Of Radios and Landfalls

7/22/2017

Some of you might remember that STW’s VHF radio was failing.  So Zack brought down another one.  Well the new one exhibited the same unfortunate powering off erratically and refusing to power up symptoms.  Guess it was not the radio.  Further investigation required.  The radio lives inside the boat at the navigation table.  There is a remote handheld unit at the helm station in the cockpit.  Turns out  disconnecting that resolves all problems.  So a problem in the remote wiring.  I remake a suspect splice in the line.  No help.  Then I decide to disconnect a plug in the line.  And it shows severe corrosion due to water penetration.  Cut the plug out.  Track down the 10 wires to their corresponding pins.  And no, the wire colors are not the same on both sides of the plug.  That would be too easy.  Make connections permanent with shrink wrap insulation.  Silicon caulk.  Rescue tape.  I think I’m waterproof now.  And it works again.  Anybody need a Standard Horizon Matrix 2150?  Turns out I have an extra one.

I took Nancy in the dinghy to the airport shuttle dock.  She made her flight and is on her way to Rarotonga in the Cook islands.  We leave here to join her Monday morning.  We being Guillaume, Huub, and myself.  Which will take us probably 5 days.  Maybe she’ll be happy to see us.  Guillaume went out to look for whales to photograph this morning.  We expect Huub to arrive Sunday night on the ferry.  I went for a bike ride around the north end of the island.

Few thoughts.

By reputation I kind of expected BoraBora to be touristy and lame compared to the other islands.  I’d have to say maybe but just a little.  The major hotels are all on the barrier islands.  The airport is on one.  I believe a large majority of the visitors never spend any time on the core island.  I think they are scooped up and transported to their hotels on the barrier islands.  So the core island feels a lot like the rest of the islands I have visited.  Very Nice.

There is a near absence of anything branded in French Polynesia. I have not seen a Starbucks since I left Mexico. No Gap, Target, Costco, 7/11, Burger King on and on.  Almost all mom and pop businesses.  Interesting.  There was a single McDonald’s in Papeete.  I don’t miss these things.  Well maybe a West Marine would be handy….

7/23/2017

Restless.  Guillaume went out to see if the whale watcher could get into a photo opportunity.  No luck and took all day.  But they did see Dolphins and rays.  All not lost.  I traveled the boat to the other end of the lagoon for a change of scene.  Hitchhikers from a neighbor boat joined us for a night of singing at anchor with our other mates from Jandamarra.

I’m still running the dinghy on little green BBQ cans.  But I did hear from the dingy motor’s mfr regarding how to adjust it for Butane instead of propane.  That should serve well at our next island.  We are about done with Bora Bora for now.

7/24/2017

Now we are ready.  Food/water loaded.  Fueled up.  I have cleared customs at the Gendarmarie.  Guillaume gets that done later. Huub should be on the 430 ferry from Riatea.  I’d feel more certain if I heard from that guy today.  My house of cards is wobbling!  We’ll see.  It’s probably under control.  Nancy is in Rarotonga and I’m anxious to be headed that way.  I’m making it out of French Polynesia without any tattoos.   The culture here has embraced them (invented them?) For hundreds of years.  Whew, that was close!

It’s a miracle. Huub found his way to Spill the Wine.  He joins Guillaume and I and we stow the dinghy together.  Then they’re get busy raising the anchor and we hit the road.  Underway at730pm departing Bora Bora.  We clear the pass dodging fishing boats in the dark.  We set our way point for Rarotonga.  534 miles to the southwest.  Engine hours 1543.  All the dominoes fell our way.

We are motoring.  Making electricity.  Moderate roll to the sea.  Minimal wind from behind.  Temperature is perfect.
7/25/2017

Jandamarra carries her owner, John Pool from AUS, crew Harry from Pittsburgh and Jack Lewis an English fellow on his way to Australia to learn more about music and guitar.  He’s bloody awesome already.  Part of the “entrance exam” is an audition tape.  Highly recommend you go to YouTube and search for Jack Lewis audition tape.  You might look at TheJackLewis.com.  If any of you have known me 30 years or so you might remember the “guitar from hell”.  I put together from a $50 pawn shop purchase. It was a home modified attempt at making a guitar that would travel.  Failure actually.  Too heavy.  But it plays.  And it lives on Spill The Wine.  Jack borrowed it in Moorea to record his audition tape.  The guitar from hell has found its destiny. 🙂  Also listen to My Island.  It’s happening here in the south pacific.

