Friday, June 29, 2012

Getting Back

Hydrovane mounting twsited off
Hydrovane twisted sideways and back, stabilised with ropes
Evening on a calm sea
The amazing Ocean and the Sky
Looked at as a day on the water, yesterday was quite fantastic, and I enjoyed it. The weather was perfect, the sea was benign, the wind stayed in the right quarter and strengthened just enough to get Sapphire sailing as well as she can – about 6.5 knots most of the afternoon in 14 to 16 knot winds - and we made it safely back to port.. 60 miles in 12 hours is about as good as Ive ever done on Sapphire, though I was obsessive about my left hand driving the whole day as I wanted to arrive and negotiate the passage through the reef before sunset, a challenge that had appeared out of reach early in the day.

Approaching Raiatea
In fact we reached the waypoint on my handheld GPS with half an hour to spare – but the waypoint was set a mile or two offshore, so by the time I got to the Pass the sun had set. Inexplicably, at that crucial moment – well probably because I was fumbling about in the half dark – the backlighting on the Handheld went off and I couldn’t read the screen except by turning on the cockpit light and holding the GPS on an angle so I could see it at least dimly, but other than that there were no dramas as I followed the leading lights through and then motored very cautiously up the channel to once again tie up at Marina Apooiti, at about 7pm. Hopping ashore to tie off the ground started rolling all over the place. I thought I would be elated but instead felt deflated more than anything else, to think I had spent 10 hard days alone at sea, successfully dealt with what had seemed to me at the time a serious problem but after 1000 miles here I was back at Square One.. I was too tired to eat. so I drank some water and went to sleep on the cabin sole, and I slept well!

Today, after my coffee and Nurofen Plus tablets, I shall tidy up the boat and head in to town to declare my return to Customs and get money from the bank. Tomorrow the Broker is coming back..

Maupiti to Port

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Problem with Wind

For most of yesterday there wasnt a cloud in the sky. other than a rim of white so close to the horizon it was barely visible, Rge sea state was good for sailing but the wind remained light though stll from a favourable direction.. Inevitably the self steering was patchy and we ended up hove to a number of times before I realized I needed to do the steering myself. Which I did. All day. And kept the boat speed around 4 to 5 knots till early evening when the wind speed increased just enough for the boat to stay balanced and steer herself once again, It was 6,30 and I decided t go and sleep straight away having had little the night before but after a while lying down resting my right shoulder began to ache and burn and really hurt. Before long I could barely lift my arm to take my glasses off so I swallowed some Nurofen plus tablets and tried again to sleep.. Now the wind was dropping again so I went back to the cockpit dragging my useless right arm along, and recommenced steering with my left arm....In the end the Nurofen kicked in and so did the wind and I managed some broken sleep overnight with numerous interruptions to deal with the annoyingly changeable light winds. I thought numerous times it was dying a slow and agonizing death but that would be even worse than what its doing now as then there would be no option, apart from just sitting here, other than motoring and continuous left hand driving.

So theres about 60 miles left, which could see us back late today. In fact while writing this the sky has lightened and I have just seen the jagged outline of Isle Maupiti, 15 miles away off the post bow, and beyond that like a tiny finger-nail sticking over the horizon, the unmistakable silhouette of Bora Bora. The wind is picking up again so Sapphire is self steering but later I shall take over, hopefully to make lanfall possible in daylight, about 12 hours from now. But next a strong coffee and two tablets should help get me through the day. Of course instil the fat lady sings, the show isnt over.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Happy Monday

Yesterday went well. The wind stayed SSE or thereabouts and around 14 knots, occasionally more sometimes less and we sailed at around 6 knots most of the time on a low swell with not much chop, my first landmark being Motu One ( pronouned Motu "On-eh') a sometimes inhabited tiny atoll with no passages through the reef for anything other than dinghies or canoes. The atoll is also known as Bellingshausen. No Google here so cant tell you what thats about! The sky was mostly cloudless.

Ive been learning about the amazing ability of yachts to sail themselves, once youve worked out the correct balance of sail and helm. Such is the cunning of yacht design, once correctly balanced out one simply locks off the helm and sits back for the ride, much as one does with whichever self steering gear you may already have, such as the now non-functional Hydrovane precariously and unattractively still attached at a bizarre angle to the stern of Sapphire. I had heard and read about this self steering capacity of yachts before but somehow imagined it would require close monitoring and adjustment, that the vessel would gradually wander off track and need to be corrected quite frequently - in fact Sapphire would track along and require no assistance for many hours at a time, bringing herself back to course if there was a deviation. I did discover however that if the wind fluctuated too much, the balance that worked at one strength wouldnt be so good at another and then adjustment would need to be made but as long as the wind and sea state were reasonably constant adjustments werent needed. I also discovered nevertheless that a Helmsperson isn't entirely superfluous as when I took over the helm, for the pleasure of sailing, I noticed average speed improved and the time calculated by my handheld GPS to reach Raiatea improved by up to 12 hours.

