Our second week in Tahiti

Saturday afternoon we went shopping and got some drinking vouchers from the ATM.  We planned to buy some beer from the supermarket but no alcohol was being sold because of local elections….funny how these events always coincide with us getting low on supplies LOL.   We chased up our agent in relation to the delivery of our windlass.   It had been delivered physically to Tahiti last Wednesday but was still awaiting customs clearance.   Very frustrating that it can fly here from New Zealand quicker than it can get through customs!  

Saturday night we went to Bill’s boat Magic (a 40 foot Island Packet) for dinner.  He very generously fed us three courses including ribeye steak.  We had a very nice evening and drank a lot of wine while we chatted.   Luckily he had purchased his supplies before the election alcohol ban.

Sunday morning I was up early and headed to the laundry.  There was a long queue but the owner told me to leave it with him and return at 10.  So I went back to Morphie and we had breakfast before I returned.  When I got back I found that he had done a service wash and dry for me – which was a real surprise – as that is not something he offers.   He said that he wanted to thank me for last week as I’d helped him deal with some rude English-speaking clients.  What a nice man!  

Later on Richard went off to help Bill get his dinghy up onto the davits and the outboard onto the rail – he is waiting on crew to arrive at the minute so we are helping him out where we can.   We also flaked his genoa for him as he had swapped it out for a larger sail – amazingly he had never seen this done before!   Later in the afternoon it poured with rain so we stayed on board.

Monday morning and it was still raining.   The waves were crashing over the reef in front of the marina and it was pretty blustery.  We watched a couple of superyachts depart – including our large neighbour with his helicopter – which was quickly replaced by another superyacht coming in.   The weather turned into a full-blown event with winds of 40 knots whistling through the anchorage – so we were glad to be tucked into the marina.   Apparently a few boats dragged their anchors and one ended up on the reef but was able to be manoeuvred off without too much damage.   Scary stuff.     

We headed off to see our agent to keep the pressure on DHL and were delighted to find out that the parcel was going to be delivered to us later that morning.   We got online for a short time and found out that our steering parts had also been despatched from Auckland.   So everything we need, fingers crossed, is now on its way and we can track the progress of the remaining parcels.  Our mood was certainly lightened at this news. 

We headed off out for breakfast and returned when the DHL man arrived.   We took delivery and managed to find an abandoned shopping trolley which we gratefully commandeered to take the strain as the box was really heavy.   Richard got it on board and unpacked it with glee.   We let Guy (our friendly French engineer) know that it had arrived and he came by later in the afternoon to have a look.

Later on we headed to the bar for Happy Hour and spent a few hours chatting with fellow cruisers.  A new crowd had arrived in the last few days – so we are starting to feel like old hands giving out information about supermarkets, internet and ATMs!     They were also pretty jealous that we are on the dock as they have all been turned away as both the marina and the mooring field is completely full.   I guess we were lucky we arrived when we did!

Tuesday morning we were up bright and early and I popped out to buy breakfast pastries while Richard waited for Guy.   He turned up – they emptied the anchor locker onto the deck – and removed all the protective covers we had put over the holes in the bow sprit whilst at sea.     

Guy was immediately concerned over the teak inside the anchor locker.   It appears that, when the windlass was originally fitted, they just screwed it straight through the wood and fibreglass sandwich without any protective measures other than a very thin – in our view – totally inadequate backing plate so the teak had got really wet and needed to be dried out. Richard and Guy went off on the bus to Mr Bricolage to get wood and other supplies.  They found some strong ply that they planned to epoxy and fit below deck to make a strengthened base for the windlass to be fitted to.      

When they came back they proceeded to make the templates….cut them out…epoxied them….and hang them up to dry.   They also cleaned up the original holes and filled them so that the screw holes will be drilled from scratch as another strengthening measure.    And here’s Guy cutting it down to size…….

After a frustrating day of moving things around and passing tools up and down – plus cleaning up after Guy who is a bit of a messy worker – we had the boat back to ourselves.     After cleaning ourselves up we headed to the Dinghy Dock restaurant for happy hour and watched a very moody sunset before returning to Morphie for dinner.   We were pretty cold by the time we got back as the wind was still howling through from the south. 

Tuesday I chased the agent again about DHL – this time for the steering parts – as they arrived last night into Tahiti.   Fingers crossed we might get them by Friday.   Guy came on board and fitted the two backing plates together…..they then offered up the new windlass and drilled the holes….and the windlass was almost ready to be installed.  

Guy then went off to do another job elsewhere while things ‘cured’ and planned to return later.  While all this was going on I’d been to Carrefour and found some new goodies on the deli counter – salt beef and Canadian bacon – so that’s our lunch today and breakfast tomorrow sorted.    I even managed to cart back a couple of six packs of beer.  

Guy returned and they worked together to fit and seal the new windlass into the hole – it just needed to be connected up.  But it was getting late so they called it a day.  Both Richard and I felt a bit tired so we just sat in the cockpit, had a couple of cold ones, and had an early night.

Wednesday morning and Guy was back.    He finished the windlass and then we reinstalled the anchor and tested it out.     Yay!!!    Huge smiles on faces.

Then it was time for Guy’s lunch…so Richard and I cleaned up after him again.   I headed off back to the mall to get some more money out of the ATM but the cards got refused again.  This is a real pain in the proverbial literally…..the lengthy walk there and back each day sometimes more than once.….combined with the awkward stretch to get on and off the stern of the boat to the dock is taking its toll on my dodgy legs…   Never mind.   But at least Richard had good news for me when I got back – the steering parts had arrived – woo hoo!

Wednesday afternoon Guy had another job so he didn’t return until much later – he checked out the steering parts and had another look inside the binnacle just to make sure.   Amazing how many tools and how much mess he and Richard can make in such a short time….so we cleaned up and put everything away again before having another early night on board.    The heat is zapping our energy and the lack of internet continues to frustrate!

Thursday morning and Guy had to take his wife to the doctors so we had a day to ourselves.    We had a lazy start and then went to the Dinghy Dock Bar – which doesn’t open until lunchtime – to try and get back online as we had some urgent things to attend to.   But, of course, it didn’t work.   So we decided to walk to the municipal building – about a mile up the road – as we had been told there was fast speed wifi there.   We managed to get across the busy dual carriageway and arrived at the building to find that there are no seats – just shallow steps and rocks to sit on.  We perched, got online, and managed to catch up with essential stuff again.   Wasn’t the most comfortable position but there really was very little choice.  

Feeling happier that we had completed a few items on the list – which, finally, appears to be diminishing – we crossed back across the road and checked out the pass through the reef….well, with the surf running, it looked very tricky, narrow, and quite intimidating.  Glad we came into the lagoon from the other direction.     Later on we went out for happy hour and enjoyed people watching for a little while. 

Friday morning and Guy was back.    He took the binnacle apart and struggled to get the old pinion out but, thankfully, after some swearing and brute strength Richard and he managed it between then.   Voila – steering fixed.   Yay!!!!!    They also took the hoses off the toilet as we had some flushing issues so a rather smelly day on Morphie – it appears we have a dodgy joker valve and other broken parts that we need to replace / fix.

By the time Guy had left us for the day we were shattered but determined to head off to the Australia Day party on the superyacht dock.   Richard had managed to charm and persuade our agent that we were worthy guests so, as we were on the list, we got wristbands from the security on the dock and proceeded to eat and drink for free!!    Our agent was there having a good time and it was lovely to see her wearing her traditional Polynesian flowered headgear.  

We chatted with a number of superyacht crews – who were largely dressed up for the occasion in fancy dress – and enjoyed watching them do their Masterchef cooking competition.   There was some pretty innovative stuff going on with the Australian steak and vegemite from their surprise shopping bag.   I have to say I thought that TimTams wrapped in Marshmallow and grilled over the BBQ were my personal favourite LOL.  

Later on there was traditional Polynesian dancing which everyone really enjoyed – and many people joined in too.    Definitely a good time was had by all.

This morning, Saturday, and Guy is back.   This is the final push and then we will be free to have fun!  Sadly we are missing out on the Puddle Jump cruisers’ rendezvous party over in Moorea this weekend but Guy has a big job on next week and we wanted to get everything finished while he was available.   He and Richard are working on other miscellaneous preventative maintenance jobs as well as the toilet – like swapping out the gas solenoid for example.    We still have one more parcel coming from the USA – which we should get early next week – but it is spares rather than essential parts that need fixing so we are less concerned over its arrival.  

