Leaving Fakarava

Before setting sail on our mission to replace the washing machine, we did our usual weather checks: wind, gusts, and waves, and paid particular attention to CAPE (Convective Available Potential Energy), which indicates energy available for thunderstorms to develop. And recently, there’s been more of those than we would prefer. None being optimum.

CAPE looked lower than it had for several days. So, with favourable winds, not much swell, and a reduced risk of thunderstorms, we threw the lines off our mooring, then sailed down the channel and out through the north pass just after breakfast on 8th April.

The wind was perfect. Jamala thundered along between 8 and 9 knots, never feeling over-pressed. And this continued well into the night. Until, as usual, just after midnight.

Last view of Fakarava

Last view of Fakarava

Squalls in the night

The cloud cover was so heavy that light from the moon barely found its way through – it was gloomier than the bottom of a swamp.

After a while, we noticed even darker clouds looming in the distance. Suspecting a squall, we switched on the radar, and the chart plotter screen lit up in angry shades of red and yellow, alerting us of the potential punch in those clouds. Then the lightning started. At first, the thunder arrived with a welcome long delay; then, the interval between lightning and thunder became increasingly shorter.

So, invoking our inner Falstaff, we also decided prudence was the better part of valour. We stashed the electronics in the oven, switched on the engine, and ran away, unlike the two nearby French sailors who seemed to invoke their inner Moitessier and ran straight into the squall. I don’t know whether they were brave, radar-less or something else-less. But as soon as they disappeared into the clouds, so did their AIS signals. We thought they had been zapped by lightning.

Changing course worked for us. At the very least, it gave time for most of the energy to be dumped out of the storm – most of it over those two boats, I imagine. And by the time we entered the squall, there was no more than wind, bluster and plenty of rain. The thunder and lightning were receding into the distance.

It was a long and wet night, but the electronics survived, the boat didn’t get broken, and nobody died.

Everything had settled down by the next day. It rained occasionally, but the wind was steady. And, despite running away, we made great time. We planned to arrive in Tahiti in two days. But, instead, it took us just one and a half days.

Point Venus by radar and welcoming hands at Papeete Marina

Taken in the morning - now showing two more boats on our right.

Taken in the morning – now showing two more boats on our right.

It was 10 pm by the time we arrived at Point Venus. The rain was sheeting down, and visibility was near zero. But on the positive side, there was little wind.

We couldn’t see much around us apart from anchor lights – which gave no indication of distance. And torchlight was useless as it reflected the air’s moisture. So we had to rely on radar, chart plotter and depth instruments to pick a place to anchor.

Usually, we don’t enter any unfamiliar harbour or bay in the dark, but we did our research and knew the location of the sandy bits – and the dodgy stuff. And we didn’t fancy a night hove to outside Papeete. So, we proceeded very slowly into Matavai Bay until our depth decreased to 10 metres. Then, we dropped the anchor, added a 5-1 scope and reversed to dig in.

Then it was time for dinner and bed, ready for an early start the next day to get to Papeete Marina.

The next morning, I stepped into the cockpit to see the two boats we thought had been fried in the squall anchored next to us. I don’t know what time they arrived. We must have been fast asleep because neither of us heard them.

It was wonderful to see Point Venus from the sea. We saw it from above during an earlier trip with our friends, Mark and Cindy. I’m sure the look of the bay has changed a bit since 1767 when Samuel Wallis arrived and claimed the island for England, two years before Cook arrived. But from sea level, you experience a more profound sense of history.

Point Venus with the lighthouse in the distance

Point Venus with the lighthouse in the distance

The anchor came up cleanly, and we didn’t disturb our aspiring Moitessiers, who remained fast asleep as we motored out of the bay at 6.45 am.

After getting clearance from Papeete port control, we continued to the marina, where we saw the smiling faces of Mark and Cindy waiting to catch our lines on the dock. The photo at the top of this post was taken by one of their friends on one of the monster cruise ships in port.

How many people does it take to get a washing machine onto a boat?

Our quest for cleaner laundry complete

Our quest for cleaner laundry complete

We didn’t want to make this into another multi-month stay at the marina. So, on Tuesday (Monday was a bank holiday), we walked across the road to Tahiti Menager to buy the new washing machine. And the salesperson arranged for it to be delivered later in the day. So far, so good.

Just before 5 pm, a white truck arrived. We rushed over to meet the delivery guys and peered into the cab, expecting to see a couple of bruisers. After all, when Cindy and Mark, who have an almost identical boat to us, bought theirs from the same place, two people delivered it and lifted it into the cockpit. We hoped for the same – these things are heavier than an average adult.

Unfortunately for us, there was only one.

I suppressed my deflation. But as the driver lifted the machine out of the van on his own, I thought at least I wouldn’t need to work too hard. He put the washing machine on a hand trolley and wheeled it into the marina, along the pontoons and to the back of Jamala. There, he slipped it off the trolley and got the papers out for me to sign. By this time, we had run out of useful French, and the driver spoke no English. But, with the power of mime and finger-pointing, we were able to ask him to help us get it into the cockpit.

He put the washing machine back on the trolley, wheeled it to the side of the boat and before I had the chance to get hold of it so that we could lift it together, he grabbed it in a bear hug and lifted it up and onto the boat – all 77 kg of it.

I was stunned but grateful that my involvement was reduced to a supporting role. Maria and I held it in place while he got into the boat to lift it over the winches into the cockpit and down into the saloon.

So, in answer to the question, “How many people does it take to get a washing machine onboard a boat?” The answer is one – as long as he’s a sizeable Tahitian.

Next time… gear overboard and a broken freezer. Again.