So that was how I amused myself yesterday as we continued on a direct course to Raiatea, and I even managed to do a little reading. AT about 9pm Motu One was 15nm in front and I was tired, I wanted to sleep but knew I should stay awake till we had cleared the atoll, which on the present course we were going to miss by only 3 or 4 miles round midnight. In retrospect I probably should have watched and waited but I was worried about falling asleep - and there are many sad stories of solo yachties falling asleep and coming to grief - such as Jean Socrates who beached her yacht within a days sail of completing a circumnavigation - so decided to tack away and gain more space, which I did , and then tacked back again to continue on course. However, in the dark getting the sails rebalanced and the helm just so seemed to be impossible and I spent the rest of the night popping up and down trying to get it right and trying desperately to get some sleep.

So this morning I am tired, and I seem to have pulled a muscle in my shoulder but all is well and the wind and sea are as yesterday so I am hoping for another good days sailing. In the last 24 hours we have closed the gap by nearly 100 miles, and right now the GPS says theres 148 left. Two more days I suppose...Right now my position is 16 degrees 4 South, 154.03 West.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Evening Entry:
We motored from 7 till 1, then from 2 till 5, nine hours sitting at the wheel and watching the compass or a cloud and keeping Sapphire on track, trundling at not much better than walking speed across the heaving featurelss plain of the sea, as a cloudless sky burned my back, two birds flew by and a flying fish swooped away across the low swell.The sea is remarkable in the way its appearanc and motion can change so much and always be somehow fascinating, but still sitting there with the drone of the Kubota in my ears was a tedious and frustrating way to spend the time. Occasionally I would spy a riffle of water and the hint of a suggestion of a suspicion of a possibility of a potential return of wind would arouse my hopes and twice I stopped and watched, and once raised sail and ghosted a few meters before stopping with sails listlessly waving back and forth, the breeze vanished....

So at 5, as planned I switched off . I checked the tank - we had used 10 litres in 9 hours at 2000 RPM and covered 42 miles. We were now 300 miles from Raiatea - 100 miles in three days - but only 20 of those in the first. For tea I cooked pasta with salmon and added tomato and basil sauce. I even had some Parmesan! As it was cooking I noticed a breeze and decided to try again - we ghosted a few metres and kept going, almost noislessly in the evening sea light, 2 knots then 3 and I sat eating my dinner to the sweet sound of water gliding past the boat at almost 4 knots, the ocean still almost flat. Some moments are worth waiting for - this was one of them - a kind of harmony between sea and yacht and sky .

Looking ahead a line of cloud was approaching and rain was falling from one of them and steadily the wind settled in and picked up. By the time I had done the dishes and tidied the cockpit of water bottles and food scraps and clothes I had to reef the mainsail, the wind was 15 knots and we were doing over 6 knots! - next there was thunder and pouring rain and 22 knots. So much for he harmony of sea yacht and sky now it was every man for himself.

Morning Entry
SO the wind came in hard and strong from SSE, not at all what was predicted fot last evening or the next couple of days , but we were on the exact right heading for Raiatea so that at least was reassuring. However it was disconcerting as the next thing I fear will happen is a return to the typical tradewinds from the east again heading me and greatly slowing down the pace of our return. During the night it was rough and quite a bit of water over the boat - which I can truly say is much drier than it had been in similar weather last year so the leak sealing has made a diffference - but is easing again now and I will need to let out more sail once its light enough to see whats going on. The rain has stopped and theres much less cloud. Its nice not to have to steer. Position right now is 15 degrees 20 south, 155 degrees 44 west and 260 nm from Raiatea. We are battling on!

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Monday, June 25, 2012


As predicted the wind abated and yesterday the sea was much more benign, no white caps no rollers no agitation, and with wind 12 to 14 knots albeit still from ESE we sailed on. THere were squally showers passibng by nad I copped one, trapped in dense heavy rain and strong wind for a couple of hours. The sun didnt come out at all yesterday but the wind changed around a bit - at one point we wwere pointing right at Raitea, 90 degrees magnetic, an hour later we were still on 90 degrees but on thew opposite tack. AT 7 pm the wind abruptly died and I decdied as I wasnt too tired to motor till midnight which I did. This used 6 liters of precious fuel and at 2200 revs we made 4 knots, in total 45 miles closer! But I had to stop for sleep. The sea is a different place altogether now, barely a ripple just a low swell rolling us gently.