We are really looking forward to getting Morphie clean and straight again and then finally we can explore Tahiti.    Right now the saloon looks like a bomb has hit it with all the lockers open while they attempt to use every tool known to man LOL.   

Bye for now


Our week in Tahiti

Sunday was spent on board doing boat jobs…..  We had a late lunch before heading out for sundowners.  The Happy Hour deal at the Dinghy Dock bar isn’t bad with BOGOF beers – you get a voucher for the free refill when you purchase one – but the voucher is valid all evening so with some clever timing of purchases you can actually extend happy hour by quite a bit.

We enjoyed a wonderful sunset over the marina before heading back for an early night.

Monday morning we made an inventory of our food to generate a shopping list.   Most of it will wait until we are getting ready to leave Tahiti but, in the meantime, there were some fresh things we wanted.   So we wandered off down the dual carriageway towards Carrefour and the little shopping mall.     

We made the most of the small restaurant opposite the supermarket to have a traditional French breakfast whilst we caught up on the internet.   I also downloaded some more Kindle books as I had just finished reading the last one.  

On return to Morphie we tried to get hold of an engineer – Guy – who had been recommended by Michelle the marina’s chandlery owner.   But this proved problematical without a local phone or reliable internet access.  So we walked back to the mall to buy a SIM card so we were able to text and make arrangements.   On our return to the marina – again – Guy came and had a look and arranged to return in the morning to help us replace the autopilot direct drive unit.   Later on we went to Happy Hour and enjoyed a few hours socialising with other cruisers.    It’s quite the social event for an hour or so…..and we’ve certainly heard some interesting stories. 

Tuesday morning and Guy came on board to help Richard replace the autopilot direct drive unit.  I went off to meet Tahiti Crew – our Agent – as they had got our Duty Free Fuel certificate ready for us.   I also spent some frustrating time online sending them the final tracking numbers and original invoices for our packages coming in from both the US and New Zealand.    The internet here continues to drive me nuts.  The cheapest package is via the local hotspot and a scratch card which costs about £14 for five hours – but, in reality, the five hours only equates to about two because of the slow speed.    As a result we are doing the essential stuff only so sorry if we have missed anything! 

The drive unit job was going well – with the occasional snag – but Guy was very confident and able to resolve any difficulties as he went along.   Within a couple of hours it had all been replaced and we were able to test the autopilot sitting at the dock.   Hurrah….one job done.   But Guy and Richard were unhappy with the noise coming from the rack and pinion steering system itself so decided to investigate – we had never heard this noise before but I guess it could have been masked by the noise of the ocean underway.   So the front of the binnacle came off and they found that the pinion had some broken teeth!   OMG really?!?  This is too dangerous to continue without fixing….so morale slumped once again.    It feels like we might be in Tahiti forever….

In the afternoon we spent a few hours online trying to source Edson part numbers but failed miserably.   We ended up taking photos and sending them directly to both Edson and an Edson dealer in New Zealand.     Nothing else for it whilst we waited for responses so we went out for lunch – and I’m ashamed to say this – but we ended up eating McDonalds!!!    And, of course, this being Tahiti it is the only McDonalds that doesn’t have internet….

On the way back we walked the docks and checked out the Oyster fleet and the views out to the mooring field.  

There are some fabulous superyachts here – and some pretty unique and ugly ones too. Check out this one with the curved tubular windows….reminds me of a tube train LOL.   

We were surprised to see La Familia on the dock as they were supposed to have been and gone by now – well, we have found out they broke their engines on the way here.   Ouch….that is going to hurt a lot!!!!

Later on we headed to Happy Hour and this time we sat on our own and drowned our sorrows. 

Wednesday – I went out to get my hair cut – and Richard continued cleaning.    After I got back he went to pick up our gas bottle from the Mobile station and – yay – they had managed to fill it.   So that was good news for a change!    We then walked to the Dinghy Dock bar and sat in their gardens as they have a better hotspot wifi signal than anywhere on the docks.   We got online and were pleased to find that the Edson dealer in Auckland was able to help us.    Some back and forward emails and, by the end of the day, he had worked out the part numbers and had sourced them.  

Feeling happier we returned to Morphie – scrubbed and cleaned our saloon upholstery – and then returned to the Dinghy Dock bar for another Happy Hour.  We had a good evening chatting to some professional crew who were looking for an onward passage towards Tonga.    It was interesting to talk to them – especially the young Australian called Josh.   Would you believe the custom superyacht he is crewing on is made completely out of carbon fibre and even has its own submarine?  Crazy money or what?!?   

Thursday morning we went back to the French restaurant near Carrefour and skyped New Zealand – handed over the credit card details – and an invoice pinged its way to us pretty quickly.     Thankfully that is now resolved – just time to play the waiting game as things wing their way towards us.   We checked the trackers for the parcels – and were surprised to find that the windlass had actually arrived in Tahiti.  It will take DHL about 3-5 days to get it through customs apparently but at least that’s another job that can be sorted soon.   Oh yes, and the fridge compressor decided not to start today…..   One step forward…

Thursday night we headed over to the superyacht dock as there was supposed to be a dock party going on.   But we had clearly been misinformed as there was nobody around.   So we decided, instead, to follow the sound of live music and ended up in the Pink Coconut.  This is a locals’ hangout and the average age was about 20….so we definitely stood out a bit….especially when they all got carried away doing flaming shots!!!   But nobody bothered us and we enjoyed people watching and listening to the music.  They are very passionate about it all – it turns into a massive singalong – with lots of sexy dancing too.   Was really good fun.

Friday morning and I headed back to the mall as I’d booked myself in for a long-overdue neck, shoulders and back massage.   Well, the woman was brutal, and I’m not sure about paying for pain LOL.   But she definitely sorted out all the knots and kinks….   I headed back to Morphie – having done a quick shop in Carrefour first.   I just love wandering around and seeing what they are selling each day…the displays are pretty impressive!   

Richard was busy helping Bill get his mainsail back on having resolved the fridge problem which turned out to be an ‘undercharged’ system.   Oh yes and we had a new neighbour….who was unwrapping his helicopter….this place is crazy!

We had a lazy afternoon and Bill came by for dinner at 6pm – we then headed off in a taxi to the Intercontinental Hotel to watch their dancing show.  We arrived and headed to the Tiki Bar to be told that the outside terrace was closed due to bad weather.  Well, it had been spitting and spotting, but really?!?  So we reluctantly took a seat inside the bar and I wandered off to see if the restaurant would allow us to sit on their terrace drinking to watch the show.  I was cut off at the pass by the ever-vigilant French bar manager who told me ‘No’ very loudly, embarrassingly, and quite rudely.  I did explain that we had telephoned the hotel and had specifically asked about coming to see the show and had been told it was OK providing we purchased drinks.  He didn’t care that we appeared to have been misinformed.  A few of the bar staff heard his tirade and threw me a couple of empathetic looks behind his back.   Oh well never mind….we settled down to drink the biggest beers ever….with Bill checking out cocktails.    

Suddenly a table at the edge of the bar, overlooking the restaurant and the terrace, came free and we were ushered over there pretty quickly by the staff.  So we got to see the show anyway!   Yay….   It was great and for the first time it felt like we really were in Tahiti.

This morning, Saturday, and Richard has just been over to the fuel dock and filled up all our cans with duty-free fuel while I’m blogging.  Not sure what else we’ll do today.  We anticipate receiving the anchor windlass next week and so we need to get that fitted and tested.  Then we plan to go out and explore while we wait another week or so for the other parts to turn up.  

The steering issue is easily resolved with the right parts and, thankfully, we found this before we took off again.   The consequences of losing our steering whilst at sea does not bear thinking about.  

It has certainly been nice to have some fun this week.   Bye for now


Hiva Oa to Tahiti

We said farewell to Hiva Oa, having enjoyed our last night there, with entertainment from Christophe and Jack amongst others.  The passage from Hiva Oa to Tahiti was a good shakedown cruise for both us and Morphie after having been stuck in the mud.   Actually we weren’t there that long it just felt like it LOL.

