Passage to Fiji

9/6/2017

The sea is endless and we are enjoying nights with a full to nearly full moon.  It’s never dark.  We have a lot of lentils on board.  Legacy from previous crew Lynn Ringseis.  Kat makes good things happen to them and we feast.

9/7/2017

Kat makes pancakes with banana lime vanilla jam that she also made.  Really glad she moved into the galley.  After breakfast she and I deploy the asymmetric spinnaker.  Wind perfect for this and she flies all day.  Huub gets up and we all nibble on leftovers and enjoy the ride.

Late in the morning I bathe on the swim step while the crew sleeps.  It’s good to be clean and we have full water tanks on board.  Mr. Sulu the wind vane steering system takes over for the electric autopilot.

9/8/2017

Today brings decent wind that decays as the day wears on.  Wind now 4kts.  We are making 2.  Not all bad.  Fat wind early was putting us areas of schedule.  Risk of arriving on wkend.  Which means overtime for the customs people.  Runs up a bill. I was told 500 extra.  So the wind dying saves us money.  Don’t want to get there before Monday anyway.  But we Like going fast.  Kat cheers us up with spicy Flatbread and creamy cucumber salad.  It’s a good day!

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Last Tango in Vava’u

9/2/2017

Wake up this morning and the cove is glass and the birds are singing their morning songs. After breakfast itv’s time to snorkel.  More peaceful without wind and waves.  Starfish, fishfish, sea slugs, coral.  A good day to snorkel.  The sea is so still I can watch my shadow glide across the bottom of the anchorage.

Today we are off for anchorage 30.  It’s funny.  All the anchorages have #s.  Beats trying and failing to pronounce the local names!

30 is cool.  With reservations.  You can go ashore and hike a bit.  We crossed over to the Eastern exposure.  Serious surf and cliffs.  Very dramatic.  Then the west side was gentle beach. That is where we anchored.  Shallow bits there.  We kissed the sand gently with the keel.  Keep it gentle shall we?  But good anchorage found very close by.

In the mid afternoon the flies were getting out of hand.  Maybe 100 of them in the boat.  You get the idea.  Crew was ashore so Nancy and I hauled the anchor and we dropped it further from shore.  Maybe 150 yards more seaward.  And that made a big difference.  We went on a fly murdering rampage with the electric swatter.  The fly bodies stacked up on the floor bit we were victorious.  This is the only time we have seen many flies at all on the boat.  Odd.

S/V Danika with our friends John and Oceana were also anchored here but no other boats.  We all had dinner on Spill The Wine.  Still out of charcoal so fueling the Big Green Egg with bits of wood again.  Should have tried this a long time ago.

9/3/2017

Off to anchorage 16.  Good snorkeling nearby.  Sheltered from the prevailing Easterly wind.  Huub and Kat row to shore and scope out a beach and decide to take hammocks ashore and sleep there.  Sounds like a nice idea.  Until after dark after dinner. Then they decided maybe not.  I get that.  This anchorage has no flies.  But they do have flying ants.  Hundreds of them.  We play a bit of guitar in the cockpit but that does not last long.  Too many flying ants.  Maybe locusts tomorrow?  I’ll stay tuned.

In the middle of the night the wind shifts.  Now from the South and we are swinging pretty close to shore as a result.  No Bueno.  Kat and I re-anchor in the very dark and 20-25 kt wind.  But we dropped anchor in the protection on another little island so it all worked.  Except for the seat cushion that the wind sailed out of the cockpit.  So it goes.  Situation normal.

9/4/2017

Today after breakfast we return to Neiafu.  We need to stock up for the crossing and check out with customs as we depart from Tonga for Fiji.  Nancy flies to Fiji tomorrow.  But not before she and Kat take inventory of the galley supplies.  Disposing of things expired and getting a grocery list together.  We have dinner at the home of a Tongan guy we met.  Nice meal and priceless grand children.

9/5/2017

Nancy is off to the airport after breakfast.  Spill The Wine is off to fill her water tanks.  Then off to the customs dock.  Then Kat and Huub go execute the grocery list.  I deal with customs.  Then the fuel truck is scheduled to come to the wharf and fill our tanks with diesel.  We get tax free fuel as we have already cleared customs.  Yay!  By 3:30 in the afternoon we are ready to head west.  Wind predictions are favorable.  We should have enough wind to sail all the way to Fiji without having too much wind.