I then went to sleep and now its 6am and the sun will be up soon. The wind is still light and is expected to remain light today so I shall motor and hope it picks up.I figure I can motor about 60 hours in total on whats left in the tank and storage , maybe 200 miles if the conditions remained like this but thats not enough to get to Port so will need some wind eventually. In the meantime I think motoring in such calm sea will give the best bang for buck, but its excruciating waiting for decent wind.

So on we go...

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

So Slow

The lessening wind yesterday was a false dawn - it stayed high and rough all day long but instead of just waiting I set a tiny bit of headsail and we styarted moving forward at 2-3 knots and with the wheel locked in just the right spot I didnt need to steer. She just nosed along by herslf and I sat here wondering what to do next and waited for the break which never came. However Rain came and clouds and an occasional lull lasting 5 minutes which got my hopes up each time and then, its 22 knots again. I tried a little more sail but we started slamming into waves and getting water all over the boat and the sail would flap wildly if we were turned into the wind so I eased back and just waited. I dont want to bust anything else. Hare and Tortoise and all that ...I emailed Bob for a weather update and he is sure the break is coming and the winds are going to go North then west and south over the next few days. This if it happens will give me the chance to head straight back to Raiatea, perhaps by Friday NZ/AUst time.

So we have sailed 56 miles since yesterday but only about 20 closer to Raiatea! I will have breakfast now then, if the wind settles as hoped/predicted will put out a little more sail and move a little faster as the waves do seem less right now. The tricky part will be balancing the boat to minimize he need for me to sit there 24/7 steering,

Exact position now at 1700 UTC is 14degrees 44 S 157degrees 52 west

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Todays Plan

Sailed into 20 knots gusting 24 with 3-4m swell, some waves breaking over boat for 5 hours yetsreday from 2 to 7pm and made 10miles. I was wet and cold by then and hungry. The weather predicton is that the 20 ESE knot winds are going to settle today then become light NE then go North and west during next week. If this happens as predicted that would help me get to Raiatea which is not what is happening at the moment. I decided on that basis last night not to keep bashing on and hammering the boat and myself but to heave to for the night and wait for the changes, conserve my energy and then once more favourable conditions arrive, hopefully beginning today I shall recommence the slog back to French Polynesia. So we drifted over night and I tried to sleep and now we are almost back where we started from yesterday but further north. Exact Position is 15 degrees 32 minutes south 158 degrees 19 west. Comditions are slightly better than yesterday with gusts being 20 now instead of 24 and averages around 18 with a slightly less active sea state but still the occasional wave breaking nearby and splash up onto the boat.

Thanks to all for mesages of support and advice. It might be a week before I get back to Raiatea so will be a long one for everyone I guess.

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Friday, June 22, 2012


We've had a major gear failure . The Hydrovane has torn itself almost completely off the back of the boat and theres no way I can fix it. This time instead of the bolts coming loose - which I had been checking for - they seem to have snapped. The mechanism has twisted round on its side at the back of the boat, Ive removed the rudder and the vane after heaving to and established theres no other damage. However it means I am going to have to steer myself from now on but the question is where to? Suwarrow and Niue are out, Tonga is 900 miles away and Raioatea 400 so I have decided to head for there and when I get close enough I shall use the motor. Its directly upwind of course so progress will be slow and probably wet. Theres about 100 litres of fuel so about 70 hours of motoring but into the wind maybe only 100 miles worth. The weather right now is fine and the wind about 20 knots but supposed to be easing in the next day or so. I shall email Bob and see what the prospects are. Quite a big southerly swell as well. If the weather settles that will be a big help.

So I have a rather challenging few days ahead, I will have to heave to for rest I expect.
I willl have very limited time for email etc so will just post a quick note to the Blog from time to time. I am not hurt or in any real danger and the boat is intact except for the bolt holes which I shall plug.

Present position is 15degrees 42 minutes south 157degrees 20 west.

Emails are welcome

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Wednesday 438 to go

The forecast before I left Bora Bora was for today to present me with the strongest wind of the week and for it to begin easing tomorrow and be quite light on the weekend. In fact the winds have already started to ease and so I have had all sail out since after breakfast. And that is about all I have had to do in the last 24 hours.

Overnight I slept a lot better, many short naps really and vivid dreams, and whenever I woke I made a quick check of instruments and the horizon. On one occasion I noted the red Port light and other lights of a small ship heading east - it showed up on the AIS about 4 miles away doing 12 knots - nothing to worry about.

An experienced yachtie would probably regard today as a typical downwind tradewinds days sailing with wind consistently around 16 knots, a moderate swell and bounce in the sea but nothing threatening, a mostly cloudless sky and not much to do other than check the heading every so often. We are making 5.5 to 6 knots.