We alternated sailing and motoring throughout today.  The additionally variable of sea state was challenging for the first 20 hours.  Lumpy seas make it hard to keep the sails full unless there is 12 kts or better of wind.  Which we finally got.  Just need patience.

I got word from tech support at Lehr, the mfr of my propane outboard.  They told me what to adjust so I can effectively burn butane instead of propane.  Butane is what they use down here.  Likely no propane until New Zealand.  It’s a latitude thing.  I’ll need the dinghy a bit between now and NZ.  I made the adjustment with the motor on the stern rail.  I was very careful not to drop any motor parts.  Lets hope Neptune likes my needlenose pliers which I neglected to look after so carefully.  🙂  But I did get the carburator adjusted.  We’ll see how that works next time we are in the dinghy.

We had dueling drones today.  Huub’s and Guillaume’s.  I’m interested in the product.  They have to sort through their raw material.
Dinner was beef on the egg with salad.  Then we made popcorn and watched a documentary on the 1969 round the world race and the attempt the game the race dishonestly by Nathaniel Crowhurst.  Which cost him his life.
Wind remains about 10kts off our port stern. Similar wind yesterday but we could do nothing with it as the sea state prevented keeping the sails filled. But with the sea state flattening out now we can actually sail. Making 4.5 to 5 kts on silky smooth seas.  The moon has set and the stars are brilliant.    Milky Way for dessert!  Lovely day if you like the southern cross I suppose…

7/26/2017

Beautiful morning.  Looks rainy to the NW but Spill The Wine escapes this time.  Wind is right behind us at about 10 kts.  This makes it hard to use.  Need more wind or need it off to one side for better use.  Put another way we could sail but we’d go kinda slow.

No other boats seen thus far.  The navigation instruments see a freighter bound for Papeete but it is 16 miles away so no visual for me.

About 8am the wind gets up to 16kts.  We rig the asymmetric spinnaker on port and the main on starboard.  This works for a bit then the wind drops to 7kts and the sea state vetoes that plan.  But not before Huub got a chance to fly his drone for some photos.  It’s spooky to watch these guys recover their drones.  They fly them by the cockpit and reach out and grab them.  Wild.  They are neither waterproof nor cheap by the way.  🙂

At 3pm there was still no wind.  Which makes it swim thirty!  Great way to chill on a warm day.  And the water was right.  3 miles deep.  Then we had chips and salsa.  I peeled a coconut for water that Guillaume and I had harvested at the Sacred Maraes of Riatea.

Coconut water hour is over and we light the egg for the star of tonight’s show… a chicken.  Who did enter life by means of an egg.  And who shall exit the same way.  Later we make more popcorn and watched Captain Ron.  Huub brought a gazillion movies on his tablet.  I should have brought more popcorn…

The motor was making too much noise to hear the soundtrack.  So I shut off the diesel and we enjoyed the show.  After it was over it was very dark.  Moonless at this hour.  I almost looked at the chart plotter.  But no I looked for the southern cross.  And there was our course.

The Maraes are ceremonial platforms related to their cultural events.  The ones at Riatea are 800years old or so.  Looking at them is not so dramatic until you consider the context.  This is where they entertained Captain Cook.  And where any number of ceremonial canoes from neighboring islands approached through the pass in the reef just offshore from the Maraes.  They built signal fires to point the way on the small island in the bay next to where we anchored.  A bit of a haunted place really. With great coconuts, who knew?

7/27/2017

I relieved Huub at dawn.  I came up a bit early so there would be time to retire the motor and set the sails together as the wind was finally building and had shifted to the south east.  Which is to say just ahead of our beam rather than dead behind us.  Peaked at 16 kts.  And we sure sailed on that.  We just missed a rain swollen squall line.  It passed just in front of us.  I was hoping that the wind shift was not squall driven.  It was partially.  The winds calmed down to about 12kts as we exited the trail of the squall.  More civilized anyway for three guys with all their stuff laying around.  Heeling boats put things on the floor!