We stop on the way out to visit a small island that has an abandoned lookout tower from WWII.  It is wooden and a bit rotten.  But has a nice view.  We collect some coconuts for our crossing.  And Kat builds a lee cloth for the couch on the port side.  This is a tarp of sorts that turns that couch into storage.  Gets a lot of happy crap off the floor.  She also finishes moving into the galley.  Here is something I learned on this trip.  Is someone comes on board and wants to move into your galley you let them.  Good things happen if you do.

At sunset we resume our way West.  Wind is loving us and the seas roll pleasantly.  Ok, a few things go flying but that’s really kinda natural. 🙂  Kat makes an awesome pasta with Veges and spicy sauce.  I told you good things happen!  We rotate through our watches. Our wind continues to deliver 15-20 kts.  We make 140 miles in our first 24 hours.  Pretty good for Spill The Wine.  She is a bit pudgy with all our gear.

 

 

Touring Vava’u

9/1/2017

We move to another anchorage under power.  There is wind to sail by but we need to charge the batteries.  Our solar panels help but really don’t keep up with consumption.

The new anchorage is again protected from the east.  So protected from the wind.  Snorkeling is good.  Huub and I row ashore to collect wood for our first no charcoal fire.  There is plenty.  And it works well in the Big Green Egg.  Stuffed chicken thighs, tuna, and eggplant follow shortly.  Kat makes pasta salad and coleslaw.  It’s a good day.  Thom from Fathom makes it over from  town for dinner. He just finished new bottom paint and is ready to tour his boat.  Likely see him in Fiji too.

 

 

The Woodcutter of Vava’u

8/31/2017

After a few days in town we stock up lightly for a few days out in the island group. First night we anchor at Port Murelle. This is a bay that opens to the west. As the wind is from the east this gives us good protection. I took a walk on shore to round up some wood.  Lemme show ya how that’s done…

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I notice spots where the earth is disturbed. I learn later that this is from wild pigs rooting around. We built a fire at sundown and roasted local sausages served with Kat’s potato salad. Germans are good at that. John and Oceana from Danika joined us and there is guitar and drumming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Close Encounters of the Vava’u kind

8/30/2017

Today we do a whale tour. You can swim with humpback here. We spot one early in the tour. We get in the water, which is pretty rough, and try to get a visual of Mr. Whale.  Can’t. But the whale is singing. And when you are underwater it sounds like it is coming from inside your head. Very unusual.

Later in the day we encounter a large male humpback. We get into the water with him and he is just hanging at about 75 feet. It is dark down there so all you can really see is a bit of white margin on the fins and tail. I dive down to about 50 feet a couple to see if he wants to play. He does. He comes up right under me after I have surfaced and I end up laying on him his between pectoral fins (kinda like arms) as he breaks the surface and heads back down. I swear I’m not making this up. Then he proceeds to swim repeatedly through our group of snorkelers. So graceful. Gotta keep in mind that the body is followed by a tail. Bummer. Tail caught me and Nancy
She is sporting a couple of black eyes and needs a new mask/snorkel. I think the whale is ok though. The most amazing thing we have ever done with a snorkel. Close encounters indeed

 

 

 

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This is what it looks like after a nice head massage from a whale tail.

 

 

Vava’u

8/22/2017

So we arrive in Vava’u group about dawn. Notice we thought we’d arrive Monday but it is Tuesday.  International dateline pinched a day from us on the passage. The light is perfect to help us through the reef and into what might be a lagoon, but it’s pretty big.  And full of islands.  Big swells as it shallows up in the pass through the reef.  But no breaking waves.  Then we make our way through the islands and reefs.  Spotting about 5 whales in different parts of the lagoon.  The humpback whales come here seasonally to sing and live their lives.  We are on our way to Neiafu town to check in with customs.  Which is still not my favorite thing but the agents were very nice.

That done we find a mooring ball near town.  Ashore to get some grub and then to visit with some of the neighbors we recognize from earlier ports.  Some as far back as Mexico.