I've taken the trolling line in as I realized I didn't really need a fish, but I might put it back out closer to Suwarrow so if I do catch something I might be able to share it with anyone else who may be there, or even the caretaker if he is. My nausea has still not completely gone but I managed a short spell of reading earlier, and my appetite is returning but not ready for cooking.. I'm still waiting to feel good.

So no new problems or issues to report and we are now 438 nm from Suwarrow.
My exact position at noon here ( 10am in NZ, 8am in Sydney) was 16degrees 2 minutes South 156 degrees 05 minutes west.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Second Day

I am slowly getting better but even now as I write I am nauseous and my stomach is queasy. I barely slept last night because of worry and nausea and the heat and perspiration. Ive been nibbling at various foods today and having plenty of water.

At noon today, 25 hours after leaving Bora Bora we had travelled 127nm, the heading on the compass is exactly due West (270 degrees) and its 559 miles to Suwarrow. Everything seems to be working fine there are no new problems , no leaks or breakdowns and Sapphire is making good time as the winds are strong, but from behind, mostly around 20 knots with gusts to 28 on one occasion when we caught the edge of a squall passing astern, and we recorded speeds around 7 and 7.6 knots briefly, but I dont like sailing at that sort of speed, its not a race and I dont want to bust something. So now I have a second reef in the main and a reduced headsail poled out to port. I have never ever sailed using a pole before, never been shown how to use one or told what to do but the RYA Sail Trim Handbook has some quite good diagrams on what to do and this morning after getting fed up with the headsail flopping all round the place decided to try and set it up. Its working well and Ive been fiddling round all day trying to work out the best combinations of sail. Still havent worked it out but there was too much sail out all together, the boat was going hard and almost broaching on occasion, and the occasional accidental gybe which is arrested by the preventer but it was all too much. Now with less sail things are more calm but theres lots of movement from side to side as the swells are almost from the south. WE are making 5.5 knots, with gusts 6.5.

I saw a small trawler early this morning but no other asigns of human life. I caught a beautiful big yellow fin tuna on the line Ive been trailling across the Pacific since last year - my first catch - and fortunately it got off as I was admiring it right up by the boat and wondering what on earth would I do with it - it was about a metre long so could have fed a small crowd and would have been wasted if I had bought it on board. But it was a thrill to catch and work really hard to pull it in.

Motu One is a small atoll a few miles ahead of me right now but once Ive passed that, theres only open ocean between me and Suwarrow.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012


`SHort Note this time as I am still adjusting to life at sea - ie I feel a bit sick. And nervous as we bump and twist our way west in strong wind and sea coming at me from off the port quarter.And now a small shower of rain has just arrived. The wind is up to 24 knots amd the main is reefed amd the headsail also reefed. And making about 6 knotsd at p;reent which is fast enpough. Sory for typos but everything is moving..

Sailed out from Bora Bora at 11am and its now 6.30pm. Sailed past Maupiti at 4 which is 27 miles from Bora Bora. It looked so invitig but the pass into that lagoon is descriibed as Treacherous. SO I kust kept going.

THe first couple of days are always tough I have noticed. this is no different. I am hoping the wind will settle a little as the evening wears om then it might be easier to have a sleep. Ive eaten bread cheese bananas and lollies, no real appetite.

Not capable of writing anymore or answering any emails.

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Sapphire is for Sail

Reef Shark
Well this will be my last Illustrated Post for a while as in a few hours I will be sailing for  Suwarrow Atoll, and  I expect it will take a week. I’ve fixed everything I can on the boat, the mould and smell have all gone, everything seems to be working well and the forecasts are good so I have finally run out of reasons not to go on with my original plan. Suwarrow atoll is famous because a Kiwi guy called Tom Neael lived there all alone for many years and wrote a classic account of his solitude there. I read the book about 30 years ago: its called “An Island to Oneself” Since Tom Neale left its remained uninhabited for most of the time but apparently  a care taker live there during the sailing season.

The snorkelling was fantastic, but on the Booked trip we didn’t see any Manta Rays, even though I had explicitly stated that that was what I wanted to see. Instead we did the non-manta ray trip and saw lots of the usual colorful tropical fish at one dive stop, and at another had a quite strange and wonderful encounter with 12 or 14 stingrays in 4 feet of water out on the sandy lagoon. The rays crowded round pushing themselves up against us expecting food as we snorkeled or simply stood there. Later, on the ocean side of the reef in impressively clear water we were once again surrounded by fish and as well by small sharks, and 25 feet below three much larger sharks patrolled ceaselessly with attendant fish swimming beside them. Our guide swam down and patted one as it pulled him along briefly, the shark seeming completely untroubled by his presence. The guides other skill was to play a Ukelele and sing as the dive boat raced back to the Shore.