I settled down to play some more guitar as Spill The Wine plied a close reach south, strait into a full 180 degree rainbow.  I love the early morning and the late afternoon for what they do to shadows.  The sun rising on our stern delighted me with a view of my shadow playing guitar on the cockpit floor.

The wind filled in perfectly.  We enjoyed a day of wind right on the beam at 15 kts.  Boat making anywhere from 6 to 8 kts as the wind varied.  Seas mild all day so we can really use the wind.  Studying the remaining course I see we are in danger of arriving at night.  Like to avoid that.  So I shorten the jib to see about slowing us down a bit.

7/28/2017
I relieve Huub before dawn today. The sun rises later as we make some westing and that sure changes sunrise.  The wind is still perfect and the seas still mild.  I’d like to discover these conditions more often.  Except it’s chilly.  I went looking for pants this morning.  I have not done that since March in Seattle.  And a fleece jacket.  Sea temp is down 10 degrees from the lagoon in BoraBora.  We must be getting some current from down south.  I’m reminded that Spill The Wine has a diesel heater.  Probably still works. But really it’s comfortable below.  Just chilly on deck.

We are 104 miles out of Rarotonga.  If we make 5 kts we will arrive just before dawn.

7/29/2017
Today is the day.  My visa expires and I need to be out of French Polynesia.  Success!  I’m 10 miles from Rarotonga!  It’s 3am and I can see the islands lights clearly on the horizon.    Sea temp is down 12 degrees from FrenchPolynesia.  Air temp down some too.  I’m wearing pants.  It’s been months since I did.  The moon is gone and the stars are screaming.  Maybe you grow weary of hearing that but they never fail to impress me.  English is the language here.  With a kiwi twist.  That will be an interesting difference!

The fantastically favorable winds yesterday persisted.  The sea state finally caught up and it became progressively easier to spill things as the day wore on.  We have been working on speed control to time arrival for dawn.  I think we’ll hit that pretty close.  Regrettable to enter a strange harbor in the dark.  It feels weird trying to go slow when the first few days of the leg we had no wind and had to motor.

We are coming in to Rarotonga and damn I’m still in the dark.  It’s 0415 and I’d like to know when local dawn is.  Oh well. 8 miles out.  I adjust to head more West.  If I approach on a zigzag zag course I can turn that 8 miles into 15 maybe.  Wind is behind me at 13kts.  Making 2.5to 3 kts on no sails at all.  If I sit down we go a little slower.  Hmmm maybe my imagination.

We enter the harbor at 8am.  No reply on radio from Harbor master.  So we are on our own.  And a little help from our fellow cruisers. 🙂 Harbor is small.  The warm has about ten boats tied stern to the concrete pier with an anchor off the bow to keep it perpendicular to the pier.  Tricky and I’ve never done it.  And there is no room for me anyway.  So I drop a bow anchor just like the rest of the fleet and back up towards the pier.  Neighbor boat carried my line to the pier and we were hooked.  One more anchor set to windward holds me from blowing downwind.  Done.

Rarotonga is delightful.  Each new island is our new favorite.  Super nice people.  Cooler weather.  Cooler water.  We rented a scooter to tour the island with.  Yes I look weird on it.  Smallest bike I ever did ride for sure.

The harbor is sorta clean.  I guess swimming is OK.  And of all things there is a floating water park in the harbor.  And we are moored right next to it.  Giggling and splashing Monday thru Friday!  Yay!  Fun.

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Rarotonga

I am on Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. I admit I don’t know much about these Islands. I flew here because I was not keen on sailing here from Bora Bora. Chris and crew – Huub & Guillaume – are on their way. Hopefully, they will arrive by the time my reservation runs out.

I’m staying at a place on the north side of the island, with access to the beach, which is rocky, with very fine sand – if it is wet, I sink right in. Walking in the surf during high tide, black lava rocks, chunks of coral, and the occasional coconut hit my feet. It is unusual to find a complete shell of any size, as they would have to be carried over the reef without being slammed into the coral. The beach here is deserted. I spend hours alone on it.

I’m enjoying some decent internet access, hot showers, and the ability to walk around. I’ve made friends with locals & tourists, as well as with dogs & cats. The food is still awesome, and I found a decent bar J. I haven’t had my hair cut in four months. The women on the islands wear theirs long, and the manager here advised me that I shouldn’t trust them with my shorter hair. I should be a sight by the time I get back to the US.