We had the full range of weather on passage – from cloudy, stormy, rainy times – to beautiful blue skies and fluffy clouds.  The seas seemed to go from large lumpy growlers to pretty calm and serene.  We sailed along in pretty steady winds most of the time apart from squalls…and also had to motor occasionally when the wind died.

We had a range of sunrises and sunsets – from nothing at all as the sun was totally obscured by storm clouds – through to the most spectacular displays and unusual cloud formations.

We slowed down for the last 24 hours of the 848 mile passage to ensure we would make landfall in daylight hours.   We also re-evaluated our decision to go through the narrow pass on the western coast of Tahiti.  That pass was closest to the marina where we had a reservation but is also more hazardous in particular conditions – and, of course, those conditions were looking to be present for our arrival.  So we made the executive decision to go through the larger ship cut at Papette despite it being heavily controlled by the Port Authority.

When we spotted landfall early on Thursday morning Tahiti looked a bit ominous in the dark and gloomy conditions.  

We found ourselves in a busy shipping area now along with a number of yachts in the vicinity.   The island of Moorea, 15 miles away to starboard, looked stunning….

The large Clipper cruise ship Windspirit was approaching us from starboard and we radioed them – to be told that they were being directed by a pilot vessel and had a seven am slot to go through the cut and we were welcome to follow them.   We radioed the Port Authority and they were happy for us to do that.   It was very nice of them to show us the way LOL.  Windspirit looked quite dramatic against the backdrop of Moorea.

We entered through the cut and headed straight at the opposite shore…then turned to starboard to follow the route through the lagoon which is totally sheltered by the large reef that runs around the coastline.   

We admired the views and watched a few light aircraft come over us into the airport and then we reached the airport zone and had to radio for permission to cross the end of the runway.  We had to do a 360 while we waited…and then were given the go ahead to proceed. 

We carried on marvelling at the shallow water one side of us while we were motoring through in 50+ feet of water and the waves crashing over the reef beyond.   Isn’t nature wonderful?!?   We reached the other end of the airport and had to ask permission to cross the runway again – this was given immediately – and we turned the corner towards our marina past some fancy hotel rooms over the lagoon.

The marina wasn’t ready for us – well, it was only about eight in the morning – and told us to pick up a mooring ball.   So we had a cup of tea and a breakfast baguette while we waited watching some superyachts leaving.

Finally at just before 10 we were escorted into the marina by a skiff with three men in it.   They asked if we had bow thrusters and which way we prop walked in reverse to identify the best spot for us.   They told us to go ahead to get lined up and then reverse down into the marina and into the spot they had allocated.  Well, I couldn’t believe the spot they wanted us to go in with only inches either side of small power boats.    At one point I thought Richard was going to abort when we came very close to our neighbours bow as we turned in but somehow he managed it and suddenly the guys were there – with one standing in the skiff holding our bow straight – and the others catching lines to tie us stern to the dock.   Then one guy jumped into the water, kitted up with a scuba tank, and got two lazy lines from the bottom and handed them up to the guy who was now on our bow.  He tied us off on both sides and – voila!  We had arrived. 

We had to use our step down transformer for power – which is charged by the week not by usage – and Richard had to reassemble the plug as we had reverse polarity.   Finally fixed we headed off to the office to check in having cleaned ourselves up.   That was all pretty simple and we then went on the hunt for internet.  We had a beer in both on-site bars/restaurants but no internet to be found.  We returned to Morphie around 4ish and just went to bed.    We were pretty tired and slept right through.

Friday morning we were up early and headed out of the marina and turned right towards the Mobil gas station.    They apparently collect and refill propane gas bottles – so we left ours there – and were told to return on Wednesday.   We are hoping they can fill this as we are getting low on our second bottle now and the French bottles are totally incompatible with our US systems.  So fingers crossed.

We found the on-site chandlery and had a chat to the owner.    We showed him the video Richard had taken of the autopilot when it was grinding away and he immediately diagnosed an issue with the motor.  He suggested swapping it all out and getting the old one serviced – it is a sealed unit – and keeping that as the spare.  So that’s on the list of things to do here.   He also confirmed that he was able to help us fit the windlass when it arrived.   He has a little treasure trove store so Richard is looking forward to exploring that later….

We then met with our Tahiti Agents and completed some forms – they had the documents for FedEx and now we needed to fill out some for DHL – plus they are going to organise our inter-island clearance documents and duty-free fuel certificate.     All for a fee of course…..never mind….we really don’t have any choice if we want to get things facilitated through the French Polynesian bureaucratic system. 

We need to give a mention to Dan and Ruth at this point.   During our passage to the Marquesas they were in contact with us via our satellite system and, even before we had arrived in Hiva Oa, they had found a replacement autopilot control head, ordered it, paid for it and had it delivered to their home.   Once we arrived in Hiva Oa they took delivery of other parts we needed and are now sending them via FedEx down to us here in Tahiti.   They are very special, kind and generous people and we are very grateful to have them as our friends.   Dan’s procurement abilities are almost as good as his grilling skills LOL.   As a reminder here’s a picture of the four of us together sampling the local brew in Wisconsin last year.

Having completed the formalities we walked down the dual carriageway towards the small shopping mall and the large Carrefour supermarket.    We found a restaurant in the mall that had free internet so we made good use of that while enjoying a lovely lunch.   We managed to skype New Zealand and paid for the windlass – so that is now on its way.    We also caught up with emails etc. 

After lunch we wandered the shops and got some drinking vouchers out of the ATM.   Richard’s card is still getting refused by the ATMs but he managed to pay for lunch with it – this is getting irritating – and the bank confirmed that everything is OK when we spoke to them.  So I think we’ll give that up as a bad job.

We then went into Carrefour and, OMG, a proper supermarket with huge supplies of everything we could possibly need and then some.  So we wandered the aisles – taking note of the selection – and will come back here with a car and/or taxi when it is time to provision up properly.   In the meantime we just made do with some fresh ham, cheese, bread and salad.    

We wandered back to Morphie and bumped into Bill who is British and who moved to Canada many years ago…he is here on his Island Packet that he has sailed down from Vancouver and is planning to head to Fiji.  He is just looking for suitable crew to help him.   We had a chat with him and made arrangements to meet him over happy hour drinks later on.

We wandered to the Dinghy Dock bar and finally found a seat – we chatted to Bill and Ian (an Australian single-hander) and then bumped into Phil who is the American we were Panama Canal line handlers for.  What a small world.  What is interesting in this marina is that everyone we have spoken to so far is waiting here for spare parts.  Nobody had a great passage and most people broke things…lots of things…including rudders and swinging keels….and sadly there is at least one boat we know of which has been lost.   So much for the fabled beautiful downwind sail across the Pacific called the Milk Run then eh?!? 

After happy hour we wandered to the marina-front restaurant as we heard live music.  We managed to have one beer while they finished up their set for the night.  The guy had an amazing voice so really it enjoyed it briefly.   As you can see Richard is happy to be here….

Saturday and I was up with the lark to get to the self-service laundry which is only open from 7-12 at weekends and closed during the week.   I was there at 6.50am heavily laden to find myself the sixth person in the queue!!!  Guess everyone else thought it was a good idea too.   Anyway I persevered and came back to a lovely clean boat as Richard had been tidying and cleaning up.  We will continue to get on with boat jobs and, when the list has diminished significantly, we’ll think about exploring Tahiti while we continue to wait for parts….      