8/24/2017

We decide to sail out to a cove on the Eastern margin of Vava’u.  Wind is good and the day is stunning.  We enter the sea to the east and the swell begins to move us.  Shortly we get to the pass into the cove.  The pass is deepest at high tide.  Noon today.  We cross with 10 ft min depth.  A little tight for STW’s 6’6″ draft.  Beautiful spot.  Small beach.  One of the neighbor cruisers turns 72.  We have been running into him off and on since Mexico.  He went surfing behind his dinghy.  Not acting his age, to his advantage.

8/25/2017

We depart the cove at 1pm.  High tide again to clear the pass.  Excellent sailing up the channel returning to Neiafu town.  We stop at a cave at the base of a cliff.  Cool snorkeling.  Then on to town and pick up a mooring ball in the harbor.  Really close to the landing thank you.  We are nearly out of propane for the outboard.  The butane we have been finding elsewhere works pretty well in the motor but the Tonga butane runs it quite poorly.  Attempts at adjusting have not been effective.  But searching the storage compartments has turned up a few little green propane cans.  They work.  But mostly we row.  Its good for us!

Onward! Niue and Crossing to Tonga!

Broken oar syndrome.  Heavy swell in Niue did my oar wrong on the wharf.  Dig the Crack in the right hand photo. Bit of a repair and I can get both oars in the water again.  No comments….

8/15/2017

I am walking down the road with Guillaume and we encounter a crew of men remodeling a house.  Turns out Guillaume met them the day before.  We tell them we are looking for baguettes and that we’d heard the petrol station had some.  Larry is the foreman and he says yeah they do.  But it’s a bit off a walk.  Take my truck.  Very generous of Larry.  I mean everyone here is nice but this is one step beyond.  Of course I have not driven a 4 wheel vehicle since April.  And now I have to drive on the opposite side of the road.  This is hard but we get it done then these fellows treat us to coffee.  Larry is from Auckland NZ.  And he’ll be there when STW gets there in November.  Need to look him up when I get there.

I heard from Larry.  Security Almost confiscated his genuine Spill The Wine corkscrew.  But not this time.  Silver tongued devil!

8/16/2017

We arranged for a rental car.  At 830am I went to pick it up and there was nobody at the rental shop.  I gave up at 915.  And it was raining.  A lot.  Think monsoon.  This went on all day.  So really not the ideal day to tour the island after all.

Later in the day the winds came.  25 kts in the bay from the NW.  Which is to say exposed to the sea.  Big swells came with it.  Nancy and Guillaume stayed on shore.  Huub and I were on STW.  An interesting ride for sure.  But not really a problem.

The challenge was getting back out to the mooring ball after dinner.  There is that winch at the wharf.  It has a nice light for night use.  Huub and I went down to the wharf after dinner to retire to STW.  Well it was a dark and stormy night.  And the wharf lights were… Dark!  5 foot swells rolling by the dinghy landing.  So time it right and you step nicely aboard.  Wrong and you fall 5 ft into the dinghy.  As luck would have it our timing was good.

One guy lost his dinghy in the storm.  It was found on the reef but not sure if it is in any way salvageable.  I’m starting to wonder how many “stolen” dinghys are really lost to bad knots or weak bow lines.  Hmm…

8/17/2017

Nancy and I and Huub rescheduled the rental car and did a tour of the coast.  Pretty cool.  Lots of caves.  One had human bones from the old days when that is how they handled people after the died.  Spooky.  Awesome pools that were made to swim in.  So Huub and I did.

Could not help but notice that there were Graves all around the island.  Frequently in people’s yards.  And in parks.  And along the side of the road in kinda random distribution.  But at least they gave up on the bones laying around thing.  Progress!

We stopped for lunch at a place that just opened.  They had both fish and chips and sausage and chips.  We did fish.  We watched the owner as she sliced off hunks of a wahoo filet and do the batter and fry production.  Beautiful.

Today we did fooling around with customs to get checked out of Niue.  Takes about 3 hours.  Customs were very nice.  They gave us a ride back to town after the boxes were all checked and fees covered.  Then shopping to get provisions stocked up.  Mooring field is pretty rough again.  We decide to dine aboard rather than try to jump on and off the dinghy in all the swell one more time.  Good call.

Nancy made pasta which was fabulous.  We hoisted the motor off the dinghy and stowed it.  Then hoist the dingy, deflate it, and stow on the bow for passage.  After dinner it rinsed the pasta pot on the stern and set it aside.  Shortly thereafter was a bitchin swell and Mr. Pot went swimming.  Too bad.  But we are in 36 feet of water.  I can snorkel that up tomorrow am before we depart.  I set a marker on the chart plotter in case we swing in a wind shift.