I’m trying to look into my next step, which should be Tonga, or maybe Nuie, and then Fiji. There must be some of you who would like to join us …

Out the Dora Dora from Bora Bora

7/22/2017

I took Nancy in the dinghy to the airport shuttle dock.  She made her flight and is on her way to Rarotonga in the Cook islands.  We leave here to join her Monday morning.  We being Guillaume, Huub, and myself.  Which will take us probably 5 days.  Maybe she’ll be happy to see us.  Guillaume went out to look for whales to photograph this morning.  We expect Huub to arrive Sunday night on the ferry.  I went for a bike ride around the north end of the island.  Anchorages look very attractive.  Nothing going on ashore.  Romantic? You bet.  Maybe Guillaume and I will stay in the anchorage one more night… 🙂

Few thoughts.

By reputation I kind of expected BoraBora to be touristy and lame compared to the other islands.  I’d have to say maybe but just a little.  The major hotels are all on the barrier islands.  The airport is on one.  I believe a large majority of the visitors never spend any time on the core island.  I think they are scooped up and transported to their hotels on the barrier islands.  So the core island feels a lot like the rest of the islands I have visited.  Very Nice.

There is a near absence of anything branded. I have not seen a Starbucks since I left Mexico. No Gap, Target, Costco, 7/11, Burger King on and on.  Almost all mom and pop businesses.  Interesting.  There was a single McDonald’s in Papeete.  I don’t miss these things.  Well maybe a West Marine would be handy….

7/23/2017

Restless.  Guillaume went out to see if the whale watcher could get into a photo opportunity.  No luck and took all day.  But they did see Dolphins and rays.  All not lost.  I traveled the boat to the other end of the lagoon for a change of scene.  I met him onshore with the dinghy at 530 and he showed up with Hitchhikers from a neighbor boat.  They joined us for a night of singing at anchor with our other mates from Jandamarra.

I’m still running the dinghy on little green BBQ cans.  But I did hear from the dingy motor’s mfr regarding how to adjust it for Butane instead of propane.  That should serve well at our next island.  We are about done with Bora Bora for now.

7/24/2017

Now we are ready.  Food/water loaded.  Fueled up.  Huub should be on the 430 ferry from Riatea.  I’d feel more certain if I heard from that guy today.  My house of cards is wobbling!  We’ll see.  It’s probably under control.  Nancy is in Rarotonga and I’m anxious to be headed that way.

From Huahine to Bora Bora

7/12/2017

This morning Zack and Guillaume and I went snorkeling on the reef next to our anchorage.  It was farther away than we thought.  But it was a good day for a swim.  The fish were friendly enough in a fish way.  I hope they keep in touch.

Up anchor and exit Maroe Bay.  The wind is 12 kts SE and we head North on spinnaker only.  Nice run for Guillaume’s drone.  Kinda spooky launching and landing that spendy thing on a moving boat. Glad I wasn’t driving it.  But he likely got some good footage for his documentary.

We turn west at the north end of Huahine’s reef.  And the wind stays behind us.  Odd.  Then we turn south along the west shore.  And the wind pretty much stayed behind us again.  Very unusual but favorably.  We’ll take it.

Anchorage off Fare village is crowded.  And there is a 1 kt current that flows through it.  Which means all the boat’s hang on their anchor heading the same way.  Without current boats swing around in the wind and might bump each other.  So a bit of current makes a crowded anchorage easier to deal with.

It’s been raining off and on since we got here.  Which means poor Spill the Wine has some soggy spots under the odd window that might have been left open.  Example last night we attended happy hour at a pub onshore.  Clear skies when we went in.  But shortly after we arrived that changed in a big wet way.  I dinghyed back to the boat presto and closed up my damp boat.  I enjoyed the rest of the squall in the cockpit before rejoining my cre201w. We had big plans to roast a chicken on the egg.  But we ran out of steam and dinner turned into chips and salsa.  Real salsa.  I have not seen real salsa since I left Mexico.