Bye for now


Passage to Tahiti: Days 5-7

Monday morning (Day 5) we were motor sailing slowly under a grey cloudy sky with wind speeds of less than five knots. We had enough diesel on board for the remainder of the trip so we had no concerns if the wind didn’t return. In the afternoon the skies got darker and the wind started to fill in again – but surprisingly from the North West. By the time we started our evening shifts the wind was strong enough to be sailing nicely on a beam reach parallel with our rhumb line.
Despite the laden sky the moon was able to peak through. But not for long. Suddenly we had lots of lightning behind us and down came the rain. Once more we put our equipment away for safety so sorry again that the tracker got disrupted….. Thankfully by midnight the rain had stopped.
Irritatingly at 3am on Tuesday morning (Day 6) the wind disappeared again so it was back to motoring. Squalls were running either side of us but we didn’t get any more rain or even any wind…we were in a gloomy no man’s land. By six there was another thunderstorm off our port bow and more miserable weather ahead. This was getting tiresome.
By nine the skies behind had started to clear and there were signs of improvement all round. Finally at noon the sun broke through, the clouds dissipated and it turned into a lovely day at sea. Hurrah! The only downside was that there was still no wind….. Oh yes and we put the clocks back half an hour – so we are now aligned with local time in Tahiti.
At 2pm the wind started to fill in and we were finally sailing again. The island atoll called Mataiva appeared out of the sea…. This was our last island to dodge so we turned to port to run south towards Tahiti. The atoll was quite large although barely visible above sea level….there was a large smoke plume on one end and we wondered if they burnt all their rubbish – or could it be more sinister? Could they be ‘wreckers’ in a previous life?!?
Finally we were enjoying a nice sail…..with no rain….and we watched the sun go down early at 5.30 pm while we treated ourselves to shepherd’s pie for dinner in the relaxed conditions onboard. The evening was very pleasant although the wind eased quite a bit back to around 8-9 knots so our boat speed slowed too.
But we were potentially going to have to slow the boat down anyway to ensure a daylight arrival on Thursday so didn’t really care about our speed. We also want to be entering the narrow Taapuna pass at slack water or on a rising tide to avoid standing waves and strong adverse currents at the entrance into the inner lagoon that surrounds Tahiti. There is a larger cut at the top of the island but, because of its proximity to the airport, boat traffic and timings are closely controlled by the port authority so we decided we’d go in the other entrance rather than have to add more variables.
Early this morning, Wednesday (Day 7), and the winds remain light but we are still managing to sail. I’ve just spotted lightning off our starboard bow so am hoping that the storm system will have moved on by the time we get there: the constant need to unplug everything and put it all away is fine, but in the early hours when Richard is sleeping I find it hard to do without waking him up as he sleeps in the saloon. Fingers crossed it doesn’t come to that this time.
Thankfully the storm moved away from us and we had the most spectacular sun rise with amazing cloud formations…. Stunning! The day is shaping up to be a nice one and, if everything goes to plan, this will be our final full day at sea this passage. See you in Tahiti!
Bye for now Jan

Passage to Tahiti: Days 3-6

Saturday lunchtime (Day 3) we had covered another 132 miles during our full second 24 hour period at sea and remained happy with our progress. Was a beautiful sunny day with the wind staying steady at around 15 knots combined with flattish seas. An absolutely stunningly perfect day at sea. We thoroughly enjoyed it particularly when it was crowned by a spectacular sunset and red night sky.
Saturday night was bright as Mr Moon decided to stay up until 2am. We had reefed down before we started our evening shifts as there were rain clouds around and some squalls. But, throughout the night, the squalls came and went with little rain and only a small uplift to the wind. So we continued to make good process. The most important element of the calmer conditions is that we both slept well.
Oh yes and we have two stowaways – first I spotted Gordon the gekko on the starboard rail – he was at least three inches long. Latter on I spotted Buddy the baby gekko on the port stern seat and he wasn’t even an inch long. Not sure what they are eating as this is a bug free zone unless they have an emergency escape stash with them from Hiva Oa LOL.
Sunday morning (Day 4) and the sunrise was obscured by dark and heavy rain clouds – as per the forecast. The wind remained constant until a huge squall came through around 7 ish with 32 knot winds and torrential rain. Thankfully it was short lived. Throughout the morning strong squalls came and went and we got pretty adept at dodging them as they came through behind us. By lunchtime we had clocked another 137 miles in the previous 24 hours so still making good progress.
Squalls continued all day and then the wind shifted north which meant we couldn’t hold our course. We ran to starboard and settled there for a while…. Squalls were now all around us and we could no longer outrun them, so we had to face them head on. Lightning started and became a constant companion so we put away our secondary navigational equipment and the Iridium Go! unit just in case we took a strike as the only thing out here. So if you spotted the tracker wasn’t working that’s why – sorry!
The night brought with it more of the same and it was quite miserable with the rocking and rolling and quite a bit of rain, making sleep difficult once again.
This morning, Monday (Day 5), and it remains miserable. We are still awaiting the shift in the wind back to a normal easterly pattern but doesn’t look like that is going to happen any time soon. We gybed back towards the rhumb line and will see how long we can hold that course. Our speed has reduced along with the wind strength being sucked out by the squalls all around us and so progress now is slower than we would like.
This morning’s forecast – downloaded at 8am – made gloomy reading with rain and no wind forecast for a few days. And it was spot on as the wind almost simultaneously dropped to five knots and we are now motor sailing. But at least it is not raining! We have done 513 miles so far and there is about 350 to go……
Bye for now Jan

Passage to Tahiti: Days 1-3

Thursday afternoon (Day 1) the seas were big and confused while the wind had a north element so by the time we reached our rhumb line which was to take us across the top of the Dangerous Middle chain of reefs and atolls we were surfing downwind in large 3m seas and 25 knots breeze. There were a few growlers around and both of us were frustrated by the conditions as we pitched and rolled side to side. Come on give us a break!
As we ran between the majestically soaring islands we had some large bright yellow hornet-type insects turn up in significant numbers. We were batting them and spraying them – they just wouldn’t leave – so we had a bit of a war going on particularly as they all seemed intent on finding a spot down below. Finally they had all been removed when I felt something on my back…one had somehow got in between my tee shirt and my skin…and proceeded to sting me twice while I did a quick stripping act! Whatever I did in a previous life to bees and wasps I apologise – enough – please stop repaying me LOL.
We had the engine running throughout the day – at low revolutions to conserve fuel – so that we could get the fridge and freezer back down to their required temperatures and also to replenish our water supplies. I was really looking forward to a hot shower in clean water later. Pleased to report all systems are working well – including the resurrected autopilot Colin who has taken to wearing an aerated zip lock bag hat to stop any future water ingress if we have horizontal rain from behind like before.
The sun went down without any fanfare and although it remained squally with 25+ knot winds there was only a little rain and the seas flattened. The half moon was up before the sun went down so it didn’t really get dark until after midnight when the moon went to bed for the night. The phosphorescence in the water was spectacular and there were a few stars out there twinkling. We both relaxed into our shifts and started to enjoy the passage especially as we were making good progress at 5-6 knots average.
Around 4am Friday (Day 2) Richard spotted a light and called down to me to check our AIS was receiving/transmitting. It was but the other boat wasn’t visible on the system. So Richard tried to make radio contact – eventually they responded. The yacht Impulse was closing fast – the skipper suggested that we should cross his bow – but, as they got closer, Richard realised that was way too risky as the other guy was standing on despite his earlier suggestion. So Richard quickly took evading action and passed behind his stern. As you could imagine he was not impressed! This huge ocean – two sail boats – and we came within 100 yards of each other. Unbelievable. Excitement over I returned to my bed.
At six the sun came up and we could see the lumpy seas again – much better when you can anticipate getting slammed LOL. Anyway the wind steadied around 18/19 knots so we shook out a reef and carried on. Not quite a blue sky day but I’ll take it over the rain and mud of Hiva Oa anytime.
At 10 am we were both up enjoying sausage baguettes and mochas in the cockpit. Nice to get our food back! The seas remained big and confused with very short intervals leading to tough conditions on board. Colin, however, is doing an impressive job and we are very thankful to have him back with us. Richard’s auto-pilot shelf reinforcement seems to have paid off as the groaning has reduced significantly. There is the odd squeak but always when the wheel is required to spin fast from port lock to starboard lock and back multiple times to hold our course. Our first 24 hours at sea had netted us 139 miles so we were pleased with progress so far.
By lunchtime the seas had flattened a little, the sky was blue and the sea was deep blue. In fact, when the sun out, it was a lovely day. We both really enjoyed the day especially hot showers, clean hair and clean clothes! The feet still need a bit of work though LOL. Imagine ingrained mud in toenails – yuck!
The improved conditions continued throughout the starry starry night despite one blip when the engine refused to start! Richard had checked the fuel filter earlier to make sure there was no water in it – and thinks some air got into the system when he did it. The solution worked and concerns were allayed. Phew! We eventually ran the engine for about four hours to charge batteries and to continue making water…..
We did encounter another ship – no AIS again – who had obviously spotted us as he lit up like a Christmas tree and came to an abrupt halt. We assumed he was a commercial fishing vessel so we left about three miles between us as we slipped through keeping him on our starboard side.
At 6 this morning, Saturday (Day 3) the wind had eased to 14-16 knots – exactly as forecast – and has gone more easterly so we are now on a broad reach and enjoying the flatter, smoother ride that point of sail brings us. The sun came up leisurely and is already adding some heat to the day.
We expect conditions to remain similar – with a chance of heavy rain on Sunday – before we expect very light winds early next week. But everything can change of course – right now we are enjoying the ride and are always grateful to Morphie for keeping us safe.
Bye for now Jan

Final days in Hiva Oa…..