8/19/2017

I’m up at dawn chasing details and waiting for enough light to make pot retrieval practical.  Finally it is Ok light.  I snorkel about looking for that nice shiny polished aluminum pressure cooker pot.  20 minutes of that and I am not finding it.  Crap.  I asked Huub to throw the lid in the water so I can get an idea as to what my target looks like.  Dang that’s shiny!  Why am I not seeing Mr. Pot?  Wait there it is.  And I am not seeing it because it is so small.  The boat is hanging on a hump in the floor of the bay about 36 feet deep.  Adjacent is a trough.  And at the bottom of the trough, Mr. Pot.  As I look at it I compare the 42 ft boat to the depth there and it looks to be 60 ft.  Ok, never snorkeled that deep before…. Hyperventilate.  Down down down.  That pot is still too small!  Maybe I made 50 ft and then abort.  It’s hard to swim down and keep your ears clear simultaneously.  Chill on the surface for a bit and do it again.  Got it that time.  Then go get the lid in a mere 36 ft.  Yawn!

Start the motor, loose the lines to the mooring bouy and we are off.  Motoring West for Vava’u in minimal wind.  Perfect really.  We need to run the motor to charge the batteries.  And I have repairs to do.  One of the dinghy oars broke a blade on the wharf in the heavy surge.  I splinted it back together with a bamboo plywood scrap.  Not good as new but it will serve.

Later on the wind fills in and we sail West on mildly lumpy seas with great wind.  This is the definition of fair winds and following seas that all the sailors wish for each other as they depart company.  An exit salutation.

Dinner was some kind of beef on the Egg.  I should have gone for lamb.  That is what they do here more than beef.  French Polynesia had better beef.  No mainsail all day, jib enough in this wind.  After dinner we shorten the jib to avoid trouble with having too much sail up and need to reduce in the dark.  Not exactly dangerous but nice to avoid that complication at sea. We roll through our shifts.  I am enjoying a novelty.  A physical book.  I have read many on my phone.  Now I have an old school artifact.  Kinda fun for a change.

8/20/2017
Wind holds all day and we run main and jib.  In the afternoon we stow the main as the wind is picking up. Our speed drops to 5.5 kts but its for the best.  We are at risk of arriving Vava’u in the dark.  Not a good idea.

Niue (Pronounced Ni-Way)

8/11/2017

Seas are up.  6-7 foot swells and wind waves.  Wind is up.  15-20 kts for the first 36 hrs. Which makes for great sailing but too bad about the swell.  We proceed with jib only and frequently not all of that.  The whole trip is fairly overcast but minimal actual rain.  We make good time at 5-8 kts and 26 kts wind astern for the next 36 hrs.  Then the wind dies and we start to motor.

The seas get pretty mild. So the little bit of wind is enough.  Trick is to keep the sails full.  I can do that with 3 kts of wind.  Unless there are seas.  The more waves there are the more wind it takes to keep the sails full.  So tonight with quite mild seas we are keeping the sails full with 11 kts on our port quarter.  And making just over 4 kts.  This will be our last night on this leg.  Expect to arrive Niue just after dawn.  And the Milky Way is laid out so perfectly from the north horizon down to the south.  Keeping the Southern Cross to port we make our way.

8/12/2017

The wind built across the night.  Huub and I furled the main at 4am when the wind got to 22kts and we were making 8.  Strangely enough the ride was quite smooth at that speed.  We arrive and pick up a mooring ball.  And take a nap.  Then we do breakfast and inflate the dinghy.  Customs was easy here.  The dinghy dock is odd.  Concrete pier.  Crane over the side to hoist your dinghy.  Then you park it on the land until you return to your boat.  Small facilities and no beach (boulders only) make this necessary.  Kinda interesting to land this way.

Grocery store seems well stocked.  Except…. No Baguettes!  Lame sliced white bread!  The French never touched this place.  We stock up on everything because Everything is closed on Sunday.  Stores grocery restaurants, everything.  There are 1100 residents.  One stand down day a week is probably a good idea.

We had dinner at a local restaurant with Dan from My Dream.  He sailed here from La Cruz as we did.  Finally caught up with him here.