7/14/2017

Bastille Day!  Marking the revolutionary French Revolution!  Surely there will be a big festival in Fare Village to mark the day.  And there was a big festival.  But it had to do with Heiva.  This is a month long local custom that has lots of dancing singing javelin tossing canoe racing celebrating Polynesian culture.  French culture not so much.  🙂

7/16/2017

Guillaume runs into Robin and Fiona.  He had traveled with before.  Nice folks so we move up the coast and arrange to have dinner with them. Lamb chops on the egg.  Some singing and playing.  Fiona takes photos of the big green egg on the stern.  I ask her why and she explains that her mother had been bugging her and Robin to put one on their boat before they left Florida.  I’m not making this stuff up.  Fiona’s mother is not well and I want to meet her!

7/17/2017

Today we moved up to TaHaa the adjacent island.  25 kts in the lagoon between the islands.  But being a lagoon, minimal wave action.  Great sailing.  We moved up the western side of TaHaa and took a mooring ball in a cove with a pearl Farm.  They gave us a brilliant tour of their operation and we helped them close at sundown.  Their docks have a nice view to the west.  Rib steaks on the egg for dinner.  Nancy and I are enjoying Zack and Guillaume.  They have good appetites!

7/18/2017

Time to move on to BoraBora.  25 mile crossing.  Big seas and 20 to 25 kts behind us.  That goes well if you like stuff flying around the boat.  Actually goes just fine other than that.  Nobody gets ill.  Approaching Bora Bora is dramatic.  It has this radically vertical peak right in the center of it that resembles Mt Doom from Lord of the Rings.  25 to 30 kts blows through the anchor field when we arrive.  We plant our anchor successfully but end up a bit too close to another boat.  We are pulling it back up to re-anchor and a neighbor tells us there is a mooring ball available.  In this kind of wind a mooring sounds pretty attractive so we nab it.

Town is pretty close and so is the grocery.  Well stocked for sure.  That will be handy when it is time to leave for the Cook islands.

7/20/2017

We get Zack packed for tomorrow.  He is flying back to Papeete to meet his family when they arrive from Seattle.  He was great crew and gets invited back.  Time to rotate crew again.  Guillaume is staying on board.  Nancy flies to Rarotonga in the Cook islands on the 22nd.  Huub will join Spill The Wine the evening of the 23rd.

7/21/2017

After Zack departed this morning we visited the Gendarmarie and checked out of French Polynesia effective the 24th.  Lots of paperwork.  Boring!  Seriously my least favorite part of this adventure.  I’m still waiting on a separate clearance that comes from the French Polynesian Harbor control.

A boat full of musical types just anchored next to us.  Tonight should be good!

7/22/2017

Some of you might remember that STW’s VHF radio was failing.  So Zack brought down another one.  Well the new one exhibited the same unfortunate powering off erratically and refusing to power up symptoms.  Guess it was not the radio.  Further investigation required.  The radio lives inside the boat at the navigation table.  There is a remote handheld unit at the helm station in the cockpit.  Turns out disconnecting the remote resolves all problems.  So a problem in the remote wiring.  I remake a suspect splice in the line.  No help.  Then I decide to disconnect a plug in the line.  And it shows severe corrosion due to water penetration.  Cut the plug out.  Track down the 10 wires to their corresponding pins.  And no, the wire colors are not the same on both sides of the plug.  That would be too easy.  Make connections permanent with shrink wrap insulation.  Silicon caulk.  Rescue tape.  I think I’m waterproof now.  And it works again.  Anybody need a Standard Horizon Matrix 2150?  Turns out I have an extra one.

Welcome to the Society Islands

6/29-7/2017

The 29th we relaxed just the two of us.  Thank you.  The 30th two of our hitchhikers came back on board and brought what appeared to be 1/4 of a tuna.  We put that on the egg for sure.  July 1st two more people joined the crew for…. more Tuna!  Nancy and I took the boat out of the bay that day to get a different view of the island.  Pizza Night upon our return.  July 2nd our guests departed and we once again relax just the two of us.  One of the crew we probably won’t see again for some time.  He’s off to crew on a boat in the Mediterranean that is heading for a possible NW passage in the Arctic.  Unusual opportunity for sure.  The other 3 will all be rejoining the boat at Bora Bora to cross to the Cook islands to the west.

7/3/2017

We walked a couple miles down to the next bay today and found lunch and a place that does laundry.  And delivers when it is done!  Yay!