Wednesday morning we were lying in bed – around 7 am – when we heard the sound of scraping on the hull. We quickly dressed and Richard found a guy chiselling out the epoxy from the repaired patch on the hull. Apparently they had used the wrong mix so it hadn’t set properly. OMG this is turning into a French farce – could we have inadvertently stumbled into a new reality show? In which case get me out of here!
It was, however, soon removed, taped up and repaired again. It still needs another layer, then sanding followed by antifouling – all by ten on Thursday morning as we are scheduled to splash soon after at high tide. That is not a flexible option!
We got on with boat jobs – I cleaned the fridge and freezer and left them open to dry out in preparation for being turned on again. Richard winterised the outboard again and it is now wrapped up against the elements on the rail. We checked the silicone had taken on the plastic covers on the bow – protecting the windlass holes – and added more protective plastic sheets and gaffer tape. We filled up a couple of diesel cans at the gas station and replenished our supply of canned drinks.
We then went to the shed to pay Vincent the remainder of our bill. He wasn’t there, as usual, but to our great surprise the wifi was working for a very short time. We had a quick look and were delighted to hear from a New Zealand company that they can supply and ship us a new windlass….just waiting for the price now. We also had an email to confirm our marina reservation in Tahiti. And the Tahiti agent confirmed that they had received all the documents they needed. Woo hoo! Things are finally coming together.
The water in the marina ran clearer so we washed some of the mud off the topsides and flushed Morphie’s engine to ensure she starts when we splash. Richard went to find Vincent again and was told that he had a problem with one of the hoses which had broken on the tractor. Morale plummeted again…..this is a real emotional roller coaster right now…..sigh…..
Finally Vincent reappeared later in the day and confirmed we will be hauled Thursday as planned. Fantastic news despite the size of the boatyard bill which was shockingly high considering the lack of facilities. Hey ho.
We readied Morphie for her passage and then walked up the hill – in the mud – for the social evening planned by the French Polynesian equivalent of the RNLI. We sat and drank a few beers on our own, thinking we had made a mistake bothering. But eventually some other people turned up and we had a nice evening – being entertained by Jack and Christophe amongst other musicians. Although it did feel like an evening attended by a horde of unwashed and emaciated boat people LOL.
We skipped back down the hill and we struggled to get back into the boatyard as we couldn’t get the combination to work but Richard realised there was some slack in the cable which enabled us to slip through a tiny gap. Phew!
Thursday morning and we were awake early and were pleased to see a catamaran being moved from the concrete into chocks – which frees up the trailer for our haul out. At around 8.30 we went to the gas station store for the last time – collected our bags of frozen food – and a week’s supply of baguettes. Oh yes and chocolate supplies had also been replenished. We thanked Antoinette for her kindness to us keeping the food in her freezer throughout our stay in the boatyard and greeting us with daily smiles…
Finally at around 9.30 the tractor came for us….Richard supervised Morphie being put into the cradle using some discarded old cushions we found in the boatyard to protect her leading edge from being damaged again. Finally we were lifted off our chocks and Richard climbed aboard. We started moving….we wobbled….then the trailer’s wheels slid and we got stuck in the mud. You couldn’t make this up!! They had to put us back on chocks…..dug out the trailers wheels….reposition the trailer and fill in the holes with gravel. They then lifted us back in the cradle and started moving forward again.
After an anxious hour or so finally we were splashed at 11 am and made our way straight out into huge seas and 22 knot winds. The waves were hitting us on the side so it was pretty uncomfortable as we bashed our way out until we were able to turn to go alongside the island and out to sea.
Then it was a downwind run between the islands under the genoa alone and some great surfing action. The seas were confused as we left the Marquesa chain of islands behind us and didn’t settle until almost 20 miles away. We are rolling from side to side but at least we have finally escaped! Morale is improving mile by mile….
Bye for now Jan

The quest for spares continues….

Saturday morning we sat on Morphie watching the mud getting deeper and deeper around the boatyard.   Usually it comes to a halt over Le Weekend but Vincent and the guys were around as they had to haul another boat so the captain could get home to New Zealand for a family emergency.   As a result we had to be moved off the trailer and onto chocks which meant leaving the concrete hard behind…..sigh.    

Anyway we got off the boat and they manoeuvred the tractor.    We watched it slipping and sliding away and heaved a great sigh of relief when Morphie was finally in position and secured in place along with a new view from the cockpit.

As the trailer pulled away, though, we noticed that there was a chunk of gel coat missing from Morphie’s leading edge – all the way through to the fibreglass – but, thankfully, the fibreglass itself was undamaged.  This had obviously happened when we had been hauled.   Great….can anything else go wrong this season?

We told Vincent about the damage and, of course, he agreed to repair it free of charge.  At least we spotted it – had we splashed direct from the cradle on Friday as originally planned – then we could have had a problem with water being able to get in between the gelcoat and the fibreglass.  So staying put had actually done us a favour in a weird kind of way.

By now our water was running low with no immediate solution.   On the passage to Hiva Oa we had not made water for the last 10 days because we were otherwise occupied – and because of the harbour water being muddy from the continuous run-off we hadn’t made any since we had arrived.  So our supplies continued to dwindle.  The water here in the boatyard is also muddy and cloudy – and not potable – so we do not want to put that in the tank.   We have a five gallon jug of drinking water we are trying to conserve so have been using the shack to shower in local cloudy water.   Absolutely horrible and I’m pretty fed up getting dirty to try and get clean!

Saturday evening we had a nice evening in the cockpit and were joined by a British lad called Jack who is on a mission to get to Australia without flying…. he seems to be doing quite well so far.   We had a laugh and drank too much rum – cold beers are at a premium on a boat without refrigeration – and put the world to rights.  Was quite a late night but I think we needed it.

Sunday morning and, yes, it was raining again.   The boatyard was deathly quiet and we were struggling with wifi access.  It comes and goes but not for any length of time to do anything useful with – and there are some things we need to do particularly for FedEx in Tahiti.   We ended up having a lazy day as we had finished most of our boat jobs.   Important things like cleaning the topsides, doing the laundry and cleaning down below will just have to wait until we get out of this muddy humid bug-infested environment.   

Monday morning and the boatyard came alive again as they hauled another boat out of the water.    One guy also patched the front of Morphie’s bow so things are at least moving on that front.  

We also had two guys fitting the new windlass motor to solve the intermittent problem as we were not happy to continue our journey with an unreliable anchor.  When they took the windlass apart they couldn’t get it back together again and spotted some erosion so they took it to the workshop to clean up and check it out.  Well, Vincent has just confirmed that it is dead.   Three parts have completely corroded through and are not fixable – so we need to buy some spares.    And, of course, we had a new motor in our spares cupboard but not the actual unit itself.   So frustrating….

We’ll probably just buy a whole new unit and take the old one apart for spares.   But that means no anchoring until we get a new one – and, of course, this type of windlass is not currently available in Tahiti so will need to be ordered from either the USA or, probably, New Zealand as that is closer now.    Anchoring without a windlass in the depths of the atolls – often up to 50 feet – is not an option.   This season is turning into a living nightmare!

We debated what to do.   The next islands are called the Tuamotus and are often referred to as the dangerous archipelago or the dangerous middle – separating the Marquesas from the Society Islands (which is where Tahiti is located).    We obviously can’t go to this remote area without a windlass as there are no facilities.   To wait for a replacement to reach Tahiti and then ship it here to Hiva Oa – especially as it means living on the hard in the mud – could take weeks / months.   So we have decided to do a straight shot for Tahiti.   This will take us about seven days at sea if we go the safer, longer route round.

