind with an anchor off her stern. I set a few more bow lines to the dock and called it a day. Whew!

Galena at the dock in downtown Papeete

I could now jump off the bowsprit right onto the dock and walk a hundred meters to be on the main street of Papeete, Tahiti. How cool was that? My first stop was at restaurant where I had a cold beer. It was a fancy restaurant that charged $7 for a beer.

I then spent some time walking the streets. I walked through the main market. I walked through the not-so-pretty part of town. I wandered to where the books said a chandlery might be found. All in all I just spent the day wandering.

One of the repairs I had to make was to the topping lift block. For you non-sailors out there, The topping lift is a line that runs from the deck up the mast through a block and finally back down to the end of the mainsail boom. It's main purpose is to hold up the end of the boom when the sail is down. It is also useful for controlling the shape of the mainsail in light air.

Anyway, I noticed some extreme friction in the line and, looking up with binoculars, noticed the block was broken. I went to the local chandlery and found the cheapest block I could find. $43 for a Weichard 55. Only about $20 in the states! But that's all they had. So up the mast I go and replace the damaged block.

The old and the new topping lift block

For the next week I would alternately search for places of business for my boat, buy local foods, and drink way too much beer.

Speaking of drinking. I seem to go through these cycles of abstinence, moderation, and then bored drunkenness. I'll go without a drink for days. Then I'll have a glass of wine in the evenings. Then I'll find myself heading to town where after a fun evening of hanging with the locals, I find it's 3 AM and I'm staggering home almost unable to walk.

In Papeete I had the unfortunate experience of falling down on the main street of town early one morning and landing on my face. My nose, cheek, forehead all were scraped up badly. I will usually take two days getting my head straight after a night like that. Then I swear to myself that I wont let that happen again. I promise myself controlled moderation. And it holds for a month or so. But eventually I fall back into my old routine. I'm really getting too old for that. It's taking longer and longer to recover. Must be a solution out there that I can live with.

Most evenings in Tahiti I was treated to the spectacular sight of the sun setting behind the island of Moorea, just a few miles west of Tahiti.

Sun setting over Moorea as seen from Galena in Papeete, Tahiti

One morning a dismasted boat pulled in next to me. I watched as the dockmaster helped them with their lines. I then watched as they pulled a little string attached to the dock and lifted up a pair of permanent stern lines that were evidently to be used as stern lines. I looked and, yep, at my bow were two of those same strings. It would seem that I really didn't need to set a stern anchor at all. When I cleared out and paid my fees, I mentioned to the dockmaster that he had not told me about the permanent stern lines and that I had placed my own anchor out. He said he hoped it wouldn't get caught on my big chain they had out there for the permanent lines. Something else for me to worry about. I had an anchor that may be hooked on an immoveable object.

Jamie on s/v Paramour III (Canadian), who I'd met in Panama City came into port. He had assembled a crew in Panama consisting of two boys and two girls, all in their mid-20's. The boys were very much "with" each other. One of the girls was "with" Jamie and the other was just traveling. I spent some time drinking their beer but didn't really get to know them well.

On 20 September I made preparations to leave Tahiti. I walked over to the port captain and cleared out. I paid my dockage fee ($240 for 8 days) and said my goodbyes. I went to the market and loaded up on fresh produce and called it an early night.

Just before dawn I started to get Galena ready for the 4-hr cruise to Moorea. I uncovered her sails, loaded the dinghy on deck and secured a bunch of stuff in the cabin that was just lying about. Finally I started untying her lines.

First I ran a 200-ft long line from the stern cleat, along the deck, through the forward starboard hawspipe, around the dock bollard, back through the hawspipe and back along the deck to the stern. This line I could handle from the cockpit. I could let it out as I backed away from the dock keeping it taut; keeping Galena's bow from swinging left or right into the boats to my sides. More importantly I could then uncleat it and pull in aboard (from the cockpit) when I was clear of other boats.

I untied all the other bow lines. With the engine idling in reverse I started paying out the loop of line from bow to dock. At the same time I kept taut the line from port stern hawspipe to anchor, ensuring that it stayed clear of the spinning prop. Once Galena's bow was clear of the other boats I released and recovered the bow line loop.

