I appear to have had a complete lack of discipline and motivation when it comes to keeping my blog posts up-to-date over the past few months, for this I apologise. Upon arriving in Tahiti back in May I spent most of my time totally overcome by
Well, this is what the guys at Alu-Inox in Raiatea have come up with. Unfortunately they couldn’t fabricate a brand new piece but I think it’s not a bad effort.
With luck this will get us to somewhere that we can more easily do a proper fix. In the meantime I’ll back it up with a piece of fancy rope (dyneema) so that if it breaks again we hopefully won’t lose the whole mast. I’ll also slather it in grease so that it doesn’t corrode in the no-time-at-all in which thing seem to turn into piles of mush in this environment. It would be decidedly inconvenient if the mast came crashing down in the middle of the South Pacific. Or………. anywhere for that matter!
I really should have been true to my tallship roots and tarred the whole rig. Ah well. Wish us luck for the next leg. We have our port clearance papers in order and the weather forecast is for stable trade winds following a trough later this week. We will see…………….. I’m not a fan of that crack that you can see in the picture across the top of the ‘U’.
Update, July 1st: Sta-lock USA are apparently ‘horrified’ by this failure. Apparently it’s the first occurrence of such a thing. They have apologised profusely and are shipping a new fitting to Rarotonga ahead of us at our request (we didn’t want it sent here because getting stuff imported into French Polynesia is very expensive and bureaucratic). Their response has encouraged me considerably regarding the strength and reliability of the rest of the rig.
The gods are becoming more and more inventive in their bid to prevent us from leaving French Polynesia. I hope there isn’t some underlying omen behind all this. We are making progress to the West, but slowly. The winds over the past month or so have been terrible for making any sort of long-distance crossing. Periods of good winds for three days at the most have been forecast but these have been invariably followed by long periods of calm, or strong winds from the South – a phenomenon known locally as a Maramu which occurs normally at this time of year. So, we have been island hopping during the good periods and have made it as far as the island of Raiatea, which is almost as far West as it is possible to go in French Polynesia before one must make the 4-5 day hop (in good winds) to the Cook Islands. Finally, last week, the forecast looked great for a run to Rarotonga, but there was something I wanted to check first. During the sail from Huahine to Raiatea (just 22 miles) I heard an unusual ‘pop!’ from somewhere in the rigging, so I went aloft yesterday to double check all the fixtures and fittings and quickly discovered the source of the sound. This toggle fitting has failed in a very worrying way.
Like the rest of the rigging it is only 2 1/2 years old, so there really is no excuse for this. I’ve spent the best part of the last 24 hours mulling it over in my mind and can come to no other conclusion than it being a manufacturing defect – the result of poor quality materials and/or poor manufacturing processes. But if this one has failed, what about the rest of the rig? The wire at the base of the terminals is showing disturbing signs of rust despite being rinsed down with fresh water after every dousing with salt. It’s supposed to be top-quality 316-grade stainless steel. We’re not the only ones with these problems either – our friends Mark (s/v Pilas) and Mario (s/v Ann Cailleach (or something like that!)) have both found that their new rigging, only a few years old, looks to be in a similar condition to the old rigging that they removed and replaced, and which had been in service for more than a decade. Mark has even kept his old rigging and it is clear to see that the quality of the steel that his old rigging was made from is superior to what he has now. And he didn’t skimp on price when he purchased his new rigging.