In Tahiti we will have access to marinas;  shops;  restaurants;  chandleries;  fresh water and a laundry.   So we can be tied up safely and do a bit of exploring whilst waiting on parts.  It certainly seems a much better option than staying here in the mud.  We were hoping to visit a couple of other Marquesan Islands but that is sadly no longer than option.   It seems a shame to have to miss things out but we couldn’t see everything anyway and this is the first season we have ever had so many difficulties to overcome.   We are disappointed and frustrated trying to cope with the latest setback and are both feeling quite low right now.    

We went back to the restaurant last night to get some internet items sorted.   I have made a tentative reservation at a marina, although they have so far failed to respond, and we are still trying to source a new GPS antenna – as the failed one has been discontinued.  Thanks again Garmin!   The pizza was recommended and it was not very good…really helped our mood….although they did take us back to the port.   We just had to navigate the mud to get back to Morphie.  

This morning, Tuesday, and we stored the failed windless and new motor down below.   Then we found some caps we could use to block the holes on the bow and siliconed those in place.  We’ll add some plastic covering later and tape it up too.   The anchor was taken off and that is now also stored down below and the chain and wiring has been secured in the locker.  Hopefully that will be enough to stop water ingress into the bilges through the locker. 

The bow repair has dried and been sanded…not a great job but it will do…and we are just waiting on some antifoul on the patch now.    We have come into town to pick up some more tinned and dried food provisions for our passage and are now in Make Make having lunch and trying to finish internet jobs. 

We hope to splash on Thursday morning and will take off straight from there.   I’ll continue to blog whilst at sea and you can obviously watch us move on the tracker.  We are hoping for a straightforward enjoyable passage – on a reach if the wind forecast is to be believed.  We definitely need a confidence boost right now….

Bye for now.


Essential boat repairs in Hiva Oa

Sunday we stayed on board in the sporadic rain bursts feeling quite low after the latest setback with the stainless steel.   

We had suffered another restless night’s sleep on Saturday with more rolling…. sigh…. and more worrying.   We were just hoping that on Monday we would be able to get things moving in the right direction.   We watched the anchorage turn brown with run-off rain water mixing with the sea water as little waterfalls appeared along the shore.   We had another early night still trying to catch up.

Early Monday morning we went ashore:  to pick up our laundry;  dump the rubbish;   buy some petrol;   and pick up the electrician at 10 am.   I was also going to try to get some internet from the building at the top of the hill which we’d just found out about.  So laundry was collected – at a huge £25 for two small shopping bags worth! – and we had disposed of our rubbish along with everybody else’s which then gets picked over by wild chickens and their chicks.   

The quay was incredibly busy because the supply ship had arrived overnight and it was fun to see everyone getting excited about picking up their new stuff.   We were hoping that it had a huge consignment of flour for the baker so that finally we could get some fresh bread LOL.   

While Richard went off to get petrol I headed up the hill with the computer to get online.   Mission accomplished I slithered down the muddy hill just in time to see Richard heading back in dink to Morphie.   Hmmmm…wonder who he has been chatting to…..he needs to turn around pretty quickly to get back for the electrician at 10.   I sat on a rock and waited.   And it became abundantly clear that he wasn’t returning – so the guy must have been ready early and they had left me stranded!    I was happy to catch up with my emails when I realised that the internet access code only worked up the hill – they must have had a restricted zone on it.   So I trudged back up in the mud….and sat overlooking the harbour.   I did eventually manage to catch up so thanks to everyone for their patience in awaiting my tardy responses.

Of course, there was no power up there so when the computer’s battery died I headed back down the hill – around lunchtime.   And there was Richard in the boat yard chatting to Vincent, the owner.   The amazing thing was that Fred, the electrician, had fixed our autopilot.   Woo hoo!!!!    Apparently he thought the control head was dead too as there was power and data running through the cable from the control unit up to the binnacle.  Scratching his head he cut off the SeaTalk connecter and directly connected the cable to the base unit – and it worked!   So the unit wasn’t dead but still wouldn’t work in the nav pod.  So he took the pod apart and found – on the hidden four inches of cable – a chafe through the cable insulation which had finally parted in the difficult conditions whilst underway.   What a genius!!!   Soooo happy……   

We were even happier when Vincent confirmed that they could haul us on Wednesday and do the stainless steel welding.   Luckily we had an old flag pole – marine-grade stainless steel – which had become redundant when the arch had been installed.    They were going to use that to make the new connecting posts so no problems over lack of materials.    Amazing.    Feeling much happier Richard and I decided to go back.    The little dock, by now, was struggling underwater with a big high tide and there were chunks of wood everywhere…..so we navigated our way through that and got back to Morphie eventually, albeit a bit soggy.   We took our lives into our own hands trying to get back on board as there was a huge swell running and the movement meant we had to time our leaps onto the transom accordingly.     What a day!

Later that evening we had just had dinner and a celebratory few beers and the sun had gone down.  And a big skiff thing pulled up behind us and told us to move to let the ship leave.  Damn…..why now?   We had been on board most of the afternoon and had had a few beers and in the dark we had to pick up two anchors.   Stern first….success….then I was on the bow trying to pick up the main anchor.  And, of course, the windlass failed…. just clicking away.    The ship hadn’t waited for us to get out of the way and was coming towards us….. luckily, at that point, the problem resolved itself and we did manage to get out of the way just in time.    We weren’t amused.   Finally we had both anchors reset and had an early night but although irritated by the ship we were pretty happy that things had taken a turn for the better.

Tuesday morning we returned to town to get some cash out.   And, of course, the cards didn’t work again.  So we went to Make Make snack bar and had some lunch whilst getting access to the internet for a skype call to the bank – £3.50 an hour this time.   The bank confirmed that everything was OK and they had not blocked the cards for any reason…. so it must be the ATM.  We had tried three at two different places so not sure about that!   Anyway, not wanting to find ourselves sort of readies, we decided to use our credit card to get some money out instead.   And, of course, the most expensive method worked beautifully.   Typical.

Now with cash in hand and after the mandatory lunchtime closures of all stores we went shopping – and found loads of fresh baguettes in every store.   Yay!!!    We also visited the hardware store where Richard managed to spend a huge £10 on 20 screws….. seriously….. this place is not cheap.  Oh yes and the Post Office has stopped selling SIM cards so no internet for us on the boat.   More sighing.   A few more stores followed and then we headed back to the port with a free lift from the guy who runs Make Make.  

Back on Morphie and we got the outboard off of dink onto the rail and hauled dink onto the bow.   Boy dink is heavy and we struggled until we managed to get another cruiser to help us.    So if we are not going to use the arch for dink when doing a long passage in future we need to seriously consider swapping him out for a lighter version that we can both handle easier.     Eventually he was on the bow and tied down in preparation for being hauled.   We collapsed into the cockpit for dinner and an early night.   Oh yes and it was raining again…..so we collected rain water to top up the tank with.  

Wednesday morning we went ashore and couldn’t believe it….the docks were maybe three feet above our heads and the swell meant catching hold of them and staying upright without getting your head knocked off – it was downright dangerous.   We tried three docks before we finally managed to get close enough for me to jump off onto the rocks and take the rope with me.    What a palaver!!!   We dropped all our frozen food off at the petrol station minimarket – as the lady had kindly agreed to store our food in their large walk-in freezer – got some fresh bread and headed back to Morphie.  And that is where we stayed until we got the radio call from Vincent that they were ready for us.

We picked up the anchor….very slowly as the problem persisted with the windlass being non-operational lots of time during the process….and drove Morphie towards the ramp where the tractor was waiting. 

Richard couldn’t see the bow because of dink so I directed him in – with assistance from the land – and threw a couple of ropes to the boatyard guys to pull us forward the last few feet.  Finally we were in the cradle – so the engine was killed and the fridge / freezer turned off (they are water cooled so don’t work on land) – and we were off being pulled up the ramp and into the mud.  Richard’s job was done…..

We swayed….we slipped…and finally we arrived at the entrance to the boat yard.  A six-point turn continued to get us in through the entrance…..

Until we were finally installed – having been jet washed – on the only piece of concrete in this muddy quagmire which is Hiva Oa boatyard.   Phew…we were safe. 

