A Gentleman Never Sets Sail To Weather…

And I am revealed.  We ended up to weather.  Ay yi yi!


We’ve studied the tides and the weather. Today looks like we go at 130pm or so. Break down the dinghy. Stow loose items. Make water. Move fuel into the primary tank. Wind in the lagoon is fierce at times getting over 20 knots. Boats at anchor don’t love that. Front comes through with wind and rain. Then very quiet. Are we in the eye of a small storm? Perhaps. Wind comes back but more like 15 knots. Nancy asks me “Am I ever going to be sorry I did this crossing to Tahiti?” I wish I knew the answer to this. But I don’t. She does not have to cross. Our plans can change at our will. She decides to give it a go. 40 hours estimated time in transit. Hold on tight. We hoist anchor and head for the pass. Motoring upwind into stiff seas and wind. Making about 2 knots. I could have pushed it harder but nah. Still at 2000 rpm I’d usually be about 5 knots. Shows what a little headwind and waves can do.

Into the pass we go with a 2 or 3 knot current behind us as the tide finishes it’s ebb. Large standing waves greet us at the outer opening of the pass. Now that was more than I expected! Spill The Wine does not care. This is what she does. We escape the chaos on the outside of the pass and head downwind. 15 knots behind us and 6 foot rollers disappearing under the stern. This I think is what fair winds and following seas are all about. Spill The Wine is moving about but gently. Much more gentle than getting beat up by the seas and wind at anchor. Still it’s something to get used to. Nancy is fearless and settles down to assimilate the new rhythm.

We turn the corner and head west in the lee of Rangiroa. Easy seas and generous wind. As the sun goes down we get West of Rangiroa and are now facing the full weight of the swell. Worse yet it’s blowing 20, 25, sometimes 30. And the wind gets forward of the beam as we follow our course to Papeete. That’s the last place you want the wind in these conditions. The sea state is bad. I am not digging it and would not aspire to conditions like this. And this is quite toxic for Nancy. It would be presto Mal de Mer for a lot of people. My first thought was we could divert for Tikihau. But I decided that was a bad option as we would arrive in the middle of the night. As conditions deteriorate and Nancy feels absolutely no better I rethink. We are so far out now that if we head back to Tikehau I would only need to chart a vaguely inefficient course to get us there by dawn. We are 30 hours out from Papeete or 10 hours out from Tikihau. I don’t want to arrive any earlier than dawn to a strange place than that. So Tikehau becomes our Go.


I sail through the night.  Nancy is stable but not in a good place for sure.  It’s mostly downwind now so the ride improves.  I want to go slow so I shorten sail.  Really don’t want to arrive in the dark.  Still too fast.  Put the sails away.  Now making 4 kts with no sails at all.  Just the windage of the boat.  Dodger, solar panels and bimini canvas.  This will still get us there too early but ok, lets make it work.

On arrival I get set to run the pass. Great. All the lights are in the right place. Ready to go. But it’s 4am and damn dark. No good. So I furl the sails and let’s just drift and I can get a nap. It’s been a long night. Set my alarm for 45 minutes or so. When it rings we have not gone far. Our drift was less than a knot. Motor up and line up on the pass again. As I approach the pass I see a sailboat anchored to one side of the pass. What the heck. I’ll radio that guy and see if he’s listening. He is! Bit of a surprise at dawn. This turns out to be Jody on sailboat Strider from Mooloolaba AUS. He’s been to this island many times and explains that the strong easterly winds are causing a strong current to exit the pass 24/7. Until the winds settle it’s not going to be passable. He recommends anchoring next to Strider and waiting. Sounds like the path of least resistance to me. its been a long night and Nancy and I are beat.

Drop the anchor in 15 ft and it sets well. Boat hangs downwind from that in about 20 feet. Sea state on the lee or downwind shore of the island is so much nicer than what we’ve been experiencing. Walk in the park. And time for napping. After the sun comes up it becomes clear the pass is rowdy. Standing waves due to current are in the pass all day. And it’s still blowing 20 or more. But as anchorages go this is pretty smooth water. Very comfortable.

Jody invites me over for a tour of a weather forecasting program called PredictWind. I have it already but there is nothing like some guidance on a strange bit of software. It was hot enough that maybe some snorkeling would be good. It was. 🙂

Mid afternoon a 46 foot catamaran arrives. Tries to cross the tidal stream and as soon as her bows get into the current she gets immediately spun down current. They reconsider taking the pass and anchor.

Nancy and I spent a nice calm night here. Weather forecast predicts less wind tomorrow. We’ll see.


Mr Christian tells me that bout 9am there will be a high tide. That might blunt the current. Jody thinks the wind will moderate too. So that sounds like a good time to take the pass.

It was. We crossed the stream to set up an approach on the North margin of the pass. Decently deep there and just out of the max current. Just before we head in a catamaran is heading out. He is right in the middle of Max current. Looked like a heck of a ride! He reports 5 kts of current carrying him out.

In we go.  Strider goes first.  Spill The Wine is next.  We motor up against the flow on the margin of the pass.  Be patient and it works.  At times I was making as little as 0.5 kts and sometimes less! But we found our way into the lagoon after a maybe 30 minute transit.  Nice sail down the lagoon to the village of Tuherahera.  Great anchorage with good protection.

We split a leftover game hen for lunch and take the dinghy to shore. A resident gives us permission to leave our dinghy on their beach and tells us how to walk to town.

We find a grocery and get a few supplies. The cashier tells us where to get bread. We walk down to a park. There is a school with adults playing Polynesian guitar and adults and children singing. Really nice. A nice French couple clarifies the directions to the boulangerie. We find it and are told the loaves will be ready in 90 minutes. We visit the pier. Two teenagers are listening to French pop/rap. Every once in awhile they giggle no doubt when the lyrics get rude. A supply ship comes in while we watch. Hard to believe they stuffed this maybe 150 foot freighter up the little turbulent pass we just transited this morning. We learn later that it returns every week or two and the grocery stores (2 of them) stock up.


5 thoughts on “A Gentleman Never Sets Sail To Weather…

  1. Sounds like the journey is progressing nicely. I love reading all about your trials getting around, and how you two seem to be having fun. Take care and always enjoy the ride, my friend, you two are blessed to have each other.


  2. Wow!!! THAT was an adventure!!! How’s Nancy holding up? Tell her she is my hero! Proud of her for giving it a go!!! Hugs and love to you both


  3. Love the nautical reporting. Kudos to brave Nancy and hope you don’t run through your supply of anti-emetics! Smooth sailing!


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