Of Radios and Landfalls


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….


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.


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.

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…


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?


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.

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.

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.


2 thoughts on “Of Radios and Landfalls

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