We got shore power installed and (patchy) internet access sorted and it was time for the yard to close.    We bagged up some more rubbish and Richard braved the mud to walk to the gate only to find we were locked in – they had forgotten to give us the code LOL.  Who cares anyway???  We had no plans on going anywhere.  So we enjoyed a nice evening in the steady as a rock cockpit and so to bed.  It was lovely to sleep on a bed that didn’t roll around.   It was just a shame about the 10 foot ladder and the muddy walk to go to the loo though LOL.

Thursday morning and work started in earnest at 7am.   Christophe realised that he couldn’t work on the stern arch without assistance from the tractor and its moveable platform.   And, of course, Morphie was still attached to the tractor.  So they chocked Morphie up the front and removed the tractor so Christophe was happy and could start his preparations.    

I found a platform with wheels and started to clean the stainless and the hull – the ocean grime didn’t even come off with the jet wash – so this was going to need a lot of elbow grease.   Richard took himself into the starboard lazarette to reinforce the autopilot shelf;    he helped Christophe pull two cables through the arch so that they wouldn’t get fried while the welding was going on;   he topped up the oil and tightened the fan belt;  checked the rudder / cutlass bearing / bow thruster;  cleaned keel coolers and the ground plate;   and I moved on from cleaning to waxing and polishing.   Finally, around 4.30 pm we were done – we still need to clean the last bits of the hull at the stern plus the sugarscoop once the welding is finished.   The topsides are also covered in mud from everyone coming up and down the ladder. 

At 6pm Christophe gave up for the day as the light faded….

We finally had power restored to Morphie – so we had a lovely lamb dinner and a few beers in the cockpit before turning in for the night.   Then we found another problem – the gas solenoid is running way too hot – so that’s on the list to be swapped out now too.  Luckily we have spares for this.   Living on the boat on the hard is not my favourite pastime….but I’m managing so far!

Friday morning one of the boat guys came by and gave us two pamplemousse – a cross between a grapefruit and an orange.  

Before they had turned up at 7 am we had already finished the hull cleaning at the stern so just the sugarscoop to do.    It is lovely to see Morphie without that ocean grime all over her again….    

We ate the fruit for breakfast – was lovely and sweet – and Christophe turned up so we lost our power again when he started welding.    Fred, the electrician turned up, and obviously wasn’t able to troubleshoot the anchor windlass without power.  He is such a genius we are going to get him to look at our defunct GPS too just in case….

So Fred has gone off to do another job elsewhere on the island and, it looks probable, that we might need to chock and stay in the boatyard over the weekend too as we may miss the high tide this afternoon to splash.  Oh well, never mind…..   Thought a Friday splash was a tad optimistic!   Oh yes and Fred also gave us some pamplemousse and some fresh limes so we are quite well taken care of.   They are such lovely kind people.

In case you are wondering about the water beneath the ladder….well it has been raining on and off again….and there are waterfalls behind the boat and we are living in a sea of mud…..

Christophe has just finished….not a great job but definitely a get out of jail one….and Fred has returned.   He has confirmed that the GPS antennae is kaput so something else to buy.   The windlass motor is running OK but it still cuts out – so Vincent and Fred have decided that this is probably a thermal issue – in that the old motor is drawing too much power and the internal systems cut out as a result.  That would explain why it goes and then comes back.  So Vincent (as Fred is too big to get into the anchor locker) is going to swap the old motor out for our spare.  

Too make our day, the shore power has just failed on us – reverse polarity – so they are looking into that too.    Christophe apparently got an electric shock from the ladder this morning before it tripped.   Thankfully now that the welding is finished the solar panels are operational again and we are drawing very little power so we should be OK in the meantime.  

This certainly wasn’t what we were expecting to get up to in French Polynesia but needs must – so far the timelines haven’t slipped so far that the rest of the season is still doable – fingers crossed that remains the same.   And I want to see the sun!!!!  

Bye for now



Galapagos to Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia

Saturday 22 April at 9am we left Santa Cruz in the Galapagos bound for Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia a mere 3,000 miles away.   It was going to be our longest ever passage at sea EVER let alone just the two of us alone.  So we were excited and nervous all at the same time.

We bid farewell to Santa Cruz and a tall ship that had come into the harbour overnight and sailed off towards Isabella.   We had a lovely farewell visit by a pod of dolphins to put smiles on our faces. 

The passage itself was challenging in places and a joy in others.    Beautiful sunny days with blue skies and blue seas were just gorgeous and we enjoyed that a lot – we even tried goose winging for the first time on Morphie in the early stages.    

And you can’t fail to love the beautiful sunsets, the sunrises and the moonlit nights…..

And of course more smiles at the pilot whales when they come to visit.

We had suicide fish and squid constantly landing on our decks which had to be cleaned off every morning….and Richard tried fishing but gave up in the constant motion deciding that landing a fish and cleaning / gutting it when the boat is going rail-to-rail side-to-side was just a step too far. 

Oh yes of course and then there was the Japanese whaler(?) who we had to change course for….and a few other fishing boats.   There were also two tankers out there according to the AIS but we never physically saw them.     

Low wind days were frustrating as we were moving so slowly but couldn’t afford to risk using too much diesel.   Funnily enough we were so frugal – even though we ran the engine to charge the batteries and to make hot water for showers – we ended up using only 45 gallons out of our total supply of 125 gallons diesel.   So perhaps we didn’t need to endure those 2 knot speeds after all LOL.

But then there was squall alley…..with grey skies and seas….and we kept getting hit from behind with driving horizontal rain.   The motion was particularly horrible as we got picked up and thrown down by the waves surfing underneath us – pitching us wildly from side to side.   We changed course to avoid squalls….found no wind…..changed course again and eventually the squall line was so wide we couldn’t avoid it but just had to plough through and put up with the poor conditions.    

One particular bad squall – about 1,000 miles still to go to our destination Hiva Oa – and the auto pilot failed.   The auto pilot often dropped out if it couldn’t hold the course so we weren’t unduly worried.   However, this time, when we went to re-adjust it the control head was blank.   We checked fuses, cables, even drying the unit out with a heat gun just in case of water ingress, all to no avail.  The system was dead!   And, of course, this was the one item that was not in our spares inventory.

This had a devastating impact on us as we realised that we were going to have to hand steer for over a 1,000 miles.   With no point of reference out in the ocean that means steering by compass alone night and day.   We both found that this was tiring, particularly with weather helm from the large swelly seas, so we fixed our schedule at two hours on and two hours off.   This meant that we were ships that passed in the night and in those two hours ‘off’ you had to eat, sleep, clean up etc etc.   Sometimes Richard managed a three hour shift in the day which allowed me to cook up huge pots of food that we could just dip into as and when we were hungry.

Apart from the obvious emotional impact this schedule was punishing physically.   Both of us struggled at different times but we managed to keep each other going and were relieved that each day we were that bit closer to our destination.    But we still had to cope with the horrible noises down below and sleep deprivation became a real issue.

As a result we eventually changed course to accommodate the weather and sea conditions and to minimise the noise down below to facilitate better sleeping conditions – the downside was that it added miles to our journey but there really wasn’t any other option open to us.  In total we were hand steering for the last 10 days of the trip.

Finally, and not a moment too soon, we were closing fast on Hiva Oa.    The island rises majestically from the sea to great heights but all we saw were dark and menacing rain clouds which made the approach even more intimidating.  

Of course, we were going too fast so we had to slow down considerably to ensure that we would make landfall in daylight which was a frustrating decision.    Sod’s law but that was the moment that the gas decided to run out so no celebratory cup of hot chocolate for us.

To hand steer for that length of time in those difficult conditions was a daunting task – to say the least – but we knew we had to get ourselves to safety so we just got on with it and did it.   Not sure how but we did!   We obviously didn’t mention this in our regular blogs whilst at sea as we didn’t want family and friends to worry about us whilst we were still out there.   

Eventually we had anchor down in Hiva Oa, Marquesas, on Thursday 18 May at 8.40 am having spent 25 days at sea and travelled 3,082 miles which despite:   low wind;  too much wind;  bad conditions;  and hand steering, we still managed to average just over 5 knots so actually pretty pleased overall with our performance.   In fact woo hoo – we did it!!!    We felt quite proud of ourselves and not a little bit relieved. The positive aspect of the whole experience was that we both lost a bit of weight LOL.