Then the question of whether or not the anchor was fouled on that big chain lying on the bottom would be answered. I kept backing up till the anchor rode was up-and-down. I then quickly cleated it to the stern mooring cleat and kept Galena moving astern. The idea was to break it loose and drag it backwards. Her bow swung around as the anchor pulled hard on the stern. Then I noticed the rode was vibrating. A sign that it was moving through the water. A sign also that the anchor was moving across the bottom. I kicked Galena out of gear and grabbed a handful of rode. I started hauling it in hand over hand. Yep, the anchor was free. Forty feet of rope later the anchor was aboard and Galena was turning toward the harbor entrance.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Galena's track from Tahiti to Moorea

The wind was very light so I raised the main and the staysail and motorsailed out of the harbor. The sails were mostly to keep Galena from rolling in the swells I could see moving east to west across my course to the northern end of Moorea. As I motorsailed along, the main was alternately slating and filling. Made a hell of a racket. But sometimes for a few minutes the sails would fill and I'd have a nice quiet ride.

Suddenly a block and a bunch of line fell on my head. The main boom swung to the port shrouds as Galena rolled heavily to port. Then the boom swung back to starboard as the wave passed under me. The block and tackle at my feet were the mainsheet and blocks. The bail at the end of the main boom had broken right off. There was nothing holding the boom. I grabbed at the boom as it passed overhead. Not wise. I let it go. Next I grabbed the bitter end of the mainsheet and looped it over the end of the boom as it passed overhead. I secured that to the boom gallows. I got a bit of small stuff and fed it through the mainsail outhaul clew and around the boom. Then I clipped the mainsheet block to that. Then I untied the bitter end of the mainsheet and got everything back under control. One more thing to fix. The bit of small stuff would last for the couple hours to Moorea, but not the 30-hrs to Raiatea where I knew I could get a permanent repair done.

Jurry-rigged mainsheet attachment

As I turned west along the northern shore of Moorea and passed Cook Bay I took some pictures of the very much-photographed, 4000-ft Summit Tohiea.

Galena entering Opunohu Bay

Compare my view as I entered Baie d'Opunohu to a screen shot of the Bounty arriving at "Tahiti" in the movie. I think it was filmed right here. What do you think?

Screenshot from Mutiny on the Bounty supposedly arriving in Tahiti. Don't think so. Filmed right here on Moorea.

Have I mentioned that when Jeff was here before, he was asked to be in that movie? Well, it seems that the Frenchmen the movie people hired for "crew" in the small boat were not able to actually sail it. The director was complaining in a local bar and asked, "doesn't anyone know how to tack a lugger?"

One of the patrons pointed to Jeff and said, "He does." Jeff was hired on the spot to be the boat master of the small boat that the Bounty's crew was set adrift in. Here's a couple of frames from the movie showing Jeff in his younger days.

Jeff (way in the back, center) of s/v Stravaig in his (almost) staring role in Mutiny on the Bounty
(The one with Anthony Hopkins and a very young Mel Gibson.)

And just to remind you how old that move is, here's my buddy Jeff today:

Jeff of s/v Stravaig as he looks today.

But I digress.

I found only four other boats here when I arrived. None from the US. I anchored in 22-ft of water and drifted back till I was in 10-ft. The winds are substantial and the blow from the east right along the shoreline. But the water is calm and clear and there's a roadside park at the shore where there is fresh water available and trash containers. So this is not just a beautiful anchorage but also convenient.

My second day here I rowed ashore and started walking west along the road. I found a small ice cream shop and then, after walking along the road for over an hour found nothing more.

My third day here I rowed ashore and started walking east along the road. In 10 minutes I was at the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa. Very nice place. Beer is only $5 but I had a small pizza, too, and that brought the bill up to $30. A cheeseburger costs 2400 cpf or about $30. The bartender told me that the nearest ATM was in the Shopping District of Cook's Bay. I tried walking to the area but gave up after an hour when I saw that I was still about an hour away. I didn't have my walking shoes on.

On the way back I stopped again at the Hilton. The front desk offered to call me a cab to get to the shopping district, but also said they organize shopping trips for their guests and I was welcome to join them. Maybe tomorrow.

The walk home from the Hilton was interesting as it was very, very dark on the road. Fortunately there was very little traffic. When I got to the park where I had beached my dinghy I had to almost feel my way from the road to the shore it was so dark. I finally found my dinghy, unlocked it, and launched it without incident. The row back to Galena was actually pleasant. The stars were magnificent on this startlingly black night. I had left Galena's anchor light on so finding her was no problem.

Maybe next time I'll just row my dink down to the Hilton and then take their shuttle to town. It's a long row; almost a mile. And it's against the wind on the way there. But the trip back will be easy and they have a nice dock for their watercraft that they said I could use.

Well, that brings me up to date. I'll probably hang around through Monday, 26 Sep. I might see the local dentist about this missing filling and may even get a local tattoo.

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