It’s been a while
Frankly, I had given up trying to update our website. Almost invariably, the internet connection failed during uploads. And, because each update had to be done over cellular, it worked out at around £5 a failure. It failed a lot, and it was not an enjoyable pastime.
Workable wifi has been scarcer than a sleaze-free politician. But now that Jamala is in the boatyard (more on that later) and we have a hotel room with wifi included, I can catch up without blubbering tears into my wallet. And thanks to my friend, Partha, for prompting me for an update. I appreciate that very much.
A combination of memory and a need to keep this readable means that I’ll focus on the highlights. We have been around a bit since our last post in Ua Pou (which probably cost £20 to upload), spent some time in Tuahata, Raroia and Fakarava with the sharks and rays, and are now in Tahiti.
We aimed for Hiva Oa, missed, and ended up in Tuahata. Granted, we could have made things easier by turning left instead of right. But we wanted an easy overnight sail, and that’s what we had – all the way to Hanatefau Bay.
Maria and had sailed past Hanatefau Bay many times when we had Lady Jane. But too many boats were always packed in there, so we never bothered to go in. This time, however, there was just one.
Now we understand the popularity: stunning scenery, clear water, and hardly any rolling at anchor. I don’t think we appreciated how knackered we were from the incessant swell knocking us around in our previous Marquesan anchorages. It’s a flat sea paradise here. Apart from the rain that was so heavy, we expected to see Noah packing in the animals.
But the main reason for coming here was to meet up again with Jimmy, Rosa and Kahu in Vaitahu.
Unfortunately, Kahu was missing due to action (he injured his knee playing football and left for Tahiti that morning.) But meeting up again with Jimmy and Rosa again was a treat, as always. We gave Jimmy and Rosa some Mexican beer. Jimmy bundled us into his Land Rover, drove us to his house and gave us fruit from his garden. He and Rosa have a lovely home. And Jimmy has a fine collection of motors and the tools needed to work on them.
Not much has changed in Vaitahu. The animals are still around – goats on the roam and cows on the road.
The views haven’t changed either, but there is a new food truck near the waterfront.
We spent almost 2 months here during Covid and never experienced any of the strong winds some sailors talk about. The occasional bullet would howl over the hills, but those gusts topped out at around 26 knots. This time was different. For days we experienced 40-plus knots coming down from those hills. When the dinghy flew onto its side with the outboard attached, it was clearly time to go.
But every cliche has a silver lining. Just before leaving, we had a visit from a pod of spinner dolphins (as well as a National Geographic cruise ship.)
Three days later, we arrived in Raroia for a bit of downtime. This was a brief stay. We had things to arrange to get Jamala hauled out and some spares to ship in. For that, we needed some more of that expensive internet.
We arrived here after an overnight sail from Raroia and found Rotoava anchorage to be the nautical equivalent of a city centre car park. And because some locals have become sensitised to boats parking too close to their property (I’m guessing it’s the sight of naked boaters dangling their ugly bits that has done it), there’s even less space than usual. One family has imposed a 200m anchoring exclusion zone. Not legal, but I can understand their motivation. Keep your personal tackle in so that you can keep your anchor tackle down, I say.
Apart from internet access (there’s 4G here now), we wanted to get our freezer fixed. Aldric from Fakarava Yacht Services came on board with his recharge kit and quickly sorted it out by injecting more gas into the system. And for less money than I spend on failed internet updates.
We celebrated my birthday here; then Maria chained me to the sewing machine so that I would work on the upholstery. Now only one more section to go.
I’m missing a lot out there (the dance festival at the school, meeting up again with friends, bike ride to the north pass, the calm anchorage in Hirifa), and all those things were great. But the highlight of our stay in Fakarava was, again, the snorkelling at the south pass. We arrived at the south pass just after the annual grouper spawning, so most boats had left the south pass anchorage. We were lucky enough to pick up a mooring.
This time, heading back from the pass to the dinghy, we came across some manta rays. I jumped in the water with the GoPro to photograph them. Seeing the rays and having a camera ready was such a rare thing.
Tahiti and Heiva
Just like Rotoava, Tahiti is full of boats at the moment. There was no space available at Marina Papeete – although that changes on a day-to-day basis – and the anchorage at the airport was busy. We did find a spot to park but had to move the next day when the wind stretched out all the anchored boats’ chains, and we saw that we could pass a baton to the boat behind.
The mission was to be here in time for the Heiva festival. Avelina, our multi-talented friend, was competing in this year’s event, and we wanted to see her. She arranged tickets for us, and thanks to the help of Scott and Mie, who had nabbed a spot at Papeete marina in their Amel, we were able to safely secure our dinghy while we went to watch the show.
And what a show it was. The format is one amateur group followed by the professionals. Each with somewhere between 100 and 130 dancers. No photography is allowed during the performances. But, amateur or professional, these people are incredible. Months of preparation for a one-hour performance at the festival indicates the measure of focus and dedication. Tall headdresses off to them all.
Tahiti and Technimarine
I was sweating like a youth waiting for their first interview. It wasn’t just the heat; it was the prospect of reversing between two large concrete structures to get Jamala hauled out at Technimarine. As it happened, the manoeuvring was easy thanks to the powerful bow thruster on the boat.
So that was good. And so was this cloud over Moorea, seen as we exited Papeete Pass:
Jamala is in the boatyard to have her old antifoul completely removed so that we can make a fresh start on a clean hull. Technimarine is one of the few yards that will mechanically remove old paint. And there’s a lot to remove. It’s a bit like stripping wallpaper in an old house. Halfway through the job, we could see layers all the way back to 2016. We need to get to 2002.
Fortunately, we aren’t doing this ourselves. Workers armed with sanders, protective clothing and breathing masks are doing the work while we idle away in an Airbnb and, now, a hotel. All that removal is taking its toll on everything else in the yard, though. There is black dust on everything.
One day we found the ex-finance minister of the Cook Islands sitting under our boat on a thick layer of dust, sheltering from the intense tropical heat. An unassuming guy dressed in standard boat owner’s clothes: tatty shorts and a tired-looking shirt. Although this was the first time meeting him, he greeted us like old friends. Making no comment on the mess surrounding him from the de-antifouling of Jamala, he shared stories of the islands and challenges impacting their people over the years. His cargo vessel, co-owned by his brother, is in the Technimarine boatyard for a covid-delayed antifoul service. I can’t imagine having a conversation like that with Rishi Sunak.
Although it’s costing us more than the price of a small house up north in the early ’80s (our new Cook Islands friend is handing over more than the price of a large mansion), it’s worth it to avoid the alternative, which is some shovel-handed grit blaster accidentally punching a hole through the gelcoat. We have an osmosis-free, careful built vessel and want to keep it that way. To give an indication of the price – it’s $2,000 per day for him and $68 per day for us. Bear that in mind if you are thinking of getting a bigger boat.
So that brings us to now, 13th July. Hopefully, we will be back in the water next week.