The anchorage is mountain-backed with lush greenery all around – or that is what it would look like had it not been peeing down with rain.   Having got ourselves cleaned up and presentable we dinked ashore – clambered up the broken down wooden jetty which is about four foot too high – and met some cruisers who told us about Sandra the agent who would help facilitate the check-in process and that they were pretty laid back about it all here.    

We had the paperwork with us anyway so decided to walk into town to see what was what.  

And it rained…and it poured….and the road whilst beautiful just went on and on….  At the point of giving up we were given a lift by a muscular shirtless tattooed young man – think Samoan rugby team – who spoke English and was a delight to meet.    Well I enjoyed it anyway LOL.    Very glad we didn’t walk, it was bloody miles away!!!!   The town is a sleepy little place with a few shops, a tourist information centre, a bank, a post office, a hardware store and a general store plus a few snack vans and cafes totally surrounded by the most spectacular mountain scenery.  We got some cash out the ATM – taking a stab at guessing the exchange rate as we hadn’t been on line for almost a month – and got 15,000 French Polynesian Francs.   It turns out 1,000 is about £7.   We would have got more but Richard’s card was refused.  Really?!?   Well that can wait for another day as I definitely wasn’t in the mood to deal with the bank right then.   

We popped into the tourist office and got a few pamphlets and met an English couple who were trying to check in on their own and were struggling – so decision made we’ll try Sandra in the morning.   Anyway….the whole town was shut for a couple of hours for lunch…..including the Gendarmerie!

We found out a local restaurant had internet so got a taxi there…and asked her to return to pick us up at 3.30 pm.   We walked in to be told they were closing – this was 2pm – as they don’t open in the afternoon.   The distress must have shown on our tired little faces as she took pity on us and let us stay to drink beer – but no food.   OK, that’ll do, and we enjoyed our first cold one or two for 25 days admiring the spectacular view of the beach below.   We also downloaded thousands of emails….but didn’t get a chance to look at them.       The taxi lady returned and we went back to the harbour and dinked to Morphie.   We had another couple of cold ones in the cockpit before turning in for an early night.   Sadly the anchorage was really rolly and we didn’t sleep well at all despite our exhausted state.  Oh yes and it rained all night.

Friday morning – still very jaded – we went ashore (in the rain) and met Sandra.  She took us in her 4×4 to town to the gendarmerie and also took delivery of our horrible wet smelly laundry from the passage – I was almost embarrassed to hand it over – but not that embarrassed LOL.   The customs / immigration form (in triplicate) was in French so the odd bit of translation/explanation was required and she double-checked it when it was completed before handing it over.   The guy then took our paperwork away and returned it to us with our official documentation which Sandra is going to send to Papeete, Tahiti, for us.   Sandra also supplied us with an e-mail address for an agent in Tahiti so we can order spares to be there waiting for us on our arrival.    

We obviously need to buy a replacement autopilot head but we are also considering buying a complete new autopilot system anyway – compatible with the older one we currently have – so we never have to face this situation again.   We also need to get a replacement GPS antennae as one failed on the passage which wasn’t a problem as we had two wired in anyway.  We also noticed that the plotter in the binnacle has a nice looking coral garden starting to appear on the screen.  Looks like our electronics are going to need to be stripped out and replaced in New Zealand – we did debate it whilst in the US but decided against, largely on cost.  But we think the time has probably now come.  Oh yes and of course another ensign bit the dust in the conditions.

Back to the bank again….and Richard’s card got refused again grrrr…..    And then we went supermarket shopping.   No bread anywhere – hang on, this is a French island – we’ve been salivating over bread for weeks.   Apparently the baker has run out of flour so is having to wait on the ship coming in on Monday to resupply him – so looks like we’re going to have to wait a while for that pleasure.  Damn!   We found eggs, tinned goods and more chocolate and biscuits to replace our supplies.  I was excited to see New Zealand lamb in the freezer too…   We’ll need to revisit to purchase frozen meat in a future quick visit to town in future before we leave here.  Oh yes, and we did also manage to get some cheese and tinned Anchor butter so we did quite well.

We walked, in the rain again, towards the restaurant and, just as we were almost there, we were offered a lift so took it.   Had a nice lunch – admiring the spectacular beach views in the rain – and caught up a bit more on the internet including some e-mails but a long way from getting through them.   Then we got a lift back from the lady owner of the restaurant to the port.   We had another early night after a couple of beers in the cockpit but, to be honest, we remain exhausted.

Saturday morning, after another restless and rocking night we were delighted to see that the sun had come out.  We dinked ashore and admired the view of the anchorage whilst we waited for our taxi lady to turn up – at 8 am – but she was clearly on island time. 

We had decided to do a private island tour rather than hiring a car ourselves.   Well…she turned up at 8.30….and in tears as something had happened at home and she couldn’t find anyone else to drive us.   She was genuinely upset so we just said fine.    Shame but, actually, we have lots to do so never mind.  

On the way back to dink we were surprised by the number of gendarmes that had just arrived in three vehicles – and we were stopped by one of them asking us about a particular boat Goldenage.   Well – we confirmed that we had seen the boat in the Galapagos (because he had anchored on top of us in Santa Cruz) and he was in the harbour yesterday morning but, by the time we had returned in the afternoon, they had left.   They knew exactly who was on board and who they were looking for.   Very intriguing!   Wonder what they were supposed to have done?!?

Back on board we picked up anchor and took the opportunity to move inside the interior harbour behind the breakwater as a few boats had left – so we are now in a more protected spot with a stern anchor deployed too – and there was definitely less rolling thankfully.  

Richard did an engine oil change while I started blogging.   There is a wifi hotspot in the harbour but at £10 an hour I don’t think we’ll be taking that one up.   Will have to wait for Monday when the Post Office opens as they sell SIM cards etc.     It certainly feels strange to be this long off-line.

Richard went ashore to get rid of his old oil and to talk to the guys in the very small boatyard.   We would like to get an expert to look at the auto pilot just to make sure we haven’t missed a trick when trouble shooting.   Even if he only just confirms what we already know.   What they did confirm though is that we can’t get our gas bottle filled until we reach Tahiti.   Oh well….should be OK.  While he was gone I enjoyed watching the junior outrigger racing boats practising for their up-coming regatta.     

When Richard came back – with good news that a marine electrician was coming to us on Monday morning – we then transferred diesel from the jugs on the rail to fill up the tank to avoid any condensation issues in this humid environment.   We were going ashore but decided against and started to hoist the dinghy for the night.  

As we did so I looked up and spotted a crack in the stainless arch.   WTF?!?!    So we dropped dink back in the water and investigated.  OMG the arch is failing – there are three connecting posts between the two rails that have come away – and a crack all the way around one of the 2 inch stainless rails.   Clearly the arch has been flexing whilst underway in the turbulent conditions and maybe the rolly anchorage was the straw that broke the camel’s back.    We were shocked that these failures had occurred because these arches are specifically built to hold the dinghy whilst underway.   And we had taken the outboard off to reduce the weight as recommended.   So now we have to speak to the boatyard again and see if they can do stainless steel welding here. 

If they can’t the nearest place may well be Tahiti as the islands between here and there are really just isolated pearl-farming atolls in the ocean.  Tahiti is 700 miles away but at least we can stop and break our journey to recover at 400 miles with short hops all the way after that.  If that happens then we’ll put dink on the bow throughout and leave the arch clear of any weight.    Fingers crossed it can be sorted out here and we can continue on our journey as planned.  

So no chance of having fun in the South Pacific any time soon!   Dealing with Morphie post-passage is far more time consuming than we anticipated with even basic maintenance let alone anything as major as the arch.   Maintenance is the key to keeping Morphie in good order and we are very diligent over it – I actually cleaned all the stainless including the arch before we left the Galapagos so you can see what a few days at sea will do to a fractured joint in terms of rust.   

Her hull right now is also filthy from the ocean – we again cleaned her hull before we left – and all this crap came from the passage.  We also have a nice culture of mussel-like creatures living along the stern line which need removing.   

The psychological impact of the latest issue – in our exhausted state – has hit us quite hard but once we have a plan to get it fixed we’ll be fine.   Fingers crossed for some good news tomorrow.   In the meantime we’re back in the restaurant to get online.

Bye for now