Not only are we going to miss out on our weather window, but fixing our problem might not be an easy one. Our fitting is imperial, not metric, so it’s unlikely that one will be found in Tahiti, never mind here in Raiatea. We could order one in, but to get it here in any kind of decent time we’d have to FedEX it, and French customs charge a percentage of the freight cost as well as the value of the item. A $100 item such as this, plus a $200 FedEX charge from the States ends up costing $400 after customs duties are paid. To make matters worse, this fitting (a sta-lock terminal fitting for 3/8″ wire and a 5/8″ pin, which should be overkill for our boat) is not as simple as it appears. The whole thing from the toggle to the wire terminal is a single unit, with the threads welded in place at the factory so that it cannot be disassembled. Well, we’ll see about that. I’ll be taking it in to a local machine shop first thing on Monday morning. With luck the guys here can come up with something that will be strong enough to get us to somewhere with better access to a replacement fitting. We’ve got a couple of ideas that we think should get us there. Fortunately, the next leg should see us on a port tack the whole way. If we can’t get something sent to Rarotonga maybe I’ll switch the shrouds from side to side for the next leg to Palmerston, back again to Beveridge, back again to Niue and we might just be able to make it all the way to Tonga without ever putting too much pressure on the ‘bad’ side 🙂
It’s not all bad though. We had the most amazing experience as we were hitch-hiking into town yesterday to try to find somewhere with internet so that we could email some friends in Tahiti and ask them to try to source this part for us. We were picked up by a young local couple, Marjorie and Loik. First, they insisted on stopping at a shop and buying us a beer. They then drove us into town, but, on discovering that everywhere including the cafes was closed due to it being a Saturday, they took us on to their house on the other side of the island where we met their family and were able to send our emails. It turned out that the lady of the house had served us pizza the previous night at a fast-food takeaway at an event ground, and although she spoke no English we managed to have a good laugh over this serendipity. The next thing we knew we were having dinner, more beer and were driven back to Bob feeling very, very welcome indeed. I sincerely hope we can get Marjorie and Loik out to Bob at some point before we leave, in order to reciprocate their generosity in some small way. Maybe we’ll have ample time to do so. Fortunately it is possible to FedEX stuff to Raiatea……………. but it still takes 2 weeks.
We had intended to spend two or three weeks here in Tahiti before moving along to take the fullest possible advantage of the relatively little time available to visit a portion of the multitude of islands between French Polynesia and New Zealand. It’s now been 5 weeks and, apart from a two-day jaunt over to the island of Moorea (which is only 15 miles away) we haven’t budged. I could blame the weather, which hasn’t been particularly great for ocean passages on account of light winds, but the truth is we’ve been griping about the weather to one another and commiserating our lot while silently pretty pleased with how things have been. We’ve both managed to get a fair bit of work done on Bob. I’ve installed a new set of solar panels after the last set (which were admittedly quite cheap) started to really fall apart after just two years. I’d been performing ongoing surgery on them for the last several months in order to keep them operational but since solar panels are duty-free here we decided to bite the bullet and get some new ones. Now we even have our freezer on again 😀. I’ve also installed a couple of winches that we’ve been carrying around for the last year and a half and done a lot of little preventative maintenance jobs that have needed doing for a while. Sarah meanwhile has been vastly improving the interiour by varnishing woodwork. She finished the head compartment while we were in the Tuamotus and has since also finished the companionway stairs and the cover for the engine compartment. She has embarked upon a major project and the results so far are beautiful.
By far the most worthwhile time we have spent here however has been with friends and family. The highlight of our time in Tahiti was a visit by my mother at the beginning of May. She stayed with us for 9 days and seemed to be wholeheartedly committed to spoiling us rotten. Not only did she pack her suitcase full of useful stuff that we’d asked her to bring, but she insisted on buying all the fancy foods that we would otherwise only have stared at and drooled over, and even treated us to two luxurious nights in a beautiful hotel. The pleasures of unlimited hot water, I suspect, can only be fully appreciated by those who have for some extended period been denied them. And the air conditioning. Oh, the air conditioning! The climate control in our room was set to minimum and I took great pleasure in lying on the big comfy bed and being cold for the first time in at least 6 months. It was, needless to say, wonderful to have the pleasure of mum’s company, and not just because of the spoiling.
Tahiti, being by far the largest and most developed island in French Polynesia, serves as a staging ground for yachts of all shapes and sizes in their voyages across the Pacific. When we first arrived we spotted s/v Mary Anne II with our friends John and Julia on board. We had met them in the Galápagos Islands nearly a year ago and it was great to catch up. Over the following weeks we were joined by our friends Mario and Kelly (s/v something in Gaelic that sounds like Ann Kayak, met in Nuku Hiva), Rafael and Elena (s/v Anna Isabel, met in Hiva Oa), Josh (s/v Maistral, met in Fakarava), Olivia, David, Cali and Gaya (s/v El Nido, met in the Gambier Islands), Daniel (s/v Galatea, met in Ua Pou) and Asma, Herbert and their two boys (s/v Maya, met over the radio in Pitcairn and then met properly in the Gambier Islands) who just arrived yesterday. We’ve also very much enjoyed spending time with our new friends Pauline and Simon who live here but whom we met initially in Ua Pou. They live aboard their yacht ‘Mana ‘O Te Moana Nui’ (try saying that three times over the radio!). It never ceases to amaze me that we are all sailing these silly little boats thousands of miles across oceans, through some of the most remote areas of the planet and yet somehow we all end up sitting in the same bar eating pizza and drinking beer together. It really is a small world, and the cruising community is even smaller.