The other two people on the trip were Michael and Susane the couple I had met on their Cat in Raiatea. They had sailed over the day after I did and were having a great time. They also wanted to see Manta Rays and so yesterday after doing some research on the Internet Michael worked out where he thought they would be and invited me to come with them on the Cat around to the other side of the island and see if we could find them. And we did – as you can see – well we found one, and it was one of those sublime experiences that takes your breath away, makes time stand still, leaves you in awe of how wonderful nature can be. There was an aura of serenity and grace about the Ray as it slowly swept back and forth and round the edge of the reef before finally and gradually disappearing back into the depths.. Back on the Cat Michael cooked up a beautiful fresh tuna pasta, and later we had drinks ashore to finish off what had been a really fabulous day in Bora Bora.: Michael and Susanne: Thank you again for a wonderful day!

Bora Bora really is a beautiful place and though out on some of the Motus there are grotesque strings of luxury Hotel rooms most of which seem empty, there is much that seems unspoiled and almost rural and traditional about the way of life here. I would like to be able to stay longer – well theres nothing stopping me really but having decided after much deliberation and soul searching that I am going to Sail, I feel I need to get on with it. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Found: One Mojo, slightly used

Breakfast in Baie de Povai, Bora Bora
Well the water on the cabin sole turned out to be fresh, and on further investigation turned out to be leaking out of  the  number one tank into the adjacent aft number two tank which is  not in use because it leaks! In fact the second tank contained 36 litres of water  in bottles which were now sitting in a couple of inches of fresh water. After taking out the bottles and the free water I noticed a pipe from the first tank running along the bottom of the second tank that then entered a  roughly glassed in sort of junction. It certainly looked dodgy and I guessed that was where the leak was. It must surely have been where the water from Tank two had been leaking years ago so I decided I would try and find some sort of hosepipe  and bypass the mess of pipes and that horrible thick old fiberglass junction box. Later in town I  was pleased to find a hardware store that sold clear tubing and I got a metre of it and some hoseclips and  after a very late lunch of raw fish, nice chips and Beer dinghied back to the boat.

The boat by the way was now at the head of Baie de Povai, further south than Vaitape village where I had initially stopped. I moved from there  because I was never happy there – it was too deep for me and all the chain was out,  it was noisy  and there were too many dinghies and launches and other small vessels racing noisily by and creating annoying wakes, and also I was too close to a nice big well equipped american sloop called Reality. It must have been at the extreme in one direction of its swinging about on anchor when I arrived in the gloom, but now was so close I could here his motor running to charge the batteries and keep the watermaker working – as I heard the old guy on board tell his wife who I could see looking at me resentfully – or am I paranoid?- and I could here him chatting loudly on Skype to his mates in the USA and the Carribbean! I felt like an intruder.

Now I don’t have an electric windlass or even a manual one so I have to haul up all that chain and the anchor by hand, and as I mentioned previously they are both a lot heavier than they were last year, so it’s such an effort to do so that I only ever shift reluctantly.  In fact I wondered if that sort of strain might give me a heart attack one day – so far no ill effects and I think its getting easier! But it leaves me pretty wacked for a few minutes!  Anchoring over here is therefore quite tricky for me because I like to anchor in up to about 10 or 12 metres of water, but the bottom here is often more than twice that right up to edge of the reef , without  a gradually shelving bottom that eventually emerges onto a beach as in New Zealand.  So I have to hunt round the bays for a rare spot where its not so deep, and so where I am now, its 14 metres and the holding is good, so I am not going to shift from here for now. It takes about 15 minutes in the dinghy to get from here to Vaitape which is the main town.
Practicing for Races next week
Back on the boat during the night it occurred to me that I needed to make sure the leak wasn’t coming from somewhere else so this morning dried the number two tank completely again and then watched to see where the water would appear from. The leak is very slow but eventually I established it was emerging from under the paint! It must be tracking along from further forward perhaps at the place where the pipe passes from number one to number two – in any case my hose was not going to help! The only way to fix the tank would be a major refit of the whole system, and I am not about to do that. Instead, after wondering how I could sail without a water tank, I decided to just get more bottled water. The leak amounts to a couple of litres per day – and I am not sure if this leak is new or not but the tank was still half full when I got back to the boat last month, so maybe the tank only leaks when its filled right up, and if so, the leak might disappear once the level gets lower. We shall see!

As for the two splits in the sail – Ive stitiched them up and reinforced the repairs with stick-on repair sail cloth on both sides. Again, we shall see.

