From Nuku Hiva to Raroia
After a day and a half of superb sailing, the wind fizzled out to little more than a zephyr, so we motored the other day and a half towards Raroia. Easing our way through the pass at midday, we made our way to the east side of the atoll to anchor near the Kon-Tiki memorial. And later that day, a Norwegian boat joined us (it’s likely a very popular place for Norwegians) and then another.
A northerly wind was forecast, so the next day, we headed north towards another known-good anchorage a few miles north, where we anchored in sand opposite a tiny house on a motu. With no one around, we could run our Honda generator to power the water maker to refill the water tank without disturbing anyone apart from ourselves. We didn’t make any water in Hiva Oa or Nuku Hiva because we know from experience that it’s a shortcut to fouled filters or ruined membranes, so we had a lot of water to make.
We spent days here doing what you would think of in a secluded tropical paradise: servicing the winches and trying to fix our 22-year-old washing machine after it gave up mid-cycle with a light groan and a puff of smoke. I suppose in washing machine years, it would have already received a telegram from the king, so it has done well.
The man who occasionally stays at the tiny house on the motu came over a few days later to say hello. Gaston explained that he is a copra farmer working on the nearby and adjacent motu. And that little house he stays in has the important stuff inside – water and a freezer – powered by solar. He told us that we were more than welcome to walk around his motus if we wanted to.
We did that and did a lot of kayaking, paddle boarding and a little exploring near the ocean. It was great to be back in the flat sea again and to be able to see what lies beneath the boat. And in a way, it was good to be undisturbed by the internet for a while.
We enjoyed it here, but we had some practicalities to take care of, and for that, we needed to get back connected with the interweb,
Although entering was smooth and easy, we encountered the usual bonkers and confused sea when exiting the pass at Raroia. This place seems to be our nautical nemesis. But after being chucked out with the finesse of an over-testosteroned nightclub bouncer, we had a gentle sail most of the way to Makemo.
This was our first visit to Makemo. Many cruisers seem to love this place, but I suspect this collective enthusiasm is a generalised view that includes anchorages further south.
The village anchorage here isn’t going to win any Condé Naste awards, and it isn’t well protected. But the people are lovely, there are several shops here, and 4G interweb connectivity has arrived.
We didn’t stay long and headed off to Fakarava instead.
How many sailors does it take to change a lightbulb in Fakarava?
The answer is three: one to go up, one to take a photo and the other to look out to sea. And who can blame them for getting out of the way? At almost 20 metres above the water, there’s a tendency to develop klutzy fingers. And because objects gather a lot of speed when dropped from up there, there’s potential for a large hole in one’s head – so it’s best to keep clear. Fortunately, we managed to grab one of the two mooring balls in Rotoava and were well out of the way of other boats and any wash created by the dive boats while I was up there.
I needed to go up the mast to change the masthead lightbulb (which we switch on when sailing at night). Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as getting the ladder out to change a 100w living room light (if only). The whole process took a couple of hours and consisted of rummaging around to get all the safety gear organised, getting the ropes in place, and lashing myself to the bosun’s chair and safety harness. Thanks to our friend Cain, on Spirit of Argo, we managed to speed up what would otherwise have been an even slower process. He winched me up there like a champ.
The light fitting was easy to remove, but it took 10 minutes to get the thing back on because I couldn’t get the lens to lock back in place. Fortunately, my visceral fear of heights seems to have dissolved into mild concern, so I wasn’t the shivering wreck I would have been a few years ago. Exposure therapy appears to have done the trick. Eventually, the fitting locked back in place so I could come back down to earth – inspecting the rigging on the way.
We returned the favour a couple of days later when Cain had to go up his mast for a much more involved operation – drilling holes for a new wind vane.
Heat, sharks, washing machines and soaking
The last few weeks have been windless and hot. This has an impact on the motley crew (sweaty and sleepy), power consumption (fridge compressors going like the clappers), and power production (the solar panels are less efficient). It’s great to be in the heat of the tropics, but not when the decks heat up to over 56 degrees Celsius.
We can’t run the air conditioning for too long because our inboard generator is still knackered and will remain so until New Zealand. So to get some respite, we’ve been marinating ourselves in the water at the back of the boat – fastened to floating lines and holding onto swimming noodles – making sure we are out before feeding time for the sharks.
Even barnacle removal seems appealing.
A fisherman had thrown the mother of all fish heads and a tail in the water near the shore where we landed the dinghy. That attracted several nurse sharks and a few black tips to shore. Our dinghy is just to the left of this picture. All we can suggest is – don’t get in the way.
What is one man’s trash is another man’s treasure – or something like that. We had to get rid of the old washing machine. So, after checking with Aldric at Fakarava Yacht services on the appropriateness of taking the old machine to the refuse collection point near the quayside, we took out the heavy bits, enlisted (some might suggest press-ganged) the help of Cain, and got it into our dinghy and out at the quay. It only resulted in a little bit of blood loss. The machine was gone by the next day. Apparently, the drums are prized for their usefulness in making barbeques and smokers – and the metal and machinery are always handy.
We tried to get a washing machine shipped to the quayside at Rotoava from a store in Tahiti, but that fell down when we found out that the only way to pay was by bank transfer. So we’ll wait until we get to Papeete.
And, apart from getting fuel at the dock before we leave for Tahiti, that’s it. It’s been mostly about servicing, spring cleaning and a little paddleboarding to help stop the blubber from expanding on our waistlines. And now we are looking forward to continuing west, getting that washing machine – and moving onwards through the Societies.