Rumors.  Of big wind.  Our cove faces West.  Forecast is for 30 kts out of the west on Weds.  That will hammer this little cove.  We might decide to sail around the island Weds.  Seeking shelter by hanging close to the down wind side of the island.  We’ll see.

Rarotonga in our wake

8/7/2017

Our intended departure was Sunday August 6th.  But the immigration office was closed on Friday thru Monday.  More Constitution Day Holiday maybe.  Better luck on the 7th.  Immigration office cleared.  Off to customs office.  Things are going so well. they even take credit cards!  Then they want to see my “bill paid” document from the port where we anchored.  But I have not checked out of the port.  I’m wanting to be sure I succeed with customs/immigration before I check out.  A logical approach but that’s not how it works.  I am sent back to the port to check out.  I get there and it goes well until… cash only Big Nose!  I’m off to the Atm.  But that wraps up the port chores.  And I’m back to the customs office to pay the exit tax.  That’s done.  5 hours later and we are good to go!  I have to say this kind of hoohaa is my least favorite part.  The procedures checking in and out of a country are arcane and a bit random and certainly different every place we’ve been so far.  But so it goes.

While I’m fooling around with exit procedures Nancy is reprovisioning.  Guillaume and Huub are schlepping water and fuel to top off the tanks.  This is a process.  There is no option to fuel your boat at a dock.  You have to carry water and fuel in Jerry cans from gas station and water tap.  Loaded into the dingy.  Row it out 150 feet to STW.  Do it again.

Nancy has decided that the pain and itch of flying to meet us in Tonga is less appealing than just staying on the boat.  That does not go too well and she is cabin bound for 90% of the passage.  I predict more flying for  future passages.  Nancy did the provisioning so had a plan for all the supplies. She did enjoy directing the kitchen processes while prone in the aft cabin.

The last chore is to bring up the anchors.  There be two, bow and stern.  You do this is small anchorages so your boat does not swing much as the wind changes across a day.  For example if you have one anchor and put out 100 feet of chain/anchor, you will swing in a 200 ft circle as the wind shifts.  Not going to work in a small anchorage.  With two anchors you swing almost not at all.  I’ve never laid two anchors before.  So what did I learn.  Anchors you are going to retrieve by hand are a lot of work.  But I eventually got the stern anchor into the dingy.  The bow anchor was too easy.  A windlass is an electric winch that hauls the chain and anchor back aboard.  And it made short work of the bow anchor thank you very much. Maybe I should mount another one on those on the stern…

And we sail off into the sunset bound for Niue.  Nancy makes breaded chicken thighs with pasta.  The seas are calm protected by the island.  Makes for good cooking/dining weather.  But this will change….

All about Raro

8/3/2017

Raritonga is still our new favorite island, but we have places to go.  We enjoyed their “Constitution Day” celebration.   Kinda like 4th of July without the Chinese fireworks.  This day they celebrate by dancing and singing or attending performances of same.  The women dancers wear the traditional grass skirt and gyrate at an improbably rapid pace.  The men also have grass skirts and perform an unusual move consisting primarily of having mildly bent knees and moving their knees close together then wide apart once again at an improbably rapid pace.  All this in formation of perhaps 30 dancers. Ukeleles guitars and Drums!  Oh My!  Very impressive.  Each dance is intended to describe some significant historical myth.  The audience clearly knew them all and knew what was next.  Lots of crowd participation.

We tanked up on water and fuel and food.  We ready.  But the weather is not.  After studying forecasts we decide to delay our departure by 4 days.  Just for fun some whales decided to cavort right outside the harbor.  Breaching and blowing.  I think it’s humpback season.

Rarotonga is a lovely place but not blessed with a lagoon of consequence.  In this context a lagoon is the space between the island and the reef. Bora Bora for example has a lagoon about a half mile wide in places. And deep too.  Rarotonga has a narrow lagoon that is never deep.  So navigable by canoe only.  This means less boats like Spill the Wine visit and no fuel dock.  This island did not come with a harbor.  Their harbor was carved out of the island at some point in the past.  Not too big. 200 foot freighters visited while we were there.  We had to move our boat aside to make room for the tug to spin the big ship in the basin.  Pretty exciting and damn close to us.

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.

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.