Tomorrow I am booked to go on a snorkel trip that advertises sharks and manta rays, and the day after I am probably going to be preparing to set sail for Suwarrow Atoll, about 700nm away. The mojo that I found is a used one and slightly the worse  for wear but still functional I think. Again we shall soon see!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sailing at last

Yesterday the wind was forecast to gradually increase from 4 or 5 knots to about 12 by the evening but at it was already 8 in the Marina and a nearby sloop hoisted sail and disappeared out into the Lagoon.  The change had come early I thought, so decided to follow suit and head for Bora Bora. It was a beautiful hot day and I quickly paid my fees and handed back the key to the showers and toilets, bought some bread and topped up the water and around 11 cast off. Once in the lagoon I raised sail and was soon gliding south past the Sunset Beach Motel and  Raiatea Carenage and then turning west through Pass Rautoanui back into the South Pacific. It was 20 nm to the nearest part of Bora Bora, Pt Te Turi Roa, a marker and light on the  south western edge of the reef, but the pass through the reef was another 3nm up the western side. The wind was 10 to 14 knots on occasion and we were making 5 knots, peaked at 5.5 and the Hydrovane kept us on track.
The Marker at Pte te Turi Roa.

At first I felt nervous. Everything seemed so unfamiliar to me, this being the first sailing I had done for 10 months. After three hours we were half way there and then the Hydrovane started misbehaving. I eventually realized the real problem was the wind which contrary to predictions was  starting to fade, and our speed was dropping. By 3pm we were barely making 2 knots, and much as I hate to motor, I hated even more the prospect of arriving in the dark, so we motorsailed the rest of the way at 5.6 knots and dropped sail inside Pass Teavanui at the very same moment as the sun set.
Theres that Boat again, now also in Bora Bora
I headed for the place where  a number of other yachts were anchored, off the main Village of Vaitape and dropped anchor. While checking to see the anchor would hold  I had a meal of bread and cheese and some yoghurt, and fruit juice that had been chilled in the freezer while the motor was running. I had a couple of problems to think about – a tiny split in the main sail close to the foot, about 5cm long, and a cupful of unexplained water on the cabin sole, so I lay on the cushioned cockpit seat and looked at the incredible night sky and wondered what I should do.  It still wasn’t clear to me.

However I do want to go snorkeling with those manta rays.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Apooiti Marina

Uturoa, the Main Centre on Raiatea
Apparently one of the questions most frequently asked of astronauts – when there were such people - was about how they go to the toilet – and actually that might be in relation to the interests of school children. In any case, probably because I am not an astronaut  I haven’t been asked that question so far but I am going to give you the answers anyway, because it helps to explain why I have ended up in the Marina..

Sapphire does not have a “Holding Tank” so the toilet empties directly into the sea, which is fine when youre at sea but not when you’re anchored in a tiny Bay where people swim and fish. So one relies on Public Conveniences, and as when Backpacking in foreign countries, becomes adept at spotting such places. In this Bay however the only possibilities are to have a meal at the marina restaurant, and use their Facilities, or else check the boat into the Marina. I asked if I could just pay for a key to the Toilets and Showers but this was not an option, so after 4 days on anchor I moved in to the Apooiti Marina for about $25 a night with water, power and showers and toilets. The downside  is loss of privacy and solitude out in the Bay, concerns about security, and 24 hour lighting illuminating the boat. I connected to shore power to fully charge the Batteries but the Solar Panel is working so efficiently it was hardly needed so I’ve disconnected it after checking all the AC outlets on the Boat are all in working order. I’ve also hauled out the dinghy for a better clean up and dry out before putting it away, squirted a bit more Sika around the place, done some washing and yes had a few showers which in this heat have been very refreshing.

The winch was fixed – don’t ask me what was wrong – and yesterday I motored an hour to Uturoa, the main town on Raiatea, had a nice breakfast then bought supplies, petrol for the outboard and topped up the diesel – 22litres used since leaving Marina Taina in Tahiti last year. I met a lovely young German couple on the dock at Uturoa – they have chartered a big Cat for three weeks – and are trying to decide if they could sail together and not wreck their relationship! I told them about a similar Cat that exited Apooiti Marina the other day and was motored straight onto the reef about 50 yards from me, with resulting marital stress in the form of shouting, wild arm waving and gesticulations and bellowed expletives filling the Bay – the French are so Passionate! On Sapphire of course the Crew always do exactly what I want and I never have to shout.
Sapphire and a Cat

Today I would have sailed to Bora Bora except for one thing – theres no wind, and tomorrow its likely to be the same, so I have been doing more cleaning and tidying – I took the canvas Dodger off, washed its window and polished the stainless frame and all thje other stainless on the boat. Tomorrow I will find other such chores to occupy myself but essentially, Ive checked everything and its all OK. I said I would make my final decision once Ive sailed to Bora Bora, and so I shall but I think I will be sailing.
Flashback June 10th 2011
Which reminds me – 0ne year ago today, June 10th I dropped anchor in Baie d’Avera, Rurutu, 24 days after leaving New Zealand.. I’ll never forget the exhaustion but more especially the tremendous relief at making it.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Testing the System