7/4/2017
They don’t celebrate that here!  Wait until the 14th.  That if the anniversary of the French Revolution. We’ll see if the Polynesians give a hoot about that!

7/5/2017
Nancy took a long walk down the shore to a pretty village around the point  I took a bike ride up the valley to a lookout 800 feet up.  Nice view.  My poor rusty bicycle is not loving the salt environment.  Time for more love and lubrication to keep it going!

7/6/2017
The bay is filling with Oyster brand boats.  There are a dozen and more on the way.  They are on a circumnavigation tour together.  And they all look kinda the same.  I was not aware inbreeding affected boats.  Anyway getting crowded.  We are off to Papeete again to pick up crew for the 16 hour trip to Huahine we will do next week. We motored across right into a 20 kts headwind.  But it was still a good day.  Arrived Papeete marina and got about the last slip available.

7/7/2017
We were in the cockpit after a day of boat chores and food truck dinner.  My food truck dinner was veal, cooked on a spit in the parking lot.  Recommended. Relaxing and I’m trying to learn Dock of the Bay on my guitar.  Not a hard one but I’ve never done it!  We were comparing two catamarans across from our dock.  One was big and fat.  That would mean comfy but slow.  The other was light and lean.  So not so spacious but fast.  Then a family walks by and we chat with them for a bit.  Nice folks.  Turns out they were from the Fat Catamaran.  Then another couple comes by and we chat with them for quite awhile.  They were from the Lean Cat and we are having dinner with them tonight.  You can’t make this stuff up.

7/8-9/2017
Last big city details.  I acquired and installed a bilge pump switch.  The 10 year old one expired.  Then we went for ice cream and Internet.  After dinner it will be time to pick up Zack Hudgins our next leg crew.  He will be with us through Bora Bora.  And one or two of our hitchhikers… 🙂

Found Zack at the airport no problem.  We taxi back to Marina Papeete and get settled.  Guillaume joins us the next morning and we are off for Moorea.  No wind predicted but we got some anyway.  Beautiful sail back to Cook’s bay.  It’s Sunday and all the grocery stores are closed.  So we go out for Awesome Pizza at Allo Pizza!  Elegant solution to our problem.

Today 7/9 Guillaume goes ashore to get some computer/internet work done on assembling his documentary on climate change”s impact on the South Pacific.  Pretty interesting project.  Zack heads out for an extended bike ride.  I worked on finishing the installation of the VHF radio Zack brought down from Seattle.  And the swimming was great today!.  Most of the boats in the bay are gone again.  We have seen many of the faces of Cook’s Bay.  Nancy is about to sear tuna.  And we await our last crew member who should join us at 5pm.  Then we 5 depart on a floating “red-eye” for Huahine.

After an awesome seared tuna dinner we finished stowing the dinghy and John’s surfboard.  And we weigh anchor and go.  Guillaume gets some drone footage of our progress.  We clear the pass in the reef on our way out of Cook’s Bay as the sun retreats below the western horizon.  There is a bit of wind and the seas are smooth.  We are making 4 kts in 7 kts of wind on a lovely reach.  Mr Sulu the windvane is back on the job for the first time since we arrived in the Marquesas.  And he’s doing a fine job.

We’ve laid out the watch schedule.  I’m on til 9.  Zack til midnight.  Guillaume 12-3.  John 3-6. Then back to me.  I’m looking forward to it!

The suns gone down and here comes a moon.  It it not full then it doesn’t  miss it by much.  Like a searchlight on this dark night it is.  There is a bit of wind and we make about 3 kts through the night.  The sea is as calm as I’ve seen it in a long time.  Shortly after dawn the wind drops and our boatspeed is down to two knots or less.  Captain makes eggs pancakes and coffee.  And there was much rejoicing.  Our Canadian crewmember brought maple syrup from CAnAdA.  Thank you!  After breakfast  we swim in water two miles deep.  Nobody gets cramps and drowns.  Aye!  Then it is time to motor, make water and charge batteries.

The closer we draw to Huahine the more like glass the water becomes.  A beautiful day to have a quantity of fuel on board!

We enter a passe Fararea in the reef on the east side of the island.  A village is advertised on the South Shore.  We’ll they do have a restaurant.  But no grocery.  Dinner Out Tonight!

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