Alas, all things must come to an end. Some of our friends we will leave here because they have decided to sell their boats, or stay and find work for a year or two. Others will sail ahead of us to Papa New Guinea and Indonesia this year, leaving us in their wake. A few will follow along the same general route as us, and those I fully expect to share more beer and pizza with in ports to come. It looks like next Wednesday might just provide us with the wind we need to set sail. Do we sail directly to the Cook Islands or make a short stop off in Huahine? Our friends Mark (s/v Pilas, met in Colon) and Anja and Tomas (s/v Robusta, met in Hiva Oa) are around that area, and it really would be a shame to leave without seeing them………….
After leaving Tahanea, we made our way to Fakarava about 40 miles to the north-west. Fakarava is different from all the atolls we’ve visited in the Tuamotus so far. We entered through the south pass and arrived to an area completely set up for tourists. There are no shops, only a few B&Bs, restaurants and dives shops. Although the area had a bit of a ‘holiday resort’ feel to it, I absolutely loved it here. The people are really used to tourists so of course are incredibly friendly, welcoming and helpful – and SPOKE ENGLISH! Despite this, all the buildings still had a local Polynesian feel about them. They were built in such a way to make the most of the surroundings and were absolutely immaculate. This atoll is a marine reserve where fishing is restricted, so the coral reefs and associated species were out of this world. The south pass (being narrow, long and deep) is home to an abundance of different fish species which you would struggle to see in such abundance anywhere else. It reminded me a little of visiting Disneyland as a child, everything is amazing and perfectly placed for the enjoyment of their guests. Even the sharks would come right up to your boat when anchoring, like they too were welcoming us to the area.
Fakarava is famous for scuba diving, in particular for its ‘wall of sharks’ dive along the south pass. It seemed to me that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so we decided to fork out some dosh and do a dive with the local company run by the Tetamanu Pension. I would recommend this company to anyone – it’s a combined dive shop, B&B and restaurant run by a wonderful couple who made us feel incredibly welcome. So for my 8th scuba dive ever I decided to do the infamous ‘wall of sharks’, despite my initial trepidation. The dive boat dropped us off at one end of the pass and we were able to let the current take us effortlessly back towards the dive shop. The pass is blanketed with a multitude of colourful branching and boulder corals, providing shelter to a wealth of fish species. Hundreds of bigeyes, snappers, groupers and tuna lined the pass. All swimming effortlessly upstream, appearing suspended and motionless in the water just waiting for the current to languidly push an unsuspecting prey victim into their mouths. Swimming in the same manner was literally hundreds of sharks, which of course was the true spectacle of the dive and gives a real meaning to the name ‘wall of sharks’. Most were grey sharks and whitetip reef sharks, but we knew that other species of shark weren’t far away. The dive shop offer other packages which take you further into the deep blue and allow you to see dolphins and large oceanic sharks such as Silvertips! I think I’ll save that one for a future date however. Even the terrace of the dive shop restaurant stretches out into the water where tonnes of blacktip reef sharks circle waiting for scraps of food to be discarded by the restaurant customers. If you’re feeling daring, you can even go for a snorkel with them if you’re the thrill-seeking type.
We briefly visited some of the other areas of Fakarava, including a 5 year old ‘yacht facility’ located half way up the east side of the atoll. The area is owned by a young couple who operate a small B&B and various yacht services such as wifi, mooring buoys, good meals, beers and a skilled helping hand to any boat problem. The main village in the north is home to some 2000 inhabitants. Despite the large population (well, large in comparison to other atoll in the Tuamotus), shops are still expensive and understocked unless the supply ship has just landed.
We left Fakarava about a week ago and we’re now currently in Tahiti waiting for Alex’s mum to arrive for her visit in a few days time – the days can’t go by fast enough. We’ve been here for just over a day and already we’ve enjoyed a McDonalds and been shopping at the Carrefour – the best selection of food I’ve seen in well over a year! Tahiti might not be as picturesque as our previous destinations, but I’m certainly enjoying the development and access to amenities. I’ve been craving people, shops, bars, restaurants and general development for quite some time now. Although I wouldn’t admit it to other cruisers, Tahiti has always been at the top of my ‘must visit’ list and I feel more at home right now than I have in a long, long time.