If I sail, and the computer works, and the Radio works and I can get reception, and the Pactor Modem works then I can send messages to the Blog like this one. I cannot see the Blog or read whats already there, or any Comments, and I cannot send pictures or receive Pictures by this Method which works by Radio not by the Internet or by Satellite or anything else. I can receive email that is text ONLY - no photos, no limks, no attachments - just Text and the address is (this is the corrected, and now correct address - thanks to Webb Chiles who discovered my Typo!)
This message is a Test of the System

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dear Diary

The Church at the head of the Bay where I'm anchored
On Saturday morning I got a lift with the Motel guy to Uturoa to do some  shopping. I bought Bananas at the market but there were no tomatoes and when I asked why there no eggs, even in the Supermarket, I was told that some months ago because of some sort of disease, all the commercial hens in Tahiti were slaughtered and it would be a few months before egss would be available again. In the end I didn’t buy much at all but had a very useful hour finding out what foods were available that I could stock up on if I head west. There certainly wasn’t the range of tinned meals like Irish Stew, Braised Steak and Onions, and Lamb Curry that I could get back home.

Back at the boat, still tied to the end of the boat launching bay and still floating, it took me about three hours to get the motor all sorted and checked. The biggest issue was the gear change and throttle cable which wouldn’t budge in any direction – I feared rust must have fused the wires together, and if so I would need a new one from Papeete but with CRC and fiddling around with it for  about an hour, it freed up and worked perfectly again. Next, to my great relief, the motor started without difficulty. A large cloud of rust stained water emerged from the exhaust and drifted off behind the boat, and I saw that the generator was working and so was the Eutetic fridge.

Since then, Ive completed the browning of the toe rail and made intermittent forays into the interior of the boat to sort through stuff – some of which I threw out – and to clean and tidy up but it’s a slow process.

On Monday I paid my Bill at Raiatea Carenage and it came to a lot less than what I had budgeted for, mainly because we didn’t end up doing what I budgeted for so I am in front there. I also checked out of the Sunset Beach Motel rather reluctantly and checked into Sapphire Hotel at the Carenage. I filled up my water tank and then cast off, motoring a mile or so back past the motel and into a small bay where there is a marina, but I anchored off it, in about 18 metres, equidistant between a small red yacht called Le Sylphe, about 20 feet long, and an empty mooring. Shortly after it started to pour with rain, a first test of my water-proofing which I am sad to say wasn’t quite as effective as I had hoped, but I have identified a couple more places that will get the Sika Treatment once everythings all dry again.
Leak testing Downpour
The following morning I finally got to “bend” on the sails, and with silicone spray on the sliders and headsail track both sails went on in no time. Then I discovered that the starboard main winch wasn’t working properly – it would only wind in one direction – and yet it had been working perfectly when I last used it. I pulled it apart and got covered in grease – another yachties ritual that Ive been denied the privilege of experiencing till now – but couldn’t find anything wrong with it. All the gears and the little spring loaded parts seemed fine but I could not make it work – I cleaned and scraped away bits of rust and assembled and disassembled and reassembled again and again trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with it – I even disassembled the working one to see if there was an obvious difference but I couldn’t spot one. Finally after 4 hours I decided I would take it back to the Carenage and ask the guys there to have a look at it.. This meant going ashore so I had to unpack the inflatable dinghy, pump it up and check out the Outboard. Well there was discolouring mould on parts of the Dinghy which cleaned up OK, and to my surpise, after some minor tidying and spraying with CRC – the” Workshop in a Can” the Mercury outboard sprang into life almost immediately. I discovered in the process that it has a gear lever!

So I sped back to the Carenage, dropped off the winch and sped back but ran out of petrol! Luckily I had attached the oars to the dinghy and I was almost back when the motor stopped! But I am certainly getting plenty of work outs here, what with cycling, rowing, walking and lifting heavy weights like the rolled up dinghy and the anchor which has put on a lot of weight while Ive been away! . Last year I pulled in the anchor arm over arm but tonight I had to use two arms at a time to pull it up when  the vacant mooring beside me was taken up by an antiseptic white Catamaran from the Charter Company in the Marina. The massive thing dirifts round in all directions and I could have stepped on board at one moment – so I decided to shift.

Earlier in the day I had walked 6km in baking heat to town where I bought a switch to replace the one for the light above the nav Station, and I bought some shorts and a couple of cheap shirts, as well as some veges and fruit and milk. I hitched back to the boat and caught a ride with a midwife from the local hospital! I pointed out Sapphire and said if they get stuck with any difficult obststrics that’s where I’ll be! Now there is something I CAN do!
Evening sail in Raiatea-Tahaa Lagoon, Bora Bora in the background
When the winch is fixed I’ll motor round to the main wharf at Uturoa to get fuel and supplies from the Supermarkets nearby, then head for Bora Bora. I hope that will be in the next few days. Apparently you can go snorkeling with Manta Rays over there!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The New Black

On the Move again
The Electrician promised to come on Thursday morning but didn’t!  I waited till after lunch before getting cranky with the lovely woman in the Office, who then rang him but it went to message bank. There would be no point in putting the boat back in the water if I couldn’t get the motor started, but I decided to continue preparation for launch on Friday afternoon, which basically meant getting the toe rail sealed and painted and hope he would turn up eventually.

Hiro, the young Tahitian guy from the Carenage had already ground back the corroded parts, filled the holes underneath and disguised them once again with a new kind of bog, which , now smoothed and painted over once again leaves the toe rail looking complete. I  erected scaffolding to get access to the outside of the rail and with some expensive new marine grade “Sikaflex” sealed it on both sides. I asked Hiro to get me some black paint and he returned with a litre decanted into a plastic bottle, along with Hardner, which I had never used before, but he explained what to do, and in the morning, I returned before 8 to get it done. It was overcast so ideal for working outside and I managed to paint the outside without my usual catastrophe of spilling the paint or having it run down the side of the hull, or fall off the scaffolding. Just as I was finishing the sun came out and standing back to admire my handiwork I realized with a shock the paint was Brown! Admittedly a very dark brown but brown, not black.

Quelle horreur!  I got getting cranky again with the woman in the office who had ordered it, and she showed me the colour card it had been ordered from and indeed in her gloomy office it did look black – and so did lots of other dark shades of green and blue and one which must have been actual black. If only she had chosen the super dark blue that would have been ok, but brown? But what was the point of getting cranky – it was a subtle difference and in any case Sapphire is not exactly in pristine condition – in fact shes rather tired and scruffy looking ! So later today I am going to paint the inside of the toe rail brown, the new Black. The completed outside of the rail looks pretty good anyway!

So once I had my little tantrum  - it was midday Friday by now - I went back to the boat and who should be inside but Marc, the Marine Electrician and he had brought with him a new fuse board, the one I suspected was a source of trouble last year when I was at Rurutu. I had pointed it out to Marc when he first visited on Wednesday. He re-attached all the wires to the new one and “Voila”  it was working again.

Two hours later, Sapphire was back in the water!
A Much better Look

Friday, June 1, 2012

Crab Antics

Amazing Morning sky
There are coppery brown crabs over here, up to about 6cm across that live in holes they excavate in the soft sandy soil near the water. They busy themselves on the mud a few feet from the entrance but as you approach they scuttle across to it and wait, sliding smoothly in and disappearing if you get too close. There are scores of these burrows along the edges of the road I ride to the boatyard every day and I have been amusing myself by observing their behaviour, which can be quite funny when I approach at speed on the bike, as they  fling themselves into their holes in a mad panic. But they can only do this once they’ve warmed up in the morning, and in places still in shadow and cool early in the morning they barely react as I ride by.

Apart from that theres not much else that’s funny at the moment! But work continues on the boat which is drying out now that the heavy rain has passed and at long last the Electrician has finally turned up, and TODAY is supposed to be coming early to check all that stuff out. Meanwhile various suspect defects have been filled round stanchions and along the toe rail, and once again the Hydrovane mountings have been redone. I had assistance this time but it was still an incredibly tricky task to reach through the inspection port in the transom and tighten the bolts at the stern, a job that I did twice at sea with a wrench taped to the outside. I kept wondering how the hell I had managed it on my own – but we can be surprised by what we manage to do sometimes!

I have also scraped along all the edges of the toe rail, inside and out, and later today will probably reseal it all with sikaflex, though to be honest I will be surprised (but delighted) if that makes much difference. Leaks seem to belong to a universe of their own, and seem to defy most natural laws such as gravity and logic – water can apparently get into the boat at one point and emerge at another completely remote and unrelated part, thus rendering any attempt to work backwards quite futile, unless of course you want to rip out the entire interior of the boat. And Ive thought about it. Ive even dreamed about it.

The other thing Ive  done is a yachties ritual that till now Ive managed to avoid altogether but there was no excuse this time – Ive sanded off the hull and put on a fresh coat of Antifouling. 

All Good from this distance - before ANtifouling
With luck Sapphire goes back in the water tomorrow evening, and if the motor works I will anchor off the marina and bend on the sails. I hesitate to use the word “bend” but that’s the strange term yachties use to mean they are putting the sails back on.